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Sunday, March 31, 2002
 
Britney Spears

Some (late) Easter thoughts from Britney.




 
Nuno Canavarro- Plux Quba (Moikai)

While I know where this came from (Portugal 1988 via Chicago friend's apartment building via his CD burner), where the hell did this come from? Similar artists on allmusic include: Mouse on Mars, Microstoria, Oval, and To Rococo Rot. But this was made in 1988...in Portugal, no less. Enough of the incredulity, Nuno crafts a glitchy, uncomfortable album that is very interesting in its effects of chopped up vocals and melodica. It's as though LaMonte Young's Well Tuned Piano, Steve Reich's It's Gonna Rain, and Oval's sterility were all rolled up into one giant package with slight modifications to create something entirely unique and unheard of, in its time. An interesting historical artifact, if nothing else.




Saturday, March 30, 2002
 
Sigur Ros Review

honestly, as for replacing the old sigur ros review (i remember it... it was like 6.8 or so) with a new, more predictable 9.5 one... why? i mean, i agree that it's as great as everyone thinks it is, but i dont see anything wrong with not liking it or whatever. i dont think a site like this should have to reinforce what every other site says.



Thursday, March 28, 2002
 
Miles Davis - "He Loved Him Madly"

This is a wonderful song, but I'll be damned if I can discern the purpose of the crudely panned percussion -- actually, it doesn't pan at all, but rather alternates in the left and right channels -- that goes on in its first five minutes. (I've only noticed the exact severity of it in headphones.) It does, however, seem to serve as an interesting link to later loop-based music, since I think it's the same few seconds of music we're hearing again and again, extracted from the main body of the song (that is, the part where the drums come in). Still, I prefer the messy tabla edits on a song like "Black Satin," since we almost expect a sonic free-for-all by the time we've heard the taunting trumpet theme spiral into chaos; here, it just seems to get in the way of a hypnotic soundscape. Maybe that was Miles' intention, though: to give it a bit of restlessness.

Nice album cover, by the way.


 
regarding Declan Patrick McManus

i got "this years model" a few years ago, and i loved it. great production, keyboards allover, decent guitar stuff. It had that new wave sound i was into at the time, but with the great songwriting that most other dispensers of the style lacked. When I got "my aim is true" (the one-disc re-issue with bonus tracks), I hated it. I thought it was "too country," the band was much looser, and the production, well, sucked.

But now, I don't know, maybe I've grown up, but "My Aim Is True" now resonates with me much much more than this years model... maybe i pay more attention to the lyrics (which are more varied, if not better)... or maybe in the past year I've gotten burnt out on "good production" and prefer something rough and unpolished.

oh, and does anyone have the upcoming new album? I'm curious to hear what *just* elvis costello (i.e. not "Elvis Costello & _______") is up to these days...


 
Sigur Ros- Agaetis Byrjun

I think that Sigur Ros' secod record is more prog than anyone lets on. Made up lyrics (the ones taht are understandable are reportedly abuot elves and other appropriately prog song characters), extended song structures, and a general lack of emotion throughout the proceedings because of the musician's showing off their obvious talent. Actually, the last one doesn't fit and that's why Agaetis Byrjun is such a success in the eyes of indie fans. It takes the most obviously interesting characteristics of prog rock and either deflates them by having them by in a different language or sends them to the other end of the spectrum by making the music very easy to play- but devoid of much technical prowess to play it, once you have an e-bow, that is. It also floats prog to the other end of the spectrum by having this music be almost overwhelmingly emotional, at the expense of meaty resonance. Sure, I can let all of this fly by me, but what I got when I'm done?

Admittedly, I loved the album when I first heard it. But I find myself listening to it less and less. This is possibly a case of overplaying it, in the beginning, but I'd like to believe that I finally saw through it a little bit and there wasn't much underneath the surface.

Also, in regards to a prog comparision, does anyone else hate Geddy Lee of Rush's vocals and love Sigur Ros' vocalist? Maybe because it's because you can't understand what Sigur Ros' is saying and it's painfully obvious that Geddy is talking about some futuristic Tom Sawyer.

 
More on 'This Year's Model'

The first time I heard 'This Year's Model', I was simply astounded at the level of bitterness and anguish Costello was able to pour into an album. 'My Aim is True', while showcasing some pretty great songwriting, was an entirely different Costello. I agree completely that while it is his most important album, it is not his best. Still, there's so many great songs, 'The Beat' oh man. Neat review, Colin.

 
Proposed 7" Section For Stylus

One other aspect of the whole 7"/ep section dawned on me the other day. A lot of labels press 7/10/12"s as limited things. They may not want to give them away.

