Friday, June 25, 2010

R.I.P. Pete Quaife

So Nice

Jamaican music's unique ability to recycle its past while absorbing a totally unpredictable range of influences from other countries and cultures is an ongoing source of joy here at Elephant Rock. So it's no wonder that this week I became a little obsessed with the Cure riddim, which was created by a German dancehall crew in 2002 and voiced by a number of Jamaican artists. Here is Ce'Cile's "Rude Bwoy Thug Life":

You can here a louder version here; Vybz Kartel's harder, more aggressive, and dirtier take is here. I prefer Ce'Cile's more buoyant version, but you can appreciate the riddim's off-kilter wooziness better on that version (or try the instrumental). The sound quality on this one is bad, but Tanya Stephens' version even keeps a little of the horn section from the original.

Speaking of the original, The Cure's "Close to Me" was one of my favorite songs when I was seventeen, and it's still one of their best:

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Watch That Man

Rob Young's forthcoming book sounds fantastic:
This is a hugely enjoyable and persuasive account of "how British musicians and composers have drawn on an idea of folk, alongside a literary (or cinematic) sense of nostalgia and connection with the landscape, all of which feeds into an encompassing expression of Britain that Blake, at least, called 'visionary.'" Dipping in its pages is to be swept up into a story that connects artists as different as Vashti Bunyan and the Aphex Twin.
He also has a blog to go with the book; I really like the second poster here--might have to steal that for my certainly-not-mythical, ten-months-in-the-making post on Donovan.

I should have mentioned the blog Pushing Ahead of the Dame a while ago. This is another of those long-term, super comprehensive projects that I love. PAOTD is dedicated to discussing every single one of David Bowie's recorded songs, even the covers. I started reading it somewhere toward the end of the Hunky Dory songs, and while I haven't gone backwards into the archives, I've enjoyed following him (I think the author is a he) from there. I was already a little over familiar with the Ziggy Stardust songs, so the transition to Aladdin Sane has been a nice change. Not that I'm a stranger to that album, but I certainly never came to the conclusion that "Drive-In Saturday" is about how "a post-apocalyptic civilization, through fear or reactions from fallout, has forgotten how to have sex, so the kids watch Rolling Stones promos and old films to see how it was done" before. While being a Bowie fan is obviously a prerequisite for enjoying the blog, even if you're not an acolyte it's a good example of smart, educated music writing that you don't tend to see much.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


Cartoonist James Sturm--whose work I admire a great deal--has been writing a column for Slate about not using the internet for four months. To be frank, it isn't the most interesting thing I've ever read, but I did find myself nodding emphatically at this passage:
In the two months since I've been unplugged, I have been experiencing more and more moments of synchronicity--coincidental events that seem to be meaningfully related. Today, after finishing the first phase of a graphic-novel project that is based on the life of a fictional member of the Weather Underground, I received in the mail an unsolicited copy of a graphic novel about teaching written by William Ayers. Earlier in the week, at the exact moment I started working on a drawing of a monkey (see above), Michael Chabon started talking about Planet of the Apes--I was listening to his audio book Manhood for Amateurs. I know this type of magical thinking is easily dismissed, but I keep having moments like this. So how do I explain it? Are meaningful connections easier to recognize when the fog of the Internet is lifted? Does it have to do with the difference between searching and waiting? Searching (which is what you do a lot of online) seems like an act of individual will. When things come to you while you're waiting it feels more like fate. Instant gratification feels unearned. That random song, perfectly attuned to your mood, seems more profound when heard on a car radio than if you had called up the same tune via YouTube.
When I was younger these kinds of moments really struck me. They were often thrilling or wonder-inducing, but for someone who wasn't raised within any religious tradition and was never instructed to believe in God, they were also slightly disconcerting: brief intimations that perhaps the cosmos wasn't entirely random after all; benevolent nudges from a God who would be wrathful if I died having ignored all these really obvious signs of his hand at work. As my unbending atheism was tempered by skepticism about human claims to knowledge and a desire to be more open-minded,
I began to cherish synchronicity and I have missed its absence from my adult life. If I'd thought about it, I would probably have blamed its disappearance on the shrinking of one's imaginative possibilities for the world that accompanies adulthood, but I think Sturm is on to something here.


This piece from the Daily Show that Glenn Greenwald posted on his blog handily refutes the idea that Obama has been better than Bush on civil liberties and the restoration of the rule of law. But as usual with Jon Stewart, it's a little cutesy and it could be a lot shorter (NSFW):

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Catching Up

Hello, I'm back from a lovely trip to Europe. I may bore you with a photo or two eventually.

Having been out of the country for over two weeks and having adopted my usual vacation policy of mostly ignoring the news, I've been only slowly catching up on various stories: the oil spill (luckily BP and the government are collaborating to ease my load on that score!), the destruction of the Gaza aid flotilla
, and, today, the violence in Jamaica. The relationship between Kingston's gangs and Jamaica's two major political parties is complex and has a long history. I'm not remotely qualified to provide that history, but this interview at the Soundclash blog and this article from the NYT provide some good background as well as an indication of how difficult it will be to change the way things work in Kingston.

My brain is still readjusting to being in America, going to work, etc., so in lieu of anything more substantial from me, here are some things I enjoyed reading upon my return to the internet: Chris Ruen continues to do good work on the consequences of freeloading; here he addresses the rise of corporate patronage as a replacement for the traditional label-based music industry. Nitsuh Abebe wrote a great column on the furor over the New York Times profile of M.I.A. (and this post really made me want to seek out the recently deceased David Markson's Wittgenstein's Mistress). Glenn Kenny's consumer guide to recent blu-ray releases makes me want to rob a bank or at least acquire a blu-ray player.

Look: a meal I can make with complete confidence on Meals; For Moderns--this was also what I ate for lunch pretty much every day in Europe. Kathy took some great photos on her recent trip to Utah. One upshot of Arizona's descent into full-on lunacy is that Utah no longer holds the most-gorgeous-but-scary-state crown; congratulations Utah! I drained Weird Baby of color. And this funny post at the Soul Review features an amazing video of Ike and Tina Turner covering "Come Together".