Saturday, May 12, 2012


I have a fairly complex brain, I think. I can handle contradictions, paradoxes, and multi facets. That's not bragging, because I bet that's true for most folks. So, why is pop culture marketed in such a linear, boxed-in fashion? It's like someone, somewhere, decided that we, as people can only handle one thing at a time. We can't like both emotionally tangled Kitchen-sink dramas and big high concept action flicks? We can't like primitive country blues and over-produced techno?
I don't believe that it's anything so conscious as that. I think there are multiple factors, both from above, and below. On the one hand, it's difficult to sell two or three thoughts at the same time, but on the other hand, people like belonging to easily identifiable tribes. Also, it's near impossible to have the obsessive levels of concentration necessary to create actual Art, and switch focus mid stream. So, while we as people are complex, our Art tends to get simplified.
Still, I really like hybrids, mash ups, crossover, and so on. That's the case with both CDs I'm listening to, today. I don't think of either one as a "must have" but there are enjoyable parts to either.
First, I just got the new Tragedy Cd, Darker Days Ahead. For a Sludge punk band, this sure is some fine Doom metal... I know, I know, obvious joke, but there's something to it: Tragedy have gone further and further into doom territory from CD to CD. This new one is actually pushing through doom, all the way over to more or less Stoner rock territory at times. The vocals are about the only thing truly in Sludge territory, the majority of the music is in melancholy Doom lands, but sometimes there's a improvisatory looseness that reminds me of Stoner rock. So, it actually reminds me of my entry point into all these microgenres: early Kylesa. I know that the influence goes the other way around, but as a listener, it sounds to me like Tragedy have been listening to  "To walk a Middle Course" and are trying to bring that into their sound.
Then, I finally caved in, and got the Djerv CD. I say caved in, because there are so many things to dislike about the band- Agnete has Euro Rock Chick disease on her clean vocals ( her growls are another matter altogether), the stuff is over-produced beyond recognition ( recorded, engineered and mastered by three different guys on two different continents? really??? What next, gonna get Swizz Beatz and Diplo to do remixes?) and Death Metal pedigrees actually put me off. But, the songs are really strong, in a HIM, Tiamat, and (less) Lacuna Coil  kind of "blackened Pop" kind of way. Also, Agnete's growl/scream is exactly up my alley. So, in that fashion is a hybrid of a different sort- stuff I don't like mixed with stuff I do- so yes, it took me a year to cave in and buy the CD.
Now that I have, I think it's exactly where Metal should go. See, as I keep on saying, I'm not much of a Metal head, so this would probably go down like a lead Zeppelin (hehe) but all the "extreme" stuff in Metal: the seven string guitars, the 30 minute guitar solos, the blast beats, the gargled vocals, and so on- they all seem like gimmicks to me. So, whereas most of metal is hung up on what I'd call gimmicks, so much so that there's no music left. Djerv, on the other hand, start with solid rock songs, then add those extreme metal touches exactly like I see them- as gimmicks. Still, they're Metal at heart- considering that they do a better version of "Symphony of Destruction" than Megadeth do. So, we're back to my thoughts about simplification and complexity. I think that because Djerv are making music that's real, and direct to them, they can cut through the various levels of hype and genre to communicate what I think Metal should say- this is rock music brought up to the Nth degree. If you have to simplify my tastes, I guess that's about as best as I can do...

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Silversun Pickups -Neck of the Woods

I just got the CD today. I've only listened to it 1 time. So, here are some thoughts, call it a review only if you're very brave.
I am a fan of Silversun Pickups, and not a fan of Smashing Pumpkins, but even I can hear the vocal similarities between Brian Aubert and Billy Corgan. That having said, I don't think there are any real parallels musically between the bands that aren't better drawn between other bands. Mostly, the past records have reminded me of The Comas. This new one is different than that. Honestly, I hear connections with another contemporary band- The Twilight Sad. Not quite caught up to the new record, but along the same melancholy atmospheric vibe. What that says is that it's darker, more moody, more minor key, with a more synthetic beat. The guitars are less of a fuzzed out blur, and more skeletal twang, with bursts of distortion, like angry fits, as opposed to the out-of- focus shoegazing comforter of sound they've done before. They keyboards are less melodic, more noisey. I like it, a lot. Maybe more than the last record. I like icy electronics, meet raw guitars. Heck, listen to old Tubeway Army records- that's the new Wave sound that half my generation fell in love with- so I don't think my aesthetics are very far removed from normal. What makes it a little more odd is the nakedness of some of the loops, the glitchiness of the noises, and the almost atonal guitars stuffed under honey sweet melodies ( as opposed to the Spun sugar melodies they've used before)
Oh, and the packaging, something I almost never mention in most CD releases, is gorgeous- wonderfully still photos, almost on the edge of offering some kind of narrative form, but still oblique- just so, so pretty.
So, on first impression, I think this may lose some of the American audience, but gain some European respect. I can see them on a bill with Twillight Sad, White Lies, Editors, dEUS, Kashmir, and Silence is Sexy. That's a much better crowd than Smashing Pumpkins, any day.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

G8 in Frederick County, yeah!

So, are you one of those who travels around to protest the various G8 summits? Well, then you probably already know that the next one is on the 18th and 19th at Camp David, and, unless you have a death wish, that means your protest will have to be in Frederick Maryland. 
So, Hi! I live in Frederick County, and I'm actually sympathetic to your cause. However, that makes me a bit rare, here. This is a pretty conservative, pretty republican area. Even if Frederick, as a city, is trying to put on the appearance of a liberal, Artsy College town, the truth is- this is Tea Party country. 
So, a few tips-
1. Tread lightly. You're behind enemy lines, here.
2. We've got a wannabe Joe Arpaio  in Sheriff Chuck Jenkins. Don't count on Law enforcement to see things your way. You might make for a good headline.
3. That having said,  there are a few places in town where they'll be a little more friendly to you-
The Common Market, MOM,  The Frederick Coffee Company and Hood College but I said a "little" more friendly. Keep that in mind
4. If you're planning on camping- may I suggest  Gathland State park.  You should be able to find some spots here, and hey, that's Blair Witch territory.
5. and Finally- keep in mind, if you want a mass movement, you have to appeal to the masses. Keep it friendly.