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Friday, June 28, 2002
 
Mario - Just a Friend 2002

Has anyone seen/heard this? It's some cute kid with corn rows. He just cops the Biz Markee chorus for a pretty standard R&B joint. And switches "he's" to "I'm", making it even more boring. I'm a little pissed about it.
 
Coldplay are crap. The suck the crap from a crap man's ass. They are the mediocre middle class kids who think they've got talent cos mummy and daddy encouraged them to take piano lessons when they were 10.

I'm watching the coverage of this year's Glastonbury festival and once again I am glad that I refuse to spend a weekend ina cesspit surrounded by Shed Seven fans on drugs listening to bands I don't like, with bad sanitation, no decent pubs, no hotels and no chance of escape.

Nice people, nice bands, polite, pay their dues, unambitious, talentless, workaday, bollocks. Get out of my ears you dull bastards.
 
As the token Brit writing for Stylus I feel I ought to step in here and say something about The Stone Roses / Oasis, philosophy versus punk, and Britpop. This may be a little elliptical, so bare with me here…

In an interview with BBC Radio 1's The Evening Session this week Noel Gallagher proclaimed that The Hindu Times "is about nothing, absolutely nothing at all, all the best songs are. We just decided to make it the most Oasis-sounding song you've ever heard, and to make it really 'up', and about nothing..."

Back in 1989, when asked what Made Of Stone was about, John Squire replied that it was about “making a wish and watching it happen, like scoring the winning goal in a cup final… on a Harley electroglide… dressed as Spiderman…”

Now certainly Squire’s comments may initially seem as mundane and meaningless as Noel Gallagher’s, but think about it closer. Squire isn’t describing the lyrical content or literal meaning of the song (Ian Brown would go on record at a later date as saying the lyrics were largely written about his experiences hitching around Europe in the mid-80’s) but he is much closer to condensing the sense of what the song means to the listener in terms of how it makes us feel – nailing, in a sense, the reason that some of us are going to keep going back to that song time and time again down the years… Because when the chorus drops in, or the guitar solo descends from melody into distortion, when we first hear that opening riff shimmering like liquid mercury, bright and clear and cold and beautiful all at the same time, we feel that sensation of inner fantasy when in the midst of outer desolation.

I said this was going to be elliptical.

Religious imagery, situationist sloganeering and romanticist fantasy are the three key lyrical underpinnings of the early Stone Roses work. Bye Bye Badman sings about a “citrus sucking sunshine”, a reference to the Debord-inspired Paris student riots of 1968 and the students’ trick of sucking lemon’s to neutralise the effects of tear-gas. This is a million miles away from the hollow Britpop bollocks of Blur’s Country House or Oasis’ Roll With It. Just because the tunes are superficially catchy and redolent of the sixties or whatever doesn’t mean that the content of the music is essentially hollow. No music exists in a vacuum, everything sounds like something else, everything has derivative elements to it. It’s what else artists bring to their influences that can mark them out as being great, whether it’s The Stone Roses adding a political/philosophical spin on chiming guitar pop, or Kurt Cobain adding a melodic pop sensibility to abrasive guitar textures.

Ian Brown spent his advance from Geffen in 1993 on travelling to various sites of religious significance around the world. Damon Albarn spent 1993 pretending to be a Cockney. Noel Gallagher spent 1993 trying to escape the biscuit factories of Burnage. John Squire admittedly spent 1993 shoving his advance from Geffen up his nose and stealing Jimmy Page riffs, but you can’t have everything.

Is The Stone Roses music self-aggrandising? Is it about ambition and a knowing sense of rock historiography? Possibly, but isn’t all music? Aren’t The Stooges, with I Wanna Be Your Dog, doing exactly the same thing as Noel Gallagher was with Cigarettes & Alcohol, that is trying to affect an escape from a crushing a repressive working-class background? Iggy wanting to get out of Detroit, the car factories and the racism, Noel wanting to get out of Burnage, the biscuit factories and the unemployment.

You can’t call The Stone Roses forerunners of Britpop anymore than you can call Keats a forerunner of Pam Ayers or Shakespeare a forerunner of Tony Parsons (my apologies for the overtly anglocentric cultural references). Elements are the same and these give rise to comparisons and talk of ‘opening doors’ and ‘influence’, but Oasis never sounded like The Stone Roses, and Blur only sounded like them for three songs back in 1991 when they released their ‘jump-on-the-baggy-bandwagon’ debut album. And even then Blur sounded much more like The Charlatans or The Farm than The Stone Roses, who were never a ‘baggy’ band at all, but rather a classic four-piece guitar pop band, influenced more by Simon & Garfunkel, Led Zeppelin, The Clash, The Byrds and Sly Stone than acid house. At the tail-end of 1994 in the UK Britpop was approaching it’s apex, and the two key singles of the year were Parklife, Blur’s cheeky-Cockney-pseudo-social-commentary-with-Phil-Daniels, and Cigarettes & Alcohol, Oasis’ paean to getting pissed and smoking tabs. In the midst of this The Stone Roses released their long-awaited comeback single, Love Spreads. Which was a five-minute Led Zep-inspired heavy rock mantra with a lyrical conceit about Jesus being a black woman. Britpop? I don’t fucking think so. If Britpop has forerunners, and it does, then it’s The Kinks, The Small Faces, The Who (RIP John Entwistle), The Sex Pistols…

IS UK rock more philosophically or politically inclined than US rock? No. Some rock is more philosophically or politically inclined than other rock, and its geographical birth has little to do with it. You only have to look at the dumb-but-fun proto-punk of The Stooges and juxtapose it with the Sun Ra-collaborating MC5, neighbours, friends and joint pioneers of late-60’s Garage Rock. Iggy wants to be your dog, Iggy thinks he’s dirt, and The MC5 are running with The White Panthers and preaching revolution. The Stone Roses were bedfellows with The Happy Mondays in much the same way. Elsewhere the US has produced REM, Public Enemy, Fugazi and At The Drive-In, while the UK has produced Cast, Menswear and Northern Uproar.

