March 31, 2005

In addition to being very funny this link confirms that I’m not totally full of shit but am actually totally right on about something:

Click Me Please

Peter Funk | 11:42 pm | Comments (3)

Spring Break?

I don’t think so. Managed to catch Interpol in St. Petersburg and the French Kicks with Calla in Tampa. Rather challenging for one’s first visit to central Florida. Thanks, Mapquest, for being more or less right. Thanks, also, bands, hosts, impressed drivers, and weather whims. A true group effort, which I can only claim conduit credit for, as evinced by my tentative take on it all.

Interpol performed at Jannus Landing Courtyard, March 19, supported by Q and Not U, who managed to alternate good grooves with puerile, bratty punctuation (usually a compliment, merely neutral this time). To be fair, it was my first exposure, and I was settling in from travel. Had I been less overstimulated, I may have liked them more; as it was, they exhibited promise, and undeniable skill. The venue was a winner, surrounded by an inexplicable hotel (SRO?) with balconies on every floor, but open to the night sky, allowing for cigs to go with the giant cups of draft. Obviously, they have a different idea of sold-out than my regular halls, as one could move fairly freely outside the main cluster.

The band was polished and smooth, perhaps overly. I’d guessed “Next Exit” and “Slow Hands” to be the openers, and was gratified, even though that got rid of my favorite from Antics immediately. They then droned. There were highlights, but few (my problem; the crowd of suited and un-coiffed dandies and sweatshirted jocks were clearly absorbed, if not in a transcendent state). Three songs later, Mr. Banks announced “This is our sad song,” and led into “Stella…”. Brief groan, another tune, and on to peak 1, “Not Even Jail”, “Evil” and “NYC”. The latter was the first to really deviate sonically from the recorded version, even if it was mostly a great crevaceous echo added.

“Take You on a Cruise” was the right follow-up, as it accelerated the whole affair with the most upbeat, if not most rocking, song of the set. A few more songs, a medley ending with part of “Obstacle 1”, and we got to peak 2 (and the end), “Length of Love”, “Roland” and “Say Hello to the Angels”, if my notations are correct. I can’t be certain, as there was and is a fair amount of topical overlap, mood seep and tempo stagnancy to the material. There’s some evolution though; they seem to have worked on some on the lyrics, as songs sounded much like the recordings, but a full combing of the albums didn’t come up with certain vocal phrases. As a performance, it was well executed; as an exhibition of passion, it sounded a bit thin.

The Tampa concert, March 22, was a whole other thing. The Orpheum, in Ybor City, holds about 200 people, max. It’s a bar with a stage, and a good one, too. Candy Bars, opening, were a bit spiky but softened by the recent addition of a sweet and enthusiastic young lady on cello, providing a sophisticated emo start, if that’s not an oxymoron. It’s a stretch, tracking them down online, to think they’re the same band. The recordings are much airier, sounding like the trio they are; live, it was a denser and rockier. Dumbwaiters, in second slot, were a more aggressive combo, basically a standard four-piece with the singer switching from guitar to keyboard frequently. They did a pretty swell 60’s garage sound, with perhaps a smidgen more psychedelia than the genre would’ve originally encompassed, and veering towards new-wavey power-pop-rock.

Calla came on third, and put up a very solid set. They’re now officially a quartet, and mesh even more tightly than in the past. Regrettably, I don’t know most of what they played, as it was primarily from the forthcoming album—can’t wait, as it’s a joy to get a new record and start recognizing songs. After overcoming a brief amp problem, they really got it going. I only distinctly recognized two songs: “It Dawned on Me” currently available at and “Strangler” from Televise, which was more jagged than the album version. The group dynamic was all over the place, in the best way. From single loop repetition to full-on caterwaul, the progression was beautiful. For the most part, the songs were the most accessible they’ve done to date. Works for me…

French Kicks finished off in an excellent way—as my first sighting did, this once again impressed with three vocalists, and multi-instrumentalism. For some reason, they often get knocked as being poppy; we should all be slurred so horribly. The set was fairly familiar, being mostly The Trial of the Century rearranged, with “Wrong Side” and “Down Now” referred to as “old song[s]”, as though they didn’t have two ep’s prior to the debut. The exception was a pretty snappy (and faithful) cover of “Regret” by New Order. I guess it’s just fun playing the new stuff. It’s hard to find fault with Nick jumping on spare snare for some extra rim shots introing “Oh Fine”; with the vocal harmonies and chiming keyboards of the title track; with “The Falls” shuffling beat and guitars somehow sounding martial as they head to the money line: “Can’t tell you now, I’ll tell you later, what’s wrong with you. I’ll see you later, oh never mind, I’ll see you sometime, sometime.” Most of the crowd was at least moving, and some of it was full on dancing, including the guys from Candy Bars. Quite the fun and varied evening; I look forward to hearing more from all parties.