Also, the new Do Make Say Think is out.



Wednesday, March 27, 2002
 
I'd think that this blog is the place for most any shorter comments on albums or comments on individual songs, etc. (although if it something that is packaged as an official release in Ep, 7´´ form, it would fall under the heading of "record review" and may not need its own section, per se.) Chris and Todd did this rather well last week. (As did, I think, Gavin and Deen.)

 
I'm kinda thinking that the 7"/EP section could or should cover things that wouldn't merit a full-length review: for example, Les Savy Fav's Rome (Written Upside Down) seems to be an EP that few critics had trouble writing a good deal about (likewise with those by Mogwai, Godspeed, etc.), whereas a split 10" between two hardcore bands, a remix- or B-sidey single, or maybe even one song -- which I guess depends on whether or not Stylus would have a NYLPM-like blog section -- could receive a shorter review. So, if it were deemed of interest to discuss something like the live Radiohead in depth as opposed to given a "capsule review" or just making some notes about it ("Like Spinning Plates" is reconfigured as a piano song..."), then it'd go in the full-length "bin".

I guess this also brings up the issue of whether brief reviews of full-lengths would be considered, about which I don't know. Maybe this would have some effect on the reviewing of albums people like and/or tend to be able to say more about (as seems to be the case with me).

 
I think the 0-10 rating scale is good... as long as everyone has the same concept of what the number mean... it seems to me, at least on the current ohj, there are far more 8-10 ratings than anything else (of course, this could be due to people reviewing albums they like).

also, are there enough 7"s/EPs to have a whole section devoted to them? what about the grey-area releases, like the recent live radiohead disc?

 
Yeah, the thing that I found most perplexing about that Pitchfork review was the prissy referencing of nu-metal re: the use of live drums. It seemed like the reviewer had decided on a thesis (here's where I put something insulting in quotes, like "the Neptunes have run out of steam and this is a mistake") beforehand, and, in search of (ha) material to back it up, ended up grasping at straws. I just don't understand why a non-sampled beat makes what is essentially hip-hop music suddenly branded as inauthentic ("Jay-Z Unplugged," anyone?).

 
Hip-hop relies heavily on the foundation created by the dichotomy of repetition and novelty. It does? (If "repetition" means familiarity, which I think it does here, that sounds more like situation comedy, to me.) Pitchfork reviews the new N.E.R.D. album and makes a mess of things with off-the-mark absolutes and knee-jerk genre sneering. To be fair, like this reviewer, I think that the Neptunes album in its original form is a marvel, but the follow-up has less to recommend. And to be fair, as well, Pitchfork has improved greatly in the past year, mostly eschewing the indie rock-only party line, but this review makes a few Old School PFM mistakes (over and over again).

I won’t quibble with the reviewer over whether the original N*E*R*D* album was well received or why he confuses the quality of a song with its video, but there are other things worth mentioning, such as his claim that "The Neptunes…seemed [to] revitalize hip-hop for a minute." Fine, hip-hop and FM radio in the past eight months are staler than, say, two years ago, but why does the reviewer assume the former and not the latter is the anomaly? (I can only assume because mainstream = bad.) The reviewer calls hip-hop out for what he calls branding, dismissing that personality is a key element of the genre. He equates the Neptunes’ work with Britney as proof that their sound is stale and too ubiquitous, never minding that most all of Pharrell and co.’s best works are meant to be digested en masse. (And, in the process, also faults them for doing revolutionary work rather than blaming the imitators in their wake.) Finally, he relates the quality of a producer with the budget with which they are able to work. Those old PFM assumptions are back: he offhandedly equates, at times, the indie world, lo-fi, the willfully obscure, and the musician rather than the star (or musicians aiming to be stars) with quality.

OHJ contributor Jess gave PFM a good talking-to for a similar gaffe last week, and at the root of each misstep seems to be the ol’ rules of indie-rock tastemaking: picking and choosing appropriate influences and sounds and having to excuse those that don’t quite fit the hipster’s mold. Here, it seems, those once again include the always maligned rap-metal and pop, easy punching bags both, but also, frustratingly, dancehall and mainstream hip-hop, which, to these ears, have sonically run laps around undie hip-hop and indie rock in the past couple of years. The shared ingredient in each the four genres that PFM rejects? Personality. I’d conclude that some of the indie rock world still wants to hear but not see its musicians, but dismissing the Neptunes' work as "[revitalizing] hip-hop for a minute" leads me to think that PFM isn’t doing any listening, either.

