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Tuesday, April 30, 2002
I think Evan is being a bit too reductive lumping all of sampling into a group with covers and "bootlegs." I think sampling is one of the most potent forms of artistic expression, especially in our post-modern world. Co-opting other pieces of music and putting them into new contexts is not only a valid form of expression, but can be incredibly revelatory. DJ Shadow's Endtroducing... should stand as evidence enough -- a wholly original work composed entirely of pieces of other songs. Those who sample (and do it well) are really the most perceptive music listeners, able to deconstruct songs and use the pieces to make something entirely different. I hardly think anyone would call the Beastie Boys' Paul's Boutique or Beck's Odelay unoriginal (the Dust Brothers have digital sampling down). An incredible amount of unique music is sample-based: everything from A Tribe Called Quest to Wu-Tang Clan to Kid 606 to Amon Tobin. True, a few hacks have seemingly diminished sampling's respectability -- Puff Daddy comes to mind -- but this is also an oversimplification. I wouldn't say Creed has somehow damaged the respectability of original rock music just because they do it poorly. Those who accuse sampling of thievery and unoriginality simply don't understand the art form.
regarding covers and boots
As I get older and closer to the "real world" where people wake up at ungodly hours of the morning, go to bed before 3am, and attend something called "work" instead of daily classes, I find I have less and less time to do some of the things I enjoy. A few years ago I could have easily found time to sit down with an album and devoted my whole attention to it, but recently there just aren't that many hours in the day. Perhaps it's this lack of time, or maybe it's my newfound personal quest for everything "real" and "original" and "unique" -- which affects everything from my choice of beer to my choice of clothes to my choice in music -- but it surely must be one of these that makes me very wary of covers, interpretation and sampling.
I've apparently developed a general disdain for these "copies," unless they can affect me on my own terms, and sneak into my world dispite my preconcieved notions. I now find myself with limited time to search out good new music, so the likelyhood of interesting new sample-based music finding me will only diminish with time, and I'm afraid I'll find my annual album consumption drop steadily lower as the years wear on, unless I somehow find my way into a profession that deals with music directly in some way.* A sad result of this is I have become somewhat biased, and will give "original" music more of a chance than covers etc. Now don't get me wrong, there are artists who can take something pre-existing and turn it into something entirely original and new, but from my experience, the vast majority of covered or sampled art is inferior to the original.
I guess my point is (the point about music, not the point about wasting my carefree youth) this... it's high time for more music magazines (online or off) that can filter through the millions(?) of albums released each year, and point out the best. Yeah... that sounds like a point, sort of.
*however, I know if I try I can avoid this... my friend's father is around 50 years, and still manages to a) know about Trail of Dead and enjoy them, and b) amaze us young-uns with his extensive knowledge of obscure rock from the sixties to the present. And he's a doctor!
Just when I thought I was done mentioning this...
Freaky Trigger's Tom Ewing goes out and writes a marvelous Pop-Eye, his site's weekly dissection of the British singles charts, about "Freak Like Me" hitting No. 1, and in the process explains why pop can be not only fun but community forming and a bit of a solipsism buster in our fractured, niche culture times. And I see Evan's points about the White Stripes and the Strokes being in the charts a little more clearly, too, and realize how happy I was at times when the singles I loved were beloved by many. (and Tom beat to the punch by calling it an electroclash song, too, dammit.)
(OK, the monopoly police will be out for me if I mention Freaky Trigger or the Sugababes again this week...)
Monday, April 29, 2002
One more link: Tom Ewing on why he loves boots, which in itself is a bit of a boot culled from an ILM thread.
Bootleging and the Demolition men
Todd, I’d be interested to hear your take not just on this nose-thumbing U.S.-style bootlegging, as referenced in the Village Voice article (most of which I also dislike; Kid 606’s "Straight Outta Compton" was a brilliant deconstruction, it chiseled the original into a sharp, fine point by returning its menace, but most of the rest of these just sound like sonic pranks – and not very funny ones), but also the London-based boots, if you’ve heard them. Many of those are lazy, simplistic juxtaposition, but when they work, they sound glorious to me – probably because they’re not chortling but loving. The Richard X/Girls on Top, the Freelance Hellraiser, and Soulwax stuff, in particular, is really good. And this week a cover of one of the scene’s best songs is the No. 1 single in the UK (the Sugababes covering the music of "Are 'Friends' Electric" and the lyrics of "Freak Like Me," which is available on the first link above). And a brilliant song it is, too. The Brits always have all of the pop fun.
Some more refreshingly "organic" IDM
I'm not too familiar with Plaid, Adam, but if you're looking for some groundbreaking IDM that sounds eminently human, check out Capitol K's Island Row. It's been recently rereleased by XL (Planet Mu's distribution is sorely lacking), and currently holds the top spot for my "Album of the Year" short list. It differs from most IDM by focusing on getting the most out of equipment instead of programming plug-ins and software patches. Live guitar, drum machine loops, and found sounds are tweaked through guitar pedals and analog modulations in a diverse blend full of energy. Highlights include "Anon" (caustic break beats, guitar noodling, and fragile vocals molded into beautiful disco-pop), "Darussalam" (downbeat + post-rock, but so much more), and "Heat" (lo-fi glitch with more Thom-Yorke-styled singing). I could barely bring myself to listen to anything else all weekend.
Like it or not (and I HATE a lot of it), this is a bona fide movement, now.
On a related tip, the Village Voice has consistently some of the most interesting and accomplished music writing around these days.
Expect some thoughts in the future by me, hopefully.
Regarding my Pacific Trim review
I didn't necessarily mean to convey that Malkmus' lyrics made no sense. In fact, as we all know, nothing is really further from the truth. Although they are composed in a less than structured manner, they have the uncanny ability to make their point regardless, which is why he is one of my favorite songwriters. What I was trying to say is that the way he was making his point that time around was one of his more cloudy excursions (although that last verse is a pretty severe left turn).
Sunday, April 28, 2002
Dillinger's "Cocaine In My Brain"
"New York, that's N-E-W Y-O-R-K, man. No, Jim, you've made a mistake, Jim, I'm gonna teach you the right way and the proper way to spell New York. Well go ahead, John. A knife, a fork, a bottle and a cork. That's the way we spell New York, Jim. You see I'm a dynamite."
I love Lee Hazelwood as well, "No Train To Stockholm" is a great tune. He seems like a real strange guy.
Friday, April 26, 2002
A few random notes:
Someone please buy/download Burnt By the Sun's self-titled Relapse e.p. ("Buffy", "You Will Move", "Lizard Skin Barbie" and some song title with "Fish" in the title) and tell me how amazing you think they are. There isn't another band like this on earth. Listening to them is like attending a getting-hit-on-the-head-with-a-shovel party.
At the moment in our record store we're listening to a Lee Hazelwood CDR that we received from Scratch Records in Vancouver (www.scratchrecords.com). A former songwriter for male and female Sinatras, Hazelwood wrote some amazingly funny countirfied folk. The song introductions are bizarre and the tunes themselves are very tender and clever. Elderly people should be singing these songs rather than driving.
Also, we finally received the new Wilco. Pleasant and innocuous. That's about all I can make of it.
Finally, Adam, no one is as crazy as you.
Speaking of being hard to chose a top 10...
This will be short, but I still wonder if anyone is as crazy about Plaids' "Double Figure" as I am. To me, this is what I think of music when I think 5 years from now...it's amazingly effective blend of organic and electronically manipulated sounds. As far as specific songs, Eyen (#1), Squance (#2) and Manyme (last song) best represent what I'm trying to say. Eyen has an extremely intense buildup. As I was laying in my bed listening to it, I could barely lay still as the song kicked in. And Manyme, thats a totally different story. Focusing on one main melody, it remains fresh throughout the 4:45. Not only does it remain fresh, I think the entire cd sets standards for me in what IDM should sound like. This is the future of music.
Thursday, April 25, 2002
Sound Collector has been one of my favorite reads for a while now, Tom. I haven't seen the new Audio Review section, but it sounds intriguing. If it's anything like the parent publication, it must be fantastic. Two of my favorite Sound Collector moments? Tthe Andrew WK interview, in issue 5 or 6 I think, before he was big. He seemed to be an unreal creature, unlike any person I'd ever read about before. His words almost leapt off the page in their enthusiam. Yes, this guy has, seemingly, always been like this. The second favorite moment was the article in the new issue about the woman who downloaded some Napster clip that was mislabeled. The sounds of the mislabled song had quite an effect on her- I'm still wondering if the whole story was a fabrication or not, but I was wondering the other day about e-mailing her and asking her about it. Unfortunately, my Sound Collector's are at home, and not at school. I'll have to remember to do that when I go back.
Anyway, much respect to Sound Collector, in the end. They run a quality publication there.
"Covers" and Recent Interpretation
Evan, I think Vank Ronk's idea of an interpretation and your idea of a cover are very different things. There are a number of skilled, interesting interpreters, not just crummy "cover bands" who perform songs verbatim.
Scott touched a bit on artists such as Costello, Johnny Cash and Bryan Ferry venturing further into interpreation. While I haven't heard Ferry's recent stuff, something is lacking from the Cash and Costello breed of interpretation. While I love many of the Johnny Cash covers (especially his "Mercy Seat", which eclipses the original in my mind) he just takes each song and puts it through the Johnny Cash/"Luther Picking" and they end up all sounding very similar. Costello on the other seems to be stuck in more of a fanboy mentality, covering songs he loves that he probably shouldn't be singing, this is why Kojak Variety was such a failure.
