In praise of Momofuku

Pretty self-explanatory
Neil.
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Re: In praise of Momofuku

Postby Neil. » Thu Mar 24, 2011 7:05 pm

One of the things I'm baffled by is the tendency for people to describe My Three Sons as "sentimental" - as if "sentiment" is a dirty word.

An open, unashamed loved song to his sons? How is this shameful? "Sentimental"? Is "I'll Wear It Proudly" sentimental? It's directed to a lover, so is taken seriously, but just because "My Three Sons" is directed to his kids, it's considered somehow lesser, sickly, and cringeworthy. I think it's a lovely song - there aren't that many love songs by parents to their children - I guess "Save All Your Kisses For Me" by Brotherhood of Man (older British board members will remember) has given parental songs a bad name!

But Elvis's melody is sweet, and the love is palpable, and surely it's quite unsentimental in the way he talks about the travails of his first son ("I can't undo what can't be undone"), and isn't there a line in there about how he knows he can't save any of his offspring from the future pain of life? (Can't remember the line off the top of my head). Surely this doesn't consitute sentimental - it's actually pretty realistic - I've heard a lot of fathers saying they fear for the world they've brought their kids into.

I agree that Harry Worth is great, and found myself singing it on the way home this evening.

And hats off to whoever said Elvis is the inheritor of The Beatles - sinced the Fab Four, I haven't heard anyone that can conjure a thrilling melody from nowhere like Elvis can - every year I fear that his well will dry up, but National Ransom has proved that the waters are still bubbling. I crave his next album NOW!

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Re: In praise of Momofuku

Postby Poor Deportee » Thu Mar 24, 2011 10:46 pm

I seem to recall Christopher, somewhere in our extended debate over SP & S, coming clean and admitting that country music isn't his thing. That would explain the remark; it's a remark that does need explaining because while 'Eve' is an irritant, 'Rose' isn't all that bad. I don't think it's all that fantastic either; and rather like 'That's Not the Part of Him You're Leaving' on NR, the effect *is* spoiled somewhat by EC's oversinging. Nevertheless, it's a decent song.

I could not agree more with Chris's remarks about Elvis's aging vocals though. Where many pop singers start out extremely mannered and slowly acquire some semblance of taste and restraint as they age, Elvis, if anything, has gone in the opposite direction, overreaching and straining and refusing to let the song simply speak for itself. (Just look at 'Church Underground,' which is such a great song that it survives the blows Elvis rains upon it vocally - but shouldn't have to). This definitely grates.

And ropeleash (great alias!), as for 'American Gangster Time' - look, I don't need to hear EC doing exactly the same thing he did 30 years ago, only to less electrifying effect. Also, I find his recurring America-bashing to be somewhat tiresome at best, and ill-mannered at worst. 'Brilliant Mistake' was enough: we get the point. (Contrast EC's attitude with that of, say, Gordon Lightfoot, who publicly repented of the patronising outsider who presumed to write 'Black day in July').

A bit surprised by Christopher's rejection of 'Stella Hurt.' Unlike 'Gangster Time,' that song that strikes me as genuinely exciting. In fact, I rate the 1-2 punch of 'Stella' and 'Mr Feathers' as one my favourite back-to-backs in EC's catalogue, although I suspect I'm alone in this.
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Re: In praise of Momofuku

Postby pophead2k » Fri Mar 25, 2011 4:35 am

Just a note on EC's singing style. I agree that he is far more likely to strain than in his younger days, but I think that is a function of the actual music, not his abilities. Elvis' melodies cover a lot more ground than they did on most of the early songs (not that those melodies aren't fantastic, but they don't jump around the staff as much as, say, London's Brilliant Parade or some of the National Ransom songs).

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Re: In praise of Momofuku

Postby A rope leash » Fri Mar 25, 2011 8:13 am

Gee whiz, Poor D...why's it got to be political?

American Gangster Time is more about bashing gangsters who abuse women that it is about bashing America per se.
Of course, in America, the radio waves are chock full of "I wanna be a criminal" musical delights, with no shortage of desperate youngsters who take it seriously.

