Monday, August 13, 2018

OUR ANNUAL ENDEAVOR INTO FAKE FOOTBALL:  There are two openings for the tenth edition of our ALOTT5MA fantasy football league.  Redraft league, non-PPR, $200 auction.  If interested, comment here.  First come, first served.

Friday, August 3, 2018

GIVE BACK MY TV; IT DON'T MEAN THAT MUCH TO ME: Hi, me again, another review of an album for the Best Album of 1993 bracket-style tournament.  Follow @bestalbum1995 and vote for your favorite albums, unless they are matched up against PJ Harvey’s Rid of Me!


Perhaps, in 1993, you were 23 years old, and your friends invited you to a weird club (which you called the United Nations, because of its semicircle-tiers-of-tables setup) in a weird sleepy neighborhood to see a band on the rise touring their newest album.  If so, that band, and that album, would imprint itself on your mid-twenties.  It would become the soundtrack to road trips, to drunken camping trips, to the breakup of a couple of your best friends.  You’d later form a band with one of the guys who invited you to the concert; your drummer would, coincidentally, have taken drum lessons from that other band’s drummer; and you’d cover one of the songs from the album during messy, noisy practices in dim basements.  At the concert, the band wore cowboy hats and ripped through tight versions of their songs, cover songs, and old standards, all sounding suspended somewhere closer to the twangier side of a wire tethering 70s folk-country to early 90s garage rock.  They’d pause for long stretches between songs, trading instruments with each other and with a harried roadie.  The two singers barely looked at each other.  They finished with a cover of Neil Young’s “Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere,” and they broke up within months.    


That was Uncle Tupelo, and the album was Anodyne.  Uncle Tupelo had earlier invented the country-punk (though, really, neither) movement called No Depression with their album entitled, ahem, No Depression, and whatever that was, they perfected it with their perfect March 16-20, 1992, a combination of originals and standards whose hasty assembly manages to convey intimacy and urgency.  Anodyne was to be Uncle Tupelo’s breakthrough, like Nevermind was Nirvana’s and Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain was supposed to be Pavement’s.  Every song on Anodyne is great or close to it.  There are Jay Farrar mopes ("Anodyne"; "Slate"); genuinely sad Farrar breakup epics (“High Water”; “Steal the Crumbs”); combative romps (Farrar’s “Chickamauga”; Tweedy’s “New Madrid”); and genuinely funny tunes (Tweedy’s “Acuff-Rose” and “We’ve Been Had”).  Plus, there’s the so-seventies-country-it-might-be-parody “Give Back the Key to my Heart,” which you just kind of have to hear.  This is just a great collection of pop-folk-country-rock, a great band’s swan song and the No Depression version of the Beatles’ Let it Be.  I don’t think it’s the greatest album of 1993, but to me, it’s top-5, maybe top-3.  Don't let it lose to, like, Counting Crows or James, please. 
 

Monday, July 23, 2018

GREAT AD, BUT WHAT IS IT FOR?  Tour de France sponsors and what I know or guess to be their lines of business:  
  • AG2R: Insurance
  • La Mondiale: French newsmagazine
  • Astana: Package delivery
  • Bahrain: Country with too much money if it spends it on sponsoring a cycling team
  • Merida: Natural-fiber clothing
  • BMC: People who like to try out the Tour for a week or so
  • Bora: Exotic wicker and bamboo gifts
  • Hansgrohe: HVAC equipment
  • Dimension Data: Facebook privacy violations
  • Education First: Violent radicalism
  • Drapac: Skullduggery
  • Cannondale: Bikes your dad used to ride
  • Katusha: Oligarchy
  • Alpecin: Tinctures and oinments for the scalp
  • Lotto: Supermarkets
  • Jumbo: Elephant husbandry
  • Soudal: Montenegrin bar soap
  • Movistar: DVD rental kiosks
  • Michelton: Agritourism
  • Scott: A guy
  • Quick Step Floors: Floors, obviously, but also fast-setting concrete
  • Sky: British DirecTV
  • Sunweb: Florida Department of Corporations Internet site
  • Trek: Walkabouts
  • Segafredo: Direct-sales bakery
  • UAE: Another country with too much money in a cycling-related arms race with Bahrain
  • Groupama: Coupons that are bad for both you and the company redeeming them
  • FDJ: Lockjaw
  • Cofidis: ED medication
  • Direct Energie: Undiluted snortable caffeine 
  • Fortuneo: Cryptocurrency
  • Samcic: Casually racist river cruises
  • Wanty: Animal-themed manga figurines 
  • Groupe Gobert: Laxative yogurt conglomerate

