Let's Rave On; Your Favorite Song is Lazy

After taking a week off I come back with a brand new Podcast, where I talk about my week in teaching, my upcoming summer camp and vacation, and my new comic series. Comic series? That’s right. I’m going to become the music equivelant to Penny Arcade. Sly wordplay, erudite strips pertaining to the essay pertaining, and a hundred-highways perspective on things I probably have no right speaking of.

But first, enjoy the podcast.

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There Is No News

Normally I don’t post tour times, but when someone as clandestine as Waits deserves to get the headline.

From Pitchforkmedia.com –

Tom Waits will leave his lair for a rare tour this August, hitting Southern and Midwestern cities he hasn’t played in decades (if at all).

“We need to go to Tennessee to pick up some fireworks, and someone owes me money in Kentucky,” Waits said in a press release.

Yeah, Tom Waits is pretty much the coolest man alive.

Come on up to the house:

08-01 Atlanta, GA – Tabernacle
08-02 Asheville, NC – Thomas Wolfe Auditorium
08-04 Memphis, TN – Orpheum Theatre
08-05 Nashville, TN – Ryman Auditorium
08-07 Louisville, KY – Palace Theatre
08-09 Chicago, IL – Auditorium Theatre
08-11 Detroit, MI – Opera House
08-13 Akron, OH – Akron Civic

A Waits rarities box set, entitled Orphans, is rumored to be in the works for Anti-, but nothing has been confirmed.

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Free Music

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been linking song files from several mp3 blogs. I’ve been doing this as practice to see if it would be worth my time to post songs myself. I think it is, but it’s up to you fine gentle folk to make it fly. I’m going to post a zip file right here, linked directly from my website, www.kyledavidpaul.com, and you can do what you like with it. It would be in several senses spectacular if you enjoyed the mp3 samples in said zip file so much that you went out and purchased said albums. At the very least, throw down one of those emails in my general direction and tell me what you thought of the mixtape. I’m doing this for your benefit.

Let’s Rave On Mixtape 1.

Track Listing:

Canada VS America – Broken Social Scene, from To Be You and Me
15 Step – Radiohead, live from Bonnarroo 2006
Mass Romantic – New Pornographers, from Mass Romantic
Pretty In Pink – Dresden Dolls, a Psychadelic Furs cover
Good Man – Josh Ritter, from The Animal Years
Dreaming Man – Neko Case, a Bob Dylan cover
Talking Bout A Revolution – Damian Rice, a Bob Dylan Cover
Death of it All – Rob Zombie, from Educated Horses
Never Went to Church – The Streets, from The Hardest Way To Make An Easy Living
StarAlfur – Sigur Ros, from Agaetis Byrjun

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What I’m Reading When I Should Be Teaching

Jeffrey posts a mammoth of a column that covers every piece of news this week, so I was left with nothing new.

Mathan does his own mixtape selection. He also narrowly escapes the crime of what I’m talking about in my essay this week.

Gloomchen discusses cover songs and cover bands, but not cover girl.

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Let’s Rave On

Have you ever read those essays about people’s favorite songs? Each and every one is exactly the same. It starts off either overtly dark or agonizingly whimsical, explaining how the person was before the life-changing event that was the song came about. Then, it will go on to explain exactly what happened when the person and the song got married. It will conclude in longing or abstaining or a destiny-like servitude towards the three minutes or so of Pop haven.

According to this story, “When asked ‘what writing a column is like’, 26% of salaried columnists called it a job and 17% likened it to sex.” Inside Pulse brings to the public at least 10 solid columns a week, which I’ve always thought of as a pretty good amount for an independent site catering to niche genres, but I didn’t fully understand why so many of us would continually put out content unless there was something in it for us. This article illuminates the reasoning rather nicely. It illuminates with zeal.

In a sense, every single piece of output a person on this planet, er, puts out is sexual in a way. It’s the mechanics in which we are built, after all. Look at it with any medium you like. More than it’s fair share of classical dead white British fellows have portrayed writing a novel as a sexual conquest. Anyone who’s ever studied sculpture or canvas artistry will tell you that it’s almost all about the sexual passion. And hey, I don’t have to tell you of the sexual energy released in a rock record.

But writing opinion columns have almost never been considered an art form (exclusion given to the obvious torch bearers such as Hunter S. Thompson), so the sexual aspect of opinion column writing has probably never really been a topic of discussion. You have likely never heard the phrase “God, that was a good column. I need a cigarette.” Opinion columns are not the art. They comment on the art. They commiserate around the water cooler and ask what everyone else thinks. They bitch and suggest changes. They fantasy book. They are, at best, slotted deep down in the special features of a criterion DVD. They are tangential and never really necessary.

And yet, here we are. The Internet has given everyone with access permission to spout his or her opinion. Whether it’s on a popular pit stop like Inside Pulse or a photographical rendition of one’s love for their cat, we’re all releasing our sexual energy on the faces of those willing to take it. With music, there’s no more masturbatory column than the “I love this song so much that I’m going to write 1,200 words on why.” You know the type. They often lead in with a back-story of when they first heard the song, and then go into why it changed their life, and lastly why it will always be cemented into their memory. It’s a tripe idea with, often, extra tripe execution. The only reason opinion columns exist is in the first place is the hope that the people reading will connect with the opinion. They might like it, they might not, but the reader will have made some connection to the piece and remember it long enough to discuss it at his water cooler.

This can’t happen with articles about favorite songs, because even after siphoning the audience from everyone, to those who read opinion columns, to those who read opinion columns about music, to those who read opinion columns on specific pieces of music, you still only have a 50/50 chance of connecting with them at all. Either the reader will connect with the column because he has heard the song, or he will not connect with the column because he has not heard the song. Period.

McSweeneys is a publishing company that puts out some great material. They are constantly high brow, often poignant, and exceptionally good at handing me rejection letters for story submissions. One of their writers, the stunning Nick Hornby (About a Boy, A Long Way Down, High Fidelity, etc) published a collection of essays about his favorite songs (Songbook). Each essay is rather short and quite interesting, actually, because he derivates from the pattern and mostly talks about himself and his experiences and then casually mentions what the songs do for him. This is the exception to the rule, because he could have theoretically put any song in there, moved a few themes around, and it would have worked just fine. Knowing the piece has a lot less to do with the song than the ability to enjoy a good ramble about Football or an old girlfriend.

Less inspiring is McSweeneys list of ‘favorite songs’ written by their authors. Since these are McSweeneys authors we’re talking about, they’re all written with class, style, and wit. But McSweeneys is usually good for material even when the subject matter is obtuse, much like how Penny Arcade’s short essays are always good reads even though I could care less about video games. If the writ is fine, the audience should be able to plough through the lack of a connection. But I’m finding it impossible in this case to even click on an essay for a song I haven’t heard. I don’t have any inclination to read 1,000 words on why David Anderson thinks Beethoven’s “Piano Concerto No 3” rocks, but I enjoyed the hell out of Greg Bellerose’s piece on The Clash’s “Death or Glory.”

That’s because I’ve heard that one.

Yes, it’s important to hear new things. The constant stream of new music is a priceless gift. And writing about this new music is paramount, because more and more word of mouth is the way to success for these artists. So why am I so indifferent to articles that praise singular bands or songs? Perhaps it’s because I think the author has an agenda. Perhaps it’s because I have an agenda of my own. But mostly I think it’s because these articles lack the creativity and fervor of an article that’s talking about something more. Praise articles are easy. Because of this, they’ll never be art. Because of this, it’s little more than masturbation.

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