Cold War masterpiece ‘Stalker’ gets fresh airing

A wish granted is not a life changed. In Stalker, the chance for three citizens of an industrial, quasi-totalitarian present to enter an out-of-time space called The Zone produces no satisfaction. Part of the joke in Andrei Tarkovsky’s beloved 1979 classic is that The Zone looks no less bleak and dirty than the purported real world. Often regarded as a commentary on the Soviet Union’s post-Stalin decline, Stalker itself has for too long looked like a product of those times. An edition released by Kino a decade ago replaced the disgraceful prints extant, but even the first third’s monochrome images look as if industrial smog had smeared the lenses, or grime-encrusted snow. Thanks to Janus Films, a 4K restoration touring the country and a print of Solaris will run through Thursday, June 29 at Coral Gables Art Cinema.

A filmmaker of severe formal rigor who ran afoul of the Soviet film industry, Tarkovsky’s adaptation of scriptwriters Boris and Arkady Strugatsky’s novel creates immersive experiences demanding from audiences an attention to how dialogue and performance sometimes clash, fruitfully, with setting and camerawork. Stalker resists characterization, though. What begins as a depiction of lives smacked by firm government that the Andrzej Wajda who made Kanal might have recognized turns into a static but dialectical meditation on reality itself. In Stalker‘s greatest sequence, a train containing our trio hurtles toward The Zone, whereupon a hard cut signals their arrival; color overwhelms the screen, the Stalker (Aleksandr Kaydanovskiy) is playing with a caterpillar, and the landscape is now a forest of thick pines and overgrown meadows. But the three find no peace. The Writer (Solaris’ Anatoliy Solonitsyn) and the Professor (Nikolay Grinko) participate in discussions centering on their experiences; their names define them. In the dreary “real” world they abandon for the Zone, that’s all they are. “Everything gets clear here until it’s too late,” one of the characters observes. “For Tarkovsky the artist, despite his Russian Orthodox Christian faith, despite his insistence that the epic scenery of Utah and Arizona could only have been created by god, it is an almost infinite capacity to generate doubt and uncertainty (and, extrapolating from there, wonder),” Glenn Kenny wrote several years ago in his review of Zona, Geoff Dyer’s book length disquisition on Stalker. To enter the Zone, where one’s fondest desires are realized, means to confront the desire for those desires too, and whether, as T.S. Eliot once wrote, “desires ungratified” shouldn’t be allowed to persist. Key to Stalker is the performance of Kaydanovskiy, projecting what film reviewer Hans Morgenstern calls an existential sadness.

Speaking for myself, I am more moved by 1975’s The Mirror, in which the ripple of sequences demonstrates an interweaving of past and present that is one of the closest cinematic equivalences to reading Proust I’ve ever seen. Then again, it’s likely that few people have seen Stalker look this impressive. It awaits a new generation of curious fans.

Gables Cinema Associate Director Javier Chavez, along with Miami Jewish Film Festival director Igor Shteyrenberg and Independent Ethos film critic Hans Morgenstern, will discuss Stalker and Solaris at a panel called “In the Zone: The Mysteries and Revelations of Andrei Tarkovsky” tonight at 7 p.m. Criterion Collection will release a remastered edition on DVD and Blu-Ray on July 17.

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X-rated music, and adult books too — the best of X

The L.A. equivalent of Fleetwood Mac, X boasted a powerful rhythm section and a bassist and singer who sang to and about each other, even when the scenarios were fiction. Meanwhile a guitarist in Billy Zoom with a bag full of rockabilly riffs kept them coming. Wild Gift garnered the kudos, but I can’t choose between the quartet of superb albums released in Ronald Reagan’s first term produced by Ray Manzarek. John and Yoko, Richard and Linda, Linda and Cecil — many couples released song cycles about marriage in that period; Wild Gift is the only one that evokes talk benumbed and awash alcohol, of bad sex regretted in the morning in dirty rooms. When they lapsed into the generic, which was often after 1983, John Doe and Exene Cervenka’s harmonies — plainspoken, anguished — still juiced the songs.

