clap clap blog: we have moved
Friday, December 19, 2003
Sorry kids: I had plans for at least three more fairly substantial posts today, but work intruded. Which I am now kind of bummed about after I saw the size of my xmas bonus and, well, let's just say that I wish I'd taken a longer lunch today.
Anyway, I have to go try and scam Guitar Center now, but I'll type more pointless witticisms come the morrow.
posted by Mike B. at 6:20 PM 0 comments Links to this post
Could you please make a bad record? It doesn't even have to be that bad, just, I don't know, a Let It Be to your usual Revolver. Because Hail To The Thief--well, we can't really tell how good it is right now, because it's not like OK Computer or Kid A--it's neither a surprising leap in quality nor a stylistic contrast with the previous album. But if you make a bad record, then a "triumphant return to form" will feel great for all of us. OK?
Oh, and I'm talking to you, too, Miss PJ Harvey.
...oh, OK, I'm not really talking to you, since I get indescribably excited about a new PJ Harvey album no matter how good the last one was, so carry on.
But seriously, Radiohead, four perfect albums in a row and we've got no context! Throw us a bone here, guys. Two in a row, that's OK, but four? We're dying here!
posted by Mike B. at 5:36 PM 0 comments Links to this post
Sometimes I feel kinda weird about hating on Pitchfork so much, but then I read that some people really, really, really hate Entertainment Weekly, which seems, amazingly, even more trivial, so I don't feel as bad.
Speaking of the 'Fork, what's up with that top 50 list, eh? OK, the no Yeah Yeah Yeahs makes sense, as they hated the album (although I didn't see "Maps" in the Singles list, which is inexplicable), and of course there's no Liz Phair or Fountains of Wayne. But the White Stripes thing is objectively weird, even if they did give it a negative-in-tone review (which I had a few things to say about). But the real oddity is the omission of the New Pornographers album. They liked it, we liked it, and it just sounded better over time. Surely they could've found one album to bump to make room for Electric Version? I mean, what happened? Did you guys just forget it was put out in 2003 or what? I'm not going to even get into the ones you do continue to hump...
That said, William Bowers' entry on Radiohead is probably the best thing I've ever read about Hail to the Thief (although why they didn't let Bowers write the My Morning Jacket Entry is a mystery to me). But seriously, even if you've sworn off PF, go read that Bowers thing. It just nails it.
Incidentally, I once coughed all the way through a production of Krapp's Last Tape featuring John Hurt in the titular role. Presumably it was very good.
CORRECTION: The folks in question, in fact, like Entertainment Weekly. They just hate three particuarly writers, especially this one guy, which is, amazingly, even more creepy.
One of the writers in question is named Jessica Shaw. They suggest you write her editors and complain about her apparently unfunny column. Coincidentally, she has published a selection of her hate mail on McSweeneys, a page which for no good reason is no longer on the interweb. (See the link on the bottom of the page here for "Hate Mail To A Writer For A National Magazine." The feature is also referenced here, and other McSweeneys-EW conspiracy theories are noted.)
posted by Mike B. at 5:28 PM 0 comments Links to this post
Fairly amusing VR post about Michelle Branch's recent appearance in Maxim. I'm not necessarily the biggest fan of this particular poster, but he nails it here:
In what I hope is the final gasp of pop stars unaware of what irony is, she has the interview full of quotes about what a "pervert" she is, how she watches porn all the time and wonders what's in some jock's pants and then bagging on Liz Phair and Jewel's latest efforts for reasons that I believe she believes are related to artistic integrity.
Pop stars will always be unaware of irony, in America at least--that's part of their charm, eh?
posted by Mike B. at 8:56 AM 0 comments Links to this post
Thursday, December 18, 2003
Speaking of "The Message," man, that's a great fucking song. The production is great, which doesn't seem to get remarked on much. I'm especially crazy about that great triplets hi-hat thing that comes in at the end of some measures.
The lyrics are great, too, of course--"she used to be a fag hag" and "I might hijack a plane!" Surprisingly un-cheesy, even today.
