Friday, May 15, 2009

Bauhaus Bop


"Writing about music is like dancing about architecture - it's a really stupid thing to want to do."
-- Elvis Costello

AS YOU PROBABLY KNOW by now, this is not a music blog per se. I'm not exactly sure what it is and most of the time that's not necessarily a bad thing. But of course I do write about music now and then, and someone at JAXART Records evidently stumbled on a mention of their label's Henry Clay People in my review of the Airborne Toxic Event show at Bowery Ballroom a few months ago. Today she sent me a few songs from a Long Beach, California band called The Valley Arena, and I'm passing them on because after all why keep things like this to myself?

Actually, the two tracks from the forthcoming album "We Died" aren't bad, otherwise trust me I wouldn't waste your time. For what it's worth, Grayscale [mp3] sounds a lot like Interpol to these ears, and I've liked almost everything I've ever heard by Interpol if that's any help. The Dig [mp3] reminds me of the excellent Australian band Youth Group, as well as the Strokes, although sometimes it seems almost every other indie band gets compared to either the Strokes or Joy Division, so by all means take my forced analogies with a large grain of your favorite condiment. Anyway, listen and make up your own beautiful minds. Here's the press release if you want to follow up:

"We Died" The Valley Arena's third full length album will be released on Thursday May 21st, 2009 as a 7 Inch Vinyl EP + Digital LP Download and includes an exclusive B. Side remix of "SOS4XOX" by Ikey Owens of The Mars Volta and Free Moral Agents.

The Valley Arena was formed by Mike Nielsen, Chris Stevens and Warren Woodward in late 2003. Early on, the band took influence from both the DC Dischord scene (Fugazi, Q and Not U) and San Diego (Hot Snakes, No Knife).

As of 2009, The Valley Arena has played with: Mike Watt, Joe Lally (Fugazi), Hella, Don Caballero, Polysics, Thrice, Denali, The Meat Puppets, Monotonix, XBXRX, Planes Mistaken for Stars and The Appleseed Cast.
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One of the most versatile critics of the last 30 years, James Wolcott again shows how it's done in Alley of the Dolls -- deftly capturing the atmosphere at a recent New York Dolls show held at the shiny boutique where CBGB's once darkened the Bowery. The Vanity Fair piece is so masterful, it's almost disheartening. If writing is like dancing, then Wolcott does a mean old pogo with his elegiac evocation of bygone CB's:
The club that wan afternoon was still its old grotto self inside, encrusted with layers of graffiti and shredded flyers for bands long defunct. The toilet downstairs in the men’s bathroom was still a defiant naked throne with no stall, looking as if it had survived a bomb blast and been left standing as a site-specific sculpture representing a rougher, rawer bohemia of yesteryear, when personal hygiene ranked low on the totem pole of priorities. In the hushed dark, CBGB’s felt less like a birth canal, more like a catacomb for the departed.
Not many people can nail pop culture better than Wolcott. Here's the link to his blog.

3 comments:

John Salmon said...

Usually that writing about music quote is attributed to Frank Zappa.

In any case it's silly-there's plenty of good writing about music, even if it's a rarity in most newspapers.

The Warden said...

I was surprised too when I saw it attached to Costello. But if you click on his name after the quote, the article delves into the debate over where it originated. Zappa is one prominently mentioned. I thought the quote even predated rock & roll.

And you're right about good music writing. Reading concert or record reviews exposes you to new stuff you might not seek out otherwise.

In fact, back in the heyday of Rolling Stone -- you wouldn't know they had a heyday based on the atrocious product you see now on newwstands -- their album reviews were just an excuse to go off on any number of tangents, but in a good way.

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