Ugh

by Ian Cohen on May 23rd, 2007

Whoever designed this cover clearly cut his teeth on mid-90’s Bad Religion records.

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Things I’d Forgotten Part VIII

by Derek Miller on May 22nd, 2007

In revisiting their late catalogue this week, I’m reminded that time has not helped this one out. Ugh. Pinch some dirt for my scrapbook.

Great Song, Shitty Artist.

by Ian Cohen on May 21st, 2007

Rampage’s “Wild For The Night” might be the definitive “dude was wack, but (song X) was fuckin’ tight” track. Any other candidates?

Coachella

by Jim King on May 16th, 2007

Thursday, eve of the festival’s opening day. Traffic was light traveling over one hundred miles east of LA to the festival. After Palm Springs, the signs for the campground were easy to see if not few and far between. Once we reached Indio, Coachella was less than three turns off the highway, however one turn was a really annoying round a bout. We arrived earlier than planned, half an hour before the camp was scheduled to open, but they were registering campers anyway. The sun was still a few hours from setting, carrying in camping gear at night would have been easier, but harder to set up. I haven’t been to Coachella since 2004 and the campground has moved to a bigger plot of land. It’s filling up with Southern Californians who knew to beat the unavoidable rush on Friday, and the rest of us who are presumably out of state or country and already on vacation in California. The three-day festival lineup was old school Coachella so the venue and campsite would be packed Saturday and Sunday, but less crowded for Friday, the only day that wasn’t sold out. Tomorrow Rage and RHCP crowds would be arriving to set up camp and get drunk, not to watch the show; they were only attending Saturday or Sunday.

Day One
On the first day of Coachella, even after waiting in line for an hour in the sun, you still have energy to walk around in the dry heat. This will change for Saturday and Sunday, as daytime desert would become more severe. There are a lot of art installation pieces to see, many vendor tents with laptops and varying degrees of shade or a form of air conditioning. Since we were some of the first people admitted into Coachella, I spent the first few hours lying in the grass of an empty concert tent to cool off before my friends and I decided to go to another tent, hopefully with some air conditioning?


Comedians of Comedy

Or we could wait for an hour in a sauna-esque tent until eight comedic acts would provide us with two and half hours of hilarity. Despite several obstacles such as the Bucky Fuller inspired Geo-dome blasting house music in the none to distant background, and the title character from The Old Grey Whistle Test randomly going off, they were not enough to interrupt the show. For future reference Coachella planners, while these may look cool at night, some of this art caused a lot of unnecessary heat. Example, a two-story fire pit shooting fire was given the go-ahead. Was White Zombie playing Sunday? Actually, that reunion looks better on paper than my sarcastic comment intended. Regardless, none of this prevented entertainment engineers such as Aziz Ansari from MTV’s vastly under appreciated Human Giant made this the first Coachella event people who were there saw, for at least five minutes. Everyone else missed it because they were stuck in traffic or waiting at will call for five hours.

The comedians started off with the founding member Patton Oswalt rallying the sweltering crowd and introducing lesser known comedians doing as much of their thing as they could in an allotted fifteen minutes. Quick capsule review, drinking is funny, making fun of hipsters is easy. Each comedian was introducing the next and by the time MTV’s Singled Out (Chris Hardwick, I’ll save you a Google), presumably the ‘Hard’ portion of Hard N’ Phrim had come out the heat was wretched. I didn’t even have the energy to interject when before starting a song he claimed that no one else at the festival would use a melodica, The Good, the Bad and the Queen used one the following night.

Maria Bamford provided a much-needed female perspective; prank calling her mom’s answering machine as ‘baby Jesus’. The comedy went off the charts when Zach came onstage and delivered his trademark quips while playing piano, which he soon retired from. He then executed his back up plan by quickly stripping off his clothes and revealing a hidden dress, which in this heat shows real commitment to the bit, and began lip-syncing a show tune. The climax of the Comedians came when Zach then began ripping pages from a giant poster book that strongly advocates Dane Cook killing himself, which is a value the audience seemed to share. Brian Posehn came out and lowered the bar in the best way possible. Or raised it, as the case may have turned out.

