Wednesday, September 19, 2007

On the Other Hand...

A demolition of an unfunny comedian can be great fun if it's done with skill, preferably by a FUNNY comedian:

Hecklers

It's probably never a good idea to heckle a professional comedian with a microphone and command of a large room.








Most Movie Fanatics are Dicks, Example #374

I'm not the biggest fan of Kevin Smith's recent movies (Clerks is one of my favorites, though), but I have to commend him for this:

Nothing more annoying than a movie fanatic that will go out of his way to trash a talented director to his face. I have a hard time imagining a true cinephile like Truffaut acting like this Blockbuster-employed douchebag.

Holy Goddamn Shit



Speaking of Westerns...

How psyched is everybody about the Coen Brothers' adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's No Country for Old Men?


Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Russell Crowe still the fucking man

Just saw 3:10 to Yuma and felt like typing a short burst of enthusiasm. It's an excellent movie, thrilling and absorbing and exceptionally well-written and well-acted for a Hollywood movie circa 2007. I do admit to a fondness for the Western genre (John Ford's epics, Howard Hawks' perfectly-cut gems, Sam Peckinpah's bloodbaths and romances, Sergio Leone's gothic spaghettis, Tombstone, Deadwood, and on the literary front Cormac McCarthy's bloody awesome and bloody bloody Blood Meridian) but I'm also fairly alert to its potential for cliche, bombast, and sentimentality. This film doesn't strike a single false note; the action is the opposite of pornographic and the characterization and the screenplay are rooted in the great Western tradition but mercifully free of cliche.

Russell Crowe's diabolically charming rogue is well, diabolically charming. Just great fun to watch, that man. He continues to be one of the most entrancing screen presences alive: rugged and masculine (I'm swooning) as well as poetic and soulful. In short, he can make a perfect sketch of a bird or a naked woman, quote Shakespeare and the King James Bible, draw his pistol faster than any other sonufabitch from here to Dodge City, and chuck a man over the edge of a cliff for not reading more books.

I feel guilt getting so swept up in the Russell Crowe charm-maelstrom, because Christian Bale is just as excellent. Intense, brooding, dark, but with a disarming integrity and earnestness; he seems to specialize in those types of characters. The supporting cast is made up of several impressive character actors, all of them inhabiting their roles with exuberant relish. Luke Wilson makes a brief but memorable appearance at a railroad blasting sight, and Ben Foster (whose acting as a recurring character on Six Feet Under I'd always admired) is genuinely frightening as an uber-sadistic murderer in a Confederate jacket.

The script, based on a story by Elmore Leonard (the greatest crime novelist of our time, and one of the finest Western-writers, loved and celebrated by Saul Bellow and Martin Amis), is full of laconic, deadpan one-liners nearly as good as the ones in Tombstone. The story is damn compelling, the cinematography captures the brisk air of the Arizona deserts in winter in a way that makes me want to go out West, and there are Apaches, Chinese railroad workers, gunslingers, crooked marshals, shady Southern Pacific businessmen, and Russell Crowe as a notorious outlaw!!!

In short, see it.

Monday, September 17, 2007

The Liars


Speaking of autumnal music, you can do worse than pick up the excellent new record by the Liars. I've always liked this odd Brooklyn-LA trio for some time, though I've never been as familiar with their music as Monsieur Catalogues. Their fourth album, titled The Liars, is a beautiful and bizarre wash of choral tones, Yeatsian lyrics, and guitars and keyboards that alternately evoke blue plateglass and fire-coloured leaves in the fall breeze.


The music swims back and forth between a relatively cold, distant vibe (possibly augmented by the fact that frontman Angus Andrews' vocals are nearly always obscured by effects of some sort) and warm, crackling immediacy. I can't quite decide whether this music is polished noise or baroque, ornamental lo-fi. One of the things that makes the Liars so appealing is that the band is inventive in an instrumental sense; the guitars, synths, drums, and vocals on this album simply don't sound like anything else. Certainly not anything else right now. I suppose it could be compared to the Animal Collective, but that would make the Liars the dark smokey blues bar to Animal Collective's rollicking pastoral wonderland. The Liars are Edward Hopper to Animal Collective's Matisse, I suppose you could say.


Another thing that makes this album so goddamned fascinating is the diversity of the songs. The Liars have a certain sound, no doubt about it, and that sound encapsulates this entire album, but I think I can say with some accuracy that the individual songs here vary quite a lot in tone and structure and atmosphere. "Sailing to Byzantium" is dreamlike, warm, and hynoptic; listening to it I felt like I was, well, sailing to Byzantium (an essay could be written comparing the Liars and Yeats, surely). A song like "Clear Island," on the other hand, is cerebral and cold. Both are superb.


Every song is worthy of some serious attention, though. This is a challenging album, and one that will reward you with more aural joys and wonders than most this year.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Scott Lucas is a cultivated man.

Yes he is. My recent rediscovery of Local H sent me poking around on their website, and I found singer-guitarist-bassist-songwriter-ideas man Soctt Lucas' Top Ten list of last year. Not just Top Ten in music, but Top Ten Everything: TV and cinema as well as singles and albums. I don't know why I assumed that the man's taste runs mostly to Nirvana, the Replacements, and Led Zeppelin; I mean, his lyrics are among the most clever and witty ever penned by an American with a guitar and a fuzz pedal. It turns out that you shouldn't judge a man by the style of his band's music: he likes Justice, Spank Rock, and Simian Mobile Disco!

And HBO's bloody brilliant drama The Wire. His comments on that show and on Ryan Gosling's harrowing performance in Half-Nelson are dead on. I have to say I disagree with his take on the Klaxons though.

You can read the list by following the links here.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Following up on that Local H thing

Is it wrong that I love this?

Bat for Lashes

Okay then, a word or two about Bat for Lashes' much-praised Fur and Gold.

This album will inevitably be compared to the likes of Kate Bush, Bjork, Tori Amos, and the PJ Harvey of To Bring You My Love and Is This Desire? It is true that Bat for Lashes (the nom-de-musique of one Natasha Khan, an Anglo-Pakistani singer, songwriter, and poly-talented musician from festive seaside town Brighton, England) bears some traces of all those great precursors: her music has the dreaminess and Druidic sexuality of Kate Bush, the dark fairy tale enchantmentand strange lyrics of Bjork, the emotional intensity of Amos, and the theatrical flair and shape-shifting multi-persona narratives of PJ Harvey. But somehow Khan's music is strikingly original, and it would sell her quite short to just hear her as a retread of Kate Bush, Bjork, etc.

Fur and Gold is an atmospheric blend of harpsichord melodies, orchestral swells, low and sexy rhythms, and Khan's marvelous voice, which is somehow delicate and fierce at the same time. The lyrics are full of dream figures and folkloric characters (in many songs Khan seems to be singing from the point of view of a bat), and it's impossible to tell which songs are"autobiographical" and which are pure (or mostly) fiction. The album is glorious, a lovely strangeness compressed into short pop songs and ballads.

Khan’s voices haunts the music and assumes manyguises: in one song her tone is that of an enraptured lover, inanother she's an impetuous ice queen with a Diana Rigg accent, in
others she\'s a forlorn orphan or a startled visionary. Personalfavorites like "Trophy" and "Sarah" combine all of her best elements into one darkly glittering whole.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

"You heard that we were great..."

Okay, I know, shame on me for not posting AT ALL during the summer. It was a fairly chaotic one, too busy and confusing to spend much time writing for this blog. But now that the Shelleyan west wind is upon us and autumn is again stoking the creative fires (which is really autumn's point, despite or perhaps because it's the season of beautiful decay) I'm rarin' to ma-fuckin' go.

Monsieur Catalogues has done a fine job of describing the exceptional new albums from Animal Collective and Atlanta's own Black Lips. Good Bad Not Evil is possibly the most FUN album to come along since Is This It? or Elephant or Up the Bracket, and Strawberry Jam is stunning enough to hold its own alongside Panda Bear's astonishing Person Pitch. Both albums will be in my end-of-the-year Top Ten for sure. As will the Black Lips.

I'm not ready to comment on Kanye's long-awaited Graduation, but I think I'm more excited by it than Monsieur Catalogues. I figure it will contain at least SOME interesting music; I mean, it's Kanye West for God's sake.

