The Only Planet That Can't Conceive You (Floating City)

Floating City (1988)

Floating City (live, 2014)

Floating City (live, 2015)

At first, casual listen, another song of heartbreak and disappointed love: “you went away / why did you leave me / you know I believed you,” it opens. In fact, “Floating City” is the first shot in a longer and larger battle with the patriarchal Christian god of her upbringing. Eventually this would go on to fuel multiple albums in which Amos constructed her own sprawling alternative mythology. Compared to those songs, “Floating City” is a half-developed thought; compared to the rest of Y Kant Tori Read, it’s a song of towering scope and ambition.

Amos is, as she often notes, a minister’s daughter. In some ways this led to all the stereotypes you’d expect. Amos went to church multiple times a week, and sang frequently at weddings and funerals. Her father was reasonably progressive—Amos recounts that he marched with Martin Luther King and was a supporter of women’s rights. But this had clear limits—her account of how after “being exposed to so many gay people who work on my tours and shoots he’s evolved to seeing them as individuals, as people, and not as ‘the gays’” is decidedly modest ...

The Taste of My World (On the Boundary)

On the Boundary (1988)

On the Boundary (live, 2011)

On the Boundary (live, 2014)

Caught a Lite Sneeze/On the Boundary (live, 2017)

“On the Boundary” is the rare Y Kant Tori Read song that is neither embarrassing nor good. It is of course another song of frustrated love, but unlike most of the album it is at least not bothering to pine for its subject. Here Amos is clear that the romance is over and is settling on castigating her lover for his inadequacy instead of holding out hope for fixing things. This has the pleasant effect of making the song one in which the swagger of Y Kant Tori Read makes sense, as the song actually casts Amos in a position of confidence and assertiveness.

The song is built around a reasonably effective crescendo from the verses to the chorus. The verses are built on an alternating major chord progression that’s largely carried by the bass, which blats out a two note pattern over some synth pads and, in later verses, a smidgen of acoustic guitar. The lyrics here show Amos sketching out her lover’s failures, which generally amount to his insistence on shutting Amos out and not ...

Maps of Meaninglessness

One of the quintessential aesthetic markers of our current cultural predicament is the online political spectrum.  Half pseudo-graph, half meme, it is a largely crude and homemade phenomenon.  It is both provocation and ‘cargo cult’ intellectualism.  It is especially beloved of the more gonzo elements within the online far-Right.  People create these things in their spare time.  As ludicrous as they usually are, they represent a tragically doomed attempt by confused and disoriented people (if also often sinister and dangerous ones) to understand a world which seems to them to be increasingly inexplicable, complicated, and menacing.  Indeed, they often reveal an attempt to understand a history which is somehow retroactively also becoming more inexplicable, complicated, and menacing.  They reveal the scared befuddlement of their makers even as they boastfully claim confident certainty.  One of the tragic things about these images is that they show people reaching for a way to express their fuzzy sense of political categories as complex, interrelated, liminal and evolving.  They are stunted and flailing attempts to engage in dialectics.  

(Dialectical thinking is, on a very base level, an attempt to systematise, and make scientific, the common sense intuitions that most people bring to their world ...

Someone Had to Lose (Fire on the Side)

Fire on the Side (1988)

Fire on the Side/Purple Rain (live, 1996)

Fire on the Side (live, 2014)

Fire on the Side (live, 2017)

Another song of frustrated love, but ultimately one that is elevated by the particulars of its subject matter, which sees Amos tackling a classic of songwriting: infidelity. There are, obviously, three perspectives one can write a song about infidelity from. The most common is the person being cheated on, a perspective that allows for sadness (“I Heard it Through The Grapevine,” “Lyin Eyse”), anger (“You Oughta Know,” “Before He Cheats,” the first half of Lemonade), or more innovative perspectives (“Jolene”). Less common but still frequent is the cheater, which allows the singer to cast themselves as a villain, whether a self-pitying one (“The Call”) or an unrepentant one (“O.P.P.”, “It Wasn’t Me”). 

