Why you wanna get funky with me?

It's no secret that pretty much the best thing two or more people can do with each other is fuck. And, judging by the sounds that sometimes come out of the alley just outside of MW's Astoria Bureau's offices, there's been quite a bit of fucking going on in, among other places, public.

Now, Americans are a fairly voyueristic lot but, to be honest, we at MW don't especially enjoy listening to our neighbors fuck. Other people's moans and groans lose their appeal by six in the morning or so, and there's something, well, gauche about letting the block know you're about to come, that you are coming, that you're still coming, and that you finally fucking came. Invite us over, mate. Or shut the fuck up.

But songs about fucking? Go figure, 'cause they get our hearty support. After all, if getting up on the stage is a fancy way of saying "LOOK AT ME," why shouldn't America's entertainers go the extra inch and say "LOOK AT MY DICK"? It's a moot point, since looking at dick is more or less what America's listeners have been doing since 1952

Genius rapper Del The Funky Homosapien's "Why You Want To Get Funky With Me" concerns a social disease which might finally get some public attention, now that it's hit the Ivy Leagues. It's not a sex rap, either, but not for lack of trying on the artist's part.** (Del's cousin, Ice Cube, is far more confident, and fares somewhat better in the bedroom, on "You Can Do It," which features "dick for days," and "ass for weeks.") Let's not even get into 2 Live Crew, Method Man's star turn on Raekwon's "Ice Cream Man," or the many lady rappers who can more than hold their own, in and out of the bedroom. Instead, let's all admit that writing about music is a bit like talking about fucking, but that, depending on the circumstances, talking about free sex cams fucking is almost as good as the act itself.

A Soldier`s Daughter Never Cries

Back when I worked in the production dept. at the Washington City Paper, each month the music critics would bring a big plastic tub of unwanted promo CDs up to the reception desk and someone would open-page the offices and we would all run over and desperately scour through it like orphans at a Kinshasa landfill. This was before the days of the digital revolution and 100 gig hard drives and a free CD was a big deal. Almost all of the stuff was unremarkable indiepop or unlistenable neo-soul. The few keepers I found always ended up being weirdly eclectic independent film soundtracks. The CD for some Debbie Harry mob film called Six Ways to Sunday featured Yiddish jazz, Schooly D's song "Mister Big Dick", Blondie remixes, and original compositions by this kid Teddy Shapiro who I think I went to High School with. But my hands down favorite was the soundtrack for A Soldier's Daughter Never Cries. It was a lesser known Merchant/Ivory film loosely based on the family of writer James Jones (From Here to Eternity, A Thin Red Line.) Kris Kristofferson plays the Jones character, a somewhat famous author, a gravelly drinker but loving patriarch of a family of bohemian expats (incl. Leelee Sobieski and Barbara Hershey, back when she was old) living in late 60s Paris. In the second half of the film, the family moves home to early 70s USA where "beautifully observed" poignancy ensues.

The soundtrack reflects this split in space and place. The first half is heavy on french pop, especially the bubblegum sound popularized by "Ye Ye Girls", while the latter tracks are mostly lively 70s guitar rock. Making the soundtrack even more schizoid are a dozen or so moody pseudo-classical interludes by composer Richard Robbins.

My girlfriend used to listen to this CD everyday while she did yoga for like a year. Her whole routine became synchronized to the track list. It got so I'd be in the other room and would hear a song and know exactly what position she was in. When Tito Puente came on, I knew she was Saluting The Moon. Deep Purple's "Fireball" signalled Rocking Of The Cradle. (I found this particulary impressive. Id like to see Gwenyth Paltrow do yoga to Deep Purple.) By the time David Bowie's "Fame" kicked in, I knew she was winding up and would be shortly in front of the TV, Accessing The Hollywood before I joined her in The Receiving Of The Shiraz.

Jane Birkin's "Di Doo Dah" was a big 60s hit. Birkin was famously married for many years to Serge Gainsbourg. I presume Serge wrote this song. Jane's still getting it done. And she still has a thing for scrawny European musicians: she performs on French TV next month with Franz Ferdinand.

France Gall was another big pop tart of the time. She also hung around with Serge Gainsbourg, who wrote this Live Jasmin song and many others for her. I wonder if Jane and France had a jealous friendship? Maybe she was like Nicole Richie to Birkin's Paris Hilton. If so, does that mean that France's famous singer dad Robert Gall was his generations Lionel Richie? If he was a French singer in the 50s, odds are pretty good that he at least shared Lionel's relish for wearing yellow cardigans tied about his shoulders.

