clap clap blog: we have moved

Thursday, October 09, 2003
I think the problem I had with the last Manitoba album, Up In Flames, is that I bought it the same night I bought Prefuse 73's One Word Extinguisher and around the time I was doing a lot of listening to the prerelease bootleg of Hail to the Theif, which meant that I saw it through the lens of experimental and/or electronic music rather than as pop music, which was how it was being largely being understood by most critics. And, frankly, I was having a hard time understanding that whole argument: sure, it had a lot of the trappings of Pet Sounds pop, but it didn't move me the same way pop should; it was nice to listen to as an album, but there weren't any killer tunes.

But lately I've been listening to stuff like Poison and Junior Senior and Guns 'n' Roses and John Mellencamp. So just now, while listening to "Jacknuggeted," it all snapped. I got it. The handclaps on the offbeats, which previously had just seemed like annoying-but-interesting hat replacements (also used as such on the Max Tundra album) now felt like an actual gospel revival or campfire singalong was going on in the distance. The big church organ crash-ins, which previously just registered as more laptop keyboardism, now felt like a gesture towards the big guitar-and-crash breakdown that's supposed to happen after the point in the vocal line at which it comes, were this a normal rock song. And so the thing that had really bugged me about the track, the sound, which made it feel like an extended intro or interlude rather than an actual song, due mainly to the lack of any snare and much of any kick and the general vaccuum-sealed digital gleam, I now recognize as the point. There aren't many drums because it's a pop song where you're supposed to fill in what isn't there--because you can fill in what isn't there, because we're all so familiar with pop songs that we have the capacity to do that. There's enough clues--the acoustic guitar, the repetative-but-melodic vocal line--that we can pretty much fill in the power chords, the guitar solos, the beat (which, interestingly, you could probably steal from "Hey Ya" with a few minor adjustments), and even the bassline, as there doesn't appear to be one presently.

(I still don't understand the positively Mu-ziq-esque IDM breakdown at the end, though. It's 1995 all over again!)

Interestingly, while I now understand the album more, I'm not entirely sure that I like it more. "Every Time She Turns Round It's Her Birthday" does have the best live beats you'll hear this year outside of Lightning Bolt, though. The ending, which feels like they had to drag the drummer away bodily from the set, roolz.