I just finished reading John Darnielle’s great 33⅓ book on Black Sabbath’s Master of Reality. This bit does a pretty good job of summing up the difference between metal I like and metal I can’t stand:
[Sabbath’s songs were] about witches and devils and wizards and corpses. But there were barely any stories. Not like in Rush songs where if there was a wizard, or whatever, there would be a whole story, like a Robert A. Heinlein book. […] Rush songs they all have big stories and lots of things happen and there is some big meaning. On the first Black Sabbath album, the whole story in the song will be like, “There is a wizard and he is going to kill you,” or “There is a devil and you are the sacrifice.”
It strikes me that this quality, implying a story rather than telling one, is exactly what I enjoy in Darnielle’s songs. Sometimes, you just get a sketch of one crucial moment, as in “Heights” from Nothing for Juice:
When the seashells crumbled in your hand,
You looked up at me.
And the sand shifting underneath your feet,
Softened for you and, incredibly,
The sun went through from the sky.
And I was certain I was going to cry.
But then you reached up and you reached out,
We’d been staring at the water all day.
And then you touched me.
You were golden.
You were giving the game away.
Sometimes you get an isolated scene, devoid of any real context, that speaks simply of powerful emotions, as in “Noche del Gaujolote”, collected on Bitter Melon Farm:
All the birds were sleeping in their perches,
The little wind, swaying birches.
And the North American wild turkey
That your father brought home
Woke up and came towards us.
And the moonlight and the turkey waking up.
And the night air and the moonlight on your skin.
And the moonlight and the turkey waking up.
And the quiet yard and the turkey and the moon.
Darnielle’s critical supporters probably prefer to associate him with Raymond Carver. But Ozzy’s probably just as good a place to start.
I’ve never seen a band try harder or better succeed at re-contextualizing rock and roll as a visceral experience and forcing an audience to respond in kind than Monotonix tonight at the Bowery Ballroom. We’re talking serious any-more-and-you’d-be-GG-Allin stuff, here. They got New York indie rock nerds to mosh. It looked something like this, only much more crowded:
Oddly, they were opening up for the Silver Jews, who were resolutely un-rock-and-roll, un-visceral, and dissapointingly uninteresting.
I regret to inform you I am canceling my eMusic subscription,
effective immediately. Although I admire the fact that you have
provided DRM-free music downloads since the pre-Napster era and try my
best to support small, independent businesses, my dissatisfaction with
your service has been too great for too long and the convenience and
selection offered by your competitors (e.g., Amazon’s MP3 store) is
too good to pass up. It pains me to see big players like Amazon and
Apple push companies like eMusic out of business, but if you are to
survive, you will have to be more innovative and customer-focused than
you have been in the time that I have subscribed. I hope that you will
re-think your business model, increase the value of your product, and
win me back as a customer in the future.
In that spirit, I want to offer some specific advice about how your
service could improve.
– Your site provides almost no information about what albums will be
available when. So far as I can tell, the only information provided
is a small “Coming Soon” box with no more than 8 artists—often
just the names of the artists without release dates—in the bottom
corner of the “New on eMusic” page. Albums that have been released
and are available for download elsewhere are not acknowledged on
the artist page, not even to say “this album will be available
soon.” For example, Sloan’s “Parallel Play” has been available on
Amazon since June 10. As of June 21, I can find no information on
your site about whether this album will ever be available, even
though you offer all of Sloan’s previous albums on the same label.
– If I want to download an album with more tracks than I have in my
monthly subscription, a pop-up asks me if I want to upgrade my
subscription (i.e., to permanently increase my monthly fee and
download allotment). Although there are “Booster Packs” allowing
the one-time download of 10 or 20 tracks, this option is not
presented in the pop-up, nor in the page presented when one clicks
on “More Options”—only a savvy and determined user will find
them. The Booster Packs should not only be made easily available at
this point, there should be an additional option that you do not
provide: to download as many tracks as I have available within my
subscription and queue up the remaining tracks for download when my
account refreshes. This doesn’t have to be the first option
presented—I understand the desire to nudge your users towards
more spending more money on the site—but it should be available
(and one should not cross the line from nudging your customers to
misleading them and ripping them off).
These two points may seem inconsequential, but they have been a
constant source of annoyance for me. It is small matters like these
that build a customer relationship that survives a spotty selection
and waiting for the latest indie hits.
Why are the Bad Brains on MTV? (Seriously.) Am I so far out I’m back in again?
Not good treadmill music.
I’ve only listened to it once, so a grain of salt, but I think The Decemberists’ “The Crane Wife” might be the best album that ever was or ever will be. They’ve brought back some of the crunch of “The Tain” and skipped the musical-theater preciousness of “The Mariner’s Revenge Song” (which I liked! But still!).
Note to Stephen: this is twee. Pooping back and forth is quirky. (And may get you ejected from the House GOP caucus. After, you know, five or ten years.)