Friday, February 29, 2008

in which our hero hates on Black Kids once again

pitchfork has a news bulletin up about Black Kids' upcoming world tour. it contains a couple of curious formulations.

for starters, "without a full-length album, a label [...], a proper tour of their own home country, or even a fully functional website to their credit (er, 'coming soon'), Black Kids have managed to win hearts around the globe."

apparently, a musician's goal is "to win hearts". because, of course, immediate popularity is exactly as high as any creative person should aim. also, pitchfork's own role in Black Kids' popularity is completely removed from the equation. even though the sentence, as it's written, begs the question: then how DID they get so fucking popular?

for seconds, "never underestimate the power of a catchy tune, people. or, in the kids' case, four of 'em."

a few words for whoever wrote this, borrowed from the master shake: "who bothered to spawn you, and why?"

on a more serious note, i don't underestimate the power of "a catchy tune", but i do think everybody over at the fork overestimates the value, rarity, sticking power, and artistic merit of a song that makes you want to hum along. for christ's sake, there's more to music than catchiness. a lot fucking more.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

A new language, pt. 1

Temps' talk of the critic needing to acknowledge the medium in which the album was experienced brought something else to light for me. There is no existing language for a critic to employ to speak about the way in which an album is produced. A critic has talked about emotional landscapes (belch), harmonic contents, forms, tempos, rhythms, etc. for centuries. And yet when approaching the way in which a record sounds we simply get vague, tired descriptive words, genre concoctions and a listing of the primary instruments.

"Got a Good Feelin' Down Hee-are" is an exciting, upbeat reggae-Tron number where the infectious cowbell competes for the listeners attention with heavily delayed vocals.

And in case they can't figure out how to describe the song any better, they pull out some lyrics and expect us to somehow envision how those words SOUND! One shouldn't finish a review and think: Oh, they certainly seemed to like that record, but, sadly, I didn't know the composers they referenced nor the newly birthed genres they're discussing, thus in buying the record I am putting all of my faith in the publication.

The point I'm trying to make is this: reading reviews could be fun. I love recorded music. I also love to think about recorded music. Thus the thought of some sort of publication, be it net-bound or printed, writing about the way in which music sounds is so entirely exciting that I am salivating. Part of what temps and uticas have covered so far with this blog is to show that many critics fail to write about what the music sounds like. What I propose, though, is that critics don't have a language with which to talk about recordings.

More later.

Maxim Only Good For One Thing

As Richard Meltzer would say, that one thing involves, "Pulling the pud." Maxim is full of pictures like this:

which would enduce any 12 to 1,000 year-old male to say, "Gee whiz, why is her body all gleaming?"

The answer of course is because she is beautiful and not photoshopped in any way, shape or form.

What Maxim is not full of is good music writing. Never in the history of 30 piece drum sets has any serious musician looked to Maxim for music reviews. Ever. So when it was revealed that a critic from their magazine had reviewed the Black Crowes new album without listening to it, was I surprised? No. Here's an excerpt from the supposed review:

"They sound pretty much like they always have: boozy, competent, and in slavish debt to the Stones, the Allmans, and the Faces."

Probably spot on, but I'd say they would make some attempt at modernizing their sound, falling flat on their stoned, Southern faces.

Look, Maxim had no actual credibility in music journalism to begin with, so this is no great blow to an empire. It's just kind of hilarious. That it would happen to a band like the Black Crowes is even more fitting. An aging group of rawkers who got rich covering a Grateful Dead song, championing pot, and marrying Goldie Hawn's similarly talent-less but cute daughter, I mean, how good can this album be? There will be worse records for sure, but better ones? Yes, umm...yes.

This is embarrassing for anyone, although the crime committed here is one that often goes unchecked and unpunished. People who get paid to review records have been known to give an album one spin on one sound system. MP3's, car speakers, shitty portable CD players, doesn't matter. They take that single experience and type it into written law. Even stranger still, they usually never reveal whether they listened to it through headphones or not.

This drives me out of my mind, as listening and experiencing music through different mediums should be a much larger topic of discussion. And no, not just the same-old, "Well I listen to vinyl," bullcrap, or the even worse, "I only listen to over-compressed, alien-frequency-filled MP3's."