1. White Girl
2. The Hungry Wolf
3. The Once Over Twice
4. I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts
5. 4th of July
6. Your Phone’s Off the Hook, But You’re Not
7. Adult Books
8. The World’s a Mess; It’s in My Kiss
9. Riding with Mary
10. Dancing with Tears in My Eyes
11. Beyond and Back
12. Blue Spark
13. Los Angeles
14. When Our Love Passed Out on the Couch
15. We’re Having Much More Fun
16. The New World
17. Burning House of Love
18. Motel Room in My Bed
19. Drunk in My Past
20. Breathless

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Getting the details right: Jason Isbell and 2 Chainz

Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit – The Nashville Sound

Intelligent songs intelligently performed, with a songwriter at the microphone conscious of his limitations as a performer, as a member of the human race; this is Jason Isbell’s best realized album since leaving Drive-By Truckers. “We’re all carrying one big burden, sharing one fate,” he sings on “White Man’s World.” But I doubt white hegemony prevents Isbell and violinst/wife Amanda Shires from “chang[ing] that Nashville sound” or commercial reality – no way songs that recoil so obviously from production gewgaws as Isbell’s would have gotten on the radio before 1980 or even 1970. So he’s not, to quote another tune, the last of his “kind”; plenty of intelligent folkies will attempt to storm the Nashville gates. On the other hand, “Last of My Kind” boasts an arrangement in which players respond to each other in quietly professional ways: Derry Deborja’s electric piano adds shade to Isbell and Sadler Vaden’s guitar accompaniment. Dig the way Isbell stretches the four syllables of “Anxiety,” punctuating it with electric strumming. I hope it isn’t gauche to lament the absence of more stompers like “Cumberland Gap” while also lamenting how even “Cumberland Gap” needs more rhythmic oomph than Chad Gamble provides, more to evoke the chorus sensation of the Gap swallowing you whole. “Chaos and Clothes” and especially “If We Were Vampires” are good tunes and fabulous titles wanting discord and sharp teeth. But enough. Thirty-eight, several years into a sobriety that has kept him alive, buoyed by the low six-figure sales that The Nashville Sound will likely ship, Isbell promises to hang around long enough to keep refining a craft for which he has an almost sacral devotion. Keeping an eye on the charts, however, will be good for his craft.

2 Chainz – Pretty Girls Like Trap

Swae Lee gets the funniest hook as the voice of Chainz’s mama on “Poor Fool,” taunting him about not closing his mouth while eating – Swae Lee! The most persuasive moment is a Mike Dean-produced reminscence of growing up in College Park wearing Gucci flip-flops with corns and bunions. My favorite guest is Monica on “Burgler Bars,” playing Mary J. Blige to Chainz’s Ghostface but without the surrealist wordplay. The most dramatic performance is “OG Kush Diet” – spare, rattling, ice cold about Chainz partying on a yacht while his partner dies until a reggae interpolation reminds him he’s still alive with a pocketful of blue cheese. Funnier, powerfuller, and chillier than expected, in short.

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Waiting for people to die

I actually heard a flak on Morning Joe a couple hours ago claim that Medicaid spending under the American Millionnaires Bailout Act will increase in the next ten years. I expect this to be a talking point in the next few days in the same way that, say, an increase in opiod relief funding to $20 billion year allows Senators Rob Portman and Shelley Moore Capito to claim they secured a 1,000 percent increase.

Now this news emerges:

Senate Republicans are expected to revise their health bill early next week, adding in a provision that could lock Americans out of the individual market for six months if they fail to maintain continuous insurance coverage.

Health insurance industry sources familiar with the plan say the change could be announced as early as Monday.

The six-month waiting period would fill a big policy gap in the current Better Care Act, which requires health plans to accept all patients — but doesn’t require all Americans to purchase coverage, as the Affordable Care Act does. Experts expect that this would cause a death spiral, where only the sickest patients purchase coverage and premiums skyrocket.

Aand don’t for a moment think that the cruelest members of the GOP caucus aren’t coming after the pre-existing conditions clause either. Yesterday Ron Johnson of Wisconsin compared the idea of insuring htese people akin to selling a policy to “somebody after they crash their car.” It isn’t even the moronic analogy: pre-existing conditions are no one’s fault; it’s the suggestion of recklessness. But guaranteeing almost $700 million in tax cuts to the fich suggests sobriety and sanity. Yet we’re supposed to believe life on Earth has evolved.

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Missouri legislators to women: stay home

Should you have the luck to land a job in Missouri and you’re a woman, you best hope your landlord doesn’t ask for medical records. Its senate has legislation that allows bosses and landlords to “discriminate against women who use birth control or have had abortions.” More:

Known as SB 5, the bill was first passed by the Senate on June 14 following a special session called by Greitens. His aim was to overturn an ordinance that prevents employers and housing providers from punishing women for their reproductive health choices, according to a report by Feministing, a feminist website.

