I have not updated here in a while because, frankly, I don’t care anymore. But I still want to share stuff that moves or irritates me. And this definitely moves me…
That’s the farewell to Kristin Wiig on last night’s Saturday Night Live. (After seven years, she is leaving the show with Jason Sudeikis and Andy Samberg, as well.) As you can see, everyone in the universe was there. Mick Jagger, The Arcade Fire, the Foo Fighters, Amy Poehler, Jon Hamm, Jeff Beck, Steve Martin…I don’t even know.
It’s really good to see this kind of emotion on network television.
Being around the holidays, I simply cannot resist posting this classic from PerlePictures.
The music is from the Four Tops. The video was created by the generally very amusing Chase Empire. You may also recognize the guy with the beard as Jeff Maynard. He was the musician / songwriter behind The Standstill and Skippy and the Bellbottoms. Also, the dude with the guitar is better known as DJ Modifi or Simon Belmont. Be sure to download his Chrismix from a few years back.
Be sure to pass this one around for the holidays!
Yeah. So I went. A LOT of people did.
It was kind of silly, very innocent and ultimately quite prolific. There were a ton of musical artists involved. Let’s see if I can remember them all. The Roots, Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens), Ozzy Osbourne, Jeff Tweedy, Mavis Staples, Sheryl Crow, uh…Kid Rock, The O’Jays. Even Colbert and Stewart did a little musical number with Jeff Tweedy. Sam Waterson, R2D2, a seven year old girl, and a giant, armed, Stephen Colbert monster also made appearances. There were a few others which are hazy to me and I don’t feel like looking it up.
Anyway, here’s some really decent amateur footage of some of the amusing shit they did with some of these guests:
So yeah. “Peace Train” ended up a decently dressed cliche. Other music / performance art / comedy type of goodness ebbed and flowed over the three hours. I’m not going to say it was all totally awesome musically, but it was definitely well rounded and well paced. That’s all I really have to say about it from a strictly entertainment point of view. It was lovely, for sure.
I’m hoping Comedy Central reruns the broadcast. However, see it or not, at least take with you Stewart’s closing statements:
To celebrate this fantastic news about one of my favorite bands, I have decided to post their set, in it’s entirety from the 2009 Bonnaroo music festival in Manchester, TN. It’s not without its flaws, but certainly worth a high volume listen.
And here is the setlist:
01. MC Intro
02. Band Intro
03. Nonpareil of Favor
04. Bunny Ain’t No Kind of Rider
05. Id Engager
06. Rapture Rapes the Muses
07. The Party’s Crashing Us
08. Heimdalsgate Like a Promethean Curse
09. October is Eternal
10. A Sentence of Sorts in Konsvinger
11. Beware Our Nubile Miscreants
12. Girl Named Hello
13. For Our Elegant Caste
14. Touched Something’s Hollow
15. An Eluardian Instance
16. She’s A Rejecter
17. The Past is a Grotesque Animal
When we last heard from Eminem, he was feeding us shit. Not in the way we had come to appreciate from him, either. With Relapse, we dined on a hallow man’s self loathing shit. We topped it off with shitty, uninspired beats. As someone who had previously looked upon Eminem as a mighty figure with the potential to spark a tangible revolution, I was crushed.
When I read that he had planned to release Relapse 2, I figured it might be time to end my fanship with him. It seemed like the most sensible thing to do for both of us. I still checked in from time to time to make sure he was holding up. I read that Relapse 2 was not coming out the way he had anticipated, musically. Poor guy.
But maybe not.
Relapse 2 was so different from the initial intent, that it ceased to be Relapse 2. Rather it mutated in Recovery. I had to listen. I just had to sample a few tracks at least. Okay. I just decided to start at the beginning and let it roll. As the music pressed on, we become acquainted with a new Marshall Mathers – one who has had a massive weight lifted from his shoulders. With the inclusion of strong beats, experimental departures and lyrics that are as positive as they are cutting, I felt that a massive weight had been lifted from me as well. His lyrical denouncing of Relapse also helped. In any case, Eminem has now returned to his rightful place in my heart.
The growth between Relapse and Recovery is immense and multifaceted. He acknowledges a rock bottom he has known well and I mostly believe him when he reminds us of his Phoenix-like escape from that pit. He has regained his ability to be direct, lucid and cognizant. I think we all like him so much better when he is on top of his game.
