Sunday, December 26, 2010

Post Christmas Blues

I feel both good and bad for my son. I feel good for him in that he got a lot of presents for both his birthday and Christmas and he has the support of some good friends, and an extended family, but I feel bad for him because not only does he have the stress of trying to afford the lifestyle he has imagined for himself ( it requires a difficult amount of money to stay in a dorm at a second or third tier Elite private liberal arts College) he puts a lot of reliance upon things. By that, I mean, he's pretty leveraged to get what he needs, but to get what he wants, he's more prone to relying on social and artistic pursuits that are commercial, and hence cost money. So, if you're already over-leveraged, it sucks to have your Xbox crash on you, when one of your best outlets is playing Halo on Xbox Live with your friends. If you've spent too much to own a car, it sucks if you lose your bus pass. You get the idea?
So, it's in that kind of spirit that I've got a little post Christmas blues. I'm crustier than you might imagine. I'm not everybody's "bro", that much is obvious, but, in some ways, I'd be good on the proverbial desert island. If I yearn for something at work, it'd be to be left alone more often. It's not that I hate people, it's that sometimes, I'm best left alone. So, I'm not posting this stuff because I think it'll make me "cool" to someone; Pop Culture is my outlet. This is where I find a good part of my fulfillment in life. So, when there's not a lot of new Pop culture to digest, and incorporate into my little mental desert island, it's a pretty big let down.
I don't mean that people let me down- honestly, I truly love everyone in my life. I mean that the other part of my social fulfillment just ain't all that great, right now. Give me a few weeks, and maybe the new year will bring new treasures....

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

End of Year?

I've honestly been trying to think up a best of 2010 list, since everybody likes lists, and it seems like the thing to do.
Then, my wife burst into the room twice to blurt out complaints about social media, and about the lack of "legitimate news" online.
So, I was already wavering, and I don't just want to put up noise. Truthfully, I like and listen to the stuff I post. I don't put up anything I don't like at all.
So, to pick out a couple that I think are better than others? Well, no, I can't really do that. Some days I'm in the mood for Kylesa. On those days, The Twilight Sad will suck. Other days, the Twilight Sad suit me, and Kylesa will suck.
So, there's no real "best of" that would be honest.
All I can say is that there was some really good music. Lately, I've been gravitating towards Stoner/Doom bands, post-rock shoegaze bands, revival Techno, and dissonant New Wave/Post Punk bands. Lately, I've been gravitating away from reality TV, and traditional newspapers, and more towards epic dramas and online blog agregators.
But, that's me- how about you?

Sunday, December 12, 2010

New-ish stuff

Please don't take the radio silence here for negativity. I've been monstrously busy, and will never catch up, so stuff like blogging and going online in general has taken a back seat to more immediate forms of stress relief- like watching TV, listening to music, reading, and playing video games.
So, as far as TV goes, I stick by my choices. I believe I've already stated them, but if not- I like Boardwalk Empire, The Walking Dead, and Burn Notice for my A-list shows. I'm OK with How I met Your Mother and Hawaii Five-Oh, but both are forgettable fluff the second the TV channel changes. I'm still a fan of TNA wrestling, but don't get a chance to watch very often due to two conflicts: my wife's vampire shows, and Burn Notice.
Musically, I've been listening to a LOT. I'm not going over all of it- no way, no time, not sufficient energy.
Here's just a few that are newish that come to mind:
Mankind is Obsolete- Fairly generic electro-metal Goth. However, two things- they don't mean to, but they come across as a more "rock", and more music-school version of Linkin Park, which is interesting given the female singer. Also, some of the drum patterns show real inventiveness, real talent.
Hypernova- musically, it's Franz Ferdinand crossed with Interpol, with an Iranian Mark Burgess singing. The back story is fascinating, probably more so than the music, but still, some songs are very,very catchy. I really like "Fairy Tales".
Hyperdump- Electro metal from a side project band, I think. Sometimes shows some death-metal-ish flourishes, sometimes veers into Nu metal territory. But over all pretty nice background for playing Halo...
Neurospecter- A very "rock" kind of DJ project of Retro Specter from Poland. Reminds me a bit of Jack Dangers and his awesome Meat Beat Manifesto, but less hyperkinetic, more robotic. Again, very nice for background music.
Have I mentioned The Bloody Beetroots? If not, I should. Forget Daft Punk and LCD soundsystem- these guys and Deadmau5 are making the dance electro pop I want to hear. You gotta hear their deconstruction on "New Noise", and "Domino" is great as a pop song, and, and- look, just give them a try!
Campaign- Fortunately, not all the good Pop punk is in the past. These guys continue the Hot water Music/Avail/Dillinger Four/Leatherface, etc, etc tradition of playing melodic music with more passion than blink 41 day could ever generate.
The Sleep Ins- ummm, I can't really defend this. It sounds like slacker college rock, of the type Pavement and Dinosaur perfected, but with some keyboards. Still, I like it.
Lungs for Gills- Sometimes dreamy-gentle pop is called for. This variation is pretty retro. I hear echoes of late 1980's 4AD and Creation records. So, I like it.
Speedy Rocky- On the other hand, sometimes you want butt rock. as in, late 1970's, early 1980's hard rock boogie. These guys could easily have opened for Fastway and UFO...
Inverness- I still am susceptible to exoticism. They're like a tropicalia version of the Cocteau Twins. Vocals are a weakness however, and I'd prefer an instrumental version. Still, very pleasant, dreamy music.
Other than that, I've been listening to what you'd expect of me- the new Killing Joke, the new You Am I, the new Kanye West, the new Robyn, the new-ish Torche, the new-ish Futureheads, the new Kylesa, etc etc....
Reading wise I really like Cowbell magazine. It seems fairly custom-made for me and my tastes. Also, the new William Gibson- Zero History. I'm a fan, what can I say?
I'm even more staid in video games- it's been nothing but Fallout, Oblivion, some Halo and some Destroy all Humans. Nothing new, really.
Feel caught up, yet?

Sunday, November 7, 2010

oh, as long as I'm talking about TV

TNA wrestling is still the best of the major TV-deal wrestling. I think a firm argument can be made for Ring of Honor, and other Indy federations being better, but, between The McMahon's horrific WWE, and the merely cringe-worthy TNA, TNA wins.
I still watch TNA every once in awhile, and I even see a decent match or two. My belief in TNA pretty much evaporated when the Hogan/Bischoff thing occured, but they still deserve some respect for a few things:
1. They're doing an Anti-bullying campaign. Granted, I think bullying is an over-hyped distraction from real issues, but still far more enlightened than Wrestling ever needs to be.
2. They're doing a storyline about the very real dangers of concussions in contact sports. That's pretty brave, considering their past treatment of workers- they're actually making themselves the "bad guys", here. In the storyline, evil management (TNA) doesn't care about the health of the wrestlers, while one brave wrestler stands up for another wrestler who's injured. It's classic wrestling storytelling, but done very edgy, because the health of the workers has been a thorny issue for pro wrestling for a very long time.
3. Some of the on-air talent are the best in the business. My favorites are Alex Shelley, Chris Sabin, Daffney, Eric Young, Hamada, Kurt Angle, Mick Foley, Ken Anderson, Raven, Samoa Joe,Sarita, Tara, and team 3-D.
4. It's the last taste of real pro-wrestling we're likely to ever see. The WWE has decided (probably more profitably so) to go for more of a Saturday-morning live action cartoon for kids, and the rest of the world is opting for more realism, via mixed martial arts. The whole world of quasi-athletics from America's Vaudvillian sideshow past is going away, and TNA is showing the last vestiges. That's worth something to me.
5. They're really trying to keep the product priced income-appropriate. I appreciate that, and so should you!

TV Night!

I write about a lot of music, here, and neglect other stuff. I think that might be because I listen to at least 2 CD's per day, and read about a chapter of a book per day, and play an hour on a video game a day. I might watch an hour of TV, I might not. So, that means, in a given week, as far as pop culture goes, I'll have maybe 1 book, maybe 1 video game, maybe 3-4 TV shows, and 7-14 Cds to talk about. It's just the way I am. On top of that, not everything is worth talking about. However, Sunday night TV is worth talking about, now.
I might have mentioned before that I love Boardwalk Empire. If not, I'll just say it's by far the best TV show on, right now, and it's a better TV show than anything since first season Lost, and 2nd Season Rescue Me. That makes it the best thing on TV in the past 5 years. Some episodes are as good as any movie I've ever seen, so if things keep up, it might end up as the best TV show, ever (Currently, I think Patrick McGoohan's The Prisoner takes that honor). However, since last week, I'm a fan of the Walking Dead. The comic books were good, the first episode of the TV show was better. Yes, crucify me, now, geeks! I'm going to spell it out for you- watching real people act out imaginary scenes of people trying to retain their humanity in inhuman extraordinary situations trumps ink depictions of the same, any day of the week, and twice, this sunday. Make no mistake, that's what the show is about- how to hang on to things that make you a human being, no matter what. In these times, that's far, far more important than cool points, no matter who you are. So, yes, sundays are now TV night for me!

