Screw Rock 'n' Roll
Screw Rock 'n' Roll forms the juncture between Sub Pop and Swisha House. It's Seth Cohen on sizzurp. It's a semi-daily mp3 blog featuring rock n roll tracks screwed and chopped by Jonathan of The Saturday Club. All tracks are here for a limited time to promote the love of screw and the love of music. If you have any legal issues with your song being screwed, contact me and I'll take it down immediately.
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
If you can't respect that, your whole perspective is wack...
So, sadly, my music journalism home Stylus Magazine is closing its doors this week, something I've known about for a while, but just like Pete Wentz says, snitches and talkers gets stitches and walkers. My final album review for Stylus, of Dashboard Confessional's unexpectedly good The Shade of Poison Trees went up last week, take a look at it. And do enjoy our final few days. Our editor Todd Burns hosts a A Bluffer's Guide to Stylus, which chronicles some great music writing (and I was an avowed Stylus reader before I was a Stylus writer, so I'm not just saying that shit cause I write there). Then take a look at the staff's Final Seconds. I talk a bit about The Get Up Kids' "Stay Gold, Ponyboy" which I chose because I wanted to continue my habit of giving emo the serious attention it so rarely receives elsewhere, but my pick ended up being pretty suitable for the occasion, anyways. I'm sort of wishing I did something hip hop — I thought other people had that area of things covered — but I'm still happy with tGUK.
It was also good to see that Stylus' passing was reported in The New York Observer, and that the folks at I Love Music had some nice things to say. I Love Music weirds me out, but their response is welcome all the same.
I'll still be writing, of course, here for the moment, and hopefully other places over time. But for now, get yourself over to Stylus and farewell it with us in style.
Labels: music writing
Sunday, October 28, 2007
Pobody's Nerfect in Australia: Screw Rock 'n' Roll live-blogs the ARIA awards.
When I live-blogged my first listen to Radiohead's In Rainbows I said that I hadn't live-blogged anything before because big (read: foreign) award shows don't usually get broadcast live in Australia, and blogging a show after it's been extensively covered in the news already doesn't have the same excitement. Also, I said, I'm not a big fan of award shows. Well, I'm still not a big fan of award shows, but tonight Australia's Channel 10 is broadcasting the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) awards live, so I thought I'd take a shot at doing the minute-by-excruciating-minute live award show coverage thing. Those of you who aren't Australian will probably have no idea what I'm talking about, but consider that payback for last week where every internet publication in existence devoted itself to covering a bunch of bands no one had ever heard of play a bunch of shows I couldn't see in a city on the other side of the world. (Yeah, I'm sure CMJ was a blast for everyone there, but it doesn't make for thrilling reading if you're not in New York City.)
The ARIA awards can reductively but accurately be described as the Australian version of the Grammys. It tends to be a nigh unbearable affair that takes Australia's predilection for self-congratulatory hyperbole about its own culture to an extreme, a full night devoted to the kind of absurd kneejerk rejection of the cultural cringe that sees normally sane music journalists decide that Silverchair's Daniel Johns is a pop genius. I'm not kidding.
So, yes, this night will probably be awful, but I'm watching, nevertheless. Perhaps I have some slight patriotic hope that a night devoted to the local industry patting itself on the back will also produce some great moments. Ah, optimism...
8.35 p.m.: Speaking of Silverchair, that's them opening the night. They're performing "Straight Lines," the first single from their terrible new album Young Modern. "Straight Lines" works though, because its the one track that isn't undermined by overblown, over-complex arrangements. Daniel Johns voice starts cracking as he strains for the high notes, and the effect is quite pleasing. He's still acting like a self-important little shit. Nothing against artists who take themselves seriously, but in Johns' case, the more seriously he takes himself, the worse his music gets.
8.39 p.m.: He's got a nice shiny suit though. Apparently "Straight Lines" is the highest selling single of the year in Australia.
8.40 p.m.: After a montage of artists I couldn't give a shit about, we're introduced to the host for apparently the 21st ARIA award ceremony. It's Rove McManus, a blandly inoffensive comedian, tonight show host, and host of the Australian version of Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader?. So, Leno crossed with Jeff Foxworthy. Rove was onced mixed up with Karl Rove by Kim Beazley, who was Leader of the Opposition at the time. That downgraded Beazley's political condition from critical to terminal. He was quickly replaced by Kevin Rudd, who is on track to become Prime Minister next month. That sequence of events almost made Rove worth caring about. Rove warns artists against "exposing themselves," though he says he'll make an exception for Daniel Johns. Uh.... OK.
