Archive for the ‘Squawk, squawk, squawk’ Category
They may be approaching decrepit geezerhood in terms of rock years. Their mention may time-stamp anyone as a “‘90s kid.” (That’s lame, right?) But it can be said with absolution and from a totally righteous standpoint that after almost 25 years of being ridiculously musical wankers, Blur remains the badass.
Actually, for a band that has churned out solid Britpop glory for most of its career, including one of the biggest ‘90s radio hits (“Song 2,” known to rock ignoramuses as “Woo-Hoo”), Blur is still a fairly well-kept rock and roll secret – at least if you’re on this side of the vast aqueous barrier that shields North America from all of the drunken Oasis fans.
Whenever I’m at a party or a Queen’s Luncheon and I bring up Blur, I get one of two responses:
a) (Contemptuous smirk) Blur?
b) (Slow, solemn nod) Blur…
This usually depends on whether or not I’m talking to one of the aforementioned rock ignoramuses. And it’s because of “Song 2.”
“Song 2” is kind of like Radiohead’s “Creep” (to recap an earlier post, most rock ignoramuses are unaware of any Radiohead material other than “Creep”). It’s not necessarily representative of the band’s catalog, but for whatever reason it is the only blip on most people’s radar where the band is concerned. As a bonus, it’s not really the sharpest song in the shed, so the consensus among rock ignoramuses is that Blur is a shallow, candy-pop one-hit wonder. Thus, there is a sizable divide between those who are aware of Blur’s legacy of badassery and those who blithely deny it.
To remedy some of this ignorance, let me try with this humble post to explain the brilliance of Blur for the benefit of those who weren’t previously aware, or might have even doubted it. (Those drunken, Blur-hating Oasis fans can be pretty confident en masse.) If you are already aware of Blur’s awesomeness, this will simply sharpen your awareness, and maybe send you on a tear listening to all of their albums in your car for a week. It’s a plus either way.
Here are several reasons why Blur is a bastion of stone-hewn coolness:
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This whole “going into the future” thing has me thinking about how long I’ve been in LA, and tangentially about the Silver Lake music scene I was hanging out in when I first got here in the earlier half of the ‘oughts. So, for your listening enjoyment (or your ignoring pleasure, whatever), I thought I’d take a glance back at the “old school” Silver Lake indie scene and give a shout-out to all the fun indie bands that were making the rounds. Hey, many of them still are…
People on the street were talking about Interpol, Ambulance LTD, the Shins’ second album, and MySpace. (What?) Silversun Pickups was appearing on Letterman. The Sunset Junction music festival was bringing Blonde Redhead and the Buzzcocks in to entertain everyone. And most importantly, these guys were dominating the scene…
Autolux – Turnstyle Blues
Army navy – Saints
In an act of unparalleled musical terrorism, San Diego bands Transfer and Family Wagon reduced local music venue the Casbah to rubble, broken glass and flailing limbs Saturday night. The bands, joined by Oakland’s Mister Loveless and local band the New Kinetics, descended upon the helpless venue with serious megatons of sonic fury and gnarly weapons of mass distortion. Not a single eardrum survived the melee.
This writer arrived in time to see Family Wagon take the stage, and was consequently blown back several yards by the band’s sheer intensity. Heel tapping and head bobbing kicked in by themselves, defying any attempt to stop them. Before long the scene was one of total annihilation of any people looking bored or not acting completely rowdy and riled up. Lead singer Calen Lucas made a performance out of flipping out righteously and crushing any semblance of sanity, and bassist Gareth Moore’s hair became the 6th member of the band as he redefined the motion ranges humans are capable of while holding a mahogany log. CDs were sold and stickers were passed out.
Transfer took what was left of the place and utterly smashed it with their set, which was part loud, electric fury, part intense vocal power, and part frightening volume levels. Besides their obviously high-impact stage show, their songs are extremely catchy and somewhat sing-along-able, unless one is stunned into silence as was the case with “White Horse” and “Wake to Sleep.” Listening to those is similar to standing in the middle of a hurricane while demons scream at you and pound on your head with giant drumsticks. The experience was traumatically awesome.
Acknowledgement of Long Delay in Posting
Seeing as it has been a little while (around 2 ½ years, give or take) since I have posted anything here, it really took an event of this magnitude to spark things up. To keep it short and sweet, the impetus here is two bands.
Transfer: The indie band you actually want to hear even though you know they’re an indie band
Take everything people don’t like about indie bands, throw it into a garbage bag and toss it into the cement bed of the LA river, because sometimes indie bands can be powerful, confident and put together. And no, they’re not venturing into lame underground hip-hop or being produced by Timbaland. Listen to this song, this song, and especially this song, and see whether you agree they may have the force to drive music blogs back into publication.
