September 26, 2006

This was my second time seeing John Darnielle and Peter Hughes rip it up live, and between being the Best Man at a wedding this weekend and sundry other things, I am woefully late in writing about it. So late, in fact, that Carl Wilson has already done a masterful job of discussing the concert, here, in a fantastic post that covers pretty much everything that I was thinking of talking about (although my set list is more complete than his - I was front row centre, scribbling down each song as it came on, and only the opening ditty I still can’t track down (possibly a new one?), although Darnielle graciously gave us the title). I incredibly glad to run into Wilson’s post while trying to track down the actual title of the Franklin Bruno song that the Goats covered fantastically during the encore because he bothered to remember the between song banter more than I had, and John Darnielle’s stage presence is worth paying $15 for all by itself. The songs were amazing, and astoundingly done - I’d seen him do “Lion’s Teeth” where the chorus just drops into nothing before, but seeing him work similar magic with the more simpatico moments on Get Lonely took my breath away.

Yes, like the guy shouting for old songs I could have done with some more history (I would kill to hear “The Young Thousands” live), but the Mountain Goats last two records are arguably highlights of Darnielle’s whole career, so I don’t begrudge his focus on them at all. And of course, songs I thought were merely good on record, like “Wild Sage” and “In The Hidden Places” were revealed as absolute highlights, one of the funnest parts of seeing these guys live.

Unlike Wilson, however, I have a little more space, and I’d like to mention Christine Fellows. Playing keyboards and with a band composed of a drummer, a cellist/zylophonist and a full-time percussionist who was actually valuable, she put on a fantastic show; I’d never heard her before, although I think she’s played Guelph quite a bit, and I bought her latest album Paper Anniversary as soon as the show ended.  Darnielle dedicated “Get Lonely” to her as a sign of the high esteem he holds her in (as Wilson notes, he mentioned her as one “whose boots I don’t consider myself worthy to polish”), and although I’m familiar enough with the songs to speak convincingly or even coherently about them, after her set I can see where he’s coming from.  As the unconventional band setup indicates, she wasn’t exactly rocking out, but her songs managed to marry a level of sonic detail you don’t often get with live music with the kind of energy you can only really find there.  The only thing disappointing about her performance was that her cellist didn’t re-emerge when the Mountain Goats played “Dilaudid” (and even then their acoustic-and-bass rendition was a lot of fun).

Set list:
“Design Your Own Container Garden”
New Monster Avenue
Moon Over Goldsboro
You Or Your Memory
Dance Music
Get Lonely
Wild Sage
Going To Cleveland
In The Hidden Places
Game Shows Touch Our Lives
Cobra Tattoo
Lion’s Teeth
This Year

No Children
Houseguest (Nothing Painted Blue cover)

Second Encore:
The Best Ever Death Metal Band In Denton

Ian Mathers | 2:42 am | Comments (5)

September 16, 2006

Two documentaries premiering at the festival take a look at musicians who were attacked for opposing American wars. The U.S. vs. John Lennon chronicles the former Beatle’s conflict with Nixon’s government over Vietnam, while Dixie Chicks: Shut Up and Sing follows the country trio as they’re attacked by their right-wing fan base for opposing the invasion of Iraq.

The U.S. vs. John Lennon is easily the better of the two films. Consisting almost entirely of talking heads, the film offers accounts from a number of Lennon’s comrades, but also whistleblowers from within Nixon’s administration and J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI. We also see archival interviews with Lennon in which he expresses the reasons for his pacifism and demonstrates his famous wit (“time wounds all heels” is a personal favourite).

I was pleasantly surprised by Lennon’s intelligence. It’s easy to get the impression that all he had to offer was a megaphone and platitudes, but co-directors David Leaf and John Scheinfeld reveal that there was genuine thought behind his actions. I don’t think I’m the only one to have made this mistake. Even a song as political as “Imagine,” with its anti-religion, anti-nationalist, anti-capitalist message, is often mistaken for feel-good fluff.