craig | 7:21 pm | Comments (2)

March 30, 2005

So there was a big kinda summit/roundtable thing last night at Columbia Journalism School on the topic of Pop Music Criticism and Cred in the Internet Age. Event was chaired by the Enviable Wizard/Purple-Hatted One Himself, Sasha Frere-Jones (alright, it’s kind of ironic that this computer isn’t allowing me all blog-worthy techno-luxuries at the moment, but, the New Yorker). Panel: an eloquent but admittedly out of place Tunde Adibempe (from TV on the Radio), a nervous/earnest Amy Phillips (freelancer on web/print and a blogger), Michael Azerrad (, author of Our Band Could Be Your Life), a probably too cool Knox Robinson (editor-in-chief of the Fader), Brandon Wall (editor-in-chief of Prefix mag online), and Anthony DeCurtis (Rolling Stone, editor/founder of Tracks Magazine) playing the Really Likeable Old Guard.

So anyway, the talk could’ve been huge, right? Well, it touched on some really important topics, and some really well-articulated insights came out, but ultimately it was too shallow and derailed too often to get really focused. Admittedly, it seemed impossible that it would’ve gone otherwise, what with about 75 minutes to talk about a lot of Important Stuff. Azerrad seemed weirdly (but importantly) preoccupied with the idea of blogs as a way to create social networks in a networking sense (i.e. some well-meaning brown nosing), which hadn’t really occurred to me (for which I subsequently and privately acknowledged a little shame for not bothing to keep my own blog). SFJ at one point talked about how the music criticism/journalism thing runs on a bunch of clocks now (with the immediacy of blogs and online ‘publishing’), whereas in the past, the idea of primacy or discovery didn’t have quite the same pants-splitting hysteria surrounding it. Also confirmed: good writing is good writing; a well-written piece on Houston hip-hop one year after everyone got off on the stuff on ILM is still worthwhile. So obvious- but for me, this was the SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT point he could’ve made, and again, I felt a little weak for occasionally subscribing to this whole “we ought to cover this before (the dreaded and obscure) they do.”

Some really good questions, and some incredibly dumb ones; thank you very much to the young man that decided this was the appropriate forum to bring up a) the utter “awesomeness” of SFJ’s Bright Eyes/Dylan comparison and b) Eminem’s political incorrectness and the reprehensible journalistic pussyfooting by the Rolling Stone writer who didn’t take a stand against it in the interview. There was some pretty off-putting bandying of really important topics and some good, old-fashioned bitterness between panelists. Some people just don’t see eye to eye, but some people both can neither see eye to eye nor get over it for the sake of having a productive discussion, go figure. In all, nothing resolved, some things illuminated, and a pretty good plate of General Tso’s at the place across the street afterwards.

Mike Powell | 2:58 pm | Comments Off

March 23, 2005

I saw about 35 acts. Here are the standouts, in order:

1. LCD Soundsystem
2. Guitar Wolf
3. Z-Trip
4. M. Ward
5. MIA
6. Saul Williams
7. Buck 65
8. The Rogers Sisters
9. The Perceptionists
10. Radio 4

Justin Cober-Lake | 3:37 pm | Comments (1)

So last night I went to see a show. One band I really wanted to see. The other band I had long ago decided was an overhyped exercise in self-indulgence. Playing at San Francisco’s Bimbos 365 Club (which often makes you feel like you’ve stepped through a trap door in time and ended up watching a rock show in the ballroom of that creepy hotel in The Shining) were The Decemberists and Okkervil River. I was very much looking forward to seeing Okkervil, their unreleased album Black Sheep Boy is all that can be right with indie-rock: heartfelt, sincere, passionate, melodic, odd. I had high expectations for how they would reinterpret these songs in a live setting. I wasn’t disappointed. Will Sheff and crew turned even their most maudlin moments on album into wide open sonic revelry. The band clearly loved their music and threw themselves into it with abandon. Their excellence forced me to buy a T-Shirt, the last time I did that was when I saw Whiskeytown in 1996(?).

