Friday, August 31, 2007


New Pornographers, Challengers

Either they're losing their enthusiasm for the concept or I am. Most of these masterpieces of filigree beguile after the fourth listen, but in the end I'm left wondering why I bothered. Neko's Case deepening husk is even more beguiling (her work on the title track is the only keeper); too bad Carl Newman's more interested in gnarled song titles to notice.

Lil Wayne, Da Drought 3

On timbre and diction alone he's major. "Black Republicans" proves that he can adduce timbre and diction to support an uproarious analogy. Bless him for besting Ol' Dirty Bastard's attention span – he won't settle for court jester when he's clearly aiming for the throne, using tried-and-true methods: insinuation and flattery. Speaking of which, Ciara's inexhaustible "Promise" once again reveals itself to be a two-way street.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The politics of feeling good

Kevin Baker's article on the horrors of a Rudy Giuilani presidency is the best I've read in months: pungent, well-researched, and original. He rightly sees the continuity between the Big Business flirtations during the Clinton years and the marginalization of progressive forces in this country. Walter Karp might have agreed with this:
The old power brokers would be swept away, along with traditional liberal
and conservative politics. What the Clintons learned from this, and would learn and learn again over the course of their many years in politics, was that progressivism could be advanced only in the most incremental installments, and only with the imprimatur of powerful corporate and financial elites. They would adopt a sort of "post-ideological" politics -- a politics that abandoned the old ideologies and claimed none of its own.
Adorno would be a lot more eloquent than I about the reificiation of progressivism, etc. However, his conclusions are too wistful; serious about wanting a coalition of voters united behind something beyond mere pragmatism, Baker admires the evangelical wing of the GOP for its commitment to principles and hopes that liberals learn something from them. While I admire how this liberal avoids smugness towards a subculture that appears weird to him, I can't see why we can't rely on a document as lucid as our Constitution to illumine the better angels of our nature.

neon bright vs neon white

There's a Bluffer's Guide to post-Thriller Michael Jackson waiting to be written; hell, I may write it myself. Much is made of the symbolism of Nirvana's Nevermind knocking Dangerous off the top of the Billboard album chart in January 1992; but like all symbolic acts it crumbles under closer scrutiny. Dangerous is as paranoid and angry as "Polly," "Lithium," "Drain You," and any Nevermind pearl you care to mention. The production is the pivot on which reception turns: Dangerous is so expensively clattery -- and Jackson's public persona now swollen beyond control -- that you couldn't hear the paranoia and anger; Nevermind is so bright (Eric Weisbard once said Butch Vig's mix "assumed a social dominance alternative hadn't yet achieved") that Kurt Cobain's angst assumes mytho-poetic dimensions. I haven't thought too deeply about this yet, but this is really an untold story.

(inspired by relistening to Bad's "Man in the Mirror," Dangerous' "In the Closet" and "Who Is it?" and Blood on the Dance Floor's fucking psychotic "Morphine")

Monday, August 27, 2007

I take great pleasure in baiting my friends into thinking I'm a flaming conservative. Credit my natural contrarianism; also an innate distrust of feel-goodism, which even the most humane liberalism can't keep from curdling into something sinister. I won't dismiss my Cuban-American upbringing either, or the inherent paradox in the exile community's traditional embrace of the GOP: for all their contempt for government interference and admirable pragmatism, their success is due to the largess of U.S. Cold War politics, which in the business of saving them from dictatorial thuggery and Fidelism granted them social services unparalleled in the twentieth century -- services and status enjoyed by no other immigrant community. The relationship between the U.S. and Cuba is Borgian in complexity. I've admired Burke and Macaulay for years; it's only recently that I realized that the times have outpaced them. Their sobriety, once a palliative, seems as anachronistic as Shelley's "Defence of Poetry." In short, I can't imagine how Hugh Hewitt, Mark Steyn, or any member of the Podhoretz dynasty can reconcile their paranoia and smutty writing with classic conservatism.

It's news like this that confirms what the polls suggest: the GOP has lost the youth vote for a generation. When my het students suffer no embarrassment from admitting publicly that they have gay best friends, how are they supposed to react when even exemplars of the obsolete branch known as the Goldwater western conservatives have to get their jollies from playing footsie in an airport men's room stall?
Alberto Gonzalez, the protagonist in a self-written narrative in which a man of Mexican descent overcomes "adversity" to join the ranks of A. Mitchell Palmer, John Mitchell, and Ed Meese as bullet-headed hacks in thrall to a President who's less an Executive than a scion, is finally given the blessing by his master to work as a consultant in the Heritage Foundation. George W. Bush, as John Dickerson remarks, makes a "fetish of loyalty."

