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Hogarth judge

February 2018



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Shock and Awe

The Grammies are ridiculous

I am only interested in musicians who write their own material and perform their own instruments. Beyonce, Lady Gaga, and the rest of the entire entourage of hip-hop dance drilling, high concept pinup photo shoots, and Disney-groomed pop tarts are all but invisible to me. I know the names but not the music. What is performed under their names isn't even music to me: it's product.

If this makes me an old fogey, I'm at the age where I get to be one. And if this makes me a "rockist", then I am one of them too. And I shall not repent of it.

It seems to me that popular music is going through one of its depressed cycles right now, similar to what happened in the late 70s. Which in a way is a good thing: anything worth listening to, that wants to set the cities on fire, is going to be cultlike and underground and will have to be searched out by people who may not know what they're looking for, but know that what's mainstream isn't it. This was the environment I grew up in. The closest thing that came to spontaneous and unpolished rock and roll on the radio was Frampton Comes Alive. In a way it feels like home.

I've mellowed a bit since then, but not much. Now I at least recognize that KC and the Sunshine Band wrote their own material and played their actual instruments live.


Lady Gaga does write her own songs and play her own instruments live. But to us, she's Elton John; we pay her absolutely no attention. And we stopped paying any attention at all to the Grammys after that Julian Lennon/ Whitney Houston thing, and then realizing a some time later that Neil Young had never gotten one, not even for Harvest. I understand they threw him one this year for the Archives and he got Miss Congeniality or MusiCares or something. Not like he ever actually wrote any music.

What do you think of adult album alternative format? We had a station out here for a while, KSWD, that played a unique variation on it. It was the closest thing we've heard to actual music on the radio, other than "classic rock", in quite some time. It was where we first heard Wilco and White Town, and really got into Foo Fighters. But they failed to get sufficient ratings and abandoned their format and now you can't tell them from KLOS. You want a good AAA station, you have to listen to KMMS or something on the internet.
Elton John always played his own piano, but he always had Bernie Taupin feeding him the words.

We have something akin to "adult album alternative" at WFPK, but that's a public radio station. 'Twas they who brought Patti Smith to Louisville both times you saw her there.

On the other hand, their playlist went into the toilet after the O Brother Where Art Thou soundtrack came out, and they went into a serious "Americana" phase. I can handle some acoustic shite and stepped-on-the-cat's-tail accents, especially if it is genuinely traditional, but a steady diet of alt-country singer songwriters is something that's easy to get tired of. They taught me to dislike Lucinda Williams, so I guess that's something.
Jess and Gabe, as you might guess, prefer authentic country gothic, they have a big Carter Family collection, several Sacred Harp albums and a few of the tracks from Songcatcher and Cold Mountain. Jess likes Emmy Rossum and Iris deMent. They have a recording of "Long Black Veil" by the Bastard Sons of Johnny Cash that Gabe describes as "scraped off the bottom of the coffeepot in the records office of the county courthouse."

You've heard our end-of-the-year review discs, so you know they always put a Jim White song on or Drive-By Truckers or something. Gabe was driving when he first heard "Little Bonnie" and he had to pull over for a few minutes.
I do like the Drive-By Truckers, a whole lot actually, but they're definitely not "acoustic shite", more like Skynyrd + storytelling. And it's the stories that drew me in first.

You have the first three Espers albums, don't you?
We have the first two. We consider them "psychedelic folk".
Lady Gaga, I'm embarrassed to admit, earned a lot of respect from me when I saw she actually wasn't TOTALLY manufactured after her appearance on SNL:

[EDIT: apparently, I can't embed the video. Do a search for Lady Gaga, SNL, medley)

Doesn't mean her music isn't like a drillbit to the brain, but she is still more musician than most of her contemporaries.

Edited at 2010-02-11 09:21 pm (UTC)