Friday, 30 January 2009

clippers! clippers! clippers!

she handled hair like it was a new thing to feel it,
snipping away at my shag and telling these stories
-- a knife fight with rogue diamond traders--
like it was supposed to give me an erection.

it might have.

I don’t think she meant to blow in my ear,
or if the way she described electric fences
was supposed to sound
so. . . sexual.

Everything else was tasteful; her dress,
her banter when I made the appointment.
She didn’t stroke my ears when smoothing the sides,
didn’t rub her breasts against my neck, even accidentally,
when cutting those awkward-to-reach bits.

maybe her stories were too intense to be bothered
—a stab wound dowry,
three-bucks an hour at the local porn theater
til that day she found a voucher for a week of free beauty school—
or maybe I just imagined it to quell my fear
of women with sharp things.

In the barbershop mirror, her scissors circled my face like sharks
and every bit of hair that fell seemed to splat on the clean
linoleum floor. the snipping of blades was the sound of machinery
and my legs were jelly.

when I left she gave a professional smirk and I’m sure
I saw her blow the hair out of her face.

Saturday, 24 January 2009

Everyone's a critic and most people are DJs.

8 albums from 2008

When I first started writing music reviews, it was for the H.O.M.E. Newsletter, a pamphlet edited and largely written by myself and Leah Swearinger and distributed amongst the youth (and their parents) of the home-schooling co-op I was then a part of. This was over ten years ago. When I first started writing reviews for websites, the most powerful review-sources on the internet were still proper websites and not everyone had their own specifically subgenre-catered blog breaking ten new bands a week. This was somewhere around 9/11 (I'm pretty sure there's no connection.) I recently came to realise that arriving in Wales marked the first time in over 10 years I wasn't nominally employed writing reviews in some fashion (it's remarkable my tastes have remained so rigidly consistent. i'd hate to think what I'd been listening to if I hadn't been constantly dissecting and justifying my record collection to my mates. Its a sad, tragic life.)
Overall, it's been nice. I don't generally miss it. I was tempted briefly to make my own music/movie/culture review blog (or turn this into one) but 1) I'm lazy and 2) I'd rather just get into what I'm into. I know myself and being part of the "blogosphere" would have me a lot more worried about things like validity and obscurity (not a fucking badge! standinginthecornerlikeyourgirlfriendsdeaaaad!) and relevance and oh, look, I'm already enjoying life way less than I was before I started this sentence.
Still, I like writing about music and the end of the year seems as good a time as any to do that. So here's 8 albums from 2008 that I felt like writing about. Not all of them are the "best" records of the year, some aren't even my favorites per say, but stuff I thought was worthwhile. There's a lot of shit that came out that other people were really into that I simply thought was alright and then even more that I never even heard. And you probably don't need me to tell you about The Hold Steady or TV on the Radio-- what other people are saying is right, at least in the sense that Dear Science is fun to listen to or that "Constructive Summer" helped get me through mine. I thought that Nick Cave proved he was Still Awesome (best live show of the year) but every time Nick Cave puts out an album people get stoked on the fact that he still exists. You can add younger, but perpetually favourited acts like The Roots, Mountain Goats or whatever to the list that's always so long.
That said, here's mine:

Man Man--Rabbit Habits
This one is probably my favourite record of the year. Its made me dance in my chair and everyone I've played it for has thought it sounded like something different. A brief list: Gogol Bordello, the B52s, Tom Waits, Modest Mouse, "some drunk guy in a cabaret trying desperately to get laid" (I'm not sure how this is different than Tom Waits)and others. There are too many electronics and mashed up beats for it to fall under any sort of rambler/"freak folk"/songwriter tradition, but damned if the violins near the end don't make me want to join some sort of post-modern caravan. The critic in me also likes that this falls squarely outside of most modern music-cliques, though I could see it catching on fiercely, in which case there are worse bandwagons to jump on.

Times New Viking--Rip It Off
I've largely been listening to music on my laptop or iPod-- i.e.: headphones. And this album is way. too. loud. Which is appropriate for a band that dubs themselves Shit-Gaze and would be "lo-fi" if it weren't so ear-damaging. Its like they know that guitar-noise terrorism has been done and that reactionarily-cute pop has been done and that most bands who try to reconcile the two sound sort of like poorly produced Weezer, so the only option was to go farther in both directions. Because there are some damn good melodies threaded through all the fuzz.

One of these days I'm writing an essay on The Good Band; a group that might not incite riots of hype every time, but consistently produce solid, well informed albums that build on what they've done before. I wouldn't have pegged Ladytron to be an example of this when I first heard "17," but Velocifero has loads of great synth-pop, excursions into straight-up electronic fare, subtle humour and has stuck with me over repeated listens. All hype bands should get this good with time.

Deerhunter--Microcastle/Weird Era (contd.)
If I'd waited until October '08 to write my '07 list, Deerhunter's "Kryptograms" would have been on it. Oh, Time, you cruel bitch. That said, this record is pretty fucking sweet as it is. They crash together the pop song/noise track dynamic that made up "Kryptograms" quite nicely; most of these two discs are dreamy, ambient guitar pop punctuated with the odd feedback squall. Best start with "Operation" or "Nothing Ever Happened" for bona-fide pop chops and then work inward; this is a thick soup but it's soooooo delicious.

Black Milk--Tronic
Is it OK to write about an album you don't own and have never seen a physical copy of as one of your favourites of the year? It's my blog so I say it is. I haven't listened to a lot of new hip hop this year (see the bit about laptops being bad conduits for bass) and I'm not interested in Lil' Wayne's styled hype machine or Kanye's attempt at a Spandau Ballet record. Anyways-- Black Milk. Rapper/producer from Detroit who's got his whole album streaming on myspace and I've been going there every day to listen to it in my headphones. Reminds me a bit of Gangstarr (though that might be my limited points of reference.) The production is great; in addition to a lot of expected influences I also hear a good slice of Massive Attack and Kraftwerk in there and the rhymes are solid. I don't know if this is available in the UK, but I want it, and some good speakers to hear it through.