Have you guys heard Michelle Branch or Alicia Keys?
They’re only teenage pop singers, but – get this! – they write and play their own songs! Therefore, I’m allowed to like them. Uh, you get the idea. Maybe this oversimplifies things, but I think boring old authenticity issues are partly to blame for the lack of song interpreters. And if people do perform other people’s songs it seems to be either a) very carbon copy, so not to spoil sticky things such as the author’s intent or the song’s integrity or b) a comedy cover.
Back in the singer-songwriter heyday (now available in this TV offer!) even yer Elton John’s didn’t mind singing someone else’s lyrics or yer Paul Simon’s didn’t mind giving a song over to Art Garfunkel if he thought his partner’s voice suited it best. That writer’s intent business is closer to Stephen Merritt territory than proper Scott Walker sings Jacques Brel (or Richard Harris sings whomever) interpretation, probably. But somewhere along the line serious songwriters are no longer allowed to offer someone else their words, and if someone sings it like they mean it, they better damn well have written it. ("Older" singers, even ones that are great songwriters – Johnny Cash, Bryan Ferry, Elvis Costello – have dabbled in interpretation with mixed results in later years, but it still seems to be an idea people "grow into" or resort to when they think their writing talent is sapped.)
I would also welcome interpreters, too. I like it when pop eats itself, dammit. I like the sense of history, the dialogue with the past, the juxtaposition, the blend of personalities – whether it is a cover or just borrowing musical passages (e.g. Pulp’s "Disco 2000"). I think my favorite Jeff Tweedy moment could even be his solo acoustic cover of Blondie’s "Dreaming." Like the Pet Shop Boys’ interpretation of "Go West" (as mentioned in the liner notes to the reissue in that case), each later version of those songs go from hopeful to hollow to ultimately heartbreaking and do so thanks to the flat vocal delivery, the singer’s knowledge that dreams may be free, but that’s all they are: dreams. (I like to think that the "All of my lies are wishes" line from YHF has its roots in Tweedy playing that Blondie song multiple times, but that’s probably not true.)
I’d say the 12´´ DJ mix, sampling, the remix, and the bootleg (2 Many Djs-style, not Red Rocks 1981) are today’s interpretive songs. (although we get the idea, already: Why does every American hip-hop or R&B remix have to say "this is the remix"? Stop this, please.) "Straight Outta Compton" is the new "This Land Is Your Land"! Which is great, but it's too bad that breakbeat culture is the only one allowed to directly recycle the past these days. (Travis and Elephant 6 bands and Belle and Sebastian: The Pastiche Years, etc., etc. of course, recycle the past but do so by borrowing heavily from our only common talking points -- classic rock/pop/soul of the 60s/70s -- but it doesn't really seem to be the same thing. Less dialogue, more reclamation.)
grr, sorry., didn't mean to babble on and on...
Sound Collector Audio Review
Has anyone else seen the debut issue of Sound Collector Audio Review--a new spin-off publication long-running Sound Collector zine?--It mimics the look of the New York Times Book Review, using the same formatting, fonts and illustration style. It treats recordings as legitimate cultural artifacts. It doesn't limit itself to record company release schedules. They write about music they care about, old or new? . The winter 2002 issue features reviews of Pulp, Peggy Lee, Thin Lizzy, the Strokes, Vashti Bunyan, Langley School of Music and others. The next issue is scheduled to hit newsstands in early June and will appear quarterly thereafter.
Considering the similar approach that happens here, I was curious if anyone else has picked it up.
Top 10 Lists
does anybody else find this 'selecting 10 new artists' thing a little difficult... i mean - at what point do we stop?, i know i may have a different case from yall (being an NZer and all - the band i may list as up and comers may never ever make it to your shores), and im of course out of sync from your live scene...
Club owners and record labels may be prejudiced against "cover bands" these days, but I think they're at least somewhat justified. Back in the 50's and 60's if you wanted to cover a song, you either had to buy sheet music (which, I imagine, was not readily available for every song), or simply hammer away at a guitar until you figured it out. Today, a quick search on the internet can get you chords, lyrics, even basslines and solos all nicely typed out and ready-to-play if you've got the technical skill.
On top of that, "cover bands" have gotten a bad reputation for the simple reason that most of them are bad! Most bands who "interpret" others' songs play them pretty much verbatim, with little or no creativity added. Of course, there are exceptions, but most bands/performers that are creative enough to play an interesting cover are also creative enough to write decent original songs.
Colin's Review of 'Pacific Trim'
I have to disagree with Colin's aside regarding 'Give it a Day'. Though the lyrics, by indie standards even, aren't the most straightforward, they do make quite a bit of sense. Increase and Cotton Mather were both priests during the Salem witch trials. Increase, (a man, contrary to Steve's labeling Increase a 'she' almost immediately) in his writings, made an open connection between sexual promiscuity and witchcraft. This connects with the (modern day?) parallel between the boy speaking to his girlfriend in the final verse regarding a conversation she had with her father, 'He called you a slut girl, / why's that? / what did you do to him to make him think that?'. The song is clearly about social prejudice against women, with men 'in every pew' looking to the gender-biased Cotton. There's enough Malkmus in there to throw us off though, '...just like eyeless lambs awaiting that old kebab stand', '...the word spread just like smallpox in the Sudan'. Anyhow, it is cool that you have paid attention to one of the more overlooked items in the Pavement catalog.
Wednesday, April 24, 2002
Dave Van Ronk from his To My Friends In Far Flung Places liner notes:
"One of the major problems of the current songwriting renaissance is the dearth of discrimnating interpreters. Except for writers whose material is C & W compatible, it is next to impossible to get someone, anyone, to sing a song he or she didn't personally compose. To make matters worse, the prevailing climate among acoustical performers is very discouraging for interpreters. Not long ago, a singer-songwriter acquaintance of mine remarked of a contemporary (who is, by the way, a fine singer), "Oh, she only does 'covers'!" (I had a sudden prophetic vision of a CD which will appear in the near future - "Pavarotti 'Covers' Puccini.") Record companies and the people who book clubs and concerts share this prejudice, and indeed the situation has become so grotesquely unbalanced that I suspect the pendulum is about to swing back the other way. Let's hope it doesn't swoop over to the opposite extreme where songwriters feel it necessary to fob off their tunes as "Folk Songs," as did John Jacob Niles and others in the '30s and '40s."
What's your take? I generally agree but then I wouldn't wanna be the guy only performing interpretations.
Deen's Dream (ho ho Dead Milkmen fans)
Aging '70s stars (well, Jon Langford from the Mekons) + Jeff Tweedy + children and parents. It sounds as if you dreamed of a Wiggleworms Dads show!
A dissenting opinion, of sorts
The Village Voice dares to speak the unutterable: "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot is basically a good album, even a great album if you're in the mood, though if you listen to a lot of hip-hop (or house music or basement bhangra or any other genre not dominated by white people), it probably won't be the most extraordinary album you'll hear all month."
OK, I really like this album. I like it more than either of the two previous Wilco records or the first Mermaid Avenue – three discs (OK, technically four) that I spent a great deal of time wrapped up with and, as a Chicago resident, into which I even invested some sort of lame civic pride. Yet, I also wholeheartedly agree with this writer and am surprised to be reading this sentiment for the first time.
No, Todd, this is not a perfect album and nothing really could be, right? (Maybe at a certain time and place, but if you have the same reaction to a record every time you hear it, is that honesty or just dutiful respect?). This is a perfect album, however, to champion in 2002. The writer also goes on to challenge the (IMHO) rather flimsy notion that this is a difficult record – one probably fostered more by a now-sacked Reprise employee than anyone else. (If Reprise releases this album, does anyone really make that claim?) And that really may be the key. It’s a throwback of sorts, is not off-putting to either the fraternity or 401K crowd, has some underdog and anti-corporate status, and it’s the best excuse since Napster’s demise to get high and mighty about what’s wrong with the rock world. Yet despite this record being considered the antithesis to all that is evil about U.S. music, it highlights one of the biggest problems with American music crit: Too often, only rock matters. As a result, a very rich and rewarding yet rather traditionally arranged rock album is, by many critics, being considered musically progressive or difficult. Pot. Kettle. Black.
Monday, April 22, 2002
Hip Hop Debate
I had a much longer post, but the Blogger ate it, so I'll attempt to distill it down to its main points.
The biggest problem in underground hip hop is not too much experimentation; it's that there isn't enough. A few labels put out interesting, groundbreaking hip hop (Def Jux and Stone's Throw), but my main complaint with most undie hip hop is that it constantly looks backwards instead of forward. Fanatic old-school fetishism quickly wears thin, and when it comes down to it, I don't really care who is "real" hip hop, and endless battle rhymes against mainstream MCs seem like shooting peas at tanks. I just want to listen to something interesting, new, and different. My criticism of Anti-Pop Consortium is they are too self-consciously experimental (I think Scott already brought this up), often at the expense of their music.