The ordinance was passed by the city of St. Louis, and Greitens had said it made the area into “an abortion sanctuary city.” The Senate seemed to agree with him, as did the House, which on Tuesday passed an expanded version of SB 5 that included more anti-abortion restrictions. Given the Senate’s vote on June 14, it it seen as likely to approve the updated version of SB 5. This would mean that landlords could refuse to offer housing to women based on their reproductive health choices, while employers could fire female staff members who were using birth control, or refuse to hire them. And while of course this isn’t information most landlords or employers have access to, under SB 5 they could ask women what forms of reproductive health care they are using.

As the last sentence suggests, the idea that this proposed could be enforced is laughable. BOSS: “Show me your Aetna insurance bill; let me see if there’s an abortion rider.” Unless, of course, legislators assume women are guilty until proven innocence — that is, they’ve all had abortions or used birth control, therefore the burden is on them to prove otherwise. It makes as much sense as paying informants in Planned Parenthood clinics.

Don’t think this proposal couldn’t pass. State legislatures are laboratories for sinister nonsense designed to restrict the individual rights of citizens.

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I’m counting the grains and they’re so sharp: the best of Wire

Well, I figured Graham Lewis and Colin Newman deserved a snotty reappraisal. My piece on Wire’s 154 triggered a a week’s worth of hate (e)mail when such things existed. Intended as provocation, the essay pretends the rest of Wire’s career didn’t exist, and it’s only then that the Graham Lewis show pieces I hated make sense. If anything, the recordings they’ve released since 2000 honor their commitment to a paradox that no other band, let alone punk band, has ever mastered: histrionic austerity.

In this list I’ve included tracks from every Wire period ending with 2013’s ultra-competent and too aptly named Change Becomes Us and Colin Newman’s first solo album. For Wire, their career was all in the art of stopping, then restarting. Anti-nostalgia will consume itself. If the song at the top of the list is startling, I owe it to them. I can think of few bands using English who’ve written as primal, mysterious, and devastating as “Kidney Bingos.” In 1995’s epochal SPIN Alternative Record Guide, Eric Weisbard mused that to prefer The A-List, compiling Mach II Wire’s experiments with echo and Depeche Mode synths, you’d have to be as coldly pure as Wire themselves. Well.

1. Kidney Bingos
2. Ex-Lion Tamer
3. Map Ref. 41°N 93°W
4. Practice Makes Perfect
5. Lowdown
6. Mannequin
7. I Am the Fly
8. 12 X U
9. The 15th
10. French Film Blurred
11. Pink Flag
12. I Don’t Understand
13. Ahead
14. On Returning
15. A Series of Snakes
16. Outdoor Miner
17. Strange
18. Sand in My Joints
19. Drill
20. Bad Worn Thing
21. Another the Letter
22. One of Us
23. Reuters
24. In the Art of Stopping
25. Eardrum Buzz (Single Mix)
26. Two Minutes
27. As We Go
28. I’ve Waited Ages
29. Ambitious
30. Better Late Than Never

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Can’t you see what you have done?! — the best of Genesis

“Same difference,” a friend in high school groused when I corrected him about who sang “Tonight, Tonight, Tonight.” By spring 1987, after three straight years in which a Phil Collins or Genesis tune danced a little jig on the American top forty, it was impossible to tell them apart. Re-listening to Duke and Abacab having put aside memories of the persistence of these middle aged white men on MTV through the grunge era, it’s clear what did: the Genesis recordings had the musical complexity, “prog” for shorthand, as it often is, audibly on my favorite Genesis track. In a retrospective Marcello Carlin explains how well old met new:

Brilliantly balancing residual prog tendencies – the 13/4, 4/4, 9/4 tempo leaps – with a genuine sense of The Modern (Collins’ midsong count-in suggesting at least some awareness of “Being Boiled”), “Turn It On Again,” though a group composition with lyrics by Mike Rutherford, demonstrates why Collins had been so keen to play (though didn’t actually play) on Bowie’s Low; it is the group’s “Sound And Vision,” bending the rules of AoR to present a strikingly similar picture of alienation.

