May 31, 2004

The weather I’ve been caught under has been muddled as of late. Sunny skies have been greeted by rain, thunderstorms and as though flustered by the surly welcome offered, they decided to bring along something which resembled a tornado, for their last visit, a number of days ago. I have no real quarrels with such weather, and I often enjoy watching a thunderstorm pass me by. With this being said, I’ve been slowly relocating a number of songs to tape, so that I might be ready for the rains next visit. Here’s what I’ve put together as of this moment:

*Sigur Ros - Vaka (Of all the songs Sigur Ros have crafted, Vaka, is one of my favourites. I especially appreciate the version in which Jonsi’s vocals are left bare, that is, not altered to sound like a child, and wherein he strains his vocal chords to reach those high notes upon the climax. The version of which I’m speaking may be downloaded in video format on their website, for those who may be interested.)

*Philip Jeck - Wholesome (7, is easily Philips most accessible album and while how this finds you may vary, Wholesome is nonetheless a song of great celestial beauty, perfectly fit for such nights.)

*Max Richter - On the nature of daylight (Following a reading of a passage from a Franz Kafka text, this is a rather stirring track from Richter’s fine album, The Blue Notebooks. Kafka’s favourite instrument was apparently a violin and I find this song reminds me of a number of his stories.)

*Gavin Bryars - The Sinking Of The Titanic (An excerpt from a recording which took place in an abandoned water tower, the album is befittingly sub-aquatic, with taped narrations from survivors and diverse underwater sounds. Long sustained tones gradually give one the impression of searchlights running atop the waters surface at night.)

*Takagi Masakatsu - Harmony (I’m taking only a small snippet from what is a half an hour audio journal of Takagi’s travels through 41 locations. A great track for those who enjoy Chris Watson as well as a bit of glitch processing.)

*Piano Magic - Dark Secrets Look For Light (To this day, Low Birth Weight, remains a sadly overlooked album, and, at this point, one must imagine it will probably remain as such. This piece isn’t adorned with the lilting female vocals found in much of Johnson’s work, yet the meek guitar passages, set against a tale of someone searching for “an ugly wife,” are quite lovely. Near the end the protagonist seems to poke his eyes out at the sight of his fallen bride, an act which reminds of Oedipus Rex, and A Gentle Creature, by Dostoevsky.

*Angle - The Virus (Angle would seem to be a rather unknown band, yet on their debut, Silence Is Better Than Nothing, they display an obvious talent as well as resemblance to a band named Hood, specifically their landmark album, Cold House.)

*Gregor Samsa - 00 (Very nice male-female vocals emit thoughtful turns of phrase throughout these textured songs that often remind of Sigur Ros and the protagonist of the short story from which this band borrows its name. Thus far, Gregor Samsa, have only released a couple of ep’s, however, a debut full-length is expected to be let out rather soon and I for one, have high hopes. )

*Polwechsel - Framing 7 (Tension is built by the interplay between Michael Moser’s cello and Burkhard Stangl’s acoustic guitar, while feathery electronics from Christian Fennesz fill out this, the highlight from Wrapped Islands.)

Further suggestions as to what I might add would be welcome. Hopefully someone might find a band or two that they may wish to search out.

Todd Burns | 8:56 pm | Comments (2)

No update on the main site today due to the holiday. Enjoy the day off!

Todd Burns | 2:02 am | Comments Off

May 29, 2004

Did Tom and Ed ever lose it? I’d wager that Andrew Unterberger would say no. I would say pretty vehemently yes. Either way, it doesn’t deny that this is probably the best production they’ve done in at least two years. The key, of course, is the source material. The Chemicals have been looking for a suitable female voice to use since Beth Orton went off on her own after the second album. Check it. You won’t be disappointed.

Todd Burns | 9:39 pm | Comments (4)

May 28, 2004

I’m also delighted to see that Kelis (by far the sexiest woman in pop) has released the best track off Tasty as her new single. “Trick Me” is utterly fantastic, and is causing me (along with various other factors) to re-evaluate the whole Missy-vs-Kelis thing from last Winter when they both fired albums at us in quick succession. Back then I was siding most definitely with Missy, but the minimalist dancehall-lite of This Is Not A Test! hasn’t aged anywhere near as well as the eclectic R&B of Tasty. I guess I was too caught up in Timbaland’s whizzkidness to notice that the tunes were largely sapped of energy, which is ironic because I’ve totally (and finally) come around to recognising how good Under Construction is over the last few weeks, after 18 months of thinking it was three good tunes and a load of filler. Oh well…

Nick Southall | 5:24 pm | Comments (3)

So Rufus Wainwright is re-releasing Want One because he feels it got lost during the merger between Dreamworks and Universal; fair play, say I. What’s the point in investing time, blood, sweat, tears and effort in making a record (and a very good record at that) if it doesn’t then get promoted properly, and ends up sinking to a point well below that which it deserved? “Cult classic” status may be enough for some, but Rufus is a showman and he both deserves and desires more.

And what’s more Want One should be heard by more people, because it’s a great, great record. Even by Wainwright’s standards it’s a pompous, overblown and histrionic affair but by God he does pompous, overblown and histrionic better than anybody else. It’s like Moulin Rouge properly realised, the glitz and glamour of a baroque Broadway bordello channelled through decades of rock music, show tunes, shameless classical lifts (the opening tune steals liberally from Ravel’s “Bolero”; how audacious is that?!) and Rufus’ personal struggles of the last few years, struggles with boys, drugs, parents and heaven only knows what else. He probably described it best himself when he called it a “triumphant collapse”.

Wainwright has a gift for melody and delivery thereof that makes him sound like a jar of molasses smoking a fag, perched on a velvet cushion, as if he’s making it all up as he goes along. It’s ludicrous but it’s incredible. He sounds like he can’t be arsed and yet he’s got all of Broadway exploding behind him. It’s like Buckley and Sinatra- no, someone better than Sinatra, more fulsome, more given to bathos because bathos is much more affecting than pathos when it’s done right, completely through overblown and mawkish and pompous and out of the other side of ridiculousness into some beautiful other country that most other people are too embarrassed to even try and get to. “Oh What A World” ends like a proper show tune, afraid to stop while the applause is still continuing, images of Rufus descending a staircase in a gold lamé suit with a tear in his eye, half from the adulation and half from being addled. “Beautiful Child” is expensive rock with fanfares and silly, enormous choruses. “Vibrate” is two minutes of beautiful fluff about a mobile phone, about Electroclash, about being too old to dance to Britney. “Go Or Go Ahead” is humble-into-boastful-quiet-into-loud-whisper-into-anthem. “I Don’t Know What It Is” and “Vicious World” (wherein the chorus sounds as if he’s sinking about posh cold soup!) are impossible melodies, as if they’d come from Sondheim and Bacharach and Lloyd-Webber all working together. Supposedly at the same time he recorded Want One, Rufus also recorded another album’s worth of material (Want Two!) that consisted of the really long, dark and overblown stuff. Good heavens. I can’t wait to hear it…

Nick Southall | 5:13 pm | Comments (1)

Not a response to Todd’s review, but chunks of a review I couldn’t get to come together.

Its growing on me with further listens, but its not what I pay Slipknot for.

This isn’t exactly what I was expecting from the Rubin produced 3rd album by Slipknot, I didn’t want to hear the band stretching themselves, I wanted to hear them do what they do…faster, heavier and louder. And for that first listen I fell into the same tarpit that fans of The Bends fell into with the arrival of Kid A.

Slipknot albums traditionally open with a brief fucked sounding instrumental, letting an ugly, noisy barrage of sounds seep out and build up. This, and the quiet(ish)/loud chorus/verse juxtaposition used to be the extent of their sense of dynamics; the respite picking up pace before charging into a combination of right hook riff and drums permanently damaging the tiny hairy pink bits of your inner ear.

