Tuesday, August 1, 2017

A Case of Prog


The mightiness of King Crimson, and King Crimson's first album, in 2017: it isn't just that "21st Century Schizoid Man" makes mince meat of Ornette Coleman, or that the album's essential enterprise (especially the title track) rips the Moody Blues and Jethro Tull to shreds; it's the principle of the thing. As is the case with The Yes Album and Fragile, here is a collection of songs, obviously written and performed by formally trained musicians, who can do the following big tasks in relation to music: orchestrate major crescendos and decrescendos; employ different time signatures artfully in relation to each other, so as to achieve sophisticated effects which also add solidity and the potentiality of permanence to the endeavor here; count bars from section to section of songs; and remain mindful of chiaroscuro, combinations of aural light and shade, so that repetitions of motifs, when they happen, are entirely earned. This is why I have what might be called "a case of prog": the apogee points of prog rock set up a game to determine which audiences, if any, can hear popular music, and spot a major musical game, and major musical moves, rather than the baby moves which constitute the backbone of most popular music (including my own, to be frank). The problem with the baby moves version of popular music, as I see it, is that over many decades, there's nothing in it to make it durable enough to last, or to need to be heard by anyone older than maybe 35.  King Crimson takes English folk, rock, and avant-jazz, and puts together a composite of something that, musically (and, like I said, like Yes, Zeppelin, and the rest), courts serious art rather than mere craft. A thrilling ride; and a lesson, over many years, in how to contain multitudes.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Black Sabbath: Sabbath Bloody Sabbath


I'm in the middle of gorging myself with Sabbath Bloody Sabbath by Black Sabbath. Not light stuff, not frivolous stuff, as is commonly supposed, and all about man's inhumanity to man. In fact, listening to Black Sabbath in a recession this never-ending and steep is a stern reminder, to those of us who have spent our lives writing partly about hetero sex and relationships, that there is other essential terrain to be covered. In a human landscape incorrigibly and invariably at least partially dominated by killing and killers, who are the killers, and what happens in their brains? How are they able to rationalize what they do? Can they? The tenor of this album, thematically, is claustrophobic and dour, but honest, and honestly about taking an approach to songwriting grounded in the grimmest, most primeval levels of human reality.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Jamendo and Ardent


Six tunes from Ardent now qualify as hits on Jamendo: 4 Elliott, Midnight Blues, Brown Eyes Like His, Doorstep, Bullett, and Ardent (title track, biggest hit). Thanks to Jamendo and my listeners there.  

Thursday, June 22, 2017

The Return of Brown Eyes


Proud to say that, as of June 22, Brown Eyes Like His has climbed back onto the Soundclick charts and landed at #17, my first Soundclick placement in top 20 territory; and Brown Eyes has also reached the Top 100 in the overall Alternative Chart (#96), which weighs higher on Soundclick than the sub-generic chart. Do I feel like The Nazz? Why not. The Nazz, and/or totally anonymous. Happy summer!

Thursday, June 15, 2017

The Death of the (Song) Author


It is a commonplace of Deconstructionist literary theory: Roland Barthes' signature piece, The Death of the Author, awakened readers to the idea that the cult of literary authorship is a partly fallacious one. We create the book, as we read it; readers are authors, too. Why shouldn't this apply to popular music? One of my late conclusions about the popular song is this: popular music, as it rings down the ages, is meant to be completely anonymous. Songs get passed from generation to generation in an anonymous fashion, and cults of personalities around pop stars can never work over long periods of time, for a simple reason (Barthes' literary rationale is more complex): what popular music is, is accessible, as pop songs are relatively easy to play and write, and many people can write good popular music. There's no need for it to be individualized, because so many individuals are competent songwriters. Pop music is meant to just float. If you let, for example, the Stones better albums ring down the proverbial ages for a period of time, what the Stones need to be is a nebulous, ambiguous entity, with the music at the front. Coffee table books, trade journals, stooge criticism, and large media reputations need not apply. No one needs to know the names Mick and Keith: for the Stones best music to survive, there can be no Mick and Keith. To watch the Stones float, watch how their songs and albums take up space, as they remain anonymous. The spirit of totalized anonymity which animates the best popular music is ready to take over, one feels, in 2017, and (I think) this is for the best.