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Old 07-28-2009, 04:43 PM   #31 (permalink)
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F. Scott Fitzgerald once said there are no second acts in American life. For a large section of the populace, that's true. And they will forever be stuck in that cliché if they don't wake up from the daydream.
Brilliant conclusion there, man.
And, yes, you should believe Spike Lee - even a peaceful mob will riot when they feel they should.
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Old 07-28-2009, 04:47 PM   #32 (permalink)
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An interesting note I won't put in my next essay but will be a sort of prequel to it since if I don't want images breaking up the continuity of my essays:

Here's an interesting thing, look at the cover of The Great Gatsby and the cover of Remain in Light. Look at each cover and the parts of the face that are exposed.



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Old 07-28-2009, 04:48 PM   #33 (permalink)
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'Remain in Light' by the Talking Heads (1980)


Take a look at these hands. The hands of a government man. How did we get here? The days go by. How did we get here?

The Great Gatsby is the greatest manifesto on the failure of the American dream. Does that big house, do those five cars, really bring you happiness? It is the story of a man who came from nothing, joining the Army and falling in love with a rich girl. She obviously didn't know he was just living in a tent, and he projected an air of wealth about him in order to impress her. They fall in love. For a while, every day seems like bliss. Then, the Great War, World War One, which the book calls 'that great Teutonic migration' intervenes and he leaves. She waits for him but eventually marries off to another rich man. Gatsby is filled with determination to regain her love, to regain her, and so he gains a fortune and eventually becomes rich enough to win her back. He stands outside his house and looks across the sound to her house and a green light at the end of her dock. That green light represents everything he's been chasing his entire life. By the end of the book we realize that the green light is behind him, in the past, and the image of the girl he has in is head is gone, destroyed by time, and as he realizes that what drove him his entire life was nonexistent, nothing but memories of the past and how people were, he gives up on life. In the end he was just a dog chasing his tail. There are other characters in this book like that. There is the man that Daisy, the object of Gatsby's desire, marries. His name is Tom and he is a rather big man, and he used to play football in college. The book describes him as wandering the world, always in search for that one last football game.

Other pieces of American artwork express these themes. Citizen Kane tells the story of a rich man who searches for Rosebud, which I won't spoil it and tell you what it is, but it is the representation of his lost childhood innocence and he spends his entire life trying to relive those years. In 'The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen, a mother spends her days trying to reunite her family for 'one last Christmas in St. Jude', their mid-western hometown, with an image of her family back in the good old days where everything was okay and her babies were all with her. All of these characters are trying to recreate their presents into a past that only exists in their minds. It's a uniquely American theme and I find it tragic in a way. In comes 'Remain in Light', which I think is in that tradition.

Unprecedented. There was no album like 'Remain in Light' before it hit the scene. There really wasn't even a lead up to it, a logical progression to the album, it just appeared. I mean, no other album from this band was as united as this. And sure, they explored the tech aspect of music before, but those were just stabs in the dark. Even the claimed influences didn't really prompt this album. For instance, with the last song, they claimed to be influenced Joy Division without ever hearing a Joy Division song before making the song, they just looked at press releases and made a sound of according to what Joy Division was described as and tried to translate that into sound. A weird sort of story, but it shows just how unique this album was, even when it borrowed from other bands, there's a good chance they'd never even heard the band and just based that borrowed sound off of a one paragraph summation of that sound. How can you translate words into music? The Talking Heads tried to do that. Unprecedented.

Who'd have thought that the artsy, nerdy, literary band of the CBGB crowd would toss their hat into the ring of higher art, trying to create something akin to 'The Great American Album', and coming pretty damn close? Out of all the albums I've heard, this probably comes closest, and I think is in the same league of Gatsby and Kane,, in the same spirit as them. It combines a sort of techno-anxiety, the anxiety of punk combined with the sensibilities of new wave, a theme similar to the great American works of art like Kane and Gatsby, all in eight tracks and forty minutes. Seen and Not Seen demonstrates these themes greatly, but only after you have that theme in mind first, then things that don't make sense all of a sudden connect. However, this is all speculation, because unlike all those other pieces, this is very vague about it's themes, and the only times it really solidly conveys a theme is during 'Once in a Lifetime', maybe the best song on the album. Can 'The Great American...' even be achieved? If it could, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Orson Welles and the Talking Heads got pretty damn close.

