Thursday, March 18, 2010

Not Everything is a total Winner

I try to keep what I write about, here, on the positive end. After all, I'm a bit misanthropic, and I've got a fairly narrow taste, even if it doesn't conform to music magazine labels, so I could talk endlessly about the pop culture stuff I don't like. What would be the point of deconstructing Gossip Girl? Even more, why would I want to force myself to watch an entire episode just to complete said deconstruction? As a friend once wrote- I should listen to music just to hear how vacuous and inane it is?
Still, not everything I lend my time to has as much merit as other things. I like a lot of stuff that might not be "A grade" quality, but appeals, nonetheless. I also listen to stuff that has a lot of quality, but only fits a niche of limited utility to me. Actually, the majority of what I consume, media-wise fits into those two categories. On TV, that'd be shows like Burn Notice (the former category) and Lost ( the latter category). In reading- well, I read too many magazines, and no, not all are even up to the quality of a mass market rag like Time or Newsweek (though, not quite tabloids. Ever since the weekly world news folded, I'm done with tabloids).
In music? There's a lot. I probably listen to more music than any other kind of pop culture. So, I'd include known bands like Jimmy Eat World, and Nine Inch Nails, but also more unknown bands, like Hell, Flawless and Mandate of Heaven.
On top of that, I know my tastes are narrow, so I don't expect even you, my few readers, to agree.
So, it's pretty rare for me to hear a new band, of very young musicians and think "These guys will be Big". But, this is one of those rare moments. The band is Victori4. The new CD 21st Century Samurais? Wow. It's got enough pop hooks, and easily heard harmonies that I could see them cracking the top 20. It's got teenage angst, it's got some musicianship, and I can see teenage girls thinking these boys are cute. Seriously, not everything wins, but I can see these guys winning. Yes, I like them, and no, I don't think all my friends will. Musically, they're somewhere between an "Emo" band and an Anthemic middle of the road band like U2, Coldplay, or yes, Jimmy Eat World (who they sound closest to) but with a serving of Americana, mostly courtesy of some pretty tasteful slide work. So, I know some of it is that I'm a sucker for a good pop hook with plaintive vocals, and I live and die by a good guitar. But, still, they are of a higher quality than a band like My Chemical Romance, or latter-day AFI, and blow away some of the third-tier bands of similar ilk in the UK - Snow Patrol, I mean you, but not only you. The main reason why they might not be huge would be location- they're from Geneva, Switzerland, and Lyon, France- quite a long way from Los Angeles or London. Heck, that's even a bit far away from a city like Baltimore.
But, I've heard them, so their music is spreading. Maybe someday they'll be on Top of the Pops, eh? Then, of course, we'll have to hate them, won't we? But, if you have an open mind for commercial pop rock, I think there are some rewards to be had, here, and, no, I won't apologize for liking what makes me smile. There's enough that I hate, and there's enough that I feel guilty for liking, but a good pop rock band? That's got value, even if it flirts with Mass culture...

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Stone Soup After Many Days

People talk about mixing things, about a remix culture, and about "world music", and usually it's pairing two things that are fairly similar at the outset. At the most ridiculous, you get a band like Extreme (Remember them? yeah, the name was because they had the temerity to mix Pop metal with accoustic ballads! how... extreme) but at the most sublime, you get a band like Rage Against the Machine, which recasts music for the listener (sincerely, how many people thought of Led Zep as a funk band, or Erik B and Rakim as a rock band before hearing Rage?)
Spain's After Many Days are closer to the Rage end of things than the Extreme. But, After Many Days are mixing a lot of things. Like a Stone Soup, we start with music- they're mixing prog rock, metal, hip hop, jazz and traditional gallic folksong, then add in some electronics, and then, have the lyrics in three languages (Spanish, French, and English). But, the trick, as always, is to get the mix right so that musically, it works, and sounds good. After Many Days get the mix right, and on either of their EPS, the sound is polished and professional (a feat by itself for a self-producing band) and always organically flowing. It doesn't sound like seperate things, but, rather, as a cohesive band. What is that sound? Like Primus meets Deftones on the Red Hot Chili Peppers yacht, to play some Jacques Brel and Gang Starr songs. I don't expect them to become a big commercial hit, but I bet other musicians are intrigued already. Look for bands to be referencing them as an influence, much like the band they most remind me of, Faith No More.
Now I just hope they can tour, because their stage show looks impressive.

Joining the Crowd on Lost

Commenting on Lost is a subgenre of blog, so don't expect a link, nor a complete and long post. I just have a few quick things to write about that show.
First, it had a great idea in limiting itself. I just think 100 episodes is closer to how long I want the story to go on. At this point, the show has "jumped the shark" and overstayed. I think 50 episodes would've made for taut, quality TV storytelling, but 100 and above? Name the show that was as compelling after the 100 mark as it was before. I prefer the model where you tell the story, and then stop.
Second, While Terry O'Quin and Michael Emerson (especially Emerson) are clearly the best actors on the show, I have a different take on "favorites" than most. I like Jack Shephard. I like Sayid Jarrah, Hugo "Hurley" Reyes and Jin-Soo Kwon. Other than them, I don't really like the characters. Why those? Ever been an older brother? Ever been a father? Ever been a Manager? There is a role men have to take- a combination of selfless gaurdian, and hate-magnet Sheriff. These characters understand that role, and abide to it. I can relate to that, and sympathize with that more than I can people living as if they are islands, themselves. People who don't make the hard choices against themselves like Ben Linus, and like John Locke are the kind of jerks I curse every day. Why would I cheer them, or even be interested in them on my TV?
Really though, if you haven't seen Lost, I wouldn't bother, at this point. The first 3 Seasons were good, and it's crawled up into itself since then. Considering we're talking a six season show, that means it's only half good.