So, last weekend, I was at my local, and a friend was grooving to Kelly Clarkson’s “Since U Been Gone”, gushing that it just made him feel good, tapping some emotional spring that made him forget his troubles. Apparently about two thirds of those present agreed strongly, and noone was cringing. Less than 45 minutes later, it started up again, and the friend began the spiel verbatim. This time, patrons (including those out of our earshot) were visibly, if minorly, distressed. Twenty seconds in, silence ensued, and I accused the bartender of skipping it. His denial was plausible, as he pointed out that most of the regulars know that a quick yank/reinsertion of the jukebox’s plug will skip only the current entry, leaving the other paid plays safely in memory. There were several disappointed groans, and a few muted sighs of relief; nearly everyone, though, was elevated by the track that came on after the five seconds of silence: The Pretenders’ “Tattooed Love Boys”.
And the point? Well, maybe there’s not a firm one. But maybe it’s cool to think that a really rockin’ lady can bridge the gap of those both disappointed and glad that a big hit’s just been skipped. Maybe it’s that in these sanitized times when bartenders are afraid to offend their customers, one of the audience will take control of a situation. And maybe it’s that someone is trying to educate the sheep to NOT play the most popular songs on the jukebox SO DAMN OFTEN.
After all, the difference between a fun bar song and a three month blight often just boils down to how unavoidable the tune is.
So with the Supreme Court’s decision in the Grokster case (full text here, req. Adobe Reader), we’re brought again to a discussion of the merits of the Betamax case (Full text of SCOTUS ruling here, req Adobe Reader). SCOTUS, not known most recently for ruling in favor of corporate interests at all, has decided that Betamax holds no precedent here, and is not in the least analogous with peer-to-peer file-sharing. But here’s an idea:
The history of technological development over the last, let’s say, 200 years is a history of changes in scope and scale. The Industrial Revolution not only brought your average civilian into the, um, grand new manufacturing force, but also gave all of us middle-class folk a chance to own goods similar to what were once solely for the wealthy. The automobile extended our world beyond cities, and into un-walk-to-able places out beyond; commercial flight expanded our world even further. Radio, and then television, kept us in touch, in real-time, with this wider world (ok, ostensibly), and the VCR allowed us to keep copies of those images for later viewing.
But file-sharing is nothing like a VCR, because of the distribution system built into the machinery; you’d have to hand someone a VCR tape, but you only have to make files available for access from people all over the world. But what is that if not a change in the scope and scale of the VCR? It might be reductive to say so, but computers, fundamentally, are just awesome Xerox machines, capable of creating (or reading) information, storing, and copying it, all in one machine (you used to need many people with typewriters, filing cabinets, and mimeographs to do what can now be done with your desktop). Every time you save a Word document, or click a hyper-link, you are copying information to your hard drive; it’s simply in the nature of this beast the Pentagon unleashed. The entertainment industries’ former love for digital media has hardened into a fear that they no longer have control of the production methods. Well, they don’t, and it’s no coincidence that the Betamax case hinged in no small part on the fact that people could then watch television shows whenever they wanted, and fast-forward through the commercials.
They found a way to make money off the VCR, and now they’re doing just fine.
Under current IP/copyright protection laws, Nike would have to prove that their use of what is basically iconic cover art (as iconic as Golden Arches or Mickey Mouse) is a parody, which seems impossible, unless… well, no, that’s too heartbreaking. Anyway, those tireless Dischord folks don’t seem all too financially poised to sustain a court battle with one of the biggest corporations in the world, so I wouldn’t bet on any Incredible Legal Heroism here.
Interestingly, as Kevin Driscoll points out here, punk has long made use of corporate logos as parody/fodder for art, dating back to those those cuddly clowns of the dada movement, who basically invented collage to try to empty out and subvert the meaning of commercial imagery via grassroots art and DIY-technique. Food for thought.
I Love Music’s thread has actually spawned its own little response, which is, typically, both extremely nerdy and extremely hilarious.
I recently finished Genya Ravan’s Lollipop Lounge: Memoirs of a Rock and Roll Refugee. It’s a fascinating read of someone whose been largely forgotten in the music world, despite her truly incredible voice and her series of “first woman to” landmarks.
The book itself has a breezy, conversational tone — it’s not a prose masterpiece — but the tone adds an element of emotional depth. When Ravan mentions her sexual abuse, almost as a passing comment, it’s more striking than much writing that dwells on and analyzes trauma (oddly, Ravan spends extremely little time talking about her childhood time in a concentration camp during the Holocaust). That lack of self-analysis generally works well, as we avoid any pop-psychology.