I agree with Mike Huckabee, once

Maybe it will only be once. I bet it will only be this once, but Mike Huckabee and I agree about Torche.
That a conservative preacher from Arkansas would truly like a gay-friendly stoner-pop band kinda defies logic, so I have a feeling it's not Huckabee, but if it is, I guess a stopped clock can be right, and hilariously so, twice a day....

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Some new bands I've been checking out

Not really reviews, because I'm still really blown away by the new Killing Joke, and everything else is just "what else I'm listening to", but-

The Scaramanga Six. They're not really a new band, but I've only recently gotten around to them. They play a gothic, glammy kind of hard Alt rock. It sounds very influenced by the Damned and Rocket from the Crypt. Yes, that is an odd combination, but even Odder, the choruses tend to have a melodrama worthy of Muse. So, if you like really over-the-top glam rock, with a droning undercurrent, and plenty of cheesy B movie evil, they might be your cup of velvet.
The Eastern Wave Jake Brown is a former hardcore bass player. So, this strange combination of post-hardcore, shoegaze, and experimental electronic shouldn't sound so familiar. But it does, and it feels comfortable to me. Seems like a sludge metal band with a lot of the aggression tuned out, mixed with a particularly lo-fi dreampop band. Like, bits of The Rum Diary and Isis mixed with a heavy A R Kane.
Capsula I still love Spain, and I still dig trashy garage Rock, and Capsula are the latest iteration on that particular pattern. They've got a lot of punky drive, with some psychedelic aspirations, so I'm hearing a lot of 13th floor Elevators, which is often a good thing. When they get their drone going, they get sexy, though, which I haven't heard since Sonic Youth decided to get poppy mid-career.
The Medics But, I'm still a Dutchman. They're goofy, and derivative (Franz Ferdinand, Hot Hot Heat and The Strokes) but some of the remixes are fun in a lo fi, glitchy kind of way....

Good Bye Ari

So, I just read that Ari Up died. Strangely mixed feelings on that. On the one hand, I sad that someone around my age died so young, and I feel bad for her family, and for any suffering she may have endured. On the other hand, I never really cared for her music, and I think some of her persona and Art was a tad bit wrong-headed. Oh, it's a fine line between appreciation and appropriation, so I wouldn't exactly level charges at her- but there's something about her use of Caribbean music that seemed a bit...colonial. Yes, I completely understand how it might be that I've got a problem with white girls, but I don't think that's it, because I'm not similarly skeeved by loads of others- from Debbie Harry to Lady Sovereign. That would also be my defense if people bring up my love for the Clash- however an additional, and better defense is that the Clash never played rap, never played rockabilly, and never played dub, straight. Everything they did, they did fully aware that they were white, skinny little liberals- that's the whole point of several of their songs. Comparing White Man in Hammersmith Palais to Ari Up's last single- Lazy Slam speaks volumes, I think. Compare and decide for yourself. I might be full of it, I don't know, but I do prefer The Clash, any minute of any day.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Nostalgia and its discontents

Listening to the new Killing Joke got me thinking about some media from days gone by. Specifically, I was thinking about how I used to blast Requiem from Killing Joke's first album ( which I had on Vinyl, to date this) so loud that the synth-heartbeat pulse would literally cause the walls to vibrate. That got me thinking about other bands I would blast on my stereo, and movies I would dig up at the video store ( to this day, I think I'm the only person who ever rented Forbidden Zone at the Hastings store. Strangely, there's now talk of a sequel....)
This is why I was re-listening to Big Black, and watched Natural Born Killers again.
Big Black, on the one hand, is the reward for nostalgia, like this. That strange three-dimensional guitar sound, and fast, oddly timed pounding beat still have the unsettling visceral kick that they did back in 1985. The lyrics are still as abrasive as ever ( I don't think anyone in their right mind could ever really get used to a song like Jordan, Minnesota ). However, with the added quarter century of experience, I can appreciate some of more subtle art- the funk references in some bass figures, the use of treble to imitate blades, the underlying moralism in doing songs about such antisocial topics (for those who don't know- no one, ever, had darker lyrical topics than Big Black. If you cannot deal, I wouldn't blame you) and the layering of minimal lines to maximal effect. Atomizer, for example, more than holds up- it actually sounds better to me now, than it did back then.
Natural Born Killers, on the other hand, falls apart under scrutiny after fifteen years. Certainly, some things hold up- Woody Harrelson still manages to exude menace, charisma and and goofy charm without any seeming effort, the sound track music is tasteful, and evocative, the desert southwest is beautiful beyond words, and so on. But the flaws mount up, quickly. The biggest flaw is in the sound. I warn you right now, if you like the movie, my next sentence may ruin it for you. The sync on the sound is slightly off, and it makes obvious that whoever they had recording the sound on location screwed up BIG TIME, because almost all dialogue and most sound is dropped in, re-recorded in studio. It's like an animated movie- you can actually hear the room's natural reverb on most of the voices. The next big flaw is how ham-fisted Oliver Stone's direction is. I'm not just talking about heavy-handed, didactic approach in shoving his political agenda at you- I mean his literal direction. The guy blocks scenes like it's an off Broadway production. People face the camera for no organic reason, and there's only interaction between the audience and the actors, not the supposed characters. In several scenes the kissing is so awkward based upon the blocking that you can see Juliette Lewis licking Woody Harrelson's cheek, while he is clearly sucking air.However, the performances themselves are pretty uneven. As I said before, Harrelson does a great job, but Juliette Lewis simply cannot sell the character, and her accent is awful. Robert Downey is simply high and doing a Saturday Night Live style riff on Robin Leach and Geraldo Rivera. I mean, it says something that Steven Wright gives one of the more believable performances! Finally, the plot is just soul-less. The characters learn nothing more than that killing isn't fun, forever- but in small doses- hey, it'll get you what you want. Stone, as per usual, is pushing his point (HEY, WATCHING TOO MUCH TV IS BAAAAAD) to the exclusion of anything resembling humanity. If you have to watch a movie about two young lovers who overcome the odds after becoming celebrities over a mass murder, watch Love and a .45. It even has the same "artistic" touches like the psychological backgrounds, and multiple film stocks- but done is a much more coherent and human way.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Killing Joke

Not a review. A fan's note- Killing Joke have a new record out. First one in quite awhile with all original members. It's quite good, I think. Killing Joke has two paths, if you ask me- everything leading up to Outside the Gate ( which is not a "real" Killing Joke record) and then, everything after.
If you're a big, long term fan, I think you'll agree with me. The band that made "The Wait" and "Love like Blood" seems to be the same band, but a band that would seem to have little to do with the band that recorded "Millenium", and "Democracy" and "Asteroid". Both are good bands, but quite a bit different. This new one has more to link it to Killing Joke Mk1 than Mk2, in my opinion. I rather like that. Don't get me wrong- I loved songs like "Savage Freedom" and "White Out" and "The Death and Ressurection show", but nothing like I like songs like "Requiem", "Wardance", "The Hum", "Butcher" and my all time favorite "Primitive". This new one has the latter-day metallisms and paranoia, and techno elements- all of which are OK, but mostly it has the apocalyptic anthemic feel of the first three records- which is what brought me to the gathering.
I'm not going to try to sell you on the record. Honestly, either you have tastes similar enough to mine that you'll love it, instantly, or you probably won't see the point, and will think it sounds really awful- in which case I bet you like an awful lot of music I wouldn't like. That's fine, and I'm not judging, but it does confuse me why you'd be reading this, then.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

A small amount

I don't think I can do a full review or anything, but I've also been digging Boston's long-dead Milligram. But, in case you don't know- they played a metallic post punk with both Stoner and hardcore tendancies. The end result would not be out-of-place on Am Rep or Touch and Go, so it always confused me that they were on Small Stone.
Here's another interesting thing about them- I enjoy the lack of fidelity on their records- they were recorded so hot ( meaning overloaded and distorted) and raw that it actually increases the aggressiveness.

More under-the-radar Pop

I've been listening to a lot of music, as per usual, and here are two bands that I've put together in my head- Bloodthirsty Hippies and Coin under Tongue. Both have a vague neo-80's cult pop sheen to their music. The B-Hippies remind me of mid-80's gothic-pop post punk, like what The Damned and Siouxsie were up to around 1985. It's a slightly more expanded sound, incorporating more psychedelia (though not to a "Stoner" degree) with a much more lo-fi aesthetic. It's fun pop, and sometimes gets in some punkish quality art into the mix.
Coin Under Tongue, meanwhile seem to be re imagining late-70's, early-80's post Punk ( Gang of Four, Bauhaus, No Wave) as a kind of sludgey Big Rock. Kind of like what would happen if Big Black had been more Led Zep fans, and less Killing Joke fans. That means snappy, trebley bass lines, with tons of feedback guitars, but plenty of spidery reverb-drenched arpeggios as well. I prefer them to the Bloodthirsty Hippies, a bit, but miss the pop elements that Bloodthirsty Hippies bring, mostly in the vocals which are a kind of snotty talk-sing, like if Rik L Rik were to try to do Mark Smith. Actually, the vocals remind me a lot of Steve Bjorkland of Breaking Circus, but the music doesn't support the voice as much.
Here's a way of understanding the degree of appeal- I could see the Bloodthirsty Hippies in a middle position on a bill with The March Violets headlining, and Red Scare supporting, and I could see Coin Under Tongue across town in a middle position gig with Ink-era Effigies headlining, and Flour opening. If you don't "get" those references, you might not enjoy the bands....

