Monday, January 30, 2006

Maestropolis, Continued.

Disc Two:

01. Wilco “I’m the Man Who Loves You”
That spastic, stuttering guitar opening is, I think, the best possible way to open a disc. If we must have guitars, let them stammer. The saxophones and other assorted brass are pretty kickass, too. It’s just a great song. From the Nonesuch LP Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, 2002.

02. The Music “Take the Long Road and Walk It”
They didn’t pan out over an album, or indeed for another three minutes, but in the space of this song, the Music almost live up to their ridiculous name. Baggy Stone Roses beats, U2ish rise-and-ebb dynamics, a yelping British frontman who can actually hit a note, and Zepplin-fondling guitars (especially when they break out the bottleneck slide at the end), for once, add up to a track as cool as that makes it sound. From the Hut LP The Music, 2002.

02. Interpol “NYC”
It was just after 9/11. America was gearing up for Iraq. There was a vague possibility, to someone who spent time on the paranoid left of the Internet, that we might actually go to war with France. In that context, Joy Division rumblings with Smiths atmospherics and the line “the subway is a porno” made perfect sense. From the Matador LP Turn on the Bright Lights, 2002.

04. Beck “Sunday Sun”
I’d never really listened to Beck before this. Sure, I’d heard “Loser” and “Where It’s At,” but I hadn’t really listened to them; they seemed to share sonic space with Sugar Ray and those guys who did “How Bizarre.” But with Nick Drake arrangements and a mumbled baritone, suddenly Beck was personal. I think of this song as sunshine pop for manic-depressives. From the Geffen/Interscope LP Sea Change, 2002.

05. Ivy “Edge of the Ocean”
I don’t remember how I heard of Ivy, or what made me think it would be a good idea to check them out. But I fell in love with this song, or perhaps with the idea of what this song seems to say: fall in love with a French woman and head out towards the beach. The northern beach, for preference; the trip-hop backing is pretty chilly. From the Bitter Sweet LP Long Distance, 2001.

06. 16 Horsepower “Flutter”
The piano stabs like a clumsy serial killer; the guitar picks so softly you can barely hear it, like some dread thing scratching at the door. And yet the scariest thing in the song is when all the instruments die and the indie version of a high lonesome croon says “all our colors agree … in the dark.” From the Jetset LP Folklore, 2002.

07. Supergrass “Grace”
So of course we need a pick-me-up now, and who better than the boys who’ve taken all the friendliest parts of the the Kinks, T. Rex, the Buzzcocks, and Blur, and just want to urge you to save your money for your children? I defy you not to grin to this song. From the Parlophone LP Life on Other Planets, 2002.

08. Marianne Faithfull “I’m on Fire”
Everything she does is full of interest, and this wasn’t even my favorite song from this album, but it’s got Billy Corgan’s nasal whine on backing vocals, so of course I had to include it. To be fair, I can’t really imagine any other song here at this point. It’s a glossy, studio soufflé — it would fall at a breath. From the EMI LP Kissin Time, 2002.

09. Steve Earle “Amerika 6.0 (The Best That We Can Do)”
This remains about the only Steve Earle track I’ve ever gotten to know well. And somehow it feels like the only one I need; its combination of righteous country-rock swagger and outraged indictment of establishments everywhere makes me wary; surely anything else couldn’t be as good? Special bonus: he quotes T. Rex on the outro. From the Artemis LP Jerusalem, 2002.

10. The Libertines “The Good Old Days”
They were my favorite working band, and this song is the reason why. From the Rough Trade UK LP Up the Bracket, 2002.

11. The Flaming Lips “In the Morning of the Magicians”
Funny story. I fell in love with this song thinking it was “Do You Realize?” because some schmuck on KaZaA had mislabled his mp3s. Then I heard “Do You Realize.” I like this better; it just seems more Lippy to me. From the Warner Bros. LP Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, 2002.

12. Sam Phillips “Wasting My Time”
I listened to Sam Phillips when she was Leslie Phillips; I thought she was a badass hard-rocker. (I was ten.) She’s still badass, even with just a string quartet behind her. The quality of her voice makes me think, for no reason I can pinpoint, of Madeline L’Engle. This is a compliment. From the Nonesuch LP Fan Dance, 2001.

13. Paul Weller “Written on the Wind”
I’d never gotten into the Sex Pistols, and the Clash were too generally revered. The Jam became my favorite punk band by default, because the Kinks were my favorite British Invasion band. Paul Weller’s solo career has been hit-and-miss since, but this song is a perfect slice of his neo-soul-psychedelia dadrock. With a Booker T. sample, yet. From the Independiente LP Illumination, 2002.

