Saturday, October 24, 2009
Monday, August 31, 2009
I came into my formative years right after he offed himself. I remember where I was when the DJ announced it. Waiting in the parking lot in my father's car, alone so I could listen to any station I wanted. At the time it meant precious little to me. The name was familiar, how could it not be, the biggest rock star on the planet despite all he could do to rebuke it.
Let's extrapolate that. I know not a single artist today that doesn't suffer from American Idol syndrome. Every single whore who grabs a mic or straps on a guitar, lives and dies by the spotlight. I grew up having a hero who publicly announced disdain for everything status quo. He denounced a clean cut America. His greatest shame was his vast popularity. He hated his most successful album, and made mockery of his greatest claim to fame. He was punk rock until his image was robbed and homogenized by the main stream. This is how I learned that anything society does not like, it will co-opt and dilute until it becomes fodder for the middle class.
Elvis was public enemy #1 till he started singing surf rock in a Hawaiien shirt. So why would anyone be surprised by the Radio Disney turn rap took in our lifetime.
I came late to the game and fell in love with a ghost. His voice haunting the next few years of my life. This was right before the internet killed music. As much as I might to bullshit myself into believing that Pandora's box opened for the good of the art form, that couldn't be further from truth. Back before Napster picked the lock, we weren't able to hear new artists every day. I couldn't download more music than I even listen to. By necessity, I had to absorb every new record, every single song for all I could. It was an Oliver Twist life, but you were appreciative for each table scrap.
Music has never meant so much since and I'll never love a song as much I had then. (I want to cry.)
To qoute Bob Dylan, "It must have been the weather, or something like that", but something hooked me and never let go. I was recording songs off the radio, and I caught the last couple verses of Lithium. It sounded cool. Real cool. So much so I repeated those 2 minutes over and over again till I had to tell someone at school or have my head explode.
Don Mutthart lent me tape he had made of Brian Marensic's Nevermind album, as well as a couple songs off of In Utero, and the ironic "I Hate Myself, I Want to Die" track.
When I got to my grandparents house later that day, I waited till I was alone in the house, and I played that tape as loud as I could. What I heard that day transcended music, obliterated melody, and transformed my concept of what I had always thought a song was. I never heard a single note that afternoon... I felt emotion, raw, unbridled, and unapologetic.
Truth be told, I find myself seeking that same high that I experienced once back in grade school. Moments come and go, some better, most worse, and feelings like flavors, have never been duplicated in quite the same way.
I'm playing Nirvana's Nevermind on loop, and honestly, it kind of sucks. Lithium surprisingly holds up after all these years. It's simple. Stupid simple. Verse Chorus Verse Chorus other Chorus. The lyrics I once thought deep and profound, are scattered tangents, peppering the scenery his music makes. As a lyricist, his body of work remains best as a whole. It's an autobiography told as a fevered dream, punctuated by night terrors and waking screams. The kind of bad sleep you get when you dream of your own death.
Polly breaks the mold, seeing as it is based on a macabre story that captured his imagination and took this notorious introvert outside himself, only to give him a new way to view himself.
On A Plain can't help but be nonsensical brilliance. It borders the line of being too damn pop to be of any importance, other than a petty grunge footnote, but his growl that closes the song is the reminder one needs to remember why he could never have been, just average.
Underneath the Bridge... it's the only song Butch Vig got right. Almost impossible to record, but worth every ounce of the challenge.
It's nothing new to sully a beloved namesake. Most people seem to struggle to become the monetary embodiment of themselves, doing so post-mortem seems a logical next step. Seeing an intimate hero of mine in an upcoming video game, has me thinking once again of those days of my misspent youth. They've digitized his memory, a dancing monkey for ignorant fools, clacking elementary colored keys, hoping to unlock more hollow, soulless songs.
That afternoon I met with a spirit, in a near biblical sense. Despite my feelings of the money changers who set up shop in the fond memories of my youth, that afternoon I learned that art and life sans passion is practice for dieing. That one vivid memory of enlightenment, that day I realized I must put childish things behind, that moment I lost the bliss of ignorance, that moment I bit the apple and knew of good and evil... that one memory is mine to keep.
Kurt Cobain 1967-1994
Endless, Nameless. Butch Vig mastered a throw away track, better than the entire album.
Monday, April 13, 2009
The new album Repo by the Black Dice is a return of the DJ influenced dance and break beats inspired electronica, laced with a steady helping of modern experimental rock. Admittedly they have a sound not treaded lightly, as their MetaCritic score has me at odds here with the populace, but I am no stranger to having tastes against the grain.