As Patton took the stage he obviously had been caught off guard by Brian’s latest zombie-rape fantasy sequence. One of Patton’s TV safe jokes involved his not-understated stance that the hipsters’ well-known love of achingly ironic t-shirts is deflating the originally intended audience’s ability to actually wear them. All the Coachella message board users looked at one another and seemed to take it well.


Arctic Monkeys

In the first of three big missed must see moments, I missed Arctic Monkeys two opening songs, one short punk song and the excellent new single “Brainstorm”. The dance tent was full of people hoping Digitalism would get as interesting as their recordings during some point. I left after a frustrating ten minutes and made the longest possible walk at Coachella, which is still shorter than an average walk at Lollapalooza.

What remained of the Monkeys set list balanced their harder indie rock songs with crisp dub inflected jams. The sun set on the stage as they played, which gave me happy memories of Blur in 2003. I wanted to be reminded of 2004 and have them bring Dizzee Rascal out for “Temptation Greets You Like Your Naughty Friend” like Basement Jaxx did for “Lucky Star”. The rest of the Monkeys set makes me think they’ll be a solid touring band soon having progressed live since their first US tour. The chatty front man bar was set pretty high for Jarvis.


The Jesus and Mary Chain

As far as I can tell, the only perk from camping has to be the ability to hear random songs being sound checked through the trees that separate the grounds from the venue. Sometimes there are no vocals, not too thrilling, but I got lucky and heard several JAMC songs while waiting outside, one of which was an excellent version of “Honey”. When they took the stage nine or ten hours later I got close and gawked at their mesmerizing array of Orange amp configurations. Jesus and ‘the’ Mary Chain as I like to call them while getting called out fans, played a well chosen set featuring “Sidewalking” and “Head On”, but halfway through I started feeling some of that Coachella claustrophobia. I wanted to leave, but would spend the rest of the weekend in denial that I was the reason I missed “Honey” with Scarlett Johanssen. But having now watched it on YouTube, I regret being a bitch about it. I liked the version I heard at sound check better. Whatever the case may be it was my choice, we had to get up close for Jarvis, and the sound guys playing Marquee Moon started drowning JAMC out.


Jarvis Cocker

In typical embattled fashion, Jarvis had the unfortunate duty playing at the worst produced stage at Coachella maybe ever, the Outdoor Stage. Every band went later as the night went on, and breakdown/setup times were going up steadily as well. Due to keyboard issues Christopher Cross was apparently the only person on hand to loan Jarvis’s crew a plinky piano that was soon lost in the mix of a rousing rendition of “Fat Children”. After the song Jarvis began speaking to the shrieking mass about festival anecdotes and comedic digressions on song origins, definitely the chattiest front man. Those unfamiliar with Jarvis asked quite seriously if he were a comedy act- if this keeps up we’d soon see people getting requesting Jarvis Cocker, not Pulp songs at one of his stand up gigs.

Pulp fans were not given the slightest chance to grow restless, as the new songs were extraordinarily satisfying. With Jarvis potentially matching the replay value of Love Life, he was obviously the madman behind Pulp. Judging from sets throughout the festival or by listening to ten seconds of any Art Brut song, Jarvis has become a musical touchstone for a today’s indie bands. Sentenced to the crappy stage, time was running and the set list wasn’t even close to being done. Jarvis feared the power would get pulled during the upcoming ballad while he dramatically gestured, hitting the big note. They did not and Jarvis was allowed to close his only US festival appearance with everyone singing along to “Running the World”.


Faithless

Things I know about Faithless: dance-y, probably English, haven’t played the US in a decade. They did have impressive stacks of keyboards and were able to play the live show KLF would be playing if they took gigs as seriously as Faithless take their politics. I had to prevent myself from laughing out loud during one unintentionally funny moment when Faithless exclaimed, “Washington can hear us right now!” I think the only political people from Washington at Coachella listening were some Portland based activists trying to legalize medical marijuana.


Bjork

I stayed till the end of Faithless, who were running late, but I was banking on the idea that Bjork would be as well. Not so because I was hearing Earth Intruders the final must see moments I missed. As I moved through the scattered and indifferent crowd I began to notice I was falling into the ‘die-hard maniacs pushing each other to the front’ category of Bjork fans, as opposed to those giving her music a chance even though they probably think “it’s for girls” as if that means anything, then begin wondering aloud what anyone sees in this music till they eventually leave or return to the bar. The reason American Idol pretends it exists, so society can rally around vocally talented personalities bound to make good music, is why Bjork should be given a chance as not only a classically trained singer but a rare 80s pop star never out of work.