Lately I've been spending my musical energies seeking out American indie bands from the mid and late 90's that I neglected at the time (I was busy listening to the sounds of Seattle, as well as the Clash and the Pixies). The Make-Up, Unrest, and Jonathan Fire Eater among them. Most of these bands have been neglected by the independent music press as well, pathetically enough. I want to write full pieces on the likes of Unrest and the Make-Up, but that will have to wait until I've given both bands proper and thorough listens. Right now I'm only an infatuated amateur, not familiar enough to write at any length.

On the other hand, I spent much of this summer rediscovering Fugazi, and I look forward to classics like The Argument and Repeater--hell, pretty much everything they've done--supplying my autumn with a suitably Fugazish soundtrack. Another band that I loved when I was in my late teens but have neglected quite a lot in recent years is Local H. I stopped listening to them when Here Comes the Zoo came out; I simply found the album to be a humilating, crushing letdown after the splendor of Pack Up the Cats (an album that was criminally betrayed by both the record label and the music press; it's really one of the finest rock records of the last 20 years, if you axe me). But I've been listening to that masterpiece and to the almost-as-great As Good as Dead the past few nights and loving every minute. Fall is always a good time to listen to stalwarts and favorites like Radiohead, DJ Shadow, 90's U2, Echo and the Bunnymen, the Strokes (God rest their souls), Interpol (ditto), Nick Cave, the Walkmen, the Arcade Fire, Blur, and the Auteurs. I think my fall this year will also include a lot of music I've just discovered, like Unrest and the Make-Up and Jonathan Fire Eater. I'll also be listening to rediscovered favorites like Fugazi and Local H with a renewed vigor and love.



Oh, and just for fun. I've had the damn thing stuck in my head! Autumn is the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, as Keats reminds us, but it's also the season of angsty indie pop and noirish high school movies.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Atlanta to Tel Aviv

Black Lips, meet Ha'aretz.

Ha'aretz, meet the Black Lips.

When does Amos Oz write his first essay about Atlanta's finest?

BIG BIG Week

So, today is September 11th, a very important day.......The Black Lips, Animal Collective, Kanye West, and The GO! Team all come out. Oh boy oh boy. Are you just in mourning? No no, yes yes, sad sad day, but what a better way to get happy again than buy 4 albums from some of the most creative and exciting artists out there. I have not heard the new Kanye yet, but I'm sure he comes through even though it is the least exciting of the releases. No, the two big ones are the Black Lips and Animal Collective.

I've had both of the albums for a while now, and they are both amazing. I fell in love with The Black Lips newest immediatly and thought it was the shit. I mean it really is. You can't help but feel cool when listening to them. See, living in Atlanta, we have been prolific obviously with Hip Hop from Outkast to Danger Mouse to T.I. Yet, I guess in the indie rock world we haven't had a band that brought us together as a whole. The Black Lips do that. They are almost bringing back to a state of mind that I haven't had since the days when Pete and Carl were in their red coats. The Black Lips are a great rock band, but they are more than that. They are a lifestyle. They bring people from all different crowds into one. There are the one thing we can all agree on just like how we could all agree Outkast were and might come back to being amazing. Good Bad Not Evil is an album to be very proud of from the sampled "Vedi Vidi Vici" to the indian tale in "Navajo" to the deadly swagger of "Lock and Key" (all three being my highlights). Sure they can make you laugh and are crazy, but they are mine and all the other kids of Atlanta. Sure their getting steam in the indie world, but before anything else, they are Atlanta's and nobody else's, and we are damn proud to call them our own.

Now, let's travel to another city that I am obsessed with, Baltimore: Bmore Club, The Wire, Animal Collective, Spank Rock. The boys in Animal Collective just don't stop. To me, they are in the great tier of American music that is kicking everyone else's ass. Them, The Black Lips, The White Stripes, and LCD Soundsystem are the most important American groups and all bring something different to the table. Animal Collective's Stawberry Jam is a much more excited and upbeat work. It seems like on multiple occasions I have found myself boucing around to "Peacebone." Panda Bear said in an interview that the name of the album came from when he was on an airplane and the sun was rising and he had some strawberry jam in his hand, and he wanted the music to sound like that moment. I have exactly the idea what he is getting at, but I am not sure the album converys that image, I would honestly find Person Pitch to fit that moment better, but please don't think that means the album is anything less than stellar. The album didn't register with me as quickly as Person Pitch did when I first heard it. It isn't reverbed or super delayed out like previous works. I really dug that sound. This is in a way "spacier." The best parts on the album have that efffect of chopping tremelos which is awesome. The part where the album peaks and this is most prevelant is "For Reverand Green" and "Fireworks." The vocals on this album are more distinct than any other Animal Collective album I've heard before. This is just another great leap for the group, and prove themselve to be bona fide geniuses.

Those two albums are must must owns. So please do yourself a great favor and buy them. The new Go! Team is pretty damn wicked as well. I urge you to get that as well. Actually it's really damn good. So please just go do it all.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Spectral

This summer has been dominated by a few acts: Fela Kuti, Black Lips, Panda Bear, Lee Hazelwood, and Matthew Dear. Matthew Dear's Asa Breed is easily one of my favorite albums of this year. It is a pop album, but Dear takes his Detroit Techno roots and puts it with it. Dear is established as a producer in all forms of Techno. On his other name, Audion, he makes more direct harder sounding Techno. I feel like under his own name he feels like he can branch out and not stick within the boundries of just straight up Techno. That's the thing about electronic music, for a being such a forward thinking music, it can also be very conservative. People might get upset that a certain song doesn't fit within the characteristics of a genre. Dear is that person. There is a mix of great pop songs, dancier songs, and even dark American Gothic music. Asa Breed is an album that shows people that there is so much more to what makes a pop album. It is more than the conventional sounds and instruments. I just think he deserves as much credit as he can get.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

ALL Right, let's get serious.

Ok, first off. It's been too long since a post. Summer was just too much for me to get off my lazy ass write about something. Now that I'm more active again aka back in school, I'll start writing more. I'll do a recap of what important has gone on.....

1. Matthew Dear's Asa Breed came out and is wonderful. I have now totally dived into the whole Matthew Dear world of music with his own name and and Audion as well looking into his label Spectral. It's great great stuff.
2. Fela Kuti was the man. There is no doubt about that. If you don't own an album by the man, well, you are missing out. He is like the new found hero of the year from the past.
3. Electronic music is not dead. Simian Mobile Disco and Justice have released albums that both declare a new state in the world of post-Daft Punk dance music. Justice is probably the best of the Ed Banger crew/ French/Noise/Filtered Disco, but Simian is the one to really look out for. They are doing their own thing with electro beats and italio disco influences. If there is reverb on the synths, I'm hooked.
4. The Black Lips are my heroes of 2007. Their new album is stellar. I've had it for a while. I got it ahead of time (my friends are good to me). Cole is such a nice guy. He was very willing to give advice to my friend and I about touring and whatnot at a party and just talk. He was very polite and welcoming.
5. A new record label is arriving soon enough. Look out for Double Phantom Records. That's all I'm going to say. Just look.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Again, that time of the year


I was reading a review on a website that I enjoy a great deal and saw a positive review to an album that really captured me visually. Usually, I don't too excited over a band with such a cool album cover, but for some reason this one really got me. Around this time last year, I came across a band that would soon rank with LCD Soundsystem as my favorite current band. This band was of course the Howling Bells. I was floored by their debut and have since fallen in love with them, especially Juanita Stein. So now, this year, a new band with a cool image and artwork has arrived and made me very happy. This new band is White Rabbits from Brooklyn.

Imagine the Walkmen at their most dancehall mixed with The Specials and Madness with some very rhythmic drumming and "latin tinged" piano, and you have White Rabbits. Bascially, this is some very exciting music with a good mix of genres. This is going to be one of those perfect Summer albums to take with you on a sunny beach and let the breeze go across you. The music is that refreshing.

What makes the album is a few factors. One, the vocals are very hypnotic at times and just enough to get those spots under your skin. Second, the piano is really something. It goes from dancehall-esque "Death Of A Clown" to Afro-Cuban music. Third, the drumming is very exciting. I hear there are two drummers. The latin influence comes in a great deal with the drumming as well. Apparently, I haven't gotten around to it yet, but the lyrics are very provacative. I know I should be on top of something this important, but mind you , there is so much going on during this album. It is just one thing after another.

This is one of the better surprises I have had this year. I love hearing that new rock band that really gets me. With my love of Hip Hop and Electronic music, still underneath it all I love good, interesting rock music. When a band comes around that really gets my blood flowing and does something interesting with music again, the world just seems better. White Rabbits are that kind of band to me. I may have just got the album, but it is very unique and stands on its own as one of the best new albums and bands around. So please, do yourself a favor and listen to this delightful album.