To be sure, Lennon had some questionable associates. One can debate whether or not the Black Panthers were a necessary component to the civil rights movement, but their advocacy of violence should have been anathema to a self-styled man of peace. And yet, it’s easy to side with Lennon against the disgusting likes of Nixon, Kissinger, and Hoover. The infuriating latter half of the film is very effective in its focus on FBI phone tapping and attempts to deport Lennon, ostensibly due to a marijuana conviction in Britain.

It’s clear that Leaf and Scheinfeld mean their film to be a comment on the contemporary anti-war movement. It’s impossible to entirely deny the parallels between Lennon’s story and the times we live in, but of the many differences between Vietnam and Iraq, one looms largest over this film’s narrative: the draft. The involuntary enlistment of citizens into an armed conflict was what made Vietnam so unpalatable to large swaths of the American public. This was a time when “Support the Troops: Bring ’Em Home” carried significant moral weight, and comparing Vietnam’s conscription to the all-volunteer army in Iraq just doesn’t work.

Worse still, the only interviewee shown making an explicit connection between Nixon and Bush is Gore Vidal. This parallel might have had more resonance if not drawn by a man who still believes it was wrong for Roosevelt to make war with the Nazis and thinks that the United States was behind the 9/11 attacks.

Even so, I was really enjoying this movie. The music was great, the story compelling, the politics generally admirable. And then Yoko Ono had to ruin things by claiming that the U.S. government assassinated John Lennon. Sure, it’s a dramatic ending to the film, but anyone who knows anything will walk out baffled and irritated. It’s not as though I don’t think Nixon’s gang was capable of assassination, but they were long out of power in 1980. Who gave the order, Jimmy Carter? Rogue elements within the government? Next you’re going to tell me that the United States was behind the 9/11 attacks.

Though the material is similar, Barbara Koppel’s Dixie Chicks: Shut Up and Sing is a very different film. Instead of relying on archival footage and post-facto interviews, Koppel had the benefit of following the Dixie Chicks as they recorded their most recent album and faced the fallout of saying they were “embarrassed that the President of the United States is from Texas.” Though her relationship with the band only began in 2005, Koppel had access to footage shot by a crew documenting their 2003 tour. This means that Shut Up and Sing contains the only existing footage of Natalie Maines uttering her infamous words. (Actually, her words don’t even warrant “infamous”. Is not liking the President really that big a deal? I’m sure the fools protesting the comment weren’t exactly fond of the last few Democrats in the Oval Office. And really, it’s not as though Maines called Jesus gay or claimed Muhammad was deceived by Satan. How about just “famous”?)

As a result of the comment, the Dixie Chicks go from being America’s sweethearts, performing the national anthem at the Super Bowl, to being labeled “Saddam’s Angels.” They’re right not to apologize and their enemies are almost universally idiots, but after seeing how John Lennon was treated, the plight of the Dixie Chicks just isn’t all that impressive. Lennon incurred the wrath of a sitting President, but even George W. Bush pays lip-service to the Dixie Chicks’ right to criticize him. Sure, he also dismissively says “if a few people don’t want to buy their records, their feelings shouldn’t be hurt” but that doesn’t even crack the top 100 stupidest things he’s said.

Maines also isn’t as likeable as Lennon. While he kept his wit and composure throughout his ordeal, Maines exhibits no such grace under pressure. I certainly admire her for not backing down, but her bull-headedness too often results in her refusing to accept the input of her bandmates and manager. Koppel is renowned for fairness to her subject, so this can’t be attributed to malicious editing. Then again, considering how often she had to hear people calling her a traitorous slut, I guess it’s only reasonable to expect she’d be irritable.

What I haven’t found so easy to accept is an exchange in which Maines expresses outrage at Bill Maher for hoping the war is a success. She quickly back off when a member of her entourage defends Maher, but I get the impression that for once she’s just trying to avoid conflict. I was also against the war in 2003, but I never sympathized with the notion that a failure in Iraq would only hurt Bush. Three years later Iraq is a mess, and I hope Ms. Maines feels vindicated. I just feel a bit like crying.

