Wednesday, May 31, 2006

One of the things that kills me about Pants-Off Dance-Off is how shows of this type inspire people like myself to treat videos as sacred works of art. It makes you pine for the days when one could watch ADVERTISEMENTS FOR POP SONGS free of scrolls, clutter and awkward strippers, when you could watch TELEVISION ADVERTISEMENTS FOR CONSUMER PRODUCTS without interruption. And when they do give you that opportunity, you're grateful and make a note to watch them more frequently. Have we reached such a depth in capitalist culture that this is the slim bit of entertainment we're fighting for? It's downright satanic, and not in the fun way.

Working on a list of my favorite videos, btw. Thin line between love and hate, joy and contempt, ZZ Top's "Legs" and ZZ Top's "Sleeping Bag."

Monday, May 29, 2006

If the idea of a pop-punk with little in the way of 'chops' trying to recreate the intense drama of Asia fills you with excitement, you have to check out the Angels & Airwaves album. Minute plus intros of power chords and keyb swells, gradually leading to a drum fill. Video for "The Adventure" opens with the band walking onto a spaceship. We later see footage of the formerly earthbound Tom DeLonge walking in a field, letting his arms float above him with Bonofied slo-mo grace, but it's all about "Heat Of The Moment."

Friday, May 26, 2006

The "It's All About The Benjamins (Rock Remix)" video is not on youtube and I wish there was something I could do about that. There's a stream at, but it's just not the same. It annoys me that those shitty Run-DMC/Aerosmith and PE/Anthrax collabos get so much attention when there are so many finer examples of rap-rock out there. Plus, unlike the aforementioned pair, this version is actually better than the original (that climactic Biggie verse with the ringing power chords? Puffy running screaming through a high school hallway with rioting prom attendees? A post-Mats, pre-G'N'R Tommy Stinson for some inexplicable reason? Sweet merciful christ!). If you haven't heard or seen it in a while, hunt it down. The shit's unreal, and music needs to get back on that tip.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

We now begin our weekly feature: Defend Your Last.FM "Last Week" Top Ten!

1. Cities
2. American Princes
Ordinary alt-rockers with energetic side ones. Cities uses more Brit reverb, American Princes has more distinct melodic hooks. I wouldn't worry too much about hearing either unless you're a freelancer for Magnet with a deadline.

3. The Clean
Shuffle benefits the double CD anthology, no? I need to toss some of the non-drones.

4. Sonic Youth
Was pretty surprised by the first EP, recently reissued. Knew Richard Edson, character actor extraordinaire, was the drummer then, but had no idea he was attempting some "I Zimbra" shit on occasion ("She Is Not Alone" is hysterical, Thurston failing his audition for the Slits). I assume its the lack of distinct identity that gives the disc such a bad rap, but sometimes I'll take post-PIL jiggy over sluggier bombast.

5. Annie Hayden
A lot of the albums I've been listening to this year are long on seductive atmosphere but short on the anthemic pull that inspires me to write long blog posts (noticed?). The Merge b-lister's The Enemy Of Love doesn't bore or grate when it's on, but I don't remember what was intelligent or charming about the songs after. One of the best adult-alternative singer-songwriter albums I've heard in a while, but it never evolves into pop the way Amy Rigby or Liz Phair albums can, even when she's covering the Replacements.

6. Jay-Z
Respected MTV rap from the mid to late 90s is a big gap in my musical knowledge (blame Dr. Octagon and an inability to take the Hype Williams video aesthetic seriously), so I've been checking out a lot of Jay-Z, DMX, Tupac, Nas and Biggie lately. A lot of the criticisms I had about these guys based on the big MTV hits are falling away with distance and further perusal. Jay-Z's flow still often strikes me as sedentary and uninvolving - I prefer my rappers more musical - but Reasonable Doubt and Vol. 3 are albums I need to acquire in full.

7. Shoplifting
Was enjoying this Les Savy Favish until I realized that my favorite tracks were almost identical and that the band basically hits a post-punk skank, gradually pulling away into a tinny, awkward drone for a tad. Song titles include "Male Gynecology." Its marginality made blatant, I chucked it.

8. Supergrass
I Should Coco, another 90s artifact I'm digging with distance.

9. Arab Strap
The Last Romance is the first of their releases to catch my ear at all. Basically some brogued-up, monomaniacal Greg Dulli bullshit - this leery agonizing over matters of the crotch sounded less ridiculous and insipid when I was a virgin, but there's a few tracks on the new one where they make it rock (the Whigs' saving grace as well).

10. Sia
To reaffirm I've been wallowing in nondescript ambiance, it turns out this Astralwerks songstress I've been spinning soundtracked a climactic moment on Six Feet Under. I think I'm mentally preparing for yuppiehood in hopes of acquiring a living wage.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

from Billboard:

For the first time in their 22-year career, Red Hot Chili Peppers score a No. 1 album on The Billboard 200. The two-disc "Stadium Arcadium" (Warner Bros.) sold 442,000 copies in the United States in its debut week, according to Nielsen SoundScan. The total is the band's career best sales week, beating the opening week of 2002's "By The Way," which bowed at No. 2 with 282,000.

Only double CDs get counted as two separate sales, which would make the actual number of copies sold 221,000. And Stadium Arcadium is a total poo slog. I liked over half of By The Way (Frusciante and Kiedis made that one all pretty-like) but had to strain to get through any track from the bloated newbie, whose overriding theme is that as long as young girls are moving to L.A., Tony Flow will be there to rhyme about them over jam excerpts from the Miraculously Majestic Masters of Mayhem.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

I'd just like to note that whenever I'm on a music trivia team in a bar, we win. I have never lost. This has been tested on two continents. FACT.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

re: this.