Wasting away, that was the policy. Molding your face according to some ideal. Same as it ever was. Letting the days go by. Take a look at these hands. The hands of a government man. These hands speak. I've lost my shape. Same as it ever was. Same as it ever was.
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Old 07-28-2009, 07:22 PM   #34 (permalink)
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'The Beatles(The White Album)' by The Beatles



The above picture says a lot about how the relationships between the members of the most successful band in popular music deteriorated in their final years. In one snapshot it captures the relationship of the four Beatles in the latter years of the band. Lets analyze it a bit.

All the way to the left we have George Harrison, barely in the picture and the most isolated out of all the members in spacial terms in the photograph. Notice the white beam literally separating him from the others. George was definitely the most isolated, treated like the 'little brother' despite his talent in songwriting being practically equal to John and Paul. This was reinforced by the fact he was the youngest, and John and Paul had known him since he was 16. George Harrison had to fight tooth and nail to get his songs onto the album and done the way he wanted them to be done. For instance, while recording 'While My Guitar Gently Weeps', lots of people know that the guitar solo was actually played by Eric Clapton, but what is less known is the only reason Eric was brought in was when Paul and John played on the song, they put no emotion into it and could care less about the song, each one consumed in their own personal lives and songs. So George brought in Eric, because the theory was a family puts aside their fighting and tries to act nice, if for no other reason but to prevent embarrassment when company is there. Even if a family hates each other, none of them would like it if other people knew they didn't like each other. The result is one of the classic songs by The Beatles, atop many fans favorites lists.

Poor Ringo. Out of all the people in the picture, he looks the most melancholy. Many people don't give him enough credit. It was his personality, easy-going way and peculiar phrases that inspired their songs(some phrases of his: eight days a week, a hard day's night, and tomorrow never knows) kept the band together. You could always count on Ringo being the one trying to break the tension and crack a joke. If not for him, I doubt the band would have lasted as long as they did. Notice those things behind him, rolls and loops of tape, overwhelming him. In interviews, Ringo would comment that he learned to play chess during Sgt. Pepper's, that's how much free time he had. He would lay down a drum track, and then sit back as the other three obsessed over dubs and such. After they stopped touring, the amount of work Ringo would put in would literally be the amount of time it took to play the drums, then they'd shove him aside and start dubbing, importing exotic instruments, etc. Sure, during this the other three were busy being pioneers, but that left Ringo out in the cold. A warning sign that the band was cracking up was when, during the White Album sessions, Ringo quit. In fact, on the song 'Back in the USSR', Paul played the drums. Eventually, the members got him to rejoin as they flooded his mailbox and his doorstep with notes like 'Ringo is the best!', until finally he relented. Why did he quit? He felt like the other members didn't like him, that the other three were really good friends and he felt like he wasn't apart of things. Amazingly, as he admitted that to the band, they all admitted that they felt like the isolated one and that the other three were really good friends. A bad omen if there ever was one.

Then there's John. People blame Yoko too much. Although, Yoko's arrival was what unleashed all of their pent-up tension and resentment, if Yoko was never there, they still would've broke up, because once Brian Epstein died, it was only a matter of time. But, I'm not trying to say Yoko wasn't a manipulative person. She was. During that time period, John had a real problem with heroin(later talked about in his solo song, 'Cold Turkey'), and while they both shot up, Yoko would tell him how much better he was than the others, that they were holding him back, all that, almost cliché sounding jazz. Isn't it interesting, how Yoko seems almost to be growing out of John, and how his glasses and posture make him look like a kid, and her an overbearing mother. I'm not even going to get into the whole John and his mother issues thing. That would warrant an entire essay by itself.

