Pop culture treasure, high culture trash.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Ain't it the truth

My State of the Gossip is in this week's Portland Mercury. Mercifully, the crummy first draft did not see the light of print, thanks to an eleventh hour chat with Beth Ditto (literally--I called her at 11:00 PM, night before deadline). About 75% of the brilliant things she said couldn't be used because of word count constraints, but I think one of them is worth bringing up here. I asked whether she and Nathan and Hannah ever feel like they have to put up with the Gwen Stefani Effect, wherein the media become so fixated on a dynamic frontlady that they forget there's anybody else in the band. She said they do, to a point, but that this doesn't stop people from clinging to tired old sexist assumptions about artistry and creative control. Meaning, the press may want to take photos of Beth and dress her up, but they still go straight to Nathan when they want to talk gear or guitar tech or music history. It's assumed that as the sole dude in the band, he must be in charge--the calculating, masculine mastermind behind the emotive feminine voice--even though obviously that isn't the way they operate at all. I guess the legacy of Phil Spector is going to be with us for a long time.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007


If you're going to be in New York two weeks from Friday, you owe it to yr pet gerbil named Jayne County to check this out. They've got some really smart and crushworthy panelists lined up, plus it's free. Pogo New York correspondent Kim Germain passed along the info.


Friday, April 13, 2007
2 PM to 7:30 PM
19 University Place, Room 102
between 8th Street and Waverly Place (NY, NY)

Scenes and styles change, but is something more fundamentally shifting in the role urban subculture plays? Is it being outmoded? This one-day event will examine these questions from the particular vantage point of how subculture altered how we think about gender, sexual, and racial dissidence.


Kandia Crazy Horse (rock journalist); Drew Daniel (musician), and Dominic Johnson (Queen Mary, University of London).
Moderator: Jose Munoz (Performance Studies, NYU)

4 PM Panel Two: FUTURES

Julie Atlas Muz (Miss Exotic World 2006); James Spooner (filmmaker/artist); and Karen Tongson (University of Southern California)
Moderator: Jason King (Clive Davis Department of Recorded Music, NYU)

6 PM Post Panels: KEYNOTE
Lady Jaye and Genesis Breyer P-Orridge (Throbbing Gristle/Psychic TV)

For more information, please call 212-992-9540, email gender.sexuality@nyu.edu, or visit www.nyu.edu/csgs .

Monday, March 26, 2007

Paolo on point

Sometimes comments are worth pulling up out of the offal so they don't get buried and missed. Paolo Cruz wrote in re: MCR:

What's both problematic and fascinating (in a train wreck kind of way) about My Chemical Romance's schtick is how they appropriate so many things stereo-typically asscoiated with gay/queer-oriented pop culture -- the operatics, the glam make-up, heck they've even got a cameo from drag queen icon Liza Minelli on "Mama". And yet somehow, their cult of personality allows them to repackage and market these elements in a way that's palpable [ed.: palatable?] and non-threatening for vaguely disaffected suburban guys, by subsuming them into the generalized mopiness of emo sensibilities.

They *could* have been potentially subversive, and queered the boundaries of gendered performance within the rock mainstream (well, aesthetically, at least). But instead, they may end up being remembered as the 00's equivalent of Marilyn Manson, in terms of cultural relevance.

I had no idea about "Mama" and the Liza. Did Barbra Streisand secretly do backup for "I Don't Love You" as well?