Next Flaming Thing

There is a phenomena amongst aging ex-punks. Many are simply nostalgic for the time when they were relevant, and others try to assert that relevance by announcing that such-and-such is the "new Punk rock". I have fallen prey to both, from time to time, and I would hesitate to characterize myself as an aging ex-punk ( that's not ego- I mean that I was never cool enough to qualify as a punk. I long ago figured out that the guy operating the sound board is simultaneously the least cool guy in the building, and the one with the most control. Seemed like a good fit for a petty little Trotskyite like I was). However, the tangent from this phenomena that I most closely fit is a constant neophiliac need to find the new "what's next". In a way, it fits with hiphop better- the need for things to be "fresh". Yes, that makes me sound like some follow-fashion monkey, hardly a dignified position for a forty something, but if modern life takes anything from us, it takes our dignity first.
Still I cling to antiquated notions like dignity, and protocol and manners, so I try to retain what I'm able to retain. The only values I can surmise in searching out the new "what next" are open-mindedness, innovation and (here's that word again) relevance. If the trend fails one of those values, I might enjoy it as a "guilty pleasure" but I will note it as such ( oh, and lest we get too neurotic, "guilty pleasure" is simply common parlance for things that please you emotionally,but not intellectually. Music is not a purely intellectual venture, however trend-watching and cool-hunting are purely intellectual pursuits). So, while I might really like some Neo-new wave band, there's nothing inherently open-minded in playing spot-the-influence, the innovation would be minimal and while it might be entirely relevant to fashion trends, it's already limited into a cul-de-sac of a known form. Meanwhile, some noise band would be off-the-charts in innovation, and therefore demand large amounts of open-mindedness, such figures would also limit the relevance- if only 12 people hear it, it's not relevant.
Again,please understand that this is about the limited practice of trying to discover the next trend, or pattern. This is only tangentially about musical value. So, as much as I might love a band musically, it might not ever fit as "the next big thing" (the same goes for Tv shows and books, and so on. For a quick and dirty- I think Burn Notice probably will go down as the trend maker in TV shows. I'm already seeing shades of it in everything from the new Hawaii 5 0 to established shows like the CSI franchises. But, I wouldn't say that Burn Notice is high Art on TV. That, I'm reserving for Boardwalk Empire, which you really should be watching. However, as High Art- and expensive Art- I don't expect to see a ton of shows following it)
So, with that as format, I think I've found one. Now, saying I've found doesn't mean I'm the first- I think one of you reading this may have even tipped me off- but I'm saying that I made the connection that Torche may very well be the next big thing. They fit all criteria in spades- The mixture of indie pop, sludge/doom metal and neo-psychedelia virtually requires that anyone who listens must listen with an open mind, and the innovation of combining theory (which is what the "bomb string" a string tuned to the lowest discernible note is- theory) with pop format (3 minute verse chorus bridge structure) has not been explored in this fashion. Plus,aligning with extreme metal, as opposed to the psyche or Punk scenes is more more relevant than the other way around- put it this way- People who read Magnet religiously are going to have to adapt to the tastes of Revolver readers a lot more quickly than Decibel readers will have to adapt to Paste's tastes... Torche has a cult following, and thermonuclear glowing reviews, and genuinely well constructed songs, and ear pleasing tonality. They're all set. I'd be really surprised if they didn't get a scene following them. If they can get a song into rotation on rock radio, or get an album into Wal Mart, I bet Torche will be in the position The Eagles of Death Metal were in two years ago.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Forefathers

Earlier, I was talking about the Dream Syndicate, and how seminal they were for me. Of course, there were other bands that were seminal for me- bands like the Clash, Black Flag, Agent Orange, TSOL, MIA, 7 Seconds, The Dils, Los Plugz, Z'Ev, Christian Death, Joy Division, Wire, The Effigies, Big Black, Die Kreuzen and Killing Joke. Today, I'm writing about another band, The Chameleons, and the story is part of why I'm writing about them.
There is a lost path to people today. I think the new paths are better, but that still means this bears explaining. If you were a freak, as opposed to a hippie, punk, hesher, or anything remotely mainstream, like me you had to learn certain skills. The first was mastery of thrift stores, and bargain bins. You had to teach yourself how to find things that would hold your interest in the things that failed to hold the interest of your better adjusted peers. There could be no guidepost, because you already knew about yourself that you couldn't feign the interest others had at more readily available tastes. Maybe you were a freak because of bizarre habits, or maybe because you had a vision, there was no way to tell. For example, I had nothing against religion or government, per se- I wasn't trying to defy either. I simply could not adapt. I thought Ronald Reagan was a vile man, and I found the notion of a pope absurd. I simply was looking for something better. I got shunned and I got attacked for not seeing other people's views as better than my own, and so I learned to be defiant, but I'm not defiant by nature. (When I did rebel it was to be a socialist, not an Anarchist; the difference was that I believed then, as I do now, in the power of a society. I'm not enough of an individualist to believe in the necessity of Anarchy). So, I had the habit of combing through the discount bins. As in, I would be more likely to find something good not just at the regular thrift store- no, I'd head for the stuff that the thrift store couldn't sell, easily. That's where I found The Chameleons' Script of the Bridge- selling for 10 cents, in 1987, in a thrift store discard bin in Prescott, Arizona. So, I can safely say, I'm probably the only fan the band had in Northern Arizona. The copy I got was a promotional copy that was still sealed. No one, and I do mean no one was willing to take a chance on this thing. So, it was for me.
I brought it home, and the liner notes were the first thing to catch me. They were intimate, and familiar - like a letter from a friend. I was intrigued by this, and so I put the record on. There were many records that I wouldn't even play- I just got them because the cover was funny or cool, or strange. I was immediately hooked.The music had the martial regimentation that I liked in New Wave bands like Joy Division and Killing joke, but it was lush and layered in an almost pastoral way that was unfamiliar. It was like what would later get called "dream pop" or "shoegazer", but with a new wave 4/4 tom tom beat. It had elements of Ennio Morricone's soundtracks, but without sounding nostalgic. It had elements of Television's dual guitar interplay (as opposed to the more heavy metal concept of duelling guitars)but it clearly wasn't improvised. To cast a 21st century look back, imagine if Pelican were trying to play Psychedelic Furs songs, in collaboration with Interpol. That's why it was so seminal to me- in the late 1980's, all alone, and freakish, I had a note from the 21st century, and it was warm and inviting- friendly, even. It was like the heart warming letter you hope to find in your father's things, after he passes on, telling you that you'll be set up ok by the time you're his age- only finding that letter 25 years before he could have possibly written it.
Less poetically, The Chameleons use the same reverb-heavy production familiar to fans of 1980's post-punk (easily up there with Simple Minds, or Sisters of Mercy, if not up to U2 or Big Country's echo-abuse) combined with the icy cold synths of say Caberet Voltaire or Human League, and then add a very light folk touch, like The Waterboys or New Model Army- but then remove quite a bit of the gothic pretension- they're not trying to be dark like Sisters of Mercy or Bauhaus- and replacing it with a lyrical romantic woundedness. What I mean is that unlike, say, Christian Death, this isn't music about Scary Monsters and Super Creeps; it's more or less about teenage angst and alienation, pretty much directly. The melodies are simple and anthemic, and Mark Burgess' voice is husky, and pleading, if off key on the higher notes ( not entirely unlike Ian Curtis, but not as sonorous).

Finding that Chameleons record really was a seminal event for me- it validated my chosen path of finding things of value in the discarded that are greater than things which others covet. It introduced me to epic sweeping vistas of music I wouldn't otherwise have found. It gave me a secret key to music to come ( I listened to the Shoegazer, dream pop, post-rock, and Nugazer fads through the filter of the Chameleons- because all of those scenes share sonics with one or another Chameleons songs) and it literally spoke to my then-present as a really alienated young man. If you're lucky, your musical forefathers did the same for you.

Just tell them I was....

I've been doing the blog thing since 1997, you'd think I'd be better at it, by now. However, the first blog with this name was at Vox, which is now going under. I don't like retreading, so I'm not going to import all those posts, but if you liked something I wrote between 2007-2010, you might want to go over there and save it, or whatever. Here's the first post, cut and pasted, just to prove I was there:
I've got no idea
Mar 6, 2007 Post a comment
This might be a first post, a last post, an only post, an outpost, I don't know. I'm just seeing if I like Vox.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Twilight Sad

OK, so I mentioned them a few posts ago, but I think they deserve a few more sentences. The Twilight Sad is a really caustic little bunch of noisemakers- which is why I like them. First there's the name, which I'm thinking may be a sarcastic reference to the godawful Teen Vampire franchise,and the fans of that crap- like- "not really sad, twilight sad", but then there's also the lyrics which skewer any kind of sentimentality. On top of that the visual style is a kind of cut-and-paste design like Barbara Kruger's nasty little bits of Agit-prop. Overall, the feeling is cold, bitter and sarcastic like the sharpest of the New Wave 1980's.
But, this stands in contrast to the music which is like a more noisy amalgam of shoegazer, folk, and skronk- like My Bloody Valentine getting molested by Steel Pole Bathtub. The effect is like some neo-goth Emo kid getting beat up by a gang of industrial meatheads. This is bad, dark, evil music riding a cool anthemic wave of noise. What better sound track for Fall, right?

