His trailblazing adventures in the wilds between punk & glam & into the then-uncharted waters of minimal synth behind him, ex–Ultravox frontman John Foxx seemingly faded into genteel retirement. He tended to small scale sonic experimentation and lovely ambient soundscapes, like an old general fussing over orchids in a greenhouse. His encounter a few years ago with vintage synthesizer archivist Benge awoke a wanderlust in Foxx. Their collaboration, Interplay, credited to John Foxx and the Maths, is an exhilarating listen – ace tunes rigorously constructed from the essential sounds of vintage synths, played and sung with great muscle and presence. Anchored in the past, with explicit nods to the early, still astonishing, Ultravox, but squarely facing the future. The year’s best record.
If you think about it too hard, Ladytron’s gauzy, languid Gravity the Seducer seems kind of obvious. Though when you think about most sexy, seductive things too hard they seem kind of obvious. So don’t think about it too hard.
in which Sahara Hotnights reveal that, far from the worshiping at the crowded shrine of Joan Jett and Cherie Currie, all long they’ve been walking in the shoes of Quarterflash. Amen, sisters.
So, this “Genius” feature in iTunes… Color me fogey, but when it comes to music, for me – feh on algorithmic suggestion engines. Except this once, right? – I had just highlighted a track by Music Go Music, a beloved, rather obscure band who sound at times like ABBA crossed with Van Der Graf Generator. And “Genius” pipes up with this Sons and Daughters. And I think, what on earth does this algorithm think might appeal to fans of Scandinavian pop and arch British prog? The answer turns out to be careening, slashing, lipstick smeared Scottish melodrama. Genius.
Amidst my notes the night after seeing Wild Flag on their inaugural tour: Glass Tambourines = Hawkwind!!!!
Cement Slippers…. the chorus of the year.
Two years ago I wrote that Dan Bejar’s Destroyer had checked into some magical Baroque hotel of blissed out self indulgence, across the hall from Jimmy Webb and a drunk Richard Harris. The song that sparked this observation was the 12” single “Bay of Pigs,” his “MacArthur Park” – ridiculous, sublime, and drunk. This year’s album, Kaputt, was the morning after – drawling, sleepy, hungover and acerbic. Still sublime though… even more so – a true work of art, and almost the years best album….
Sheesh, that Fujiya & Miyagi song is sinister. But what a song…
This year’s best-of is all synth on synth with synth shavings in a synth sauce with a side of synth. Even this year’s favorite punk rock discovery, Portland’s now defunct Epoxies, is goopy with synth. Hell, the song’s called fucking Synthesized. Song of the year, though.
Age of Confusion by DADA is one of the best new wave songs ever. Recorded in New York City in 1987 it has since fallen off the face of the earth. That it now drifts on the edges of the web and in the backwaters of eBay, waiting to be found, matters. It’s a reminder that the treasures of the past are never exhausted; it also underscores how much that darn fool internet has revolutionized cultural archeology. It’s also a bitchin’ dance song.
These guys really did land the plane after all. Well done, REM… cheers and thanks.
Tim Monger is an old pal, a deeply gifted songwriter I’ve known and worked with since the mid 90’s. It was an honor designing the artwork for his beautiful, stirring new solo record The New Britton Sound. When I had praised Mining Accident Tim told me he felt it was perhaps a bit slight, and he almost left it off the album. The power of this stunning little sketch speaks volumes about how good the rest of the record is. “You’ll be mine when the government falls” – lyric of the year.
This years revelatory remastering of Jethro Tull’s Aqualung just confirms what I think every time I listen to it – if this came out now it would be hailed today as the independent rock masterpiece it was 40 years ago. A towering achievement, now expanded by a second disc of recordings every bit as good as the album itself.
Sea and Cake, as dependable as the tides…
As regards Zombi – remember – they say that every generation gets the Tangerine Dream it deserves.
DOWNLOAD THE COMP, HERE, Happy New Year!
