Monday February 13 2023
Here’s the latest installment of our radio show, Busytown. My co-host is Mina Tavakoli and if you don’t know her work, start with this new one in The Paris Review about being on the bus with Pavement. If you want to tune in live, Busytown happens every other Thursday from 1 to 4 PM on 8 Ball Radio. Mina and a friend will be hosting the next one on February 16th, as I will be busy. Ui is playing Brooklyn on February 15th and Los Angeles on the 18th. Come through if you can and listen to Busytown every day.
If you’re in New York, I recommend going to Light Industry on Thursday, February 16th, for a screening of Sierra Pettengill’s masterful documentary, Riotsville, USA. After the screening, there will be a teach-in about Cop City via Zoom by the scholar Sasha Tycko and Marlon Kautz, of the Atlanta Solidarity Fund.
Here is my playlist of music from 2022, slightly shorter than previous years. (100 songs is plenty.) Do join us beyond the paywall today—we’ve got Tom Verlaine, Janet Malcolm, Pamela Paul, Molly Fischer, Gertrude Stein, jungle pioneers Tom and Jerry, and a bunch of other stuff you already care about deeply.
When I bike across Broadway anywhere near The Strand, I hear Television in my head. If you don’t know why The Strand and Verlaine are forever conjoined, read this delightful new piece by Colin Groundwater about Verlaine’s “cart shark” behavior. (He was quite friendly about his used book mania, not all like a shark.) Verlaine’s lyrics and singing were so important to me that I don’t know quite what to say yet. I can say this about his guitar playing, which I heard live once at a Television show (2002) and once at a Verlaine show (1996, I think). Like Jeff Beck and Hendrix, he listened to the electric guitar as much he played it. He knew what to do. He heard his guitar and the amp and the pickups and did not approach his guitar playing as simply what he did with his hands but also as what he let these machines do with, behind, after, before, and around him.
There was a lot of unusually great writing about Verlaine, starting with Patti Smith on Tom for The New Yorker. Dean Wareham talked about working with Verlaine on a Luna album, Tom Verlaine did a long interview with Alan Licht that’s online (though not permanently), this Trouser Press interview from 1975 never ran in full (and contains several samples of the interview cassette) and Tyler Wilcox has a complete roundup of all the Verlaine coverage in Aquarium Drunkard. Moving to audio and video, Wilcox also put up a great Twitter thread of Television rarities posted to his blog, Doom and Gloom From The Tomb. This video interview from 1992 is the only footage I’ve seen of Verlaine talking. (He talks about “Seattle bands” and their “whacking away,” and points out that R.E.M. and U2 were single guitar bands.) Verlaine did this version of “Bomb” in 1987 backed by Love and Money, and he’s in prime performer mode. I’ve also always loved the Verlaine solo album, Flash Light, which is hardly obscure. I simply love it.
Do you not know the failqueen Pamela Paul? Click on that link to read PP Cool P telling us about how Ron DeSantis is actually cool beans because he works hard and did big Yale and centrism is real and all that other fascist fairy dust The New York Times hawks. Let’s be clear—Pamela Paul is not exceptional as a moron or as a New York Times moron. Their smoke-and-mirrors construction of a “middle way” is their brand of entertainment and a way of keeping shareholders happy. That’s why Pamela Paul has a job. Her writing and her complicity in neoliberal cowardice are two distinct piles of shit.
Pamela Paul, as a writer, has an imperceptible intellectual presence and exhibits an impressive timidity in the face of a big and juicy world. I hate her and hope she stubs her toe on Putin’s dick, but Molly Fischer is a lot more polite than I am. That said, her recent profile of Paul in The New Yorker gives Pamelini Paulzoni a generous pile of rope and documents her slowly unaliving herself with it. For instance, Paul once compared the pain of her divorce to that of someone who was disfigured by cancer of the jaw. Fischer presents that episode, and many others, in Paul’s own words. You might think Fischer approves of Paul if you read the piece too quickly, but I am pretty sure you won’t do either. By the way, that DeSantis OpEd came out after the Fisher profile, in case you were thinking Paul might have engaged in some reflection after witnessing her dumbness writ large.
Fischer’s piece reminded me of Janet Malcolm’s short book on Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, Two Lives. Several reviewers made the mistake of thinking Malcolm’s skepticism in the first half of the book meant she disliked Stein’s writing. This is not true. Unlike me, just now, on The New York Times, Malcolm did not generalize, and if you read the whole (short) book, you’ll get to this passage: “No school of Stein ever came into being. But every writer who lingers over Stein’s sentences is apt to feel a little stab of shame over the heedless predictability of his own.” That’s why we read and write, to get to shit like that. Malcolm does, like Fischer, use Stein’s own writing to present the fact that she performed no tasks on her own behalf, as far as the business of staying alive was concerned, and was not particularly bothered by Nazi collaborators, one of whom she called a close friend and helped materially.
You know how much I love early drum and bass—here is the wellspring. Dennis “Dego” McFarlane and Mark “Marc Mac” Clair produced some of the earliest jungle tracks as Tom & Jerry, and then became 4hero. You can hear the single begin a little bit before the jungle aesthetic, as simply fast dance records with breaks. And then things change: tempos get a little hitch in them, the breaks become one particular break, and it becomes the thing that becomes drum and bass. You can download the entire Tom and Jerry discography in MP3 form on the Internet Archive, or go here and get high-res files on the exact same website.
This recent set from daze has been on loop. The base material is “sounds of the rap abyss,” daze says, which does not describe how it moves. The motion goes from UKG to drum & bass over the hour, with a whole layer of hyperpop dementia that is also not hyperpop. And daze is from New York, which I am irrationally happy about.
I do not know who nghiaeptl1p is but her TikTok page is a delight. The videos follow some sort of genre, and maybe even a fetish or two. She is the hero of her own rural martial arts world, where she cooks and protects her grandmother who also sort of antagonizes our artist. At one point she makes her own homemade MMA belt. I am sure there are references I am not getting in these mini-epics. Increasingly an actual star, my favorite class commenter Shabaz Says thinks you’re poor and he’s right.