14. Johnny Cash “Personal Jesus”
It was Solitary Man, the previous record, that buried deep within me, with its gallows-humor version of Nick Cave’s “The Mercy Seat” and its dignity-in-the-gutter reading of blackface vaudevillian Bert Williams’s “Nobody.” In comparison, this is tossed-off, just a fun, Deltafied run-through of an Eighties-Night staple. In retrospect, I’m glad I didn’t choose “Hurt” instead. From the American LP American IV: The Man Comes Around, 2002.

15. Bryan Ferry “Hiroshima”
Radiohead was still one of my favorite bands when I picked this because that’s Johnny Greenwood doing the guitar explosions behind Ferry’s ageless croon. And then Ultravox’s “Hiroshima Mon Amour” gets referenced, and it’s all magnificently downhill from there. From the EMI LP Frantic, 2002.

16. Tom Waits “I’m Still Here”
Another one of those short songs that gets picked to round out a disc, this is also perhaps one the most simply beautiful songs in Waits’ catalogue. When he reaches for that high note, it’s enough to move me to tears; but perhaps that’s because the album is one of my all-time favorites. From the Anti- LP Alice, 2002.

17. The Coral “Shadows Fall”
Many of these songs seem to have dropped onto the list because a new British band was being hailed in the British press as the Greatest Thing Ever. I would give it a listen, and decide I liked it. When I used to play this at work, my co-worker would always look up and grin, “Pirates!” From the Deltasonic LP The Coral, 2002.

18. Pulp “The Trees”
The last Pulp single, frothy and “organic” (that word must have been in the press-release package) and kind of orchestral, but still totally wicked, romantic pop. I don’t really love this song, but it feels right to have Pulp represented on such a disc. Good placement, too. From the Island LP We Love Life, 2001.

19. Peter Gabriel “Signal to Noise”
Nusrat Fateh Ali Kahn’s last Western recording, apparently. It’s a good one, too; he jumps from note to note with the speed and grace of a cat. Oh, and there’s some white guy going on about something over a bunch of electronic pomp and circumstance, too. But this song is all about the Nus-man. From the Geffen LP Up, 2002.

Next: more.

Intermission: Ground Laid for the Future.

Part of the point of this blog (and, no, this isn’t the official introduction, just a little context for the following) is to give me a place to jot down thoughts on whatever I’m reading or watching or listening to. So, I just finished reading Love Insurance by Earl Derr Biggers.

I’m going to have more to say about Mr. Biggers at a later time, but for now, I wanted to mention that Love Insurance is a fine sub-Wodehousian light comedy. It dates from 1914, when even Wodehouse was still sub-Wodehousian, and its original life as a magazine serial is a little too obvious (it’s meanderingly episodic, rather than tightly-plotted), but its preposterous central conceit — a gambling-addicted fiancé takes out an insurance policy against the eventuality of his not getting married at a certain date — is well-done. Of course the insurance company sends their best man to make sure the goof gets married; and of course he falls in love with the beautiful fiancée. The love scenes are mush, but then they always are; though the sudden insertion of two down-on-their-luck newspapermen about halfway through liven things up to such an amazing extent that for a moment I could have thought I was reading something by the brilliantly verbose Damon Runyon, instead of the pleasantly bland (if possessed of a sly wit) Biggers. Too bad they're only walk-ons.

There are several references throughout the novel — it’s set in an upper-class resort in pre-boom Florida — to the scenery looking like the set of a musical comedy (“I keep expecting the boys of the chorus to enter from just behind that potted palm”) , and it wouldn’t have taken much work to turn the book into a musical comedy of the period, the kind that kept Biggers’ friend Wodehouse busy. This was proabbly intentional on Biggers’ part; a smash play was definitely preferable to a bestseller, if you were a light writer. The bestseller wouldn’t last long, but a play could keep touring companies busy for years, and royalty checks all the while. Today, musicals are as self-important as any other part of the theater, which is why light writers are just about extinct.

This is what’s known as foreshadowing.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

More Music-Geekery; or, They Say to Write What You Know, and What Do I Know Better than My Own Peculiar, Sometimes Short-Lived, Obsessions?

