|I was up all night with squares and pentagrams.|
The more you get involved in writing about music, the more involved you get in the quote-unquote music industry-- which was the last thing I ever wanted (if there are two types of music writers-- those who get into music writing so they can be a part of the music industry, and those who get into music writing so they can be a part of writing-- I've always liked to think of myself as the latter). You wind up exchanging e-mails with small-scale artists who you really like and who really could benefit from your kind words. You talk with publicists, do-it-yourself record label owners. You see your reviews having real-life negative effects on people who don't seem like jerks. You don't want to be a jerk, either. You especially don't want to punish someone for the absolutely heinous artistic crime of being really, really nice and not annoying. But you still gotta try to stay detached, objective, because the people listening out there in internet land don't share even that modicum of industry baggage, and because you're a critic. Somehow, living in Brooklyn, I didn't really know many people in bands, at least not people that I didn't know first from work or school-- even though I did accidentally make Sufjan Stevens wait once to use the men's room, and I'm pretty sure that one guy on Avenue A in 2004 or 2005 was really Ryan Adams because isn't "no, but I get that all the time" just the sort of thing Ryan Adams would tell the stranger in front of you who also thought he looked like Ryan Adams, and I guess the National and members of the Hold Steady and Elephant 6 mainstay/Lil Wayne touring bassist Heather McIntosh from the Instruments (who I met because I heard her talking American-accented English in the crowd during Radiohead's main stage set in Roskilde, Denmark, where she was playing bass the next day in Gnarls Barkley's band) all also lived in my old neighborhood. Sorry if that comes off name-droppy, because the point is just the opposite: I know I'm not potentially too close to the artists.
This is a great year for feeling potentially too close to the artists.
The Poison Control Center, a band I have blogged about nonstop since seeing them on one of my first nights in town, is about to put out its third album,
NEOLOGISM NOTE: My favorite Australian band, the Lucksmiths, have a song called "Successlessness." In their final show, recently recaptured on a new live DVD I heartily recommend, the band (whose Marty Donald I interviewed once for Pitchfork, and whose Mark Monnone I was thrilled to meet and chat with when he came to Des Moines with the band Still Flyin' a year or so ago, and whose pal Darren Hanlon I also happily saw here not long ago) said they'd been considering that song title sort of the theme to their careers. But this Aug. 29, 2009, farewell concert in Melbourne was sold out, apparently, and scalpers were selling tickets in front, so maybe now their theme could be (another favorite Australian band's) "It's a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock'n'Roll)."
Then there's the new album by Mr. Dream, a trio out of Brooklyn. The singer/guitarist, Adam Moerder, used to write alongside me at Pitchfork. The drummer, Nick Sylvester, used to write alongside me at Pitchfork, and was one of the top couple or few writers there ever, and I've shared cabs with him at the CMJ Music Conference and debated him on internet message boards and been to parties at bars with him and ordered more than ample gin and tonics (sorry, William Safire) at a wedding in his presence, and I saw Mr. Dream play what I think was their first official gig, out in Bushwick, aka East Williamsburg, aka where Mrs. Des Noise used to teach so it's still weird to me that it's a place recent college graduates live and stuff now, and I don't mean to overstate how well I know Nick or anything, because it's also because we had a lot of mutual friends and acquaintances, but still, well, you know?
|Lamentable and it's not exactly my cup of tea but what the hey?|
LET'S PRETEND WE'RE BUNNY RABBITS: The setting: Petco on Buffalo Rd., near Windsor Heights. Graduation for a beginners' puppy obedience class. A backroom of the store. The first classes, when the building was being remodeled, were held in a space right by the front door, so every time people came in the dogs would get distracted. Here the only distraction is you have to go through our class to get to the store's bathroom, so people are walking in all the time and kinda looking warily at these huge dogs. Chuck, our year-old labradoodle*, isn't even the biggest dog here. There are only like five or six dogs in all. Mrs. Des Noise's college friends came to town the night before, and it was a late night. One college friend is with us today in class, taking it all in. The dog owners stand up, one by one, giving specified commands; the dogs obey the commands, or don't. Mrs. Des Noise, her friend, and I all notice one person in particular walking through the class to get to the bathroom. This person is wearing a headband with rabbit ears. We exchange glances. Looking back, I'm not sure whether anybody else saw her. The dogs get diplomas and a class picture. Mrs. Des Noise's friend tries not to laugh too much. It's social promotion, people.
So class breaks up and we say thanks and goodbye to the trainers and Mrs. D.N., M.D.N.F., and I are all walking around the store with Chuck, buying a couple of things before we head back down to meet Mrs. D. N.'s other friend for a much-needed brunch. We pass this table where we see the bunny-eared person again. She is standing next to another person in full bunny regalia, with not only bunny ears but bunny teeth and a whole-body bunny costume, too. They ask us if we want to play "Stump the Bunny." They won't take no for an answer. They're offering candy. It turns out the second bunny, the one with the teeth and the full costume, who also happens to be wearing glasses, is a bunny "professor." We're told the full name and title, which instead of Ph.D. is some sort of acronym involving a rabbit/hare pun that I forget. We draw strips of paper from a basket filled with them, each containing a question about bunnies. It looks like the bunny people have really been rehearsing this, because they sort of dramatically act out very specific responses when we don't know the answers to the questions on our little strips of paper. The question I draw: What species are rabbits? I don't know. So Professor Bunny, almost impossible to understand behind her bunny teeth, and also she has a fake British accent because she's a bunny professor, see, hints, "What do you call the interlocking blocks that kids play with?" I answer, "Uh, Legos?" "Yes! And when transformers change from a car into a robot, what do they do?" Uh, transform?" "They m--. They m---." "Morph?" "YESSSSSSSS. Now put them together." "Lego-morphs?" "YESSSSSS. Lagomorphs!" And they want me to take an entire big thing of Valentine's Day chocolates, but all I really want is a fun-size Snickers or something, because I was out late last night and I haven't had brunch yet because I've been at Petco for obedience-class graduation all day with Chuck, MDN, and MDNF. The question MDNF gets is the worst, something about how many breeds of rabbits there are in the country, and Professor Bunny gives the hint that the number is either less or more (I forget) than good doc's own age, but you can't tell what age she might be at all because everything about Professor Bunny is hidden behind her amazing bunny costume. I'm still not sure why these bunny people were there. I sure hope we weren't the only customers who spotted them. We know they weren't really bunnies, because the dog didn't chase them.
Prince - "All the Critics Love U in New York"
* My relationship to the word "labradoodle" is similar to my relationship with music-genre terms like "chillwave," "Balearic," "blog-house," "twee," "emo," or "acoustic rock": I may sometimes like what the word describes, and I may in an extreme case or two even form a really strong personal connection with it, but I still feel pretty silly saying it out loud.