COLUMNS

  • Palace

    Under any name (PALACE, Palace Brothers, etc.), Will Oldham’s music has always been vital for exploring the weird phenomena of desire and doubt (and their similarity). On Arise Therefore Oldham shows that even this late in the day these subjects still have vast territories left to chart. His plangent voice has never been more lustrous or lusty, recalling fading newsprint photographs, old porn, the dazzle of late-spring mornings still crisp with frost after a night of sweat—in short, the bittersweet postcoital rush, when the one in your bed has just left you to yourself for who knows how long.

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  • Velvet Underground

    THE VELVET UNDERGROUND made their first public appearance with Andy Warhol and others at the New York Society for Clinical Psychiatry’s annual banquet for 1966. Warhol, David Bourdon has written, had been invited to lecture, but decided instead “to entertain the group with two of his movies, Harlot and Henry Geldzahler, and the Velvets’ music. . . . Soon after the main course was served, . . . fiercely amplified rock music . . . drowned out conversations. Nico . . . groaned incoherently into the microphone. On stage, [Gerard] Malanga threw himself into his strenuous whip dance, while Edie Sedgwick

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  • Joel R. L. Phelps

    Back in the days when everyone believed Bruce Lee was the baddest guy walking the planet, they used to tell this story about how he could reach right into your chest and take your heart out so fast he could show it to you, still beating, before you died. Probably Bruce never actually did that, but JOEL R. L. PHELPS sure does: one minute you’re pushing the buttons on your stereo, everything more or less fine, depending. Then Warm Springs Night starts up, and midway through you’re staring at your heart, right there in front of you, pumping away in time, going beat, beat, beat. . . .

    Neat trick—and

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  • Faust

    “Krautrock”—the early-’70s Kosmische Musik of German bands like Can, FAUST, Neu!, Cluster, Amon Düül II, Ash Ra Tempel, and Popol Vuh—is currently hipper than it’s ever been. What with the boom in CD reissues, the publication of Julian Cope’s idiosyncratic guidebook Krautrocksampler, and pledges of allegiance from current bands like Stereolab, the Dead C, Flying Saucer Attack, and Telstar Ponies, now is the right time for Rien, Faust’s first studio album in two decades.

    Formed in 1969 at the instigation of journalist Uwe Nettelbeck, Faust created four albums of peerless postpsychedelic/protopunk

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  • Nusrat Ali Khan

    Why is Pakistan’s premiere Sufi singer presiding over Hollywood executions? NUSRAT FATEH ALI KHAN moans over Jesus as the Nazarene bears his cross through Jerusalem in The Last Temptation of Christ. The same smoky voice soars in Dead Man Walking while six syringes are pumping the state’s revenge into a man spread-eagled on a black prison table. The murderer stares through glass at the nun who promised the truth would set him free, and that she’d be “the face of love” for him in his final moment. Scenes of the murder flash. Nusrat, the voice of mystic Islam, howls. If Pakistan is less of a

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  • the Mountain Goats

    I was 29 years old, rolling through New Jersey suburbs in the Vista Cruiser, when the Mountain Goats saved my life. I didn’t know who they were, didn’t even know that they were a band. All I understood was that there was this reedy, not-quite Neil Young, not-quite-tenor voice humming out of the car radio in gorgeous lo-fi, backed up by equally gorgeous lo-fi lone guitar. The voice sang: and Bill Gates/will single-handedly spearhead the Heaven 17 revival/and the Chicago Cubs will beat every team in the league/and the Tampa Bay Bucs will make it all the way to the top/and I will love you again.

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  • Yoko Ono/IMA

    I have always thought Yoko Ono the only thing interesting about the Beatles. While this is probably not the sanest way to begin, it is at least uncompromising, a mode that has long been one of Ono’s greatest virtues and lessons. On Rising (Capitol), her first new album in over a decade (though close on the heels of her astounding Rykodisc retrospective, Onobox), Ono continues not to compromise and so continues to make songs (noises, chants, whispers, conversations, cries) that combine the matter-of-fact thrusts of Conceptual art with the libidinal cerebrations of rock ’n’ roll. Rising ranges

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  • the Raincoats

    Somewhere out there on an emblematic night, a crew-cut singer sets the pace for a mosh-pit hoe-down with a hurried “1-2-3-4!” In the current punk revival, loud fast rules; the rudimentary hardcore of the past has just become better produced, more tuneful, easier to chew—like bubblegum.

    But the crude, cathartic pleasures of the Ramones, Sex Pistols, and Black Flag were always only one aspect of Janus-faced punk. Kurt Cobain understood this, on the day he went in search of the Raincoats’ tough-to-find first album, setting off a chain of events that caused the London band to reunite. Cobain cherished

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  • Brand New Blues

    TRYING TO EXPLAIN WHY the music created at Sam Phillips’ Sun Studios in the early to mid ’50s became rock ‘n’ roll’s sacred dirt, legendary producer/hillbilly esthete Jim Dickinson once suggested the source was: “A bunch of crazy rednecks playing nigger music.” Bluntly reductive, yeah, but also river deep. By “crazy rednecks,” Dickinson was mimicking the conventional response to those poor, rural, white boys in Memphis who recorded at Sun—they had to be a little touched in the head to transgress the racial tracks, even in the name of a good beat. And by “nigger music,” he was talking the blues,

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  • Dominique A.

    IN 1992, THE INDIE French label Lithium launched its third record, the debut album by a young singer from Nantes named Dominique A., to a sudden, unexpected succès fou. La Fossette (The dimple), a low-fi, tremulous, and disquieting homemade CD, was filled with melancholic little tunes tapped out on a Yamaha keyboard and a Caslo VL Tone, accompanied by the occasional electric-guitar riff. The album’s relation to the French tradition of singer-songwriters was like that of turpentine to varnish: Dominique A.’s peculiar combination of sentimentality and acidity is reminiscent of Beck’s flaunting of

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  • Jenny Toomey

    “LICORICE IS CANDY, but it’s not too sweet candy,“ says Dan Littleton, a guitar player in Liquorice. That aptly describes the music that comes out of Littleton and Jenny Toomey, his partner, music that sounds like Joni Mitchell filtered through a ’90s sensibility: acoustic guitar and sweet, meandering vocals underscored by an in-charge, unflustered attitude that only rarely cracks to show an iota of vulnerability. On “2nd Most Beautiful Girl” Toomey shows her take-no-shit side: “The second most beautiful girl in the world says she’s worried about me/the choices that I’m making, they just aren’t

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  • the Graying of Rock ’n' Roll

    IN SEPTEMBER, Forbes published its hit list of “Top 40 Big Money Entertainers”—one guide to what’s really important in the music industry. Of the top five, three were group partnerships that, arguably, have done no work of value since the mid ’70s: at number five, the Eagles (1995 earnings of $43 million); at number four, the Rolling Stones ($71 million); at number three, yes, with the tag line “Guess Who’s Back” and a fetching pic from 1964, the Beatles ($100 million). Building on 1994’s internationally successful Live at the BBC compilation, all parties involved in item three have since gone

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