For The Decemberists my plan was to cross my arms and stand in the back of the room with an stoic smirk passing judgement on each song that featured a sailor or a whale. I would be a mad king handing down execution sentences to random members of my court. I was determined to not enjoy Colin Meloy, determined to make my accusations of swarmy holier than thou over-rated indie rock songwriter du jour stick. By the third song I was tapping my fucking foot! Then my wife leans over and whispers in my ear, “These guys sound like a cross between Supertramp and They Might Be Giants”. I guess that innocent observation from someone untainted by listening to hundreds of CDs composed entirely by some kid from (enter hip town of the moment) who has been proclaimed to be the second coming of (pick one: Dylan, Gram Parsons, Townes Van Zandt, Springsteen) flipped a switched inside my stoney critics heart. Meloy was enjoying the show. He was smart and funny. He clearly had a kinship with his fans and was flattered by their attention. All of his semi-gothic tales of maritime excess or piracy on the high seas or broken hearts weren’t delivered with a smirk but with a heartfelt love for the characters he had created. The band was uniformly excellent, laughing, playing with swagger.

It’s been a really long time since a band won me over, forced me to rethink my critical opinion (something I fear I’m less and less willing to do as I get older, gotta keep that in check), and generally charmed my socks off. Good on you, Colin.

Peter Funk | 12:18 pm | Comments Off

March 22, 2005

So the Mountain Goats are coming into town today. Mountain Goats Day (as it forever shall be known) marks the end of any sort of critical stance that I bring towards music. Today, in honor of my rabid devotion to John Darnielle, I will give everything I hear an reflexive enthusiastic thumbs-up. Britney Spears pumping from Jamba Juice while I walk to class, bracketed by bulky-ass headphones? I love her. Give me more. Truly, my dear, you are a diva, capable of manipulating both men and music anyway you see fit. How bout some Cheap Trick sung by a housemate while he scrubs a stubborn pan? I want you to want me indeed. I like this new stance. After all, nothing needs my approval. If it exists, and somebody out there likes it, the music is justified. I’ll keep my rubber stamp in the drawer. Sure, I recognize that if something is crass and released solely to milk some abominable cash cow, I should decry it with all the air in my lungs, and beg the public not to feed this atrocious beast, but right now I’m not concerned about the STATE OF MUSIC. On some level, music is so pure and simple, and it is unnecessary to drag convoluted political and economic considerations into it. Look at that guy bobbing his head to Ashlee Simpson. Keep it up, my friend. You get something out of her that I don’t, sullied as I am by non-musical considerations and the burden of illusory taste, and frankly that’s beautiful in its own way. Damn, the world is full of music, and Ashlee is for him. As for me, I’ll be up front, starry-eyed, yelling out “GOING TO GEORGIA!” in between songs.

Bryan Berge | 12:41 pm | Comments (1)

March 20, 2005

Hey! I’m writing from the middle of the best place in the world (no, not Fishtown), this place is in your mind, nay your brain even. It’s the place where you first stumble upon a new, hertetofore unknown band that you know will become a new fixture in your life, inspiring many wrist-straining instances of up-turning the dial - at least for those of us who still turn dials. The culprits this time are the Waxwings, a band I had always imagined sounding like Tindersticks or someone as artily mopey. But instead they are smacking me sideways with hooks like Robbie the Robot and just enough warm Americana to soothe my tiny heart. All due respect to the countless musicians who work so hard to achieve a dream, but there’s just so much mediocre, uninspiring music out there that it’s an uplifting experience to find something like this.

Chuck Zak | 1:58 am | Comments Off

March 19, 2005

Daddy Yankee

Gavin Mueller sniffed the trend back in November, but who knew reggaeton would reach whitebreak America so quickly? Like other urban subgenres crunk and grime, reggaeton will get deluxe treatment at Target. Not only are six titles featured in their weekly sales insert in The Philadelphia Inquirer, Target compiled their own mix!

Subgenres have obvious drawbacks as far as commercial viability go. How long has it taken for people to figure out what grime is, after all, much less associate the term with its more prominent artists? And as is often the case, when a subgenre breaks into the mainstream, overexposure kills the trend in spite of critical success. Nevertheless, as more marginal music crosses into the heretofore mainstream hip hop/rockbifurcated dichotomy - let’s face it: our radio is for the most part segregated, and record stores are too - this is a welcome change.

J T. Ramsay | 9:49 pm | Comments Off

Knowing firsthand the perversions of Danish humor, The 5 Obstructions disappointed me somewhat - I expected something grueling, offensive, and obtuse. Instead I was treated to a von Trier lovefest; it wasn’t wholly unexpected - Leth’s The Perfect Human is a beautiful film, and one that influenced von Trier’s filmic metaphysics. Nevertheless, when a film promises obstructions, and fails to deliver anything more than a moment’s discomfort (something von Trier admits - the obstructions were little more than inspiration to Leth, and hardly ever “hurt” or “left a mark” as von Trier had hoped.)

