Humpty Hump, Beefheart, P-Funk and the Future of Criticism

Recently at Stuck Between Stations (the music writing joint I sometimes scribble for):

Roger, on the not-so-hidden connection between Ex-Republican spokes-rapper Michael Steele and Digital Underground’s funky auteur: Humpty Escapes the Tea Party Before the Martian Invasion

In 2012, neither party will be able to escape the demographic reality that the country of the future will look more like Oakland than Fairfax County. And that means that, regardless of ideology or economic philosophy, we’ll all soon be doing the Humpty Dance. Personally, I’m looking forward to finding out how Mitt Romney will deliver lines like “I’m spunky, I like my oatmeal lumpy.”

Scot, with a quick synopsis of a UC Berkeley panel on The Future of Music Journalism: Will the rise of music recommendation services like Pandora and Apple Genius affect the role of the traditional music critic?

My take is that the premise of the question is baloney. People read music journalism for a ton of reasons other than just finding recommendations. They read to try and grok the entire universe of music – to get the back-story, to trace influences, to absorb opinions, to color the landscape. Recommendations on what to buy, I expect, are pretty low on the list of reasons why people read about music.

Scot reprints an oldie but a goodie from Pagan Kennedy’s book “Platforms: The Political Pop Culture of the 70s” — Can You Get to That? The Cosmology of P-Funk.

P-Funk seemed to believe that music wasn’t so much something that you made with your instruments as it was something that you caught with them, as if funk was out there in the form of an ambient residual energy left over from the big bang. It was as if their basses and horns were finely tuned, specialized antennae dialing into cosmic leftovers. Funk became a unifying presence — the godhead as manifest to anyone willing to laugh and boogie at the same time. “One nation under a groove, gettin’ down just for the funk of it.”

Scot, on the passing of Don Van Vliet: Practice in Front of a Bush: Stuck on Beefheart

Beefheart can’t have been pleasant to work with – a musical tyrant who once threw a drummer down a flight of stairs because he couldn’t figure out what was meant by the commandment “play a strawberry” on the drums, and who gave infuriatingly vague-but-poetic directions to musicians like “Play it like a bat being dragged out of oil and it’s trying to survive, but it’s dying from asphyxiation.” Beefheart may have been an artistic tyrant, miserable to work with (unless you enjoy living on beans (laser beans)), but the amazing thing was, the tracks did sound exactly like the impossible psychedelic visions he demanded, and the world never recovered.

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