|A High Spot Along the Way|
First some context, as I know this is a site that
is literally wild about context! As
I write this The Beach Boy's Sunflower is playing gently in the background,
specifically the Bruce Johnston/Brian Wilson collaboration 'Deirdre'. I am seated
in front of one of those flat screen iMacs that my employer was good enough
to supply me with and this nifty and powerful machine is itself sitting on a
new desk that came with my newly remodeled office. To my right is an inherited
but still very much appreciated Matisse print and a floor lamp with an attached
table that is dying for a decanter of scotch and some glasses, but alas those
days are gone. Though there are many things I've been itching to write about
since my recent resurrection from cubicle hell to the relative, if not quiet
heavenly, comforts of this office, machine, and more work friendly environment,
one recent discovery has surged in front of the rest and so in the interest of
both passion and time I've decided to strike while the iron is hot.
The last time I found a website which really jazzed me enough to make me want to hip others to it was when I first discovered Tangents or maybe Perfect Sound Forever. Unfortunately these moments of discovery on the Internet have been few and far between in the last few years. In general I find myself hitting the same old favorites on worldwide web: the Onion, the Guardian, Seth Tissue's Jandek site and Amazon.com (which has some uproariously funny customer reviews if you are willing to wade through em and sometimes yes I am that bored). When I venture beyond these tried and true spots I am generally appalled by both the quality and content of most sites, with music sites being prime offenders. So it was a great delight to stumble upon a site, created by a fellow Texan even, that not only provides a wide and varied range of coverage of movies, TV, music, politics, and what have you ephemera, but also some truly funny and insightful writing, worth reading and rereading. The site in question is called The High Hat. I encourage all faithful Tangents readers and any others who have stumbled this way to go there post haste to sample its wares. It is updated every couple of months with a new issue, currently they are on Issue Four. And so there is plenty of content for the new readers to get acquainted with, I haven't as of yet ventured beyond the current issue but would like to make some immediate recommendations based upon what I have read in Issue Four.
First of all in this latest issue I found what qualifies as easily the best and most heartfelt Robert Quine tribute since his untimely passing. Written in collaboration by Matthew Baab and High Hat editor Hayden Childs it benefits equally from their obvious passion for the man's music, and crystal clear understanding of both what made him musically so significant (with some wonderfully descriptive examples of some of the Quine's high points) and why his recent death by suicide was such a tragic loss. On the other end of the heroes and villains spectrum there is Phil Nugent's detailed and spot on examination of the American medias unprecedented outpouring of inane adoration and hyperbolic candy coated bullshit at the passing of the former President Ronald Reagan l Several other tributes for those who have recently passed, including Steve Lacy, Ray Charles and Elvin Jones, look ripe for further heartfelt insight.
A word of caution for European readers is that a bit of the content might be slightly skewed, naturally due to the sites origin, towards American readers such as single mom Shauna McKenna's hilarious look at the Warner Brothers (the WB for short) network's Tuesday night line up or "Bastard night" as she calls it, featuring shows about single moms, broken families and illegitimate kids, ranging from the best written show on network TV the Gilmore Girls, to the empty but decidedly photogenic teenage drama of One Tree Hill. Still the advent and widespread distribution of various region DVD editions of American shows would acquaint most readers to the TV related articles in this issue such as the short lived but brilliant Ben Stiller Show and the much beloved by even the editor of this very site, Freaks and Geeks.
There is still a lot I haven't read at the High Hat including most of the music related pieces, a quick perusal of which reveals musings on Blonde Redhead, Lee Hyla, Firesign Theatre (comedy not music but whatever) as well as reflections on REM's Reckoning and the dark days of cassette collecting. But one more quick recommendation from what I have read and reread would be the hilarious and in my humble quite accurate piece by Phil Nugent on "controversial" filmmaker Lars Von Trier's new film Dogville. For those who find themselves more sympathetic to the vision of Von Trier don't let this recommendation put you off, for in the same issue you can also find Gary Mairs' argument in favor of Dogville.
The most recent word is that the High Hat has tentative plans/hopes of going the print route where it would join the ranks of hip-hop/jazz/funk/record collecting journal Wax Poetics as one of the few remaining music and music culture rags worth reading (for any who once read my defense of Mojo as not that bad, recent issues and coverage have forced me to recant). Here's hoping that the High Hat sees print and that either way its readership continues to expand. So that's it for now, happy reading to all! And for some final context, I'm off to dig the new expanded version of the Velvet's at Live at Max's Kansas City and the Talking Heads The Name of This Band is Talking Heads, both worthy subjects, but for another day. Selah!
© 2004 William Crain