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Classic

Blurt Magazine ( the online version of what was once Harp magazine) has a piece by Fred Mills (who I remember from our shared Tucson days, though I imagine he remembers me not at all) on one of my all-time favorite records- The Dream Syndicate's Medicine Show. Follow the link, go and read. A few things to add, though- First Steve Wynn is not just a huge musical hero to me, he's also one of the most subtle, literate songwriters in any Pop idiom. I taught high School English, very briefly, and when I did, Steve's were the only lyrics I used in the classroom. Not Dylan, not Springsteen- Wynn, because his were better for showing characterization, metaphor and allusion. He writes songs like other people write short stories. Sure, Dylan writes poetry, and Springsteen has some great images, but take this verse from The Medicine Show's "Merrittville"
Matthew with the pug nose/
Caught me with his sister in the wheatfield/
Got a couple buddies/
Tied me up and threw me in his Oldsmobile/
I said "Matthew are you crazy?"/
As he started closing in for the kill/
Matthew slowed the Olds to 10/
Left me here to die in Merrittville/

The whole story is right there- it's like a James Ellroy book in a few lines.
Second, that music- it's panoramic rock with country, psychedelic, blues and Jazz touches. There are bits that get echoed in bands as diverse as Wilco and Isis. The music is still completely current. I would listen to it again, in a heartbeat, over against the Arcade Fire or whatever hype of the moment is going down. It's some of the finest music you can hear- deep and dark, and rootsy and cutting edge. Many of the songs sound like a bar band made up of slumming jazz and blues artists, trying to kick heroin while they play garage rock. Tell me that's a sound you'll hear often!
Third, and finally- in terms of Biography- in 1984, I was still completely, fully about hardcore Punk rock, and "death Rock". I only saw the Dream Syndicate by mistake, one night, when they were playing after the first, very- Velvet Underground inspred record was out. So, I thought they were a slightly goth noise band- like Non playing Chris D songs. So, I was blind-sided completely by the record. It's amazing that a kid like me would like it- it's got very little to compare with either the Circle Jerks or Christian Death, which is where my head was at. Imagine, for a modern comparison, some kid who's a huge Slipknot fan putting on a Sparklehorse CD. It opened me up, such that I could get into huge new amounts of music- I would never have given at least half of my favorite music a chance if it weren't for The Medicine Show. So, maybe it'll do something similar for you.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Self- Reference

So, I never look at stats. It never even crosses my mind that some folks might read this stuff and take it all that seriously. However, today I did look at the stats- it appears that, far and away, I've got more dEUS fans than anybody else reading this.
Excellent! While I'm still not the biggest fan of the pre-millenial work by the band, that stuff is not bad at all. That having said, the last two Cd's, especially Vantage Point are just phenomenal. I can respect what a band like Radiohead or Mogwai are doing, but it's nowhere near the pleasure of a band that can combine such high-minded conceptual ideas with the commercial pop appeal of a band like Coldplay, or U2, or what-have-you.
While my writing might not be all that polished (I rarely edit this whatsoever, so spelling mistakes, grammatical errors and typos abound) I really hope that you who've come here from places like the iSuffer community will look at a few of the other posts, because you might (just maybe) find some other thing that amuses you, or entertains you. I really think that virtually every band, TV show, Book or movie I've mentioned has some value, and if I can serve any function, I'd like for it to be that I introduced someone to some new pleasure.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Couple of newer bands

So, Paste magazine just went under. I guess that's too bad, but really, everything is temporary. The whole culture will not last, and that's a good thing, because everything is evolving, and we just find our evolutionary dead end, then, die there. Then, our corpses provide the fertilizer for the next stage. Still, I'd prefer it if some ancient baby-boomer worshipping rag like Rolling Stone or Relix or something bit it, first. Paste might have been more pretentious than Pitchfork (and that's mighty pretentious, indeed) but it was at least trying to do something new.
Blogs are all but dead, and Wired even says the Internet is Dead (so does Prince) so I know my cul de sac is right here, but I'm good with it. I am not trying to bring the next level about, I'm just talking about what I like.
That same sense permeates two new-ish bands I've been listening to, the past day or so- M.I.L.D. and Zed. Both would have been revolutionary 20 years ago, but now, are a bit traditional, and seem to enjoy the thought of settling into middle age.
M.I.L.D. play a kind of New wave styled punk/Rock hybrid. Which is, they play a bit too fast for traditional blues rock, but it's still a boogie. The edge is smoothed off, making it more "New Wave" than punk. So, what's the attraction? The singer. He's got a really odd voice- very nasal and very teutonic. He sounds like a german Peter Murphy trying to do a mark Burgess overemotion. Very odd, and compelling. But then check out the pictures- Dude has FABIO hair, and is wearing mandatory Euro-capris. I am intrigued.
Meanwhile, Zed play fairly standard Kyuss-inspired Stoner rock, with some Clutch-inspired Blooz. But, you know what? They're just snotty and reckless enough that I'd say they have the rock. Sure, Stoner Rock is a certain dead end. It's basically the commercial end of sludge metal, filtered through the prism of early 1970's signifiers, but infused with a bit of a snotty teen rebel stance, it can be more fun than the latter day Grunge metal. What I'm saying is that musically, they may not be offering anything more worthy than Soundgarden, but they sound like they're having more fun than Alice in Chains could ever understand. I think they know, just like I know, that they're making no evolutionary leaps, here- but they're really enjoying their cul de sac.
I'd suggest you give both a listen, and decide for yourself. That's got to be better than looking at this virtual page!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

TV stuff

There aren't many TV shows I like, and most of what I do like is pretty much winding down. As an example- the last sit com I liked is How I Met Your Mother, and it's suffering from the same thing as what killed both The Simpsons and Married...with Children: part of the appeal of some of the characters was that they were mildly outlandish, but, in order to exploit that outlandishness, as time goes by, they get painted into a corner. Homer can only be so stupid until he's not relatable, Bart can only be so much of a juvenile Deliquent until he's not lovable, Al Bundy can only be so miserable, Kelly Bundy can only be so much of a bimbo, and so on. Well, Ted can only be so much of a hopeless romantic, Barney can only be so glib, and so on. In the latest season, Ted was only relatable at times, Barney was just a cipher for punchlines, Marshall existed to be a punchline, and I cannot care about them, anymore.
Other shows, like Rescue Me or Lost either have finished, or have announced their end. Likewise, most of my favorite shows are so far in the past that I've seen them allthe way through more than once.
That leaves really light fare- like Burn Notice or True Blood. Shows that I enjoy but only for superficial reasons.
So, I'm left enjoying only singular episodes of shows I'm otherwise uninterested in. One really good example was Anthony Bourdain's "Beirut" episode of No Reservations. Truly it was riviting watching a country fall apart as self-absorbed media types- the people doing the show- have to come to terms with the fact that their show means nothing when faced with real life. You've got them hanging around, bored in a posh hotel while bombs are dropping, and you can see them almost make the connection that what they usually do- going to the third world and copping a meal- is actually the same kind of colonial exploitation that Victorians engaged in. A kind of "aren't these savages romantic as they show the proper fealty to us, their superiors" exoticism. But, in this episode they have to confront that the "savages" have agendas that leave the show entirely aside. It's not even an afterthought. That was decent TV. (I was also fascinated due to my time in the Middle East- but let's leave this at Pop Culture)
I think I'll be OK when TV finally snuffs it for good, because other avenues are much better anyway....

Listening to to them Do the Pop

I've never made a secret of my love for the vicious raw rock and roll from Australia. I've talked about You am I, The Angels, Radio Birdman, Rose Tattoo and so on. But I've not come forward on probably the biggest "godfathers" of real rock from Oz- The Saints. That might be because I'm not all that fond of most of their output. However, that having said- the first three records are some of the best punk rock to be found anywhere. They called them "the most primitive band", and that's not far off. This is rock so utterly raw and lo-fi it makes the Dead Boys and Pagans sound positively Quadrophonic. This is about early Misfits levels of Lo-fi. But the songs are closer to The Stooges on Raw Power and The Clash on their self-titled debut. It's exactly what Punk Rock, ideally, is about- real creativity and talent that isn't confined by economics, inexperience or expectations. So, while I would not suggest you get every Saints record you can find, I would say that a punk rock fan would probably go nuts for (I'm) Stranded, Eternally Yours, and Prehistoric Sounds.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Tomato or Tomato

The Missus and I went to a Tomato Fest today-and I can't have tomatos. It was fun. Was it worth 50 bucks? Probably not, but I liked going out to a farm.I'm not about to replace the folks at Homegrown evolution, or anything, but I do care about local food, and I do believe in supporting more sustainable models for food. Tell me when they have a Sausage and Potato festival!

