Thursday, October 05, 2006

Heh, Heh . . . Amusing

You Are Incredibly Logical

Move over Spock - you're the new master of logic
You think rationally, clearly, and quickly.
A seasoned problem solver, your mind is like a computer!

Lotta good it does me, huh?

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Come What May

As of yesterday, I've turned in all my materials to the music magazine: my 7 CD reviews and my interview/feature about the hip-hop band. It's out of my hands now. I fear I made some rookie mistakes--my one and only pan may have been a little hasty and narrow-minded; my feature's a little wonkish, politically speaking, and seemed to require a level of journalistic experience I don't possess; and my tone is . . . well, what it is, and it may well be found off-putting. But the point is, I guess (I hope), that I took the assignment seriously--though not without a spirit of fun--and completed it (just barely) ahead of schedule. So while I can, and probably will, torture myself just a little with wondering whether any of it will be printed, whether they'll ask for the CDs back and tell me never to write again, or whatever, the truth is that I'm done unless they ask me to revise something (which would be a good sign, right?).

Between that and the successful completion of my first levels test, I can now turn my attention to worrying about my teaching project on a full time basis. Actually, I'm trying to absorb these last two landmarks, because I think they'll have a positive effect on my teaching, if they let them. My martial art studies have really gotten me thinking about what it means to be an artist who functions from a physical place, while writing about music has me thinking both about being an artist who addresses things by way of language and about being a critic, an artist whose art is to analyze art, critique it, try to generate (or discourage) the interest of a would-be audience. I'd like to think there are some lessons on perseverance and multi-tasking in there, as well.

All of this now has me hankering to perform again. That's neither good nor bad in and of itself. I don't have much control over whether anyone in town happens to produce anything that piques my interest; if I'm to write it myself--whatever it is, be it a solo show, music, mutant sketch comedy--it'll be months, at best, before anything is presentable. But I've got the itch, and it actually feels sort of good. It may be that I'm comforted that I still possess that urge to any degree, or it may be that I recognize in the things that I'm doing the seeds of my growth as a performer, and I'm just getting excited to start planting.

There's nothing that inspires me to perform like a truly inspiring performance, which brings me to last night. Well, other than a really BAD performance, in which case I want to perform just so I can fix the damn thing; but really, there's nothing that so cements my investment, my belief, in the vivid, sensual, violent, compassionate power of art than a performance that wields that power confidently, rapturously, and unapologetically.

So I thank my stars that I was able to witness the glory of TV on the Radio at the Showbox last night.

I'm a latecomer to TV on the Radio fandom; they just never showed up on my radar until this last year, when I heard them playing in the ticket office at the theatre where I'm employed. I was struck by a resemblance to . . . well, I thought at the time it was Genesis as led by Peter Gabriel, and I stick by that to a certain extent; my only revision is that they might more aptly be compared to Peter Gabriel at about the time when he recorded "Biko", after he'd worked with Fripp and Eno, when world music was his new tool and not the whole toolbox, and his gift with an anthemic melody was at its peak.

Anyway, I would hear them now and again over the last year, and think, "Damn, I should get me some o' that." But for some reason, I never did. There's just too much music out there, you know, and I only periodically scrape together enough money to purchase CDs (which points to one of the top 5 reasons I'm trying to turn myself into a published music writer: free music). Then, earlier this summer, when I decided to treat myself to some music, I simultaneously made the decision to specifically seek something new, so I could write about it and send the piece to the magazine with which I'd been in contact. As luck would have it, TVOTR had a brand new release: Return to Cookie Mountain. If you're interested, you can check out my review here. In any case, I've never looked back. The album truly grows richer and more complex with each listen. But what really emerges is something that you usually expect to see up front: an anthemic heat that speaks to some common passion buried deep in the cells. TVOTR is that rare collection of studio wonks that takes clear aim at a universal pop vocabulary, experimental populists who can navigate the perfect hook or a rogue harmonic theory with equal aplomb.

Did I say studio wonks? Guitarist/vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Dave Sitek can't really escape that charge. Comparing him to Lee "Scratch" Perry and Brian Eno has become so pointedly the norm that it's no longer subject to charges of hyperbole, and the dense layers of noise that make up TVOTR's recorded output are clearly the product of someone--or several someones--playing with toys in their home studio (dammit, I want a home studio!!!). Given that, these boys have every right and reason to suck live.

Good thing they don't.

Return to Cookie Mountain is such an impressive feat of technology and songwriting that I'd like to think I could be forgiven to hearing the prog-rock and missing the sexy, sweaty soul music that actually sits at its core. If I still didn't recognize the soul after seeing them live, you'd have to conclude that I wasn't paying attention. Lead singer Tunde Adebimpe oozes charisma both sexual and spiritual, and sings with a fierce conviction rarely seen today in either the theory-drenched world of post-punk and indie rock or the prefab monotony of big studio pop. Kyp Malone adds a suitably weird presence to the proceeding, augmenting and harmonizing with Adebimpe's fervent yowl and blending the angular precision of funk guitar with the steady wash of noise championed by classic shoegazer bands like the Jesus and Mary Chain. Sitek is a more elusive presence visually, but he still makes that presence felt, both sonically and in the theatrical sense.

Collectively, TV on the Radio exude all the athletic grace and rhythmic rapture of a Gospel service, even a Pentacostal revival. When, on their first encore, a girl from the audience leapt onstage and began dancing with Malone and Adebimpe, they didn't miss a beat. When they invited Grizzly Bear--the opening band, a psychedelic folk outfit in the same vein as Animal Collective--onstage to tinker with percussion instruments for the final song of the evening, the idea of musical performance as ritual, as community gathering, as celebration was realized in a way that I haven't seen since my last Sky Cries Mary show (and TVOTR's songwriting is stronger). Even now, almost 12 hours after the fact, my feet still aren't quite touching the ground. Even at its earthiest, this experience was not of this earth.

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