This Is My Kind of Revival


I was watching a video clip of Keb Darge talking about music. For those who don't know, Keb Darge is buddies with Cut Chemist and Shadow and actually opened for them on the Product Placement tour. He is an encyclopedia and archive of old Soul and Funk music. Basically, he is a serious digger. He was talking about there is this label out right now that is making the best funk music. He says there is literally no bad recording from the label. It is a new label too, from Brooklyn. It is called Daptone Records. Now, I get kinda cautious about modern funk music. Usually I think of a bunch reallly boring white kids with strats or happy go lucky people just jamming. It gets me a bit sick honestly. But Daptone is none of that. It is straight up raw, deep funk, the best stuff around. It has a myspace. Go to it. I urge you. The house band is Dap-Kings. These guys are seriously damn good. You might know them because they hang out with Mark Ronson. They were the band on his versions, and I have a feeling they were the band on Back To Black by Miss Winehouse. So that should give you an idea what the music is like.

The flagship artist is Sharon Jones, and she has the Dap-Kings as her band. I have downloaded two of her albums: Naturally and Dap-Dappin'. These two albums are balls to the wall amazing funk music. The music sounds like it was straight from the 70s. The production is flawless. You won't hear drums mic'd any better, well maybe James Murphy. The music is fast, grooving, soulful, and very energetic. Miss Jones is one of the finest vocalists I've heard in some time. So pretty much, this stuff is some of the most exciting and fun music around, and it is so fresh and new.

A few years from now, hip hop producers will not be cutting up old James Brown samples, they will be cutting up Daptone artists's breaks. I certainly hope Daptone gets some recognition. It really deserves it. When you think about the "soul" or "r&b" music on the radio today, it makes you want to take a watery shit and wipe your stereo with it. Daptone is the real deal. So please brothers and sisters pick up a Daptone single of any sort, and you will not be dissapointed.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Great...

I realize, comrades, that this blog doesn't "do" politics, but, well, fuck.

If Putin means what he says this obviously doesn't bode well for the future of 80 % of the music artists I listen to. I fear there's only one man who can sort this out.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

This is when The GOVS Take Charge

Ok, I must have had a lambotomy of some sort to forget this wonderful piece of music. This year we had a Fall album come out. It was a good Fall album, certainly not a great Fall album. So where was the Mark E Smith that was on Levitate and the Infortainment Scan hanging out? Well obviously he was with the Mouse On Mars guys. Now this is the Fall album we wanted to hear. This collaboration of the three guys is called Von Südenfed. This album seems to be out in the UK and not yet out here. Bascially, this album is what you would expect when Mark E Smith and some guys in an electronic outfit get together and make a record....

It is crazy, fun, catchy, and very powerful( in the sense that Smith is the fucking man and he is here to stay and no one is going to take the Hip Priest out of his Church). This album is so kick ass, that I was knocked back because I certainly did not expect it. I mean I knew it would be awesome as soon as I realized the existence of it, but the fact I downloaded the album on Itunes as soon as I heard the album was out and listened to it, is was what made it so crazy.

Then as soon as it was all dowloaded, I was in for some kick ass music. The album is like Smith over actually good Ed Banger type dance music. For you people not in the know about this Tres Cool Label Ed Banger in Paris, the music is very hard dance music, but not hard in the hardcore sense. The beats are just well....hard with electro synths. This album is as if all those Ed Banger guys actually made decent stuff. Some of the stuff can be similar to early LCD Soundsystem, but that is too easy to compare and lazy of me. Sure this stuff sounds like that 90s era dance Fall music. But what it really reminds me of at times is "Me White Noise" by Blur. It's that crazy and good and dancable.

So hats off again to Mr. Smith. Fair game to the guys from Mouse On Mars with their bombastic beats. Maybe they should now collborate as a full time thing. The collaboration of Dance musicians with rock vocalists is a great tradition that usually never fails, most of the time. Thom Yorke and Richard Ashcroft with Dj Shadow on UNKLE was enough to make the hairs on your neck fall off. Noel Gallagher with The Chemical Brothers on two songs, but I think Noel should join the Brothers as a full time job and forget Oasis. Damon Albarn with Damon Albarn, Dan the Automator, and Danger Mouse was pretty good if you think genius is good. Iggy Pop was pretty damn crazy with Death IN Vegas on "Aisha". Then, the leader of the Rock Singer with Dance guys was John Lydon first working with Afrika Bammbatta on "World Destruction" then he worked with Leftfield on "Open Up," which still is their best song. So Mark E Smith and Mouse On Mars have joined this hall of fame of Dance/Rock collaborations. Congrads, of course is it really a surprise he could do it. For God's sake Mark E Smith did "Telephone Thing."

There are the best, but what do I really listen to?

I recently made my top hip hop albums. Some I listen to more than others, and certain ones I listen to more are at a lower ranking than others. So I thought I let you know what I really listen to. This is something I think critics of kinds should talk about. First off, every week since I bought the first and third album, I listen to the first three A Tribe Called Quest albums every week. The Tribe was and is the greatest hip hop group of all album time. There is no question about that in my mind. Another album I listen to almost every week is the Pharcyde's Bizzarre Ride To The Pharcyde. This album is just so much fun. The beats are pretty damn awesome as well. It is just so lovable. Totally a great summer album as well. 3 Feet High And Rising is pretty frequent in my listens because it still is so fer fer fer fer fresh. Every time I listen to it, I feel like I am being clensed. I feel bad about leaving it out, but there is one album that was not on the list because I forgot it, and would be in the top ten for sure if I would redo the list, but I am too lazy to do that. This album is Main Source's Breaking Atoms. This is up there in the Mecca of the best produced albums ever. This, Illmatic, 3 Feet High and Rising, Midnight Marauders, Bizzarre Ride, Madvillain, Return of The Mecca, and Step Into the Arena are probably the best produced Hip Hop album ever. Breaking Atoms is just such a joy to listen to. The beats are so damn good that I have to pause the song and catch my breath out of amazement. It is a short album too, you know how much I love that in a Hip Hop album. Breaking Atoms is as essential as 3 Feet High and The Low End Theory if you want some straight up amazing Hip Hop

It's that time of the year


Around this time last year, something amazing happened. I was in the import section in Atlanta'a old Tower Records (which I miss every day of my life) and I saw an album that I read about and had been getting a lot of underground press. This album was something of a Godsend by the way the critics described it. This album was Burial. It was one of the most pleasant surprises of my life in terms of music. It was just what I had been waiting for. Now, a year has past, and a new electronic album has come out that is getting a great deal of press and sounds like another Godsend......

This album is From Here We Go Sublime by The Field. It is minimal, cinematic, ethereal, moody, house music. Even a friend of mine who is not really into electronic music digs the album. It is kinda one of those crossover albums like Endtroducing was or Kind of Blue. It is truly as if shoegazing and house music met. The Field is a product of the famous Kompakt label in Cologne, Germany. This is the flagship of the label. You can search all of the internet and find raving reviews about this album. When listening to it, it like being in a Sofia Coppola or Jim Jarmusch film. It is really moody. It is damn perfect while driving at the twilight hour.

The music itself is something different. The actual drum beats are very simple. It is usually just a bass drum going at a 4/4 beat. Whats over the beat is what makes the record. The music fades in and out and is arranged perfectly. It never seems relentless or tiring. The songs just build and build until they topple over into a supernova of sound collages. It is really quite moving and beautiful. When people talk about electronic music being cold or unhuman, this is why albums like this come out to reconnect people. Listening to this no matter where you are whether in the car or in your apartment with headphones on, as cliche as it sounds the world does seem to slow down. In the end, I can just say on last thing, this is very, very important album.

Second Thoughts on the Arctic Monkeys, Elaborated

I could never see what the big deal about their first album was. I didn't dislike the album; I just didn't think it was as wondrous as everyone kept saying. All the virtues that critics and fans were attributing to the Arctic Monkeys--memorable melodies, rock 'n' roll fun, and witty lyrics--I just did not hear. That didn't stop me from enjoying certain gems on Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not, like "When the Sun Goes Down" and "A Certain Romance."

I was never a passionate fan.

I've revised my opinion a bit since I've heard the second Arctic Monkeys album, Favourite Worst Nightmare. I can't say I've altered my view of the first record too much, but I do think that this one is pretty bloody brilliant. It has all the merits people heard in the first album and much more. It's loud, bouncy, fun, melodic, atmospheric, dark, romantic, and beautiful.

