by Tom Smith
Dyke Parks sure as fuck ain’t no Hoagy Carmichael, and that
hapless buffoon Spooky is just a teensy astronomical unit
shy o’ being worthy of huffing an atom of, Jesus, a Luc
Ferrari fart, much less a post-petit four expulsion
from the likes of Pierre Schaeffer. That’s just the way
it fucking is, was, ever shall be, your dad’s really into
that Roy Montgomery cat, and The Strokes have crawled up
your ass and died. Riches exhaustless of mercy and grace
set your battlements alight; you’ve the least plausible
tights and tunics on record! Matthews Southern Comfort scholars!
Lathe-core apologists! The no-pussy NZ/Opprobrium
that’s what’s expected of me, right? One absurd antipodal
screed after another... (Pun intended.) I’d sooner suck
puke from Christian Vander’s oft-reamed Gallic arsehole
than consciously fucking repeat myself. I’d rather slide
a silver-serving dish of To Rococo Rot’s sick down my Deep
Southern gullet than plagiarize from the august Myth oeuvre.
I’m really stuck, I stack the latest shipment of
shitty promos – Bare Essentials Volume One, Baraka
Orchestra, Skinny Puppy’s Doomsday Back and Forth
Volume Five: Live in Dresden, anything on Thrill Jockey
– and throw something at ‘em, a old running shoe usually,
most often the left half of a pair of eight-year-old Adidas
I keep around because they still look really cool – featureless,
blue and white blazoned vanilla-ass Trail Runners with no
fucking tread at all. The discs topple, clatter… and crack,
if I’m lucky. Should one land near the spine of a book,
I open the tome, and heed its instructions: "They know
it is not a matter of honesty." Thus, honesty, as lead-riddled
as you might perceive my store of said intangible to be,
blown a few deadlines in my time. I hit the wall often and
hard. Something will ooze across my desktop, usually a dreary,
misbegotten CD, or a Bob Marley compilation video. I write
heedlessly at first, confirming my prejudices, sounding
the depths of various genre biases. My instincts are fucking
platinum, of course, but I just don’t trust a goddamn
thing, myself included. As much as I abhor vile old "experimental"
wank like Borbeto*****, fuck, Grandpa Sauter may want to
give me a shitload of coke and a blowjob some day, and you’ve
always gotta be prepared for unexpected bedfellows. (Even
the perversely grotesque ones, the kittens who just fucking
make your skin crawl, the snoring, 29-year-old Marion,
Ohio jazz-tap instructors named Karin, or Cori, or Ronnie,
the ones who’d likely prefer to be raped by Kalashnikov-wielding
prog-core extremists than attend an event enlivened by humans
doing interesting things in interesting ways.)
in point: in late August I accepted an assignment to write
a Creative Loafing menu blurb for touring free-jizz
pioneers Blues Traveler. Although biases were certainly
retained, I put a smidgeon of English on the text, and the
subsequent anti-clockwise wobble seemed to completely piss
off my editor (a somewhat esteemed, er, rock author):
It's been a scant four months
since their Eskaton "tYe DiE" collaboration with Thighpaulsandra,
but that brazen act of re-invention seems to have catapulted
Blues Traveler into the first rank of contempo elektronische
purveyors. Laying waste to their discography (all extant
inventory copies of their previous "jam" recordings destroyed
at the band's own expense) was an unprecedented move, as
was replacing guitarist Chan Kinchla with a Bearcat 500-channel
TrunkTracker II base scanner. It might take fans weaned
on the likes of "Four," "Straight on Till Morning," or last
year's "Bridge" some time to become accustomed to the sight
of the now shaven-headed Popper sporting a bandolier of
sleek Sony VAIO laptops, but times change, and Blues Traveler
has changed with them. Recommended: their new note-for-note
recreation of Pere Ubu's "Dub Housing" album (with guest
performers Kid 606 and Can stalwart Irmin Schmidt). Miss
this engagement at your peril.
It was rejected outright.
