Something to remember
Image: James Rosenquist
Great Divide - The Cardigans
Closing out the second episode of Mad Men, The Cardigan's "Great Divide" seizes the evanescent unease of what's got to be the best television debut this year. The fleeting, half-psychotic sense that that sweet-voiced little girl will bite you if she gets the chance. That the pink birthday cake is iced with crushed Nembutal. I wasn't looking to get hooked on a new series, but seven hours of OnDemand later and I'm obsessed. AMC's official line:
Set in 1960 New York, the daring new series is about the lives of the ruthlessly competitive men and women of Madison Avenue advertising, an ego-driven world where key players make an art of the sell while their private world gets sold.
Sorta. Really, it's more about a bunch of clever 21C television writers (dunno, possibly "ruthlessly competitive") exploiting our ambivalence about the good old/bad old days. You know, admiration for its style: the smart hats and nipped waists; black rotary phones and red lipstick; cocktails and cufflinks; hotel bars and bulleted bustlines. And big heapings of amused horror for everything else: outrageous predatory sexism (and plenty of female complicity); racism, anti-semitism and homophobia; everyone (including pregnant women) smoking all the time (like, every scene), everywhere (including doctor's offices); children not wearing seatbelts; psychiatrists tattling to their patients' husbands; divorcees shunned; desperately bored housewives repressing sexual desire with alcohol and shopping. Which all sounds a bit smug and condescending, like the writers (and you) should know better than to take a gun to some rather obvious barrels of fish. Yet it's all so deliciously abhorrent, you can't keep your mesmerized eyes off it. Your easy seduction is sort of the point.
From First Band on the Moon (Amazon, iTunes)
Yes! No! - Shocking Pinks
You can hear why DFA was so eager to sponsor Nick Harte's (aka Shocking Pinks) work visa this side of the Pacific. The dry snap and hiss of this song's drum base could launch a thousand ESG (or any other early 80s underground disco) tracks. Bout time someone took notice! Shocking Pinks has already released several albums in its home country of New Zealand -- which means they're almost maddeningly impossible to get your hands on if you're not a Kiwi. One of my favorite songs of 2005 was a gutting, atavistic drum and keyboard track called "18," from Shocking Pink's Mathematical Warfare. I'm not sure anything on the new album -- assembled for North American/European consumption of previously released songs -- is quite as good. But even though Harte pilfers the catalogs of everyone from Arthur Russell to New Order to Jesus & Mary Chain (the album's "I Want U Back" is obviously an homage to JAMC, down to the "Be My Baby" drum intro), there are tons of fresh, exciting rhythmic jolts and effectively eerie moods in the collection.
Preorder Shocking Pinks from Amazon, Myspace