Saturday, March 16, 2013

Blackmail II

So, speaking of EuroAlt music, I also have the new one by Germany's Blackmail, II . It's a frustrating mixed bag. For every really pretty good song like The Rush, Day of Doom or Dual, there's some pretty awful song like Impact or Shine.  There's probably no better argument than this record for A la Carte music buying at Itunes or Amazon, and there is a school of thought for music blogs exactly like that- that I should be telling you which tracks to buy, and which to skip. My problem with that is that I respect other people too much for that. I think you can easily make up your own mind as to what you like. What I'm doing, instead is just pointing out what I like, in case you may have missed something.  So, what do I like about Blackmail? I like how they take American and English influences and screw them up into something different. Case in point: The Rush. We start out with American Indie guitars along the lines of Sonic Youth or maybe Pavement. Then we add sweet high male vocal harmonies, like Crosby Stills Nash and Young, then, for the chorus the distortion roars in like Afghan Whigs. About two minutes in, they have a bridge section with a slide guitar solo straight out of the George Harrison playbook, while Deep Purple organ swells underneath.  Get the idea? Combinations that would be contradictions in an American or British band ( The Australians aren't afraid to mix it up, either, but they tend to go heavier) and it works very well. In America, the stalwart radio condition is "Classic Rock". Since the early 1990's, the one constant is a station that plays the hits from about 1968 through 1978. Never mind that what would constitute "classic rock" for a guy my age would either be hair metal or punk rock. Never mind that, if we were to apply the same formula, in 2013, classic Rock should be Goo Goo Dolls and Live. Nope, we have to preserve the Baby Boomers' false mythologies. So,  how dare a band mix slacker indie with  psychedelia, or grunge and punk into glam, right? The result is stultifying. It's why hip hop has degenerated into rap, pop into boy bands, and rock has gone from something vital to a punch line. Don't believe me?  Dave Grohl  shows up in Tenacious D and the Pick of Destiny. As does Dio. Get the picture? I'll be digging into this topic when I get around to talking about the Sound City soundtrack, but this is why, apart from the underground, I'm looking to Europe and Australia- they haven't suffered nearly the same "Freedom Rock"( a great coinage from Black Francis)  shackles as has America. There's a reason why The Foo Fighters and Queens of the Stone Age have become a kind of canon for Rock- they're the last of the Americans who understand that the whole point of rock is to be a hybrid of past present and future, and a hybrid of genre and flavor. So, yes, I would suggest you pick up Blackmail's latest record so you can pick out what bastardizations you like.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Kashmir- EAR

So, I haven't mentioned it for awhile, but I still have my love for European Alt pop rock. But, I still got the new Kashmir record EAR. They're still doing relatively gentle alt pop- however whereas earlier stuff was in the Radiohead to Coldplay type soft rock, this one is more umm... Flaming Lips to Blitzen Trapper maybe? It's very gentle music- I don't know if they get the "rock" tag anymore. Yes, there are drums, but it's going more for lush, yet simple acoustic with electronic effects type of pop. In a ghostly way, it reminds me of latter-day Beatles, but far more quiet. One song is even called "Peace in the Heart". It's really good for background music, but when it catches you the melodies are deeply satisfying and ear pleasing. Honestly, here's what I think the best way to hear this would be: as the chill out room music at a David Bowie circa "Ashes to Ashes" themed rave. Meaning that nothing here will rile you up, but you may have some preconceived notions challenged a bit. Which separates them from the Coldplay-to- Decembrists end of the spectrum. If you just want to sample start with Seraphina and Piece of the Sun If you like that, step into their yet Another Green World ( yes, there's some Brian Eno in there)

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Chelsea Boys

So, let me get this out of the way first: Sonic Youth are broken up. Thurston and Kim are broken up. I really liked some Sonic Youth records- primarily Sister and Daydream Nation, but others as well. Yes, I also had a strange kind of romantic idealism about their marriage- the notion that a married couple could function as one, in Art and life, appealed to me. However, that is not why I like Chelsea Light Moving. While it is Thurston Moore's new band, and he still sounds like himself, both in his songwriting, and in his guitar playing, I think it'd be wrong to simply view this as a Sonic Youth offshoot. This is a noisey Arty punk band, and thus definitely in the same field as Sonic Youth, but there are major differences. First, the vibe, the feel, the tone, whatever you want to call it, is far more masculine, far more aggressive, far more rock than Sonic Youth. There are short bits that even get up to Unwound/Jesus Lizard/Cows territory. I think that is why the reviews are only mildly positive. People want it to be more balanced, like Sonic Youth was- but it's not. This is Thurston Moore in full bore "Rock God" mode. He's indulging himself, sure, but it's also not a solo album- it's about dudes jamming, and not so much in a Dave Matthews sense- in a garage band , in the garage sense. This is the core of rock music- guys, fueled by id, asserting themselves into the universe. Yes, women can do that, too, and yes, Samara Lubelski is female, but it's still mostly a guy's game.  If that appeals to you, as it does to me, you might very well dig Chelsea Light Moving.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