Punk and philosophy aren’t necessarily entities that need to be kept separate either, just look at Fugazi’s hardcore ethics or Idlewild’s Scots-grunge cultural theory. These Wooden Ideas is the hookiest post-grunge song about the futility of post-modern reductionism ever! Cool!

Wow, that was quite a ramble.

PS. Hi, I’m Nick, I’m kind of new round here…

Wednesday, June 26, 2002
 
clinic / radio 4 @ the middle east, cambridge mass.

after interviewing clinic's bass player, i stuck around for the show last night. (not that i had any interntion of leaving - i would have gone to check it out even if the interview had fallen through). Radio 4 played pretty faithful to their record, albeit a little looser, and with a few slightly-extended jam-out sections. Their set was mostly taken from Gotham, but there were a few newer/older songs (which? i couldn't tell, havent heard their old stuff). A clear standout was "Eyes Wide Open" - the infectious bassline and discofied chorus help make it the best track on the album, and they pulled it off nicely live. The bass player/lead singer and the hand percussionist really make this band, and added tons of energy to the live show (although the drummer, keys player, and guitarist weren't too shabby, just a little looser than really works for their style of post-punk/dance).

clinic was very prompt in arriving on stage, dressed in their trademark scrubs. their set was absolutely flawless, sounded cd-perfect. the mixing was great too, a rare thing at the middle east. they plowed through their set in 40 minutes, including a two-song encore. Expect the interview to go up next week, it'll include a little more about the clinic side of the show, as well...
Tuesday, June 25, 2002
 
The Stone Roses

Hmm, that's a bit of an overarching theory (as you mentioned), but instead of leaving it at that, it's more fun to posit a different one. So if I were to use those songs as benchmarks for this or that, I'd say:

I Wanna Be Your Dog = Punk

I Wanna Be Adored = what is now called Britpop (although this post-1994 stuff is more Britrock)


Iggy isn't afraid to dengirate himself, to not only 'lower' himself to the audience's level but separate himself from his punter peers by acting more antisocial than they; Ian only thinks of himself as above his audience.

The Roses were sort of the first volley in what S. Reynolds said became "orthodoxy" with Oasis -- this bigger-is-better populist mentality that equates making songs to listen (and sing along) to with your arm around your mate in the pub and arena as more important than finding your own voice or doing something with any sort of adventure or style or wit. The charts became the only measure of success, the way they did it in the old days was assumed to be impossible to better (so why try? Just carbon copy!) and the result was a steady string of truly awful crap (Kula Shaker, OCS, Cast and so forth). UK indie became UK alternative much in the same way it did in the U.S. post-Nirvana. This is a very thumbnail sketch, with loads of bits missing (that I'll hopefully write as an article soon) but the Roses were sort of the first of these bands to make outlandish claims in the press about their greatness and importance. I think you're on to this, Todd, when you said Brits were less of a "document of their times" but in this case, I think it's just naked ambition, being conscious of a linear rock history and trying to pick up where the greats of the past left off. Oasis and the Verve are heavily guilty of this as well, imho. Plus, for all of their tangential relations to Madchester, they were essentially a guitar wank band in the midst of acid house. Or at least Squire wanted it that way. (I think Mani and Reni probably kept one of their feet on the dancefloor and JS kept the other on the effects pedal, which, with hindsight, may make them less about the Now than many of their contemporaries even though the sheer nature of their succes made them seem like an era-defining group.) In short: They wanted nothing more than to be adored.

This sort of started an inverse of the way (or at least the impression of the way) Brits approach music compared to Americans. I do think, for the most part, there is more style, glamour, wit, and cleverness in UK music on the whole (my 'tastes' are also biased toward it, admittedly) but until this sort of Britpop, the biggest post-punk difference (this is hastily thought out, mind you) between UK and US music is the American emphasis on performance and integrity. (And the old notion that a U.S. audience would say, "I can do this -- this sucks!" and a UK audience would say "I can do this!" and then go off and make their own music; can't recall where that original thought comes from, maybe someone else can credit it.)

Ironic then Todd that you mention the Ramones and that they are held up as the be-all, end-all of U.S. punk, cuz they were essentially a group of anglophiles (Joey's singing voice was a Madonnaesque -- or Friedelesque -- AmeriBrit accent) with a girl group fixation who adopted fake names, wore uniforms, and, hell, starred in a teen movie. They were a lot closer to the Backstreet Boys than Black Flag (thank goodness). The Talking Heads and Blondie were also pretty image-conscious in their day (the preppy look and conceptual concert films and, of course, Debbie). Then something god awful happened in the 80s and image was considered frivolity or proof that you weren't in it for the music, maaan in U.S. indie rock and we've been stuck with a load of Ian MacKaye/Henry Rollins/Bob Mould/Paul Westerberg/Tortoise-style bores for the most part since. (oddly, the indie-approved versions of breakbeat -- IDM and undie rap -- are also the no-face versions of sister genres. All those horribly named undie rappers -- DJ Abilities, Gift of Gab, Lyric Born, Lateef the Truth Speaker -- = the This Band Could Be Your Life of hip-hop. I mean, Funcrusher Plus? Why crush fun? (I should admit I've never heard the record, but the point is someone named Ludacris, for example, sounds more appealing to me than someone named Lateef the Truth Speaker.)


