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Friday, November 21, 2003
Walking to work from the subway this morning, I was listening to Jay-Z's "What More Is There To Say" while passing a garbage truck that was beeping in such a way that it matched up perfectly with the beat and pitch of the pre-chorus. Ah yes, I thought, sometimes you forget that that's what modern music is built from. The harmony of garbage trucks...
posted by Mike B. at 6:02 PM 0 comments Links to this post
Gabba is back up, FYI.
posted by Mike B. at 2:54 PM 0 comments Links to this post
Check out the track list for Tricky's "Back To Mine." Made me slap my head and go, "Of course he likes Morphine!"
posted by Mike B. at 1:49 PM 0 comments Links to this post
Listening to the Unicorns right now, and boy oh boy am I pissed the fuck off.
Hey, so remember that Pitchfork review? It's totally wrong. Totally. Let's see, where to begin...
1) "what truly sets Who Will Cut Our Hair apart is the near total absence of traditional verse/chorus/verse framework in their songs"
This is true only if you are a half-deaf 3rd-grader with tintinitus who is currently being fellated by one of the band members. I don't really know how to refute this, since I don't know how you can honestly listen to this album and not hear verse-chorus-verse structures in the songs. I can diagram it for Eric if he wants, I guess. Like, let's try "Les Os,":
Intro->hook->verse->hook->verse->hook->bridge->solo->bridge (in which he quotes the Flaming Lips--I shit you not!)
Is this "I Wanna Be Sedated?" No, but it's hardly Shoenberg, or even Deerhoof. It's definitely not formless. The only defenses here would be "Well, I don't hear a structure," or "Well, the band members didn't intend for there to be a structure," both of which are so lame that I don't really need to bother, do I? Intentionality is a fallacy, y'all...
Anyway, as a supposedly "formless pop song," it doesn't come close to, say, Beyonce's "Yes." A 50 BPM freeform pop slow-jam? Oh yeah. But Beyonce is successful and mainstream and on a major label, whereas the Unicorns are unknown and Canadian and on Alien8, so we know without even listening which one's experimental, right?
2) "Songs shift effortlessly from moment to moment, never once relying upon the crutch of repetitive composition to create the illusion of a powerful hook."
Again, I'm not entirely sure how to refute this except to say: listen to the damn album, willya?! Take just the first track: there's a keyboard part that comes in at 0:17 that lasts through the rest of the song; the vocal line that comes in with the keys takes a break for a chorus and then repeats at 0:39, followed by another chorus, and the chorus comes back at 1:39, and all of these sections have basically the same bass and drums part behind them. There are lots of hooks, and they're often repeated, both continually and at different points in the song.
3) "These days, when "epic" describes a line at the bank, it doesn't seem adequate to describe the scope of some of these tunes..."
It's not adequate because it's not accurate. The longest song is 5:30. Having lots of hooks does not make a song "epic." There's nothing that sounds remotely like a Who song or a Queen song or "November Rain," which are pretty much my standards for "epic but conceivably able to be played on the radio." (When I really think of "epic" I think of MBV and Mogwai and like that, generally.) Fair enough, there are a lot of different bits, but they mostly add up to fragments and sketches, due to...well, not very good songwriting, really.
4) "When it's so easy for bands to stay behind the indie-pop curve that you'd think someone's handing out ice cream back there, The Unicorns are ahead. In fact, they're so far ahead that superficial distinction becomes virtually unnecessary; they're striking at the most fundamental structure of the pop song itself."
You can't "strike" at a "fundamental structure" when it's abstract. You can play with it, change it for your own uses, sure, even invent a new structure. But strike at it? Hardly. And they're not even changing much. Let's not even get into "subversion" issues or I'll start pounding the table with my shoe...
The sad part about all this is that the Unicorns are an okay band that could have a good follow-up if they buckled down and tightened up their songwriting a bit. And I would totally be fine with someone liking them and writing a positive review of the album, even if I wouldn't. It's OK indie-pop. But it's sad if the only way you can allow yourself to like something like this is by convincing yourself that it's "experimental." Sure, the band gives off all the necessary signs--token pop act on an avant label, lo-fi production, wonky keyboards--but that doesn't mean you should go for it. Maybe they just didn't have a lot of money, you know?