8.43 p.m.: Rove likes Gotye's name. His monologue is not amusing, but it's short. Thank god for that at least.
8.47 p.m.: Operator Please win Best Breakthrough Single for "Just a Song About Ping Pong." I hate the song, but these kids are kind of alright, because they're about sixteen, and look like they're twelve. They seem pretty overwhelmed to have won, and display none of their irritating exuberance when they accept their award.
8.47 p.m.: Sneaky Sound System are up for Best Breakthrough artist, so that means they'll win it. And they do. They deserve it I guess. I wish I liked these guys more. They're a catchy electro pop band, and their lead singer, Connie Mitchell, sung on Kanye West's "Can't Tell Me Nothing." Unfortunately, the melodies never interest me, so I'm completely ambivalent about their radio dominance.
8.58 p.m.: Sneaky Sound System are performing. Mitchell is turning in a pretty good performance, and "Pictures" is sounding pretty good. Just a little more disco-y thank usual. When Mitchell ditches the other guys and goes solo, I might decide I care about her.
8.59 p.m.: Sneaky Sound System morphs "Pictures" into "U.F.O." which isn't that difficult, because they're basically the same song.
9.00 p.m.: Rove says Operator Please has been outsourced to India. Oh, god. Shut up.
9.01 p.m.: Someone I don't know called Megan Gale is introducing the nominees for best country album. Australian country is almost never any good, so I don't partiularly care. Keith Urban wins, which was the right pick; he's competent, while everyone else is cringe-inducing.
9.03 p.m.: After the commercial, the guys from Australian political stunt comedy act (if that's the best way to describe them) The Chaser will be on. These guys recently got arrested because they got some SUVs together, pretended to be a Canadian motorcade, and drove up to George W. Bush's hotel dressed like Osama Bin Laden. Their TV show is called "The Chaser's War on Everything." It would be not at all their style to avoid doing something contentious. Cross fingers.
9.08 p.m.: Uh... they're poking fun at Shannon Noll. And they pun on "Best Urban," award, calling it the "Best Turban" award. Lame, guys.
9.10 p.m.: Dully competent hip hop act Hilltop Hoods win. It's not even for a new album; it's for their last album re-recorded with a symphony orchestra, an idea as bad in execution as it is in conception. Australian hip hop lost. Not that it was going to win anyway.
9.12 p.m.: John Butler wins best independent release, for yet another album of Jack-Johnson-with-left-wing-political-statements.
9.14 p.m.: John Butler begins his thank youspeech by recognizing the traditional owners of the land, that is, the local Aboriginal people, whose name I missed. I can't fault the sentiment, but Butler still sounds like a useless hippie saying it. An Australian rock star with a predilection for vague, feel-good left wing sloganeering? Look for this dude to enter Parliament in 20 years.
9.22 p.m.: Kate Miller-Heidke is playing. She's classically-trained, which means she sings in a high voice. She's "eccentric," which means she wears a big, bright yellow dress. This is awful. Think the worst aspects of Tori Amos crossed with the worst aspects of Nellie McKay. I'm getting a cup of tea. Excuse me.
9.27 p.m.: Darren Hayes says he has a gay-crush on Natalie Basingthwaite. He's an incredible pop star, except for his music. He gives the award for best pop release to Sarah Blasko, which says something about the state of Australian pop music. Really, I'd rather it went to Missy Higgins, whom I utterly loathe. At least Higgins knows what a melody is.
9.34 p.m.: Rove is blathering again, but that's probably just because he wants to avoid introducing Claire Bowditch, one of an ever-increasing cast of interchangeable folky singer-songwriters.
9.36 p.m.: Bowditch gives John Butler Trio the award for Best Blues and Roots Album. Butler allows his Trio to talk. Bad move, John.