Is it that you think America doesn't deserve bashing? Come work the neighborhoods I visit. The whole damn capitalistic system deserves bashing, and it's just part of what Elvis is about. I never tire of it.

I'm not sure Brilliant Mistake is the song you wanted to compare. Maybe American without Tears?


America's wonderful! Wonderful Wonderful Wonderful Wonderful!

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Re: In praise of Momofuku

Postby Poor Deportee » Fri Mar 25, 2011 11:35 am

Well, I'll say this for AGT: the sustained phallic, sexual and masturbatory imagery that runs through the lyric might be an amusing little play on EC's long-standing themes about the links between militarism, violence, and sexual immaturity. Part of the problem with the song is just SN's choice to sound exactly like he did in 1979 (a sardonic, subversive comment on the lack of thematic, musical, or lyrical progress manifest in the song? Or just nostaliga? Either way the song doesn't come out smelling too sweet). The other problem is that we've heard this kind of thing from EC over and over, right down to the shock songwriting; except that lines like 'it's a drag saluting that starry rag' fall short of any imagination or suavity.

As for Elvis and America: it's a fine line, I suppose. I thought his critique of American culture in 'Brilliant Mistake' (complete with its evocation of Thomas Paine) was fair enough as a one-shot - the impressions of a visitor, as it were; and certainly the attack on the political and cultural subordination of Britain to America in songs such as 'American Without Tears' and 'Crawling to the USA' is fair game, because it's a critique from within his own society. Also fair is complaining about American militarism abroad ('Bedlam'), again tracking America's dire effects on others. But I see it as fundamentally presumptuous, not to say intellectually lazy, for EC to stand in righteous and constant judgement of the inner life of a society that is not his own, in which he amounts to a tourist. It'd be like Bruce Springsteen writing songs protesting class divisions and monarchy in England.

And for the record, I'm not American, nor am I particularly enamoured of America. I just think humility is the basic position we should take when assessing societies other than our own.
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Re: In praise of Momofuku

Postby Jack of All Parades » Fri Mar 25, 2011 5:07 pm

PD- that is a beautifully reasoned response. Succinct, supple and not sonorous. It gives voice to my feelings about AGT and its sister rants from EC's pen in words I could never supply. It brings to mind a quote attributed to Sting by my best friend a number of years ago that in effect goes " I know more about America than most Americans. After all I've cris-crossed the continent so many times." Yes tell me how that view is from your chartered jet, bus or chauffeured Escalade! The hubris that a Sting or EC show in comments on America is funny. I will never picture them as two 21st century Alexis De Tocquevilles, budding political scientists, offering their updated thoughts regarding Democracy in America for us. Spare me. Have to love the irony that EC still chooses to maintain a home in NYC if we are so bad.

Your memory is right; I have stated previously that I am not a big fan of country music. What I failed to clarify is that the country music I love is not what I term the 10 gallon hat music of Nashville and that fills the airwaves of so many channels. Not for me the pickups and beer and hunting. I will always have room for the Carter Family, Merle Hagard, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, George Jones, Alison Krauss and their acolyte, Gram Parsons, but have little use for the mass over produced stuff that spews out of Nashville these days. That said I do not disparage Stella Hurt. In my rush to post I should have clarified that the cringing comes from the vocal and the chorus for my ears. I listen to it; it just does not turn my ears on the way it does yours. As to Rose, it is just boring and I find the vocal in the chorus painful to listen to while it plays. Eve, as you say, is just unlikeable. Alexv is right when he notes that each artist, Loretta and Roseanne, have done better work on their own in the past. Rose reminds me so much of the Leon Russell collaboration on National Ransom, boring, uninspired and done better by Leon in his heyday in the 60's and 70's. It is consistently funny how posters take a comment obviously given as only a personal opinion and then personalize it as if they were so insecure in their own musical choices and likes taking it as a slap against there own likes and dislikes. It is after all just my little opinion, nothing more. Feel like there should always be a public service disclosure attached- caution contents of the cup are extremely hot and may cause burns or these opinions are only those of the poster and are not to be attributed in any way to the EC board. God forbid it has come to that.

