This piece by Beth for The Quietus went live a few days ago and you should check it out. There’s a link and a pasted copy just a few inches south, so good luck coming up with an excuse for not doing what was just recommended. It’s a review of the Neutral Milk Hotel show magically attended last month (shit sold out within six minutes its announcement on May 9th…the problem of entering the building was also fielded by the writer, as my guest-list capital is seemingly at an all-time low, but you know what they always say….FUCK THE WORLD!!!)
In the interest of journalistic etiquette, reader (me) support, and superior visual presentation, here’s a link to where the piece hangs it hat, so to speak. Or so to speak like a fucking cornball.
LIVE REPORT: Neutral Milk Hotel Elizabeth Murphy, November 25th, 2013 08:17
Elizabeth Murphy heads to Memphis, Tennessee to kneel at the altar of the US indie luminaries
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The evaluation here is tough, yes: write a live review of a band responsible for a singular type of album (one of the cohesive ones, an album’s album, dear to me amongst many) which I had never before seen nor had a reasonable chance to see perform live, in whole or part, in spite of my bless’d, impressively-notched white belt. Evaluation is impossible if I weigh up the months of baseless conviction I held, ticketless, that I would attend this show, a show that sold out before those of us who take a shower, a shit or precisely count to 300 before checking the internet in the morning even had a chance. Conviction, because I needed some church, and seeing Neutral Milk Hotel for me has to be like church.Suffice to say, I got in, and the band didn’t disappoint. Julian Koster said, “I’m happy!” Out loud, in a microphone. The crowd cheered. (One person said, “No shit!”) And Jeff Mangum didn’t disappoint; the man upholds that tenet of crowd-pleasing that a live rendition of a song should be a very similar one to the recording of that song. And, like Chris Rock thanks Kanye in ‘Blame Game’
, we thank him for it: the cadence, the heights of notes reached, when the horns enter, and an acoustic mic’d just right. You could hear the incidental sounds of the fingers working for it against the raw material of a hollow, wooden, stringed thing. So true to the record is it, it’s startling not to hear the thud of the guitar being placed on the ground as Mangum gets up to leave after he advises us all not to “hate her when she gets up to leave” at the end of ‘Two-Headed Boy Pt. Two’.If it has to be said, the cohesive album referred to earlier is In The Aeroplane Over The Sea
. And they played a lot off it. I would provide the titles of songs covered but I found that I don’t know them. Not for lack of listenership, but because of the fully immersive way I always listened to this album: in full, without visual or textual accompaniment, usually alone. The authority this type of listenership offers is that I can recite every lyric, so I can confirm that Mangum got all of them right. As well, I have no additional insight on, in ‘The King Of Carrot Flowers Pts. 2 & 3′, whether, “I love you Jesus Christ; Jesus Christ I love you, yes, I do” is a pro-Jesus proclamation or the Lord’s name in vain.
But this is all well and good. In his wisdom, Mangum must have some sense that the lack of gigging around such an album has amplified the need for its performance to reflect our perfect memory of it. I resent Steve Albini, as in, I would like to give him a noogie, for all but promising never to repeat the precise lyrics and phrasing in ‘Billiard Player Song’ I fell in love with. In fairness to Albini, few artists wear self-referential simulacrum well. It is, in fact, a suspiciously convenient principle to hold. But it is written that Mangum is unquestionably an authentic artist, as he carried out the following steps: 1. Write epic album 2. Walk away as a small army mobilises in its favour, turns, then starts chasing you down the fucking street. And now we must add the third authenticator: he came back, allowing for himself a moment to indulge in the full-bodied heart-slaying joy that is his transcendent catalogue. I found myself overwhelmingly happy for him, happy for Jeremy Barnes, happy for Scott Spillane, happy with
Julian. This wasn’t my church at all, my church was burned each time I had privately listened to the record. This was theirs.
…and in tribute to the Goofus & Gallant legacy…
Here’s my byline above some misguided or just generally wrongheaded sentiments I pushed through the pipeline to public consumption via a freelance relationship of yore…and by “yore” I mean five and a half years ago. It’s an essay (hey, it reads a lot better than “lead review”) I wrote about Pavement’s Wowee Zowee to celebrate Matador’s mid-00′s anniversary-themed deluxe reissue campaign. I was really proud of this thing at the time, but 2007 was my “dipshit year” and my pass is being delivered at this very moment.
