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Wednesday, March 26, 2003
 
R.E.M. Enters the Anti-War Song Arena

This new R.E.M. song - yet another net-only anti-war tirade - is actually pretty good. It's a return to their old folky, jangly style, with a more subtle use of electronics than on their last couple of albums. Lyrically, it's typical Stipe, which basically means that it doesn't hit you over the head with its message the way Zack and the Beasties did. It's pretty vague, actually. But it's nice to hear an actual decent song from R.E.M. after the disaster of Reveal.
Saturday, March 22, 2003
 
Re: Zach's new song

What kills me about this song is how Shadow completely mimics the sound of Rage at their noisiest and most overtly hip-hop oriented. And Zach sounds exactly like he always has. This might as well be a new Rage single with some particularly funky effects from Morello. Musically, it's pretty great, and in other respects, as usual Zach is the last person in the world to go to for intelligent political commentary. But the whole thing is noisy and angry and messy, the way all the best Rage tracks were (think "Year of the Boomerang," "Born Without a Face," etc). I have a feeling I'll wind up being in the critical minority on this, but then I've always liked RATM.

However, although this song is hardly a shining example of political discourse, I think it's far from a failure in that respect. Rage was always good at dumbing down liberal politics so they'd be accessible to a mass audience. And certainly, as a result, a lot of people don't get the message at all and just slamdance along to the riffs, but as simplistic as their view is, I believe it does awaken some level of consciousness in kids who might otherwise be totally apathetic. Maybe that's too idealistic, but I do believe that Rage at least got people to pay some attention to things, and this song pretty much serves the same purpose. It's rallying music.

That Beasties thing is a travesty though--is it just me or have they lost what little sense of flow they once possessed? They even lost the quirky, intentionally bad but distinctive vocal style that always set them apart.
Friday, March 21, 2003
 
The latest from Zach De La Rocha, "March Of Death"

Has some stellar production from DJ Shadow - per norm - but I don't know why I love this song so much. Zach doesn't really have anything too interesting to say, as he just spits out his usual rhetoric anarchist shit. But Shadow lines up a swirling, crashing beat, fading in and out of Zach's signature growl, and the continuous, over-the-top, bubbling drum loop really riles me up. Yeah, it's a hell of a lot better than the lame-duck Beasties' latest attempt in the war commentary arena, "In A World Gone Mad", but while they don't really make any interesting and constructive points either, perhaps it's noticeable to say that in a world of once-hipsters commenting on the current situation, the production is what stands out? Not what they are saying? Perhaps Billy Bragg's "The Price Of Oil" does the trick better than the rest ... but does a 19-year-old really want to hear what he has to say?

When Zach commands the listener "On the left! Left! Right!", though, it brings actual importance to this song, simply because of the urgency. Perhaps, then, that's what the war needs - dope beats and liberal "spokesmen" crying for attention. When the only reason that someone Zach is surely trying to speak to can only think how nice his voice sounds as just another musical layer in the context of the song, though, I think he really has failed.
Tuesday, March 18, 2003
 
Lil Kim

Gotta disagree with the lackluster beat comment here, Gavin. The beat is infectious, aping that Neptunes keyboard squelch from "When the Last Time" and also apparently sampling "Get Ur Freak On" in the chorus for some extra melody. I love the continual clicking beat, though, sounding like eternal handclapping that just can't stop. So weird that Mr. Cheeks is on this song, though. He appears to be doing a lot of "Yeah!" and "Girl!" on the track. Maybe his verse wasn't very good and got cut out at the last minute- on the album it sounds like he's just doing the announcing at the end "lil kim back in 2003, etc."? Did you see her on 106 and Park the other day? She said that a lot of what she wanted in the video didn't get in, actually, and that Swizz Beatz wrote the treatment for the video.
 
Lil Kim - The Jumpoff


Lackluster Timbaland-in-autopilot beat. Lyrics that go through the ubersexual Lil Kim motions. An unecessary Mr. Cheeks "guest spot" that is little more than a cameo. But... The video! It has to be one of the most visually stimulating 4 minutes in heavy rotation on basic cable, and not just from the prevalence of heavy editing -- jerky cameras, Fight-Club-style coloring, a new shot every 1.5 seconds. What really makes the video is Kim herself: rarely have I seen a performer genuinely look like she's having as much fun as Kim appears to. Whether obscuring her striking blue eyes with oversized Gucci shades, or adopting wig after ludicrous wig, her smile constantly stretches from dimple to incredibly perky dimple. Her energy is infectious. The song is average at best, but the video makes it a hit.
Monday, March 10, 2003
 
Very strange situation. Having a meal in a pub with the family on Friday night, and I get a text message from a friend asking me if I'll judge a BotB competition the next night at the leisure centre. Being half-cut (drinking with boss and colleagues since 5.30) my ego kicks in and says "fuck yeah, I'm Simon Cowell to the power of 10!" So come 7pm on Saturday night I'm sitting next to Muse's ex-manager and a world-champion windsurfer watching a load of plebs play a Van Halen cover! Fucking magical!
A brief run-down of the five bands;

First up = Idle Crash - Van Halen cover. And a Dire Straits cover as well! Lots of widdly bedroom-heavy metal 80s geetah, aweful, no stage presence, came last (provincial band stereotype n.1).