But I think it's these signs, coupled with their poor songwriting skills, that are leading folks to label them as experimental. But if this is experimental, then so are the New Pornographers, Jay-Z, XTC, etc., etc. These folks are just better songwriters and are adept at using their weirdness and their playing with forms as keys to better songs. Tons of NP songs end with extended codas/bridges, which is essentially what the Unicorns do that gets them labeled "formless," except the Unicorns' endings are kind of misplaced, whereas the NPs' are brilliant blasts of pop. They're not experimental--they're just not good songwriters yet.
That said, I did really like one song on the disc, "I Was Born (A Unicorn)." Track this one down if you can. If I just heard that posted somewhere, I'd be excited for the whole disc, and hey, I'm willing to admit that maybe I'd have a different opinion about it than if my first exposure to them had been the PF review. (I'm willing to be persuaded...) It starts off with this great, rockin' drumbeat, drops in a perfect major-key guitar riff that I'll be humming all day, and then rides the riff well into the verse. The little two-string riff that goes under the vocals is perfect, as is the half-step vamp that closes it off. The singing on the chorus is kind of annoying, but it's also pretty funny, so it's OK. And then there's a break with handclaps! Yeah! This is one of the few places on the disc where the refusal to repeat riffs pays off. Also, I love bands' theme songs. (Like the All Girl Summer Fun Band's--man, is that good, and it does a similar thing.)
Gotta say something about the lyrics, though. PF says they're "sometimes smarmy," but they're really almost always smarmy, and worse, the disc leads off with a big dose of smarm. Maybe not even smarm: a smirk, a leer, a joke to make themselves seem smarter, which is the worst kind of joke there is. Guys, lay off it. Maybe you need to listen to Wayne Coyne a little more on this one.
posted by Mike B. at 12:28 PM 0 comments Links to this post
Thursday, November 20, 2003
New York can actually be quite lovely in November sometimes, if it is clear and not too cold. If you are crossing Broadway at 23rd street, for instance, there is a pleasant busy-but-not-too-busy buzz to the area, and although it being dark at 5 might not be ideal, everything looks very well-defined, and lights from blocks away shine brightly (as do the intrusive LCD video ads above subway entrances). The wind blows and maybe you didn't dress quite warmly enough that morning, but it's still very--pleasant.
You spend so much time in one area in New York, if you have a steady job--a caveat I regrettably feel it necessary to add in these depressed days--that you have to work sometimes to make it feel foreign, because there are times when foreign feels nice. If you have been compelled to move to a big city, it almost goes without saying that you feel this way. If you want consistency and slow change, it's possible to find this within a city if you limit yourself to an unchanging 4-block area, but you're much better off moving 200 miles away to eastern Long Island or Connecticut or above Albany or maybe even Vermont. (Slow change and consistency pretty much being Vermont's state motto.) But in a city, sometimes you'll want it to feel new again, want to break that routine, and so you can just cross the street, or walk past where you'd normally stop a few blocks uptown, or visit the park at a different time of day. And everything looks a little different, even though you've only moved to a miniscule degree. Maybe it's the light, but maybe it's the Christmas decorations. But it's nice. It slows you down, and it brings you out of the crowd sometimes.
It is also nice to walk alone, and without any destination. It is nice to, say, notice new shops, or stop and read menus at places with names that you're fairly certain translate as "Flower of Salt" and to wonder exactly what that means or is supposed to convey, and what exactly "tastings" are and if you could do that because it sounds just fabulous. You notice the vacant storefronts filled with temporary fly-by-nights selling ornaments and coats out of boxes, notice furniture stores with interior design services and interiors on sort of a loft model which looks charming, notice different delis and oddly appealing awnings and men walking behind you with coats and microphone stores and billiard halls.