The first time I read an essay by Christopher Hitchens it triggered in me an almost magnetic alignment. It is what influence feels like, palpably. Your notions, deductions, biases, obsessions, interests, and proclivities drift, loosely organized in patchwork clumps, downstream. They bump up, shift, and self organize, when suddenly a forceful current snaps them into order. Everything just locks into place.
I wish I could remember what it was about, my first draught of this amazing, lusty, brilliant mind. Maybe it was about the culture of snitching in East Berlin, or the necessary example of Thomas Paine. A full throated and eloquently argued brief against the very notion of the divine. The disgrace of Clinton. The grace of the Kurds. The hangover scene in Lucky Jim. Orwell with a side of Orwell in an Orwell sauce. Later it may have been on poetry, the lovely considerations of Czes?aw Mi?osz, or Fenton, Seidel, and Larkin. Reading Lolita as a father. The rallying, with righteous and sometimes nearly blind fervor, to the fight against Islamofacism. Amidst the pamphleteering, a steady stream of passionate criticism, elegant and lingering appreciations of Wodehouse, Wolf Hall, and, most delightfully, that libidinous rogue, Sir Harry Flashman.
In a way, though, it hardly matters. It wasn’t really about concurring with his arguments; it was following the manner of his thought, tracing its grain. Wanting to think like that, argue like that. In conversation or argument insisting on the significance of the melodramatic flourish, a theatrical toss off… the gregariousness, the bonhomie, the relish…. the decency of it all.
# # #
People disproportionally focus on the atheism, lately. I get it, as it really was the topic that propelled him, like Richard Dawkins, to general fame. It’s a shame, though, because it misses the larger point of it all. It was religion’s ongoing project to extinguish the nourishing legacy of the Enlightenment that fueled his fury. Broadly speaking, Hitch advocated for the credit due to a species that could put aside its animal nature and build and nurture this miraculous idea of civilization. To suppress, punish, or deny humanity this achievement and its benefits was an act of the basest evil – a denial of humanity itself. The stupid, pointless loss, the vandalism – the human cost of all of this idiocy – is what called him to the thick of it. It was a front he never tired of patrolling and a battle he never failed to enjoin.
Hitch’s ultimate argument, then, was to not to advocate against religion but for literature. He resolutely maintained that it was in our poems, our books and our paintings that we really grapple the most honestly, the most subtly, and the most fully with the fundamental questions and dilemmas of our existence.
Oh, and yes, there’s the drinking. And yes, it was herculean. But looking at it through the framing conceit of mere drinking, whether to condemn or to celebrate, is shortsighted and, I think, a little vulgar. Again, we’re missing the essential point of it all. As he put it:
I always knew there was a risk in the bohemian lifestyle… I decided to take it because it helped my concentration, it stopped me being bored — it stopped other people being boring. It would make me want to prolong the conversation and enhance the moment. If you ask: would I do it again? I would probably say yes. But I would have quit earlier hoping to get away with the whole thing. I decided all of life is a wager and I’m going to wager on this bit… In a strange way I don’t regret it. It’s just impossible for me to picture life without wine, and other things, fueling the company, keeping me reading, energizing me. It worked for me. It really did.
Exactly. No, seriously – exactly. This is the wager we enthusiasts make – appetite and curiosity always pushing, unbalancing our keel, lurching into the waves to feel the contour of experience…. Hitch nailed it here. He’s written reams of defiant endorsements of bohemian life before, squarely standing his ground against pious pick-nose hall monitors, amidst a swirl of smoke, clinking glass in hand. This time buy vicodin chicago it’s tempered. Caution enters the frame. The bet has been called. He wagered too much. He didn’t get away with the whole thing. With this last dash of restraint, the recipe is complete. Mix well and enjoy.
# # #
Appreciations of Hitch are always anchored by anecdotes. It seems his essence was in person, when all these aspects were gathered up in the full force of his personality. Like many of this readers, I’m sure, I’d daydream now and then of what it would be like to find myself in his company. Absurdly enough, chance and accident tumbled in my favor one evening in Los Angeles, in the late 90’s.
