Monday May 2 2022
Let’s cut to the chase. According to my friend Catherine Lacey, the debut album from Wet Leg, which is called Wet Leg, is “NOTHING BUT BANGERS.” Do you need a rock record with words you can understand? Sorted.
The ‘80s drifted back in last week. We found three fantastic edits of Prince tracks made by an artist named Exile, posted soon after Prince’s death in 2016. Do you like “Erotic City”? Chop it into laudanum salad and pass out. Exile also shatters “If I Was Your Girlfriend” and “Pop Life” and then glues them back together.
Matt Mehlan, friend and mixer of the first Body Meπa album, curated a selection of Sonic Youth shows recorded in 1986 at 1987 at Chicago’s Cabaret Metro. The 1987 show is available as Hold That Tiger on Sonic Youth’s Bandcamp page. I’ve never heard the 1986 show, which is less chaotic than the ‘87 setlist of Sister songs. The EVOL set from 1986, which I saw at least twice in NYC, is resonant, and it moves. Steve Shelley was out there, proving himself as the new guy: rack tom fury.
I got mildly freaked out by this Spotify playlist of WLIR’s Screamers of the Week. I listened to the station mostly between 1982 and 1985, and their purview was some kind of Anglophile/New Wave vibe, less vital than WNYU and WFMU and very much disconnected from all the explosions in rap and R&B at Hot 97 and Kiss FM and WBLS. Listening now, it seems exactly like ‘80s throwback programming, ahead of time. In context, at the time, I absolutely wanted to move between The Feelies on WFMU and Patrice Rushen on 98.7 KISS FM and Modern English on WLIR. Now, their programming window seems so narrow. I will never forsake Thompson Twins, though.
Angelika Platen’s photos of artists and musicians are a tonic, possibly as evidence of the ‘60s and ‘70s being something other than a node for feel-good nostalgia, or simply for the care she takes in composition. Click on any photo in this gallery and hit the right arrow button until you get back to the beginning.
This Alex Molotkow essay on crushes and morality and Arthur Russell is as good an argument for newsletters as I’ve found. Spend some time with it—don’t jam it into Pocket and speed-scroll it on the train. It’s remarkable. The middle of the piece is a thorough and detailed summary of Russell’s career, and I am glad to be referenced in it briefly as “others.” There is great stuff in here about Russell’s charisma, or his version of it.
What made me re-read this a few times is the question Molotkow uses to frame the piece: What is the artist’s moral relation to their material? Renoir’s paintings seem to “mummify their subjects in a gauze of eerie serenity.” In contradistinction, Cézanne “saw the inner valor in his subjects, and let that dictate their representation.” Molotkow offers “another example: Arthur Russell.”
Molotkow uses Iris Murdoch’s The Sovereignty of Good as a metal detector, or a dowsing rod for intentionality. For Murdoch, she writes, “the way that we hold others in mind—whether we try to understand them as they are, or project our own emotional needs and egocentric distortions—is the basis of moral life.” This reminded me of a section in Emmet Fox’s Sermon on the Mount, where he talks about the way Jesus teaches us to treat others. “To entertain hatred is ipso facto to involve yourself in certain unpleasant results and, as far as you are concerned, it will not make the faintest shadow of difference whether you are attaching the label ‘Robespierre,’ or ‘Tom,’ or ‘Dick,’ or ‘Harry,’ to the emotion concerned,” Fox writes. Jesus, Fox tells, wants to “impress us with the truth that it is the inner that causes the outer, and not the outer that brings about the condition of the inner.”
Molotkow writes that “what makes Russell’s work ‘virtuous,’ by Murdoch’s criteria’—its cable to ‘the real’—is its flow, its commitment to irresolution, its lack of agenda. It demonstrates an understanding that love, along with everything else of real value, is a mutable constant, taking and losing one form after another.”
The essay has many twists and turns and does not devolve into mere advocacy. I would say that Russell was open to God, and that kind of love is detachment at its purest.
The album that has completely overtaken my wee computer kingdom is Järnnätter by Civilistjävel! The field of moody and quiet electronic albums that seek some kind of spiritual oomph is so massively overcrowded that I am surprised this music managed to cut through and reach me. I hope to have an interview with this gentleman soon. In a completely different mood, the Amapicante EP by Toma Kami is four slices of beat pattern gold: charged up vinegar polyrhythms.
I’ve written a bunch recently. I had a great time doing this post-punk guide for Shfl. I made a Spotify playlist while I was writing it. I spent the last three years working on this Éliane Radigue feature for Artforum. I wrote about Cookie Mueller for 4Columns and discussed Surrealism with Sarah Leonard of Lux for AJ Plus. I talked to Jason Woodbury for Aquarium Drunkard’s Transmissions podcast, and wrote about Bronco Bullfrog for the Observer. I mention the last one because the BFI did this marvelous before-and-after of locations from the film.
Scroll down and hit that button if you can. See you next week, in any event.