Category Archives: Music

Lady Gaga fast becoming pop conduit of Afghanistan collapse

“The soldier accused of downloading a huge trove of secret data from military computers in Iraq appears to have exploited a loophole in Defense Department security to copy thousands of files onto compact discs over a six-month period. In at least one instance, according to those familiar with the inquiry, the soldier smuggled highly classified data out of his intelligence unit on a disc disguised as a music CD by Lady Gaga.”

NY Times: Loophole May Have Aided Theft of Classified Data (Hat tip @carr2n)

U.S. Soldiers in Afghanistan Cover ‘Telephone’ by Lady Gaga:


Piercing the Veil of M.I.A.

In honor of MIA’s new album, I’m sharing LL Smooth J’s remix of that old hit Paper Planes.

Get it here: Paper Planes (Smoothjazzy remix).mp3

I’m also headed out to buy the Believer to read her interview with Joshua Clover. I trust it has to be at least as incendiary as the Lynn Hirschberg takedown.

Piracy Funds Terrorism. Truffle fries.

Speak Like a Child


Herbie Hancock, Speak Like a Child, 1968
Speak Like a Child

At one point Jimmy and I discussed putting up a post about Herbie Hancock’s Grammy win, but, you know, life got in the way, so here’s some mp3s instead. I probably listen to 1969’s Fat Albert Rotunda a bit more frequently, but this album title breaks the tie in providing wiser election year advice.

Vampire Weekend


I’ve been enjoying the online back and forth over Vampire Weekend— I think we’ve just rounded the backlash to the backlash to the backlash to the straw man. These kinds of silly arguments are good things, because they often serve as surrogates for the more urgent debates we aren’t having.

The core problem—cause of both hype and backlash—is VW’s packaging of old-WASP privilege in (self-described) African music. The knowingness and absurdity of their stance: they’re not just white folks, but the stereotypically whitest white folks (privileged, rich, and educated) playing not just African music, but the blackest African music—could possibly be categorized as post-racist— like Sarah Silverman (or like most of Comedy Central)— something that claims it can’t be racist because it plays on the moral architecture of racism, but still manages to somehow perpetuate elements of racism, just in a more smug way. (Richard Thompson Ford—in the link—calls it the “supernova late stage of racism”).

The essentialist argument—just listen to the music—ignores the realities of context and the band’s lyrics and self-promotional tactics. Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa (citation in a VW blog post obligatory) is not as bad a song title as it could be—they could have called it Martha’s Vineyard Kwassa Kwassa. But they didn’t call it Southie Kwassa Kwassa, or Worcester Kwassa Kwassa. Upper West Side Soweto (citation also obligatory) is just nonsense, an exquisite corpse of indie rock star posturing. Are they trying to say they’re slumming?

It’s possible you haven’t heard yet, but Vampire Weekend are from Columbia. So was Edward Said. So were the Fugees, another Upper West Side Soweto (gosh, I hope I’m using that term correctly) that borrowed liberally from international black music culture.

Peter Beard

As the argument side of the debate maintains, they did it to themselves. VW’s sound is barely Afrobeat (or Afropop)—even when it’s Graceland, it’s Graceland minus the guest musicians. Given their self-definition, the globalism of Vampire Weekend shares less in common with traditional musical cross-pollination (as practiced by Byrne or Gabriel or Simon) than it does with the examples on view in the Met’s new gallery of 19th-century Orientalist paintings, compelling less for what it tells us about the culture being copied than the blind spots of the copier.

So why would they even do it? Why dress up fondness for African music in summer houses and Cheever? Is it a publicity ploy or a defense mechanism? Is it the George Plimpton thing, where the privileged escape risking failure at something by staying amateurs at everything, laughing off mistakes as the old Ivy League try? What’s the point?

Fela Kuti – Water No Get Enemy
Video – You Can Call Me Al

Top 10 Minority Party and Administration Victories of 2007


(Also, this is my 100th post. w00t, LOL. And each one a classic.)

We could have been remembering 2007 as the year the Democrats took over Congress. The exuberance we felt between Thursday and Tuesday night last week was a more concentrated dose of that fleeting sensation of relief after Election Day 2006.

Accompanying tracks are neither hierarchical nor thematic.

10. The Mukasey Confirmation
In which we pledged, pledged, pledged not to approve his nomination until he clarified his stance on waterboarding.

Radiohead, Videotape

Continue reading

Take me back to dear old Blighty


“Although I don’t have anything against people from other countries, the higher the influx into England the more the British identity disappears. So the price is enormous. If you travel to Germany, it’s still absolutely Germany. If you travel to Sweden, it still has a Swedish identity.

“But travel to England and you have no idea where you are.”

Morrissey then gave a follow-up interview in which he clarified his remarks: “It could be construed that the reason I wouldn’t wish to live in England is the immigration explosion. And that’s not true at all.”

Okay, yes, this is problematic. There are alternative explanations, as there always are with Morrissey, textual glosses to show that if you look closely, his lyrics and comments aren’t racist or anti-immigrant at all. National Front Disco was absurdist humor, Bengali in Platforms was sympathetic.

Morrissey’s lyrical sensibility has always been, first and foremost, nostalgic in the extreme. It’s there in The Smiths’ iconography—worshipful duotones of great outsiders of the past. Britain exists for Morrissey only in old films and older poetry, and held up to that ideal of course today’s multicultural, modern, affluent Britain would be unrecognizable. John Osborne and Shelagh Delaney and Joe Orton would have no idea what to make of Ali G, Chris Ofili, and Dizzee Rascal. To not accept the deepness of that pining is to misunderstand the entire nature of Morrissey’s poetic worldview. Literary exiles are free to live in the past.

And yet, who are we kidding? Deep down the suspicions just won’t wash away anymore. Moz harbors some troubling views, and our assessments of him will have to grapple with that. He shouldn’t be dismissed outright—his influence and contribution is too large—but he has complicated his songs now, and listening from now on might be laced with a tinge of disappointment. A bad taste in the mouth. His vaunted literary forebears will have to include some beyond the canon that he has chosen for himself. He is, maybe, T.S. Eliot or Ezra Pound as much as Oscar Wilde.


But, but, we must not forget that this site is really about representations of Morrissey in contemporary art. What strikes me as the most appropriate for today is a loose one but a close one nonetheless, Marcus Harvey’s portrait of the Manchester serial-killer Myra Hindley in children’s fingerprints. When it was shown as part of Sensation it was pelted with eggs and prompted the resignation of several RA officials. “Suffer Little Children,” the Smiths’ own interpretation of the Moors murders, was the first song Morrissey and Johnny Marr demo’d together, and caused widely publicized emotional suffering for families of Hindley’s victims when it was released. Both the song and the painting have clinged to the historical event, interwoven with it, get mentioned whenever Myra Hindley is written about. The painting is now more well-known than the mug shot itself. And as time passes they become the primary sources, the definitive interpretations of an event that’s fading from memory. A history painting and an account in song, just like we had in the days of long ago.

BV coverage of NME story
Morrissey’s sources
Guardian Unlimited: NME journalist responds