Like some things “Little Mascara” goes by unnoticed because it is frictionless. It is utopia, too good to be true. Maybe it’s more of a schematic than it is a good Replacements song. Maybe that’s why it’s perfect. It’s a perfect song. Here’s why I believe this:


The intro has its own life apart from the rest of it, like part of a theme for a sitcom that’s used in the truncated opening credits when it the show hits syndication. This is Peak Intro, like a send-up of an intro that is so obviously an intro it transcends quaint and becomes essential. This what’s known as the Jk-Not-Jk Curve of the Sublime, and this sits right at its zenith. Holding a chord like that for a measure then kicking in with the verse is such a classic rock trick, a little like AC/DC’s “You Shook Me All Night Long.”

Posted at 9:21am.


On a night in the early summer driving home my mind clicked it all together. After sitting through three hours of Boyhood, Modest Mouse’s 1999 compilation Building Nothing Out of Something aligned dots for my appreciation not only of that album but the entire band. “Never Ending Math Equation”…

Posted at 9:20am.




KB said before the shows, nobody take photos on your iPhones - and this was eagerly greeted by trendpiece hunting music writers as part of a general backlash against camera phones at gigs and the intrusion of social media into the…

To me this speaks to the idea that going to see a musician in concert doesn’t have to be just one thing; it’s fun when expectations are shifted and there is a different kind of experience on offer. Here the lighting was important and Bush delivered something that was even better with phones off. Think of live theater. You’re asked to turn off your cellphones b/c the people involved with the production want to control the sound. I’ve heard of experimental productions where people are asked to turn their phones on and they even ask people to call them, and that randomness of the rings becomes part of the environment. The sea of iPhones at a show in certain contexts can be an exciting and iconic visual in itself. I just like the idea of people being willing to give themselves over to different kinds of experiences, try things, see what happens, and sometimes that involves trusting the artists to give you something back. 


Guy who prefers a 4xCD version of Zaireeka to the mixdown.

Posted at 11:52am.


KB said before the shows, nobody take photos on your iPhones - and this was eagerly greeted by trendpiece hunting music writers as part of a general backlash against camera phones at gigs and the intrusion of social media into the concert experience. Kids today right?

But actually watching the show two things struck me. The first is that, obviously, making a request for audience immersion implies a bargain - that you’ll give them something worth being immersed in - KB did this, and actually so much of the show’s staging was about gradual transitions (of weather, in dreams, etc) that it resisted the kind of momentism concert photography encourages.

The second though is that Bush’s request was a very pragmatic one - with a show as dependent on careful lighting design as this, you can’t let a thousand diffferent small light sources loose in the crowd - it would have destroyed the effect for anyone further back than row 10 or so.

So basically, co-opting KB into a digital dualist backlash against modern concert going habits is really bogus. Performers can of course make whatever requests of their audience they like but if they don’t like smartphones at their gigs they should take a leaf out of her book and design gigs that reward not using them, rather than invoking it as a point of principle.

Posted at 9:08am.

In his book The Shadow Presidents, author Michael Medved relates the extreme disappointment of H.R. Haldeman over his failure to implement his plan to link up all the homes in America by coaxial cable. In Haldeman’s words, ‘There would be two-way communication. Through computer, you could use your television set to order up whatever you wanted. The morning paper, entertainment services, shopping services, coverage of sporting events and public events…. Just as Eisenhower linked up the nation’s cities by highways so that you could get there, the Nixon legacy would have linked them by cable communications so that you wouldn’t have to go there.’ One can almost see the dreamy eyes of Nixon and Haldeman as they sat around discussing a plan that would eliminate the need for newspapers, seemingly oblivious to its Big Brother aspects. Fortunately, the Watergate scandal intervened, and Nixon was forced to resign before ‘The Wired Nation’ could be hooked up.

I posted this once, but I feel I have to explain it. There was a popular series of cheap paperback books in the ’70s and ’80s called The Book of Lists. They had lists of things, trivia, etc. It was the internet before the internet. And in one of the first editions of this book, from 1980, there was this entry, part of a series called “Six Outrageous Plans That Didn’t Happen”. And in this list were some grandiose or terrifying plans by people in power that, thankfully, did not come to fruition.

Remember this is 1980. 

And one of the plans listed in this bit of trivia is a plan by Richard Nixon to “link up all the homes in America by coaxial cable.” News, shopping—all if it was to come into the homes of America via computer. And Nixon had this idea in 1973 (or earlier). And the perspective of this book written in 1980, is “Thank god this didn’t happen because the government would be spying on you.”

Posted at 12:20am.

Current Drafts folder.

Posted at 12:07am.

Current Drafts folder.

Boney M doing “No Woman No Cry”, a song made famous by Bob Marley even though it may or may not have been written by him (Google it, sounds like he probably wrote it). 

The most famous version of this song comes from the Bob Marley album Live!, released in 1975. That album sold well but the real reason its version of “No Woman No Cry” became so famous is because the live take was released on Legend, the Marley best-of that is one of the best selling records in recorded music. 

Legend is where I first heard this song, which definitely colored how I heard it. I think it’s safe to say that the canonization of Bob Marley was complete upon the release of Legend; with this set, he suddenly became not just the best and most well known reggae artist of all time, but also a songwriter who could hang with the greatest of rock greats—the black Bob Dylan, if you will. That’s not how I would describe him, mind you, but rather how Legend wanted to portray him.

