Wednesday, February 25, 2009


Too late for the early edition, another instance of a band less-than-delicately stealing from a forerunner.

This serves as an excellent shorthand explanation for what bothers me about Deerhoof - aside from having seen Satomi refuse to speak Japanese to Japanese audiences. Yes, please, coyly flex having won the hip-cred birth sweepstakes while rubbing it in your countrymen's faces that you live in San Franciso and not bloody Saitama. What the fuck, do I spend my fleeting visits to Baltimore strolling around speaking German? Come off it! *Ahem* No, what I really mean is: Deerhoof flirt with our fondest power-pop memories to the verge of date-rape, then chop off a beat or two so the riff's in 6/8, and finally staple it to a largely unrelated melodic idea just to prove they're too clever to write just a slammin' indie-pop song we could, y'know, straight-muthafuckin' enjoy.

Honestly, hands up: who else wants an album of only "Dummy Discards a Heart"?

And yes, I will eventually get around to contributing something other than embedded YouTube videos.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

If There Is a God, He's a Total Bastard

I hadn't even reached for my first cuppa coffee this morning when I encountered this utterly gutting headline. Slumping CD sales shake hands with the recession, and now the loss is personal. Shellshocked and as-yet-uncaffeinated, I'm bereft beyond being able to muster a cogent commentary, other than that sucks the big one, so here's a handful of videos from seminal Touch and Go acts across the decades.

If only there were any YouTube'd videos of Brainiac that weren't dinotech camcorder-quality!

In terms of a conduit for new ideas closing to the world, this makes the prior first-quarter death swell feel like a minor exhalation. You'd better make good on that promise of "probably" releasing new music, Rusk - especially if I'm not going to be able to find releases from KRS, 5RC, or Drag City anywhere other than fucking Amazon...

Friday, February 13, 2009

Quoth the Peanut Gallery

This week in Liverpool, Simon Reynolds and Mark Fisher were going to be discussing, in propria persona, the lineage & evolution of British rave music. Not that I particularly cared (no offense intended), since I only dance when shot at, and to my ears bassline sounds like Paul Oakenfold eating a Twinkie wrapped in bacon, then farting through a Vocoder.

Zing! Juvenile derision & anomie are abound tonight! The point is this: sirs Reynolds contends that
These early sounds – bleep tunes from the North East, breakbeat house and ragga techno from London – were the first time that the UK came up with its own unique mutant versions of House and Techno (ironically by adding elements from dub reggae, dancehall, and hiphop that weren’t British in origin, but equally would never have been let into the mix back in Chicago and Detroit).
Fisher goes on to list of some perennial properties of this new (circa '90), innately British subgenre: "heavy synthetic bass, breakbeats, MC chat, film and videogame samples."

Hmmm... something "hardcore" that includes heavy synthetic bass, breakbeats, film samples - but couldn't possibly be rooted in Chicago house music? Okay, I'll see your chemically-crutched technicolour blipfest and raise you Al Jourgensen.

I know, I know, apples and oranges - or rather, ecstasy and heroin. Ah, but then, in such terms: which would narcotic omniathlete Gibby Haynes pick?

I rest my case. Foghat, motherfucker!

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Fair Use It Or Lose It

Hey, keep that chin up, Fairey. After all, it doesn't just happen to the worst of us. To wit... Click on the mix title to download.

Actionable Flattery

1. Foo Fighters - "In Your Honor" (00:00)
2. Scratch Acid - "Owner's Lament" (01:40)
3. Ween - "Japanese Cowboy" (Live in Toronto; 06:05)
4. Vangelis - "Chariots of Fire" (10:21)
5. Primal Scream - "Shoot Speed/Kill Light" (13:42)
6. The Fall - "High Tension Line" (18:53)
7. The Dust Brothers - "This Is Your Life" (22:32)
8. Primal Scream - "Kowalski" (25:49)
9. Jonny Greenwood - "Henry Plainview" (31:34)
10. Krzysztof Penderecki - "De Natura Sonoris No. 2" (Excerpt; 35:40)
11. The Fall - "Athlete Cured" (Peel Session; 38:45)
12. Spinal Tap - "Tonight I'm Gonna Rock You Tonight" (43:30)
13. Nirvana - "Come As You Are" (46:05)
14. Killing Joke - "Eighties" (49:36)
15. Jean-Pierre Massiera & Bernard Torelli - "Whistler Program" (53:20)
16. The Crazy World of Arthur Brown - "Child Of My Kingdom" (55:48)
17. David Bowie - "Rebel Rebel" (01:02:47)
18. The Mothers of Invention - "Trouble Every Day" (01:07:14)