The biggest problem in mainstream hip hop is that hip hop is pushed as product instead of art. Everything revolves around promotion and image, and the music is often secondary (which is why so much of it sucks). However, since a lot of money is at stake, innovation can be key. I think the state of mainstream hip hop is very good right now, certainly better than it was a few years ago. This is because hip hop's audience has changed: lots of white kids buy hip hop CDs. In fact, white kids make up the bulk of hip hop purchases. Insular thug rhetoric won't help you stand out (unless you've got a growl like DMX). That's why we're seeing innovative producers such as the Neptunes and Timbaland (do I mention them every time I write about music?) hit big time, along with talented, charismatic MCs like Ludacris and Jay-Z. The cream rises to the top. Furthermore, I see mainstream hip hop embracing more white musical styles: Nappy Roots have recently struck a chord mixing country, blues, and Southern bounce, and Outkast already astounded listeners with their wanton genre-mashing. Whether this is simply pop-music inbreeding (a la rap-metal) or something far more potent remains to be seen.
I guess what this boils down to is that mainstream and undie hip hop suffer from the same problems (although for different reasons). Both have a dearth of uninteresting, unexciting artists (as do all genres), but with some excellent acts worth getting excited about. I think the only reason why people draw a line between the two is because of the vehemence of undie MCs about "keeping it real" juxtaposed with the mainstream MCs constant desire to get paid. In my opinion, both are equally uninteresting viewpoints. It doesn't matter with whom I agree -- I'm not a music fan because of politics. What matters most to me is the sound that comes out of my speakers.
Wilco's 'Yankee Hotel Foxtrot'
So what's Pitchfork's thing now? Trying to gauge the readership's reaction by throwing tens on any old thing? I liked the new ...Trail of Dead album, but it is by no means a ten. I've heard 'Yankee Hotel Foxtrot' and it is not a ten. I agree with Todd completely that there should be some almost total agreement for the awarding of a perfect score. It just seems silly otherwise.
funniest thing. . .
Underground vs. Mainstream Hip-Hop
For my sloppy-as-usual thoughts on the subject (which have since changed -- i.e., I heard Cannibal Ox and I think they're completely great), see this.
Oops they did it again.
Is there such thing as a perfect record?
If we end up having that discussion...
...I've got your back, Todd. I haven't heard enough undie hip-hop (or maybe I've heard just enough, heh), but I always seem to be turned off by its humorlessness, lack of personality, and purity issues. (It's no wonder the backpacker hip-hop appeals to the indie kids!) It even seems that this dichotomy is getting worse, if anything. From what I can tell (which might not be much: "Picastro or Aceyalone?" Who?), many of these anti-pop, undie consortiums are even borrowing mainly from the electronic palatte that has indie approval, mostly IDM and home listening music -- almost never anything that could be played in a club -- placing their "serious" lyrics over similarly stone-faced tracks. I'd love to hear most of the propsed collaborations or directions, I guess the difference is that if a track is built around touchstones such as West African music or dancehall/reggae or "Where's Your Head At?" or UK garage or indie rock, I'd rather have a personality such as Ludacris on the mic than, I dunno, Lyrics Born. I just wish, too, that it didn't seem as if the more important an MC thinks his or her message is, the more likely they'll be rhyming over some dinner-party soul music. (see: "Umi Says," which I know is almost uniformly revered but it just doesn't do a thing for me.)
Sunday, April 21, 2002
Mainstream Hip Hop
"Mainstream hip hop is genuinely fucked."
I'd tend to think not, actually, and I'm sure I'd have some support in saying this. How isn't Outkast not known as a mainstream hip hop artist, first, if you are declaring it strictly in terms of mainstream vs. underground? Second, I think that Missy Elliot, Mystikal, Ludacris, Brandy (on her new record), and a score of other artists are doing very interesting things. I think the thing that they have in common, for me at least, is that their main draw lies in their production (Timbaland, The Neptunes, and Rodney Jerkins).
I'd think you'd run into a score of people who would rather say that mainstream hip hop is going through a period that is including the cutting and pasting of other genres of music, whether they admit to the influence or not (Timbaland- eastern sounding instruments, Neptunes- rock sounding instruments, Jerkins- IDM/Prefuse inflected stuff on "What About Us?"), and consequently a period that is much riper in innovation than many other genres right now.
Concerning everyone's complaints about hip hop
You all managed to mention some pretty phenomenal artists (Outkast, Anticon, Cannibal Ox, EL-P, Prefuse 73). Add to that list Mos Def, Roots, Roots Manuva, some Battle Ax and NGR guys and you have yourself a decent core of artists who could easily influence/lead a revolution.
I can see where everyone's coming from, I just think you should be more specific. Mainstream hip hop is genuinely fucked. Underground hip hop is just fine and is clearly no worse off than underground rock. Picastro or Aceyalone? Gee, what a tough choice.
Saturday, April 20, 2002
jazz isn't dead--
miles & hip hop.
Does hip hop need a Miles Davis? In my opinion (which I share with Ken Burns, though the documentary was mostly crap), Miles Davis killed jazz. Sure, nearly every fusion album he released was hugely influencial, and you can certainly hear In A Silent Way in plenty of electronica and ambient music, and Bitches Brew is all over the place, especially in noise-rock/post-rock... but Miles' fusion albums had very little lasting influence in jazz. Jazz fusion was a huge innovation, but the true innovators transcended jazz in a way, and transfered the best elements of jazz to rock. After 30 years, the best, most innovative bands that use traditional elements of jazz are not considered "jazz bands," and those bands that are considered "jazz" are forced into a cookie-cutter aesthetic, and they stagnate on a Miles'-second-quintet vibe.
Does hip hop need an innovator like that? Do we want to wake up 30 years from now to find 100s of Dr Dre rip-offs, while the more interesting elements of hip hop have been co-opted by "rock" bands?
more on hip-hop
I think I heard Bambaataa speaking on the PBS Rock & Roll miniseries about discovering Kraftwerk once, and he said something to the effect of coming across a bizarre-looking record in a bin somewhere, tossing it on, and saying, "Damn! These German guys are funky!" The crate-digger/DJ mentality -- which, at the time, delighted in keeping its best sources a secret, i.e. soaking the labels off 12"s in bathtubs -- has always been primarily motivated to keep things fresh (in the traditional sense, yes, but in hip-hop the word of course takes on a different valence), and even then Bam realized that sampling the percussion breaks in Bob James' "(Take Me To The) Mardi Gras" or the Incredible Bongo Band's "Apache" over and again could lead to insularity and repetition. I've also read that he, and other DJs, delighted in making his crowd dance to records they thought they hated, thus the introduction of the Monkees' "Mary, Mary" into the fray; even though RUN-DMC thought it originated on an album by a band named "Toys in the Attic," they were spinning "Walk This Way" (as a break to lay unrelated rhymes over) before Rubin.
So maybe what we need, then, like Deen says, is a new breed of gleefully subversive DJ/producer/MC. I'm not necessarily saying they should sample the mid-sections of songs from Spiderland, quote Rainer Maria Rilke in club-oriented singles, or engage in similar forms of geez-I-can't-believe-they-did-that-ism (though out-there juxtapositions can be among the most thrilling parts of hip-hop), but a healthy dose of the experimental (provided, of course, it's directed at achieving a specific result as opposed to the avant-flexing I've heard in some of the Anticon stuff) could indeed revitalize things. We need more crate-diggers -- not necessarily in the literal sense; rather, adventurous, probing musicians and lyricists -- and less who turn in hackwork to get paid. Miles said, in his autobiography, that he wanted nothing more than to reach a younger generation of blacks with On the Corner. I suppose the album could be seen as an economic (and even, at the time, critical) failure, but I think the right people heard it.
keepin' it ours (re: hip-hop's insularity)
Certainly some hip hop artists are taking cues from genres hip hop helped to spawn - the most obvious example is Outkast, with "bombs over bahgdad" being clearly influenced by british garage. And then there's Gorillaz, who are more pop than anything else, but definately have the capacity to give hip hop a well-needed kick in the ass.
Then again, I doubt these artists are about to start any Neil Young/Lynyrd Skynyrd-style rivalries...
My chart hope
Picking up from Evan, I think I’d love for UK garage or dancehall to make inroads in America for no other reason than to have something, anything that is taking cues from U.S. hip-hop to actually engage with it, to start a dialogue. MTV had a special with Ludacris about a year ago, playing him records and recording his reaction. Most were hip-hop or pop records and he offered praise or, at least, respect. He didn’t get through about 30 seconds of Basement Jazz’s "Romeo" and he hated it, he had no frame of reference for it, and didn’t want to know, either. For a globe-strattling genre, hip-hop seems, with scarce exceptions, oddly insular, drawing mostly from itself and funk/jazz/soul. With everything from Ward 21 to SND to the Beta Band to the Streets taking cues from hip-hop, I can only wonder what would happen if hip-hop took notice.
What songs deserve to be hits or which sounds do you wish were making inroads in the U.S.?
