clap clap blog: we have moved
Monday, January 31, 2005
Hahaha. At our last show I told an A&R guy from Touch & Go to fuck himself. Hee hee hee.
ADDENDUM: Sorry, that's slightly innaccurate. Technically I yelled, "I'm sorry, we have some respect for the fucking English language," and then Janine offered to beat him up.
posted by Mike B. at 11:36 AM 0 comments Links to this post
Saturday, January 29, 2005
ROCK 'N' ROLL BON MOTS #029
I recently discovered that I can, for some reason, get radio reception for the first few train stops of my commute, including in my very own station. So I was standing there one morning, pissed off at the cold, pissed off that I had to go to work, pissed off at the train, which was late, and when I turned on Q104 I heard Twisted Sister's "We're Not Gonna Take It." In addition to being a just fantastic song (why does no one ever mention this? Totally as good as anything the Smiths ever did), it just suddenly changed my mood. I was smiling and even a little giddy.
So from now on, whenever I feel just sort of unreasonably annoyed, as happens with some regularity in this particular city I live in, I am going to start singing "We're Not Gonna Take It" in my head, both to make me feel better and to make fun of my own overblown sense of righteousness. Unreasonably annoyed at two people kissing on the subway? "We're not gonna take it!" Pissed off at the I'm sure very nice old lady walking too slowly in front of me? "No, we ain't gonna take it!" Ready to kill my noisy neighbors? "We're not gonna take it anymore!" Shit, I should write a book about this. (It would also include Miss Clap's little trick with "Tame.")
posted by Mike B. at 1:06 PM 0 comments Links to this post
Just to note, the lyrics to Blueberry Boat can be found here. Thanks to the heretofore unknown "Blueberry Boat: A Fiery Furnaces Fansite," who do not link me, but that's OK. I'll probably go back and include these on the BB entries.
Also, here is a cartoon version of "Chief Inspector Blancheflower." (Uh, sorta.) You're welcome. Now go to bed, you hooligans.
posted by Mike B. at 3:57 AM 0 comments Links to this post
Friday, January 28, 2005
Via subinev, here are some pictures of the recording of the Branca piece I participated in, which I'll finally write about, um, any day now. If you know what I look like, you can see me in some of these pictures; if you don't know what I look like, uh, you can still see me, you just won't even know that you're seeing me. Mwah! I'm Phillip K. Dick!
Uh sorry. I think it's time to leave work and go practice and eat some dumples. (I need to write about that sometime too, but in short: Mr. Dumple = best dumplings evah! (Also, Mr. Dumple = Dumpling Man. *cough*) (Also also, picture #15 in the first set here = dumplingest dumpling that ever dumped!) (Jesus, I'm posting cute baby pictures now. It really is time to go.))
ADDENDUM: In fairness, that baby is pretty rockin', eh?
ADDENDUM 2: Christ, good thing I got my hair cut finally.
posted by Mike B. at 5:49 PM 0 comments Links to this post
So, uh, this is pretty weird. Or do I mean "creepy?" I'm just not sure.
posted by Mike B. at 5:30 PM 0 comments Links to this post
OK, but what would Grand Theft Auto: Twee City actually be like? Obviously it would start off in Olympia, and you would increase your status by buying more 7"s and increase your sex appeal by picking out the right vintage hat. You wouldn't have much equipment at first and so your missions would involve staging shows in people's houses and doing all-acoustic, group sets where everyone is sitting on the floor of the club. Except you have to do it in a way that conveys that you prefer to do like that, not that you have to. Eventually Calvin Johnston would send you to kill the Shins, except they take you into their fold and make you a marketing VP at Sub Pop, so you open up Seattle on the map. You'd have to write sufficiently cryptic letters to The Believer, kneecap college radio music directors, and find just the right coffeeshop. Your girlfriend would be a photographer and you would take her out to used bookstores, and if you found just the right ironic-but-sexy book ("Sexual Astrology," say, but only if it features a ridiculous cover illustration), booty city! You would only drive old, dark-green cars, or bikes. Once you got high up enough, you would ride a Vespa. You would have a "shagginess" meter. If it had been too long since you smoked, your coolness meter would start to go down. If you listened to the wrong radio station in your car and somebody hears you, your cred meter would go down. Eventually you would open up San Francisco (possibly through becoming a tour manager, thus giving you access to a bitchin' van), you would work for McSweeney's and eventually start your own small label that wouldn't do any runs larger than 500.
posted by Mike B. at 1:18 PM 0 comments Links to this post
ROCK 'N' ROLL BON MOTS #028
"Purple Rain" is Prince saying, "OK, everybody's doing power ballads. Cool. I'm going to do one, it's going to be better than anything any of you can even think of, then I'm going to end it with one of the greatest rock guitar solos ever. And I'm a 4'10" funk musician. Take that, bitches."
posted by Mike B. at 11:21 AM 0 comments Links to this post
SONGS I LISTENED TO THIS YEAR THAT I LIKE A LOT(SILTTYTILAL) #6-2005: SALT 5, "GET UP! RAPPER"
I've discussed this before, but I want to say specifically why this song is awesome, or at least one explanation. Let me lay out the genres this song emcompasses.
- Dancehall. The one-bass-note, syncopated-kick-hits in the verse, plus the somewhat monotonic vocals therein.
- Hip-hop. Actually not a whole lot of rapping in a song presumably about a rapper, but aside from the title, there is a shoutout of the group's name in the intro, as well as the sporadic P. Diddy-ish backup spoken male vocals ("C'mon" etc.) throughout the verse.
- Glam. The "We Are The Champions" stomp-stomp-clap beat runs inexplicably through the chorus, but it works.
- Hair metal. The guitar solos following the choruses (which I swear are exactly like another guitar solo somewhere that I just can't put my finger on, goddamnit), plus the mass chanting on the chorus, which is very reminiscent of Def Lep.
- Swedish pop. All the little cut-up vocal samples as well as the very sharp sound of the drums, and the little Richard Xy noises in the verse.
- P-funk. The synth hook in the intro.
So, you know, it's a Japanese dancehall/hip-hop/glam/now-pop/p-funk/hair metal song. And it's fantastic.
posted by Mike B. at 11:06 AM 0 comments Links to this post
Thursday, January 27, 2005
Reading this, I realized that although I've been having a fantastic time lately in the NYC (er, so to speak), I haven't been more than a few feet south of Houston or east of 1st Ave in quite a while. I hung out in Bushwick, in Washington Heights, on 23rd, at some place called Cheap Shots on 1st with an air hockey table in the back; ate on St. Mark's, at Berket, at Veselka; and just wandered around wherever, but none of it on the LES. I have been doing a lot of things in the East Village, but that's different (apparently), and maybe this article explains it: all the riffraff cleared out to Ludlow and Rivington. The East Village has felt nice and low-key lately, laid-back and familiar in a way it often doesn't. Maybe it's the winter, maybe it's the fact that I'm settling into the city more and more, but I've had a really fantastic time the last few weeks (including my trip to Atlanta, which was amazing), and I haven't been anywhere particularly trendy, and I really haven't seen hipster one. This is kinda nice.
There are certainly bad things about it--I like Fez, and the takeout margaritas at the Hat, but quite frankly, the Luna Lounge can go fuck itself nine ways from Sunday, so good riddance. Things like this make me sort of understand why people hate hipters, but it also makes me see the gradations that people sometimes miss. Also, it makes me think that all this is stupid and I shouldn't be talking about it. But so it goes. Anyway, I guess what I'm saying is that I'm happy to go out with a drink with you if you're up for a good time; we'll grab all our friends and go somewhere quiet and make it loud.
posted by Mike B. at 6:04 PM 0 comments Links to this post
Two things I've learned from looking at my referral log:
1) Putting "Shakespeare" in the tagline was a good idea. People are always googling for Shakespere and something else, and there's a lot of something else round bout these parts.
2) Someone needs to transcribe the lyrics on the Strong Bad Sings! CD. I swear I get at least a hit a day (for the overview post I did a while back) of someone looking for the lyrics on one song or another off that sucker. Also, did I mention how great that CD is? That CD's great.
posted by Mike B. at 5:04 PM 0 comments Links to this post
Wednesday, January 26, 2005
I am stewing things in my head. I am letting them simmer and create a good broth to put things in later, to make it even tastier. But it's not ready yet. When I see my ingredients in other places, I can tell they are winking at me, like the pretty girl you see at a party when you're off pursuing another one, and think, ahh, she's nice, but she's for another time. But you talk to her anyway. Just a few words around the keg or behind her in line somewhere, just laying the groundwork. You know it'll pay off. But for now it's a simmer. For now it's waiting.
So I'm getting these little glimmers from things that may pay off later: Ohio, upstate New York, rendering archaic things in a modern tongue (you see how vague this is at present, but it'll stew), etc., etc. They're all just reflections off shiny things moving somewhere in the distance. We'll see where it ends up.
posted by Mike B. at 5:59 PM 0 comments Links to this post
Tuesday, January 25, 2005
Saw I Heart Huckabees on Sunday, and really really really enjoyed it. I had been initially excited about it but was damped in my enthusiasm by all the half-hearted reviews, so I went into it with low expectations. But I saw nothing of the disconnects or pretentiousness or "angst" that people were talking about. I mean, it was a comedy, and a good one. Did people miss that?