Those who loved Slipknot for their pace and channelled noise are likely to set the wheels in motion of beginning to dismiss the album on the strength of (or the apparent lack of) the opener. With “Prelude 3.0”s verses echoing The Cure’s Pornography and a chorus straight from Alice in Chains, this album uncoils itself as opposed to chest bursting from the headphones. A million light years away from the heavy grind of a song like Iowa’s relentless “Skin Ticket” or the dirgey atmospherics of its opener “(515)”.

Mainstream acts rarely feel the need, or have the musical vision to justify the numbers, to permanently have 9 members and on paper it looks like a recipe for disaster, and in real life it often is (see Wu-Tang). Having a DJ, a sampler/programmer, 2 percussionists as well as the more traditional 5 piece band line-up there was always scope with Slipknot to be doing so much more.

Vol.3 is edging towards expanding their parameters and has consciously set it sights on being more than this Summer’s Metal soundtrack to property damage, self/world loathing and serial killer schick. The choice of Rubin’s open mind and guiding hand seemed the logical choice for progression over Ross Robinson’s brand of pushing the players into ‘focused insanity’.

Something innately good about seeing 10 year old kids wearing t-shirts and hoodies proclaiming “People = Shit”. Slipknot have managed to bring the extremes of metal into mainstream pop culture, long live Kerrang!

Maybe heavier through atmospherics than previous work, but I wanted it to be harsher, heavier, faster, louder, uglier and sicker.

Scott McKeating | 4:14 am | Comments Off

May 26, 2004

Aww shucks. Here goes the dwindling threads of whatever remains of ‘indie cred.’ Whatever that should mean to anyone; take it or leave it. But in listening to Gomez’s newest release, and I know the review is still forthcoming and I might be stepping on toes here, I can’t help but feel this is a band that’s still sadly overlooked. I was never on board with much of their earlier material; the closest I ever came was with the more experimental moments on In Our Gun (which, sadly, were just too numerable). But on Split the Difference (I’m holding my tongue ’cause cheeky puns are just too numberable), they have toned down the experimentation a bit for what seems to a bit a pretty consistent effort. Tchad Blake’s production touches are obvious; the drums are a bit sturdier, and the guitars are much grittier than heretofore. The back-to-back “We Don’t Know Where We’re Going” and “Sweet Virginia” are at the album’s heart, and the strange-brew rhythms of the former are about as experimental as this one gets. I can’t stand the herky jerk guitar rock of “Where Ya Going?” but the meandering piano of “Meet Me In the City” picks it up, dusts it off, and leaves it properly behind. Gomez seems to have finally discovered that half-chewed experimentation and country-tonk Delta Blues don’t have to mash together on the very same track. There’s time for all of it.

Derek Miller | 2:56 pm | Comments (5)

May 25, 2004

A short announcement for you all, since we seem to be having trouble using the header space on the site recently. Today marks the beginning of a new column on the main site, A Kiss After Supper:

“In the exhausting effort to keep ahead of the tides, young friends, Stylus has a new column to offer you. We’re calling it A Kiss after Supper, and in it we’ll be tracing the expert use of pop music through some of the more music-friendly films of the past thirty years. With directors like Spike Jonze, Quentin Tarantino, and Wes Anderson using their robust appreciation for music in novel ways to document their stories through music as well as cinema, soundtracking is perhaps more critical to a film’s emotional tone than it’s ever been. As such, we thought it about time we wrote a little something on the issue. Appearing every other Tuesday under the Pop Playground banner, we’re pleased to plant a big sloppy Kiss After Supper on you….”

Check it out!

Todd Burns | 12:47 am | Comments Off

May 24, 2004

I apologize to everyone in advance; I seem to be on a sixties-pop kick. At work, one of the rare privileges of a small office set back from the rest a ways, I can play music a bit louder on my stereo than other scenarios might allow. Playing Jeff Beck’s Truth this morning, as the cool fog that’s plagued us in Minneapolis for nigh a week began to lift, I fell for the album all over again. I pushed the volume up two more notches. Yes, Jeff Beck’s material is spotty as hell and some of his later seventies material was pop-schlock; yes, he is the other Yardbird; yes, he seemed incapable of simple focus on the blues. But here, on his first solo album, he’s recruited a young, still shellshocked Rod Stewart and a plucky Ron Wood, both of whom would later use what they learned from this album to change the face of the Small Faces (yes, here’s where we come full circle from my last outing). Rough, outraged and demented, they saw away at blues standards from “You Shook Me” to “I ain’t Superstitious.” Beck gives the blues a criminal voice, as Cream and Jimi were slipping the genre acid. This is not psychedelic blues; it’s bloodied and tattered with the bruises of ole Robert Johnson’s pledge and it teeters along on Stewart’s stripped vocal chords for some of his best performances. At the album’s midpoint, as you stumble around looking for your glasses, Beck slips into mid-album reverie, backing “Ol’ Man River” with the folk classic “Greensleeves.” For those looking to depart from A Quick One, Between the Buttons, or Disraeli Gears, for example, I can think of no better stepping off point. . .

Derek Miller | 1:06 pm | Comments (15)

Through an oddity in my Netflix Queue, I had the pleasure of watching Le Cercle Rouge and Rififi in the span of only a week or two. Immediately after shutting off the DVD player and putting Rififi back in its sleeve, I started an internal debate as to which film was superior. Fairly quickly, I decided Le Cercle Rouge was better. Although the film’s closing sequence was utterly brilliant, and the acting by Jean Servais wonderful, Rififi lacked the tautness of its progeny.

That Le Cercle Rouge A) benefited from 15 years of updated style and B) borrowed some important things from Rififi like the silent heist scene makes me pause. Is it really a fair fight? Are they comparable? I’m not sure, but if they are, here’s why Le Cercle Rouge gets the nod in my opinion:

Nothing, not one scene in Le Cercle Rouge is superfluous. Events explain changes in relationships, not whiny or forced speeches. Corey risks his neck to save a stranger, Vogel, who in turn saves Corey from execution by a rival’s muscle. There’s no, “Thank you, we’re such good friends now,” talk. If someone saves your life you’re damn well friends now, and you don’t need to blather about it artificially. Director Melville understood the place of dialogue, and more importantly how to convey as much information as possible without it. Also, Yves Montand’s skilled acting as well as his extremely well written character, Jansen, stands out as the best of both films. It takes fearless art to show redemption granted through crime. A friend of mine once told her psychiatrist that the only reason she hadn’t killed herself was that she couldn’t stand to think of how her parents would feel. Her shrink told her that wasn’t a good enough reason. Fuck placing value on reasons. If finding a purpose gives one the will to live, it’s good enough. And so, robbing a jewelry store does for Jansen, and the redemption he experiences is just as touching and real as if he found joy by working with sick children or curing cancer. Redemption is redemption.

Anyone else want to weigh in?

Kevin Worrall | 12:11 pm | Comments (1)

May 22, 2004

A monstrosity whose very existence defies God and all laws of nature — the film, I mean.

Honestly, I could not in good faith not write about this movie. It’s as if poor Kenneth Branaugh wanted to shout to the whole world, “Really, people, I’m not Laurence Olivier or Orson Welles! So get off my back!!” Yet even that still doesn’t explain how Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein came to pass. To say nothing of Coppola’s production involvement or that quiet screenplay credit by Frank Darabont, was Kenneth Branaugh forced into this by the divorce court judge to settle up with Emma Thompson or something?

Let’s see — it starts with Branaugh, 34 at the time, playing teenaged whiz kid Victor Frankenstein in the Swiss countryside, the son of a brilliant doctor (Ian Holm) and a mother that looks about Branaugh’s age, who happens to be pregnant. He an his pregnant mother then dance to the family harpsichordist in the ballroom and mom faints, only to die during childbirth. Cue a scene three years later, Victor’s bearded now, and he goes to his mother’s grave site (a smaller Washington Monument, really, in the Swiss Alps) and says, “Mother, you should not have died. No one should ever have to die!!!” Now, that, my friends, is what they call “motivation.”