As a tribute film, The Five Obstructions introduces us to some heady stuff - The Perfect Human’s stark, crisp detachment makes it a fine study in semiotics, something Claus Nissen (as the perfect human) understands almost too well; where one might expect to find naivete one finds experience, and the self-conscious “knowing” portrayed becomes a persistent reminder that a performance is taking place, and it’s not just a series of images flashed across a screen in the comfortable darkness. Von Trier is acutely aware of this, and he knows that Leth can’t replicate his performances (would he even dare?), and thus the film begins with its initial aesthetic strictures, a feature that dissolves as Leth grows more comfortable not only with the source material and all pertaining nostalgia, but with filmmaking itself - which is von Trier’s real aim.

But in making a film so personal, it forgets the audience: it’s a challenge directed several ways - not only is the intention to draw Leth out and to depict von Trier as the heartless, volatile villain but also to entertain the viewer, to engage at a level of detachment so that one can view the creative process as coldly as Leth typically does, while maintaining the sentimentality of a friendly challenge. Failing that, each of the five shorts should stand on their own as entertaining pieces - and they do, at least at first, until Leth is removed entirely from the creative aspect of the film when he becomes its subject.

Overall, The Five Obstructions promises five fixed forms of varying difficulty. Such a practice for an artist of any type can often find inspiration in a challenge such as this - be it a sestina or villanelle for a writer, which can be like making a film with a cut every twelve frames. But like many films that promise so much heartwrenching mystery and anguished soul searching (Sam Jones’ I Am Trying to Break Your Heart springs immediately to mind), we’re invited rather to see a film about a particular filmmaker immersed in his craft, and the film becomes an elliptical documentary about a depressed, reclusive man whom von Trier has so egotistically volunteered to welcome home.

J T. Ramsay | 11:27 am | Comments (3)

March 18, 2005

Here’s a fun link for anyone interested in the ever-dorky first wave of PC music:

Will Simmons | 3:45 am | Comments Off

I just did something I’ve never done before. I voted for a music video.

Goodbye, hipster credibility, I hardly knew ye. What did I give it all up for?

I just can’t help it. This is the single of the year. Nothing I’ve heard so far this year comes close, with the possible exception of Kelly Clarkson. I actually heard this song first in remix form, featuring the inimitable Juelz Santana and some other cats whose names escape me, but that was all it took. It’s all…about…that…hook!

Except, there’s so much more. Amerie sings every single line in a state of keyed-up sexual tension that brings to mind the very best Girl Group singers of the sixties. The beat, as both the Juelz and Jay-Z remixes (soon to be available at my Toronto Cream Team blog, to your immediate left) prove, is also a banger.

Absolutely perfect song, with an absolutely perfect video and an absolutely perfect artist. How perfect is she? Well, let’s just say Eva Mendes is in the video too, and I now realize that Eva Mendes isn’t really very good looking at all.

Check it, yeah!

Ryan Hardy | 1:28 am | Comments (6)

March 15, 2005

Just got a last minute reminder about the annual (10th Anniversary) Pledge Drive for WFMU, an all-request set with Yo La Tengo performing. Check it out:

I requested “Indian Summer”, in honor of dearly departed Luna, with “Slash Your Tires” as a backup. OK, and the first request, “Hey Ya” sounds like they’ve tried it before…

All right! They did a nice fragile version of “IS”. And later, they teased us with the intro to “Live and Let Die”, but segued into “Search and Destroy”, followed by “Psycho Killer”, “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” and “Can’t Explain”. Nice set!

Tuned out for a while, made it back to an incredible jam on “The Beat Goes On”, workin through to a quote “Robert from Chicago wants to hear anything by The Fall. I’m gonna switch that to everything by The Fall…”

craig | 8:30 pm | Comments Off

March 13, 2005

It’s not yet heard, like so many other things I’m genuinely excited about, but a friend made a true rarities comp of The The, based on what’s not on the reissues. He also called in a favor and got two vinyl tranfers of both of the Marc and the Mambas albums, but that’s another post. At least I was able to provide a couple tracks that one of the world’s biggest Matt Johnson fans didn’t have. For discussion, post digestion, the track listing is:

Another Boy Drowning (Live)
Cold Spell Ahead (early take of Uncertain Smile–does that make 4?)
Hot Ice
Soul Mining (12″)
The The
Three Orange Kisses from Kazan
Harbour Lights (Theme from “The Nightwatchman”)
Sleeping Juice (Theme from “The Nightwatchman”)
The Sinking Feeling (live)
Infected (Energy Mix)
Dolphins (Yes, the Monkees covered by both Bongwater and Trail of Dead, written by Goffin & King)
Fruit of the Heart
Soup of Mixed Emotions
Soul Mining (New Version ‘93)
Waitin’ for the Upturn
Born in the New S. A.
That Was the Day