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Tudor Goldmine

They just can't stop making movies about dead English monarchs! Maybe it's the post-colonial Western guilt--a conjoined disgust for and empathy with the burdens of empire-building and a desperate need to believe that once upon a time there were people even more ruthless than we are. If you're a Tudors buff (divorced, beheaded, died--divorced, beheaded, survived!) you can watch episodes 1 and 2 of the new Showtime series here. They've blurred out some nips to be able to put it on the web but you still get bedroom romping and a bloody assassination before the first ten minutes are up, plus a hilariously phallic jousting scene. Really, though, the series has about as much to do with the sixteenth century as LCD Soundsystem and plays like a sexed-up, dumbed-down West Wing in doublets and hose with everybody stalking through corridors and convening in hushed inner sancta. The men are pouty Abercrombie & Fitch models and the women have sweeping bangs and ready access to liquid foundation and eyeliner. Dialogue is sub-Sorkin--the plot being rigidly bifurcated the way it is, you get either, "The treaty also envisages the creation of pan-European institutions!" or "You violated my daughter!" and not much in between. Jonathan Rhys Meyers is just way too young and hunky to be believed. He's Henry the Eighth, he is, but watching him it's harder to recall this guy than it is Brian Slade in Velvet Goldmine.

Speaking of which, have a look at this, if Wikipedia is to be believed:

Kimba Kano is a software program that integrates with Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox to allow built-in searching of Wikipedia, Amazon.com, eBay, Phoebe and Google...[it is] named after a nonsense phrase stemming from a controversy over the lyrics to David Bowie's song "Velvet Goldmine," which debuted on the album Space Oddity in 1975 and released on the Rykodisc version of Ziggy Stardust in 1990 as a bonus track. The controversy is over the exact words in the song, not helped by the fact that the lyrics sheet in the album is obviously incorrect. The line is interpreted as either "I'll be your kimba kano right for you again and again" or "I'll be your king volcano right for you again and again."

Personally, I think he's singing, "be your king volcano ride/ for you again and again," but any software company that names its programs after lyrics in songs that are probably about two men giving each other blow jobs is fine by me.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Suffer for fashion

Pants filed the following fashion report from the Mpls of Montreal show at First Ave., 3/16/07:

[Kevin Barnes] had two outfit changes during the show. I've never been to a show where someone takes time out to change clothes. His second outfit was a pair of purple tie-dyed hot pants, thigh-high fishnet stockings, slouchy blue boots, a green long-sleeved shirt with a large white collar, and a gold necklace with a large peace-sign hanging from it. That was my favorite one. He wasn't how I thought he would be. I always imagined him as being rather chubby and pasty, and balding, but he is very skinny, and not balding, and very dramatic, even campy. He's 'cool' looking, not geeky. His first outfit was a pair of really tight orange bell bottoms, a very tight t-shirt with a large picture of a lion on it, a red glitter cummerbund, and a loose cream colored buttoned shirt that he took off early on, to reveal the lion t-shirt. The second keyboardist/drummer also had an outfit change, but his wasn't as exciting. He started out wearing a brown sash over his camel colored blazer, which made me think that no one wears sashes anymore. Tis a pity. Maybe he'll single-handedly bring them back, in the way that Beth Ditto is bringing back spandex body suits.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The most fabulous that there is

I think I've figured out why "The Magic Position" is so sunny and shiny and satisfying: it's essentially a Motown song. It's the Four Tops; it's the Temptations. It's got the sweetness of "I Can't Help Myself," the ascending octave figure from "My Girl" (albeit sped up and compacted) and the full string section hooks of both. Which altogether makes for just about the most gloriously joyful four minutes since "Pillar of Salt." How Patrick Wolf got here from Lycanthropy or even Wind in the Wires I have no idea. What happened to "sorrow by name/ and sorrow by nature"? It's nice to see him holding on to the flamboyance and the vamping, and morphing it into a completely different genre.

We need more flamboyant boy vamps in the tradition of Bolan and Bowie and Freddie Mercury et al.--not just eyelinered emo-goth fusion teases like Gerard Way. Can Gerard Way really be said to vamp? Aesthetically he doesn't seem to recall anybody so much as Adore-era Billy Corgan at this point--with hair, of course. There's something about him that's just too naff, too humorlessly self-serious and too fundamentally emo to project real go-for-broke flamboyance. Emo, after all, is all about conservatism--disturb the paradigm of the wronged straight white boy raging against the cruel world/girl that ignores him and it falls apart.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Now Like Cenotaphs