The album opens with "Brianstorm," probably the loudest, fastest Arctics jaunt. From the start the album is loud and fast, and an atmosphere of ennui and world-sickness pervades the entire time. The music has bravado and punch; all the lyrics are essentially pained or dark: at the ripe old age of 21, Turner seems repulsed and disillusioned with the world. Most of these songs paint a rather sordid picture of the rock world: fakers, poseurs, whores, and deluded egomaniacs are everywhere. Apparently.

There's really no point in listing my favorite songs, but I will say that "Teddy Picker" is the smartest and funniest--and most genuinely pissed off and disgusted-- put-down of rock scenesters and hipsters I've ever heard. "Fluorescent Adolescent" is lovely, "Only Ones Who Know" is actually achingly pretty, and "Old Yellow Bricks" might be their finest moment yet. Okay, there I went and named song titles anyway. The whole album is well worth your time, though; they've certainly come a long way (in my opinion) from the first album.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

"The Chinese don't know what they're doing."

Say what you will about Coldplay, but Chris Martin can certainly hold his own with Ricky Gervais.

Some Kind of Bliss

I apologize for the continuing hysteria, readers, but I'm quite enamoured with Kylie's Impossible Princess album. Here's the finest song from the album, "Some Kind of Bliss." Her backing band is the Manics.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Clive and Kylie

On accents and other things.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Miss Minogue at her cleverest and most manic

It should come as no surprise, reader, that Monsieur Catalogues and I are enthusiastic heterosexual fans of Kylie Minogue. I mean, Nick Cave is. I like pretty much everything Kylie has ever done, from her dance-pop classics to the haunting collaborations with Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds.

Her finest record, to my mind, is her 1997 indie-pop experiment Impossible Princess. She wrote most of the album unaided, and the songwriting help she did receive came from singing Manic James Dean Bradfield; the two of them even duet on "Some Kind of Bliss."

The album spawned the hit single "Did It Again," which is one of my favorite Kylie tunes and certainly my favorite of her videos. I mean, just look at her in all her various incarnations. Watching the video I actually think she might be the ideal woman...or women, as the case may be:

"The world is my gym"

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

My Top Hip Hop Albums

1. A Tribe Called Quest- Low End Theory
There just aren't albums like this anymore, in Hip Hop and Music. When listening to Phife and Q-Tip go at it, it truly sounds like professionals. Honestly, the play between them and just them alone will never be topped. I don't care who you are. When I get jaded with music, especially Hip Hop, I just put this on and I feel oh so much better about things. In the opening lines of the album Q-Tip talks about the similarities between Hip Hop and Bebop. That is what best describes this album. The album from begining to end is literally perfect. It is pushing limits, staying true to form, abstract, provocative, and extremely intelligent.
2 Nas- Illmatic
Can I think of a MC hungrier than Nas than on his debut. Jesus, the boy was throwing rhymes that were just too damn good and smooth it still hurts. You almost get the feeling he would walk into the booth and just knock one out. Also, this album is a rediculous blend of allstar producers ranging from Pete Rock to DJ Premier. It was as if all these people got together and said let's make just about the most perfect hip hop album ever. 10 songs, 9 technically, 1 collaboration, 5 producers, and the greatest MC is all it took to make Illmatic.
3. De La Soul- 3 Feet High And Rising
Poetry, true poetry, is what De La Soul's debut is. How can you listen to this album and not feel moved or uplifted? Illmatic was an allstar album in production, but it was a mix of producers. This album makes the greatest produced album ever easily. One, because the sampling is totally insane and so kick ass that I when every time I listen to I still just throw my hands in the air and laugh in the awe of it all. Second, one man, Prince Paul did the whole damn thing. I mean, he could have retired right after this. It is so so damn perfect. That's just the production. Plug One (Posndnuos) and Plug Two (Dove) are damn romantics on this album. The imagery that these guys come up with is utter poetry. Listen to the tale of romance on "Eye Know" or the surreal tale on "Tread Water." These three albums in the top three could all be number 1. This one though, has something that none of the albums on the list have, the greatest skit ever. And I hate hip hop skits. Listen to "Transmitting Live From Mars" and not be overly entertained by how cool it is.
4. Eric B and Rakim- Paid In Full
The blueprint. This album alone is what was solely respondsible for getting me into Hip Hop. To this day "Paid In Full" is the perfect hip hop song. Hip Hop was doing alright when Paid In Full came around, but it was really exhausted. I mean, I am as giddy as a school girl when I just think of the power and force in Rakim's voice aka the best rapping voice ever. He is to me the most mysterious man to ever be in Hip Hop. Say what you will about 2 Pac or Biggie, but Rakim is this shadowy figure that is like some Old Testament profit laying down the greatest rhymes even if they are about how great he is. It is still the freshest album to listen to, and Rakim came in turned Hip Hop completely around.
5. Wu-Tang Clan- Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers of Death)
This album is one of the longest surving Hip Hop albums in my cd collection along with Paul's Boutique (Oldest, got that in the 3rd grade or so) . I got this album in the 5th grade and ordered it from Amazon because I was not allowed to have Parental Advisory albums. I listened to it secretly ,and it just made it even better. The mythology the clan created has always been so intriguing to me. I would just love to listen to all the MCs different styles and techniques. Of course on this album the MCs who ruled the album were Raekwon, ODB, Method Man, Inspectah Deck and GZA. I just remember seeing the video for "Method Man" and just being entranced by everything. The lyrics in that song are ingrained my head more than any hip hop song. RZA created a new style of hip hop production that had not been seen before with his gritty drums and soul samples. This is an album that is so dear to my heart.
6. Mos Def- Black On Both Sides
Black Star had already come in a much needed time for new ideas in Hip Hop. After it Mos Def went off to make an album on his own that I think out does his previous effort with Talib Kweli. Mos Def came in like a Hip Hop savior with knowledge and wisdom. Not since Q-Tip had there been such an intelligent MC as Mos Def. He brought intelligent rhymes about society and the current state in music.
7. The Streets- Original Pirate Material
Mike Skinner was not kidding saying "This is orginal pirate material." I have written about his album before, I cannot describe how it seemed to of come out of nowhere and knock us all on our asses. From the begining on "Turn The Page' Skinner comes in one my all time favorite beats ever and to top it off with one of the straight up coolest lyrics I have ever heard. It was so new and different. It was a white English guy making hip hop! It was amazing. It is one of the finest albums to come out in my lifetime while being concious of music around me. The album is cool, funny, clever, sad, and utterly moving. Skinner took us all by surpise, and this album is still in a league of its own.
8. GZA- Liquid Swords
First off, this is a Wu-Tang Album. They are all there. All of them. Second, even if it a Wu album, GZA is still the best one in the bunch. His flow is effortless and smooth. What a cool album as well. It just does not get much better than "Shadowboxin" when Method Man joins the GZA on such a stellar song. GZA alone, at times, is second to none in lyrics. He is a deadly as a Samurai with his words. He penetrates your concious twists his verbal daggers. This and Enter the Wu-Tang go back an forth for me as what is the best WU effort.
9. Madvillain- Madvilliany
What a sick album. Madlib and MF Doom must have been out of their minds. The production is as crazy as the story and lyrics. The songs are short. It took me a while to get into it because it is so different from any hip hop album ever made. It follows none of the rules of conventional hip hop. It is one of the most original albums ever, easily. It was a collaboration that was highly anticipated, and they overimpressed us all.
10. Beastie Boys- Paul's Boutique
Oh boy, this album and I go way back. Talk about an album full of insane sampling. When it came out people couldn't keep up with what it was trying to do. People couldn't comprehend what was going on the album. Personally I don't know why people didn't like it at first. This album kicks Licensed To Ill in the nads. I mean the shit they pulled on this album is almost too much to comprehend. The guys rapped over the drum break from the closing "Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts" with other Beatles sampling from the suit on Abbey Road. "Superfly" got added to their balls crazy song "Eggman." I think the Beasties and Dust Brothers were literally insane when they made this album. It certainly could not of been made today. The balls to do this album are bigger than earth. The play between Adrock, Mike D, and MCA is just so amazing when you really think about it. It's like they all woke up one day and took genius pills.
11. The Pharcyde- Bizarre Ride To The Pharcyde
12. A Tribe Called Quest- Midnight Marauders
13. Outkast- Aquemini
14. Ultramagnetic MCs- Critical Breakdown
15. Quannum- Solesides Greatest Bumps
16. Edan- Beauty and The Beat
17. Gang Starr- Step Into the Arena
18. Dr. Octagon-Octagonecologist
19. Black Star- Black Star
20. EPMD- Strictly Business
21. Dizzee Rascal- Boy In Da Corner
22. Raekwon- Only Built For Cuban Linx
23. Eric B and Rakim- Follow The Leader
24. Boogie Down Productions- By All Means Unnecessary
25. A Tribe Called Quest- People's Instintive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

TOMORROW NIGHT!!!




