Sunday, October 15, 2006

Update: General State of Affairs

More or less using Pete's template for this.

Picture at right is the figure of victory that usually perches atop a World War I memorial at the top of East Rock Park, but that is currently on the New Haven central green for cleaning. It looks kind of out of place there.

Catch Phrase: I am disrespectful to dirt!

Listening to: Nick Drake's Bryter Layter, from 1970. Fragile, lyric, and melancholy folk-pop from the British singer/songwriter/guitarist, who I hadn't heard of till now. Unfortunately that melancholy was the tip of a depressive iceberg & he overdosed on antidepressants a few years later, when he was 26. Great autumn music nonetheless. This is a borrowed CD, along with OK Computer and Kind of Blue by Miles Davis, also new to me, which is required listening.

Currently reading: mostly course readings for the linguistics class I'm auditing. This continues to be interesting, though I'm looking forward to the part of the syllabus that deals more with the psychology of language, as opposed to the analytical framework that linguists apply to (English) sentence and phrase structure.

Also reading: Kenneth T. Jackson's Crabgrass Frontier, a history of the suburbanization of the United States. This is a pretty straightforward history, not too flashy, which might be why I haven't been able to pick it up for a few weeks. Unfortunately it's too good to turn aside completely, and I'm already halfway through. I shouldn't give up before the twentieth-century part starts. And I call myself a nonfiction nerd . . .

About once a chapter in this book there's a blatant typo — in the preface, the city of Stockholm is misspelled as "Stockhom," for example, and later there's a passing mention of "Jane Austin" — and it's interesting to me that these haven't been fixed in the course of twenty printings. I'm still not sure what the industry standards are regarding corrections.

Currently drinking: Thomas Hooker Octoberfest Lager. Tastes pretty good to me! I'm just glad to have found something at the local beer store that unambiguously hasn't been sitting around for months and months.

Trying to come up with: Ideas for a Halloween costume. My work friend Kate is having a party. Non-humiliating suggestions welcome.


Blogger Pete said...

Thomas Hooker is a great brewery! If you ever see their Doppelbock or Barleywine (Old Marley - especially this one - a fantastic barleywine aged in bourbon oak for a bit of time before bottling) around, definitely grab a bottle. I feel like I must've had their Oktoberfest at some point... other good Oktoberfests are Buzzard Bay's and Otter Creek's.

OK Computer is over-rated, pseudo-intelligent corporate swill.

10/16/2006 12:22 AM  
Blogger Jack said...

Okay, just for kicks I'm calling bullshit on your Radiohead dismissal. I want you to draw out the difference between intelligence and pseudo-intelligence in pop music, and to justify using the phrase "corporate swill" to describe something that (1) has a strong, individual musical personality (if you disagree, draw this out) and (2) is clearly not designed to go down easy.

I am, however, happy to accept your affirmation of my beer tastes no questions asked.

10/16/2006 1:04 PM  
Blogger Pete said...

I've never actually listened to the album, but okay, well, to clarify, a bit:

pseudo-intelligence: track titles like "Subterranean Homesick Alien." This operates in a similar mode as the references to the movie Harvey in that pseudo-smart instant classic movie Donnie Darko - here we have an apparent reference to Bob Dylan's classic song. Before listening to the Radiohead song, we can perhaps assume intelligence and predict what this reference may mean: it will be a straightforward riff on the famous lyrical content of the Dylan track, perhaps postmodernized into the future, or perhaps it is more a gesture of comparison, in that Bob Dylan was incredibly popular but never had his musical credibly questioned (except by the folk musicians he left behind when he went electric). What seems more likely to me, however, is that it is a reference meant only to be noticed, and mused over, with nothing deeper running through it, like the rabbit-costume in Donnie Darko. So I found a recording of the Radiohead track. I don't know if its the album version or not - mostly just acoustic guitar? I've looked up the lyrics too, it's about alien abduction, thats pretty apparent, but thusly seems to have more in relationship to David Bowie than Bob Dylan. I don't see the connection to the "Subterranean Homesick Blues" at all, except for somekind of middle class ennui or something, maybe.

