Unquiet Thoughts About “A Quiet Place”

Watched twice on HD TV.

It’s been a bit overpraised, though you can sure understand why reviewers would be grateful for a horror movie that wasn’t screaming in your ear and slapping you in the face relentlessly. Nevertheless, Get Out or Arrival it is not.

I say it would make a dandy Saturday matinee at my Dad’s old movie theaters. First-rate Creature Feature. What most bugged me the initial watch is that I detected no clue where these superpredators came from. Can’t just come out of the Monster Hole. And because they’re beasts with no technology, it’s impossible to imagine them invading from UFOs.

Second time through I noticed a headline I had missed in the Dad’s War Room: “METEORITE HITS MEXICO.” The idea being that these monstrosities could be hibernating inside a smallish Asteroid, which would explain why there are not so many of them.

Horror highlights:

the opening sequence, which is perfectly paced, terrifying, believable and unforgettable.

the scenes with the grain silo, which center on one of my favorite little-known deadly dangers of the things and reveal that the predators are hard and strong enough to rip right through metal.

the clever climax which showers posthumous honor on Dad and shows Mom has unlimited courage. Once again, I believe it was A.E. Van Vogt who came up with the idea that a particularly deadly quality of an alien being would be its ability to remain perfectly silent and still and then attack with supernatural speed.

Prediction:

Millicent Simmonds is going to be a superstar. I was in her power after the first five minutes.

For the Record: Denouncing a Boneheaded Idea About Pop Music

An unfortunate, lingering side-effect of the persistent remnants of high-culture arrogance 30 years ago was the following “reasoning”:

Theater and classical music were Serious Art best explained by serious writers for a serious, intelligent audience.

Films and jazz had earned a seat at the lower end of the Serious table, but they had a essential commercial streak that made denouncing big hits something to avoid.

Popular music was garbage and nothing but commerce. So a serious writer who took on pop was a fool. Writing for a tiny audience of other fools. The correct move was dumb writing for dumb people, which would attract a huge audience.

Of course this never worked in practice. (Pointing out that those who read about pop music were already the intellectual fans didn’t seem to make any difference.) So the nonsense has fallen out of favor.

What has replaced it is the notion that gossip and celebrity-drooling will make a lot more bucks than serious discussion. And that, sadly, is hard to deny.

The [Extinct] Good System of Doing Popular Music Promotion (and Maybe Arts Promotion in General)

I know as a fairly successful Music Editor that 99.5% of people cannot describe music in print for beans. I know that enough people to populate even this current expanded world of publicists can clearly describe the wheres and whats of a release. One big problem now is that the latter are expected to do the former — I’m supposed to tell from a description (usually quite low quality with a lotta “sounds like” comparisons which are worthless) whether I want to hear a record or not. A wild guess at best.

In the Golden Lost Era I was sent a lot of what came out with the wheres and what information, I listened to it until I made up my mind about it and maybe reviewed it, put it into the subjects for further listening pile or chucked it. If I wanted to do something with the release I would (OF COURSE) contact the publicist.

Now I get literally hundreds of emails with this racket of: “here’s this release” (we’ll leave out the noise of things I never review under any circumstances); “doya want it?”; “didja get it?”; “doya like it?”; “gonna review it?”. Sometimes capped by this sullen silence if I don’t like the music.

What in the fuck was the matter with Send It To Me/I’ll Listen To It/If I Wanna Write About It I’ll Get Back To You/Otherwise End of Story?

It was simpler, clearer and a helluva lot less distracting.

The Air Is Still and the Light Is Cool #24

Various, Pop Royale (2011)

This is (ahem) a mixdisc assembled by me. When I was giving a guest lecture at an Arts Criticism class a couple weeks ago, I was caught more off-guard than I expected by the question “What is your taste?” And I gave a lamer-than-optimal answer. Something on the order of:  I’m very eclectic (do everything but childrens’ and straight classical). Have a few styles like trad Celtic and Flamenco vocals that I cannot bear, but that’s me not a judgement on the musics. Lyrics matter to me all the time — dippy words can drag down even excellent playing — but the most outstanding international songs work even if you don’t know the language. I’m more interested in what’s emerging than mulling over or even celebrating the past.

Then, a couple days ago, I ran across this disc, which I’m going to present as a compact incarnation of my taste. With some caveats, of course. In this same year-end sequence I had discs devoted to international and hip-hop, but those are represented here and if I could do a dream radio sequence it would be like this — all the transitions work, whether standouts from fine albums, best tracks on flawed releases, or long shots that nail the bullseye. Only one complaint (“Air Is Still” recommendations get to have one flaw): the last track ends too abruptly.

The final note is that around 2010 is when I felt I was hearing close to all the releases that I needed to hear. That I could stitch together a program like this with confidence. These days, the pens have to be a lot tighter — and I know there’s more things running around outside them.

  1. Poly Styrene, “I Luv Ur Sneakers”
  2. Paul Simon, “The Afterlife”
  3. Bombino. “Tar Hani” (My Love)
  4. Shabazz Palaces, “An Echo From the Hosts That Profess Infinitum”
  5. Serengeti, “Long Ears”
  6. Kiran Ahluwalia, “Mustt Mustt”
  7. Steve Cropper/Buddy Miller, “The Slummer the Slum”
  8. Pistol Annies, “Lemon Drop”
  9. Vijay Iyer, “Duality”
  10. Banquet of the Spirits, “Briel”
  11. Tom Waits, “Hell Broke Luce”
  12. Blaqstarr, “Wonder Woman”
  13. Wynton Marsalis/Eric Clapton, “Ice Cream”
  14. The Vivs, “Are You Coming Around?”
  15. James Vincent McMorrow, “Sparrow & the Wolf”
  16. Younger Brother, “Shine”
  17. Battles, “Africastle”
  18. Oneohtrix Point Never, “Andro”

Kronos Quartet/Laurie Anderson/Trio Da Kali

My “Fresh Air” review. Couple points: I meant to review the Trio Da Kali collaboration when it came out last fall, but life got too complicated for a while. Proved to be a good thing, though, because the Landfall pairing is excellent in a quite different way. The triumph of string groups added to diverse modern music is my theme of the year. Carl Craig’s surprise wonder was my first discovery of the series.