Welcome back to the conversation Neil. Sentiment is a tricky thing. Too often an artist errs on the side of sticky, sickly greeting card treacle. One has to only think of the Susan Boyle phenomena. As I noted, EC avoids this with MTS. Thankfully. Our airwaves and radio station catalogs are filled with too many egregious examples of songs that erred the other way. Remember that obnoxious Butterfly Kisses from a few years ago. A memorable one from my youth was Little Green Apples. I still cringe. I offer you an equally good example of this type of song and one that I like even more than MTS- Paul Simon's Father and Daughter.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AzMh7zHir1I

If you leap awake
In the mirror of a bad dream
And for a fraction of a second
You cant remember where you are
Just open your window
And follow your memory upstream
To the meadow in the mountain
Where we counted every falling star

I believe the light that shines on you
Will shine on you forever
And though I cant guarantee
There's nothing scary hiding under your bed
I'm gonna stand guard
Like a postcard of a Golden Retriever
And never leave till I leave you
With a sweet dream in your head

I'm gonna watch you shine
Gonna watch you grow
Gonna paint a sign
So youll always know
As long as one and one is two
There could never be a father
Who loved his daughter more than I love you

Trust your intuition
Its just like going fishing
You cast your line
And hope you get a bite
But you don't need to waste your time
Worrying about the market place
Try to help the human race
Struggling to survive its harshest night

I'm gonna watch you shine
Gonna watch you grow
Gonna paint a sign
So you'll always know
As long as one and one is two
There could never be a father
Who loved his daughter more than I love you

I'm gonna watch you shine
Gonna watch you grow
Gonna paint a sign
So you'll always know
As long as one and one is two
There could never be a father
Who loved his daughter more than I love you

In this one Simon gives even more imaginative play to the loving sentiments coupled with a lovely melody and instrumentation and I have always admired the way he played with a child's perspective, as well.
"....there's a merry song that starts in 'I' and ends in 'You', as many famous pop songs do....'

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Re: In praise of Momofuku

Postby pophead2k » Fri Mar 25, 2011 6:49 pm

Christopher Sjoholm wrote:Have to love the irony that EC still chooses to maintain a home in NYC if we are so bad.


I'm pretty sure AGT and other songs refer more to American government and its policies than America itself. I don't see any irony in Elvis' choice to live in NYC.

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Re: In praise of Momofuku

Postby Miclewis » Fri Mar 25, 2011 7:42 pm

Weird coincidence a minute ago:
I am shuffling a bunch of Elvis' best while doing a crossword. "Pardon Me Madam..." started and I was thinking how good Momofuku actually is, and the clue in the crossword at the same time was "a five letter word for a Japanese noodle dish" (RAMEN) - pretty wild.

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Re: In praise of Momofuku

Postby bronxapostle » Fri Mar 25, 2011 8:12 pm

simply, one of his five BEST lps EVER!!!

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Re: In praise of Momofuku

Postby the_platypus » Sat Mar 26, 2011 2:06 pm

Christopher Sjoholm wrote: It is consistently funny how posters take a comment obviously given as only a personal opinion and then personalize it as if they were so insecure in their own musical choices and likes taking it as a slap against there own likes and dislikes. It is after all just my little opinion, nothing more. Feel like there should always be a public service disclosure attached- caution contents of the cup are extremely hot and may cause burns or these opinions are only those of the poster and are not to be attributed in any way to the EC board. God forbid it has come to that.


You're probably right, but I don't think this has happened in this thread (it did happen in the MLAR thread-- it was uncalled for and I apologize for it). Just people offering their own opinion on the songs you were very dismissive of. I think they're both highlights in the record.

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Re: In praise of Momofuku

Postby the_platypus » Sat Mar 26, 2011 2:09 pm

pophead2k wrote:Just a note on EC's singing style. I agree that he is far more likely to strain than in his younger days, but I think that is a function of the actual music, not his abilities. Elvis' melodies cover a lot more ground than they did on most of the early songs (not that those melodies aren't fantastic, but they don't jump around the staff as much as, say, London's Brilliant Parade or some of the National Ransom songs).


Too right. I also think he gives each individual song exactly what they call for. Surely no one would call his work on "Jimmie Standing in the Rain" oversinging.