OK, I'm way rambling and sound like a twit but essentially style and glamour, etc. in the UK went out the door eventually with that straight-faced Britrock nonsense.

I guess people were getting sick of the glum (it's continuity is as much in Nickleback as it is Trail of Dead...) cuz the new rock revivial wears a uniform. Don't know if that really means much, but the White Stripes and Hives each look cooler to me than they sound.
Monday, June 24, 2002
 
daylight ep

picked this up the other day... and i am floored. aesop rock just beat out wilco for my best-of-2002 number one slot, because this ep is simply amazing. everything good about labor days, but distilled and compressed... lyrics from the album rearranged/inverted and given new meaning... acapella sections that provide great contrast to the heavily produced majority, bringing newfound importance to the words... phenominal.
 
The Stone Roses

I first heard this group tonight while sweating unbearably in my un-air conditioned room for the summer.

Perhaps Scott, Keith, etc. can elucidate further on this for me, but my initial thought on hearing the entire album boiled down to one central conclusion:

I Wanna Be Your Dog = American
I Wanna Be Adored = English

Any thoughts on this? Totally unformed and unfounded, of course, but perhaps it has some basis in truth.

I think what I'm getting at, basically, is that most English rock has something more heady about it- more philosophical, which makes it a bit less able to get along with the rocking aspect of the music easily. American rock, particularly of the Stooges and Ramones variety simply didn't care about anything, most of all the meaning of what they were doing, making it a more physical and tangible object. English rock of the same period as artistic statement vs. American rock being merely a document of the times, nothing more. I don't know if this makes any sense or anything, and I can already think of hundreds of contradictions...but I figure this one could be talked out a bit more. Maybe Chris Smith could take a look at this idea in terms of the Nuggets box sets for us? You there Chris? :)
Sunday, June 23, 2002
 
Sonic Youth

I'd have to disagree with you here, Clay. This is the record that Sonic Youth has made to get back in the rock game- going back and forth from wanky jam excursions into classic rock structures effortlessly. While I'll admit that parts of it strike me as boring and non-essential, I think it's better than some of their more recent works, and well worth the examination. It's as though Sonic Youth is pulling a Royal Trux in its examination of genres within their own traditional idiosyncratic format. You may be right in that it's Sonic Youth trying to sound like Sonic Youth- but I'd take that over any band trying to sound like Sonic Youth everyday of the week. It's not classic- but it sure isn't worthless.
Friday, June 21, 2002
 
We just finished listening to the new Sonic Youth album (Murray Street) at the store. Remember the last two Jesus Lizard albums, when the band started to sound like a band trying to sound like the Jesus Lizard? It was a sad time, and Murray Street takes me back to those days. Light, breezy, jammy, completely innocuous, utterly inessential. We did, however, listen to the Jesus Lizard (Bang) afterword, and our spirits were resurrected.

The Jesus Lizard broke up after two forgettable records. Sonic Youth's already on their third (or more, depending on how obsessive-completist you are). Should Sonic Youth break up?
Thursday, June 20, 2002
 
Orchid.

Their liner notes (an essay detailing "revolutionary consciousness", containing much situationist type writing) point to exactly what I believe they are attempting to say (though their first few records weren't nearly as explicit (or wordy, take your pick) as to what their overall ideas were or where they stemmed from). I haven't read that article about them, but I am curious as to what was said to make them seem apolitical. If anything they seem to have become more concrete (vocal) in their stance(s) with the formation of The Panthers (an apparent International Noise Conspiracy knockoff, some would say).

As far as purposefully creating an image (to gain a following and I suppose move some 'units'), there are two questions in my mind- Is there any deeper meaning behind the posturing (if so, it would almost make the bands actions justified- if the intent was to create interest in something that extends beyond simply an absent minded listening of a CD and the occasional live performance) and does the listener really care about any kind of 'image' a band has. Should music always be seen as a platform for something 'deeper', or should it exist- without any agendas or images associated- as a separate entity? Or does it matter?
Wednesday, June 19, 2002
 
The Appleseed Cast / Gabe's / Iowa City, IA / June 18. 2002

Last night Lawrence, Kansas' Appleseed Cast proved yet again why they rounded out my top 10 list of the best artists working today. With the benefit of an amazing soundman, they were able to capture the vast, gorgeous, swelling sound of last year's Low Level Owl project, an opportunity that falls upon few bands, in my experiences. It felt like a Flaming Lips headphone concert on an interstellar scale. Songs like "Steps And Numbers" seemed to carry you along with them, giving you the feeling of traversing their peaks and valleys, via the ace guitar work of Chris Crisci and Jason Wickersheim, that (emo moment alert) reverberated with the warm trappings of a pleasant memory. As impessive as the cascading guitar work was, the band's true hero is drummer Josh Baruth. Perhaps the best way to explain his style is a mix between Damon Atkinson's mind-melting polyrhythms and Steven Drozd's weighty bombast. Much like on the band's records, his drums were high in the mix, almost acting as the main instrument. It's almost certain that the band wouldn't be half of what it is without him, and he was a wonder to watch. Nevertheless, the complex textures and emotions that the band works out through their music greatly belies the one-sided-ness of the "emo" genre. While almost every emo band seems content to reference other preceeding emo bands (and like all inbreeding, it only gets worse as you go along), Appleseed Cast alternately calls to mind the aforementioned Lips, Brian Eno, Perfect From Now On- era Built To Spill, My Bloody Valentine, Spiritualized, Sunny Day Real Estate, and countless others. If you get the chance, check them out in concert or on record, via Low Level Owl (Deep Elm, 2001, in two seperate volumes). There may be no other band today that continues to push not only themselves, but their assumed musical category to the limit.
Tuesday, June 18, 2002
 
I never knew that the White Stripes had a political agenda.
 
