Leica Monochrom, 50mm APO-Summicron-ASPH. Oh, in case you’re wondering, that’s not Dan Snyder.
Archive for March, 2014
There’s not much Richard Hell can’t do — practically start punk all by himself, propel Television out of the Bowery before wandering off, put out great albums with the Voidoids, write entertaining novels, oh, and one of the three or four greatest rocker memoirs ever. But now he’s up and done it: in the new New York, which has a pretty great series of essays about New York musicians going all the way to the middle of the last century, Hell has written an homage to the VU in which he says the magic words: “In my opinion the Velvet Underground are the best rock-and-roll band in history.”
Now, we find this remarkable, in two ways. We agree with it, of course, even as we argue with those voices in our head that are shouting out “Rolling Stones circa ’72!” and “what about the night in 1979 you saw the Clash and thought you’d achieved satori?” Yeah, we hear ya. What he said.
One remarkable thing, though, is how either he — or the phalanx of editors at New York — spelled “rock’n’roll” as “rock-and-roll.” When we worked at New York Rocker — when Richard Hell would shamble in and drop off copy, being paid the same $25 an article as the rest of us — the house rules were “rock’n’roll,” and we’ve always accepted that as definitive. Now our certainty is shaken.
But the other thing is, did we think Hell would call The Velvet Underground THE BEST? I didn’t, but am always happy for the surprises sent straight from Hell. Like the email I got from him in early December when he presented Tulip Frenzy with the most excellent remastering of The Richard Hell Story. (Hey Richard, while we did thank you, I don’t think we passed on how incredible it is to hear those Dim Star tracks sounding bright and clear. Amazing. Please, release the whole thing, ok?)
We would link to the piece, but it’s not available yet. And I would quote from it at greater length, but that’s not kosher. All we’ll say is this one essay by Hell is worth the price of admission. And is a reminder that, “in my opinion Richard Hell is the coolest man in rock’n’roll history.” Or is that “rock-and-roll history?”
UPDATE: Richard Hell, bless his soul, emailed to inform us that, actually, the essay is available online, right here. So do go read it.
He also added that, in re: how to write rock und roll properly, “I settled on ‘rock and roll’ some time back (it’s done that way in Tramp too. The ‘n’ just felt too contrived to me, maybe even condescending, ultimately, now…”
Then moments later he wrote back, “”Wait a minute… They added hyphens, the fucks!”
He went on to write other things, but just as it’s bad form to reveal too much about your conversations with the President of these United States, or like the Pope or someone, we will not reveal all.
And damn, forgot to ask him if they will ever release a remastered version of the epic Dim Stars album, featuring him and Thurston Moore…
I Took A Picture At The Garry Winogrand Exhibition To See What The Garry Winogrand Exhibition Looked Like As A PhotographPosted in Uncategorized with tags Garry Winogrand, Garry Winogrand Exhbit At The National Gallery of Art, Henri Cariter-Bresson, The National Gallery of Art on March 24, 2014 by johnbuckley100
The Garry Winogrand exhibition at the National Gallery of Art is a stunner, the best photography exhibition in D.C. since the Andre Kertesz show in 2005. It’s a very well-thought through combination of Winogrand’s iconic images, some of the pictures he took in his final years that he never even had the patience or interest to review, punctuated by a filmed interview from 1977 that so perfectly captures the man and his approach that it’s worth the price of admission. (Okay, so admission’s free, better to say, worth the effort to get to the National Gallery of Art.)
They couldn’t have been more unalike as people, but the exhibition makes one realize that in many ways, Winogrand was our Henri Cartier-Bresson. HCB was an aristocratic French communist, as reserved and formal in his Surrealism-influenced compositions as the Bronx-born, deliberately informal Winogrand was outwardly, and in every way, sloppy. But Winogrand’s images of America in the ’50s-’70s are every bit as iconic as HCB’s images of Europe, Mexico, and Asia between the ’30s and the ’60s.
See Winogrand’s photograph of the man flipping in the air in the streets of New York. Then look at HCB’s man leaping across the puddle.
In Winogrand’s image, the man’s foot mirrors the bird’s wing on the billboard; in HCB’s image, the man’s movements mimic the dancer on the poster. Did Winogrand mimic HCB? We doubt it — much of what we know about Winogrand, from reading and from the show, would suggest he was too into the moment to have a formalist’s composition in mind as he squeezed the shutter. And yet is the image the equal of HCB’s? Maybe not, given that Winogrand was drawn to theatrical and staged events, and HCB seems to have captured his “Behind the Gare St. Lazare” from pure happenstance. But it’s a great picture.
Winogrand’s dictum — “I photograph to see what the world looks like in photographs” — is as important an influence on succeeding generations of photographers as Cartier-Bresson’s notion of The Decisive Moment.
