Friday, December 28, 2007

Top Records of 2007 part 3

As I sit here watching Karate Kid for umpteenth time, I like to fondly recall some of the records I've purchased this year. It's been a weird one; I worked in a record store for the first part of the year, and got to listen to a lot of new records. And I also had to listen to the Red Hot Chili Peppers thanks to my ridiculous boss. Ugh.

What I found in all this new music is the same old thing. About five years ago, I fell out of love with contemporary independent music. This fall out also included quasi-indie bands like Modest Mouse, Wilco, I dunno, I just didn't fall in love with any records from 2007. Re-issues were fantastic as usual, and I just built my collection with rarer and rarer discs.

Josef K - Entemology

As most writers will tell you, Josef K were one of the greatest Scottish bands not named Orange Juice. This record got me through slow nights at the record store, and it still gets me going. Some classic post-punk chock full of manic-to-the-point-of-falling-apart drums, tumbling and sometimes slinky bass, absolutely squalling anti-lead guitar scratching, and a guy yelling and speak-singing his way through various bouts of paranoia and hyper glee.

Favorite Song: All are pretty great (if not Interpol inspiring), but "Chance Meeting" gets me every time, only because it sounds so different from the rest of the record. The song has a great build of layered guitars and stilted rhythms. The closest thing Josef K has to a pop song, they manage to make a straight up 4/4 beat sound shakey and nervous, as the guitars build on a giant hook that ends each verse. Also, it contains a great example of how to use a solo trumpet tastefully (Cake, please fucking take note).


Harmonia - Muski von Harmonia/Deluxe

Upon these records being re-released I promptly sprayed urine into my underwear. I love Krautrock, and have been digging into Can, Faust, Cluster, Neu!, Amon Duul II and Kraftwerk for about 10 years now. The first time I got drunk (in 7th grade) my friend put on Autobahn as we drank his father's warm Bass Ales.

These two records came about when Cluster (of the dreamy cosmic music) and Michel Rother of Neu! (the masters of the motorik pulse) collided and decided to create the Blind Faith of Krautrock, a fucking supergroup. Full of synth wash environments, drum machines, spindly patterns and hypnotic guitar drones, these three guys and Conny Plank (the George Martin of this era) made some of my favorite music of the 1970's.

Song- "Veterano" fom Musik von Harmonia is the definition of motorik, taking everything Kraftwerk did with a electro drum kit and morphing it into a pulverising and delayed bomp and swish that is propelled by the fluttering keyboard and guitar syncopations.

"Monza (Rauf Und Runter)" is my personal focal point of Deluxe, a forboding wall of stretched out guitar leads that pulls a thick gauze over the proceedings until a single distorted snarl kicks the song into high gear. Resembling a castoff from Neu 75, Michael Rother's guitars splinter and crash, as the band burbles along. The vocals surge along in a spirited chant, and goddamn it this song needs to last forever! It of course ends eventually. Whatever, it's the shit.


Soft Machine - Soft Machine Volumes 1-3

A psychedelic band so musically adept they essentially moved past the scene in less than a year. Led by the unhinged but steady as a rock foundation of Robert Wyatt on drums and vocals, the Machine played some of the most inspired art-rock of the late sixties. Full of outrageously tight rhythm work-outs, spiraling tape loops, solemn organs and clattering pianos, these guys were the anti-Pink Floyd, superior musicians and truly deranged composers willing to take risks that reward the listener far more than any of their paisley-covered contemporaries.

All of the music on these records is essential if you're a fan of psychedelic and generally experimental music. Volume 3 is more jazz-oriented than the previous entries, but the weirdness remains. Wyatt's side-long composition "Moon in June" is a fucking impossibly dense well of ideas. Vocal melodies and bits of narrative fly by and disappear as soon as they pop up, as a vocal/drums/organ trio gives way to a full-blown quartet sound, which is then overtaken by a creeping organ drone being ripped apart by a jagged violin tape loop. Volumes 1 and 2 are steeped in the pop sound, although still jazz-informed. If you can, find the vinyl versions of these albums, as the CD transfers are pretty horrible.


Robert Wyatt - Rock Bottom

I've spoken enough about Robert Wyatt on this website. By now you should know that I like his music, and I am not a fan of cynics who decry that his music is too "whimsical" or "silly." He has one of the most heart-breaking voices in music, and on this recording he gathers his friends and creates a triumphant tapestry of harsh organs, muted guitars, swirling percussion and child-like sea imagery to re-imagine his musical life as it led up to that point. Better production values could've helped (why one would enlist Pink Floyd's DRUMMER to produce a record is beyond me), but I still can't hate it.

This Heat - This Heat/Deceit

These two records alone have changed everything for me. I had close to a religious experience when I turned on "Deceit." I can't describe the music, I've tried very hard. There are elements of prog, avant-garde, jazz, eastern modal music, noise, hardcore, punk, garage rock, psyche, musique concrete, 60's folk, the list goes on.

Please, track down these two albums. They will change everything; band's you thought created sounds and movements are pretenders. These guys were true visionaries.


More later, I'ved gotta listen to some new records I got yesterday. A quick list (even though I'm anti-list):

Neil Young - Zuma
Motorhead - Ace of Spades
Magazine - The Correct Use of Soap
Chrome - Alien Soundtracks/Half Machine Lip Moves
Gong - Camambert Electrique

Time to get my listening on.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Top Records of 2007 part 2

That's what I'm talking about! Let's up the ante here, I'm not saying don't be funny, I'm saying surround your fun with facts.

This is getting gross. I sound like a fucking 7th grade science teacher.

In other news, I faintly remembered this headline from about 2 weeks ago.

"Daughtry is No. 1 Album of 2007."

I've been in shock for a while since even reading the headline. Yeah, I dig, he's got American Idol behind him, and Clive Davis and Tommy Mottola and Clive Owen and whoever else, but still:

"Daughtry is No. 1 Album of 2007."

According to the Billboard, Daughtry's band (who he named after himself) sold 3.2 million copies of their eponymous debut. This is fucking crazy. I really have a hard time grasping this. Who are these people? I guess there are a lot of kids and generally confused adults out there, but 3.2 million of them? Guess what was number 2?

Don't worry, it was just teenager-touching Akon, who wrote a song about how sorry he was that people saw him dry-humping the shit out of a 14 year old girl. Not since Eric Clapton's "Tears in Heaven" has an artist made mad scrilla thanks to personal tragedy. But this is different. I guess America loves kid touchers (I mean, even I have a soft spot for R Kelly. And Pete Townshend. And Bill Halley. And Chuck Berry.).

Number 3 record of the year? Oh, don't worry, it makes perfect sense. It's the soundtrack to a fucking television show! And the star of the show? Billy Ray Fucking Cyrus's daughter!! This list is great! What's even better is that it is based on facts! Not even in my wildest dreams could I come up with a more asinine list of musical performers.

But there's more!!!

Remember that girl from Kid's Incorporated? You know, that girl, who sang and also danced? Neither do I, and I watched that fucking show. And now I have to remember her, because her name is (annoyingly) Fergie and she sold the fourth most albums in America.

My beef with Fergie is this: When her first song with the Black Eyed Peas came out, I really thought that it was Fergie, you know, THE Fergie, married into the British monarchy, etc. "What a great ridiculous idea!" I mused. How wrong was I? Oh, you know, very wrong. Also, doesn't it look like Kermit the Frog is always about to burst out of Fergie's plasticized face?

In the end, we all the know the Pop Machine's evil ways. The Pop Machine is insatiable, it needs to feed the children of the world with outrageously disposable music, and this music must be super-compressed, super-auto-tuned, robot-written and hyphen-enducing.

Billboard magazine, your facts can eat my nuts.

Besides this final fact:

T-Pain's wonderfully titled "Buy U A Drank (Shawty Snappin) was the 5th best single of the year.

Taking crunk to a Prince-like level, T-Pain waxes poetic over his newfound female companion.

"baby girl what's your name
let me talk to ya"

Because nothing turns a woman on like saying, "Let me talk to ya."

"let me buy you a drank im t-pain you know me
convict music, nappy boy ooowee
i know the club close at 3
whats the chances of you rollin wit me"

This is good. If I was a teacher, and I based my grades on narrative structure, I would give him an A-. Good story, if not a little trite and overdone. If I based my grades on structure of verse and rhyme scheme, I would give him a B-. Believe me, if this wasn't Crunk (a genre that celebrates its limited verbosity as a testament to the lazy ears of its listeners) I would fail T-Pain in less than a second. Uh oh, can't rhyme anything with "nappy boy?" And the next line ends with 3? Just throw a fucking "OOOWEE!" in there and your dilemma is solved.

This is how you make a hit record.

Fools.

Slander is Fun, When Fact-Based

If yer going to leave a nasty comment about someone on this site, please provide some background info as to why you feel this way.