I think I have 4 of these on disc, and 5 as the bonuses to the “Soul Mining” cassette I bought in Cardiff. ie, they’ll sound almost new.

craig | 11:41 pm | Comments (10)

World Café Live, Philadelphia, PA: 25 February 2005

Despite the fake jazz cafeteria setting, paranoid blind-date ambience, and blasé verisimilitude creeping over Philadelphia’s latest totem honoring bourgeois taste, Antony & The Johnsons graced the narrow stage with characteristic humility and self-deprecating humor, hardly expecting the audience to so much as consider their performance anything but muzak to elevate the mood, ease the awkward moments and make the overpriced entrees seem worth the flattening cost of admission. To his surprise, and mine as well, the dinner theatergoers seemed well acquainted with his work, else this being a fine introduction as Antony concentrated on material from I Am A Bird Now.

As Antony took the stage, Television’s Marquee Moon arpeggiated the squalid, square air, reeking of overcooked fish, in a wondrous attempt to locate the performance in New York’s rapidly gentrifying LES legacy, primarily as a dolorous paean to Candy Darling, a Warhol superstar who’s death at twenty-five is immortalized in the photograph adorning the album cover. Antony opened with “My Lady Story,” seemingly by way of explanation, equal parts introduction to a strange city and homily on Darling’s tragic fragility. The arrangements were sparse, departing from the lush, theatrical studio presentation, accompanied on melody by a classical guitar’s muted nylon strings, and the cellist’s infrequent intrusions. Following with “For Today I Am A Boy,” which took on a more somber character without the strident drumming that braces the song. “The Cripple and the Starfish” resonated in the candlelit quiet, the narrative of regeneration and hope engaging an audience almost uniformly at middle age, as waitstaff hustled and glasses and utensil clinked in unwitting atonality.

Once the initial nervousness subsided, Antony broke the funereal mood, joking with the audience about the venue’s strange character, intuiting it’s free market vibe, poking fun at the overwhelming self-consciousness inherent in its design by asking if anyone was on a date. Replacing Rufus Wainwright’s sultry tenor with his lilting vibrato changed the tone from one of frustration and tempered resentment to one of anguish and loss. A Nico cover later, Antony plays “Hope There’s Someone,” which bursts with existential angst at the thought of dying alone, and confronting the void beyond death. But it wouldn’t have been complete without covering “Candy Says,” imparting Candy’s self-loathing, ascetic aestheticism and dark contemplative moments that pollute her carefree demeanor, exuding warm vulnerability and hopeful charm while being who one isn’t.

J T. Ramsay | 3:39 pm | Comments (2)

An obsession with the number 23 and an newly moved and re-alphabetised CD system has turned up (drum roll)…….

The Afghan Whigs – Black love

Scott McKeating | 7:06 am | Comments (10)

March 12, 2005

I’m currently battling what I thought on Thursday morning to be a hangover but am now discovering is just a persistent pain in the depths of my guts. It’s not horrible, just distracting, but that alone has kept me from getting a lot of work done (which is frustrating, as yesterday and today were to be work days).

Only a few things have so far taken my mind off the pain; finishing off The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy “Trilogy” in preperation for the movie, eating hash browns and most importantly, finding used for $12 Canadian and then listening to James Brown’s 20 All-Time Greatest Hits!

Which, while not totally unexpected, is a little surprising as no other music seems to be so effective right now (certainly not the new Daft Punk). I feel as if I could cure myself just by listening to “Cold Sweat”, “Get Up (I Feel Like Being A) Sex Machine” and “The Payback” on a loop.

Ian Mathers | 1:38 pm | Comments (1)

March 9, 2005

What is a song anyway? To me it’s just a set of building blocks, lumps of clay to mold for yourself. The majority of the skill and creativity I hear in music comes from the arrangements and treatments of a song or piece. Why else am I moved by versions of “Dancing in the Dark” by Mirah and “‘Yellow” by Petra Haden when the originals by the Boss and Coldplay do absolutely nothing for me?

Pop and indie culture do not look highly upon the idea of a “cover,” especially if it is your debut single. It is much more commendable to write our own songs from scratch, blah blah.

I look at recordings as living, breathing amorphous entities. They are something that co-exist with us, and tag alongside us for the rest of our lives, whether we hate them or love them, wheter we pay attention to them or not. Best of all, we are given free range to do whatever the hell we want with them.

