Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Book Report

To join in on the content explosion happening here at Tropic of Food, I'll submit a short book report for the new 33 and 1/3 book on My Bloody Valentine's "Loveless". Hopefully, it won't make David hate music again.

I've read a few of the 33 and 1/3 series of books discussing classic albums and found their quality to vary greatly. My favorite one so far is about The Kinks' "Are the Village Green Preservation Society". As a music geek, it really got deep enough into the actual recording of the songs to appease my curiosity and put the album in the context of the time it was recorded, both in terms of the musical culture at large and the lives of its creators. Franlkin Bruno's take on "Armed Forces" was informative, but it 's structure, alphabetically ordered to serve as a sort of glossary for the album, was an annoying gimmick. I got kind of bored with the history of REM's "Murmur" and didn't finish it, but that may have been my fault. As far as I could tell, I would have needed Finn's musical education to appreciate what the hell was going on in the book about "OK Computer". Though it's one of my favorite albums, I haven't messed with "Let it Be" by the Replacements since the guy from the Decembrist's apparently goes 30 or 40 pages before he mentions the record at all. So, they seem to be pretty uneven. With that in mind, I read My Bloody Valentine's "Loveless" by Mike McConigal.

Overall, I have to say I enjoyed it. He actually interviewed many of those involved with making the record, most importantly Kevin Shields, who was really the auteur behind the record as the book makes clear. Sometimes the tone is informal to the point of distraction, but generally it flies along easily enough and when he lets the actors speak for themselves it offers some true insights. There's some nice background on the group before it delves into the real meat of the book, the story of My Bloody Valentine making the record. It does a good job refuting some of the myths surrounding "Loveless" while also chronicling the difficult conditions in which it was made. It probably would have been just fine as a long piece in Mojo(I assume there's been one), but this little book will look cooler on the bookshelf.

In terms of things we've discussed here at Tropic of Food recently, the term 'rockist' is used of course, Shields notes he was influenced by hip hop and the author even mentions Ram Jam's "Black Betty". There's mention made of Mark Ibold, strippers in Portland, and Andy Cabaic of Vetiver/The Raymond Brake. So it's got something for everybody.

Next up, RB's review of Ulysses.

Le Weekend Sophomore Live Effort

An evening of bands appearing and playing!

Thursday March 1
The Reservoir
Darker Brighter = Lincoln Hancock, Charles Story, Brian Donohoe
Le Weekend = RPBJr., Matt Kalb!, Ben Ridings, Erin Ridings, Bob Wall
Goner= the guys in Goner

BTW, baby: Le Weekend is absolutely invulnerable i/r/t all recently-raised criticism appearing on this blog. No backs, period. In fact, upon debuting our new inaccurately titled song, music will be changed quantitatively...forever! (There will be one more song...forever!).

But seriously, we'd like you to be there.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

A Good Year

Let's talk about some things that were good this past year.

1) My favorite song of the year was "Promiscuous" by Nelly Furtado. It gives me a rush every time I hear it--get prickilty and cold all over then my cheeks flush and I get embarassed. Timbaland had a great year--single handly clogging the airwaves with songs worth listening to--and this was the best kitty in the litter. I can't quite explain what moves me so much about this track--which is of course how it should be. If I could describe it in total then it would be a pretty weak song becuase I am pretty inarticulate. It seems to me that the track, musically, is a perfect example of what Timbaland does best--creating synth-pop that sounds warm and inviting rather than cold and removed. Or perhaps in its coldness reveals the emotion below the still surface? Is that right? I don't know. Am I wrong to think of the best songs of the Red House Painters when I hear it?

The lyrics really crush me. They are so sorrowful. I can feel the waning youth and loss of hope against my face. I can almost make out a narrative, somewhere here--two people, alone, isolated, trying to fill their lives with other people, but failing, yet they know that the other is out there and if they only could break through the emptiness around them--perhaps they could be happy.

Timb: I be the first to admit it, I’m curious about you, you seem so innocent.

Nell: You wanna get in my world, get lost in it? Boy I’m tired of
running, lets walk for a minute
It is that line "I'm tired of running, let's walk for a minute"--damn. This song reminds me alot of what I love so much about "Dancing in the Dark." Both present themselves as cool/cold, but have some serious remorse seething below the surface. In "DitD," you can feel Springsteen about to burst through, or hoping/praying that he will explode--perhaps he never will. That's the sorrow of that song--and of "Promiscuous"--the joy of dance and other people perverted into isolation--and below it all, someone who still wants to feel something, anything.