Graeme Allwright was born in New Zealand but after losing patience with all those "So, how's Graeme doing today?!?" jokes, moved to France where he became a popular singer/songwriter. If anyone speaks French good, could they tell us what the lyrics to this song are?

Enrico Macias is an Algerian Jew who has made a remarkable and workmanlike career as a French/Italian singer.

According to this slightly annoying website, Kofi Anna recently named Macias "Roving Ambassador for Peace and the Defence of Children." How great is that title! I have this image in my head of a kid playing with matches and Enrico jumping out from the bushes to confiscate them.

Shut up, you've got one too

Hang on people, before we get started, would someone mind sending a memo to Pitchfork? I'm pretty sure their contact info is on the page somewhere - I'd e-mail them myself, but I'm fairly certain they've figured out how to block my IP by this point. (I mean, I like Devendra as much as the next overly pretentious indie critic, but if I have to see that unwashed beard one more time I'm going to gouge my eyes out with my promotional-CD opener.) That Chicago's gift to online rock journalism hasn't come to your house and tattooed Page France's name on your indie-rock-buzz-loving ass while you were sleeping in anticipation of the Maryland group's slightly delayed sophomore record is a damned crime.

Hello, Dear Wind holds the nostalgia-inducing power for which The Arcade Fire's better tracks are lauded. The group sings the phrase "clap your hands" at least two dozen times and after repeat listens the ever-strengthening suspicion (unconfirmed at press time) lurks that the group has some fairly strong pro-Christ leanings, which anyone even remotely acquainted with the Danielson nebulae can tell you is quite hip these days.

Granted, none of these aspects necessarily hold the power to save the record from the slush pile of life - what should, however, is the fact that Hello,,Dear Wind contains not a single weak track out of 14. It's just the sort of stunningly solid record that should, by all rights, make the group a dorm-household name. The xylophone-and organ-friendly, childlike acoustic folk is the product of kids who sound like they still get a good deal of joy out of producing music, a product that gets a little better with every listen. Here's hoping Page France will get all the ears they deserve.

Christian music continues to steal into the secular world in the guise of elegant folk-pop, led by Sufjan Stevens' definitive document, the masterful Illinois. It doesn't diminish Stevens' accomplishment to say that it took me a long time to warm up to it. It was so utterly poised that it came off with a certain sterility-- the seamless contours of its surface held the listener at a remove. Page France's warm and inviting Hello, Dear Wind has the same striking imagery and deft arrangements with none of the remoteness. Michael Nau's earnest voice sweeps achingly over subtle folk-pop crescendos. Simple acoustic chord progressions accumulate deft touches of glockenspiel and burbling organs, swooning harmonies and majestic percussion, lurching gracefully toward the sublime.

Nau is a true prodigy-- at age 21, he's writing songs with uncommon theological complexity. Let's spell it out in no uncertain terms-- in 21st century America, Christianity has been hijacked by evil men. Jesus said that it's easier to fit a camel through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter Heaven. But in an age of mega-churches that lavish money on high-end AV equipment and contributions to PACs that would undo every social program designed to counteract uneven wealth distribution, Jesus' central teachings of compassion, forgiveness, and charity have been forsaken. His national face has become that of a cruel tyrant, peering down upon humankind with the miser's disdainful grimace.

Hello, Dear Wind accentuates the common traits of Christian music that is able to penetrate the secular Jasmin live world, with an unfettered joy that would scan to conservative Christians as almost pagan. It deploys Christian tropes poetically and not pedantically, brimming with reiterative Biblical imagery -- angels and burning bushes and trumpets, but also circuses, kings and crowns, wind, trees, and fruit. Here's an excerpt from "Chariot", Nau's take on the Rapture, locating all of its poetry in hallucinatory animation, not dread: "Dance like elephants as he comes to us through a fiery golden rain / With a violin and a song to sing as he brings for us our wings/ Now he's one of us, plays the tambourine, breaks the bread for us and sings."

Nau's Jesus would rather sing and dance than condemn. He "will come up through the ground so dirty/ With worms in his hair and a hand so sturdy"; he "will dance while we drink his wine/ With soldiers and thieves and a sword in his side." Nau also prefers celebration to judgment, and he eschews Christianity's frustrating certainty along with its guilt. On "Dogs", he sings, "I'm not sure what happens when everything here ends/ But I hope it's like they said, and I hope it never ends." It's a statement of inward belief, not of outward censure. Nau understands what so many conservative Christians can't or won't: That to hate God's human creations, whatever their lifestyles or religious beliefs, is an affront on God; that to distort Jesus' teachings for personal and political gain is the gravest sin of all. "Praise to you, praise to me," Nau sings on "Glue", restoring a measure of spiritual generosity to a faith that's losing its confidence in humans.