It’s almost like a testing ground for the limits of human emotions, an educational environment where we are given a set of tools to help develop, tinker, and define our own personal voice. There will be frustration, there will be stagnation, there will be seemingly wasted hours, days, and months. But when we are capable of transforming that song we’ve always disliked, that painting people won’t shut up about, or anything else that is seemingly in a “fixed state” into something fresh, idiosyncratic, and surprising, it can set off a chain reaction of inspiration that often spills over to all the other portions of our lives (work, social/personal life, family.) And there’s no stopping you as long as you can keep that up.

Michael F. Gill | 10:18 pm | Comments (1)

Recorded and released in the cultural seconds before Eno played the keyboard keystone and cult touchstone on U2’s Achtung Baby, he and John Cale combined their full-scale mastery of pop techniques to demonstrate that their kleptomanic tropicalia had a place, albeit in an overlooked grotto no one deigned suitable for a resort location - that, after all, was left to “Kokomo” back in ‘88. Sure, “Been There Done That” could be a hymn folded into the backpages of a Promise Keepers prayer book, but everyone celebrates a midlife crisis differently - how silly would John Cale and Brian Eno look in studded leather jackets (o.k. not so bad) while riding chopped hogs, scrambling toward Little Oley Tavern for a drunken fight in the parking lot on clam night (Wednesday)? They’d get their asses kicked, and worse, would have to show their faces at work the next day - it’s a gravel parking lot, incidentally.

Although this would be a tough album to find at your local independent, the grey matter fabricating the seamy virtual grey markets put this at your fingertips - and as someone who’s repeatedly made the mistake of overlooking late catalogue stuff under the mistaken belief that once an artist produces those iconic releases it’s all over, it’s an album like Wrong Way Up that will change your mind (not to mention any number of those late albums by Wire that you don’t have already - who cares if it’s not Pink Flag?).

What Wrong Way Up lacks in absurdist poetic gestures cast in lysergic dysentery it recovers in its similarities to Eno’s work with Roxy Music carrying over into his earliest solo records. And for Cale, it’s a fine opportunity to flex all the musical muscles he talked about on the post-VU playground, whiling it as producer before a brief tenure as a stylistic lunatic, who like Reed faded like so many pairs of tight black jeans. One could probably argue that this record favors Eno’s contributions; it’s his oeuvre and Cale’s just playing in it. Without knowing the backstory, one can imagine the passive aggression that moulded the record, Eno manipulating Cale to draw out his strengths; but as much as one might long for that fiction it appears to be a collaborative exercise, both men sharing in the successes and failures.

The arrangements on “Lay My Love,” “One Word,” and “Empty Frame” are out of step with the popular synth driven and overdriven music of the time - it’s certainly not a Jimmy Buffett record, nor a Tom Petty album, but it doesn’t tap into shoegaze either. Cale’s songs, particularly “Cordoba” access those privileged recesses in the same way Hemingway wrote about the exotic as if it were utterly mundane - something tenured professors refer to as “thought experiments” while everyone else works for a living, and have so little time for counterfactual considerations, sufficient and determining factors, and the causal quirks that lead to snap judgements: reactionary stuff. But as Cale sings “You walk toward the station/I walk toward the bus” the setting vanishes - and it’s a song of regret - or for those without a conscience - what’s known to marketing departments as buyer’s remorse, something easily salved with gift receipts or brandname pharmaceuticals.

But if the universe is expanding outward endlessly, and that image represents any concept of infinity, which is just another way of describing the glass table, chess board, and hookah smoking puppet in Benjamin’s best known aphorism, then it’s left to the imagination to consider the creative finitude this record embodies - “Spinning Away” entrancing the middle-aged David Byrne fans who once loved those Talking Heads records but haven’t listened to them in years - who got sucked into the narrative edge of The Big Chill and took it as a bromide on their collective guilt - this isn’t a record for those among us who scarcely two years later would be neverminding our way through high school - and the screw turns again, and Plush is the new classic rock and The Crow is still the first “R” rated movie you ever saw, no matter how much a record like this would make you think otherwise.

J T. Ramsay | 10:15 pm | Comments (2)

March 6, 2005

Now that all the weeklies have run their pre- and post issues on who will win and who won Oscars, it’s left to those of us staffing the theatres and rental joints around the country to assess and satisfy the insatiable demands for these yet-to-be-released videos or currently running films. Last year, most of the big titles were already released, and the rest of America had a chance to evaluate the nominees. And despite rooting for underdogs like Lost in Translation it made sense that Peter Jackson should be rewarded for three epics that were enchantingly redemptive holiday fare. But it’s films like 21 Grams and Mystic River that aggravate me most.