The least common, however, is the most consistently interesting: the other woman. Examples exist—Robyn’s “Call Your Girlfriend” is the example par excellence here, although The Long Blondes’ “Giddy Stratospheres” deserves mention. And it is into this more arcane tradition that Amos steps with “Fire on the Side.” Amos approaches the subject, however, without any of ...

The Things We Do For Attention (Heart Attack at 23)

Heart Attack at 23 (1988)

Generally speaking, Y Kant Tori Read is not nearly as bad an album as its reputation would suggest. Misjudged in its presentation, dated, and a poor use of Amos’s talents, yes, and certainly not an album anyone would still care about thirty-two years later were it not for Amos’s future career, but not the cringing embarrassment that Amos’s disavowals (highlights include “Madonna and Kate Bush in a headlong collision after eating bad mushrooms”) and decision to leave it out of print until 2017 would suggest. For the most part it is a competent minor 1980s album—not something you’d single out as a hidden gem, but not something on its own terms that is mockable or embarrassing.

“Heart Attack at 23” serves as the biggest exception to this. Most of Y Kant Tori Read has been at least partially reclaimed by Amos, worked into concerts as a winking extra for fans die-hard enough to recognize it. “Heart Attack at 23,” however, is one of two songs on the album that Amos has never performed live. Good-natured reclamation of your juvenilia has its limits; here we find Amos’s.

It’s not hard to see why. “Heart Attack ...

I Don't Speak German, Episode 27 - White Nationalism in the Pacific Northwest.

This week, Daniel talks to journalists Shane Burley and Alexander Reid Ross about white nationalism in the Pacific Northwest.

Content warnings.

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Lollipop Girls Pave the Street (Fayth)

Fayth (1988)

Faith/Fayth (live, 2014)

Way Down/When Doves Cry/Fayth (live, 2017)

Flash forward seven years.

Our protagonist has spent all of them working towards becoming a pop star.  Her first serious effort in 1983, a recording session with Narada Michael Walden, who would go on to produce Whitney Houston on the soundtrack for The Bodyguard, produces neither anything of value nor anything that has made it into the public sphere, although lyrics including the chorus “give me the go/ and let me / rub you down /I'm in your power, when you're / takin' me down / I'll just lay low until / you come around / good to go / rub down / good to go /rub down” suggest we’re not missing out. In 1984, she moved to LA, at first doing basically the same sorts of bar gigs she’d been doing in DC. In 1985, she cut a commercial for Kellogg’s short-lived Just Right cereal, where she’s cast as “the piano player who isn’t obviously supposed to look like Elton John.” That year, things finally began to coalesce. She met Steve Caton, a guitarist who will end up sticking with her through To Venus and Back, and ...

I Don't Speak German, Episode 26 - 'Might is Right' and Mass Shootings

In the wake of recent dreadful events, Daniel decided to talk to Jack about the ideology of mass shootings, especially with reference to the 'Might is Right' tract cited by one of the killers.

Content warnings.

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Show Notes:

"Might is Right" at RationalWiki:

"Might Is Right" full text at the Internet Archive:

"Gilroy Garlic Festival Shooting," at Wikipedia:

Santino William Legan: Gilroy Garlic Festival Shooter's Instagram Page: ""

"“Read ‘Might Is Right’ by Ragnar Redbeard,” Legan wrote. His caption further asked rhetorically, “Why overcrowd towns and pave more open space to make room for hordes of mestizos and Silicon Valley white twats?”"


From Might Is Right, Chapter Three:

"You have only to look at some men, to know that they belong to an inferior breed. Take the Negro for example. His narrow cranial developittent, his prognathous jaw, his projecting lips, his wide nasal aperture, his simian disposition, his want of forethought, originality, and mental capacity: are all peculiarities strictly inferior. Similar language may be applied to the Chinaman, the Coolie ...

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