Ok, so sometime later he meets John Cleese, who, I shit you not, is a brilliant doctor who has learned how to stitch dead humans back together again as living creatures. Traumatized by the experience, Dr. Fawlty refuses to share with Victor his diaries. Thankfully, he’s knifed to death by someone, giving Victor the opportunity ten minutes later to read through his diaries and retrieve the secrets.

Needing a body, he walks out of his lab-or-a-tory, and wouldn’t you know it, Fawlty’s killer (Robert DeNiro, with a cockney accent in Switzerland for some reason) is hanging on the gallows ten feet outside its doorway.

Skipping ahead some, the monster becomes, of course, a kindly soul who teaches himself to read, counsels blind men and brings families potatoes. Unfortunately, no one can look at a hideous figure without immediately assuming he must be a killer. So, for some reason, he decides to become one, killing Frankenstein’s little brother in the forest one day. And, of course, the murder is pinned on the harpsichordist who is hanged, literally, on the spot, before anyone can verify she even did it. (as an aside, am I the only one who thinks that angry mobs just haven’t had the same verve since The Simpsons began?)

It’s at this point, I’ll admit that I fell asleep on the couch. But upon waking up, I discovered that Frankenstein’s love, Helena Bonham Carter, has also died somehow (tragically, no doubt), and the monster wants Victor to make him a beautiful lady monster. He does so, there’s some fighting over whose lady monster she really is, and eventually the monster Carter burns herself alive so no one can have her.

The whole thing ends with Victor and the monster hitching a ride on a Shackleton-esque boat trip to the North Pole, where ultimately, they are engulfed in flames on a funeral pyre on some iceberg as the ship sails off. Why? I have no idea.

I dare not suggest that Ms. Shelley might be rolling in her grave. But the film’s stink factor–the overacting, the senseless script, the overall aesthetic, even–is appallingly high, esp. for someone of Branaugh’s considerable talents, even if it’s not exactly genius. Still, let it not be said that he wasn’t channelling another famous director with Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. It’s just that it was Ed Wood or even Joel Schumacher this time. Woof.

Matthew Weiner | 12:36 pm | Comments (2)

So, must of us obsessive collectors of the recorded sound have to put up with “Hey, have you ever seen High Fidelity? You’re just like that guy!” comments roughly once every three weeks. And, considering most of us critics would rather give “D12 World” a positive review than praise anything remotely connected to Nick “Me So” Hornby, the main figure of representation we’ve had on the big screen in recent years has been Steve Buscemi as Seymour in Terry Zwigoff’s “Ghost World” (2000). I’m suffering from insomnia, so I’ve just watched the film twice in a row. And… well, it’s a little too accurate for my liking.

The point of the entire film seems to be that Seymour is obviously a very wrong individual. “Ghost World” seems to be a kind of purgatory that Enid enters when she meets Seymour for the first time, and one she can only escape by putting as much distance between her and him as possible. In the process of the movie, he costs Enid her friendship with her best friend, and cuts off his first actual meaningful relationship with a woman for four years for no real reason. He goes to a psychiatrist, and appears to be dominated by his mother. He’s incapable of conducting conversations with anyone.

“Ghost World” functions as a contemporary take on “The Catcher In The Rye”, the “everything sucks” protagonist (NB: I’d take John Bender over Holden Caulfield any day of the week) may seem appealing to someone of a certain age, but when you distance yourself from it by years… well, as Enid herself says “God, think about that… that’s actually totally depressing”. “Everything sucks” is not an acceptable worldview. The only character in the movie with any sense of optimism, Norman, eventually gets his reward: the bus comes. It’s pretty obvious where our sympathies are supposed to lie: nowhere.

Even so, the insights into the world of the “in too deep” music fan are pretty accurate. Take the painfully on-point representation of the vinyl trading party:

There are some records I will pay serious money for, provided they’re
a sincere V plus. Other than that I’d prefer to just have them on CD.

CDs will never have the presence of an original 78.

WRR-ONG! A digital transfer adequately mastered will sound
identical to the original. Do you have a decent equalizer?

I have a Klipsch 2B3.

Obviously the problem! You expect a ten-band equalizer to impart state of-the-art sound? Dream a little dream! etc…

And, sure, you can argue that “High Fidelity” does this as well, but… John Cusack loves The Clash. Enid loves The Buzzcocks. It’s not even a fucking contest.

Dom Passantino | 3:09 am | Comments (4)

May 20, 2004

Say what you will about Krautrock–that it was overplayed in the music press during the 90s, that Julian Cope overhyped it–but there was some magic afoot in 1970’s Germany. Nowhere was it more apparent than in the records and collaborations in which Dieter Moebius and Hans Joachim Roedelius, aka Cluster, took part. From the explosive noise painting of the duo’s earliest work to their hypnotic mid-70s drum-box-and-synth collaborations with Neu!’s Michael Rother (Harmonia and Zuckerzeit) to the stately instrumental elegance of their work later in the decade–not to mention the plethora of engaging side-projects they took on–few outfits can genuinely claim to have been as quietly influential as Cluster were. Arguably the most important of his many influences, a transfixed Brian Eno would not only collaborate with them, but call Harmonia “the world’s most important rock group,” basing much of his ambient concept on what he had discovered during the (largely failed) experiments he undertook with them in the mid-‘70s.

Though Cluster motoriked through three different genres in the decade–proto-noise, proto-techno, and proto-ambient–there was one quality that endured throughout: simplicity, both texturally and harmonically. It would permeate the compositions of both men. Far from being a monolithic partnership, each member had his own personality; of the two, Roedelius’s work would prove the more stereotypically Germanic, featuring driving rhythms and sleek melodies, where Moebius’s compositions took themselves less seriously and were lighter, goofier — presaging some of his work with producer Conny Plank in the next decade.

While one can reasonably argue that the rise of dance music in the last 20 years can largely be attributed to the increasing availability of electronic sequencers, before any such things existed, Cluster created mantric loop music. On records such as Zuckerzeit and 1976’s Sowiesoso and the two Harmonia records, they did so not electronically but manually, playing themes and rhythms over and over by hand – brilliantly…but not quite perfectly. That they were performed on clavinets, early drum machines and wheezing synthesizers only heightens the sense of warmth, frailty, and, above all, humanity in their work.

The creeping pastoralism of their later records would seem as far from the Stockhausen-influenced early work as one could imagine. And while it would prove less overtly emotional, almost statuesque at times (one track “Schön Hände, means “Beautiful Hand”) it would be equally simple in scope and overall shape. Replacing the harsher electronic textures of the Rother collaborations were acoustic pianos, the gentle, round tones of the Fender Rhodes and synthesizers — instruments that would begin to appear on Sowiesoso, later dominating the Eno collaborations. The effect was to create a type of New Age music that delighted in consonant texture and harmony without drowning it in syrupy sentiment.

Cluster went on to do several more records, apart and together, reuniting somewhat disappointingly in the mid-90’s. But regardless, its legacy is undeniable and influence remarkably broad. Not bad for a couple of guys mucking about in the countryside.

Matthew Weiner | 6:08 pm | Comments (7)

Being as I’m so enamoured with the new Throbbing Gristle EP Now I figured I’d waffle some more like I did here. First track “X-ray” begins as a minimal hum, an electrical thrum (think of the opening scenes of Alien as the Nostromo flickers back to life) and slowly 6 or so light rhythms build and circle each other and then there’s a heartbeat. Then its gone, ending with a light static fuzz which sounds uncannily like crickets at night.