2nd = Kinetic - 3 12-year-olds who can barely hold instruments who play some fucking weird, largely instrumental jerky grunge-funk-shoegazing stuff (not a provincial band stereotype!).

Third = Intoxia - The Nu-Metal ones who try and incite a riot, have never been in the same room as a melody, and get their mates dad to threaten the judges (provincial band stereotype n.3)!

4th = Pseudo Podium - ironic college 'funk', ie; whiter than white widdly Hendrix-meets-Jamirorquai shite as purveyed by EVERYONE EVER from a band in Devon who's done an A level (Reef, Rootjuice, et al). Covered the Transformers theme, and if they'd just done that they'd have won - it sounded like Geoff Love! (Provincial band stereotype n.3)

5th = 4play - The Oasis/Coldplay one. Sounded more like Bon Jovi doing ballads than Oasis blowing up the 100 Club. Thuggishly sensitive lad rock with NO BASSIST! Very scary audience frenzy for a band who were hideously shit - I'm sure I've seen at least two of them fighting on the lawn in town on a Friday night, and here they are being 'sensitive'?! (Provincial band stereotype n.4)

So who won? The grunge-funk-shoegaze 12-year-olds, that's who! I know the guitarists's older brother (I knew someone in every band except the nu-metal one, one way or another) and I'm gonna offer to manage them to huge international acclaim so they can unite the world Wyld Stallyons stylee! Awesome. Picking them over the Oasis band or the funk band nearly incited a fucking riot, and all the judges made a swift getaway in order to avoid teenage muggers! SUBERB!


Thursday, March 06, 2003
 
Re: that Krautrock article Todd posted.

I find it funny that this guy who makes such a big deal of being "there" during the whole Krautrock thing dismisses Faust as a record company fabrication, when in fact that couldn't be further from the truth. They were the ultimate nightmare for a record company - used their journalist friend Uwe Nettlebeck to con Polydor into a contract, got a huge advance which they proceeded to spend on beer, drugs, and electronics, and only produced some exceedingly weird, uncommercial music when the money started to run out on their communal party.

I certainly agree with a number of points in that guy's article, though, mainly about the revisionist glorification of some terribly dull, wanky German psych bands who are lumped into a grand unified Krautrock movement. His point about Can was also really interesting - they do sorta sound like they tried copying American blues-based rock but got it all wrong, and I hadn't really thought about "Ege Bamyasi" like that until now.

But he definitely gets Faust all wrong. If there was more interesting, forward-looking, innovative music coming out of Germany during that period than the first three Faust LPs, I certainly haven't heard it.
Tuesday, March 04, 2003
 
Dizzee Rascal Interview

The best new MC in garage, as linked to by Simon Reynolds already. Click here.
Monday, March 03, 2003
 
Kraut Rock Fever

Did anyone else see Ted Nugent cooking food on Conan the other night? Very interesting. I think his book is called: Kill It, Then Grill It.

Anyway, a couple of questions and comments regarding your post, Matt.

I don't think post-rock is neccesarily dead- but I do agree it's gone down a lot of dead ends. It seems like Kraut-rock has been somewhat exhausted as a genre to incorporate interestingly, hence the lack of Chicago-type bands that really seem to excite anymore. Things like this go in cycles, though. The new Tortoise album will probably ignite a new revitilization in this movement just to spite them. Take a look at bands like Tarentel, though- I think post-rock may have moved to modern classical/musique concrete type stuff as a pervasive influence. Then we have a lot of the Thrill Jockey bands who seem to be mining free jazz type territory. I don't think that post-rock is neccesarily dead or creatively exhausted. It's just trying to find itself right now, reterritorializing as it were.

I think the main reason the Kraut-rock still sounds so fresh today is because it sounds so much unlike anything going on in popular music discourse in the United States until it got "rediscovered" by Cope. Most other underground genres that originated in the United States and England perhaps got melded into the melting pot of popular music and reterritorialized by pop music that you hear all the time. Kraut-rock sort of slipped under the radar and has only gone through one major recycling- in post-rock.

I'm interested to read this book sometime soon, though. As with Reynold's Generation Ecstasy, if the writing is good it's good enough for me. God knows Reynolds talks about music that means absolutely nothing to me in the way that it is meant to him. But even if I can't get everything out of the music that he is writing about that he does, I still feel like there is worth to it- because of the obvious passion he has for it. Sounds like the same sort of writing/experience, although you seem to connect a lot better with Kraut-rock than I do with, most specifically, the Orb's "Blue Room".

And...have you read this: http://www.furious.com/perfect/krautrock.html ?

Finally, where was this record store you're talking about? I need to get there and get me some Kraut-rock.

.