Wednesday, January 07, 2004

So I just turned in an unsolicited P&J ballot. Let's see what happens.

Allow me to big up the best piece of music journalism I've read in quite a while: Jessica Hopper's interview with Slug in the new Punk Planet.

Allow me also to big up the best piece of music journalism journalism I've read in quite some time: Jeff Chang's bitchslap of the Da Capo Best Music Writing series. I've read every single one of those books, and I was so amped when they started appearing. It seems like such a lost opportunity that they've never managed to avoid being more of a Best Old Men Writing About Really Really Old Music series. The new volume has something like two articles about music made by people who are now under 40: one about Straight Outta Compton, a certifiably old album, and one snarky one about a teenpop singer. (I haven't quite finished the book yet, but I'm not really holding out a lot of hope for the last 40 pages or so.) There are great articles in every book, but I can't help but think that most of my peers could do a better job than the marquee-name types that end up doing it.

I should acknowledge that this whole show-I-liked roundup is a complete bite of something Julianne Shepard did on her blog last week.

Big Huge/Long Live Death - someone's house 3/21/03
One of the coolest things that's been going on in Baltimore this past year has been the weirdo folk revival. For the uninitiated, all these guys who have been in indie and noise rock bands all of a sudden decided to start playing different variations on traditional folk music at house parties and art spaces all over town. It probably started in '02, but this show was my first real exposure to the new scene in all its glory. Long Live Death is a loose-ish collective of people (including all three Oxes at different times) who get together and play this awesome psychedelic gospel gothic folk. They play clubs a lot, but they really shine in house parties, and this was probably the best show I've seen them play. They were in the middle of the living room, with people lined up all around the room and up the stairs watching them. And they'd handed out tambourines and castanets in the audience. I'd seen them three or four times before this show, but this was where I figured out that they weren't a joke. The Big Huge is Drew Nelson, who used to be in Torn Apart and Sonna, and he plays fragile acoustic British-traditional-style folk. His stuff is really gorgeous. I wrote an article about him for the City Paper that should have run today, but they didn't get a chance to get a picture of him for the article, so it'll run some time in the unspecified future.

Har Mar Superstar/Sole/Grand Buffet - Ottobar 3/30/03
This was a really weird show of diminishing returns. I love Grand Buffet; they've become one of my absolute favorite bands in the world over the past couple of years. They're two white rappers from Pittsburgh with an incredibly, viscerally entertaining live show, enormous hooks, and a wicked sense of humor. Their new EP Pittsburgh Hearts is the second-best album of the year behind the Postal Service joint. (I count EP's as albums, not singles.) The war had just broken out, and Grand Buffet was firing on all levels tonight with the most straight-faced display of ironic patriotism I've ever witnessed. (Their patriotism actually isn't ironic - they love them some America - but they still use it as a humor weapon to skewer conservatives more effectively that the serious types usually do.) Sole, who I quite like, was also good, though not as good as Grand Buffet. I like Sole on a very different level than Jay-Z or Ludacris or even Atmosphere; his records are total proggy cathartic immersion things; Rjyan compares them to Peter Gabriel. His live show has fire and passion and all that "authentic" stuff that I'm supposed to see right through but can't help still liking, if that makes sense. I like over-the-top sincerity in music; sue me. Over the top insincerity, however, is really hit-or-miss, and Har Mar Superstar is the worst example of it I can imagine. Half the crowd was smart enough to leave before he came on, and the other half left pretty quickly. He was drunk off his ass and insulting the audience even before he started singing. I thought maybe he'd be kinda fun, but he treated everyone with absolute contempt, dancing badly and begging random people for coke. A really fascinating train wreck, but I was not at all sorry when his label dropped him a month or so later. I wonder if someone got paid to throw him on this otherwise great bill.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs/Kills/Ex-Models - Black Cat 4/6/03
There's nothing new that I could possibly say about the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, so I'll just say that I like them. They have good catchy shows and a fun live show. They are A-OK in my book. The Kills, who were stunningly boring a few months later in the early afternoon outside at the Siren Festival, sounded really dark and compelling and good in the Black Cat. And the Ex-Models, who sucked when I saw them in '02 at the Ottobar, sucked again. You can't win em all.