It is nice, as I say, to be alone--or to feel alone, anyway, aloneness being a highly relative concept in areas such as this. It's nice to walk with your hands in your pockets and not worry about how you look or what you should be doing, or even how fast you're walking and whether anyone is annoyed at you. It's nice to think about being alone, to be free of expectations and other people's schedules and all of that. And you think it might be nice to see a movie alone, which you haven't done in quite a while, and if that movie could maybe be about dragons somehow. Dragons or cars. Or car-driving dragons.
You think a little about how important aloneness used to be to you--how loneliness got to be oppressive at times, but how good it also felt to walk calmly like that, unencumbered, and see a movie, or browse through the bookstore, or sit and drink tea. How important that was to your creative process--how many ideas you used to get while out walking, how that feeling of the wind on your skin seemed to encourage you to think in words or melodies or rhythms instead of goals and processes and concerns. How maybe--or maybe not--that's affecting you. The not-having-aloneness thing.
It is nice to be alone after spending so much time, so much time, 9 hours a day, in an office. Nice to be alone--or feeling alone--and very nice to be outside, silly as that may be. How outside can it be in a place like this? But it is, technically or otherwise, outside. There's the breeze, and the expanse of sounds, and no goddamn fluorescent lights. (Swear to God those are going to make your head explode.) Because OK, sure, it's not a park, and you wonder if anyone would tell you if the trees didn't actually turn colors this year, but it's outside. Outside enough. All you need is an open space, and you seek them out in the city: areas where the canyons of buildings--doesn't matter the height, even the three-floor factories in your neighborhood are bad--breaks up for a half-acre or so and you can get a real sense of space, of sunlight. Intersections are urban fields, and the one at 23rd and Broadway is a great one, multi-tiered, as Broadway is actually crossing 5th here, with a park on one side and a nice broad sidewalk on the three others. You can cross and turn your head to the sky and stop in the middle of the crosswalk (though not too long, it's a short light) and look up and down the great broad avenues. You can take a deep breath and feel quickly what it would be like to be abandoned and depopulated, but also feel what it's like to be here at foreign times. You can see all the lights, see the buildings up on 34th street, see the Empire State (which you love with a quiet passion that you never quite feel comfortable sharing with anyone) and see the mist shrouding its spire and wonder what it feels like up there, way up high, maybe leaning out a window or just sticking your hand out and flying it in the high winds which your father (or a friend of your father's) has assured you proliferate there, way up high.
And eventually you get back to the office and are weirdly calm and maybe a little sad but maybe a little more at peace, too, like you've been grieving, or, I suppose, like a kind of shock, of numbness. But it's a good numbness. It's a transferral of body parts, a shifting of priorities and nerve endings, of thoughts and all that bullshit. And you put on music when you get back, a CD instead of your normal MP3 playlist, because you want something that's going to sustain a mood. And you sit a while, and you think.
posted by Mike B. at 6:14 PM 0 comments Links to this post
Jesse scores the top story on Salon today with a piece on Berkeley Breathed that is well worth reading.
posted by Mike B. at 4:41 PM 0 comments Links to this post
It's weird--despite this whole "community" thing, I really feel pretty separate in the blogosphere. I guess I was more part of it back in the Justin/Dizzee era (ah the glory days of four months ago), and maybe it's because I refuse to post on ILM, but this kind of stuff kind of weirds me out. I'm one of the biggest referrers to NYLPM? Really? (And Matt's Fluxblog is one of the biggest music blogs? But I'm going drinking with him on Saturday!) And Luke only gets 50 hits a day more than me? Weird.
I guess it's all pretty small anyway, so it makes sense, but it's still a bit odd. In my head it's not really personal--this ain't no party, this ain't no LiveJournal--but it's also not, I dunno, that wide either. I'm not Pitchfork, know what I mean? People aren't going to randomly notice me. Although I have gotten a few really nice little life morsels as a result of the blog--mail from some of my favorite people, mostly, and stronger connections with people I'm glad to know. But that's really it. I've gotten mentioned specifically on NYLPM a few times, but I don't think Simon ever linked directly to me, and blogs that feel like they have a "bigger influence", like Gawker and TMFTML, don't seem to acknowledge me. Which is fine--don't get me wrong. I'm just saying that given that, it seems odd to be known by other people. Really, my audience isn't bigger than three college English classes...
