Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Boob Tube

Ye gads, but it's been bad for cult TV shows and me, this fall.
First, Joss Whedon, who was behind the greatness that was Buffy, the Vampire Slayer, Angel, and Dr. Horrible's Sing-along Blog nailed the final nail in his coffin with Dollhouse. Quite possibly one of the worst shows on TV, ever, in my estimation.
Now, they've managed to savage The Prisoner. This was, folks, the pinnacle of television, for me. If you watch all 16+ episodes of the original series, you'll end up with some of the same outlooks on life that I have. Seriously, it was more than "change your life" Art, it was foundational philosophy.
On paper, this remake had several of the trappings of a good remake- some great actors, beautiful sets, a great soundtrack. But, the writing, the directing, and yes, the acting destroyed any greatness that could have been. As it stands, this thing was unwatchable. Yes, pure drek. Avoid it, if you value your time.

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Bomb- Speed is Everything

I like Punk rock. Having said that, I know that Punk Rock involves some artificial limitations that turn a lot of musicians off. Ideally, the Punk ethos is that "Anybody could do it". That's actually a pretty tough row to hew if you think about it. It's like writing haiku- of all the sounds available, you have to cling to only these few.
But, also like Haiku, if you maintain the discipline, you are rewarded with a kind of Freedom- in that you can explore vast worlds of music.
That universe of music is large enough that I can honestly say that I detest some stuff that fits under the rubric of "punk rock' more than I dislike whole other genres, while still really enjoying "punk rock". If you can understand that, you can start to see the kind of scope I'm talking about.
So, Jeff Pezzati specializes in Punk, which should then tell you zero about the music he makes, right?
What I mean is that he explores whole continents of melody, while sticking with a 4/4 verse-chorus limited pop song format. He's by and large unschooled, and relies upon his guitarists for arrangements. So, his once and future band, Naked Raygun really owes a lot of the sound to John Haggerty's minimalism. The Bomb, the band at hand, right now, seems more collaborative. There is a lot more focus on vocal harmony. Not quite like the Undertones, but still, Jeff is singing much more than his chanting in Naked Raygun. Still the guitars are co-stars, here. Jeff Dean has a lot of force to exert, and deploys his riffs in bursts like he's hoarding secrets. He can be as minimal as John Haggerty ( I think "The Rescue" might have less than 3 chords) But he employs strategies worthy of Robert Fripp- using chromatic dissonance to create tension in "Haver", using minor-to-major modalities in "Not Christmas Night" to slow down the melody- almost to a hover while keeping the tempo at appropriate Punk rock breakneck speed. So, yes, it's pretty, and has a lot of energy, but this is a far cry from "stupid". There's even a canny re-imagining of a Flock of Seagulls' "Space age Love Song" as a postpunk shimmer.
This stuff also points out the strength Punk Rock has, which almost always gets ignored. For sheer ferocity, heavy metal beats Punk rock. There are dozens of Hardcore, electronic, and even new music composers who can summon up more of an unfocused threat than punk rock ever has. No, the strength that Punk rock has is in re-shaping aggression, and passion into structured Pop music. Anybody can scream, but Art is made by conveying a scream without screaming. That's what The Bomb has done.
A special mention should be made of the production- J. Robbins had a big hand in shaping this sound, and as he always does, his touch on this is perfect- I defy you to find more ear pleasing production than he works up!
So, if you want to hear what the platonic ideal for Punk Rock is, in 2009, Speed is Everything!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Instrumental

