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03/01/2002 - 04/01/2002
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Tuesday, January 28, 2003
Atmosphere - "The Woman With the Tattooed Hands"

Maybe it's just me, but this song has been eating up all my listening time lately. I'll play it constantly, five times in a row, whatever, I can't get enough of it. It's got one of those slightly funky piano-driven loops in the background--you know, the kind that every rapper seems to throw on when he's gonna tell you a story. But damn, that story. The lyrics verge on the ridiculous, and I'm not really sure why they work for me, but there's something about the way he takes this bizarre-ass subject and somehow makes it poignant that really gets to me. I mean, it's about a woman with tattoos of God and the Devil on her hands masturbating--if you can get emotion out of that, you're good.
Monday, January 27, 2003
It’s demanding to defeat the evil machines

PFM on the Lips/JT TotP collab. *Duh, shock, pfm’s fearless leader is lazily anti-pop/doesn’t seem to grasp the spirit of Top of the Pops/yadda yadda yadda, but is it me or is amazement/surprise/barely concealed disgust over the Justin/Lips collaboration also a colossal missing the point of just about everything the Lips have done in the past five or so years?

And: "Cry Me a River" is better orchestral pop than "Yoshimi…" anyway.

* Alternate blog entry: PFM’s ethos police remind me to boycott major-label acts who came to national prominence playing silly pop songs on teen TV…oh, and justin, too.

Tuesday, January 21, 2003
The City’s been dead / Since you’ve been gone

Nick, thanks for the thought. Truth be told, the pre-"Change" Dismemberment Plan is exactly one of the rock bands that I’ve treasured over the past four or so years, even as I’ve began to listen to mostly non-indie sounds. I feel, like Colin says, "sad but relieved" because I’d like more bands to do something extraordinary in the present and not go on past their sell-by dates. But Nick really did nail why they mattered to so many people: The Plan, like Scritti Politti or the Talking Heads or the Clash, accomplished the trick of actually paying attention to the musical world around them and deftly mixing those sounds into their own unique worldview and incorporating it into their music. And they put on a hell of a show, too. Ed, I hope you get your wish. (edit: and I think Ed's right that this is the sort of adventure and thrills that pop music should offer, which makes the Dexy's thing that Colin mentions curious: those old new wave days seemed to be the last time that pop/rock radio offered an anything-goes approach -- even more so than the early 90s alternative days, although at first, say, 1993, that seemed to be happening.)

Monday, January 20, 2003
sigh... The most depressing thing about the D-Plan disappearing is that I've never seen them live yet. I'm going to struggle as hard as I can to get to see them in the next few months, but I have this weird fatalistic feeling that, like the other times I've tried to see them, all sorts of factors will conspire against me. I'll admit to not being too excited about the next Plan record after hearing their new songs on the Net, and I'll also admit that Change didn't exactly get me excited either (though it was pretty cool), but damn I was still really upset when I heard they were breaking up.

They were (along with Modest Mouse) one of the first bands to ever get me into "indie" music. I took a chance on Emergency & I, and it blew me away--I had never heard anything so totally all-over-the-place and crazy. And though it took me A LOT longer to really get into it than it did to enjoy MM's Moon & Antarctica (the other record I bought that day), I eventually came to love the Plan even more than my other indie gateway drug. That album just seeped so slowly into my mind, it seemed like every time I listened to it I appreciated something new. There were a few songs I liked the first time around ("Back & Forth," "The City," "Spider in the Snow"--all three still surely among my favorite songs ever) and these tracks kept me coming back to the album as a whole, until eventually I was totally into it, as impressed by the depressive crawl of "The Jitters" as I was by the outright mania of "I Love a Magician." It was an album that, as I opened up to its multitude of charms, also had me opening up to all kinds of other musics I'd never explored before. Basically, the Plan was the start of my current absolute OBSESSION with music, and I told Travis as much when I interviewed him over the phone a year later. And though all kinds of people will tell me that they're crappy people, or arrogant, or obnoxious, Travis wasn't anything but nice and interesting and remarkably talkative (he gave the best replies to all my crappy questions), and I've been equally impressed by his consistent, always very human updates to the D-Plan website. The Plan has been a very positive musical force for me these past few years, and I've made it a personal mission to convert everyone I possibly can to them--and been more successful at it than I have been at pimping any other act out there; a testament to the weirdly universal appeal that these guys can have. I still say "The City" or "Spider in the Snow" or "Following Through" should have been massively popular radio hits.

Anyway, I know that was really long and rambling, and I'm sorry, I just felt the need to get all that out. Only a few days ago I was talking about what the Plan's next record might be like, and now it's a moot point. I'm surprised how sad I am about this.
Open letter to The Dismemberment Plan.