Just to mention intially, I loved that Shania Twain was this joke through the movie, the sort of shorthand symbol of emptiness, represented by a cardboard cutout (!) of her dressed in that embarassing Ramones t-shirt. And by the end, if you're like me, you start to get kind of uncomfortable about it: OK, David, I know she's a crossover country star and all, but she's a good one, you know? It seemed too easy. And then she shows up, in the flesh, to deliver the coup de grace to Jude Law's character in a sort of deus ex machina, telling him off in no uncertain terms, and after she leaves we get the wonderful exchange of "You know, I care about that kind of shit too much," followed by J. Schwartzman's environmental activist admitting, "Me too." This may or may not be the key moment in the movie, but we'll get back to that later.
The other thing that had worried me about this movie was that long piece in the Times about its troubled production history, especially where Russel keeps going on about how it was about these really important and intelligent Buddhist concepts he'd learned in college, because I know what that kind of stuff tends to produce. But the movie did everything I wanted it to and more. It didn't take the material too seriously, and it didn't really regard it as any great revelation; this was an idea, take it or leave it, no big deal, it's been said before, but it's kinda cool, huh? Miss Clap said that ultimately you could take all the philosophy out of the movie, have it be about anything else, and the movie would still essentially work, so it's there as gravy. Plus, how pretentious can a movie be when it ends with Marky Mark and the drummer from Phantom Planet sitting on a rock and hitting themselves in the head with a rubber ball?
The movie worked because the ultimate point wasn't to grasp whatever philosophy was being put across. It had a very good and very satisfying comic resolution, with everyone pairing off into their proper couples, order restored to the universe, etc. That there were still loose ends is undeniable, but the fact that the movie chose to gloss over these (or leave them for your own consideration, or on the deleted scenes on the DVD, which I'm totally getting) is a testament to its committment to the comedic form, which gets its message across much better than more philosophizing would. I mean, it cast all of French philosophy as a nihilist femme fatale, and how great is that? It takes this stuff out of its perceived highbrow context and puts it where it belongs: in comedy. I don't mean that it's not true or valid or interesting, just that if it's properly applied and understood, it's essentially a comic idea. I think postmodernism or whatever would be a lot more useful if framed in this way.
But I could go on about this for a long, long time, so let's instead go back to "the Shania scene." Some context, in case you haven't seen the movie: Huckabees, the giant Target-esque corporate chain store that's sort of the story's McGuffin, has as one of its corporate spokespeople Shania Twain, in much the same way that Martha is for K-Mart or what have you. Jude Law's character, a marketing executive, keeps telling the same story about his encounter with Shania at a store opening, and near the end of the movie the existential detectives play him proof of how often he repeats this story as sort of evidence of his emptiness and he breaks down etc., all of which would be way more convincing if Jude Law had looked crushed instead of mildly constipated, but that's not really important.
What's important is Shania. Because if you didn't watch all the way to the Shania scene, it would be easy to read all this as some critics chose to, as an anti-corporate! anti-mainstream! liberal yay! movie that unflinchingly embraces all of those concepts, because after all what is a crossover country star if not the very embodiment of our lazy stereotype of a soulless, sold-out musician, someone with no worth whatsoever, especially if she's now whored herself out to a giant corporation, which is also, of course, Very Bad. Except then at the end, after everything has unraveled and it's been revealed that Jude Law's promises to help save a marsh are in fact only half-truths, Shania appears and gives the final condemnation: she was just as comitted as anyone to saving the marsh, she wasn't just some corporate mouthpiece believing what she was told, she is a human being and she knows what she's doing. It's a funny scene--I mean, it's Shania Twain yelling about environmentalism, how could it not be--but it's also an important one, because it flips our expectations on their head. We may want to make her into this cardboard cutout, this symbol of things we dislike, but those things are human and complicated and real, and every once in a while they need to show up and whack you on the head to make you realize what's going on.
And then the response: "I'm too into that shit." "Me too." Ah, now we see: this idea you detest, this Shania, which you've used as a prop and an easy laugh, she has just told you off in no uncertain terms, and she's right, too. You are no better than this. But: you are no better than this! And that's great, because you're pretty great, too, right? You are not above this, you are part of this. And what's the "this"? It's one of the things that connects us all: pop culture. There is a commonality, something we can look to as a connection, and it's precisely this. Even if we don't like aspects of it, we're all aware of it. We are Shania, and Shania is us: ridiculous, compromised, fabulous, debased, banal, special. And we can proceed from there.
 Incidentally, my father must be pleased that people are referring to it as such.
 Woohoo, I hit the pretentiousness twofer!
 Also, how great is Isabelle Huppert? Mmm.
 You saw that coming, right?
posted by Mike B. at 10:50 AM 0 comments Links to this post
"The Summer of '91" sounds like the Counting Crows, "Let It Drive" sounds like
I dunno, that sounds kinda cool. I mean, it shouldn't be any great revelation that Conrad's lyrics are horrendous, yeah?
posted by Mike B. at 9:22 AM 0 comments Links to this post
And so it begins...
I just heard M.I.A.'s "Sunshowers" coming out of a neighboring cubicle. Here we go!
posted by Mike B. at 9:20 AM 0 comments Links to this post
Monday, January 24, 2005
Quote of the day, from here:
"Other thing that occurs to me is that jaded ex-raver ecstasy burnout types get v v nostalgic for their clubbing heydays when they were in huge barns full of thousands and thousands of people all feeling the vibe and it was IMPORTANT, damn it.
"Newsflash, fucker, you were ON DRUGS. Perception did not equal reality. "
Yeah, what he said.
posted by Mike B. at 5:55 PM 0 comments Links to this post
Friday, January 21, 2005
At around 1:45 in the Arular mix of MIA's "MIA" (or what used to be "POP") she sings the melody from "Here Comes Santa Claus." I'm serious. She just does it twice, but it's still enough to make my brain explode into little clouds labled "WTF?" It is this in particular that makes her distinctive: not just the referentiality or variations, but the sheer density of them, and the fact that they're so tightly-packed that there's no way you can catch them all at first.
posted by Mike B. at 4:56 PM 0 comments Links to this post
Heather is talking about love here, but it applies to other things to. So, for your consideration:
Yeah. This is not just true of love, but of music, and politics, and a whole lot of other things. But it's Friday afternoon, and anything I'd say would probably better be conveyed by going out and drinking with your friends, or curling up at home on the couch with a grilled cheese sandwich and a movie.
posted by Mike B. at 4:49 PM 0 comments Links to this post
OMG BRING IT ON IS THE BEST MOVIE EVER!!! Why didn't anyone tell me? This is someone who likes Gilmore Girls here. This is someone who loved National Treasure here. This is someone who owns Josie and the Pussycats, maybe its closest spiritual kin. (It's not quite as good as Josie, but this is like saying it's not quite as good as hate sex. Wait. That came out wrong. I meant, it's not quite as good as an ice cream sundae topped with bacon and then fried in bacon grease and rolled in powdered sugar. Wait. Well, you know what I mean.)
I mean, it's just fantastic! The evil gay choreographer! ("Cheerleaders are dancers who have gone retarded." "In cheerleading we throw people into the air. And fat people don't go as high.") The sensitive/sardonic indie boy trying to win Kirsten Dunst away from her callous blonde boyfriend by giving her a mixtape, which mixtape begins with a song he wrote for/about her that starts out all quiet and acoustic and then gets loud and punk rock and then Kirsten Dunst gets excited about this and starts jumping on the bed in her PJs and grabs her pompoms and does a little manic fit of happiness! (I'm pretty sure that scene is better than anything in The Godfather.) The little understated gay flirtation scene between two male cheerleaders at the end that's not played for laughs at all and is actually kind of sweet! The annoying little kid's "CHEERLEADING = DEATH" t-shirt, which I totally want! Eliza Dushku just bein' Eliza Dushku! That the main team doesn't win in the end, and that's OK!
Aside from all the great little moments, I think the main selling point was that the movie took itself just seriously enough, which given that it was a cheerleading movie, was not particularly much. And so they weren't trying to overdramatize it: generally every 5 minutes, there'd be somebody saying, "You know cheerleading's stupid, right?" The movie didn't try and disprove this; it just tried to make you care about cheerleading, which is what the characters' attitudes seemed to be, at least the sensible ones. There was also a nice trend of it seeming like it was going to misstep but then catching itself, like when Dunst's (white) character convinces her (white) dad to fund the (black) opposing squad's trip to nationals, and the team captain rejects it and points out how goddamn insulting that is, which was pretty much what I was thinking. But at the same time, it allows you to enjoy its campy aspects in all their wonderful fluffy goodness: they do take themselves seriously when they say "Bring it!" and you laugh and cheer and it's great. It also didn't get all creepy and weird like Showgirls. There is no equivalent of the rape scene here, thankfully.
I seem to remember this getting reviews at the time being like, "OK, I know this seems stupid, but give it a shot! It's actually pretty good!" But au contraire: it is not pretty good, it is fucking fantastic.
Even better, they were showing it on the WB, which invited certain useful comparisons to their slate of shows. I was talking about the tropes it inherited from 80s movies (the annoying character who's not actually a nemesis having something humiliating but unspectacular happen to them around the time of the main character's triumph) and Miss Clap said that WB teen dramas are basically longform, broken-up 80s movies. (I may be misquoting her here.) I'm not so sure. I think the teen dramas descended most directly from Dawson's Creek (although also from My So-Called Life et al) are actually something of a new form, mixing certain preexisting things and creating certain conventions, but also often avoiding these conventions. It's an interesting thing. But I'm probably overstating the case.