I promise Manics-hysteria will be significantly reduced after I see them in the flesh tomorrow evening.

"Into this wild abyss..."

Although the film of Philip Pullman's The Golden Compass is still in the early stages of filming, some stills, clips, and undeveloped computer storyboarding has leaked onto the Internet. Some chap has assembled them into this clip:



The polar bears do look good. I wonder how the anti-clerical theme will play with American audiences...

Monday, May 21, 2007

"In business in London every man has his price."

Episode 2, Season 4 of the finest program on television. Perhaps of all time?

Tigers in Red Weather


The new album by the Manic Street Preachers, Send Away the Tigers, is a luxurously catchy, loud, anthemic, passionate, and energetic. After the wintry elegiac pop of their absurdly underrated Lifeblood album, this album will inevitably be described as a "return" to the loud, brash punk of their first two albums (before they created something like the rock equivalent to Paul Celan's poems and Goya's Disasters of War paintings on The Holy Bible and long before the triumphant years of Everything Must Go and This is My Truth, Tell Me Yours).


Send Away the Tigers, aside from being a great album title (all of the Manics' titles are great; think about it) and sporting their best ever album cover, is a riotous joy. Purchasing this album is worth walking through Cardiff streets in the early morning, when winds are blowing off the Irish Sea, while wearing a devil or fairy outfit. The cover actually embodies the tone of this album quite well: Send Away the Tigers is startling in its youthful vigour and zest; there must be a diabolical energy infusing these songs with such fire and life. There have to be, at the very least, Welsh sprites at work.


Songs like "Underdogs," "Indian Summer," "I'm Just a Patsy," and the magnificent title track do recall the Manics' early days, but these songs are much more developed and muscular than anything on the first two albums. There's not a note wasted in these songs; each riff is thrilling, and James Dean Bradfield's voice has never been better. And "The Second Great Depresson," "Autumn Song" and the soul-cleansing single "Your Love Alone is Not Enough" manage to be blazing AND gorgeous. Actually the whole album is like that. Buy it. It's a rock n' roll feast, with much more swagger and soul and memorable melody and loud pogo-ing joy than anything on the new Butch Walker album. Wake up, Atlanta.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Friday, May 18, 2007

Classic Track of the Week

Second Thoughts

For whatever reason, I've never been a huge fan of the Arctic Monkeys. I've never disliked them; but I differ from the rest of the world in not thinking they're phenomenally brilliant...but I have to admit this song is something else. It's a track from their new album Favorite Worst Nightmare called "Fluorescent Adolescent" and it's bloody marvellous. Brilliant, actually. Enjoy.

Wong Kar-Wai does America, via Cannes


There's an article in today's New York Times about the Cannes Film Festival, currently underway on the Cote d'Azur. Apparently Wong Kar-Wai's new film My Blueberry Nights was the first film shown. I hadn't heard about it, but now I'm madly excited to see it. I love Wong's films--particularly Chungking Express and In the Mood for Love--and I'm curious to see what his first English-language film will be like. How will he evoke America, I wonder? So far one thing is clear though: Rachel Weisz in Wong Kar-Wai's unique color and light is a lovely vision indeed.


Elegy for the Reverend

This is just too good:

"Do you know my poetry?"


I hope you all enjoyed Monsier Catalogues's marvellously cruel review of 28 Weeks Later; I confess I haven't seen it yet, but it sounds like another example of Hollywood slapping any shitty thing onto celluloid in the hope of making some money and generating a sucessful "franchise." I can't wait for the prequel to Romeo and Juliet.


Partially as a counterpoint to the astounding badness and greedy cynicism of 28 Weeks Later, and partly out of sheer joy at its visionary power, I want to direct all readers of the French Catalogues to Jim Jarmusch's 1995 film Dead Man. Monsieur Catalogues and I tried to watch it a few years ago, late at night and after watching Donnie Darko (surely the most overrated film of the last decade). That's not the proper setting for watching Dead Man; the film needs a clear head and deep attention. Not attention in the sense of looking for important details and trying to spot references to the writings of William Blake (which I love; he's the poet I loved earliest and best). Just watch the film and let it speak to you: let the shots of the bare pines and rain on a lake, or a haggard and sinister Robert Mitchum gazing up at a stuffed grizzly bear, or Johnny Depp's face changing from that of a fearful and hapless accountant to that of a painted poet-warrior speak to you just as much as Nobody's quotations from Blake.


It's a strange, spacious, graceful film. I shan't give any more away. Just watch it. And don't miss Iggy Pop in a dress.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Don't Be Another Sequel

This will be a different kind of post than I usually do. I have just recently 28 Weeks Later. It was enjoyable in the sense that watching zombies and frantic people running are fun. In the end though, it was a big piece of Hollywood shit. I put "Hollywood" in the sentence for a reason. Mind you, I loved the first film, 28 Days Later. It was scary as hell, fun, and it ended well with hope. This one is scary, but it seems to follow more of a Dawn of the Dead ideology that we are fucked and humanity is over.

One major problem with the film was the setting. The director seriously needed a map of London. The film takes place in Canary Warf. The main characters escape the compound in that part of London and head West on the North Bank. Later it shows them crossing the pedestrian bridge in front of St. Paul's from the South Bank to the North. Mind you, that makes no sense. In this sequence of scenes they are to go to Regents Park in a few minutes. I don't know about you, but this is impossible to do on foot. That is over an hour's worth of walking. I was laughing at the absurdity. Next after Regents they have to make it to Wembley. This just takes a few underground stops, and they walk out onto the field. Utter bullocks.

What really makes me mad about this film is that Hollywood will do anthing to make a buck. They will make a franchise out of anything. If they wanted to, they would make a prequel to Romeo and Juliet. It would be about how the fathers of both houses were friends back in the day in Verona until Montague stole Capulet's lady. Then you know they rest of the story. Hell, they would make a sequel to A Tale of Two Cities where Sydney Carton doesn't die, but instead takes out an Uzi and kills Madame Defarge and her cronies and becomes ruler of free France and ends up with Lucie. I could see it being done by Bruckheimer.

So basically in the end, Hollywood will do anything to make a lousy film to ruin a good film's credit or ideas. They will put a franchise to anything with zombies. Also, 28 Weeks Later sucks. Oh here's the ending, the little kid carries the virus, and at the end zombies are seen in shuttering camera work running towards the Eiffel Tower. OOoooo Ahhhhh, fuck off. They should have just left it at 28 Days Later, when there was still hope........for the plot and the film as a whole.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Hell Yes



And as a fitting post-interview musical cocktail:

Friday, May 4, 2007

Here Comes the Bird Flu



Boy, oh boy, do I think this woman is something. MIA is coming out with her next album this year. The picture above is from her recent trip to Jamaica in which she was filming her next video. Mr. Peacock and I have been coming up with comparisons or analogies of artists today. For instance, the Joe Strummer of the modern era is Damon Albarn. He dabbles in music that white people are afraid to touch unless they are being tongue and cheek. James Murphy is a mix of Ralf Hutter and Mark E. Smith or something of that matter. Finally, honestly, I think MIA is a one woman Clash. She is politcal, fun, sexy, creative, and steps ahead of the game. I guess that makes Diplo Don Letts. The new album is apparently called KALA. It is going to be so damn good that people will literally melt, just like Raiders. So, basically this post is just hyping her up. She deserves it. With all that said, hopefully this song will get you going.

Bobby Scores!

Runaways, Argonauts, and Thugs


A while back Monsieur Catalogues told you all that we would devote one post a week to a classic album from way back when. Monsieur Catalogues wrote a very fine piece on Original Pirate Material by the Streets and I think I was planning to devote the following week's Classic Album post to Midnight Marauders by A Tribe Called Quest. That didn't come to fruition, or more accurately, it hasn't yet. I still plan to write about Midnight Marauders, but as both Monsieur Catalogues and myself have badly fallend down on our job lately, I feel compelled to revive the Classic Album of the Week post with thoughts on a record that I've been listening to obsessively lately: in my living room, and on my iPod walking through Regent's Park and down London's shopping streets.