Personally, I get mostly annoyed by so-called "left-wing" bands. Most of the time, the music isn't interesting enough to me to care about what they're saying. the Make Up were fun, because they were entertaining (like them or not). All of Ian Sevonious' posturing and between song rants were obviously tounge-in-cheek. Sometimes the left-wingers take themselves to seriously, or are to diadactic to swallow. People who are smart enough to listen to most left wing propaganda are probably also smart enough to have already formed their own opions on things.

But I'm getting off my original point here. Which is, a lot of these bands use the shock (wearing swastikas, even wearing "ironic" Iron Maiden shirts) to get attention.

I really should lay off the beer before posting here.
 
it all comes down to image.

does it really matter what a band's politics are, or what icons they choose? In the end it's all about image, and the only difference between Refused's pseudo-socialist liner note rants and the White Stripes The-Cars-inspired color scheme is the choice of adjunct. Of course, there's a huge difference in the emotional weight of these things -- no one will claim a spinning peppermint led them to social action. (sidebar - funny how left-wing bands are all the rage, and having a political agenda that leans to that side will get you indie kudos, but a conservative leaning politically-minded band will only draw scorn.)

As far as swastika-wearing, I don't think it was clueless so much as super-informed. The nazis stole that image from antiquity (was it the aztecs?), mirrored it, and used it to their own ends -- the punks did the same. A swastika was an easy way to offend and shock the "normal" people, no different from spiked/dyed hair or ripped jeans (although, it certainly carried more baggage). I think there were many who understood this, and unfortunately those who didn't probably lost the image-as-shock ideal, and got sucked in to the fascist/hardcore/skinhead scene (which I assume existed, though I really have no knowledge of that.)

It's very interesting how images are used, and how their use changes over time -- for example, I was intrigued by a blurb on cnn.com -- a picture of a ransacked palestinian house, with a big star of david tagged on the wall.


 
"When appropriation becomes self-clowning"

This thread raises a few interesting (as well as, like so many others on this board, scatalogical) points regarding bands' appropriation of historical figures as icons, political ideology, et cetera. (Men in dashikis with their leftist weeklies, indeed.) A while ago, I was reading some situationist stuff -- which is interesting, but doesn't hold up to me as a coherent philosophy, though I have always liked the idea of detourned Family Circus strips, and we know how cool that Refused song with the Henry Miller quotes and references to the May '68 Paris riots is -- and, upon realizing how many bands have taken pages from this stuff, wondered how much of this could be attributed to over-earnestness, well-intentioned cluelessness, or the is-it-all-a-put-on-or-what? theatricality ushered in by Nation of Ulysses. Then again, there are bands (NoU, for example) that do this and I think it's okay; maybe it's the fact that Orchid seem to be (from what I understand, which really doesn't go far beyond a writeup in Last Plane to Jakarta) apolitical that makes it seem lame to me. Wait, maybe it isn't. But if they were creative about it, would I feel different? If they were a Coup-esque rap group, would I feel different? Would/could either of them still be accused of just doing this for pure (or purely empty) aesthetics? How does '77-era swastika-wearing -- the kind of thing we hope is clueless -- relate to all this? So I guess I'm wondering when it's alright to do this and when it isn't.

In other news, I fell asleep reading Gertrude Stein while listening to American Don. Those two fit together really well. She could be their lead singer.

Oh, and "Victorian circus groove" sounds like a neat new genre to me.
Monday, June 17, 2002
 
My Take On The Vines

I've been familiar with "Get Free" ever since I saw it on some "Up And Coming Artists for 2002" thing on MTV last December, and always kinda liked it. It was punchy, raw, and showed a lot of potential. After reading Leon's review, I was kind of intrigued, so I downloaded five or six songs from the album. How boring. Whereas "Get Free" really seemed to distinguish itself not only from recent "mainstream indie", but from the garage-punk revival as well, the rest of the album shares none of its qualities. When it wasn't highly pedestrian, it sounded flat out forced (as Colleen hinted). And it's really got nothing to do with the band sounding derivative or anything like that. It's that unlike The Strokes and The Hives, The Vines completely fail to co-opt their influences' sound with even the slightest presence of panache (Hives) or memorable hooks (Strokes), not to mention that their influences learn more towards mid-nineties alt-rock than anything else. I don't see much coming of them. It's empty hype.
 
need new body

just read the review, and i was reminded that i should pick up that album. However, I still have my doubts that the record can live up to their live show, which featured (among other things, such as bicycle-wheel percussion...) the lead singer emerging from backstage, dressed in a translucent cape and neo-mayan mask, careening around like a drunken mix of Jim Morrison and George Clinton, chanting nonsense as the band layed down a Victorian circus groove, making em simultaneously wish I was on some psychoactive substance (so I could fully appreciate the band's genius) and glad that I was sober (and, therefore, able to hold on to my sanity).
Sunday, June 16, 2002
 
I think the Vines have heart. It's not really debatable either way, unfortunately, but I suggest you read some interviews with Craig Nicholls (particularly the one from the last NME). You might see something there to add dimension to it.