The majority, especially at the front end, is quite fun, and has had me doing my stationary dance all week long. This is the same dance I reserve for live concerts where I bob my head slightly and pat my upper thigh to, what I believe to be, the beat. The later half of Repo seems to lose momentum, and grow stale.
Tracks like Nite Creme, and Ten Inches are laden with short interjections of Industrial riffs reminiscent of old Ministry albums, but with hooks I can groove to. La Cucaracha reminds me a bit of The Avalanches with the interjections of spliced sound clips, and looped randomness.
Most songs show growth and, although the tend to wander aimlessly, never stagnate too long for my ADD. Like the weather, if you don’t like it, wait. Most Black Dice fans may hear a lot of the “same old”, needless to say I am accepting the good with the bad on this album. Although Repo doesn’t answer any questions, or fill any holes in my collection, I have no problem disagreeing with the mass consensus if it means enjoying a new album.
Tuesday, April 7, 2009
For me Lady Sovereign has been a very guilty pleasure of mine, and her latest Jigsaw, is no different. As an (amateur) music critic, I should be demanding more from a sub 4 minute pop artist, and wondering when more Grime scene collaborations, ala The Battle from Vertically Challenged, make their way to a new album. But I digress, or rather regress, as I’ve found Lady S-O-V! to be an artist where you must leave your reservations, as well as your criticisms at the door, if you’re to ever enjoy a single moment of her style, or as some may assess, shtick.
I’m going to put the downside of the album out of the way up front. For instance I haven’t found anything on this album to be truly new or shocking, even against the grain for a typical S-O-V album. That said, the title track comes off a tad darker and more serious, perhaps an attempt in taking a more adult approach to her song smithing, but it’s the rare sunspot of soul bearing found on this outing in which she makes a subtle attempt at singing.
Also, I’d be doing a disfavor to many a music fan if I were to omit mention of So Human that hits you second track out of the gates. It utilizes a sample from Rob Smith’s Close to Me, as in the Cure catalogue. Let’s put my impressions of the song aside and just say, every time I hear a sample, or even a cover for that matter, it always leaves me wanting to stop half track in and listen to the original. So, not a fan.
Where this album shines, is oddly where it falters, with by the numbers tracks like I Got You Dancing… and I Got The Goods. Of course many of Lady Sov’s songs tend to be hit and miss with me, and Jigsaw follows queue. I will say that the production is seemingly superior from what I have come expect from this artist, in fact I’m starting to hear a bit more Western style hip-hop influence this time around.
Again, playing good against the bad, Jigsaw feels short, being only 10 tracks unless you get the iTunes bonus track, with all but one track at radio play length. It’s short, sweet, and to the point. Expect another release heavy on the fun factor and light on anything to be taken seriously.
(click links for the full stories) From The Jonas Brothers, to Tiffany, to Bobby Darin, if trends have taught us anything, it’s that there is simply no underestimating the buying power of the Teen Youth Market. In a society where people vote with their dollar, it’s always a disturbing sight to see were the public’s passion lies, yet one recent study has shown that overall youth consumerism is on a decline. Not surprisingly, CD sales are down, but even more startling, Piracy is on a decline as well.
What then does that say about your industry then RIAA, when even the temptation of having your product for free yields no takers? In fact much has been said of pushing new budget conscious business models based around the music industry. Take Google for instance, starting an ad revenue based free music site in China, a country where an overwhelming number of people get there music (and movies) pirated anyway.
But don’t get overexcited folks, this may be decades away from happening over here. Ads will never generate enough cash to satiate the RIAA’s greed. This is the same organization that chose to spend millions on frivolous law suits, that forced file trading to only become more efficient, and more community based, rather than figure out a “Cloud” business model that would satisfy everyone.
New innovations are must to promote a sense of acceptance that file traders never had till now as their community centered exuberance becomes acknowledged. Enter the ill fated MySpace, buzz word of the early 2000’s. I never understood the popularity of this site, nor the Face book counterpart. I never found a single one of those web pages to ever be informative, or useful in the least. I consider them the anti-wiki (ironically it can be seen that wiki is also the anti-wiki). I don’t want to see pictures of my stupid friends posing in front of mirrors, or be forced to listen to a Rascal Flatts song against my will, or see the quiz you took that proves you are a “Quagmire”, and I’m a “Cleveland”. In fact the only thing that seems to be growing steadily is the popularity of MySpace Music, which again is only useful to get the link of the bands “actual” webpage, unless of course that link just redirects you back to the same MySpace page.
They really need to rework the page format, and just plain remove the mile long nature of the comment crap, and make it a resource to inform fans as to the ongoing endeavors of that particular act, as in upcoming events, latest singles, and album release dates. Just stop bombarding me with crap I don’t want and never asked for, and it will become a much needed hub for small groups who need the word spread quickly and easily.