Calling people names is fun, but infantile without appropriate context.

If you are going to call me a pussy, for instance, that's not good enough. It's not funny and rather sloppy. Tell me why I am a pussy.

Maybe you love pitchforkmedia.com and you're sick of my tired quarrels.

Perhaps you love the overuse of adjectives and aural derivatives.

Mayhaps you loved that Of Montreal album.

In which case, you and I disagree about a lot of fundamental ideologies, and wouldn't it be more fun to dissect why each other's opinions are absolutely baseless rather than sling random ass mud? Maybe not. This is the internets we be talkin bout.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Top Records of 2007 Part 1

It's the end of the year, and you know what that means. People make lists. People then read the lists. The lists are discussed and compiled. The compiled lists are arranged in order from "worst" to "best" and the magazine companies create a new magazine called "Magazines" that chronicles the best of the reprinted word. "Magazine" runs an end of year "Best List of 2007" list, and in the Midwest my house is leveled by the Tornado of Supreme Opinion.

For some years, I have decried Pitchfork's top 100 list, as they tend to embrace the sudden, the moment, the obvious misanthropy that involves knighting a hyped up band that deserves and asks not for the accolade. Unless of course you're Deerhunter and you'd suck anyone's cock for a google hit.

Random barbs aside, Person Pitch, an album that is actually listenable(!) has been voted as the best album of the year. Far superior to his band's own release (which is hilarious as Animal Collective's sonic template was obviously drawn from Panda Bear's own record), Panda Bear made a fucking great slice of sound, a break from the same-old-strums, the dull depressing indie thump. One could argue that people have been copping Phil Spector, Jack Nitzsche and Brian Wilson for about 50 fucking years, as Mercury Rev, R.E.M, Flaming Lips, and a litany of others can attest to. No one, however, has used such an accute attention to detail. The woodblocks sound like they're being played in an airport hangar. The voices actually shimmer. It's so good that I feel guilty trying to describe it, so I won't, not any further at least. Just listen to the damn thing.

I know what hasn't been said: 2007 had a pretty dull reading on the Great Albums of Our Era Ricter Scale. I'd say maybe a 0.5. A slight rumble but nothing extraordinary. Which is as much as one can say about the past 3 or 4 years of modern music. Outside of record producers rising in prominence (Dave Fridmann, Nigel Godrich, T-Pain, Lil John, Just Blaze, Kanye West) artistically, bands are kind of banging their heads against a wall.

Oh yeah, before I go, what's this years favorite break up album? According to Pitchfork, it's Of Montreal's pile of crap "Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer." Nothing like tooting one's own horn, as Pitchfork gave it a 9 out of 10 (or something, whatever, it's not even the point, the rating was too fucking high). The record is terrible, a glossy amateur take on white boy Canadien disco that falls flat on its over-compressed face. Who gives a shit about your divorce? I might've if you hadn't masked the message in such a terrible shit-pile of samples.


How many ways has modern music portrayed the break up? Hmm, let's see...

1. Bob Dylan - Blood on the Tracks
2. Joni Mitchell - Blue
3. Beck - Sea Changes
4. Guided by Voices - Isolation Drills
5. The Wrens - Meadowlands
6. Marvin Gaye - Here, My Dear
7. Weezer - Pinkerton
8. The Microphones - The Glow Pt. 2
9. Richard and Linda Thompson - Shoot Out the Lights
10. Phil Collins - Face Value

You get the picture, a shit ton of popular musicians have experienced heartbreak and loss. And we get to hear about it. Boy howdy, it's sad and powerful. Even Phil Fucking Collins made a better record.

A terrible album to trumpet, just terrible.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Lazy Lazy Lazy

Why is it so hard to write about music? Is it that hard to separate the music from the culture? Every day I read reviews that remind me that while they are inseparable, music and the culture it engenders makes for some awful writing.

While looking for some more obscure, great bands I caught myself reading reviews of Epic Soundtracks' solo outings. Epic formed and played drums in the brilliant (if not commercially invisible) Swell Maps, a British group that fully embraced punk's supposed style nihilism better than anyone. There sound was dangerous and unstable, a heady mix of power chord ferocity and teeth-scraping improvisation with T. Rex, Can and surf music being their primary influences.

After the break up of the Maps, he plays with the Jacobites and Crime and the City Solution until a career renaissance in the early 90's. The Swell Maps are credited as a huge influence to seminal underground/grunge mammoths as Dinosaur Jr, Pavement, and Sonic Youth to name a few.

Epics records a handful of piano-led solo records, and I trolled allmusic.com for a good review. I found nothing of quality.

Epic Soundtracks writes affecting piano ballads and mid-tempo pieces with an ease that belies how good these songs are.

Read it again. Epic is credited as a great songwriter, but maybe his writing is TOO good. I say this because it seems that reviewer John Bush believes his process is too laid back. Perhaps someone needs to light a fire under Epic's ass? Will that make the songs better?

Though J. Mascis (drums on two tracks) and Kim Gordon (voice on "Big Apple Graveyard") do contribute, this is Epic's show; he provides most of the music and all the magic.

Name checking as one should in this situation. However, I have a feeling that we're at the end of the line here. So far, this album has celebrity cameos and magic. Great. I really know what I'm in store for here.

Many songs have a traditional feel and sound strangely familiar.

And that, my friends, is that. The End. Exeunt. Horrible. Terrible. Undescriptive. Void of information. Void of analysis. Void of content.

Void. Void. Void. Void. Void. Void. Void. Void. Void. Void.

I'm usually the first person to defend allmusic, but fuck, what's a guy to do when they try to shove horseshit into your brain? I choose to defend myself from the mediocrity.

You'll read a better review elsewhere. Please do so.

Belated Ill Tidings

I know it's been a while, but I fully intend to rip every piece of garbage review possible. Just like the following.

If you like obscure bands who happen to be great, the Raincoats are for you. Three girls who emerged out of the punk explosion with little musical experience and a distinct ignorance of gender roles in popular music. What's not to love?

This is supposed to be a full review of an album. A review that talks about the music therein.

Sigh.

Rough, loose-limbed, warm, and exciting, The Kitchen Tapes is everything you'd expect from the Raincoats on-stage.

Wonderfully vague adjectives to describe the general "feel" of the album. At this point I would normally add a hopeful phrase that prompts my dismay when I realize that there isn't any fucking content to this review. Guess what? No content.

Bolstered by the heavy percussion of Richard Dudanski and Derek Goddard, this recording pulsates, while the band dances around the beat tossing in shards of guitar, vocals, and violin. The liner essay by Greil Marcus is excellent.

You guessed it. That's it. That's the end of a record review. This review was written by a guy by the name of John Dougan. He believes in writing with the big picture in mind. No one would want "details" in a review, and I right? Details:

1. It's a great recording of a band in what sounds like an intimate space, so intimate you can hear the audience during quieter moments.
2. The mix comes through clear, and the band's playing is expert.
3. This is not what you'd expect from a typical Raincoats show. Have they always played with two percussionists?! No, of course they haven't.

Anyways, Dougan refers people who want to know what the record sounds like to read the liner notes. Sounds like Mr. Dougan DIDN'T EVEN LISTEN TO THE GODDAMN RECORD AND PICKED OUT ARBITRARY ADJECTIVES THAT FIT!!!

Sorry, just not a fan of such an ill-informed and disrespectful article. Three sentences that tell the listener to find the liner notes. Thanks Allmusicguide. Terrible.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

It's not just the mustache that grabbed me, nor the the simple fact that it's three ugly guys flanked by a pretty woman.


Just look at the guy second from the right. You know, the ginger afro. What the hell is wrong with his face? Why so small? Why is the rest of him so big?

This is the Rick Davis Band, by the by. I can only imagine the glorious New Wave grooves pumped out by such a gorgeously attired outfit.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

John Mayer loves to whip you

Look, it's too easy, but when you turn your celebrity-bashing site into a media forum I have the right to criticize your opinions. Especially when you become a promoter for artists. And the artist is hilariously "Serious."

Say what you need to say about him as a person, John Mayer does make really pretty songs.

Ugh. This smacks of a payoff. Internet payola is a horrible thing.

We LOVE pretty songs!

I understand that Perezhilton needs writers at this point, but really?! So well written, so easy to digest, yes, someone dropped some dough on this piece.

Say is a tune Mayer wrote for the upcoming Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman film The Bucket List, and it’s quite majestic.

There’s a full string section and everything!

Wow, a full string section! That's unbelievable! I've never heard of such a thing. In the history of rock, folk, blues and pop, I have never heard of a combination of singer/songwriter with a full string section.

Can I say that this Perezhilton blurb is getting weirder and weirder. And now we, the readers of his blog, become little tasty consumers, like tiny hotdogs wrapped in a delicate and flaky breading.