And the straight-ahead narrative works well. Genya was the leader of the first all-female rock’n'roll band (Goldie and the Gingerbreads) and the first female producer (her best known work is probably “Sonic Reducer” by the Dead Boys). She’s certainly proud of her accomplishments, but she’s more interested in telling her story than in setting herself up as a pioneer. She just did what she wanted to do, which in some ways is the strongest form of feminism.
As you might expect in a rock bio, there’s a slide into sex and drug problems. Ravan handles it well, not asking for sympathy and not asking for excuses. She’s clean now, but not self-righteous, and the tone she started writing continues, letting you feel as if you’re listening to a friend tell you how it was for her, rather than reading a didactic morality play (which this book isn’t).
More important than the story, perhaps, is the fact that the world has forgotten Ravan’s music. I’ve managed to track down only two full albums (both on LP, good luck with the CDs, although I believe she has reissued two through Hip-O) and assorted other tracks. Her voice gets compared to Janis Joplin’s, but Ravan’s is fuller and more interesting. Put her in front of the jazz-rock (in the best possible sense) of Ten Wheel Drive and the results are magnificent. Start with Construction #1.
With the proliferation of mp3 blogs by people desperate to be more like–for instance–me, and hang the imprimatur of a Google-approved music publication like this one on their doors, it was only a matter of time before the archivist geeks (in a good way) and their vinyl stacks found their appropriate home on the CyberWeb. A preferred place to start: Weirdmusic (www.weirdmusic.com), not just for its growing collection of odd vinyl rips for your perusal, but its extensive link-list. Want some rare, ahem, “ethnic” music from a far off land? Want to hear the latest in experimental intruments–a 42-string bass, maybe? Oddmusic (www.oddmusic.com) is your place. Whistling records? A whole site (www.whistlingrecords.com). It’s a crazy world out there, my tender vittles. Bring an umbrella.
Apologies for my last post having also been Missy related, but I’ve just obtained knowledge that for her new album The Cookbook, due out July 5, Missy has recruited the leggy blog hype princess M.I.A. to accompany her on one track. That same track, tentatively titled “Bad Man,” will also feature dancehall icon Vybz Kartel. Apparently, Missy herself has taken up production responsibilities, but humor me—tell me who would be your ideal producer pick for this joint.
I don’t think I’ve ever walked into such an empty venue, especially considering that I came almost an hour after the doors opened. It was a bad start — I’m hoping Charlottesville’s new Satellite Ballroom takes off; it seems to be the only place within 60 miles willing to host the kind of shows I want to see. In the emptiness, I sat in the cold, complimented myself on finding free parking, and thought about the things I would make up for this review.
[Note to Satellite Ballroom: I don’t need to hear “Creep” twice before the show starts. Thanks.]
Doris Henson came on first, announcing something about Becky Thatcher being stuck in a well. If Tom Sawyer were Lassie, then, yes, this would be important. The band quickly went into “The Power,” a steady attack that announced that a soon-to-be-buzz band was here. I enjoyed the use of the trombone, which I’ve rarely, if ever, seen used so well in a live rock setting.
Over the course of their 45-minute set, Doris Henson blended its math-pop, punk, and New Wave influences into a cohesive show that stayed charged from start to finish. One track I don’t know the name of (something about a “Yellow Brick Highway”) updated the classic rock sound in a good way, using contemporary influences without restraining the anthemic urges.
It was a show that unknown bands are supposed to do, but seldom achieve. Doris Henson managed to set themselves apart from the pack through their energy, performance skills and originality, making me want to go back to that album I haven’t played enough, Give Me All Your Money.
At the intermission I went for a drink. Apparently the Satellite Ballroom is catering to the local indie crowd by selling only hipster piss-beer.
Then to Travis Morrison, who immediately got on my good side with a nice peach, button-down shirt. I thought he could be the boy next door who eventually goes mad. I’ve never heard Travistan, but that was okay, as nearly every song he and his Hellfighters played tonight is from an upcoming album called All Y’All (to be recorded in Atlanta in a few weeks).
The Hellfighters sound nothing like the Dismemberment Plan (Morrison’s old act), but they’re very tight, mixing some Talking Heads-style percussion with some more experimental rock. Morrison’s lyrics are as unique and good as ever, and he seems to be having a blast playing with this band, who swap instruments pretty regularly and skillfully, and Morrison’s letting his technical skill shine just the right amount. Prompted mainly by local band Cataract Camp (with whom they’ve been touring), the group did an encore of a slower, affective song titled, I think, “East Side of the River” that used parallelism perfectly.
I don’t have much to say about this part of the show — the Hellfighters were solid, and are bound to produce a strong album, if the songs they did last night translate well to disc — but I’m still excited by Doris Henson’s performance. Expecting solid rock, but with no great hope for the set, they blew me away. The Travis Morrison Hellfighters followed up well, so I got two unexpected joys on one night.