Ive mentioned here an off-and-on project of the last several years, which has been collecting the non-hit songs (or at least they weren’t hits when I collected them) I’ve loved best, burning them onto a CD, and calling the result Maestropolis. This last because I used an image from Fritz Lang’s Metropolis as the cover of the first one, and made a lousy play on the old-fashioned use of the word maestro as a musician’s honorific. But what the hell. I didn’t do this for cool points, I did this so I could listen to a bunch of songs I liked in a row without having to swap out CDs every three minutes.

I just finished burning the latest edition, a two-disc set. (It’s been a while since I last did it, and good music tends to accumulate. Also, I went out looking for stuff, and ... well, I found it.) All together, the various editions have accreted 138 songs, which it strikes me is a good number for a box set. Oh yeah. You’re in for it now.

The following is the liner notes for said imaginary boxed set. Maybe not imaginary, if I get off my ass, find some cardboard, and print out enough proper images. But for now, this is it. My favorite songs (that didn’t get a whole lot of exposure; like everyone else, I love
Hey Ya to death) from the past, roughly, five years.

Disc One:

01. The Webb Brothers “The Liar’s Club”
Orchestral pop with fuzz-toned guitar. Notable for tackling (in a more earnest fashion) the entire message of the first Strokes album, a year early. Only theyre Chicago, not New York. And theyre the sons of “Macarthur Park” songwriter Jimmy Webb, not fashion designers and record executives. But you can still hate them as much as you hate the Strokes. From the Wea International LP Maroon, 2000.

02. Elvis Costello “Tear Off Your Own Head (It’s a Doll Revolution)”
Pop/rock with the devil in the details. Written by Mr. McManus for a hypothetical girl group, and later covered by the Bangles, who also called their attempt at a comeback CD Doll Revolution. Its zippy pseudo-feminist stylings probably kept it from getting any kind of pop airply, where misogyny is still in. From the
Island LP When I Was Cruel, 2002.

Texas “Parisian Pierrot”
Yeah, Texas. Scottish lite-rockers replaced by Dido in the annals of British wuss music. The song by Noël Coward, from one of his earliest musicals in the late 1920s. Gertrude Lawrence both made it famous and was made famous by it. Texas leaves out a line in favor of a sample of a guy saying something in French. From the MMC various-artists charity LP Twentieth Century Blues: the Songs of Noël Coward, 1998.

04. The Strokes “Hard to Explain”
Spiky pop-post-punk, with one of the great slacker drawls on vocals. By now everyone pretty much knows where they stand on the Strokes, so I’ll just say that I loved this song when I first heard it as a crappy mp3 rip of a British radio spot, the day after the first stupid review appeared in the NME, and I love it now. The moment of silence after the first chorus is one of the defining pop moments of the 21st century. From the Rough Trade UK single This Modern World, 2001.

05. Bob Dylan “Bye and Bye”
Country waltz, with Lanois-ish touches in the production. It is a fact which completely throws everything we thought we knew about pop music into immense disarray, that Bob Dylan is still making music just as good as any he’s ever made, and — as in the present instance — so much different from anything he’s ever done that no comparison really suffices. He manages an adequate croon in his croaky Old-Bob voice, and, well, it’s just pretty perfect. From the Columbia LP Love and Theft, 2001.

06. Steve Taylor “Shortstop”
Every subgenre has its legends and heroes, its fallen and its intensely watched. Steve Taylor, back in the late 80’s, used to be called the “clown prince of Christian music,” with satirical songs taking on everything from mass-market conformity to — most infamously — anti-abortion zealots. This is his only dispatch since 1995’s live album Liver, and his only studio song since 1993’s Squint. It’s kind of a swing song, if swing concerts had mosh pits. From the Squint Entertainment various-artists LP Roaring Lambs, 2000.

07. Johnny Cash “The Mercy Seat”
This song was the means of my learning the first lesson of music-geekery: no one will thank you for making them listen to a Nick Cave song, no matter who sings it
. The general public does not expect from music what they are happy to enjoy in a movie. Their loss. From the American LP American III: Solitary Man, 2002.

08. Doves “There Goes the Fear”
Not really a fan of this song anymore, but it’s still listenable. The kind of epic British mope-rock that was still fashionable before everyone remembered that they’d heard Joy Division. Hey, it’s better than Coldplay. From the Heavenly LP The Last Broadcast, 2002.