But I really am nitpicking here. As annoying as such scenes can be, it would simply be dishonest to lump the Dixie Chicks and other moderate critics of the war in with the extremist crowd. While the latter claims that George Bush is Hitler and Moqtada al-Sadr is George Washington, Maines and company hardly represent a fifth column. They’re just three women who love their country and couldn’t help but express anger at actions they felt were unjust. What’s more American than that?

As much as I admire Lennon’s and Maines’s bravado, I’ve recently learned the hard way that real courage is telling a bunch of critics that you like The Fall but think Tsai Ming-Liang’s latest is a dud. I doubt even Sasha Baron Cohen has the cojones for that.

Nav Purewal | 2:51 am | Comments Off

September 13, 2006

Collecting overlooked tracks or “deep album cuts” on some of the year’s better records so far (feel free to add anything I’ve missed):

01. TV on the Radio - A Method (Return to Cookie Mountain)
Sitek and Co.’s cooing, clapping, and tapping moves from fragile to empowering as Tunde Adempibe and Kyp Malone warn us about something I’ve yet to figure out.

02. Evangelicals - Another Day (And Yoor Still Knocked Out) (So Gone)
Psych-poppers slob all over the map with rollicking drums, out-of-control synths and plaintive guitar leads, but it’s the breathtaking moments of clarity that steal the show.

03. Remy Ma - Conceited (There’s Something About Remy: A True Story)
New York rap’s single of the year is also it’s most slept on. Remy rhymes greasy over an Indian flute that would make Timbo flip.” Can’t nobody freak it like I do”. Affirmed.

04. The Knife - Like a Pen (Silent Shout)
Full disclosure: I’m not really feeling the album, but this masterpiece of haunted house keys, spastic percussion and all-around creepiness is quite the headphone trip.

05. Man Man - Ice Dogs (Six Demon Bag)
What starts off sounding like more drunk pirates with pianos abruptly turns into a weary Honus, trumpet stabs and a few chicks who didn’t make it into The Pipettes. Lovely.

06. Be Your Own Pet - Wildcat! (s/t)
Jemina Pearl gives her vocal cords a rest (they need it) while the rest of the band tones down their relentless assault too. Blink and you’ll miss it, and that’d be a shame.

07. Girl Talk - Too Deep (Night Ripper)
Everyone’s favorite illegal masher (brilliantly) has Paul Wall rap over Phantom Planet’s “California”, proving that not any jerk-off with GarageBand can do what he does.

08. Tokyo Police Club - Cheer It On (A Lesson in Crime EP)
Scrappy Canadian kids drop political commentary wise beyond their years. Shout along with the chorus and then take a breath during the arresting Nintendoish synth bit.

09. The Fiery Furnaces - Benton Harbor Blues (Bitter Tea)
In an album that does it’s best do drown and mask nearly all the vocals, this genuine pop gem shines. It can be forgotten how beautiful and crisp Eleanor’s voice really is.

10. Arctic Monkeys - Red Light Indicates Doors Are Secure (Whatever People…)
The guitars are simple plucks yeah, but no track in the Monkeys’ songbook is better evidence that Alex Turner is one of the best first-person narrative writers in music.

11. Envelopes - Massmouvement (Demon)
Swedes dip into Pixie land (both Frank and Sitx) resulting in a rawking (for these guys) sugar high in an acre of dandelions.

12. Hot Chip - The Warning (The Warning)
Raindrop percussion and bells power album’s most minimal moment. Best ballad about your own death that you may ever hear.

13. Band of Horses - Our Swords (Everything All the Time)
Band plagued by stagnation finally goes somewhere. The guitar line gallops along while the chorus triumphantly soars above the smoke from their bonfire.

14. Phoenix - One Time Too Many (It’s Never Been Like That)
Frenchmen really embrace that whole soft-rock Strokes vibe but shun Casablancas’ ennui in order to work things out. Dig that riff and don’t call it a bed wetter.

15. Lil’ Wayne - Hidden Track (Dedication 2)
After the much hyped but ultimately overrated “Georgia… Bush” Dwayne Carter spits a hellacious, unrelenting and jarring freestyle.

16. Destroyer - Water Colours Into the Ocean (Destroyer’s Rubies)
A stealth guitar line layered under a somber guitar parts, steady drumming, Bejar’s voice and of course those hypnotic “la’s” all add up to what is the best sunset song of 2006.