Got this from Somedisco, which I'd been shockingly lax in checking lately, due to general business. Thanks for the link, though.
I should post more.
I never check referrer logs.
posted by Mike B. at 4:02 PM 0 comments Links to this post
One song on the album I was discussing earlier is great, actually--it's a super-poppy love song to Britney Spears! A bunch of good JT rips on there, too--"Now that your boyfriend's gone bye bye bye / He was singing my songs in the third grade..." Something along those lines. I'll post it when it gets closer to release date.
posted by Mike B. at 1:10 PM 0 comments Links to this post
Knifin' around. Finally.
posted by Mike B. at 12:50 PM 0 comments Links to this post
Limp Bizkit covers Nirvana's "You Know You're Right" and the world somehow does not collapse upon itself. Truly, we live in miraculous times.
posted by Mike B. at 11:59 AM 0 comments Links to this post
Just to give you an idea about what I'm up against, here would be my criticisms of the album.
When I put it on I had to check the label copy to see if it was actually mixed and mastered, which it was, but it sure didn't sound like it at points--maybe some of the mixes are still rough. The vocals just sounds really badly mixed. Sometimes under-, sometimes over-, but almost always badly processed. This would be one of those things I couldn't fix personally, as mixing vocals has always been a weak spot of mine, but my ear's good enough to tell me that there needs to be some more processing on there.
The first track is good and dancey-poppy, with a bit of a salsa feel, but the backing just doesn't hit it enough. It's comparable to "Seniorita," sorta, but then, of course, it just doesn't do it as well. The beat's too constant, and the whole thing is nowhere near hyper-poppy enough. I could totally hit this shit (some guitar and loud noises would really help) but it might not be what they're looking for. But it should be.
The second track starts out OK as a piano-ballad kind of thing. But then it hits the tagline, which is "L.A. Blue!", which is so fucking bad I can barely stand to type it. It's so overused, so bad, so done. I want to sit him down and say, think about this! You must live in a specific area of LA--why not use that instead? Why not think about the street you live on or the one you drive down to get to her house--what do you see there? How does that resolve? If you're leaving, what's around in the vehicle you're leaving in? Specifics!
Anyway, I guess it's sort of a boring subject, but you get the idea...too many ballads overall, which seems to be symptomatic of pop, but that's not to say that the non-ballads couldn't kill.
posted by Mike B. at 11:15 AM 0 comments Links to this post
Today I'm going to meet a former New Kid On The Block, because he is signing to our label and I am ostensibly doing A&R for it. I think I might shit my pants.
I'm listening to the album right now--it's been finished for a few months--and it's kind of a weird experience. It's definitely pop, and it's definitely bothering me, but it's not like I'm some snot-nosed 24-year-old indie brat who can't listen to two seconds of Z100 without barfing. I genuinely love pop, and I can clearly hear the JT and Ricky Martin and Dido and everything else in this disc, and I'm down with that. But I have some pretty clear and specific criticisms of it, and while I often do of music--I'm something like a music critic these days, after all--I can do something about this. I can address my concerns to the artist before release and he could conceivably change it before we put the disc out.
But it goes even farther than that, because I'm going to get the master tapes, which means I could theoretically go home, load it into ProTools, take out the tepid backing and drop in my own from FruityLoops. Then I could give the new mixes to the label heads and the artist and see if they liked it better.
But I probably won't. I try not to get too invested in this job, as it doesn't really seem worth it. (Since, you know, we sign ex-New Kids, among other problems.) But then again, I'm feeling really punchy today, so maybe I will.
posted by Mike B. at 10:58 AM 0 comments Links to this post
Wednesday, November 19, 2003
I think Simon over at No Rock 'n' Roll Fun is kind of letting his fandom blind him here--or something like that. What I'm trying to say is that he has a legitimate problem with the article, which was sucky (although I'm not sure how surprising it should be that articles written about pop musicians that have lasted this long--and who, admittedly, play a lot of the right middlebrow-appropriate cards--would be fairly fawning), but he transfers this sucking problem to Mr. Albarn, who doesn't seem to be particularly complicit in the adulation. Seems to me that he was being pretty honest about the whole project under discussion. Sure, there are legitimate reasons why an old-time Blur fan--which Simon strikes me as, I could be wrong--might be mad at Damon right now, but I'm not sure this is really juicy fodder. (And anyway, Bono was never the solo-album sort.)