09. Mark Knopfler “What It Is”
I used to really love Dire Straits. Then I found out what else was going on in music, 1979-1984. But this is the kind of song that anyone who enjoys pop music should love; it’s got Knopfler’s trademark crisp guitar lines, some of his best imagistic songwriting, and a killer violin hook that makes me think of any movie where people ride horses towards towering walled cities. From the Warner Bros. LP Sailing to
Philadelphia, 2000.

10. Robbie Williams “The Road to
Okay, I’ll admit to a bit of a Brit-music fascination. There are worse things. My favorite Robbie Williams music is Swing When You’re Winning, by a long shot, but this is a close second, a pretty-then-bombastic pop song that I can’t really find precedent for outside of the Waterboys. From the Capitol LP Sing When You’re Winning, 2000.

11. Joe Strummer & the Mescaleros “Johnny Appleseed”
Joe Strummer could have been one of the great folksingers, with his voice. In a way, I guess he was. (Depends on your definition of “folk,” dunnit?) This, maybe the folkiest song he ever did — it would have been called a protest song in 1967 — is turned into a pan-global party by the band he preferred over the Clash in his last five years. They introduced me to all sorts of great music; here’s to the Mescaleros. From the Epitaph LP Global a Go-Go, 2001.

12. Shakira “Objection (Tango)”
The only pop starlet who could conceivably have duetted with Strummer and held her own, Shakira remains one of pop music’s best-kept secrets, even while she storms the spotlight. The thing is; it’s not her producers that give her music the kind of world-music-in-a-blender edge that made “Toxic” listenable; it’s the lady herself. This went on to become a kind of hit about a year after I fell in love with its surf-guitar breakdowns. Imagine if Ricky Martin had had this sort of musical cleverness. From the Sony LP Laundry Service, 2001.

13. David Byrne “Neighborhood”
Oddly, I like this song more now than I did when I used to listen to it all the time. I used to think it was faintly cheesy musically, only tolerable for the “we’ve got peace, love, monkey business” lyrics. But I’ve learned to love 70’s soul, and now the flute riffs are no longer corny, but satisfying. From the Virgin LP Look into the Eyeball, 2001.

14. Dolly Parton “Shine”
Trippy covers are a kind of hobby of mine, it seems. This one has a crackerjack bluegrass band going to town on Collective Soul’s 1991 alterna-dork hit. Dolly’s voice, of course, is still pure mountain-stream cool, and she even makes the vague, waffly spiritual lyrics (years before Creed, remember) sound kind of sexy, something no one who grew up with VCRs could have done. From the Sugar Hill LP Little Sparrow, 2001.

15. Kinky “Soun Tha Primer Amor”
I once saw these guys turn a pretty boring Cinco de Mayo into a kickass party. The next day, I hunted down their CD; of course, it’s not nearly as good. However, I still love this Mexican-ghetto electronica song, because I remember hearing it live and thinking it applied to this girl who I was pretty sure was there, but I never did see her. In Spanish. From the Nettwerk LP Kinky, 2002.

16. Daniel Amos “Who’s Who Here?”
Daniel Amos is the other Christian rock act (besides Steve Taylor) that pagans can listen to without breaking out into a cold sweat. They were great in the early 80s, when they rode the New Wave bandwagon to a highly specific purpose better than anyone I’ve ever heard of, and only okay since then, when they’ve ridden the alterna-rock bandwagon to no real purpose. But this Neil-Young-with-Crazy-Horsey song still makes me laugh, if only for the superb turn of phrase, “shit-chat.” And, of course, the cowbell. From the Galaxy21 LP Mr. Buechner’s Dream, 2001.

17. The Vines “Highly Evolved”
I know, I know. I
m embarrassed too. Its less than two minutes long, and I had some space left on the disc. Australian Nirvana-wannabes riding the garage-rock-revival wave? What was anybody thinking? From the Capitol LP Highly Evolved, 2002.

18. Radiohead “Optimistic”
Hello, my name is Jonathan Bogart, and my mind was blown by Kid A, even though Radiohead was
nt being as experimental as the hype said. Now that this confession is out of the way, I hope we can all move on. To wit, this is still a great song, in a Krautrock-for-the-masses kind of way. From the Capitol LP Kid A, 1998.

Stone Temple Pilots “Atlanta
For some reason, when the album came out, I kept reading that this song was a Doors rip-off. I can’t imagine why people must have thought so, unless they never got past Scott Weiland’s opening word, which does sound a bit like Jim Morrison. But it ends with marimbas! Marimbas! And that’s why I lik Stone Temple Pilots better than any of the grunge bands with more cred. Because they use marimbas. From the Atlantic LP No. 4, 1999.