Now then. XTC's English Settlement is a masterpiece of rich and hypnotic sounds, ridiculously addictive melodies, and some of the finest rock/pop vocals you'll ever hear. XTC had been giving their songs beautiful textures since Drums and Wires (listen to Dave Gregory's guitar on "Ten Feet Tall" and tell me you don't shiver with pleasure); since that album they'd also had the Insanely Catchy Melody thing down pat. Black Sea refined their sound and developed a fuller, more realized post-punk sound on classics like "Respectable Street," "Generals and Majors," and "Towers of London."


English Settlement is an identifiable member of the post-punk sequence going back to Drums and Wires, and it looks forward to the pastoral and orchestral sound that XTC perfected on Skylarking and Apples and Oranges (a sound that continues to delight and dazzle on recent releases like Apple Music and Wasp Star). Its midway position between the two different phases of XTC's career make English Settlement particularly rich and striking, but even discounting the rest of XTC's brilliant career it's a standalone classic, perhaps their most representative and bravura album.


The record opens with "Runaways," a mesmerizing mantra-like chant. Andy Partridge's and Colin Moulding's voices rise out of the mist of shimmering guitars, tribal drums, and ethereal keyboards to sing a tale of exile and loss, and the effect is nothing less than hypnotizing. The moment at 3:28 when the drums stop and the guitars feed into the bridge is spine-tingling, but even more so is the piano riff that descends at 3:40. Just beautiful.


The singles "Ball and Chain" and "Senses Working Overtime" follow from there, and both of them are classics. The Moulding-voiced "Ball and Chain" is a beguiling pop stomp, but somehow melancholy, and "Senses Working Overtime" ...well, what can be said about Partridge's frenzied vocals and the flawless melodies on that one? XTC have a peculiar gift for bridges: "Respectable Street," "Towers of London," "Runaways," "Senses Working Overtime"...that one in particular lifts you off the ground.


The standout track might very well be track four, "Jason and the Argonauts." It is certainly a cousin to "Runaways": ethereal and hypnotic guitars again, only this time Partridge and Moulding are more focused and aggressive in their melody and singing, which makes for a thumping great song. It's difficult to describe just what XTC were capable of at this point in their career...just buy the bloody album.


On an album of great songs the other standouts are the furious "No Thugs in Our House" (about a middle-class household where the clueless parents are oblivious to the fact that their son has joined the National Front) with its spiralling guitar riff, tight rhythmic thwack, and again, Andy Partridge's wonderfully hysterical vocals.


It has to be admitted that the album nods a bit in its second hald (or Side Two or whatever you want to call it), but much of it is very fine indeed, and closing song "Snowman" challenges any of XTC's other songs--on English Settlement and elsewhere--to being one of their career highlights. It's a reggae-influenced number, with a halting rhythm and clicking guitars. Partidge's vocie is, again, note-perfect in both exquisite beauty and neurotic kvetching.


Like I said, English Settlement might be XTC's most fully-realized, most representative album. Moulding and Partridge are one of the finest songwriting teams EVER, for my money, and they have a disconcerting ability to produce masterpiece after masterpiece. And they're still doing it! If you're not familiar with their dazzling work, I think this album is probably the best entry-point into the wonder and delight of XTC.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Charlie Brooker on Editing

Here's a clip for all the students of film editing out there, whether you belong to the school of Eisenstein or the school of Bazin. It's an attack on a truly unfortunate kind of modern TV editing by the incomparable comic genius Charlie Brooker:

Thoughts on X and the old folk ballads (are they connected?)

The English essayist William Hazlitt, writing about a play called Hamlet, wrote that Ophelia is a character nearly unique in literature. The only other women characters that are remotely like her, Hazlitt says, are figures from "some of the old romantic ballads."

The old romantic ballads are the old Scots, Irish, and English ballads of love and murder, of course, the old songs that gave rise to American country music in its early phase of longing and melancholia, not the more up-to-date confectionary nonsense. The songs from which Nick Cave takes his primary inspiration on albums like Let Love In and Murder Ballads. The kind of music that you can detect in the Outback gothic of the Howling Bells. I say "gothic" in the sense of Southern Gothic; I'm not implying anything that has to do with black lipstick.

The old romantic ballads that Hazlitt mentions are musical tales of madness, crime, sex, and death (as anyone who listens to Nick Cave, the true descendant of these ballads, will know), and in the New World these tales were simply transplanted to settings like the Appalachian foothills or the endless deserts of the West. The Scots-Irish immigrants who populated the South brought their murder ballads with them; many of them migrated west and spread the ballads as far as California; and the ballads seeped into Californian consciousness in strange and unexpected ways.

All the American forms of music--blues, jazz, country, rock, hip hop--grew out of two earlier forms: folk ballads and church hymns. The tradition of folk balladry is strongly apparent in the distinctly American music of X.

X, as most of you know, were an Los Angeles punk band. Their sound certainly bears the hallmarks of loud and brash late 70s/early 80s three-chord punk rock, but beneath the loud rockabilly there's something of the old romantic ballads in X. Or so I hear, anyway.

Their classic first album, Los Angeles, is rich in atmosphere and melodies. The first thing you notice, I suppose, is how catchy the songs are. But the chief delights of X are in the frenetic vocal interplay between bassist John Doe and lead singer Exene Cervenka and the moody lyrics of murder, madness, sex, and death in L.A.

You all know "Johnny Hit and Run Paulene." A great song, no doubt, but my favorites are the magnificent title track (one of the band's finest moments), the caustic ode to Beverly Hills "Sex and Dying in High Society," and rapturous concluding waltz "The World's a Mess, It's in My Kiss." If you don't already own Los Angeles, do yourself a favor and buy it now. You hardly have a right to call yourself a fan of American music, or music at all, if you're not familiar with it. It's worth it for the moment Exene cries "Get OUUUUUUUUUUUT!!!!!" just before the chorus on the song "Los Angeles."

Even better, I think, is X's second album Wild Gift. The album continues what Los Angeles started, but this time around the songs are even darker and sharper. Barnstorming opener "The Once Over Twice," the spiralling and frenzied punk classic "We're Desperate," the lovely and somber "Adult Books," and the black-as-night "White Girl" are my favorite songs, but the entire album is a marvelous suite of modern-day L.A. street ballads. Listen to this and tell me I'm mistaken:




Circling back to the theme of murder ballads and such: A common thread in folk ballads--from the border ballads of Britain and Ireland to the balladic quality that Hazlitt saw in Ophelia, to Johnny Cash and Hank Williams and on to Nick Cave and X (contemporaries at one time, strangely enough)--is tragic and doomed female figures. X's lyrics are full of these sorts of women, enigmatic and alluring but somehow condemned to either madness or the most hideous misfortunes. Exene herself is a healthy and sane woman singing about mad or broken women on songs like "Los Angeles" and "White Girl," which just adds another layer of mystery and intrigue. Anyway, I'll conclude this rambling post with a command to purchase both of X's first two albums. DO IT NOW.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Weren't the 90's great?*

I remember the mid and late 90s as a crass and materialistic time, supremely self-confident but totally lacking in imagination-- sort of like now, minus the mass terrorism. But then I remember a tune like this and I'm transported to a realm of wonder and mystery. A LOT of marvelous and seminal music was created in the 90s, and there were moments--especially in British music--when even minor artists like this created works of genius. Case in point:



*The title of this post is a Luke Haines quotation: a sardonic line in "The Rubettes" by the Auteurs.

Everybody wants to be a DJ, everybody wants to be an MC

Hip hop is in a bad way at the moment. Monsieur Catalogues and myself have been discussing the imaginative poverty--in music and lyrics--of most hip hop these days. I myself can't figure out why a genre that used to be such a fount of creativity has dried up to such a bland, by-the-books racket in recent years. I mean, can you honestly say that there are any hip hop tunes today that approach the richness and freshness of this?



So, why is hip hop so strangled by formula and cliche these days? Replies are welcome...

Welsh Onslaught

Following up on the last post, here's a clip of the lads playing their new tune with a certain chanteuse on a certain talk show.

A Candidate for Song of the Summer?

Enjoy their glorious return.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Things I'd like to see, Part One



A storm over Lago Nordenskjold in Patagonia.