He may wannabe a rocker but John Mayer is a sensitive tunesman. This is a great new love song to add to his collection.

Enjoy Say below, exclusively on PerezHilton.com.

Ughghghghgh. You do know what exclusively means, right? It means that Mayer's people signed a deal with Perezhilton, and the readers of his blog are being programmed to enjoy.

Fuck you perezhilton, you have become part of the machine you once mocked. Not too hard to believe though.

Also, the idea that John Mayer is a sensitive tunesman is just awesome considering his most famous hit, "Your Body Is a Wonderland" is a pervert tour-de-force. Remember these gorgeous verses?

we got the afternoon, 
you got this room for two.
one thing i've left to do,
discover me discovering you.
Still makes my skin crawl. This also makes no sense whatsoever. The last thing John Mayer has to do before engaging in coitus is you, the object of his affection, watching John Mayer discovering you. I'm trying to write this coherently, but it still doesn't wash. I understand his need to finish the rhyme scheme, but holy shit. How about: "One thing I've left to do, an afternoon of discovering you." See, it even references the first line of the verse. Soooooooo creepy.

And the chorus? Obviously written by a master fetishist.

Your body
Is a wonderland
Your body is a wonder (I'll use my hands)
Your body Is a wonderland
While it's a relief that he'll only be using his hands (no toes or footplay please) the fact that this thought is in parenthesis leads me to believe that he has darker intentions planned for the future.

Your body
Is a wonderland
Your body is a wonder (I'll use my clamped nipples)
Your body Is a wonderland
His darker intentions are revealed with every visit. Beware John Mayer, beware!!!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Oh God Just Do Some Research!!!

As part of yesterday's Pitchfork headlines: My Bloody Valentine Reunion!

Hooray and all, but goddamn it can you try not to propagate a popular myth?!?

People, it's on. Dust off your tremolo pedals, don your best pair of kicks, and get ready to gaze like its 1991.

Do you know how many guitar pedals Kevin Shields used, even on Loveless? One, the Yamaha XPS 90. According to old Kev, he used pure volume and the built in tremolo bar in his Fender Jaguar as well.

He does not use a fucking tremolo pedal. A tremolo pedal causes the actual sound to cut in and out. I can't remember A SINGLE MBV song that uses the the tremolo pedal effect.

This is what made MBV technically superior to its shoegaze counterparts. Ride, Slowdive, Lush, they were fucking made of guitar pedals as far as I'm concerned.

MBV did it better and with only two guitars usually. Overdubs were for pussies.

I know you were trying to be clever, but do some research. It's a tremolo BAR, not a pedal. There is a huge difference.



Sigh.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Shes longevity it's icredible she's freshness more

I'm loving this Future Rock Hall page. Today we will have a discussion with fans of the Hall concerning one Ms. Donna Summer.

One good friend we will need is Senor Suspension of Disbelief. He is a nice fellow who helps you enjoy the ridiculous, surreal opinions that any writer or person tosses around. Especially crazy fans who think that Halls of Fame are the be-all-end-all of any persons career. This should drive me crazy.

Let me start by saying this is the ROCK AND ROLL hall of fame. This is the first post after the new nominees were announced.

Posted by Joe on Monday, 03.12.07

Like it or not, nobody defined a type of music singlehandedly any better than Donna Summer defined disco.

WOO HOO HOO!!! NICE!!! Rock and roll is not disco. Disco grew out of the cold, lifeless grooves of Kraftwerk, mixed with the rhythmic vigor of Motown and Stax recordings. Disco's foundation lies in the Rhythm and Blues hall of fame.

Anyways, fuck this shit. She's an R'n'B artist. Rock came out of R'n'B, Doo-wop, Country and Bluegrass music. How did an R'n'B artist deemed the "Queen of Disco" suddenly become a rock and roll artist? Perhaps a brief journey into Donna's past is necessary to fully understand her Rock and Roll roots...

-born in Boston, Massachussetts. Unfortunate home to Aerosmith, Dispatch, and strangely, not Boston the band

-grew up singing gospel. In a church. And then played briefly with a rock group!!! This it is, this must be where the rock and roll snow ball becomes a rock and roll avalanche!!!

-she moved to New York to sing in musical theatre. Nope. No rock, no roll. I'm waiting.

-she moved to Europe and performed in the German cast of "Hair." Ask any novice rock fan this question: What single action would make a person the antithesis of rock and roll? The answer is the first sentence in this bulletpoint.

-She joined the Viennese Folk Opera. Remember the question I posed in the last bullet point? This bulletpoint is that bulletpoint's true answer.

-She works with pioneering Electro-dance-disco producer Giorgio Moroder to create sleek and sexy pop hits full of keyboards and Linn drum machines. Wow. This is going nowhere. With each bulletpoint she floats further and further from the rock hemisphere.

I'm sick of these bulletpoints. Maybe one of these students of Rock will show me the light.

Posted by Luis Enrique on Saturday, 03.17.07

For many ways, Donna (SuperSexySweet) Summer deseve this nomination,

I would like to interrupt this fan's opinion by stating that I have in no way altered the spelling, grammar or punctuation of this passage. Enjoy.

she has a sweetsexystrongtender-rasposaagresiva-super voice, she was ahead at her time, she influeced todays music some many people who use now, the "yesterdays future music" now ! ! ! Like I feel love, I need you, Our love etc...Shes longevity it's icredible she'e freshness more, if you listen I got you love and you don't Know her or dont't recognoise her vioce you may think in a young beatifull girl ! ! ! singin' that song ! ! !

I...um, this is great. I wish everyone talked about music like this. Cut the bullshit right out, and get down to some animal shit. Luis eschews even the most fundamental laws of coherence and is just screaming, teeth gnashing, eyes popping out worshipping the Queen!!!

I have this image of Luis chained up in a basement, listening to the same four Donna Summer LP's over and over and over again. If only every fan was this deranged.

Posted by Joe S on Sunday, 03.18.07

Donna Summer must be voted into the R&R Hall of Fame. Besides her obvious talent, the woman shaped the dance music landscape and defined the disco era.

Read that sentence again. Besides her obvious talent. Wouldn't her shaping the dance music and disco era be a testament to her talent? Now I will use the font size to illustrate how wonderfully perverse this second and ultimate paragraph reads.

If you liked it or not, disco ruled in it's day - heck, even Barbra Streisand understood that.

WHAT!?! Barbara Streisand is the ultimate Rock and Roll Litmus Test? HOLY SHIT! Joe S is the kind of guy who walks out of an Air Supply concert unplugging his ears, saying, "Geez, what a loud, dirty rock band. My ears haven't buzzed like this since I saw Bread play in '72!"

Let's give kudos where kudos are kudos. Does anyone remember Bab's glam period? Or her contribution to the DIY punk movement? Or her shimmering new-wave hits? Or her crusty grunge jams? Could you imagine Barbara backed by Mother Love Bone? "I'm Going Hungry" indeed.

Posted by WinterMelody on Sunday, 03.18.07

Donna Summer has influenced every aspect of R&R as well as every genre of music, for 4 decades.

HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA AH AH AHA HA AH AH AH AHA HA AH AH AH AHA HA AH AH AHA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA AH AH AHA HA AH AH AH AH AHA HA HA AH AH AH AHA AH HAH. Ha. Hoooo...

This is by far the most ridiculous thing I've ever read. Ever.

Beyond the initial shock of one single artist influencing every single last genre of music on our planet Earth, the idea that she has influenced EVERY ASPECT of rock and roll for four decades? I mean, do I really have to go into this? No, I won't. Too painful, too repetitive.

Let me now say this: Winning a Grammy does not signify anything. It means you sold a lot of records, and your record company paid off the radio stations just enough to give you clout for a bunch of years.

I can't even count how many DS fans cite her genre-spanning Grammy Awards as a reason why she should be arbitrarily placed in a ridiculous arbitrary Hall of Fame. Now to stem the redundancy with this final and truly epic slice:

Posted by Randy on Saturday, 09.29.07

If there was a "Mount Rushmore" Of musical Giants of the Rock & Roll Era, these faces would be chiseled in the rock!

50's Elvis / Little Richard / Chuck Berry
60's Beatles / Aretha Franklin/ Rolling Stones
70's Elton John / Donna Summer / Led Zeppelin
80's Bruce Springsteen / Madonna/ Billy Joel
90's Nirvana / Aerosmith / Alanis Morrisette

Even if Donna Summer does not belong in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, I give her props for creating one of the most ridiculous strings I've ever read about music. These people are truly demented. No David Bowie? Alanis Morrisette?

Awesome, plain and simple awesome.

Gotta run, Bread is playing at the Paragon and I have to buy some earplugs.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Slogged Down By Pesky Talent

Nice, just when I thought Uticas had this area covered, we have a brand new entry into the "difficult music" island of disappointment.

