I don't get out to the movies much anymore. Two small kids can seriously impede a pop culture junkie. I've been resigned to wait for most of the new releases to hit the DVD market before I catch them. And believe me, this doesn't make me happy.
And books? Literature has been relegated to bedtime or subway reading, and this can be a very labored practice for taking in great fiction, fiction that should be consumed rather quickly, not over the course of several months. So it should be no surprise to me that I've increased my already insatiable appetite for pop culture by substituting music in the aforementioned pop culture categories. Sitting in front of my computer monitor all hours of the day affords me plenty of listening hours to stave off those hunger pangs.
Nothing more comforting than dropping a new track by a new artist and knowing that it is pod worthy, ready for the archive, ready for consumption while riding the rails of the B train to a meeting downtown or driving upstate to a gig. Lately I started thinking about what new music has piqued my interest and what music will remain in my collection long after other useless binary code has deleted itself permanently from my brain. I began scanning my grey matter and my CD rack to the left of my desk -- a vertical disc holder about three feet long. There was a Slim Harpo collection, alt band Of Montreal, Judy Henske & Jerry Yester bootleg, the film score music of Bernard Hermann, roots-rocker Otis Gibbs's latest, Australia's John Butler Trio, singer-songwriter Thea Gilmore, blues man Otis Taylor, the new Little Barrie disc, and many others.
This rack is my temporary rack - discs on the bubble, waiting here in purgatory before entering my permanent collection or remain in reach for temporary rotation until they are returned to their sacred home on two other wall units that flank me to my right.
One disc of late has made an immediate impact. With the limbs-akimbo swagger of early '70s Brit rock -- think Faces, Stones -- and with the new punky garage-band energy of The Strokes, The Redwalls have constructed one corker of an album. Released back in June, de nova (Capitol) just found its way to me via a Vanity Fair compilation that included their infectious mid-tempo love-fest rock ballad "Thank You." This tasty little number has a wonderfully uplifting chorus with three-part harmonies, loping groove, and a tasty Beatle-ly guitar bridge. Sure, I'd seen the disc on the wall at my friend's CD shop, but I dismissed it as being another uber label con job. And maybe it is, but who cares? This young, scruffy Deerfield, Illinois quartet's major-label debut has gained heavy rotation in an extraordinarily short period of time -- less than a week. And I don't give a squat that they toured with Oasis, either.
But I don't want to hard-sell any of you readers on the band's merits. Suffice to say, this is my kind of rock 'n' roll -- two guitars, bass, and drums -- with tasteful keyboard (organ, Mellotron, piano) flourishes and horn work peppered throughout. Plenty of great songs, great playing, and unfettered muscular production courtesy of Rob Schnapf (The Vines, Elliot Smith,). This is music I will revisit long after the latest alt-rock and other bands have faded from the indie charts. It might not be your cup of British tea, especially since four earnest Americans serve it. But then again, maybe you should invest some time in exploring it, downloading some of it, or visiting your fav music retailer and actually buying it.
Hey, this is my job. I get to make recommendations about pop culture, especially pop culture that probably will never enter your sphere of daily reality. Believe me, I don't want to waste anyone's valuable time or paycheck. After all, great pop culture should be a daily staple, much like a bowl of rice.
Converge is the Word.
Mr. Wright is the former editor-in-chief of Creem and Prince's New Power Generation magazines as well as a writer of films, fiction, and music. He is also a singer/songwriter who has released 3 solo CDs and a member of the folk-rock quartet GIANTfingers. And before all of this he was an agent at the William Morris Agency!