Video of the Day

If this doesn't bring a smile to your face, nothing will.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Man, this is that side of North Central London I Never Run Into

So there is this guy named Plan B. He is supposed to be the next Mike Skinner according to the NME. His album came out last year I think. He is ok. Believe me, he is not creating any Orginal Pirate Material. Apparently he has this mixtape out with a bunch of samples from noteworthy rock groups and artists such as Radiohead and Leonard Cohen. In the mixtape, the one song that I am obessed with samples Leonard Cohen's "Suzanne." Mind you, this is such an amazing Hip Hop track. The lyrics are totally ace. The lyrics are as if Damon Albarn and Nick Cave got together and did a hip hop flow. It is about a terrible murder in Camdentown. Now, I haven't been to Camden for some odd reason. I have been on the edge of it walking up Primrose HIll, but I have not been in the heart of it all like where the Good Mixer is. Mr. Peacock has failed on taking me there, but hey, it isn't totally his fault. I lived in Marylebone for over a month and I still didn't manage to make it over to that neighborhood, and it is across the park. Innit weird? I was everywhere but there, well not everywhere. I wasn't in South LDN, but boy do I wish I was after knowing about Dubstep since I was there last year and that is when it all exploded. I do regret a few things: not going to Camden, not going to the Notting Hill Arts Club for any of the nights like Death Disco or YOYOYO, not going to Fabric, and finally not knowing about Dubsetp. This is all besides the point. Plan B has made this utterly eerie song about this grotesque murder that sends chills up the spine like the scene in Seven when that dude who ate his own tongue starts moving about and makes you literally shit yourself. So here it is people: Plan B's "Suzanne"

Is It Love? This is Love.

Now, I apologize for that scatterbrained post below. It was late at night. I felt like I had to do something and I was listening to Tricky at the time, so that's what you get. But now, for a true love affair. I swear if I had one wish to be with one woman in the entire world I think it would definitely be Juanita Stein. Miss Stein is leader singer of The Howling Bells who made the number 1 spot on the Catalogues' 2006 End of the Year list. Now, I know she is a very very attractive woman physically, but there is so much more to this amazing Aussie. One, The Howling Bells are the best new bands around, period. They are of the same ranks as The Go! Team, LCD Soundsystem, The Arcade Fire and Interpol. Best new artists are Burial, Lily Allen, Amy Winehouse, and MIA, but.....that is another post. The Howling Bells are making the kind of music that I was waiting for someone to do. Joel (Juanita's brother) is one of my favorite guitarists in recent memory. He creates a wonderful soft texture under Juanita's rhythm guitar. The Howling Bells also have the ideal image going on. You can look at all these trendy bands in super tight jeans or someone in new NIke kicks (personally guilty of that one), but these guys are in a league of their own in terms of coolness. I am not huge on a the cool factor with bands because James Murphy is not your stereotypical hipster which makes him a hip cool guy. Again though, The Bells have created a wonderful Outback/ Western/ Southern Gothic image that just gets my blood flowing. The drummer looks so damn cool. He's got the cowboy hat going and is really tall (sticks out). Joel has the scarf (very Doc Holiday). The bassist, I tend to over look because well..... he's the bassist, but hey, that's cool. Nothing against bassists, Jah Wobble was practically the X factor on Second Edition. Then there is Juanita, usually in black, but not in a depressed gothic stupid way. She looks so classy and graceful. Now we know this band has some exciting music as well as a cool image. There is something that makes them stand out a little more. I love Miss Stein's lyrics so so so so so much. So many images come to mind, and the phrase "low happening" is a new favorite. I kid you not, if she were keen to me, I would convert to Judaism ( I assume she is with a name like Stein) and move to Australia. I don't think there is a person with a more angelic face. I could on and on about The Bells and how much I love them as well my love for Juanita Stein. Good people, good lyrics, good music, good image, cool as fuck, and the loveliest woman in the world as their singer. I love the Howlling Bells.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Is It Love? No not love.

You know there is always some music writer who makes some list of the top songs or albums to play while doing tha dirty dirty. It is always some R&B stuff or the "Whisper Song." But this is all besides the point. I am trying to think of the albums/songs that give you that feeling of just feeling in love or just utterly sensually moved as cheesy as it sounds. You know the kind, When I really think about it, every time I listen to Tricky's Maxinquaye it gives me that warm feeling one might get. I guess, every listen always makes me happy. Maybe that's what I'm trying to get to. The top albums that every listen no matter what situation is makes you feel extemely good. I know it is, for a fact, impossible to listen to Kraftwerk's "Pocket Calculator" feeling sad, especially the live version. I hate the phrase "feel good." Yet, that is what this song does or that Tricky album, even as dark as it is. The one song, "Suffocated Love," makes me feel wonderful. It is hard thing to do, I'd imagine. I know the artist doesn't plan on creating that kind of song unless they are the people who did that "Steal My Sunshine" song, which actually makes me depressed when I hear it. What is it in the human mind that makes one react to something like Kraftwerk and always feel wonderful? I think when I listen to Dub I am always in a great mood. There is something is Dub that just really gets to me, especially at night and even more so while driving. Two songs in particular do it to me: Sister Nancy's "Bam Bam" and Willie Williams's "Armagideon Time." These songs, I think, are so good. They just have so much texture. The vocal inflections are amazing. "Bam Bam" is my most listened to song on my Itunes along with "Mogadishu" by Baader Meinhof which is another prime example of song that is so cool and makes me feel so. What does this say about me? "Mogadishu," "Armagideon Time," and Tricky make me feel good? These are songs and artists that are associated with dark subject matter or textures. Not dark in the Joy Division sense of course. But these song evoke rainy images. Maybe this whole post was a complete wank with words and subject matter, oh well. I don't know how to even to describe this list, but here it is.

(List Title) No Order
1. Baader Meinhof- "Mogadishu
2. Willie Williams- "Armagideon Time"
3. Sister Nancy- "Bam Bam"
4. Tricky- "Suffocated Love"
5. The Passengers- "Theme From Let's Go Native"
6. Kraftwerk- "Pocket Calculator" (live)
7. Belle and Sebastian- "Lazy Line Painter Jane"
8. Panda Bear- "Bros"
9. LCD Soundsystem- "Yr City's A Sucker"
10. U2- Even Better Than The Real Thing

Sunday, April 15, 2007

When I Think the Guitar is Dead

The Twilight Sad are a band that I am really excited about. They bring that British Isle folk with white noise guitar and pounding drums. Good idea. It is like if The Pogues, The Walkmen, and Kevin Shields all started hanging out. This song in particular is just wonderful I think. Enjoy.

Grinderman

Sorry that it has been so long since I have posted. I have been lazy to be honest. Well, I thought I'd come back with a review of a return of one of my idols, Nick Cave. For you people who haven't been keeping up with the times, Mr. Cave has stepped outside of the Bad Seeds collective to create a little side project that still has Bad Seeds members in it called Grinderman. Grinderman released their album rather recently, and I oh so dearly love it.

From the very beginning I have been anticipating this album. Cave and the boys have certainly come through. It is filled with everything I expected and wanted plus more. I wanted a return of that dirty, crazy, and just plain fucked up Nick Cave. He certainly made this return, but did it with maturity and with a step forward. This certainly does not sound like any Cave album I've heard before. It certainly has the elements of other albums. Yet, there are some very different elements to this album as well. For instance Cave takes a step back from his beloved piano and plays guitar. Warren Ellis took a big role on this album with his violin. It isn't your usual playing either. Ellis comes in with some really crazy bombastic noises at times. Listen to "No Pussy Blues" and you'll know what I mean. The song "Grinderman" sounds just like its title. The guitar sounds as if it is grinding up scrap-metal. The song that wins the album is "Go Tell The Women." This lyrics seem to reflect the ideas of Cave and his men at this time in their lives. All I can say is when the song pauses and Cave just sings "Hey Hey Heyyyy" my heart sours. It just hits that spot. The whole album seems to be a representation of a man in his 40s dealing with sexual frustration (wife can't always put out), disillusionment with society and culture, and so on. In the end, Cave seems to want to bed his wife so so much.

Grinderman is a primal primal album. Cave and the boys wanted to do a departure from their poetic realism and noir. They wanted to scrape those feelings at the bottom of the barrel, when you are just having one of those "Ah fuck all you!" kind of days and just want to go home release any tension you have. The thing is Cave expresses these feelings so well whether they are described bombastically or very elegantly. Grinderman will knock you back and make you laugh out loud while at the same time really move your soul.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

I'll Pull a Simon Reynolds

Sorry, school has been getting me this week. Just haven't felt like writing. But have no fear.