Music isn't quite as categorical as it might seem. I mean, to hear music critics, you'd think there are walls between genres- and when someone dares to leap one of those walls, they achieve "crossover", like they went behind enemy territory. Really, such considerations are only for marketers, advertisers and the people duped by them. Not you, right?
So, when I say there are bands out there at the nexus point of "indie rock" and "metal"- somewhere between "Stoner Rock" and "shoegaze" and making music that resembles both Sonic Youth, and Mountain, you're not surprised at all, are you? It makes perfect sense, because all these labels make no sense to music fans, anyway.
Well, ever since bands like Deep Purple, and Black Sabbath got tagged "Heavy Metal" there has been loud trippy bands with extended jams that weren't really trying to cop jazz, or bluegrass licks, like the so-called "jam bands" do when they improvise. So, the newer instrumental, or semi-instrumental "Metal" bands that have sprung up in Neurosis' and Isis's, and Godflesh's wake might be inspired by newer music, I hear more echoes of the very early 70's in them, which might be a turn off to some folks, because they associate it with lazy, uninspired riffing. Me? I think about Can, Neu!, and their Krautrock peers. Simultaneously, I think about some of the most artistic loud bands of the past 10 years, like Queens of the Stone Age, and Deftones.
Well, here are two of the newest, so you can decide for yourself-
The first, from Chicago, Ill, USA is Pelican with their new record- What we all come to need.
Now, they are not a new band, and have practically pioneered a kind of sound, in the past- equal parts Slint and Neurosis, but with this new record they're headed into new territory- this is like what Mogwai would sound like if they gave up their pretensions of being "post Rock"- meaning it's intriguingly complex music built around a foundation of very hard rock. You know the long jams in an Isis song? Yeah, take that, speed it up, add a drummer with an exceptionally light tough for metal, and guitar interplay up there with Television, and subtract most of the vocals, and you end up with this cinematic sound- imagine Mad Max, or playing Fallout 3 with this sound track, and you'll get the idea- it's sweeping post-apocalyptic intense rock- both pretty and brutal.
The second is a northern European juggernaut- partially from Berlin, mostly from Arhus, Denmark- The Manipulated Living, with their newly-remastered demo "Prelude to Oblivian". Unlike Pelican, who specialize in a kind of twangy pounding- like a an Ennio Morricone sound track made by Ogres, the Manipulated living make a sound that's a kind of molten shimmer- like the heat distortion from a desert road in summer. In other words, there are echoes of different more gauzy types of hard rock- like the more pastoral elements of the Deftones, and the echoing drone in "Home" by Jane's Addiction. The result is less Cinematic, less airy than Pelican, and more oceanic, more trance-state. The song length in either case is Epic- figure about 8 minutes per song with Pelican, and about 10 minutes per song with The Manipulated Living- but that epic length is not an excuse- this isn't Pop music with a bridge section, like the Grateful Dead! Especially in the case of the Manipulated Living- the whole is meant to be taken in at once- like getting on a surfboard- you don't experience the ocean in parts, you feel the whole thing, then learn to isolate bits from it. This isn't the greasy kid stuff of some screamo band lost to their own inflated sense of self-worth- this bears more in common with composers like Glenn Branca and John Cage- a new way to experience the familiar. A swooning new visualization of loud music.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Tona