Make no mistake, Bob Marley was a great, great songwriter and singer, it’s astonishing how good he was for how long. Listen to the pre-Island Wailers stuff he recorded w/ Lee Perry. The music after is awesome, also, but I think by listening to the stuff that didn’t become so huge you get a real sense of Marley’s genius. He was The One for a reason. 

What I”m talking about here has almost nothing to do with Bob Marley, the singer and songwriter and artist and human who actually lived. It has to do with Bob Marley, the icon, who was packaged and sold while he was alive but has been packaged and sold 100x more intensely since his death. The face you see on t-shirts.

He became an emblem of one of my least-favorite words, because it’s a word that was seized by the advertising industry and has no meaning whatsoever outside of it, even if some people think it does:


Bob Marley is held up as “authentic.” The real deal. And that authenticity is partly why his music continues to sell. Island has been genius in handling his catalog. Those wanting to paint Marley as “authentic” are helped greatly by the fact that he died so young. It’s much easier to make dead artists appear authentic. They’re no longer around to potentially ruin the aura.

Let me pause a moment here to reiterate that I absolutely love Bob Marley’s music, new and old; the Studio One ska stuff he did when he was a kid on down. He was brilliant.

A quick word about Boney M: they were a creation of a German songwriter and producer named Frank Farian. It was his thing; he arranged and produced the song and managed the image. They were a “fake” band in that he created them from scratch. He was a Svengali. Later he masterminded another vocal group you might have heard of called Milli Vanilli. 

So lately I’ve been listening to this Boney M version of “No Woman No Cry”, a song I know from Legend that seems deeply heartfelt and soulful, and thinking I like the “fake” version much better. It’s got a better groove, a more playful rhythmic lilt, and it turns out I prefer hearing these words and this melody and these changes performed by dispassionate professionals, rather than tortured artists. Who knew?

Posted at 12:12am and tagged with: boney M, writing,.

What are your thoughts on The Doors?

For quite a few years , they were in flux. I think as a teenage boy the fantasy of Jim Morrison’s life is hard to resist: He was young and beautiful. He did what he want when he wanted. He didn’t feel any responsibility to anyone else. He had the confidence to assume that whatever he was thinking at any given moment was important and worth sharing. At age 15, say, you take all that and pair it with it a close read of No One Here Gets Out Alive, with its attendant sex and drugs, and you have the ingredients for a serious Doors obsession. And that was me at that age. I owned all of their albums by the time I was 17 and I studied them. 

Then you get a little bit older and you realize how ridiculous these guys were, Morrison most of all but also Manzarek. And the Doors start to seem embarrassing. “Horse Latitudes”. Come on. And at some point by my mid 20s I had sold all my Doors albums. 

Then later I started to realize that youthful pretentiousness and ridiculousness is an important part of rock history, that you can wallow in a piece of music and feel it deeply while also understanding why some people find it funny. And that, depending on your mood, it can feel either life-or-death important or silly, and that both are valid, and they don’t necessarily negate each other. And then I started liking the Doors again because they had a unique sound, a unique singer, the sang and played like no one else and did some interesting things.

My favorite singe Doors release, and the only one I have in my home right now, is Weird Scenes Inside the Goldmine. It was an early 2xLP comp, since deleted, that has IMO a very good mix of their best pop stuff and their best weird/deep-cuts stuff. I enjoy it every time I put it on.

Posted at 11:12pm and tagged with: the doors, jim morrison, writing,.

246 plays

This is a piece from Harold Budd’s album La Bella Vista. I had never heard of this album before tonight. But I was listening to another Harold Budd record and I started googling around and saw some references to this one. It was, apparently, recorded at a private party. One of the people at this party was Daniel Lanois, and he started recording when Harold stepped to the piano, without Harold’s knowledge. I’m always skeptical of these kinds of stories, mostly because I know how tempting it can be to tweak a few facts to make a better tale. But this is a gorgeous piece of music that runs just under two minutes. There are certain human feelings that can be best expressed through simple melodies on an acoustic piano, it’s uncanny. Is this because of movies? If so how does that explain Satie and Chopin? In any event I heard this for the first time tonight and I’ll be listening to it forever.

Posted at 10:49pm and tagged with: harold budd, writing,.

Robert Christgau: Expert Witness — Cuepoint Music — Medium

Christgau is doing a version of his Consumer Guide at Medium.

Posted at 10:07am.

One reason I’m good at grading records is that I’d rather be right than first. Not right for everybody, of course— tastes differ, and should. Just for me, which is hard enough.


Zenobia Carson10 months ago
No you didn’t! I was having a so-so day and came to hear this! I am sixty six years of age, born and raised in Chicago, and this song was a favorite of my (then) boyfriend and later husband, and myself. We used to play it when babies and bills got in the way of romance, to remind us of our young teenage love. He is gone now, but the good memories brought by this song has perked up my day and made me smile.

What an incredibly beautiful sentiment, with a song to match. If you write about music it may not be a bad idea to study this passage and meditate on how music works in people’s lives and see if some of that knowledge might inform your writing. Pretty sure I’ve written 3,000-word columns that try and say what this says with less success. 

Posted at 12:04am.

Do you consider Pitchfork's editorial policy to be more rockist or poptimist? Is it changing?

IMO, it’s more rockist and always will be. As I’ve said before, no one identifies themselves as a “rockist” b/c it’s usually a pejorative term, so I don’t think of myself or Pitchfork in that way. But album reviews continue to be central to what Pitchfork is, and that in itself is a rockist idea. If you are especially concerned with albums, you’re probably a rockist, no matter what else you have going on. I am in this category.

Posted at 11:58pm.