9.37 p.m.: Powderfinger's up next, which is a relief, because this night has been even more mediocre than I anticipated. Powderfinger are not a stunning band, but they have a workmanlike consistency and ordinariness that has made them something like the biggest act in the country. They're not always exciting, but they do have a knack for writing good choruses. I don't know this song that they're performing - I didn't spend much time with their new album, because it seemed to further the band's downward slide - and unfortunately, it doesn't have the emotional heft Powderfinger's best material has. I'm guessing the song is called "Lost and Running," because that's what the choir is singing during the chorus. Powderfinger is the type of band that can sound entirely ordinary even while engaging in such a blatantly cliched rock star move like performing with a gospel choir.
9.49 p.m.: Dave Hughes makes jokes about rock stars and night-clubbers taking drugs. Original. Since his comedy is based on him yelling in a voice that suggests he's mentally impaired, it doesn't work. He gives Sneaky Sound System the award for Best Dance Release, and fortunately, gets the fuck off the stage. Meanwhile, Sneaky Sound System are gradually endearing themselves to me.
9.53 p.m.: The Divinyls are giving best rock release to one of five artists who all sound like AC/DC. Airbourne sounds the most like AC/DC. This is pathetic. Divinyls are acting like they're completely drug-fucked, or they actually are completely drug-fucked. Huh... Silverchair won. I didn't notice that they were nominated. Since they don't sound like they're ripping off AC/DC, I guess I approve.
9.56 p.m.: Silverchair takes far too long with their acceptance speech, but no one in Australia is going to tell them to hurry it up, because that would be treasonous or something. Because he's up on stage too long, Daniel Johns decides he has to act like a cunt, so he drapes himself over Chris Joannou while Joannou rattles off a bunch of names nobody cares about.
10.03 p.m.: A voiceover tells us how much foreigners care about Australian music, which is important to Australians, because we can't bear to think that the world is ignoring us. Apparently Eskimo Joe and Missy Higgins having been to America. Thrilling, huh? An Australian band with passports? Shit, they'll be bigger than 50 Cent if they keep that sort of thing up.
10.05 p.m.: The fascinating thing about Missy Higgins is that she becomes more like Delta Goodrem just while Goodrem is trying to distance herself from mannered piano ballads. This kind of stately ballad is miles removed from the bouncy pop songs she made her name on.
10.07 p.m.: Higgins is up on some kind of platform, and she tells Rove she did a lot of research before the show to make sure no one could see up her skirt. Uh, good move?
10.08 p.m.: Rove tells us the Wiggles won Best Children's Release, and says that Captain Feathersword has had some work done. Also, Rove says Feathersword's real name is Gotye, a joke that didn't work at the beginning of the show. Is this really the best host ARIA could come up with?
10.13 p.m.: For a bunch of high school kids, Operator Please look pretty comfortable on stage. It doesn't make their song any better though. I panned it when it was on the Singles Jukebox a while back, and I stand by that evaluation.
10.16 p.m.: Hamish (Blake) and Andy (Lee) are presenting the ARIA for Best Group. They're actually funny; Rove must be furious to be upstaged like this. They should have got Hamish to host this thing. Silverchair wins. That's a shame, because it means Hamish has to leave, and Hamish has been the best part of the night by far.
10.19 p.m.: For someone who has done absolutely nothing at all tonight, they sure are hyping Gotye. True, he is one of the more interesting artists at the show tonight. Polite electronic indie rock mightn't be the most avant garde thing any more, but when most of these bands act like making music with anything but guitars is somehow obscene, he's a welcome diversion.
10.24 p.m.: I wonder why the Veronicas haven't been on yet. They performed for the red carpet thing before the show started (Sorry, no coverage because I didn't realize it was on until it was almost over), but I would have hoped they'd perform for the actual show. Their new single is really kind of growing on me, even though I didn't like their robot-rock direction initially.
10.27 p.m.: Gotye is performing. His song sounds like he's spent too much time listening to the Big Chill soundtrack, but he actually does a passable Motown voice. The result is quietly charming. Gotye is a drummer, so when they release balloons from the ceiling, he has to push them out of his way while he's playing. Not the most thought-through stunt. That's the thing about the ARIAs - the show is done on the cheap, so no exciting Grammy-esque stage set-ups.
10.30 p.m.: Ben Lee and Delta Goodrem are actually bantering, which is kind of neat, because no one has really done that lame award show introduction thing thus far ("The star of the Blue Lagoon, and me, the Blue-Haired goon!") Missy Higgins is apparently the best female artist. Whatever.