Full Disclosure: this band features George Almosthole who is a friend. Don’t let that sway you.
Whenever I see a band described as “post-rock” I scratch my head a bit. Any genre broad enough to cover both Yes and GG Allin would seem to contain enough multitudes that it wouldn’t need a postscript. Either it’s rock, or it’s not, and if it’s not rock, it could bear some relation.
But Tona aren’t post rock. No, they understand that they are fully in the rock. Never mind that they might employ an eastern modality here, a country lick there, and a grab bag of influences, this still is self-consciously Rock music. There’s no fashionable poses of being in with this marketing genre or that. Certainly, a nod to the so-called “Stoner Rock”, but isn’t that stuff basic rock music, anyway? No, this is asynchronous rock- it’s outside of time. You’ll hear a snippet of Motorhead, a flash of Black Flag, a moment of latter-day Clutch, a moment of Kyuss, a few seconds of the Melvins, and some Thin White Rope. The vocals, while sung, and not growled are full throated and masculine- think Germanic military chants, like Laibach, but not as an affected gesture; that’s just George’s voice. Boris and Filip have a pretty broad range to choose from, sonically- from delicate neo-jazz phrases to full-bore overdriven skronk. Yes, lots of distortion, but more of a late 70’s tube-driven creaminess than a late ‘80’s scooped out shine, or a 90’s thud- even less the contemporary twinkle and crunch- Boris and Filip would blow minds in the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, because they play with a much more broad musical understanding, but their tone would not be out of place on a latter-day Thin Lizzy record (and what’s a higher standard than that?)Vladimir and Roger- the rhythm machine- quite frankly they’re locked in so tight that it invites comparison to something artificial, but the tone used keeps it completely organic- lots of splash cymbals and walking bass lines, so it can help but have a kinda woodsy edge. Still, musically, this is rock- don’t expect Belle and Sebastian!
Yes, they are Serbian, and yes, I think that plays into this. They’re not political, but there is the kind of urgency, and determination you just don’t hear in more western countries. Take it this way- when some Anarchopunk band from Orange County screams about war, pain, and death, there is an understood comfort underneath it- they can always go off to college and become lawyers, and when some Satanic Death Grind metal band from Norway screeches about wanting to burn churches, you know full well they have one of the best social nets in the world underneath them. A band from Serbia, from Uzbekistan, from Burma? Even if they come from the upper class, there’s something underlining whatever the band does- if this falls through, there aren’t necessarily the resources to go for plan “B”. Shouldn’t we all have a little of that?

Friday, October 23, 2009

Shotgun Shogun

Punk Frickin' Rock!
Ok, ok- more detail- This is a punk band that calls itself "Shotgun Shogun", and they're from the wilds of Laramie, Wyoming. I'm sure their influences are varied, and modern but they remind me a lot of some older bands. There's a lot of the nasal not-quite harmonies of Arcwelder, and the guitars incorporate just enough jamming and Country to remind me of a very, very punked out Thin White Rope. Nowhere near as talented as TWR, mind you, but edging in some similar directions. But, the bottom line for this or any Punk Rock is that it's catchy, fun, and obnoxious. What more do you want, really?

There is no B

I was raised on B movies. My aunt Vi loved the Drive In movies of people like Roger Corman, and, being a child, I didn’t understand that they were cheaply made, or substandard in any way. They were just what movies are. Though I have much more understanding, now, of how movies are made, I still do my best to retain that childlike, na├»ve way of seeing any given film.
Which, of course, puts me at odds with the majority of the film-going public in America. The less glitz, the less budget, the less likely a film is to be seen on its own merits, and the more likely that reviews will center on the “gimmick” of having a lower budget. This has reached the point of Irony in the films of Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez ( Although they have shown love for B's as well).
But, I still do my best to view each film on its own merits. I ignore not-so-special effects, and I wade through some wooden and non-professional acting. The points are how good the story is, and how well it is told.
Take some of the films of John Carpenter, as a prime example. Escape from New York has a gripping story, with some great social commentary. They Live is still probably the best satire of consumer culture made. Prince of Darkness turns witch and Deviltry stories on their head by having the “devil” operate on a foundation of theoretical physics, and has references to the Gnostic heresy! But, taken by the mainstream standard- Escape from New York is a thin chase movie, Mad Max with the roles reversed, They Live is a low budget Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and Prince of Darkness is a nearly “Made for TV” rip off of the Exorcist.
Now, this isn’t my political blog, and I’m not trying to read too deeply here, but I truly believe that the problem is the love of money. I believe that Capitalism ruins our appreciation of Art. Because if you take away the cash yardstick, I think it’s impossible to view movies like the ones John Carpenter made, filled with a love for the craft, and dedication to the story as inferior in any way to the bigger budget films.
Still not with me? What about the love George Romero puts into his films? Yes, we’re talking about the Zombie king of Pittsburgh (incidentally- another function of money- ever notice how many of the “good guys” come from the Rust belt? Guys like Corman from Detroit, Romero from Pittsburgh, and Carpenter from both New York and Kentucky- that’s not just coincidence. Ask John Sayles-From Schenectady, New York) His lowest budget “Living Dead” films inspired a whole genre of film, and a cultural phenomena. I’d call that a huge Artistic success, and the core of that comes from Romero’s fierce love for his anti-capitalist story (and can you really doubt that his stories all come from a place where the Zombies are the heroes because they represent the working man, while the villains are the leaders of industry, and the upper echelons of society?) Romero literally puts himself into his movies, and loves his story so much that he’ll retell it from any new angle he can, unlike big-budget Hollywood types who cannot wait to get to the next project.
So, when I say that I still love B movies, it’s not an Ironic thing. I’m not putting some kind of artistic distance between myself and the stories. I honestly believe I’m watching the best movies, period. Maybe I’m skewed from childhood, but, if so, so be it. I really do believe that I like the finest things- not only do I watch the best movies, and listen to the best music, and read the best books, and dress in the best clothes- tied in with that is that I believe I have the best friends, I have the best wife, the best son, and so on. So called “B” movies have taught me that it’s not about some objective standard involving yardsticks like dollars spent; the only yardstick is how much you love it- the most subjective standard there is- but also the only real measure of Art, life, and everything in between.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