The possibly Xylophone chime derived melody line on “Almost Like this” is both sweetly pop and as unnerving as their melodic past work, snips of feedbacked guitar stretch through the track reverberating on exit. Even this, the most obviously structured track on Now, has a beat made from late night footsteps which is superseded by the percussion sound of someone trying to bust open your front door.

The finale “Splitting Sky” is the darkest of all; over a tearstained backing of choked and chopped distant cries comes a harsh distorted petition from the darker half of Gen’s colourful past.

Shame they split 23 years ago.

Scott McKeating | 4:07 pm | Comments (1)

May 19, 2004

Oh, this is just stupid. I’ve written this review five times so far and every time I just get sucked into some kind of I’m-too-smart-for-KISS, I’ve-got-Good-Taste semi-ironic objectivism. What gives? How stupid am I? (Don’t answer that) Okay, here’s the deal: I’ll pick up a big pile of books by Greil Marcus and Hanif Kureishi, clippings about Steve Albini and Sun Ra and The Rock Snob’s Dictionary Pts 1, 2 and 3… and I’m going to throw them all out the window, preferably flaming. I’m going to stop trying to find meaning in noodly indie and post-rock (post? When did it die!) and stop mistaking understatement and melancholia for brilliance. The simple reason for this moment of arguably clinical madness? On Thursday night at Rod Laver Arena, I Went, I Saw, I Bought The T-Shirt. You could say I got religion.

KISS’ third farewell tour in about as many years had everything that rock‘n’roll is apparently not supposed to have these days: klieg lights, glitter cannons, flashpots, neon-lit stairways to heaven – but it was as natural and as brilliant as Jack White’s pretending to be a boondocks technophobe is phoney and crass. When that familiar voice boomed, “Alright Melbourne, you wanted the best…” and the crowd yelled along, “…you got the best, the hottest band in the world, KIIIIISSS!” you felt a combination of the thrill of opening exactly the Christmas present you’d asked Santa for in secret code and that terror in the base of your throat when your Library teacher yelled “you’re all not going until somebody owns up!” Yes, seeing KISS is scary, but not because of KISS themselves – Gene Simmons’ “demon” is about as frightening as the jolly Prep School tutor he once was – but because of the very real possibility that you’ll lose your mind and never be the same again. But that’s a good thing, right? Right! Look only at the two systems analysts in ironed Westco jeans, nice shirts, wire-rimmed glasses… and KISS make-up, or the five-year-old boy who knows all the words to Lick It Up, or the young Indian man with the fringed leather jacket and Paul Stanley fromullet – these disparate people have found something they can believe in and somewhere they can belong, no questions asked. Seeing Gene and Paul trotting around the stage in their silly high boots and meticulously Bedazzled spandex is not as ridiculous or embarrassing as the cynics and naysayers would have you believe. In fact, it is incredibly moving; they’re like proud old race-horses who won’t get off the track – and if you’d wish them put down, you’d have to have a hole where your heart should be, a hole lined in cheap Omsk lead. And when an excitable Skeeter type in the ’96 tour t-shirt and Michelle’n’Ferret jeans yells, “get Ace outta rehab ya fuckin’ cunts!” and everyone nods sagely, it’s because they wish the former lead guitarist well – but Tommy Thayer’s doing a great job too, for sure. And when Paul asks us to join in welcoming the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, “KISS Symphony, mini-style, but big”, in a true moment of rock Zen, and Skeeter yells, “blow the fuckin’ roof off the joint, ya fuckin’ cunts!” it’s the warmest welcome the MSO’ve ever received. And when they play God Gave Rock And Roll To You II and blow the confetti cannons and you play air drums to Kenny Loggins on air bass, Skeeter on lead guitar, Con The Fruiterer on rhythm and everyone in the house on vocals, it’s a spiritual experience. Your shonky half-full Bic lighter is less likely to singe your thumb-tip as it is to shoot a gym-class rope straight to heaven. Two-and-a-bit-hours later, it’s all over too soon.

It’s not the fumes from Greil and Albini’s smouldering papery corpses that makes me say all this, before you assume as much. Rock‘n’roll, as Joan Jett scolded Rolling Stone a year back, is still something that’s sacred to some people, hard as that may be to imagine in today’s dire landscape. It is hard to believe – when was the last time you felt accepted at some interminable indie gig? The only sense of togetherness you felt was probably borne out of the fact that four of you were wearing the same clapped-out Converses. Rock‘n’roll is about incredible risks and the possibility that, in offering your grand creations to the world, you’ll look like a total dickhead. Where’s the risk, where’s the spirit in staring at your shoes and strumming an A-chord? Stomping around dressed like a space-goon while your barrel chest strains the front of your pants as you holler “Watch out! ‘Cause I’m a war machine” and gurgle fake blood that streaks over the greasepaint that’s covering your wrinkles? That is rock‘n’roll. God Bless KISS and all the wonderful people who’ve found, in them, something to believe in. As one dear KISS army recruit said in the paper on the weekend, they make you feel special. Which, in the end, is the most daring thing any rock band could ever do.

Clem Bastow | 8:49 pm | Comments (6)

When I was still in college, I knew that if I ever was on my deathbed and had one album to play, it would be Ronnie Lane’s Anymore for Anymore. Don’t ask me why I thought about these things. In listening to that album again the other day, though my tastes have changed drastically over the past couple of years, I must say it’s still as revelatory an experience as I remembered it. Sadly, Lane seems completely lost in the annals of folk/grease-rock. The Faces, and their previous incarnation as the Small Faces, put together some of the best Stonesy rock in the early-seventies not penned by Richards/Jagger. A Nod is As Good as a Wink. . . is grungy bluesrock at its most decrepit, and though Ooh La La was a step backwards, the Lane-written title track and “If I’m On the Late Side” were some of its proudest moments. With Ron Wood and Rod Stewart pushed to the front, Lane never got his proper due, though the rest of the band knew exactly who was driving their sound. When he left the collapsing Faces and released Anymore for Anymore in 1974, he reverted to his more folky songwriting, and the result was one of the landmark albums of the mid-seventies. Still, I’ve never actually met anyone who owned a copy. Sure, it’s harder to find than his half-assed soundtrack with Wood, Mahoney’s Last Stand, or his one-off collaboration with Pete Townshend (both for too obvious reasons), but it’s a far more concise effort. Each song glides into the next without strain. In a perfect world, this would be the ideal candidate for a Classic Music Review.

Derek Miller | 10:59 am | Comments (3)

May 18, 2004

Loved the Rick Rubin producer blurb. A lot of people hate him because he makes somewhat seminal bands “mainstream,” but that’s shite, as complaints go. What he does to these bands (i.e. clean up their sound, put the mic closer to the singer so he doesn’t have to sing so much as purr, force bands to cut twice as many songs as they’re accustomed to and cull those to the best 12-15 for the album, and attempt to make everything as controversial as possible for the sake of sales) is admirable.

On “What You Are” from the Audioslave disc, when Chris Cornel sings “And when you wanted me / I came to you / And when you wanted someone else / I withdrew / And when you asked for light / I set myself on fire” and on the word “myself” Rubin overdubs what sounds like a grill full of lighter-fluid soaked coals being ignited … well, it may not be genius, but it most definitely ROCKS!

In Rubin we trust.

Todd Burns | 6:13 pm | Comments (2)

May 16, 2004

It may be fitting that a band whose name Aurore Rien, which roughly translates into “a mornings nothingness,” surrendered themselves to the dawn, never to greet the dusk of their career. For those who knew Telesthesia and Sedative For The Celestial Blue, (their two ep’s) the young band seemed shrouded in much promise.

Without going into much detail, Aurore Rien were capable of drawing you into an exclusive world where getting lost amid open pastures of ambient guitar passages was a true delight. What with Sedative For Celestial Blue, their best work in my opinion, being re-released, apparently early this year, I do recommend those with even a mildly piqued interest and moment to spare, give a look into Aurore Rien themselves.