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Re: In praise of Momofuku

Postby Poor Deportee » Sat Mar 26, 2011 3:36 pm

the_platypus wrote:
pophead2k wrote:Just a note on EC's singing style. I agree that he is far more likely to strain than in his younger days, but I think that is a function of the actual music, not his abilities. Elvis' melodies cover a lot more ground than they did on most of the early songs (not that those melodies aren't fantastic, but they don't jump around the staff as much as, say, London's Brilliant Parade or some of the National Ransom songs).


Too right. I also think he gives each individual song exactly what they call for. Surely no one would call his work on "Jimmie Standing in the Rain" oversinging.


No, Jimmie is superbly sung. That's the point, really; he is certainly capable of tastefully letting the song speak for itself, but all too often he decides to bludgeon it, a la 'Church Underground.' There may be something to the idea that EC's later melodies are more demanding, but oversinging is an issue separate from that. He hams it up far too often in his later stuff - usually, either in the form of an exagerrated, almost self-caricatural vibrato, or pseudo-soul 'gutteral' singing of the sort that mars the chorus of 'That's Not the Part of Him You're Leaving.' It's annoying.
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Re: In praise of Momofuku

Postby wordnat » Sat Mar 26, 2011 4:04 pm

With the exception of IB and NR (which are anal-retentive masterpieces), my favorite EC albums, more often than not, tend to be the ones that he just sort of bangs out and doesn't seem to fuss over too much. MOMOFUKU is definitely one of these "quickies", and I love it. "Song with Rose" stuns me every time I hear it....

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Re: In praise of Momofuku

Postby taramasalata » Sat Mar 26, 2011 5:34 pm

wordnat wrote: "Song with Rose" stuns me every time I hear it....

I' m glad I'm not the only one who is thrilled by the beauty of this ever-evolving nearly never-ending melody!

the_platypus wrote:
Christopher Sjoholm wrote: It is consistently funny how posters take a comment obviously given as only a personal opinion and then personalize it as if they were so insecure in their own musical choices and likes taking it as a slap against there own likes and dislikes. It is after all just my little opinion, nothing more. Feel like there should always be a public service disclosure attached- caution contents of the cup are extremely hot and may cause burns or these opinions are only those of the poster and are not to be attributed in any way to the EC board. God forbid it has come to that.


Just people offering their own opinion on the songs you were very dismissive of. I think they're both highlights in the record.


Christopher, having been impressed by your insightful comments quite a few times, the more I found myself in a mix of irritation and a little anger while reading your post. First writing half a novel of strong words and judgements and then playing it down as "just my little opinion, nothing more" seems quite irritating and not all too convincing to me. And your obviously meant-to-be-funny comment about the fact that people who comment about things that happen in the world including America are still allowed to live in NYC doesnt't help either. The more as you later seem to be making fun about other people's "taking it personal" and allow yourself of attributing it to their being "insecure in their own musical choices"....
Easen up Chrisptoper, a bit less pretension!
With best regards and hopes of future posts from you in the quality I've always appreciated.

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Re: In praise of Momofuku

Postby Jack of All Parades » Sun Mar 27, 2011 6:26 am

Tarasmalata-I note your response and it merits a thoughtful reply. First, thank you for conversing, that should go without saying but too often gets ignored. I have read and reread your post and each time when I finish I cannot help think you prove my point, and one that was not made in a joking manner. I find it funny, not to quote the movie in a 'funny, ha ha way', but in an ironical way that my 'little' opinion, because that is all it is in the wide scope of the many individuals who care about the artist who brings us to this board, should solicit such a response from other posters like yourself. The point being that it is disturbing that someone would take my dislike of a particular song or album so personally as if it were a slap or insult against them for liking the same song or album. Not the case at all. I have never said or inferred that you or others cannot like a given song or album. That is the whole point of this board; it is discourse about what we like and dislike. You and others have taken my feelings about a song and personalized it as if I had taken aim and knocked you for liking for it. Not the case at all. It would be a very boring world if we all liked the same things. If you like the song about Rose more power to you. Enjoy it! But I do ask that you recognize that others, including myself, have less love for the song. Which brings me to my final point on the matter. How is it that if I say I skip the song and another poster previously in the same thread says the same thing I am pretentious? Another poster can say it 'plods' along or that it is an 'okay' song but if I say I find it boring I am pretentious? I guess I am because I give a reason why I skip it. Perhaps I am tone deaf to my own words? Again, I cannot say it enough; all this is a dialogue[ I hope]. You have your likes and I have mine; you have your dislikes and I have mine. I respect yours; hopefully you will continue to respect mine.