In, God, 26 years I’ve
had a lot of stuff published, y’know, so I can’t really
complain about the priggish nature of fate. More often than
not, however, I do myself in. Here’s a first draft of a
Marianne Faithful piece. Three years on, I still
don’t know what the fuck I was thinking…My efforts to enter
a subject’s synaptic cache occasionally result in dreadful
The sputtering wheel rims’
laborious predations lead the church in final triumph o’er
the shirt from her iconographic back. A bloody parcel, a
paternal name picked up in the cradle; the subject, disturbed,
is incapable of assuming any state of body at all. She often
sees them better than the first spectator; a black hat with
wimple, a high fur-trimmed collar. This is a tantalizing
puzzle – the pattern of tensions resulting from invisible
forces (neither accidental nor excludable) kept cropping
up on the tape. As any handloader knows, the redoubling
of lecherous appetites is itself a well-wrought optical
This too was nixed – rather
vociferously, as I recall. Can’t exactly blame the editorial
side for the pink-slippage. Sometimes you win by rushing
pieces past them, but…
"I know nothing,"
(The whole received for part,
perhaps, but no parting for the synecdoche blown.)
Likewise, an early version
of a Hovercraft review (naught but Mute’s press bio dissembled)
was greeted with unalloyed hostility. My third draft (composed
after actually having listened to their shitty lil’ CD)
passed muster, but O, the grief I received for this:
Receptors’ portions (perfections
of projected) range, altering associations’ demulcent scumbling.
Suggestions lead conclusions! Is their complex about confusion?
Audience quickly own… It was Campbell (which Campbell?);
visual cognitive listeners’ state. 1993 Sadie (a
Sadie), most, get trick. Is meaning visual? Is formed 2000?
There, this, or no-this. Evolved state of pushes? 2000 to
nothing, not test-message music… Rhythmic drums of Hovercraft!
Viewers (and, crucial), the blurring of resultant near-images
of breaks of ideas. Total development musical musician?
No, solely experience listener lengths. Rhythmic drums of
Hovercraft! Down of pauses full, and the utilizing words.
Nothing could have saved H’craft’s
pitiable, sub-sub-SY-ish career, but I like to think my
piece (the one that was eventually accepted) helped dislodge
the very first chunks o’ gristle from their liver-spotted
flank… (Vanity is ever appeased.)
I totally fucked myself out
of a very cool writing gig with Philadelphia’s Carbon
14 – Leslie Goldman and Larry Kay were gracious enough
to acquire press credentials for me at the Erotica 1999
convention at the Jacob Javits Center in New York, and I
promised copy befitting my annihilative, contrarian rep.
(Burp.) I attended the confab, took snapshots of the less
appalling (or, seemingly more interesting) attendees,
sat down with Al Goldstein, chatted with Ron Jeremy (who
of course directed a wee lil’ 1986 vid entitled To Live
and Shave in L.A.), drooled and stammered before the
too-groovy Candida Royale, and… Just had not one fucking
clue as to where to begin to cover such a belligerently
non-erotic, convulsively self-congratulatory flea market.
One would have been more likely to get a spontaneous hard-on
from twelve hours of police interrogation than from prowling
about Erotica’s distressing, antiseptic stalls.
Yeah, I know. I should have
written something on the order of the above. (As it turns
out, Lisa Carver submitted a funny mini-feature along similar
lines for Nerve.) At the time, however, my cerebellum
went into traumatic vapor lock. I sent the photos, but dragged
out the text deadline until… Five issues have probably come
and gone, and I’m certain I’m still on their death list.
When things really suck, I freeze.
As a frosh pup ‘n phenomenology
major at Valdosta State College I fell under the spell of
André Breton. Through my investigations of Breton,
I discovered the writings of Surrealist/psychoanalytical
avatar Louis Aragon. This passage from Aragon’s Je n’ai
jamais appris à écrire has informed a
bit of everything I’ve recorded, filmed, fucked, or carved
into birch bark since 1975:
Having observed that all of
the mythologies of the past became transformed into romances
as soon as people no longer believed in them, I formulated
the idea of reversing the process and elaborating a novel
that would present itself as a mythology. Naturally, a mythology
of the modern.
I have failed at this more
often than not.
To whit: the deficiencies of
TLASILA’s Vedder Vedder Bedwetter album have been
oft blazoned, most loudly by yours truly. I find it unspeakably
poor (good libretto, impenetrable music, absurd, overblown
"mix"), but there are masochistic cabals who espouse
it for the reasons I decry it.