Sometimes Stylus contributor Rich Juzwiak has a new blog, which is great. Focusing so far on his cats, pop culture, and hip-house, there are already some great mp3s available to sample from his voluminous vinyl collection.
Rich’s labor of love, though, is a mix he has been working on for a long time that is devoted solely to Steve Silk Hurley productions. And, finally, it’s done! This plus the accompanying essay = awesome.
The audience is mainly young, mainly skinny, mainly dressed in stripey tops. A couple of kids look like they’ve been let off the farm for the evening. Surely it’s harder to dress in that bizarre, oversized child’s woolly jumper and Wellington boots than it is to wear jeans and a t-shirt? It’s not quite as busy tonight as it was last week when my friends played their “jamenco” (”it’s somewhere between jazz… and flamenco!”) set, but Exeter’s Phoenix is still busy enough – maybe 140 people. On the day Wind In The Wires was released there were only 10 or so copies on display in the city’s record shops. I know because I counted.
Part of me wants to grab Patrick Wolf by the shoulders (not an easy task as he must be a good 8-10 inches taller than me) and shake some sense into him – “you may think the South West is some kind of sanctuary, some perfect idyll where there is space and air and freedom and you can be yourself, but you’re a posh London boy; if you go out dressed like that in a provincial town you’ll get battered and if you lived here rather than just used here then you’d understand that and you’d hate it too. Stop romanticising the frustrations in my life when I don’t romanticise yours.” Part of me wants to tell him to stop dressing like a Victorian urchin, to leave behind the affected shyness of his stage presence, to just play his fucking songs…
The smartly suited support act filter Roy Orbison through Scott Walker, Kurt Weil, David Lynch and Angelo Badalamenti with Julee Cruise, The Smiths and Portishead, and end up in a gay cabaret located somewhere in Germany at the turn of the (next) century. It takes me a couple of songs to get into it, but the singer’s riveting presence and interplay with the guitarist soon wins me over. Bizarre, but great. Afterwards it’s a mild disappointment to see them wearing jeans, a 70s Brazil shirt (guitarist) and a hooded top (singer), but this is theatre, darling – you can be whoever you like onstage.
Onstage Patrick Wolf is the essence of the persona you would expect. Live he carries his songs with his voice and presence and remarkable talent and very little else – a piano that is too small for his uncomfortably long frame, a ukulele, a violin with a battered, moulting bow, and a drummer are the only accoutrements. That his songs, so reliant when recorded on electronic textures and complex arrangements, seem so strong when stripped to a bare essence is testament to his talent.
He plays a version of “Running Up That Hill”, confirming my suspicion of Kate Bush adulation, along with the b-sides of his current single, but most of the set is made up of Wind In The Wires material rather than tracks from Lycanthropy, suggesting that he sees himself as growing away from the fractiously dissonant roots of his first album – it’s almost like he’s following Tom Waits’ career arc in reverse, starting out wildly eccentric and becoming calmer as he goes. Of course, that’s going off just two records – he may well head further into bizarre, child-prodigy-wolfman-Victorian-urchin-laptop-violin-maestro territory over the next few years.
But for now, Patrick Wolf is as you might expect – stupidly talented, massively affected, and, for Ł6 a throw, insanely good value live. He’s supporting Bloc Party this autumn – I look forward to seeing him again.
It’s been a while since I’ve been to The Archer, so long in fact that I forgot where it was. Arriving after the support acts had finished (apologies Mother and the Addicts and Clear Blue Skies) the ground floor basement vibed venue was pretty full with a crowd more diverse than your usual Indie gathering. It wasn’t just the curious who turned up either seeing the amount of people singing / mouthing along.
Sons & Daughters stoked the already sticky venue up a few notches with their rowdy punky rockabilly led by the Marching band beat and punctuated by a wiry roaring guitar. Songs felt short and punchy topped of by the voice (raw Scots) of the red dress wearing vocalist Adele Bethel who clapped, weaved, stamped and swung her tambourine in the face of the guitarist’s slowly disintegrating quiff. At times her voice switched lanes to something harsher than her normal tones and she sounded meaner and more pissed than a room full of hardcore singers could muster even after their mother’s made them hoover their own rooms.
The tall bassist stage right and laid back in blue provided a glacial contrast to the fierier Adele as they clouted their way through tracks from the excellent The Repulsion Box as well as early favourites. Understandably the earlier material instigated the most movement and noise but doubtless this’ll change when the album begins to be placed in year end charts. It’s only the lack of a killer “Take me out” styled single (oh and possible the fact that the band is half female) that prevents them from riding this latest wave of Rock onto mainstream shores.
Kevin Blechdom has the year’s grossest album cover, weirdest album, and most incomprehensible web site. A bit of Hedwig here, at least one nod to Tommy, some internal organs, and you’re just getting started. If anyone can explain, please do.