From the Eat To The Beat album, this song is an oddball. Starting out with a bell, the song finally picks up steam with the male vocal track of a sort of primal chanting sound. Deborah Harrry comes over the din with a scream of her own, which finally culminates in, "I don't want you to go! Please don't leave me alone!" Coming after the soft ballad "Sound Asleep", it picks up the energy left off in "Atomic" and leads into the punk rock influenced "Livin' In The Real World", which closes the album and perhaps the most creative and successful period of the band's career. Harry wants her man back, who seems to be the love victor (?), in this case. Brilliantly constructed, it's a chorus-verse-chorus 3 minute masterpiece of oddness- in the context of Blondie, at least. Perhaps Harry had been taking some steps from John Lennon's "Mother" on the vocal tracks and the men had been taking David Bryne's world beat fascination to its conclusion by actually imitating the singing methods of African's tribesman? I don't really know, and I'm not sure I want to. Either way, it's a good song that you should check out after you check out Blondie's hits.
Friday, April 19, 2002
steve's web page
Have you ever heard a song that sounded vaguely familiar, yet wholly foreign at once? The Blue's Clues Dude + Lips have something here....
Suddenly Everything Has Changed
Pitchfork news tells us that Steve Burns -- the striped rugby shirt-wearing fella who formerly hosted the wildly popular kid's show "Blue's Clues" -- is recording an album of songs about "love and science." With the non-Wayne Coyne members of the Flaming Lips and Dave Fridmann. Which seemed more than a little odd. The first thing I did was forward Burns' web page address, because now that he is a self-confessed "rock godlet" with a post-Pee-Wee indie look and sense of humor that bordered on the precious, the world (or four of my friends) needed to know. The second thing I did is wish that I wasn't so wishy-washy and just got the damn DSL line already (or had not called in sick to work) so I didn't have to wait untl Monday to hear the damn songs.
The third thing I did was finally get excited about the new Flaming Lips album.
Where I had been expecting some sort of Spirtitualized or Mercury Rev-style disappointment (the breakthrough album -- but bigger!), I now have hope. Not just because this displays a humble sense of adventure, but because it and, in a way, "Blue's Clues," remind me of the things I love about The Soft Bulletin and its tour. (Which, I confess, I saw about seven times over the course of three years, in venues ranging from a carpeted union hall to a Ribfest parking lot. The Lips are one of these bands, along with Low and Guided by Voices, that seem to use Chicago as an ATM.) That album and tour was to me, in some ways, a paean to unblinking sincerity (also embraced by the films of Wes Anderson, I'd say, and dead needed in what was a poker-faced indieland at the time); a celebration of the building blocks of love, hope and humanity (I mean, what better way than to illustrate the mechanism of love than with a beating heart?); and -- like "Blue's Clues" and "The Teletubbies," which was used as a visual -- a splendid interaction between performer and audience.
The secrets to "Blue's Clues"' success are convincing the kid in front of the tube that the host is talking to him or her, not at the child and creating the impression that this dialogue pleases and assures both participants. The host asks a question, the child (and offscreen children's voices) answer, the host is visibly pleased and thee audience's reaction is reassured. It's a lot like a Flaming Lips show. Coyne challenges the audience, the audience responds, he beams, the audience doesn't feel self-conscious about its reaction to what it may have otherwise considered Tom foolery. Over the course of those seven or so shows I saw, Coyne was often visibly humbled that this carnival they created and this record with its unironic songs about having to create your own luck and hope when things seem lost or the small gestures that comforted him after the death of his father, among other earnest slices of psych pop, had moved so many. He was criticized for rolling out the same tour over and over again, but the look on his face when he'd apologize for his "weak" voice and thank the audience for letting him sing his songs, and that audience's joy at the simple, childlike pleasures of balloons or puppets was reason enough to let the shows go on.
Coyne led a celebration on New Year's Eve 2001 not by doing something spectacular himself, but by asking the audience to make a collective noise. He claimed something along the lines that the sound of voices in chorus and celebration has been scientifically proven to be mankind's favorite sound. Maybe that's true is, maybe it's not, but like Steve Burns, he and rest of the Flaming Lips understand the importance of making an honest connection to an audience. It's not such a crazy collaboration, and I'm finally looking forward to hearing and seeing what the Lips are going to do next.
Thursday, April 18, 2002
So NYLPM called my bluff. I do mainly enjoy this new rock trend because its "my music" on the radio and the MTV... but I've got a half-assed theory bouncing around based on a few things I said earlier. Anyway, the question is, would anyone care about/enjoy/read an article about america post-sept 11, gloabalization, US isolationism, marketing, the music industry, and a few other things thrown in, all loosely tied together by the "new rock"?
Wednesday, April 17, 2002
Tangentially Related To Your Arguments
"MTV was developed as a way to advertise music. It was really a way to use commercials as programming- to use promotional videos and really create a nice, inexpensive marketing channel. It ended up being much more successful than people wanted. In my book Media Virus, I'd two or three chapters explaining a lot of what's great about MTV. One of the things that was certainly great about it was that it had no programs. It just kind of flowed. So you didn't have the same kind of commercial television where you had to tune in at 8 o'clock to see the 'show.' It was just kind of ambient television, which I think was a tremendous breakthrough for the medium. They had to abandon this kind of format though because it was very difficult to sell commercial time- you couldn't say 'we're going to have this-many kids watching at this time."
This quote taken from an interview with author Douglas Rushkoff.
Re: Indie Goes MTV
Well, call me crazy, but I like seeing bands/groups I enjoy get popular and sell records. Maybe I'm an idealist, but I like to think that the purpose of art is to further culture, and without culture, nations/societies will turn into an Orwellian nightmare. I think the more "art" that can be made readily available to the general public (those who don't seek out the best) the better. I personally don't care what "everyone" listens to, but I think the entire culture/world benefits when good music is forced on the masses.
what I meant about folk music was basically this - i think the best american exports in the history of the country have been jazz, rock, and hip-hop - all of which are very personal forms of expression. For me, music without some element of individuality is missing something very important. As far as Sinatra/Elvis - if I still believe my earlier rant, then I would consider both worthless, as they didn't perform (mostly) their own songs, and as they took earlier forms of music and simply repeated/built upon them, HOWEVER - I do like Elvis, and Sinatra - both had unique personalities that they injected into everything they did, whereas modern pop music seems shallow and soulless by comparison.
(and I appologise if I contradict myself or look like a fool, i haven't outlined any arguments or done proper research.)
Re: MTV goes Indie
I'm sorry I wasn't clear on this. I'm not saying Britney or Limp Bizkit is better than the White Stripes (or more honest or whatever). Quality is not the issue here. What I don't understand is the need for Evan and Tyler to have their preferred music shoved down the throats of American teenagers. See, it doesn't really matter to me. What MTV airs doesn't affect my music choice. And it's simply not important to me what most people listen to, although it seems to be important for others. They seems to be taking the view that by listening to the Strokes, MTV viewers will be bettered in some way. I don't buy it. And even if their musical tastes change, how does that affect me? More crowded indie shows? It seems to me that the people who are truly passionate about music take the extra step to find what's different and interesting. I don't think you could have an insightful musical conversation with a fair-weather indie fan.
So what if millions buy vapid pop albums? It makes them happy. You're the one with the problem here. MTV has never been about music as art. It's television. Its nature is to sell products, not preserve or promote anything interesting. If you want real, honest art, TV is not the place to find it.
And Diesel Sweeties isn't too funny.
Re: Authorship of music
"The best American music has always been from a folk tradition, regardless of genre - people singing from the heart, creating music because it's their art, etc etc."
Except Sinatra, Elvis, Brill Building, Phil Spector stuff, Brian Wilson as Beach Boys auteur, Motown (most all soul music, really), disco, hip-hop, loads of country and folk music (esp. if it is public domain), etc. (and this is just American music).
I sort of think that until post-Beatles rock music (and lots of time since), pop music has always been a collaborative effort, and a lot of time there is a writer or prodcuer dominating the music with a strong personality out front. This is just a fundamental difference between myself and lots of others, though -- I don't get wrapped up in who performs what, whether the name on the label is a representation of who created the product, authenticity, indie, etc., etc.
Does it sound good? Fantastic, I can listen to it.
stuff that i said.
I guess my point (elusive though it may have been) is that I'd rather have MTV shoving honest, real music down the younger generations' throats (as they appear to be doing now - white stripes et al) than churning out the same manufactured shrinkwrapped garbage that they've spent the past 20 years perfecting. Please don't tell me you'd rather have more Britney, etc singing songs written by 45 year old men about how difficult it is to be a young woman than actual songs written and recorded by actual musicians. And by "actual musicians" I mean folk musicians. The best American music has always been from a folk tradition, regardless of genre - people singing from the heart, creating music because it's their art, etc etc... A distinction needs to be drawn between that and product: mass-produced, studio-musician tracks that, while they may be aesthetically pleasing, have no real value as an art form.
Not that I know anything about art....
And not that I care - I don't even watch MTV....
And Todd, i checked out the comic, and I gotta say, I liked their old stuff a lot better. ;)
More on Evan's Comments
Gavin, the point is that there is, with the recent influx of neo-proto-punk, an alternative to the 'alternative'. When you see the White Stripes in the 'top sellers' portion of the CD section at Target, you know somebody is doing something right. Whether or not one digs this trend, I too find it a welcome change to turn on Mtv 2 and gain a three minute relief from nu-metal. Though I haven't yet met anybody transformed by hearing the Strokes, I'm sure they are better off for having heard them.
Whoa! Looks like they made a comic strip about you!
Re: The value of "indier" pop music
Evan said: "I think this 'new wave' of 'rock bands' is the best thing that could possibly happen right now."