Also, Miss Clap does not think Kirsten Dunst is particularly attractive. I, um, disagree.
posted by Mike B. at 2:50 PM 0 comments Links to this post
ROCK 'N' ROLL BON MOTS #027
In Prince's "U Got the Look," for the entire length of the song, there is a kick drum on the 1st and 3rd beats, and a snare on the 2nd and 4th. The entire way. It does not stop, even for a bar. And yet, there are changes in the song, shifts and variations and distinct sections, while nevertheless having the same basic beat the entire way through.
Now, on a certain level this is not uncommon--many things have the same beat the entire way through. But what's fascinating is what Prince does with it to evince variation. For instance, in dance music, generally there will be the same arrangement for four bars, and then a shift; either that, or a slow build by one or more elements over a number of bars that's divisible by 4. But what Prince does here is take this very basic kick-snare pattern and just surround it with small bursts of almost random percussion that don't follow any discernable pattern aside from the rise and fall within microsections of the song. So while there's this kick-snare going on, at any given moment there will be rototoms, or a free-jazzish out-of-time burst of high hat, or a timbales freakout. It's amazing, another formal test that maybe no one noticed but Prince--but he sure did. It's a very simple song, with the only constant being the bassline, which follows basically a blues progression; at the end, the processed guitar starts to play some more focused lines, but until then, it's pretty noodley in a restrained and sporadic way. But the song holds together, and it is in fact a great pop song, not despite, but because of this.
posted by Mike B. at 11:02 AM 0 comments Links to this post
Wednesday, January 19, 2005
Oh my god, I am spending so much money tomorrow. I am going to spend like five hundred dollars, on, I dunno, oil, and Toby Keith CDs, and Diebold locks, and American flags, and Anne Coulter books, and t-shirts that say I LOVE HALLIBURTON, and anatomically correct President Bush dolls, and then some bigger motherfucking American flags, and donations to the RNC, and assault weapons, and crucifixes, and TVs. I am going to spend so much money it will make you vomit. You dumb motherfuckers. God I hate you.
posted by Mike B. at 4:58 PM 0 comments Links to this post
As per C-Lo (no, not that one!) comes this little game:
5. If you get the same artist twice, you may skip the second (or third, or etc.) occurances. You don't have to, but since randomness could mean you end up with a list of ten song with five artists, you can if you'd like.
1. Geniu Cru - Course Bruv
posted by Mike B. at 1:46 PM 0 comments Links to this post
I am excited about the TMBG Tribute! And I spent some time thinking about what song I would like to cover, and I'm thinking that while I'd like to cover something like "Whistling In The Dark" or "Road Movie To Berlin," I am better suited to latter-day Flansburgh stuff, like "New York City" or "Pet Name" or, if I'm feeling adventurous, the Dial-A-Song version of "Robot Parade." But it might also be nice to do, like, "She's Edith Head" or "James K. Polk" or "Why Does The Sun Shine?" Or "I Palendrome I." OK, I'll stop. But tell me what you'd like to cover. Or sing kareoke to.
posted by Mike B. at 1:15 PM 0 comments Links to this post
OK, that does it. From now on, I get to pick the titles for Wolf Eyes albums.
Given their usual release rate, which is apparently based on the theory that if you record something, it's a song, allow me to present a prospective release schedule for the next few years.
Q1/05: (limited-edition run of 30 etched on the surface of these plexiglass tablets they only made for like 6 months in 1974 in Georgia) whingwhingwhingSCREEEEEEEEEuggauggaBONK
Q2/05: (encoded on metal orb, shot into space via homemade launchpad) Happy Meal Comes With REAL HUMAN TOE BLEEEEURRRGH!
Q3/05: (Subpop release) Hey, Did You Guys Mean To Leave the Synths On? Oh Wait Sorry
Q4/05: (uploaded to a back-door Estonian porn server, taken down after 3 hours) Blood On The Tracks But Not Like That Pussy Dylan Shit Like Real Blood And Like The Tracks Are Like Made of SKULLS!
Q1/06: (you have to go to this church and then the head priest gives you a pendant and then you have to find the "worshipper" with the matching pendant and when you do they open their mouth and this comes out) quiet white noise then REALLY LOUD WHITE NOISE THEN some clicking then REALLY LOUD WHITE NOISE and did i mention EVVVVIIIIILLLLL!
So yeah, that should about do it.
posted by Mike B. at 11:27 AM 0 comments Links to this post
Tuesday, January 18, 2005
Instructive comparison: Lindsay Lohan goes to Wendy's, shows off a "FUCK YOU" headrest cover on her convertable.
Courtney Love goes to Wendy's, and...well, you remember, don't you?
posted by Mike B. at 5:53 PM 0 comments Links to this post
I'm sort of unclear what the general opinion is of Life Aquatic at this point (and don't tell me to check MetaCritic or Rotten Tomatoes--you know whose opinions I trust most), but I saw it last night, and I gotta say I liked it a lot. It really worked for me, being transportive and emotionally affecting and all those sorts of good thing. I'll certainly acknowledge that what's seemingly the central theme of the movie, i.e. Bill Murray's Life Problems, was overly familiar from the last two Anderson movies, and Murray in particular didn't seem to be doing much different than what he did in Rushmore.
But here's why I liked it, and what I haven't seen anyone else really mention: it was an action-adventure movie! And one of the best ones ever made. It just seems obvious--you've got this team of people with different specialties all in matching outfits, there's a central conflict at the beginning, there's a violent episode that ends with a gunfight (featuing MOTHERFUCKING PIRATES! Although Miss Clap points out that I like pretty much anything having to do with pirates. I say it's because of my pirate heritage, arr), a rescue on a desert island that ends with a big explosion, a tragic coda, a romantic subplot with love triangle, a peer rival who comes together with the hero at the end, male relationship issues being worked out, etc., etc., etc. If you abstract it, there's not a hell of a lot of difference between it and a lot of Bruckheimer movies. (Which, lest you take that the wrong way, I have my own particular opinions on.)
Now, of course, all this gets passed through the Wes Anderson filter--the team members aren't particularly talented, the equipment's all broken-down, and everyone is vaguely ridiculous in one way or another. But this is a big part of why it's so good. First off, it's good because the fact that it can be even remotely classified as an adventure movie is a big difference from previous Anderson films, which were all very small in their particular ways; even the small details in Life Acquatic are big, especially the tricked-out ship itself, which in one of the nicest sequences gets presented as a set, and then used as such throughout the movie. But also, Anderson recognizes that to make a more conventional action movies, you have to be good at making them, and he's probably not. So he's made one his way, and it's come out really wonderfully, I think. There aren't a lot of action-adventure movies focusing on oceanographers, and they really commit to the concept here to the degree that you're really invested in this world in a way you're not necessarily with the more generic areas action movies usually take place in. As such, it puts a premium on setting, and places the movie firmly within this setting--there's no world to save, and it's unclear what's even at stake beyond the sort of cartoonish rivalries they set up between Murray and Goldbloom. And in some ways, it does have that same cracked logic, from plot points to character's reactions, that you find in the Adult Swim genre of cartoons such as Sealab 2021. But everything here is so much more precisely and deliberately laid out that it all coheres a lot more then in the deliberately non-coherent cartoon.
Speaking of which, I know I'm not really being very coherent here, which is sort of too bad. But my point is that this movie is, at heart, an action-adventure movie, and the fact that people keep wanting to compare it to Anderson's previous movies or 8 1/2 or something is a testament both to Anderson's skill at masking the degree to which this is an archetypical action movie and to the still low regard in which we hold action movies; I doubt many critics would want to make this comparison unless they wanted to trash the movie. But I'm presenting it here as praise. There's a lot more going on here, of course, than I'm getting into at present--I'd like to be able to talk a bit more about the way it creates a mood and the sort of double knowledge of a film about a film crew and the reality of the filming itself--but apparently the ol' brain isn't quite up to snuff for that right now. Ah well.
posted by Mike B. at 2:57 PM 0 comments Links to this post
I used to hate Family Guy, but recently my loathing turned into mere neutrality, as I saw some episodes that were better than I remembered. But then on Sunday I watched two new episodes, and I realized what Family Guy is like: one-night stands. Sure, there are some nice moments, but overall it's kind of depressing and overly familiar, and you feel bad about it afterwards more often than not. I mean, there are some scattered funny gags, but it's kind of a loathesome show, isn't it?
posted by Mike B. at 1:49 PM 0 comments Links to this post
I got the Edie Sedgwick disc. Basically, it would be a lot better if it did not sound like El Guapo. It then reminds me there is a better version of the electro-songs-about-celebrities formula, and it is Mu's "Paris Hilton." Oh well.
posted by Mike B. at 1:11 PM 0 comments Links to this post
Well, now that everybody's got it, we can start talking about it, right?
In general, there's nothing with the kind of hands-in-the-air energy of a "Devil's Haricut" or "Where It's At," but there's nothing as pastichey as much of the (very good, but definitely pastichey) Midnite Vultures album. There is something that tries to be "High 5," but it doesn't quite make it. At this point it just sounds like Beck, and while it's not Sea Change (which I really liked), it's certainly the same Beck we heard on that album, except produced by the Dust Brothers, if that makes any sense. Overall, he's found something that worked and really went for it: a laid-back, bass-and-drums driven sound that he sings or raps along to, and by and large the best songs on the album stick, wisely, to this formula. (Beck has always been good at identifying what he does well and then doing more of it, which is certainly to his credit.) At least half of the songs stick to this sound, which I'll call Dyanetics-hop, because I'm a dick.
