Dedicated to classics and hits.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012



Colleen Green
Milo Goes To Compton LP

   I'm reading this book by Bruno Latour called We Have Never Been Modern, and without being too much a pretentious asshole, in a record review on a blog, I think his main point in that book is relevant to any review of Milo Goes To Compton, which is, in my mind, a masterpiece of disciplined musical excellence

  Latour's point in We Have Never Been Modern is that the critical process of "demasking" or "revealing" self destructed once intelligent people realize that would-be Modernists can destroy any argument by switching their style of argument from one discipline to another.

  To illustrate this situation, take the field of popular music and critical responses to "lo fi" or home recorded material.   Critics in favor of such music will argue that the purity of the recording process outweighs a relative lack of technical acumen.  Critics who dislike such music will argue that Art without technical expertise is impossible to enjoy and fails to achieve the goal of giving pleasure to the listener.  Who's right?  Both critics.  Who's wrong?  Both critics.

  For me, Milo Goes To Compton brings to mind several different memories:

1.  Seeing live performances by Colleen Green, Best Coast, Dum Dum Girls, Pearl Harbor/Puro Instinct in the last five years.
2.  College era listening to bands like the Descendants and The Ramones.
3.  The songs on the actual album.

  The best part about Milo Goes To Compton are the songs themselves.   Good Good Things, the first track on the LP, is a classic album opener with a slow start and the characteristic breathy vocals.  It's an invitation to the listener, and it demonstrates, right off the bat, that the Artist understands the assembling of the product for the listener. I checked to see the track listening on the Descendent's Somery record, where Good Good Things originally appeared- and it was track 10- moving it up to track one helps to set the table for what comes next.

  Track 2 is I Wanna Be Degraded.  The tempo quickens, the drum/guitar pairing is familiar to the listeners ear, obviously tracking the Ramones referencing title.  Personally, I think this song is an immortal classic.  The theme of degradation is so central to modern life, and it also tracks the "degraded" quality of the recording itself.  The central lyrics are shocking and clever and introduce an element outside of the realm of "twee" or "cutsey." An edge, if you will.

   When I listened to the Milo Goes To Compton test press at M*Theory records (because my turntable was broken by Crocodiles bassist Marco Gonzalez during a festive celebration.) it was GOLDMINE, track 3 on the record, that stuck out because the vocals are layered 3 or 4 times on top of each other, and for the first time, a keyboard is introduced to the basic drums/guitar combination.  The Album literally expands in scope, and right on time- without a surfeit of self indulgent songs in between I Wanna Be Degraded and Goldmine.

  If Milo Goes To Compton hasn't won you over by track 3, you have no heart and are a soul-less monster. I defy anyone to actually listen to the first three songs of the record and not say it's a great record.

  Great Pop Music is about restraint. It's about with working what's available to you and creating a new world.  Great Pop Music draws you in, and it uses limitations as strengths.  That is the case with the drum machine/guitar/vocals pairing of Milo Goes To Compton-  this is pop music stripped down to an essence, so refined and spare that it requires no fillips.

     It is also a quality that all of the break-out Artists of the larger Art Fag Recordings/Zoo Music family: Crocodiles, Dum Dum Girls, Best Coast, Dirty Beaches and Colleen Green- possess, as well as non-family member but close in time and space Artists  like Wavves, No Age and Abe Vigoda: It's the ability to rise above limited material circumstances by the use of superior song writing and deft deployment of available resources. In that respect, all of these Artists are like all of the other Artists to emerge from any "Underground" anywhere- doing more with less.

  My sense is that once people become familiar with this recording, Audience interest in her live performance- which is electrifying in my mind- should increase.  I never reviewed Dirty Beaches Badlands on this blog- because I felt like I had a conflict of interest, but I was detached enough from Milo Goes To Compton's creation that I feel like my judgment isn't clouded.

  Colleen Green's Milo Goes To Compton is a masterpiece, and I recommend it to my readers- you can still get the first press green vinyl edition if you hurry.


Tuesday, February 21, 2012



Ostrich & Camel Racing 
@ The Riverside County Fair
February 19th, 2012

  First of all, this was a show, in the same way that a broadway play or musical concert would be considered to be a show appropriate of review.  The performing entity is Hedrick's Racing and Promotions, and it had the same fusion of sports and entertainment that characterizes Professional Wrestling or the Harlem Globetrotters.

