Wednesday, January 11, 2006

I saw the ocean's daughter


(Attention, stalkers:) I'm typing right now from the downtown Stumptown, and I can't friggin wait for Valentines to open as they are playing an early R.E.O. Speedwagon album very loud here (whichever one they actually cover Chuck Berry on, that is the one that it is). There's a sub-bubblegum element to the R.E.O. thing that's almost enjoyable, and believe me I love a TON of bad music. But on the most objective of levels, this shit entirely blows. So, the singer can sing like a castrated speed freak? That doesn't mean he should, you know? Anyway, pardon me for blowing your mind by attacking R.E.O. -- but that's what I do, blow minds.

One of my maxims is that irony should not be mixed with music and with haircuts, but then I remember how much I love Steve Miller and ELO and Def Leppard and Lindsay Lohan in this weird kind of excitement that encompasses both irony and sheer delight. These would seem to be total opposites of course but I guess I encompass multitudes? That must be it.

Which brings me to the topic of this year's Pop Music Studies Conference at the EMP in Seattle. It's "guilty pleasures," a topic I have serious problems with but we probably all do. I missed last year's 'cause I was so crazily low energy and depressed with the undiagnosed and outta control diabetes, but the other years were pretty awesome, much better than you might think even.

Here's my proposal, which might be too fanboy-ish for them but there's a reason I never graduated from school; I'm not much of an academic, at all. I can't do math, either, but I'm not, like, mathist or anything. I have several friends who are good at math!

For this year's Pop Conference, I'd like to present a paper about Electric Light Orchestra's 1977 double album
Out of the Blue. Today, if ELO is renown for anything, it's for writing all the disco songs the Beatles never got around to writing, then slapping sappy string arrangements on top -- and fair enough. Electric Light Orchestra's maxim seemed to be to try and cram as much sound and scope as possible into the conventional pop song. But at their best --and this album is their best-- this ambitious ensemble achieves a certain lumbering, retrofuturist grace.

On OOTB, Lynne dissassembles high-, low-, and middle-brow genres then recombines them in unexpected ways in a manner that kind of foreshadows pop music's modern direction. That bit was a stretch and I know it, but I've got proof, the songs themselves! Lynne's less a "great artist" and more a classic fetishist, so trapped in his lust that he can't see beyond it. Within those confines --addictions to pulp narrative, an obscene Lennon/ McCartney worship, and the misbegotten belief that you can never have too large a string section in your rock band-- he crafted some of pop's grandest and most wonderfully overbaked songs. Here is a classic guilty pleasure of pop, as satisfying as it is pretentious. Plus, it kicks the shit out of the Moody Blues.

PS: Though Out of the Blue happens to be the first album I ever bought with my own money, I will try to refrain from overly nostalgic ruminations.

This ELO tune is of course NOT from OOTB, but it's been one of my favorite songs since I can remember, an obvious and essential little meta-ditty about the power of pop music.

At first I thought this guy Brian Joseph Davis' "top ten banned albums" project was kinda cheesey, and easy, in a way that Christian Marclay is perhaps more capable of getting away with (though of course Marclay's not trying to make any grand political gestures that I'm aware of, and some of his stuff is just really ho-hum though I never see him get anything but accolades.) And jesus christ, let's have a year without any top ten lists of any kind, OK?

The more I stared at them the more I dug the objects, though the real kicker is the sound sample stuff, these edited together sounds of the warped and torched LPs skipping rhythmically and stuff. Not quite Pierre Bastien but I know for certain that the Dead Kennedys have never sounded this good before. As someone who's taken a torch to CDs, melting a stack of 'em at once, I can vouch that this sort of melting music activity is very fun to do (kinda hard on the lungs even with a good mask though). This link arrives via WFMU so you've probably already seen it, but anyway...

seems to be selling very well, as we've already gotten restock orders from two of our biggest distros and when I went by Powells last night to find a new Charles Portis book to read and the new Octavia Butler book (!yes!) I couldn't find any in sight so I assume those have sold as well. Also, the nice reviews from Aquarius, Other Music and Insound have kept me from worrying too much about if people might still give a shit about the project. I have this weird condition whereby I both totally care about what people say/ think, while not caring at all, or pretending not to anyway.

PS: Why have I never seen this movie?

PPS: Our friend Luc, who actually knows French and stuff, weighs in that "a feuilleton, where I come from, just means a serial."


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