 
It's not even a matter of innovation for me. There are plenty of bands who I love today, who aren't inventive, who are retreading old waters. But I guess that the ones that I like just seem to have that indescribable "something". Probably heart. I mean, when the singer from the Vines is screaming, "She never loved me / She never loved me/ Why should anyone?", it feels unemotional to me. Almost like he just wrote your bargain basement "she-done-me-wrong" lyrics without bleeding. I'm not convinced he means it.
 
More Vines

I have to agree, they have never struck me as anything particularly innovative. I have not been able to watch the video the whole way through, it seems just like all the other MTV 2 'rock' stuff.
 
the Vines.

I haven't heard the Vines whole album yet, but I just saw the video for "Get Free". What a bunch of crap. To be blunt. Ahem. Maybe the video ruined it for me, but I didn't like it, or them very much. The whole time I was watching, i kept thinking, "I should like this... but it's leaving me totally flat." The Vines can rock, sure, but something about it rubs me the wrong way. It doesn't inspire me to break stuff. It doesn't make me wanna smoke a pack of Lucky Strikes and drive fast. Hell, it doesn't even make me want to get off the couch and do air guitar.

Perhaps I should give the whole album a try, but I gotta say, so far, they sound like completely uninspired drivel to these old timer's ears. I can't imagine listening to the Vines, instead of, say.... the Muffs, or even Blink 182.

Plus, the singer really annoys me... the faces he makes when he's singing... ugh.
Saturday, June 15, 2002
 
The Who Sell Out

My favorite Who album actually. It's their best collection of pop songs, which I prefer over the bloated, bombastic and kind of silly Who's Next and Tommy.
Friday, June 14, 2002
 
the who sell out.

i've gotta disagree with matt's review - this album is crap. Aside from "I Can See For Miles," the instrumental work on "Tattoo," and "Hall of the Mountain King" there are no exceptional points on this album. The commericals range from distracting to annoying, and the songs (besides those above) all seem very embryonic, interesting only as a bridge from the Who's early singles to (the good parts of) Tommy and (all parts of) Who's Next. As far as half-assed concept albums go, I'll take Who's Next any day of the week - where the concept takes a backseat to the playing and songwriting, and the result is a much tighter, better album.
 
Alec Empire

It may be that finals are over, it may be that I just saw my roommate from last year with his shirt off in an empty hallway, it may be that I'm moving out, it may be the lateness of the hour, or it may even be the volume that I'm playing this at; but at this moment in life Alec Empire's "Path of Destruction" is the most evil and pure song ever.

Long live digital hardcore and its apparent comeback.

More on this stuff later.
Wednesday, June 12, 2002
 
Indie Indie Indie

I think the thing is that 'indie' music once meant 'innovation' and now indie is just another product. The whole notion of labeling things 'indie' is denying underground music any progress. Things like MTV 2 aren't helping, introducing kids to new and exciting musics. All of a sudden, this hipster mindset is all the fad (I know this is contrary to my position defending the Hives/Stripes/Strokes). You get these hierarchical divisions in indie-elite society that defeat the whole purpose of music, the actual appreciation. "What? You haven't heard the new Stereolab?", "I won't date him, he's a poser, he says he likes Sleater-Kinney, but he doesn't even own the first LP". The problem is, we've been given so much time to reflect on the greatness of the early nineties that we've given up a bit of the idea of innovation and settled for the community ethic.
Tuesday, June 11, 2002
 
just had a thought. . .


let's say, arbitrarily i realize but just for the sake of argument, that we date the beginning of the american underground aesthetic back to whenever the hell it was in the late 70s/early 80s when minor labels began making national noise. so all throughout the 80s, indie rockers made records, toured, did interviews, broke up, and other typical band-type shit, but for the most part, not much else. this was the MO that became the underground's calling card: stripped-down, intelligent rock minus the major-label pretense and other superficial effluvia. and so it continued into the 90s, reaching its pop-culture apex around 92, and began to taper off from then until now, when merely touring and making records won't do shit for you unless you've already got a fanbase. thus i suggest we are witnessing the end of an era. doing things like fugazi and pavement and archers did a decade ago simply won't work for new bands these days; the market's too saturated. just the other day, a friend of mine who's in a band commented on how fantastic the san francisco underground rock scene is, and how he should just give up now since its members'll all be lined up for label spots ahead of his band. but then i thought, all the REALLY good bands will make it big before any of those local guys. so, what's to be done under the circumstances? fashion and artifice, that's what. simply rocking one's little heart out isn't good enough anymore, you've gotta be as proficient at publicity as you are with yr instruments. way I see it, the glory days are gone for now, replaced by the glitz and glam we of the underground once despised. but check back in about 10 years; i'm sure the old ways'll've fallen back into style by then.


but as long as bands keep making music that moves me, i'm fine with it. hell, i'm about to start a band, and you can be damn sure we'll be just as apeshit psycho insane as anyone on stage today. the other thing about the new quirk is, it's superfun for the band to rock out with that kind of energy. but that's a whole 'nother post.

deen @ 3:22 PM

 
Good points all, Deen.

Something struck me a few minutes ago while I was eating some old chicken: Maybe turgid guitar rock hit a peak in the mid-90s and the young bands who idolized the Archers and Polvo realized this and decided to move on. That would be fine with me. I don't need to see some young puke dancing on the Jesus Lizard's grave.