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Under the spotlight...

STE is right about Rilo Kiley Mach II: Jenny Lewis' control is as inexorable as Natalie Merchant's over the 10,000 Maniacs circa Our Time in Eden. I say for the better: on their previous albums (the ones I could listen to all the way without getting up to make a Denver omelet), Blake Sennett made the usual mistake of perfecting songcraft at the expense of rhythm and weirdness; and while Lewis' songs still deny the former, they're long on the latter. Never mind the encyclopedic pop ambitions of Under The Blacklight -- this is a woman whose appetites are so strong that she'll sate them anywhere and anytime, and whose own songcraft almost matches her emotional demands. Unfortunately, the Lewis regime is hell on her bandmates, all of whom to a man are indistinguishable from any Grade B studio hack. Sennett's one tune evokes, as Joshua Klein pointed out, Mirage-era Fleetwood Mac, alas: like Lindsay Buckingham on the reified followup to Tusk, Sennett sounds embarrassed if not declawed, as if he'd been on the wrong end of a lecture. The mix is laxative-smooth; it could be the indie-pop Gaucho (with his work here and on Maroon 5's latest, Mike Elizondo could be repping for Gary Katz's cred). Hook her up with, say, Lloyd Cole, Fred Maher, and Matthew Sweet, and you may get first-rate adult entertainment.

A couple of other reviews (including Erlewine's) suggest that Lewis is striving to be her generation's Anais Nin or something. "There is nothing but bad sex here," Erlewine writes. As if! (can't you enjoy bad sex?). Perhaps if Lewis ditched these guys and started to limn the rich showbiz kid life for material instead of teasing us we'd really get the Gaucho we deserve; as the sassy Dusty in Memphis-inspired "45" intimates, she's smart enough to let her lyrics delineate the irony that her big voice is incapable of embracing.

Boys will be boys, pt. II

After seeing Superbad last night, I'm more than convinced that the first point in my last post is correct. It helps that Michael Cera 's fey dumbfoundedness is probably the college-age male heterosexual's most fashionable pose.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Boys will be boys, pt. I

I haven't seen Superbad yet, but this putatively no-contest John Hughes-vs-Judd-Apatow debate got complicated quickly, and there's several points to consider:

(1) Films about the deceptively placid, ostensibly platonic relationships between men are rare. Seth Rogan and Paul Rudd's affection in Knocked Up is so powerful and instantaneous that marriage is seen as a necessary but painful interruption. From my own experience, if there's anything more powerful than a man and woman falling in love, it's two men realizing they've got a connection. Knocked Up shows how having stuff in common is a suitable substitute for sex; when you've got nothing in common -- like Rogan and Katherine Heigl -- sex is the only substitute (It's one of the film's many subtle pleasures that Rogan's gingerly, non-stop jokes around Heigl don't hide his discomfort, as she and the audience are perfectly aware. The film doesn't condemn Heigl for being a square either).

(2) It's probably true that Apatow's female characters lack the dimensions of their male counterparts. But let's remember: like Hawks or Linklater, this is a director for whom behavior matters as much as written dialogue. If Katherine Heigl and Leslie Mann seem set in alabaster and shrewish, respectively, that's not how these actresses play their parts. This suggests a weakness on Apatow's part. He's created such a reliable stock company that he can write to their strengths. Casting a less congenial actor may reveal the chinks in his conceptions. A film that mixes tones to such vertiginous effect as Knocked Up renders binarities like the Madonna-whore complex obsolete.