It remains to be seen if this'll be the actual sequencing, of course (although if it's going to be released in February and this leaked January 7, there definitely existed a final version--I know my production timetables), but if he does end up starting with "Brazillica" (a maybe overly-obvious nod to "Tropicallia," which it's actually less energetic than), it's a good move, because it explicitly makes a slow slide out of his recent stuff, from the Mutations reference to the could-be-sampled-from-Sea-Change string section parts that come in, and are really nice. Overall, though, it's not particularly representative of the album, and I hope it doesn't, contrary to rumors, get released as a single.
Next is "Guero," and it's sort of an early prototype of the Dyanetics-hop sound, but a lesser version. Beck raps here and it's not fantastic. Much better is the next track, "Go It Alone," when he fully hits his stride, singing along with the bassline to surprisingly powerful effect. There's a very simple sampled, loping breakbeat and a bassline that's joined by a distorted guitar playing basically the same part in the chorus, but with a less syncopated rhythm. It's a very simple song, but all the parts are incredibly strong. This was when I really started liking the album; while initially the simplicity of the beat annoyed me, it does a hell of a lot with what it's got in an almost Prince-esque way, which we'll get to later, unless we don't. The song ends with a "Where It's At"-esque electric keyboard part. If you were a quippy rock critic you could call "Go It Alone" the breakdowns from "Where It's At" strung together to make a full song, but that would be stupid.
Then "Chain Reaction," the one that sounds like "High 5," and it's just OK, although it would be hard not to get a little bubble of happiness from the return of the distorto Beck voice. Then "Nazarene," which annoys me because I know exactly what plug-in the Dust Brothers are using on the beat. ("Buffer Interrupt," which is also prominent on a song MFR posted the other day, Mylo's remix of The Egg's "Wall." I was going to do a whole post on this fact, but meh.) It's too damn low-key, but maybe I'll warm to it. There is a very nice bridge, but let's move on, because three of the next four songs are absolutely fantastic.
"Black Tambourine" comes in full-on with the Dyanetics-hop sound, extremely hottt in its capacity to make your butt move back-and-forth of its own accord. You could make an argument that Beck is sing-rapping/speaking here, but let's be honest: this is what we call the vocals of people who we like but who just can't sing, like Mark E. Smith or, um, me. Beck, on the other hand, can fucking sing if he wants to, and the strong tonality here actually works very well: again, this is a track that is similar to but has distinct differences from the Odelay! sound, and it benefits from it.
"Earthquake Weather (maybe)" is noisier than most of the D-hop songs, but it largely works, and by "largely works," I mean that the verse is so-so but the chorus makes me want to run up to passerby and hug them. It's just absolutely gorgeous, a wonderful melody married to a great beat and accompanied by a processed guitar line that sounds like an organ at first but then turns into a nice little hyperchorused solo worthy of, dare I say it, Ween. But in a good way. And as the track goes on, you come to appreciate the verse for the way its more downcast mode contrasts with the major-key, unbeat chorus. Also nice and worth highlighting would be the way his voice glides up into a falsetto in the chorus. I would lobby hard for this to be a single, although a remix to pep up the breakdown might be nice.
"E-Pro," like "Chain Reaction," is something of a misstep in that it tries a bit too hard to be like Odelay, being noisier than where Beck's head is actually at these days, I think. But then it's all forgiven with "Summergirl," which, again, could totally be a single. Now, it's hard to tell how much of my affection for this song stems from the fact that for the first 30 seconds it sounds exactly like the kind of music I've been making in my spare time these days, all 8-bit and square wavey, but then it just seamlessly transitions into this great little sunny acoustic pop song, and then goes into a bridge that's in yet another style. The verse plays off Beck's old affection for low country-blues songs with blurred acoustic guitar parts, except works it into something not entirely unlike, ironically, "You Get What You Give." Then there's a chorus with gorgeous harmonies, and a nice little slide-blues breakdown, and oh, it's great. He repeats the chorus a bit too much, but hey, that just means it'd make a good radio single, and good for that.
Then "Scarecrow," which is noisy and bluesy and has the loping-jaguar bassline from "Billy Jean," more or less. The KLF were right! Oh, and it has a little bit to do with John Mellencamp, but not as much as I'd like it to. I think I need a bit of time to process this, especially since it's 7 minutes but the groove doesn't really seem to change much within that timespan, so let's move on.
Track 11 and 12, both untitled, are good counterpoints to "Scarecrow." 11 uses a similar guitar sound to "Devil's Haircut" but not as good a chorus, but is poppy and nice, and the chorus is very good anyway. 12 is built around a very nice octave-heavy guitar riff, but doesn't really go anywhere terribly interesting. Again, I might get more into these later in my relationship with the album.
The final track, "Hell Yeah," is, again, really fantastic, despite featuring rapping, because, I think, it's hard to think of anyone besides Beck rhyming over the beat, plus there's a female backup singer! Sampled or otherwise, it adds a really lovely little thing to the track, which otherwise is sort of like Timbaland in his Bubba mode with looser, liver beats, sort of herky-jerky but using loose acoustic guitar and harmonica samples. Beck is also genuinely and outwardly funny here, which helps a lot, and maybe points toward something to come. This track fits in with the rest of the album but is also not like any other track on it, and it's a great closer in a Beatles or Blur kind of album-sequencing way.
Overall, as I've been alluding to, I think the album is best when it goes somewhere different from where Beck's gone before, which is, in fact, one of the reasons so many people like him. It's not really a party album--only three or four of the tracks really make me want to get up and dance--but it is a play-in-your-car-with-the-windows-down album, and that's a lovely little thing, too. There is context here: Sea Change was both his quietest and slickest album yet, and on tour, he was extremely reluctant to do his more partyish songs. And while Wayne Coyne did successfully needle him into doing "Where It's At" and "Loser," and while it was good and the crowd went for it, just because he can perform those songs doesn't necessarily mean he can write those songs anymore, or that he should. That "Old Grandpa Beck" voice is the one he's got now, and he has to write material to go with it, which the best songs on the new album undoubtably are. It is more low-key, but it has to be, I think, to sound good: his voice would not sound right hitting that top note on the run up in the chorus of "Loser," say, although he can get away with it live because everyone knows the damn song already. Not everything on this album works, but when it does, it absolutely kills. "Summergirl" and "Go It Alone" are as good songs, in their own particular way, as any of the highlights on Beck's other albums. If there's a fault here, it's merely that the album is uneven; if you can't find a good 6 songs to really love here because "it's not good like his old stuff," man, I dunno, just take a look at your expectations, you know?
UPDATE: Aha: "Speaking of, as some of you may have seen, the new Beck album, tentatively due out March 28th, has unceremoniously been leaked onto the masses. This is NOT the final album. It is an early unmixed, unmastered version that is not the final sequence, so please be aware this is not what Beck intended to happen or bestow onto his fans." (Thanks for the pointer Jesse, not to mention the damn album itself.)
Well, this is actually kinda cool--same deal as with Hail To The Thief, and I very much enjoyed being able to compare the early and finished versions.
posted by Mike B. at 10:45 AM 0 comments Links to this post
Saturday, January 15, 2005
Allow me to translate certain parts of this NYT article for you.
How did indie rock become the voice of emotional sincerity? Ten years ago,
Somehow, indie rockers became EVEN BIGGER PUSSIES.
"Digital Ash in a Digital Urn" is a bold response to the myth of St. Conor: the
In a bold move already done successfully by another sensitive indie-rock singer-songwriter two years ago, Conor's made a crappy "electronic" album! In the studio, he was heard to say, "Gotta get me some of that Postal Service money!" And so he did what anyone would do in this situation: he went out and got one of the guys from the Postal Service.
The happiest surprise on these two albums is the absence of hand-wringing aboutThis album by someone not even remotely famous or mainstream-successful sure doesn't have much complaining about being famous and mainstream-successful!
ADDENDUM: As Bright Eyes pieces keep showing up in my major-media reading fodder, like Newsweek and New York (maybe he will be famous!), I keep reading lyrics they quote as being great. And they're all just really unnoticable. I mean, what's up, guys?
posted by Mike B. at 10:23 AM 0 comments Links to this post
Friday, January 14, 2005
Do You Feel Loved? alerts us that M.I.A. is playing at the Knitting Factory on February 5. Go buy tickets now. I am happy she is playing, but very sad it is at the Knitting Factory, rather than somewhere that doesn't make me want to kill all my fellow concert-goers if it's crowded, which this will doubtless be.
Oh, and both of my bands are playing tonight at Siberia, on 40th Street between 8th and 9th. I know this is kind of late notice, but you should come out, if you're not doing anything already. Noisy indie at 9 and dancey hard pop at 11.
posted by Mike B. at 5:35 PM 0 comments Links to this post
Two addendums to the below:
1) I'm trying to move RNRBMs closer to what they were originally intended as, i.e. bite-sized aphorisms largely sans explanation, rather than "random shit I thought up," which will now just be ensconsed in regular blog entries.