M I A

Yes, I used to be much more into hardcore and Punk rock. I really was a big fan of a few bands back then that I still like. Some you probably have heard, like early Black Flag, the Clash, and The Buzzcocks, but some are somewhat lost to time, like Die Kreuzen and M.I.A.. I saw M.I.A. at least a dozen times at places like Safari Sam's and Fender's ballroom. I still like them, even if, sadly, the lynchpin member, Mike Conley, died in a freak accident a few years ago. ( and yes, in one of my earlier incarnations as a music journalist I did an interview with Nick the guitarist that features on their website). But for all you NoFX, and Bad Religion fans out there- M.I.A. is/was the secret ingredient. Seriously, the first band I heard to do the fabled "OC sound" of southern California punk rock was M.I.A., followed up by another under-rated band, Shattered Faith. If you like southern californian pop punk, you still owe it to yourself to hear them out.

Girly

...And on the exact opposite side of the spectrum, I've also been listening to Girl-pop, of different stripes. I'm not trying to disguise my sexism, but I think I'm a bit of a feminist when it comes to music- I really like music made by women as much as I like music made by men, and I try to listen to it on its own terms.
The standouts, lately, for me would be the Electro-disco of Robyn, the indie-rawk of Ida Maria, and the retro-soul pop of V V Brown.

Robyn, I've liked for years. She writes and performs sweet little dance-pop songs with a mild bite, like Kylie Minogue. I've not yet really gotten into her latest stuff, the near-dubstep Body talk pt 1 and pt 2 ( though the video for "Killing me" is awesome) but her self-titled 2007 album is still just great. It's all lightweight pop, but with a sense of humor. Konichiwa Bitches is what Madonna should've done. If her cover of Teddybears' "Cobrastyle" doesn't get you moving, you are dead.
Ida Maria, though also scandinavian, does an entirely different style of pop from Robyn, but equally blessed with melody and humor. (Check out Oh my god ) The music is rich, and sloppy indie pop, like Pavement, but with more vibrancy and major chords than the slackers usually employ. She also has a great raw husky voice that she'll use every advantage it has.
But, speaking of using every advantage, VV Brown clearly has the machine working for her. There's nothing indie, underground, or alternative about her. Still, I think she has a rare voice and the songs are insanely catchy. Plus, she can really deliver, as proven on Late Night. It's probably an act, but there seems to be a real person under the gloss, unlike her contemporaries.

Kruger

I'm not a metal head. I'm not being coy, because I'll readily admit to listening to bands that are considered "Metal", and "heavy" is an adjective that will pique my interest in a review. But, ultimately, my aesthetics are different. I don't like guitar solos, I think that virtuoso musicianship is for those without real creativity. I think that 90 percent of metal records are mixed badly- I happen to like midrange, I happen to dislike compression and too many overdubs are worse than too few. I think there are few worse fashion statements than Metal clothing- probably the only thing worse would be Gothic fashion, and isn't that just a variation on Metal? You'll find my hair is usually short, and I'm not particularly fond of black. Also, the lyrics in most metal are terrible. I don't care about the adventures of Frodo, or the Devil. I like some science fiction and fantasy stuff, but in very, very small doses.
So, if I say I like a metal band, chances are good that many metalheads won't like it. About the only band I like that seems to be fully embraced by the metalheads would be Lamb of God, and even then, I basically like two releases by them.
I think Kruger will mark the second band that I like that metalheads will like as well. I've been listening to their last two records- Redemption Through Looseness and Death, Glory and The End of the World . The basic sound they operate on is about half-way between the complex math-metal of Meshuggah and Polydrone, and the sludge of Mastadon. So, that means it's not speedy, but it does have an off-kilter groove, like Pantera played on a turntable with a broken belt. The vocals are usually in the screeching bellow school (as opposed to the completely indecipherable death grunt) and the bass is upfront with the compressed marshalled guitars. Double bass drum abuse is featured just about every bridge, and palm muting is necessary to keep the riffs in time. So, what do I like about them? There is a kind of sideways propulsion to them- it's like surfing, where you skirt the main thrust of the wave, in order to redirect just enough power to keep you moving and upright. I draw just enough from the songs that I can feel some excitement and can appreciate the athletic beauty of some of the more melodic passages, and they've drawn off enough of the silliness that I can take such appreciation- no bullet belts, no melodramatic oaths of Fealty to their dark lord, no fetish-wear costumes, no twenty bar bridges so's the guitarist can complete his finger tapping exercises. Like Clutch, like Godflesh, like Queens of the Stone Age, like Kylesa,basically,Kruger play metal for a non-metalhead.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Happy Birthday, Joe

Joe Strummer would've been 59 on August 21, 2010. Too bad he's gone. However, he cast a long shadow, that I'm still comfortable to rest under, as if he were a tree.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Mekons

I take it as a given, sometimes, but it strikes me that not everyone has a complete musical education. So, some bands that I take as "classic", and records I think of as "Essential" many folks will not know at all. Such is the case with the Mekons "Rock and Roll". Believe me or not, you simply don't have a complete understanding of music unless you've heard this record. The Mekons pretty much invented the blend of Country and Punk rock, and with "Rock and Roll" perfected the style along the same lines that the Clash had perfected their blend of Reggae Glam, Rockabilly and Punk with "London Calling". Hey, even Robert Christgau liked it.
So, if you don't know what I mean when I say that such and such sounds like the Mekons- listen to them, and I'll bet some of the records in your collection sound different afterwards.

Catching up (a little)

I've been a pretty voracious consumer of media the past few weeks. I've been catching up on my favorite TV shows (on TV, that is. I never fell behind on Net-shows). So, I've been watching Burn Notice and Rescue Me. I also have been watching a few movies that I hadn't seen, like Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist ( short review- I hated it, and Michael Cera needs a new job). But mostly, as per usual, it's been music. Here's the list of new, new copy, or now-on-digital media albums I've been listinging to the past few weeks (in no order at all)
Robyn- Robyn (Fun electro pop)
Bat For Lashes - Two Suns ( spooky,experimental pop, like Bjork meets Mazzy Star)
The National- High Violet (told you I was giving them a shot)
Six Finger Satellite- A Good Year for Hardness ( not so much Chrome, still angular)
NOISEttes-What's the time, Mr Wolf? (Punky R&B, like Ska bands played Punky reggae)
The Specials- Specials ( always been a fan. I even was in a ska band, once)
V V Brown- Travelling like the Light ( there's no justice, if she ain't bigger than Amy Winehouse)
Ida Marie- Fortress 'Round My Heart ( extremely good Mekons-y Indie rock)
Leatherface- Dog Disco ( Lemmy meets Richard Thompson to play NoFX songs)
Leatherface- Stormy Petrel ( Again, raw voice, incredible guitar playing Punk)
sElf- Gizmodgery (who says art has to be inaccessible?)
The Joy Formidable- a Balloon called Moaning ( this year's Paramore)
The Nightingales- Insult to Injury ( like Tom Waits mumbling Mekons songs)
Veil Veil Vanish- Change in the Neon Light ( it's the 80's!!!)
Mew- No More stories are told today... ( incredibly arty digital progressive Indiepop)
The Darkside- All that Noise ( O.G. Drone rock)
Static of the Gods- Knowledge Machine (Pretty sounding Neo-shoegaze)
The Twilight Sad- Forget the Night Ahead ( very caustic coldwave/neo-80's)
Aereogramme- Sleep and Release ( supposedly post-rock. I think it just has great dynamics)
Aereogramme- My Heart has a wish that you would not Go ( the good stuff- melodramatic, orchestral pop-jazz with dynamics straight outta Beethoven. This ain't "post-rock" it's just very well done music)
Jesu-Conqueror ( Justin Broadrick. Need I say more?)
Die! Die! Die!- Promises, Promises ( well, looky there! New Zealand has their own Urinals)
Loop- A Gilded Eternity ( THEE ultimate drone/rock band. Stoners beware!)
dEUS- the Ideal Crash ( I prefer the mark II stuff, but this is good)
Soulsavers- Broken ( Lanegan could sing the phone book and I'd give it shot. This is great swampy, bluesy gospel infused-rock of the kind Tom Waits abandoned, and Lanegan excels at)
Elbow- The Seldom Seen Kid ( yes, I'm late to the party. Good music, if a bit derivative of mid-period Genesis- like right before they lost Peter Gabriel)
Kashmir- No Balance Palace ( sweeping, epic indie rock, with prog-folk touches like Silence is Sexy- but nowhere near as safe as anglo counterparts like Coldplay and Keane)
Editors- The Back Room ( I wore out my old copy. They're a one trick pony- england's Interpol. Much like Interpol you just need one cd by them. This is their version of Antics)
I'll probably do actual reviews of some but there you go. Am I a good consumer, or what?

