“Hello, I’m your new neighbor,” Amy Boone sings with a sad drawl, “I was recently robbed this past hour.” Stolen: one amplifier, named the Black Widow “even though it was blue.” The song, in the tradition of the dB’s’ great “Amplifier,” is a bravura act of storytelling, i.e., a country lament. The details— the investigator tells her she’s lucky “it was just an amplifier,” but in the pause between lines, you can hear Boone thinking, “Yeah, ‘just’ “— are as downplayed as the spare, languorous music, delivered like the bated breath of a heavy sigh. True to Narrative Writing Rule 101, “Black Widow” tells much with little— for example, Boone, the younger half of the sister act at the core of the Damnations TX, is the kind of woman who names an amplifier Black Widow.
Although the Damnations don’t like to play favorites, “Black Widow” is their calling card— the song fans at Brownies kept shouting for last Wednesday. As on their second album (first for a major), Half Mad Moon (Sire), the band buried it in the middle of their other fine but not as extra-ordinary tunes. Boone and her sibling Deborah Kelly (who, rather than be Debbie Boone, took their mother’s maiden name) are middle-class kids from upstate New York, who grew up listening to Kiss and X, then moved to Austin to absorb that town’s musical roots (they’re big Lucinda Williams fans). Like cowpunks before them (Blasters, Wild Seeds, Freakwater), the Damnations are of the manner bred, not born; their affinities are more the Village than Nashville. At times, that makes them sound like a garage band limiting themselves to genre exercises. Live they were timid, but willing to play all night. With their songwriting talents, their sister-insider harmonies, and guitarist Rob Bernard’s Bob Stimsonstyle squall leads, the Damnations may soon realize that like anything else, country can be a cage to break out of. And the big record company may or may not be your best friend. When you’re new in town, you don’t know who to trust, Kelly explains in “Black Widow.” But that doesn’t mean you go home. — Evelyn Mcdonnell
The question, at the standing-room-only Beacon Friday night, was “Would Brian Wilson actually perform for more than 15 minutes?” But I was wondering, “Would it matter? What would be the difference between Brian fronting a night of Beach Boys classics and the other Beach Boys fragments that are currently on tour fronting a night of Beach Boys classics?”
Yes, he made it through the 28-song set, doing most of the singing (except for the high notes) and none of the playing, and much of it was classic Beach Boys concert fare that you could have been hearing somewhere else from the mouths of Mike or Bruce or Al. But it was still a Brian Wilson concert, because it was a Brian Wilson audience.
During the opening 20-minute video the audience booed appearances by cruel-to-Brian father Murray and intolerant-of-Brian Beach Boy Mike. They cheered session-musicians-who-admired-Brian Hal Blaine and Carol Kane and dead brothers Dennis and Carl. And cheered throughout the concert for every Brian-specific moment. Even when Brian just sat there while the band played live versions of his two Pet Sounds instrumentals. And especially when Brian played some of his Brian-y nonhits of the last 20 years like “Add Some Music,” or “Back Home.”
As the night wore on our famously terrified hero loosened up just a bit, but it wasn’t until the last song, “Love and Mercy,” that he was totally engaged. Is Brian back? Or is he just paying us another short visit? Either way, this solo tour shows there’s still a large audience of us middle-aged white guys out there for the drama of torment and pleasure he reveals beneath and beyond the music of our shared adolescence that he helped create. — Tom Smucker
Songs About Buildings
Between the yawning brick vaults of the Brooklyn Anchorage and the accoutrements of millennial mixed media (turntables, sequencers, and video screens), a crowd— part hip young architects, part electronica fans (there is a narrow overlap)— gathered last Saturday to witness Architettura, a performance/installation by Caipirinha Productions and Creative Time. The events included performances by Terre Thaemlitz and Datach’I and Iara Lee’s film shorts. The occasion was the holy union of architecture, film, and music.
Not that that’s too heady a concept. Goethe said that “Architecture is frozen music.” But there was a thawing tonight. You could differentiate the crowd by where they stood— music fans in front, still and gawking, architects milling about, cocktail partystyle— but on occasion they met and mixed in a montage of ambient noise, shoptalk, and trendy black.