2) If Kael is sort of the alpha and omega of modern pop-cult crit, then apparently she's the source of one of my biggest pet peeves: pretending like your opinion is objectively true, i.e. "how is it that the immense audience for The Bridge on the River Kwai, after all those hours of watching a story unfold, didn't express discomfort or outrage or even plain curiosity about what exactly happened at the end--which through bad direction or perhaps sloppy editing went by too fast to be sorted out and understood." Well, I dunno Pauline, maybe they actually understood it...
There's a difference between having strong opinions and acting as if the very strength of your personal subjective judgments causes them to have any validity in an argument. They don't. They just make you far more annoying to argue with.
posted by Mike B. at 1:34 PM 0 comments Links to this post
ROCK 'N' ROLL BON MOTS #026
It is pointless and lazy to complain about the current pop culture. The only pop culture anyone really likes is what you experienced as a youngster, which you've convinced yourself is somehow the same as the pop culture that came before it, unlike current pop culture. This is true for everyone, and you simply have to admit it rather than trying to find some justification for disliking "what the kids are listening to" besides "I just don't like it." (I.e., television made them stupid, irony made them stupid, stupidity made them stupid, etc.) The only legitimate response to disliking pop culture as a whole is to go out and make something better. Anything less is a cop-out.
(this being an early response to Kael's I Lost It)
 Important note: this is not true. Do your best to remember this.
posted by Mike B. at 1:26 PM 0 comments Links to this post
For a long time, I have wanted to produce a Tori Amos album, largely to correct the problems that seem to have cropped up in her body of work since she started producing herself. (The first self-produced album, Boys For Pele, notwithstanding, although that has its problems too.) Lately I've been thinking about it more specifically, and as such, have come up with a set of ground rules that I would lay down were I to produce a Tori Amos album. So, without further ado...
1. There will be exactly 12 songs on the album. Not 11, not 13, and definitely not goddamn 19. If there are more than 12 songs produced, the extras will be b-sides, or leaked tracks, or a whole separate album. But this album will have exactly 12 songs.
2. At least 10 of those 12 tracks will have drums. And not those pussy-ass "trip-hop" drums you keep using. If I wanted a track to sound like that stupid "Sunscreen" song, I'd put on a pair of khakis, cut a hole in them, and fuck myself with an LL Bean catalog.
3. If Steve Caton tries to enter the studio, I will punch him in the face. This will probably result in me getting beaten up, because it looks like Steve could take me, but nevertheless, that wanker needs to be kept away from a guitar, for the love of all that is holy.
4. Songs about babies = bad. Songs about getting really drunk and you and your best friend beating the crap out of each other until you collapse on the street and have to be taken to the hospital and wake up the next morning not remembering any of it: good.
5. You will not use any of the following words in your lyrics: butterfly, Jesus, sweet, ahAHow, boy, c'mon, he, you, light, honey, heaven, Tuesday (or any other day of the week), man, coffee, ghost, dove (or any bird name), champagne, learn, snowflake, hand, neil (OK YOU KNOW NEIL GAIMAN WE GET IT), religion, girl, bed, athena (or any other name of a pantheistic god), woman, body, tree. A special exemption is granted for "blood" and "song" but don't abuse it. In general, if you write a line that would get a freshman women's studies major excited, delete it.
6. There will be no A/C ballad on the album. The closest we will get to an A/C ballad is something that sounds like Avril's "My Happy Ending." In fact, why don't we just cover that? It would make things easier. Plus, hey: good song!
7. The first single will be the harshest song on the album. This song may or may not feature the sound of Flava Flav tearing the shit out of a small stuffed animal and screaming after we've locked him in a lightless room with no food for a few days.
8. Pre-recording regimen: one week of nothing but ABBA, one week of Britney/Xtina/Pink/Beyonce. And have you heard the Scissor Sisters, Tori? I mean jesus christ.
9. If a song is about someone, it will have consistent, named characters. Furthermore, you may no longer use the "one specific thing and three highly unspecific things" rule. Now it's more like "three specific things for one vague thing, except you really have to justify the vague thing." Also, 3/4 of songs should have a coherant narrative line.
10. In 4 of the songs, you will only be able to use 8 notes on the piano. In 4 of the songs, you will not be allowed to improvise. In 4 of the songs we will sample small piano riffs and construct the song from that as well as outside instruments. Any individual song may incorporate any or all of these restrictions, but all of them must be satisfied in the 12 songs that end up on the final album.
ADDENDUM: Matthew gives his version of these ground rules for an R.E.M. album in the comments to a DYFL post.
posted by Mike B. at 10:38 AM 0 comments Links to this post
Thursday, January 13, 2005
Sweet Jesus. Fucking Wall Street guys. Dude, you don't negotiate something like this...
posted by Mike B. at 1:59 PM 0 comments Links to this post
In answer to Sasha's question: I think I can only answer unkindly, and the unkind answer is that critics' cocaine is a new genre that is also a harsher or more worldly or more knowing version of the music you liked when you were younger. Evidence of this: punk as cocaine to critics who loved 50s rock, grime as cocaine to critics who liked rave/d&b/garage, Prince as cocaine to critics who liked funk, etc. None of these are actual new genres, but then the original genres weren't new either, since we're talking pop music here. But I think new genres are the coke, and the more you liked the preceding genre and the more vital the new genre is, the more effect it has on you. (Here I'm assuming he's using cocaine as something that makes you more talkative, more focused, and more crazy, sort of hyperaware, and not a little paranoid too, since after all passionate genre lovers become passionate genre purists...)
UPDATE: Sasha compiles mine and some others' responses.
posted by Mike B. at 1:23 PM 0 comments Links to this post
So the label I work for has acquired, as per its present business model, another label, which label has a rather large catalog as a result of its own previous acquisitions of other labels. It also has as one of its divisions, whether through acqusition or not I'm unclear, a gospel label. So I'm currently going through and setting up a bunch of stuff and inputting some things and just generally reconciling their catalog with ours. The problem is that we set everything up by catalog number, and some of the documents I need to classify don't have catalog numbers on them, just bits of titles. And since the only thing I knew about the label before this morning was that, er, we own them now, I've been familiarizing myself with the catalog piecemeal via allmusic and amazon searches. The funny thing is that I've been able to classify each project as gospel, classical, or other with total accuracy based solely on little fragments of the title. It's remarkably easy.
But the reason I am writing this is because of the name of one of these gospel groups, which is pretty much the best name ever. It is: THE MIGHTY CLOUDS OF JOY. Yes! Awesome! I want to be in The Mighty Clouds of Joy! Those are three such good and unlikely-to-be-combined words: mighty clouds! Clouds aren't mighty, though. Clouds of joy! Well, what the hell is that? Mighty joy! Huh? But MIGHTY CLOUDS OF JOY: awesome.
posted by Mike B. at 1:09 PM 0 comments Links to this post
ROCK 'N' ROLL BON MOTS #025
I can't actually think of a DJ for whom this knowledge would be useful, but just in case, let me notify you that the Dictator's "Teengenerate" ends with exactly the same sound--same tone, more or less same timbre--as Neutral Milk Hotel's "King of Carrot Flowers 2&3" begins with. Use it wisely.
posted by Mike B. at 1:06 PM 0 comments Links to this post
Wednesday, January 12, 2005
Tonight's episode of The Road to Stardom didn't have a moment quite as classic as last week's did, but there was still a lot of great stuff. First off, a bit of old business: one of the judges is Teena Marie! Ohmigod! I had no idea, but that's so cool.
The main great moment came when they all stopped at a crab shack in Maryland (!) and Frank B started in on Nic. It was just your usual reality-show tiff, but then all of a sudden the tour manager barges in and says, "LET'S HAVE AN MC BATTLE RIGHT HERE!" And Frank's all "Yeah!" but Nic's all, "Uh, I don't do MC battles." But Frank starts going, and Nic sits there and takes it, but when it's over, he says, "Yo, you compared me to Nelly!" in much the same tone of voice you'd say, "You compared me to that homeless guy who smells like pee!" Which was kinda fantastic. I like a world where disputes really are solved by MC battle.
In the judging, Missy had a few great lines:
1) "Ima tell you what Teena Marie said..."
2) "That's so nineteen and seventy-nine!"
3) To the "rock chick": "That sounds a little Britney to me."
Also, she's still working the lollypop thing. Also also, there was this one weird, random shot in between the two folks pleading their cases of one unnamed member of Missy's posse carefully but awkwardly readjusting her studied "cool" lean in the bus.
My two favorites so far are Marcus, who's a Sam Cookey crooner who's still got somewhat of an edge (his song this week revolved around the line "hump in the back," and was fantastic), and Deltrice, who hasn't really shined so much in the challenges but has total star quality. When she walks up to the mic she's totally self-composed, totally controlled, and she really draws in your gaze. Plus, she's hot and can sing well, so that works for me.
The worst by far is Akil, who is about as much a tool as you'd guess from the fact that he's white, has dreadlocks, and is from New Jersey, which is actually equivalent to saying that he's a homeless guy who smells like pee and strangles cats.
posted by Mike B. at 8:41 PM 0 comments Links to this post
SONGS I LISTENED TO THIS YEAR THAT I LIKE A LOT (SILTTYTILAL) #4-2005: KIMYA DAWSON, "LOOSE LIPS"
This was the highlight of her set opening for the Danielsens last month, but in recorded form its charms are even more distinct. Specifically, the thing that makes this song really great is that it could be like twelve different songs, and then it all comes together to be gloriously what it is. When it came on this morning I honestly thought it was Buddy Holly's "Rave On," which is fantastic, and then at various other points in the song it could be Billy Bragg or Andrew WK. And for the first few listens I didn't even catch the degree to which it really is a protest song, in some ways as strident as the ones that really get on my nerves, but it pulls it off in this fantastic way.