Saturday, July 31, 2010

The benefits of a Hothouse Flower

America has a lot to offer, but sometimes it's better to concentrate your attention elsewhere. I've been really looking into the coterie of bands in Antwerp, all related, however distantly, to dEUS.
dEUS, first of all, are a nearly two decade old alt-rock concern centered around Tom Barman. Really, it's a two part career. Up until the millennium, they were an indie rock-jazz-prog band that had a Zappa-esque tendency to go off on tangents. Then, they went on hiatus, and when they came back in 2004 with a more pop, more electronic sound. I much prefer the second phase. Yes, it's eclectic stuff, but listen to a song like "slow" or "Smoker's reflect" and you may hear the appeal. Like the Pixies, they're doing pop music that's all sideways, utilizing microtones, or strange modal harmonies, but with a subtleness that makes it sound suave and sophisticated, not artsy. Hey, they're even on myspace, so they're not all that esoteric, but they really are... It's infectious music that doesn't leave you feeling hollow, like the pop music in the states often does.
I never would have found them without Millionaire, though. Millionaire is Tim Vanhamel's band. Tim, I heard by way of Eagles of Death Metal. However, the CD I have by them, Paradisiac, sounds like a glitchy, more electronic version of what Queens of the Stone Age were trying to do on Era Vulagaris, except it came out well before that record. I'm not saying that Homme stole the sound, but he was the producer, and I really do think the change in QOTSA's sound between Lullabies to Paralyze and Vulgaris is at least partially Vanhamel's fault. If you haven't heard any of this, picture a more "New Wave" version of Sonic Youth playing motorik covers of Stooges songs with Trent Reznor. In other words, big dumb rock played by people who aren't dumb, with a solid background in atonal noise.
Likewise, because of that Millionaire album, I heard Creature with the Atom Brain . Named after a Roky Erickson song, and collaborating with Mark Lanegan, these guys play a more traditional version of psychedelic rock than most of the "stoner" and "grunge" bands, but minus any nostalgia you might think that entails. So, yes, if you're a fan of "Stoner Rock', I'd give them a shot.
Also, I haven't heard much, but by reputation, Tim Vanhamel's new band, Eat Lions seems like a good candidate for modern-day psychedelic warriors.
Not so with Tom Barman's other band Magnus who play commercial electronic dance music. I'm not the biggest fan of underground electro bands, but I do like decent dance music, and the magnus stuff has the same kind of "cultured" vibe as trip hop, but far more debauched. Watch some videos and you might see the sleaze that I hear.
Try adding all that up! Consider that all these bands are related, and you might see a depth that is lacking in most music scenes in America where the "Metal" bands might (maybe, just maybe) mix a little with the "Hardcore" bands, and that gets called "crossover". So the advantage I see to "regional" culture, like just Antwerp, is that with the limited number of musicians, venues, etc, those that are there have to, by necessity, cross pollinate, and from that hybrid vigor comes new, intriguing Art.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

World Cup

In honor of the World Cup, here are some good Dutch and Spanish bands:

Netherlands:

Silence is Sexy (my favorites)

The Very Sexuals (indie pop)

Little things that Kill (Christian indie pop)

Polydrone (Math-y Metal)

Obsidian (METAL)

Beans (Ska-Punk)

The Gasoline Brothers (Americana)



Spain:

The Capaces ( and again. My favorite thrash as of late)

After Many Days (Multiculti Hip Hop Jazz Metal)

Icarus Crash (Alt-Rock)

Los Cuatrocientos Golpes (strange pop metal)

EchoVolt (Industrial pop)

Los Tiki Phantoms (Surf Rock)

Wormparade (Glammy electro pop)

As for the match- I couldn't be happier with the finalists....

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Crime Story

I suppose it’s nothing unusual that I’m fascinated with some Crime stories. A lot of people are. Some like Italian mobster fiction, some like stories of serial killers, some like hard boiled detective stories, and some like clever deductions. I enjoy some of all of that. I must admit a certain preference for British gangster films, the books of Jim Thompson, and the true-crime stories of John Dillinger, Jacques Mesrine, and Charles Bronson, but these are preferences, not hard-and-fast rules. I still think that Good Fellas, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, Detour, and the Usual Suspects are all fine movies.
However, I just saw a very interesting take on crime stories in 2009’s Bronson. I suppose if you cannot be bothered to follow the links, a sentence might do the trick: Charles Bronson is the name taken by a notorious British thug who has been in prison for 34 years, 30 of those years in solitary confinement. What the movie attempts to do is let you inside Bronson’s mind for a few hours. It doesn’t propose to explain his actions, and therefore excuse them. He gives you his motivations, but it’s obvious that he’s lying to both himself and you. There’s a line in Sin City about a character being out of time; that he should have been a gladiator, or barbarian. This would be Charles Bronson. He is a man who finds comfort more in violence than in comraderie, and who is capable of art, and honor, but chooses brutality and solitude. A thousand years ago, he would have lived a much shorter life, but probably a more useful one. Still, there is wit, humour, and guile in the movie- this isn’t purely an endurance test. The movie has been compared to A Clockwork Orange, but I find a fundamental difference: Kubrick’s film, and Burgess’ book is a satire, and serves to ask “why?” while Bronson says “Why not?”. The character needs no motivation beyond impulse. That’s a frightening, almost nihilistic proposition. However, it’s the closest to the criminal reality I can imagine- Bronson presents crime as simply the man’s natural state. Mindless thuggery is simply a state of being. It’s not a larger statement. You and I are not capable of what Charles Bronson is best at doing. At the same time, Charlie Bronson could not do things we easy. I am reminded of a line Jacques Mesrine wrote, in one of his more self pitying poems- “Pourquoi vous attrister ? Pauvre chien me dites-vous ! En voilĂ  une erreur... C'est un homme, Madame, Il est emprisonnĂ©.”
(translated: Why are you distressed? Poor dog, you say? That’s incorrect. That’s a man, madame, he is a prisoner) {Incidentally, the poem was made into a decent 80's metal song by Tru$T- Hear it here} I suspect that's the fascination for me- these are people; still recognizable as human, but so different to me as to be alien.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Spoke a bit too soon

Found three things today that are worth a little bit. I still don't think they're necessarily all that exciting, but I gotta admit I enjoyed 'em, and think they are worth a post:
1. Studebaker's Blacksmith- Nebula
The Good- They lock in some excellent stoner-hesher jams that are hypnotic enough to get the desired effect, but not so utterly retro that I'd just as soon be listening to a Blue Cheer record. They've got some kind of connection to the mighty Pandora's Box, so they must be good people. The recording is rough enough and deep enough that it sounds like Rocknroll, not fireworks.
The Drawbacks- Kerstin, the singer, has succumbed to European female hard rock singer disease. She's a bit too stiff and formal. I can hear a good voice in there, but she seems like she's trying to hit the note, not feel the music. Like I said- this is fairly endemic, and you can hear it in nearly every female vocalist in a hard rock band in Europe, so, if you're used to that, you might not mind. Me? I prefer the girls who sing just as raw and hard as the guys. Also, the lyrics aren't so great. Maybe if they were in German? Basically, I bet the band is much better live with a good crowd. If they really let loose, I could see them being as good as Hammerbox
2. Deterior- Primitive Circuitry
The Good- For a Sludge/doom/ambient one man metal band there are for-real hooks! I realize that goes against what sludge/doom bands are going for, but endless downtuned howling can get boring. So, unless it's infused with something, such music becomes wallpaper to me. Sure enough, on previous releases, Deterior was basically sonic wallpaper to me. But, I'm kinda retro on this- I'm more a Killing Joke/Head of David/Godflesh guy than a Thou/Eyehategod/Earth guy. Again, he's got some good friends- his myspace lists Crashworship, who are absolutely transcendent. You cannot front on someone with taste that good. So, this is sludge metal bordering on Stoner rock, like Kylesa and Baronness, so yes, I like it.
The drawback- Some of us have voices made for that throaty growl. Some, like me, do not. This guy? Does not. Every time he goes into "that voice" I cringe. It's distracting from the groove. Seriously he should leave the growling to guys like Randy from Lamb of God. Also, it gets a bit proggy with the time signatures, and riffs. Proggy is cool for other folks, but me? I prefer the straight machine motorik. I find a band like Swans or Godflesh far more heavy because the beat is unrelenting, even if it's a crawl.
3. Battle Flags- ColourEngine
The Good- Very nice, exotic flavored minimal electro pop. Picture if Owl City listened to the Ruby Suns. I like pop music, and a good summery hook makes my day, even if the cool, smart kids think it makes me dumb. This has that kind of a hook. I can hum along as I do my laundry. As far as pop music goes, this also hits enough artsy and glammy spots that is seems au courant and hip.
The drawback- it does get a little samey and derivative. If you have been listening to indie pop there's a good chance you'll have heard a hook or two somewhere else. I mean some of it goes all the way back to Tom Tom Club. You also might not like pop music, or the little exotic flourishes, but hey, I do. Also, this guy likes him some treble, and it can get on the shrill side a bit. There are a few notes sung or played that are icepick sharp, so crank the bass for better enjoyment.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Post 50