The music, too, is far more expansive than that on Relapse or its predecessor, Encore. There seems to be a greater focus on detail. The occasional melodic lifts and song-singy vocal cadences give the impression that this album was designed with music in mind – not just beats. Indeed, these songs do sometimes channel some eclectic musical greats. “You’re Never Over” sounds fresh, triumphant and synthed out, similar to the style of B.o.B. “25 to Life,” at least musically, sounds like an outtake from Andre 3000’s The Love Below. “Cinderella Man” smacks of something we may have heard from Kool Keith – or is that Gil Scott-Heron? Oh…and listen to “Space Bound.” Isn’t that a fucking Flaming Lips song?
Don’t get me wrong. They are not all winners. It’s irritating, too, because it could have been a perfect offering, but for it’s girth. Rappers just don’t trim the fat these days. Instead they would rather fill up an entire 70+ minute CD with every single thing they possibly can, quality and consistency be damned. I know a lot of teenyboppers and sports bar morons will disagree with me, but Eminem really really really really really really really should have cut “No Love,” a track featuring Lil Wayne. (Yes. I am aware the inclusion of Lil Wayne guarantees this track will not only not be cut, but will likely be the next single. Groan.) If Wayne’s boring, monotone, machismo “rapping” is not enough to put you off, consider that the whole track relies on a sample of “What Is Love” by Haddaway. That’s barely excusable in the name of irony, let alone “serious” music production. This is easily the worst “song” of the album and perhaps 2010.
I’ll let it go, though, because most everything surrounding that turd island is purposeful, if not brilliant. Quite possibly as good as Idlewild, the last one from our beloved Outkast (though Outkast did utilize a better array of guest appearances, with Lil Wayne in common.) There are no skits on this disc, either. While Eminem’s skits have generally always been concise and amusing, he was correct to keep them away. He’s a bit more serious this time, and it suits him well.
Recovery makes me cheer for Marshall Mathers yet again. I am genuinely happy that he is doing better and I hope it only lifts up from here. Evolved, he can now affect an audience in new ways – far beyond shock, entering into additional realms of unabashed enlightenment.
So I haven’t reviewed anything in a while now and that’s not fair to readers. I at least owe someone who might care a review of the latest Lady Gaga album. Time has passed since I got my hands on it and my exposure to this pop persona has increased immensely. Same for most everyone, I think.
Previously, I used to be pretty mean to her. “Lady Caca,” I would call her. “Pure pop garbage” was my basic stance. I blogged about a website that was critical of the Illuminati symbolism she incorporates into her shtick (you have to admit…it’s totally there).
To the Illuminati blog, my [now ex] girlfriend mentioned something just as I had thought of it, too. The secret society stuff is a good gimmick. Indeed it is. Secret Chiefs 3, one of the most truly gifted bands of our day, uses the same gimmick. The difference is this, though: Secret Chiefs 3 own their gimmick…Lady Gaga seems to be a victim of hers. Granted, the mere thought of her as a tool for wealthy and powerful forces of old makes for an incredibly dark aura around America’s [generally] blond heroin. (Yes…like the drug.)
But hey. That can be a morbidly enjoyable thing, as well. I should be entertained, not sympathetic to a zombie pop star. Shit. I don’t even know her. Furthermore, most straight people that like her aren’t even worth knowing.
But then there are the gays. Gay people really seem to enjoy Lady Gaga. Not just gay people, but gay people with respectable taste. Sure, Lady Gaga leaves no second guessing of her affinity for gay culture. There is something deeper here, though. Homosexuals see something there that apparently strikes at the core of gay culture. In a nutshell, I presume it’s basically flamboyance. That weird, large stepping, up looking, blue light basking sex via feeling via driving electronic music (and maybe a little bit of cocaine or ecstasy back in the day…or bathroom).
As a mostly straight male, I have never really understood that whole thing and I probably never will. And being outside of that perspective, I have a really hard time discerning that which is a cultural imperative and that which is a stereotype. Pandering to homosexuals is great…especially if the artist truly respects their current civil rights struggle. However, keeping an air of 1990 doesn’t seem progressive enough, rendering Gaga to potentially be nothing more than a fleeting gag.
The costumes are fun. Great even. She can actually play a piano and sing, too. Awesome. But we have to ask ourselves…how is all this good stuff being utilized?
The music is the thing, so let’s just take it there for now. It has a beat. It has very basic keyboard programming. It has some gottdamned autotuning. Lyrically, it’s not saying anything that would make anyone think outside of themselves. Thankfully, it’s not the ego worshiping call to superficiality that her debut, The Fame, was. Instead, we have eight suffocating tracks about all those crazy feelings you get when you’re in love! Whoopity doo.