What's important here to notice is the mapping of the song. (Lyrics are here.) There's the first verse, which is short, and more or less nonsensical, and then a blast of the chorus (although "blast" is relative in a song that only has acoustic guitar and voice and very sparse bells), which we'll get to later, before we slide into the second verse, which is sort of the greatest thing ever. It goes on for four sections before we get back to the chorus, and not only does it work, it packs more in here than a song with a very simple melody and the same 3 guitar chords over and over has any right to. First there's a joke ("i'll drop kick russell stover / move into the starting over house"), and then, two lines later, a fairly serious line about Bush ("all this shit our president has got us in will go away") and a straight-faced ending to the section. Following this, we have this little section that kinda makes me cry when I hear it, in a very happy/sad way, Kimya listing off these bad things you can to do yourself followed by "remember that I love you," which in some people's hands could be cloying and self-important, but in hers it's nothing but honest: she does love you, really, and while the actual impact of that might be small, she knows that, and she's cool with that. It's a simple thing but really touching and lovely, especially when she ends it with this sort of comic understatement of "call me up before your dead, we can make some plans instead / send me an IM, i'll be your friend." Then we sort of ease out of this with a bit more seriousness and hopefulness, and then another just totally straightfoward political line, "i'll say fuck Bush and fuck this war," followed immediately by a poop joke: "my war paint is sharpie ink and i'll show you how much my shit stinks," followed by another sort of cheesily earnest line, "your thoughts and words are powerful", followed, again, by a leavening monkey joke, and then ending on a bit of nonsense, before we launch into the chorus.
Now, this chorus. This chorus is insane. This chorus is totally and wholly happy. It is about being happy and being with your friends and getting crazy and then getting sane and then getting crazy again. It would sound great like hair metal or like pop-punk or like disco, but it's just someone with her guitar, singing along with herself, and that is what it's chosen to be. But coming after this fantastic verse, with its series of earnest statements undercut by banalities, it becomes even more powerful, because you really do think Kimya wants to have a defiant good time, not just be defiant. Just as the "remember that I love you" section contains an admission of how little that means, so do the politics sections ring infinitely more true coupled with an acknowledgment of its own inadequacy. It is a song that knows its limitations but insists on its own loveliness, and it is lovely, and it does so many things so quick that you have to listen to it again and again, and you should, you should. This is exactly why I wish I could turn in my (admittedly meaningless) lists later, because man, this is best of 2004, no question about it. I would very much like to hear it covered. I would also like to hear it with a crowd that knows all the words and sings along as loud as it can.
posted by Mike B. at 6:34 PM 0 comments Links to this post
Hey, so remember how I was talking about critical authority? And how I'm declaring that I have it now? Well, it doesn't just apply to music, no no no. it also extends to politics. And with this in mind, let me present the first in what might be a series, which will be called assume the position, in which I will explain how you should think about a certain political issue. This one will be about retardedly anti-Israel professors.
As is seemingly always the case when it comes to Israel, both sides are being idiots. On the one hand, as is suggested by the way I put the topic, the professors are just being stupid, basing their positions in a kind of kneejerk anti-Americanism, and then presenting them based on a (I hope) consciously innaccurate view of Israel, blaming the country as an entity where it's far more sensible to say, "maybe we shouldn't be quite so strenuously supporting quite so murderous a particular political leader." And we won't even get into the whole romantic notion of the PLO issue right now, because that's not really the point. There seems to be more than enough evidence in the film of professors saying things that are just straightforwardly wrong, and beyond that, of taking an extremist position in a situation where neither extreme seems like a particularly sensible place to be; that there's no moral center anymore in that conflict is a huge part of the problem.
On the other hand, the students need to stop being such goddamn pussies. Look, folks, argue back. If you don't have the courage to oppose stupid ideas, you don't really belong in college. And beyond that, don't say the professors should be fired, because then you're saying someone should be fired for their political beliefs, and you realize that's a bad idea, right? There's a reason we have tenure, and as soon as you start getting rid of it, it will very quickly go the opposite way, and you'll end up in a situation much like the one we seem to have in public schools right now where talking about politics is verboten, and that seems like just a really bad idea for an institution of higher learning.
So should you want to assume the position, here's what it is:
Future topics include malpractice insurance and, oh I dunno, cucumbers.
posted by Mike B. at 1:49 PM 0 comments Links to this post
Ohmigod, I just got an e-mail from L*st N1ght's P*rty saying that I had been added to their e-mail list. Which I did not ask to be on. Which means that they added me to it on the basis of my post regarding their charming little website. Uh, hello, dumbasses, did you miss the part where I called you an ugly version of Girls Gone Wild? Did you think that was a compliment? Because it wasn't, OK? Numbnuts.
posted by Mike B. at 1:13 PM 0 comments Links to this post
This will presumably be a SILTTYTILAL at some point, once I catch up a bit, but for now all I'm going to say is go download the Salt 5 song "Get Up! Rapper" and listen the hell out of it, and notice particularly how much it does, weirdly, sound like the Gwen Stefani album. (Why does everyone keep saying it's 80s retreads?) We'll discuss more at some point, but if someone (Deric?) wants to point me to some more stuff, especially a good compilation, I'd be incredibly grateful. This is so obviously my kind of stuff that I'm like pre-obsessed. If that makes any sense.
posted by Mike B. at 11:35 AM 0 comments Links to this post
Four new Flagpole reviews: Eminem, Aloha (you can stop bugging me now, Caroline!), Gwen Stefani, and Vanessa Carlton. I think I'm happiest with the Carlton one right now, actually, although that may just be because of the Tori Amos joke. Follow-ups to, er, follow on ones that I want to follow up on, but nothing overly likely in this batch.
posted by Mike B. at 10:34 AM 0 comments Links to this post
Tuesday, January 11, 2005
I've only been able to catch half of one episode of The Road To Stardom, i.e. Making the Band but with Missy Elliot instead of P. Diddy and in a bus instead of in a house, but one segment of it was just amazingly classic. The way the elimination works on this show is that there's a challenge, then the judges deliberate and pick two people to "go before Missy," who then chooses one person to "kick off the tour." (Neither of these may actually be quotes, but they're in the spirit of the show, at least.) So in this particular episode, the two people who have to plead their case are a white girl rapper and a white guy rapper. White girl goes to Missy first (and, charmingly, her judging takes place not in a carefully-designed set but at one of the dinky tables in a tour bus--Missy doesn't have time to go to a set, she's got more hits to make!), and says that the judges were wrong to say that she seemed fake, that this is how she's livin' it. Missy says OK, well, why don't you show me what you can do. White girl launches into a verse, at the conclusion of which Missy starts dismissively but very cooly sucking on her lollypop. (Which, yes. I could do like 1500 words just on that, man. We'd get into PJ Harvey, Prince, oh, it would be great. Too bad I'm busy at work.) White girl finishes. Missy says, you were talking about hip-hop. You like hip-hop? White girl says yeah, I love hip-hop, it's my life. Missy says OK. Can you name a Big Daddy Kane album.
White girl freezes. Swear to god she was like half a second away from saying, "Who?" but stopped herself. Kind of stutters something. Missy says, OK, OK, you're young, right? When'd you start listening to hip-hop? White girl says, when I was 13. Missy says, OK. How 'bout an early Jay-Z album? Can you rap me some of that? White girl freezes again. She's got nothing. She's done.
So then white boy goes in, does a verse, but all he'd have to do at this point to survive is not, like, punch Missy in the face. So he's in.
It was fucking fantastic. Certainly the most embarassing thing I've ever seen on TV. OK, admittedly I'm a music nerd, but if Missy Elliot revealed me as a total fraud on national TV, I don't think I'd ever show my face in public again. It was also just generally great. I'm hooked. And I might write some more about it later.
UPDATE: Orbis Quintus has some follow-up comments.
posted by Mike B. at 3:45 PM 0 comments Links to this post
"Even leaving it at that, this would seem to imply that blogs are still going to be strong competition for record reviewers. Maybe so, but think about this weird symbiotic relationship that's been going on recently: many bloggers hit the big-time when they cross over into other media like print..."
Uh, that's cause then we get paid, dude. I'm not just selling my mix tapes out of the back of a car anymore, which is nice, but the hustle just changes, it don't go away. On the other hand, I'm not entirely sure my audience is actually bigger...but then, I live in a li'l bubble, don't I?
Anyway, the link comes via Nate and has links to some very good articles, the intro notwithstanding. I'll be picking through it by and by.
ADDENDUM: I'm not even going to get into "more conservative music criticism will be coming our way," even though I might like to. Does that include meeee? And what the fuck would conservative music criticism be, anyway? Modest Mouse reviews that want to cut corporate taxes?
posted by Mike B. at 1:19 PM 0 comments Links to this post
Whoa, they're talking about me over at the Saddle Creek message board. I feel kind of dirty.
posted by Mike B. at 11:02 AM 0 comments Links to this post
Monday, January 10, 2005
This is going to be kind of vague, but nevertheless...
I just got a call from my former doctor, who is apparently doing some sort of presentation on people with my condition who are involved with music. I answered his questions politely, though it was somewhat awkward given that I am at work and, as should be obvious from this post, it's not something I'm entirely comfortable talking about in public. But I was helpful and reasonably friendly.