As regards the LP in question, I think Damon has a fairly sensible attitude about it--I certainly haven't heard about it, so I'm not sure how heavily it'll be promoted (and if there are only 5k copies being made, I doubt 2k will go to promos), but it sounds like it's being pitched just right. Sure, it's not being posted for free, but on the other hand, I'm sure that given the limited availability versus the large mass of Blur fans, it'll end up getting "posted for free" anyway. And it's nice to have a physical object in your hand for this sort of thing. I'd be annoyed if this kind of thing rose to an Andy Partridge or Bob Pollard level, but one tossed-off demo disc is nothing to get too bothered about. And hey, sometimes this sort of thing can works out fantastically well.
What I really like is the idea that these songs could be hit singles, but he's putting them out there in raw form. So why shouldn't someone cover them and get hit singles off 'em? If that happens, then the project really will be interesting, rather than a simple pleasantry-or-not that it stands as now.
It's been interesting relistening to the old Blur stuff in the context of Graham's departure. He was gleefully fellated by the critics, so maybe this is just heightened expectations being dialed back, but I do find myself listening to the mid-period stuff and hearing the lead lines and thinking, "Wow, that is kind of wanky, huh?" I'd hate to accuse a lead guitarist of being too dissonant, having had some trouble with that myself, but it does seem clear that many times there are really nice pop songs beneath all of Graham's noises that might stand up even better without them. This is to say nothing of his role in the group's arrangement and sequencing process, which I know little about.
While I disagree about 13--took a while to get going, but now pretty fantastic to my ears--it is true that I've only listened to Think Tank 5 times since purchasing it, so maybe Graham's absence is significant after all. Dunno. But I am interested to hear this new album, despite the fact that it has a title so horrendous that I refuse to reprint it...
posted by Mike B. at 4:32 PM 0 comments Links to this post
Proper jobs may slow us down a bit, friend, but they'll hardly stop us.
posted by Mike B. at 3:30 PM 0 comments Links to this post
Well, looks like Britney's gonna go gold in one week, so there should be enough momentum for at least two more singles, so even if they do a ballad next, it's "Toxic" for sure after that, which might not be a bad strategy, actually--use it to pick up flagging sales after Christmas. But what do I know?
posted by Mike B. at 2:20 PM 0 comments Links to this post
HIGHWAY PUDDING SPILL!
HIGHWAY PUDDING SPILL!
HIGHWAY PUDDING SPILL!
I'm kinda hungry now.
posted by Mike B. at 12:45 PM 0 comments Links to this post
Tuesday, November 18, 2003
So "Toxic" is kinda Bollywood, huh?
posted by Mike B. at 2:09 PM 0 comments Links to this post
From a DeRo article on MBV:
Because of its labored creation, fans assumed Shields was a perfectionist. "That's one of the great misconceptions about this band, that everything is intellectual and there's an awful lot of time spent in the studio perfecting things," he said. "Everything you ever hear on our records, virtually all the overdubs are first-take stuff, and all the guitar parts are first or second take. It's more like capturing the moment. For me, everything hinges on one critical thing, and that's being in an inspired state of mind."
Are you fucking serious? First or second take?! Well, I feel a lot better about my recording techniques now...