A band named People, who are of course from NYC, have come out with a ridiculously inventive and generally insane album. Unfortunately, Aaron Leitko likes his albums smooth and simple. Let's ponder some of his ridiculous statements.

Dense, informed, and academic, Misbegotten Man, the sophomore record by Brooklyn's People, is sort of the indie-rock equivalent of a senior thesis paper.

Those first three descriptive words should tell you where we're headed: Death From Musical Exhaustion!!! Run for the hills, this music is too ferociously academic for your piddling ear drums!

Also, when summing up a band's sound, using "sort of" does not work. Find another phrase that "is" the sound instead of trying to be clever.

The carefully scripted chaos of guitarist/vocalist Mary Halverson and drummer Kevin Shea might be an excellent representation of accumulated knowledge, originality, and creative thinking, but listening to the album all the way through can be an exercise in patience more arduous than trying to read Jacques Derrida during an earthquake.

HA HA HA! YES! There it is, a blanket statement claiming that music of People is just TOO DARN HARD to listen to. Darn these forward thinking bands and their carefully crafted and challenging music!

As Uticas pointed out, this is just a simple case of a music critic not knowing his ABC's. It's not that the music is too challenging; moreso this review shows the writer's own shortcomings as a student of music. There is nothing wrong with complex music. Granted, not everyone wants to listen to Merzbow, but give the listener some credit. Let's continue.

Each shambling composition squats around the same tempo and follows a similar predictably unpredictable structure.

Translation: Can't they write a song in 3/4 that I can accurately review? Can't the drums sit back on the 2's and 4's?

This is ridiculous. Are you actually complaining about predicting "unpredictability?" So they play to their strength, is that such a bad thing? Sounds like they avoid complacency but stick to what they know. So what's there to complain about?

The lyrics are where People come off at their most textbook-driven and tedious.

Fun. This is the part of the review where one guy contradicts the general consensus. Now to think of all the bands Pitchfork have loved who have questionable lyrics. The Books have terrible preachy eco lyrics, Fiery Furnaces get away with a lot, hell, have you ever tried to decipher Neutral Milk Hotel's words? Sure you have, it's part of the fun! Not according to to this guy, of course.

Based on this review(small sample-size aside), Aaron Leitko believes there are two types of music:

a) simple, easy to consume rock/pop with digestible lyrical sentiments
b) overly complex math-diarrhea with over-the-top-bullshit-crossword-puzzle lyrics

The world is not black and white, Aaron. As crazy as this music is, I'm sure it's not half as fucked up as you have scribed. Oh yeah, and my favorite moment of the review comes up right now!

The critical about-face!!!

The duo's quirks give them a unique and mischievous identity that's more interesting than, say, your average group of eyeliner-sporting three-chord lookers.

Cool. Thanks for your opinion. I mean opinions. I mean, what the fuck are you talking about? You refuse to give props to the band's musicianship, recording technique, sound quality, sequencing, fuck, you reference 3 snippets of lyrics! And then, after bashing the group for their too dense, too complex, too non-sensical sound, you turn around and say, "Well, at least they're not like everyone else?" Follow through with your convictions, don't muddy the waters!

After a few listens you may even find yourself empathizing with People in their plight as intellectual musicians operating in a medium that usually thrives on, well, being kind of dumb.

Here's a thought: Some music critics are like the band People. They show their love of music in their craft.

And some critics are kind of dumb. Like you.

A Touch of Annoyance

Write whatever you want about indie music, just don't make the mistake of writing about the punk ethos. You are wrong. Very wrong. Come back when you read "Please Kill Me" or read a single interview with the Pistols. Tom Ewing made this mistake in his ridiculous column on Pitchfork entitled "Poptimist #9". The column refers to the NME's recent attempt to get "God Save the Queen" to #1 on the charts.

To generalise wildly, for an American audience punk stands for something creative-- an independent ethos and a DIY spirit.

Wrong. Wrong. What's great is that the British punk movement showed the world how to do it. The Buzzcock's "Spiral Scratch EP" set the tone, millions of band followed the example. America did not do it first. Get your shit straight. I don't care if you're wildly generalizing. That doesn't give you the right to fudge facts.

"It does stand for those things in Britain as well but also contains a destructive spirit, a declaration of Year Zero against what had gone before, no matter its quality: "No Elvis, Beatles, and the Rolling Stones in 1977".

Cool, nothing like perpetuating a myth about the base fundamentalism of punk. This fact has been refuted from day one (or Year Zero, whatever the F you want to call it). In fact, the Sex Pistols music reeked of early Beatles and the early 70's Stones. Also, how the fuck does one even try to escape the great ghost of Elvis. You don't, that's how.

He is the godfather. He sat down in Sun studios with some session musicians and while taking a break started playing "Blue Moon of Kentucky." No prompting, they just thought it was fun. Sam Phillips thought it was more than that. And thus, after a bunch of other like-minded back-beat-oriented tracks were cut, Rock and Roll was born for white America.

To escape Elvis, you need to play experimental music, and it maybe needs to be played from the moon with an orchestra comprised of polar bears. Telling the Queen to fuck off does not change the base derivative. The Pistols were a rock band, through and through. The image and fuck 'em attitude pushed the envelope, the music not so much. The Velvet's, Jonathan Richman, Stooges, Ramones, every band on the Nuggets release, the Kinks, the Who, the Small Faces, Chuck Berry, the list goes on and on. The Pistols' music was not revolutionary, it in fact was an amazing time warp. One escaped the overblown grandeur of Prog-rock and Lite Smooth Soundz of FM radio, not Elvis, the Beatles and the Rolling Stones.

Also to say that the American punk scene had nothing to do with "a destructive spirit" is bizarre. The violence of the West Coast hardcore and D.C. hardcore scenes even put off the musicians.

Wildly generalizing is for the birds.

Once again, there is going to be a follow-up on this very soon where I will point out how Rock Writing (notice the importance that capital letters bring to The Table!) is in a horrible state of repetition, where seemingly educated writers ignore the fact that they are recycling 20 year old material.

Bring me advancement or bring me death by musical exhaustion!!!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

but -- but where are the WORDS!

instrumental music confuses most rock critics. without some dude crooning about this or that, they simply don't know where to start. this reveals a number of important shortcomings, primarily the fact that "music critics" can't really find shit to say about music.

let me be clear. rock critics seldom devote their efforts to analyzing lyrics; they simply take their cues from the most obvious lyrical moments, and they use those cues as the foundation of their evaluations.

for example, look at the way people talked about bob dylan's newest record "modern times". go ahead, search out some reviews. try to find one that doesn't quote the line "some young lazy slut has charmed away my brains." now, this is merely the most obvious line on an album overflowing with ramblings from arguably the best lyricist recorded music has ever seen. but most critics depicted his mood only as "grumpy" or some such adjective. they got away with this because they referred all of their thoughts to a single line in the first song (of course) that stood out to them merely because of the presence of the word "slut".


that lazy slut bob dylan's been on about

returning to my original point, when words aren't present, these critics have no idea what to latch on to. there is nothing present to cue them, nothing obvious to direct their criticism. they must actually listen to the music and then talk about it (mirabile dictu!). this is not their area of expertise.

all of this is brought about by pitchfork's latest review of ahleuchatistas' new record "even in the midst...". for those who don't know, ahleuchatistas is a group that uses a punk aesthetic to express jazz harmonies and other post-serialist dissonance. they are often called "mathy" because a lot of the time they don't write in 4/4. "even in the midst..." is their fourth record, the previous three being superb and urgent efforts to part from rock's overbearingly dull monotony. they seem more interested in composing music than composing their identity, which i find refreshing.

so what does joe tangari have to say? "ummmm..." here's a few samples from this directionless, careless review: the first track "opens with a series of splintered phrases that sound about like a bird's nest looks. then it trips some sort of wire and all three members lock into a breakneck martial/martian rhythm." take a moment to digest that. what does a bird's nest look like, and how would you imagine that sounds? soak in the abysmal metaphor that is "trips some sort of wire". [SOME SORT!] is "martian rhythm" critic-speak for 5/4? what the hell is he talking about?

but that was just praise. there are, of course, some the negatives. "in a couple of places, when the band seems to want a challenge, the music becomes somewhat overcomplicated and it becomes easy to loose the thread." response #1: "easy to loose the thread" for whom? response #2: "somewhat overcomplicated" -- the words of a man just dying to pop his grizzly bear CD in again and just relax. response #3: sometimes a band wants a challenge, but occasionally, a band assumes that it's audience might want one as well.

moving right along, "there's also something of a familiarity factor creeping in, given that their approach has remained fundamentally the same since day one." at last, here it is. carefully composed instrumental music all sounds the same to critics, because they are either too incapable or too impatient to analyze the differences between compositions. these people are bored by complexity, while blues progressions in 4/4 continue to enthrall them.

