Beer and Pavement

The Oxford Companion to Beer Controversy and What it Means to the Rest of Us

Posted in Beer, Intersections, Six Degrees of Thurston Moore by SM on November 5, 2011

I’ve been watching the debate over the Oxford Companion to Beer from a distance. It seems that the largest single document of beer history and general information is wrought with errors. Some are historical inaccuracies while others are simply internal errors that should have been avoided. The book was heralded as major achievement in beer scholarship before it was released. Now, it’s being ridiculed all over the beer blogosphere.

There are a few places one can look for clarification, if you’re interested. Stan at Appellation Beer has started some interesting conversations on the topic, as usual. The resulting comments to Stan’s posts are always insightful. He has a knack of attracting such discourse. A new favorite of mine is Martyn Cornell’s Zythophile where some of the controversy has originated. (FWIW, Zythophile is an impressive blog documenting beer’s history in great detail by Cornell, a well-respected and accomplished beer historian/expert.)  However, the place to go for OCB controversy headquarters is this wiki. That’s where you’ll find every mistake as it’s revealed in addition to a rebuttal from author/editor Garrett Oliver and links to most of the important criticisms.

Regardless, it’s a hot topic throughout the beer community. (That’s right, I wrote “community.”) I’ve attempted to question the critiques and have been largely shot down as my enjoyment of beer is not nearly as dependant on beer’s history as it is for others. That’s fine. Beer history isn’t for everyone. Still, my main point is to not throw out the baby with the bath water. The OCB is an achievement with or without historical and editorial errors. Apparently, the technical articles (~400 pages worth) are impressive enough to warrant a read. Others disagree.

I’m not nearly as passionate about the history of beer as some seem to be. So, I had to think of something where the history does matter to me. To some degree, that would be indie rock. How would I feel if the Oxford Companion to Indie Rock was filled with historical inaccuracy and lazy editorial work?

Luckily, Michael Azerrad already took a stab at this with his seminal work Our Band Could Be Your Life. Granted, Azerrad only covered the independent years of thirteen bands, but they were probably the most important bands to indie’s history. As far as I can tell, his book contains no significant errors. I’ve read a ton about all of these bands (some of them whole books of their own) and I never noticed a problem. I guess that’s what the beer historian community wants as well. I get that.

Another book I’d add to the OCIR would be John Sellers’ excellent Perfect from Now On: How Indie Rock Saved My Life. This book’s detailed history of indie rock is told only from the perspective of the author. However, it covers a wider range of bands and sets a timeline for indie’s trajectory, culminating with some fantastic stories about Guided By Voices. Sure, it’s a memoir, but it’s an essential read for understanding indie rock.

Garrett Oliver of Brooklyn Brewery fame as well as the author of several great beer books of his own was the editor for OCB. The indie rock equivalent has to be Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore. Moore has not only lived most of indie rock’s history, he’s curated it in one way or another, hence the six degrees of Thurston Moore. Accuracy would be assured with Moore at the helm.

When I consider the above books and Moore, I cannot fathom errors such as the ones people are finding in the OCB. If an OCIR revealed as many errors that I could identify, I’d be highly disappointed. I don’t know that I’d be angry, but I could imagine Chuck Klosterman being upset for being left out and not able to help fix rather avoidable problems. So, this helps me see the critics side of things.

All that said, I will wait for the second edition of the Oxford Companion to Beer as long as Oliver and his contributors take each criticism and error seriously. You all should probably do the same as it’s an expensive book. Otherwise, little will change, leaving us with a frustratingly flawed book. In the meantime, I’ll stay out of the debate (aside from this one post) and consider some other books in the meantime. Retromania anyone?

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The Six Degrees of Thurston Moore: Challenge #1

Posted in Challenge, Six Degrees of Thurston Moore by SM on October 9, 2010

You may recall that my last post proposed a theory that any indie or alt musician could be connected to Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore in six steps or less. I demonstrated this to be true with the likes of Ani Difranco, Deerhunter, and Justin Bieber. Then, I invited my readership to come up with some musicians of their own for me to connect to Thurston.

My loyal followers did not disappoint. The first three suggestions included a little-known Australian indie outfit, a local band from right here in Middle-Missouri, and a hard-rocking, bow-toting guitar hero. None are obvious at first, but all prove my theory.

First up: The Go-Betweens – This Australian band enjoyed some minor success throughout the 80’s with songs like “Streets of Your Town” and “Was There Anything I Could Do?”, but are they within six degrees of Thurston Moore?

  1. The Go-Betweens featured Amanda Brown on violin.
  2. Amanda Brown played violin for R.E.M. in several tracks and even appeared in their tour documentary, Road Movie.
  3. R.E.M. recorded “Crush with Eyeliner” with Thurston Moore on background vocals (and possibly guitar?).

Another route I could have taken is as follows…

  1. The Go-Betweens once collaborated with Nick Cave on a project known as the Tuff Monks.
  2. Nick Cave curated an All Tomorrow’s Parties in Australia.
  3. ATP has also been curated by Thurston Moore on two occasions.

Next up: The Foundry Field Recordings – This is a local band here in Columbia and if it works in five steps, I too will be six degrees from Thurston Moore (whom I’ve actually met in-person…wait…)

  1. The Foundry Field Recordings are on Emergency Umbrella Records.
  2. EU features Sinkane, AKA Ahmed Gallab, on its lineup.
  3. Ahmed Gallab is also a current member of Yeasayer.
  4. Yeasayer appeared on the compilation Dark Was the Night.
  5. Dark Was the Night featured Matador bands Spoon (formerly), Yo La Tengo, and Cat Power.
  6. Matador is the current label for Sonic Youth.