I haven't forgotten

Ok, How about a slightly longer take on three CDs I gave short shrift to?
David Bowie's "The Next Day". Now, on the "David Bowie scale", which is to say, in relation to his other albums, it ranks somewhere around "Heathen" for me- which is to say not all that high, but certainly listenable. On a plain, ordinary scale, that's still pretty high- call it a 3 star rating on the Zagat scale- but not perfect. Songs like I'd rather Be High, and You feel so lonely You could Die are barely disguised retreads of ideas, and melodies already explored. However, tracks like "Where are we now?" and "Heat" have the avante garde goods that Bowie used to deliver with regularity. Still, most of the tracks are good, putting out pop-rock with a pinch of eclectic artiness, like What would happen if a crooner like Perry Como, or Burt Bacharach were forced to interpret My Bloody Valentine, Scott Walker and Sonic Youth for a Vegas routine. If that interests you, as it should, then you'll probably like it. If you're new to David Bowie, this isn't the place to start, and if you're still awaiting the return of the 1980's Pop Ziggaurat that David Bowie used to be, you'll think he's gotten old and boring. But, if you liked the Berlin albums, but have aged to mellow complacency, then this may be exactly what you want.
Clutch are local boys for me, but they are on tour so often that I rarely see them. I even missed out on getting tickets to their magnificent show due on 4/20. However, because I have beer making friends, I was able to score an advance copy of the new CD, and, for me, this is the best Clutch  record since Blast Tyrant. Please don't misunderstand, I enjoyed stuff they've done since 2004, but I'm not fully prepared to follow them all the way down into some of the bloozrawk cul-de-sacs they have ventured into. Unlike many of their fans, I'm also not all aboard with Neil's lyrics, which I think are sometimes Bull for shit's sake. So, Earth Rocker has mercifully (for me) tightened up on the music, and eased off from Neil's meanderings. Tracks like "Crucial Velocity" ,'Mr Freedom" 'DC Sound Attack" and 'Book Saddle & Go" make their points with the tempo and the tune long before Neil can tell me what he means. Yes, there's Heavy, heavy blues involved, but this is a pure rock LP, more than it is anything else. In fact, they have mentioned Judas Priest in some of the interviews, and that's not completely misplaced. So, even for a heavy rock band, you could almost say that this is their 'Heavy Metal" record. For them, I think that's a great thing. Tim Sult needs to rock his P-90 suited Junior more often. The P-90 bridge position into a Marshall half stack is literally the most "rocknroll" tone possible, whether you're talking punk, glam or metal,  and it's obvious he's using that, probably with a JCM900 . Also, it's like an old vinyl LP- about 45 minutes long- 4 or 5  songs to a "side"- each about 4 to 5 minutes long- like a classic hard rock or metal LP. Oh, and the Beard thing? That's a Maryland/ mid-Atlantic in joke that went international.
Finally, Swingin Utters ( or $wingin utter$, if you prefer) have come back ( we won't mention "Here, Under Protest" because I definitely have a minority viewpoint on that one) and aren't the same band they were in 2000- both literally, and metaphorically. I really like this one because of the difference. See, they'd gone from a generic plaid mohawk retropunk band to a Celtic folkpunknroll band- like Dropkick Murphys or Flogging Molly, but with a more So-cal Rocknroll vibe, a la Social Distortion. Now, there's an emphasis on clean, or nearly clean rapidly downstroked guitars, like early new wave- and it has that same spastic energy, like a Rezillos, Spizzengergi, Pylon or (more recently) the Briefs. I'm sure this has something to do with Jack Dalrymple- as he'd be the new element. The end result approaches classic postpunk- like the early Pixies, or Strokes, but with a manic garage thrill, like The Hives. The distorted telephone vocals definitely helps to give it the proper "lo fi" setting. It's hard to pick out "standout" tracks, because it all goes rushing by, like a bike messenger with a bad case of assquake. But, Brains and Poorly Formed made it on to my Mp3 player first.  

Intronaut's New One is pretty good

Intronaut occupy an odd space in my collection. On the one hand, they have passages that are extreme Metal, and very much follow that convention. On the other hand, they have vocal harmonies and Clean passages that seem not to far removed from the psychedelic work of Baroness. Then again, the time signatures are something out of the Meshuggah playbook. The dissonance would place them also in a mathy kind of place. Perhaps psychedelic math skronk? Doom jazz?  In any event, I have their new one " Habitual Levitations (Instilling Words with Tones) and I like it. Maybe it's the increased emphasis on vocal melody, or maybe they've honed their songcraft, but they don't sound quite so "cut and paste". Things flow a bit more, and the dissonance works as a dynamic device, while the melodies are a bit less shoehorned in. I still prefer Kylesa, Baroness and Torche  but this is the first Intronaut record I listened to more than once. You can listen to it at their website  and decide for yourself, but I believe this new one is more worth your time than their past releases.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

TV Change

Just a heads up that I'm going to be making a change in my TV soon. I'm going from Cable TV to Internet only. I plan on writing about what that entails. So, where we are at, right now is that I'm paying about 150/month for Cable TV and "High Speed" internet. This is their "discounted" rate: I think the breaking point for me was when I asked them if we could get that under 100/month, and they could not, even though they are currently running multiple promotions stating they can do phone, internet and TV for under 100. Basically, I'm tired of being penalized for living in a part of the country where legislators don't care about the citizens, so basic consumer protections hardly exist. See, the Cable TV company has a monopoly, here. I cannot switch companies. If I want TV, I can either pay the Cable TV company whatever they want, or I can do what I'm doing, and pay the same company for Internet ( again, at whatever rate they demand) and not pay them  for Cable, and subscribe to multiple services online ( I'm figuring on Hulu plus, Netflix and HBOGo) .
So far, I've purchased a Roku Box, and I plan on buying a new Modem and wireless router today. I have to get my wife to call the Cable Company, because the service is technically in her name, and I'm hoping to get her to do that on Monday. Then, it's a matter of subscribing. I'll report back. I really want this to work out, and I think I've done enough research that it should.