  I went with friends this weekend- to catch this act at the Riverside County Fair. The Riverside County Fair is held every February at the National Date Festival fairgrounds in Indio, CA.  One question on my mine was the history of the relationship between the National Date Festival and Riverside County Fair, which wikipedia explains as follows:

    The Fair started as a festival to celebrate the end of the annual date harvest in the desert region, the major commercial date-producing area in the western hemisphere. Dates were an unknown commodity in the desert until 1903 when date palms were transplanted there from Algeria. By the early 1920’s enough acreage was planted to make dates a major crop for the area. Date groves in the Coachella Valley were and still are such a novelty that they became quite a tourist attraction. With the popularity of the date gardens the idea was planted for the first Date Festival in 1921 to be held in Indio’s city park. A second Festival was held the following year and then enthusiasm drifted off and the idea of an annual Date Festival died. It wasn’t until 16 years later that the idea came forth again and the third Date Festival was held this time under the name of the Riverside County Fair and the Coachella Valley Date Festival, run by the Indio Civic Club, under contract from the County Board of Supervisors.  (RIVERSIDE COUNTY FAIR WIKIPEDIA)

     Hedricks Promotions Ostrich and Camel racing started at 1 PM- held in this concrete grandstand that looked like it could hold about a thousand people.  The concrete grandstand was one of four venues- a locals stage at the front- a larger themed stage with a bunch of folding chairs opposite the grandstand and a larger stage further in for talent like LeAnn Rimes (3.8 last fm plays)

    The Ostrich/Camel Racing was more Ostrich then Camel, but it was spectacular.  Both my wife and my friends- hard sells all of them- in addition to myself- were enraptured by the combination of patter and novelty animal racing. 

   We were all less cool with the Zebra racing.  I don't think there are any ethical issues with racing Camels, because they are raced in other parts of the world, or with racing Ostrich's because they are dumb ass birds that don't deserve respect, but racing Zebras seems kind of cruel.  In fact, the only issue that interfered with my enjoyment of the spectacle was what you would call "Animal Rights" related concerns.  I honestly question whether we should be allowed to enslave wild animals for our own amusement.  I mean straight up- why is that ok?

  Also enjoyable was watching the crowd- and this goes not just for the Races but the entire Fair experience.  They also had a trained seal show- which made everyone kind of bummed out, and a monkey that would shake your hand for a dollar- which definitely bummed everyone out.

  The fair food was standard- except for a Pink's hot dogs cart- which- I don't know why that isn't more widespread.  Seems like your food truck type establishments could muscle into the food desert that is an American County fair.  Shields Date Farms has a milk shake stand which is literally the only area specific thing about this fair.  The National Date Festival is like a thin overlay on top of the Riverside County Fair, which engulfs it. 

  All told I had a fine old time, and got to avoid all the craziness of Palm Springs Modernism Weekend, which I both appreciate and despise at the same time.

Vanished Kingdoms: The Rise and Fall of States and Nations (2012) by Norman Davies

Vanished Kingdoms: The Rise and Fall of States and Nations
by Norman Davies
p. 2012
Viking Adult

  I was excited to receive this book as a birthday gift.  Most of the books I read are acquired because they are cheap, and since Vanished Kingdoms was published last month and is currently the #4 top seller in the Amazon/Books/History/Europe/Western Category, it was not a book I would normally purchase for myself.

  However, it's a sad fact that if you want to render opinions about books etc, you are better served by reviewing a book that people are reading.  The odds of a critic deriving an audience by making an unpopular thing popular are far better then doing the opposite.

 In a very real sense, the most interesting thing about Vanished Kingdoms to me is it's status as a "best speaker" in it's specific sub category.  That category: Books/History/Europe/Western is solid. It's not Books/History/Americas/United States/Civil War solid, but close.

  The first critical observation I would make is simply that Amazon has it's cataloged in the wrong place.  This is a book specifically about ALL OF EUROPE, it shouldn't be in "Western" since a main component of the book has to do with the relationship between Western scholars and Eastern countries.  It also spans from Ancient to Modern times, arguably requiring classification in Books/History/Ancient, etc.

