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by Crispin Kott

18 Nov 2010


There’s not a lot of money to be made in music criticism these days. I don’t know that there ever really was, because I’ve seen where Lester Bangs’ last known residence was and it wasn’t exactly palatial. And these days, gosh knows, there just isn’t a ton of dough being thrown around the music industry, and what is ain’t exactly trickling down to us hacks.

So what compels us to slave over a hot keyboard, our spines twisting into cartoon question marks, our fingers bent and gnarled and cracked from contemplative overuse?

Is it the perks? I won’t lie, I do enjoy sometimes not having to pay for CDs, though I’m not sure anyone pays for CDs anymore, so what the fuck am I so happy about? And though I don’t take nearly enough advantage of it, tickets to shows aren’t that tough to come by. And I suppose I could—gasp!—meet the band, though Twitter has probably robbed the romance from the mystery and majesty of the rock star. Nothing is sacred or secret when you discover that the only difference between us lowlifes and those who trod the boards in the name of the holy rock and/or roll is access to better drugs.

by Joseph Fisher

17 Nov 2010


I’m writing this (relatively) brief blog entry because I want to start what I hope will be a long discussion in the comments section.  I’m also writing today from a position of genuine ignorance, which is why I want to hear from you, PopMatters Readers the World Over.

Jake Cleland’s recent piece here on the evolution of punk culture struck me for a few different reasons, not the least of which was because it began with an apparent breakup over punk music.  Jake, for what it’s worth, my wife loathes my collection of My Bloody Valentine, Mogwai, and Merzbow records, and we’ve been happily together for eleven years now.  Don’t let punk rock get in the way of love—or, I suppose, sex.  It’s not worth it, my friend.

by John Grassi

17 Nov 2010


It’s almost impossible to imagine Bruce Springsteen’s predicament back in 1977. Two years earlier, Springsteen and the E Street Band released the epic Born to Run, arguably the greatest rock album of all time. The record had everything: great hooks on every track, lyrical beauty, and in its two cornerstone pieces, “Backstreets” and “Jungleland”, a sweeping operatic majesty. The album was mythic urban romance writ large. But after that big noise, silence. A lawsuit from the band’s manager, Mike Appel, prevented Springsteen from recording for close to three years, an eternity in the ‘70s music industry. By 1978, Springsteen was the invisible man in American music.

The Promise: The Making of Darkness on the Edge of Town is a documentary of Springsteen and the E-Street Band recording their 1978 album, Darkness on the Edge of Town, the crucial follow-up to Born to Run (for brevity and clarity, I’ll refer to the documentary as The Promise and the album as simply Darkness). The stakes are remarkably high and the film is reminiscent of the Beatles’ Let It Be, as we glimpse a band under the pressure of expectations. Darkness is a flawed album, and The Promise reveals why. Back in the studio after years of exile, Springsteen is determined to make an album that reflects the betrayal and disappointment of the last three years. The documentary shows Springsteen and the E-Street band in the studio, banging out song after song, take after take. It’s fascinating to see Springsteen and his band mates at the zenith of their powers.

by Colin McGuire

16 Nov 2010


Jake Gyllenhaal better have thick skin, and it’s not just because Brothers wasn’t nearly as good of a movie as it should have been.

Actually, it’s because his latest muse—the “whenever a relationship I’m in ends, and I’m mad, I write about it” singer/songwriter Taylor Swift—recently did the one thing I, along with most of the other geeks who follow this kind of stuff with pertinent attention, never thought would be done again: she sold a million copies of her latest release, Speak Now, in its first week.

Swift has long been a curious case for me. I was admittedly resistant of her success when she first found her way onto the charts. I then fell completely head over heels for her when I stumbled across her performance of “Fifteen” with Miley Cyrus at the Grammy Awards nearly two years ago. Now? Well, now, she just kind of exits within my own personal musical orbit, at this point not really warranting an emotion either way.

I will always find her shtick endearing, but that’s mostly because I’m probably a 16-year-old girl at heart. She writes her own songs (though I’ve never truly believed such a statement, even when it’s insisted upon). She seems to prefer performing with a guitar strapped across her torso more than she does, say, performing with two free hands and a slew of dancers behind her. She sings about heartbreak (and who doesn’t love that?). It appears as though she’s nice enough, constantly willing to sign autographs, and making appearances and granting interviews basically whenever she’s asked. She killed it on Saturday Night Live with a spot-on Shakira impersonation. And she loves vinyl. And if you love vinyl, I love you.

So it’s clear that she’s someone I find myself rooting for, regardless of how “cool” or “uncool” it may be for a 26-year-old dude to partake in such activities. All of that now considered, though, the entire notion of her achieving such a feat as selling a million records in a week utterly transcends any preconceived notion one may have of the singer/songwriter. I mean, my goodness.

by Corey Beasley

15 Nov 2010


“Heart Cooks Brain,” the second track on Modest Mouse’s The Lonesome Crowded West, reveals the band’s rhythmic genius, the strength of many of its finest compositions. Drummer Jeremiah Green has always been an integral component of the band’s success (which is why it was so distressing to many fans to see him momentarily depart for personal reasons circa the 2004 album Good News for People Who Love Bad News). Here, Green lays down a stuttering, hip-hop influenced breakbeat backbone for frontman Isaac Brock’s spiraling guitar work and cyclical lyrics. Yes, that’s even a bit of turntable scratching you hear in the distant reaches of the mix. That subtle bit of atmospherics—combined with Green’s head-nodding beat—hints at the musical eclecticism that marks the Modest Mouse catalog.

Still, slight genre-blurring aside, “Heart Cooks Brain” finds its place cemented squarely in the center of Modest Mouse’s songbook. A Brock riff that scales up and down the neck: check. Imagistic lyrics about despair and loneliness: check. A tight rhythm section enviable to any other band playing music: check. The song opens with—as any superfan would hope for—some harmonics, with Brock yelling a few feet away from his microphone, “A slow walk / It’s landmines”. Other than that moment of increased volume, Brock and his band keep things toned down here. It works: “Heart Cooks Brain” is about yearning, absence, and the dullness of depression, and the band’s right to play it close to the chest.

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