If any human being is reviewing albums using computer speakers as a reference point, I will annihilate you with my mind. I swear to god, if your common sense led you to make such a decision, then your common sense should guide you quite easily off the edge of a cliff.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

so i heat the milk then pour it into the coffee? wait -- start over

yesterday evening, every starbucks in the nation shut down for three hours to train their baristas. many addicts were momentarily disappointed; a few might have gone home and hurt somebody they love. all in all, probably a good day for red bull.

here's what i think:

1. according to wikipedia, "'barista' refers to one who has acquired some level of expertise in the preparation of espresso-based coffee drinks." if you need to train someone in the ways of making coffee, they shouldn't be referred to as a 'barista' until AFTER they've completed their grueling, tip-less three hours.

2. coffee beans are grown and harvested almost exclusively in the third world, with most of the legwork being done by peasants who earn the planet's most popular salary, less than one dollar per day. this isn't particularly relevant.

3. music publications all over the world (both print and online) should do something similar. make every critic stop writing for a few days, sit them down and show them a movie that explains a few things (i.e. you shouldn't say "waltz" if you mean "slow", words like "vibrant" and "cohesive" are actually quite vague, professional critics are just listeners with editors, and so on). i'm not sure this would result in any sort of lasting improvement (as with starbucks baristas, personnel turnover is rapid). but for once, at least they'd have to pretend to try.

p.s. starbuck is the name of the first mate on the pequod in moby dick. he is a peaceful man, but he was too weak to follow his conscience, so moby dick kills him just like he kills everybody else.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Neal, Baby, Neal

This is a new favorite of mine. Dig in!

Sweet memories
I never thought it would be like this
Reminding me
Just how close I came to missing
I know that
This is the way for me to go
You'll be there
When you know what I know
And I know...

You know we've told you before
But you didn't hear us then
So you still question why
No! You didn't listen again
You didn't listen again

This is a portion of "Lessons," recorded by Rush in 1976. Notice the bridge in which Neil Peart uses nine lines to say nothing at all. Also, as sweet as these lyrics are, remember that Geddy is shredding his throat to them.

Any set of lyrics that feature an exclamatory "No!" are boss.

Believe it.

Monday, February 25, 2008

eight easy steps to indie stardom

1. make sure you're signed to one of those indie labels that's actually a globe-spanning corporation (sub pop, matador, rough trade, etc.). this is crucial, because being independent makes it very hard to sell lots of records.

2. write a bunch of songs about how miserable it is to be a white male who writes songs for a living. you need to include at least two or three songs about how getting laid all the time makes you feel sad; for some reason, college girls love that shit.

3. keep it simple. cull the songs you've written that contain more than three sections. verse, chorus, verse will do just fine (throw a bridge in here and there if you must). try to avoid anything unpredictable, as it will distract the audience from your unhappiness.

4. dance beats are in. if the term "bedroom pop" doesn't apply to your music, use them.

5. get a cooler haircut. throw away every article of clothing you own that fits. pierce something. anything.

6. your album cover must be artsy, but not artistic. provocative sexuality is a plus, unless it's TOO provocative, which is a serious minus.

7. get a good review on pitchfork (8 or above). if you've followed steps 1-6, this should be a piece of cake.

8. sell oodles of records to debt-ridden college graduates. try hard to live large for half a decade. because, motherfucker, nobody's buying your fourth album.

Friday, February 22, 2008

A Reflection

A nice, standard drumset. Pretty crazy, right. Just wanted to give some perspective when considering


You can learn more about Mike at, where you are encouraged to enjoy


This website makes me happy.

And through sheer coincidence do I provide you with this guy.

Make It Good

Thank you Dennis Wilson, for your amazing ballads.

And your giant head and beard.

Belong: Colorless Record EP: Pitchfork Generalizations

Hey, there's a new album out! And guess what, the band has been described as "droney" and "shoegazey!" Can we get any lazier than this? How about you waste an entire paragraph talking about how the New Orleans-based groups first effort was associated with Hurricane Katrina, only they recorded it BEFORE the hurricane? And then you tell us why the association works! Thanks!

Let's see, the review looks innocous enough, until we pull these little guys out:

"Belong use feedback and drone to overwhelm the tunes.
-Voices inside a collapsed mineshaft, maybe, or echoes from a kid stuck in a well.
-Belong take the happy-sad melody and banish it to the horizon, where it can just barely be heard through the thick chords.
-...sings abstractly pained lyrics...barely audible over a swarm of fragile yet menacing guitars"

What do these lines have in common? They're the same goddamn thought repeated over and over again.

But, lo!!! I snuck in a line from an AMG review of "Isn't Anything" in there. Could you tell the difference? Neither could I.