Yeah, I know, that's obvious and all, but the track's always been one of those things I knew was good and enjoyed listening to but never quite caught the full brundt of before.
posted by Mike B. at 5:26 PM 0 comments Links to this post
I just wrote this about Ghost Exits:
"They want to sound like Suicide backing Africa Bambaata--they even cover the Pop Group--but these Vice-magazine-humping trendhoppers really sound like Beck's developmentally disabled cousins cutting instructional demos for Yamaha circa 1986. Their local fame stems from drunken gig antics, which is like being renowned for being date-raped, so please, please don't buy this; it'll just encourage them further."
And I read it and thought, now, is that going too far? And then I reread and thought, eh, not really.
Description of the show in question.
Free Williamsburg interview in which you can see one member's horrible fauxstache and understand why I called them "Vice-magazine-humping":
Is there anyone in the public eye you want to say "you suck" to?
"getting their record in the NYU dorms"?
Another interview with a different view of the 'stache.
Normally, as you know, I don't want to resort to harsh negativity, talking about the members' bios, or ripping on hipsters, but here, it's really just begging for it. And there isn't a whole lot else to talk about, since the music just sort of sucks and that's it. It's not good, not funny, and not interesting. Ah well.
posted by Mike B. at 4:33 PM 0 comments Links to this post
MOCHIPET - COMBAT
Mochipet's Combat comes from the Violent Turd label, which has put out, among other things, Soundmurderer's mind-melting mix of jungle songs and Kid606's set of fucked-with pop hits. Similarly, this is an MP3s mashup collection, and its mission statements is in the song titles: "Johnny Cash vs. Cash Money Millionaires," "Barry White vs. The White Stripes vs. White Lion," etc. But this isn't quite the normal mash-up set, as instead of simply combining unprocessed samples from disparate tracks, it's all mixed in with Tigerbeat6-style drill 'n' bass. So we hear Cash's cover of "I Won't Back Down" over a hip-hop loop, but then a stutter-blast of rapid-fire beats and sampled vocal bits is laid over it, so there's not only the song-spotting thrill, but the more traditional pleasures of non-referential electronic music. I love that crap, so I'm inclined to like this disc, but I think the song "Yes vs. NoMeansNo" endears me to it as well, as I didn't think anyone remembered NoMeansNo. The whole set is just a lot of fun, with a lot more replay value than most mashups. And really, it's worth the purchase price just for the They Might Be Giants track, which recognizes the hip-hop nature of "Ana Ng" and throws in the best accordion crunk ever committed to plastic.
The Nelly track is pretty awesome, too. That shit gets destroyed. They (the pronoun I've decided to refer to Mochipet by) rip the chorus out of "Country Grammar" and just take it on a goddamn burning airplane ride around beats already pretty harsh (it's paired with Venetian Snares aka Kakarookee) and then twisted into its own fucked-up beats. Those little shards of melody keep popping up in various guises throughout the track, and the chorus as a whole gets passed through every filter on the laptop, it seems. The interesting thing is that it really does seem melodic to me, although maybe to people less familiar with the genre it would sound far too noisy. Regardless, it's one of the best tracks on there, and it's maybe indicative that this is one of two cuts on the album whose mashed-up artists share no elements of their names.
The faux-Atari cover art is pretty goddamn good, too.
I couldn't quite tell if this was Kid606 or not under a different guise. It seems unlikely given that I think this is a newish release and he just dropped a (so-so) proper album, and when compared with the admitted doppelganggery of The Action Packed Mentallist Brings You the Fucking Jams, the Mochipet album seems far less weird, missing anything like the more abstract intro track and the fuck-you 15 minute slow decay of the Radiohead a capella of the latter album. So I'm guessing this is some Tigerbeat associate or other. Any suggestions?