I am really digging a few things right now

Panda Bear's Person Pitch: Man, this album is really something. I knew it was going to be an amazing album. It is just filled with so many sounds and textures. It is one of those crossover albums I feel. A lot of people could enjoy it. People into indie rock to electronic music could appreciate this album.

The Good, The Bad, and The Queen: It's pretty obvious I really dig Damon Albarn. I think the man can't make a bad album. He is filled with ideas. He is always a step of ahead of the game. This album is truly what I was asking for with music. It is melodic, spacey, dubby, rhythmic, inventive, soulful, beautiful, and melancholic in a way. People keep saying this but it is true, it is "Waterloo Sunset" meets dub music. I think Damon stole my #1 spot for album of the year.....again.

Nick Cave- Entire Discography: He is another character that is pretty flawless. I can't tell you the amount of entertainment I find in his music. If you aren't moved or utterly floored by this man lyric's, well I don't know what to do with you. He can make you laugh, cry, shake in fear, and many other things. Not to mention, his backing band is pretty good. That guitarist of his, Blixa, is another enjoyable character.

LCD Soundsystem- Sound Of Silver: The new flawless character of my generation, James Murphy. This album is tied with TGTBTQ. He really stepped forward on this album. The production is so tight and perfect. I don't know how he does it, but his drums are so well mic'd.

CHK CHK CHK !!!- Myth Takes: What a groovin album we got here. Man, the drums on this album just pound right through your skull at times. It is just lovely. I was not supposed to like this album, but it is just so damn good. Listen to it. You will be hooked. This will be the Summer party album.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Classic Album #2



"You lot! What?/ Don't stop, give it all you got!" Jesus, what a chorus! Sandinista is the one of the most underrated albums ever. It is my personal favorite Clash album. It is just so jam packed with songs. Some people would argue it is too long and is sometimes ridiculous. Sure, it is pretty long, and there are some pretty crazy songs on it. But that is what makes it so genius. I think this album kicks London Calling in the bullocks. It is more punk than any other album of the time period except for maybe PIL's Second Edition.

The Clash, at this time, were hanging out in New York. They were still loving their dub roots, but there was another musical genre that was just getting started in the borough of Queens. The Clash got interested in this new thing called Hip Hop. I think it was Joe Strummer that said that "The Magnificent Seven" was their attempt to do a Hip Hop song. Personally, that song is easily one of my top top songs ever. It is easily in the top ten greatest side ones track ones. This song is just one example of how this album is full of so many ideas and textures. Another personal favorite of mine is "Ivan Meets G.I. Joe." This song is filled with Dancehall blips and other noises going in and out. The song is just packed full of energy. That's something about this album that I think was captured so well, the energy of the band.

Dub was probably the number influence on the Clash. People could argue that 60s British Invasion bands were the main influences, but I see much more from Junior Murvin and Lee "Scratch" Perry. Dub has a rebellious sound and ideology with it, and the Clash loved that. On the song "One More Time in the Ghetto," the Clash reflect their dub tendencies. Also, immediately after that song there is "One More Time Dub." That alone is something Lee "Scratch" Perry would do, having an original song and dub version.

Of course we know the Clash as one of the truest examples of punk rock. This album has those songs as well. "Somebody Got Murdered" and "Police on My Back" contain those epic punk characteristics of the Clash. "Police on My Back" gives me chills to this day. There is just so much passion in that song, and you can't help but sing along to it.

Sandinista is easily the Clash's most sonic album. They were definitely expanding their horizons on this album. It has dub, rockabilly, hip hop, and punk influenced songs across the board. To me, this album is what makes the Clash the band we still talk about today. They didn't just sit and play the same old punk rock tunes. They branched out and got interested in other forms of music. The greatest bands all did that. This album is a clash. It's a clash of textures, influences, ideas, and amazing songs. London Calling is their most consistent album probably, but Sandinista is their most interesting and greatest album.

A Nostalgia for World Culture











Today is World Poetry Day. Slate has a gorgeous photo essay. Do look. The four above are my favorites: the top one is Joseph Brodsky standing on a roof in Petersburg when it was still called Leningrad; the second from the top is a man reciting Hungarian freedom poems after a brutal Soviet crackdown in Budapest; the third is an epic reading in an Iranian teahouse; the fourth is Borges the Argentine.

Some More Top 5's

Top 5 Screams of All Time
1. Colin Newman at the end of Wire's "Reuters" (thanks to M. Catalogues for reminding me)
2. Exene Cervenka's rising "Get ooooooooOOOOOOUT!" just before the first chorus in X's "Los Angeles"
3. James Dean Bradfield crying "I AM just a fashion accessooorrryyy!!!" in the Manics' "La Tristessa Durera"
4. John Lydon at the end of "Death Disco"
5. Kurt Cobain building to a mad frenzy in "Negative Creep"

Top Five Moments in a song by the Fall
1. The moment "Totally Wired" REALLY picks up ("can't you see?")
2. That lilting piano in "It's a Curse"
3. That same moment in "Telephone Thing" that Monsieur Catalogues mentioned.
4. The chorus in "Theme from Sparta F.C."
5. The climax of "Touch Sensitive"
Honorable Mentions: all of "Dead Beat Descendant," the chorus in "Squid Lord" where the drums stop and Mark's voices echoes beautifully against Brix's descending guitar riff, the "walk to work" part of "Hey, Student!"

Top Five Songs about life in 80's Britain
1. XTC- "Respectable Street"
2. The Smiths- "The Queen is Dead"
3. The Jam- "That's Entertainment"
4. The Waterboys- "Old England"
5. XTC- "King for a Day"
Honorable Mentions: "Ball and Chain" by XTC; "Spoilt Victorian Child" by the Fall; "No Thugs in Our House" by XTC (they might well have been the finest observers)

Top Five Bass Players
1. Paul Simonon (melodic and inventive, his basslines serve the songs well but don't merely follow the guitar)
2. Jah Wobble (the King)
3. Adam Clayton (the long-time secret ingredient in U2; listen to "Lemon" or "Zoo Station" or even "Where the Streets Have No Name" and tell me he's not essential to their sound)
4. Colin Greenwood (subtle and magnificent)
5. Alex James (like Adam Clayton, he's the secret essential ingredient and very underrated)

Top Five Spring/Summer Songs
1. Tie: "Squid Lord" and "Dead Beat Descendant" by the Fall
2. "She Bangs the Drums" by the Stone Roses
3. "Babies" by Pulp
4. "Radioactivity" by Kraftwerk, The Mix version
5. "Six Days" by DJ Shadow (it was quite fun to listen to that while watching CNN last July)

Top Five Most Badassssssssss MCs
1. Rakim
2. Mos Def
3. Nas
4. GZA
5. Most of the rest of the Wu-Tang Clan

Top Five Spring/Summer Albums
1. Tie: Anything by the Fall/ London Calling and Sandinista! by the Clash
2. Anything Damon Albarn commits to magnetic tape/ Doolittle and Bossnova by the Pixies
3. Pills Thrills n' Bellyaches
4. Since I Left You by the Avalanches
5. The La's

Top Five Soundtracks for future Baz Luhrmann Shakespeare film adaptations
1. Hamlet: "Transmission," "She's Lost Control" and "Atmosphere" by Joy Division; "The Cutter" by Echo and the Bunnymen; "It's a Curse" by the Fall; "Karma Police" and "Everything in its Right Place" by Radiohead; "Bad," "Staring at the Sun, " and "Wake Up Dead Man" by U2; "Blessed Night" by the Howling Bells
2. Macbeth: "The Fly" by U2; "Faster" by the Manics; "The Bell-Hit," "Low Happening," and "Across the Avenue" by the Howling Bells; "Love is an Unfamiliar Name" by the Duke Spirit; "Down by the Water" by PJ Harvey anything by Sons and Daughters of course
3. Henry IV, Parts I and II would have to be an all-English soundtrack: the Kinks, the Stones, Kate Bush, the Sex Pistols, the Clash, the Jam, XTC, the Smiths, Blur, the Libertines, etc.
4. Othello: lots of dreamlike but vaguely sinister trip-hop stuff, Massive Attack and Portishead and the like.
5. The Tempest: "The Killing Moon" undoubtedly, and lots of ethereal stuff: Kate Bush, Jason Pierce, Radiohead, and so forth...