Archive for November, 2007

We Don’t Care About the Old Folks

Sunday, November 25th, 2007

I’m home in Dallas this weekend for Thanksgiving, and I decided to go see Peter Bjorn and John last night. The show was at the Palladium Ballroom, an ultra-sterile new venue owned by the multinational entertainment conglomerate AEG. I expected the venue to be the worst part of the show, with obstructed views of the stage and the band up on a stage so high you had to crane your neck to see if you were within fifty feet. I guess it’s been a while since I’ve been to a real show in Dallas because I forgot that the scene’s biggest shortcomings isn’t the lack of decent venues or bands skipping over the city on the way down to Austin; its the dumb schmucks that attend the shows.

Last night, they were out in full force. The drunken sorority girls from SMU were there, grinding to every song the band played and screaming out the chorus of the hit single to their friend they called on their cell phone. So were the obnoxious dancers, who clear out a five foot radius around themselves and make the music entirely secondary to their own dance moves. These characters are expected, and I’ve learned to tolerate them (albeit with the occasional well placed elbow). However, a new breed appeared last night: the obese thirty-something urban professional. People always have a tendency to talk too much during shows, which I feel is quite disrespectful to the audience and even more to the artists giving it their all on stage. These despicable concertgoers attempted to carry on a conversation after the third or fourth song for the entire length of the show, screaming to each other so loud that I could follow what they were talking about. Finally, in the middle of the first song of the encore, an excellent version of “Roll The Credits,” I’d had enough and told them to shut up. It obviously didn’t work, but it sure felt good.

After the show, my friend Rachel and I mused about why someone would waste twenty bucks on a ticket just to talk through a show. We hastily agreed on mere stupidity, but it dawned on me this morning what the cause of this new obnoxious concert attendee is: Grey’s Anatomy. “Young Folks,” PB&J’s hit single was featured on an episode of the show. I know there’s been a whole shit storm about The OC and other similar shows and how they’ve commercialized quasi-independent music, but I never really made too much of it. I was never a big Ben Gibbard fan, so when he sold out I could care less. Ocassionally, something good comes out of it, like Band of Horses covering The New Year on one of the OC compilations. I now realize how naive I was about the whole thing after last. It appears that the live gig may be the bigger casualty of all this.

A Song I Like: "Kid On My Shoulders" By White Rabbits

Sunday, November 25th, 2007

I listen to music the same way I do most other things: in an almost sickening, compulsive manner. I tend to listen to albums over and over and over again until I just get sick of even hearing the titles of the songs, and then I move on to the next album. I will play one song thirty times over, in just one sitting. I’ve spent about two hours just listening to The Fiery Furnaces’ “The Philadelphia Grand Jury”. I really can’t imagine listening in any other way. Listening again and again and again means that I can really digest the music, separate out the parts and components and think why I like this song or why I don’t like this song, and how it’s working or what it’s doing. For me, this is what listening means. Like Jay-Z says, “Do you listen to music / or do you just skim through it?” From time to time, I will get stuck on one song that just really hits where I’m at at that specific moment, so I figure, instead of just having a conversation about that song with myself, I’ll have a conversation with all of y’all here on the blog. I’m thinking about making this a series of sorts, and I encourage all of y’all to post about songs you like too. Because eventually, when enough people are blogging, the Kingdom of God will be among us.

I have a mixed view on White Rabbits. I heard a lot of good buzz on them this past summer and liked the tracks on their MySpace, and so I decided to check them out at Sirenfest. Their set was underwhelming. Some songs were really great, but at times the energy just lagged, and I was overall disappointed. Flash forward to October. I’m looking for CDs to review, and I see “Fort Nightly”, their debut album, on the shelf. I’m not very picky with CD reviews – this comes from listening to a lot of shit for work when I worked at a music archive in highschool – so I said, eh, this’ll be ok. I said that they were neither good or bad, just average and our good music director, Dan Milstein, agreed.

Having listened and reviewed the album, I hold to my original view (although it’s more like half the songs are good and half the songs are bad). I also think that my biggest complaint when I saw them live – that they are extremely derivative of The Walkmen – still holds. But being derivative isn’t always so bad, in my opinion. Everybody steals, it’s just a matter of stealing well and then building upon it (which I don’t think White Rabbits does). Now that I’ve thoroughly trashed the band and therefore proven my indie cred, let me say that the album actually is pretty enjoyable, and more than that, there are a few true gems on it, especially the subject of this post, “Kid On My Shoulders”.

