“Again, it’s a testament to just how fucked up college football is that a school like Oregon can essentially function as product testing lab for ugly Nike apparel and everyone is basically okay with it. “What’s that? You want to dress all the Oregon players in jerseys made from condensed mustard gas? Oh, okay! JUST DON’T HAVE ANY OF YOUR PLAYERS SMOKE WEED BECAUSE THEN WE’D HAVE A REAL PROBLEM.”—Drew Magary, The 2011 Hater’s Guide To The Top 25
Thoughts on the “You and I” video: Parts of it are nightmare fuel/what is stuck to your face, lady?/I still adore this song/could have done without the choreography/would prefer the video to just be the 2 Gagas in the corn field/she went to Nebraska, huh? that’s method/agree with Jami Attenberg that she was probably wearing a fake penis for the guy alter-ego/six whole years.
Thoughts on Madonna, on the occasion of her 53rd birthday: I learned the word “putana” at an early age, because that’s how my mother liked to refer to Madge. My favorite song is “Into the Groove.” The early stuff makes up for a lot of the pretentious latter-day stuff.
Don Giovanni isn’t a household name, but when founders Joe Steinhardt and Zach Gajewski launched the label as students at Boston University in 2004, that was hardly their intention—they set out to document the New Brunswick basement punk scene, and have become…
Holy shit, really? Facebook was being founded across the river, and some kids were starting a record label ON CAMPUS? Actually, the Steinhardt name sound familiar. Man, did I waste college.
Over the weekend, we were trying to figure out where we went for the parents’ anniversary this past June. We all decided it was a place in Murray Hill, but this morning I remembered that it was a place on the UES. I told her this, and her written response: “I think my mind has been altered by the people from Treadstone.” (she’s definitely seen the Bourne movies too many times)
This was brought to my attention by the One Week/One Band tumblr. The series has interviews with some cool artists - Lou Barlow, Yeasayer, Phoenix, Charlotte Gainsbourg… The host, Dan Harris, is a dork. As someone who has an interest in journalism (and likes Spoon), I found several things offensive about this particular video package.
-Harris insults Britt’s early love of the Bee Gees. Listen to “Odessa,” chump; they’re more than “Stayin’ Alive.”
-As OW/OB pointed out, “Kill The Moon.”
-Spends a good deal of time on Laffitte, and how Britt wasn’t sure if Spoon would ever find a major label home after Elektra/be able to be a full-time band, but doesn’t mention the move to Merge, and what a worthwhile move it was.
-Lists many of Spoon’s commercial appearances, but doesn’t mention “Stranger Than Fiction.”
Oh hi, here’s my url’s namesake song. And here’s an anecdote: I bought A Series of Sneaks at the Barnes & Noble on Route 17. I was very pleased. I was probably home on summer or winter break, and I was boycotting the Sam Goody (of course, the real question is: why didn’t you go to Tower, moron? that would have been cooler, in retrospect [Tower was the equivalent of 2 city blocks away]), and I was just getting into Spoon, so I had to have every album that I could get my mitts on, of course. I don’t think I’d really heard about Sneaks, but it was there, so I bought it. As I was looking over the track names, “June’s Foreign Spell” really stood out to me. I do have a fondness for songs with female names in the title. I was hoping that JFS would be a worthy song, and it was. It’s not one of my favorite Spoon songs, but the title itself has stuck with me in a large way.
Spoon’s second album, A Series of Sneaks (1998), is all about the business.* Spoon’s songs are often self-referential, about being in a band, making music, loving music (see, for example, Monday’s audio post on “The Beast and Dragon, Adored), but Sneaks as a record seems particularly inundated with terms and ideas from the music business. Which seems strangely prescient, because it wasn’t until after this record that Spoon got infamously burned by Elektra.
For those who are unfamiliar with the story (and you can find it in virtually every interview with Spoon from 1999 to 2005 or so): after releasing a mildly successful album and EP on Matador, Spoon was courted by majors, eventually signing with Elektra, home of particularly persistent A&R man Ron Laffitte (about whom more shortly). They recorded A Series of Sneaks, it was released with lackluster fanfare and little support from the label, and Laffitte stopped returning their calls. Four months later, Laffitte had quit the label, and Spoon was unceremoniously dropped. This plunged the band into a period of despair and doubt about their future in the business, but the story has a happy ending: Spoon recorded their breakthrough record, Girls Can Tell, on their own, shopped it around, and eventually ended up at Merge, where they remain to this day. I guess they were just born to be “indie” (a term, however, that Britt has found problematic).