I just found out The Dismemberment Plan have split up. Well, not split up, but… Ended. Finished, to all intents and purposes. Travis is going to go into the studio and record some songs. They might play some gigs together in the future. They’re going to honour the touring commitments they have at the moment. But… No new records. The Dismemberment Plan, as a creative entity, is over. The Dismemberment Plan want to take time out to do things which they have been precluded from doing by being in a band. I’m not sure what that means, specifically. Is it the old ‘spend more time with the family’ cliché? I have friends with kids, and I can understand that. It always seems to ground them and give them a sense of contentment and purpose. It’s fair enough. But my friends aren’t The Dismemberment Plan. If they were, I’d encourage them not to end it just for that. There’s no reason why the two can’t exist in parallel, or even symbiosis. There’s no-

Fuck this. Fuck reasoned thought for a moment, because if ever a band was given to little Tourette’s-like outbursts of pent-up emotion in the middle of trying to be sensible and thoughtful about something, it’s The Dismemberment Plan. This fucking sucks. Joe Strummer just died, for fuck’s sake! You can’t split up now! I’ve spent the last 6 months trying to convince people that The Dismemberment Plan’s next album is going to a; blow the back of their fucking head off, and b; unite the world in peace, love, harmony, and blissfully schizophrenic sonic freak-outs. You can’t finish it now! You’re not fucking done yet! You can’t be! You bastards! Being in England means these things go straight underneath the radar until it’s too late, always. My first thought on hearing the news? “Fuck, gotta get to DC and see them live before it’s too late!”

I read Scott Plagenhoeff’s ‘Whatever Happened To Our Rock n Roll?’ article on about how rock was a huge, ugly, necrophiliac beast content to sit on its ass of the past and churn out stodgy, dull, safe and backward records that the public lap up like some kind of ‘60’s worshipping Pavlov’s Dog, and the first thing I thought was “fuck, he’s right, the good rock bands are few and far between, and precious few of them are great”. And the second thing I thought was “The Dismemberment Plan! We’re safe!” I’ve been meaning to email Scott for some time and suggest to him that The Dismemberment Plan are the band he was describing, the exciting, sonically precocious rock band that weren’t afraid to exist completely outside the received canon, grabbing everything they hear and mixing it up in their own music, a band who started off as a narrow post-hardcore DC group and who expanded their sound exponentially over the course of ten years until they were doing things which showed that there were roads left to be travelled in ‘indie rock’ or ‘alt rock’ or any fucking stupid, spent, lame genre of rock you care to mention. Fuck it, it’s all music. It’s just that the stuff people make with guitars these days tends to be shit. Tended to be shit. Until The Dismemberment Plan. And now, sadly, it looks as if it’ll tend to be shit again. For a while.

I was gonna talk about how the idea of The Dismemberment Plan was great, how the ‘top ten songs in the world right now’ list on their website was by itself a braver artistic statement than the recorded output of almost any other ‘rock’ band you care to mention, just because it showed that the guys obviously loved music and loved all kinds of music… I was gonna talk about how it was great that you could hear in their records how much they loved music, loved to play, loved to listen, loved to incorporate everything they heard, was gonna say that a band who took equally from Talking Heads, Fugazi, hip hop and drum n bass simply must be wonderful, never mind if they can write songs or not. And then I was gonna talk about how they could write songs and they were great songs and how they just were wonderful in actual reality, never mind how good the idea alone was…

This letter was gonna be demanding that The Dismemberment Plan don’t split up, a list of reasons, unarguable reasons, why they can’t and mustn’t split up. This letter was gonna change their minds. But… The more I think about it, the more it strikes me that really, rather than spitting fire and indignation and trying to change the minds of people I’ve never met and who don’t know me from Adam, I ought to just say ‘thank you’. Because, you know. Four albums. A promising debut. An excellent sophomore. A third album that, well, escapes and defies description and categorisation by being so eclectic and surprising and downright fucking wonderful that I am still flabbergasted as to why it isn’t given out free to people on the street in order to help them live their lives better. And a fourth album that, while not quite the shocking headfuck of the third (I mean, after that one, we were expecting greatness this time), was still awesome on every level. That’s a damn site more of an achievement than most other bands can even dream of making.

So, The Dismemberment Plan, thank you, fuck you, and good night. You were great. You really were. Maybe I’ll see you in DC some time.

Lots of love,

Nick S.

The Dismemberment Plan 1993-2003

I'll jump on the "sad but relieved" train. "Some Freedom" and "Change" looked to be great, innovative songs, but "Angry Angel" and "Born In 72" were relatively lame.

