Nothing Has Changed – Part 2 (Disc 3)

Posted in Because he's David Bowie, that's why on December 31st, 2014 by bill

David Bowie: Artist and athlete

Disc 3 begins in 1975 with “Fame,” which may be the first Bowie song I ever heard; it’s certainly the first one I remember. As with so much of the innovative music of that era that I ended up loving, I initially found it disturbing and frightening. At that point I was not yet a person who controlled his own musical environment; I just soaked up whatever was around me, mostly from the radio, and there was nothing else on the radio like “Fame.” For one thing, it was hard funk when the charts were dominated by soft rock and first-wave disco (funky enough, in fact, that James Brown ripped it off wholesale for a song called “Hot (I Need to Be Loved, Loved, Loved)”). For another, it had that bizarre descending vocal line near the end; surely nothing like it had penetrated my tender young ears before.

But now “Fame” is a comforting old friend, ditto “Young Americans,” which follows it on Nothing Has Changed. Like “Heroes,” “Young Americans” is lyrically ambiguous, to say the least, if not downright grim (consider: “Well, well, well, would you carry a razor?/In case, just in case of depression” or “We live for just these twenty years/Do we have to die for the fifty more?”). But as with “Heroes” that tends to get lost in the sheer sonic bliss and forward momentum of the music. There is a sense here that the Young Americans are maybe not all that bright, that they’ll gladly swallow any poison pill wrapped in tasty candy. And I have to admit I’m right there with them; I love this song regardless.
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Festivus Message 2014

Posted in Whatever Else on December 23rd, 2014 by bill

I had been thinking about getting on here to air my grievances, today being December 23, which is of course Festivus as well as the last day of Hanukkah (this year). But I was having a hard time thinking of any; I don’t have much to kvetch about in my personal life, and while I could get on my high horse about climate change or the Taliban, really, who wants to hear it?

To the rescue comes Rand Paul, who took to Twitter today to air his own grievances. For example:

First, politics in general: As a Doctor, I was trained first to do no harm. Wouldn’t it be nice if politicians started from that premise? But we get “politics is the art of looking 4 trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly&applying wrong remedies.”

Hey Rand Paul! I got a few problems with you! First and foremost, you are not funny. If you’re going to invoke the spirit of the best sitcom ever made, you should be funny. And, let me say that again, you are not funny.

Also, you are violating the spirit of Festivus, which is supposed to be an (admittedly insincere) alternative to the commercialism of Christmas, by hijacking it for your own political purposes. (And while we’re at it, your political purposes are nonsensical, but that’s really a topic for another time.)

Your intelligence is overrated, and you come across as a smug, pampered asshole who gets everything he wants and doesn’t care what happens to anyone else. It would be nice if you would go away.

Here endeth the message.

Reality Check

Posted in Golden (State) Years on December 17th, 2014 by bill

There are at least 4 things I love about this photo.

I have been superstitiously avoiding writing about the Warriors, because they have been on a crazy run unlike anything I have ever experienced as a basketball fan. After I last wrote about them on November 10, they lost the next game (to the San Antonio Spurs) and then did not lose again until last night (to the Memphis Grizzlies). In between, they ticked off 16 straight wins, raising their record to a surreal 21-2 (now 21-3).

It’s hard to know what to say. This team is very, very good at what they do. They score, they defend, they rebound, they pass. They play with supreme swagger that has not (yet) turned the corner into arrogance. They post fun videos on YouTube and Instagram. It’s a sweet time to be a Warriors fan.

The only sour note is that Andrew Bogut’s knee is acting up, and aside from Steph Curry, Bogut is the one player the W’s cannot afford to lose. He is the defensive anchor and a key cog in the offensive scheme. So now I have something to worry about, which is a much more familiar position to be in. That head-in-the-clouds, it’s-impossible-for-us-to-lose stuff is great, but weird. Reality may set in now; but then again, reality still has the chance to be pretty damn spectacular. So no complaints from this quarter.

Nothing Has Changed – Part 1 (Disc 2)

Posted in Because he's David Bowie, that's why on December 8th, 2014 by bill

Funk to funky

I resisted buying the new David Bowie 3-CD anthology, Nothing Has Changed, for the better part of 20 minutes. I already have most of those songs, I tried to convince myself, and it’s unlikely there will be any real revelations among the outtakes and rarities. I had already heard the new single, “Sue (or a Season of Crime)” and decided I didn’t care for it.

But I am weak, and it was not that expensive, so my resistance did not last. And although everything I told myself is true, I can’t say I regret the purchase; the opportunity to hear new Bowie songs, or old Bowie songs in a new context, is always welcome.

The gimmick in this set is that it is sequenced in reverse chronological order, which definitely changes the narrative, turning Bowie into an artist who starts off experimental and abstract but self-assured, goes through a long shaky period, and emerges from it as a mind-blowing rock’n’roll superman, before petering out in a series of derivative, underdeveloped, but not charmless singles.

I actually cheated a little bit and listened to discs 2 and 3 first, because I was on a car trip with two teenage girls in the back seat and I didn’t think they’d sit still for a full disc of late-period Bowie. Even so, we all got a little restless during “Buddha of Suburbia” and “Jump They Say,” but to the rescue, surprisingly, came “Time Will Crawl” — a refugee from the abysmal Never Let Me Down, but in this context it sounded great. (The version included here, the “MM Remix,” may be better than the original, which I haven’t heard for a while.)
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Tuesday Night in A-Town

Posted in Dancing about architecture on December 3rd, 2014 by bill

A not-so-great picture of Sallie Ford and her band.

Last night is one that I’d like to remember. It started off shaky but ended up great, and some lessons were learned along the way.

Lesson #1: I really don’t like jazz all that much. Or certain kinds of jazz, at least. As part of a general program to try to shake off old biases and enjoy as many kinds of music as possible, of late I’ve relaxed my strict “no jazz” policy and tried to find a way to enjoy what is, after all, a huge and diverse genre. And I’ve made some progress, discovering a fondness for Miles Davis especially.

So when I saw that the Bad Plus was included in our subscription to the Center Arts season, I was mildly optimistic. They have a reputation as jazz mavericks and have covered songs by the Pixies, Nirvana, and Radiohead. While I haven’t dug deep into their oeuvre, I have heard a few things I enjoyed, and hoped that in a live setting they would do some crowd-pleasing.
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