People often ask me for recommendations. For books to read, music to listen to, films to watch. They also have a tendency to ask me with great urgency--as though they were bettors with much at stake--who is going to win a given sporting event. Am I Tiresias? What I thought I would do here, until someone steps forward and pays me a lot of money to do so elsewhere, is recommend music that is awesome, that I bet there is a damn good chance you've never heard. People can't recommend much, because their expertise and, in this case, aural experiences, are so circumscribed. Everyone will tell you, "I listen to every kind of music," but in reality, they know a few people's hits, and by every kind of music, they mean both Coldplay and U2.
You should listen to neither--they're both terrible. I don't know which is more terrible. A dual of terribleness. One time I got a coffee with The New Yorker's James Wood. Big Who guy, supposedly. Knew nothing about the Who. It's like one of his main things, James Wood, Who guy! Had never even heard a single bootleg. Fraud. Same person who will say that Lydia Davis is awesome at writing. Right. You know who else is awesome at writing? That gum I spit out into an empty Starbucks cup earlier that is sitting at the bottom of a harborside trash can right now. That's about as good at writing as Lydia Davis. How do you claim to love the Who, and not listen to Tanglewood 1970, the Toronto 1975 show, the Amsterdam '69 gig, Philly '73, Dallas '67, Swansea '76, Arhaus '70, Forest Hills '71? But you got them greatest hits. Whee "Pinball Wizard"! There is very little knowledge and legitimacy in this world. I later watched the vilely corrupt literary magazine Ploughshares--an entry on them and how editor in chief Ladette Randolph does "business" is coming soon--ask him to be their guest editor, at which point he hooked up a bunch of talentless friends. This is why no one reads. Remember that, readers. Well, former readers. It's not your fault. It's theirs.
You could do a book of awesome recommendations and make a mint. You really could. If you have the knowledge. That would be the whole thing, you--or me--providing that service, because it's more in demand than every nowadays, as culture chokes on its own member more and more by the minute--yes, I know that's not gender neutral--and people tend to get both fascinated and grateful when you turn them on to something. Because they don't know where to look.
Sometimes I'll put up a bunch of songs in a single blog entry, but for the first entry, I'm going big, and them I'm going home, by which I mean to the bed. I have to be up early.
In 2007, Jamie T, an English kid, released an album called Panic Prevention. It is easily the best album I've heard this century. I would say it is easily one of the ten best albums ever made. It would make an excellent entry in the 33 1/3 series. I may be doing a Sam Cooke volume for them on Live at the Harlem Square Club, but I'd happily do both. Bang those bad boys right out. Two weeks for each. Boom boom.
This is the concluding song on Panic Prevention. I am being completely serious with what I'm about to say. Bach's The Art of Fugue. The Beatles' Revolver. Dylan's Blonde on Blonde. Beethoven's late piano sonatas. The Charlie Parker Story. Handel's Messiah. Joy Division's Closer. "Strawberry Fields Forever"/"Penny Lane." Monteverdi's Vespers. Elvis's Sun sides. Coltrane's A Love Supreme. I am naming the core (qualitative) musical works of Western Civilization. This song, right here, is as good as any of those works I have listed. It is unlike anything you will ever hear. It is a plumbing of the soul, of the outermost bounds of existentiality. It is the ultimate musical song of the search for self. And it is ribald, penetrative, life-changing. Hilarious. And it is also one of the best pieces of writing you will ever encounter.
One time, when I was listening to this album a dozen times a day, I was in Chicago at my mom's house. It was Christmastime. My sister was down in the basement wrapping presents, not far from where I was sitting, typing something, with this playing. She walked over--I said nothing--sat down beside me, and we just sat there in silence, compelled by the power of this straight shot to the human soul. We didn't say a word. We'd never had a moment like that before. How often in life do you have moments like that? Pretend you're sitting here now and have one with me. Listen to this song. Good God. It's like a march, in'it? Yes, it is like a fucking march. March to what? March to you.