[NOTE: Because it is impossible to cut and paste either Facebook's "Like" or Twitter's "Tweet" button or their respective results, let it be known that both currently share what a Youth Group leader or other peripherally-authoritative adult of childhood past - yours and mine - used to call a "great big goose-egg"]
The following was originally published – online and in print – by Paste Magazine, and here’s a link to prove I’m not taking credit for someone else’s writing that has aged worse than the several examples of poorly-aged endeavors made therein. Let’s hear it for the continued operation of my irony radar. The link:
Pavement – Wowee Zowee: Sordid Sentinals Edition [Matador]
Published at 12:00 AM on February 1, 2007
No genre of music has aged quite as poorly as ’90s indie rock. Pavement is one of the few exceptions to this rule. When one of its albums is stacked up against an Archers of Loaf or Superchunk release from an identical year, Pavement’s long-term worth and quality shines through. In Rob Jovanovic’s 2004 book, Perfect Sound Forever: The Story Of Pavement, the discussion of the band’s third album, Wowee Zowee, begins on page 147 and ends about 11 pages later. This exempliﬁes how well the past 11 years have treated this Pavement album—which is every bit as good as the band’s debut, Slanted and Enchanted, and far superior to its predecessor, Crooked Rain. It remains a fan favorite and has about a 50-percent approval rating with critics. Hopes at Warners—the company handling distribution for Pavement’s indie label, Matador, at the time—were high for Wowee Zowee. But the record didn’t have a radio-ready follow-up to Crooked Rain’s cult hit “Cut Your Hair,” and this generally confused industry folks who expected as much. (Beginning an album with a weird folk-rock ditty like “We Dance” will do that.) At a time when Pavement had just transformed from a club act into a theater band—when alternative-X-station meatheads moshed to “Cut Your Hair” when it was begrudgingly traipsed through each night—the band made an album that ﬂew over the heads of a lot of people who probably wouldn’t have beneﬁted the band as converts anyway.
Recorded in Memphis at Easley McCain Studios, which played a key role in the era’s underground-rock explosion (and, sadly, succumbed to a fire in 2005), Wowee Zowee carries the loose, homey feeling that made the affordable studio relatively legendary (Sonic Youth would follow Pavement to Easley McCain to record Washing Machine). It was the ﬁrst Pavement album completed as a band effort, without geographical differences being a part of the recording process. All ﬁve members—Stephen Malkmus, Scott Kannberg (aka Spiral Stairs), Steve West, Bob Nastanovich and Mark Ibold—were appearing together in promo photos and on stage, something the success of Crooked Rain seemed to solidify. On Wowee Zowee, they’d skipped the Mark E. Smith/Fall worship that was prevalent on Slanted and Crooked Rain (though, even if they hadn’t, it would’ve still preceded the viral outbreak of post-punk bottom feeding by eight years). The inﬂuences on Wowee Zowee—the Groundhogs for example, a Malkmus obsession at the time—are far more subtle; They’re scattered across the album rather than being the focus of single tracks.
Two songs on Wowee Zowee, “Grounded” and “Kennel District,” are cut from the special catchiness Malkmus and Kannberg could toss off with little effort (though they restrained from doing so on a regular basis, sometimes through entire albums). And “Flux = Rad” was classic mid-’90s garage punk by a band that was anything but garage punk. The song was a minute-and-a-half of antagonism otherwise absent from this laidback album. “Rattled by the Rush, ”the “focus” track, ﬂopped, though not due to the odd little pop song’s lack of greatness.
Unless you passed up the album the ﬁrst time around, the extras included here—a full CD-and-a-half’s worth—are the real reason to get on board. Combined with the original album’s Steve Keene artwork (his assembly-line paintings being the era’s hipster equivalent to the frat boy’s neon beer wall presentation), the package is a partial time capsule, containing fragments of the culture’s peripherals and its ﬂirtations with relative fame, as shown by inclusions from the I Shot Andy Warhol and Kids in the Hall: Brain Candy soundtracks and the Schoolhouse Rock! compilation. It must be noted that participating in a Descendents tribute album was a unique choice for the time, even if the hazy, tape-hiss appropriation of “It’s a Hectic World” alienated some fans of the mall-punk originators. All the requisite b-sides and outtakes are also included. Go straight to Kannberg’s excellent “Mussle Rock,” then enjoy “Soul Food,” a jam session with Doug Easley. The concurrent Paciﬁc Trim EP is also here, but the meat of the affair is live material: Alert BBC Sessions performances and songs recorded in Australia and at the Hilversum in Holland all present a band that was, maybe for the ﬁrst time in its career, “tight.” One can safely wager that this will be the last Pavement album afforded the luxurious Matador reissue treatment also given Slanted and Enchanted and Crooked Rain. Barring the memorable rocker here and there, Brighten the Corners (1997) and Terror Twilight (1999) were albums made by a band that no longer felt like being a band. Today’s left-ﬁeld rock lays a heavy reliance on previous decades, especially the ’80s, and this has saturated the current scene with bands that simply copy 20-year-old music and add nothing to it. But this behavior is brazenly absent from Wowee Zowee, an album that manages the miracle of sounding very much like 1995 without sounding dated.