Personally, I don't see why. Good and original music has always been available to those willing to search for it (although the search has been more difficult in certain eras). Today's access to a wide variety of music is unparalleled because of the Internet. Maybe if the Strokes raise the profile of other indie artists they've done some good, but I think MTV2 is doing more for crossover indie (Clinic, White Stripes, et al) than the Strokes are.
This is not a value judgement about the quality of the Strokes: they play a style of music that doesn't particularly interest me, so I refrain from endorsing or condemning their musical output.
the strokes and protools
I have a friend who used to be a punk rocker. He hates the strokes, naturally, because they've gotten popular, other people like them, and catchy songs clearly have no place in the canon of american music. I for one, like them (although not enough to listen to them as often as, say, gang of four, talking heads, the stooges, etc who've done the whole minimalist-rock thing before). Anyway, I don't want to rant about how "tHe sTrokEs rUlez!!! hArd tO exPlain is The GreaTest Song Ever doOdz!!" so I won't... I just wanted to say that anyone who thinks Is This It? is a bunch of pro-tools magic should pick up (or download) CD2 of the "Last Night" UK single, which (though definately not worth the 3 pounds I paid for it) contains three live versions of three album tracks, all of which sound exactly the same, aside from a few minor fuckups and J. Casablancas singing a tad more drunkenly. The point being, I believe that album was probably recorded in a day or two, probably with the bare minimum of overdubs and "studio magic."
I think this "new wave" of "rock bands" is the best thing that could possibly happen right now. The market is saturated with shitty shitty disco pop and shitty shitty nu-metal... the kids should have something good to hold on to (readily available at your local Virgin) while leaving the "great" music in the "underground" for us elitists... (of course, that shouldn't stop anyone from actually listening to good music that happens to be on major labels and heavily hyped...)
Re:The New Yorker
Well, this article, like many that seeks to explain what a writer sees as the current de rigeur musical/cultural style (emo, anyone?) to a mass public ostensibly perplexed by, in this case, the rise of "retro-rock" in an era that concurrently gives us new "pop" that is supposed to render the old stuff more or less obsolete, comes off as a bit feebly weird when people like us read it. Halfway through, it seems to turn into another piece singing the praise of The Hives -- which is fine; I enjoyed reading about their somewhat Svenoniousian self-parodicness, i.e. their song titles. But this is also where I lose faith in the idea that anything very interesting (sometimes the essential unfamiliarity of a magazine like The New Yorker with this sort of thing create something worth reading when the author throws up their hands and decides they don't really know what they're doing, like in a pretty hilarious piece on the Puffy trial I read a while back) is going to be said.
Of course, my overly facile reaction to Strokes, White Stripes, Hives, etc. (though I like all three, to varying degrees) is to say something akin to Buddyhead's claim that Casablancas et al. are "four-car garage rock," that what they are doing is something different, that the vaguely Velvets-esque grit they're emulating is conjured up via Protools. (And I'm remembering Freaky Trigger on the Strokes as rather disco-influenced, themselves, cf. "Hard To Explain"). However, I'm not saying -- as Buddyhead seems to think, with their sort of death-to-false-metal championing of The Icarus Line (who I saw once, and were entertaining but really pretty bad) -- that I think a new "real" garage rock needs to rise in its stead. Maybe it's because I'm partial to it, having done so myself, but I've always thought of home-brew IDM and DJ stuff as the garage rock of the late nineties/present day, with its practitioners modeling their work, in their low-budget basement way, on the psychedelia of Aphex Twin, etc. Only it seems that music of this sort (drum-and-bass infusing Timbaland) also fuels pop, rap, etc (which makes sense if we recall RDJ and Autechre being way into electro as, okay, "lads"). So, yeah, the binaries seem kind of ineffective (and as far as the mainstream/underground thing, as far as I know, Slipknot are going to be looked at in ten years as some kind of once-reviled but now important band. Who knows).
The New Yorker on last year's model
If anyone actually got through Ben Greenman's New Yorker article on the White Stripes, Strokes, and the Hives, maybe they could post some thoughts. I couldn't make it past the first two sentences of the lazy, ham-fisted lead: "Will pop—Britney, J. Lo, 'N Sync, and the rest—kill rock? Whenever rock music has been threatened in the past (by disco, by New Kids on the Block), it has rebounded (with punk, with grunge)."
It seems that pop has always been there and, if anything, isn't the "enemy" of rock, but a catalyst -- something for those who want more than Brit or the New Kids to embrace. If anything, in this very simple dichotomy, hip-hop is the new rock, it's the kid's choice. Funnily enough, all of Greenman's evil pop chioces are working with hip-hop artists or producers and taking cues from R&B.
Worse, is the continued idea that punk is somehow a reaction to disco. Not only did the latter predate the former, but disco is, essentially, as punk as punk music -- it's the soul/R&B reaction to bloated concept albums in that genre, taking on the puffery of 12-minute songs about slavery as much as punk swiped at prog. Just because the kids sneered at each other on the streets of New York at the time, doesn't mean they're polar opposites.
Also, is this the same writer who wrote the excellent if overintellectual Radiohead piece from last year?
And: Do these three bands really have anything to do with each other except that they each play guitar-based music the way someone did in the past, are fashion conscious, and are critical favorites? (Maybe that's enough.) A lot of pop/rock movements (pre-Clear Channel?) seemed to be built around a local scene, and to be sure these are leaders in three different geographies, but is connecting the dots between Sweden, Detroit, and the Lower East Side the wishful thinking of critics aiming to make this music bigger than it otherwide would be? Finally, are there lesser-known bands in each of these scenes -- say, Longwave or the Dirtbombs or the (International) Noise Conspiracy -- that are deserved of this sort of attention?
The column struck me as a bit of a surprise, having always heard the party line that proto-Sugarcubes band Kukl formed as a response to not having any Icelandic pop or rock that wasn't UK- or U.S.-carbon copies and then seeing that most of these albums were released in the 1970s or 1980s. I wish I had this list before I went to Iceland last year, although for all of the record stores there are in Reykjavik (quite a few, considering the city's population), I remember almost none that carried used vinyl.
In regards to Evan's query about Icelandic music, up-and-comers Mùm bring pastoral twee elements and childlike pop to the glitch arena. I reviewed their breakthrough, Yesterday Was Dramatic, Today Is OK a while back, and you can check out my comments there once the archive gets back online. Mùm has a new one coming out (Finally We Are No One), and Todd will probably post the review sometime this week. The new one has a glitch-pop feel akin to this year's Notwist release. It's solid, but doesn't really meet my requirements for complexity. Yesterday Was Dramatic was more uneven, but had a few jaw-dropping moments not found on the new album. I'll shut up now and stop stealing my own thunder from my review.
Tuesday, April 16, 2002
recently, pitchfork had a column on icelandic "rock" music. Has anyone heard any off this list (besides sigur ros and bjork), or have any bizzarre icelandic groups to recommend?
also, I was recently introduced to Mori Stylez, technically they're a "jam band" but somehow they manage to fit in jazz bassoon and hair-metal guitar solos and make it all actually work. (their secret? coke.) Anyone heard of these guys?
Regarding my Do Make Say Think review:
Goodbye Enemy Airship came out in 2000, not 2002. Sorry, typo.
Lately: Human Remains discography, Stina Nordenstam, ODB's N**ga Please and Nick Cave's last one, which my optometrist gave to me free of charge.
New Hot Snakes on June 11.
i am Al and have been writing reviews since sometime late last year. i dont do anything new or interesting. i like music and enjoy to write.
The Rachels- Music For Egon Schiele (sp?)
Blank- Anywhere But Here
Jeromes Dream- Seeing Means More Than Safety
Born Against- Rebel Sounds Of Shit and Failure
Kill The Man Who Questions- Sugar Industry/ "Number One Asshole" 7"
James Brown- Greatest Hits
I also have recently had the pleasure of witnessing the final performance of The French Mistake.
Rza- Domestic Violence Part Two
Pretty bumpin' track. I like how in the first portion of the hook the cut off the end of the word "shit" making it "shh", but then they negate it by completing the word on the second half of the hook. It's an interesting device that I've seen used on a lot of tracks lately in rap. They imply the word, almost a lyrical wink to the listener.
Brett said last night during dodgeball that 2 Live Crew brought cussing to mainstream rap and he was very glad about that. Sure, it was a heat of the moment comment, but I'm wondering whether it was such a good thing, at this point. Now rappers take it for granted and rely on the curse as a crutch to a certain degree. I would hope to see rappers, at some point, restricting their palette in certain ways so that it can expand in others. It doesn't have to be cuss words, of course, because it is a part of daily life after all, but it would be interesting to see rappers after they hit a degree of success, where they can't rap legitimately about their past anymore with as much vitality (another question altogether as to whether this aside is true or not), to work out of their comfort zone and create something altogether new.
Just some thoughts that have been running through my head.
Hi, I'm Keith, and am a new writer to OHJ. (Finally took the plunge and registered here...) I'm also the Lifestyles Editor for my college paper (I'd give a link, but the site is down at the moment).