Jordan Sargent | 3:01 pm | Comments Off

September 11, 2006

So exciting is the contemporary South Korean film scene that a new book calls it “The New Hong Kong.” With visionaries like Chan-wook Park and Je-gyu Kang leading the pack in recent years, this label seems warranted. A half-dozen new South Korean films are screening at this year’s festival, and the two most anticipated titles have already played.

So recent is South Korea’s film boom that the nation’s box office records are broken at regular intervals. Until recently, the box office champion was the brilliant Korean War film Tae Guk Gi: The Brotherhood of War. It’s since been supplanted by King and the Clown, playing in this year’s Contemporary World Cinema program. The film’s plot is simple enough: in 16th Century Korea, two bawdy clowns are arrested for lampooning the king. They face execution unless they give the king (wait for it) the gift of laughter. I realize it sounds mighty precious, but it’s actually a fairly serious examination of the oedipal mania motivating the country’s most brutal rular. King and the Clown is far from perfect, too often relying on excessive melodrama, but it’s a testament to the quality of Korea’s current filmmaking that even my least favourite movie amongst the country’s recent output is this good.

The one thing the new Korean cinema was missing was a great monster movie. Joon-ho Bong has filled the void with his thoroughly entertaining The Host. Formaldehyde dumped into the Han river leads to the mutation of a giant, hideous beast designed by Peter Jackson’s WETA Workshop. You can probably guess what happens next. My one complaint is that The Host would have packed a harder punch had it been trimmed by 20 minutes. As it stands, the monster remains off-screen far too long. I know it worked for Jaws, but this monster’s missing from the middle, after having already been fully revealed (and what a glorious reveal!) rampaging through the streets in the first fifteen minutes. Admittedly this is a fairly minor concern, because though you might have to wait just a bit longer, you ultimately get exactly the payoff you’re looking for. Anyone going to see The Host wants to see two things: a giant crazy-ass monster killing people, and those people fighting back. No, it’s not Floating Weeds, but it’s a hell of a lot of fun. And besides, it’s not as though The Host is devoid of any other qualities. There’s some classic Asian slapstick, well-executed family drama, and even a little environmental advocacy and political satire. Seriously. And guess what: it’s well on its way to grossing more won than King and the Clown. Word is that a Hollywood remake is already being negotiated. I don’t really have a problem with that, though I tend to be suspicious of these things when they aren’t directed by Martin Scorsese.

None of this is meant to imply that South Korea holds a monopoly on exciting new Asian cinema. Case in point: Xiaogang Feng’s The Banquet, a wuxia Hamlet featuring some of Yeun Wo-Ping’s finest choreography. It’s during these thrilling fight scenes that The Banquet soars highest, but finer points of the film’s adherence to Shakespeare’s play are also successful. Then there’s Ziyi Zhang, whose performance reminds me that she’s capable of very good work when not foolishly cast in an English-speaking role. The Banquet’s premise invites comparisons to Kurosawa’s Ran and Throne of Blood, and that it doesn’t always match their greatness can’t seriously be held against it. If it was as good as Ran, it would be the best film at the festival. As it stands, The Banquet is a blast.

Nav Purewal | 11:22 am | Comments Off

September 10, 2006

“I like your priorities,” a cinephile chum responded when I told him I was skirting the first week of fall semester to attend the Toronto International Film Festival on the flimsy basis that the deadline date for adding classes is two days after the festival concludes. Frankly, I don’t much like my priorities, but it’s nice to be blissfully delusional, so long as I have understanding outsiders to balm the wounds inflicted by misguided rationalizations.

Speaking of misguided, I was planning to ruminate on the process by which I scoured through this year’s typically gargantuan list of films, what I was anticipating and what I was disappointed didn’t make it—I even started composing a detailed (and non-pejorative) analogy of auteurism to alcoholism, which I may include if I can work it in manageably—but the films are rolling by far faster than I have time to adequately explore them as it is, so onto this year’s selections.

