Saturday, May 14, 2011

My face is red

Oi, what a mistake! I don't think I've even mentioned that I've been listening to Wire's new one, Red Barked Tree, since umm, mid January!
To rectify that, there are three basic facts that should be known-
1. Wire is wire, regardless of who's missing. They are the only band I know like that, where one of the core members can be gone for years, and the band still retains the same essence. Robert Gotobed was gone, and it was still wire. Guitar player Bruce Gilbert has been gone much of the millennium, and it's still Wire.
2. Wire isn't punk, or Prog, or post punk, or whatever else. They occupy a completely unique spot, and therefore are outside of pop music conventions. You cannot judge them based upon those parameters. It'd be like judging a comic book and installation Art on the same rubric.
3. Wire are a "foundational" band for me- by which I mean, if not for being a fan of Wire since I was 15, I wouldn't be the same guy, now, 30 years later.

So, yes, I like it, but that's besides the point. How does it hold up to other Wire releases? It's as good as Pink Flag, not as good as Chairs Missing, better than 154, much better than Document and Eyewitness,better than The Ideal Copy, Not as good as A bell is a Cup until its Struck, as good as IBTABA, better than Manscape, a bit better than the First Letter, as good as Send, and better than Object 47. So, basically, I'd say it's the third or fourth Wire record you should buy. Get The Ideal Copy, first. Seriously, it's one of those things that if you really consider it, it will alter your perception, forever. But, after you've got that, and A Bell is a Cup..., and possibly Pink Flag- it's a toss up between this one and Send. Get the picture? It's very good, and if it was the new record by, say, The Killers, I'd be blown away at the improvement in quality, but as far as Wire standards go, it's middle of the pack.

( a quick thank you to Jonathon for reminding me. )

My name is HENRY, and I'm FINE with That....

Henry just pointed out that you, too, can see the flag: Dave Markey put up the video

Having seen the Flag, both before and after Henry, I gotta say there's no comparison. Not the same band. Black Flag before Henry was a truly dangerous Punk Rock band, but with Henry they became the kind of rebel-without-a-cause unfocused threat that death Metal bands pretend to be. They were human beings, sure, but the thing they were live was like the most dangerous guy you know, on PCP, and armed with a machete. I gave up part of my brain for them. No, seriously. I did one of those "where did everybody go?" stage dives, concussed myself, but refused to leave until I saw the whole show, which caused the brain to get damaged. Even though I cannot remember the show, it was worth it.
What more reason do you need?

Friday, May 13, 2011

The Bloody Beetroots

I'm not trying to pretend to be up on the latest trends. Heck, after the beatdown I've taken this week at work, I'm not trying to claim to be much of anything.
But, I do keep my ear to the ground. I try to see what's coming along, and gauge for myself if it's worthwhile. For example, I think the electronics-infused post-pop coming out of Belgium, the Netherlands, France, Denmark and Germany is worth staying alert over. I'm not saying they'll rule the airwaves, or get lauded in the history books, because pop culture doesn't work that way. Smart stuff like dEUS, Ghinzu, Silence is Sexy, Kashmir, and so on always occupies a kind of "cult" niche. Likewise, some music just isn't fit for mass tastes, like the thrash punk of bands like The Capaces, or the math rock of the United Sons of Toil, because the aesthetics are so far removed from mainstream "pop". However, I think such things are worth hearing because they're exploring the limits of pop music in interesting ways. Then, of course, some stuff, whether it garners mainstream attention or not, is just worthwhile, and I feel like it's just as snobbish to turn down the popular as it is to turn down the unpopular- such is the case with a lot of the Stoner/Doom metal coming out of the deep south like Kylesa and Torche.
So, what I'm saying is that, like the title of the Blog, I'm finding my best path is individual, not mass. I've already gone over the theoretical underpinnings so I won't go there again- but I'm still surprised when the individualistic, idiosyncratic path converges with the mainstream. Exhibit A would be the Bloody Beetroots. They're not playing MTV or Clear Channel. They're actually pretty damn smart, and artistically ambitious. They play a challenging melange of dubstep, techno, minimalism and experimental electronics. Minus the 4 on the floor dance elements, they'd be right there with early industrial noise merchants like Non, SPK, Throbbing Gristle and Whitehouse. So, it surprises me that by casting the net so wide out onto "long tail" territory, they're able to garner the fanbase they have. We're talking thousands of folks paying to see an italian duo (or trio) wearing Venom masks, quoting situationists, playing atonal noise at bonesplintering volume, and liking it. I know it's a validation of what I believe (that the modern marketplace, due to the widespread availability of quality recording gear, and the easy distribution offered up by the internet now isn't about "stars" but about audiences gathering around shared tastes) but it still surprises me to see it laid out so starkly. My son's friends hear Bloody Beetroots tracks, and decide to put it on their Ipads- and we're talking teenagers who otherwise listen to Linkin Park or Katy Perry. That impresses me. So, even if you don't share my enthusiasm for their music, I'd suggest you watch how the process unfolds. I think it promises to be fascinating. I'm not saying that as an arbiter of taste, but rather as just a guy who's been watching this shiny machine we call pop culture for over a quarter century. There is something new under the sun, but what it is, remains to be determined.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Nice Abortion joke