I am equally puzzled about the 'strong words and judgments' comment- rereading my original post it remains quite clear that I am most emphatic that I like this particular album noting its many strong core songs. There happen to be only a handful I dislike on the record, Unfortunately, one happens to be one you hold dear.

One final comment-I have as well read and re-read my post and cannot find anyplace where I say it is a shame we allow anyone to live in NYC who comments about incidents in the world or America. What I did say is that I find it ironical[ funny and irony is a form of humor] that EC chooses to live in NYC given his musical statements in the songs that were cited. There is a big difference.
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Re: In praise of Momofuku

Postby krm » Sun Mar 27, 2011 7:15 am

Christopher Sjoholm wrote:What I did say is that I find it ironical[ funny and irony is a form of humor] that EC chooses to live in NYC given his musical statements in the songs that were cited. There is a big difference.


To be able to write like that, I guess you have to be in the middle of it! So from my point of view it is the other way around. By living there, there is a bigger and better insight about what is going on.

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Re: In praise of Momofuku

Postby History History » Sun Mar 27, 2011 11:34 am

I'm wondering what makes a good song or album, is it all just about personal taste or how many people actually like it? It's really hard to pinpoint it. Somehow, for me,a feeling just resonates
from a recording and I just 'know' it's good :lol:

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Re: In praise of Momofuku

Postby Poor Deportee » Sun Mar 27, 2011 12:04 pm

I'll just pipe in here to say that nobody should ever apologlize for offering opinions, even strong opinions. I do tire of the whole idea that we are supposed to preface all our remarks with some self-effacing redundancy, like 'this is only my opinion...' blah blah blah. Anyone who feels personally threatened because someone doesn't share their opinion is simply too sensitive.

There's also something slightly too easy about hiding behind 'subjectivity.' 'It's all just subjective opinion...' In one sense this is obviously true. In another sense people can learn to distinguish between guilty pleasures and genuinely sublime work. The difference between a great song and a mediocre one is not an arbitrary matter, like a preference for strawberry over rasberry jam. It's true that this can't be worked out according to some scientific formula; there is an inescapable aspect of judgement involved. Nevertheless, our judgements can be more or less refined and defensible. Elvis Costello is a greater songwriter than Jennifer Hudson, and anyone who thinks the contrary is simply betraying their ignorance of songcraft. So art involves a nebulous zone between radical relativism ('it's good if I think it's good...') and objective realities (the earth revolves around the sun, whether you like it or not).

This is precisely why talking about it is so valuable. Someone can point out aspects of the work that you didn't consider before, making you realize that there really is something you missed there, or - God forbid - that maybe there really are problems that you've been glossing over for whatever reason. Discussion helps us to both clarify our existing judgements and to refine or revise them. If were all just sheer arbitrary opinion, then there'd be no point in discussing it, any more than there is a point to starting long threads about why strawberry jam tastes better than rasberry jam.
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Re: In praise of Momofuku

Postby alexv » Sun Mar 27, 2011 1:03 pm

Interesting post, PD. What happens every now and then on this Forum has a lot to do with quite a few things you focus on. You have a clash between folks who, to use your very good description, just express their sheer arbitrary opinion. "You don't like X, well I like X, in fact I think X is great, so there!! We don't have a lot of that, but it's there.

Now, i'm not quick to bash this approach, since I've been on the Board for a quite a while and there are some posters who take this approach, maybe not as radically posed as in my example, but who refrain from getting too deep into the reasoning behind their opinions, simply because they don't view the Forum as a place where you apply that kind of deep, almost critical analysis to all of EC's stuff. It's a fan site, not a critic's corner. They could go deeper, but refrain so as to not to get too serious.