(link via an old QV post)
posted by Mike B. at 12:46 PM 0 comments Links to this post
Really fucking fantastic piece on In Utero from Tim Grierson, editor of The Simon. It's a wonderful little piece of personal criticism. Check it:
In Utero powerfully made the case that he would be his own man, goddamnit, but that he wouldn't destroy his talent in the process. It was a rare show of defiance that doesn't come across as petty or smug. But, lord, is it angry. The songs are still there, and they've survived intact. But it divided people at the time, and still does. Nirvana fans who get tired of the fairweathers going on and on about Nevermind cling to In Utero as their badge of honor, as proof of their true band loyalty. I wouldn't put myself in that category of supporter, but I do prefer In Utero simply because I feel like it still isn't finished telling me things about Cobain. Nevermind feels almost too perfect: It's lovely rush of hooks and ennui can almost pass right through you, especially as the years accumulate. In Utero keeps punching people in the nose; you can't wash dishes or pay bills when it's on. You keep checking back with it to see if it's lost any of its aggression, to see if it's decided to kiss and make up. It hasn't.
IU is similar to Lightning Bolt's Wonderful Rainbow in that it manages to make noisy, harsh music sound awfully tuneful and appealing. WR is noisier and IU is catchier, to be sure (seeing as how Kurt did have a bunch of actual songs in there) but I think the lesson, rarely learned, is the same: noise is easy but noisecraft is hard, and it's that noisecraft--very similar, in its own way, to songcraft--that makes for truly great music.
posted by Mike B. at 12:32 PM 0 comments Links to this post
A correspondant writes in, re that Unicorns/FoW thing...
Now I'm looking at the Unicorns review. Apparently songs with repeating motifs but no verse-chorus-verse alternation are "formless." Right. I guess this class I'm taking where we analyze Schoenberg, Berg and Webern -- all nonsense.
posted by Mike B. at 11:06 AM 0 comments Links to this post
Caught the first 15 minutes or so of the Britney ABC special last night before I had to go to practice.
The first thing they did was a performance of Toxic. With an orchestra. Now, let's just break down why that was really funny.
1) There was a live orchestra.
a) The orchestra parts on the original song were almost certainly sampled.
b) The orchestra was playing these sampled parts live.
While, at the same time:
2) The vocals were clearly not live.
So a live orchestra was playing a sampled part while the singer lip-synced to prerecorded vocals. It was perfect.
Don't get me wrong--I'm not gonna get all "It's so artificial!" on your asses. It was goddamn pop music. This is what it's supposed to. Matter of fact, I really appreciated and loved the ridiculous extreme they were taking it to. (Also, I want my own orchestra.)
That said, as Miss Clap observed, Britney needs to stop trying to be Madonna. It's understandably hard for someone who comes of age in the context of pop stardom to transition gracefully--in a game where three months out of the spotlight is death, taking the time necessary for real self-reflection and -development is impossible--but at the same time, she's really got one more album to find an image and sort of stick with it for a while or I'm leaving.
More than anything else, I think she needs to find her sense of humor. Madonna had this, although it was clearly acheived by getting into the game later in life. Prince had it in spades--honestly, I'm insanely jealous of his ability to say hilarious things with a totally straight face. (Like, "Gett Off"? And how about "Kiss," where he manages to sell a line like "You don't have to watch Dynasty / to have an attitude" and then pull off the so-sincere-it-hurts vocalization that closes the radio edit?) So Britney needs to get a bit more of this, I think. She needs to watch the VMA performance of "Like a Virgin" and note just how friggin' funny it was.
Anyway, this is all getting a little overblown and E!-ish, so I'll stop.