The show gives a wonderful sense of Winogrand’s larger-than-life personality, his sheer voraciousness as a photographer in his prime, the intelligence that bristled when he took pictures, even as he denied there was a real intelligence at work. His was a very ’60s philosophical attitude, eschewing meaning from the photographs other than a meta consideration of the photographs as more than the events they depicted. “How do you make a picture that is more interesting than what actually happened?” he asked, sincerely, which is the photographer’s equivalent of Philip Roth asking how it was possible for fiction to keep up with the absurdity of the world, circa 1968. When the events in life were so over the top, only a true artist could exceed them.
Winogrand’s ability to fit everything into the frame was both his strength and weakness. So much of what he captured with his machine-gun overshooting of everything he observed was perfect, and so much was excess, in need of cropping, that you begin to realize that out of the hundreds of thousands of pictures he took, these mere hundreds in the exhibit represent a frustrating ratio. In Winogrand: Fragments From The Real World, MOMA photo chief and Winogrand champion John Szarkowski writes with ill-hidden frustration about Winogrand’s indiscipline, the pictures compulsively taken in his final years that he barely even bothered to have developed. The responsibility for someone else to have to sort through them all was too much even for the man who, through his including of Winogrand in photography’s pantheon, helped make the case for him as more than a street photographer. And yet the greatness of this show, and the excellent monograph that accompanies it, is how well the two aspects of Winogrand’s art — the incredible energy of events squeezed in the frame, even as later in life he seemed less inclined to push for absurdism and meaning — are reconciled into a whole. Not coherence, perhaps. But the life’s work of a troubled and brilliant artist.
The show at the National Gallery has all the great pictures we remember, and it reminds us of how things looked in the NYC of our youth, of how LA looked when we first saw it in the early ’80s. That his appetite for life seemed finally to run out of energy, even as he compulsively snapped away, takes nothing away from Winogrand’s importance. It’s a great show.
Clementine Creevy is the Mikaela Schiffrin of indie rock. Where the latter won her first World Cup Slalom globe by her 18th birthday, Creevy’s band, Cherry Glazerr, released its excellent first album Haxel Princess just weeks past Creevy’s 17th birthday. Drummer Hannah Uribe is a sweet 16. (The only male band member, bassist Sean Redman, is 22.) There have been L.A. teen phenoms going all the way back to The Runaways, but few have produced as pleasurable fluff as this.
This is not the 17-year old James Joyce reviewing Ibsen’s “When We Dead Awaken,” and shocking the old Norwegian playwright when he finds out a mere kid has done the trick. There are songs here about grilled cheese sandwiches (“Grilled Cheese”), so anyone looking for profundity will have to wait for the next, dunno, Fiona Apple album. But if you like albums with lyrics like “I’ve got a crush on you” while the band picks up momentum with song structures familiar to The Breeders or Veruca Salt or other punk-pop outfits from the decade in which all of Cherry Glazerr was born, this rec will bring a smile to your face.
Cherry Glazerr: feel free to quote this in your college applications: “Tulip Frenzy believes that [fill in name of college] would greatly benefit from this band playing on the lawn of the quad on sunny Fridays, while the Red Bull flows and the frisbees fly.”
Quilt would prefer it if, when writing about their beautiful second album, Held In Splendor, people wouldn’t immediately invoke the Summer o’ Love, the Mamas and Papas, all those harmonically ambitious bands that played into the wee hours as women in long skirts danced around the driftwood pyre while the menfolk nodded and communed with the shadow of the moon. Fine then, let’s put ’em in a more contemporary context.
Their second album is produced by Woods’ polymath Jarvis Taveniere, which gives you a reference point to which you’ll affix your navigation quadrant and map their current location. Physically it’s Boston, and thank Yahweh for that because it’s so much more original than saying they come from Brooklyn, like other bands that sound just like them: you know, bands with jangly guitars, and four-part harmonies, and a bass player who manages to ground the weirdness in muscular urgency. But let us also say that if the late Bill Doss of Olivia Tremor Control was in the room, he would nod in admiration. And that another band Jarvis has produced, Widowspeak, would likely manage Quilt’s fan club if they didn’t have their own album to do. No, we won’t invoke the Summer o’ Love, we’ll just say that when Quilt played Portland the other week, we bet all those kids who love Houndstooth came out in force.
Shane Butler and Anna Fox Rochinski were art-school students when they formed Quilt at the dawn of the Obama years, and we bet their teachers shook their heads in dismay when they veered into music. For the rest of us, art school’s loss is our earbuds’ gain as angels dance around guitar and keyboard weirdness that can call to mind both Magic Trick and the Magic Castles in the span of a single song. Where Widowspeak lacks fiber, Quilt has just enough bulk to maintain a consistent weight. Held In Splendor is wonderfully produced, weird in the way Prince Rupert’s Drops are weird, thrilling in the way Woods are thrilling. Yeah, this is a good ‘un, and we’ll just state the obvious: if these guys really were from the late ’60s Bay Area, Altamont would never have happened, and by 2014 the land would be harmonious and we’d all be happy vegans. ‘Course, they’re in the here and now, and so you have the chance to hear ’em now.
They open for Woods at the Rock & Roll Hotel on April 26th. We know you’ll be there.