At any rate, they're similar enough that it's useful to rope the two together when making broad comparisons. And the one that struck me while relistening to this last night is how different they really are from regular mashups, especially in terms of song forms: your usual mashup either stay true to the original's form (like the brilliant Metro Area/Eminem mashup Oh, Manchester posted a while back) or uses an existing pop form, or just sort of keeps going in a linear way toward the end (thinking here of Osymyso's mashups). These, however, start, double back, throw in a few totally unrelated bits, loop the chorus, take a two-second detour, and then, uh, just kinda end. But they still make sense, and a lot more sense than, say, any of Kid606's more abstract stuff. I don't know why this is, although I guess it probably has something to do with the aforementioned bits of melody floating through the mix that give us something to latch onto immediately. Still, I think it's really neat that they've essentially created these mostly new pop songforms that are eminently workable, even if I personally can't get my head around it for the life of me. Would that I could! But this sort of abstract use of hooks in the context of beat-heavy but rhythmless compositions somehow comes together in a really viscerally graspable way.
As for the Mochipet thing, it's pretty complex, and I'm finding interesting new bits every time I listen to it. Definitely worth a listen.
posted by Mike B. at 11:58 AM 0 comments Links to this post
I guess I still owe a follow-up to the Stelfox/Tufluv dancehall NIIMBYism debate I commented on, but for now, let me just make one small point that occurred to me the other day.
Dave writes in his response: "It all goes back to the dilettante/purist debate carried on in the blogosphere a few months back." Now, this reminded me of that whole thing, which itself sort of goes back to a great Simon Reynolds essay. The problem is, though, that the enemy (so to speak, heh) is defining the terms. "Dilettante" is not a word with a positive connotation in most circles, whereas "purist" is, I think. (Although I note that Simon doesn't think so in that essay.) So maybe we need something else to call the former category.
How about "musical libertine"?
(Alternately: epicure, gourmand, pleasuremonger, rake, sybarite, voluptuary.)
Hey, someone should name a band "The Dilettantes"!
And wow, I had no idea "pleasuremonger" was an actual word, but holy crap, what a word!
Me? I'm a pleasuremonger. Or libertine. I haven't decided yet.
posted by Mike B. at 11:32 AM 0 comments Links to this post
New business plan?
I won't comment too much, as I know most people aren't as interested in the practicalities of music-making as I am, but suffice to say the strategy described is an interesting and possibly workable one. The idea is that if you've racked up significant self-made sales a la David Gray or Damien Rice and can go to the next level of sales, exposure, etc., you can just take out a loan from a bank instead of effectively doing the same thing from a record company. This would help people avoid major labels.
posted by Mike B. at 9:37 AM 0 comments Links to this post
And speaking of NYLPM, here's a great Alex Thompson post about Belinda Carlisle (good call man!) and post-hipster elitism (another good call!), all tied up in this ILM thread which would seem to sort of tangentially address issues I and others raised two months back in response to a response to a great Freaky Trigger article by one Jim Robinson. Check out that original claps post for a classique comments debate.
(Note: ILM article features a Dan Selzer post making the argument that the dance-punk scene springs directly from a bunch of 90's hardcore kids who knew each other, which is a kinda depressing revelation. Check it out.)
posted by Mike B. at 9:20 AM 0 comments Links to this post
Tom Ewing gives an ambivalent take on "Hey Ya."
He's probably not referring to my earlier assessment of the song when he says: "I'm also sympathetic to the idea that if 'Hey Ya' is the start of something then it's the start of something lame: I'm no more looking forward to everybody doing a wacky guitar track than I am to checking out the Darkness clone bands." He could very well be referring to some ILM thread which I haven't read, as, um, I don't read ILM, but regardless, I can honestly say I'm not sure I've read anyone yet who hates it. Well, I guess that shows that you shouldn't listen to me on inter-blog feuds, and why I've generally stopped participating as much as I should...
But anyway, yes, I said that I think "Hey Ya" could be the start of something, but I, being I, thought this would probably be something good. But if I'm reading Tom right, we're suggesting two different paths. He (and apparently others?) seem to be assuming that "Hey Ya" will breed a bunch of hip-hop artists doing guitar tracks, which, I dunno, seems so obvious that it would mostly work out bad that I don't even know why you'd have to bring it up. Hip-hop guys have little talent for writing a rocky song like "Hey Ya," and indie folks have pretty much no talent for writing hip-hop songs. One of the great things about Outkast is how readily their songwriting can slip convincingly into other genres and songforms. But: I think "Hey Ya" is much closer to indie than hip-hop, honestly, and were (God forbid) a good indie songwriter to try and do a Prince- and hip-hop-influenced song, in the right hands it could go very well. I'm still interested to see someone try it. It's a good model.
