When I started this blog six and a half years ago, one of my models for the kind of writing I wanted to do was Chris O’Leary’s song-by-song exploration of David Bowie’s work, Pushing Ahead of the Dame, which was later published by Zero in two volumes.
O’Leary has a new project that I hadn’t come across until a couple of days ago: 64 Quartets. So far, O’Leary has covered Booker T & the MG’s and the 4AD Boston/Newport crew: the Pixies, the Breeders, Belly and Throwing Muses.
It’s as good as any long-time reader of O’Leary’s work could hope for, and it’s great to read his thoughts on artists other than Bowie. He puts in hard yards as a researcher (I can’t think of many other bloggers who include proper bibliographic citations) so he’s super well informed, and he’s an astute critic of actual music: the difference it makes that the singer sings this note rather than that note, or the effect of adding the 9th to the harmony.
It’s really good stuff.
While I’m here, I’d also like to mention Christine Kelley’s Dreams of Orgonon, which is a song-by-song exploration of Kate Bush’s catalogue, as well as works by and/or featuring Kate-adjacent artists like Peter Gabriel. Like O’Leary, Kelley combines biographic detail with formal and technical analysis of Bush’s music. It’s fantastic stuff, and is doing for me exactly what Pushing Ahead of the Dame did 10 years ago: giving me a proper grounding in the work of an artist I knew, but not comprehensively.
If you’re not following either yet, you’ve got a treat in store.