I like that song.
Promiscuous girl, wherever you are I’m all alone
and it's you that I want.
Promiscuous boy, you already know
that I’m all yours--what you
waiting for?
2) The Thin Place by Kathryn Davis, which I read this January, is one of the greatest novels I've ever encountered. It is difficult to describe, but I think it bears the same qualities as Moby-Dick and belongs in that class of American Novel. I have no doubt about this.

It is a novel about community--not just a community of people--but a community of all life--adults, children, the elderly, animals, plants, rocks, God, the Earth, time (each a living entity with feelings and thoughts)--each in their place, each with its life exposed for us to see. I've read very few books as great as this one.

I'd previously read one of her other books--Hell--and really liked it--but it was nothing like this book. Unfortuantely, I can't say much about it because, to describe it is to insult it--nothing I can say can come close to doing it justice. I beg anyone reading this who is interested in literature or the nature of the Cosmos or who has ever loved another person in their life to read this.

I am also fairly sure that is was published last year and I didn't see it on any year end lists--despite getting lots of great reviews when it came out. That is a shame because it is a profoundly important, religous, and meaningful work.

3) The Amalgamation Polka by Stephen Wright was another terrific book I read this past year that got great reviews but then seemed to get forgotten at the end of the year. The best book about the Civil War I've ever read, and some crazy good prose too.

"Someone had produced a fiddle around which soon congregated a makeshift chorus of willing singers, obscure figures in black cutout against the last fading light, and then the familiar strains of 'Old Folks at Home' rose up against the night in fluidly adroit, unforgettable harmony and it was possible to believe that the world and the things of the world were connected by a melody of their own, persistent though often indistinct, traces of which could be heard lurking even beneath the sentimental cadences of a popular tune of the day, and as the final note dissolved into a pure sustained silence, all noise and motion beyond the boat, the toiling mules, seemed to cease -- even inanimate objects held their breaths -- and into that becalmed interval glided, silent as a shade, the long, graceful packet and its entranced human cargo, as through a mystic cavern hewn from nature's own stuff, and then the bow hit the strings (the opening bars to 'Turkey in the Straw') and the spell was broken, and time fell back onto the travelers' shoulders like a cloak spun of material so gorgeously fine you didn't even realize it was wearing you until it had been briefly whisked away."
I haven't read any of his other books, but I sure am going to.

4) Conversational Reading is my favorite lit blog of the past year. Lots of great stuff to read here.

5) I've already talked bunches about how great is was this past year to get into David Foster Wallace. Beginning with Infinite Jest, I read most of what he's published (there are a few stories I haven't read yet, and I am waiting for Consider the Lobster to come out in paperback).

If you have spent any time around RB, Matt K! or me this year, you probably have heard enough, or if spent that much time around us, you probably also don't need to be told how good Wallace is (or of course maybe you hate him). In any case, there are many reasons for me not to go into how much I like his writing.

6) We had a good time.

Some shit to hate on....

Monday, February 26, 2007

Regarding Hip Hop and the Greatness of Rock Music

I tried to comment on Eric's post below, but couldn’t fit the comment in the comment box, so here it is as a new post.


I am not sure that I understand what the two guys are supposed to be debating?

The argument seem to be:

Guy 1: I used to like hip-hop but don't so much any more--in part because
I listen to hip-hop that is very popular and not that good and in part because I
impregnated a woman.

Guy 2: You aren't trying hard

If I understand, the second guy wants the other guy to try harder with hip-hop and the first guy just doesn’t care anymore. Yet the confusion for me is I don’t know WHY they are having this debate.

Are they discussing liking hip hop as music listeners? Are they asking if it is alright to not be so much into a genre of music? Or are they asking as music/pop-culture critics? If it is the first the answer is "sure, why not, I don't give a fuck what you listen to." If it is the second, the answer is "No." I wouldn’t trust an expert on French literature who hadn’t read Flaubert because he “used to be into Realism” but “isn’t comfort able with it anymore” and “didn’t keep up with it.”

The two writers seem to be talking around this. The second mentions that the first, as a critic, should be informed on different genres (of course if they are talking about music critic ethics, it really makes me wonder why I care); but he also mentions that the first guy isn't listening to the right stuff, which seems to go more to it being a personal musical listening thing.

