Notes from The City.

Busy-ness ensues. But not so much that I can’t get back to business. As I’ve been championing to my chums of late, there’s a tremendous freedom to be found once separated from the enveloping cloud of academia. It’s like no other type of work in that you can always be assured that it comes home with you at the end of the day. Whether garbage-man, journalist, or game store clerk, when the doors close and the lids are returned, a Return to Self can be expected and relied upon. A time to kick up heels and quietly think, or read, or to just be. It’s much harder to remember that and act upon it while in school.

The dark specter of scholastic deadlines menaces from above and threatens to frighten away all semblance of social betterment, cultural fulfillment, and fringe entertainment. The freedom to enjoy these things again without spiritually flagellating myself to stay on track – without willingly eschewing my interest in movies, music, books, news, games, friends, ACTIVITY in order to perform at an intellectual optimum – is like a wash of cool air that invigorates and cleanses. This is not to say that I did nothing fun during my grad school tenure. Quite the opposite, in fact. But I am a student of immersion, and there’s something inside of me (a kind of fail-safe, perhaps?) that prevents total enjoyment of non-academic pursuits due to fear of failure and getting behind. But that failure never happens. Quite the opposite, in fact.

It might be product of parental programming, or perhaps self-crafted guilt in order to prove that I am truly capable and truly my own person. A more likely genesis is simply that I enjoy being driven onwards. Whatever the reason, my cultural aptitude has suffered, and now I’m at the nexus of reintegration again, and greatly looking forward to taking a pleasurable dip into the pool of paraphernalia. Here are a few things that have been happening recently, and some thoughts on them.

All of Britain and much of the World is in mourning with the loss of Mr. John Peel. It was an unexpected death, and a greatly affecting one. This man knew music, and he educated more than one generation. I never learned enough before it was too late, but once a studious youth, always a curious adult.

It therefore seems appropriate to mention here two excellent shows, just seen back-to-back in this fine city. Ol’ John would have no doubt approved. The first was Monday night at the Warfield, where it was my first time being exposed to live Interpol. A while back, I mentioned that their second album, ‘Antics’, was the best of the year. I am even more convinced of this now. In fact, I feel completely differently about the band now that I’ve seen what they have to offer in person.

In short, I feel that they should possibly be the current voice of our younger generation, in place of Eminem or No Doubt, perhaps – and thank the Gods. I don’t think I’ve ever heard louder accolades from a sold-out Warfield audience, nor have I seen such precision, clarity, or expression from such a young band, now surely in their popular prime. As my companion intoned, they might as well have been the Beatles on that night. The boys are from New York but clearly have a Manchester sound, and they conjure elements of Cure and Joy Division with multi-layered, resonant, droning guitars and tremendous bass lines that dance over the top of beckoning, mournful tones. Closing our eyes, the vocals succinctly conjured the ghost of Ian Curtis, with our realization that even JD never had – or never were given the chance to have – the proficiency or power that Interpol has now. Their sound was fuller than full, and they performed with a quiet presence that demanded respect and attention. There was nothing obnoxious about this band, but there *was* a cocked-head questioning that I found myself doing during each and every live song – wondering what was going on inside of them to have been able to conjure these sounds, and what was going on with me as a result of it. And I’m still wondering. And at the very least, the young stylers incite legions of cattle-minded fans to dress a bit nicer. A tie here, some pinstripes there. But it’s not fooling anyone. We know you’re not in the band, guys.

“We marshal in the days of longing
we tremble like aimless children
and wait to watch the fire
and airing on the side of caution
betraying all the symptoms
but girl you shake it right
I will bounce you on the lap of silence…”

Last night was The Twilight Singers at the Independent (née Kennel Club), a smaller venue for a smaller band that has, in some incarnation, been around for at least a decade longer than those precocious New Yorkers from the evening before. Greg Dulli, that troubled troubadour from Cincinnati, has a problem. Part of it is his reliance on cigarettes, alcohol, and the grimy ambiance of life as a rock star. But mainly, his real problem is that anything he touches turns to gold. Formerly fronting the incredible Afghan Whigs, Dulli found that his interests could not be hemmed in by a single, thematic band, and the Singers were formed. Their line-up changes every tour and with every album: previous and recurring members included Happy Chichester, Shawn Smith, and Mark Lanegan, but no matter what they play, the idea is the same: dark, driving, 1960s-crafted loungey rock n’ roll. The incense and cigarette smoke gets in your way but his words cut you deep, regardless.