Brooklyn Vegan picks up the thread.

Page France has some really good songs, and there were a lot of times during their relatively short set at Sin-e in NYC Tuesday night (Nov 29, 2005) that I was really enjoying those songs. Other times I was a bit distracted by the Jesus-retreat-campfire-like aspect of their performance. On the other hand, "Jesus" is one of the best songs live and on album. Listen to it at their PureVolume page. I was about to compare their religiosity to Sufjan Stevens, but then I noticed Pitchfork already did in their 7.8 review of Hello, Dear Wind.

For all you swingin' freak folk lovers

Page France presents some 14 variations on a two-chord acoustic guitar pattern, and much vaguely biblical imagery in the form of Sunday school clap-a-longs. Personally, I'm disgusted by its willful naivete, and would sanction shutting down all religion during this time of WAR. Intriguingly, there's a possible reference to 'The Finders' in track six. The Finders is an alleged CIA protected network of pedophiles who steal and traffic children, as Hunter Thompson fearfully revealed not long before they offed him. After plowing through thousands of online documents, I've discovered actual proof that I spend way too much time on the internet. I've also come to believe that the hordes of Pitchfork readers that dig this horseshit are responding to a morphogenetic, osmotic, unconsciously received suspicion that the apocalypse has already arrived, and we're in it. Hello, Dear Wind isn't going to help you.

I don't know why hipsters hate Jesus. I'm not here to explain how the guy behind the Sermon on the Mount turned into a symbol of our blue- and red-state divide, or to narrow down why it's desperately unhip to admit you're a Christian and then get on stage at a rock club. Almost no strain of music is as secular as indie rock: It's quaint when old men on 78s sing spirituals, and a rugged legend like Johnny Cash can pray however he wants, but if you're a scrawny songwriter with a 4-track, siding with Jesus makes you a leper.

A couple of years ago, you couldn't even find many indie rockers who identified themselves as religious. The Danielson Famile were always far out anyway, and 16 Horsepower almost count as a country band. But then came Sufjan Stevens. After Seven Swans' moving piety and his breakthrough with Illinois, Stevens became "the Jesus guy." New fans shared stories about how they learned to get past his faith and enjoy his music, while bloggers like Pitchperfect cracked that she likes "a little less God in [her] rock." And the journalists couldn't get enough of the God angle, until, as Nick Sylvester reported on his blog, Stevens' publicist started asking reporters not to bring it up.

The genre of Christian rock long ago split off of regular, Satan-friendly rock, so you could argue that dyed-in-the-wool faith rockers have segregated themselves. Yet the secular bands that pick up those themes run the risk of getting thrown into the same ghetto. It happened to Page France's Michael Nau, when critics-- including our Brian Howe-- focused on the religious symbolism in his album Hello, Dear Wind. The song "Jesus" celebrates a Lord who's all too mortal, clawing his way from the dirt to come back to us instead of hovering in the sky in a clean, white robe. And the album's blissful tone never sounds mushy or dreamy: It's confidently ecstatic, as if Nau has been tipped off to how it's all going to end.

It looked like Page France would be dumped in the "Christian band" bin-- but once again, a publicist stepped in to save the day, writing to tell us that Nau's not comfortable being pegged as a religious performer. So I contacted him to get his take on it.

If you get past the first impression of his music, Nau's take on religion is conflicted. "My immediate family, as well as the majority of my surrounding family, was always spiritual-- not necessarily conservatively religious, but everyone possessed strong beliefs," says Nau. "I was raised in the midst of it all, so I was able to view the positive as well as the corrupt aspects from more of an 'insider's perspective,' so to speak. I've since chosen an outside, unattached perspective. I see myself as a seeker, but I doubt more than I seek."

Religion "is definitely a theme in the record, but I don't feel like it is the record," says Nau. "People would be missing out on much more if that's the main focus. At the same time, I realize that there's a lot of spiritual imagery in there. But a lot of times, that spiritual imagery represents unspiritual things."

And, ironically, "Jesus" has earned Nau criticism from both sides of the fence. "I've gotten letters from Christian folks or Christian radio stations who were just like, 'What in the hell are you talking about, this is complete blasphemy.' And then at the same time, other folks will be like, "Why did you say 'Jesus', it really detaches me from the song." Today, he shies away from saying that it's strictly a song about the Messiah. "That song was just about an untouchable thing or being-- something that I couldn't relate to, but severely wanted to be able to. I used Jesus as the subject, simply because it was the first thing that came to mind. Maybe I should have used one of my close friends instead."

