Frequently he dwells on the nature of the sound of which he is forever in pursuit: "Hard. Flat. Flat." James Brown
"My early stripe paintings... (had)...a weighted flatness, a dimensionally coherent presence to the new surface of painting, the cotton duck field..." Frank Stella
I saw Frank Stella's recent show in Chelsea shortly before James Brown died on xmas. The 2 are linked in my head in some Marvel Super-Villain Team Up way. (This is more Dr. Doom and Namor than World's Finest, if you know what I mean.)
Both are in favor of fast cars. Repetition. Flat, hard and still rhythmic.
Both favor stringent, eccentric use of instruments.
Lethem quotes Robert Palmer that "The rhythmic elements became the song....Brown and his musicians began to treat every instrument and voice in the group as if it were a drum..." There is a level of bravado in both... at the Stella show I was reminded of the Nick Nolte painter in Scorcese's New York Stories entry, at breakfast. A younger, handsome artist dude looking painter (who has just slept with the assistant that Nolte's character is infatuated with) is greeting by the disheveled master, sloppily grinning and slathering paint onto his work, putting the kid into his place -- utterly irrelevant to the painter.
The fucked up whirlygig, part sculpture of Stella and the grunts, hollers of James Brown don't need our sympathy, our fanboy enthusiasms. They are inscrutable, wacked out and somehow authentic architectures.
Next up: "Philip Guston and Jonathan Richman: Jewboy Geniuses on The Prowl"