The NME said of Maximo Park (I have taken the liberty of removing the umlaut affectation from the “I” as it has no phonetic consequence) that they “write killer, dance-filling pop songs [how intentional was the use of “Killer(s)”? -ed], mostly about the near universal topic of not being able to get girls to fall in love with them”. The NME characterized these lyrical proclivities as “unpredictable”. Maximo Park say that they write songs about “real life”. Proclaimers of fake life beware.
If you are in NYC you can see Maximo Park this Friday night at Tonic (of all places) for what will certainly be a sold-out show crawling with journalists.
Maximo Park, originally scheduled for 10pm will now be going on earlier (9:30), adding an opener, and taking a nice long sound check, and bumping the new Kill Rock Stars/5RC signing The Robot Ate Me out of their 8:00pm bill and removing those cynical art-weirdos (and their similarly un-discofashionrock openers, Doveman) where they belong — midnight. Well it’s not like Maximo Park can personally readjust the bill. But they are on the cover of the NME and if that kind of buzz can’t carry enough influence at Tonic, what’s the point of rock and roll anyway?
Sorry Robots. Come back when you’re prettier.
(Learn more at www.therobotateme.com/
and www.dovemanmusic.com and to learn more about Maximo Park…well you can probably manage that one on your own).
Lest my facetious fail to translate, my money is on the midnight show.
For her new single, “Lose Control,” Missy pays tribute to Detroit electro/techno pioneers Cybotron by sampling their seminal 1983 hit single “Clear.” Plenty of artists have put their spin on “Clear” over the years, namely Miami bass acts, and although Missy’s take does little more than affix her vocals atop the original instrumental, it somehow works better than any version I’ve heard. It’s like the track had been begging for a high-maintenance makeover for over a decade. I suppose it’s better late than never. For the chorus of “Lose Control,” Missy recruits R&B starlet and fellow crunkette Ciara, who gets delightfully old school with the line, “My name is Ciara for all you fly fellas / No one can do it better…” Fatman Scoop plays the role of the enthusiastic booty aerobics instructor (i.e., “Put your hands up, and make your ass do this!”).
It’s by no means a great song, but it’ll be nice to hear a real electro track on the ol’ Top 40 boob dial. In any case, if Juan Atkins isn’t in the video, I’ll be pissed.
Ah, those pesky fucking border guards. The Russian Futurists were supposed to join Caribou and the Junior Boys here in Minneapolis last night at the squalid shanty, the 400 Bar. Unfortunately, they were prevented from coming over, and have apparently been banned from the States for the foreseeable future for unapparent reasons. Either way, the rest of the gang showed up around 10:30, sweating through their tees and collared shirts. They scrambled on stage and everyone helped put together the two drum kits and various electronic accoutrements. The Junior Boys kicked things off with a shorter set of songs, including fan highlights like “Birthday” and even a new song. It’s always worth the price of admission to see icy bass-heavy dance music throb through a crowd of hipper-than-thous with ice in their skulls. Barely a head bob, nary a dance. Of course, I wasn’t exactly setting the floor a-fire so I’ll throw myself in that heap. Either way, the night really hit its mark when Caribou took the stage. With an electric guitarist and an additional drummer, Snaith and the kids played their spastic patchouli psych through hazy underground images, slapped against a white screen behind them. With the recent record’s more laid-back, groove-territory, it’s easy to forget just what a cacophonous assault Snaith’s music is. Vocals and drums were tracked and then sung over the top at many points, and it must have required every last scrap of Snaith’s energy after the day’s events to hop up from the drum kit, grab his acoustic guitar, and slide into his hazy Donovan-inspired folk at times. Whatever was left upon arrival was in his shirt by the end of the night. Oh. Yes. I should have bought a tee-shirt.
Lemon-Red, breaker of the unbroken, posted the last installment of “Trapped in the Closet” today, in what has been a truly confusing culmination of expectations. If you haven’t heard I-IV, I’m not going to spoil it for you. Suffice it to say I take it as a lesson in expectations. I somewhat doubt that R. was wholly intending to ride our human weakness for linear narrative and the plot’s comfy rise-and-fall, but Chapter 5 leaves us more clueless than we began. Maybe it’s a reflection of a deeply-felt confusion that permeates the world, that every answer only masquerades as one, that the more we find out, the less we really know. Maybe he’s been reading Pynchon. Maybe he wants to make an entropic soap opera, who knows? Either way, if you boil it down, you’ve still got some killer one-liners and imaginative loose ends. I’m curious to hear people’s thoughts on this one; I imagine it will be a divisive conclusion, and if we can’t agree, at least we can get knee deep in the screwed + chopped mixes that are starting to ooze out.