It's boring music, though. Easily swallowed. The whole "OK Computer" things seems reflected through at least some of the track titles... "Paranoid Android," "Fitter Happier," "Airbag." I guess I'd have to actually get myself to listen to the whole album at somepoint to make a better point about the thing. But it was released on Capitol Records, so it's definitely corporate, subjected to the same blatant price-fixing as all the rest of its corporate band contemporaries.

Is there maybe some extra half-steps in the vocal lines, or something, the seperates it from the rest of mid-to-late 90s pop-rock? Listening to Karma Police now, seems indistinguishable from the band Oasis, so far as I can tell.

I'm not arguing that to be anything but swill you need different chord changes or anything, but maybe the analogy of "swill" is misplaced, seeing as this music is so easily digested.

I also don't know how this music that I've never managed to sit through in its entirety fits into the context of the rest of what Radiohead has produced.

What is that you hear in this that you find to be so distinguishable from other corporate pop? "The Tourist" sounds like a song from any number of indie-pop bands, I suppose. Except that it seems like it could be a really nice song, but ends up feeling really over-produced to me, like the albums that Leonard Cohen did with Phil Spector. The wall of sounds behind to me detract from the skeletal framework of the song, but make it much easier to listen I suppose, since there is no empty spaces.

In conclusion, corporate swill doesn't take risks, and so far as I can tell, Radiohead, at least in OK Computer isn't taking any risks. And its boring.

10/16/2006 2:52 PM  
Blogger Jack said...

You didn't even listen to this before trying to smack it down? Booooo.

For my part: what do I find separates OK Computer from other mid-to-late-90s pop-rock? Well, it's a bit more involving than, say, "Hey now, you're an All Star."

But look, I don't think that's the point. Book, cover, judging, moral of the story, etc.

10/16/2006 6:05 PM  
Blogger Pete said...

Did you not read my entire comment? I did listen to the fucking songs. It's just impossible to listen to the whole album, do to its not-very-goodness. And I checked in with my friend who is a Radiohead fanatic/know-it-all and he confirms that there is nothing more to the Bob Dylan song reference than just the title, so I think the point I made about that is pretty damn justified.

10/17/2006 1:46 PM  
Blogger Nate said...

I went to my local library's CD section so I could horn in on this here Radiohead mini-flame war, but there's a waiting list for OK Computer and their copy of Kid A looks like a horse stepped on it or something (at any rate the disc is too cracked for the usually generous CD player in my car to handle it). But Hail to the Thief is in there for the next couple commutes, so some measure of opinions are forthcoming.

In the department of criticism of stuff I haven't heard, there's this Slate piece about Robert Christgau, until very recently the Village Voice's rock critic, that passes along his semi-dismissive blurb about Kid A. I imagine you guys can find some middle ground in its 5+ sentences.

Less controversially: Otter Creek Oktoberfest: Very good beer. Along with their Copper Ale it's the best stuff available at Trader Joe's, anyway.

10/17/2006 2:03 PM  
Blogger Jack said...

Wow, everyone's on the same lunch lull today! Exciting.

I wasn't referring to your long post, Pete, just the first judgement you made ("over-rated, pseudo-intelligent corporate swill") before listening to any part of the album.

If a song title has nothing to do with the song itself, I don't see how that makes the song worse. Lewis Carroll is tangential but I think instructive here.

10/17/2006 2:07 PM  
Blogger Pete said...

But I tried to listen to it... it was just so boring that I could never manage to do it.

Just because they managed to shift their demographic a bit with OK Computer and beyond to include 20-something white makes who are a little bit sad and want to take some aesthetic easy way out doesn't make Radiohead's music any more interesting than it already is(n't).

I'll give them more credit, really for Kid A through Hail to the Thief, based solely on the fact that the electro-pop thing at least sounds more interesting than OK Computer.

10/17/2006 3:19 PM  

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