What I really wanted to say to him, though, was something more along the lines of, "Fuck you, asshole. You're supposed to be some sort of goddamn expert, and it came through in this conversation, in your tone of voice, in the way you asked me questions: you are a Very Important Person and Know Lots Of Things About This Subject. But you wouldn't listen to me back when I was actually your patient; you wouldn't take me seriously, and it wasn't until I got to New York and started seeing a doctor whose main clientele was cute old Chinese ladies in for PT that I got a medication that actually worked and didn't fuck me up. You refer to it as 'very unusual,' but I've met other people on it, and it works really well for them, too, and if you were a real doctor instead of an egotistical dickhead, you would be offering it, too. But I gather from the way you phrase the question that you are not. You asshole. You wanna ask me if my condition has impeded my career in music? It hasn't. But you know what impeded my life? Your treatment, motherfucker. I hope you get eaten by a marmet, and I don't even know how that would work."
This is not what I said, of course; but still.
posted by Mike B. at 6:10 PM 0 comments Links to this post
Saturday, January 08, 2005
Women of the world! Should you be at a party and see a photographer for a party-covering website, it is your responsibility to flash your tits so that people who were not at that party, and especially people who are not in a big city, can feel like they are really missing out on something, even though most parties are, in fact, kinda boring, and there's very few parties with actual titty-flashing, which, thank god, because then I would want to flash my titties, and don't no one want to see that. Trust me.
I mean, on the one hand, titties: yay, but on the other hand, titties: huh? It's girls-gone-wildism outside of the usual context.
In an only semi-related note, being sex-positive in NYC sure is a lot, well, uglier--or, I guess, dirtier--than it is in certain other places, but that's for another time.
 In the TimeOut article, they say: "When people come to the site, I want them to say, 'Man, I wish I had been there, because it looked like so much fun."
posted by Mike B. at 2:00 PM 0 comments Links to this post
Very interesting piece by Douglas on the responsibilties of auteurs to their audience. It's something I know I've discussed before, but nothing springs to mind right now; generally, though, my feeling is, "creatively, do whatever you want, and as an audience member we'll try and give it the benefit of the doubt and maybe it'll lead us to a wider appreciation," but this is mainly based in a reaction to widespread "the early stuff was better, man"-ism, which I rarely find myself agreeing with. (Like I think REM's mid/late-period stuff is waaaaaay better than their early stuff.) And it also brings up my "it's too bad Kevin Shields didn't die" thing. But just go read, we can discuss later maybe. Right now I seriously need to do some mixing.
Also, I note that he says "this is ridiculously long" but it's still about 500 words shorter than my P&J comments. That should tell me something, huh?
ADDENDUM: I left a comment, in response to his first dictum:
It's the duty of people who want to be serious about making stuff, &
I understand that failing at #1 is frustrating to fans, but I'm unclear why it's a problem for the creator. Does it have any actual effect on whether or not they end up putting out good work, whether or not it has anything to do with what they've previously announced? For instance, the two post-Kid A Radiohead albums have been preceded by advance notices that had little if anything to do with how the albums actually sounded, but that doesn't make them bad albums, and if Beck's new album turns out not to be a party album, I'll be annoyed, but not because he said it would be a party album, just because I'd like a new Beck party album.
I think what's being suggested is that for certain creative types, the act of disclosing their plans sometimes suffices in their heads for actually carrying them out--that they get enough satisfaction from telling people what they want to do that they don't feel the need to actually do it. Is that a fair read? Is this defensible, and is it applicable to most artists, or just a certain subset? (I.e. "neurotic white guys"?)
UPDATE 2: This is also interesting as another angle to the career-watching-as-pop-pleasure stuff I was talking about in the pop biographism post. It's a very important point that this is also a source of pleasure for cult artists, and in fact is at the heart of the cult appeal: all the stuff surrounding the music becomes highly important. Being excited about there being a Pixies reunion tour or a new MBV album provides a key source of enjoyment and participation, as does arguing with other fans about what it will sound like and whether or not it will be any good; tracking down new tidbits of information and tracking the album's progress; and evaluating it from a careerist standpoint after its release--all these are as important as the music at a certain stage of fandom.
posted by Mike B. at 1:59 PM 0 comments Links to this post
SONGS I LISTENED TO THIS YEAR THAT I LIKE A LOT (SILTTYTILAL) #4-2005: BAD COMPANY, "FEEL LIKE MAKIN' LOVE"
Everybody's always talking about critical authority. Who has it, who doesn't, if it should exist, if it's reinforcing prejudice. What gives you the right to blah, and who decides that this is good or bad bloo. Well, I have come upon a solution to this problem, and I would like to share it with you today. Who has critical authority?
That's right, me. Doesn't that make things easier? So from now on, if you have a question about something, if you need a critical issue resolved (i.e., the second Sponge album: sucks or rocks?), just come to me and I will resolve it, and it will be definitive, because why? Because I have critical authority! Isn't that easy?
So for my first proclamation, I offer this: no one is allowed to pretend anymore like the Pixies invented the concept of dynamics. OK, that's a bit unfair. Let's put it more generously: no one is allowed to say that the Pixies invented the concept of a sudden dynamic shift between the sections of a pop/rock song, i.e. you are no longer allowed to say "the Pixies soft verse-loud chorus shift" or any variant thereof. (In a correlary, you will also stop taking Cobain seriously in his joke that he ripped off "Smells Like Teen Spirit" from the Pixies.)
As evidence of this, I give you, first, the "Jailhouse Rock" entry below. (If they could have turned But I will also give you, because I am a just dispensor of critical authority, another example, which revealed itself to me at breakfast this morning. It is, of course, "Feel Like Makin' Love." I've always liked this song, I suppose, at least in the sense that if it was mentioned I would go in my head "dah-duhn, DAH!" Plus, being a young'un, my only exposure to it had really been via TV ads for best-of-the-70s (or "Guitar Rock!") compilations, where they'd play a little snippet of the chorus. And, you know, I liked it enough.
But in much the same way that Grand Funk Railroad's "Some Kind of Wonderful" does, upon full inspection the song reveals itself as something really great. Because the damn thing's two songs in one! And both are totally great pop hits! Now that's efficiency, my friend. And actually, now that I think about it, if this was an obscurity Tenacious D could drop it into their set and easily pass it off as a new track, although, no offense to Jack or Kyle, this is much better than what they come up with. It's passed through self-parody and came out the other side, covered in a kind of sleazy goo that smells musky but appealing, and you are drawn to it like unto a busted leather mama with saggy tits and wrinkly tatoos. Wait, wasn't I saying something about metaphors? Damn.
But so yes (oops! Two straight paragraphs starting with "but," sorry dad), the first song (aka "the verse") is this great pretty little acoustic white-boy loverman number with sort of 70s SoCal harmonies, and then there's a transition not that far removed from the "snhick-snhick" muted distorted guitar whangs that introduce the chorus in another quiet/loud masterpiece, Radiohead's "Creep," and then all of a sudden we're in the midst of this great Southern boogie-rock number, all whump-whump-SCREEEE! And it's great. And and and, the beginning of this riff is basically a half step added to the "Jailhouse Rock" hook, and then you throw the "SCREEEEE!" in afterwards because it's the LOUD part of the song and so it has to be DENSER. (Someone talked about the way AC/DC inverted this sparse-quiet/dense-loud dichotomy at one point, but I can't remember who, or what the point was, so I'm just going to mention it and move on.) And then--woo!--back to the quiet part, i.e. "an entirely different song." But they make it work, and they make it sound good, even though I'm not sure how much that sounding good has to do with the juxtoposition; I think it's more that each individual part is great, and they switch between them just as each is starting to get boring. Plus, the lead guitar in the chorus is fantastic--"totally killer!" report 14-year-old boys. Although I guess it is veeeeeeery similar to the Guess Who's "American Woman," but I don't know the chronology and quite frankly am too lazy to find out. Incidentally, the Guess Who are the source of a great family moment. We're driving by the casino near our town and my dad reads the sign and says, "Hey, the Guess Who are playing." My mom says, "Who?" My dad says, "the Guess Who." My mom says, "No, tell me!" Ah, hilarity.
Finally, a brief note to Life Cafe 983: folks, Q104 was killing it this morning! I mean, "Don't Fear the Reaper"? You gotta be kidding me! The bleary 70s rock was totally going with the rain-soaked ("cats and dogs!" as a guy passing me on the way to breakfast said) day outside. So why'd you have to put on some grating techno CD, huh? If you wanted electro, you could at least put on Phoenix or something. I mean jeez.
posted by Mike B. at 1:56 PM 0 comments Links to this post
Friday, January 07, 2005
SONGS I LISTENED TO THIS YEAR THAT I LIKE A LOT (SILTTYTILAL) #3-2005: AMERICAN ANALOG SET, "THE POSTMAN"
Again, I've been listening to this song for a while (it is, in fact, the only American Analog Set song I like, and I downloaded it as an MP3 some 3 years ago, I think), and again, my attention was drawn to it recently because of one particular line: "leave for work." Aha! See, the problem with this, and thus the reason I'd only regarded it as something pretty but not like super-extra-good, is that I'd only listened to it at work, but it was, in fact, a song specifically made for not being at work. In fact, it was a song made for me in my short-ceilinged but otherwise very nice room in Ohio, getting ready for the day and listening to music on my stereo (often, actually, Mass Romantic). That I can no longer do this is too bad, but it still extracts the feeling of that particular experience, and presumably one day in the future I will be able to do such a thing once again.
