Friday, October 19, 2007

Ad nauseum...


Far too much has already been said about Mr. Frere-Jones' J'accuse! against indie's possible race-oriented self-archipelagation, but there was one comment made here I just couldn't ignore.
Or the drummers of Bloc Party, Franz Ferdinand or the Arctic Monkeys, all of whom have plenty of swing? Indie rhythm sections have rarely been so interesting.

Uh... dude? Franz Ferdinand? The Arctic Monkeys? Swingin'?! Christ, such an abuse of the word makes me doubt you even know what swing is. (For the record, THIS is swing.) Ossified disco stomps do not a groove make. Or did you just completely miss this conversation?

And while we're gushingly compiling lists of Most-Mindfucking Indie Rhythm Sections Ever, sure we can start with current acts like the Mars Volta or Psychic Paramount, but why not go back to the Dismemberment Plan, the Jesus Lizard, Fugazi, the Butthole Surfers, the Birthday Party... blah blah blah indeed.

Above and Beyond Circumstance

Yeah, so I may not technically have a "residence" or "employment" or "money" or "hope" right now... but none of that can reduce my guileless enthusiasm for my New Favourite Band! Woooooooooo!

Yeah, I know Qui has the real David Yow, but sorry - the guitar player splits the difference between Greg Ginn-blitzkrieg and Duane Denison-machinist precision and ends up just sounding kind of, uh, turgid.

A Non-Sequitorial P.S.
So one last sweep of my trusted online news sources (see blogroll at right) this afternoon revealed unanimous above-the-fold headlines about Benazir Bhutto returning to Pakistan. I went for a walk, had a snack, took some photos, came back, and already the shit has hit the fan. Ah, news in realtime! Don't get too comfy!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Yes, You're Right, But...

You're not worthy! You're not worthy!

Ben Myers gets his knickers in a twist about the State of the Art over at the Guardian. And as anyone who's dared indulge me in conversation about music knows, I certainly sympathize... but not completely.

Let's start with Myers' claim that he "can scientifically conclude that 2007 has been a stinker for rock music." What, as opposed to every other year? Ever since I was first aware of music that wasn't just what my friends listened to, I've ended each year asking myself if this wasn't some new nadir of audial abomination. (I'd especially hasten to caution Myers about getting misty-eyed over nineteen-fuckin'-ninety-seven.)

But mostly, Myers is just looking in all the wrong places. Of all the "indie" acts he references, none are actually on an independent label - and if there's anything that should be clear in the dawning post-In Rainbows period, it's that you can only fuck around when you haven't got Big Money behind you. Asking Razorlight or The Enemy to be daring or different is like asking KFC to present its "food" with a li'l dignity - not gonna happen, period.

And as long as we're discussing derivative acts, Myers had better be damned careful pining for the '01 hypecrest-surfing Strokes, 'cuz they certainly didn't bite anyone, did they? In tracing the roots of blame for this shallow gene-pool of an incestuous (self-loving?) genre, if Myers starts with the View, hops back to the Libertines... I'm pretty sure he'd find Casablancas & Co. are Patient Zero. Okay? Okay.

When Myers finally gets on to listing contemporary acts he does enjoy, it's not particularly revelatory either. Les Savy Fav are unlikely to pack any surprises they didn't six or seven years ago (back when no one cared, naturally), and the fact that the Gossip are fronted by a fat chick doesn't make their music any better. As for the Dillinger Escape Plan: lightning struck eigth years ago; good luck getting it again.

Now, if it seems like I'm advocating everyone rush over to Aquarius Records and become a psych-noise-experimental Geek's Geek... well, yes, maybe I am. Fuck pop.

But seriously, folks, the trope that drew the heaviest sigh from me was that ol' chestnut that "cultural Armageddon is due. I await the band with the balls to instigate it." Yes, indeed, revolution, woo-hoo, power to the peo-YAAAAWWWWNNN, what's for fuckin' dinner? From Pete "I'm just happy to be here" Holmstrom to Preston of The Ordinary Boys (a dead-giveaway of a band name if ever there was), I can't count the number of times I've heard people espouse "rock 'n' revolution" rhetoric while insisting that it can be achieved within the paradigm of Pop Culture and the MSM. Great thinking, lads! Do you call it a "bank robbery" when you make a withdrawal from an ATM as well?

Besides, if another blog post from today's Guardian is to be believed, there are bigger fish to fry than how reductive Britrock's current crop may be.

Thursday, October 11, 2007


"Oy! Fuck off, you lot! This is my Deutscheland!"

And just when I was finally starting to feel settled in, along parades the peanut gallery. Bloody hell.