When I first heard them in my own personal indie summer of 2000, I was blown away and knew from the first notes of "The Dismemberment Plan Is Terrified" that I'd found a group to add to my shortlist of favorites. I think that they rarely get the credit they deserve from their detractors. No matter how much you may hate their music, and perhaps even them as people, (as someone said) they digested everything around them, and that's everything with a capital E. Here now in 2003, you have the indie media openly accepting things like modern-day top 40 stuff like Justin Timberlake and Christina Aguliera and older "un-hip" bands like Aztec Camera and Dexy's Midnight Runners without the slightest pretense, and this is something you just didn't see 2 or 3 years ago. The Dismemberment Plan has, since their inception, openly advocated this stuff and I think that that attitude really manifested itself in everyone else around them. If not for their fantastic music, this is what they will/should be remembered for.

Sunday, January 19, 2003
Joe Strummer dies just before Christmas and now The Dismemberment Plan have split up. Fucking hell. This is being set up to be a really, really shitty year.
Wednesday, January 15, 2003
Domotic- Bye Bye

Thank god for year end lists. Among the many cringe inducing and "wow, this looks like every other list I've seen", this release found its way to my ears because of a year end list on the (embarrasingly I can't remember the name right now!) site, which I know I've read somewhat often, but have failed to put in my permanent links file yet. (because, you know, I'm soo discerning- see the right side of this page, if you don't believe me!).

Parenthesis aside, this album is simple, melodic IDM that is stuff that Gavin and I would usually stick up our noses at, I think, but somehow it's worked it's way into my consciousness as something that almost defines "solid, unassuming, yet omnipresent on my playlist". I keep coming back to it, late at night, when I wake up, on the way to class. So, in all, if you like that Morr Music bizness, I highly suggest checking this thing out. It's not nearly as interested in pop as that sort of stuff, but it's the easiest/laziest signifier that I can think of right now. Maybe ISAN would be better. Whatever. Check it out and report back to me with a full analysis by Friday.
Tuesday, January 14, 2003
Anthrax- I'm The Man

You have Sam Kinison's yell kicking this one off. Amazing, since I can't get his scene with Rodney Dangerfield in "Back to School" out of my mind ("what he cares about, I've no idea!"). They then cop some of the Move's idea of playing traditional classical melodies on the gee-tar. Yeah, the Move didn't think of it first- whatever. In any case, the line "He's never on time, he's always...sleeping?...LATE!" brings this track to a whole new level. Along with the Cold Crush Brothers it vacillates wildly between parody of the Beasite Boys (was this done before them or in response to them? I think I heard a line about Mike D, though (?)) and maybe a warning to anyone trying to cash in on this whole rhyme thing. I guess what I'd like to believe is that they're making fun of the Beastie Boys and trying to show that Run DMC, etc. is doing the right way. And god knows Rick Rubin's production style was waiting to get parodied. Gavin and I had an interesting conversation that didn't really get resolved at all regarding the roots of rap rock. What was Limp Bizkit listening to while they were in their formative years (hopefully Rush)? Was it the colloborations on the "Judgment Night" soundtrack? Gavin says Prodigy have something to do with it, but I don't really understand where he's coming from on that.

Saturday, January 11, 2003
Oh holy shit - I am totally and utterly fucked.

Have any of you ever been in a band? Do you remember your first gig? Well, ours is in about six weeks, and we're shooting for ten songs. Problem is, we don't really have a full band - I'm on the bass, a former Stylus writer will (hopefully) be singing for us, and another friend will be playing lead guitar. We also have a rhythm guitar player/little bitch, a nervous wreck keyboard player, and a drummer in another band on the bill, who will probably bail on us. But I'm stuck in the sort of nervous frenzy, you see: I need to do this. This is like the chance I've been waiting for. Shit, who cares that we're gonna play Pavement, Radiohead, and Flaming Lips covers: it's fucking high school students. As long as we play some of our weird Sonic Youth-gone-pubescent jamming, too, they'll shut the fuck up.

But I just can't suck. I have to do good. And I feel like everything is just falling apart. What if the other three band members/helpers bail on us? What if our lead singer decides he's too good for us, and says Fuck this, this isn't gonna be good. I just can't do that.

We're such a schizophrenic combination, the guitar player and I. Sometimes we wanna play some shitty indie pop songs about life ("I haven't been around the block / but I'm not lost yet") and bitch about the band name - which we don't have - and then we just wanna fuck around, making looped depth-charged bass feedbacks squeals, on top of incessant trumpet and guitar pickings. And some 7/8-time beatbox. We just wanna make good music, you know? I mean, shit, this Zwan single is complete utter crap - but there's no way I could make something this good. Well, I guess if I had a professional producer and mixing board, maybe ... but that's what I tell myself. You know, why can't I do this? Why am I inadequate? Fuck this writing shit. I just wanna write a song half as good as Ian Brown can. I wanna be adored.