As winter approaches you may need a Sunshine Factory

The Sunshine Factory is mostly one guy; Ian Taylor. His Dad helps him, as do other musicians, but it's mostly a one man affair.
Like sElf, another one man affair, there are limitations. Sometimes some editing would have been useful, and other times the music isn't as fleshed out as it could be, but by and large this is good, pleasant music. There are strong psychedelic influences, mostly from Kevin Shields/My Bloody Valentine, the Chemical Brothers and a couple of songs sound like vintage Prince. Yes, it's Swirlie, but there's a good backbeat on some tracks. A little mysticism in the lyrics, but most of it is very romantic love letters. I don't know how well this would translate live, but for an indian Summer day in the middle of October, it's like a piece of key lime pie: a little tartness, a whole lot of sweetness, with a lovely texture of froth and cream. Now doesn't that sound lovely?

Background

I’ve been digging out some music that I think folks are sleeping on (meant in the hip hop sense of ignoring something you really shouldn’t) so I thought I’d mention some bands-
I dig the Chameleons. Virtually everybody in the “overly dramatic rock” category from Interpol to Coldplay owes the Chameleons.
I also dig the Dream Syndicate. Of all the “paisley underground” bands, they played both the loudest, and the longest, and folks still don’t give ‘em the credit they are due. Bands like Wilco and the Hold Steady really owe the Dream Syndicate for re-interpreting the Velvet Underground as a bar band. The mix of country, and psychedelic is fitting, too, in that fuzztone guitars were made for country records, too.
Of course, Pop will Eat Itself. Besides writing every decent Soundtrack of the past few years, Clint Mansell, in PWEI pretty much brought the postmodern grab everything you like and stick it together vibe into dance music- as much, if not more than the Beastie Boys. So, all these mash ups, all this Remix culture? Sounds like PWEI to me.
This is the tip of the iceberg, of course. There have been so very many records, tapes, CDs, Mp3’s you name the format that are less discovered than they should be. Again, that’s the reason for my title. You have a list, as well. TV shows, music, books, Movies, Artists- we all have our idiosyncratic favorites. We all have our individual tastes. I hope that more people remember that, because, as the Music Business dies a well-deserved death, I’d like for us to replace with the beautiful cacophony of the idiosyncratic, of the eccentric, of the just plain strange, so long as it really speaks to the individual. Replace Mass culture with the cultures of the masses…