Admirers can do more than simply enjoy the nostalgia, however, as Chris Schafer and Mike Ystad (lead singer and keyboardist of Aurore Rien) have continued on under the guise Lights Out Asia. Garmonia, is the title of their debut full-length, an album I’ve been enjoying as of late. Garmonia, sees the band not quite strip themselves of the extended guitar passages, which often read like lines of poetry, but they are more of an accessory to the drawn out ambient glitch textures which now clothe them.

“Chapters Of A Red Sky,” is one of the albums highlights. An autumnal track with rustling beats and melancholy ambient rapture reminiscent of Manual, what I admire most about this song is its patience and breadth. Schafer has a lovely voice, one many would be far too tempted to wield brazenly, yet in a life span of nine minutes his voice isn’t implanted until after the six minute mark. Before the aforementioned vocals, the electronic beats wipe the sleep out of their eyes and synthetic orchestration takes a turn for the dramatic. Though I used the word “autumnal” earlier, Garmonia really makes for lovely summertime music. Last night, having arrived back from University I was out driving with a friend, whom I had not seen in some time, through the countryside and this albums weepy fragility soon entwined itself with the moment.

Todd Burns | 8:07 pm | Comments Off

May 11, 2004

Not many Hip-Hop acts stop in Newcastle Upon Tyne, UK. But I just caught GZA at a live show.

I’m half mortal right now (Mortal is slang for very very drunk) so it’ll be a brief ans lopsided ‘review’. As the best lyricist the Wu have to offer (possibly excusing Masta Killah) his live show lacked the punch and energy that you could imagine Red/Meth or GFK giving out, but more than made up for it in wordage. The highlight were the 3 (so far unreleased) accapellas that he did when the beats and the lights stopped and we got to hear what makes him what he is; lyrics. Although me and some pisshead I was talking to outside agreed that it was really annoying when he dropped his Wu verses alongside the beats and then the song would instantly stop seeing as no other Clan members were there to fill in. My ticket said that Masta Killah would be there!!!!!!!!! He wasn’t…

I have to take time out to diss the warm ups acts though, they deserve special mentions for utter wiggerly crapness. The DJ (Maroon?) continuously spoiled his retro set with really bassy one note scratches, and then had the gall to bring up his energy-less mate on stage to shout along with selected lyrics. This guy was so static that he actually put his hat back on, such was the lack of heat and general interest generated by his presence.

I’ve waited a long time to see GZA, and I came away respecting his words even more.

Scott McKeating | 7:45 pm | Comments (3)

The Shitter is more like it.

But let’s go back a bit: a good film about gambling or casino culture can go a long way toward mitigating even the most mediocre filmmaking. 1973’s The Sting, Newman and Redford’s follow-up to Butch Cassidy is little more than lightweight fun. Scorcese’s Casino, whilst among the filmmaker’s worst films–a sloppy, 3-hour version of Goodfellas in a casino, as it were–is almost saved by Don Rickles and some coke-fueled Vegas “insider” bits that give you the impression the filmmakers know how casinos are really run. And Rounders, fired by a nifty Edward Norton performance, is leagues better than John Malkovitch’s Russian accent would have you believe.

Trust me when I say, though, that The Cooler is wholly and entirely unsavable - worse than even Kevin Worrall said in his Stylus review a few months back and not worth a rental, much less the $8.50 price of admission. Listen, I’m as big a fan of William H. Macy as the next would-be indie film snob - not only does nobody play the sad clown like him, but as he’s shown in films such as David Mamet’s Oleanna, he’s also capable of tremendous swagger and even a palpable sense of danger. And when it comes to malice (the trait, not the movie), Alec Baldwin can snarl with the best of them, if given the right role (such as that Glengarry Glenn Ross walk-on).

But honestly nothing can prepare you for the wretched, painfully bad filmmaking of this movie. First off, Macy is utterly, pathetically typecast as Bernie Lootz here - that dog has never hung quite like it does here. Bernie’s a Loser, you see - a bigger loser than Macy’s brace-getting, game-show-kid-grown-up Magnolia loser, a bigger loser than his mulletted, porn-filming, wife-humiliated Little Bill in Boogie Nights loser, even a bigger loser than his Really Lame Dad losers in Jurassic Park III and Pleasantville. Such a loser that his job in The Cooler is to bring his loser qualities to gamblers in the casino, in the hopes that his crap-ass luck will rub off on them and save the house some cash.

Baldwin, nominated for his turn as the Old Fashioned Tough Guy Who Runs the Casino, is altogether less impressive here than you’ve been told. Sure, his Shelly is Mean - he cripples people, beats up girls and so forth. But he’s also Dignified - he clings to old Vegas because the new, “Disneyland” Vegas sickens him. And (spoiler alert) he shows Compassion, mercy-killing old drug addicted lounge singers, before cradling them in his arms and, in his words, “weeping like a baby” he loves them so much. That’s this movie’s idea of a well-rounded character.

Still, all of this could be forgivable in the right film, as hamfisted and predictable as some of it may seem; cliches, after all, do exist for a reason. But in the hands of director and co-writer Wayne Kramer, the film’s an embarrassing parody of these cliches. To begin with, its sense of pacing seems inspired by the attention span of a four year-old that’s been held back a grade. For instance, when the film begins, Bernie’s a complete wash-out. Then he gets laid, and two minutes later, his matted-down hair is poofy and parted differently. He’s up, he walks with a swagger and his luck is a-changing! Then, Shelly tells Bernie’s girl to get out of town because his casino’s losing money with all that good luck. Next scene, he’s down again - a loser. Two minutes after that, the girl comes back and Bernie’s hair is even poofier! He’s up! And so on — that’s the kind of pacing here. And this is to say nothing of Paul Sorvino’s smack-addled singer, who’s dead so fast, you wonder why he bothered taking the role.

Then there’s the whole “this-is-how-it-works-in-casinos” inside-baseball factor. Which sucks. For instance, Bernie calls suckers in casino-talk “Easy Marks” — rich people who let on that they have fat wallets, for instance. And of course, a few scenes later you see Bernie pulling into a parking space, with a reflection in the foreground of a neon sign that reads: “EZ-Market” with the “e-t” flickering on and off. The most subtle thing about the scene is that the neon sign is upside down.

The whole notion of a cooler–that is, someone who is paid to cool off hot gamblers–should be engaging…but it’s played so badly, it becomes laughable within a half hour. First off, Bernie seems less a cooler than an X-File his luck is so ludicrously contagious. When Bernie’s down, you half expect gamblers to start decomposing on the spot everything goes so badly. The opposite, of course, is true of when Bernie’s in his post-coitus luck stage — at that point, every person in the casino wins at the same time. It’s literally, that not believable. You start to wonder Shelly goes to such lengths to keep Bernie from leaving-maiming, punching women, etc. — if he just got rid of his ass, maybe the casino wouldn’t go broke inside of ten minutes.

I could go on, but I won’t. Suffice it to say, The Cooler drags down every actor in the bunch. No wonder IMDB has a reader post that says: “This is honestly the worst movie I have ever seen.” It pretty much is.

Matthew Weiner | 6:41 pm | Comments (8)

The Tea Party’s Jeff Martin introduces the “Self-Tuning guitar” to the world. Oh, great. Now he not only looks and sings like Jim Morrison, he’s grown as lethargic as Morrison, too!


Todd Burns | 9:03 am | Comments (1)

May 7, 2004

Bad news for Non-Prophets MC Sage Francis, whose LP Hope was one of my favorite hip-hop albums from last year.
Here is what he posted on the Non-Prophets forum about his experiences right after Coachella.

