M a r c h   2 0 0 2


Hey, where'd y'all go?
The Only Survey That Matters
by Mark Anderson

ome friends of friends, in mock pretentiousness, called it "The Only Survey That Matters."

Every winter, through much of the '80s and '90s, they'd each send their yearly list of musical highlights to one member, who'd collate, copy and return. Then, sometime in spring and long after end-of-year hype had died down, dozens of pages arrived by old-fashioned mail in a big yellow envelope: the eclectic opinions of a disparate klatch of music-loving miscreants from around the world. But two years ago and for some reason unknown, it ended – just when e-mail and Internet could have made it impossibly easy, and the magic of downloading would have made it immediate and real. Hey, where'd y'all go? Anyway, if you're out there, here's mine:

It's a Cyn: nearing 50 at the top of her game.

1. “Carey” / Cyndi Lauper
Seek out this sultry 6-1/2-minute take on "Carey," from a televised April tribute to Joni Mitchell, which embodies essence of art: alluring voice, intriguing reinterpretation, mesmerizing presence, powerful link between musicians, amazing song. Cyndi turns Joni's folkie paean to free-spiritedness into an elegant mini-drama of hypnotic dance, culminating with a finger-gesture that coaxes the band into slightly upping the volume. Whatever happened to Cyndi Lauper? A little singing, a little acting, an occasional album, all at the top of her game. She's still so unusual.

Uncle Joe.

2. Scar / Joe Henry
The eighth album by Madonna's brother-in-law is one of 2001's best-kept secrets. Scar, song after song, has it all – poetry, melody, conviction, top-notch musicians (Ornette Coleman!) and a charismatic factor of X. A clear and easy choice for favorite album of the year and a cinch for repeated listening. Not to be missed.

Hedwig: inch by inch.

3. Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Here's a movie you may not have heard of, but surely haven't heard the last of. John Cameron Mitchell's star turn as the soulful Eastern-bloc recipient of a botched sex-change operation is a rollicking, hard-rocking blast of fun with surprisingly satisfying depth. And, as a bonus, the songs and the storyline are an organic match. It's out on video and DVD, but see it on the big screen if you can – because Hedwig is larger than life.

4. Built to Spill @ Crystal Ballroom
Built to Spill can come off a little flat on recordings. But Doug Martsch's band is quite the opposite in the live setting: an impassioned parade of sound and commotion that amalgamates Neil Young, Pink Floyd and Radiohead – and that's before the end of the first song. This October show, the appreciation party for McMenamins employees, just plain rocked.

5. Iggy Pop Tribute @ Fez Ballroom
A tribute to the godfather of punk, a fundraiser  for New York firemen, an inspired collection of  local acts and a beautiful nightclub all rolled into one: an October brainchild of Portland's DJ Gregarious, this was the right show at the right place and time.

Think pink: click for a trip to the Web site.

6. Pink Martini @ Aladdin Theater
Portland's finest export seems to get more tacit respect around the globe than at home (Prince got the same blasé treatment from early- and mid-'80s Minneapolis, the Statue of Liberty still gets it from New Yorkers). I'm amazed at how many locals claim to have never seen the band nor heard the 4-1/2-year-old CD. The Dec. 30 Aladdin Theater show, invigorating, thoroughly enjoyable and often thrilling, featured new songs, special guests and Thomas Lauderdale – a formerly reticent front-man – far more at ease in addressing the audience than at any of the half-dozen previous times I've seen his band. The running joke may be that the new CD has been "on the verge of completion" for years. But reality says that Pink Martini is uniquely positioned to take on the world. If the second album is even almost as good as Sympathique, the band may launch into some kind of global sales stratosphere – and open the debut recording to a mostly untapped domestic market (a large percentage of its half-million-and-counting in sales have been logged in Europe).

7. Ballads: Remembering John Coltrane / Karrin Allyson
Allyson, a pure-of-voice but unheralded jazz singer, recreates Coltrane's eight-song Ballads album and throws in three more for good measure. Inclusion of a wordless vocal version of "Naima" is the highlight, but the entire collection is a sterling display of vocal beauty and instrumental bite.

8. Old Favorites
Does anything beat a great new song or album from an old favorite? Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, New Order, Prince, Suzanne Vega and even Boz Scaggs pushed personal boundaries with challenging music that advances the art. And they were far from alone (Music must be the fountain of youth).

9. New Favorites
If anything beats a great new song or album from an old favorite ... it's a great new song or album from a new favorite. From India.Arie, Peaches and Gorillaz to the Strokes, the White Stripes and the Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, last year was filled with tons of compelling and fresh new music for anybody with time and desire.

10. Downloading music
WinMX, Audio Galaxy and more – peer-to-peer music file-sharing changes lives in deep and meaningful ways. There's no better way to gauge the state of the 21st century than to take a look at this phenomenon: the people want their planet back, and music downloading is one clear way to eliminate a wicked middleman. Hey, I've spent thousands of dollars on music for 30-some years, and I'd do it again in a minute if somebody would harness the technology in a comprehensive way instead of the watered-down ways the record companies have in mind. Think it, download it, play it – the companies could have done it years ago and profited to boot; instead, they got lazy with greed. No one knows what the future holds, but I've never listened to more music than in 2001. Downloading's death has been greatly exaggerated. Napster took the bullet, but long live the file-share.

E-mail Mark at andersonenterprises@hotmail.com, and visit prior editions of tripewriter.

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