Sunday, September 11, 2011

Who Am I?

Another drive-by record review from the Half-deaf Music Critic, on the road with her family during a trip out to see friends in the far suburbs.

DH (turning off car CD and plugging in phone): I want to listen to this new J Mascis.
DD: Will you play Who Am I?
DH: Yeah, OK. Are you a person, an animal, or a thing?
DD: Person.
Me: Which one was he, anyway? I get all those quirky facial hair guys mixed up.
DH: Who? Are you Michael Jackson?
Me: J Mascis.
DD: Not Michael Jackson.
DH: Dinosaur Jr. Major guitar guy. Hey, he just did a free show at the Kennedy Center. Why are you asking about him?
Me: You said this was his record.
DH: Are you a president?
DD: Yes.
Me: (grabbing DH's leg) Ha! Michael Jackson! Michael Jackson?
DH: This is Stephen Malkmus. And the Jicks.
Me: Ohhh. I thought you said J Mascis. That's the Pavement guy. He's still really cute. I like that button-down shirt thing.
DH: Are you an inventor? See, I'm not just asking are you this person, are you that one. I'm asking real questions.
DD: Yes. I am an inventor.
DH: He said as soon as you're past the lake, you have to make a sharp left. As soon as you see the lake, put your turn signal on. It's on the left. He said put your turn signal on as soon as you FEEL the lake.
Me: I can't hear anything anymore. I can't see. Screw it, I'm old. I'm putting on my turn signal RIGHT NOW. I'm gonna leave it on the whole way. You know, I haven't heard anything that's impressed me much. This sounds like one of Beck's acoustic albums. Remember that show we saw in Miami? That was really good, but it was mostly because of the element of surprise. And all those kids in the audience who wanted to sing along with cheeze whiz. Thwarted! This just sounds like old quirky hipster stuff. Beck's Modern Guilt sounds newer and more interesting than this. And that one was from, what, 2008? I still put that on lots of mixes. It was haunting.
DH: This isn't a Beck record. He just produced it. Are you Benjamin Franklin?
DD: Benjamin Franklin isn't a president! Just because you have your face on a twenty-dollar bill doesn't mean you're a president!
Me: Jesus, there was so much hype about this record. I'm reading about it everywhere. This one has at least got something interesting happening rhythmically to it. Maybe it's just too subtle for me. Hey, that trail looks good.
DH: That's a really good trail. You know what you need to do, you need to go over to Ben's place and get your rollerblades, then practice up in the parking lot for a while, and then you and DD can come out here and do this trail. She can ride her bike. She could get rollerblades.
DD: I want rollerblades too. Can I get rollerblades?
DH: You need to give mommy a little time on them first, then we'll see.
DD: Mommy needs more help than I do.
Me: I have to give it up to Pavement for saving my life in Miami though. Underused. You can say that again. Not feeling like that anymore. Except at work. Wait a minute, is Thom Yorke on this record too?
DH: That's the CD that was in there before. I just unplugged the phone.
Me: Oh.
DD: I feel the lake! I feel the lake!

On the return trip:
DH: Do you want to hear the new Neil Diamond?
Me: Ummm...OK. He just got a Kennedy Center Honor award.
DH: Dave Alvin?
Me: Neil Diamond.
DH: What?
Me: I thought you said Neil Diamond.

The new Dave Alvin is very swamp-stompy and has a great song on it about Johnny Ace. He's a poet. He doesn't really stretch out his voice much. Also, the new John Hiatt is a knockout. Overlooked songwriting from both--when someone picks up a song from either, they can really run with it. I would love to hear two woman musicians I know cover almost anything from either of them.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

I Mean It!

This one's inspired by the GOP and corporate executives and all the rest of you out there who bravely bear up even though everything and everybody is against them at every turn and persecuting them, and they're really not feeling very well, either!

Turkey Vultures

Your cry attracts more scavengers
Than rescuers. The swing shifters
Shake their heads and sigh.
If you've got enough breath to complain,
You can wait for fresh heroes
To haul you up. We're off. We're done in.
They trudge off to have a drink and forget you.
It's easy. Laughter breezes in without you,
All the ones like you, left behind again.

Maybe there's one who stays and waits with you.
A matronly type. Secretly, you're disappointed.
You think you're entitled to someone more in your league.
A handsome one like you are,
And still not yet middle aged.
You smile yet at her kind hand-holding
Out of habit. It never hurts to get your hooks in.
You might need her someday.

She leans close to talk, to help you pass the time.
She tells you: "The vultures, you know,
They're so much more sensitive than we are.
We hear a stifled cry, a brave protest against aid,
And we rush to reward you with more
Admiration and affection. The tale of your courage
Makes you twinkle like a star.

"But the birds, all they see is your weakness.
They don't know from fake. You lie there
And they see: You're weak, you're ripe,
You're going down. Careful what you wish for,"
She chuckles, tucking in the blanket.

You'd smash her teeth to shut her up
In an outraged flash; but no, that was
You years ago; today, you know better.
You put on your best wounds.
The dignity of your protests is impeccable.
You are deeply sorry that she has misunderstood you.
Perhaps it is her plainness that has made her so mean.

She tells you:
"As soon as you asked for pity,
It was a signal to the skies: You'd gladly die
To get one desiring look. Here they come gliding.
You're so sweet to them. If you stood up now,
How disappointed they would be."

The Post closes its suburban bureaus to save on leasing and equipment costs. The reporters will pick up these costs individually, and they will not have a moment they are not working. The 21st-century news business is now just like the 19th-century one. Every man for himself, and glean your own straw.

Photo: Entrance to Abita Mystery House, Louisiana.