 
A quick BUY IT RIGHT NOW goes out to Where Were You When, the new Human Remains discography set. Great, but quite "metal enthusiast" only, methinks. Like a more fun Brutal Truth with some nerdy guitar noodling. I may review it soon, but I've been going very metal lately (Isis and Discordance Axis forthcoming), so it might be a week or two. Until then, try to hear some of it. It made my yesterdayday.

Tuesday, March 26, 2002
 
oh and also, i prefer the number rating system over 'buy this' or 'dont buy this' cause everyone has different opinions and its easier to form my own opinion by reading the entire review over whether or not i want to check out a certain piece of music or whatever. if people were just going to look at the rating and not the review, what would be the point of the review?


blag, im just spewin stuff. but just a few things i didnt say before that just thought of.

 
i also agree with the 7"/ep section simply because there are a ton of beautiful 7 inches that really dont get all that much attention (from me or reviewers in general), though often times, they arent an entirely accurate representations of a band (i could cite several examples, but the most prominent in my mind right now is the Drive Like Jehu "Hand Over Fist/"Bullet Train To Vegas" 7", but this is all unimportant...). Anyway, yes, i support this idea.

i am also in favor of the 0-10.0 scale, simply because its fairly easy to deal with.

Monday, March 25, 2002
 
hey, this is my first post here.

um, i really like the 0.0-10.0 scale, even if it is a pitchfork ripoff, cause i think it most accurately sums up the opinion, and i'm a sucker for ratings like that. i dont like letter grades or "must buy" type ratings. i think this scale is just fine. honestly, i really dont read reviews to figure out what to buy, cause i never buy anything cause im broke cause i dont have a job right now!

i do like the idea of a short 7" or whatever review section too. but not a separate 'classics' section.

i have no problems with anyone giving any "classic" albums less than perfect reviews cause these are are fucking opinions dammit....

um, anyway. yeah. i'll post some more interesting things later.

 
Oh, gosh. Sorry to go on about this again, but I think a "classic" section is a bad idea. Reviewing and/or reassesing older records is, of course, a good thing, but just echoing the party line with these records is almost useless and sectioning them off into a "classic" section -- admission to which would undoubtadely degenerate into a LCD consensus-making excercise, probably determined by someone else's opinion and not ours, really -- seems, I dunno, like Q or Mojo or Rolling Stone (which, of course, has such a section alongside its 3 and 3.5-star reviews). The writing is there and some sort of ratings system will be, too, why is this other section necessary? And who and how would admission be determined?

Sunday, March 24, 2002
 
That tour has the best name since the "Ratt Poison!" team-up of, I think, Summer 2000 (I didn't go, but know someone who did, as well as someone who worked at a hotel [a suitably affordable one, I'm wagering] where Poison stayed).

Saturday, March 23, 2002
 
Yes, Clay is in fact a genius. I think it would also be kind of neat to set aside a little section for "classic" albums on the site. There certainly have been a lot of them reviewed as of late. Although it might be kind of difficult to determine what exactly constitutes a "classic", I'm sure an agreement could be made amongst ourselves.

On a totally unrelated note: I'm gearing up for Death & Dismemberment (with some gratuitous Cex added in for good measure) tomorrow in Chicago. I'm not sure what all to expect, other than a fantastic show. Hopefully I'll get a few words in with guys on the statuses (stati?) of their respective music videos, and some good photos as well. Expect a thorough rundown on the OHJ next week.

 
I'm in favor of all of Clay's suggestions.

 
nowplaying: Blade 2 OST


nowthinking: happy walters strikes again. the same splice-crazy executive producer responsible for the judgment night and spawn OSTs brings us his latest melange of musical miscegenation, blade 2. this time around it's "electronica", no wait, make that "late-90s big beat/jungle" vs. hip-hop, and as per usual, some make hits while others miss opportunities. the best tracks, as on the previous two records, are wall-shaking: witness redman go ape with the gorilla metaphorz as damon albarn supplies the [blue-eyed] RnB hook (heh, remember that little trick?), and roni size's paranoid drum&bass hallucinogenically enhanced by volume 10's schizophonic flow. also i personally dig fabolous, jadakiss & danny saber simply because i'm a sucker for any break that sounds remotely "amen brother"-ish. disappointments include mos def & massive attack, who probably should've covered bad brains' "i against i" instead of waxing uninspired with the same title; ice cube & paul oakenfold, who are both years past their prime; mystikal & moby, roots & bt, and everyone else who failed to make a significant impression. busta rhymes' track with silkk the shocker is solid, even if he does metabite public enemy through puff daddy, and eve and fatboy slim made me lol with happybigbeat dub plus badassbitch ghetto posturizing! all worth a listen tho, esp. since many will disagree with me. but whether or not that's the case, you'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll prolly save three or 4 tracks and hock the rest. rawk.