The show at the Indy was typical Twilight, filled with a noxious blend of grooving standards, modern covers, and raucous original material – with a Whigs encore to close off the night. Dulli has some balls to put out an album of cover songs containing many that were recently released in their original incarnations: Mazzy Star’s ‘Feeling of Gaze’ and Bjork’s ‘Hyperballad’, together with older jams like Billie Holiday’s ‘Strange Fruit’ and a Nina Simone-inspired ‘Black is the Color of My True Love’s Hair’. And his unique talent is to make you feel dirty with every song, no matter when it was written. Somehow, the live band always pulls incredible old tunes out of their asses, retouches them with wickedness, and seamlessly blends them into one of their own pieces before you even know what the hell has happened. After three gin and tonics, I wanted to hop up there with my Midwest brother and lament along with him.

“Black out the window, it’s party time
You know how I love stormy weather
so let’s all play suicide
the crowd wants you beeding
the eyes from your head
get off your knees, you’ll be fine…”

And because Gandalf is still the master – no matter what his universe – check this out. But don’t thank me, thank Rita.

And if you don’t, she’ll shoot.

12 Responses to “Notes from The City.”

  1. psymbiotic Says:
    October 27th, 2004 at 7:30 am

    OMG, that Lord of the Rings short is hillarious. :>
    Egan >:>

  2. FunkyPlaid Says:
    October 27th, 2004 at 8:50 am

    Fear the keyboard-magic! And loving the brief interruption from recording to zap a rogue evil-doer.

  3. spiffington Says:
    October 27th, 2004 at 8:49 am

    Nice to see your thoughts and feelings on the show, makes me feel connected with you even from way over here.
    The connection feels even stronger for the fact I've been with you in previous musical experiences, so I can *see* your reactions.
    It makes me feel like maybe we're not that far apart afterall 🙂

  4. FunkyPlaid Says:
    October 27th, 2004 at 10:45 am

    What's a few thousand miles between friends, eh?
    Lanegan is playing Glasgow in the middle of November; just like last year. I heartily recommend that you go – and take the gang!

  5. thistlelurid Says:
    October 27th, 2004 at 10:32 am

    Greg Dulli …. when I caught the "Debonair" vid. for the first time
    way back in the day………my mouth just hung slack jawed…..
    He has the kind of demeanor that would make you slap your own mama…HAHA!
    "This ain`t about regret
    It`s when I tell the truth."

    yeeeeeeesssssss sir!

  6. FunkyPlaid Says:
    October 27th, 2004 at 10:43 am

    Oh, yes, ma'am.
    You are very correct. And that is one of the ten best albums EVER.
    "Angel, come closer
    so the stink of your lies sinks into my memory;
    Angel, forever…
    don't promise me what you cannot deliver."

  7. seolta Says:
    October 27th, 2004 at 7:46 pm

    Excellent rocknroll montage dood 🙂 Where do you find these things… what a hoot!
    You must send me the link to that goth street dance off thang too 🙂

  8. FunkyPlaid Says:
    November 5th, 2004 at 2:42 am

  9. marasca Says:
    October 31st, 2004 at 11:55 pm

    I just bought Antics over the weekend and it's interesting reading your review again. I like it a lot ("Slow Hands" is an early favorite), but I'm not sure about best album of the year. On the other hand, it grew on me between the first and third times through, so maybe by the 20th I'll be convinced. Or maybe it just depends on your criteria for "best" 😉
    I think I'd vote for Bjork's Medulla. Not always quite easy on the ears, but it's a fascinating album, and I don't think anything like it has ever happened to "popular" music or a cappella before.
    On yet another hand, I've been so out of the music loop lately that I'm probably not really qualified to be putting in votes for best album at all. Maybe that Ashlee Simpson album really was amazing and we've both just missed out on the musical experience of a lifetime. 😉

  10. FunkyPlaid Says:
    November 1st, 2004 at 1:19 am

    You know, 2004 wasn't a very good year for new music. So the bar for *Best Album* is much lower than it would be in most other given years. 'Antics' is so nice to me because it's so consistent and thick with sentiment, while being expressive and crafty, besides. And it is no great departure for Interpol, who are much more talented than I would have thought. I figured one album and Fade Out.
    I found what I've heard of 'Medulla' to be rather over-hyped, as Björk is quite limited in her vocal style and is getting overly pretentious for my tastes. But I do like her, and her new one certainly requires more listening for me. 'Fascinating' is a very good word for it.
    Of course you're qualified to say what you think! I love hearing about it, so don't you dare stop. Ashlee or no.
    Okay, please say you didn't REALLY…

  11. marasca Says:
    November 1st, 2004 at 5:00 am

    There is a long history of musically brilliant teenage girls on the pop charts. Fiona Apple for one. Avril Lavigne. Maybe Ashlee reallt *is* great.
    Yeah, I can't keep a straight face anymore. Though I do mean what I just said about Fiona. 😉

  12. FunkyPlaid Says:
    November 1st, 2004 at 3:34 pm

    Heheh, Yah, Fiona is okay with me.
    Avril needs a baseball bat to the head, though. Maybe she'll smile a bit, then, albeit through broken teeth.

Leave a Reply