Thursday, July 5, 2018

DON'T YOU DON'T YOU WISH YOU NEVER NEVER MET HER: I volunteered to write a short essay on PJ Harvey’s Rid of Me for the Best Album of 1993 tournament run by the anachronistic Twitter handle @BestAlbum95, and I thought I’d post it here. In a minute I’ll get to why you—all of you, including the dwindling number of ALOTT5MAers still punching Hurley's numbers into the Dharma box—should follow @BestAlbum95 and vote for Rid of Me. But first, I’ll let David Thomas, author of the worst review ever to defile the pages of a then-major publication, tell you why you shouldn’t vote for Rid of Me:
I was disposed to like Rid of Me, the second from the current darling of British street-cred arbiters. The guitars are hard and up-front without being stoopid[*]. The production is wonderful: abstracted, uncompromised, poetic, and mostly like listening to a cheap stereo with one channel shot away — often stunning. Polly Jean Harvey is an inventive and passionate singer. The ingredients were lined up for something good to happen. Only trouble is, gee whiz, this is one of those angry-woman-spews-sexual-politics records. It has no heart. It speaks not of the hopes and fears of people like you and me, but of doctrine. Like a Led Zeppelin record: sounds great, means nothing. Unless, of course, you want to buy the flavor-of-the-month PC attitude, stick it in your head, and parade it like a banner. D
In other words: I loved every single thing about this album, but I am giving it a D because I would like to punish the practice of women having thoughts that I have not approved. So here’s Reason Number One to vote for Rid of Me: because #FuckDavidThomas.

*Sic, or anyway I need to point out that this person intentionally used the word "stoopid" in a review.

The second, and equally constructive, reason to vote for Rid of Me is that it is the greatest of the four or five masterpieces of 1993. It is titanic, brash, louche, hilarious. It careers recklessly between hiss, boast, howl, and sob. Harvey has said that she wanted the album to be confrontational, “to cause a riot,” and she and her fracturing band, locked up in Steve Albini’s isolated Minnesota studio, delivered.

 Take the first track. Rid of Me begins with a muted rhythm on two guitar strings, a taut, controlled seethe, mirrored by a barely-audible tap on a loose snare that sounds like somebody dropping something in the background, plus maybe a bass, I can't tell, and soon joined by Harvey’s half-whispered, half-moaned pleas and threats. It’s mixed so quietly that it invites the listener to keep turning the volume knob just to make it audible, a clever trick (used probably once too often on this album, but beautiful here) that pays off when the band suddenly shifts into a crashing wall of sound under Harvey’s commanding shout, carrying the Pixies’ and Nirvana’s quiet-loud template to its logical extreme, before dissolving into Harvey’s third voice of the song, an unsettling hoarse falsetto bearing an equally unsettling instruction. It was enough to befuddle Jay Leno and Michael Richards.

And if you like it, that's the Polly Harvey who showed up for most of this album, with the twin anthems of gender-twisting braggadocio, Man-Size and 50ft Queenie, the crisp menace of Rub 'Til it Bleeds, the sardonic Dry. Also, track down the band’s unhinged cover of Wang Dang Doodle, which inexplicably didn’t make the album but showed up as the B-Side to Man-Size. Those are the songs that built the character Harvey would play on this album and her next, To Bring You My Love: larger-than-life, elegant, with a penchant for sudden, intimate violence. But the album also buries other treasures among those songs. Its second track, Missed, is a lush, aching (and cleanly produced, for you Albini haters) ballad of a woman sick with grief; the alternate version of Man-Size dials the anger back to "conversational" but undergirds it with dissonant strings; Ecstasy prefigures the loosely translated blues of To Bring You My Love.

It's a great album. Not loving it would be a character flaw.

Bonus terrible review, from Andy Gill in The Independent, via Spin’s oral history of the album:
Rid of Me is one long clumsy galumph, an extended tantrum of foot-stomping and frowns.
I mean, I guess that's one (point-missingly reductive) way to look at it. But seriously, #FuckDavidThomas.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

IN CONGRESS JULY 4, 1776: The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

[FYI: TCM's airing 1776  at 10:15 pm tonight, EDT.]

[See, related, Isaac Spaceman's "A Word From Your Editor" (July 4, 2008) here. In the meantime, enjoy "The Lees of Old Virginia" as performed by the My Little Pony troupe, and read John Adams' letter to Abigail Adams of July 3, 1776 ("It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.")]

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.--Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

OMIGOD YOU GUYS:On the 10th anniversary of its premiere, Playbill takes a deep dive into Legally Blonde: The Musical: The Search For Elle Woods with an oral history.  Of the final 10, almost all have wound up working on Broadway and/or national tours, and you might have forgotten 5th place finisher Celina Carvajal, who went on to this after changing her name.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

DUE TO CIRCUMSTANCES BEYOND OUR CONTROL — namely, the gradual but enormous shift from blogging as a means of online interaction back it the Aughts towards social media, and especially Twitter for reactions to live events — it makes no sense except for tradition itself to continue live-blogging the Spelling Bee at this site in 2018.  I wrestled with this decision last year, and you persuaded me to try it here one last time, but I fear that we've finally reached an inevitable transition point after fifeen wonderful years of creating our annual spelling brigadoon.

So I'll try using #alott5mabee for my subsequent tweets, and you can see my thoughts about the new RSVBee procedure here.  If I have something long-form to write, I will do it here.

And no one's doing a schuhplattler over this news.
NOW, TRULY, THE HAPPIEST PLACE ON EARTH:  Albert Barnes now has someone to commiserate with, because contrary to Walt Disney's express desire that his theme parks remain alcohol-free, you can now get booze at every sit-down restaurant at Walt Disney World.