Music Features

Obsessions and Lamentations #1

This being the debut feature of Obsessions and Lamentations, a statement of principles is in order. Fortunately I don’t have any, so this will be brief. What I do have are gut feelings and knee-jerk opinions elevated to the status of articles in a manifesto, and what they amount to can be summarized succinctly – my love, our obsession, with popular culture and popular music in particular is best understood in the context of the greatest achievements in the arts down through the centuries. Most of us, myself included, don’t have the requisite cultural perspective to put the torrents of product inundating us daily into the proper context. So what ends up happening is we overrate the merely interesting and we occasionally condemn the less interesting or the misunderstood. 

As a result, many of the beefs, raves and concerns that are to follow are lodged with these thoughts in mind. At the end of the day, and hopefully not sounding too pompous about it, this is a search for meaning and truth. The subjects will likely be diverse and varied, with the hope that even Anna Nicole Smith reveals some truths about modern society as Shakespeare’s aesthetic triumph reveals truths about the human spirit. So let’s get started. 

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1) Miles Davis – On The Corner Sessions

Boy I wish I had the ready cash to shell out $130 for this six, count ‘em six, CD set documenting Miles’ session work from 1972 to 1975. By my calculations that works out to almost $22 per disc, and unless the box includes the trumpet he used on Kind of Blue then my considered opinion is ‘fuck that’. Which is too bad because I really wanted this one. Maybe I have the benefit of temporal distance as well as 35 years of musical devolution on my side, but I loved the much-dismissed titular album from the moment I heard it. I came at jazz from rock, not from its own long and distinguished tradition, so I can comprehend but not identify with Stanley Crouch’s sense of betrayal by Davis the Artiste when he labeled him a sellout upon the album’s release. To me, the whole thing made sense from the first ‘crunk’ that connects us to a hyper-rhythmic jam already in progress. This was Can with Coltrane and the Band of Gypsies sitting in. The critics were right about one thing though; this wasn’t exactly jazz. And while many rock enthusiasts would like to claim it as their own convinced that Miles had finally found his voice on the right side of the jazz/rock divide, it wasn’t exactly rock either. This was the stormy marriage of the modal jazz that Miles had mined since the late 50’s with the electric charge and trance-inducing repetition of VU’s Sister RayThe passing decades have only confirmed and reinforced Davis’ legendary prescience. Hopefully someone who bought the whole set is on Limewire. 

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2) The Real Housewives of Orange County

Just a moment of reflection here, but I have to wonder what it’s like for these twenty-something daughters (and sons) that appear on reality shows to relate to their mothers, pimped out in clothing that would embarrass an Atlantic City hooker and jacked up with heroic amounts of plastic surgery. Now don’t get me wrong, I fully understand the desire women have to remain attractive, even alluring, as long as they can keep the party rolling, especially in this image-soaked culture. But I also think that once you start ritually defying mother nature in order to compete for the same pool of mindless males as your kids, you risk inflicting some serious neurotic damage on them. I don’t watch enough of this crap to know what I’m talking about, but it seems to me like there is a pool of hidden resentment behind a lot of the eyes of these daughters as they watch their moms strut around in mini-skirts and push-up bras. I feel that at any moment one of them might shout “hey mom, you had your glory years, now let me have mine! And put on a fucking robe while you’re at it!” And Christ, I know we men are visually obsessed cesspools of testosterone until the day we die, but how the hell are we supposed to get over all that with members of AARP prancing around in bippy shirts? I can’t wait for the show where 50 year old men troll bars with the expressed purpose of cockblocking their sons. The ensuing brawls will make for great television. 

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3) Exit Ghost – Philip Roth

And speaking of old dudes cockblocking younger ones, check out Roth’s latest installment of the Continuing Physical Deterioration of Nathan Zuckerman, in which we learn that men still want to get laid even when they’re too old and too sick to get it up. This is good news for Roth fans since the author injects into the novel some of the old fire missing from much of his post-millennial work. His best books ride a crest of ecstatic energy and this new one, while not near the heights of The Human Stain and American Pastoral, has some of that restless mojo workin’. Those not familiar with Roth will find this short book a quick and easy place to start, though one should quickly proceed on to the masterworks of the 90’s as well as the original Zuckerman trilogy (The Ghost Writer, Zuckerman Unbound and The Anatomy Lesson). He, like many worthwhile things, has been written off by the feminists, dismissed as simply a “Jewish” writer and best of all, a self hating Jew of the Woody Allen variety. All of which should provide you with more than enough proof that he’s doing something right.

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