Taxonomy

There’s a type of music I like that I’ve heard defined so many different ways that I almost think it should be a genre. It’s heavily processed guitar music that usually employs a relatively simple song structure and lots of repetition. Now, as of late, people are describing bands like that as either Shoegazing or post rock, but that doesn’t quite fit because I can trace a fairly straight line from Krautrock, with the Motorik beat through some of the punk bands, into the New Wave, and then, into both the shoegazing scene and into the “Madchester” baggy trousered Brit Pop, and then, into the Goth Scenes, and into the Stoner Rock category. That’s the problem with such a broad category: it can apply to lots of bands, some of whom are even working at cross purposes.
Of course, I like a lot of music, and music is important to me, so I might be viewing this through a distorted lens, but I do get somewhat put off by some of the attempts to pigeonhole this stuff. At the same time, it is such a handy tool to be able to pigeonhole things a bit. That’s why I’ve adopted the “swirlie/Swirly” tag for this kind of music. It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about Can, or Neu! going all the way to Silence is Sexy, if I mention that something sounds like that, or if I use that term, please understand that I’m talking about vaguely psychedelic rock music, employing a simple beat, lots of processing on the guitars, and some drone, producing a hypnotic, drift-to-maelstrom “swirl”

Sunday, October 18, 2009

It's the TV guy

I've heard that Online TV is over-taking broadcast TV. I'll admit that I'm not certain that's true, though. I'd like for Online TV to take over, because in my vision for the future, there is a TV station in every town, and a radio station on every block: I want a total glut, and then, our media can become truly localized, yet still global: a massive inter-connected network, instead of a fiefdom radiating out from the twin coasts of America. I think that if we were blessed with a widely distributed, yet fully local web of media, it would have the beneficial effect of making us feel part of the media, and part of society, again, instead of the isolated little atoms so many of us feel like, now. I think that Online is the easiest, most cost-effective way for this to happen.
But, unfortunately, it's not there yet. Half a million hits of some 5 minute clip of a kid riding home from the dentist is nowhere near competition for 20 million households tuning in to Two and a half men. Even 5 million hits on a 2 minute clip of a cat playing the piano is no real match for the media behemoths.
That's not to say that there is no online content worth your time. Of course there's Youtube. But, how about something a bit more in-depth content wise? Well, apart from VBS, which I still count as the gold standard, there's Crackle (I kinda like Woke Up Dead) and Blip but both have some serious flaws (Crackle is still heavily based on syndicated rebroadcast, has really short original content, and more commercials than broadcast TV. Blip is unwieldy and quality control is limited). Then, there are also-rans like Punkcast and Listen Up! and Democracy Now! and Deep Dish and Coffee House that are all very good, noble, "A+" efforts, but don't really satisfy. But, maybe if we started really supporting them, they would improve. I think they would if we were vocal about what we wanted. But, bear in mind, we're in the very early stages, here. Of course sites like Hulu and Youtube are dominating. Hulu is basically treating the Internet like syndication, and Youtube is treating it like a VFW hall, showing home movies of Ed and Martha's trip to Yellowstone. But, if we continue to support them, and all these other options, it's only a matter of time until the content will catch up to our desires. Heck, somebody chancing upon this little blog may be the next Uncle Miltie!

