Thursday, May 31, 2007

Poetry in notion

Some people think rock music is poetry for the modern man while others reckon that trying to understand what a song is all about just by studying the lyrics is a futile and misplaced endeavour. Cultural critic Lawrence Grossberg, with his concept of affect, is one who has argued that the point of music is how it makes you feel (both on your own and in relation to others) and that textual analysis of song lyrics - which cultural theorists had previously concentrated on - is not the main game.

All those baby boomers who thought Dylan was Rimbaud with sunglasses and better hair only had part of the picture. You see, Dylan also had a guitar and harmonica (though it remains true that Rimbaud had bad hair).

I pass my apologies to Lawrence whose life's work I remember haltingly from many years ago and have probably just reduced to travesty. I also admit to making the same mistake myself at times. In grade ten for my English Class poetry recital I read aloud the lyrics to Guns 'n' Roses' Civil War until my exasperated teacher said she couldn't assess my performance and made me resubmit using Poe's The Raven.

Anyway, this morning as I drove to work, my ipod coughed up Bruce Springsteen's Hungry Heart. I began to sing along, I guess, somewhat heartily. I've always loved Hungry Heart, with its jaunty sax and rolling synth lines and its snappy but simple drums. It makes me feel great.

Instantly I was happier to be on my way to work. Outside it was grey and rainy and my wipers weren't working well, increasing the likelihood of a peak-hour crash and some expensive medical or panel repair work. The previous night at rehearsal I'd struggled to learn UT's ripping new song and felt that I was holding the dudes back. I'd woken grumpy but as Hungry Heart kicked in, suddenly I felt fantastic.

Then I thought about the words and realised that although I knew them (I was singing along after all) I'd never really CONSIDERED them.

Springsteen is one of those artists who are inevitably described as some sort of 'street poet' and positioned by many rock critic types as an inheritor of Dylan's status as Rock Poet Laureate. Those who do not follow The Boss as closely as I can find the lyrics here.

They describe a man who abandons his wife and kids, walking out on them and never returning. He takes a wrong turn and he just keeps going.

He begins to frequent seedy bars, meets a floozy and has it off with her for a while. Then she dumps his sorry ass and he finds himself back in the same bar, singing this song, as he looks for another floozy to take her unsatisfying place. Mostly, he just doesn't want to be alone.

This is pretty bleak stuff, I'd have to say.

So why does it make me feel so great? I think this nicely demonstrates Grossberg's point about our overestimation of the importance of lyrics in analysing music. It's also worth noting that a virtually-unknown young Springsteen wrote Hungry Heart for The Ramones in response to a request from his pal Joey Ramone. Then Bruce liked what he'd done so much that he refused to hand it over and kept it for himself. I can't help but feel that the Ramones would've gone all nihilistic on it and part of the song's great charm - the discrepancy between subject matter and style - would have been lost.

In Japan, where they don't really understand the lyrics but love the poppy melody and simple chorus, this is pretty much Bruce's biggest ever hit. The Japanese know that rock 'aint poetry, it's rebellion and noise and mysterious stuff that makes you tap your toes, hate your parents or sing in the car.

There's a big difference, it turns out, between Haiku and fuck you.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

A question that's been bothering me

When I was a lad somebody asked me a question and I've been wondering about it ever since. Why did the chicken cross the road? I was rather stuck for an answer so I went and asked a few other people why it crossed the road:

Max Merritt: It was slipping away from me and it broke me in two.

Peter Garrett: The other side of the road is the chicken's land.

Francis Black: I don't answer questions about chickens from mainstream media.

Beethoven: Pardon?

Bono: It was playing Jesus to the lepers on the other side of the road.

René Descartes: The chicken thinks it's crossing the road therefore it is crossing the road.

Crafty: “”

The Lady Silk: To escape from all these people talking about bloody amplifiers.

Darth Vader: Escape is not the chicken's plan.

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Saturday, May 26, 2007

Totally, like, amped.