Genesis must be proud of one statistic: until 1997’s Collins-free debacle Calling All Stations, every album outsold its predecessor in the United Kingdom. Every album. If I were Tony Banks, Mike Rutherford, or Collins, I’d be even more proud that American Psycho‘s Patrick Bateman considers Invisible Touch masterpiece enough to write several pages of what’s either excellent criticism or a parody of excellent criticism. Hep cats buying Meat Puppets records in 1986 hated Invisible Touch, and, watching the video for the title track, where the most punchable trio since the Big Three at Yalta act adorable with horrifying results, I can’t disagree. I omitted “Land of Confusion” because, crunchy electrogroove notwithstanding, Mike Rutherford’s lyrics can’t conceal their cynicism (“My generation will get it right/We’re not just makin’ promises” — how’s that going?) and Collins can’t stop shouting as if he were standing on the Statue of Liberty torch praising Reagan. Fortunately, the rest of Invisible Touch applies restraint: a song about heroin addiction made into a beer commercial (who needs methadone?), two ballads with snazzy chord changes (prog roots!), and a throwback to their epics about elves in Merrie Olde England, this one about Phil Collins’ terror at being outfoxed by Cuban domino players. “The bald Thriller,” Al Shipley once wrote on ILM, admiringly.

They almost repeated the feat on 1991’s We Can’t Dance, whose title proved prophetic. As much as the myth that grunge liberated American youth from radio doldrums causes me stomach cramps, there’s something to be said about a system of government that doesn’t arrest and indict men like Collins, Banks, and Rutherford for filming a video for the felonious “I Can’t Dance.” Convinced, rightly, that INTERPOL wouldn’t pursue them around the world, the band released “Hold On My Heart,” which hung around the charts long enough to enter the Muzak system of Miami Subs, my first summer job; if “Hold On My Heart” had existed in liquid form, it would’ve been the solution, similar to cod liver oil in consistency, we used to clean the stove at the end of a shift. In liquid form, Kathy Troccoli’s “Everything Changes,” with which “Hold On My Heart” competed, would have been fry grease.

A couple of items you won’t see on this list, First, their American breakthrough “Follow You Follow Me.” I like the bubbling guitars and rich rhythmic undercurrent — Collins is always doing something with his drums — but it suffers from a flossy production and Tony Banks’ talent for coaxing the wrong sound out of his synths. Even in 1986 Banks’ keyboards evoked flares and spring festivals and bad weed — strange images considering the insurance executive lookalike behind the keys; I acknowledge this works on “In the Glow of the Night,” whose tension depends on the interaction between drum machine (Linn! Collins can’t shake his admiration for Prince) and the Mellotron flutes.

More crucially, you won’t see much of the Peter Gabriel era. By the time he released his eponymous solo debut in 1977, their former lead singer had learned how to write about the sundry characters he envisioned doing terrible things. This wasn’t the case on the dreadfully named  Nursery Cryme or even Selling England by the Pound, often considered their period best. I find this material windy and amateurish; they were players, not songwriters, embellishing where no embellishment was required. The transitional albums between The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway and “Follow You, Follow Me” show a Collins holding his nose through the enterprise; he’s thinking about hiring the Earth, Wind & Fire horns,  the other three about how to arrange a song called “Squonk.”

1. Turn It On Again
2. Abacab
3. No Reply at All
4. I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)
5. Throwing It All Away
6. The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway
7. Dance on a Volcano
8. In the Glow of the Night/Domino
9. The Battle of Epping Forest
10. Afterglow
11. Invisible Touch
12. Keep It Dark
13. No Son of Mine
14. Carpet Crawlers
15. Many Too Much
16. Tonight, Tonight, Tonight
17. Misunderstanding
18. Get’Em Out by Friday
19. In Too Deep
20. That’s All

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A slave empire in a nation, and a colony in a nation

Chris Hayes – A Colony in a Nation

Last time out the MSNBC host of All In wrote what amounted to an elegant master’s thesis elongated into unforgiving book form. His second book uses the metaphor of the Colony versus the Nation to explain why millions of young black men and women despair at living in a country where a citizen’s corpse can lie on torrid asphalt hours after police shot him:

If you live in the Nation, the criminal justice system functions like your laptop’s operating system, quietly humming in the background, doing what it needs to do to allow you to be your most efficient, functional self. In the Colony, the system functions like a computer virus: it intrudes constantly, interrupts your life at the most inconvenient times, and it does this as a matter of course. The disruption itself is normal.

