Night Music: Elvis Costello and the Attractions, “Two Little Hitlers”

I got here via an email from my friend Steve, who asked why the Norwegian writer Karl Ove Knausgaard named his magnum opus (six volumes, uncountable pages–volumes 4-6 aren’t even available in the US yet) Min Kampf. I mean, provocation or what?

Steve was asking because I kept writing about the books, of which I’ve read three so far, and their music content, on Rock Remnants. Plus the very amazing joy they bring because of their artistry, which has to do with writing and aesthetics and structure and mastery of the language, which is always a challenge with translation. But the books are fantastic, on their own terms and, I promise, on yours.

I today found this story at the newyorker.com, which does a fair job of limning the issues. But ultimately, isn’t it all a bit of Blitzkreig Bop?

What make’s Costello’s version of Belsen Was a Gas so much more resonant was the white reggae and a pretty savvy observation that any relationship can turn into a battle of emotional fascisms (the original name of the elpee was Emotional Fascism), fighting it out until one little Hitler does the other one’s will. Musically, nicer than the Sex Pistols, but conceptually, maybe more corrosive.

Night Music: Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers, “Anthony and Cleopatra”

Live, at the Peppermint Lounge, in Manhattan, which was kind of next door to the original and awesome Barnes and Noble Store.

Not that Barnes and Noble had anything to do with it, except that rents were cheap in that belly of Manhattan, for reasons that are hard to imagine now, at that time.

As far as Jonathan Richman and his white reggae goes, this live cut explains a lot about what he’s thinking. And the band executes. Richman was a legendary originator of the punk sound, and later a performer who repudiated much of what came before, and still made a bunch of music that was passionate and individualist and passionate.

Lunch Break: More White Reggae

Thinking about weird but wonderful white reggae, here is this one from Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers, Abdul and Cleopatra, that I really love (with a suitably odd homemade video–for instance, why use a map of the Tidewater rather than, say, Egypt?):

And this other one, the instrumental Egyptian Reggae, which has more than 2 million views, perhaps more for the video than the tune (which is catchy nonetheless).

Night Music: Spoon, “Eddie’s Ragga”

Spoon has a new record coming out in August, and today a song escaped or was pushed, called The Rent I Pay. It’s okay, a thumping beat and some layers of guitars and distortion, with lyrics I’m not obsessive enough to understand just yet.

Back in 2007 I bought Spoon’s rapturously reviewed album Ga Ga Ga Ga. Actually I downloaded the tracks from my music vendor of choice then, eMusic. So while I have the files, I don’t know the package, which I’m sure had a torturously tiny lyrics sheet. Which may be why I played the stuff a bunch of times and then it oozed back into the deep well that is my music library. I remember liking it well enough, but obviously not indelibly.

And from a couple of listens today to the Rent I Pay and a revisit to Ga Ga Ga Ga, I think the problem is obvious. These guys are, as everyone says, one of the best rock n roll bands of our times, but they’re not quite right. The tempo isn’t pushed forward enough, the songs don’t swing. The crunch is big, but echoes over a static landscape into which it curls up and dies. The problem of comparisons is that there aren’t that many rock bands these days, apart from the ones playing the oldies. Call that small pond syndrome.

And these guys aren’t young, like Fidlar. Spoon formed in 1993, in the heights of rock’s last gasp, Grunge.

Sorry to make this sound like such a drag, Spoon isn’t really that. But it doesn’t burst with excitement, the way the Black Keys sometimes do (or did, in their early days). This bit of white reggae is just fine, but it really makes me want to hear Dreadlock Holiday.

Night Music: Wreckless Eric, “Final Taxi”

Lawr posted Eric’s greatest song (good one, Lawr!), but this tune is one of those songs that plays in my head at specific times, like a sound effect. When something happens (like seeing a hearse on the highway) this is the song that pops into my head. So, it’s kind of ingrained, worn a deep trough, but really only the part that goes, “THERE’S ONLY ONE DESTINATION IN THE FINAL TAXI!”

When I played it this afternoon I was reminded that it has a catchy reggae beat and a surprising, shocking element in the mix that seems wacky at first, but then turns this dark subject into a pop song.

Also, the video is just a slide show somebody added. It’s not terrible, but it can be distracting. You don’t need it.

Steveslist – Top 5 Songs Of 7 Minutes Or More

I’m tired of doing Good Night Music, so I’m starting something new – Steveslist, which will consist of five songs or bands or whatever in some category I make up. Sometimes I’ll put them in order, sometimes not, when it’s too difficult.

Disclaimer – These aren’t about Beatles vs. Bob Dylan vs. Rolling Stones. These aren’t necessarily the “correct” choices that you can find on every other internet or magazine list. These aren’t about who was the first to do this or that. Steveslist doesn’t care. These are about what I reach for and what turns my crank and what makes me smile.

I couldn’t rank this first list, so here they are, in alphabetical order:

Don’t know why the studio version wasn’t on youtube when I last looked, but it’s there now – way better than any of the live versions. White Reggae at its finest with a hard edge. Not even sure where else to find that combo.

Who can make a 12-bar blues exciting for over seven minutes? The MC5. Damn straight.

Trumpet? Cheesy bossa nova from my mom’s 1970’s home organ (remember when every housewife had one in the living room?)?. What a groove. This song could go on forever as far as I’m concerned.

Listened to this album in the car yesterday and it’s what gave me this brilliant idea. Enough said.

Makes me want to fuck on the floor and break things as much as anything punk.

10:10 PM Music

Told you I started getting my Amazon stuff, so today I cracked open and played the first Clash (UK version). Thoughts:

1) Sounded pretty darn good.
2) Last time I played this I had to flip it over.
3) Album kicks best from “London’s Burning” (last song on the first side) through “Police & Thieves” (on the second side).
4) Having not listened to this since I’m older and wiser, I was particularly struck (stricken?) by the bizarre Chuck Berry guitar solo in the midst of the white reggae classic “Police & Thieves.” I wonder if they planned it that way or if it was the only thing Mick Jones knew how to play for a solo?
5) Today I got The Germs and Fear – “The Record.” Bet you guys just love Fear. No redeeming artsy-fartsy qualities whatsoever.
6) I chose to give you “Cheat” because it’s not on the American release, I love the two-note guitar solo, it rocks and the alternate title could be “The Clash Buy A Flanger.”