He Is Your Slice of Life

Turning 50 today: one of my musical idols, Daniel Ash of Bauhaus/Tones on Tail/Love and Rockets fame. Although not what you could call a household name, Ash has had a long and illustrious career that lifts him up high into the pantheon, just one notch below his obvious role model, David Bowie.

Bauhaus hit the scene in 1979 with “Bela Lugosi’s Dead,” a nine-minute-long slice of idiot-savant strangeness from a band that barely knew how to play. For its first half, “Bela” consists of Peter Murphy’s moaning vocals riding a stuttering, bat-echo rhythm. The second half is all Daniel Ash and his effects pedals putting on a fireworks show. It’s freaky, off-kilter, borderline ridiculous, and oddly charming. “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” remains a much-beloved underground chestnut to this day; when I saw Bauhaus in 2005, they played it as an encore and people went nuts.1


Death of a Tour

The robots who analyze everything I do are wondering why I haven’t written a word about the Tour de France since 2005. There are two reasons. One is that I burned myself out writing about it every damn day for a month. The other is that it’s getting harder and harder to care about Le Tour. Last year, a doping scandal on the eve of the race forced many of the contenders, including Ivan Basso and Jan Ullrich, to drop out. Floyd Landis appeared to redeem the event with a superhuman comeback leading to a triumphant victory, then got caught up in a drug controversy of his own.

This year, things have gotten ridiculous. Just in the last three days:

• Alexandre Vinokourov got thrown out over a blood transfusion. This resulted in the withdrawal of his team, Astana, including Andreas Klöden, who was fifth overall at the time.

Daydream Nation

Last night I had the opportunity to see Sonic Youth at the Berkeley Community Theatre — always a favorite venue — playing their historic recording Daydream Nation in its entirety. Despite the obscene heat, a good time was had by all. Highlights:

  • That lovely, chiming cascade of notes that kicks off “Teenage Riot.” This is one of those great album openings that the album itself can’t quite live up to. Truth to tell, I’ve always thought Daydream Nation was overrated. It’s uneven, overlong, and at times willfully obnoxious; but for the duration of this guitar intro, you’re charmed into believing that this time, everything will be perfect.
  • The chugging riff of “Total Trash.” They could have jettisoned three or four of the lesser songs and just played this again instead, and I would have been happy.

In Praise of Television

Someone took this picture of Television, and I thank them for it.

I stand here before you today to sing the praises of Television. Not the medium — though, yes, I love that too — but the band: Tom Verlaine (gtr/voc), Richard Lloyd (gtr), Fred Smith (bass), and Billy Ficca (drums). I specifically wish to single out for praise their debut and masterpiece, 1977’s Marquee Moon. Their second album, Adventure (1978), and self-titled comeback album (1991) are both worthy in their own ways, but Marquee Moon stands alone.

Ye Olde Jeffe Greene introduced me to this album some years ago via old-fashioned audio-magnetical cassette tape, and I was amazed at its sublime balance of aggression and precision. This year, Marquee Moon turns 30, and it has not dated one iota. I pulled the CD (well-scuffed and due for replacement) out of the stacks last week and haven’t been able to stop listening to it. I am listening to it right now. From the first hammering chords of “See No Evil” to the last wistful notes of “Torn Curtain,” this is that rarest of treasures: a full-length recording without a single weak point or misfire. All killer, as we used to say, and no filler.