Pants has gotten me into an all-instrumental show on Radio K called Now Like Photographs. If you like Minus the Bear and Trans Am, you will like this show. It's a lot of quiet post-rock but they also do drone and ambient. Their tag is "epic instrumental music," and as far as I can tell the rule is no vocals with lyrics, but wordless singing gets a pass. So Sigur Rós is sometimes okay. Pants's favorite NLP band and mine is Explosions in the Sky. They just started a huge tour that begins tonight at the Langerado Music Festival with Cat Power and Stephen Malkmus in Sunrise, Florida--not a bad town to begin a cross-country jog in, I'm thinkin'--so now when they come to yr town you will know to go see them and be moved and awed.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

The plan is to go to DC to hang out/ go see girls/ rock

Happy International Women's Day! The Pogo beat being what it is, I'm observing said day by posting clips of rock-inclined women doing what they do best, where they do it best--tearing up axes and kits and Casios, live. They are/were real and fearless and grade A inspiration. They are not meant to represent all kinds of ladies and musics, just what's in my head today.

Also, in time for IWD the Gossip announced they're signing to Sony's up-and-coming gay ghetto project--oops, I mean exploitation niche...ah, that is, LABEL--Music With a Twist. Because that's what queerness is, a twist. Like a glass of Pepsi with a lemon wedge in it, or BBQ Doritos. Wilderness Media & Entertainment president Matt Farber said of the label back in January, "It's a home that says to artists, 'We not only are OK with who you are, but we embrace that as part of your identity.'" To which I respond, thanks, Matt! Your embrace is so essential to my happiness and self-worth. If you didn't approve I just don't know what I'd do!

[Addendum posted 3/10: as noted by Bexx, the Gossip originally announced their move to MWaT in November '06.]



The Organ

The Capricorns

Monday, March 05, 2007

Breathless to explain

Found recording unsolved mystery mailbag bonanza.

Dear Lizzie,

An idle googling of some of my own personal life's random keywords/people on a slow morning in the office (you know, as one does)--in this fateful case "Tweed Penguin"--turned up a single, lonely, two-year old link to your blog. I'm breathless to explain the treasure you've unearthed:

"Tweed Penguin" was the basement recording label of my high school friends and bandmates Jeremy and Nathaniel Braddock from Midland, Michigan around the turn of the '90s. The particular sampler you found was apparently compiled by guitarist/bassist Nathaniel, presumably for some friend who (like myself in '92) had gone off to college in Ann Arbor. The majority of the songs were written by these two brothers--often with myself drumming/complaining in an outfit called first The Smalls (Nathaniel was just bein' cool), later Quality Zoom Slide. They're really all quite the chestnuts, and deeply nostalgic reminders for me of days spent discovering music and weed with a Tascam 4-track in our rehearsal space above Timm's Appliance on Main Street in Midland.

Last I heard, Nathaniel (always the best and purest musician among us) was still making music in Chicago. His big brother Jeremy (and skull-clutchingly good lyricist) is now an English professor at U-Penn, and still keeps a small wierd band on the side which I try and catch whenever they come to play somethere here in NYC, where I live and work as a museum exhibit designer. Sadly, there's no room here for my treasured 1967 Ludwig "Black Oyster Pearl" drums.

Thanks for taking the time to notice those careful little liner notes. It may take a little time, but if you're interested, I'd love to send you a CD of those songs you've been wondering about. Once upon a time they were the best thing we'd ever done!

And yes--"Surfin' Vicar" remains unchallenged as the best song ever.


Andrew Yamato

PS: "Myxz" refers to Myxzlplk--a short lived power-trio (named after the "Superfriends" nemisis) featuring Nathaniel, Chris "The Sweet One" Sugar, and myself, chronologically intersticed between The Smalls and Quality Zoom Slide. Joe is fellow Midland son Mighty Joe Wessling, who's still by far the tallest of us. Ted Nugent did not in fact play the solos on "Biker Larry" (an junior-year-abroad ode to one of Jeremy's Oxonian pals), although his bassist Mike Lutz did almost produce one of my later college bands.