rock critics are students of convention. they study it carefully, and wonder at the possibilities that convention continues to offer (e.g. spoon, arcade fire). the idea of creating new conventions doesn't excite them; they prefer rotating forms of referential creativity (lcd soundsystem, devendra banhart, black kids).

above all, they prefer words, because words make music easier to understand. words are easier to write about than music. you wouldn't find yourself describing a lyrical phrase as "martial/martian"; you don't need to stretch that far. but bands that don't sing, even a band as aggressively brilliant as ahleuchatistas, will end up saddled with "a familiarity factor". this is because every time you review them, you have to actually DESCRIBE music, analyze it without the overt presence of a human ego to direct you. without familiar emotional signposts, it won't be long before you end up describing sound by connecting it to the look of a bird's nest.

instrumental music has very little commercial appeal. people like to sing along. they like to hear their musicians use the words "baby" and "oh" and "yeah". but critics are billed as experts -- an elite group who can see beyond commercial taste and come face to face with the artistic content within in an album. but feed them music without words, and soon enough, they'll be longing for "baby" and "oh" and "yeah" just like the hoi polloi.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

funny things

more pitchfork bashing. here's a song by the rapture remixed by simian mobile disco.

dear pitchfork,



all the best,
uticas

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Perpetuation of Rock and Roll

This is old news, and it doesn't really matter, but last year Grand Master Flash and the Furious Five were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Strange and stranger still is the list of groups that are "eligible" for inclusion this year:

Afrika Bambaataa
Beastie Boys
Chic
Dave Clark Five
Donna Summer
John Mellencamp
Leonard Cohen
Madonna
The Ventures

Read it again. And again. I will now list the nominees respective genres.

Hip hop/Rap
Hip hop/Rap
Disco/R'n'B
Folk Rock
Disco/R'n'B
American Rock
Folk
Dance/Pop/R'nB/Electro/Kabbalah
Rock and Roll

Notice anything? Yeah, so did I. Two straight up Rock acts. Two.

What the fuck is going on here? It pissed me off when they opened this supposed "Rock and Roll Hall of Fame", honoring a completely ridiculous and seemingly random number of artists. Also, could the idea of a Hall of Fame be any more embarrassingly American? In driving to my new home town of Outside of Chicago, myself and the Cleverest One passed the "RV Hall of Fame" in Indiana. They have Halls for everything. It is not a grandiose place of legends, it's a capital-driven tourist attraction, located in Cleveland, the Fertile Crescent of Rock and Roll that spawned such great groups as...well, not many great groups, I don't have time to cherry pick here.

This is besides the point. Has Rock and Roll really run out of useful candidates to induct? Or is Rock really trying to stake a claim for all other genres? Again:

Africa Bambaataa-in the mid to late 70's, he spurred a cultural movement in the Boogie Down Bronx, DJing block parties to give the youth something to do. He later teamed up with Renaissance man Arthur Baker and Funk and Soul pioneer James Brown to name a few collaborators. He and the Zulu Nation helped shape the early age of Hip Hop as we know it.

Nothing to do with Rock and Roll. Nothing.

Beastie Boys- one could make a claim that their marraige of hardcore rock ideals and aesthetic with the booming bap of Rick Rubin's 808 drum machine could make them semi-suitable candidates. I semi-agree. Only semi-wise, though.

Chic- The music was funky and made you dance like nothing else. Unless you were white, because white people dance like uncomfortable robots with self esteem issues. But that's the core of the issue. This music is not rock and roll. It spans several genres, but last time I checked Rock and Roll wasn't defined as any music played with a guitar, bass, drum and singing.

Dave Clark Five - Sure, why not. It would get the naysayers like this guy off of your collective back, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame:

"They were a hard driving group who played with all their heart and soul. Their music is still played today by a lot of people. Mike Smith had one of the best voices of the time and maybe in all of rock and roll. They sold over 50 million records as a group and they should be in the Hall of Fame."

Playing with their heart and soul? I'm sure that's easy criteria to assess. There has to be some universal gauge for heart and soul lying around. And no, their music is not played by a lot of people. Only old codgers and indie bands doing Garageband remixes. Also, when was the last time you read or heard anything about Mike Smith being a great vocalist? Never. That's right, never. Howling Wolf, Chuck Berry, John Lennon, Robert Plant, Harry Nilsson, the list goes on. And it usually does so without Mike Smith. Fuck you.

Donna Summer - What the fuck? What the fuck is going on here? Seriously, like, what the fuck? She did a disco cover of "The Wanderer?" I just...fuck. Is this...where am I? I'm blinded by this...Wait, seriously, I'm writing about Donna Summer and Rock. No. Disco. She did disco. Instrumentally, there were some...nevermind, it's fruitless.

This hurts too much to even finish the list. The real kicker is the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's criteria for a candidate:

"Criteria include the influence and significance of the artist's contributions to the development and perpetuation of rock and roll."

Awful. Rock has been teetering on the brink of extinction for a while now, but that perpetuation line is a kick in the crotch of the movement itself.

The idea that a form of music that was so alive is now dead is sad enough. To state that other genres are mere perpetuations of Rock is just wrong. If it was true, and we're basing this on honest to god chains of influence, rock came out of the Chicago and New Orleans Jazz scenes, which were in turn birthed from the New Orleans brothel house music. So really this should be the New Orleans Brothel House Music Hall of Fame, and it should encompass all music everywhere.

A message to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: No need to be pathetic. Why not choose from any number of great bands out there who deserve a ridiculous and arbitrary award? Husker Du, Minor Threat, Black Flag, Television, New York Dolls, etc. Rock and Roll is great, and you don't need to grab other genres to make yourself feel good.

Unless you're Madonna. There was supposed to be a humorous drum shot there. Nevermind.






Sunday, October 21, 2007

Weird and Easy

I've really got to stop pillaging from the fruitful tree that is Pitchfork. My favorite thing about their site is the relentless amount of indie-isms abounding. This is a website dedicated to underground music, but really it's nothing of the sort. Go read the best new music. Who's there? Jens Lekman? Deerhunter? Black Kids?

Nope, it's the kings of the underground, the radical, the unsigned, the DIY enthusiasts- Radiohead. Listen: either you want to be Rolling Stone, or you don't. No more of this toeing the line nonsense. We all know that Radiohead makes some great music. I'm pretty sure that they could drop a hot load into a CD case, close it, put it inside a manila envelope, crap even more hot load inside of the envelope, and then send it to any record company in the world and they would put it out.

Thom Yorke's a good songwriter/lead singer. Jonny Greenwood and that Ed guy are great guitarists. Phil and Colin are a good rhythm section. We all know this. Seriously. Why even review a record that everyone knows is going to be solid at the least?

Oh yeah, so you can use a bunch of adjectives, verbs and nouns! I forgot about that. Here is a full list of every descriptive phrase that showed up in this review:

-overlong and scattershot
-guitar-centric compositions
-user friendly
-glacial distance
-dollops of reverb
-mulched up drum intro
-zestful guitar line
-gold mine of one-off fills
-jazzier, fluid guitar line
-eschews verse/chorus/verse structure
-sludgy riff
-skronks along noisily
-keening melodies and immutable prettiness
-drain-circling arpeggios
-skeletal rhythm section in cavernous swaths of glockenspiel
-syrupy strings
-slinky, elongated falsetto backed by frosty, clanging percussion and a meandering guitar line
-woozily beautiful things
-lethargic, chipped-at guitar chords
-slow, R.E.M.-shaped ballad
- spry guitar workout
-breakneck conclusion
-breathless closing rant
-"Pyramid Song" in the making
-circling piano coda
-bassline that seems to promise a climax that never comes
-rickety drum beat and shuddering percussions
-real life drums
-barely distinguishable electronic counterpart
-piano gently uncoils
-a fitting close to such a human album

I don't even know where to start, so I'll start with the end. A human album? I'll have to admit, I liked it better when Yorke and company made animal albums. Yorke's solo manimal work is much better as well.

My time on this library-owned computer is finishing up, so I'll finish this post later. Until next time, just read more about Deerhunter. It's good for you.

