Posts from 3rd April 2000

Apr 00


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THE MAGNETIC FIELDS – “I’ve Got New York” (Live MP3)
Of all the curious things about Stephin Merritt, one of the most curious is the way he keeps back songs which, if they were to reach a wider audience, would run an excellent chance of becoming standards. I’m not saying “I’ve Got New York”, or “Kissing Things”, or “Movie Star” or “He Didn’t” or “As You Turn To Go” are any better than the material which has won him such a devoted indiepop following, but they are among the most perfectly crafted things he’s ever written: succinct, immediate and bittersweet workings through of ideas, coming in around the two minute mark. Maybe the audience for this kind of material is so tiny now that it’s simply not worth releasing them to the same half-hearted general regard that’s greeted his other records. (Rather than sniffing at the Magnetic Fields for releasing something as contrived as a 69-song boxed set, we should deplore the tedious and constrained pop landscape that forces a songwriter as extraordinary as Merritt to resort to stunts like that in the first place.)

On this bootleg, Merritt groans out the song’s intro with unspeakable weariness, then perks up slightly for the verses (caution: such things are relative). But he still sounds like he’s singing to himself, which is perfect for a song which finds its singer wandering the city, shifting from bon mots to expressions of utter loneliness with a heavy awareness that each is as futile as the other. “Got all New York to be lonely in / I’ve got cigarettes and I’ve got gin” he sings, the crowd laugh knowingly, and he continues “And though I feel just like I’ve got no skin / I’ve got New York, and the winter wind.” It’s wonderful: try to hear it.

Also in Salon, Greil Marcus gives a

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Also in Salon, Greil Marcus gives a kicking to Patti Smith: “as if the real purpose of history were to confirm the hipster’s superiority to it.” He can still nail them, sometimes.

Another issue of’s weekly ezine

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Another issue of’s weekly ezine THE BRAIN, which makes as ever for bracing reading. I’ll confess I’ve been well lazy about visiting brainwashed but since they’ve kindly linked to the legendary Tanya Headon’s record collector article I’ll be going there more often.

Men II Boyz

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Men II Boyz: predictable Salon take on boy bands – nothing much to disagree with but no real insights either (particularly as it almost entirely sidesteps the music). Interesting that the relatively bland “I Want It That Way” has become the boyband single it’s OK to like, the quick way for rockcrits to prove that, hey, they’re open-minded about this stuff.

Josh can intellectualise about it and quote fancy Russian words all he likes but he has still made a list:

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Josh can intellectualise about it and quote fancy Russian words all he likes but he has still made a list: Top five almost-best-end-of-album songs. This actually brings up something I was going to say about Fred’s Pixies review last week, which is that I actually like having goofy little tracks ending an album rather than the big wow-a-long epics. It’s a good way of bringing a listener down and clearing their (ack) ‘palate’ before the next CD they put on. Two goofy or minor songs at an album’s end is a bad idea though.


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THE STANDELLS – “Dirty Water” (MP3)
Yes, I admit it, my own greed undid me: while attempting to swap a CD-R’s worth of hooky MP3s from work to home I managed to annihilate my RealJukebox set-up and delete all my playlists. I was left with no choice but to order RJ to sweep through my hard drive and import every piece of recorded tat I’ve picked up over the last year. Which is a lot of tat.

But released from the tyranny of the playlist I find new freedom, not least in a handful of garage-punk tunes I downloaded months ago and forgot about entirely. “Dirty Water” is one of them. All good garage, I hypothesise, is made up either of one fantastically awesome moment repeated again and again or of a load of smaller, discrete moments, which are still of themselves awesome.

Something like “I’ve Been Waiting” by Paul Bearer and the Hearsemen is an example of the former (although bonus awesome points are awarded for the name). Mr Bearer alights upon a gargantuan concrete block of a riff which his faithful Hearsemen proceed to play loudly many times, while howling. Ten out of ten, thankyou, you may recede into obscurity confident that the world is a far better place for your efforts.

“Dirty Water”, much more famous, falls into the latter garage category. The awesome moments run as follows: he’s going to tell you a big fat story; “ah, but they’re cool people”; he loves that dirty water and here come some goofy drums to prove it; “FRUS-TRATED WIMMEN!”; he squirms “aawwuhh” just before the harmonica solo; handclaps!; more abstract beatnik drumming; he’s the man he’s the man.

I need more of this garage stuff, for sure.