As for my response to the Lamentations of David Denby, I wrote this last month, in part:

Denby's latest exercise in sincere befuddlement finds modern romantic comedy wanting beside -- you guessed it -- the triumphant silliness of the screwball comedies of the thirties and forties. The problem isn't with his premise; most intelligent filmgoers are probably as depressed by the privileging of "high concept" ideas over actual, you know, scripts. No, Denby is troubled by the preference of the contemporary filmgoer for slackers over the bejewelled playgirls and brilliantined boys that populated the movies of Ernst Lubitsch, Gregory La Cava, and Howard Hawks. Although Denby is smart enough to accept that the social context which allowed for this sort of milieu has vanished (indeed, never existed in FDR's Depression-racked America), he's repelled by our embrace of Judd Apatow's stoner heroes. He won't even give us the benefit of the doubt -- he thinks we adduce Seth Rogan's antics as proof of our resistance to the values of classic thirties screwball. He's in love, in short, with a myth; and if there's anything we've learned, myths can occlude the finest judgments:
As fascinating and as funny as Knocked Up is, it represents what can only be called the disenchantment of romantic comedy, the end point of a progression from Fifth Avenue to the Valley, from tuxedos to tube socks, from a popped champagne cork to a baby crowning. There’s nothing in it that is comparable to the style of the classics — no magic in its settings, no reverberant sense of place, no shared or competitive work for the couple to do.
Is he kidding? "No reverberant sense of place" (like Rogan's apartment and sister-in-law's house didn't smother us in their smothering verisimilitude)? The clue's in that rancid polarity, "from tuxedos to tube socks," as if we could choose, as if Knocked Up didn't articulate a discomfort of which Bringing Up Baby and My Man Godfrey were incapable -- a real tapping into the Zeitgeist that Denby himself acknowledges ("the picture is unruly and surprising; it’s filled with the messes and rages of life in 2007")*. The second clue is Denby's dew-eyed elevation of those Woody Allen films of the late seventies. Certainly they're as ambivalent and messy as Knocked Up, but Denby upholds them as avatars of grace and elegance -- "they took romantic comedy to a level of rueful sophistication never seen before or since." Given Denby's roots in the upheavals of seventies cinema, I'm shocked he didn't cite Paul Mazursky's freewheeling, overloaded comedies (Blume in Love, Next Stop, Greenwich Village, or An Unmarried Woman) as better examples.

Since Denby's incapable of the dialectical play that distinguished Kael (or, hell, Lubitsch), he must distinguish, grindingly, like a scold you nevertheless can't help but pity, between "sophistication" and "adolescent stupor." That he really loves Knocked Up -- that he senses that Apatow's film is on to something, tapping into something inchoate in American heterosexual relations -- is unmistakable; but his brain, dulled by the whiff of pot smoke and the sight of Rogan and Paul Rudd in tube socks, has to punish his instincts. You can sense his delight in snapping, like a hippo, at what he thinks is a salient demurral: Apatow has no idea what to do with his female characters. Leslie Mann, he writes, is "not a lover; she represents disillusion." But she's a supporting character. Does Denby hold Eve Arden in Stage Door or Ruth Hussey in The Philadelphia Story-- both used as much for their talent for bitchiness as their ability to incarnate archetypes -- as examples of three-dimensional womanhood? (Were I to mention faggoty Kate Hepburn foil David Wayne in Adam's Rib Denby's righteous head would collapse).

This article, with its dewy evocations of beloved plot points in His Girl Friday and Adam's Rib as if the reader he was trying to address hadn't already seen them, does Denby no favors. Remember: Greil Marcus rather nastily wrote, "Nothing will ever rescue him from mediocrity" in that hit job. I fear that results like this are inevitable when you try to explain zeitgeists and such to an ageing audience -- you sound like a tabby stepping on piano keys....

(care of A Grand Illusion)

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Good night

Some things, nino, some things are like this,
That instantly and in themselves they are gay
And you and I are such things, O most miserable...

For a moment they are as gay and are a part
Of an element, the exactest element for us,
In which we pronounce joy like a word of our own.

It is there, being imperfect, and with these things
And erudite in happiness, with nothing learned,
That we are joyously ourselves and we think

Without the labor of thought, in that element,
And we feel, in a way apart, for a moment, as if
There was a bright scienza outside of ourselves,

A gaiety that is being, not merely knowing,
The will to be and to be total in belief,
Provoking a laughter, an agreement by surprise.

-- Wallace Stevens
"Of Bright & Blue Birds & the Gala Sun"

Daryl Hall: "I love the fact that record companies are all going down"

A lively Daryl Hall interview in, of all places, Pitchfork. He tells Clive Davis to go fuck himself, laments the standards-strewn road down which Rod Stewart walks in the autumn of his career, sympathizes with Kelly Clarkson, and talks warmly of his collaboration with Robert Fripp, Sacred Songs.