As a critic, you would listen to Top 40/hits stations so you can know about what is popular then discuss why it is popular and why it is weird/interesting that people like it--and has very little to do with listening to music for its own intrinsic artistic value (though it has a lot to do with finding value in music that lots of people might not assume has value.) As a listener, you should listen to what you like. The second guy does make the great point that the first fellow is judging and entire genre based on some of the worst examples. His example of deciding that rock is not good because he listened to the Killers once and didn't like it is good, though he doesn't really extend that out and make that the focus. I'm just not sure what these guys are all about.


I did have one big problem though.

The first guy’s “I am uncomfortable with the content of hip-hop these days” point—I really object to this.

I find any critique of content of hip-hop to be a worthless critique if the person making it doesn’t also apply the same critique to rock/indie rock. Any critique that hip-hop is empty/shallow/too commercial/socially irresponsible/etc. should be applied to rock music too because it is also--and to not apply it or consider it is really short-sighted. The critique obviously applies to Top 40 shit rock like Nickleback (seriously, that rock star song is nearly as bad as that one really awful song about liking the girl's pants around her knees--I smell the death of humanity everytime I hear that shit), but more importantly very much applies "indie rock"—and perhaps moreso because of the total artistic pass that is give to it.

Indie rock today--or the popular music that stemmed from the American Rock Music underground of the 80's and 90's but is now really pretty popular and well distributed that we call indie rock—is about as shallow and meaningless as art can possibly get.

It is self-absorbed navel gazing--which would be fine if the navel gazing were aimed at an trying to get some understanding of the self or the mind and how they work. It isn't.

Not only does contemporary “quality” rock music not address any important social topic—such as poverty/war/injustice/class—in any way—it doesn’t even deal with the interpersonal/emotional/imaginative very well any more. At least Top 40/commercial hip-hop and R&B often touch on issues of poverty/race/drug abuse/class/etc.—American indie rock deals with nothing but the sound of mewling voices over well recorded strumming.

I am very serious about this. What does any of this shit tell us about our culture, about death, about the existence or non-existence of God, about the cruelty or generosity of other people—about being poor, lonely, isolated?



Why? Two reasons. Art can come from experience or the imagination—or a combination of the two. American independent music is born of upper-middle class comfort—because your parents have to have money for you to be able to do this--and that comfort is one often devoid of experience (I know this is a generalization, but I can extrapolate from experience)—very few of us who are in bands have every really had to do much with our lives or have done much of note; and it is also born of middle-brow American utilitarianism and pragmatism and as such has no contact with imagination at all (if you doubt this—consider people’s reactions to bands that have lyrics that are perceived as surreal/non-sequiterish—they shit themselves silly over how the song doesn’t mean anything—or is crazy—or how the band is on drugs).

It is art born of hobby and leisure and sadly lacks the depth and insight to even be aware of that and offer even a comment.

The world is fucked—why has American independent music not turned out much in the way of protest music? The Nein are actually one of the few bands that I can think of that have made attempts to deal with social/war issues. Audubon Park doesn’t do it. I think we are very much a poster child for the problems that I am discussing (I also have scrupuously not mentioned by name many of the bands that I am thinking of because that would be rude--especially when we are such a good stand in for all that is wrong with music today).

The problem is, that we all want what the bands in the 90’s had—the ability to be weird and fun—like Pavement and Guided By Voices—without having to engage the world. The best of those bands did engage the mind and imagination and were great because they were challenging on that level. But we mistook not having to engage the work lyrically to mean that we didn't have to engage it at all. What music used to be able to do, whether the music was thoughtful or not, was bring people together and create a community. Music no longer does that either. The whole universe bound inside of our earbuds--and endless stream of faceless songs on our iPods--no-one else listening with us--no-one singing anything to us that means anything any longer.

You know, perhaps the Geto Boys are socially irresponsible—but at least they wrote “Fuck a War”—and there are few songs ever with as much psychological insight as “My Mind is Playing Tricks on Me”. Those are the two paradigms of what music SHOULD do and what I see so little rock music today doing or even attempting.

I am not saying that all music has to be social protest music. I am saying that music should have some weight to it—some gravity—some intellectual curiosity—which I find lacking in almost all contemporary rock music and to claim that you are not going to listen to hip-hop because it makes you uncomfortable because of its content, or that it is socially irresponsible, but you still listen to rock music unquestioningly—that is just thoughtless.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Pete Rockism?