Made Out of Babies--The Ruiner
My theme for reviewing heavy records seems to be "The Melvins also put out an album this year, but this is better." Last year it was Big Business, this year it goes to post-punk/metallers Made Out of Babies, who've achieved the difficult task of making an album that's genuintely scary without sounding like it was made by meth-retards or ridicculous cartoon viking-nazis. I love you Julie Christmas. . . almost as much as I fear you.

Truckers of Husk--Physical Education E.P. (PEEP)
"Hey, do you like Prog?" "No." "How about mathy stuff, which is kind of like prog, but you know, not." "Like what?" "Lots of 99-03-5ish Northwest stuff. Sharks Keep Moving, Lands Farther East. . ." "Dude! Do you like Truckers of Husk?" "Who are they?" "They're this band from Cardiff and they're completely on that trip, but with shorter songs and more structured dynamics. No vocals-- mainly-- but it completely doesn't need it. Like Battles but less. . ." "Alien? That could be good. Really good." "Yes! Exactly!"
"Let's be friends."
"You know Math is basically prog for--"
"Shhhh. We're friends now. We don't speak of such things."

I admit it; I should have actually paid for this.

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

There Goes Sickness: 10 Days in 2009.

January 1st.
Started the year off watching London Fireworks on TV at Annmarie and Roy's house. Not that impressed with fireworks or TV, so the obvious recourse was a 9/11 joke.
Later Roy and I made pizza and unholy mixtures of fake drinks while I quoted entire Future of the Left songs at passerbys.
The day itself was a long one; 7 1/2 hours of busy busy serving hungover and still-drunks their ham and egg cures. Beautiful.

January 2nd
Jen goes back to the states, leaving hordes of weeping men in her wake. I wave but do not cry because I know I'll see her again. Probably overstayed my welcome and Jess and Johns watching '80s Spiderman cartoons and bad music videos.

In Luv Wit A Stripper, Indeed.

January 3rd
Sat in Monkey and tried to write a poem for the New Year that was more than a few lines long. It's something anyway. Writer's block persists. Milk Money doesn't think my story about comics and sex is weird enough for their "weird issue."
Witnessing slow trickle of Seattlingham friends onto facebookspace in a weird internet-consolidation plan.

January 4th
First official writing commission of '09: Bio for the new Police Teeth record, which comes out in February and kicks ass. They promise to pay enough for a few more cans of soup and give me over a week to get it done because motherfuckers move slow. (rimshot.)

January 5th
Somewhere in here I should mention I am working all of these days at least at different points. And that I might not be labeling these right. . . the fifth was a tuesday, right? Date with Theresa. We like each other more than the date was good, if that makes sense.

January 6th
Planning meeting for re-kicking-off The Crunch. Viva Coffee and posters!
(sub-category: Neil used to hang out with Teenage Fanclub when they were practicing and how vibrant the scene was back then but fuck it because he was just listenting to the Beatles all the time anyway. )
Soooooo. . . yeah. Your point?

Record practice demos for as-of-yet-unnamed-band with Punk John. On a cassette tape in the Uplands there is the base genetic material for "So Much For Aging Gracefully" and "Bedlam." My keyboard sounds like a cross between a musical instrument being played by a retarded rhinosceros and a coffee grinder.

January 7th
Post-work: More date action. Better date action. Perhaps the choice of better bars or a yes! to bridging that awkard gap between her saying "I think this is where someone goes for a really awkward kiss" . . . and going for the really awkward kiss.

Pre-work: two years worth of poety by Shane Guthrie.

January 8th
Work makes me want to get fucked up something fierce.
"But Graham, doesn't work always make you. . ."
Not always. But friday night it did, so me, Adam Burns, Punk John head to Mozarts. John gets called back and Adam and I spend the night giving advice to an emotionally distraught woman (most of it involved violence and/or Adam putting his hands over my ears and saying "Don't you want to have sex with this man??!? I do!")
Adam S. gets off work and we swing by the Jess' house. She is still up. Leave at 5.

Here's where the problem with hanging out with The Guy Who Knows Everyone in Swansea comes in; it's five a.m. and I've achieved my goals for the evening (noble as they are) but walking along Sketty someone leans out their window--
"hey! adam! It's my birthday! come on up!"
And we spend the next two hours with Nate, DJ from Slamonthebreaks and his friend-whose-name-I-forget talking about Art and Swansea's Potential and blah blah blah blah. I want to see 8 a.m. from the other end next time.

January 9th
This day had several false starts and all plans to play more rock and roll were canceled.

Not canceled, however, were the plans to fuck up the mix with Adam S, who looked at me the previous night with sad, sad eyes and said: "I really want to get drunk somewhere. . . that is not Mozarts."

Crowleys, The Office, Sigma. I always think I'm pretty down with Metal until I am in a place that only plays metal and caters to metalheads.
Adam: There are so many people I know here . . . and I don't want to talk to any of them.

January 10th
I, er, miss church. Again.

So. That's the first ten days. Since then I've nearly been lost on the Gower, got the completed poster for The Crunch, soaked in more of The Prisoner, broke glass in Wood Towers and have at least had ideas for things to write next.

Tonight is Framework Social.
Tommorrow is The Crunch.

Viva 2009!

Monday, 12 January 2009


I have met so many girls
who've known you far too long
and whose tired eyes would do
so much better

This is something we have in common.