I adore Hall, but he and interviewer Chris Dahlen give themselves too much credit for Hall & Oates' purported indie cred. In the context of an act that scored a Number One, a couple of Top Tens, and several charting small hits, the late seventies period during which they released stuff like Along the Red Ledge and X-Static were just fallow commercially (and, what do I know, artistically too); they stayed on a major label and eventually prospered, hugely. As a result, this interview largely ignores the eighties, which is bizarre: imagine interviewing John Lennon and asking him about the Cavern Club and recording Mind Games, while devoting one question to the Beatles. As one of the greatest beneficiaries of generational revisionism, H&O's big hits (it's difficult for those who weren't in the U.S. at the time to imagine how omnipresent those hits were) really did synthesize all that was au courant and underground: glacial synth pop, the stirrings of Big Chill-inspired sixties nostalgia, Arthur Baker dub.

I find his arrogance for once cute, a sign of enormous self-confidence and pride, even in this bit where he answers the perennial what-does-John-do question:
We are not an equal duo, and never have been. I'm 90% and he's 10%, and that's the way it is. And he'd say the same thing. He has plenty of ideas, he's a finisher, he's a good musician, he is an attention-to-detail person. He is overshadowed by me because I'm such a strong vocal personality. I also always believed that you can only have one singer in a band. The ping-pong thing doesn't work. We're not the Bobbsey Twins. He stands there, he's the quiet one – it's sort of like Jagger-Richards or something. And I'm out there banging away. And I'm much more prolific than him. I have much more energy than him. He's more lazy than me – [laughs] – in music. But he's a meticulous person.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Oh well

For the Things Don't Change file: Charles Dickens describing the House of Representatives in American Notes:
I saw in them, the wheels that move the meanest perversion of virtuous Political Machinery that the worst tools ever wrought. Despicable trickery at elections; under-handed tamperings with public officers; cowardly attacks upon opponents, with scurrilous newspapers for shields, and hired pens for daggers; shameful trucklings to mercenary knaves, whose claim to be considered, is, that every day and week they sow new crops of ruin with their venal types, which are the dragon's teeth of yore, in everything but sharpness; aidings and abettings of every bad inclination in the popular mind;, and artful suppressions of all tis good influences; such things as these, and in a word, Dishonest Faction in its most depraved and most unblushing form, stared out from every corner of the crowded hall.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Rather pokey in spots, its score obtrusive, tentatively pessimistic ending patting itself on the bank; yet The Lookout is blessed with three of this year's best performances: by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Jeff Daniels, and Matthew Goode. Earlier this year I cited a Slate article that delineated the subtle ways in which Gordon-Levitt uses silence and stillness in place of the Method mannerisms that lots of his peers think guarantees realism (the River Phoenix of Dogfight and My Own Private Idaho approvingly cited the Method in interviews, but his performances in these films are precursors to what Gordon-Levitt's achieved in Mysterious Skin, Brick, and here). His concentration provides a stable ground on which Jeff Daniels can stink like two-week-old ham and triumph anyway, and Matthew Goode, summoning the prissy murmured vitrol of Richard Widmark, can create the most convincing loser-cum-villain seen in recent months. Just ignore the double-crosses in the second half that doubtless sold the first's realism. When John Dahl's your idol, Raoul Walsh's face is as deadly to the human sight as Jehovah's.

For all that, the film's most violent scene is a Thanksgiving dinner at which Gordon-Levitt's family has to pretend that he's not a ruined husk. Writer-director Scott Frank's touch is sure: he doesn't use the WASP setting for smug laughs; the casting of Bruce McGill -- a journeyman supporting actor as strong in My Cousin Vinny as he is in The Insider -- as Gordon-Levitt's father helps. As Frank sees it, good-natured ribbing has rarely curdled so quickly into unpleasantness.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

No, the problem with M.I.A.'s Kala is simpler than most of the reasons proffered here: wondrous first half, poor second half, and only two songs sound like sonic and lyrical expansions: the Bollywood neo-disco of "Jimmy" and the somber "Paper Planes," which relies on a beautiful interpolation of The Clash's "Straight To Hell." I've warmed to "Mango Pickle Down River" (a skittering update of Another Bad Creation and Musical Youth) and the dense collage that is "Bird Flu." It's possible that what sounds to these ears like failed marriages of beats and voice will surrender their charms later in the year.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

A perfect example of an avant-garde band whose most subversive work (to these ears) adapted pop principles is Pere Ubu. Cloudland, my favorite album of theirs, was remastered with bonus tracks a few months ago, after being out of print since the early nineties. Singer David Thomas, gargling and spitting atop producer Stephen Hague's glistening mix, is especially ghoulish in this context. No way is this as epochal as "Final Solution," but there's something to be said about Thomas doing his addled-John Goodman routine over "True Faith" wannabes like "Love Love Love."