Hey Y'all,

I like these crosstalk things they do over at the Onion's AV Club, which you might be reading anyway. Thought I'd link to this one discussing hip-hop's relevance to middle age white dudes as it touches on some of things discussed here.

One of my main points from the discussion is echoed there: "Fuck the Haters".

Thursday, February 22, 2007

It's coming....

A Wedding in the Family

The Tropic of Food would like to offer big ups to DC Nahm's brother, Mr. TP Nahm, and his new wife, Mrs. LK Nahm. They are awsome, live in a cold-ass state, have cool friends, and are themselves untouchable, except with special gloves. Also, they have the secret weapon:

Of Mr. TP Nahm, Mr. DC Nahm said: "He's my brother."

Loud Screaming is the Best

Folks, sorry I slept on getting this to the best blog ever, but here it is:

Ol' Big Snake Timberlake put on quite the show in DC back on Feb. 2. He's not as good as Prince (and should really accept the comparisons to Prince as complimentary), his ballads aren't as strong as the dance jams, put whatever, the Timbaland beats came across best live. Pink was the opener. That song "You're just like a pill! Instead of making me better you keep making me ill!," kind of rules. She did a song that was critical of parents who aren't so glad their kids are gay. I applaud her for many people there actually caught those lyrics I don't know, but at least she's trying.

The highlight of the between acts music on the PA: Biggie Smalls' "Fucking You Tonight" being played twice! It came on at kind of a low volume...and then it came on again at full volume. Excellent!

JT played some keyboard, guitar...and even keytar. The show was way longer than you could've ever imagined. The "intermission" was Timbaland blasting beats from his more notable hits and it was essentially a more expensive A/V backed version of Girltalk with no boxer shorts exposure and no dancers on stage...and I guess Timbaland actually made these beats himself (I do like Girltalk a lot though).

And the question I've been asked the most about the show (by women oddly enough)? Yes, the women there were HOT! And they *looked* legal...looks are all that matter right? The blasting beats with a concomitant wall of screaming (it's the cleaned up Masonna howling that was constantly blaring away, not the music that had my ears ringing) ....especially when he started doing some sort of doggy style motion on a dancer who looked like Britney Spears, with another dancer next to them who looked like K-Fed, created quite a howl.

Late in the show JT was noodling away on a synth, seriously like, prog rock foolishness that sounded kind of cool, but nothing amazing...and then a cadence developed in the droning and they went into "Sexy Back" the song ended, in honor of being in DC, Timbaland and him announced they would now perform the song Go Go style (they apparently did this at the 9:30 Club last summer). I'm curious if any other artists who's played this Verizon Arena even knows what a Go Go song is, much less cares to convert their own song into one...most probably shouldn't bother. This was good!

I could perhaps postulate upon the implications of a white Memphis native with an all African American band, performing Go Go in an arena in DC on the first weekend of Black History month, but I'm no Roland Barthes (that old Frenchman could get away with dissecting every aspect of a strip club under the guise of semiotics). Here's to furthering the pursuit of an intellectual dialectic on the internet.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007


I've always enjoyed seeing an artist perform in her or his own hometown. In their own house, even better! Quintron and Miss Pussycat in the ground floor of their home in the 9th Ward of New Orleans, have the Spellcaster Lodge. It's a legit venue with a bar, bathrooms, soundsystem, DJ booth, Quintron's organ set up, and a stage. It had to be repaired after Katrina and Rita, now looking sharper than ever (the rest of the, what looked damaged at this time last year still looks damaged, the cars at least seemed to have been cleared from under the overpasses). Quintron acted on this night as MC, DJ, soundman, performer, and marching band leader (more on that later).

After the Endymion parade ended(which had the likes of Journey and Styx in their current incarnations on floats?!) it was time to head over to the Spellcaster Lodge. The theme of the event was a Maritime Ball. Hearingbone started the night off with their orchestral chamber gloom. Good stuff, not really of the party vibe, but good.

The Overnight Lows then cranked up their garage rumble. Being a cool band from Jackson, MS must, I mean you have that June and Johnny song about your town.

Then it was time for Katy Red! I never thought I'd get to see a New Orleans bounce artist at all, much less in the 9th Ward. An intergender duo preceeded her on stage with some adequate rhymes (made even better once the mic levels were corrected) and then acted as Katy's hype crew.