"Someone overhearing it in my vicinity likened it to Robert Pollard trapped inside a seashell, which made some sense"

My Conversation with Person Who is Overhearing the Belong Record I'm Reviewing

Person: Wow, that's a crazy record you're listening to.

Me: Mm-hmm.

Person: Kind of sounds like Robert Pollard trapped inside a seashell.

Me: Ye...what, what did you say?

Person: It sounds like Robert Pollard, trapped in a seashell.

Me: What the hell's that supposed to mean?

Person: You know, if Pollard was in a sea...

Me: I know what it literally means, but how can you say that? Are you referring to how you can't hear the lyrics?

Person: Yeah, you know?

Me: No, I don't. Because if you put Robert Pollard in a seashell, and you pick up the seashell to listen to the ocean, you'd hear a really drunk, divorced old guy sing "I am a Scientist" to himself. You might not even be able to hear the ocean.

Person: Yeah, but...

Me: Yeah but nothing. That's a terrible comparison. Terrible.

Person: I was just saying...

Me: You were just saying nothing. That's what I'll imagine; this conversation never happening.

"...a message in a bottle rolling along on the heavy waves of the chords."

Where oh where have I heard an oceanic reference in regards to shoegaze before? From Allmusicguide overview of MBV: "they rode crashing waves of white noise to unpredictable conclusions." AMG review of Slowdive: "...swelling waves of flanged guitars, layers of wispy vocals floating in and out of the mix...", Rolling Stone's review of "Loveless": "Bilinda Butcher and Kevin Shields gently breathe pretty tunes into the thick, sweet waves of droning distortion."

I could go on forever, but it's tedious and annoying. It's the old adage, "How many ways can you say the same fucking thing about shoegaze/post-rock music since 1988?"

I'm sorry, but drone has been around FOR CENTURIES. There has to be a better way to describe an album. When you take away the references to feedback, drone, and hazy, barely audible vocals, you get:

-the album is not in anyway related to Hurricane Katrina
-all four songs are pysch-pop covers
-the last track demonstrates the band's approach to constructing music

Look, if this is all the band sounds like, I'd be willing to say...oh, wait, I'm sorry. They beat me to the punch.

" could have been made by a lot of bands."

Ah yes, so why would you recommend an album of psych-pop covers by yet another droney band, let alone give it an 8.4 out of 10? Maybe it was the sequencing of the songs? Nope, you didn't seem to mention that. Perhaps the production, guess not. You talked about the songs, but moreso about how they were covered in "thick chords."

If the album is full of drones and feedback and sounds like a lot of bands, why not focus on what makes the album DIFFERENT. In my estimation, all I have to do is turn on my iPod and remember what I didn't like about Deerhunter.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

A Taste of Neal

This is an excerpt from the band's seminal/hilarious "Moving Pictures." I love the album cover, as it features some guys moving(!) giant pictures(!) into a museum. The Peartman is gonna get a little nostalgic on us:

"My uncle has a country place
That no one knows about
He says it used to be a farm
Before the Motor Law
And on Sundays I elude the eyes
And hop the Turbine Freight
To far outside the Wire
Where my white-haired uncle waits"

May these words of wisdom help you through the day. Also, I wonder what the hell "the eyes" are he's eluding? And to hell with that Motor Law. To hell with it!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

A Taste of Neal

From now on, we will begin every week with quote from our favorite rock lyricist, Neal Peart. Much like Rev Run texting in his bathtub, Neal inspires us all to take a look at our lives and say, "I could probably fit another bass drum in there."

Thank you Neal, sincerely.

Friday, February 8, 2008

These Halls Were Built For Canadiens, Too

As I troll the interweb for new info regarding the Rock and Roll Hall of fame, I stumble onto this page. A simply wonderful wall where we realize that yes, there is a growing movement to include everyone's favorite pasty, technically prowessed, gilded cage-singing band into the hallowed shrine.
Although not particularly cherished by hip critics, Neil Peart, Geddy Lee and the other guy (poor Alex Lifeson) have changed a lot of peoples lives for the better. Check out these words of reverance:

In my youth Rush gave me the not only the World but the Universe.
I Thank You.

Such are the powers of a giant fricking drumkit. Such formality in her writing, although this is the band that gave her the control of the universe. Of all the people in the World, I did not expect someone named "Lisa" to rule over all matter, great and small. Maybe someone named Krondak the Powerful, or someone who has "Powers" for a last name. That's reasonable. But the decision is up to Rush, so who am I to say?