The thing that grabs you immediately with this song is the driving percussion. One of my rather arbitrary rules about music is that adding more percussion is typically a good move. In the Sirenfest set, they played with two drum sets, which added a welcome extra bit of vitality to the live show. This percussion is not only driving, but determined, a steady, unstoppable beat that propels the entire song. Partnered with what sounds like a piano/organ line that swirls around and around and a spastic guitar fuzz, it sounds like falling down the stairs, inevitable and natural. The vocal delivery is nice and menacing, as if something nasty is rotting under the floorboards, especially the spat out chorus line of “You were the kid on my shoulders!”

But what’s kept me listening to this song is the amazing breakdown. About two and a half, three minutes in, the guitar clears out, and you hear the drippings of a haunting piano line and the whole band harmonizing. The next two minutes, in my opinion, are a textbook example of how to use piano in rock. The piano steps nimbly through the song, not bringing it to a halt or working against the grain, not adding a false gravitas, but instead reinforcing the overall impression of the song. The song is structured like a train wreck, and the piano just creates an impending sense of doom. And then, my absolute favorite part. The lyrics in the breakdown, chanted over and over again, gilded with a sense of dread and bitter menace: “We held our tongues throughout it / one day we’ll laugh about it / we held our tongues throughout it / one day we’ll talk about it”.

It taps into me. I’m not quite sure what exactly this song is about. The lyrics are somewhat oblique. What the song touches in me is the general feeling I’ve been having about the times we live in. A silent rage that lies barely suppressed under the surface at the incompetent, mendacious leaders who have arrogantly bamboozled us into this war and the useless generation of gullible voters and nasty little pundits who allowed it to happen. A feeling of helplessness and bitterness about being dragged into a thing that so many of us knew was wrong and stupid, and not being allowed having any say in it. So I feel like chanting “we held our tongues throughout it / one day we’ll laugh about it”.

Check the song out at their MySpace . “The Plot” and “While We Go Dancing” are also recommended.

Subversive Cinema: Todd Haynes’ "Superstar"

Sunday, November 25th, 2007

I’m Not There (out now!) wasn’t director Todd Haynes’ first biopic. In 1987, he created a short 43 minute Karen Carpenter biopic using Barbie dolls.

The film has become a piece of “illegal art” unable to be properly released because of current zealous copyright laws.

Stay Free! magazine’s illegal art exhibit explains it:
With Barbie dolls as the principal actors, Superstar portrays the life of Karen Carpenter and her battle with anorexia. Haynes never secured the rights to the Carpenters’ music he used in the movie, and Richard Carpenter filed an injunction that kept Superstar from public release. Even without Carpenter’s court order, the film would probably have been stopped by the notoriously litigious Mattel, the makers of Barbie.”

While most film prints were immediately recalled and destroyed, the Museum of Modern Art film archive holds a copy (although they’ve agreed to never show it).

Thanks to Stay Free! Magazine and other underground enthusiasts, you can download/view the entire film online. If you want your own DVD(-R) copy Stay Free! would also like to sell you one.

Streaming Google Video

Download at Stay Free! illegal art exhibit


Gary Kasparov Arrested

Saturday, November 24th, 2007

Gary Kasparov was arrested on charges of Organizing an Unauthorized Protest and Resisting Arrest, after a protest by the Other Russia Coalition broke through police lines and began marching on the Election Commission. Gary Kasparov, of course, is the former Chess Grand Champion, now known for being strongly critical of the current Russian government. He was reportedly forced to the ground and beaten, says his assistant.
Let’s be honest, I’m just trying to paraphrase from the news article. You can read it here.
Here is a video of Mr. Kasparov on Bill Maher earlier this year– I can’t figure out how to embed it because I am having a Brain problem today, so, here it is.

As far as I can tell, Gary Kasparov is a pretty fantastic guy.

New Hold Steady songs

Thursday, November 22nd, 2007

Tonight at the Hold Steady, Art Brut, 1990s show, the Hold Steady at Terminal 5 in New York, played 3 new songs: Stay Positive, Ask Her For Adderall, and another one I didn’t catch the name of (it had Strange in it). The first two were pretty fast and the third was pretty slow. All three: pretty awesome.

For the Hold Steady’s last song, Art Brut’s Eddie Argos and Ian Catskilkin joined them on stage. I’ll try to post some video when I find it, but let me just tell you, the British accent brings a whole new element to the Hold Steady. Whether that’s a good thing, I’m not too sure. But Jackie McKeown of 1990s (who put on another great, great, great performance) was dancing along with the entire set (including the 30 seconds of Art Brut’s Hold Steady cameo) also, so you know the set itself had to be good.