One disc down, six to go...

Friday, January 27, 2006

Hold On.

Just a note to say that I got some information wrong in the last post. Sage Francis is RhodeIslandish, not Canadian. Otherwise, carry on.

The First Post.

I'll be writing an introduction later. For now, I just wanted to post the following, which I posted to a music board (on a comics website. That right there should tell you something) earlier this evening. After working for like two hours on it, I thought, hell, I'm not going to get any responses anyway, why not use this as the first post in the blog I've been meaning to start for several months now?

So here it is. (Links have been added for the sake of latter-day comprehension.)

I've just spent three or four days intensely immersed in music that's no older than a year, and, man, I've got to agree with leonaozaki.

The Decemberists, to riff a while on previously established themes, are amazing; I love "Sixteen Military Wives" beyond reason; it's the most obvious and least innovative song on Picaresque, but it's got a hook as mile-wide as "Hey Jude"'s, only not faded from having lain out in the sun for forty years. (Sure, "Hey Jude" was new to me eight years ago, but man! that was eight years ago.)

This morning, I had my mind chewed up and spit back out by M.I.A.'s album Arular, and it started me thinking about the amazing range of female dance/pop acts out there right now. M.I.A., Shakira, Gwen Stefani, Goldfrapp, Lady Sovereign, Missy Elliott, Annie, Beyoncé and hell, why don't we throw in Nelly Furtado and Pink, assuming they ever release anything worthwhile again. Even Nellie McKay has some dancey songs on her recently-unreleased CD; a good DJ could sequence them properly into a banging mix. These aren't the faceless divas of the disco era (except Beyoncé, who's really more of a type than a character), they're peculiarly individual, unnervingly idiosyncratic artists who take in an astonishing array of influences from around the world and throughout history and process them into wholly original sounds.

Consider: the number one single of the past year had a backing track of a high school marching band's drum section spliced up and and reconfigured to fit a lyric line that was so cheerfully potty-mouthed it almost sounded like the singer -- sorry, chanter -- was a somewhat trailer-trash high school cheerleader instead of a thirty-something pop-music wundermädchen who could buy a small island. If nothing else, it's a weird moment in pop history.

But, to sample Alan Moore, aren't they all? Remember that Ms. Stefani first came to prominence in a ska band singing an Aerosmithy ballad in an emo voice with a flamenco guitar solo, and had her break-huge moment riding Moby's coattails. Remember him? The guy whose other claim to fame was sampling field hollers in his standard-issue coffeshop electronica? And, of course, showing up in an Eminem rhyme. Gosh, remember Eminem? Whatever happened to that guy, anyway? (That's how fast the pop market moves these days. The Great White Hope/Great White Satan of hip-hop, five years later, is doing the Noughts' version of "Tears in Heaven.") But all this is just a sidebar.

Shakira's new CD, to jump back a thought or twelve, hasn't fully made itself known to me, but here are some initial thoughts: she's still as crazy magpie-eclectic as ever (more surf-guitar breaks over sped-up tango beats! Yes!), she's got the cojones to open the album with a song forgiving God for his mistakes (shades of Patti Smith!), and, best of all, she has officially, with the song "Illegal," not only out-Alanised Alanis Morrissette (her vocals always did that), but rendered her entirely superfluous. And America thanks her.

This too is a sidebar. I'm loving how hip-hop is less and less its own specific thing (used to be that singing was as frowned upon as guitar solos in punk songs; at least the stodgy old-punk Guardian critic is still complaining about the "widdly-woos" on the Stroke's new album), and more and more just one more ingredient in the mix of sounds available. Of course, the whole concept of "sounds available" comes from hip-hop, which (of course, this is what happens; rock did it in the early 60s and jazz did it in the late 30s) has gone from being a new genre to being one genre of many to being the dominant genre to being the filter through which a generation perceives music as a whole. The impetus for this thought was that I wanted to mention Canadian bearded guys Buck 65 and Sage Francis, who aren't exactly hip-hop, but they're not exactly not hip-hop, either (they rhyme over beats). I don't know if they are actually bearded, by the way. They sound like they have beards, which is the important thing. Not hip-hop, but not not hip-hop, like grime in the UK, like dancehall in Jamaica, like hiplife in western Africa. Like, again, M.I.A., and I've finally come full circle. Now for the next ring.