But on the topic of the newer noisy bands you mentioned, why is it that they must be presented sexily for them to catch on? Why did I know about the Oxes album cover before I knew they kicked ass? Why do I know that Les Savy Fav are all graphic designers when I hate their music? Maybe it's the hype of the music biz infecting our pure indie streams. Everyone needs to sell records to stay in business, but why can't a band just tour, slay people and gain popularity that way?
 
i'm gonna go ahead and concur with you on the overweening awesomeness of the early 90s. i was coming up in chapel hill, nc at the time, when some of the best bands in the genre were churning out career highlights every couple months, it seemed. once i actually got to see archers, superchunk and polvo play the same gig at a venue that was within walking distance of my house. kind of irrelevant to the discussion at hand, but it r00led.


as far as the music's unfashionability, what else can be said but that discord's not so easy on the ears? when you think about it, bands like unwound and polvo make all but the most extreme grindcore sound like muzak, in terms of both intensity and quality. and this argument works beautifully without stopping to consider the music's marked lack of sexiness. noise-pop groups (one genre appellation i happen to adore) don't fill the stage with nine classically-trained players building orchestral tension, they don't dress in snappy outfits and they don't warble on in made-up languages. and they lack the over-the-topness of glitchboys like kid 606, who are just as abrasive, but make more "noise" hypewise with their attention-starved extraversion. the noise-popsters look just like all the guitar trios and quartets on the radio, except their music's not as palatable and whatever personality they have is steeped in subtlety and the unwillingness to play trendy 80s covers for quick attention. see what i mean? no hooks for the music press to hang their hackwork on except "the music" by itself, which simply won't cut it in these ever-so-sophisticated and image-conscious aughts. (zeroes? what do you guys call this decade?)


but there are plenty of bands carrying on that spirit today, although unfortunately, the archers, polvo and unwound are all broke up. i'm talking about les savy fav, the liars, the ex-models, the oxes, the fire show, the hot snakes. . . and hopefully, this new shit'll catch on a bit better than their predecessors. they seem to be more vibrant, unpredictable and explicitly quirky personality-wise, which apparently is what it takes to get anywhere these days. the ideas that magnetically drew bands together ten years ago are still around, it's just about presenting them in a sexy enough package that people'll pay attention, buy the records and patronize the shows. sucks, but i'd bet most valid counterexamples are probably anomalies. but for now, let it suffice to revel in the smug superiority of sublime taste. sometimes it's my only comfort.

deen @ 1:43 PM

 
I am beginning to feel old.
We hired a new guy at the store a few weeks ago. His name is Chad. He's a great worker and he's a cool, awkward guy. He's also twenty years old, and before he came to work at the store, he had never heard the Jesus Lizard, Shellac, Fugazi, Polvo or Archers of Loaf. He's not an indie wallflower - he's in bands, he's constantly downloading music - but for some reason, early-mid 90s indie rock has just not registered on his radar.

For my money, the early nineties produced some of the most visceral, interesting, intense moments of rock music that I've ever heard, and some of the bands who were around from say 1991 to 1993, were/are still around last year when "best of" lists came out. Unwound was on most of them. So was Fugazi. But Chad still didn't check them out.

Chad is indicative of a lot of what I see, read and hear: he's into glitch and post-rock. But he also has quite the hard-on for Sonic Youth and Spacemen Three, which would indicate to me that he isn't unaware of older music. He also seems to dig a lot of the stuff I've played for him. He just about shit himself when I played him At Action Park. So why is it that he has never heard these bands before?

The most obvious answer could be found in the media - real and virtual. All the bands who are getting press these days seem to be Mogwai-based post-rock or computer-cut pop. It only makes sense that what's happening now is what's being listened to.

Here's where my age starts to show. I don't see too much value in today's "now" musics. There is less immediacy, less intensity, less memorability. No post-rock can take the place of Liar, and no glitch can take the place of Exploded Drawing. If that's true, then why doesn't Chad know about the bands mentioned here?

Because these bands are old. As aggressive and as innovative as they are/were, their legacies are all but dead. It makes me sad to think that a lot of my favorite bands are being forgotten by people who are still young enough to be fairly impressionable. Should I try to prevent this or am I witnessing the birth of a new generation of musicians/music fans who care more about sound than they do about songs?

If that's the case, I see nothing but gloom on the horizon: a sea of faceless indie bands who try to outdo each other by coming up with the best imitation of Tortoise, Godspeed or some guy they heard on Clicks and Cuts Vol 2.

Am I wrong?



 
first impression: sleater-kinney - one beat

On All Hands On The Bad One Sleater-Kinney managed to find the perfect balance between their two strongest points - vocal harmony/counterpoint and guitar harmony/counterpoint. Add to that their best songwriting yet, and you had a killer album. I'm sad to say that on this new one the guitars drone more often than they clang, there's much more unison, and in general the guitar playing isn't quite as interesting as it has been in the past. Both vocalists are more active this time around, and they both try stretching their range a bit more. It's a shame it doesn't work out, since what sounded punk grrl stellar in alto sounds like a wounded walrus down a few octaves.

That said, I think it might grow on me - there are some very cool guitar tones going on, and a lot of the more drone-y sections remind me of the last Unwound outing, one of last year's best.