At the 2000 Republican National Convention. cops found weed on Hayes, then a reporter accompanying his father in law, but let him go anyway: a fate, he is sure, a black man would not have shared. The grim truth inspired this examination of our grotesque carceral state and the ways in which local government nickel and dimes the poor. Acknowledging his white privilege so he can think through and past it — Hunter College High alum, law school professor wife, reporter father in law — Hayes often stumbles over his earnestness; it’s as if he wanted a pinch on the cheek for his efforts. But MSNBC’s best public face and political reporter can also write; for example, he notes, in a pungent aside, “the inexorable migratory logic of white fear,” which resulted in the abandonment of cities and creation of suburbs.

Matthew Karp – This Vast Southern Empire: Slaveholders at the Helm of American Foreign Policy

In 2017, we have to remind fellow Americans that the South seceded because it wanted to prosper as a slave empire. I use the last noun intentionally. Matthew Karp’s This Vast Southern Empire: Slaveholders at the Helm of American Foreign Policy is an excellent corrective to the purveyors of dangerous kitsch and defenders of statues of Confederate war heroes who sit as governors and pontificate in legislators south of Virginia, north of Florida, and east of the Mississippi. Footnotes like John Forsyth and Abel Upshur pop up regularly in Karp’s readable account of how Southern men ruled in the State and War departments from the Van Buren to Buchanan administrations (Jefferson Davis  served in Franklin Pierce’s White House), devoted to the notion that a hemisphere free of British nonsense about abolitionism meant markets free for cotton and the breeding of a slave class devoted to picking it. Karp summarizes the thinking of John Tyler’s secretary of state Upshur: “his anxiety about hostile British abolitionism; his faith that concentrated American military power could defend American slavery; his presupposition that the entire Western Hemisphere should be an American domain.” In fact, Tyler — a personage remembered at best as the first vice president to ascend after the death of the Chief Executive — emerges as a Southerner of untempered aggression, eyeing Texas and holding out hope that Cuba would fall into American palms. Fetishists of the imperial presidency forget Tyler because he was a man without a party by the end of his single term. By 1861 he was a man without a country: the Virginia Secession Convention nominated him to serve in the Provisional Confederate Congress.

Inspired by John Calhoun, alternating between senator and Tyler’s third secretary of state, and his articulation of a constitutional defense of secretary, these Southerners who worked the federal till were, to quote Karp, “committed to a bold, nationalistic understanding of naval policy,” and showed, in the era of phrenology and the first stirrings of archeology, a “buoyant optimism about the evolution of scientific opinion on slavery.” What was the Mexican War about except the acquisition of territory? Intimating that conservatism need not encompass limited government but instead, crucially, endorse a rigorous assertion of federal powers for the preservation of hierarchies, feudal and economic, is one of the many pleasures of Karp’s narrative. “I am quite a Monarchist out here,” cooed Virginia congressman Muscoe Russell Hunter Garnett for a proslavery pamphlet circulated in Brazil, yet another country with a labor system that only a mint julep-drinking master of the whip could love.

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Singles 6/23

Today I’d have awarded Halsey and Lauren Jauregui’s “Strangers” a 7 for the chorus hook, and what Eleanor Graham calls its “sophisticated” boringness, which I take as a compliment — most good synth pop boasts a boring blank at the mike striving for sophistication. But Katherine is right: it’s not clear form the lyrics who’s doing what to whom or whether it’s about another couple who aren’t Halsey and Jauregui, which isn’t right either. Regardless, it’s getting airplay two years after Demi Lovato’s “Cool for the Summer” didn’t become the mega jam many, including yours truly, anticipated, and “Strangers” is a much cooler customer: a mix of Ariana Grande’s “Love Me Harder” and Years & Years’ “Shine,” my favorite unabashed queer track of the last few years, also produced by Greg Kurstin, Tegan and Sara’s frequent collaborator. Certainly “Strangers” makes The Killers’ “The Man” look especially silly if not stupid.

Click on links for full review.