deen @ 11:47 AM

Friday, March 22, 2002
 
Some suggestions for the new site:
Short Reviews for Short Music - a separate, perhaps weekly section for 7"'s, ep's etc
A separate section for extremely shitty music - past and present. Might be good for a few laughs.
A weekly q+a with labels about what they're listening to in their office, upcoming releases, and other such bullshit.
Thoughts?
Clay
 
The New Zealand Perspective:

Hey there, I guess by know you guys have figured out i'm the local New Zealander on the Blog, and so far have reviewed 3 New Zealand releases, with a fourth on the way. Well today i'm going to speak a little about the New Zealand underground scene and the current state of affairs.

Friday, the 22nd of March 2002 celebrates the 21st anniversary of Flying Nun Records the label that defines the celebrated Dunedin Sound that characterized the 1980-90s New Zealand Music Scene. For the occasion a great number of bands integral to the labels success congregated at York Street Studio's, Artists such as the Clean, the Bats, Chris Knox and Alec Bathgate (otherwise known as the Tall Dwarfs), The Chills, HDU and even a few visiting International artists like Stephen Malkmus, Barbara Manning and Stereolab - who have each released material through the label.

The Aim of this giant get together was to celebrate the times had over the 21 years, and also to record a celebratory album, which was completed at the Studio over the span of the day, with each of the artists contributing.

I'm thinking i'll follow up this post in the future with a little bit of History on the New Zealand scene, detailing how New Zealand worked through the punk and Post Punk era's to develop one of the most acclaimed scene's of the modern rock era.
Thursday, March 21, 2002
 
Adam,

Hope all's well. I like your ratings idea. It definitely covers one's ass when differentiating between a 9.1 and a 9.2.

Sorry I haven't emailed you recently, but I seem to get a pile of porn spam after sending you a message. Must be a coincidence.
Three albums you need to "buy immediately" are Hot Snakes' Automatic Midnight, Do Make Say Think's Goodbye Enemy Airship... and Isis' Celestial. (All from 2000, now that I think about it.)

Hello to everybody else. Keep up the good work.

 
Re: ratings.

I like Adam's idea, too. I was going to mention something vaguely like Christgau's letter grades (or Buddyhead's -- though I tend to read more of their lowest-rated records than anything else), but the buy-it-burn-it, etc. scale is better for informing the consumer. There was something else I wanted to say about this or something else, but Faust are currently sort of melting my brain.

 
RE: My Aim Is True 7.5 rating

I was also looking at the album in the context of Costello's career. I think he's released far better albums.

 
Ryan-
I didn't say that political music (or politcal material in general) should be ingored once it has become dated but I'm sure you've noticed that a number of songs by politically-minded singers become far less powerful as time progresses. That is not to say that it should be ignored or forgotten-it serves as an invalubale resource but just to note that many of those songs sound nieve today. Certainly songs like "Strange Fruit" have stood the test of time, but songs like "Talkin' Vietnam Pot Luck Blues", the kind of political or protest song that Mr. Bragg deals in has not worn well.

 
My opinion about all of this: I really dislike the genre tag, but not just because of the potential interpretive problems, I think the less compartmentalization, the better. That said, I also am not a fan of the ratings – and less so of a few words to sum up a record, which may not be possible or useful (it reminds me, too, of the adjectives bit on AMG). Assigning a weighted absolute grade may take away from the actual writing, if it is seen as a shortcut to reading the site. (Of course, it could work the opposite, as has been suggested.)

One reason that I don’t care for the ratings is sort of along the lines of "How could x only get a such-and-such grade. It’s a classic!" I’d hope that we could write our own canons and – I guess this sort of fits in with the Billy Bragg thing – not assign more weight to that which has "stood the test of time" in the minds of, for the most part, a single generation of rock listeners. I’m only listening to music right now and if something sounds good, it hits me, and I have a reaction to it – positive or negative – I don’t want to figure out if it was also "important" to others in the past. That’s just me, maybe.

Out of the proposed grades, I guess the "buy it, burn it" is the best one, because it cuts most directly to what we are doing as reviewers: offering a consumer guide.

Re: SFA. Go see them!