 
Cornelius - Point

I had this on mp3 a while ago and I just got the physical CD a couple days ago, which means I finally get to try it out on headphones. Wow. I'd never really concentrated on it before, tossing it off as a bit too produced and tweaked. But upon closer inspection, Point has a lot of weird harmonic and rhythmic workouts. It's a lot denser than I realized, and far more complex. I guess I expected something more emotionally appealing, but instead the album functions very analytically. And while the payoffs seem initially a bit underwhelming, I think it has the potential to grow on me. Anybody have opinions on this?




Sunday, June 09, 2002
 
I appreciate your comments, Todd, and I agree with you on almost all counts (even regarding the Hives' authenticity, because I'm not sure at all- I just don't trust enough). I suppose that if I really were to learn to "let go" like you described, I would quit all the reviewing and the reading and all, but I don't think I can, because I love thinking about it too much.

Regarding your last point, though, about me "looking down" on people who are carefree and able to love it, I think I made it pretty clear in the review that those people are the paragon for all music fans, and if anything, I look up to them.

 
Re: The Live Hives Review

Leon, I'm as much fascinated by your scientific analysis of the concert, as well as the dilemna that you depict within the review. I think, however, that your suspicions are a bit ill placed in the case of the Hives, who have been around for a number of years 4 or 5, I believe. They've been toiling away in Sweeden, while the somewhat lesser- but a ton more enjoyable to me- International Noise Conspiracy has had the more success in America. I would hope/think that the lead singers smirk at the end of the show was more bewilderment, than anything else. What else could as amusing/confusing as a bunch of American teenagers rocking out to songs you had composed half a world away in a practice space somewhere. I'm almost as nearly as positive that the lead singer's loves your type, as well. You paid to go to the concert, you may have paid to hear their music, and you recognize where they're coming from and wanted to make an educated decision on it.

As always, though, if you want to really get into and enjoy the music, I would higly suggest just giving up the whole music reviewing racket. Give up reading about music all the time. Give up thinking about it all the time. Don't subscribe to any magazine, either. You should listen to your friends talk about music and maybe buy five albums a year- and when you listen to those five albums a year, which you wear out because you listen to them so much, you daydream about their live show- and when they come to your city you go right up to the front row and when it starts you dance your ass off. That's the only way I see the music starting to mean what it means to the people who you describe earlier on in the review. And the music may mean something to them, something which you may look down, but something that is so powerful and meaningful to them, that it doesn't matter what you think.

I don't know if that makes any sense really. But I think what I'm trying to say is that there seem to be a lot of different types of music fans. There's no reason to look down on one over another- and there's no reason to believe that yours is worse than any other. While we may never know what the Hives think of their fans, in reality, you can rest assure they don't go back into the backstage and laugh about how money they have or dive into money pits like Scrooge McDuck...yet.
Friday, June 07, 2002
 
The Hives

Live at the Cabaret Metro 6.5.02

I’m sitting here, trying to come up with a rock’n’roll way to characterize the Hives without sounding like an over excited newbie or a skeptical misoneist. What the hell are they? Brilliant but manufactured? Cerebral but uselessly retro? Those don’t work, it seems, because what the Hives are doing cannot be distilled into a mere “pros” and “cons” data table. Their mission is so evil and exploitive that it should touch music fans everywhere, striking a nerve, hurting our confidence in the industry more than any RIAA lawsuit ever could. No matter how hard the Hives try to come off as exciting, new, and spontaneous, the very foundation of their success- no- their very existence- is controlled and tedious, each fuzz of EXTREME DISTORTION carefully calculated, each YOUTHFUL LEAP planned, and each SEXUAL HOWL practiced to perfection. A hero can’t be flawless, and the Hives gleam and shine as if they are. Accepting them at face value is internally gut wrenching, because intuitively we all know that loving them would feel wonderful, but most likely, utterly fake.

I stood towards the back of the Cabaret Metro, a small club in Chicago that fits about 1000 people. I’ll generalize and say that 500 of them were tall dark boys in thick rims who had learned of the Hives through their international NME subscription, and the other 500 were cute girls who had heard “Main Offender” on the radio. I was completely in love with both of them, because we were all there together, trying to decide if what we were witnessing was a new movement in pop music or an empty fad that would end before too long. We had different standards, obviously. The radio fans were there to jump around and have a good time, and if they could that, they were thrilled. That’s perfect. That’s exactly how rock’n’roll should be taken in. The other half, of which I hate to admit I was a part of, was standing still, maybe tapping a foot, inside our heads comparing the Hives to the Stooges and the Ramones, measuring intensity and honesty, trying to make a scientific decision about whether or not this band deserved our heart and soul.

To really love a band, to really believe that they can change the world, you have to be able to put your faith in them. You have to trust in them, and as the Hives thrusted around, posing and taunting the crowd from the stage, trying desperately hard to be sexual, powerful, and energetic, I stood there, not believing a single fucking word they were saying. “YOU LOVE THE HIVES! CHICAGO? DO YOU LOVE THE HIVES?” they’d yell out between every song. So much of their act was blatantly tongue in cheek that it was impossible to know if they were serious about their music, or more importantly, their spirit. I stood there, trying to let go and have fun like I was supposed to, surrendering to the Hives, putting my very heart into their hands, but something wouldn’t let me. I didn’t trust them. I couldn’t devote myself to a band that might be playing me for a fool, sniggering to each other after the show and counting their nickels, high fiving about just how well they were able to pull it off in Chicago.