Next is Paul. Look at how he's the only one with his hands on the console. In the latter years, Paul took on the role as leader and for a while they stayed together just by Paul's sheer force of will. It was Paul who wanted to invite the cameras in and film a documentary about them, and coincidentally, Paul looks like the only one interested in giving the fans a good show. Look at how annoyed Paul looks too. When Brian died, they had two choices for a manager, there was one who Paul supported, and one guy who the others supported, a friend of John's, Allen Klein. Allen did things that Epstein refused to, such as rerelease the Beatles songs as compilations. Paul felt that this was diminishing their artistic accomplishments, the death nail was when Paul sued the other three Beatles, in what he called a 'divorce'. The Beatles as a business unit were dead.

As an album, The White Album is their most dis-unified, it almost seems like a bunch of songs they had thrown together in the form of a double album, and contrary to the logic of the first two things I just mentioned, it's probably their best. It's size was an ambitious statement back then, and it's reputation has become almost monolithic. If Ahab had a white whale to chase, then I submit a theory that bands these days chase a 'white album', with the challenge of: can you make a giant, ambitious artistic statement and keep the quality of material consistently excellent? Most bands don't have a 'white album', and in my mind only two albums really hit that mark of sheer size combined with quality, 'The Wall' and '69 Love Songs'.

Look at the lines on the wall, they almost look like prison bars. The Beatles were trapped inside their own fame. It was a good thing they broke up. My grandma says that you like your children much more when they leave, and they like you more. The Beatles were stuck together for ten straight years. They had to be. Their fame came pretty quick, and stayed that way until they broke up. They couldn't go outside without being mobbed by people, and as a result spent most of their time together in the same rooms. When the band started, they were boys, and they couldn't really reach that last step of growing up unless they went out on their own, away from the 'family' if you will, and carve their own paths. And the band had to break up for that to happen. I personally find it to be a miracle they had such a consistently high quality of songs during their time together, and it's probably a good thing they didn't keep on making records. For all we know, they could have turned into The Rolling Stones. I'm glad they weren't together long enough for fans to go: God, these guys are way too old to still be doing this, just give it up.

I guess the only thing you can say is, ob-la-di, ob-la-da, life goes on.
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Old 07-29-2009, 04:43 AM   #35 (permalink)
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This latest entry is fantastic. You have a sound knowledge of The Beatles and I learnt lots here that I had never known before. I've always really loved that picture and the millions of words it speaks.
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Old 07-29-2009, 07:10 AM   #36 (permalink)
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I like to think of the majority of my generation, my associates and partners in crime with the analogy of the Roman candle. If you don't know of the Roman candle analogy, it's okay, because I thought of it. A lot of us are like fireworks, shooting up into the sky, looking pretty and inciting oohs and aahs from the spectators below. But when we peak, when we explode, we're naught but a burnt husk landing on the ground, a shadow of our former glory. People peak too early. Think of the jocks and the high school stars, who will spend the rest of their lives as insurance salesmen or working at the Pep Boys in their hometown. They're Roman candle, they are fireworks, never again to see their fiery youth but everyday hoping to relive it. But we're not unique in this tradition. F. Scott Fitzgerald once said there are no second acts in American life. For a large section of the populace, that's true. And they will forever be stuck in that cliché if they don't wake up from the daydream.
You make me feel so lazy, i always saw the candle for what it is, a shining beacon standing out from the music at the time that didn't aim as high as Daydream Nation did. The lyrics to the song Candle kind of allude to this as well, as well as their image of a stoner band who were just playing shit for the fun of it. There were a lot of bands doing just that but none of them could make a masterpiece like this, as you said it's a hugely complicated album.
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Old 07-29-2009, 09:03 AM   #37 (permalink)
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This is probably the best collections of writings on the site, elegantly written, touching and often insightful, and a clarity of ideas that is impressive. It actually makes me wish I contributed more to the sight, and makes me determined to start writing here again.