I've been talking about dance music and hip-hop because, frankly, guitar music is boring me at the moment. I listened to the Arctic Monkey's new, massively-raved-over CD, and aside from the "Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor" single, which I only sort of liked in the first place, was not only unimpressed, but found it gruelling to sit through to the end. Probably just my mood at the time, but does every British guitar band have to use the exact same fucking tone on their guitar? Is there now a "wiry/abrasive" setting on ProTools? God knows I love Television and Robert Quine, but the sound was only rescued by dance beats with Franz Ferdinand, was getting really old by Bloc Party, slipped into self-parody with Art Brut and now it's just useless. Until Arctic Monkeys does an acoustic set, I'll get my whimsical British social observation from the Streets and the smoking ruins of the Libertines, thanks.

That's right, you heard it here: Guitar bands are on the way out.

(Yes, joke. See, there was this Decca record executive, see, and ... oh, forget it.)

One reason for taking refuge in the past (I do it as often as anyone and more than most this side of Joe Bussard) is, though this may sound a little counterintuitive, the sheer amount of stuff available. For a music head, it's a little disconcerting to realize that there is more good music already in existence than you will be able to listen to in your lifetime; and of course, every day you live adds another ten albums. And that doesn't even take into consideration all the crappy music you have to fit into your listening schedule, in order to give the good stuff some kind of context. And it's not like everything's brilliance is immediately apparent on first listen, or even twelfth. So rather than face the horrifying prospect of spending a week with the new Nickelback album just to see if there are any deathless gems buried within, sometimes we hop a train for Yesterday City. The Eighties, the Sixties, the Twenties, the 1790s, whatever, just so we don't have to hear 50 Cent or Scott Stapp going on and on about whatever. And damn, dude, sometimes they really don't make 'em like that any more. There are some awesome crunchy-clean guitar tones in the 70's that have been processed out of existence; no one will ever sing like Howlin' Wolf again without it being an affectation; and listening to Duke Ellington loses half its magic after the invention of hi-fi.

So Tom Waits is, naturally, the way back to the present. To return to hip-hop for just a moment again, I've been wanting to say for some time that his latest record, Real Gone, sounds like hip-hop would have if it had been invented by tubercular hoboes circa 1927 in, say, northern Mississippi. The Old, Weird America has nothing on the New, Weird America. (This, to cast my line over other threads on the board, is exactly the problem with The Last Waltz. The Band were always kind of academic about their Americana, and when they started thinking that they were the giants, instead of merely standing on the shoulders of -- in short, when they stopped being weird -- well, that's when it all got good and pointless.) And so Tom Waits is, for me, kind of the pinnacle of modern music. No, seriously. He's backward-looking and forward-looking at the same time, he's incorporated so many separate strands of, well, everything into his music that the resulting tension is more powerful than any pissant group of twenty-somethings with fashionable/unfashionable haircuts and something to whine about could possibly begin to imagine, let alone express. (Not that whining can't be cool too; if more people whined like the Arcade Fire, then ... well, then I guess it wouldn't be so special.) I don't just mean the junkshop instrumentation, either. The man is the the voice of the dead 20th Century, only it doesn't know it's dead. Waits knows, but he plays along like the good theatrical trouper he is. He also knows that theatre is a spectrum, and that opera singers, rock stars, tap dancers, lap dancers, politicians, minstrels, and carnies are all working the same turf. This is why he is brilliant, because he neither condescends to the riffraff, nor rejects the elite. His fanbase may be turtlenecks and cappuccinos, but he's not responsible for that; if they can sit through Real Gone (which is one of those records that is so much cooler in the mind than in the ears), then they have what it takes. I doubt I've sufficiently explained why I think Waits is so cool (I'd have to do a track-by-track analysis of Alice for that, and, just no), but I'll finish with: Bob Dylan's Love and Theft is great for many reasons, but perhaps the most obvious is that he sounds a little like Tom Waits on it.

Okay. Last thought: new Belle & Sebastian album coming out. Who the hell thought they'd still be around? And getting cooler; "Your Cover's Blown" is one of the great head-smacking songs of the half-over decade: of course that's how they were supposed to sound! Like some tourist's fantasy of the Seventies! That faint moaning sound you hear just as the album opens is Elliott Smith realizing that the other option was this. Not going commercial, necessarily (dude already had the most devoted fanbase in the world), but going immediate, for lack of a better term. Yes, your heart is broken, but it's so much better when it's broken in 4/4 time. Twee as fuck, went the old lo-fi scene t-shirt. They got a word wrong; it should have been can.

Thank you and goodnight.