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15 December 2011

Talking secrets

In the secret history of the Talking Heads & the founding generation of New York punk rock — whenever that was — one of the biggest ones may have been that David Byrne was actually a crooner, always was. Check out this video from the first show of theirs attended by Seymour Stein, the founder of the label that made them famous.

And read more about it at NPR. Or don’t.

Posted by Alec Hanley Bemis  

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14 February 2008

“Talking Heads are the Enemy” (aka Dirty Projectors as Black Flag, Jeffrey Lee Lewis as Crass)

080214_teenagekicks_markesmith.jpgIn a second we’ll hear from this man, Mark E. Smith. But first, a quote from Jason Gross in this year’s Pazz & Jop critics poll which got me thinking: Have artists lost the ability to act? Is reaction the only thing left? Or, to put it another way, has the post-modern condition taken hold to the degree that all artists have left is the ability to comment on what has come before?

Here’s the quote:
“Lately we’re getting bombarded by acts that cover the music scene themselves pretty well in their own tunes: Dan Le Sac vs. Scroobius Pip, the Hold Steady, LCD Soundsystem. This may mean that rock criticism is in danger of actually being replaced by the thing it’s reporting on. At this rate, these acts will be bigger competition than the blogs out there.”

I think Jason’s point is that the Hold Steady and LCD often employ lyrical narratives about what it’s like to grow old in various pop music scenes. But I think his point could be equally applied to their music as sound — that Hold Steady equal a gloss on Billy Joel and Bruce Springsteen; that LCD Soundsystem sound a bit too much like someone with a record collection that includes New Order, Steve Reich, and many a tasty electronic nugget I’m too busy to namecheck right now. Basically, my extrapolation of his point is that bands have become better articulators of the pop music canon than critics or other outside voices; and, more importantly, that they have more ability than critics to revive interest in older music with a flagging reputation. (And if LCD and Hold Steady are too obscure for you, look at how Kanye resuscitated the career of Daft Punk.)

Two artists who Jason didn’t mention, however, highlight this idea even more pointedly: Jeffrey Lee Lewis and Dirty Projectors. They have created two of my most listened to albums of the past 6 months or so — Dirty Projectors with Rise Above a re-interpretation, from memory, of Black Flag’s Damaged and JLL with 12 Crass Songs, a re-imagining — in studied detail — of the music of UK crusty punk band, Crass.

Where JLL’s hyper-articulated vocals make Crass’s intense rhetoric audible…
Jeffrey Lee Lewis “End Result” (excerpt)

Dirty Projectors make Black Flag’s hardcore punk-as-jazz sound almost unrecognizable…
Dirty Projectors – “Gimmie Gimmie Gimmie” (excerpt)
…while somehow managing to maintain the group’s emotional core.

After the jump, more dense, overthought prose — and a slurring yet articulate Mark E. Smith!
Read more »

Posted by Alec Hanley Bemis  

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