The Hopper/EMP debacle is just a case of shitty journalism and distracting from what I actually find interesting about the situation. SFJ's blog posts (including his response to the article, reprinted here) underline a recent mentality in rockcrit that hasn't been challenged except in defensive broadsides like the Slate piece.

Merritt basically has an aesthetic preference, "melody over rhythm," that he discusses eloquently and unapologetically. He's unafraid to acknowledge the racial coding people are likely to infer, and does so with a wry humor I really appreciate. SFJ has decided to describe his comments as "poisonous skeet," which raises the question of what exactly is "poisonous" about what Merritt has said. Is it poisonous to acknowledge one's disinterest in hip-hop? To be dismissive and flip about the evolution of R&B? Annoying, perhaps, depending on your evangelism for the music, but poisonous? Merritt has made withering comments about indie rock (he's said the vocalists on his 6ths albums were chosen mainly for accessibility and subcultural catchet - he's of indie, or was before Broadway called, but not enamored of it) and I have no doubt that he finds metal to be a waste of his time. Would SFJ find those tastes to be poisonous?

The only reason the grumblings of an insular melodist would deserve this kind of ire is if you believe it's culturally or politically irresponsible to not acknowledge the value of R&B/hip-hop culture; that it's a symptom of something sinister. A lot of writers have given funk/hip-hop a certain cultural primacy, suggesting that even if a critic's listening tastes aim towards alt-indie, you have to give lip service to the inherent value and worth of recent "black" music.

Critics who focus on country or metal tend to be exempt, as they're already covering underappreciated subsets of music culture, but if you're part of the pazz & jop honky majority, you're expected to genuflect to the beatmakers - a standard which trickles down to the world outside. Due to my politics and taste in popular music, I'm sympathetic to this demand on cultural critics, but applied outside of consumer guides, it has a tendency to limit discussion more than advance it. I don't like the idea of people feeling defensive because they don't want to listen to crack tales from misogynists, or because they like to hear some stagnant alt-country doyenne mewl about sequoias after a long day at work. I'm not denying that people often dismiss modern black music due to ignorance and racial antipathy, but giving musical genres cultural primacy through this kind of cheap coding, which seems condescending in the face of hip-hop's across-the-board popularity in America today, is much more poisonous than acknowledging the specifics of your tastes the way Merritt does. We don't have to make uncool into a crime.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Just watched The Baxter last night, and oof. I did not need to know that Michael Showalter would use his debut film as a triple threat (David Wain, who steals his scenes here, is the one that directed Wet Hot American Summer - Showalter co-wrote and starred) to tell us the story of a young CPA who never gets the girl, only to discover that his dorky friend with an indie fashion sense is the one he should have been with all along.

Mundane and predictable enough for you? I didn't even mention that the movie begins with a flash-forward of his fiance leaving him at the altar, before telling the entire story of how they met, courted and prepared to be wed. It would be one thing if the film treated its tired, obvious template with satirical irreverence, but it seems Showalter is trying to get sloppy 189ths with a genuine attempt this breed of romcom. He even falls for the mistake of having your neurotic, pathetic lead be less likeable than every other guy in the film, including his romantic competitor. It's nice to see the crew from Wet Hot pop their heads in throughout, but the lack of imagination in The Baxter is horrifying.

With his primacy in the pack growing clearer with every venture, I now have a flaming mancrush on David Wain. Always bet on the balding and bespectacled.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

RIP, Grant McLennan. Thanks for leaving us dozens of amazing hooks to remember you by. It's hard to believe you won't be around to make more.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

The video for "World Wide Suicide," should they ever bother to make one, should involve Pearl Jam, shirtless, riding horses to the White House, followed by angry protesters of all creeds, colors and ages. We need lots of helicopter shots and shaky on-the-ground DV footage. If Eddie has a Native American headband, he should be wearing it. The mumbly love child of Ian MacKaye and Steven Tyler is still ragin', full-on.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Another reason Fall Out Boy is depressing: the way they treat their lead singer! The guy writes the melodic hooks, the only aspect of their songs that I can remember, but the videos highlight Pete Wentz, the Bernie Taupin of the high school emo set. Pete knocks over amps, revels in close-ups, kicks vampire ass and gets the girl, while the singer (whose name I can't even remember!) wears bulky clothes, hides behind his hat and winds up fanged before getting a single shot off. The drummer even gets more screen love in the vampire video, as evidently he's quite the swordsman. They almost never show the guitarist, but I bet that's only so the vocalist doesn't have the indignity of being the least present member of the band on Fuse. He doesn't even go for enigmatic like fellow Martin-Prince-at-26 Paul Banks. Christ, at least Ann Wilson got commanding head shots!

Some photographic evidence:

He gets to be up front if he wears the vest...

though notice how the drummer compensates.

There are other ways to conceal...

This one's pretty imaginative.

How can you not hate Pete Wentz? Dude writes crappy lyrics, carries photos of his dick on his cellphone and is so desperate to milk his stud status that he makes his singer dress like he's been stationed in Alaska. Make your voice heard and boycott his livejournal! When Wentz tries to add you as a friend on myspace, say no! We want more close-ups of the other guy! Adam Duritz never got this treatment.