Family Wagon: The indie band that sort of makes you want to try shooting Southern Comfort
I have been acquainted with this southern-style rock band for roughly 40 hours, but I have faith they will be on your TV on a late-night show within a year or so, and will one day become one of those bands that headlines for an act they once opened for, causing all of their fans to exuberantly recount their rise to glory, a la those kids from Detroit Rock City. That’s because aside from their music being fun and loud, their stage presence ensures it is cheerfully rammed through your brain, with a toothy grin and a “you’re welcome, ma’am.”
Stay tuned for more rants, stale news, and unfounded musical armchair analysis. The ship has left port once again.
Check out this new video, featuring a guy who looks a lot like Christian Bale and a song that sounds a lot like the Talking Heads’ “This Must Be The Place.” This makes me very happy.
Directed by the same guy who made this random, funny squirrel video and a bunch of other cool stuff. I’d say he has a future ahead of him.
Preface: Since I haven’t had time to write anything in quite a while (try maintaining your music blog as an LA career-type whose spare time can be measured in half-seconds), here’s a re-post of an article I penned for Cinema Blend, back when — well, back when I wrote for them. Enjoy.
We know about physical, people-type overpopulation. That’s when there are too many new neighbors moving in all at once – then their cars use up all the convenient street parking, grassy fields turn into slum hives, and suddenly one-bedroom apartments with no washer or dryer rent for 1,700 a month.
Well, as you might have guessed, the same thing can happen in music. It’s what happens when too many indie rock bands form all at the same time, and with all the same ideas. What logically follows is a phenomenon pretty nicely stated as rock-overpopulation, or to be more succinct, “overrockulation.” When overrockulation occurs, bands start elbowing each other off the good rock real estate by using up all of the good riffs, taking all the cool styles, and – in the most prominent and embarrassing manifestation – taking all the good band names. What’s left behind are the cardboard-shack and overpass-tent band names, the 12-syllable fixer-uppers that are so far out there it’s impossible to imagine moving into one by choice. It’s a shameful degradation.
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Whatever happens in 2010 — whether it be a massive earthquake that sinks California, a tidal wave that washes out everything on the eastern seaboard, or a horrendous new trend whereby everyone tries to become a vampire (oh crap, that’s already happening) — at least there will be these seven albums. In order of anticipation (I suspect), here are the seven most conniption-inducing albums expected in 2010.
When, son? Spring
What gives: After selling over a million copies of their electro-psychedelic debut Oracular Spectacular, Ben Goldwasser and Andrew VanWyngarden’s next release is the result of the band’s coping with the craziness of their new success. Their well-intended (read: crazy) idea is to release an album with no radio-friendly singles, in hopes of people actually listening to the whole thing rather than just downloading two tracks to play in their Scions. Though this will likely result in their label asking them to go back into the studio (d’oh), we hope them the best. It also purportedly involves more guitars, which is always a good thing.
Title? Nobody’s Daughter
When, son? Undecided.
What gives: With the origins of Courtney Love’s albums as buried in speculation as she herself is in media scat, this one is starting to look no different. There is talk of using material recorded during her stint working with Billy Corgan (responsible for songwriting contributions to Celebrity Skin), as well as songwriting from 4 Non Blondes front woman Linda Perry. Still, with what she’s capable of when not wasted, it may have potential. The album’s release will be accompanied by a tour, during which the live performances will sound nothing like the recordings.
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Like many people, there are songs constantly streaming in my head. They can fade in like a mist, or come crashing onto the scene like a warthog. They can drown out things like real-life conversations, or simply hang in the background while I go about my day. It’s like having a built-in music player, sans record-industry meddling. iTunes, meet iBrain. Now kindly go get iBrain a Dr. Pepper.
The thing about my iBrain, though, is it doesn’t cost anything. Not a dollar a download, not one cent a download, nothing. Even better, there’s no account to sign up for, no annoying emails to block, and no mega-corporation to decide what songs are allowed to be there. Unless you count taste. I usually let Taste, LTD pretty much do what it wants.
So here are a few of the songs that have been occupying my iBrain rotation as of late. Feel free to listen in, start your own mental download, and show the industry suits that you’ll listen to whatever you want, when you want. As long as it’s not while your boss or significant other is saying something important. That’s just bad for business.
The Vines, Autumn Shade II. Like the first one, but Craig Nichols nailed the wispy, esoteric harmonies even harder, and it survives more than three listens.
Blur, Tracy Jacks. Because that guitar part is catchier than a left-fielder with sonar. Whoa, did a sports analogy just make it onto this blog?
Radiohead, I Might Be Wrong. This riff could smash a hole in the side of your grandaddy’s barn without an ounce of remorse. I heard it even robbed a nun in broad daylight. Shame on it.
David Bowie, New Killer Star. The bassline to this song would make me punch a guy in the face, if the music video didn’t make me feel dizzy.
The Primrose League, Stealing All Those Cars. It’s not as well-known as some, but the intricate guitar work and vocal harmonies manage to find their way into your bloodstream.
The Smashing Pumpkins, Hummer. That opening solo is like a bucket of cold water on a saturday morning, but somewhat more awesome.