Thanks to Gigglewick and everyone else who provided advice and support but the great amp hunt is over and GW's advice comes too late and will have to fall by the wayside. After extensive roadtesting over three arduous days, accompanied by my loyal and long-suffering wife who is now complaining of a perforated eardrum and is even more aware of just what a bad guitar player I am, I have plumped for a 150watt Marshall.

AVT150x I believe the catchy name is. This baby is a tube pre-amp with a solid state power amp. Some afficionados believe these tube/state combos to be mere gimmicks but I found the sound to be pleasing to my cloth ears. I got it for $800 and I believe it to be plenty loud for rocking the sea bed with my fellow bushmen of the calamari.

I did try various Roland cubes as well as Vox, the aformentioned Triggerman and the valve version also (forget what it is called). I played Fenders and Hartkes and Ashtons and Randalls and god knows what else. I bought the best I could for the cash I had (and careful students of this blog will note that I spent double what I was originally hoping to lay out). Now it must repay itself with hot rock.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Silky's big day

I spent the weekend on a stakeout, sleeping outside a prison, in Adelaide, and living out of a Toyota Yaris for three days along with another human being (who, incidentally, had a fondness for garlic prawns). For those unfamiliar, the Toyota Yaris is pretty much the smallest car on the road. For those unfamiliar, I am pretty much 6ft 5inches tall. Also, it was raining, pretty much the whole time.

But then things got better! Monday was my birthday and everyone was really nice. Things I received included:
1) A bunch of cool, vintage, 1st edition books from my parents and some cash to ''buy something guitar-related.''
2) Some awesome parfait spoons from my nana (I actually asked for these, to the mirth of all).
3) Many happy wishes, including a delightful text message from crafty
4) Various monies and gift vouchers
5) Another book: Shavetails and Bell Sharps: The History of the US Army Mule by Emmit M. Essin (this from occasional blog contribs Mrazzy and James). It is described as "the seminal work on the American pack mule'' and the Washington Times, a publication I am unfamiliar with, dubs it: ''A delightful read." I have checked the index and there is no mention of hinnies in uniform.

And, of course, a new guitar from the blessed missus (as discussed previously on this blog). Which leads me to my main point. Sorry it took a while.
I've been thinking about buying an amp and though I've done some internet research, what I really need is the opinions of the only three people in the world who really matter. The dudes.
I don't have bags of cash right now and have pretty much decided that I'm not going tube anyway because I am too lazy to maintain it and too careless to treat it right.
Now I'm wondering whether to spend less now or wait and spend more. Specifically I've been examining the possibility of an Epiphone Triggerman. Silky's dad has one of these and I've played around with it a bit and thoroughly enjoyed myself. There are some reviews at Harmony Central.
Most people seem to like it, a couple complain that the overdrive is no good but that is also disputed. It's a 60w solid state combo - I'm not sure if it would be loud enough for the Squid Ink Sound. It has a nice little switch pedal and lots of inputs, for this kind of money, to plug stuff into. I played briefly with some of the effects and thought they were cool but I am no gear-freak audiophile and was probably missing something important. Cost is around $400. Thoughts?

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Fish and Beethoven

I had the pleasure, on the weekend, of visiting my friends Mr and Mrs Tedium at their home. They had taken delivery of a piano during the week and I was keen to give it a thorough test-run.

So in between generous presentations of garfish and greens, tasty wine, flowing banter and rocking Sebadoh, I laboured to recall my repertoire as I played for my hosts.

It has been many years since I've had ready access to a piano: my own cannot fit in my little terrace house and I still miss it. Time — as it does, the bastard — has sapped away my powers.

I tried to play Beethoven's Pathétique but couldn't even remember enough to get out of the ‘grave’ introduction to the first movement.

I tried to play a Schubert sonata and got almost to the end of the exposition before my memory failed me (my technique had failed me long before but I bravely carried on).

I tried to play some of Khachaturian's delicious piano concerto and was rather pleased with how much of the first cadenza I'd remembered.

I didn't try to play any Billy Joel as UT was demanding.

The piano has a somewhat heavy touch and will need a good tuning up but sounds great, looks great and is tremendous fun to play. I'm sure the Tediums will enjoy it.