I promise.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

time to like another band!

all signs point to black kids (the name of the band) being totally hot right now. all the essential ingredients of indie fame are there: awkward synths abound, the lead singer sounds like robert smith doused in reverb, the songs are "dance songs" without even a hint of a backbeat (perfect for white audiences), and the choruses are dependably louder than the verses (which makes rock critics happy). the band's self-released EP ("wizard of ahhhs") is available for download at their myspace page. check it out for tomorrow's hype today.
if anybody's reading this, i'd be interested to see if you actually like these songs ("i'm not gonna teach your boyfriend how to dance with you" is apparently good). please leave a comment explaining what you enjoyed. usually when i make such a request, i'd be baiting someone into a fight. this time, however, i'm genuinely curious.**
to my ears, it sounds like music meant for a john hughes movie (maybe "the breakfast club" or "weird science"). it's not uniquely terrible in any way; it just doesn't seem exciting or new. perhaps "indie" music has, at last, fully evolved into the new bubblegum pop.
pitchfork tells me that black kids "make catchy, tightly executed songs that put a memorable stamp on pop's classic themes." catchy? perhaps. tightly executed? whatever (claims this vapid are tough to disagree with). i hear "classic themes" all over the place, but what their "memorable stamp" is, i can't quite tell.
black kids don't have a label yet, but it's only a matter of time. and who knows? maybe they'll make a terrific debut record and i'll be eating my words. but i can't avoid the feeling that they're destined to be yet another moderately fun band, just waiting for effete college students to chew them up and spit them out.
in the course of his review, marc hogan manages to drop the arcade fire, the go! team, morrissey, jim henson's "labyrinth", and motown (most of these references make sense, but that last one really comes out of left field). critics love saying that stuff reminds them of other stuff, and "wizard of ahhhs" certainly lends itself to that practice. maybe this is what's good about it.
in the end, this episode seems to me like one of the final stages in "indie" music's regression into irrelevance. entering our seventh year of global war, our fifth year occupying the heart of the middle east, as the constitution continues to be dismantled amendment by amendment, we are told to enjoy songs that even a young molly ringwald may have found trite.

whatever keeps the educated class in lline, i guess.


** i really mean this. feed me your thoughts.

Monday, October 15, 2007

various things

a fellow i recently went through great pains to slime has just written a lovely article about battles' live show. if you haven't heard "mirrored" (my favorite of the year), you should. if you have heard their recordings, but have not seem them live, you should. these are four adventurous, tasteful, and above all spectacular musicians operating at the top of their game. "independent" music doesn't often get much better than this, and i'm very pleased to see that critics are actually giving them the praise they deserve ("math-rock" is usually little more than a punch line).

on a tangential note, i noticed that j-temp had to explain our project all over again (as if the picture at the top weren't crystal clear). allow me to add that if i can aggravate critics to one tenth of the degree that they aggravate musicians, i will consider my efforts successful.

finally, i've recently been working at a job that requires me to wake up much earlier than a lazy human being ever should. on account of this, my interneting has waned, and the blog hasn't been kept up (i haven't even ripped the new fiery furnaces record yet). fortunately for me -- and for my vast throng of loyal readers -- that job has been replaced by one that is much easier on this ol' sloth. regular vitriol will return shortly. in the mean time, enjoy this bit of the funny.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Go Neil!!

Props of the day to Mr. Drum Boner himself, Neil Peart, who was named by Blender as the second worst lyricist in rock! Only the mighty Sting himself rated higher (lower?), and while I haven't seen a full list, this tidbit from Reuters is a pure delight:

Blender described Canadian rocker Peart's lyrics as "richly awful tapestries of fantasy and science."

Pretty much, yeah.

God, I want to listen to "Marathon" right now.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

A Brief Fungasm

I have very limited access to the interwebertory these days, but I'd just like to remind all the 8 readers of this blog:

This website is based on the idea of criticizing criticism. Take things personally if you must, that's kind of the point.

If you find something you dislike about our criticisms of criticisms, critique us. Sometimes we'll criticize your critique of our critiques of someone's criticism, and other times we'll nod and say, "Oh yeah, solid point." Make us think twice the next time we hate on Interpol.





Never mind. Don't do that. Carlos D is a turd.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

top ten ways to bury your head in your ass

it would be best if i began by saying outright that i find this to be one of the more irritating bits of writing i've ever come across (and i spend a fair amount of time trolling the right-wing internets). nick southall is a critic who states -- almost with pride -- that he is "not an engineer or a musician." still, he seems to think himself uniquely qualified to tell musicians how to make better records.
indeed, the title of this odious turd of a piece is: "top ten ways to make better records".
i am a musician. and i'm a lucky guy, because nick is graciously writing this piece for my own benefit -- and for the benefit of all musicians who try to express themselves. after not liking a lot of records, he's "come to the inevitable, ineffable conclusion that musicians are often fumbling in the dark during the recording and production process." he continues: "many musicians don't know what their best material is, and even if they do, they don't know how to make the most of it half the time anyway, and so the ostensibly simple process of making good records gets repeatedly cocked-up by people who ought to know better, if they could only remember the things they loved about records when they were just fans themselves."
let's try to absorb all of the bullshit in that last bit of paragraph. musicians don't know how to record music, how to differentiate their good works from their bad ones, how to "make the most" of their best songs, how to avoid cocking up the "ostensibly simple [!] process of making good records," and to top it all off, they don't even remember what they love about music (because they're so distracted by making it). jeez, these musician guys sound really really stupid. aside from working in the service industry, is there anything they CAN do?
hang on one second. hold down the meatballs! the obvious question is: what makes a critic, who admits to having nothing but second-hand knowledge about the whole process of recording, think he can the supply advice that will shelter musicians from their own bad taste? granted that musicians are totally dumb, what makes this guy so fucking clever? amazingly enough, it's precisely because he's not a musician that he feels his thoughts will be of value. "as a music journalist, and more importantly as a music fan, i've spent a lot of time paying a lot of attention to a lot of records, researching how they're made and talking to the people who make them." if only we could all just talk to musicians, we wouldn't even need his advice. sadly, you go to war with the army you have, so onward and upward.
as far as the specific advice he offers is concerned, there are few surprises. record live if your band sounds better live, a 40 minute cd is better than a 75 minute one (hat tip to j-temp for his previous work on the absurd concept of "exhausting" music), don't overcompress stuff ("it sounds crap"), don't get too stoned, be creative with sequencing, and so forth. it's not that he gives any advice that's particularly BAD; it's just all so OBVIOUS. he writes as if "be economical with time" were some sort of epiphany worthy of publication. that southall thinks any of this advice is uncharted territory for musicians only goes to further establish how out of touch he is with the actual experience of being creative.
but beyond nuts and bolts idiocy, there's something so essentially arrogant and stupid about the whole project. the entire piece is written from the premise that nick is better at listening to music than the people who make it -- which is to say, it's a load of self-serving, narcissistic nonsense. one more time: critics are not special. being a critic does not make you smarter, and it doesn't help you understand music in any noteworthy way. all they do is listen to songs, and then talk about whether or not they like them. everyone does this. as a profession, it impresses mostly fellow english majors, and practically nobody else.
creativity is about embracing risk. criticism is about SHIELDING yourself from risk. nick doesn't understand the difference (because he's not very smart). he thinks his experience evaluating music makes him better equipped to understand the process of making music (imagine a homeless man advising a room full of chefs on the culinary arts -- and justifying this by saying, "i've eaten a lot of bad shit in my day."). and so nick offers advice only on how to avoid fucking up, which is easily the least effective and most self-centered approach an artist can possibly take. creative people take risks; critics fear them.
his tenth and final piece of advice is: "don't be afraid to follow, or ignore, any and all advice you may be privy to, including this. it's your record after all." again, hold down the meatballs. has he just revoked his original statement that musicians are "fumbling in the dark" when it comes to being musicians? is he trying to insulate himself from the possibility that someone would find his advice condescending? is this a recognition that the very idea of such an article necessitates it being an utter waste of time? his world-weary knowledge of records is slamming right into his disingenuous populism. this is fingernails-on-a-blackboard cognitive dissonance. really impressive stuff.
in a discussion about the traffic in los angeles, larry david once said, "sometimes it gets so bad you can hardly breathe." when it occurs to me that dime store fools like nick southall actually hold sway over the success of "independent" musicians, i think i know what he means.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

making sense is way difficult

"when a song has two chords, it's about asking a question in one line and then seeing if it can be answered in the next."
that's a line from mark richardson's most recent pitchfork column. for some reason, there's a series called "resonant frequency". what the title means, or what a column needs to be about in order to be a part of the "resonant frequency" club, is anybody's guess.
but i want to talk about the line above, inasmuch as it's possible to analyze anything so careless.
mark thinks that two-chord songs are cool. he thinks it's fun to have two things, one following another. this structure reminds him of a question being followed by an answer. he then writes that two-chord songs are "about" this structure. specifically, he seems to feel most excited by waiting to see if the question "can be answered".
clearly, it's going to be very difficult to understand what the hell he means by any of this, so let's skip that step. let's ponder these questions instead: 1) is this really what he likes about two-chord songs? 2) even in metaphors, how can he claim to know what a song's structure is "about"? 3) does it make any sense to say that a structure is "about" anything? 4) why would you even subject your readers to such banal and narcissistic musical analysis (the song reminds mark of "x", so "x" is what the song is about)?
for the record, i've been known to like some two-chord songs. like any other kind of song, some are good while others are bad. if you try to say anything general about them beyond "they all have two chords," you're probably going to stumble over your english degree and make an ass out of yourself.
ultimately, this is the type of thing an editor would send back with a big red box around it and a few question marks in the margins. the reason the editor didn't do this is because he doesn't exist, and spell-check is not really an adequate substitute.
i guess it's not really that important, because i did look at two (2) separate american apparel ads while reading the column. SUCCESS!!!!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Let the Professionals Fail

Once again Metacritic shows us why it's better to let the critics fuck things up. This is the only User comment on the Oakley Hall's I'll Follow You, so it's kind of hard to miss. And then you really take a look at it...

