Friday, April 24, 2009


As I move my pitiable way through the exigencies of ceasing to be a lush (and, as it turns out, that Lost Weekend-cold sweat game is of a greater veracity than one might expect), a brief update:

Santana, "[untitled]," live recording, c. 1974 (?)
Carlos Santana has done such an exquisite job of making himself an irrelevant joke over the last two decades that we may forget his genuine attempts, at one point, to charge toward a genuinely syncretic music drawing in Latin ostinati, rock sonorities, and modal-jazz open-endedness, and the band assembled in this clip was a very special one: Michael Shrieve, the really rather extraordinary drummer who was copping Elvin licks in front of 900,000 people at Woodstock when he was 16 (!), was finding his way to a new subtlety and sophistication; Richard Kermode and Tom Coster were forging ahead into both au courant synth textures and McCoy Tyner-style harmonics; presumably little need be said of the excellent Doug Rauch/Chepito Areas/Armando Peraza rhythm line-up; and in this briefest of moments, Santana instituted a managerial coup de gras by getting Leon Thomas, probably best known for his astonishing performances on Pharoah Sanders' Karma LP and particularly the half-hour sonic orgy "The Creator Has a Master Plan," to connect the group to both gritty-ass funk and out-jazz spiritualism (Thomas' '72 solo disc Blues and the Soulful Truth comes highly recommended as an exemplar of both, by the way). Unfortunately, the best work of this lineup was completed almost entirely before Thomas showed up: 1972's brilliant Caravanserai and the '73 Santana/John McLaughlin joint venture Love, Devotion, Surrender represent the least compromised vision of what the band could've become, and by the next year's Welcome (Thomas' first studio appearance), Carlos was already taming the wilder impulses of his group in an apparent bid for R&B radio play (not that there isn't some worthwhile Latin-accented soul music on that record).

[As a side note, it's very difficult to find Michael Shrieve's 1994 solo disc Two Doors, but the effort is eminently worthwhile: an interesting two-trios concept (the first half features Shrieve with bassist Jonas Hellborg and guitar genius Shawn Lane, who's allowed on the album as nowhere else in his brief output to dispense with shred-wank clichés and get to the real line-carving; the second, guitarist Bill Frisell, at his least White-hokey best, and organist Wayne Horvitz) pays off immensely, the compositions one and all transcend yr stereotypical drummer-goes-solo two-chord funk vamps, and Lane's tendency to vocalize along with his soloing takes the often Arabic-tinged chord progressions into electric muezzin territory.]

Leon Thomas, "China Doll," Blues and the Soulful Truth (1972)
The YouTube overcompression/bad vinyl master/whatever it is drops a dollop of ehhhh on this, sonics-wise, but hopefully something of Thomas' future-forward avant-R&B aesthetic will come through. It's one of the more restrained cuts from the record, relatively low on the truly over-the-top back-at-the-chicken-shack histrionics of "Let's Go Down to Lucy" or the Middle Eastern modal engagement of "Gypsy Queen" and "Shape Your Mind to Die," but he gets inside the curious Afro-Oriental arrangement and hits the rare pitch that allows him to riff around Asian pentatonics and deliver lines about grrrls lookin' so good he wanna be speaking Chinese with the necessary self-effacement.

Monday, April 20, 2009


"We live in a country where the idea of what you are is more important than your actually being that. And it works as long as everyone is winking at the same time." - Branford Marsalis

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Ist sehr poetische, nein?

Bit of a change: I just found out the North Texas Review will be publishing a piece or two of my poetry in late-spring/early-summer and thought, orderly little man that I am not, it might approach a certain standard of deductive righteousness to post the stuff I gave them. I'm a critic and a prose writer, and very emphatically not a poet, so these veer awfully close to juvenilia, but wot thee hell.