There aren't any nice abortion jokes, are there? Maybe somebody should tell The Coathangers, because apart from the name and some forceful vocals, they actually come across as pretty nice. I know I'm late to the party on them, but that's ok by me because it doesn't really seem like my kinda shindig. I'd love to be really positive on them, and they do have some moments, but really, they're more interesting as a concept than as a band. Basically, it's Punk Rock 101- a bunch of people start a band even though they're rank amateurs. The problem is that this was always a bit of a myth. Bands like the Clash and The Vibrators had members who'd been playing for years, and other bands, like Wire and the Buzzcocks were using amateurishness as a mythmaking venture, when really they were better than they let on. It was actually the rare punk band that couldn't actually play their instruments, and I can only think of one instance where it worked- the Germs, and even then, they were fast learners, and by the time they were really interesting, they were halfway decent musicians. Much like the nice abortion joke, it's something that seems like it should be possible, but really there aren't any really good bands that have no musicality. So, the Coathangers have moments, but really, they should woodshed a bit, and come back when they have a bit more accomplishment to go with the confidence.
Still,there is raw talent there, and if they did more like this, I'd say they really have something.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Proof that I don't just listen to old stuff with good vocals.

So, enough nostalgia and reflection! I listen to a couple dozen records a week, and not all of them are old things that I've listened to before. Here's the new stuff I listened to this week:
These Branches- This one's on You. - Such a shame! this is a really good mod-ish punky power pop band ruined by a lousy singer. Now, as a fan of guys like Frankie NW Stubbs and Lemmy, I can take some unusual singing styles, but this guy just has no real tune to his voice. So if you can really tune out vocals, this is a pretty good record, but that voice.....
Ruptures- Adormidera. Super angular hardcore-influenced chaos metal. Like Blood Brothers meets Botch to play 1st album Refused songs. No, the vocals aren't spectacular, but the post-everything thrash makes up for it. Then, just when you think you have a handle on this breed of aggression, they play a melodic interlude like "Soma", and you're confused by it. I think the edge they're going for is "constantly unsettled". It's more than the sum of the parts. It's good- but only if you can stand the mathy chaos.
Damascus- Salutations, Distant Satellite! Really good post rock. I know, I know- post rock is pretentious jazz fusion for jerks who couldn't actually generate enough swing to play jazz fusion. This is like the more linear, yet still proggy bits of bands like Mars Volta, but subtracting the vocals. I can appreciate it- it's decent listening, that gets the mix of volume and gentleness to do instrumental rock.
Old Growth- out of the sand and into the streets. Really garage rock. No, I don't mean that they play stuff that's stylistically "garage"- I mean they sound authentically like they a bunch of dudes rocking out in their garage, trying to do a bargain basement version of "rawk'. I haven't checked, but I bet they love grunge bands, and I bet not a one of them is over 25. Add 10 years, and 100,000 bucks and they'd be Nickelback, and would add to the "suck" quota in the world, but as it stands, I bet they have a core following of friends who are blown away by their genius. If I could offer them any advice it would be to stay in the garage. Don't progress- keep it as raw as this, and you'll eventually turn into Crazy Horse, and that's infinitely better than Nickelback.
Also, not exactly a new thing, but getting newer- check out the Bloody Beetroots website. I could really join the Church of Noise.