This weekend has been one of juxtaposing forms of entertainment for me. Half was spent reclining back and catching up on some reading time, while the other was spent turning my brain to jelly on amusement park rides. I’ll apologize in advance for any goofy album reviews I happen to post this week. I can’t handle a day at Cedar Point like I used to. In any event, it’s difficult to write a weekly feature that doesn’t carry with it content-specific goals. Usually I simply ramble. Today I’ll begin with a brief synopsis of my reading tendencies, and then launch into a fire-back on Brian’s post from yesterday. Editor’s note: Brian and I argue back and forth on our weekend posts often. He’ll shoot a poisoned dart from his Saturday post, and while he’s a little more fluent than me with the written word, I still try to stab back on my Sunday post. We’ve also got 11 great tracks for you to enjoy today. So snag them and purchase the records as they are released.
As far as the reading goes, I’ve been hitting a lot of short fiction lately, cleaning up on some classics that I probably shouldn’t admit I haven’t read at this point. As an English major, it’s always embarrassing to admit what I haven’t read. Most people assume we devour any form of literature that crosses our path. This isn’t the case, and I’ll actually argue it’s more difficult for a lit major to sit down and read for enjoyment. So often we’re reading for class or educational purposes. Nonetheless, I got to sit down for a few hours and revisit a few that I haven’t read in years, particularly Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Brown” and Hemingway’s “Hills Like White Elephants.” After reading these two back-to-back, I couldn’t help but imagine what it would have been like for Hawthorne’s Purtitan lad to run into the conversation that takes place in Elephants. I had this humorous image of Brown slapping the shit out of the wicked bastard manipulatively forcing his girlfriend to get an abortion. In a side note, if you’re a fan of “Young Goodman Brown,” check out Stephen King’s spookier rendition of Hawthorne’s story, called “The Man in the Black Suit.” I also read some Flannery O’Connor and Julia Alvarez. Obviously, there was no connection between any of the authors I sat down to read, and damn it felt good to knock some of these out.
To take a giant left turn, if you read Brian’s post yesterday, he “outed” me as a New Order neophyte, and proceeded to discuss the five bands that one must understand in order to “get” modernity in music. I can go with Brian’s philosophy if I believed that canonical music was rooted in the musical structures and sound alone. I cannot agree with this because, to me, musical value also involves audience reception, and this brings in a whole slew of problematic conundrums with Brian’s statement. He even asked in the post “is discussing canonical music even important. I read Moby Dick. Does this make me a better person?” Or. Something to that effect. Read it for yourself here. I don’t inherently disagree with Brian’s statement and can admit that he very well could be accurate with his assessment of New Order and their value. I’m not arguing this. I’m simply arguing that I don’t need to fully understand New Order to enjoy something that hearkens back to it. For me, this is because music enjoyment relies more heavily upon a personal timing thumbprint than, say, literature does. In other words, I connect with music because of where I am during that moment in time, not particularly because it’s going to launch a thousand other bands. To me, it’s about girls I’m dating or breaking up with, the vacation I’m on while I play a particular track, or the way it makes me feel and what images it brings up in my head. I can surely go yard reviewing an old New Order album and probably agree with Brian when I’m done. What I don’t agree with one bit is that I’m somehow lacking credibility to discuss a band that lists New Order as an influence. Likewise, I think it’s a crying shame that Brian’s stuck in a rut and cannot fully enjoy a new band’s sound because it throws back to a particular band he happened to enjoy when he was seven. This is a dangerous and narrow world view. Brian’s guilty of this often (Like that pot-shot ya bastard? Ha!).
It’s narrow to say that you MUST know five bands to understand modern music. What does this involve? Do I need to know who they are and what the general respect level is for these five bands within the musical canon? If so, I’m not guilty of anything here. I can respect New Order, and can even see the “Blue Monday” aspect in many, many musicians of today. Am I finished here, Brian? Or, do I somehow need to build a time machine and go backwards to when I was seven and re-create an entire emotional landscape so that I can enjoy New Order in the exact same way you did? Brian believes that everyone must experience the past the same way he did, or otherwise they must go back and try to. This is odd, and has nothing to do with the new Bear in Heaven album, in my opinion. I played the video of “Procession” that Brian posted yesterday, and I hear about a gazillion things New Order does to influence modern music. Now what? I really don’t hear anything different than Blue Monday, however, which I like. So, I like “Procession,” Brian. Where do I go from here? It didn’t change my outlook on the new music I’m listening to a single bit.
The argument could be made in Brian’s defense that literature moves in much the same way. Uncle Tom’s Cabin, for example, must be rooted in its particular time period to understand its greatness. I get it. I spend most of my days telling kids that they must understand Beowulf in order to understand why they like the Rocky series so much. So, I can agree with Brian in the sense that knowing influential canonical bands is useful. Enjoying them and making it a point to require folks to listen to them? This I do not agree with because of music’s isolated connection with listener emotion, and this, I feel, is more amplified with music than with literature. Music is more mobile, on the go, and transient than literature is and, at least for me, I enjoy music based on where I am. I will never enjoy New Order like Brian did, no matter how many times I listen to the back catalog. It also doesn’t impact my enjoyment of new music because I don’t have to situate myself in a time period to enjoy it.
On the tracklist for today, we’ve got quite a bit of freakout for you this week and some unique twists on old favs, as well. I think we’ve posted just about every version of Fool’s Gold’s “Surprise Hotel” this year, and we’ve got yet another mix here. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart have finally released a full EP of many of the leaked singles, and the first track is available here, as well. We’ve got a reworked version of “Iamundernodiguise” by School of Seven Bells. Their deluxe edition of their stellar Alpinisms record is ready to hit the streets. Enjoy the reworked track. The rest of the list is a mixture of new leaks, including tracks from The Strokes’ Julian Casablancas, and a new Salem track. Quite a unique and varietal list here today. Have an excellent work week everyone and check back throughout the week for reviews of albums hitting the shelves soon.
The Pains of Being Pure at Heart – Higher Than The Stars
Salem – Frost
The Golden Filter – Thunderbird
Small Black – Despicable Dogs (Washed Out Remix)
Real Estate – Beach Comber
Julian Casablancas – 11th Dimension
Me Succeeds – My Main Discipline
School of Seven Bells – Iamundernodisguise (Alternate Version)
Active Child – Voice of an Old Friend
Fool’s Gold – Surprise Hotel (M.A.T.H.E.S. Remix)
Pretty Good Dance Moves – Leave Me Alone (Feat Bjorn Yttling)