And now is where the discussions of influence, longevity and technical prowess are thoroughly discussed. In my mind, longevity is not the greatest gauge of a band's greatness. Many truly great and influential acts came and went in record time:

Television, Suicide, Wire, Swell Maps, Sex Pistols, dB's, Gang of Four, the Zombies, My Bloody Valentine, Nirvana, Slint, Silver Apples, New York Dolls...

Really, the argument for longevity as a valid basis of greatness is incredibly muddled. Some bands original line-ups last only one or two albums, as members are replaced and the band carries on. King Crimson is a good example. The original line-up of Robert Fripp, Ian McDonald, Michael Giles, Greg Lake and lyricist Peter Sinfield lasted a SINGLE record. Over the years Fripp is the only constant member as others shift around him (much like M.E. Smith of the Fall). However, the King Crimson name remains, making them yet another band that has lasted as long as Rush.

And then there is the question of how one accounts for a hiatus. Is the band considered together, or loosely affiliated? The grey area is looming larger as I type. In 1998, due to personal tragedy (Peart's wife and daughter both dying in separate instances), the band took time off. Geddy fired off a solo album (with Matt Cameron from Soundgarden?), but not a peep from the band till 2002. So, is thirty years really a fair amount of time?

I'm not really looking for answers, I just think that Rush is above all of this arbitrary one-ups-manship involved in the Hall. I mean, just look at this drumset!

A band like this has no use for awards or annoying ceremonies where everyone claps too much and old-fogey bands are joined by "new talent" like Rihanna or John Mayer. Although imagining Rush and Rihanna onstage is a wonderful thing.

Rush is too busy winning fans with Ayn Rand references and bass guitar solos. Who gives a crap what a bunch of idiots in Cleveland think. Drew Carey has nothing on Tom Sawyer!

Anyways, some more highlights from the Rush/Hall of Fame thread:

Turnerbudd says:

"The bias against Rush is unbelievable. Explain the reasons some of these people are in and Rush is not.Is it influence? Look at the artists who call this trio influential. "

Dream Theater? Metallica? Living Colour? Yngwie Malmsteen? And then a list of vague prog bands that only people from "Guitar Magazine" can name. They are influential, I guess...

"Is it musicality? Three of the tightest musicians as consistently lauded by every major publication.
Um seriously? Rush has consistently garnered terrible reviews from every major publication. And when they did get good reviews, you have to wonder. Greg Prato is a little too into Rush as evidenced by his review of Hemispheres.

"" Neil Peart had become one of rock's most accomplished lyricists by this point, as evidenced by "The Trees," which deals with racism and inequality in a unique way (set in a forest!)."

The Lyrics in question:

"The Trees"

There is unrest in the forest
There is trouble with the trees
For the maples want more sunlight
And the oaks ignore their pleas

The trouble with the maples
(And they're quite convinced they're right)
They say the oaks are just too lofty
And they grab up all the light
But the oaks can't help their feelings
If they like the way they're made
And they wonder why the maples
Can't be happy in their shade

There is trouble in the forest
And the creatures all have fled
As the maples scream 'Oppression!'
And the oaks just shake their heads

So the maples formed a union
And demanded equal rights
'The oaks are just too greedy
We will make them give us light'
Now there's no more oak oppression
For they passed a noble law
And the trees are all kept equal
By hatchet, axe and saw"

Look, I know I could get in trouble with Fair Use laws, but did you read those lyrics!? Trees forming unions, showing a complex range of emotions, and an all-comsuming quest to claim sunlight as their own?! Prato goes on to say that this record is probably Rush's best. Hilarious.

Turnerbudd goes on to say, "Trust me, I'm not one of those die hard Rush fans who do not listen to any other form of music (hey, no one applauded more than me when Mile made it in)."

Two things: Firstly, why lobby for a band to be in a hall of supposedly great musicians and then claim not to be a super-fan? Secondly, I'm assuming you're talking about Miles Davis getting into the Hall. Why is it so special that YOU clapped for one of the greatest artists of the last century, knowing that he was a lock to get in? Do you consider jazz to be that different from rock and roll, especially when the man helped fuse those same movement together (for better or for worse)?

AmazinFudd finishes an impassioned speech to act with these solemn words of solidarity, "Look out...for the force without form"; lets you and I become that force to effect the change. Let's throw three flaming spheres down their throats and keep doing it until our goal has been reached."