What I was seeing, then, was a completely unremarkable stage show. I’ve always thought that a band’s spirit is more important than their music, and it’s that philosophy that let me get as far as I did with the Hives. As a band, they sound very average, and downright crummy at times. If their attitude is fake, then what’s left? Ignorant bliss? Crushing betrayal? Depends on how much you know, I guess.

As the show came to a close, most of the crowd walked out with a smile on their face. They were sweaty, exhausted, and invigorated, and for a second I thought that I may have been wrong. After all, these people looked like they had seen the second coming of Iggy Stooge, and here I was feeling like someone who had just had his heart torn out. I looked up, and I saw the stage entrance steps, where a couple of the Hives, namely frontman Howlin’ Pelle and gun slinger Nichalous Arson, were sitting, looking at their fans as they walked out of the venue. Pelle was sitting with his chin in his hands, his eyes intently following the crowd.

He was smirking.

The ambiguity of his expression made me want to kill him. Either my worst fears were being confirmed, or he was just so genuinely exhilarated by his performance that he couldn’t even hold it in long enough to look like the dead-cool rock star he was supposed to be. I didn’t know, and it drove me crazy. Maybe that’s the brilliance of the Hives. Certainly, it’s the attraction. Either way, it’s not fulfilling, or enlightening, or erotic. It just seems like a mean trick.




Tell me what you think, both of the content and the review itself.
Wednesday, June 05, 2002
 
Akufen

Gavin's review of it will go up tomorrow, but I have to preempt him by saying this shit is hot. At times it's incredibly smooth, almost stylized house. At others it's this completley herky jerky thing that disconcerts even those with the shortest attention span. Anyone interested in hearing this, I highly recommend "Skidoos" and "Heaven Can Wait".
Monday, June 03, 2002
 
Obie Trice and Screwball

Obie Trice isn't an official member of D-12 -- he's down with them, though. I haven't actually heard him rap (except at the beginning of "Without Me"), but I hear he's supposed to be kinda okay, just like most of the members of D-12. Yeah, so, needless to say, I'm on pins and needles waiting for his release, hopefully it'll be as good as Devil's Night or The Eminem Show...

The more I listen to Screwball's fantastic and underrated debut Y2K, the more I realize how great a good thug rapper can be. Many lament the usage of threats and descriptions of violence groups like Screwball, Mobb Deep, and C-N-N and solo artists like Cormega and Cam'ron base their rhymes around, but I applaud them if done in moderation. On Y2K, Screwball artists Poet and Hostyle balance their threats closely with stories and fantastic flows. Yeah, noone will probably check for Screwball after this, but they are just too good not to mention -- production by DJ Premier, Pete Rock and Mike Heron (you'll know his name soon enough) on their first outing.. pure classic. One of my favorite albums, and, to think, I just paid 2.50 for it.. stunning.
Saturday, June 01, 2002
 
The Fall - "Mere Pseud Mag Ed (live at Band on the Wall 1982)" and very loose relevance to Eminem

When you've got what seems to be an intense case of the flu -- in early June, for some reason -- many songs can take on unexpectedly nasty aspects (or, for that matter, any sickness -- I have a very bad memory that ties They Might Be Giants together with a torn diapraghm from childhood). And so I thought that this one's utterly bizarre wait-is-that-the-one-from-the-album-and-if-so-why... quality was largely due to the horrible fever I had last night, yet, this morning, with some added clarity, it sounded the same. The stinging assault of the original is muted -- it really does sound, to tell the truth, like Scanlon's guitar isn't plugged in all the way -- and in its stead is a spidery, disfigured mess of dual-drumkit and bass crawl, atop which Mark E. Smith rants in the most shockingly, deliberately out-of-tempo slur imaginable, managing to drool out disses on cultural touchstones like Kraftwerk and The Man Who Fell to Earth, as well as many other things I can't even begin to comprehend. I guess hearing this ghastly, brilliant trainwreck is like gazing at the rotting corpse of the original; what's funny is that this sonic mutation, which at times sounds like the most inept Krautrock band to never have existed, carries far more power than most of punk's calculated offenses. So perhaps this is the sound of someone crying out for new sacred cows to be slaughtered, those fallen long ago having long since turned to offal.

Does this have anything to do with Eminem? Well, he's always seemed to me as predictable as Mark E. Smith is incoherent and unpredictable, which is perhaps funny since they're both playing the same role: psychopathic loose-cannon. Yet I find Eminem's predictability and repetitiveness -- of course he has to diss Moby even though doing so puts him in the unenviable position of using techno-inspired production and/or displaying a certain shortage of courage by going after an easy target, just as dissing the acts he's appeared with appeared on TRL does -- part of his persona, and maybe why those of us who enjoy him (though I really don't, especially not this song, which I've only heard half of but still seems to mine the same irritating territory as "The Way I Am") do. Cf. famously "offensive" stand-up comedian tackling his feminist critics; we know he's going to say something arrogant and silly, which is why we laugh or maybe groan. We're either on the bus or off the bus with him: this will delight or irritate (or, okay, maybe a little of both). Cf. also professional wrestling and maybe even Roland Barthes' comments on said form of entertainment.


 
Re: Eminem

Since when has an Eminem attack ever warranted serious thought? His disses have always seemed like irreverent pop culture lists that he throws out to stir up trouble. The only difference on this album is that now since everyone has weighed in on the Eminem "controversy" over the past two, he just fires back at those who have already badmouthed him. It's almost the equivalent of namedropping: see how controversial I am? Moby and Lynn Cheney hate me! I'm so bad!

No one with an action figure in his likeness can be all that controversial.




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