Anyway though, listening to Sneaks now, it’s hard not to hear a seeming anticipation of this disaster in it: the gritty, jaded sounding songs, many rife with references to the music business, seem like they should have been written after all this went down, not before. Take the song in this post for example; here are the lyrics, in their entirity:
DISTRACTED BY EACH CAREER MILESTONE THOUGH THEY’RE ALL IN HIS HANDS HE SET UP HIS BEST ONES FOR WEEKS AND THE QUESTIONS ALL GET ANSWERED BEFORE THEY’RE ASKED HIM TELLS YOU SIT RIGHT BACK HE’S TALKING THROUGH HIS TEETH AND I DON’T BELIEVE THE THINGS HE’LL SAY BUT I’LL CALL HIM UP AND GIVE HIM FLACK AND IT’S SAD BUT TRUE THE SOUNDS THAT DON’T COME BACK AND I CAN SEE HIM TAP PRODUCER FIX HIS LINES AND THAT MAKES ME FEEL LIKE A RAT I FEEL LIKE A RAT SO I’D LIKE YOU TO SET IT STRAIGHT NOW ON THIS ONE ALL FIXED UP NOW FOR JUNE’S FOREIGN SPELL ALL SAD ‘BOUT IT NOW JUNE’S BITTER SOIL AGAIN OH NO CAN’T TAKE THIS ANOTHER YEAR DROP TWO STEPS BACK AND TAKE THE PLACE OF WHO THAT CAME BEFORE NOW
It’s hard not to think the “he” in this song might be Ron Laffitte, responsible for “each career milestone,” yet “talking through his teeth.” Likewise, the song “Reservations” features another untrustworthy “he,” and the theme seems to develop throughout the record. There are songs about radios and cassettes; twosongs have the word “metal” in the title, and one is about a “Punk Episode“ (although Spoon was certainly never a metal band, they were definitely heavier on their early albums; punk bands, however, are clear influences, and the liner-notes of Sneaks describes the band members as “Faux Punk”). These are all perhaps isolated cases, and some perhaps have nothing to do with music (“Metal Detektor” [one of my favorites] seems to be about something else entirely, for example); but I think, coupled with the rather noir-ish vibe on the record, add up to a cynical portrait of a young band trying to make it in the business.
*Credit due: It was my wife, Sharon, who first made this observation. She’s absolutely right, of course, as usual.
Where’ve you been all my life? Or rather, these past few weeks. Amazing what a new job/fresh start can do for one’s overall demeanor. Went to the gym tonight. Wore shorts to the gym tonight. There is a Guy Issue, but it’s more a Self-Reflection Issue in Guy Issue clothing. I’ll be over it soon enough. I will plan meals and take showers at night. I will get used to an 8am workday start.
Music: back and forth between “Watch the Throne” and Jack’s Mannequin, with Hot Snakes and Mixed Up in the Hague and Nation of Ulysses and Stupid Guy Recommendations thrown in.
I’ve been meaning to ask this for a week now, but it keeps slipping my mind: Would someone out there please put together a “super cut” of every time Kanye West goes “huh?” on a track? It’s very distinctive, he typically pronounces it with a strong A sound, like “haaanh?” He does this at least seven hundred times on the new album alone.
What makes someone or something “cool”? It’s hard to identify, but like obscenity, you know it when you see it. Spoon definitely has it: I’d say it’s a fundamental part of their aesthetic. It’s more than just the cool that is inherent in being in a rock ‘n’ roll band (though that’s surely where it starts); it has to do with the way they dress (about which more shortly), the way they carry themselves (on stage, in interviews), the things they say, and, more than anything, it has to do with their songs and the way they deliver them.
Spoon’s first two albums were pretty straight-forward (if very good) mid-90s post-punk: they drew a lot of comparisons to the Pixies, Wire, and Gang of Four. (Which, right there, that’s pretty cool already.) I’ll be talking about those first two records on Thursday. It was the release of records three and four, Girls Can Tell (2001) and Kill The Moonlight (2002), that cemented Spoon’s reputation as critical darlings and cool cats. These albums signify a real departure from their early sound: they are much more spare, toned-down, cool. And they have a lot more piano.
“The Way We Get By” was Spoon’s calling card in this era. Kill the Moonlightwas Spoon’s most critically and commercially successful release yet (and some, eg. Pitchfork, would still call it their best), and this song really exemplifies the sound of that record. It’s basically a punk song, but a “cool” punk song: heavy guitars are pared down to a propulsive piano riff, angry vocals are cooled off to a sneer. Britt lets you know where he’s coming from, though, namedropping no less than three Iggy Pop / Stooges songs: “Shake Appeal”, “Some Weird Sin”, “Down on the Street”. But would a punk song have a breakdown as tight as this one?
Part of feeling cool comes from feeling part of something: a scene, a movement, a gang, a band, etc. This song works on that level with the inclusiveness inherent in the second-person plural: that’s the way WE get by, us, you, me, Spoon. This is a song to blast in your car, and for two and half minutes you get to feel part of something really cool. Maybe you don’t get high in the back seats of cars; maybe you do wake up on your own, at least sometimes. But with this song you can forget about that, for now. This song makes everybody cool.
Between the Boss situation, Steve Smith’s uncertainty, and now this… I do not have high hopes for the Giants this season. Ugh. At least they open up against the Redskins and their Cadre of Shitty QBs. That should be a win, right? Right?
David Raposa:What is it about A-Rod that makes everything he does a) a league-wide concern and b) utterly embarrassing in a ripped-my-pants-bending-over way?
David Roth:It is amazing, A-Rod's permanent clownshoes. But Jeter is basically as weird. It's a bad look to date Madonna—and it’s really bad—but Jeter was in a relationship with Mariah Carey. Which is like living in a cave in a diamond-studded mountain of cocaine that periodically erupts, volcano-style, with champagne-lava and high-E notes.