The Von Bondies, C’mon, C’mon. Ok, I watch TV. But screw you if you don’t appreciate 1-2-4 guitar stumming and a loud voice. At least I’m not repping Jet.
Versa Vice, It’s Clear. Another lesser-known band, but the guitar and bass are the muggers who 1-2 you to death in the alleyway behind Circle-K.
Blur, Death of a Party. I usually try to avoid dumping the same band on people twice, but the creepy vibes from this one have a tendency to linger. You just try to shake them off.
Queens of the Stone Age, Make It Wit Chu. Who knew a song titled in text speak would actually be good? Josh Homme once again demonstrates his ability to get inside your head with a piano and a guitar.
Gran Ronde, Wisdom. This short number hits the pleasing-guitar-riff quotient right on the head.
There are three things everyone seems to have opinions about: politics, religion, and Radiohead. On two of those topics, one dissenting view can cause a flat-out argument. When it’s Radiohead, it can cause someone to go insane. It’s quite a phenomenon.
That’s because, like politics and religion, Radiohead is complicated. When an ardent Radiohead fan hears disparaging remarks, or even worse, lack of acknowledgment about their favorite band, it’s easy for them to assume the disparager is uninitiated, and therefore not equipped to make the call. Because “getting” Radiohead isn’t like “getting” Puddle of Mudd. It doesn’t just happen after hearing a couple of songs on Internet radio (“They’re so dreary and weird … how can you like this?”). Most people who are wanton over Radiohead have listened to them for years, seen them evolve, and have grown immensely attached to them.
This is why whenever you ask someone what they like about Radiohead, you get a vague, impassioned gushing of adjectives, with no real explanation. It can leave you even more clueless than before. Or thinking your friends are hippies.
But if you’re into music, and a little open-minded, Radiohead is totally worth getting into. Because the hype is true. They’re like the 200-piece orchestra of pop bands. They’re a punk mentality shoved into something that is about as far from punk as you can get (without involving bagpipes or accordions. Yet.) Their music explains why Thom Yorke is so twitchy and paranoid, and why he sings like that. (He doesn’t always.) Radiohead is pure, 80-proof sonic bliss, if you get what they’re doing.
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People can say some pretty stupid things online. Maybe it’s the anonymity, maybe it’s just a spur-of-the-moment thought immortalized forever on a message board. Some of them are understandable, given circumstances. OK, your brain farted and spat out that retarded statement, and now you’re feeling better. Alright.
But sometimes, the things people say can cause great need for release of frustration. Some of them can make you want to steal a car and ram it into a shopping mall, or grab the next person to walk past you and shove his face into a tree trunk. For example, I’ve heard, more than once, someone who is supposedly into rock music say they hate Nirvana, and that Nirvana sucks. This is utterly berserk. Listen up, pinhead.
First of all, the words “hate” and “sucks” are oversimplified ways to express discontent with something. People use them when they don’t know how else to identify or explain what they don’t like about something. And don’t get me wrong, there is much not to like about Nirvana. (Big hint: It’s designed that way.) But to say Nirvana “sucks” and that you “hate” them is entirely missing the point, like saying “man, Casablanca is so damn sappy,” or “why does Van Gogh paint so many sunflowers?” Let me explain.
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I know, that headline sounds kind of pretentious. You should be able to like whatever you want, and no one else should have anything to say about it. But the problem is, it’s not usually like that. At least, not until you figure out how to avoid all the judgmental assholes you know. Until then, it seems like someone else always has something to say about the things you like, and the things they think you shouldn’t like.
For example, rock guys aren’t supposed to like rap. It’s not “rock ‘n roll” to like rap, so all the judgmental asshole rock guys (there are a lot of those) will get on your case about it.
Screw that. Here is a list of rap songs you can safely own up to liking, with some points to defend your opinion with, in case your taste in music is descended upon by the over-opinionated quotient in rock fandom. As long as you can shove logic in their face, you win and the assholes lose.
Outkast, Rosa Parks. This song is as accessible to the rock-listening population as any Red Hot Chili Peppers number. Believe it or not, there’s a guitar in there, and it’s playing a pretty sweet melody. There’s also a wood block, which is as rustic and down-home as any cowbell. Plus, the flute sound and lyrics make it seem almost zen, which is more or less the opposite of your stereotypical hip-hop ditty, and hence something rockers can get behind. It’s also named after a pioneer in civil liberties, so that’s worth some history cred. What history cred does Fall Out Boy have to brag about?
Busta Rhymes, Gimme Some More. Not only does it have an actual violin track (borrowed from “Psycho,” no less), the background is filled up with … bass and drums. How much simpler can you get without involving empty coffee cans and three-gallon buckets? Besides the basic appeal of the music, Busta Rhymes is just funny (his name is BUSTA RHYMES). Again, not like some rappers. And the video? On par with Tom Petty’s “Don’t Come Around Here No More” as far as hallucinogenics go. Hallucinogenics are way rock ‘n’ roll, man.
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