10.33 p.m.: Delta Goodrem is putting no effort into her banter at all. Come on, Delta. That's no way to use those Neighbours-honed acting skills.
10.34 p.m.: Gotye wins Best Male Artist. Shit, they really are sucking his dick tonight.
10.35 p.m.: Gotye looks a bit like DJ Qualls. Classic bedroom producer features. And I say that as a bedroom producer myself.
10.37 p.m.: Nick Cave is going to be inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame. Good, but seriously, why hadn't they done that years ago? Kylie Minogue wishes she could be with us. But you've got better things to do, Kylie? I don't blame you. It's a shock to see actual decent artists on my TV screen.
10.44 p.m.: John Butler and Keith Urban's performance is more John Butler than Keith Urban. That's a shame. Urban's slick country is at least tolerable, something Butler's never been. Is there anything more useless than Roots music? Seriously, if blues etc. is good enough for anyone to pay attention to, it doesn't get called Roots music. No one calls Son House roots music. This particular ghetto is for white guys who have aspirations of being "earthy."
10.52 p.m.: Nick Cave wants to get some things straight. He wants to know why he's getting the award and the Bad Seeds aren't. He sounds pretty terrifying saying it, too. He's going to induct the Bad Seeds himself, he says. Nick Cave is more entertaining than every single other act to this point. Also, by the "power invested in [him]," he's inducting the Birthday Party. I like this. Cave should just induct anyone he feels like. He thanks his mother. Induct her, too, Nick!
10.59 p.m.: Architecture in Helsinki's "Heart it Races" is up for single of the year. This is actually a good song. I don't like their chances, but I'd love someone I genuinely approve of to win at least one award tonight (Nick Cave's HOF doesn't count). But, no, Silverchair win. I guess it could be worse: Wolfmother were nominated.
11.00 p.m.: Daniel Johns needs to get off the stage right now. Surely I'm not the only one wanting to punch him. How can he possibly sound like such a cunt when all he's doing is thanking a list of people?
11.02 p.m.: Finally it's time to hand out Album of the Year and end this thing. The nominees are Sneaky Sound System, Silverchair, Powderfinger, Gotye and John Butler. None of them excite me much. Silverchair wins, which means we have to endure Daniel Johns again. What a shitty night.
11.03 p.m.: Daniel Johns calls someone "bee-yatch." I don't know how the rest of the band can stand to be around him. Silverchair shout out "Australian music" which rather encapsulates the problem with this entire night: it celebrates music based on its Australian-ness, with little regard as to whether it's actually good or not.
11.05 p.m.: And it's over. Thank god. Now why did I think this would be a good idea?
Incidentally, I would have given Australian Album of the Year to Beasts of Bourbon's Little Animals, and Single of the Year to "I Don't Care About Nothing Anymore," also by Beasts of Bourbon. "No Pussy Blues" by Grinderman and "Heart it Races" by Architecture in Helsinki would have been equally worthy contenders, though.
Thursday, October 18, 2007
ATLANTIC RECORDS FOR T.I. CLEARANCE: Screw Rock 'n' Roll Top 69 Singles of 2006, Nos. 16-20
I'm usually pretty suspicious of the Freakonomics guys, but their look at the future of the music industry is worth checking out, even if some of the contributors (George Drakoulias) are pretty clueless.
Your boy has a review of Crime Mob's Hated on Mostly up at Stylus. It's pretty good (the album, though the review is alright, too).
Also at Stylus: Nick Southall tells folks how to make better records. I endorse his message.
And Stylus-er Justin Cober-Lake has a new blog about album covers. It's a great concept, and looks to be compulsive reading.
The New Yorker profiles David Simon (creator of the Wire), which is pretty fascinating, and it mentions shit about his new show on New Orleans musicians. It sounds good, but let's just hope hip hop doesn't get ignored, as it usually does in talk about New Orleans culture.
Everyone should be reading Radiohead Week over at Intensities in Ten Suburbs.
Now. I was doing a list of some sort?