Seventeen – Don’t Wanna Cry (7)
Halsey ft. Lauren Jauregui – Strangers (6)
Poppy – Computer Boy (6)
Julia Michaels – Uh Huh (6)
The Killers – The Man (5)
SZA ft. Travis Scott – Love Galore (5)
Sistar – Lonely (5)
Foo Fighters – Run (5)
Rita Ora – Your Song (5)
Arcade Fire – Everything Now (5)
Tóc Tiên – Walk Away (4)
Vince Staples – Big Fish (3)
Susanne Sundfør – Undercover (3)
Nick Jonas ft. Anne-Marie & Mike Posner – Remember I Told You (2)
Liam Gallagher – Wall of Glass (1)

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The politics of cowardice

Thanks to the wizardly Mitch McConnell and his aides, the Affordable Care Act is set to transform into a bill authorizing tax cuts for millionaires and the vaporizing of Medicaid, the dream of the Ayn Rand-ites since 1964. Before readers gape and wonder how is this possible, remember that Donald Trump is the latest and worst in a series of imbeciles nominated by GOP delegates and elected to the White House. We elected an imbecile in November 1980 – an imbecile who at least knew how to play an executive and had been crystal clear about policy objectives since LBJ sent Barry Goldwater reeling back to the Senate – with devastating consequences; hell, many in Ronald Reagan’s party thought he was an imbecile too. It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter. He signs legislation.

Thanks to their fealty to Both Sidesism, the Beltway press has constructed a fictional war between conservative and moderate Republicans over the American Millionaires Bailout Act. Firstly, every Republican in 2017 is a conservative to the left of Reagan. Secondly, there are no “moderates.” As I explained a couple days ago, a moderate is a Republican who can be polite on camera because he or she can expect a handsome reward for acquiescing. All is in readiness; nothing is left to chance. McConnell knows he will lose Rand Paul, the curly-topped senator from Kentucky who thinks human beings are chattel before the inexorability of market forces. This no vote leaves him with two more he can afford to lose before Vice President Pence breaks the 50-50 tie, likely Susan Collins of Maine, the most tactically shrewd of the so-called mods (she voted the Affordable Care Act out of committee but didn’t support the final floor vote) because she votes on stuff that allows her to preen on television.

As for the last sucker, Jim Newell has the goods on what McConnell will likely offer:

If he’s sticking to the script, McConnell has a list of giveaways that he saved to offer members later so that they can argue they only voted for the bill after extracting concessions. None stands out more visibly than the BCRA’s treatment of opioid crisis funds. Ohio Sen. Rob Portman and West Virginia Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, especially, are hoping for $45 billion in funding for the crisis over 10 years as a way to make the phase-out of the Medicaid expansion go down easier. Instead, the bill offers… $2 billion for one year or until exhausted. McConnell could increase those funds to, say, $20 billion, and Portman and Capito could argue that they secured a 1,000 percent increase! in announcing their support for the bill. Other issue- or state-specific piles of cash, none of which do anything to affect the underlying, unpopular structure of the bill, could be doled out to the likes of Maine Sen. Susan Collins, Nevada Sen. Dean Heller, or Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake. It’s just a matter of figuring out who gets the two “no” vote lifeboats. McConnell probably already knows.

Newell is dead right: “Portman and Capito could argue that they secured a 1,000 percent increase” is what you’ll hear from the senators from Ohio and West Virginia when they return to their ravaged districts, and I do mean ravaged (your assignment this weekend: read Margaret Talbot’s dispatch from Berkeley County, filed last month).

Finally, lest my detractors accuse me of eschewing Both Sideism, let me note the signs of cravenness in my own party. Since Jon Ossoff lost the Georgia Sixth race on Tuesday, NPR and political talk shows have booked a few ambitious welts to bemoan the existence of Nancy Pelosi. I suppose it took their considerable devotion to comity to avoid denouncing Pelosi like Laureen Hobbs did Howard Beale in Network. Representative Tim Ryan of Ohio essentially used this language.

However, Ryan is wrong. Tim Fucking Ryan cannot hold a caucus together. The only person as expert as the House Minority Leader in the use of the vise and the cudgel is Mitch McConnell. I’m terribly sorry that Dems think they’re losing special elections because Pelosi is in command. Are the boobs calling for her abdication aware that the GOP will tie every bunny-fresh Ossoff as a peacenik and a Commie even if House Minority Leader Tim Ryan held the gavel?