Went to the throat specialist, an appointment I made 3 months prior to this visit. A visit I should have made years ago.
The doctor entered the room and shot some Novocain into my nose that went down my throat. He left. I went numb. He came back.
Shoved a metal scope into my left nostril that reached into my throat.
He looked into it and poked around for about 10 seconds.
Pulled it out, turned around and said, “This is not good.”
He sat down.

“You have polyps on each vocal cord. Not only that, but due to excessive straining through the years you have developed a nodule on TOP of one of the polyps, which is rare. Polyps can usually be cured with lots of rest to your voice, but nodules can only be removed with surgery. Surgery will cause a distinguishable change to your voice. Without taking care of these things right now you risk losing your voice forever. How were you able to perform like this?”

“It’s been like this for years.”

“Well, you aren’t going to last much longer. I am going to give you medication and for the next two weeks you can’t speak. Not a single word. No sound. It is the only way to bring the swelling down. When you come back in 2 weeks and your throat is better I will have a better idea of what we need to do.”

Went to the pharmacy and picked up the meds. Called everyone close to me and told them I can’t speak for the next two weeks (which in all actuality could go on longer than two weeks.) Came home and said my last audible “I love you” before going to bed and waking up the next morning with notebook in hand.

I avoided the inevitable for too long, but there aren’t any pit stops on the ladder I’ve been climbing. Now is the best time for me to deal with this issue, and I feel no sorrow about it. No regrets. I played through the pain to the point where it actually hurt my throat to hold a normal conversation. But if I didn’t perform as frequently as I did or with the amount of intensity as I did, then no one would know who I was and my words would have been wasted with whispers. I played my hand and received my winnings. Now I can afford the surgery and treatment that I wouldn’t have needed if I never raised my voice at all. It’s a fair trade off.

Whatever happens, this Epitaph album will be recorded. It is half recorded already. While on silent treatment, I will be fine tuning the lyrics and when I am allowed to speak again I will be back in the vocal booth. I will be doing less shows. No two hour long marathons. I will say more with less words. It’s the perfect situation for someone who doesn’t really like to talk anyway.

Thank you for taking the time to read this.



David Drake | 4:27 pm | Comments (1)

There is an abundance of timbre in the human voice, which no orchestra possesses. Nature seems to have endowed the curious instrument, with subtle nuances for which music has no equivalent. For those who also venture out to seek more foreign musical terrains, it is thus rather unfortunate, that they will eventually happen upon a bridge, and be caught aloof by a suspicious little troll who will not allow them to cross without paying forth a toll. The troll declares: “Either you trod back through those traditional planes where the human voice rises and falls, warbling as though from the throats of birds, or you cross and abandon it forever.” In actuality the poles are not so distinct, however, a number of days ago I came to realize, with some surprise, that the human voice hadn’t embedded its footprint in any of the musical paths I had been stumbling through.

Such an unfolding of events should probably not strike with much surprise. Those unafraid to wield their voices, often employ it so as to enforce a rigid structure upon those unruly little subjects of sound. So it comes as no revelation that when granted freedom from this totalitarian dictator, the voice, that, like those who attended a Catholic all boys school when they were young, those unruly little subjects of sound rebel as though there’s no tomorrow.

This is not to say that the various avenues of experimental instrumental music are not pleasing enough. Indeed, as of late, I have found other rewards in those rather alien alcoves, which would have otherwise remained dormant. In the absence of the voice, other sounds, such as the doomed teetering of the ship found in Nurse With Wound’s, Saint Marie Celeste, have begun to construct bridges, which lead to similar responses. As these new bridges are built, its seems as though the way in which you reach those desired responses matters little.

The voice may then be seen in a precarious situation. If these new bridges, which lead to similar responses, can and are being erected, than perhaps the voice needs to find new corridors of expression or sink into the image of a worn out metaphor, now riddled with cliche. To me, a voice in conventional form, (verse/chorus/verse) or expression (strained emo cries), seems akin to a poets use of rhythm. Poets mockingly turned their backs on rhythm (though not all) long ago, and though the musical version may have a longer life span, unless it finds new habitats, I wonder whether it too must die at some point.

These are a few reasons why I was pleased to discover Maja Ratkje’s album entitled, Voice, a number of weeks ago. Made up of eleven pieces, Voice, utilizes Ratkje’s flexible voice as a sound source. Throughout, Ratkje’s vocal prowess is exhibited and the results simply stunning. Often she plays with contrasts (seductive/painful), as on “Vacuum,” where her a-capella singing is threatened by a squall of echoes, or “Insomnia,” wherein torturous screams are interrupted by laughter. Once the album closes it becomes quite clear that there remains an abundance of trails for the voice to pass through, if it should so please. A voice can communicate with the listener as a beautiful fluting sound, but also, perhaps just as well through these unorthodox, almost bestial snarls and screams. At times these wordless stirrings are able to better communicate than words (one of the reasons why I enjoy Sigur Ros), and though I don’t believe anyone should run away from words (or traditional forms) altogether, a place where they don’t reign supreme, definitely makes for a nice vacationing spot.

Todd Burns | 10:35 am | Comments (1)

May 6, 2004

I am not trying to pullyoo! Even though I would I would like too! IthinkIthink youa you a rilly fittt!

(click on the cassette and select ‘3′)

William B. Swygart | 5:55 am | Comments Off

May 4, 2004

Reading Pitchfork’s review of the Kill Bill Vol. 2 soundtrack (which is off base in a bunch of ways in my opinion) after hearing it for the first time in one sitting today was interesting. My favorite song on the soundtrack, and I don’t expect many to agree with me, was the reviewer’s pick for the only bad song there.

And, you know, I sympathize. It’s a cover of an old Zombies song, done in a trip-hop stylee. It’s got a Play style sample from an old blues song. And it’s by Malcom McfrigginLaren. But I still like “About Her”, and not just a little. I think both volumes have great soundtracks, but “About Her” was honestly the only bit of either movie where I sat bolt upright and went “What the hell is this?” Some of the other great stuff (”Twisted Nerve”, “Battle Without Honor Or Humanity”, “A Satisfied Mind”, etc) had me grinning, but nothing else captured my attention in quite the same way.

And given how I normally feel about this sort of thing, that means McLaren has done some sort of weird alchemy here. Which is cool, but utterly unexpected, which makes it even cooler.

Ian Mathers | 12:27 am | Comments (1)

May 3, 2004

Recently, I had the opportunity to speak with Stephin Merritt of the Magnetic Fields over the phone. Notorious for his hostility in interviews, Merritt was terse, baritone, and – to this interviewer — terrifying. Expansion of any sort seemed to be out of the question for the man; as far as I knew, he was worrying about a maximum word count. Which is not to say that the conversation was entirely useless, but that tangential insights, which often mark the highlights of interviews, were not practicable.

In the nearly five years since the Magnetic Fields’ three-disc masterpiece, 69 Love Songs, Merritt has seemingly been everywhere but under the words “Magnetic Fields”. With his side projects, he’s delivered two full-length albums: the 6ths’ Hyacinths and Thistles and Future Bible Heroes’ Eternal Youth. On his own, he’s written original soundtracks for two independent films, Eban & Charley and Pieces of April, the latter containing four new Magnetic Fields tracks, contrary to my generalization.

Merritt says he hopes to continue composing scores in the near future, but more significantly, the Magnetic Fields’ highly anticipated seventh album, i, arrives in stores this week. Asked about the title, the intentionally simplistic songwriter responds that it does not signify more personal lyrics, but merely reflects his tendency to begin song titles with the letter “i”. Apparently, he had written several songs beginning with the letter, so he just decided to continue the trend and organize the songs alphabetically. Any sense of cohesion on i is purely coincidental, since the songs were ordered by title, not sound. It seems like a cop-out from a more meaningful explanation, but it’s probably true.