Maybe you hadn’t noticed, but advertising campaigns for Oscar-nominated films are extraordinarily intrusive and condescending (a fact illuminated by Chris Rock’s off the cuff interviews in the Magic Johnson Multiplex in L.A.), and more than anything else, confusing. How many calls have been answered about when Million Dollar Baby will be released…and it’s still playing down the street! Keep in mind that Philadelphia once boasted more than thirty-five theatres, a number that has dwindled to fewer than fifteen or so, many of them multiplexes, a withering that has meant that genuine independents and art house flicks get banished to select New York theatres with no wider release (f. ex. Notre Musique played in Philadelphia for a week here, closing last Thursday), and the films that do reach us are either in the Philadelphia Film Festival or are big studio films compressed into these theatres, while the grotesque budgets grace the screens elsewhere.

So the depression begins: the big releases of the past week were Flight of the Phoenix and The Exorcist prequel, not heartening for those of us who know all too well that the new demand for The Motorcycle Diaries and Maria Full of Grace is based entirely on their Oscar exposure, and that more than a few of our customers will return these films unhappily, clearly not comprehending that lesbian supersecret agents will not detonate nuclear submarines in drydock, and or that Jude Law doesn’t have a cameo. Worse still, these films are made for our most geriatic clientele - since when do actors like Imelda Staunton and Annette Bening resonate with people approaching even forty?

As I’ve posted here repeatedly, Hollywood is in crisis. There’s little demand for the films heralded as the year’s best, and a movement once begun by Martin Scorsese is something he can’t refute, and still his complicity bears no fruit. That another boxing picture should win an Academy award is appalling, and that simple, homely Hilary Swank might yet again win Oscar appalls me. Like a cut rate Julia Roberts, Swank can only play victims, and who doesn’t love a good victim? And to look at the nominees for Best Director is to stare into the robes of the Grim Reaper - or to accept the routine middle class taste exemplified in a film like Sideways - embracing the fear and loathing of our great American splendor.

Sure, there are quiet victories for the youth movement. Maybe Jamie Foxx has a performance in him such as that in Collateral or Kate Winslet, Cate Blanchett, and others will consider small scripts, roles, and paychecks to maintain their credibility as actors capable of something other than grandiose impersonations. The profound sadnesses in films I liked this year, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, I ♥ Huckabees, and The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou exemplify an artistic resistance that has mainstream traction. Although we’ll never reach a socialist utopia through film, as much as Cassavetes and Coppola imagined it, the profit motive has deleterious effects on large scale flops, as do star productions in films that have no more than one weekend atop the box office (as of this writing, The Pacifier, starring Vin Diesel, was this weekend’s winner).

The reductionist view suggests that the modern day Cleopatra’s and the cynical focus on budgets and special effects requires a return to small films with stories and characters, simply to maximize profits at the box office, but nevertheless has immense returns in rental as well. While it may not be true of the mainstream video rental houses, it’s certainly the case in offbeat stores, and Lost in Translation proved last year’s best rental at our location, with Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind placing a respectable fourth. But it’s programs like Project Greenlight that function as a reification of the damning process of ceaseless artistic compromise that constitutes the stuff of modern day filmmaking; rather it’s a demonstration of the commercial impulse that crushes the artistic spirit intrinsic to filmmaking. In very few instances does one find genuinely maverick direction, and fewer still actors willing to stretch themselves as controversially conventional characters instead of blockbuster superheroes or celluloid doppelgangers.

So it falls to the clerk to gnash his or her teeth and wrench Ray from the stocking shelf for the thousandth time, not because it’s such a grand retelling of a troubled but blessed life, but because it’s the trickle down favor of the cognoscenti flooding America’s cultural consciousness, drowning all independent thought and aesthetic judgements, and washing away any notion than an individual had ever made a personal film without the permission of a studio, or had ever defied a producer, a glorified actuarial scientist who occasionally accepts an Oscar on behalf of his more or less talented minions. It’s a depressing task to be the handmaiden to such blind cultural consumption, giving lie to the notion that the clerk serves solely to insult the customer, when it’s the customer begging to be rebuked for his or her atrophied taste.

J T. Ramsay | 10:26 pm | Comments Off

March 2, 2005

Ah, The Streets. My mind is still torn as to whether Mike Skinner is quite the chav poet he posits himself as, or whether he’s actually a very smart character actor concocting an identity which appeals on various levels across a whole swathe of demographics. Certainly the crowd for The Streets’ gig in Plymouth last night was a bizarre cross-section; the surfer dudes you always see at gigs in the Westcountry, shaven-headed Fred Perry wearing casuals (which I guess includes myself), indie kids, hip hop kids, 30-something couples who read the glowing reviews in Q or wherever, all gathered at the church of The Streets. The only time I’ve seen as diverse a crowd was for a Lee “Scratch” Perry gig a couple of years ago, but I guess in the provinces when someone finally comes and plays live (even in a venue as odd as Plymouth Pavilions – “Your First Call for Corporate Events!”) all and sundry flock to the show.

