Saturday, October 29, 2005

Whose Responsibility

During my musical formative years no musician was deified more by my friends than Brian Eno. I still consider the first two Roxy Music albums among my very favorite ever, and Eno’s post-Roxy quartet of solo albums (Taking Tiger Mountain by Strategy, Before and After Science, Here Come the Warm Jets, Another Green World) remain as brilliant and influential now as at their release (witness, in the left side bar, Sigur Ros’s Takk).

Since those four releases Eno has made his ambient series, collaborated widely (including the shamefully underappreciated Wrong Way Up with the shamefully underappreciated John Cale), and produced albums for others, most famously the Berlin Trilogy of Bowie (Low, Heroes, Lodger), U2, and Talking Heads. (The title of Eno’s own antic "King’s Lead Hat", off Before and After Science, is an anagram of Talking Heads.)

Another Day on Earth, Eno’s first vocal album in years, has just been released. I bought it the day it came out. I feared listening to it. I knew I would be disappointed. If I consider Another Green World, which the title of the new album I assume is meant to echo, unassailably groundbreaking - or at least so to me - unless Eno had discovered an entirely new musical language, at best Another Day on Earth could only be as good as his earlier work, which means it couldn’t be as good because not new.

Another Day on Earth is unmistakably an Eno album. The aural chirps and propulsively rhythmic ticks, the druid airiness of his vocals are all there, but they’re there seemingly exactly as they were back in 1975. There is one song I very much like, the opening cut "This," and no songs I dislike. I feel no compulsion to listen to it again any time soon. I suspect that next time I feel like listening to Eno I’ll pull out Before and After Science.

Which makes me feel a bit guilty, feel a bit sad. Even a mediocre Eno album - if this is what Another Day on Earth is - I find more satisfying than the majority of new music that I hear. And yet I find the album a disappointment, which calls into question my objectivity as it is related to my expectations. What obligations do I have as a fan, a fan who may have irresponsibly beatified a musician in my youth, when approaching a new album, well after the beatification, of that saint? On whom is the onus of newness, the musician who produces the album he wants or the listener who’s demanding the thrill and freedom of freshness he felt when he first heard the musician thirty years ago? Perhaps Brian Eno has made an album far more subtle in its innovations and re-inventions than I - who remember how revelatory and revolutionary I found his earlier work and selfishly want that feeling again - can appreciate. And whose fault is that?

Friday, October 28, 2005

Two Blogs in One

blckdgrd will now include all posts from both Best of the Blogs and Blackdogred's Indie Beat.
Welcome, Please

I’ve never written about music, at least not for public consumption. Friends of mine will testify, however, that of the many things I always am willing to express opinions about, music is very high on my list. Fortunately, as in everything else I’m willing to share my opinion about, I have a very strong belief in the worth of my opinions. People who I’ve thrust CDs upon, insisting that the CD is wonderful or that a particular person will like a particular artist, usually come back more than pleased I did so. So if you’re reading this site, let me consider you a friend, and if I don’t know you personally, rest assured the opinions/reviews I offer are the same as if we were sitting across a table.

I want to thank Jerry Bowles for inviting me to participate in both this blog and in his political blog, Best of the Blogs. I’ve never met Jerry face to face (though he does have an open invitation to dinner should he have time next time he visits DC), but he has been incredibly generous in allowing me to voice my opinions on BoB. The first time music became a discussion between us I had not yet been invited to BoB and was posting as a commentor to his request for something new to listen to (I don’t remember all that I posted, but I do recall that I recommended the 2004 Delays CD Faded Seaside Glamour, a brilliant pop album). Recently on BoB I posted about the Knitters new CD, The Modern Sounds of the Knitters, as well as linked to an NPR interview with members of the Knitters (two of whom, Exene Cervenka and John Doe were the heart and soul of X), and that post - and a question I asked him about Meredith Monk: I was Mr Richard Feder from Fort Lee NJ - sparked Jerry to invite me to be a contributor of sorts to his wonderful contemporary classical music site Sequenza21. With unusual for me trepidation, I accepted.

So, some disclosure, up front:

I am not a musician. I played piano in my youth, I can read music, I could probably pass a first semester final exam in Intro to Music Theory, but only if I studied hard.

My opinions about music, especially rock/pop/indie, are based mostly on whether I like the music or not, though I have very strong reactions to the cultural positioning of the music. Consider the song “Oops I Did it Again,” covered most famously by Brittany Spears but also covered by one of my favorites, Richard Thompson in his 1000 Years of Popular Music tour. In the first instance, the song struck me as ordinary, but it’s intent, to magnify the singer as boy-toy commodity, made me think of the song as a commodity, a product that happened to be packaged as music. Thompson’s cover, however, placed within the context of 1000 Years, and within the context of Thompson’s own songwriting style, revealed a wonderfully dark, self-recriminating song.

Which is to say, there is not always logic to what I like or dislike, and I bring all of the biases I bring to politics to my taste in music. If I feel I’m being played for a mark - I mean, for instance, how can people still be buying the same Elton John song repackaged each year for the past three decades - I’m as unlikely to like the musical project no matter how wonderful I might find the same song in a totally different context. Part of the project of BDRIB will be to allow me to explore my own reaction to different music and the context of that reaction. There are matrices here I want to understand better than I do now.

I would like this blog to be mutually instructive and educational. I am humbled to read the knowledge and passion of Jerry’s posters and commentors on Sequenza21, and, for the time being, I can add very little to discussions on most of the composers listened to and written about over on S21. I want to learn more. I invite everyone to invite me to listen to music you think worth listening to, and that is not limited to contemporary classical/postclassical; please point me at music of all types you think should be heard. I want to turn you onto the music I'm excited about. In exchange, I'd like you to let me know what you think I should be listening to.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Tempered Glee

Please believe that I will enjoy the indictment of any and all Bushco officials with any and all charges as much as anyone. I am delighted that over 80 percent of American's polled think that Bushco did something illegal and/or unethical in PlameGate, and I suspect that even in the improbable circumstance that no charges are brought against anyone, most Americans of both major tribes believe that Bushco is at the very best a deeply unethical outfit not to be trusted at their word.