Friday, October 16, 2009

VS

Sometimes, it's difficult having so much better taste than everybody else....
Here's an example. Recently, I heard this band, Blacklist, and thought they were pretty good. I can't say I'm 100% behind them, though. The music is good, sweeping, swirly epic anthemic stuff than I'm always a sucker to hear. On top of that, they're smart people, graduates of the New School, and the singer is also a writer, and references a lot of somewhat left writers.
But, musically, they're actually more limited than what I like. They don't have the depth and variety of emotions that a band like Silence is Sexy or Pandora's Box or Workers can conjure up easily. Lyrics-wise it's a lot of intellect, but where's the connection? Where's the resonance?
Politically, though I'd say they are fellow travellers, I cannot really get behind somebody who sides with Christopher Hitchens.
So, I like them, honestly I do, but I still prefer the others. Maybe the guys in Workers are grad students, I don't know, and certainly cannot tell from their lyrics, but I feel a greater sense of real humanity from them, a more direct connection, and I feel better listening to them. ( I push the comparison between the two bands because the sound is very similar. Check out the music on myspace from Blacklist and the same from Workers)
I don't mean to set myself in opposition, so much as I just really am a bit different, so my tastes and desires are different. If I'm in opposition to anything in the arts it's this:
I suspect you're far more likely to hear about Blacklist than any of the others bands because they're based out of New York. They have the far more expensive haircuts and outfits. I suspect they have a publicist. In other words, however left-leaning the lyrics may be, they definitely have stakes in the machine. That machine is what I'd oppose. It's not about taste: it's about manipulation, and not even external manipulation because we often do it to ourselves.
So, as always, I would ask: how much longer must we tolerate mass culture?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Radio, Radio

So, the majors are arguing about who you will pay to listen to music. You know what real "radio without restriction" is, there, Dave? It's the model we had for a few years, between 1968 and 1980, in FM Radio. It's the model pirate (or offshore, or "Free") radio follows. It's peer to peer, and it rarely has an advertiser. Basically, Dave, it's when suits like you aren't involved. That much is proven, even by suits like you. Ask France.
So, I've got a simple plan for the music Business: adapt or die. Either learn a new audience and artist friendly way of distributing music, or die off, and let's watch the existing channels of doing that flourish.
Oh, and Elvis has something to say. And the Beastie Boys agree.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Oh, by the way

For a "pop culture" blog, you might notice that I'm "ignoring" some stuff in popular culture. I don't care about who David Letterman is doing, who is making money from Kurt Cobain or Michael Jackson's legacy, or which teen movie actress is on Cocaine, this week. It's not that I'm ignoring it, exactly; it's that I think it's much more relevant to talk about the good, less saturated stuff. I'll bring up mass culture, from time to time, but my main thrust is to show how there is no need for mass culture at all.
There really isn't, by the way. I could watch about 50 hours of TV without ever turning on a TV show shot for a major network, every week. I could listen to about 100 hours of music, every week, without even once listening to a major label product. I could read 5 or 6 books without going with a chain bookstore. I could watch 2 or 3 movies without Blockbuster or even Netflix. That's every week, mind you, and this side of the fence is growing. So, again, how much longer must we tolerate mass culture?

Vice

Like me, you probably have run across Vice magazine, at least once. It's a freebie, so you probably even picked it up. A mixed bag, I'm sure. You might have been creeped out by the sleaze factor, or you might have read an insightful article. The ironic hipness might be off putting, or you might have liked the photography. Regardless, they have created a small empire beyond just the magazine. There are releases on the music label, TV shows on the station, and books on the shelves. Absolutely everything is a mixed bag, and you probably suspect, just like I do, that it was their intent to make things that are a mixed bag. Every time they annoy, befuddle, or offend you, it makes them feel a tiny bit superior. They are young, so it's still crude enough that you can see through their games, unlike the big boys at Time/Warner.

For a magazine, you'd be far better off with the Big Takeover, Chunklet, or even Blurt. But, the TV shows are a little more unique. Some of the TV shows even display a little quality. I mean, check out this one. Listen to some of the interviews at this show. Maybe, watch this. Fairly high quality stuff, perhaps despite the Vice involvement. Yes, there's some real garbage, but, I guess you have to cherry pick everything. Until there's more high quality TV online (I still have high hopes for Mania) Vice may be your only choice.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

We're an American Band....