Hirokazu Kore-eda’s Hana, my opener, was the most pacifist samurai film I’ve ever seen, and I wish that quality meant more by its lonesome. It seems that between Nobody Knows and Hana, Kore-eda has tried to make a leap from mood pieces to meat-and-potatoes storytelling, with decidedly mixed results. It’s not that I expect a muscular tone from this would-be subversive tale of a ronin determined to wuss out, but the way Kore-eda lingers on the eccentricities of his milieu—a depressed village seeking resources and motivation—does little to contribute to the rather straightforward emotional through-line of our hero’s “I would avenge my father’s death, but I’m a pretty nice guy” dilemma. As a result, a rather didactic connection between jingoism and economic prosperity prevails where the former appears idiotic and the latter necessary but easy to protract. As one samurai attests, “What’s the point of living without war?” But the film too often foolishly dismisses such statements as the product of a juvenile affinity for vengeance. That said, while Kore-eda has renounced the languorous feel of his previous work, he does show a reflexive theatricality that keeps Hana watchable. A subplot involving a “revenge play” performed to imitate a planned attack attains a catharsis comparable to Renoir circa Rules of the Game when two characters pretend to experience grief as an alternative to actual grief: it’s relief, disguised as sadness, and revealed to be a self-conscious gesture by the grandiose, openly performative way in which the characters express themselves.

Probably better suited to a slot in the middle of the fest when subtitle-reading fatigue sets in, Mike Judge’s Idiocracy is nonetheless a hilarious, fine-tuned satire baffling for its exile from most U.S. screens; the commercial Toronto run was ending on TIFF’s opening night, and I’d be damned if I opted instead for more Hana-style mediocrity in lieu of a chance to catch Judge’s only feature in seven years. The premise deliciously straddles the line between the absurd and the plausible, i.e. that in 500 years pop culture will have rotted our brains and it’ll be up to a cryogenically frozen, intellectually mediocre army man – named Joe Bowers, played by Luke Wilson, allegorically renamed Not Sure – to save humanity. Sounds marketable enough, but here’s a film that bravely attacks our infinite capacity for convenience, showing us a world that much like our own largely focuses on giving consumers the most pleasure with the least effort—the CostCo employee who welcomes customers with a supremely dispassionate “Welcome to CostCo. I love you,” is emblematic of this exchange, imbuing the most meaningful phrase in our language with the passion of a robot, giving a bite-sized piece of everything composed of nothing. The film endorses difficulty, effort, and most obviously intelligence. But what prevents self-congratulation from setting in is that Judge emphasizes Joe’s relative naivete at every turn—one of the film’s most overtly tragic moments occurs when he makes a slip-up common among the future-‘tards—saying “ecomony” in place of “economy”—and he, and us viewers, are the only ones present to criticize him. While it’d be nice to have a world where everyone was smart and articulate, Joe’s problems also stem from a purely selfish desire to be molded and scrutinized by better, more able minds, analogous to the idiots’ excitement when they ask Joe to “do something smart,” as if intelligence were a kind of magic trick when it’s in fact the opposite, a suppression of fantasy and commitment to reality. Anyone who wants to know more about what the hell happened to this film should read this article, detailing not only the corporate savagery of Fox but also how Judge’s passive demeanor led to his downfall, which is all the more moving considering the struggle of Idiocracy’s protagonist, a modest man wrestling with the burdens of the more assertive.

That was the first night, containing 2 movies out of a planned 50 or so. Expect more soon; I’ve already seen a masterpiece, but just haven’t had time to write about it.

Sky Hirschkron | 6:02 pm | Comments (3)

Halfway through Sophie Fiennes’s Pervert’s Guide To Cinema, philosopher Slavoj Žižek argues that pornography is as conservative as any other genre. Most films are free to depict emotional realism, but are limited to sexual artifice. Pornography suffers from the opposite constraints. Shortbus, with its graphic scenes of un-simulated sex, plays as if writer/director John Cameron Mitchell saw an early cut of Fiennes’s film and took Žižek’s words as a challenge. One critic called it “Manhatten with moneyshots,” and he wasn’t far off.