Seated on rows of benches the brass band and vocalists were framed by a lovely and elaborate set design was definitely the best of what I saw at Coachella. Though Bjork’s set for an outdoor festival steers away from quieter church sets, there were unavoidable lulls putting some people to sleep while getting drowned out by neighboring stages. She and her live band knowingly switched it up with some crowd pleasers Human Behavior and superb extended encore performance of “Declare Independence” which featured a futuristic synth played with Plinko chips. While there were plenty of nay-sayers, Bjork certainly did not let one fan down.


DJ Shadow

Of the many double book or triple booked bands at Coachella, some are easier decisions than others. Due to how often DJ Shadow tours versus Bjork, my choice was easy, but I had a backup plan. DJ Shadow’s set should have started thirty minutes after Bjork, but since the Outdoor stage was running so late, I stuck around to see if was going over, he was and not making any apologies. Well, maybe one, he apologized he couldn’t play his entire set, but he must’ve gotten pretty damn close. Everyone who left after Bjork must have thought he would play new material, but all I heard were songs I know and love. A stellar version of “Rabbit in your Headlights” that felt like it lasted twelve minutes and mandatory Entroducing cuts made everyone who stuck around very happy. As “Now Approaching Midnight” started, DJ Shadow announced he was going to let this one play out until they cut power, which they soon did a little past 12:30. I guess Coachella organizers had enough irony that day.

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this world is the most confusing world

by Mike Powell on May 14th, 2007

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i honestly do not know who pretty ricky is. i honestly do not totally understand what this contest is. what i do understand is that peer pressure seems to be a group of four young black men who hump ottomans while pretty ricky plays in the background. i am not sure why the humping. i am not sure why three videos of the humping. i am not sure if they feel weird or liberated or ashamed or are totally devoid of feeling when they are humping their ottomans in the company of their close male friends. i don’t know why they are wearing surgical masks in this particular one. i don’t know where their parents are. do i feel turned on watching these? a little. why? do i want to have my ass ground by some teenage boys? no i don’t think so. i think i am turned on by their conviction. in fact, i am sure their conviction turns me on. i woke up feeling like it was a godless world but now i have seen what it means to be engrossed with one’s own perspective to the point of suffocating inscrutability; i also reckon it’s this seed of inspiration and unselfconsciousness that has led to some of the most beguiling-not best, not worst, just beguiling-human expressions in history. america, behold what happens in your creases.

thank you to my dear friend andy for sending me these. breathtaking.

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Discuss…

by Ian Cohen on May 10th, 2007

The dude from Kings Of Leon is the most annoying, fraud-ass vocalist out there. Worse than Joanna. Worse than Clap Your Hands Guy. Worse than Her Space Holiday. Worse than Max B. Discuss.

Filed under: minutiae
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Things I’d Forgotten Part VII

by Derek Miller on May 9th, 2007

“You Can’t Have It Both Ways” is the simplest, most dark-moon sexy song that the Juan Maclean has ever recorded and he will never outdo its old school charms.

I Like to Watch Things on TV

by J T. Ramsay on May 8th, 2007


THIS MACHINE KILLS FASCISTS

Arcade Fire @ the Tower Theater, Philadelphia, 5/5/07

Exhibit A. Exhibit B. Like former Stylus writer Anthony Miccio, I find myself scratching my head more than a little bit when it comes to my inexplicable appreciation of Neon Bible. I hated Funeral because it was, um, too funereal. I hated it so much that I was fully prepared to dismiss Neon Bible out of hand as another preachy exercise in navel-gazing self pity. Maybe there was nothing else to listen to, or maybe I was just genuinely curious to see how reedy the vocals might be, how I would be able to see their wan faces in every note. I was completely taken aback by what I heard. In awe. Shocked. Oops….