I've never been much for mass movements (except perhaps for Bill Hicks' proposed People Who Hate People Party, which I'm sorry never got off the ground). There's something that constricts my throat when I see how many of my friends & former classmates migrated to the same section of Brooklyn; similarly, I feel relieved at having left Baltimore before the city became pop-culturaly name-drop-able - and not just 'cuz the the music sucks.

So to know that I've landed in the buzz-king burg for the Western culutral elite (or at least the luxury classes) awakens my inner isolationist. It gives me no thrill to know that Willem Dafoe kicks back at the cafe next to my local grocer. Rather, I feel cramped by carpetbaggers. (Can't say "squatters" 'cuz Berlin's already rife with the real deal.)

This is not to hate on the city - far from it. It's a fascinating place of many faces. But it rings false to hear the New York Times rhapsodise about Berlin's similarity to "New York City in the 1980s... Rents are cheap, graffiti is everywhere and the air crackles with a creativity that comes only from a city in transition." If memory serves, tags were treated as a plague in pre-Giuliani New York. The great innovators of that era (which is now being historicized and fetishized) were largely ignored and derided at the time. And "cheap" rent is relative: artists from the Big Apple may be swarming to the German capital, but if you're an "artist" who could actually afford to live in contemporary NYC, then of course your coffers are full enough to make rent in Berlin - or Baltimore, Prague, Turin, even Toronto.

The simile also ignores that Berlin is subject to the same modern rubbish as any other "world-class city." Subway fare is triple the minimum fare in Tokyo. Starbucks, H&M, McDonald's, and BMW dealers pepper the polis like overpriced confetti. The commercial hubs arouse little beyond concrete & plastic big-box deja-vu. "Old World" it ain't.

Again, I'm not trying to diminish the exquisite experiences Berlin does offer. But in trying to capture whatever uncanny élan entranced the great resident artists of bygone times, all I find are whiffs of history, yellowed snapshots of a city that no longer exists. The melodrama & nightclub decadence of the Brecht's 1930s Berlin; the drug-addled alienation of an "inland island" on which Bowie & Pop exiled themselves; the post-industrial, politically-charged slow-motion riot of the '80s as distilled in song by Nick Cave & Blixa Bargeld - none of this is present. In the right light, at the right time, my mind adrift just enough, I can feel the breath of of this past on my neck. But I can't hold onto it.

So let Brangelina buy that epicurean condo in Mitte, and Jude Law can hit all the cafés he wants. The hype about Berlin becoming "nothing less than the 'new Paris'" is still bullshit, because it hardly bodes well for a city when its ghosts make more compelling company than its occupants.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

And you don't stop...

More pics, more songs, 'cuz I'm prolific like that.

All I want is to be loved! Wah!

Friday, October 05, 2007

Things To Do in Berlin When in Bed

Lately, I've been working on a few white-knuckle frustration-inducing projects: (1) composing using a deck of cards, (2) trying to turn tin into platinum on some film sound post-production, and (3) getting a full night's sleep. So far, I've had the least success with the latter.

An early attempt to remedy the problem was constructing a mix of miasmatic ambient music, the logic being that if my ears were being distracted, my eyes could abdicate in their sensory duty. Not a bad theory, but it didn't completely work: though I'd downshift into Beta waves by "Repeater", I'd snap awake as soon as I became aware of the sonic void left in the wake of "Blood Swamp." Bugger.

A more successful remedy involved letting various movies play on loop in the background, though I don't like what it says about my social skills that I find it easier to pass out while other people are talking. This didn't last long, though, since it keeps Th' Wife awake.

So while I soldier on into the depths of insomnambulist purgatory, at least y'all can enjoy the mix I put together. Prepare to get mellow...

Space For Rent

1. The Desert Fathers - "Agnus Dei" (00:00)
2. Azusa Plane - "The Miracle of the Octave" (01:54)
3. Spacemen 3 - "Repeater" Live (10:52)
4. Heldon - "Les Soucoupes Volantes Verte" (16:14)
5. The Brian Jonestown Massacre - "Records" (18:32)
6. Sonic Youth - "Loop Cat" (20:12)
7. Boards of Canada - "Ataronchronon" (25:42)
8. Brian Eno - "In Dark Trees" (26:43)
9. Dalek - "Abscence" (29:05)
10. The Giraffes - "Headphone Sunset" (30:34)
11. SunnO))) & Boris - "Blood Swamp" (37:37)

As always, if the link to this mix (or a past one) goes dead before you've had a chance to download it, just drop a comment and I'll hook you up.