For my posts, you would be forgiven for thinking that I'm European, but, no, I live near the American Capitol. Further, unlike my recent selections, I listen primarily to Punk, post-punk and Hardcore. On top of that, despite my pop culture leanings, I'm a bit of a Pinko.
Enter The United Sons of Toil, a bunch of American socialists from Wisconsin. They play a particularly political brand of abrasive rock. They call it "math", but it's got almost nothing in common with the "math rock" you mostly hear today, which is all a bunch of random time signatures to my ears (exception: Meshuggah, who sound like an off kilter grind, as opposed to bad, loud jazz). No, this is mid-1990's midwestern strum and klang, like The Jesus Lizard, Slint, and (early) Fugazi. No surprise that prime Son Russell Hall did his time in Pound Wi and P'Elvis .
They definitely know their way around some skronk. So, if you want some loud punk, here you go. All loud, but well constructed, without any hint of metal. Lyrics like a modern Gang of Four, no waste, all anger. They have nothing to insult your intelligence. So, aging hardcores, Listen! You have nothing to lose except your chains!

The Gasoline Brothers

Continuing with my Germanic heritage, here's another Dutch band: the Gasoline Brothers.
They're a bit more spotty than the aforementioned Silence is Sexy and Pandora's Box, but still, they have two worthy albums out. The second, Tsk!, is very energetic new wave with some little country flourishes. Think the Futureheads meets Marshall Crenshaw. The first album, Hm!, is much more alt-country with a lot of experimentation of the kind that Wilco, or the Flaming Lips indulge in. However it's a much more laid back sound. Still some very strong songs, but this is very much a band deciding who they want to be when they grow up. When they decide, I hope they are as strong as songs like "Psychosomatic Heart Failure" and "Sleeping Pills and Asteroids" !
Also, they've got a great website, even with some games, so do click the link!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Binge

Yes, I do know how insensitive I am.
Anyway, as we all become "recessionistas", the first thing we cut out is entertainment. I say that instead, we should take a cue from my punk rock past, and change our entertainments. Instead of being entertained by things that line some rich guy's pockets, we should support each other.
Even if you cannot "DIY" your entertainments (we can't all cut CD's and we cannot all shoot movies, and we cannot all write books) I think that, rather than cutting such things out, we should be looking at people who can make their own. So, more Youtube, less you lose. More Jamendo, less jive. More Craftster, less Crap.
It's also all part of my evil plan to get us away from mass culture. The more you seek out alternative means, the more you will find niches filled with riches.
So, if you click on the links, you should see all kinds of pathways to entertainments, and maybe, just maybe, one will inspire you to create, instead of consume

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Purge

I don't want to focus on negativity, but this is the way it's coming out.
Have you seen the new Jay Z Video? The one for "Run this town"?
Lots of digital ink has been spilled about what's killing music, but I can show people this video, instead. The recording industry killed itself. They've been regurgitating the same tired crap for 25 years. Think about it: it's been manufactured pop bands and whiny rap moguls for a quarter century. On top of that, they've ceased promoting. I never cared all that much for MTV, but at least it used to be a promotional arm for the recording industry and for the past ten years it's been nothing but "reality" shows in prime time.
They over-charge for CDs which have a crappy over-compressed sound, and the engineers have been told to flatten out the sound so it's all at the same volume. Listen to a recording made in the 1980's, then a recording made in the new century; there's a marked difference in recording levels, and they're doing that to compensate for the compression rates that CD's demand. So, even the best music would be fatigue-inducing, because the sound quality is now very similar to an advert on TV, with all sounds flattened out at the top register of the compression ratio (ever noticed how commercials seem louder than programming? This is why. The loudest sounds and the quietest sounds are all pumped in at the same level. In real life, loud sounds are loud, and quiet sounds are quiet. On commercials, and on CD's{well, CD's produced by the major labels} all the loud sounds and quiet sounds are equally loud)
All that's what I say is killing the music industry. But this video is another reason to abandon the mainstream. First, this being a rap video (i refuse to call this "hip hop". There's no swing, and only the most rudimentary beat) the lyrics are a confused whine. On top of that, they're a fifteen year old whine. Basically, "it's lonely at the top". Oh, really, now, Sweetcheeks? So, we've got more blues for the boss man, how utterly charmless.... Throw in enough crude language so that you can believe that you're retaining your "street cred" , it's still a song for Oil Barons, in a time when we're all in foreclosure.
Melodically, this is crap. I don't think I even have to qualify or defend that. It's just crap.
But, then, let's get to the video portion: you've got 3 major music stars adopting the look and feel of the intifada! Only not the gritty, bloody intifada that tears open your soul, and leaves you hard and bitter. No, this is romantic firelight intifada. People ready to throw rocks in a jihad for Jiggy by soft candlelight. Nice.
Yeah, so this is exactly why my blog is named what it is: how much longer are we going to tolerate this? When will people finally say "Hey, I can make my own culture"? We have all the tools. You can burn CDs on your computer, you can find whatever movies or music or writing you want, no matter how obscure, more easily than you could find and see a mainstream movie back in the 1970's . There are millions of online galleries, not to mention sites like Deviant Art where you can post your own virtual gallery. There are street-fashion sites to even go outside the fashion magazines. You name it, and culturally, there's no need for the mainstream. So, when they insult us with garbage like this Jay Z nonsense, we can ignore it, and concentrate instead on whatever obscure fascination we may have. Purge this town.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Choke