Press releases note many differences in i’s sound — for instance, Merritt provides all the vocals for the first time in Magnetic Fields history — but there is no mistaking the Magnetic Fields. The songs, of course, are all about love, in the most self-deprecating sense of the word. They are also unmistakably “pop”; one must remember that Merritt, despite his affiliations with the indie crowd, aims for the charts. Asking Merritt his favorite song from his band’s new album only compounded this notion, as his response (“It’s Only Time”) came with the explanation that he thinks “it could be a big hit”.

As for my personal favorite, I’d go for “I Don’t Believe You”, a magnificent slice of pop replete with what can only be labeled Merrittisms: “So you quote love unquote me” or “So you’re brilliant, gorgeous, and ampersand after ampersand”. The song was written in 1998, but did not find a place on 69 Love Songs because Merritt, oddly enough, did not think of it as a love song back then (but does now). This is not the only song that could have found a place on 69 Love Songs, though, as most of i is composed of that album’s general atmosphere. With only brief reflection, this might appear impossible given the opus’ obvious diversity, but long-time fans will note that few, if any, echoes from previous Magnetic Fields can be heard on i, making it an affair strictly tied to its direct predecessor.

At this point, I’ll close my discussion of i and leave further judgment for Stylus’ official review. As a final word, though, I highly suggest attending The Magnetic Fields’ upcoming concerts for those in their range, especially if Andrew Bird is opening. Last week’s Philadelphia show was well worth the price.

Kareem Estefan | 8:18 pm | Comments Off

May 2, 2004

Putting aside their comeback in the 80s for a moment and even their mid-70s heyday, what was it about early King Crimson that so connected with me as a 15 year-old boy? Was it the utter pretension of it all, the grandiosity of the Mellotrons, the ludicrous Shakespearean poesy about the end of the world and the madness of life? Was it the purported rejection of pop music convention? Was it the jagged edged bombast of the overdubbed saxophones, the post-Django guitar runs, or the stutter of Michael Giles’ drums? Or was it just that it sounded like nothing else I had ever heard?

Listening to a few of official bootlegs from the era (71-72, in particular) to have flooded the market in recent years, I think the answer might well be all of the above. To its detractors, King Crimson’s music remains inpenetrable and unbearable, not to mention somewhat un-musical. But it’s their loss; King Crimson may have been deeply flawed, but they were also one of the most engaging intersections of “high art” and pop to come out of progressive rock in the early 70s. Without question, the stuff–a hybrid of English jazz and classically-oriented rock–fails as much as it succeeds — there are times when the lack of a proper pop sensability threatens to undermine even the most heroic left-field experiments. Like, you’re fucking around with pop songs in there, so just give us a tune already.

But in other respects, as I listen to bootlegs of what was supposedly their “worst” band (the 1972 Islands band with future BadCo bassist, the much-maligned Boz Burrell, on vocals), it’s hard to argue that Robert Fripp wasn’t onto something impressive — albeit quirky, generally humorless and a lot less important than he probably thought it was. Fripp’s constant dwelling on the tritone–the most dissonant musical interval, once associated with…the Devil(!!)–indeed returns like a Wagnerian leitmotif throughout the group’s first four records as the basis for the music’s melodic and harmonic structure. The effect was that the band had a powerful, if sometimes off-putting, musical language that was all its own in pop. As a bonus, it helped make Sinfield’s most over-the-top lyrical blatherings seem almost visceral — no small feat.

And unlike so much other prog, there’s also a quaint, Old-Europe sense in songs like “I Talk to the Wind” and “Cadence and Cascade” about what lyricism should be. There’s the feeling that superior instrumental technique should actually serve something greater than sycophantic audience approval — it certainly added to the band’s formidable ensemble power. For sure, neither helped them on the charts, where their prog rock counterparts (and, in some cases, alumnus) so succeeded. But in both cases, Fripp’s stubborn English quirkiness has ultimately proven the group somewhat more bonafide progressives as well.

Of course, for all the interesting mucking about, there’s also the sense that Fripp doesn’t really know what he’s going for, which might be the real reason I loved it so as a teenager. It’s is probably why he disbanded the group abruptly after these American ‘72 shows for the “classic” mid-70s’ lineup, which replaced Sinfield and his Formentera Ladies with what came to be regarded as the finest heavy metal improv in rock. It was probably for the best, but sometimes it’s the failures that I love more than the successes.

Matthew Weiner | 6:06 pm | Comments (9)

I was this close the other day to emailing John Darnielle and asking him what genre he’d like The Mountain Goats to be categorised as on my iPod. I had them down, jokingly, as ‘Indie’, but since I only ever use that term as a pejorative these days it seemed unfair. And so I purged it from iTunes. Belle & Sebastian and Clearlake became ‘Alternative / Pop’ alongside Pulp, New Order, Cornelius and The Cure. Delays, Yo La Tengo and The Clientele became ‘Ambient / Dreampop’, sitting alongside Bark Psychosis, Bows, Spiritualized and My Bloody Valentine. Embrace are now ‘Alternative & Punk’, in the company of !!!, The Specials, Disco Inferno and Teenage Fanclub (maybe TFC should be ‘Alternative / Pop’?). The Postal Service became ‘Electronic’, in the company of Vive La Fete, Depeche Mode and Junior Boys. Maybe New Order should be ‘Electronic’ too? And I have to get rid of ‘Ambient’ – it’s silly to have a separate section for it with only 30 or so songs in, when they could all happily fit in either ‘Electronica / Dance’ or ‘Ambient / Dreampop’. And don’t even get me started on what The Streets, Dizzee Rascal and Wiley are! Anything even loosely fitting the template gets deigned ‘Hip Hop / Rap’. Except the stuff that’s down as ‘R&B’. But there’s one Salt ‘n’ Pepa song in ‘R&B’ and one in ‘Hip Hop / Rap’. And is Kamaal The Abstract actually Hip Hop anyway? Or Tricky? Because Massive Attack ended up in ‘Electronica / Dance’. Talk Talk have some stuff in ‘Alternative / Pop’ and some in ‘Avant-garde’, along with Scott Walker and The Penguin Café Orchestra. And then there’s The Tosca Tango Orchestra’s soundtrack to Waking Life, which is down as ‘Soundtrack’ even though it could fit in ‘Avant-garde’, or even have it’s own ‘Tango’ genre made for it. I got rid of the ‘Classical’ section a while ago, deleted Mozart and Arvo Part. Who wants to listen to Requiem on the train? And then there’s the ‘Folk’ genre, with The Strands and a few Nick Drake songs in it. And ‘Funk’ which has Sly Stone, some Lee Dorsey, Funkadelic and Gene Harris. And it seems nuts to call Guns ‘n’ Roses and Jeff Buckley and David Bowie and Love all ‘Rock’. And Robert Wyatt. And Rufus Wainwright. And The Cult. And that one Pearl Jam song (“Given To Fly”). And “Louie Louie”. And why are Big Star ‘Alternative & Punk’? Should Cocteau Twins be ‘Ambient / Dreampop’ instead or ‘Alternative & Punk’? Should Disco Inferno be ‘Avant-garde’? I’ve often said that record shops should only have two genre sections – ‘Good’ and ‘Bad’, but this is obviously insane and is just an example of me being an idiot. In truth it would be much more helpful if they either had none at all, or else thousands and thousands. Actually, scrub that last suggestion.

I think I ended up putting The Mountain Goats in ‘Country’, alongside Gillian Welch, Sparklehorse, Wilco and Lambchop. I hope that’s OK, John.