So this girl has a large platform now and this is how she uses it. Dressing up the typical and mundane as something greater than it is. I must give her credit, for it is so well dressed that it is difficult to turn away from. Until, of course, it opens its mouth. Then it becomes further evidence of who really controls pop music. Say it with me! Coked out rich guys and their demographic analysis!
And so, despite some crazy design work, we end up revisiting sounds reminiscent of unfortunately unforgettable acts such as Ace of Base, La Bouche and – I don’t know – Haddaway? Is this a sound that defines a generation…or a movement? I hope not. Yet, Gaga does show promise in a single song. Of course, I am talking about the album’s sole organic track, “Speechless.” Another stupid relationship song – one I’m sure will be the “last skate of the night” at roller rinks everywhere – but considering the music alone, it’s a talented stretch compared to all else she has released. Too bad it’s the token slow song in a wading pool of crack.
Frat boys can go to clubs, hear this music and like it because the girls will dance to it. Maybe a few of them will actually realize Gaga’s nod to homosexuality. Then they can secretly get really into it, fuck a few dudes, then get married to a woman and resent their lives. Sad and funny at the same time!
The true societal mess of all this exists in the viewpoint of those frat boys’ dads and all their political clout. Equal rights for homosexuals? Of course. America is incredibly late to the game on that. But these older, wealthier forces are going to need a hell of a lot of arm twisting to believe that. All Lady Gaga does is spook them deep into the safe, dark corners of their own belief systems. Their stereotypes become reinforced as it appears to them that perhaps gay has never changed. It continues to be read by them as something stagnant and specific. A shallow light show with cooties. (Re: Adam Lambert.)
Those kinds of people are simply not hip to the idea of an intellectual homosexual. All they have is MTV and the news. That’s as far as homosexuality reaches into their homes or psyches. Seeing as how inescapable Gaga the Symbol is in these things, I have to wonder if maybe she is that aforementioned zombie pop star – controlled by her handlers as an attempt at reverse psychology to reinforce the gay stereotype and prevent their civil rights struggle from being taken seriously enough to gain any real traction.
Yes. This is a delicate thing. Who the fuck am I to tell Lady Gaga to change her “message” and sound to appease some rich asshole I don’t even care about? So if I may, I would like to address Lady Gaga directly, as a friend. And to her, I say this…
Take this influence you have and transcend all that you have built in flaccid pop music. If you wish to be a political force, then use your message as political leverage. I believe in you, Lady Gaga.
Oh…and quit making music that sounds so fucking dated.
You probably have heard of Waronker before. Aside from being a major contribution to Beck’s studio sessions and live shows, he’s also put in time with Smashing Pumpkins, Elliot Smith and R.E.M. among others. He’s recently been part of Air’s touring band so it seems natural that he would be the new, specialized, pseudo-secret weapon built on to their new album. And natural it does, indeed, feel as Waronker aids in lifting the band to organic new heights…at least on disc.
Of course, Nicolas Godin and Jean-Benoît Dunckel, the founding backbone of Air, are also doing their part in this regards. There are some nice touches of vibraphone and brass that do well to emphasize the electronics, without feeling like electronics themselves. More importantly, though, is an abundance of rather fluid piano that seems to meander more than its rigid equivalent on their past releases. Throw in some dirty guitar and it becomes well clear that Air has matured beyond mere programming.
Of course, anyone who knows anything about their live show could argue that this evolution occurred with the band a long time ago. Considering the scope of these live performances, I wouldn’t argue with that. Now, however, we are finally privy to witnessing them exercise a few more detailed caveats in the studio. Whereas on prior Air records, things generally felt compartmentalized and distinct, here we have something that seems to extend out in a multitude of curvy, uneven directions. It almost feels like an album of improvisation. Almost, I say.
They play well beyond the typical Air fare that we’ve come to love over the years. They still have they’re classic cheese (“Tropical Disease”) and it would be a shame if ever they lost that completely. (But they won’t because they are French.) Their creepy, lost-in-space kind of stuff is also here (“Do the Joy”) but it feels more expansive, particularly because of Waronker and that aforementioned dirty guitar. New to Air on this go around is the way they seem to touch on some very soulful combinations of sound that seem to resonate similarly to African-American music of the 60s, 70s and 80s. They channel Prince on “Missing the Light of Day,” The Sugarhill Gang on “Night Hunter” and the Delfonics on “Sing Sang Sung.” Pretty impressive for guys as white as France.