Anyway, I don't often like to post YouTube clips, but this performance of Cloudland's Modern Rock chart hit "Waiting for Mary" (a Top Ten!) on David Sanborn's "Night Music" has to be one of the most spectacular dadaist spectacles I've ever seen. With Deborah Harry on background vocals, Sanborn on sax, and Philip Glass somewhere.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

It depresses me when I agree with Stephen Thomas Erlewine, but he's right about the underwhelming Garbage compilation. Leading with a minor hit single whose first words are a catchy non sequitur, the collection avoids as much context as possible for their souped-up gothic/Catholic melodrama. And Garbage did/do not exist without context. Song for song the first half is unassailable ("Stupid Girl" and "Special," neither of which I'd heard in years, sounded good), but as their audience expanded so too did their melodramatic ambitions; it makes no sense to hate them for recording a James Bond song when clearly they, like Duran Duran, were made for the subgenre (all that's surprising is how limp the results were). Exploiting a forgivable (I hope), youthful penchant for hyperbole, I once tagged Version 2.0 as "the nineties' Parallel Lines." Now it's more like "the nineties' Automatic (yes, that Jesus & Mary Chain album). Christgau once complimented Debbie Harry's "vocal gloss" for revealing "nooks of compassion"; meanwhile Shirley Manson is just lucky to have a glossy voice. At her best she's a compelling cipher who strained to reach heights of cartoonish lust and need (hence the goth comparisons). Not only wouldn't you take her out to dinner, but you'd think twice about doing her in an alley (the ache in "You Look So Fine" suggests that she hasn't figured out which she prefers, and we know how het guys feel about women who don't know what they want). Absolute Garbage reveals less ambiguity than one would like from a band that purportedly recorded classic singles. What's confusing is how they scored a Top Five debut in 2005.

Monday, August 13, 2007

"Night Runner"

Entertainment Weekly is allowing visitors to stream the new Duran Duran-Timbo-Justin collaboration "Night Runner." The first fifteen seconds – with the clicks, woodblock percussion, and synth-chime melody – sound like Rich Harrison producing TKA, while the bridge turns into robo-Gibb (as in Barry, Maurice, and Robin). It's spare, hooky, and insinuating (I can't wait to hear the inevitable remixes), more vital than anything on Timbo's recent solo album or even Justin's "Summer Love," his least eventful Top Ten. The problem: it sounds like a Justin track on which Simon Le Bon happened to guest (which, for certain people I know, is a good thing). I can understand why Andy Taylor's talent for whammy-bar abuse made him flip through his Rolodex for Rod Stewart's phone number.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Simon's mini review of the Anton Corbijn's Control has got me very excited, although I worry about a Joy Division that's "grimly verite and gloriously aestheticized." I suppose indie's version of the Jim Morrison myth (the myth, I stress, not the man) deserves its own gloriously aestheticized rendition. Joy Division's music wasn't truth or life; it felt like truth, it sounded like life, like an Aeschylus play. That's why I don't stump for Ian Curtis like other Bernard Sumner skeptics: these frontmen weren't Robert Altmans, they were Fritz Langs, illuminating tropes instead of pinning details (NO's story could be filmed just as well in beautiful monochrome too), recreating Despair and Euphoria instead of describing them.

Now that we're on the subject, a word here for postpunk England's Colonel Parker, and a helluva lot more colorful and smart too. No R.I.P.'s -- not only don't I believe in them, but I can't imagine he'd want to rest peacefully anyway.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

In the jungle, in the weeds

The thickly cheekboned Christian Bale has been in three dozen films since appearing in Steven Spielberg's Empire of the Sun (it's still his most memorable role), yet we're no closer to discovering what's going on inside his head. Often good and sometimes better, he seems to perform more than act; there's a sense in which he doesn't shape characters, or believe in characters at all. Movement, wariness, and intelligence -- those are the Bale virtues (the Matt Damon of the Jason Bourne movies learned a lot from him). Bale's become the go-to guy for post-Method commitment, accepting humiliations that would make fellow actors blanche: lose 60 pounds, skin a snake with his teeth, banter with Katie Holmes.

