Friday, August 30, 2013


Just quickly, as an antidote to that last little bit of bile- I'm really looking forward to some upcoming releases- new Bloody Beetroots, new Paul McCartney ( really, I ain't kidding, what I've heard, I like) and new Red Fang, just off the top of my head. Should be a good fall....

Nine Inch Nails- Hesitation Marks

I really don't like to go negative on things. It's not because I'm so fragile that I cannot stand debate, it's because I don't see the point. That sucks, I hate it, so what? There are hundreds of new things being released every day- new video, audio, written, and painted works- there's so much to enjoy, why spend extra time on something you don't like? You learned what you needed to learn, now move on, right?
Well, I'm going to be upfront- I've heard the new Nine Inch Nails CD, and I didn't like it. Three things ruin whatever good might be on it. First, The awful drum sound. Synthetic drums, yeah, I get it, but these are really bad- tinny, tiny fake handclaps and casio preset snares abound. It sounds so awful I can barely hear anything else. It's really a let down, as Alan Moulder is one of my favorite producers precisely for the great drum sounds he can generate- listen to Curve's "Gift" and tell me that the drums don't make the songs. Secondly, I'm just not a fan of Trent's vocals. He sounds like the worst parts of Morrisey and Billy Joel to me. Nothing he can do for me there. Just a matter of taste. But by far my biggest problem is just how cynical and contemptuous the whole affair is. Here's a guy who had money rolling in from soundtrack work, and could indulge in his Arty fantasies with his wife, no less. So, why revive Nine Inch Nails? Seriously the only reason I can think of is because he wants to be a rock star in the most sold-out, cynical audience hating way. I haven't forgotten his stance. But, seriously- think it through- why isn't this called "Trent Reznor- Hesitation Marks"  ?  The lyrics aren't the same, the music isn't the same, many of the musicians aren't the same. The answer comes back loud and clear- marketing. People know Nine Inch Nails. Then, you add to it that little bit of condescension about releasing an "audiophile" version, as a download, if you buy it from his website. So, you fight against loudness by releasing an MP3? Even if you have only a little understanding of audio, that's bullshit on the face of it- the problem with loudness is compression- you have to compress the lower and higher frequencies so's you can fatten up the middle, essentially. So, to combat that you'll put it out on a yet-more compressed format? Here's my "alternate take"- he knew that becoming a major label apologist would lose some core fans. So, he does this little stunt to both ghetto-ize, and appeal to his small hipster core.
So, you can go ahead, and believe the hype machine on this new record. I find it actually offensive. I'm not one to declare anyone sold out, but this enterprise is wholly soulless and yes, sold-out. I cannot let this go- I mean the freakin' Quietus compares it to Prince?!?   Umm, maybe in that they're both insufferable, but musically, Prince has done everything he can to subvert the expectation that he'll release endless Purple Rains like some kind of slave to the lowest common denominator- This is Trent doing exactly that. So, feel free to indulge in it- I know I'm just a nerd, here. Fine- but I won't take that cheap trick.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Dead Meadow Warble Womb

I wasn't going to write about Dead Meadow. I don't hate their music, but I don't like it, either. I think True Widow do a similar sound, only better. Likewise, The Black Angels.  ( Actually, a triple bill would make for a great spaghetti western title: The Black Angels: Dead Meadow, True Widow ). Basically, they do pretty generic psyche rock of the massive amounts of reverb variety. So, I was listening to this record and asking myself what the point was? Why make this music? The message seems basically to be "Hey, we did drugs, and we like them" . While I won't get into a discussion about why all drugs should be legal, just know that I think that. That's a really thin message, though. "We did illegal drugs, and we liked it" is also pretty much Miley Cyrus' message this summer. I am not moved in either event.  That's the thing I want to talk about, right there, though- what's lacking is the emotional response. That's why I don't really care about your political agenda in music ( in other parts of my life, I care a lot, but musically, not at all) and I don't care about how you look, or what instrument or genre you play- I'm just looking for something that gives me an emotional response- that's the communication I look for in music. Maybe other Arts I find other things, but music has to emotionally connect with me, or I just can't care.....

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Franz Ferdinand- Right Thoughts Right Words Right Actions

So, I'm going straight from Radiant Republic to Franz Ferdinand, huh? Yup. Because it makes sense to me.
First because, Franz Ferdinand's style of pop is very math-y. You know damn-skippy these Scotsmen own metronomes, and use them. You know they mess with time signatures for dynamics, the way grunge bands messed with volume. So, yes, you can call it disco, but I hear math.  Then, there's This. On top of that, they know a great musician's secret- the best place to score a musical instrument, in the entire world, is Chicago. Seriously. I am giving away a trade secret, here, but when I was touring as a sound engineer, virtually everyone, performers to lighting techs would set aside time for shopping in Chicago. I own a 1971 Ross flanger, a 1978 TS-9, and part of a 1980 American Stratocaster ( I say "part" because I bought the whole guitar, broke the neck, so I replaced that, and I re-wired it, and screwed up doing the parallel wiring, so I replaced the pick ups. The replacement parts came from elsewhere) from various trips to Chicago. So, that Nick McCarthy picked up his white SG in Chicago tells me that he's a real musician- it's better than a secret handshake. I know, most people who read this won't care, but for those select few who "get it", this is one point I've been making since I was a teenager: musical talent is an alchemy between aesthetics, technique, intelligence and luck. You can no more teach talent than you can teach sex appeal- it's a mercurial and rare gift. So, just because a band, or musician doesn't play a bunch of notes in a certain sequence, at a certain tempo has nothing to do with talent, any more than sales do. So, that Franz Ferdinand don't play avant garde Jazz, and do sell quite a few records means very little in terms of their talent as musicians. That they can write and play some musical phrases that emotionally resonate is the only part that matters. Those who want to tell you that Devin Townsend or John Fahey are more talented than say, Mick Jones are simply confusing virtuoso technique for talent. So, yes, I have no problem whatsoever between transitioning from talking about one group of talented musicians to another, if you know what I mean.
You'll note that I studiously avoided talking about fashion- there's that too. The fact is, I'm a sucker for the Post-punk/New Wave style. More so than Punk, and more so than Rocker styles- though I love them, too. So, in the early 2000's when that whole thing came into vogue, I was very pleased to see it come back. Bloc Party, Futureheads, Kaiser Chiefs, and Franz Ferdinand. I know there were others, and they even sold more records, but these four bands connected with me. Bloc Party for the connection between agit-pop ( a pun on "Agitprop", geddit?) and confessional songwriting, Futureheads for the wonderful vocals meeting the spiky melodies, Kaiser Chiefs for basically being Blur when Blur didn't want to be Blur anymore, and Franz Ferdinand for bringing Russian Constructivism and Math-Rock down to Pulp's pub. They're like Elliot Sharp and Carlos Alomar  after plastic surgery, deciding to play Burt Bacharach-influenced Rezillos tunes. Get the idea?
If not, listen to Love Illumination ( and especially this version)  then Some Weird Sin , and Geometry.
And Evil Eye is a cousin of  This is Radio Clash.  Meanwhile, the title track sounds like dEUS at their most Beefheartian .
Just because some magazine or some corporate exec at Clearcom decided that Franz Ferdinand are a pop band, to marketed to teenagers doesn't mean there's nothing interesting going on.
Even if you totally disagree with me, I hope you take this away- whether we're talking about super obscure grindcore, or top 40 pop, music has its own value for the listener.
So, yeah, I like the new Franz Ferdinand record...