But say charges are brought? So what?

The war in Iraq continues, yesterday marked by the symbolic 2000th death of a US soldier (and the unmentioned continuance of the average death of 60 Iraqis a day). Veep Cheney asks for legal permission to torture - not that Bushco has needed legal authorization to torture. Republicans in the House have begun writing legislation that will cut funding for student loans, health care, foster care, and food stamps.

I don't mean to minimalize all that Plamegate symbolizes and signifies about the world view of those who perpetrated the act coldly, clinically, with an eye towards maintaining legality while working to violate the spirit of that legality. You all have read me; I've written about the various routes to outrage on this.

But there is not another Rove to replace Rove? another Libby Libby? another Cheney Cheney? and while we're busy playing Whack-a-Mole with whomever next pops his head up out of the bottom orifices of Bushco, Big Republicanism continues its relentless, well-financed, and conscienceless march to Corporate Imperialism on a geo-political scale, to undermine the rights labor has fought long to wrangle, and to enrich the rich at the expense of the poor.

I'm all for Rove going to jail. It's call for a celebration, a small, intensely happy one, shared over a beer with like-minded friends. But it's not victory. Maybe it's a start of something; it certainly is not an end into itself.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

And Since I'm Making Predictions

Kos via the DSCC posts a host of quotes from Republican Senators in 1999 expressing their strong moral convictions that perjury is injurious to the American body politic.

All of us wonder into what contortions the Repigs will bend to defend the harmlessness of perjury when Repigs are caught as opposed to the moral chaos loosed upon the world (and upon our impressionable children) when Democrats lie under oath.

Repigs have claimed that when Clinton lied about Hummergate he wagged the dog by leading a large coalition of countries into the southern Balkans to stop a genocide (and did so without the loss of a single American soldier's life). Clinton, by the way, made no mention of WMD in Kosovo nor claimed that Kosovo threatened the security of the US. He was clear that the mission was based solely on humanitarian concerns.

This is distinct from Plamegate in that the perjury in Plamegate was committed in order to wag a dog, to protect the march to a war with a very small coalition of mostly minor countries that has led to the death of soon to be 2000 American soldiers. Bushco sold the war on the grounds that Iraq possessed WMD that it didn't have, represented a threat to the US which it clearly couldn't be, claimed Iraq was complicit in 911 when it clearly, definitively was not, and only turned to humanitarian rationales for the war when Bushco's lies about WMD, Iraqi military threats to US, and Iraqi connections to 911 were proved to be (to put it charitably) in error.

(And why hasn't someone - including me - made the point that Bushco's sudden concern for Iraqi citizens writhing in torture under the Saddam regime in the aftermath of all Bushco's other rationales for the war being proved wrong rings EXACTLY like Bushco's sudden concern for the poor in THIS country after the debacle of Bush poll numbers in the aftermath of Katrina?)

So, lying about blowjobs bad because the lie was about nothing but sex, and said sex led to a successful humanitarian military mission that bolstered American prestige in the world. Lying to protect national security, well, that's good, even if the lying was designed to protect the carefully planned campaign of further lying.

So here comes the talking point: Democrats lie about little things, which is morally reprehensible. Republicans ONLY lie if it's a matter of national security, in which case it's not only forgivable, it's honorable! Republicans: We Lie to Keep You Safe from Terrorists! Watch.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Prediction as Suggestion, or is it Suggestion as Prediction

As soon as the Boy King's top squad perpwalks out of Washington, the Boy King will have to restaff, all while Harriet Miers continues to be flayed by the piggliest of PigRepublicans (who were, if memory serves, oinking clouds of indignation, indignation dammit, that everyone deserves an up or down vote! just a filibuster ago).

What's a fumbduck to do? Offer buckfuddy Miers a dreamier cronykiss, say Chief of Staff, so she can adulate the Boy King from across the office all and every day? The Boy King gets to stroke his goatee of loyalty AND he gets to save face on Miers' SCOTUS withdrawal AND gets those choddam gristians to fut the shuck up.

The Boy King is throwing shitfits:
"This is not some manager at McDonald's chewing out the help," said a source with close ties to the White House when told about these outbursts. "This is the President of the United States, and it's not a pleasant sight."

Meanwhile, top GOP strategists are testdriving their talking points in anticipation of Fitzmas:
"With a decision expected this week on possible indictments in the C.I.A. leak case, allies of the White House suggested Sunday that they intended to pursue a strategy of attacking any criminal charges as a disagreement over legal technicalities or the product of an overzealous prosecutor."

The reliably lapdogish Elizabeth Bumiller of the (a) discredited (b) conservative (c) dysfunctional (d) all of the above New York Times bemoans and then lionizes Brave Karl:
"But even as White House officials and Republicans say that Mr. Rove is human and that the leak investigation has taken an enormous toll on his family, they also insist that everyone is focused on the work at hand, and that Mr. Rove is good at compartmentalizing his life."

And enormous toll on his family? As opposed to the toll on Ann Richard's family or the toll on John Kerry's family or the toll on, let's see, Joseph Wilson's family? Boo. Fucking. Hoo.

The Secretary of State is a tapeworm. The Secretary of Defense is insane. The Vice President is Blofeld. The President is a pantshitting seven-year-old throwing tantrums. And the message from the GOP, the party of responsibility: whatever happens, it's the Liberals fault.