posted by Mike B. at 11:03 AM 0 comments Links to this post
Monday, November 17, 2003
Kind of disconcerting to hear Gillian Welch's "Look At Miss Ohio" when Utne puts you on hold right after it comes up on your Winamp playlist. How much of a random selection is pop music, anyway? When you think about it abstractly (i.e. without the real-world experience that of necessity must inform any criticism of the genre), given the massive number of songs that have been written and recorded in the last 80 years, what are the chances that the exact same one would come to my ears from two sources at once, both unbidden by my hand? If you could load every single one of those songs produced by everyone, from major-label artists to obscure hand-cranked acetate 78s from the 30s to 4-trackers to bedroom MCs to living room organists, what would it sound like on random play? What if, instead of playing whole songs, it simply played randomly selected 2-second bits of songs? Is there a way to program a MP3 player to randomly select not only between tracks but between parts of tracks? And if you loaded a statistically significant sampling of pop music's history in there, what would it sound like, in general? Since recording equipment became cheaper and more widely available in the last 10 years, would the sounds from that time period dominate, or would there be a slow enough sense of stylistic change in earlier eras to overcome that? When you chopped it up all fine and threw it back together without a guiding hand or principle, is music actually abstract enough that it would form some sort of coherent song or musical statement? You can, for instance, arrange thousands of small pictures to form one larger picture, like with, say, the posters in which a bunch of film stills from Star Wars are arranged to look like Vader's face when you back up enough. This conscious arrangement is necessary in a visual medium (and in a language-based one too, honestly) because we prefer to see recognizable forms. But isn't music abstract enough that any arrangement of any tones--even atonal tones--will sound, if not good, at least recognizably like something else? Or is music really not that abstract after all? ("Music sounds better as you," as Sasha puts it.) But since this is built from 99% tonal music, won't it imitate "real" music anyway? Is there a way to cut it that it sounds like beats anyway? Or is repetition such an ingrained part of our musical acclimation that its removal will confuse us utterly? This would be, of course, not only removal of repeated riffs or melody or chord structures or even rhythms, but also the removal of repeated sounds, tones, timbres, etc. Guitar on "Kashmir" sounds different from guitar on "Johnny B Goode" sounds different from guitar on "Sweet Child O' Mine" sounds different from guitar on "Purple Rain" sounds different from guitar on...
How do we trick our ears? How do we break out of what is expected? Well, the second answer is easy: do something different. And there's lots of stuff you can do that's different. But most of it we don't want to do because it doesn't sound good, doesn't sound like what we expect. This is why I say, for example, that innovation is easy but quality is hard, and that maybe all qualities are mostly equal.
But that's not even the point of this entry. What is?
posted by Mike B. at 1:14 PM 0 comments Links to this post
QV points us to some articles on Vincent Gallo.
My attitude towards Gallo has been, basically, to steer clear: kind of like when you see a guy stumbling onto a subway train, looking for a fight, you just try and stick to the corners while the almost-as-drunk guy starts putting his finger in his chest, and while the results are sometimes enjoyable to watch, I'd rather not get involved, thank you. So no Buffalo 66, no Brown Bunny, none of his albums or art projects or interviews or whatever.
Thing is, I get the joke. I totally do. Knowing your audience and saying things that members of that audience wouldn't normally say, while continuing to engage with said audience. Great. Fantastic. I get it. (The kids at Vice do, too, clearly. They really, really, really, really get it.) Eminem does it way better and more interestingly because he's managed to bring in not only people who disagree with him but people who agree, too, and then tweaking the expectations of both those groups, but that's OK. It doesn't mean he doesn't pull of the joke well.
But I just don't care. I've done that and I'm kind of beyond it. Pissing off liberals and indie-movie fans is like, well, like pissing off students: easy and kind of unfair and boring after a while. And kind of dishonorable, like an able-bodied man kicking a cripple, making it look like the able-bodied fellow is actually profoundly fucked up. But anyway, yeah, it's fun for a while, but to keep going? It's just weird.
For one thing, he doesn't let anyone in on the joke. It's just him, and you're not really even sure if it's a joke or not. But this is not the way to do it. I like the relentless self-aggrandizement thing, but Neal Pollack does it better, as does Jay-Z. I like other aspects of it, too, but they're just always done better by someone else. (Harlan Ellison, Terry Gilliam, etc., etc., etc.) Leaving almost everyone out of a joke makes it not-a-joke, and that's pretty unconscionable in my book.
The main thing is that you're only successfully pranking people for being sincere, and while on one hand some of these folks are hypocritically disparaging others for being sincere (Christians, conservatives, middle America, etc.), on the other hand I'm not sure how, um, mature it is. Making fun of someone for being liberal doesn't seem a whole lot more honorable than making fun of someone for liking Dungeons & Dragons or the Smiths.
posted by Mike B. at 1:13 PM 0 comments Links to this post