Nick Southall | 5:52 am | Comments (5)

Current Listening / Watching / Reading

Stewart Voegtlin
WOLFMANGLER, Protected by the Ejaculations of Wolves [Split CD w/ M0SS]
NEGATIVE PLANE, Et in Saecula Saeculorum
MORTEM, De Natura Deamonum

Theon Weber
The Hold Steady - Seperation Sunday
Annuals - Be He Me
Talking Heads - More Songs About Buildings and Food

Ethan White
Bruce Nauman - Raw Materials
Ennio Morricone - The Red Tent OST
Stereolab - Serene Velocity

Bryan Berge
DJ Olive - Sleep
The Chap - Ham
V/A - Trap Door is an International Psychedelic Mystery Mix

Jonathan Bradley
Green Day - American Idiot
Fall Out Boy - From Under The Cork Tree
Brand New - Deja Entendu

Justin Cober-Lake
Stevie Wonder - Music of My Mind
Keith Moon - Two Sides of the Moon
Allen Toussaint - Life, Love and Faith

Ian Cohen
Maritime- We, The Vehicles
Mannie Fresh- The Mind Of Mannie Fresh
Lupe Fiasco- Food And Liquor

Elizabeth Colville
Magnetic Fields - Get Lost
Joan as Police Woman - Real Life
John Vanderslice - Pixel Revolt

Iain Forrester
The Dresden Dolls - Yes, Virginia...
Hot Chip - Coming On Strong
The Knife - Deep Cuts

Andrew Gaerig
Trick Daddy - Thugs Are Us
Broadcast - The Future Crayon
V/A - Rio Baile Funk: More Favela Booty Beats

Todd Hutlock
Uncle Tupelo - March 16-20, 1992
Rockpile - Seconds of Pleasure
Andrew Weatherall - Hypercity

Andrew Iliff
Thom Yorke - The Eraser
Mr Lif - Mo' Mega
Tricky - Live at Leeds Town and Country

Thomas Inskeep
Cameo - The 12" Collection and More
Sonic Youth - Really Ripped
Panic! at the Disco - A Fever You Can't Sweat Out

Josh Love
Cassie - Me & U
Paris Hilton - Paris
Alan Jackson - Greatest Hits Collection

Evan McGarvey
Juvenile - Tha G-Code
Ghostface - Fishscale
Wilderness - Vessel States

Ian Mathers
Muslimgauze - Lo Fi India Abuse
The Cure - The Head On The Door
The Wedding Present - Seamonsters

Sandro Matosevic
Ladytron - Witching Hour
The Moaners - Dark Snack
San Serac - Tyrant

Derek Miller
120 Days - 120 Days
VA - Superlongevity 2
Hot Chip - Various b-sides

Mallory O'Donnell
Justin Timberlake - FutureSex/LoveSounds
Beyonce - B'Day
Kashmere Stage Band - Texas Thunder Soul

Fergal O'Reilly
The Auteurs - How I Learned To Love The Bootboys
Kitsune Maison Vol. 2
Sparks - Indiscreet

Cameron Octigan
Nathan Fake - Drowning in a Sea of Love
Alex Smoke - Paradolia
Ricardo Villalobos - Achso EP

Mike Orme
Guillemots - Through the Windowpane
Colleen - Colleen et Les Boîtes à Musique
Hot Chip - The Warning

Peter Parrish
Psychedelic Furs - Forever Now
The House of Love - Complete Peel Sessions
Catherine Wheel - Adam & Eve

Mike Powell
Scritti Politti - White Bread, Black Beer
Miles Davis - Get Up With It
Boredoms - Soul Discharge

Tal Rosenberg
M83 - Before The Dawn Heals Us
The Roots - Game Theory
Brian Jonestown Massacre - Give It Back!

Barry Schwartz
Tahiti 80 - Fosbury
Portastatic - I Hope Your Heart is Not Brittle
Tokyo Police Club - A Lesson in Crime

Brad Shoup
Michael Nesmith - From a Radio Engine to the Photon Wing
The Tear Garden - Sheila Liked the Rodeo EP
Sam Moore - Plenty Good Lovin': The Lost Solo Album

Alfred Soto
Kirsty MacColl - Electric Landlady
Junior Boys - So This is Goodbye
50 Cent - Get Rich...

Nick Southall
Final Fantsay - He Poos Clouds
TV On The Radio - Return To Cookie Mountain
Embrace - "Thank God You Were Mean To Me"

Josh Timmermann
Prince - 3121
Prince - Graffiti Bridge
Prince - Lovesexy


Tal Rosenberg
Arrested Development Season 2
Wedding Crashers

Arthur Ryel-Lindsey
Little Miss Sunshine
Von Ryan's Express
A Knight's Tale

Brad Shoup
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest

Alfred Soto
Arrested Development: Season One
The Flowers of Shanghai

Nick Southall

Josh Timmermann
Inside Man
The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada
My Sex Life...or How I Got Into an Argument

Stewart Voegtlin
Dog Soldiers

Theon Weber
House, M.D. - season two
Buffy the Vampire Slayer - season two

Ethan White
The Tenant
Mr. Arkadin
Punishment Park

Justin Cober-Lake
One Day in September
Passage to India

Elizabeth Colville
My Summer of Love
Pride & Prejudice
Trust the Man

L. Michael Foote
Wild At Heart
Bad Timing
The Witches

Todd Hutlock
Arrested Development Season 3
Tod Browning's Freaks

Ian Mathers
Seeing Other People
Sapphire & Steel, series 1
Death Race 2000

Dave Micevic
Inside Man

Derek Miller
My Life Unravel

Jay Millikan
Superman Returns

Mallory O'Donnell
Snakes On A Plane

Fergal O'Reilly
Peep Show Series 1
The Wind That Shakes The Barley

Mike Orme
Bringing Up Baby
The Third Man
Frasier reruns, Lifetime

Mike Powell
Sherman's March


Elizabeth Colville
Swann's Way - Marcel Proust
The New Yorker, Sept 18, 2006
The Bounty - Derek Walcott

L. Michael Foote
Fanny, Edmund White
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, Michael Chabon

Todd Hutlock
John Cale & Victor Bockris - What's Welsh For Zen?

Thomas Inskeep
Andrew Beaujon - Body Piercing Saved My Life
Tim Lawrence - Love Saves the Day
Dave White - Exile in Guyville

Josh Love
Henry Adams - The Education of Henry Adams

Ian Mathers
Spinoza - Ethics
Plato - Phaedo
Greg Rucka/Jesus Saiz - Checkmate

Sandro Matosevic
JT Leroy - The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things

Ron Mashate
Samuel Beckett - Murphy
William Gaddis - A Frolic Of His Own

Dave Micevic
Thomas Pynchon - V.

Derek Miller
Thomas Wolfe - You Can't Go Home Again

Jay Millikan
Richard Price - Clockers
Randy Shilts - And the Band Played On

Mallory O'Donnell
Simon Reynolds - Generation Ecstasy
Simon Frith - Music For Pleasure
Simon Reynolds - Rip It Up & Start Again

Fergal O'Reilly
David Peace - Nineteen Seventy-Four

Mike Orme
Salman Rushdie - The Ground Beneath her Feet

Peter Parrish
Raymond Chandler - The Big Sleep

Mike Powell
WG Sebald - The Rings of Saturn

Tal Rosenberg
Sarah Vowell - Take the Cannoli

Barry Schwartz
Philip Roth - American Pastoral

Brad Shoup
Earl Conrad - Typoo

Alfred Soto
Anthony Summers - The Arrogance of Power

Nick Southall
Stephen King - The Calling of the Three
Kurt Vonnegut - Breakfast of Champions

Josh Timmermann
Jonathan Franzen - The Twenty-Seventh City

Stewart Voegtlin
Cormac McCarthy, Suttree

Theon Weber
Norman Mailer - The Naked and the Dead

Ethan White
Linda Williams - Hard Core: Power, Pleasure, and the Frenzy of the Visible

Justin Cober-Lake
Umberto Eco - Baudolino
C.S. Lewis - The Screwtape Letters

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October 31st, 2007
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