 
RE: Super Furry Animals


I am a huge fan of SFA. They are one of the few groups out there that truly excites me. Although my listening habits are very selective based upon my mood, SFA always seem to fit what I'm looking for in some way or another. I think they are incredibly original. Guerilla happens to be my favorite, Rings is a great album as well. Run Christian Run is my favorite song of 2001.
On a tangent, I noticed the US version of RATW that was released Tuesday includes a bonus disc with I believe 7 bonus tracks. I got the import as soon as it was released in England for about 18 bucks, but looks like I'll be getting another copy.
I also noticed on the 18th of April, they are making a stop at the Abbey in Chicago. Post or email me if you are going, we can meet up. I heard they are decent live...they get piss drunk, which means I probably don't want to meet them afterwards. I still hold a close place in my heart for this extremely original band.

 
I'd just like to echo Leon's sentiment about the numerical ratings. Assigning them gives readers a quick understanding of the reviewer's feelings about the album, and would most likely weigh heavily in their decision to read the review, which is obviously one of the magazines main functions and priorities. While someone would read anything about a favorite group of theirs, or an album that they're curious about, they might pass over a review of a great album that they don't know about, since no indication is given that the reviewer thinks highly of it.

 
Concerning the number ratings, when Todd and I were thinking of the new site a while back, we were thinking of different ways to tell the reader immediately how we felt about the album. After all, there are very few people out there who take the time to read our well constructed reviews. I don't think a number rating is necessarily the only way to go for an impatient reader. We could come up with a rating system that is unique to Stylus. For instance:

Must buy immediately, Must buy, buy it used, burn it, take it or leave it, sell it, don't waste your time.

or even more simple:

Abysmal, bad, poor, fair, good, very good, excellent, amazing, classic.

Having a number rating system makes it almost into a science, but basically what critics do is write poetry...expression of what you feel for something. So why don't we use a definitive word or two to describe our final feeling on it instead of a number rating system that means different things to each individual writer? Make sense?


 
I think numerical ratings are very important. I don't know, that's the first thing I look at (obviously) and a lot of the time, a score will convince me to read the full review. On Pitchfork, for instance, I don't read anything below an 8, mostly because of time.

I hear you though, about Funhouse, but for some reason, Raw Power might break my top 5, but Funhouse wouldn't. Maybe it's due to its legend that this is the case, but either way I can't blame you for your opinion (I've been working on that).

Wednesday, March 20, 2002
 
Leon, I'm now thinking my rating of Raw Power has a lot to do with what I see as its relative status to Fun House (I can imagine myself being shocked were it given a low score -- anyone out there not like it?). In some dream dimension, I'd like to have seen the band create something incredible more along its lines, but... yeah.

I have My Aim Is True on vinyl, and I'll get around to giving it a good listen, someday. I have a 33rpm 7" with a great live "Watching The Detectives," though.

Maybe this is a good time to bring up the question Todd raised earlier about Stylus and whether or not numerical ratings should be employed there. Then again, maybe it isn't. Personally, I don't know how I feel about them.

 
The reviews of the classic albums that got put up today are interesting. My Aim Is True - 7.5? Raw Power - 7.0? I guess I'm just surprised at these comparatively low ratings- for one because I disagree with them, and two because I've never seen these albums get less than a 10 anywhere. The lowest numbers ever attributed to these records are usually those of their standings in a top 10 list.

But that's not a bad thing though. It's good that OHJ somehow stands out, I just hope we don't get a reputation as a classic-bashing website that gives a higher score to the fucking Trail of Dead than to the Stooges.

 
Todd, I was thinking about libraries not as repositories of old, musty knowledge but also as places where we store current things in the sense that they'll be returned to -- i.e. periodicals get shelved, not tossed. As far as obsolesence is concerned, I don't think that affects the songs in question, since all that matters (to me, at least) is what we can reasonably infer was going on in the artist's mind when they were conceived (the songs, ha), and -- unless they're going at it from an ideology-and-nothing-else standpoint -- there's more than simple doctrine or facts being stated. You could listen to, say, "Strange Fruit" and think of it outside of its historical context, on other levels (including applying it to current-day issues that are evoked by the one it originally dealt with).

This leads me to something I was reading in Jonathan Franzen's Harper's essay about the alleged irrelevance of novels in this era: what a good novelist does (and, I think, a good songwriter does, too) goes beyond politics-and-nothing-else stuff, and the complexity they can conjure up in looking into an issue or phenomenon can be what keeps us coming back.

But anyway, to paraphrase Louis Armstrong, there's good and bad everything. It's not as if love songs > political songs, inherently. This could be due to my tendency to "read" a political song in a more general manner (maybe "Strange Fruit" could just be seen as a lament, a call for respect for human life), though.