Yeasayer also opened for Beck on tour and that’s just a hop, skip, and a jump to Sonic Youth, but you get the picture.

Finally, stepping away from indie bands, my cousin suggested Ted Nugent. This might stretch the theory, but here goes nothing. I mean, how in the hell is a NRA, right-winged, hair metal nut-job only six degrees from one of my heroes? Watch and learn…

  1. Ted Nugent was in Damn Yankees whose label was Warner Brothers.
  2. Warner Brothers’ lineup includes The Flaming Lips.
  3. The Lips once famously opened for and backed Beck while he toured to support Sea Change.
  4. Sea Change was released on Geffen Records.
  5. Geffen started the rush for indie and punk bands in the late 80’s/early 90’s by signing (yes, you guessed it) Sonic Youth.

So, there you have it. The theory of the Six Degrees of Thurston Moore lives on! If you have quicker or more interesting connections than the ones I provided, please share. If you have musicians I can’t possibly connect to Thurston Moore, share those as well.

The Six Degrees of Thurston Moore

Posted in Six Degrees of Thurston Moore by SM on October 8, 2010

So, I got to thinking about the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon and whether there was an indie rock version. I don’t know that anyone has created one, but I thought I’d like to try. Would I use David Bowie? What about Mike Watt? Nope. The man I believe I can connect to every indie rock artist (maybe even several non-indie rockers) is Thruston Moore.

Why Thurston Moore? Besides being the frontman of the seminal and legendary Sonic Youth, Thurston also has a long history of mentoring young bands. He buys every 7″. There is a connection between Thurston Moore and every band I’ve ever loved. I’m sure of it.

What defines a connection?

Well, with the Kevin Bacon game, people are connected via films and TV shows in which they’ve appeared. So, albums would be the logical place to go with music. However, that is only a part of the equation in defining how artists are connected in this industry. There are tours, video appearances, collaborations, shared producers, etc. So, I’ve attempted to rank the sort of connections one could have that would lead them to Thurston Moore in six steps or less.

  1. Recorded an album together as a band member, producer, recording engineer, etc. is the most direct connection.
  2. Collaborated on or curated a project together might include an ATP event or a special one-time performance as a tribute.
  3. Toured together, especially in a package deal is a bit difficult to pin down as often bands play gigs together without really have much to do with one another. Plus, it’s sometimes difficult to find these connections. However, if the musicians in question played a seminal show together, it should definitely count.
  4. Friends of friends is even a shakier place to find connections, but indie rock is more of a community than anything. Also at this level, I’d consider labelmates as some bands on labels practically live in incest while other hate each others’ guts.
  5. Even sketchier is if the musicians are simply lumped together in a scene or genre. I will avoid using these connections, but I reserve my right to use the weakest of connections to prove my theory.

Those are the connections. I feel I can trace any indie rock hero to Thurston Moore in six steps or less. I will first demonstrate below and then open a challenge to you in the comments. If my first tries seem too obvious, that was not done purposely as I really believe this will be easy with any indie rocker. Also, if you think you can connect them in less steps, that’s fine as well. The real goal is to connect Thurston Moore to anyone in indie or alt circles in six steps or less.

First up: Ani DeFranco – Part-time lesbian and independent label owner who beats the hell out of a guitar and growls all feministy at ya.

  1. Ani Difranco runs Righteous Babe Records whose lineup included Andrew Bird.
  2. Andrew Bird appeared on Thao with the Get Down Stay Down’s Know Better Learn Faster.
  3. Know Better Learn Faster was released by Kill Rock Stars.
  4. Kill Rock Stars’ lineup famously included Bikini Kill who was fronted by Katleen Hanna.
  5. Kathleen Hanna appeared in Sonic Youth’s “Bull in the Heather” video.

OK. That was easier than I thought. Let’s try another.

Up next: Deerhunter – The sonically lofi P4k darlings fronted by the remarkable Bradford Cox sounds like Sonic Youth, but are they too young to be connected to Thurston Moore? Let’s find out.

  1. Deerhunter’s latest LP was released on 4AD.
  2. 4AD was the former home of the Breeders, featuring Kim Deal.
  3. Kim Deal was not only Kim Gordon and Thruston Moore’s babysitter whenever they passed through Ohio, but she also appeared on Sonic Youth’s “Little Trouble Girl” off Washing Machine.

That was even easier. I realized it as soon as I moved to 4AD. Maybe I should move outside indie rock to see if my theory can hold up outside of Thurston Moore’s circle of influence.

Super Bonus Challenge: Justin Bieber – Yes, the “musician” with a lesbian haircut and hordes of adoring female fans couldn’t possibly connect to Thurston Moore in six steps. Or could he?

  1. Justin Bieber signed with Usher’s management group.
  2. Usher was part-owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers whose marquee player before this summer was LeBron James.
  3. LeBron James is close friends with Jay-Z.
  4. Jay-Z’s video for “99 Problems” featured Vincent Gallo.
  5. Vincent Gallo played bass for Jim O’Rourke.
  6. Jim O’Rourke not only produced albums for Sonic Youth, but he was considered the fifth member for quite some time.

That last one was iffy, but it works. I could have probably connected Usher to someone different or used Rick Rubin, but I successfully connected Thurston Moore within six steps.

Now it’s your turn to come up with musicians that may or may not connect to Thurston Moore in six or less steps. The only rule is that the musician or band in question has to be famous enough that their name appears somewhere on Wikipedia. I can take it from there.