Hitch was touring his new broadside, No One Left to Lie To-The Triangulations of William Jefferson Clinton and I went to go see him read. The reading was raucous, funny, and bracing. Afterwords (after the cops led out the LaRouche plant) he held a signing, and when my turn arrived I basically thanked him for the company of his bullshit detector, and, if I remember right, mentioned the Chicago journal The Baffler, with which I was really besotted at the time.. After some appreciative nods Hitch thanked me, and as I walked away, a young Anglo-Indian named Palash Davé, who was filming the reading, asked me if he could interview me for a documentary about the book tour. Sure, I said, and asked him to join me for a smoke outside. After a bit of a filmed banter between me and a young black labor organizer we just started grousing as the crowd dispersed.
I asked him if there was a way I could keep in touch with him to keep track of the project. He said yes, then asked if I would like to have a drink with him and Hitchens that night. Cue all sputtering cliches…
So I end up going back to his hotel room… Hitch greeted us at the door and wolfishly explained that it was the same suite where Clinton stays when he’s in Los Angeles (he couldn’t wait to mark the room with smoke and whiskey). Along with Hitchens and Palash were his wife Carol Blue, Steve Wasserman- the editor at the time of the LA Times book review, and old leftie whose name I can’t recall, and the guy who shot Saturday Night Fever.
Hitchens was an effusive and diligent host. Asked me what I wanted to drink, and then led me out to the balcony, where he and I talked for about an hour, drinking Jack Daniels and smoking his Rothmans’s… Folk began to leave and the night eventually boiled down to me, Hitchens and Palash, drinking and talking until we cleaned out the mini-bar.
What a chat – From Clinton, of course, to the fate of the Left, our generation, Dylan, more on the Baffler and the art/music/politics mafia of Chicago, a long boozy dissertation on the film “Glory,” books and more books, authors (Murry Kempton & John Dos Passos, mostly) and the private tax revolt of home packed cigarettes.
The drink and tobacco exhausted, he offered a round of coffee and room service. I declined, feeling the onset of the mental fog I could no longer hold back. The bill had come due. Home, then.
# # #
There’s a reason we’re anxious about influence. To be shaped by external forces means, as individuals, that we need to yield, to go just a little slack, so our posture shifts, changes, molds. We surrender. We risk being supple for the promise of being shaped. You strike a balance between being propelled and being subsumed.
The exhilaration, though! – when you encounter, and engage such a force, and, under your shaky grip, you let it sweep you away…. His moral clarity, his insistence on literature, and art, really, as the soul of humanity, and the lusty brio with which he lived have profoundly formed and informed me. If all the world’s a stage, he was a character for the ages. We are vastly poorer for his absence. Civilization has lost one of it’s great knights and I have lost one of my brightest guiding stars. Farewell Hitch. That was a damn good show.
For your pleasure, an oddly charming, earnest, hippy-dippy photo recreation of Manet’s The Luncheon on the Grass from an old 1970 photography annual.
A moment’s rest at the Rochester Institute of Technology, between two immense murals by Joseph Albers meant to evoke the equally brilliant Kodak logo. Aces.
Fashions, Bill Blass… Trimline® phone, your Bell Telephone business office – reads the tweaked out copy on this gem of an advertisement http://www.cheapambienpriceonline.com obviously composed during a brief moment when the entire country was on an epic cocaine bender…
This age needs [artists] who are filled with the strength of their cultures and do not transcend the limits of their age, but, working within the times, bring what is peculiar to the moment to glory. We need great artists who are willing to accept restrictions, and who love their environments with such vitality that they can produce an epic out of the Protestant ethic. — John Updike, 1951
Steve Jobs changed my life three times. In 1982 the Apple II was the tractor beam (along with D&D) that pulled me into my first encounter with counterculture – the edges of the assembly language writing, phone-phreaking, copy protection cracking, dip switch flicking homebrew computer scene. It was the first time I really discovered something covert in culture. It was electric.