Ticket Alternative is also breaking waves for the little guy. Many artist are being turned off by the way large labels handle small acts, and are opting for personalized servicing in smaller companies where they can be treated as an individual, and not just lumped by genre and demographic. There’s nothing worse than being misrepresented, or poorly handled as Amanda Palmer knows well.
I mentioned in Ep 12 of our podcast that, while it’s wonderful a few lone acts are accepting the digital medium, and embracing the file sharing community, it’ll take real names to garner the attention and acceptance to push the industry to a new standard. It will take the Bruce Springsteen’s, the U2’s, and the Tobey Keith’s of the world who can make all their coin from touring, and could charge a nominal fee for a full album, with the option of ordering a physical disc. That’s why I’m so surprised to see the group Celebration announce via manifesto, that they will release their music free of charge, and if you wish, you can donate to the cause. I did BTW.
Despite the hippy-dippy nature of their ideals, and the tarot theme flash nature of the site, I find comfort in the ambition of those who choose their own destiny, and opt not to be lead, but to live and die by the decisions they make. Godspeed!
New episode of the KNMS podcast (ep 14) now available. Covered are these headlines and more, check the next blog for more info.
I’ve recently had my senses accosted, mostly at my own request, by groups that have thrown everything and the dirty dish filled sink at me. I wonder how actual critics do this, of course monetary reimbursement for my endeavors would ease the pain. But to ease the nature of my efforts sans hazard pay, I am rewarded with the goose down pillow for my weary head that is Venice is Sinking.
That’s a good way to introduce my current muse, and their recent release Azar. This was another I was skeptical about, as I’ve been seemingly bombarded by a glut of noise rock affairs, with the obligatory disenchanted shoegaze vocals. One wiff of their sound and I thought I was in for another chore of a listen, as the song Azar One starts in a typical experimental phase, with traditional electrical buzzes and hums, followed by monotone synths, and a creeping paced allegro build. Within the span of a couple songs, such as Ryan’s Song ands Okay, the album swings the bow quickly starboard side, and ventures into a pop friendly area that I found both intriguing and inviting.
The more I listened, the more I drew conscious similarities between the vocals of Daniel Lawson and Karolyn Troupe, as well as the scattered orchestration of accompanying horns, to one of my all time favorite albums in Belle and Sebastian’s, Dear Catastrophe waitress. While most of this album seems a bit more haunted than the aforementioned album, and perhaps resembles better the mood of their earlier works, I feel Belle had reached a pinnacle of blending pop music while maintaining a keen level of depth, accompanied by the observational and introspective lyricism they have proven mainstay.
I hear other influences as well as in some of the more ballady attempts of Coyne with the Flaming Lips, but over all, Venice is banking hard on a sound subtle, soothing, and warm like a glass of milk. I wouldn’t classify this an album drenched in sadness, nor dark foreshadowing, with songs like Young Master Sunshine, this is a laid back disc that’ll wrap you like blanket, and make any chair a recliner.
Buy some better headphones, and listen to this album!
Saturday, March 28, 2009
I admit I am not a huge fan of Drone and Shoegazer rock, because quite frankly, I just don’t get it. Enter the Crystal Stilts album, Alight of Night. This is their debut album, and I wanted to preview it and mention their new 2 track single, Love is a Wave.
Here’s the problem, I think musically it’s a fun dirty (unpolished) album, with inspired moments speckled throughout. The problem I have is the polarizing vocalist Brad Hargett. I feel like an old man, and I just want to sit this guy down and have a long talk with him. Damn it, if you can’t get excited about your own music, how the hell do expect me to!?
I getting tired of albums that almost dare you to like them. Listening to this was like Indie jazz; I had to imagine another (good) vocalist in order to enjoy it. I chose to use Jello Biafra’s smarmy charm and satirical edge to see me through this ordeal. What I really think this album needs is a Banjo. No one can continuously mope and mumble with a banjo about.
Ultimately, this album is defiantly enjoyable, but only in short bursts. Upon relistening and further in depth review, I found plenty more to like. I even noticed at times the Crystal Stilts making an attempt to cheer the lead singer up by adding a tamborine on The Sinking, which is like a banjo on an installment plan. Also, overuse of the echo machine gets tiresome after a while, especially after just re-listening to Fleet Foxes last week.
I highly recommend checking out the track, Love is a Wave from their new single of the same name, downloadable courtesy of Slumberland Records. Brad sounds like he starting to come around. We’ll keep him in our prayers.