Every time Death Cab releases an album, it seems I'm disappointed by it, and then it gradually worms its way into my life until it's utterly indispensible. What is there to say about these guys? I was introduced to them in 2001 when a girl I went to high school with (Zoh, I still have your Frente CD!) told me they had an incredible song called "Photobooth" that featured a drum machine ("How emo is that?" she said). It's still pretty much my favorite song ever. I ended up, entirely coincidentally, living in the group's hometown of Bellingham WA, which only added to my appreciation of the band - they sound like the best the portion of the Pacific Northwest squeezed between Puget Sound and the Cascades has to offer. Just hearing this music makes me think of rain, evergreen trees and snow-capped mountains.
So I'm likely to rate any Death Cab song pretty highly, but "I'll Follow You Into the Dark" is a gorgeous single, my appreciation of which is quite beyond my love of the band. Its appeal is simple, really: it's Ben Gibbard and an acoustic guitar declaring undying love. Pop song wise, that's enough to put it in the realm of "Hey There Delilah," a song a lot of people despise but I don't mind at all, but Death Cab is a good enough band to turn a good track into something special. Chris Walla's production makes the song sound hushed and familiar, like Gibbard is whispering the lyrics right into your ear, and the melody is plaintive enough to be affecting without becoming inane - a balance Gibbard excels at creating. The lyrics aren't as vivid as early Death Cab, which effectively captured a slightly abstract description of Western Washington collegiate life, but the straightforward sentiments convey the simple aspects of complicated emotions like love and devotion. Which isn't that bad a thing; sometimes we experience love and devotion in strikingly simple ways.
Justin's verses are all about sound. It's not even his singing that's important, really; he's saying nothing and the voice he uses to say it is not spectacular in the slightest. It's all about the tone his mouth produces, which floats above Timbaland's bleeding-trance synths, and it's such a fantastic trick that I'm never disappointed to hear the song. and whenever I do hear the song, the one moment I'm waiting for is that when T.I. swoops in and turns the ethereal soundscape into a slew of tangible ideas. "Alright, it's time to hit it, J.T." he says, and although the clarity he brings to the track isn't that detailed, his rhythmic, arrogant syllabary is the perfect counterpoint to the ill-defined blur of the rest of the song. It makes the whole thing coalesce into a proper pop song, one that washes from blur to pusle and back to blur again.
I often think Food and Liquor could have been Lupe Fiasco's Illmatic if only he had kept working at the original leaked version rather than throw together a stab at shitty conscious rap that made one of the supposedly smartest young rappers in the game look like one of the dumbest. Instead, Lupe seems hell bent on inheriting a less-desirable Nas trait: self-sabotage. And Nas, with all his shitty beats and "Oochie Wallie"s never approached self-sabotage with the zest Lupe seems to. Forget extra-curricula award show fuckups and focus on the music. Lupe seems to be the single most ill-suited person on the planet to working out what makes a good Lupe Fiasco track.
See, Lupe thinks he's a smart guy, and so he does what smart guys never do: he tries to prove how smart he is. His new single, "Dumb it Down" is actually pretty good, and it follows a run of other recent tracks that have me hoping that The Cool could actually be the classic Lupe has the potential to make. The worst thing about "Dumb it Down," though, is the concept: over a woozy, bass-heavy beat, Fiasco strings together some nice-enough wordplay, and then, in the hook, has himself told that his music is too smart, and that if he wants a hit, he has to "dumb it down." The wordplay in the track is above-average, but it's not jaw-dropping. The average Lil' Wayne guest spot is more creative, and Lil' Wayne's selling more than Lupe. Then again, if Lupe was making hits, he wouldn't be making excuses.
Basically, intelligence doesn't have much to do with good music, or at least not intelligence in the way it's usually talked about in these situations. That whole hip hop being the "CNN of the streets" idea was originally descriptive, and like so much else in hip hop, it has become prescriptive. "Intelligent" hip hop is supposedly the best type, where intelligence usually is exhibited as masturbatory wordplay or a hodgepodge of left-wing politics consisting of equal parts paranoia, conspiracy theory and cable news talking points.
The intelligence music is good at capturing is artistic intelligence, which is the kind of intelligence, entirely unsurprisingly, that other forms of art are good at communicating. Hip hop is adept at describing how people feel and respond to things, whether that's new wealth, an attractive member of the opposite sex, or the dire conditions confronting their communities. Hip hop, like painting and poetry, is not very good at making policy statements or social theses. That's why David Banner sounds smarter than Common, even though Common's the guy who supposedly makes "conscious" music.
