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Back in the Saddle, Even If I'm Still Feeling Woozy - De File — LiveJournal
Does Collecting Make You Feel Dirty?
Back in the Saddle, Even If I'm Still Feeling Woozy
My first review in a while, of hip-hop collage pioneer Steinski's retrospective What Does It All Mean?, was published this week. This time it's for Zeek -- recently merged with Jewcy -- where I plan to be doing music writing on a regular basis. I'm pleased with the way this one came out, since it attends to the record's specificity, but uses it to make broader points about the politics of contemporary culture. Here are my last two paragraphs:
The real revelation on the first disc of What Does It All Mean?, though, is “The Motorcade Sped On,” Steinski’s recasting of John F. Kennedy’s assassination, in which archival audio is paired with synth beats to surprisingly musical effect. It’s one thing to mash up different pop songs, as “The Payoff Mix” did, and another entirely to push that aesthetic to its logical extreme, revealing the distinction between culture and politics to be a differentially regulated boundary that serves the powers that be. If the propaganda machine is going to cross that border, Steinski suggests, we might as well follow it across. That’s definitely the message of the second disc here, his 2002 “comeback” record, the album-length collage Nothing To Fear, which takes advantage of technological advances in music-making without sacrificing the lucid simplicity of his work from the 1980s.

In a sense, it’s ironic that Steinski’s achievement is coming to us in the form of a neatly contained retrospective, since he was so instrumental in helping his listeners hear past the arbitrariness of packaging. If the big-box stores were catering to his approach, the whole-season collections of The Rockford Files and Knight Rider they proffer would be replaced by a vast array of mash-ups, the experience of YouTube transferred to disc. That wouldn’t sell, though. Indeed, it couldn’t sell, given the way copyright law is enforced. The paradox of What Does It All Mean? is that we are being asked to buy something that makes us question the reactionary nature of white-market consumption. Then again, the same could be said for books like Capital or Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri’s Empire. It’s a contradiction inherent to revolutionary practice in a world where property relations matter more than the human beings they bind together. But it’s a contradiction we’re better off recognizing for what it is, something Steinski teaches us with brevity, wit and a good deal of soul.
If you click on the link above, you can listen to tracks from the album. Also, I have a copy, obviously, and would be happy to play it for you one day. The early material is really good in its own right, but even better when you realize when it was made.

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10 comments or Leave a comment
masoo From: masoo Date: May 31st, 2008 04:40 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
I listened to "Motorcade" after reading this.
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: June 1st, 2008 12:24 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
Cool. And?
masoo From: masoo Date: June 1st, 2008 12:25 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
Oh, I was just being mysteriously vague :-).
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: June 1st, 2008 12:27 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
Not a trait I associate with you normally!
masoo From: masoo Date: June 1st, 2008 12:28 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
I was trying to match up with the spirit of your LJ, which is often cryptic!
jstgerma From: jstgerma Date: May 31st, 2008 07:56 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
I've said this before, but I really love your reviews. I'm trying to write a book review right now, of a friend's Southwestern short story anthology, so I'm especially appreciative of how difficult it is to begin a review, and your first paragraph is excellent. Falconry!

Listening to some of the tracks right now. My immediate reaction is that the analogues I'm thinking of from my music collection, the Avalanches and Madlib (esp. in Madvillain), probably borrowed a lot from him.
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: June 1st, 2008 12:26 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
I totally hear it in Madlib. DJ Shadow, too.

I was pleased with "falconry" myself. I suppose there will eventually be a 24/7 channel devoted to the subject, though, retroactively invalidating my point.

And, of course, I'm ever so happy to hear from you and, even better, soak up some praise from someone whose opinion I esteem very highly indeed!
aholub From: aholub Date: June 10th, 2008 03:34 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
Darn, I was going to comment on "falconry." That's what I get for slacking on blogreading. But I was going to say that the juxtaposition of needlepoint with falconry is

Does Jewcy need any
aholub From: aholub Date: June 10th, 2008 03:38 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)

..and continued...

The last part of that sentence was supposed to say "more Jews?"
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: June 10th, 2008 04:23 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
Hey. I'm the new Music Editor at Zeek, apparently, which has now merged into Jewcy. They aren't paying yet, but I'm sure they wouldn't mind getting more good writers. Let me check with my commander, but I'm pretty sure that you could write what you want to write.
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