And kudos for the Deadhouse Gates quote. Fantastic and tragic book, (and series).
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Old 07-29-2009, 07:29 PM   #38 (permalink)
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the last paragraph says it all ...
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Old 07-30-2009, 04:12 PM   #39 (permalink)
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'Exile on Main St.' by The Rolling Stones (1972)


It's rare if you encounter an album with less bullsh*t and frills than this. The bullsh*t levels would have to be negative because this album has none. And negative bullsh*t? Well, that's just a bullsh*t concept. This album is literally a tour across the Rock and Roll landscape and clearly illustrates that: Rock and Roll will kick your ass, get your girl and then do a funky dance with her, steal your money and gamble with it, then win and use the proceeds to buy drugs, getting your girl addicted to heroin and when she overdoses and dies, will do a sad bluesy ballad as a tribute to her(after all, Rock and Roll isn't soulless), making you watch the entire time, and after it's all over, Rock and Roll will buy you a beer, because he's that kind of a guy. He's like the Count St. Germain of Music. If you don't know who that guy is: Saint-Germain: The Immortal Count

Pretty crazy, about that Count guy, eh? Immortality. Even though I mostly despise ACDC, I share their scholarly views regarding Rock and Roll, and Exile on Main St. is a great example. Rock and Roll will never die, mostly because of albums like Exile. Ballsy, roots and raw, speeding along the tracks at three hundred miles an hour. The songs tend to cut off abruptly, a staggering effect which is used effectively, although at the time it was because Jagger decided he wanted to edit the album although he wasn't very skilled in a technical sense. That's a very Rock thing to do. Or arrogant. But then again, Rock is arrogance. Also, isn't that album cover pretty damn crazy, too?

It was post-Beatles, Bob Dylan had went off and done his own thing and would occasionally go the way of JD Salinger, and the people were looking for a leader, and a member of the Old Guard stepped up, The Stones, and carried the torch and passed it on when they saw fit, which came a few years later when Springsteen emerged. But, until then, they rocked out, and they did it better than any of the Americans who claimed to have invented the form.

This album is the opposite of innovative. It is a composite. An amalgam of everything that made Rock and Roll what it was, and Mick and Keith and the others were simply marionettes, interpreting a vast catalog. They pulled in Mississippi Delta resources, British Invasion sources, Jazz, New York bohemianism, basically every strand of Rock and Roll existing back then. And then they created a masterpiece. You know how in an earlier essay, I talked about the 'Great American Album'? This would qualify if it wasn't made by a bunch of limey bastard geniuses.

Sweet Virginia and Loving Cup are big highlights. Loving Cup has that classic Rolling Stones moment where they all of a sudden kick into gear. Think about in “You Can't Always Get What You Want”, where it starts soft but then goes into high gear: “You get what you n-e-e-e-e-d” and the drums pump up, etc. The same thing happens in this. It's near the beginning, and it, of course, is on the line: “Gimme little drink, from your loving cup!” Classic Stones. They really know how to build a song up and let it progress.

Not only is it a bad ass album, it's not afraid to be sensitive. The album runs the whole gamut of emotional range. The best Rolling Stones song on the album, by far, is a song called Let it Loose, a sad ballad with perhaps Mick's best vocal performance. The rhythm and progression of the song is brilliant. It might even be the best Rolling Stones song EVER. It's certainly my favorite. It has that sort of effect on me. Other songs in the same vein include Shine a Light, which I feel should have ended the album, putting Soul Survivor on a different part of the album.

A lot of friends of mine talk about how there can be no new genres, only subtle variations on what already exists. There has been so much innovation. Get a group of people together and try and combine random and disparate musical idea together and if someone's got enough of an encyclopedic knowledge, they'll tell you it's already been done. So where would we go from here? Perfection. Let's stop focus on being the most innovative, and lets focus on perfecting sounds and genres instead of trying to break them in half. The Rolling Stones didn't reinvent the wheel here, they just made a hell of a damn good wheel. And that's why this is one of the greatest albums, ever. It doesn't make any pretentious claims, it just admits that it is, what it is. And that's what Rock and Roll is all about. Being who you are and saying 'f*ck you' to anyone who has a problem with that.
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Old 07-30-2009, 06:55 PM   #40 (permalink)
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'69 Love Songs' by Magnetic Fields (1999)