 
Concerning the Trail of Dead show review, I too attended a show on this tour (Philadelphia) and was kind of surprised as the moshing, since I'd seen them a few months back and nothing of the sort really went down. Anyhow, despite bruises (one of which, I should perhaps add, was incurred from a drumstick that hit me in the face, but then ended up in my friend's hands [rock!]) (and, on an related note, strep throat) experienced the next day, it was a great time indeed. With the exception of "Homage" and some of the rougher vocal moments on the album -- which I find pretty effective when juxtaposed against the band's newly expansive sound -- I'd say that the live show has it all over the band on record. It merits a thumbs-up from me, and not just because of the instrument destruction, crowd pile-ons, etc.

Those Peabodys were good, too, I thought (The Mooney Suzuki played with them, too, that night, and they were fun, but on record I'm not too thrilled by what I've heard). They seemed to display a definite classic-rock influence, which could have spelled trouble but was tastefully done. Their lead singer, on an unrelated note, looked an awful lot like Art Garfunkel.

 
Re- Super Furry Animals

I haven't heard all of their earlier stuff, but Rings Around the World was super fantastic. I would assume that their live show is really fun, I heard that they did some pretty 'fun' stuff during the Radiator tour. Anyhow, if you are looking to preview any songs from the album, 'Juxtaposed With U', and 'Sidewalk Serfer Girl' are pretty interesting starting points.

 
While I don't neccesarily agree with the way that Ryan voiced his "attack" on Colin's review, it's still a very valid question. Does a recent album deserve to be relegated to the library so soon, Chris? Do you think that the purpose of Bragg's new album is somehow a lesser one because it has the chance to become somewhat obsolete by circumstances out of Bragg's control?

In a more general sense, does a song that deals with current issues hold less weight than one that deals with issues that will remain forever such as love?

 
Well, "datedness" does not equal irrelevance. Many songs on the Nuggets box (horrible track-by-track review by me forthcoming, I guess), which are of course very dated in many ways and were not created with the intent of their being pored over by future generations, are "still good." So, a protest song could become dated in that the issue it specifically deals with (if there is one) gets resolved in some way, but that doesn't mean it's instantly sloughed off. Libraries serve some purpose, right?

Honestly, not to be a dick, but do we have to use this as a forum for deriding other OHJ people's reviews? Are we not, more or less, all in this together? Maybe we could "discuss" instead of "attack" -- what's music criticism without its unwieldy assertions, anyway?

 
huh-- alternate take on the new Go Back Snowball in Splendid, coincidentally published the same day as mine and even more coincidentally reaching the opposite conclusion. personally, i find the absence of a Portastatic reference puzzling, as said sideproject is clearly the record's most relevant touchstone. one thing i will grant the reviewer though that perhaps didn't come through in my review-- Mac's instrumental and arranging prowess is certainly formidable, even when the songs themselves don't linger nearly as tenaciously. somehow, though, i'm still disappointed. anyone else have any input?

 
To quote Colin Beckett, in his recent Billy Bragg review: "Even the most artfully crafted and musically focused protest songs inevitably sound dated."

I think this is an application of a theoretically outdated New Critical aesthetic that was past its prime before rock music had even reached its adolesence, and requires some defense at least.

 
Can - "Soup"

I'm currently being reminded just how ridiculously funky this variable-tempo midsection is, with its manic Stubblefieldian drums, desperate bass runs, and wasp's nest of synthesizer playing a spiky pattern that reminds me of a queasy, impatient version of Herbie Hancock's "Rain Dance" from Sextant.

Of course, right after that things suddenly get drony and warped, chaotic in an entirely different way. It's probably the passage on Ege Bamyasi which most immediately evokes its predecessor's musical and vocal excesses, and something of a band-stumbles-over-itself blemish on a much tighter record (witness the near-pop "I'm So Green," which comes next). It works remarkably well when you're trying to get Kylie out of your head, however.

Tuesday, March 19, 2002
 
Hey, Leon. You're right -- I dropped the ball on that review, in retrospect. My only excuse is that I started talking about the "critical response" to them and got off-track (this tends to happen a lot in my case). As a result, it probably served more as an overture to my other two Stooges reviews than something that stands alone and means anything in itself. I would hope my Fun House review (forthcoming, unless Todd discovers that I actually don't really know much about music and decides to can my wack ass) comes a bit closer to getting at what really does make the music good.