 Norman Davies is what Wikipedia calls, "a leading English historian of Welsh descent."  He studied under A.J.P. Taylor who would probably be called a "popular Marxist historian of the mid to late 20th century."  Davies made his bones in Polish area studies, his two volume history of Poland, God's Playground, is from 2005 and it's fair to say with Vanished Kingdoms he's making a kind of Audience size break out from academic press (God's Playground is on Columbia University Press) to the mainstream media- Vanished Kingdom's is published by Viking Press.

  Davies has decidedly academic wrotes, but in terms of concept and scope this book most reminded me of Geert Mak's In Europe.  Unlike Davies, Mak is a journalist, but both books take a "popular" approach to a vast subject involving all of Europe.

  An interesting question for me when I read Vanished Kingdoms, is how a book like this- over 750 pages end-to-end can even exist as a popular work of non-fiction.  My sense is it's a calcuated attempt by a major publishing house (Penguin) to bring Authors out of the academic- mostly British- academy and popularize their work.  Specifically, I noted that in his Acknowledgments, buried at page 790, he says, "The project was launched by Will Sullkin,..but came to fruition through the combined efforts of my agent, Davide Godwin, and of my literary adviser, fellow Boltonian and publishing director of Allen Lane, the indefatigable Stuart Proffitt."

  Allen Lane has also published books by Niall Ferguson and Naomi Klein- clearly they are concerned with publishing hits, within their sphere of serious, academically based non-fiction.  That puts them in a pretty enviable position vis a vis the academia houses- since they can essentially cherry pick on reputation establishing material.  It's like a record label picking a band after they already put out two or three LP's.

  Vanished Kingdoms is not exactly what I would call, "magisterial" but it is pretty solid- especially in light of the sales attention- Davies perspective is revealed in the introduction, where he addresses the meaning of the title "Vanished Kingdoms" and his themes:

  Historians usually focus their attention on the past of countries that still exist, writing hundreds and thousands of books on British history, French history, German history, Russian history, American history, Chinese history, Indian history, Brazillian history or whatever.  Whether consciously or not, they are seeking the roots of the present thereby putting themselves in danger of reading history backwards...
  Our mental maps are thus inevitably deformed.  Our brains can only form a picture from the data that circulates at any given time and the available data is created by present-day powers, by prevailing fashion and accepted wisdom.  Partial knowledge becomes ever more partial, and ignorance becomes self-perpetuating.

  Those two paragraphs one me over, and the next 15 chapters, each detailing a vanished Kingdom/State in three different ways:

 1.  Personal observation of the present of that place- like a historical travelogue.
 2.  Discussion of the history of that vanished state.
 3.  Discussion of the present situation in that state.

 The "states and nations" at issue are:  Tolosa (modern France/Spain), Alt Clud (modern UK), Burgundia (Western Europe), Aragon (Spain/Italy/France), Litva (Poland/Lithuania/Byelorussia), Byzantion, Borussia (Germany/Poland), Sabaudia (France/Italy/Switzerland), Galacia (Eastern Europe), Etruria (Italy), Rosenau (Germany), Tsernagora (Montenegro), Rusyn (Eastern Europe), Eire (Ireland), CCCP (USSR)

  The more I look at the format, the more I feel a BBC documentary coming on- especially since the travel element is written into the book.  At the end of the place specific chapters, Davies offers a summary where he classifies four different ways that states and nations vanish: implosion, conquest, merger, liquidation and 'infant mortality.'  The popular audience that is the target of Vanished Kingdoms is not unduly burdened with specialist jargon- the conclusion is maybe 20 pages of a 700 page book.

  Vanished Kingdoms is at it's best in the chapters dealing with subjects within Davies wheelhouse (all of the Chapters relating to Poland and vicinity (Litva, Galacia, Ruysn), Chapters about the geographical area of the United Kingdom, and category creators like Aragon and Sabaudia.  I was more interested in the exotic locations and less in the more familiar subjects- for me chapters on Ireland and the USSR hold less appeal then places I'd never heard of or read about before.   However, I'm sure when you look at the popular appeal, you get more readers by doing a chapter on Ireland then Litva.

 In fact, it seems appropriate to consider the limited sales appeal of a magisterial two volume history of Poland when considering why this book was written. I'm glad it was written.  For every person who buys this book, there is at least a one in two chance that they will actually read it, rather then an airport novel or Harry Potter book.  That can't be a bad thing.

Monday, February 20, 2012




Blog Archive