The Doctor Gets ‘Saved’
You memorized the tunings of my harps
Or had, at least, the courtesy to bend
A month of mouths into the shapes of sharps
Into the forms my tongue loves to up-end
And set them to green fires, collecting smoke
Into your pewter book of pewter bone
A disassembled skeleton, alone.

But such may be my wont on darkling spires;
That is to rearrange a gesture’s touch
Into the shapes my vanity requires
And all the forms my loathing loves too much;
I am these bags of pale choleric bile,
These arcing creatures stalking through the fields
And eyeless children saved by rusted shields.

The fingers of your certain Seljuk hair
Which sit and brood on caution-fields now killed
Now faded in the thick Ankara air
Among the cries to mark the orders filled;
I cannot hold me ignorant of this—
Perhaps my dactyls’ reach knew nothing more;
Perhaps I’ll hear you from a distant shore.

Duet #2
The horses of fatigue run on and on
Without respect to temperature or tense
Into a blanketed, transfigured dawn
Of upraised eyes of full-crazed audience
(I knew them once and you shall know them hence)

The inside inside the temples, so amused,
So tabernacled, neutered, and bejeweled
And birthing brains which sing best when abused
Abused in bitching raptures, fogged and fueled
(And finely tart when fever-ridiculed)

It’s then that parts the dust along the shelves
And that the angles—feigned coincidence—
Shed psoriatic skin for truer selves,
Disclose their nerves’ inscriptions, beggar sense
(Their white-hot tendril clouds of recompense)

For acid hours collected in the throat:
“The patient’s epiglottis burned right through”—
Then come the minutes supine in a boat
When eyes dilate in full to bring to view
Those subtle spheres that we dumb dogs once knew.

Four Entries from a Speculative Dictionary
Small rosepetal reversals in a two-tone apartment
No glint of wheels, no sigh of guilt,
But tense wires only.
Claustrophobe; Victrola.

Grasshopper steeltoed, born of glue-soaked whims and a tiny truce in the stale wind of freshly-cut grass and an overwhelming shower of of of

Grenadine taste of generals, resplendent in shining grey with crucifixes dangling from the well-worn anuses of the inferior officers who ported them to the Haçienda, cabana circumflex, slow drip of sticky saliva running up into the eye sockets, impeding nothing, warm crust with full filling. Pendulous stomach known to pull into actual mouth, at which point eternal feedback loop because fulfillment of well-understood purpose.

Halo Wet pure semi-wet also understood shaft of Caravaggio rabbit-light. No bones for me thanks but wotever fields of eyelids woz on the stove when you first wrenched open the window, smell of fried membrane in worm warm butter bath, to vomit at your favorite army.

Maps & Territories
“Embrasure? what embossment? concrete cut?”
I stuttered on the shores of man-made lakes,
All bare, all cut of caution tribute takes,
All lack of balding grass or jade-line jut—
A man-made lake of acid in the gut.

And “never, never, never” comes the cry
As always, underneath the vented suns,
As ever, Persian patch of missing ones
And twos and Fibonacci-factored eye
Which could, perhaps, be hers and yet pass by;

But I cannot pass by on speechless cliff:
Too hired by the tongues of one-ply sheiks
Too flat for ignorance, to thin for weeks,
To little like starvation in Cardiff/
North African uprising of the Riff—

The Riff Revolt? In Stalin-scented cones?
But what will be its churches and its jails,
And what Christ’s hands, so eager for the nails
That tack in place of pride his set of bones?
That swiftly will occlude his harlot-moans?

Yes yes, forecast the sediments of eyes
That might, in other times, wear different grins
Wear those of atheists or monks or djinns
Whatever tooth our texts will recognize
As having once adorned our frozen eyes.