Kenny M
gave it a
10:
i haven't listened to this album yet...

This is a great way to start any critique. Presenting your lack of knowledge on the subject really creates a positive critical foundation. Please continue.

...but I saw oakley hall open from bright eyes at the first show of the cassdaga tour...and they were flawless, with a booming sound and energy that rivaled bright eyes.

So this review is based on the ONE time you saw the band live having never seen them, probably drunk on 3 Brooklyn Lagers and waiting for the super-mopey whine-machine Bright Eyes to come out? When in Rome, I guess. Well, it sounds like their live show was perfect, so if you gave this album a 10 out of 10 the album should sound like the live show in your head, right?

i expect this album will be great, but nothing like their live performance.

HAhahaha HAAhahahah. You gave them the 10 because of their live show, and then call out the fact that most albums sound nothing like the band live. Great. Thanks for your completely ridiculous and pervertedly tragic piece of mind.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Serious Musicians




Nothing like an awesome google search to brighten our day. The title is the search. I think this will singlehandedly kill the idea of a "serious musician" forever. Believe it!!!


Like we all need more reasons to kill ourselves. John Mayer. Serious musician. He's the kind of guy who would want to promulgate that phrase. What a tasteless asshole. Meanwhile, the kid on my right proves my point quite well. He is in a stupor of sorts, at least that's what his eyes say. Some kind of parent figure probably pushed him in front of the horn and instructed him to thusly blow. He's learning, isn't he? Making even a farting sound on a cornet would qualify as a learning experience. You're taking it seriously, trying to coax anything forth. Therefore you're a serious musician. Anyways...


"Touch me, my saxophone demands it be so."


Even Elvis loves the Writemare. Who knew?



Wait a minute, this guy is supposed to be a serious musician? Look at that wonderful smile! How could this guy be a serious musician? He's a nice musician maybe, but not serious. That Cosby sweater, those fashionable glasses, this guy is just not cut out to be serious. Have fun being nice, though!





This guy is just a fucking failure. Look at that knowing smirk. Nothing says "not a serious musician" like a brown suit. And what the fuck is he raising his eyebrows at? If only I knew...

Whoa, what the hell, this guy on the bottom is supposed to be serious as well? It looks like the dude on the right walked into Men's Warehouse, aged 30 years and came back to take another picture. Personally, a tiny mustache denotes a "more serious" musician in my mind. That big old mustache makes me think of a sketchy middle school band director.








Ah, this guy. I'm...not even sure what to say. Why so elfish?

And...

Because when you or I think about serious musicians, we're really thinking about the flag of our great country. And little military hats, those too.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Big Things Cresting

Fun is fun, as they say. Do you know what else is fun? Terrible puns on album titles! Also, really vague language that uses adjectives to prevent any actual analyis! Thankfully, NME supplies us with a wondrous dearth of material to devaluate.

Hot Hot Heat - Happiness Ltd

In 2002, Hot Hot Hot Heat's 'Make Up The Breakdown' bounded into the world's lap like a giddy terrier, but 2005's 'Elevator' stalled.


Woo hoo hoo! Read it again and feel a little more stupid. It's fun, kind of like killing some brain cells when huffing a whippet.

On their fifth album, partly produced by Green Day and MCR Midas-toucher Rob Cavallo, the message is clear: pop is back. Big hooks and cresting balladry are shamelessly in-season ('Outta Heart') and call-and-response choruses are bigger than ever ('Give Up?').

There is a reason this review is short. So far the album is full of cresting balladry, with big call-and-response choruses. Good.

The trademark tempo jiggery remains and it's all threaded together with airy production that underlines rather than overwhelms.

Know what I'm a big fan of? Production that sounds like the air. And we all know that air sounds of sweet cresting balladry, right?

Also, I love to get jiggery. I get jiggery all the time. Me and this guy(you know, the guy on the right), together the jiggery we share.

And while there's nothing here as incendiary as 'Bandages', there remains a sense of flow that previous albums have lacked.

A lot of "critic language" is being flung around today. Airy production, Midas-toucher, and now a "sense of flow."

Awesome, I'm now getting a clearer picture of what this sounds like. A golden Will Smith singing call and response ballads, cresting all the while.

Hot Hot Heat are not the freewheeling scamps they once were.

Chances that members of any band from the dawn of time never experience a life change, ever: Zero.

Thankfully, rather than mature into 'serious' musicians, they've rejuvenated themselves with the elixir of a purer pop.

A quick list of a serious musician's traits:

a) skilled at their chosen profession
b) lacks a sense of humor
c) must write songs concerning only death, life, and the immediate variations on those themes
d) must listen to exhausting music and die from the intense experience

Serious musicians can be interested in pure pop (Bob Mould, Frank Black, David Bowie, Frank Zappa) and are pretty brilliant in their execution of said pop. What the fuck is wrong with someone being 'serious?' Why am I continuing to put that word in quotations?

Anyone in a band is a serious musician. Anyone playing or learning an instrument is a serious musician. Think I'm being a little general in my description? That's because the true technical idea of musicality is no longer discussed in popular music's criticism. Just because a bassist can't play "Donna Lee" straight-up, no swing doesn't mean he's not serious.

The concern, as Uticas pointed out, is not in the words, but how they're arranged. The vague adjectives titillate the mind, and you think, 'Maybe I'll enjoy the Midas-touched sounds.'

Rating from NME: 7 out of 10. Bizarre.

Friday, September 14, 2007

media done me wrong

jonathan schwartz, one of the more astute political bloggers one can hope to find, recently summarized the state of american news media, specifically the role that readers have been assigned to play in contemporary corporate newspapers. it's commonly understood that since i buy the newspaper, i am the customer. this is wrong. 75% of a newspaper's revenue comes from advertising -- as readers, our monetary contribution is basically negligible.

it's more important for us to LOOK AT the newspaper than it is for us to buy it.
once this is understood, it becomes clear that ADVERTISERS are media's customers; readers are the product, bought and paid for by companies who, in the end, just want a moment of our time. most people, including everyone from media critics to media whores, refuse to address this business model. more than anything else, though, it sculpts what we read and what, for some reason, we continue to call "journalism".
the above paragraphs could describe the new york times, cnn, and almost any other disgraceful news outlet you might name. but they could just as easily describe the business model of every music publication, from rolling stone to mtv to pitchfork. when hipsters bemoan the power of "the hype machine", this is what they'd be trying to talk about if they weren't already on their fourth pabst of the afternoon.
take mr. p. fork, our favorite whipping boy here at the writemare. they get zero money from their readers. they get ALL of their money from advertisers. the whole operation is maintained by a small number of companies -- mostly record labels and american apparel -- who know exactly how to reach white kids that consider themselves culturally literate. put yourself in pitchfork's shoes. on the one hand, you've got hordes of desperate-to-be-hip college students; on the other, you've got the companies that keep you in business. where would your loyalties lie? who's your daddy?
this can manifest itself in a number of different ways. an ordinary album might get a better reception by being on sub-pop than it would if the same songs were put out by a smaller label. a decent small release might get a nice review, but no post-release blowjobs in the "news" section. a column might be devoted to a group of young men who take the opportunity to prominently display their complete lack of both talent and wit. most noticeably though, every few months a mediocre band releases a mediocre album, and we are inexplicably told that it's the best shit ever, a watershed moment in the development (read: decomposition) of "indie rock". self-proclaimed "discerning" listeners will always buy these records because they think they're taking part in cultural expression.
all in all, record labels will continue to push marketable bands (as they always have), and critics will continue to like marketable music (because that's their job).
there isn't really hope that any of this might change in the near future. media conglomeration is a powerful beast, and it's development is rapidly outpacing whatever independent competition might arise. the critics themselves aren't particularly important -- one positive review is just as effective as another (what percentage of readers even bother to look past an album's "score"?). all that matters is that record labels continue to reach their targets -- young people with salaried parents.
through it all, musicians will keep writing, recording, and touring, a small handful of them getting lucky enough to stay broke for a few years. until fans realize that they don't need critics or labels to help them like music, this won't change.
in the mean time, you might consider visiting the nearest club and watching whatever bands they put in front of you, and remember that criticism only exists because creativity allows it to.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Critics are Critics, Fans are Deranged

Paste Magazine put it best when describing Weezer's Make Believe.