I pulled out my own keyboard last night, tried a piece or two and just wept at the plastic soulless thing. There is no comparison. Perhaps I can find room for my piano in my kitchen? Surely I don't need to eat as much as I need to play piano.

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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

A New Hope

Star Wars gets a bit too much of a run these days when it comes to cultural references which no doubt please the marketing people for the last three well-after-the-fact-cash-in pre-quels (which, despite many claims to the contrary, appear to have been written after the three originals...."don't you see? George Lucas is such a talented genius that he could see the technology did not yet exist to do justice to the first three films!!! Jar Jar Binks was in the mix the whole time, don't you see, but back in the late 70s black-jive-talking culture was too close to black panthers for George to fully realise his hip take on inter-stellar negroes...and the wookie just couldn't find enough tall guys back then...George knew, and knows, his shit...cynical and poorly executed cash-in?!?!? You better step outside motherfucker!) but sometimes the words of yoda really do fit nicely when your arts degree has failed to arm you with a more literary equivelant of which I am sure there are many.

When asked (something like) is all lost now that something or other has happened to Luke (probably still sulking because his Uncle wouldn't let him go and get the power converters) yoda replies that "There is another".

And so there is!

Paddy, or Princess Leia...although I think the resemblance ends pretty quickly after the metaphor begins, has written a song! And it is a fact it got complimented far more heavily than my new one...which made me feel a bit like Han Solo when he thinks that Leia likes Luke more than him..."Oh, I get it" is what I think he says, but he says this quite a bit in all the movies...George Lucas is widely lauded for his dialogue as I am for my lyrics.

In any event I have been humming it for the last couple of days, although I am disappointed that "Siren" became "Warning", in the bit about not wanting to know what it was for, in subsequent runs through.

Unfortunately I have not yet practised the riff, gifted to me, which overwhelmed me like the trap into which Admiral Akbar fell and caused Silky to grin like the Emperor feeling the hate swelling inside me.

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Friday, May 04, 2007

Blonde Squidhead

Time for staff pick of the week on the Squid Ink blog. It's a bit weird when one band you like turns into another, previously quite different, band that you like. In this case, though, I don't seem to mind. This is my favourite record of the moment, Blonde Redhead's 23. They've gone over all My Bloody Valentine only a bit slicker. Check out the video for the title track here. I reckon it's a sweet ride, though the hipster stasi at Pitchfork give it only 7/10.

It also strikes me that handsome, brooding identical twin Italian brothers and a hot Japanese girl-singer is a pretty hard-to-beat line-up in terms of aesthetic appeal. I say we have their measure, but only in a photo finish. I encourage all users of this blog to share their current musical loves. It is not only Squid Ink that are making cutting edge rock, after all.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Donkey Shelter Photo Day

And what a happy day it was. Why, you may well ask, has it taken so long to update everyone on this fine event. My fine mother, who has attended a gig of two of my former bands so I hold out hope that she may attend more, only just sent through the photos.
Above you will see a photo of UT with Tedium Senior and a fine beast behind (matching the two fine beasts in front! I encourage you to click on the photo and admire Gregor's theories at work!!), a photo of UT and UTsnr looking at Misty and a photo of me patting Snowy in my brand new Donkey Shelter cap. Why, Douglas, do you show us not only a picture of Misty, the famed and sponsored half-nag, but also this johnny-come-lately Snowy?
Because, friends, I was told by a shelter worker, whilst giving Baby May a good pat, that she believed Snowy, in the next paddock and usually unfriendly (I bet she says that to all the boys who manage to woo Snowy), to be a Hinny!
In my keenness for Snowy to be a Hinny I shall over look her egregious error in explaining (to me?!?!? of all people??!?! Has the crone taken leave of her senses? Does she not know to whom she speaketh?) that a Hinny is the offspring of a jack and a mare when this would produce a mule.
Anyway, the birthday was bookended in an odd way by patting and cooing at hard done by donkeys in the morning and clubbing recently caught trout to death in the late afternoon. Some people may see this activity as contradictory I see it as the actions of a renaissance man.

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