All of this comprehensive writing and arranging, floating effortlessly across the top of Waronker’s mellifluous pulse, makes for what may very well be the best offering from Air yet. Of course, that’s always going to be a relatively difficult thing to determine with this band. It’s like trying to pick a favorite Beatles record. You think Abbey Road is probably the best, but how can you really know? The fact of the matter is that their entire catalog is so colorful and unique that making definite choices of preference within it is pretty much moot.
Joey Waronker on drums. That’s gotta count for a few gold stars at least.
I haven’t been updating during this holiday weekend, obviously. However, I can’t leave people hanging, either. And so, please enjoy this insightful lecture from Lavoisier regarding fake rappers.
It gets the rare categorization of both good music and bad music. Good for Lavoisier…bad for radio rap. Enjoy!
So. The OTT Band. I was weary. Much like freesoulJAH, this one, too, underwent an evolving perception with me. The difference is that freesoulJAH is freesoulJAH. He is what he is, and it’s unexpected, but in the end, it really kind of works in some weird way. The OTT Band, on the other hand, has taken a very dire marketing misstep here.
I open up this London band’s CD and holy shit. This album art is terrible. It appears to be the equivalent of those over-the-hill American singer/songwriter guys who play in shit ass cover bands full time while pushing out the occasional disc of basement recordings that might have been good fifteen years ago before their ideas were so outdated. You know, cynical bastards that have nowhere to go but the sports bar? The OTT Band’s CD cover has a group of people, who I presume to be said band, in a cheap, candid, pulled back snapsot. The whole thing is soaked in the color orange, and stamped with fonts that apparently were included in Microsoft Publisher 98. How the fuck was I going to review this? If this band truly is comprised of those sports bar frequenting, cover band playing, old wankers, I can’t point all this out to them. I have sympathy for those guys, after all. Is the destruction of their rock star dreams not enough? Now they’ve got to take a verbal ass kicking from some punk ass snot shit American sitting comfortably behind his computer?
I’m happy to report that no…they do not. Hence it is confirmed that one truly cannot tell a book by it’s cover.
The vocals on the opening track, “Don’t Know,” are the last difficult hurdle to get over, but once you make it past, this is a very rewarding listen. It’s not any kind of style that is considered new. However, it is a style that is so difficult to properly execute, there are only a small handful of bands out there that have ever been able to pull it off…and nowadays no one even tries. I’m talking about the music of the 80’s. But not the 80’s you’re familiar with. Not that kitschy, coked out radio discomfort that you know in such forms as Dead or Alive, Thompson Twins or fucking Madonna. The Ott Band is tapped into something far more creative, pure and interesting. It’s that part of the 80’s that the cool kids were into. The early part that bled with the end of the 70’s and was more focused on an innovative, worldly and artistic sound. Music for music and change…not music for money and drugs. The OTT Band resonates loudly with the sounds of The Specials, The English Beat or Sandinista! era Clash.
Those are all UK bands. Maybe this is just a difference in form between the United Kingdom and America, where I was stuck. Maybe they take for granted this kind of sound over there. I just don’t hear anyone doing it anymore. Fortunately, The OTT Band relishes in it. They touch on that blessed sound that is not quite reggae, not quite rock, a little bit closer to dancehall, and strangely uplifting. There is a good use of what sounds like full choirs of people here. There are watery electronics, very notably applied on “Six Million Miles,” that serves as a testament to the detail put into these songs. The range of what they do with the music is also nicely expansive. On one end we have the head bobbing, ska-before-ska-was-ska, “Sending in the Lions,” mixed with odd modern notions of “getting bling.” It’s a playful antithesis to “Special,” a dubby, introspective gem of night music. Everything in between is a carefully laid landscape of pianos, guitars, horns and whatever else was needed to make these songs complete.
The only other complaint I can voice about this band is their website where they have a section called, “Who the **** are The OTT Band?” To this, guys, I gotta recommend that you just type out the “fuck” word. I mean, it’s 2009. Everyone knows what four asterisks mean and most people really enjoy the word “fuck” anyway.
As for the album cover, just ask me next time. I’ll work you up something more fitting…free of charge.
The song is called “Heaven Can Wait” and it’s the first single from Gainsbourg’s upcoming release, IRM, which was written and produced by Beck. Judging from this track, there are some very good things around the bend. January 26th, specifically…in the states, that is. December 8th everywhere else, damn it.
Also in Beck news, later today Beck will also release a new track entitled, “Harry Partch,” a tribute to the late composer of the same name. The song will apparently employ Partch’s 43 tone scale. That, too, will be delivered on Beck.com.