And what a show The Streets put on these days. It’s a far cry from “two turntables and a microphone”, although support acts Kano and The Mitchell Brothers warm us up nicely with the sparse approach. What are The Streets? A solo artist? A band? Live, Mike Skinner is accompanied by a full group comprising singer Leo, keyboardist Ed, bassist Morgan and a drummer whose name I forget, and the interaction between all four parties is key. Add in an extravagant lightshow, optics on the drum riser, a sofa (for a brief interlude), a video screen mixing pre-recorded footage with live shots of the stage and crowd, a “brandy-cam” interlude which saw Mr Skinner feeding the girls in the front-row with cognac, and a balcony/walkway set-up at the rear of the stage, and the result is a hell of a lot of effort setting everything up every other day in a new town. And a great gig too – the bewildered smiles plastered on Mike and Leo’s faces after Plymouth’s young female population bared its collective chest attested to the honesty of his “I’ve never done a more fun gig than this” statement.

Discussion on the drive home focussed around what it is that The Streets do in terms of genre, whether they’re UK hip hop, grime, garage or something else entirely. I think we settled on “pop music”, the logic being that there are no genre divides if you can buy your CDs in Woolworths. Certainly the show didn’t fall fully into any category – Kano brought the grime, The Mitchell Brothers some UK hip hop, and there was even an onstage mic battle between local youngsters and the champion from the last gig on the tour to get the crowd going. The Streets themselves inspire the collectivism of a rave, the pally repartee of mates down the pub and also make use of the off-the-cuff dynamics that the best rock bands thrive on in a live setting, all focused through a tightly-planned multi-media lens which whips the audience hysteria to massive levels as they see themselves reflected back from the on-stage screen and feel a part not of a crowd, but of a performance, a show. When, during “Dry Your Eyes” in the encore, Mike encourages everyone to hold aloft their illuminated mobile phones in a modernist inversion of the lighters-aloft gesture, and focuses the cameras back on the sea of Nokias and Motorolas bobbing like tiny blue and red stars in a sea of people, there’s a frisson of wonder which rolls over the entire crowd, even the too-cool-for-school buggers at the back.

craig | 5:44 am | Comments (1)

March 1, 2005

Alright, let me dispense with the biases first. I’ve been a devotee of this band since around the release of Here Comes the Indian in 2003- that’s not to thumb my nose and say I’ve been into them since Dave Portner and Noah Lennox were working at Other Music or whatever, but It’s been a little bit longer than last May’s release of the great, but inconclusive Sung Tongs. They are, hands down, my favorite band making music right now, despite the fact that they’ve yet to make a single flawless (or even near-flawless) record. This is a long way of going around to say: see this band live. The sold-out Bowery Ballroom show the other night was, I think, my 5th or so show, and it further convinced me that this band needs to be understood in a live context.
I get a little tired hearing about how this band is just a bunch of freaky-silly Beach Boys imitators- live, they’re chaotic, intense, messy, and dark. There’s a near caustic passion to their performance, a kind of exorcism. Songs grow out of swirls of ambient sounds and processed loops of Brian Weitz’s rig, Dave Portner’s voice feels painfully tugged out of his spirit like taffy, Conrad Deaken’s hands jitter across his Telecaster, coaxing constellations of distortions, and Noah Lennox anchors the group with the pounding precision of his abbreviated drumkit and electronic beats. This is a band obsessed with texture, manipulating their sound live, truly drawing equally from organic and electronic palettes, and the space of their intersection. At their heights, the music reaches rending frenzied ecstacies- “Kids On Holiday,” a druggy backpack travelsong from Sung Tongs gets transformed into waves of noisy catharsis, more a confused, angered dirge than a psychedelic ballad.
Perhaps I can best try to suggest the gravity I think Animal Collective holds by using a word so often used to describe the band: “child-like”- a word always used in hindsight, rendering it a term of sweet harmlesness. To truly consider childhood from the point of a child (which we all were and continue to be, in certain ways), it’s a little stranger. Childhood is confusing, difficult, mixed. “Kids On Holiday” might seem genial to us, but for the child wandering through the airport amidst his yelling parents, a smiling krishna, a retarded man and his mother, etc., it’s nearly terrifying. The Animal Collective are nostalgic, wistful, tender, sweet, and all those other neutered adjectives, but they’re more- seeing them live brings to the forefront their agression, rawness, strangeness, and beauty.

Mike Powell | 10:49 am | Comments (1)

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
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Nick Southall
Final Fantsay - He Poos Clouds
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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
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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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