The Strange, Tense Power of Talking Heads’ ‘Fear of Music’ (via The Atlantic)

When Fear of Music was released, the group was on the verge of outgrowing local New York success and moving toward the arena-filling, ten piece musical funkanauts they would be circa 1984’s concert doc Stop Making Sense. The success of their cover of Al Green’s “Take Me to the River” and appearances on Saturday Night Live and American Bandstand had gained the group a wider audience, yet made them wary of selling out. This gave rise to a set of contradictions that would manifest even on Fear of Music‘s jacket: all black with raised worm-like shapes reminiscent of tire tread or, in Lethem’s view, a steel door that evokes both a “chilly authority” and “desire to be stroked.”

[Author Jonathan Lethem’s] slow approach [to the album] yields big, as it reveals a record composed not of disparate songs, like, say, a short-story collection, but a “concept album” in the most abstract yet perhaps truest sense. Fear of Music tells no narrative, but weaves together its bleak motifs in such a way that a resonance chamber forms, the pop music equivalent of the postmodern, fractured books of Italo Calvino. Parts that at first seem only distantly related start to feel of a piece the further one goes and the closer one looks. The majority of the song titles act as a table of contents of sort—”Mind,” “Paper,” “Cities,” “Air,” “Heaven,” “Animals,” “Electric Guitar,” “Drugs”—all riffing on themes of restlessness, dissolution, and instability. Crackpots, conspiracy theorists, criminals, and druggies emerge as characters, and a bleak landscape forms. Make no mistakes, it’s the apocalypse. … Read More

(via The Atlantic)

Has Clay Travis outKicked his coverage?

When I started writing this post, Clay’s new site, OutKick The Coverage (or Out Kick The Coverage, or Outkick the Coverage, or the OKTC depending on where you look), still was under construction, as it had been for what seemed like forever in Internet Years, despite voluminous promotion from Clay’s old site to Clay’s twitter account.

Clay is a co-host on Nashville’s FM afternoon sports talk show, a sports writer who’s been around the online block (I’ll let you guess why), and, because nobody thinks more highly of Clay Travis and lets you know it than Clay Travis, he can be tough to digest. A bit strident, perhaps. I’d spend more time telling you about this VULS-grad-who-married-an-NFL-cheerleader-and-wrote-two-popular-books, but I’d be taking away from Clay’s unrivaled coverage of Clay’s life. (If you really do want more, check here for a quick example.) Just know that nobody makes mountains out of molehills in the name of hard-hitting sports journalism like Clay. (Which now leads me to wonder whether he’s the Sean Hannity/Nancy Grace of sports media?)

Now that his new site is live, I’m starting to wonder whether Clay actually underkicked (under-kicked? inKicked?) his coverage. From my reading of his substantial explanations, justifications, and mission statements of and for the new site, he wanted to do something “different.” He didn’t want to be ESPN. (He probably does want to be Grantland– seemingly the only site for which he hasn’t written.) He’s the people’s voice in press conferences, and now he wants the people to be heard, so long as he thinks they’re funny and smart.

It doesn’t take a pro-banger web designer to notice that the new page looks remarkably similar to ESPN.com. Also, while it isn’t especially valuable to spend time nit-picking the writing on new, fancy sites, when a guy so frequently reminds folks that he was a lawyer, you’d hope there’d be fewer typos and a generally higher quality of writing. (Maybe he’s dictating?) Not so bad as other professional writers, but just hit a read-through before clicking “publish,” especially for opening day.

One thing I liked about Clay’s new project was that there were going to be multiple voices. In fact, I’m trying to do the same thing here. Clay had a big contest to find his writers, and, from his coverage of his own project, he took in what sounds like a Library of Congress’ worth of submissions. On opening day, his stable of contributors included him (yes, he made the cut), a gal who knows more about rare penguins than sports, an apparent attempt at a Mark Titus clone, and a U.S. Army officer. I’m just reading what it says.

(UPDATE: Clay has since added “a 20-year veteran sports writer” to provide some legitimacy.  David Wasson opened with this bit of innovative hilarity. FURTHER UPDATE: Wasson’s apparently out, replaced by a pregnant Alabama fan who likes macaroni. Again, just reading what it says.)

OKtC came online with five stories out of the blocks, including Clay’s latest autobiography, Clay’s “Manifesto,” and the breaking news that the NCAA’s investigation of Auburn football “continues.” Call Jeremy Shaap.

It definitely is tougher to drum up original content than cherry pick the work of others (why do you think I’m blogging about blogging?), but I hope that Clay will either a) dig deep and find the restraint and patience to develop original content rather than continuing to try to turn non-issues into matters for a congressional investigation, or b) go full-bore, year-round silly season and abandon all claims to legitimate journalism by curating the absurdest of humanity and clowning everything under the sun as the most ridiculous thing he’s ever seen. It has to be one or the other. The launch of o-Ktc is Clay Travis’ Byrnian Moment: an absolute choice between two distinct identity and career paths. Clay, like nearly all of us, lacks even a modicum of David Byrne’s creative talent, but like Byrne, Clay is skinny and thinks he’s got something to say that the whole world needs to hear. And just as Byrne had to decide whether to engage in the typical rock-star lifestyle, enjoying celebrity, groupies, and generally being understood or instead make sure that he always was the unquestionably weirdest person in the room, Clay needs to make a decision and never look back.