Maybe my problem is that I've listened to these albums too many times and they've become somewhat indistinct in my mind; I've found that, more and more, I tend to listen to things I'm used to (read: am comfortable with) instead of new stuff. Do I not care enough about present-day music? Maybe.

 
I read the Stooges S/T review today (I've been going through the archives) and I can't help but feel that the reviewer missed the point. The Stooges isn't an awesome record because it's "important" or "revolutionary" or any of that shit music critics use to justify putting certain albums at the top of their decade-end lists. That record isn't great because it was important, man, it was great because it was passionate and strong. I don't feel like writing my own version of the review here, but read the beginning of my Von Bondies review, here I describe the ultimate album. That's pretty much the definition of the Stooges' debut.

 
Oh yeah, the bridge is dreamy, too. But it's quickly extinguished by the loudness of the final movement of the song. (Dreaming won't get you out of the mess you're in and you'll be in for a rude awakening once you get back to the grind).

 
The Velvet Teen- Four Story Tantrum

Off of the new Out of the Fierce Parade full length, this is the song that I can't stop playing. The singer has an eerie Jeff Buckley croon, the song is simple to the point of absurdity, and it flat out rocks in all the right places. Much like Two Percent Talent's "87" that I've talked about on the main OHJ site, this is a song about staying in the same place- with false breakthroughs to freedom. The same musical pattern is repeated during the verses, a pattern that is simple and stable with the guitar wiggling a bit at the end of each phrase- referencing the fact that the subject needs to move away- but that she can't because of both the lyrics (sample lyric "it's too late, but don't you fear, don't give up") and the music that starts up the same pattern at the end of the wiggle over and over. The song is a simple build up of elements to the second chorus where it bursts free in its most likely point of emotional impact, but then the song falls in on itself and the initial lyrics of the song are repeated, echoing the circular structure of the song. It's emo in the vein of Cursive- and it's great.

 
NIN- And All That Could Have Been

Perhaps this should be called "And All That Should Have Been". It's really annoying that I can tell other people to not worry about proclaiming their loves of certain bands, just becuase they are looked down on by other people, but I'm rather reticent to come out of the closet as a NIN fan. The Doors, Pink Floyd, The Beatles, and NIN were my soundtrack in 8th grade- I'm not going to lie. Since then my taste has broadened considerably, but sometimes it's good to see what the classics are up to (selling out to VH1, making bad records without Roger Waters, and dying it would appear). As for Trent Reznor, he marches on producing interesting things and voicing absolutely horrendous lyrics- I will readily admit to that. On this bonus disc to the live Fragile tour CD that has just come out he puts some instrumentals and re-workings of older tracks. All in all, I would go so far to say that he reaches Mogwai in emotional intensity on some of the instrumental versions- take that for what you will. Here's to hoping that Trent drops the lyrics in the future and produces a purely instrumental album. If that happens, you'll probably see me at the midnight sale with sunglasses on.

Monday, March 18, 2002
 
There is an interesting thread on ILM right now about artistic intent started by Dominique Leone. Check it out.

 
Anyone here ever heard of Sticker Club? I downloaded a few of their MP3s. Definately some cool stuff, on the Tortoise / Trans Am / Mouse on Mars / Experimental / Post tip.

 
I've been playing the Neptune's new album almost constantly lately in my dorm room, and I think it's starting to annoy my roommate. But I can't help myself. The album wallows in glam-disco-funk cheese, and I love it for all its self-indulgent decadence. Musical cocaine -- shallow, fast, exciting, and insanely addictive. As soon as the album ends, I have to have more. So I'll put "Run to the Sun" on Winamp again (the only song I've had stuck in my head for an entire day since Aaliyah's "Are U That Somebody") and a smile will creep across my face.

Sorry Pat.

 
"Let’s Push Things Forward," The Streets

Already being labeled a "voice of his generation" in the UK, here Mike Skinner aka The Streets is pleading to push…things…forward, but what and where? The "what" seems to be UK Garage, but the "where" is more surprising: Sonically, away from the swishes and high-hats of most 2-step and, lyrically, away from hyping the crowd or larging his DJ to actually trying to say something. It’s almost rockist! And, quite apart from the hypercommunal worlds of UK Garage -- So Solid Crew-like collectives or champagne-tippling see-and-be-seen clubgoers – he is sitting away in his room, writing bedsit tales about the mundanity of modern life and the treachery of the streets. Is this, gasp!, indie 2-step?

 
Bill Withers - "Use Me"

Minimal, yet so effective. A snaky, coruscating bassline grappling with some anally precise drums and ribbons of guitar, some shivery not-quite-impassioned-enough-to-do-anything-about-it vocals dwelling on human exploitation: I'd kill to hear Fugazi cover this one. Guy could really moan it out.