But the shame here isn't that people made the wrong assumptions about Page France, but that they would ever have dismissed him over his beliefs in the first place. Even a religious performer can convey doubt and conflict. Sure, the bands that rocked the Christian festival at your local speedway stick to celebration and sin, but consider the work of people who are described as "thinking Christians"-- a term that's about as patronizing as "intelligent dance music," but let's go with it for now. Take the quest for spirituality on Talk Talk's Laughing Stock, or the piety and humility of Sufjan Stevens' Seven Swans, or to widen the circle, the furious morality of the abolitionist preacher in Marilynne Robinson's Gilead, or the scene in Kenneth Lonergan's You Can Count on Me in which the reverend asks Mark Ruffalo's drifter if he considers his life important. If we shun the religious content of these works, we're missing their emotional and intellectual power.

You can disagree with the church of your choice, but to dismiss religion altogether-- and to write off the best ideas, the best people and of course, the best indie rockers-- that come out of it, seems pointless. Why shoot the messenger just because you're scared he has a message?

This is getting weird:

Mike: Pause this episode for a second, open up your nearest web browser of choice and do a google search for reviews of Page France's album "Hello, Dear Wind." You will find an infinite amount of mentions regarding Michael's understated vocals, the groups mastery of multi-instrumentation, the cohesion that takes the album to new levels and many other descriptions of the sounds contained within the album. However, the review at Pitchfork Media focus' on the issues of faith and spirituality that worked their way into the lyrical content on the album. I must admit, I hadn't picked up on any faith-based themes until I read that review, but standing at the show the night of the interview and experiencing the songs from the album in this different setting, I saw where that reviewer was coming from. Still, there was plenty of room for interpretation from the listener's perspective, interpretation that could lead in many different directions.

M/PF: I consider 'Hello, Dear Wind' a spiritual album, in a sense, but never a Christian band or a religious band. There's some sort of spirituality to that record definitely, just a time that I was going through, but no, I would never call Page France a Christian band or religious band. It's such a derogatory term, it feels. Strangely enough the term Christian even in biblical days was a derogatory term. If somebody was a Christian it was just a racial slur at the time. I don't know enough about the Christian movement to really classify Page France as it, I wouldn't feel right about doing that. We do get it a lot though, obviously from the record. I'm into a lot of spiritual music, I'm a big fan of the Danielson Famile and Sufjan, but I don't even view that as Christian music. Personally, I don't think any of us as a band felt that people would read so much into the spirituality. It is really hidden, not even so much intentionally, I just feel like some songs aren't even supposed to be that - if it works for you, it works for you, and same with us. I feel like the record as a whole is, like I said it has a very spiritual feeling and sense to it, even in just the celebration - like an end-time wedding feast celebration. I enjoy hearing that people are getting something out of it if it is spiritually, if it's effective in any way, whether that was my intent or not. That's what's always affected me, if I hear a record the way that it speaks to me could be different, obviously, than the way it speaks to you. I think that's very imperative that that is there in a record, that that's left open and it's not all cut and dry, and I feel like we accomplished that. We hear the Christian references and spirituality and we'll talk to the next guy and he got something ... he knows there's a song named 'Jesus' in it. We're having a good time with it.

For now some more sweet funky filler

While I had threatened to post more about Tropicalia last time around, that's the aspect of MPB that's always getting recapitulated, and with the recent Soul Jazz one disc overview (not to mention plenty David Byrne-funded discs on Os Mutantes and Tom Ze as well as their explicit influences on Beck, Redd Kross, Tortoise, Arto Lindsey, Animal Collective) well within reach on the shelves, instead here are a few choice cuts of early 70s output, post-Tropicalia. Rather than recapitulate the Western and avant-garde clashes that the movement embraced, and still deep in the grips of a censoring dictatorship, the songs here opt for something more effervescent, exquisite, poppy, while also containing a kernel of haunting melancholy.

There's the legendary Joao Gilberto, who is so low-key here as to almost be pure alpha waves, as well as Baden Powell, whose hypnotic playing seems slightly less Brazilian, more Arabic, and yet it really exists on its own plane. As does the collaboration between Joyce and Nelson Angelo. Spikiest of the bunch is the tightly knotted music of teenager Lo Borges (both with Milton Nascimento and on his first solo album), who reaches such rarefied air casually, a kid Icarus mixing Beatles pop, razor-tipped funk, dazzling polyrhythmic patter, and sweeping baroque moves in punk-length outbursts.