Then again, I'm not so sure it'd be horrible for hip-hop folk, as long as you take out the "wacky," and really, is "wacky" really a prized asset in hip-hop these days? Guitar's been used productively in any number of great hip-hop songs, and maybe this is just a different way of doing it. But yeah, I have to admit that "Hey Ya" ripoffs would be pretty bad--so much of that song is being carried by Andre's charming personality that I can only see, eh, Eminem doing something like that well.
posted by Mike B. at 9:07 AM 0 comments Links to this post
Wednesday, December 17, 2003
Good catch by QV: the new Courtney Love single is now available. You can download it and get a 15-day license or something.
I like it! It's nice and loud, which is refreshing. It's not as good as "Violet" or "Awful" upon first listen, but the lead single often isn't as good as the deeper ones when it comes to Court.
...er, OK, I suppose the riff is oddly similar to "Celebrity Skin," and she does ride it too long and too hard, but I really like the chorus. Really like it.
UPDATE: Eric E. says:
And this business about enabling. Take it from someone who knows, if you are in Courtney's life in any capacity, YOU ARE AN ENABLER. i'm talking website mod, recording engineer, producer, record label, nanny, chauffeur, guitar tech, drummer, etc. etc. etc. And you're going to get yours. I know. Cuz I did. I don't care how much money or glory you're getting from it now. The poor girl will not be Ok until you stop. Stop it all. Or you will have blood on your hands. You will have blood money in your bank. And you will get yours.
UPDATE 2: Lyrics (may have to register).
Hey Yeah we had everything
Court's description of the song back when it was recorded:
there are FOUR that i would allow in the box- one working title "mono"
posted by Mike B. at 5:47 PM 0 comments Links to this post
Don't stare: she is just like us.
posted by Mike B. at 2:59 PM 0 comments Links to this post
Just had the in-office company holiday party. The food was good, but when we all sat down someone put on the Rolling Stones, who, needless to say, are not our artists. After a few verses of "Start Me Up" this was remarked upon and some Christmas jazz music was put on.
I hate my job.
"Is this [our artist]?" I asked the PR person next to me. She turned her palms upward in a way that indicated that she probably should know, but didn't. "I assume it's [our artist]," she said, "but I technically wouldn't know. I'm not proud of that, but you reach a certain point in being a PR person that you don't really need to listen to the music to promote it." I told her it was just a sign she'd attained a higher level of PR skill.
Later, a new signee came in and played for us. It was extremely elementary-schooly. There we were in a small room with the chairs cleared from the middle, in the early afternoon, with flourescent lights overhead and food and paper plates scattered about, sitting patiently while an earnest man with an acoustic guitar sang to us. No one really looked like they were enjoying it, and we did a lot of looking around at each other awkwardly. We didn't have to be told to clap at the end, but of course, that's sort of the point of a job: you just know you have to clap.
posted by Mike B. at 2:23 PM 0 comments Links to this post
Tuesday, December 16, 2003
Tom Ellard has a brainstorm:
I got an idea - a web cam chick with an antiwar blog. She'd be blonde with the chic glasses etc. etc. but maybe she could smoke a pipe. She'd always have something rude to say about Bush, but flash her tits. THAT would be the Internet summed up in one site.
posted by Mike B. at 6:41 PM 0 comments Links to this post
What the hell? Did some Freshman Comp class get assigned to write letters to PF letter writers as a final project?
Joan of Arc?
posted by Mike B. at 4:21 PM 0 comments Links to this post
Monday, December 15, 2003
Listening to Yo La Tengo's "You Can Have It All" off And Then Nothing... while finishing up the 7 hours of so of billing I did today, and it's impressing me in a way it hasn't before, maybe because I'm listening to it out loud--and singing along--instead of running it through headphones.