This room--well, first off, I was only in it for like 4 months, and admittedly they were good months for outside reasons, but it sure didn't start out promisingly, with me having to move out of my by-now-miserable former living circumstances in all of six hours, due to general irresponsibility on the part of the person I was exchanging rooms with (long story). Though it had denegrated into a sort of pit of despair, the room had a lot of promise, from my weird little fountain I had set up around the walls to the killer recording setup I'd wedged into half the space. (Got this great sub-bass noise from a mixer feedback loop.) And actually, the new place wasn't so great at first--I was kind of alone in the middle of a dark winter, we couldn't find the thermostat so the house was really cold, the room was, in addition to being short, covered with powdery stubbly plaster that would come off if you brushed against it, my bed was really uncomfortable, and I was just generally miserable. But this wasn't the room's fault, and we'd set it up in a very efficient way that allowed me to keep it clear, although the fact that it was pretty big helped this a lot. As the seasons changed, the real glory of the room came into play: its wall of windows, which let in just an obscene amount of light in the morning, which was actually very nice. By the time late February rolled around, I was very happy to be there, and even happy to get ready to leave, because it was just so lovely in there, with my music playing and the sun shining.
Unfortunately, if you actually read the lyrics, the song's a sort of trite tale of an obsessive mailman. But it sounds like it could've been something much nicer, and it's polite enough to allow you to forget that.
posted by Mike B. at 6:15 PM 0 comments Links to this post
Oh my god! The red alert riddim, which "Hot Like We" is based on, is the goddamn salsa nuevo beat! I can no longer like that song! Fuuuuuck.
posted by Mike B. at 4:04 PM 0 comments Links to this post
OK, I have to admit this intrigued me.
Hello New York Friends,
Ah, you Haverford kids.
posted by Mike B. at 10:41 AM 0 comments Links to this post
Thursday, January 06, 2005
I wanted to reply here to the comments Todd made on the criticism post, just because I think they'll stretch out and I want to give 'em their due. Todd wrote:
Although the Slate movie club has been terribly disappointing, I don't
Dude, are you trying to bait me? Pop songs aren't as good as movies my sweet aunt fanny. Well, no sense getting into that, really, as I doubt I'm going to convince anyone on that, at least not today.
Instead, let me try and clarify something I thought was sorta the basis of my original post, although I guess it didn't come through, and to make a distinction clearer. What I was talking about was specifically criticism, not reviewing. Reviewing tells you "this is good" or "this is not good." But honestly, I'm not too interested in that, and quite frankly I don't need a gatekeeper, or at least not a gatekeeper that takes itself this goddamn seriously. I like critics who are there to sort of talk about things afterwards, to discuss what the movie's about, but I don't really need someone to explain things to me beforehand--I'd rather the work itself do that.
Now, if you want to talk about curatorial functions, that's something else entirely. Certainly I appreciate some pointing out things that are good to me, or warning me away from things that are bad. But look: David Brooks and I agree on pretty much nothing. His value as a critic is worthless, and to a certain degree what they were all bitching about is correct: critics make their judgments in a very public way and inevitably have something at stake besides their simple opinion. I'm much more likely to see a movie if someone I know, and whose tastes I'm familiar with, tells me to go see it. This is for movies. For music, well, I'm confused as to why people don't regularly call MP3blogs criticism, but they surely are, and indeed are probably the best form of reviewing ever invented, because they're actually giving you the thing they want you to hear, framing the context, and letting you go at it. This is not that far removed from being at someone's house and having them say, "Watch this show, I think you'll like it." You can't really top that. So in terms of gatekeeper functions--meh. Reviews are interesting as criticism, but in terms of pointing me towards things, a three line e-mail from a friend is much more valuable to me.
Now, you could say that reviewing was exactly what the movie club was about, but this was part of what was so annoying: given this opportunity to have a sort of grand debate about movies, they instead resorted to squabbling about whether X was good and why people who like X are bad. This is criticism? Who friggin' cares? This is not interesting to read except as gossip, and even then we all know that wordy gossip is bad gossip.
What I'm talking about is criticism as art, a separate form, able to be enjoyed on its own, and equal to any of the other forms of art we're familiar with. (This is not a new concept, I don't think.) So ideally it shouldn't matter what you're talking about--good criticism can be as easily about bad movies (Sontag, the only good thing she ever wrote, god rest her soul) as it is about Shakespeare. That good crit seems to coalesce around genres we're not currently taking seriously seems less about criticism and more about the way it's currently being practiced. I would be happy to read good criticism about highbrow stuff--I don't give a shit what it's about, as I've said. But I'm just not seeing it.
posted by Mike B. at 6:46 PM 0 comments Links to this post
SONGS I LISTENED TO THIS YEAR THAT I LIKE A LOT (SILTTYTILAL) #2-2005: ELVIS PRESLEY, "JAILHOUSE ROCK"
(Yes, these have been old songs so far; I don't know why. So it goes.)
Reason number four trillion why you should pay more attention to novelty songs, suckas. This started off as a goof for superproducers-of-their-time Lieber and Stoller, a pastiche written for an Elvis movie which began as a sort of campy homage on the music they loved very seriously--check the walking bassline and the Count Basie (?) piano in the chorus. A joke, in other words, about rock 'n' roll's lowbrow take on their highbrow style. But it works as a song, and today we take it fairly seriously, or as seriously as you can take a song featuring dancing prisoners. One reason, of course, is that L&S were so on fire at the time that they couldn't help shoving whole legions of hooks in there, from the now-canonical half-step walkup-boom-boom pattern in the intro, to the actually kinda Pixiesish transition between sparse verse and big, loud chorus.
But the main reason is because Elvis takes the joke and tells it totally straight-faced. He was certainly capable of smirking at his songs, but on the recording, he is singing his guts out, just shredding the shit out of this stupid little tune. The main place to hear this is in the slightly flat, pentatonic-blues single-note business at the end of every verse (and, ps, we should remember how well short verses work) where his voice just seems to be wanting to break free of his throat. It's also there in the way he ends notes in the verses, crescendoing and pitching up and then choking them off suddenly, cutting the sound short. And, of course, there's the "run run run!" right before the solo, a precursor, maybe, of The Scream, in "Hard Day's Night."
This is what I'm saying about taking things unseriously, because someone else is always taking them very seriously, and it's this combination, of telling a joke like it's the truth, of taking a thrown-off little thing and performing it with everything you've got, that can make for greatness.
posted by Mike B. at 6:10 PM 0 comments Links to this post
Blog-I-did-not-know-before-today Silence Is A Rhythm Two [sic] has posted a very good beefed-up remix of the Scissors' "Comfortably Numb." Well worth a listen. And apparently there's a whole remixes EP, of which I was (perhaps embarassingly) unaware of. What's "The Skins"? Is that one new?
posted by Mike B. at 5:49 PM 0 comments Links to this post
ROCK 'N' ROLL BON MOTS #024
This is returning briefly to an old subject, but I figured it out: the reason I don't like Chromeo is because I heard Opti-Grab first, and they're just miles and miles better. Now, in all honesty, this might merely be because they have a female member or because I've seen their awesome choreographed dance routines, but nevertheless, I think Opti-Grab spoiled me...
posted by Mike B. at 3:06 PM 0 comments Links to this post
SONGS I LISTENED TO THIS YEAR THAT I LIKE A LOT (SILTTYTILAL) #1-2005: NICO, "I'LL KEEP IT WITH MINE"
Or, "reason number two million why everyone performs Bob Dylan's songs better than Bob Dylan does." I've liked this song for a while, but I didn't even know it was a Dylan song until I went to look up the lyrics this morning, because one line grabbed me, all of a sudden: "come on, give it to me," which comes directly before the "key line" that lands on the tonal resolution Dylan is so fond of. (I'm no Dylan fan, and just off the top of my head I can give you "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall," "Tangled Up In Blue" and "Highway 51 Revisited" as examples of Dylan songs that use this trick. It's a folk trope, but Dylan sure does like it.) I just hadn't caught it before, because it seems so out of line with the tone of the rest of the song. It was the first thing I listened to this morning, because it is so warm and soothing and nice, "Pale Blue Eyes" if Reed had fully gone for it and given into the warmth lurking beneath Nico's cold facade. That rhythmic acoustic guitar! Those gorgeous strings that her voice throws out before it like a penumbra! The way it just holds on chords for like quadruple the number of bars it needs to!
But "give it to me"? The first thing that brings to mind is Jay-Z's "I Just Wanna Love You," not Nico. It's confrontational and brash in a way the song just doesn't suggest sonicly, much more reminiscent of hip-hop or modern R&B than folk-pop. In the grand Dylan tradition, the lyrics don't actually say anything, and my attempt to puzzle out a concrete character or narrative failed, because I just don't think it there--it's maddeningly unspecific, and the creative writing tutor in me wants to put a bunch of big red circles on it. But it does have a feel, and that feel shifts very suddenly with the line in question, from something supportive to something much more desperate or agressive, depending on how you want to take it. It's the "come on" in particular: it's insistant, nagging, pulling at your sleeve, demanding something. The sentiment "I'll keep it with mine" is very sweet, but the way the offer is being made suggests that the song's object of address does not want to give it up, and that turns the song into something much more akin to obsession than love.
posted by Mike B. at 1:55 PM 0 comments Links to this post