Fiddy posts? That's it? Well, I'm not trying for quantity, nor quality. I'm trying for honesty. When I've got something to say, I'll say it. Even if it's stupid, and when it's redundant.
The Big Takeover hit 30 years with the latest issue. This is a magazine that publishes every 6 months, and sometimes, that's not enough, and sometimes (like now) it's too often. I trust Jack Rabid and company- they're honestly trying to put out the highest quality music mag they can, I just think that time isn't on anyone's side. There are long stretches of time where there really isn't anything new that is worth a damn, and there are times when it's all good.
I don't want to be negative, but right now I'm not excited by anything new. I'm still digging the old. I've been listening to stuff on my Ipod, I've been watching DVDs I already own, and I have been reading books I have read before.
Speaking of all that- you can read my preferences in my profile- but as I get older each of those things that I love, I love for different reasons. For example, the poppy, thrashy punk rock that I still profess to love? I wouldn't even dream of getting into the pit, these days. Way back when, that was a good percentage of my reasons. Now, it's mostly because I appreciate the economy and obvious structure of the music- Thrash is to rock and roll as tents are to buildings. So, even without pressing forward, I'm still in motion.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Waiting to see what's next

I like them, but never thought of them as really being fodder for this blog, in anyway, but Barnaby Jones are promising a new direction, and I'm hopeful. What they have done as a band seems like a combination of two bands that I like: they were like a bit of a cross between Kid Dynamite and Dillinger Four. However, I have to say that both of those bands are better. Sorry, but it's how I see things. Barnaby Jones aren't "bad"- it's more that they had potential to be great. Here's hoping that what comes next is that great thing.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Incorrigible

Yes, I am incorrigible. Allow me to introduce you to the three newest (to me) artists on my Ipod. Yes, some of this may be old news, and no, none of it is "fresh", or "avante garde". It's the same stuff I always listen to, and I love it.
First, the most sophisticated stuff is from How to Destroy Angels. Basically, this is Trent Reznor's new band. I do not miss his voice whatsoever, having never been enamored with it. But, his wife has an excellent haunting little girl voice, like Hope Sandoval, and the music is much more concrete, and closer to a sound collage than a melody, and so I like it. I've always liked pretty voices with noise. But, let's face it, that's no more challenging than a Timbaland track. Still, I like the notion of "music" that cannot be notated.
Second, I've liked the Gallows, and Kid Dynamite, and the Bronx and other latter day thrash bands- mostly because I liked the former day Thrash bands. (Oh, and no, the so called "thrash metal" of the late 1980's means nothing, nada, zilch to me. I'm talking about speedy hardcore punk rock, based on the "three letter band" codex, and the straight edge beat). So, it's a bit sad to me that I was late to the party with The Steal. It's too bad they're gone, but really, download, or buy "Bright Grey" which is about as fine a thrash record as I can recall from the past ten years. It's not up to the glories of The Capaces, mind you, but they're on another level. If you had a buzz cut and skate shoes in 1986, you'll probably dig it, if only for nostalgia.
Third, I won't say much, because you've probably heard them already- I think they even have records in Target, but I have to admit I finally gave The National a fair shot, and they're decent. They're certainly breaking no ground that Wilco, or a host of canadian bands haven't already done (basically a mix of New Wave and Americana) but I hummed along to enough tunes that I finally downloaded some. Call it a reluctant thumb shakily pointing up.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Nostalgia, anyone?

I don't know why but I was thinking about the mid 1990's. More specifically, I was thinking about "never was" bands like The Nymphs Hammerbox Greta Basehead (arguably) Black Grape Still good stuff...

Sunday, June 6, 2010

I-Rash

I married an Irish woman and, more than 10 years after my divorce I'm just about ready to forgive the irish people.
Yes, that's a joke. But, I think I need to make a distinction that's serious. I don't mind Irish people; People born in Ireland, people simply of Irish descent. I don't like, and never have liked what I'd call "I-rash" people. You know, the drunk at the bar who is claiming he's obnoxious because he's Irish, and plays house of pain on the jukebox before causing a scene by bashing into people as he "jyumps erown"? I-Rash. You know the girl who wants to tell you the secret pagan meaning behind every holiday , and how it's all a big conspiracy to put down the Wiccans, even though she doesn't speak the slightest amount of gaelic? I-Rash. You know the idiot redhead who plans about a month in advance for "St Paddy's Day", and has seen Riverdance about 12 times? I-Rash. All those Celtic knot tattoos? I-Rash. "Back to Eyre" travel packages? I-Rash. Green Effing Beer? I-capital- RASH. I have no love for all that I-Rash crap.
Why do I bring this up? I saw Denis Leary's Rescue me comedy show this past week, and my wife is off the see Riverdance, today. Incidentally, the best part about the comedy show? Adam freakin' Ferrara- the guy just killed. I say this as a huge Denis Leary Fan. Adam was by far the funniest thing all night. Go see him, next chance you can. Oh, and whatever else you do, support the Firefighters. That was half the reason I went.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

As Lost Turns

So, they're hyping the heck out of the Lost Finale. I'm interested, but I think it went from being a really good TV show, to a mildly entertaining show, to a chore in relatively short order. I think a three season show minus a whole bunch of the claptrap would've been better, but hey, they're rich, so they must be right- right?
I bring it up because of this interview . Specifically, there's bit where Carlton Cuse says
We want people to have a chance to digest, discuss, debate and interpret the events of the finale. And we think there’s going to be plenty of things for people to discuss and debate, just like every year. We don’t want to be out there saying, no no no, you must think this or you must think that. We don’t want to sort of spoil the process, which is to let people process the finale and arrive at their own conclusions about it.
Then, Damon Lindelof says
The interpretive element of "Lost," the fact that you immediately need as soon as the episode is over to seek out a community of people to express your own thoughts about it, understand what they thought about it and form an opinion, that’s the bread and butter of the show. The more we talk about what our intention was, the more we take it away from the audience. And we have no interest in doing that ever.
Now, in theory, I can get behind that- the notion of Art being a process of communication between the Artist and the audience is a dear one to me. But, it seems to me they're using a kind of misinterpretation of that process of communication to justify and rationalize their artlessness. The interpretive element works if you're talking about non-narrative art. If it was some kind of visual tone poem, they might have something there. But, they're engaged in a pulpy form of genre-writing that's dependant upon narrative form. They're combining Science Fiction and mystery writing. That's it. It's the same combination that both "Twin Peaks" and "The X Files" employed. So, what kind of postmodern nonsense is it to say "Oh, we're leaving interpretation up to the audience"? Quite frankly, that's simply not so- they're just lacking the courage to answer the mysteries they tried to invoke, and now, they're dodging continuity and logic, and structural bullets by caveat, hoping that the audience will rationalize it for them. They didn't write Haiku's, here- they produced a genre show! Narrative Art depends upon the narrative-which is to say, upon the Artist knowing (Gno- look it up) what they're saying. In other words, they can say "oh, we've explained the numbers" by citing a scene or two where they are discussed, but that doesn't mean they've explained the narrative function of them-and therefore by not completing the function, they're copping out. This is why the (original) Prisoner is still a work of Art, and Lost is still just a TV show. Watch any of the first 16 episodes of the Prisoner, and it both serves as a poetic metaphor for a societal force, and a fully formed narrative story. The last, 17th episode is precisely a visual Tone Poem that abandons narrative function in order to achieve a truly meta- narrative about the show itself, and the process in creating it. That's high Art, and it left no questions hanging- Number 6 was a prisoner both of himself, and of his culture. The Village was a system of control, just as all cultures are system of control. Along the way, it was determined that neither absolute control, nor absolute autonomy was truly desirable, but that a bargain must be struck between the individual and society. Yes, all of this was demonstrated clearly. Faith and Reason both played into this equation, as did love and war. Meanwhile, Lost cannot even resolve whether Faith or Reason is even valid, it cannot decide whether the individual or society is important- it cannot answer any of the narrative questions it has posed, it simply exists as commercial entity. Which means, again, it's just a genre show, like a soap opera, or a situation Comedy. That means talk of the function of Lost being some kind of facilitator of interpretive creative communication between the audience, the Art and itself is just a pretentious cop out.
Now, I've got friends and family who think that Lost is the best TV show, ever. I'm not here to say they're wrong, exactly. I'm just here to say that it's not high art, and it's pretty deeply flawed on its own terms. Now, the argument can be made that all Art is flawed, and that the distinction between high and low art is a false one, and that since all art is therefore destined for failure, it's not a question of if the show succeeds, only if it entertains- and that's a valid point of view. I just don't buy it, myself. I think that the show jumped the proverbial shark somewhere in the 4th season, and went from a good show to a poor one. By now, I think the fans really could write a better show ( which is another possible subtext of what the shows own producers are saying, and, if so, what better evidence that they have failed at the narrative imperative is there?) and I hope somebody does. By far, the best elements of the show have not been of the show in a long time- between the Blogs, the ARG's and the fan-generated speculation some truly innovative storytelling has been constructed- but doesn't that derive more from people's dissatisfaction with the paltriness of the show's construction than from its design?

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Dio's Dead

I wasn't a real fan, but some of my friends were. Too bad. Stomach cancer, that's a rough way to go. I know it wasn't painless, but I hope it was peaceful.