Katy remained fabulous throughout the brief set. The purse did not leave the forearm. After the first song Quintron had to chime in over the PA and announce that the backing cd was "too dirty" more ways than one. It was too scratched up to play, so Quintron fetched his Katy Red 12" on Take Fo records (pays to play your hometown).

Quintron and Miss Pussycat then performed their set. They focused on songs from the somewhat slept upon, yet great album Swamp Tech. "Shoplifter" is one of the greatest songs ever written, much less the greatest song about shop lifting in downtown New Orleans.

The clock was approaching 3:30am, the mirrored walls were sweaty, the room was packed with non-stop dancing and many seemed eager to gather in the street after the show for the 9th Ward Marching Band's parade to Jackson Square.

So after a four hour show, Quintron's 50 plus membered marching band was going to march in the cold at 4:30am. As the band was lining up the cops nearby didn't bat an eye, though a National Guard hummer did pull a vehicle over up the block (as if one needed a reminder that this part of New Orleans has dealt with things a bit differently over the past year and a half). Then Andre Williams comes outside!

I guess he was sleeping in the house all of this time. He was the Grand Marshall. Last year Peaches was their Grand Marshall and after they marched in the Proteus parade on Lundi Gras night (as they would this year), they played at One Eyed Jack's. So this wasn't really that new of a concept to play a show and march back to back (be it their own concocted route or in a legit Mardi Gras parade which is an honor for those involved)...although even in New Orleans a band lining up at 4:30am did get a few people to ask what the hell was going on as they drove by.

As the snare drummers gelled into a terse rimshot, off they went into the morning, the volume not really cranking up with the rest of the band until they entered the French Quarter. To be sure, certain shenanigans are easier to pull off in certain towns, so that's not really the point here. The point is you should go to New Orleans! There are plenty of things of interest going on now....the street signs are still bent out of shape, but it's not hard to get around.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Losing to Demm

First thing I did this morning when I got out of bed: broke a hand barely touched it and the shit became unhinged, hit the floor, and smashed, oh well, but I finally got back on Rock 92's Put Up or Shut Up Rock'n'Roll Trivia. It's been harder to get on the air this past year and the qualifying question has gotten harder (although plenty of lunkheads still make it on air). Last week the question, "Which band at Woodstock '69 was paid in advance?" (Grateful Dead...I didn't know they had it together like that back then, I assumed it was Hendrix) stumped me. Today it was, "Randy the judge on American Idol was once the bassist for which huge rock band?" Journey!

I tanked on the CCR question and the "Tea Set" question. I should've gotten the CCR question based on the color theme (and my fondness for a certain late '80's band) and Tea Set I should've known because I acquired a lot of arcane knowledge of this band in the '80's but other bands became more interesting to me since then I guess. I scored 8, Demm nothced 10....I've beaten him 3 times and hair metal questions were to my advantage on those occasions. Anyways I won free lift tickets for Ski Beech (it better stay cold for next weekend).

The theme was "COLORS" and was created to be relatively "hard". The answers are at the bottom.

Questions were as follows:

1. First Rolling Stones album with Ron Wood on guitar?

2. The hat in Springsteen's back pocked on the Born in the USA album cover is what color?

3. What band was known as Tea Set but changed it when they found themselves on a bill with another band called Tea Set?

4. Name one of the Beatles albums with a color in the title.

5. The octopus in the title of a Jefferson Starship album is A) White B) Blue C) Red....I totally guessed and got it right.

6. Creedence Clearwater Revival song that charted high but not #1 (or something like that, I choked on this one).

7. Vh1 listed which metal band at #2 on their Greatest Metal Bands of all time?

8. Did UB40's "Red Red Wine" chart at #1?

9. Name the song playing (it was AC/DC "Back in Black")

10. Name the song playing (it was Cream "In the White Room")

1.Black and Blue
3.Pink Floyd
4.White Album or Yellow Submarine
6.Green River
7.Black Sabbath

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Show Tonight

This was brought to our attention in the Comments by a MYSTERIOUS POSTER!

Tonight! @ The Wetlands!

Social Memory Complex (CD Release)

Common Ground (feat. Phonetic, Crash, and L in Japanese)

Heavy Contact


You've been notified. Now it is up to you to tell your innerself.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Crash, is what I meant to say, my bad.

In the house

Anyone seen Dash (Finn's brother) perform lately? I saw him at a party in Chapel Hill last week. He was rather great!