All the year-end music wrap-ups seem to be suggesting that Vampire Weekend, Santogold, Adele, TV on the Radio, Coldplay, Duffy, Goldfrapp, Fleet Foxes, Kanye West, The Kills, The Ting Tings, M83, and Lil Wayne are all geniuses. I just spent some time sampling these wares on iTunes and I find it all incredibly dull because — and here’s my combination confession and complaint — it’s all so incredibly derivative. Why would I buy Fleet Foxes when I already have Buffalo Springfield, Duffy w.i.a.h. Dusty Springfield, the Ting Tings w.i.a.h. Ladytron and the Human League and Heaven 17 and a zillion other eurotrash two-hit wonders, Kanye West w.i.a.h. Gang Starr, The Kills w.i.a.h. Opal and Suicide . . . .
That’s the complaint part, but here’s the confession: When I was freaking out about the Smashing Pumpkins in 1991, there must have been some smug 40-year old bastard writing on his blog (which were called “alternative newspapers” back then) about how he didn’t see any reason to buy Gish when his Houses of the Holy LP still played just fine.
So viva la change. I guess I’m nearing pop music tenure. I even bought the new Portishead this year, only to be irritated that it wasn’t the old Portishead. Which way to that grove where the elephants lie down to die.
I have four major reviews to write by May and I’m freaking out. Here’s a summary of recent ingenstions before I go down the rabbit hole.
The African Queen by John Huston (1951) is dispiriting because in order to be a hero a missionary has to dump your gin into the river. I guess that counts me out.
The Dark Knight by Christopher Nolan (2008) has in it a cool motorcycle and also The Greatest Actors of the Twentieth and Twenty First Centuries. Jesus. All right, listen, seriously. This movie was very nearly free of content and the absurd circle jerk of critical admiration confuses me. I well understand and have frequently participated in the phenomenon of intellectuals-stampede-to-blockbuster-which-yields-to-cult-stud-analysis-and-also-features-explosions. But this is far from even that. It’s one part Rambo four parts water. Notice that everyone who tells you it’s brilliant is male and/or owns a Trans Am.
Deep Blues by Robert Palmer (1982) features some groundbreaking and fascinating elucidations of the connections between African music and the blues, some wickedly entertaining interview footage with Muddy Waters, and a whole lot of somewhat repetitive but none the less Dorito-like anecdotes about Delta and Chicago blues musicians.
Burn After Reading by the Coen Bros. (2008) is such a curious waste of time and talent. Every one of these fine actors seems to burrow down into their two-dimensional goofy/manic characters and, basically, disappear. Disappointing. Something could have been made of this, but wasn’t.
Charlie Bartlett, by John Poll (2007) is in so many ways excruciatingly dull, cliched, and mawkish, BUT: 1. Robert Downey Jr. and Hope Davis are exquisite actors, 2. Kat Dennings looks a lot like an old girlfriend of mine, and 3. I love the proposition that a 100 tabs of Ritalin could turn a dull high school dance into Studio 54.
Plus Super Chickan. Oh my oh my. Get you some.