"Neither the best nor the worst album this band has recorded."

Nothing worse than being stuck in musical taste purgatory. Don't worry Weezer, you're ridiculous pre-pubescent fanzies are coming to the rescue.

Matt M gave it a9:
Come on, this album is sick. What is the point of comparing it to the past. Take it for what it is: fun and well written. haven't we learned by now that we'll look back at weezer albums later and realize the genius was there all along, we just failed to see it.

Matt, do you know what a question mark is? Use it. Usually I condemn a review that ignores the past...and nothing's changed. Fine, I'll take this album as it is: sad and underwritten. After telling us to ignore the past, Matt tells us that IN THE FUTURE we will look back (presumably into the currently ignored past) and recognize the hidden genius. What a fucked up time traveling sadist you are, Matt.

Fcuker gave it an8:
Wow! After seeing the Beverly Hills video on MTV i was hooked. Having never heard of Weezer before I immediately went out and purchased the album. Some albums drag on and on when listening to them but the 45 minutes this album generates absolutely flew by, A SUPERB album

Wow! First of all, great name. Really original. Secondly, that Beverly Hills video was terrible, especially by Weezer's standards. "Sweater Song" and "Buddy Holly" were brilliant. Your glowing review cites how the albums great because it "flies by." That tells me two things:

a. You have no attention span.
b. Superb = disposable

So, next time you want to jam out to some sweet hitz, just turn on a window fan and knock your head against the wall to keep the beat, hassole!

Andrew L gave it a10:
Brilliant album. Do not listen to the detracters.

You spelled detractors wrong. Also, way to back up your claims...with nothing. Horrible.

nate b gave it a10:
Give it a second and third run people. This album deserves repeated listens. Yea, the lyrics have been simplified, it is called Rivers maturing. He knows how to express what he feels now, and what he feels does not need to be woven in an intricate web of lyrics which you have to look up on the internet to decipher their meanings. This album captures all the emotions that either have (or haven't) been captured in the previous albums. Oh, and then there's that little part about the music. This album finds the band experimenting with a wider variety of sounds, and it works great. I seriously wonder sometimes, if the reason the reviews are so low, is because fans keep setting themselves up for dissapointment. Seriously, there will NEVER, ever be another Pinkerton (you know, the one you all HATED at first?) Rivers is not like that anymore. He is trying to find peace, and happiness. The music reflects that. Enjoy it for what it is, and allow yourself to relate to it. It really is possible to do so, if you quit letting expectations or your disgust for the band's newest wave of success cloud your perception.

Great review Nate...or should I say Rivers Cuomo!!! How dare you give your own record a favorable review!!! Rivers, go sit in the corner and drop out of Harvard again! Now!

Lauren F gave it a10:
Critics are stupid, thats why no one listens to them and they dont make any money. Rivers Cuomo on the other hand makes lots of money because he is a genius and speaks from the heart and thats why people listen to him instead. Every great band changes with every cd, If you like the blue album go buy that one instead.

Nice, take that critics! Fuck you! Unfortunately Lauren, you shoot yourself in the foot. The only evidence you provide for the albums 10 out of 10 rating is that Rivers is a genius, which in turn makes him lots of money. Weak.

This has been fun. See you next time!

Monday, September 10, 2007

Confused By The Dirty Projectors

"Hi, my name is Mike Powell. I listened to the new Dirty Projectors album, and it was so crazy that it made me look like this:


Yeah, I look like a confused child. I like music, I really do, I just don't know how to express it. You know what, I like this Dirty Projectors album, but the dubious hipster in me tells me not to trust these feelings. Now I'll let J. Temp rip my completely ambiguous review."

Thanks Mike, don't mind if I do.

Hearing the band rip through material from last year's New Attitude EP on a recent Daytrotter session was like watching the glass slipper slide on.

Mike likes the Dirty Projectors. Their recent performance leads him to believe that they have hit their stride.

While Longstreth's initial albums were mostly string-backed folk, he's now given himself up to rhythm-- in his words, his compositions have become more "horizontal" than "vertical." The horizontal's great for dancing-- an opportunity that arises a few times here-- but verticality is still the source of the songs' tensions.

Translated to layman's terms: The music is sometimes more dancey thanks to an emphasis on rhythm. This section of the paragraph is tragically busy. Also, lost in the vernacular is a decent knowledge of music and the way it is shaped. Too bad.

Coffman and Waiche's coos stack harmonies with Longstreth's bleat like little car wrecks, and even though the guitars move like a West African dance band or math rock, the songs seem propelled by the constant resolutions of notes rather than the beats themselves.

When describing group vocals, this is perhaps at the bottom of the totem pole. Little car wrecks. How three people singing sounds like Micro Machine fender-benders is beyond me. Does it sound accidentally good? Is it good at all? The confusion is palpable.
Weaving guitar lines = West African Dance Band OR math rock? Are you saying that the guitar lines are influenced by those two elements, or are we supposed to pick one?
I'm not really sure I can translate this section into something tangible. It's a twisted mess of simile and half-finished thoughts.

Some of this record sounds like Phish and some of it sounds like the Police.

Translation: The album sound neither here nor there. To say that the record sounds like these bands without any sonic context is preposterous. The Police and Phish don't have a single compositional path, both veer off the beaten path quite often. Therefore this sound-a-like comparison has zero weight. Writing a sentence like that is the equivalent to driving an airplane across the country without taking off.

There's a verse in Esperanto.

He must have meant to edit this out. I hope.

When Longstreth strides into the singer-songwriter spotlight, he's so determined to express himself he forgets the idea is to share, instead employing melisma that's so brutal it's almost embarrassing.

Nope. Nope nope nope. Your idea of expressing yourself is to share. Perhaps that's not part of Longstreth's idea of expression. You can't penalize a guy because he doesn't fit into your specific definition of a form of creative expression. And maybe he can't sing very well, but all you have to do is say so. Instead, you used music nerd language to express your feelings. For those of you who don't know (and I guarantee you there is more than a handful):

Melisma \Me*lis"ma\, n.; pl. Melismata. [NL., fr. Gr. me`lisma
     a song.] (Mus.)
(a) A piece of melody; a song or tune, -- as opposed to
recitative or musical declamation.
(b) A grace or embellishment.
[1913 Webster]
There.

And he sounds like he's having fun! And that's scary.

So you like the album, or you don't? All of this review has been perfectly vague.

But newfound focus from the band brings newfound exhaustion for listeners.

I've always really enjoyed the argument that listening to music can be "exhausting". As if you can break a fucking sweat listening to prog rock. Has anyone actually died from listening to music that is just too busy, too challenging for our feeble ears and minds?

Nope. Never happened. That's why that expression is bullcrap.

For all his supposed messiness, Longstreth is actually really brittle and anal-retentive.

Let me fix this sentence for Mike: For all of his supposed messiness (a myth promulgated by Pitchfork and other uber-indie sitez), Longstreth is actually really brittle and anal-retentive (according to me, Mike, who interviewed the guy once, so I guess I'm just basing this on pure conjecture, seeing as how you can't judge a book by its cover).

That the album has a concept-- a song-by-song "reimagining" of Black Flag's Damaged-- scarcely matters to the listener, although it seems good for Longstreth: It gives the illusion of an anchor.

The illusion of an anchor? Really? I'd say it is a compositional anchor. It's as a real as a theoretical anchor could be and to mention it as an afterthought is laughable.

He recently told me that it was his attempt at making a "New York album: angular, austere, obsessed with authenticity, like New York bands supposedly are." The assumptions seem off, but he probably hit the mark. They're consumed with cultural appropriation and aesthetic polyamory-- a post-pop-art idea of authenticity.

This is just weird. He disagrees with Longstreth's point about New York music, and then provides a clear argument against his disagreement. Why?

Rise Above will drop plenty of jaws, and, like Deerhoof, Dirty Projectors are restructuring rock on a compositional level rather than a sonic one. To murder a cliché, whatever unfurls from Longstreth's brain next isn't anyone's guess-- Rise Above, for all its fastidiousness and minor drawbacks, finally displays the perfect counterargument to the portrait of him as another nutso college dropout: It displays a pattern.

If anyone can tell me what the pattern is, I'll give you a pot of gold. I really don't understand this paragraph. It's completely convoluted, and it ends with that ridiculous pattern statement. He could've just stopped at the first sentence.

The strange thing is, he gives it an 8.1 after all this rambling. For the entire review he seemed to be sitting on the fence, willing to appreciate the Projector's vision and new-found compositional prowess but unwilling to admit that Longstreth and company know what they're doing. I would expect a rating of 5.6 or 6.8 at the most. You can't sow that much doubt without owning up to it.