So, when Lupe's making tracks like "Dumb it Down," he sounds dumb, but when he writes music like "Kick, Push" he sounds smart. He does things smart writers do, like use language to creatively and insightfully describe people, places and emotions. Look at this passage, in which he narrates the skating protagonist meeting a girl:
Love is what what was happening to him now
He said, "I would marry you
But I'm engaged to these arials and variels
And I don't think this board is strong enough to carry two."
To which the girl replies:
Bow, I weigh 120 pounds
Now, let me make one thing clear
I don't need to ride yours
I got mine right here
The dialogue uses skating language (proper wordplay, not the silly games of "Dumb it Down," to establish the relationship between the characters, and their respective emotions — the uncommital and uncertain boy is won over by the girl's directness and independence. Later in the song, Lupe describes the appeal of skating in terms even non-skaters can understand, and though the language is simple, it's affecting and allusive:
And it wasn't like they wasn't getting chased no more
Just the freedom was better than breathing they said
Any escape route they used to escape out
When things got crazy
They needed to break out
"Kick, Push" didn't feature the intelligent Lupe, it just featured the artistic Lupe. The Cool could do with as little intelligence as possible.
17. Lil' Wayne - Hustler Muzik
(link is to Michael Watts' chopped and screwed version)
Stay calm. Don't rebel. This is the last mention of Weezy I'll make on this list. Now, I hear the criticisms of Lil' Wayne - he can't write songs, he lacks hooks, he's all uncontrolled flow, no focus - and while I don't necessarily accept those criticisms, it isn't as if I dismiss them, either. Essentially, what Wayne's detractors say is to some extent true, but even when it is, it rarely detracts from his music. Just because Lil' Wayne doesn't do what works for some rappers doesn't mean he doesn't work as a rapper. Part of the breathaking intensity of Tha Carter II is due to the way it doesn't feature a hook until around eight minutes in, and when it comes, it is in the form of the Runners chopping up a screwed voice sneering "Money on my mind, so money is all I think of."
But "Hustler Muzik" is actually pretty close to what the haters want. It's got something that approaches a proper hook, and even the production splits the difference between Southern blues-rap and Blueprint soul. It was a single, but it didn't seem to do anything, which I don't get; it should have at least between a rap hit, even if being a pop hit was a bit much to ask. But quite apart from its commercial success, it really encapsulated the appeal of Lil' Wayne; the soulful production, the drawling rap that is similtaneously emotional and emotionally detached, and the clever lyrics amidst the rote gunplay and crack talk. Since I first heard this song, when Tha Carter II was released at the end of 2005, Lil' Wayne has risen astronomically in stature, so the visceral appeal of this track may be diminished somewhat. But more than any mixtape track of 2006, this captures what Weezy was about in his Carter II period, and as artists go, very few were that exciting.
The Black Parade was so effective in amplifying My Chemical Romance's euphoric ridiculousness that their previous work, already gloriously overblown, seems quaint by comparison. Think of the videos (with MCR, it's impossible to consider them without the visual accompaniment): after a trailer for a Wes Anderson-esque teen movie, a ballet-augmented funeral and a storming of the beaches of Normandy, how could these guys prevent their next move coming off as anti-climactic?
Well, they invented a brand new band, shot their video as a missive from a post-apocalyptic wasteland that looked like it should have come from its own birth-of-film flick, the way the Smashing Pumpkins' "Tonight Tonight" did (I wonder - are MCR's teenage fans reacting the same way I did to Billy Corgan back in '96?), and did it all for an operatic, gothic pomp-rock epic that found immediacy in its decadent absurdity.
This is a fantastic effort at myth-creation. It's set up like a fantasy story — which perhaps prompted the video — turning the narrator into a godly, heroic figure. Gerard Way narrates his back story like he's reciting an Homeric epic:
When I was a young boy
My father took me into the city
To see a marching band
He said, "Son, when you grow up
Would you be the savior
Of the broken, the beaten and the damned?
Will you defeat them, the demons, and all the non-believers
The plans that they have made?
Cause one day I'll leave you
A phantom, to lead you in the summer
To join the black parade
Could you imagine some guy from New Jersey saying all that to his son? Of course not, but who cares? It's great! Way includes all the requisite elements for messianic absurdity: a destiny, a mentor, and a quest. That quest is seemingly to become the frontman for a goth-emo band that would tell this very story with martial drumming, guitar solos, reverbing piano, and a cannon-shot blast of a kick drum to close it all. Fuck it, that makes it better than Tolkein.