I heard the same Springsteen and Echo & the Bunnymen elements in Neon Bible that everyone else did, which, as far as influences go, corners the market on ready-to-wear existential malaise in my book. From the moment I heard it, Neon Bible was one of those albums so chock full o’ Zeitgeist that it was hard to believe. I might have laughed out loud at the millenarianism that issued forth from the speakers, as Win Butler offers his best hellfire and brimstone sermon on the surety of the Rapture. Sure it’s not groundbreaking stuff. Simon and Garfunkel were like the Lewis and Clark of this shit. But that’s part of what was killing me about it: Arcade Fire have more or less made the best anti-war record of 2007…and they’re Canadians. WTF America?

[Caveat lektor: Canadians are North Americans. That’s not lost on me. Also, my second favorite anti-war record of the year is Low’s Drums and Guns, and they’re from Minnesota, which is pretty close to Canada. A pattern emerges. Is this spiritual blowback from Viet Nam War deserters? I hope there’s more where it came from.]

Saturday night’s show pieced together the Arcade Fire’s understanding of the apocalyptic ministries of Church and State, featuring projections eerily similar to Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. A glowing red bible loomed over the stage. Subtlety is apparently not the answer. I’ll add this: nuance may be lost on Americans, so maybe it’s all for the best that Arcade Fire beat audiences over the head with crypto-Satanic images and sets it all to a danceable beat, which must make the constantly gyrating Régine Chassagne the Gloria Estefan of doomy pop. Some folks might read Emma Goldman into this here. I wouldn’t.
What Arcade Fire do live these days is reproduce the atmosphere of their earlier, more intimate shows now set in a 3,000 seat theatre, and on this occasion they went so far as to invoke the time they played Gilmore Girls-approved First Unitarian Church across town. So when Butler invited people to leave their seats and crowd the stage, there wasn’t a moment’s hesitation before the aisles were clogged with humanity. It was impressive. Baby steps on the road to civil disobedience perhaps? Nah, but the aisle probably offered way better sight lines.

Were there any bum notes struck during the night? Not really, which is also shocking for a band with so much equipment on stage, to say nothing of the personnel. Some fans felt the track list went lacking, that they should’ve played “Wake Up,” etc. etc. I was thrilled that they didn’t ruminate too long on material from Funeral myself. The concert is more or less Neon Bible on shuffle and the set is brisk and dynamic; I never found myself bored by any pairing of songs. If anything the show is almost too pristine — they were up there working so hard that there wasn’t time for any amazingly awkward band/audience interactions.

So are they ready for the big time everyone thinks they are, and is arena rock the next step for Arcade Fire? It’s hard to tell. The songs are certainly big enough, but without radio play [Philadelphia doesn’t really have a major pop rock format that includes anything more alternative than say Tool] it’s doubtful. So while they may appear to be reaching the masses through TV and the internet [Neon bibles? TV must be the King James edition, surely], it’s difficult to envision “(Antichrist Television Blues)” becoming the new “Thunder Road” any time soon.

Then again, if they can keep up the moralism to ruminate further on the ills of society for their next album, they may just turn out to be the new Jethro Tull, and they won a Grammy!

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The hipsters mean muggin’ on me all night long

by Ian Mathers on May 7th, 2007

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If you filter out the lone abnormally low score “Keep Your Hands Off My Girl” got on the Jukebox it actually did quite well, and it’s only grown in my estimation since. Yes, Good Charlotte is a frequently ridiculous band, yes the lyrics here are often laughable, yes he used to be sleeping with Hillary Duff. But the song’s post-new wave ultra-compressed rush and Joel Madden’s deadpan delivery makes the whole thing work.

This is partly because it doesn’t sound like what Good Charlotte are usually supposed to sound like, and even weirder it also doesn’t sound anything like the brilliant “I Just Wanna Live,” their last oddball single that shouldn’t have worked but does. And the video for “Keep Your Hands Off My Girl” only helps; it’s the first time I think I’ve seen a blank performance video where the singer basically doesn’t emote and spends most of his time talking past the microphone to the camera. Madden’s attitude in the video is even more deadpan than his vocals, and it works splendidly.

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PHRASES TO OUTLAW IN MUSIC WRITING

by Nick Southall on May 7th, 2007

TypingMonkey.gif

“STATEMENT OF INTENT”

“ALL…” (as in “the opening trio of songs is all pounding drums” or “such-and-such song is all cries of abandoned children”)

Feel free to add.

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