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15 Slices of Sanity, Part One

September 8, 2016

[Here’s a thing I wrote back in, I don’t know, 2010 or something that’s been sitting in my drafts folder ever since. Releasing it into the wild because a baby has to leave the nest eventually.]

Sure, we’re already well into the new year. All the holiday decorations are put away, everybody’s back at their job (hopefully not chipping too freely into their new mound of paid vacation just yet!), and, of course, all the ‘best of 2009’ lists are done and forgotten. Probably.

As you may have noticed, though, this blog isn’t exactly running on Responsible Adult time, and I’ve had this post in my head for a while, so it’s time to do my own list. I really have NO idea what my ‘Best Albums of 2009’ were. I spent so much time at my day job by day and working on my dream come true by night and one weekends, I really didn’t really take the time to sit down and look at what came out in 2009 that really took my breath away. I could definitely say without hesitation that seeing The Halflings at the Empty Bottle was one of the great eye-opener gigs of the year, and that No Fun ’09 was excellent as always, but right now, my mind is mostly on wrapping up issue #1 and, frankly, my heart’s not in it. If I’m going to write for no money in my fleeting free moments, I’d rather dig into the guts of my holy trinity:

Clockwise from top: Anthony Braxton, Thelonious Monk, Steve Lacy

Rest assured, these three fine gentlemen will get their column-inches worth of due — and then some — over the course of the year. [ha ha! Within the year! – ed.]

Until then, I only got one Top 10 in my head, and it doesn’t even have the courage to be a Top 10. It’s a Top 15! To be clear, I wrote nearly 80 pages of reviews for the first issue of the magazine, so it’s not like I didn’t listen to anything last year (or the year before, or the year before that; seriously, did we really start this thing in *2007*?!), but when I wasn’t under the heat lamp, writing or selling or editing or photo researching, I’d break away for a minute or ten and catch some empty eye-calories. Here they are:

15. Nicholas Cage is a Dick

In which Our Hero ruins playtime for children, kung-fu kicks fair maidens across the room, and slugs a lot of women, in and out of bear costume. To be fair, I haven’t seen the remake of ‘The Wicker Man,’ so it’s at least theoretically possible that context makes these clips more bearable. But I doubt it. As a raging fan of the original, though, it’s fun to see what was changed (apples for honey, not much else), and what’s been clumsily retained. Even if you haven’t seen the original (you should…you REALLY should), it’s still fun to watch Cage unleash his inner Dick.

14. Mindless nostalgia…en Francais!

Yep, I was there. But it still brings back great memories, even if everyone’s words are crushed by Pierre le Narrator. Considering that there will be no No Fun in the U.S. this year, this one might get a lot more views in the long, quiet months to come.

13. “Guten TAAAAAAAG!”

Speaking of the Germans, this guy’s on to something! A good one when you just need a tiny kick in the tuckus, and don’t have a lot of time. Of course, I still watch this 3-4 times in a row. I did some looking around, and found out that these guys were offering a ringtone. I would have got it, too, if it had just been lifted from the commercial (‘Guten TAAAAG!’ ‘Johannes Brahms?!’). I’d like that shit ring three or four times, just so others could join me in reveling in the awesomeness of The Arts. However, the ringtone they offered (at the Dave & Tom website) was some sort of awkward re-recording, with the ‘TAAAAAAAAG!’ going on too long and getting garbled. Guess I’ll stick with ‘Vibrate’ (Oooh, you naughty babysitter!) until something better comes along.

12. Face the feast of Britpop!

I don’t know if the mashup is over over, but it certainly seems that the only people left doing them or listening for them are fanatics and nostalgia hounds. As the fella once said, when the nightly news no longer features you in the last two minutes of its broadcast, it’s time to starting polishing up the resumes.

I don’t think it’s a bad thing. I just think that a lot of the energies that went into mashups are now being directed elsewhere (keep reading). And yes, I realize that mega-geniuses like Go Home Productions will keep churning out heavy-duty awesomeness. You know that I know that, too, so save it for the ________. In the meantime, enjoy this nail in the coffin from DJ Christmas, a beautiful More Than Human gestalt creature that does everything a mashup should do — ABC’s melodramatic ode to love gone sour is given a visceral kick, and Whitehouse’s paean to Michael Barrymore’s night of infamy is given enough drama and restraint so that its outbursts , played in sharp contrast, sound even more catastrophic.

[Note: my endorsement of this track does not exempt you from listening to the unaccompanied Whitehouse original as many times as you can stomach, as loud as your lease will allow. It still right-bowers this ace on the worst of days.] [and…this one is long gone. Sorry. If the original text doesn’t explain, it’s a mashup of Whitehouse’s “Wriggle Like A Fuckin’ Eel” and ABC’s “Poison Arrow.” – ed.]

11. The Nice People Will Laugh

Honestly, I don’t care if they’re pointing, hooting, hollaring, and even ripping up the seats and storming out: this is still ONE THOUSAND TIMES MORE TOLERANT THAN ANYTHING ON TV TODAY. Seriously, could you even imagine something like this sneaking its way into prime-time? Even as a joke, even as novelty? An uninterrupted 10 minute timed composition for bathtub, whistles, radios (turned off, per union disputes), blender, piano, electric drink stirrer, and a toybox’s worth of other demi-musical geegaws? Sure, they laughed, but they applaud pretty heartily at the end, too! Cage, of course, just ticks off his composition’s tasks like a checklist, oblivious to the titters and outright laughter. But out of laughter comes understanding and appreciation, sometimes.

There’s a story I read about Kurt Schwitters performing his ‘Ursonate,’ the legendary sound poem made up of tightly-constructed and rhythmic nonsense syllables. He performed it very powerfully and earnestly before a standard arts audience, who sat there quietly but uncomprehendingly. The story goes that an old Admiral was sitting in the front row, watching. As Schwitters frenziedly bellowed ‘Fümms bö wö tää zää Uu, pögiff….kwii Ee!’, the Admiral tried to hold in his laughter, the snickers coming out in snorting, jagged bursts. When the bounds of social decorum were finally loosed, the Admiral burst out into hysterical laughter, freeing the rest of the audience to do the same, for about a minute straight. Schwitters patiently waited until the interjection died down, and then resumed the piece right where he left off. This time the audience was rapt. Having rid themselves of the laughter of confusion, they realized that Schwitters wasn’t just angling for a laugh, and followed him to the end of the piece. The finale met with favorable applause, but, as a final helping of awesome, the Admiral in the front row approached Schwitters after the performance, tears in his eyes, shaking hands and thanking him for the wonderful performance. Like they say, if you reach even one person….

Now, whether the clip above caused any bluehairs watching at home (or in the audience) to check out a copy of ‘Variations IV’ from their local library or not is debatable, but the point is one that I find still to be true: more people than you’d think are willing to go out on a limb with you (ahem, 90% of insular noise performers), especially if you lead with conviction and your ideas are have a solid product.

Phew! That went on a bit longer than I expected! Rather than try to get through all 15 in one post, I think we’ll break this into manageable chunks and deploy them over the course of the week. Come back soon for the next installation, and in the meantime, take a quick break! You probably deserve it. If you don’t, then get to work already!

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