Labels: Top 69 Singles 2006
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
More productive: Screw Rock 'n' Roll Live-blogs "In Rainbows"
I've never live-blogged anything, mostly because all the fancy-ass award shows that folks usually live-blog don't air in Australia until the next day or so, so there's no point. Also, I'm not a big fan of award shows. But albums are another thing. I am a very big fan of albums. And while they may not actually be as live-bloggable, considering there isn't much live about them, I think I'll make an exception with this new Radiohead album, In Rainbows (Get it for $free.99).
I'm making this exception because, if I understand my record industry analysis, the release of this album on to the internets is going to mean that EMI, Time-Warner and Universal are all going to go bankrupt by about 11.17 a.m. tomorrow morning, with Jonny Greenwood installed as the head of the world's only record company. That's pretty exciting news, so I'm going to play my part in the hype by live-blogging the album. All times Australian Eastern Standard Time.
Alright, let's do this thing.
9.50 pm: Hey, thanks Hotmail. It was so smart of you to stick an email with the title "DOWNLOAD IN RAINBOWS - DO NOT REPLY" into my spam folder. That'll learn me for trying to avoid Radiohead spamming my real e-mail address for the rest of eternity.
THANK YOU FOR ORDERING 'IN RAINBOWS'.
THE LINK BELOW IS YOUR UNIQUE DOWNLOAD ACTIVATION CODE.
PLEASE CLICK ON THE LINK OR CUT AND PASTE INTO YOUR BROWSER TO OBTAIN YOUR DOWNLOAD.
IF YOUR LINK APPEARS AS TWO SEPARATE LINES, PLEASE CUT AND PASTE THEM CAREFULLY INTO YOUR BROWSER.
THE ALBUM WILL COME AS A 48.4MB ZIP FILE CONTAINING 10 X 160KBPS DRM FREE MP3s.
MOST COMPUTERS NOW HAVE ZIP SOFTWARE AS PART OF THE OPERATING SYSTEM; IF YOUR COMPUTER DOES NOT, YOU CAN DOWNLOAD IT HERE
IF YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS OR PROBLEMS DOWNLOADING YOUR FILE, PLEASE CONTACT OUR DOWNLOAD CUSTOMER SERVICE TEAM: firstname.lastname@example.org
WE HOPE YOU ENJOY 'IN RAINBOWS'.
Thanks Radiohead. I hope I enjoy 'IN RAINBOWS' too. Incidentally, I wonder how one gets a job working for Radiohead Customer service. Do they have call centers in India?
Fortunately, I don't have to download my own link, because I'd already downloaded an illegal copy from someone Radiohead chose to bless with a link three hours before I got mine. So, excuse me while I get my Winzip going.
9.58 pm: Winzip is too slow. Someone should do something about that. I expect instant unzipping. But after, oh... 5 seconds, I now have In Rainbows in my iTunes. No artwork, but that's not a surprise. I'll stick with the Care Bears up there. It's all nicely tagged - thanks Radiohead - but I do notice that they haven't given themselves a genre. Because they are wild rock stars who will not be tamed.
10:02 pm: Well, I would press play, but I'm going to get a beer first. It will be Pilsner Urquell. Does a pilsner go with Radiohead? I welcome suggestions for suitable beverage accompaniments to In Rainbows. In the comments box, please
10:06 pm: Mmm... beer and Radiohead. Alright, let's get this bitch going. Play.
10:07 pm: "15 Step" has great crunchy scattery beats. I don't understand a word Thom is saying, but he's got a bit more soul in his voice than usual. I think this is Radiohead's version of R&B. It's all the Alicia Keys they've been listening to.
10:09 pm: Is Thom singing "et cetera et cetera" because he ran out of 1984 quotes to steal? He sounds pretty happy on this one. "Happy" as in "fucking nuts," I mean. Also, shouting children? Good move.
10:11 pm: The "Bodysnatchers" riff sounds like they mugged Faith No More, and mangled it pretty badly in the process. This is actually pretty rock 'n' roll. But in a good way. Not in the way Coldplay listeners want them to make The Bends again.
10:13 pm: Not that there's anything wrong with The Bends.
