Saturday, May 10, 2008

May 8 - 10, 2008

If You're Feeling Sinister
Scott Plagenhoef
From the fabulous 33 1/3 series
Paperback, 2007
8 cards

I have always been fond of Belle & Sebastian. The characters in the songs tapped into bits about how I felt in high school, the people they sung about were the people I wanted to be friends with, but in a town with one stoplight, they weren't too many like them around. I didn't hear Belle & Sebastian in high school though, if I had, they would have been much like R.E.M. for me. I remember Automatic for the People allowed me to realize there are interesting people out there, they think some of the same things you do, that it can get really interesting out there in the world, and there's lots to discover. I first borrowed B&S cds while working at an ad agency. I enjoyed them but the quest to know more about them didn't grip me. Their new cds came out and I enjoyed them. Then a few years ago something caused me to go back and listen more closely to certain songs, particularly Sinister's "Get Me Away from Here I'm Dying." I saw them a few years ago live in Detroit. I love Belle & Sebastian now, but I still didn't know as much as I should. Thanks to Scott Plagenhoef though now some of that's been filled in. One part of Plagenhoef's book that I don't quite understand however is his stand against the internet and quick, dismissive chatter about bands on it. He waxes on this topic here and there throughout the book yet the back cover says he works for Pitchfork. While I read Pitchfork and it is great for tour news, it is one of the biggest contributors to being quickly dismissive of amazing albums or bands. What I know about Pitchfork and what Plagenhoef writes about seem to be at odds. This is still a good book and I really enjoyed reading it. He's totally right about how we currently listen to music, and the need to really listen, and not just allowing it to become merely background noise. Listening with people is also a lovely activity much like conversing about music.

Selected notes/passages
1- "In November 1996, when Belle & Sebastian released their second album, If You're Feeling Sinister, being a fan of the band took a great deal of patience and work."
3- Madame Cecile Aubrey's Belle & Sebastian
4- "Murdoch had taken to songwriting in order to engage with a world outside of home..."
6- "B & S's cover stars weren't celebrities or cult heroes, they were friends and acquaintances no more glamorous than the people expected to be buying the records."
7- interviews- "...repetitive and dull for the subjects themselves"
8- Murdoch, "The band is really not about me. The interesting things happen when it goes beyond me."
9- playing at offbeat locales- libraries and churches- "...a hearkening back to the time when underground or indie music was something discovered and investigated by the curious rather than something branded in the music press."
10- Murdoch, "I always think that the best songs are the ones I'll write tomorrow..."
11- "They hold hands but 'only as a display of public solidarity.'"
12- imagining and discussion of Tigermilk
15- strong sense of place in B & S songs
17- "Characters hope to belong, to find kindred spirits, but crucially they refused to compromise themselves in the process, as so many of us must throughout adulthood."
-"life is never dull in your dreams"
20- "do something pretty while you can"
31- (The internet's Sinister list) "The entire experience felt like a night at the pub with friends, dissecting and examining culture, art and each other's lives."
-John Phillip Sousa and the phonograph- "Something is irretrievably lost when we are no longer in the presence of bodies making music."
-"Their fans couldn't investigate the group itself, so they made inroads into each other's lives instead."
32-33- (Sinister list) "a place where people engaged in conversations about each other's thoughts and ideas about music rather than merely their record collections or the contents of theirs external hard drives."
41- rockism
43- Murdoch, "the trumpet should be as important as the guitar, the cellos should be as important as the piano"
47- Malcolm McLaren, "In the end [punk] is about making ugliness beautiful, it's about destroying in order to create something that liberates you from orthodoxy."
47-48-"The modernists and their followers challenged the belief that creative aesthetics wasn't mean to simply reproduce or reflect life and pursue beauty, but to alter and shape society through intellectual pursuits and progressive approaches to technology, science and the arts."
48- Duchamp
-beauty and youth culture- being suspicious
55- "...audience and artist were almost indistinguishable from one another, in look, and, some would sneer, talent."
63- Isobel Campbell- The Bell Jar and Dorothy Parker
71- Murdoch's exploration of emotions through childhood- "is less about nostalgia or escapism as it is exploring core human emotions without the distractions, compromises and obligations of adulthood."
75- "poet laureates for the outcast liberal arts set"
-dedication of "We Rule the School" to a young, smalltown girl on the BBC- "because life isn't easy for a 16 year old in the middle of nowhere."
-discussion of New Pop vs. The Smiths
79- "Murdoch not only wrote his own myths, he also wrote his own apologies as well."
84- laddism vs. wallflower feminism
85- Nick Hornby
- (talking about Murdoch) "In his songs, women take the chances, have sexual fantasies, and are generally the ones either put at risk or rewarded for living active rather than passive lives."
86- freedom to stumble and fall
87- (Murdoch on cd) "...he's merely a vessel for communicating about life in general rather than his life in particular..."
-"sex, religion, friendship, education, family- rarely are any of them finite or defining characteristics. Whatever we think of any of the above shifts depending on the year or day, and in Murdoch's songs you can feel his characters struggle to come to terms with each as well."
88- Jenny Toomey's writing about their ability to "describe a character in a way that represents their complexity."
-Murdoch "No regular rock venue is set up to deal with the subtlety of singing... But the intimacy of someone's bedroom, when they've just got the record home, there is no scope for any bullshit. To absolutely absorb somebody as they listen tot he LP through on their mono Dansette is what I really want."
91- iPod era "more time hearing music...but less time listening to it...typically something we do in isolation"
92- "One's first records are often spoken of as mystical or magical things- you'd study the sleeve, maybe imagine your own parents being young and listening to the music you discover in your home."
97- "Frankly, almost any line on 'Get Me Away'- perhaps the most immediately loveable track on Sinister- is worth quoting."
104- "Online criticism now seems less about communicating ideas than about simply sharing music."
105 "shrinking column inches and fencesitting major media outlets...considers music criticism to be nothing more than a utilitarian tipsheet, to the point that many are suspicious of anyone wanting to communicate ideas about art rather than simply bit-sized opinions. And although there may now be more chatter about music than ever before, there seems to be far less conversation."

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