Review

So, I finally got an Ipod. Not an Mp3 player, no, the apple product. I'm still a PC type of guy, but, apple really does have the superior product with the Nano. In some ways, it's an amazing product- 600 songs easily stored, right? Oh, and a few pod casts, and maybe a few photos, and did I mention it's also a video recorder? But, on the other hand Itunes is clunky, and difficult, not to mention invasive. Also, the product is a bit of a magic box- you cannot customize how it works, and you cannot so much as replace the battery, yourself.
All in all, though, it's good.
This is how it relates to this blog, though- it's encouraged me to listen to a bunch of music I had in the collection, not explore new stuff. In other words, a lot of review. As with any review, it's only interesting for the new connections. So, I leave it on shuffle a lot. I discover things like The Mescaleros' "All in a Day" blends nicely with The Tubeway Army's "Are 'Friends' Electric?", and I discover just how narrow my tastes really are- it turns out there really isn't that much space between Billie Holiday and Spearhead, nor is there all that much difference between Willie Nelson and Mark Lanegan. So, I'm still processing this new information. I am re-evaluating much of my tastes- not changing those tastes- but re-evaluating- I'm realizing that I'm much more of a rockist than I thought, that I enjoy keyboards more than guitar solos, but I love guitars more than voices (Except Mark Lanegan's voice, which is still a perfect instrument. No, I don't have a man-crush on him, I just love his voice. The man, himself, seems a bit of an Ass.) I'm realizing that the only real use I have for lyrics is aphoristic, and that a sweeping melody means more to me than a well-turned phrase. All the same, Joe Strummer's words are some of the best poetry I will ever hear.
There is a value to reviewing beyond analysis, however- the connection between the present and the past becomes more transparent, and, if you're at peace with who you are, that can be a comfort, and in those areas where you are not at peace with yourself, that connection can serve as inspiration to achieve that peace. (Incidentally, this is one of the three reasons I cannot be a Buddhist. I believe that the past is real, as well as the future is knowable- I don't believe we're in an eternal present. The other two reasons? I believe in an external god, and I believe that the full, absolute truth is both real and unknowable.)

But, it's not entirely been about the Ipod- I've been watching a couple of movies, listening to a couple of Cd's, and reading a few things-
The movies? What we do is Secret, Raising Arizona, and Feast.
The less I say about What we do is Secret, probably the better. I have people who know me who knew Darby/Bobby/Jan better than I ever will, and I don't want to offend them with my impressions. What I will say, however, is that I only saw him as Darby, and only saw him at shows, and even so- the biography drawn up in What we do is Secret is far too kind to him, far too harsh at people who deserve better, and far too neat to be anything like the truth. At best, it's the impression that his friends might want to give their kids. However, if you take away the non-fiction aspect, and view it as a myth, or a story, it's well done. It's a slightly more true story than your average biopic, in that while it does show that drugs were bad, it shows more clearly both the ambition, and mental anguish that were the reasons for the drug use did the real damage.
As for Raising Arizona- What can I say? I like about half of the Coens' movies- this one, and Miller's Crossing are my favorites-and it's a modern classic. The distillation of cartoon slapstick, Guys and Dolls-esque patter, and redneck mysticism has a legion of imitators, but none offer up such a sincere, genuine heart. Well worth your time.
Finally, Feast. Yes, the project greenlight horror franchise. Again, what can I say- it's not really a "horror" movie- it's an extreme slapstick comedy with low budget special effects. That's how I see a lot of these things, and that's what I'm a fan of watching. I do like a real "horror" movie, and I don't like torture porn, but slasher-style gorefests? They are their own kind of comedy. I don't wish harm on (nearly) anyone- and it's only because I know it's special effects that I can view it that way- and I think Feast is more fully aware that it's not real than most, hence I can enjoy it more.
The Cd's? The Bronx (III) and Isobel Campbell/Mark Lanegan's The ballad of the Broken Seas.
The Bronx have mellowed out from from their start as a hardcore band, without genuinely changing their style. Basically, what they do is a somewhat metallic version of the garage punk that a band like Rocket From the Crypt did, or that The Riverboat Gamblers still do. That "garageiness" is the appeal for me. They sound like smart guys rocking out after a few beers, aware of both how stupid they are, and how little they want to give it up, nonetheless. In that respect, they are the Cynics for the Jackass crowd.
As for the Belle and Sebastian girl, singing with the former Screaming Tree- yes, it's gentle, ramshackle ballads, but informed by a Gaelic ( not "irish" sensibility) From Richard Thompson to Glasvegas, I'm a sucker for the Gaelic lilt and reel. My belief is that Rock and Roll is based on two things, equally- the "rock" of African rhythm and the "roll" of Gaelic harmony. I think the "blue note" of the Blues traces ancestry directly to Scotland, and the high, lonesome of Country swing traces directly from Wales. So, this is still a rock and roll record. That's what lends it swing, and heft. What makes it pretty are the two voices, but what makes it cool is the Gaelic ghost underneath it all.
Anyway, this is long enough, I'll continue later...

Sunday, April 25, 2010

What's Going on with Spain?

Seriously, I'm hearing a lot of very diverse, high quality music coming out of Spain, as of late... Everything from the brilliant old-school hardcore of The Capaces, to the world-fusion rap rock of After Many Days to the electro hard pop of Echovolt . You've got the punk rock of Atrako a Mano Armada , the strange decayed metal of Los Cuatrocientos Golpes , and the surf rock of Los Tiki Phantoms , and the D-beat thrash of D R A M A . Defintely much more varied than the Garage rock scene I recall from the 1990's. It's a big world, folks- don't limit yourself to one country, but dang, Spain has something going on....

Saturday, April 24, 2010

In the New York Times...

I've been following Michael Kimmelman's column . I think he's got some interesting things to say, even if he's basically deconstructing a straw man argument. He defines "globalization" in a way I haven't really seen it defined- basically, it reads like he thinks of it as some kind of cultural cross-pollenizing- so as to attack people who don't like corporate globalization, which is a far more hedgemonic thing than I think he's allowing. Still, as I wrote, some very interesting points along the way. I sincerely hope he continues bringing this argument to such interesting places....

Kowloon Eletrika

I listen to a pretty wide variety of music. Always have. Always will. On top of having a brain, I'm a musician, and I worked in the industry. So, music is an Art that I relate easily and well to my life. It seems silly to me to limit my listening then, to one style or another.
That having said, of course I have tastes and preferences. A Big preference is for guitars, and that's probably been pretty obvious. Guitars, at this time in history, means you're going to end up in "rock" territory, so, yeah, I hear a lot of rock music. That still allows for a lot of diversity. Take the two bands I've been listening to, today: Kowloon Walled City and EletriKa. About the only thing they really have in common would be guitars.
Kowloon Walled City start with an amazing name, if you read history. If you don't, it'd be like naming the band "real-life anarchic city of sin and reward". The band do a kind of sludgey avant-metal that owes to black Sabbath, King Crimson, Black Flag and Neurosis. In other words, like other bands I like (Kylesa, Kyuss, Killing Joke- what is it with the letter "k"?) this is grimy very heavy, very hard rock done by some very brainy people. Nothing "pop" about this. But, yet, still very musical, and very engaging. If you're a bit of a metal-head, but you feel guilty about it- here's your band. Also, if you're too smart to listen to Zakk Wylde, and you think he's really a wuss hiding behind a musclehead physique, yeah, this is a band for you. Downtuned, loud stuff that isn't processed; raw and vibrant but challenging music for people with an education.
None of that makes EletriKa a dumb band, by any means. But, where KWC are like a Grad student's Stoner-metal tribute band, EletriKa are like an older professional's hobby. Maybe they aren't quite a "hobby", but they are a "second" band for Claudio David, who you should know from Overdose, the long-running brazillian Thrash-metal band. I have been an Overdose fan since the mid 1990's, when it seemed like Brazil could do no wrong between them and Sepultura. Seriously, the mix of poly rhythm and technical thrash metal is a really good listen- try out "Rio Street Progress" or "Zombie Factory". So, the thought of a techno-enhanced version of Overdose was really enticing for me (hey, I like technology. I am not afraid of pro-tools or keyboards) However, EletriKa take a different approach. They're more standard "alternative rock" with some seriously tweaked production (guitars compressed within an inch of their frequency spectrum, for a start). I'm open to everything, so, no, I'm not disappointed, but I guess I'm still waiting for a band that sounds like a combination of Pitchshifter and Soulfly. EletriKa sound more like mid-90's Alt-rock (Alice in Chains, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Candlebox) meets late-90's production. In effect, they have more in common with a band like The Exies than they do with, say, Fear Factory. And you know what? I still like it. I'm good with Alice in Chains style vocal harmonies with compressed guitars playing a white-boy funk rock. The lyrics aren't too special, and there's a definitely lack of concern for a truly conveyed "message" but Claudio still knows his way around a fretboard, and can roll out a cavalcade of false harmonics in a way to create a still hummable melody that's impossible to notate- which requires a lot of Art, in and of itself.
So, what about me? What's my message? The same as always- my taste, your taste, any one's taste can be worthwhile, it just has to be recognized for its own terms. That's the difference between "mass culture" and the culture of the many....