Your Devil’s Dialect
They speak in accents that resemble yours
And walk on pins or sidling like a crab,
On thistles plucked in one unthinking grab
From column roots, from mind of kitchen floors,
From pseudopod along a copper shore
Through field of glass to field of rotting meat
And burrow there in sexual retreat
(Or wear a cautious face to burrow more)

The Other Other Other from Afar
To third degrees and Polynesian suns,
To lick the sperm from forward-mounted guns,
We restless conquests, writing at bazaar,
At booths that peddle pan-Eurasian dreams
Of class and crucible and tumor swells
(No empty cisterns, no exhausted wells)
And nowhere run the dots of febrile seams;

Oh Fibrous Lumps in all orgasmic shapes,
Oh amputation of the splitting sides,
Oh satisfaction, clean and hairless tides
Oh coming cancer, all consented rapes.
So beautiful, enough to beggar speech
And fasten prophylaxis to our wells—
The polyurethanes that reason sells—
And chain them, one another, each to each.

All flavored, scented, dressed in flowered frocks
All rigid, pulled to pieces, so demure,
All toothsome and all guaranteed (I’m sure)
To miss the rattling deaths of fighting cocks…

So stop to peck and chew the sanctioned stars,
To celebrate the chrome tongues on your hips;
But keep always (with thick syrup) on your lips:
“They speak in accents that resemble ours.”

Friday, April 3, 2009

Mortal! How sleeps't yrself!

Yeh, yeh, but in my defense, I've been either in New York, pathetically drunk, or in New York and pathetically drunk almost every moment since the last post. Let us be righteous together (in a really sort of, uh, post-righteous milieu, you know?):

Paul Parrish, "Dialogue of Wind and Lover," Forest of My Mind (1968)
It's difficult for me to suss out my affinity for the most hippie-naïf baroque-folk stuff when actually having to sit through the 'philosophical' discourses that either provoked or have been provoked by such material are the very substance of my stomach acid, and yet here on the floor in front of me (you know, the digital floor) are Of Grammatology and Sunshine Superman, and I have as yet only made spurious and fearful little gestures toward their reconciliation. (Donovan as proto-post-colonial self-deconstruction mechanism? Yehr ... ). I know virtually nothing about Parrish or his rekord: the just-this-side-of-rococo arrangement and trust-fund Los Angeles vocals are the sort of thing that I nightly whip myself for enjoying.

Millennium, "I Just Want to Be Your Friend," Begin (1968)
Speaking of that which barely avoids Swingle Singers territory (but oh, the importance of that margin), Millennium may well remain the most noteworthy of producer Curt Boettcher's string of strange, sometimes-paradisiacal, sometimes-godawful vanity projects. Boettcher was an unusual balance of studio-rat hack and orchestral-pop genius, a mercenary who concocted pseudo-psych confectionary (in fairly obvious bids for mummy & daddy's teenbeat-funding dollars) that nonetheless was sometimes some of the best pop music of its era. When it works, as it does here, it works; when it doesn't, the result is something like The Psychedelic Guitar of Friar Tuck, a record that I've combed a half-dozen times for any scrap of even the most tenuous conceptual worth and have on each occasion left with my already-meager hope for the world shaken and cheapened.

Sagittarius, "My World Fell Down," Present Tense (1968)
Another of Boettcher's, and bar-none one of the finest pop singles ... well, ever. If Pet Sounds had been shorn of the lingering Four Freshman after-effects and given a stark shot of Brian Wilson's steadily decomposing Weltordnung, it may well have come out something like this: the chorus is instant-classic material, and that eerie clockwork piano intro is unfathomable and gripping.

Them, "I Can Only Give You Everything," Them Again (1966)
Such a good slice of White garage R&B that I'm even willing to countenance Van Morrison's existence for 2'32" (okay, unfair, right). Sample-spotters and people who remember the '90s will no doubt recall the opening riff as the centerpiece of Beck's "Devil's Haircut" (he and the Dust Brothers must've been bumping this LP at the time: "Jackass" is based on the spectral tremolo-piano from Van and the boys' take on "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue"). I'm far too tired for more erudite and penetrating commentary at the moment, so gawdammit, let '66 Belfast speak fer itself (you know, that self that's never itself).