Anyway, here's what's been in heavy rotation with me as of late:
Wilco - everything
Radio 4 - Gotham
My Bloody Valentine - Loveless
Chameleons UK - Strange Times
Blur - 13
Songs:Ohia - Didn't It Rain
...and as always, lots of New Order/Joy Division
np: Gavin Friday - Shag Tobacco
i'm chris a. and i've been writing for ohj since late january..
i'm becoming the new zealand music guy on the website, and will be producing a lengthy article on the history of kiwi music (focusing on the nz scene) in the upcoming weeks. i'm heavily involved in the local scene, being a bit of a patron to the christchurch scene as a local gig reviewer (for a national distributed free gig guide).
i've been listening too:
freight elevator quartet vs. dj spooky - file under futurism
neil young - live rust, everybody knows this is nowhere
the stooges - raw power, s/t, funhouse
funki porcini - love, pussycats and carwrecks
the 3d's - strange news from the angels
np: the clean - getaway (which will probably me my next review)
Monday, April 15, 2002
i'm colleen. hideously disfigured, i work for a famous Pancake House and write reviews for Toddrick. twang, noise, pop.
i've been writing reviews for about a month now. feel free to run me through the spanking machine as my hazing into the rock journalist communtiy.
recently, this is what is in my car, in my stereo, on my winamp:
Imperial Teen - On
My Morning Jacket - At Dawn
Bongwater - Double Bummer
Spinanes - Manos
the Ramones - Rocket to Russia
Pixies, Pixies, Pixies
Giant Sand - Chore of Enchantment
Bessie Smith - Essential Bessie
Sunday, April 14, 2002
Reviews this week will probably be on the blog, as the site is unavailable for me to upload files to. Hopefully I will come up with a way to fix this. Otherwise, until next week this is the best I can do.
Preface: For the sake of the Sparta, I’ll refrain from mentioning the name of that band in my review. When I say that band, I am referring to the now defunct band which has now spawned Sparta as well as The Mars Volta.
The consensus among fans of that band is that the Sparta faction of that band – Jim Ward, Paul Hinojos, and Tony Hajjar - did most of that band’s songwriting. Austere’s similarity to that band’s last albums, Relationship of Command, pretty much confirms this sentiment. And herein lies the problem: Sparta hasn’t quite found their identity yet, instead choosing in the meantime to fuse the sounds of Fugazi and, well, that band with subtle, Warp-influenced electronic sounds. It sounds less original than it sounds.
To further complicate things, Sparta isn’t even trying to sound like that band. On the driving post-hardcore track “Mye”, a song that would fit perfectly on Relationship of Command, Jim Ward shouts “This time I’ll get it right/You can’t defend it, it’s predetermined” and follows up with “You’re caught up in the memory.” If those lyrics weren’t obvious enough, I’ll put it in layman’s terms: Sparta wants to seen as Sparta, not as “ex-members of that band.” The songs “Vacant Skies” and “Cataract” go down a musical path similar to that of the first track, with the latter emphasizing melody and the former returning to DC-esque post-hardcore goodness. The only thing that really separates these songs from any three songs by that band is that these songs are fairly sober and arranged – no vocal or musical freakouts here unlike in the music of that band.
The real standout track here is the fourth track: the electronic, almost post-rockish “Echodyne Harmonic.” Although it may not be the strongest track on the EP songwriting-wise, it shows another side of Sparta – the side of Sparta that not only wants to be seen as its own entity, but actually is its own entity. “Echodyne Harmonic” is undeniably the most interesting offering on Austere as well as the only track that is undeniably Sparta. If I want to listen to and enjoy nostalgia, I’ll listen to first three tracks. If I want to listen to and enjoy Sparta, this is the song worth coming back to.
Sparta is not quite Sparta yet, but this EP shows both the desire and, in the case of the final track, the musical prowess needed in order to establish their identity. The music on Austere is enjoyable, but the important point here is that it shows Sparta’s unrealized potential: the potential to be an enjoyable, innovative, and truly memorable band. Yes, those shores aren’t out of reach.
Do Make Say Think- & Yet & Yet
With Goodbye Enemy Airship The Landlord is Dead , Do Make Say Think released what was probably the best album of 2002, the finest collection of songs to come out of the Constellation camp and one of the most perfect albums of the past five years. It was an unthinkable step forward for the band and it solidified their status as masters of illusion.
Do Make Say Think’s music is never what it seems. It sounds organic, but it is a product of the mixing board, the result of countless overdubs and sound effects. At times its jazziness jumps up and dances for you; other times it sounds like dub or above average post rock. Most importantly, Do Make Say Think songs rarely affect you the same way twice. Every Do Make tune has the potential to either place you in a cold, empty bed dreading another night alone or to transport you to your bedroom window on a summer morning, gazing with amazement at how the blue sky harmonizes with the swaying, green leaves of a nearby tree.
It’s magic, and on Goodbye Enemy Airship the tricks were new and awe-inspiring. and Yet and Yet , while surely some of the best music released this year, uses much of the same repertoire, leaving one feeling like the son of a magician rather than a participant chosen from the audience.
But and Yet and Yet is still a gorgeous album, and not the least bit redundant. There is a more prominent space rock influence, the tone of the album is far brighter than any past Do Make release and there seems to be more energy asserting itself sonically rather than just creatively.
The songs follow the same formula present in a number of Constellation bands: two or three movements per song, repeated infinitely, constantly growing in volume and deepening in texture. Where Godspeed You Black Emperor and A Silver Mt. Zion tend to burst with frustration, Do Make Say Think begins to fly. It’s airy, loose, rhythmic music, which, rather than build thunderclouds, builds a sunrise: comforting, reliable and warm.
That warmth is present throughout the album. “Classic Noodlanding” feels like driving a convertible by yourself, free and sun-drenched, isolated but independent; “End of Music” makes you want to run; toward something, not away from it; and “Soul and Onward”, with its brisk, I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One guitar line and theremin-like vocals make me think this album should have come out in August - there’s so much light, heat and happiness during the day, but uncertainty and premature nostalgia creep into your thoughts at night.
It’s that sense of sadness - that contrast and variety - that made Goodbye Enemy Airship so engaging. and Yet and Yet would benefit from diversity. The thick, driving drone rock at the conclusion of “End of Music” is stellar, the guitar interplay of “Reitschule” is tense and assertive and the thick dubbiness of “White Light Of” is refreshing moodiness, but these are the most striking examples of contrast on the album and they are too few. Rather than wading into a boundless ocean, the album feels more like swimming in a pool. It’s a refreshing luxury, but it’s nowhere near as deep or as enveloping.
and Yet and Yet suffers only because it is being compared to its predecessor, a fate that awaits a fair number of bands (Hot Snakes, Isis, Outkast) who also released career-definers in 2000. Goodbye Enemy Airship was an unpredictable, eclectic revelation. and Yet and Yet is more like a book you’ve read several times, but you only re-read the books you love. The plot holds no surprises, the motifs are all clear and the dialogue is all but memorized, but it can still be the perfect way to end your day.
Derek Bailey- Aida
Dexter's Cigar 1996
Imagine a music free of the constraints of time. Locked in the endless present, it has no recollection of its past or premonitions of its future. With no allegiance to the weight of history, the sounds freeze and fold on themselves in a ceaseless exploration of the instant. Freedom from the future renders the music unwaveringly bold and separate from the fear of consequence. The need to establish artificial structures or carve narrative from acoustic phenomena crumbles under the calculation of the moment’s countless fluctuations. Sound becomes both fearless and fragile, as strident and organic as it is fleeting and impermanent.
For more than thirty years, Derek Bailey and his guitar have pursued a new language that would realize the possibilities of such a liberated music. His efforts to erase the boundaries of musical history have resulted in an alien sound completely unlike his predecessors and wholly his own – a tapestry of shattered glass harmonics, string snaps, feedback whistle, and crab-like arpeggiations. In a group context, Bailey’s splinters and abrasions serve to disrupt any tendency for repetition or stasis and to act as a catalyst for true spontaneity. When left to his own devices as a soloist, Bailey revels in the liberties suggested by his idealized vision of music. These solo performances trace tangents unbounded by the will of the group and face no limitations but Bailey’s seemingly endless imagination and invention. Recorded in 1980 and reissued by Dexter’s Cigar in 1996, Aida represents some of the finest solo performances in the Derek Bailey catalog and in free improvisation in general. Its sound-world is as uncompromising, confrontational, and consistently beautiful as the principles on which it was founded.
To describe the tracks in a narrative sense is futile and doomed by the music’s very definitions. Instead, the listener is flooded with a stream of impressions and half-memories. Opening track “Paris” pits leaping motives against dissonant harmonic flourishes and scratched chords. The acoustic guitar becomes an orchestra of disconnected instruments fluttering through every imaginable pitch range with a paradoxical mix of effortless technique and reckless abandon. Complex rhythmic stutters coalesce into a logic all their own, forming a delicate balance of gentle and jarring interactions atop a shifting foundation of micro-pulses. At times, the music is sparse and almost unbearably tense, as if it could disintegrate at the slightest touch or dissolve into the thinnest air. At others, it is a scramble of impossibly high scratches and thudding percussive rumbles as dense and impenetrable as the softer moments are transparent. No reason but the non-reason of spontaneity dictates the inclusion of the gentle or the harsh; every sound hangs in the air as its own entity, unhindered by time and untouched by pressures of context and development.