What most impresses me about it is the restraint. I used to regard it as a nice little trifle, a pretty, inconsequential thing, background noise, makeout music. Nothing like the kind of balls-to-the-wall pop songs I write about most of the time here. But in listening to it this time, I heard what it could be--heard the pop song behind it somewhere, and I appreciated it a lot more. But that's not something I'm used to looking for in music.
Not so with visual art. There's the theory there that high-art primitivism or reductionism is only permissible once you know how to do perspective, anatomy, shading, light, all those trompe le monde things. In other words, it's only OK to look sloppy once you could actually do it perfect, and this acknowledgement of the perfect lies hidden at the back of your studied mistakes.
This rarely holds true, though, for pop music, where the glorious innocence in a lot of indie music results not from conscious choice but from lack of experience, knowledge, technical skill, or technological resources. It's not that Malkmus et al could have made Slanted & Enchanted in a 48-track studio with pristine Mesa/Boogie amplifiers and a session drummer but didn't; it's not that Liz Phair could have made Exile with crisp digital production and soaring vocal lines but chose not to; it's not that John Darnielle could have made All Hail West Texas with a full band and, uh, something besides a boombox but chose the lo-fi route instead. What makes these musicians distinct is the way they embraced the limitations that had been forced on them, but all of them also chose to make records in this "higher" style when given the chance. This is perhaps a good thing, a sign of pop music's energy and youth compared to the visual arts' self-absorption and decrepitude, but it also seems to cause some problems, causing both lo-fi and hi-fi to fall short of their true potential.
But this is not true for "You Can Have It All": it is not a pop song compromised by circumstance. You know this just from Yo La Tengo's bio, with their status as music geeks and their mastery of the pop cover song unquestioned. There's no way to think these guys haven't done their homework, and their technical skill and experience is in evidence over the course of their 15-year, 8-LP, multi-single/EP career up to this point. Plus they're recording at a tricked-out Nashville studio with an expert producer, and the overall sound of the album is hardly lo-fi, excepting a few of the drum machine beats and organ sounds. So the potential's there. And if you have any further doubt that Yo La Tengo knows how to write a great pop song, you need only skip to the next track, "Tears Are In Your Eyes," for my money the most beautiful song ever recorded.
The biggest clue to the pop restraint of this track, I think, is the vocal line in the chorus. The melody there is certainly catchy, but it's more the rhythm. The line is very simple, two notes descending a step to a resolved third that mirrors the chord progression. However, when listening to it out loud and singing along I found myself adding a higher vocal harmony (wshew, good thing Georgia's an alto) that hit one note, went a step higher, and then returned to the original note, and when coupled with her line, this sounded perfect, like it should have been in the song all along. With the harmony it sounds like a great pop chorus, really, really killer. But then without Georgia's vocal, the harmony line starts to sound like the lead. Which means that, I think, she was singing the harmony line all along.
And that's hard to do; it takes restraint. You hear the restraint in the arrangement, where it stays on the same two chords ad infinitum until the chorus, where it throws in, well, a third. You can hear it, too, in the way the perfect string arrangement doesn't come in until halfway through the song. But mostly, I think you can hear it, again, in the vocals. It's no accident that the whole song is built around a never-changing vocal loop that all the chords and lines work with, but when everything starts to get blended together at the end, there's really a near-infinity of other lines you could put on top of there. "You Could Have It All" as arranged by Carl Newman could be the same song but sound very, very different. There are a whole lot of hooks just waiting to be sung there, three-part harmonies in cascading double-time, harmonies above the harmonies, more vocals used as percussion. Could be done. But YLT goes for restraint.
Does this make it a better song? The band thinks so; I probably don't, in my heart of hearts, no matter how much I do like the song. Restraint is admirable, but not necessarily rewarding. Still, the track is a great example of what can result when the anti-pop move is one choice among many instead of a nervous knee-jerk reaction.
 And trust me, with my harmony skill, it has to be obvious.
 Of course, one of the wonderful things about pop music is that Carl Newman, or Billy Corgan, or me can all rearrange the damn thing as we hear it. If you want it to sound like a full pop song, go arrange it that way!
posted by Mike B. at 6:15 PM 0 comments Links to this post