I agree that this makes the discussion less interesting, but only if your goal is to get deep. What I think riles up some people about Christopher's posts has a lot to do with that kind of approach. The "essayish" aspect of of some of them can be taken either as a positive or as a negative.

I'm in the positive camp, since a lot of what I post is similar in that I state an opinion and try to back it up as well as I can. Am i trying to convince folks over to my side? Sure, there's no denying that if you marshall an argument you are doing it for a purpose. By the same token if folks remain unconvinced you've never heard me, or Christopher, answer back that "you are an idiot".

But sometimes when we pile it on, and try so hard, the effect is that we "oversell" our opinions. The sheer impact is too much, particularly for the folks who prefer the lighter approach. I think the notion expressed earlier that when Christopher simply says he is stating his "opinion" he's somehow being disingenous gets at the heart of this objection. When you take the time to thoroughly express your thoughts, and go deep to get a across a personal preference, you sometimes bridge the gap between personal opinion and critical judgement. When something gets the patina of critical judgment certain folks get defensive. You are not just saying that you don't like someone else's favored song or record, you are expressing your opinion in a way that makes it appear as if folks who disagree with you are "wrong". This is particularly the case when the "offended" party is of the camp that doesn't go deep into why they like their song. The difference in approach ends up framing the disagreement in uneven terms, almost like intellectuall bullying.

Even then, let me be clear, my view is that the discussion benefits. I'm as guilty as Christopher of forcefully stating my opnions, and over the years have been shall I say criticized for it. I don't care because that's just who I am and I truly believe that the deeper we go into these records the more we get out of them even if sometimes the deeply expressed thought is unconvincing.

Which is another thought: just because we embellish an argument with citations and well-crafted ideas doesn't make the ultimate assessment the right one. And that is what I think folks who take the light approach should think about.

As I said in one of my earlier posts, in responding to Christopher's thoughts on PFM I came across a sentence from Rope, something just thrown in into one of his typically Ropeian riffs, that I thought expressed what I wanted to say about a song better than anything Chris or I had come up with.

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Re: In praise of Momofuku

Postby stormwarning » Sun Mar 27, 2011 1:41 pm

Alexv's posts taste better than Christopher's posts.
Where's North from 'ere?

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Re: In praise of Momofuku

Postby History History » Sun Mar 27, 2011 1:59 pm

Poor Deportee wrote: Elvis Costello is a greater songwriter than Jennifer Hudson, and anyone who thinks the contrary is simply betraying their ignorance of songcraft.


I'm playing devil's advocate here but it's impossible to say EC is a greater songwriter than JH. What is songcraft anyway? You might like EC better but you can't prove he is greater than any other songwriter dead or alive.

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Re: In praise of Momofuku

Postby krm » Sun Mar 27, 2011 2:05 pm

in that case, I must add that I prefer Strawberry jam!

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Re: In praise of Momofuku

Postby Poor Deportee » Sun Mar 27, 2011 2:44 pm

History History wrote:
Poor Deportee wrote: Elvis Costello is a greater songwriter than Jennifer Hudson, and anyone who thinks the contrary is simply betraying their ignorance of songcraft.


I'm playing devil's advocate here but it's impossible to say EC is a greater songwriter than JH. What is songcraft anyway? You might like EC better but you can't prove he is greater than any other songwriter dead or alive.


Anyone with ears can discern the difference.
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Re: In praise of Momofuku

Postby alexv » Sun Mar 27, 2011 2:45 pm

Storm, not to be ungrateful, but if you tasted, really tasted, my posts you'd be sorely disappointed. Sorry.

Krm, you have very good taste.

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Re: In praise of Momofuku

Postby History History » Sun Mar 27, 2011 3:08 pm

Poor Deportee wrote:
History History wrote:
Poor Deportee wrote: Elvis Costello is a greater songwriter than Jennifer Hudson, and anyone who thinks the contrary is simply betraying their ignorance of songcraft.


I'm playing devil's advocate here but it's impossible to say EC is a greater songwriter than JH. What is songcraft anyway? You might like EC better but you can't prove he is greater than any other songwriter dead or alive.


Anyone with ears can discern the difference.


Exactly. You can hear the difference but you you can't hear that it's greater.


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