At once delicate and sturdy as the thinnest silver wire, “Niigata Snow” stretches seven minutes into a still eternity. A cloud of harmonics breaks the opening silence to evoke the snow suggested by the title – only each tiny snowflake is graced with razor-sharp metal edges. A counterpoint of stratospheric bell tones and the koto-like ring of prepared strings threatens to unravel at any instant, only to save itself from dissolution at the last possible instant every time. The improvisation is punctuated with the aching silences that follow each decaying note and heighten the listener’s attention for even the slightest vibrations in each space. “An Echo in Another’s Mind” takes the language of “Niigata Snow” and dirties it with harsh string scrapes and pulsing half-step harmonies to create a more active landscape. Bristling with visceral impact and an internal restlessness, “An Echo” shivers beneath icy scratching before exploding into a frenzy of rapid-fire strum and loose-string buzzes. The temporal manipulations here are created through sheer nervous tension, through the constant unknowing of the next gesture and in the almost-tangible anxiety of the unpredictable. Whereas “Niigata Snow” stretches to a chasm the space between notes, “An Echo in Another’s Mind” crowds the air with active gestures and silences of surprise instead of stillness.
So what can be made of this music, a music crystallized in the very moment of its creation? The distortions of time found in such music are difficult to capture in words, but invariably captivating to hear in the fractured language of Bailey’s music. Seconds stretch to eternities and eternities compress into the minutest details. A complete suspension of time becomes rule over all and presses the music into a permanent foreground of infinite detail. Or as Bailey himself, always with the greatest of wit and wisdom, once said of his music:
“The ticks turn into tocks and the tocks turn into ticks.”
And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead- Source Tag And Codes
There's a lot of things about ...And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead that are rather big and far-reaching, not least of all their name. They sport a huge, room-filling sound, claim their name was given to them in a psychic message from a long-dead Italian philosopher and their albums contain a myriad assortment of iconography; a weird mix of medieval and eastern cultures.
Source Tags & Codes, the new album from ...Trail Of Dead, is a staggering statement of purpose from these Texan indie rockers (well, now that they're on Interscope Records, I'm using the term "indie" somewhat facetiously). Epic in sound and execution, and intimate in subject matter, Source Tags & Codes is a perfect encapsulation of ...Trail Of Dead's sound, not to mention a near-flawless rock album.
Emo-rock takes a (well-deserved) beating in the rock press (after all, who really wants to hear some middle-class white boy whine about how Bobbie Sue dumped his ass?), but ...Trail Of Dead seeks to change that on Source Tags & Codes. Lead singer Jason Reece doesn't whine and moan like a Jimmy Eat World or Dashboard Confessional; instead, he slinks up next to your ear, and screams a load of bile straight into your brain, while his cohorts bash away with fierce apocalyptic intensity at their instruments.
In the opener "It Was There That I Saw You," guitars pierce through the opaque clouds of ominous bass and thundering drums like a ray of sunlight, before Reece rips apart the layers of clouds to smite the unfaithful like a wrathful Greek god. Rapid-fire drums rolls complete this thunderstorm of a song, giving it a foundation of granite.
"Another Morning Stoner" moves from bleary-eyed grogginess to a galloping breakneck pace in a matter of seconds. The awkward vocal arrangement is thankfully offset by a sweeping string section, which buries the vocals far beneath the muddled production. The most impressive moment is the vaudeville-esque outro, fleshed out with seemingly decaying accordions.
...Trail Of Dead really kick out the jams with "Baudelaire," a full-out balls-to-the-wall rocker. The drums settle into a jaunty but aggressive groove, as the lead guitar builds little stairways from he edges, which Reece happily climbs to the upper end of the track. The chaotic brass section which appears at the end is impressive, making you wish for more of the same, as it melts away into a spacey outro.
"Homage" is Source Tags & Codes violent afterbirth, spewing tendrils of ...Trail Of Dead's blood and guts into the stratosphere in a tight, forceful package of hardcore churning and truly creepy atmospherics. Guitars hum like rusted machinery and growl like rabid animals as a simple and overcast piano note is repeated. The drum/bass combination builds a tight cell which Reece tries his damnedest to break out of, lashing out at whomever is listening. He screams "Do you believe what I say?" and you're afraid to think anything but "yes."
The album's second half kicks off with "Heart Is In The Hand Of The Matter," posing like a lost b-side from Daydream Nation, complete with Thurston Moore-ish mumbles, murky guitars and unpredictable piano fills and tempo changes. Melodramatic lyrics such as "There's nothing that can be done...I walk in the shadows of your tortured realm" subtract from the song's impact, but again, they're thankfully buried far into the mix. Your attention is also diverted by the delicate piano, which is constantly threatened to be squashed by the texture-laden meat-grinder guitars.
"Monsoon" marks the album's only complete failure, a directionless song bogged down by truly laughable lyrics such as "Pray to God, but he's not listening/This world's a gutter that he likes to piss in." The placement of "Monsoon" on the album makes it smart even more, appearing at a crucial juncture where the album should be climaxing, not losing speed.
Thankfully, "Days Of Being Wild," much like its title suggests, is a raucous and thuggish slab of hook-filled hardcore that regains all of Source Tags & Codes's intensity. Thrusting jabs of unforgiving riffs pummel you as a harmonious refrain rushes over you. The closing moments bring tempo shifts and multi-tracked vocals, as Reece delves into a stream-of-consciousness rant.
After the fragmented art-rock outro of "Days Of...," "Relative Ways" comes as a huge surprise. As the album's most obvious radio-friendly track, it contains hooks carved out of marble and a huge chorus that you won't be able to shake from your head. "Relative Ways" crescendos into a speed-rush close, segueing into the instrumental "After The Laughter," formed from skeletal piano and string sections of melancholy grandeur.
The bittersweet closer "Source Tags & Codes" carries the bombastically-produced album to a logical close, drenched in self-importance and stadium-ready riffage.
...Trail Of Dead attempts a delicate balance on Source Tags & Codes, meshing many styles and influences together. Thankfully, all their little flourishes and musical side trips are proportioned wonderfully, resulting in a lurching Frankenstein monster of an album, raging against the dying of the rock.
I'm Dane, and I just started doing reviews for the site. Some of you here probably know me.
Anyway, here's what I've been listening to a lot lately:
super furry animals - rings around the world and guerilla
love - forever changes
the zombies - odyssey and oracle
os mutantes - os mutantes
the shins - oh inverted world
squirrel nut zippers - hot
datacide - flowerhead
coil - unnatural history
west coast pop art experimental band - vol. 2
Well, and a lot more too.
Racebannon - "Electricity"
I didn't think this Beefheart cover would work, but it does, and beautifully. It's reverent but it adds something of its own; I love the ferociously sloppy drones that dominate the second half of the song.
hi. this is Kurt.
I just started reviewing for the site, so I'm not sure where I'm going to focus my efforts just yet.
What I've been listening to:
gang of four - entertainment!
serge gainsbourg - aux armes et caetera
improvised music from japan
talking heads - the name of this band is...
antibalas - talkatif
do make say think - & yet & yet
Hi my name is Ryan.
I write stuff. For the past week I've been listening to Peel Slowly and See over and over.
Andrew WK on SNL
His oft-repeated signature dance move -- which involves grimacing, doubling over, and doing a sort of constricted semaphore signal -- reminds me of a cross between Donkey Kong and Anthony Kiedis in a K-hole. Somehow, though, I seem to like him a lot more onstage, perhaps because his enthusiasm is so bizarrely infectious. A guy I know made an indirect comparison between Andrew WK and Wesley Willis, which seemed somewhat apt, at least in terms of how I find myself reacting to each of them.
Saturday, April 13, 2002
Hey, I'm Scott and I have also been writing off and on for OHJ for about two months. What have I been listening to lately?
2 Many DJs - As Heard on Radio Soulwax, pt. 2
the Streets - Original Pirate Material
Orange Juice - Heather's on Fire
Vic Godard and the Subway Sect - Twenty Odd Years
Herbert - Secondhand Sounds
the Clientele - the Lost Weekend ep
ABBA - The Visitors
the Specials - More Specials
V/A - Perfect Beats, Vol. 1 and 2
V/A - Futurism
My name is Matt, I've been writing for OHJ for the past couple of months or so. Here's what I've been listening to.
My Morning Jacket/Songs:Ohia - Split EP
Rolling Stones - Their Satanic Majesties Request
Neil Young - Everybody Knows This is Nowhere
Clinic - Walking With Thee
The Move - s/t
Mission of Burma - Vs.
Serge Gainsbourg - Histoire de Melody Nelson
...and of course...
The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society
I'm Colin B., I started writing for OHJ about a month ago. I've just been working on the Elvis Costello catalog lately. Here's what I've been listening to recently:
Ernest Tubb-20th Century Masters
Van Morrison-Astral Weeks
The Jam-Sound Affects
Joni Mitchell-Court & Spark
Stonewall Jackson-A Tribute To Hank Williams
Great Speckled Bird-S/T
a bunch of Jacques Brel mp3s
Fred Neil-The Many Sides of...
Bruce Springsteen-The Wild, The Innocent and The E Street Shuffle
Friday, April 12, 2002
I'm Colin M.....I've been doing OHJ stuff for about two months now, and I'm currently working my way through the Pavement catalogue for the site. The past couple days, this is what has passed through my cd player:
Wilco - Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
Lift To Experience - Texas Jerusalem Crossroads
The Appleseed Cast - Low Level Owl
The Band - Music From Big Pink
Richard Hell and the Voidoids - Blank Generation
The Monks - Black Monk Time
Miles Davis - In A Silent Way
The Shins - Oh, Inverted World!
