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!


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.


...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.


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.