Rescue Dawn needs Bale's stolid commitment; the other actors, save for a tremulous Steve Zahn, sell their archetypes too strenuously. Werner Herzog's jungle film seems strangely detached. Until Bale's Dieter Dengler escapes from a Laotian prison, his ordeals faze neither him nor us (these ordeals include dangling upside down with an ant hill tied to his face and enduring the harangues of Jeremy Davies doing his third or fourth variation on Dennis Weaver's motel clerk in Touch of Evil). Herzog's such an autocrat that I can't say he was unaware that Dengler's the all-American bore; I suppose Herzog's conceit is that, despite all the horrors, Dengler suffers no comeuppance at all. This is the only way in which the Top Gun-worthy ending makes sense. Which is just as well, as Herzog regards human erotics with the mild curiosity of a caterpillar or boa constrictor behind the viewfinder (think of how your dog stares when you're about to have sex). The intimation of a lonely, situation-enforced intimacy between Bale and Zahn forms, then dissipates, like the mist in the mountain peaks heralding the onset of the rainy season.

I can't be the only one who prefers Herzog's documentaries to his feature films. Watching the first two-thirds of Rescue Dawn, I kept wishing he'd filmed another Burden of Dreams to accompany this one. Alas, this excellent 2006 profile is all we're likely to get. Herzog should have allowed Bale to yell, "I am not going to feckin’ die for you, Werner!” in his best Welch accent.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

At last!

Thomas Inskeep resumes his magisterial rundown of every Billboard R&B #1 of the eighties (more than fourteen months later!). Today's selections: Angela Winbush, Stevie Wonder's "Skeletons," and Earth, Wind & Fire's "System of Survival." I've never heard the Winbush. The other two range from pretty good to okay.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

I don't own the Justice album yet, and my liking "D.A.N.C.E." isn't enough. The world doesn't need another kiddie chorus, or, more specifically, an act which uses kiddie choruses in a way that Daft Punk might approve. What the world does need is more backing tracks like this one: play it after Change's "Angel In My Pocket" and you'll swoon over the string section stabs, faux Tony Thompson drumming, and main guitar lick. Like Escort's "Starlight" last year, this is neo-disco done right. "The way you move is a mystery" might have been more effective had Justice hired an anonymous diva to proclaim it.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Love is like marijuana

Unshackled from FutureSex/LoveSounds, Justin Timberlake's "LoveStoned/I Think That She Knows" sounds even more outré on Top 40 radio – those that play the seven-minute album version, that is. Fans have been in such a hurry to praise the trancey Coldplay coda at the expense of the stupendous front half. JT finally finds the right setting for his beatboxing skills, which are as marginally impressive as his guitar playing; and the way Timbo surrounds JT's grunts, yelps, doubletracked chorus vocals with disco strings that dip and glide mirrors the anxiety that dissolves into the euphoria of locking eyes with someone on the dance floor and she looks back. The music suggests endless possibilities; since songs are mostly monologues not dialogues the singer's optimism feels endearing, especially when you remind yourself that most guys with JT's swagger, looks, and money picking up girls in clubs confuse optimism with determination (they're sleazy instead of sexy; when JT essayed the former on "Sexyback," it wasn't convincing). JT's lyrics often get short shrift, but the title compound is goofily appropriate: the sort of twaddle your friend will mistakenly hear you say when you're both shouting above the din.

I last listened to "I think That She Knows" when New Order's "Dream Attack" succeeded it on my iPod's running order. Their similarities are striking. I love Bernard Sumner's tone; instead of the voice of the detached techie (to borrow Robert Christgau's affectionate moniker), we hear a guy so enraptured that it feels as if his voice might crack if forced to utter another syllable. The picked guitar and synth backdrop in "Dream Attack" conjure a post-erotic dawn; "I Think That She Knows" evokes pre-erotic awe; this coda sounds sexless, like a medieval painter contemplating the mysteries of the Virgin. It's the singer shedding one mask for another. Imagine JT exchanging the dancing-fool swagger for sensitivo acoustics once he's home and had time to assimilate his experience. He's singing and writing about an impression that's beyond his emotional capabilities; the best he can do is to compare it to being really stoned.