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Don’t patronize me: the best of Bonnie Raitt

“Because Raitt has never sounded young or shown much interest in courting the youth market, she has stood in place waiting for us to age into the experiences depicted in her best material,” I wrote in a Red Bull Music Academy retrospective last year on the eve of the release of Dig In Deep, her best album since the nineties. “In a career that spans almost half a century, Raitt has spent a lot of it singing about women drunk on love, drunk and in love and those who are simply too drunk to love.” My generation reveres here for “I Can’t Make You Love Me,” a ballad chronicling a romantic devastation as complete as any on Shoot Out the Lights or Closer. Over the funereal crawl of Bruce Hornsby’s keyboards, Raitt pleads, “Don’t patronize me” — awful because it’s impossible to imagine anyone patronizing Bonnie Raitt. In the aforementioned link, I explained how the top five “Something to Talk About” sounded amid the clamor of late summer ’91.

In certain quarters Raitt still gets dismissed as boring. But with exceptions the blues and I aren’t simpatico, so a woman in the early seventies goosing up Mississippi Fred McDowell with Lowell George is a spur. So is covering Sippie Wallace. So is treating Eric Kaz and John Hiatt as if they were Jackson Browne, or Jackson Browne as if — well, you get the idea (lest I get accused of dissing Browne, I believe his profundity as a songwriter when Raitt sings “Under the Falling Sky” and a couple others).

1. Give It Up or Let Me Go
2. Run Like a Thief
3. I Can’t Make You Love Me
4. Love Has No Pride
5. Nick of Time
6. Something to Talk About
7. Love Me Like a Man
8. Finest Lovin’ Man
9. Under the Falling Sky
10. The Ones We Couldn’t Be
11. Sweet and Shiny Eyes
12. What is Success
13. Luck of the Draw
14. Good Enough
15. Angel from Montgomery
16. Come to Me
17. Need You Tonight
18. The Comin’ Round Is Going Through
19. Spit of Love
20. Standin’ by the Same Old Love

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Comebacks: Big Boi, Ride, and Alison Moyet

Big Boi – Boomiverse

When Antwan André Patton released his last good album, Barack Obama was in the White House and the Democrats still controlled both chambers. This native Georgian can’t be too happy about the results in the Sixth Congressional District, although not as much, I expect, as buddy Killer Mike, who joins Jeezy and Hatsune Miku on “Kill Jill” for a dizzying tour through an ethnic/aural multiverse approximating the music on Boi’s audience’s smartphones. On this forty-five-minutes divertissement, Boi makes no statements and records no tour de force – how can he when Adam Levine won’t stop yapping and Boi wimps out on a taking a moral position in a throwaway line about the Cosby trial? (I’m not fond of another line about Sodom and Gomorrah “deplorables” either). Instead, he’s reminding us of the range of his taste, of the pure pleasure his bodacious timbre once provided. Highlights are many, as rooted in Georgia as peach trees: “Follow Deez” marries a throbbing Mannie Fresh-produced electrohook to Curren$y’s languid evocation of a “a land where Impalas squat,” to which Boi answers with “Gladiators with radiators that run hot/Impalas with ‘draulics parked at the gun spot”; the even better electrothrob of “Chocolate”; and “In the South,” where Boi hangs with Gucci Mane and Pimp C and, I can imagine, the B-52’s who wrote “Dry Country.” It’s good to have him back remembering how to record solid albums. Boomiverse is the sort of album I’ll forget to replay until list-making season in early December when its existence will wreak havoc on my top twenty.

Alison Moyet – Other

After years of adult contemporary albums with the occasional burst of guitar anarchy against which her persona was ill-suited anyway, Alison Moyet returned to electropop in 2013. Other goes further. If you keep track of such things, it’s the former Yazoo singer’s best album since 1991’s Hoodoo. Guy Sigworth composes electronic tracks with grand orchestral passages; in places, such as “The Rarest Birds,” the results suggest what “Venus as a Boy”-era Bjork would sound like in the new millennium. What Moyet has also lost in elasticity she has gained in expressiveness. “The Lover, You” and the fabulously titled “Reassuring Pinches,” which has a synth organ break that Vince Clarke would go human for, are peak Moyet. Recommended to admirers of Róisín Murphy’s latest efforts.

Ride – Weather Diaries

My first college friend said his favorite album was Ride’s Going Blank Again, whose title nailed my expression on learning this news. I didn’t suspect the extent of Mike’s enthusiasm for shoegaze. Over the years I’ve listened to Ride’s excellent 1992 album and 1990’s Nowhere when I remember I own them. The mediocrity of Weather Diaries came as a shock, though. As one of the commenters in my SPIN review pointed out, Ride have recorded a rock album: lumbering, pompous, in places rather charmless. I’m in the minority.

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