Of course, Fairey's pop propaganda is less analogous to a misappropriated melody than to, say, DJ Shadow's radical recontextualisation of the churning organ from "Orion" in his own "Number Song". I'm being unfair to Fairey in comparing his icon(oclast)ic stylisation of an AP photo to intellectual theft as lock-stock & bludgeon-subtle as the Dust Brothers jacking "Kowalski".

Now, is it unfair to say the Dust Brothers deliberately traced "This Is Your Life" over Primal Scream's blueprint? Absolutely not. I doubt the Dust Brothers missed anything upon which Andrew Weatherall put his imprimatur. Both songs open and close with an AM-quality voice-over pulled from a film, and sport near-identical bubbling sixteenth-note sub, stacatto funk beats, cut-&-paste production that skips across vocal samples... but Primal Scream got there over two years earlier.

Yet not on their own: the song's martial crackle comes from a sample of Can's "Halleluwah". It's startling how many iterations an idea can withstand before anyone feels compelled to create something anew. But Primal Scream have always walked the tenuous line between sarcastic PoMo scrapbooking, classic rockist role-playing, and a more finespun resurrection of musical spectres in the spirit of hip-hop's oral history. Unfortunately, they more often fall into the first two categories.

As for the other songs, all the artists filching riffs & hooks were equally aware of what they were embezzling, given their particular idioms. As the drummer for Nirvana, Dave Grohl once split a single with the Jesus Lizard, who rose howling from the ashes of Scratch Acid - a band Kurt Cobain counted among his favourite acts of all time, not too far ahead of Killing Joke.

Meanwhile, a considerable amount of musical overlap is guaranteed within the diatonic vocabulary of the Western musical tradition - but within the inexhaustible sprawl of microtonal composition? What are the odds that, in his score to There Will Be Blood, Jonny Greenwood would merely happen to compose a legato string swell that crests upon a queasy F# - precisely the same motif that opens Penderecki's "De Natura Sonoris No. 2"? Or that Greenwood's chattering derrick fire theme bears more than a passing resemblance to Penderecki's "Utrenja (Ewangelia)", as does There Will Be Blood's title theme to certain phrases from "Polymorphia" by Penderecki?

About the same as the odds that all three Penderecki pieces appear in the soundtrack to The Shining.

And before expressing shock that Spinal Tap would be anywhere on Mark E. Smith's radar, remember that The Fall's gone through over three times as many drummers as Tap. Truth is stranger etc.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Another One Bites etc.

R.I.P. Eric Lee Purkhiser

What a sepulchural tone this year has taken already: from McGoohan to Updike, from Gary Kurfirst to the surprisingly-lamented John Martyn*, beginning of course with the thousand-odd souls in Gaza and running on over to Glendale, CA, where Lux' ticker stopped kicking. Someone could make a killing (zing!) developing a Death Blog™ aggregator.

The Old Guard, no matter how much we've deferred their retirement, is finally keeling over - which means that we'd better start getting our shit together. No more time for thinly-embellished homage or nostalgia; stop with the necrophilic dissection of past cultural pan-flashes. We've got so much slack to pick up it will already take all of us to lift it.

(*) - I ain't saying Martyn's place in the folk pantheon is undeserved. The sudden up-chuck of eulogies - after what's been years since I last saw Martyn's name in print - sound like the reclamatory boasting of candidates for His Best Friend, jockeying around the open bar at a wake. Then there's my admitted bias: listening to Martyn's music, I can feel my inner Red Neck surging past my gums, flicking cigarettes at the stage and screaming for Foghat.

I just don't dig folk music. Sorry. (That one's for you, Ben!)