Most of Shortbus’s buzz is the result of its very (very) graphic sex scenes, which are understandably difficult to ignore. Mitchell films every permutation of ever combination, be it multi-partner, single-partner or solitary. An all-male threesome is of particular interest not just for its audacity, but for the stunning logistics of its blowjob triangle (not to mention the stirring tossed-salad rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner”). But I assure you it’s all very tasteful, or at least as tasteful as this material can be.

Shortbus is nothing if not direct, with Mitchell frontloading the action, kicking things off with the best opening montage since Magnolia. It serves not only as a mission statement for the depravity to ensue, but introduces his colorful cast of characters: a gay couple considering an open relationship, the peeping-tom who’s obsessed with them, a dominatrix who’s never had a romantic relationship and, in the film’s best performance, Sook-Yin Lee as a pre-orgasmic sex therapist. Over the next 100-minutes, Mitchell pushes his characters out of their comfort zones (and the audience’s), and the results are hilarious, campy, heartbreaking, emotionally generous, and ultimately quite touching.

And that’s the thing about Shortbus. Behind its shocking veneer and rebel posturing lies an aching, wounded heart. What else would you expect from the creator of Hedwig and the Angry Inch?

Nav Purewal | 12:30 pm | Comments Off

September 7, 2006

The 2001 Toronto International Film Festival was horrifically interrupted by the attacks on the United States. A year later the festival presented the world premiere of 11’09”01, an omnibus of eleven short films focused on 9/11. Now the directors behind the three best pieces are bringing new feature films to the festival. Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu and Mira Nair will present their work in the coming days, but the first offering is Ken Loach’s latest, the Palme d’Or winner at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, The Wind That Shakes the Barley.

In recent years, the Palme d’Or lavished attention on gems like Elephant and The Pianist. Then there was the aberration of Michael Moore winning the prize that should have gone to Oldboy. I don’t yet know if Loach has made a better film than Babel or Volver, but for the time being it seems that the Cannes Jury’s returned to form.

Set in Ireland from 1920-23, Loach’s film depicts the growth of the Irish nationalist movement during the Irish War of Independence, and its splintering during the subsequent Civil War. Though the subject is expansive, Loach keeps his canvas intimate, centering the action on two brothers, Damien and Teddy O’Donovon, played convincingly by Cillian Murphy and Padriac Delaney. Employing the naturalist style he’s known for, Loach creates a film that, while not striving for the documentary-realism of Paul Greengrass’s Bloody Sunday, manages to convincingly portray the action with a credible, urgent sense of veracity.

Predictably, British conservatives are attacking Loach, claiming that he’s made an unabashedly anti-British, pro-IRA film. I wonder how many of these commentators stayed through the film’s second half, or watched it at all. Loach is certainly sympathetic to the IRA’s nationalist goals, but his portrayal of Britain’s brutality, while certainly not balanced, is fair.

A more justified argument is against Loach’s use of the IRA to comment on current events. When prodded by the sympathetic Socialist Worker, Loach admitted that he finds the Irish nationalist movement largely analogous to the insurgencies in Afghanistan and Iraq. Regardless of your opinion on those wars, it should be evident that there’s a substantial difference between people who want to expel an occupying force in a bid to achieve democratic self-determination, and people who’d rather install reactionary theocracy. But while I can understand why some of Loach’s critics have allowed his comments to colour their judgment, they are wrong to do so. Loach never allows his contemporary concerns of creeping American empire to overpower his period drama. Yes there is talk of “occupation” and “martyrs,” but surely such conversations occurred in 1920s Ireland.

This isn’t the type of hyperbolically anti-British film Mel Gibson would make, nor does it subtly whitewash imperial sins like Richard Attenborough’s Gandhi. The historical truth is undeniable: the British Empire, whether in Ireland, India, or anywhere else the Sun Never Set, was often a ruthless, oppressive entity. If depicting this truth makes The Wind That Shakes The Barley Niall Ferguson’s most-hated film of the year, so be it.


This is the first of several posts I’ll be making from the 2006 Toronto International Film Festival.

