I wasn’t able to successfully care about James Blake (not the tennis player, him I’m always pulling for) until about halfway through his second song at Webster hall Wednesday night. Even “The Wilhelm Scream” felt kind of tired to me; catchy, nice, sure, but I don’t find dubstep as a genre very convincing and I didn’t understand why this kid Jimmy was so goddamn important. Well, this show didn’t make me a believer but I Get It now. When he played this short pretty piano interlude “Give Me My Month” I got the music tingle (v. different from the poetry tingle) where it feels like you’re about to have a filthily indulgent full body cry. In general I dug the slower numbers more than the big beat shit, but the end result is I can’t hate anymore, which sucks. James, you have denied me one of life’s great pleasures: the deep joy of playa hatin. And really he was so gracious as a performer. Neither bewildered nor jaded by all the attention he’s gotten in the past year. He’s one of those guys my grandmother would deem “such a nice boy.”
Blake’s real weapon is his voice, which is odd because it’s not that good in conventional terms. It has that persistent quaver, where it’s constantly about to break, which grants a different sort of pathos or charge to both the quiet, unplugged songs and the more traditional dubsteppy, beats and burnt electronics songs. It took me a while to realize this, but James needs to send Antony Hegarty a big fat weepy thank you note, re: quavery vocals. But I think it’s his genre wizardry with all the gospel influence that keeps it out of the realm of homage.
It was a great concert. Teengirl Fantasy looked like the Mario Brothers if they had fallen in love with house music and blow instead of plumbing and shrooms. The only downside was my placement next to this buzzkill hipster girl who was like a whine singularity. If I heard right, she started flipping out because everyone was pressed up against each other and she could feel the hair on my arms. Listen honey, I know two things about the world. One is that I’m a black Irish beast and I will never be sorry about it. And the other is that it’s a show and you’re gonna be very close to other people. My ass has been polished to a lustrous sheen by all the drunk and clumsy inadvertent groping I’ve suffered from years of seeing music. Just deal.
A seersucker suit, check out the stones on this guy
I hate going to concerts alone because there is not a way to look even remotely cool between sets. While everybody else is rocking anti-gravity haircuts and downing PBRs with their hot friends, I have to pretend to be really interested in my phone or that my entourage just all went to the bathroom at once. But I’m willing to do it for it Bill Callahan. This man is a true fucking American bard while also being totally strange and completely out of step with any kind of current American music I can think of. There was a New Yorker piece a while back when Apocalypse came out in which he said he never really liked Bob Dylan, or thought much about him at all. Never. Liked. Dylan. How many other folk troubadours could rightfully claim that they weren’t dominated by his influence? But Callahan is resolutely weird. “Drover” off the new album, which Callahan and his band completely scorched, conjures the sort of range life Americana that we don’t even bother to romanticize anymore. And yet it’s impossible to determine the irony or sincerity quotient of this song. It doesn’t really lend itself to those terms.
Callahan’s voice is an odd beast. Beautiful to be sure, but there’s something arch or ugly about it, that makes it seem as if he has purposefully complicated or resisted his talent. As opposed to someone to like The National’s Matt Berninger, whose voice is pure Aunt Jemima, Callahan’s seems to filter any sweetness or affect before it has time to make a song one kind of song or the other. Consider a song like “Rock Bottom Riser,” which WAS NOT PLAYED that night (thanks asshole who upstaged me with the “River Guard” request). This song absolutely hurts my soul. And yet it has embedded in it a cracked little waltz with a buoyant, almost flippant intonation that deepens what would otherwise be a song of mythic devotion. And it’s better for it. As some dead Italian guy said about Baroque opera, “let no pure art go unsullied.”