The same inspired bubbling seems to elude Caipirinha’s Architettura CD series, which showcases compositions inspired by works of architecture. Not simply impressionist renderings, like Monet cathedrals, they attempt to integrate the buildings into the composition processes. Savvas Ysatis/Taylor Deupree and Tetsu Inoue are unnervingly single-minded in their interpretations of, respectively, Toyo Ito’s Tower of Winds and Nicholas Grimshaw’s Waterloo Station, stripping from the buildings both real and virtual information (photographs and computer algorithms), which is then reconfigured as raw material for their computer software. Cerebral and literal, these works miss a possibly more profound relationship between the spatial and structural properties of music and architecture. David Toop’s Museum of Fruit stands out in that it doesn’t clearly accommodate Itsuko Hasegawa’s building proper, but rather attempts to fuse both media as a “meeting of ideas.” Like the scene under the bridge that night, it’s not simply a commingling, but a mutual transformation. — Kok Kian Goh
Kicking and Screaming
Explosions! Flares! Screams! Cannons! Flag-carrying extras! No, this was not an outtake of Saving Private Ryan. This was ‘N Sync at Giants Stadium, entertaining a sold-out crowd at the Women’s World Cup opening ceremony. How badly do the organizers want soccer to succeed in the States? Badly enough to bolster Saturday’s sexy lineup of guest speakers (Kofi Annan, Christine Todd Whitman) with performances by 16-year-old Brit popster Billie, the quartet of Irish Lasses of the Dance known as B*witched, and homegrown boy band ‘N Sync. (The U.S. may be the only country in the world where soccer and boy bands share a demographic.)
While dozens of children who appeared to be holding giant tablecloths moved about the field in seemingly random fashion, B*witched teased us by choosing the utterly unmemorable “Rollercoaster” over their hit “C’est la Vie.” Billie robotically sang the official World Cup anthem, “Because We Want To”— one of at least six times it blasted from the PA that day. She was followed by a woman who read a motivational poem in which the words womb and phenomenal popped up at an alarming rate. But why bother with phenomenal wombs when ‘N Sync were waiting in the wings? “It’s tearing up my heart when I’m with you,” the five Florida hunks implored. The unfazed section 334 ignored them in favor of a Dane in a Viking outfit, a Mexican supporter wearing a sombrero the size of a satellite dish, and a group of scantily clad, Carmen Mirandahatted, feverishly dancing Brazilian women. The scene neatly encompassed soccer’s roots-based appeal: as the fans stole the show from the corporate spectacle below, there finally was hope that the game would take hold in this country after all. — Elisabeth Vincentelli
Three Minutes of Fame Back in the days of AM-pop, just about any girl with a common enough name could eventually get to pretend that a song on the radio was about her— from “Barbara Ann” to “Suzy Q” to the army of Julies who related to “I’m Not Lisa.” No suspension of disbelief is necessary, however, for the 30 folks who ponied up a grand apiece to have Casio-pop misanthrope Momus write tunes about them for his new Stars Forever album, out in August.
The list of demi-Medicis immortalized contains a few famous names, including Japanese retro-monger Cornelius and artist Jeff Koons (who’ll no doubt claim to have written his tune himself), but most of the songs are simple tales of simple folk, some hoping to turn a profit from the notoriety.
“Getting some exposure for the store was part of the idea, but that was really just a bonus,” says Tom Cappodano of Other Music, who admits to asking for a lyrical shoutout of its Web site URL. “Mostly, it was just a way for us to show support for an artist we love— and for free speech.”
Free speech at a thousand bucks a pop might sound like a contradiction in terms, until you realize Momus was forced into this work-for-hire project because he wrote a song for his 1998 album The Little Red Songbook about transsexual composer Wendy Carlos. “Momus intended it as a tribute, but she didn’t take it that way,” says Matthew Jacobson, who owns Le Grand Magistery, the label that issues the artist’s music in the States. “In fact, she threatened to sue unless we recalled and destroyed all copies of the album.”— David Sprague
Is it any surprise to find, in the wake of Louima and Diallo, anti-Giuliani sentiment surfacing in the work of area hip-hop acts? Probably not, but even the mayor might be momentarily taken aback to hear the more detailed of the assassination fantasies that have been circulating.
Underground rappers Screwball were the subject of a NY1 segment last week, for their song “Who Shot Rudy?” The report noted, with considerable anxiety, the track’s hostile intent, but incorrectly depicted it as an anomaly. At least since last year, critiques of the mayor have been appearing in the lyrics of hip-hop artists like Dead Prez and Mos Def, who tells Giuliani to “screw off” on the 1998 Black Star album and warns him and “his coppers”: “Got your bird chest popped up but keep your guns cocked up/cuz all those cats you knocked up ain’t always gon’ be locked up.” Pacewon’s “I Declare War” has attracted attention for its catchy Rudy-bashing hook: “This year I declare war on the mayor/like, let my niggas out the Devil’s lair or I slay ya . . .” The most explicit expression of resentment so far can be heard on Rawkus’s new Soundbombing II compilation, on which Pharaoh Monche raps: “My last minutes on earth/drop, say a prayer, fuck it/if I’m gonna die, at least I shot the mayor.” — Kem Poston