I mean, whatever you need to do to get the R&R HOF's attention. I personally would go down these routes:

-send By-Tor, knight of darkness, Centurion of evil, and devil's prince to sway the vote
-claim that La guillotine will claim her bloody prize
-Tell them the Necromancer is watching them with his prism eyes

In the end, Rush reminds us of what is truly important with this gem from Spirit of the Radio.

"One likes to believe in the freedom of music
But glittering prizes and endless compromises
Shatter the illusion of integrity"

So, what's the point Rush fans? Would you rather have integrity, or join the ranks of the arbitrary? The prism eyes are watching...

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

I've found a new low!

Just how short can a record review be? Four sentences, you say? Three?

Try two sentences.

Enjoy as Allmusicguide's William Ruhlmann gives us an overzealous account of Ultravox's Eno-produced debut.

"John Foxx proves to have an odd, Bowie-influenced vision, here aided and abetted by Brian Eno (then a Bowie crony) and Steve Lillywhite. "My Sex" and "I Want to Be a Machine" are standouts."

Notice the bizarre reference to cronyism (Eno is regarded as Bowie's crony? How/Why?). And while it's helpful that William chooses two cuts as high points, he fails to provide a rudimentary explanation in reference to:

1. the music
2. lyrics
3. the sound quality
4. group interplay
5. sequencing

These are all simple elements that make up a music review. Where are they? How do they go missing? Why?

For shame, allmusic, for shame.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Show me the New Way, Matthew Pinfield!!! Save me from your Hellfire!!!

It's February!!!

Let's celebrate the monotony with more monotony!!!

This here review tackles Louis XIV's Slick Dogs and Ponies. While I may agree that the album is lackluster, tell me oh Pitchfork, what does the album sound like?

"Electric Six-style stabs at lunkheaded disco or big, dumb, ultra-schmaltzy morning-after ballads."

You know, I hate a couple albums. I think we've skewered a couple songs/albums/artists/canons in our days here on the electronic interweb, but goddamn it what is the point of throwing bile at a group you already hate? Why not move on and listen to something that you might like? Why even waste your time? Why review an album when the lead singer, "...expresses some pathos here, a tad more profound than the pain of getting an erection while wearing tight jeans, but not far off." My guess is that you have a big list of awesomely gnarly put-downs, and you wait for hated albums to arrive. Eagerly. Because, what's the fun of reviewing music you enjoy?!? There is no fun, because without the hate, YOU PROBABLY WOULD HAVE NOTHING TO SAY BECAUSE ANALYZING THE MUSIC WOULD BE TOO MUCH TO ASK FOR.


Here is the only portion of a 4 paragraph review that discusses the music on this record (note: yes, albums actually contain music, what a strange and fantastically outlandish notion!).

"The hushed psychotic thriller "Stalker", a surprisingly subtle, clever song, almost encroaches on Gorillaz territory, with Hill doing a pretty spot-on Damon Albarn impression."

Besides the use of the term "piss-drunk stomper" a sentence later, that's it. I'm sorry, I don't care how trivial the music is, at least you can tell me the instrumentation? Maybe how you listened to it (MP3, CD, Tape), the pace of the album?

Nevermind. How's about a condescending put-down of all American listeners? Oh, that you can do? Thanks.

"The sentimental dimension of Slick Dogs only further depicts Louis XIV as an embodiment of everything American audiences just never "got" about glam rock. They're dazzled by the hedonistic aspects of the genre-- the (heterosexual) sex, the drugs, the big guitars-- but completely overlook the more complicated nuances."

Um, excuse me? What are you trying to say here? What? What are these "complicated nuances" you speak of?

"There are no sci-fi or fantasy themes explored here, and certainly no gender-bending."

Complicated nuances of Glam Rock:

1. Sci-fi/fantasy theme- I better get some goddamn dragons and shit, if not in the songs then in the album artwork. And goblins! Fuck! Goblins flying spaceships as well, otherwise, fuck it, it ain't glam, baby!

2. Gender-bending - Oh, so you think you're glam? What are you wearing? What, no pink thong? No purple mullet and hoop earrings? Stop making music, you aren't allowed, face-ass!

So again, let me conclude simply by saying IF YOU HATE A BAND, WHY IN GOD'S NAME WOULD YOU REVIEW THEM? In all seriousness, don't waste your brains on a band you're determined to abhor. Especially when you can use that time to go to music and writing school, hopefully for the last time.