In 1985 I went for a routine visit to the Computer Connection outside of Albany, NY. There I saw a strange looking beige appliance looking thing. I remember, vividly, seeing a “folder” dragged into the “trash” with a “mouse.” And MacPaint. The Macintosh was the tool I would end up making my living on over the past 18 years.
My affection for older household appliances and everyday objects comes from the fact that I genuinely think they were far more attractive back then. You could sense aesthetics as a fundamental part of their design. They were also, in many cases, incredibly well manufactured. Nowadays, Apple’s products are among the few heirs to that tradition. I use them everyday to work, to read, to talk to people, to listen to music, to relax, and to look up how Nigella Lawson would make scampi with anchovies.
It’s woven up in who I am, what I do and how I live. Thanks Steve.
Hello reader! Ah, welcome indirect referral. Greetings to those here for the Mucha drawings, or that bat shit-masterpiece of a poem, Cleopatra. Hey, hi to the odd monthly reader of my ode to a tincture of iodine. Looking for Henry Yan – right here. Or was it a watercolor of Terri Nunn?
In any case, a bit of news –we’re molting. Shedding a few layers, slowing things down a bit. After three years of publication the blog is returning to its original, more modest agenda – a place from which to transmit my occasional, but passionate, enthusiasms, and a home for my portfolio of professional and personal can i buy vicodin over the counter artwork.
Time to turn inward, re-calibrate to analog rhythms, to settle back into the longer view. There are projects that need attention, like a book on Ukrainian book design that’s drifting in its fragile, nascent stages. More articles for Uppercase. Books, comics and records to absorb. Mainly, though, to paint, to collage, to make.
Really, it’s mostly a shift in pace, frequency. A true occasional, published as the mood strikes. Which will be often-ish. Please do keep stopping by, and, as always, help yourselves to anything.
(image: Vija Celmins, Studio)
So anyway, where were we? Over the past two months or so, out and about, etc…stopped to admire a swatch of an old calendar in the motley basement of an antique shop in Bethany Beach, Maryland. By the way, the unfamiliar holidays on the 12th and 22nd? Lincoln and Washington’s birthdays, respectively. Consolidated in ‘71.
Mesmerized by the upholstered sensuality of Franz Xaver Winterhalter’s painting Florinda (1852) at the Met. Based on a lusty Spanish legend this florid masterwork once hung directly opposite Queen Victoria and Prince Albert’s writing desks. The queen described it, in a parody of decorum, as “a most lovely picture containing a group of beautiful women, half life size” – which is certainly one way of putting it.
Abruptly struck one evening by the the type on the back of Bowie’s Station to Station – what a perfect expression of the record itself – stark Teutonic cool shot thorough with a hotblooded stream of consciousness. Had never seen these Cy Twombly Polaroid prints of flowers – gorgeous, a real mix of modes from swatches of painterly realism to scratchy color fields. The Brush-Up Stole, now in Bernat Mohairspun! What a regal, atmospheric image, yes? Saw it poking up from a brace of vintage woman’s shoes in the walk-in closet of a shop in Ballston Spa, New York. Hey, look at that clock… Returning to our regular, daily-ish broadcasts, then. Welcome back.
Snapped in Toronto a few months back. Yes it’s strange… that’s what makes the first couple of reads so gobsmacking… Then you start noticing the details, and the photo buy vicodin florida blooms into symphony of errors… and every subsequent read takes on the cadence of poetry (of a sort.)
Reader! Visitor! Information collecting robotic code spider! And, dare I say, friend!?: An announcement: We’re keeping summer hours ’round here ’till Labor Day. Or, more accurately, adopting a intermittent, drinks on the porch, as the mood strikes publishing schedule. Do continue to stop by, new work and occasional can i buy vicodin on the internet enthusiasms will pop up here and there. If you’re here for the first time, help yourselves to anything. Daily-ish posts resume in earnest September 1st.
Room 125, Westbank Motel, Idaho Falls, Idaho, July 18, 1973, Stephen Shore
Happy Fourth of July, all… Back in a long lazy-ish week. (Regarding the above, if huh? then here.)
More illustrations by Sandra Suy, here.