They played for what must have been almost two hours. Callahan went through a bunch of Apocalypse cuts, an absolutely ridiculous, goosebumpy take on “Too Many Birds,” and then some Smog stuff. I was surprised to see someone I thought was a pure strummer get into some volcanic Sonic Youth style noise breakdowns. So many of his songs are simple, warped plucking that you forget the guy’s a nimble, virtually face melting guitarist when he wants to be. And he’s a very generous performer. For the encore he came out saying he was “taking requests” and played for another half hour. The only songs I really missed were “Rock Bottom Riser” and “Teenage Spaceship,” which I’m sure if I had been more of a douche about “requesting” he would have played. And yeah, he’s really making seersucker happen.
Rock Bottom Riser – (Smog)
T-Minus 100 pages till the end of Archaelogies, I’m about on schedule and should put it away this weekend. There was a breaking point around page 250 where it seemed like one book ended and another one begun that had nothing to do with the previous one, but now it’s all starting to come together.
I’ve never actually been to Opening Ceremony but the sample sale was pretty close and I wanted to see if there was any Patrik Ervell that made it to sale. I showed up 15 minutes prior, line looked brutal but it moved really fast. When I got in I saw why, shit had been totally picked, barely any smalls/36′s to show. It was madness in there, hipsters of both the male and female persuasions dropping trou without a second thought (also, are briefs like a new frontier of irony? Come on now.) They had the Ervell rust blazer but I don’t have the wardrobe to support something like that. I did find this extremely succulent Native Son color block blazer. A 36 fit perfectly and it was 75% off (but 75% off of 1,800 doesn’t take us non i-bankers the whole way knamean?) I wanted to grow old with this jacket. Peep this:
I love the subtle banding. It’s definitely an attention seeking piece, but very wearable; I could see it tearing up a dinner party. Alas, I had to let it go, probably to someone who’ll wear it with jorts and a drapey tank. To console myself I went up to Uniqlo and bought a shitload of socks. Baller.
Filed under Fashion, WIDIOR
It's a tough city
Okay I’m only pretending to give myself shit because I did take down a buck fifty of Archaelogies on the bus, but when I got back to New York from a weekend of frolfing with Team Liepiņš it was so hot I was sweating right into my eyes and I need those eyes to read. I juiced up the Netflix Instant and after clicking through some of my brother’s pretty questionable recommendations (I didn’t know Visually Striking Psychological Swedish Gangster movies were even a thing) I settled on Brick which I remember falling asleep in front of years ago. But this movie is great, the best I’ve seen in a while. It’s basically a Hammett style Noir set in a high school, with sneaky smokebro JGL as your detective protagonist. So you get zippy, hardboiled one liners from 17 year olds as they bounce each other off the walls and some surprisingly lyrical, restrained, but hideous scenes of violence and death. But it’s so much more than a simple genre send-up, although there are some hilarious moments in this vein (the vice principal chewing out JGL like he’s a maverick cop; the drug kingpin’s mom offering waffles to a captive, roughed-up JGL.) What I loved about this movie is that it doesn’t go the easy ironic route, it totally inhabits both the Noir and teen movie formulas. Almost everything in the movie is deadpan, played straight and with a surreal intensity from such young actors.
The movie doesn’t use youth as a vehicle, but re-imagines it in a really stunning way, such that the violent, convoluted plot and dialogue seem organic to these high school kids. I never really experienced adolescence as the kind of wrathful, hormonal fugue so many people seem to think it is. Kids are the most brilliant idiots. They have so much intelligence, but it’s too new, too raw. So they use it to build in all directions at once, networks and systems of extraordinary complexity and seemingly unerring truth. They end up trapped in their own thinking and people get hurt. At one point, one high school student describes drug kingpin Lukas Haas (a perfectly acted Jack-the-Ripper-swag-aping dandy) as “old, like 26″ and I laughed out loud, not just because I am 26 but because it illuminates so strikingly this particular mode of thought. For every 17 year old who eventually turns 23 it must seem like a first birthday in the afterlife; the prospect is so remote from their planning and thinking (sophisticated as it is.)