It might seem strange to wax poetic about something a comedian said, but studies have shown that statistically the most intelligent profession when give IQ tests were comedians, and in this age, we don't have activists like Thomas Paine, considered to be the voice of a revolution. We have people like Jon Stewart, Lewis Black, Patton Oswalt, Chris Rock and rest in peace, the late George Carlin. There are no better social commentators than comedians. And, to be honest, I don't even know if he came up with this concept, but Russel Brand can be a mini-philosopher up on that stage. He was making a joke about threesomes and said something about how we live in a secular age and as opposed to in times past, most try to find salvation through love. I've never been in love. I've had some girlfriends and some one night stands that we both regretted the next day while our heads were throbbing and we got dressed. And the fact that I've never been in love scares me, because I am a sentimentalist at heart, despite being a pessimist and a fan of entropy and seeing society break down and riots form, I am a sentimentalist. Steven Spielberg films touch me, his best ones anyway. Yet I still face the facts, that I'm not certain whether or not I believe in the concept of a true love. Of fate and you having no control over it. The concept of true love is really ingrained in our society, but I pose you this conundrum, if there was truly someone out there meant for you, why would it be so hard to find that person. After all, if you're rational and believe in science, we're in essence animals. Our DNA have such miniscule differences that it's hard to comprehend so many divorces.

Vonnegut posited that the reason marriage is breaking down is because there is a break down of the family and extended family all staying together in the same area, all living near each other. Most of my family is in Seattle or New Orleans. Vonnegut said that in the old days, when you got married, the man had more people to have beers with, tell jokes to and play cards with. And that the woman had more people to talk to and have more friends. Essentially in the olden days when you got married, one of the great benefits is that there were more friends for each spouse, and you could confide in them, hang out with them, essentially taking a break from your spouse, but still being in the same family. And these days, in marriage, you essentially gain one more person to talk to, and being with the same person every day for the rest of your life is really damn boring and can make the most personable and rational person frustrated. Another interesting thing, Chris Rock, one of the great social commentators of our time, said that you haven't been in love with a person unless you've seriously contemplated murder. And though it was meant as a joke, I see a grain of truth in that.

But what about Magnetic Fields? These guys believe in love. And to them, love is brilliant, painful, but most important, essential. This is an album that could have easily succumbed to hubris, but fortunately, it is unpretentious and heartfelt, throughout the entire album. And let's be clear, even if this album wasn't as good as it was, it would still be worth a listen, because of the sheer accomplishment. 69 songs, all mostly full length songs, so they don't do the Guided by Voices thing, with 29 songs but being about 40 minutes long. This album is eight minutes short of being three hours long. In fact, the highlights of this album could make a double album. For instance, here is what that double album would look like, based just on my personal taste Another thing that is interesting, is that the singer reminds me of Leonard Cohen in his tone, but he's a better singer. All the songs on this album are great, but some aren't just my type. All of them I respect, but I'll point out the particularly best ones:

Disc One

1.Absolutely Cuckoo
2.I Don't Believe in the Sun
3.All My Little Words (I love the, banjo I think, such a great melody)
4.Reno Dakota (absolutely amazing 1 minute spitfire of a song)
5.I Don't Want to Get Over You
6.Come Back From San Francisco (beautiful, should have been written in the late 60s, really reminds me of the era, except for the word disco, but oh well)
7.The Luckiest Guy on the Lower East Side (great song, great lyrics)
8.I Think I Need A New Heart
9.The Book of Love
10.The One You Really Love
11.Punk Love (something about this is insanely catchy.)
12.Parades Go By
13.Boa Constrictor
14.A Pretty Girl Is Like...(absolutely wonderful and catchy, and sort of humorous)
15.My Sentimental Melody (I'm sucker for any instrument that sounds like a carnival or a circus instrument, and the main instrument sounds exactly like that. I don't know what it is.)
16.Nothing Matters When We're Dancing
17.The Things We Did and Didn't Do (absolutely one of my favorites on the album)
18.Roses
19.When My Boy Walks Down the Street
20.Time Enough For Rocking When We're Old
21.Very Funny (classic short little pop ballad sound)
22.Grand Canyon (brilliant)

This list can go on, I haven't even reached some of my favorites, but, you know what, I think I've proven my point.
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