Sleater-Kinney - Dig Me Out
The Dictators Go Girl Crazy
Brainiac - Bonsai Superstar
The Byrds - Box Set Discs 1 & 2
The Who - The Kids Are Alright
Burning Airlines - Identikit
Love - DaCapo
The Rollin Stones - Between The Buttons
Clinic - s/t
Speed of Sauce - s/t
Grandaddy - A Pretty Mess By This One Band
The Notwist - Neon Golden
Spoon - Girls Can Tell
764-Hero - Nobody Knows This Is Everywhere
John Lennon - Mind Games
Hi, I'm Gavin. I've been with the OHJ for over a year now, so I guess I'm old school. I do weekly reviews and am currently working on a longform article about Wu-Tang Clan. I also do some copy editing for the site.
RJD2 - various tracks, they're all pretty good
Hrvatski - Inedits Tour EP
Greg Davis - Arbor
Gang Starr - Hard to Earn
MF Doom - Operation Doomsday
Explosions in the Sky - Those That Tell the Truth Shall Die...
Hey gang, Casetta here. When I meet the deadline I submit some reviews and hopefully some upcoming interviews and articles. Anyway, here are the items in rotation for the last few day here at mighty Casetta towers.
Sadistic Mica Band-Hot Menu
James Blood Ulmer-Tales Of Captain Black
Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band-Safe As Milk
Paul Revere & The Raiders- Mojo Workout
The Bigger Lovers-How I Learned To Stop Worrying
Hawkwind-Doremi Fasol Latido
Johnny Cash-Live At Folsom Prison
hey, i'm evan. i used to do reviews for the site, back before it got cool, and now i've come crawling back... Recently its been -
source tags and codes,
my aim is true,
explosions in the sky,
gang of four.
and earlier this week i lost a "battle of the bands" and had to listen to Metal Machine Music all the way through to atone for sitting through the winners' awful white-boy funk....
Listening to last 24 hours-
Bob Dylan - 'Highway 61 Revisited' and 'Blonde on Blonde'
Ryan's 'Highway 61 Revisited' review started me on another Dylan bender.
The Replacements - 'Let it Be'
The Pogues - 'Rum, Sodomy and the Lash'
Andrew WK - 'I Get Wet'
Miles Davis - 'In a Silent Way'
The Walkmen - 'Everyone who pretended to like me is Gone'
Before this it was pretty much Gillian Welch and Laurie Anderson for the last couple days.
I'll bite. I'm Chris, and I review a variety of things. In the past 24 hours, I have listened to:
John Fahey - The Transfiguration of Blind Joe Death (just reviewed this one)
Don Caballero - "Let's Face It, Pal, You Really Didn't Need That Eye Surgery," "June Is Finally Here"
Nuggets discs 1 and 2
Melt Banana - MxBx 1998: 13,000 Miles at Light Velocity
Bad Brains - s/t (aka ROIR)
The Kinks - The Kinks Kronikles disc 1
Eric Dolphy - Out to Lunch
Pere Ubu - Terminal Tower (except for the last three songs thereof, which I'm not too fond of)
Good idea, guys.
I'm Todd and I kinda run this thing, along with Adam.
Last seen on winamp:
Jim O'Rourke- Insignificance
Greg Davis- Arbor
Hrvatski- Tour EP
Slowdive - Pygmalion
Mum- Finally We Are No More
Smashing Pumpkins- Siamese Dream
Velvet Teen- Out Of The Fierce Parade
I think Brett's got a good idea, seeing as the blog is in a bit of a lull lately. Since I'm something of a "new guy" around here, I think I will also introduce myself with a (very slightly) self-indulgent "now playing" list...
AMM - Tunes Without Measure or End
Derek Bailey - Aida
Town and Country - C'mon!
Lightning Bolt - Ride the Skies
90 Day Men - To Everybody
and on the mp3s of late... N.E.R.D. - In Search Of... I think I might actually like the electronic version better.
There you have it. Don't y'all leave Brett and I hanging out here!
Thursday, April 11, 2002
Hi, I'm Brett, I review mainstream hip-hop for the site.
Thought I'd drop a line and mention a few things I've been listening to lately-- here's what in my CD changer:
Raekwon - Immobilarity
N.E.R.D. - In Search Of..
Redman - Dare iz a Darkside
Talib Kweli & DJ Hi Tek - Reflection Eternal
Mos Def - Black on Both Sides
So, yeah, I like hip-hop...
Re: "Lofty Bono-isms"
Joe, I wasn't specifically referencing your review, which started me back on the path of being interested in this record (I should have mentioned this before) thanks in part to the left-out but key bit in your quote: "the tasteful side of lofty Bono-isms." Which I took to mean ambition without puffery. I should pick this up on the weekend.
Wednesday, April 10, 2002
The Walkmen and "Lofty Bono-isms"
For those put off by all the Bono-talk surrounding the Walkmen, allow me to clarify my seemingly bandwagon-jumping mention of Time Magazine's world-saving coverboy. First of all, I just can't stand Bono. That bloated messiah complex, those theatrics, all that "high-fly-sky" rhyming, that Super Bowl halftime show that still shows up in my nightmares... He's just plain gross. But I'm still obligated to report the facts, and the facts are that Mr. Hamilton Leithauser does sound quite a bit like Bono. Fear not! The similarity ends with the sound of his voice. Perhaps I should have elaborated this point in my review. It's the difference between confidence -- of which the Walkmen have more than enough to go around -- and the sickening bombast of latter-day U2. If you've ever wished that Bono would cut the crap and sing, then you may find yourself well-pleased by the Walkmen. To a certain degree, I didn't want to dwell on the vocal comparisons too much in the review (for a more extensive discourse on the Leithauser/Bono similarities, check Pitchfork) as I have much greater interest in the Walkmen's instrumental facets... But to make my increasingly long story short, don't expect Hamilton to be sporting an American-flag lined jacket when you see the Walkmen live (and you most certainly should see them live, it was one of the best shows in recent memory).
And all along, I figured it was my ill-advised Strokes comment that was going to get me in trouble. *shrug*
RE: Highway 61 Revisted review:
"Queen Jane Approximately” is pretty. It is sweet, sincere, and understanding. It is bullshit. There is no way that the same guy who meant the previous track also meant this one, and it exists only as proof that your driver can get laid anytime he wants. And besides, how does he find time to serenade? He’s supposed to be driving."
It strikes me as a heroin song and a sincere one at that. I dunno.
Re: Leon's review of his friends' band.
A nice gesture and some decent exposure.
Does anyone want to volunteer to review a self-released cd by Jump, You Pussy, one of my former bands? I'll gladly review your band's stuff in return.
Let me know.
The Beta Band Live
I'd never heard them before last night's show in Philly, but it was pretty entertaining. Highlights: the trumpeter, the xylophone, the giant tambourine, the sparkled wizard's hats, the rapping, the dual-drumkit showdown, the film synced to the audio of an old action movie trailer that played before they went on. I guess I should look into their recorded output now.
If, by chance, any of you were there, I was the one with the maroon/rainbow shirt who did an awkward sort of skank to "Willie The Pimp".
The Walkmen, Rufus, the slow-burner
Adam, I can understand your last bit about Rufus. I feel the same way about Kevin Rowland (I'm currently listening to Dexy's Don't Stand Me Down, and will write more about this later for the site, with luck). Like Rowland (among reasons why I love him), the intersection of excess and personality is probably my favorite thing about Rufus. Too many people have the former without the latter, and most often it seems to me it's because they are treading well-worn, safe paths, but doing so as loudly and pompously as possible to separate themselves from the pack.
Of course, this leads me to Bono. Everything I've read about the Walkmen mentions Bono, which really puts me off hearing them. I'm pleased then to see Tyler's comments, lumping the band in with a few earnest emotive types that I really enjoy. I hope everyone is right about the ambition and excess, but don't want the chest-thumping that Bono implies. These more effete touchstones (Buckley, Rufus, Thom), allow me to dream of the bare, without-a-net vocals and lyrics of Rowland or the Associates' Billy McKenzie. Or maybe it's just all of this early '80s fever that is going around. Either way, I keep thinking how odd it is that I haven't been excited about a new U.S. indie rock band in who-knows-how-long (the White Stripes came close, but before that it was, I dunno, the Plan, I guess) and keep hoping, for whatever reason, that one of these is going to do the business.
Re: Todd's earlier question. An album that I almost bought for requisite completism that grew in stature and finally smacked in the head tonight: Kraftwerk's Computer World. Never my favorite of theirs, I'd have even rated it at one time lower than Radioactivity because its attempt to seize up-to-the-minute computer technology seemed, predictably, dated. The versions of the tracks on The Mix didn't really add much, either -- the remixes were more like musical versions of clumsy, Lucasfilms digital enhancements. The exact trajectory I couldn't place, but tonight I thought to go get this record instead of just noticing it and grabbing it was a revelation: Girls on Top, Playgroup, Tiga, and Adult carried its carriage to my cd walkman and I rocked and bobbed in front of my laptop until it was over and then started it again from the top.