Nav Purewal | 9:01 pm | Comments Off

A while back Nick Sylvester theorized that Gnarls Barkley had “… found themselves or been forced into one of the more fascinating instances of the publicists and publicity engines becoming more “artistic” than the albums and artists themselves.” I don’t completely agree with him, but I see his point. Anyone who heard Gnarls’ album sampler knows that the rest of the tracks on St. Elsewhere are filler, made to get an album out just as “Crazy” was blowing up. But I also think that the core tracks of the album, “Crazy,” “Smiley Faces,” “Go-Go Gadget Gospel” are the work of two guys trying to go at something special and different. But after watching phased out can-you-even-call-them rockers OK Go at the VMAs last week, it was obvious that the general public, and even some venerable rock critics, have been had by a group of sell-outs to the likes of which we may have never have seen.

What OK Go has done is admirable. That is, become rather famous (and presumably successful) by being a band that isn’t about the music. Yeah, I know that robotic pop-stars like Cassie and Young Dro get churned out of major label factories at night and are at the top of the Billboards that same day, but those type of acts start out as cons from the beginning. OK Go have been around for a minute, they’ve got a few EPs and two full-lengths to their name, and started out as a honest-to-goodness band. Late last year they released a now legendary video of themselves simultaneously dancing to one of their songs. It blew up on MySpace/YouTube and gave the band a glimmer of exposure, which they parlayed into a tour playing first on a three-band bill headlined by Panic! at the Disco. The video was alright at best, but anyone who had seen Napoleon Dynamite should have been thoroughly unimpressed. Fast-forward to last month, and OK Go are back to irrelevance. So they leak this video of them doing choreographed shit on treadmills, which to anyone who has jumped off a treadmill, was, again, thoroughly unimpressive. MTV got wind of the noise from the internet and stuffed them onto the VMAs already bloated performance list.

The performance wasn’t as boring as it was insulting. The band made no attempt at even acknowledging that they actually had their music playing to, and MTV probably could’ve played a different band’s song all together without OK Go even noticing or caring. It was also kind of sad. Here we had four guys in three-piece suits jumping on fucking treadmills, which once had actual musical aspirations, being puppets on national television. When MTV said jump, these assholes asked how high.

But as much as I hope that OK Go is never heard from again, their use of the internet as the most powerful medium in music is truly historic. It’s most historic because the band is its own “publicity engine.” No big idea from the beginning. No larger power at work here, no major label threatening to cut their deal if they don’t become this or that, just four guys who once gave a shit about their craft but who now suck at two. And the saddest part is that at the end of the day, the most we can say is more power to them.

Jordan Sargent | 3:38 pm | Comments Off

September 5, 2006

1. Banksy “sabotaging” Paris Hilton’s debut album by replacing the artwork with doctored copies featuring slogans such as “Why am I famous?” and “What do I do?”, and photos of a topless Paris with the head of a dog, is pretty pointless.

2. This is “graffiti artist” Banksy, whose book you can find on the “recommended” stand at all good Waterstones, and on the coffee tables of social science lecturers and Liberal Democrats across the nation.

3. Doctored copies of the album are now going for Ł400 on eBay. Way to smash vacuous capitalist icons, Banksy!

4. Banksy also replaced the CD of vacuous instant million-selling pop star Paris Hilton’s debut album with a mix by Dangermouse.

5. Dangermouse became famous by mashing up The Beatles and Jay-Z on The Grey Album, kids.

6. And became a vacuous instant million-selling popstar as half of Gnarls Barkley.

7. A picture of Paris Hilton’s nipples is hardly shocking when one can find on the internet, inside about thirty seconds, extensive video footage of her being rogered senseless by that bloke who I forget who he is.

8. Also her nipples have been in just about every tabloid in Britain at least once, probably including The Daily Express.

9. Banksy’s latest work, a picture of a naked man climbing out of a woman’s bedroom window as her husband comes home on the side of a prominent street in Bristol, was the subject of a council-sponsored public vote to see whether it should stay or it should go.

10. It stayed! 97% voted in favour. This means effectively that the council may as well have commissioned it. Which they may have, in fact, done. Much like Paris Hilton’s PR may have, in fact, commissioned Banksy’s stunt.

Nick Southall | 11:24 am | Comments (6)

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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