No overt mythopoeia contrived
with An Interview with the Mitchell Brothers; its
texts were known. I supplied a parallel narrative, working
on the book for the better part of a month. Unfortunately,
the music had no longitudinal axis; frissons (crude
as they were) were in short supply. I was shooting for opera,
but instead I bagged a direct feed from a blown PA head
at a boggin’ competition… It was issued (as was Vedder)
in 1995, and recorded, mixed, and mastered in a day on a
dare from Audible Hiss honcho and terminal weed addict Ned
These disasters sparked an
autumnal epiphany, however, and in the next six months I
finally found full stride. (Not, of course, in any emotional
I connected, albeit in a destructive,
wholly non-narrative (and thus equally narrative) manner,
with the exploded views and corneal pinwheel trails of 1998’s
Where a Horse Has Been Standing and Where You Belong.
And now, yeah, there’s The Wigmaker in Eighteenth-Century
Williamsburg. Imperfect as the marriage on which it
was based, but close enough.
In print, my 1987 Forced
Exposure parody (submitted in the guise of a Peach of
Immortality tour diary, and published in the very same rag)
and the "Incredibly Terrible Music" column I penned
for Bananafish #14 have come pretty close to making
me sorta happy.
My current fave scribe is Maggie
Cutler. Her "Secret Life of Kitty Lyons" essay
series for Nerve is superbly delinquent; the latest
installment, "Enemy Mine," is one of her best:
Osama makes one of his famous
hand gestures. His forearm moves in a slight arc. The wrist,
like a diva drifting towards a divan, leads his long fingers,
supple as silk, into a swoon. No wonder Condoleeza Rice
banned his videos: he has the hands of a saint, or at least
a great gynecologist.
She’s always wry, terribly
sexy, possessed with marvelous instincts. Each line is a
model of skewed elegance and measured acerbity.
(As opposed to the not so carefully
monitored Deuterium seeding which precedes each instance
of what might be loosely described as my writing…)
Myths born of the critical
moment are spun from histories sewn from the weft of long-shed
skins. "Om Myth" – tongue deeply lodged in cheek,
of course, a paean to Aragon’s foresight.
How should one go about dismantling
the auto-complement PR machinery at this, the most profoundly
abject level of the entertainment business? By staunching
the wearying tide, O slubbering ones! By refusing to live
with the stench of profluvium in our magnificent flared
nostrils. Columnated ruins? Scattered fucking old-ass rocks…
(I’m one to call the kettle,
y’know, but I’m learning.)
Do your ever-bloodied works,
and leave it at that. Relish the sensation of traveling
below radar. Celebrate others before touting yourselves…
We know nothing. Life, thus,
(Feel free to shit on any part
of the above. It won’t change a goddamn thing.)
From an early draft of a review
of 1998’s brilliant Strangulated Beatoffs:
Dignity is the enemy. At least
of the "rock" part of rock (and "rock"
for this humble truth serum guzzler encompasses every extant
sonic particle -- from Anthony Braxton’s time-compressed
home recordings of the turbid fizz of a terrarium lamp to
those dusty Menudo posters you’ve lodged between your Air
and Gomez albums). And you can just tell that Stan Seitrich
and his worm-riddled compatriots in Strangulated Beatoffs
bid a not-too-weepy adieu to dignity a long, long time ago.
They’re braver than you, you see…
Celebrate others. Resist the
urge to codify the obvious – that you’re in it for the ego
boost ‘cuz you didn’t get laid until you were 23, ‘cuz you
were listening to noise cassettes and The Ex boots and dispiriting
glitchcore white labels, and your would-be squeeze preferred
something with a fucking beat, horse hooves clomped in time
to a David Rose Orchestra run-through of "Red Roses
for a Blue Lady," the
declamatory rhythms of the second act of Janáček’s
Jesus, anything. But not a loop created from the
sound of a dusty, fuzzed-up needle sliding across the face
of some dire old Dead C album, and not because they abjured
the inversion of genre orthodoxies or the subordination
of narrative convention...
Maybe because they had a wee
bit o’ life in ‘em, and Andrew WK or White Stripes
or Sightings (or even fuckin’ SheDaisy) look a damn sight
better than any of the manifestly gormless hacks who shill
for the approval of ….
That noted, DEATH TO LIFECORE!