Ok, I don't really want to write negative reviews, but I saw the film adaptation of the Chuck Palahnuik book, and I agree with this review , except I'd be a little more negative.
So, instead of writing that review, let's take a look at Chuck talking about Portland and Food.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Pandora's Box

OK, before I say anything else, yes, that's a cheesy band name.
Yes, there's some melodrama, and yes, there is a lot of pretension. This is SRS RT. But, my final valuation is whether it's enjoyable, and the new album by Pandora's Box, called "Barriers" is enjoyable.
This five piece German band sound like a less experimental, more acoustic version of what Radiohead were doing around the "Paranoid Android" bit. The vocals are closer to Nine Inch Nails' Trent Reznor, and there's a definite prog-rock undertone, but they're clearly interested in bringing popular music somewhere new, and you have to give that a little compensation. They're nowhere near as bad as a lot of those bands who claim to be "post-rock". This stuff still has some syncopation, and some heft and some momentum. It's worth your time to listen.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

You ain't mutch if you ain't Dutch

So, I’ve heard some new bands out of Holland, recently: The Very Sexuals and Silence is Sexy. Both are offering a full record for free, so do click the links.
The Very Sexuals have a kind of retro indie rock feel, along the same lines as the Wrens, The Comas and (a very little bit of) the Pixies with calming, nice male/female vocals. Clearly, it’s a side project from the joke-y titles (Sample: “Billy Idol Lookalike Contest”) to the studio quality, but it’s got that nice ‘swirly’ feel that I dig so much. Add a little jangle, and you've got an American band, so don't worry about it sounding "Foreign"
Silence is Sexy, on the other hand, is clearly a serious proposition. This is melodramatic, cinematic post-punk rock, like Radiohead’s pop moments, Coldplay, Muse et al. However, there’s a certain”indie” rawness that aligns them more, to me, with a band like North Carolina’s Cities. Named after the Einsturzende Neubauten album, you could be forgiven for expecting industrial/ Avante Garde abrasiveness. Instead, there’s more of an orchestral lushness (they even re-recorded some of their songs with The Cuban Royal Republican Orchestra) which means that they’ve got more in common with British pomp than German Klang und Drang.

But, again, you can hear for yourself, for free, and I’d suggest you give them a chance. Besides, Dutch accents are cool!

A Continuation

This will now be my blog for my pop culture stuff. I think I'll keep my Vox site available just for a photo archive ( http://maxvan.vox.com/ ) but I'm finally done with Vox. Blogger has its frustrations, but Vox well and truly sucks. I'll be sending this message to those few folks who care. I'll try to dump some content on this site ASAP, as well.