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Saturday, Jul 29, 2006
by PopMatters Staff

Sunset Rubdown
Absolutely Kosher
Download “Stadiums And Shrines II” (MP3, 192kbps)


“Spencer Krug steps out from under the shadow of Wolf Parade to shine a light on his more morose and introspective inclinations.” PopMatters review [8 out of 10]

So GoneEvangelicals
Misra
Download “Another Day (And Yoor Still Knocked Out)” (MP3, 192kbps)


“The Evangelicals are making up their own sport, with the rules slowly coming along.” PopMatters review [6 out of 10]


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Friday, Jul 28, 2006

Today I saw tourists filming their strolls down Fifth Avenue, as usual, and I started wondering if we have already reached a point where unrecorded experience has become negligible. Why bother doing anything that you can’t record and transform into a souvenir, a precious object that proves your vacationing prowess and power? Unrecorded experience, from this perspective, belongs to someone else—your employer (who may have your time recorded on surveillance tapes), your family, the commuting gods, etc.—and recorded experience is the objectified time that you truly own. In the rush for people to own their own leisure time, they seem to be skipping the direct experience itself, preferring to record it as it happens and enjoy it later, which suggests that unmediated experience now may seem less real than mediated experience. We are used to seeing an event’s appearance in the media as indicative of its relevance,  as a potent symbol of social recognition. So it makes sense we would discount our own experiences that can’t be so configured, and that technology would be seeming to head irrevocably down a path that allows for an ever greater amount of our experience to be digitized and stored—portable digital cameras, etc. Perhaps eventually we will supplant our faulty natural memory with terabyte drives that store everything in a much more reliable searchable architecture.


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Friday, Jul 28, 2006
by PopMatters Staff


La Rocca
“This Life” [MP3]
multiple songs [MySpace]


Nils Petter Molvaer
“Water” [MP3]


Magoo
“Expansion Ride” [MP3]
“Robot Twin” [MP3]


Babyshambles
“The Man Who Came to Stay” [MP3]


Thea Gilmore
“Call Me Your Darling” [MP3]


Laura Veirs
“Green Cowgirl” [MP3]


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Thursday, Jul 27, 2006

It’s more accurate to say that it was her label but the fact that whoever decided that her latest single should be available without any stupid downloading (DRM) restrictions deserves a cigar: DRM under Siege.  How long did it take for the major labels to figure out that music fans want music without strings attached?  They have a track record of taking a long time to get the point, haven’t they?  Let’s see how many other aritsts and labels follow suit now.  If it’s a success, the whole digital music world might become a lot more user-friendly and even more profitable.


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Thursday, Jul 27, 2006

Maybe Terry Eagleton is right, and we are now in a period “After Theory”. But the generation of liberal arts students who were obliged to read Levi-Strauss, Lacan, Deleuze, Barthes, et. al., still remain, and some of them are now working critics. This, I think, explains the surprising amount of coverage that Green Gartside and his “band” Scritti Politti have recently generated with a new album. Gartside is almost too good to be true: You couldn’t ask for a better subject upon which you could trot out all that poststructuralism you were forced to learn.  At a time when theory was still fresh, Gartside started a band named after a book by the Marxist cultural theorist Antonio Gramsci, wrote a song that announced his love for Jacques Derrida (appropriately called “Jacques Derrida”), and slowly charted a course toward mainstream pop at its most synthetic without ever abandoning his frequent lyrical allusions to linguistics and psychoanalytic theory. Hence, there is a lot of postmodern praxis to explicate: the fusion of high and low culture, the intertextuality of social production, the reification of ideas in language, unstable irony, love as a metaphor for ontological and epistemological dilemmas epitomized by deconstruction, etc. Infuriatingly, none of this stuff makes Scritti Politti especially pleasant to listen to (as anyone whose given “Anomie and Bonhomie” a listen); suitably they are much better in theory than in practice.


The working critics of 1985, when Scritti Politti released its most successful album, Cupid & Psyche 85, were not interested in such stuff (and neither, likely, was the audience): David Fricke’s Rolling Stone review,  which was content to dismiss Gartside’s lyrics as “abstract word games,” pretty much set the tone. This album yielded the band’s only American hit, “Perfect Way,” which managed to reach the charts despite being packed with puns on Lacanian buzzwords, lacks and voids and difference, that went over just about the entire audience’s head. (I remember liking the song when it came out, but wondering if it was going to get me beat up. But that fear abated as it became almost an act of courageous subversion in my high school to stop listening to Boston and Foreigner and adopt a fancy for wimpy English pop.) Now, as the articles linked above demonstrate, that is one of the first things noted about the song, suggesting something of theory’s lasting practical impact on the mundane level of magazine culture. Part of what makes Gartside fascinating is that it remains unclear why he decided to saturate his songs with graduate-seminar material—was there a subversive agenda at work, and if so what did he want to subvert, the complacency of the pop audience or the pretensions of the theory itself (which, of course, would instruct us to see him as doing both simultaneouly)? But even though critics are now willing to frame their discussions of Scritti Politti with references to Lacan and Derrida, they remain unwilling to take the theoretical ideas seriously, instead reducing them to superficial appliqués, tokens in a round of philosophical hide and seek. In other words they do a reductionist postmodern move on Gartside’s songs and refuse to attribute any depth to them even while acknowledging their complexity. The generation of critics who mastered poststructuralist theory had no interest in carrying the revolution forward; they are content to know the ideas and deploy them dismissively in order to send a discreet message about their own educational capital: “I may be writing popular journalism, but I’ve cracked the spine on Anti-Oedipus too.” So if theory can be said to have failed, perhaps it’s because those who learned it and put themselves in position to dissemenate its ideas only managed to see it as an intellectual status game. It may even have a Vebelesque aspect;  we flaunt knowledge of theory we regard as worthless because it proves how much time and intellect we had to waste on something so apparently useless—it’s conspicuous cogntion.


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