10:15 pm: Jonny Greenwood's playing guitar again. Like playing guitar
10:16 pm: I've never been one of those huge "Nude/(Don't Get Any) Big Ideas" stans (nor was I that in love with "True Love Waits"; "Fog" is my b-side/rarities obsession), but I'm happy it's finally found its way on to an album. Sounding good, too. Rich and full and over all, quite lovely.
10:19 pm: Incidentally, you rarities/b-side kids should check out this if you haven't already. 24 discs of non-album Radiohead shit.
10:20 pm: I was just wondering why this next song sounded so familiar. Turns out that it's "Arpeggi," of which there were plenty of bootlegs available for the past year or so. It's now called "Weird Fishes/Arpeggi" and its my first disappointment in the album. Not that it sounds particularly bad, but I really fell hard for that ethereal, swirling live take that was swimming around a year ago. This is good, but it sounds more grounded. The original "Arpeggi" sounded like Thom Yorke had finally detached himself from anything at all corporeal, the way he did with "How to Disappear Completely," but even more so.
10:24 pm: Nice dramatic crash to end it though. I'm serious: I appreciated that crash a lot.
10:25 pm: Incidentally, does anyone know who produced this? I can't believe I haven't found that out. Was it Nigel Godrich?
10:25 pm still: "All I Need" is not a Jay-Z cover (I'm disappointed too), but it does have a fantastically evil, slightly sickly bass line. And chimes! Oh boy, chimes!
10:26 pm: "I'm just an insect." Ha, you still got it Thom. "All I Need" is quite possibly my favorite track so far.
10:28 pm: This is turning out to be an interesting album, though of course, I won't know how I properly feel about it for a while. I'm quite shocked at how much guitar there is, though, but also relieved that it doesn't sound like a step backward. I always feared that if Radiohead picked up their guitars for a full album again, it would sound like a boring retread. This isn't the futuristic shock Kid A was, but there are still plenty of surprises.
10:30 pm: Like "Faust Arp". I don't even know what to think of that one.
10:30 pm still: "Reckoner" is yet another example of the interesting percussion going on with this album. If anything, these tracks are even more rhythm-based than all but their most discordant IDM experiments ("Pulk/Pull"), but the percussion is based on live-sounding clatters, not glitches and scratchy drum machines.
10:34 pm: They're really giving the film score strings a workout, aren't they? It's not mushy background music like latter-day Massive Attack, though.
10:36 pm: "House of Cards" brings the drum machine out from the closet, but to compensate, it has some of that nu-soul guitar and Thom Yorke pretending he's Musiq Soulchild (OK, well... sort of).
10:39 pm: Honestly, "House of Cards" sounds a little aimless on first listen.
10:40 pm: Some guy on the Internet (Wikipedia counts as fact-checking for lazy journalists) says Mark Stent produced the album. Doesn't give a source for that info, though, so who knows who did what?
10:42 pm: Ha, I never mentioned that I ordered the discbox of this, did I? I'm liking this record, but I'm not sure if I'm liking it £40 yet. Ah well, Radiohead have my money now, and they're probably on their way to the bank, L their AO. Do you reckon Radiohead would be interested in doing an "I Get Money" remix with 50? Seriously, that'd be awesome.
10:45 pm: "Jigsaw Falling into Place" just finished. I didn't notice anything particularly exceptional about it. "Videotape" on the other hand is setting out to be Radiohead's best closer since "Motion Picture Soundtrack." Its stacked with mournful keys and Thom Yorke doing his Thom Yorke voice. Then a beat starts limping in. This could be the best song of the album; it's really kind of frightening. They sounded pretty happy for most of this, but "Videotape" is the come down. It sounds like the record is collapsing in on itself, and it undermines the joy that preceded it. What seemed like genuine happiness has become hollow and illusory. Very nice work, you cynical, sad-sack bastards.
10:49 pm: Radiohead are pretty good with the final tracks, though. There's "MPS" and this one, of course, but "Life in a Glasshouse," "Wolf at the Door" and "Street Spirit" are all career highlights. Like the Hold Steady, these guys really know how to end an album.
10:51 pm: And that's it. I won't offer any final opinion just yet, because I don't know what to think. Perhaps I'll post a more complete reaction after a few more listens. Thanks for sticking round, guys.