(I'd also like to hear Shellac pound out a rendition of the Nite-Liters' "Afro Strut", but I'm not holding my breath.)

 
the stinkin' Hastings in my town better damn well have the Super Furry Animals DVD tomorrow. i'm getting antsy.
Sunday, March 17, 2002
 
N*E*R*D- In Search Of...

The most obvious and saddest tragedy of the new version of this album- it was completely rerecorded with live instruments- is the absence of the intro track that was included on the previous version. Sure, intro tracks on hip hop albums are usually filler and glossed over, but the fact that the intro track was the second track on In Search Of... is one of the best ideas that I've seen in a while. The whole idea of the single in hip hop has seemed to take over in terms of the success in a hip hop album. By cutting it off from the album proper, the Neptunes effectively sold out in the most graceful way possible. "Lap Dance" is the catchiest piece of work and sounds a great deal unlike any of the other tracks on the album and deserves to be cut off from the album- it would be a distraction placed anywhere else. The Neptunes by taking it out of the context of the album can put together a cohesive statement after the commercial "filler" of the single. With the absence of the intro in the live version, "Lap Dance" takes on the role of the tone setter and the mission statement for the album, instead of the cut off and disconnected role it played on the previous incarnation of the album.


 
It's weird. I think I am starting to reach the age where I actually feel nostalgia for things. Maybe nostalgia isn't the right word. But I have been appreciating things for a certain 'retro' value they possess. I'm not talking about just kitsch value here, just something that evokes an old feeling, and a positive one. I'm listening to Cassidy by the Bows, and it has some of the best use of 808 bass kicks I've heard in a long time. And they aren't used ironically, or even in a way that is meant to be retro in any way. That's probably why it feels so warm and right. I fully admit to a weakness for 808 kicks, and I know I'm not the only one. They're practically a milestone in electronic and hip hop. It's funny -- 808 kicks exist because someone failed horribly trying to emulate a real drum sound, but came up with something new and stunning.


 
Antioch Arrow - In Love With Jetts/The Lady Is A Cat

Though safely ensconced as a cornerstone of arty, dissonant emo-core, there seems to be a lot more going on in this album than merely that. The glorious instrumental mess is one thing (love that scratchy keyboard that cuts shakily through it all), but consider Aaron Montaigne's depraved, protean vocal performance: one minute he's wailing like a hyperactive child on the wrong end of a milk-money shakedown, the next he sounds more like a nervous chemist who ingested the wrong potion, then unleashes a series of hideous shrieks that bring that Allan-Sherman-esque what's-with-this-crazy-noise-the-kids-are-into reference point of the flu-ridden baby elephant to mind. Such is the madness is conjured up here that we end up at the polarized limits of our own emotion: the bewildered shock we receive on listening to these freak-outs vis-a-vis the discomfort it all evokes (think a pooled, icky mess of tangled innards). I can't help but think, then, that this music is not as much about catharsis as it is (even on record) twisted theatricality -- the audience's reponse to it all seems a vital element. The album's a big, bloody Rorschach.

Bonus points are accorded to the live cuts (where his voice undergoes another, perhaps unintentional, shift), which feature some brilliant between-song patter. Delivered in a fey drawl: "This one's called 'Pee-Pee Hiney'!"

 
Cex- Tall, Dark, And Handcuffed

A rough preview mix of this album has been floating around the internet for about a week now and I've taken a listen to it a couple of times. I'm not sure what to think. Does Cex want to be taken seriously as a rapper? It would seem that his production should be much more full and interesting than it ends up being here, so I can only assume that he wants us to focus on his raps, which are unspectacular to say the least. For me, hip hop washes over me at first- I listen merely for the flow and the beats the first couple of times that I listen to a hip hop album. On this surface listen, I'm not getting much from Cex here.

I think that it all boils down to the fact that I really want Cex to be an unabased IDM producer and stop fiddling with this "I want to be accessible as possible" schtick. If he wants to be accessible as possible he would much more suited to combining the beautiful melodies that are found on "Role Model" and the interesting instrumentation that was featured on "Oops I Did It Again."


Saturday, March 16, 2002
 
This blog is a public venue for the writers of the OHJ to comment on reviews that are on the site, to talk about songs that strike their fancy at this particular moment but don't want to review the entire album, post links to relevant and interesting music news and commentary, and to allow readers of the OHJ site to get to know us better. If all goes well I will probably link this off the main OHJ site in the next week or so once we get it up and running.

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