31 January 2009

Kickin Ur Dick In

This is the greatest thing ever. I'm a late comer to hardcore – really, if you're over 15, you're a late comer – but it doesn't take an expert to see that JD Twitch has piled the cream on thick here, even if his definition of hardcore is a bit more expansive than most: The Pop Group? Swans? Sonic Youth? Hey, I'm all for inclusiveness; depending on your point of view, the only thing (well, not the only thing, but if you don't already own Minor Threat's Complete Discography...) missing is some Millions of Dead Cops or "Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting".

20 January 2009

19 January 2009

17 January 2009

...Just About Sums It Up

Quick! He's getting away!

Rep. Barney Frank's keen observation from the pages of the New Yorker:
More recently, he noted that Barack Obama’s continued insistence that we have one President at a time “overstates the number of Presidents we have.”

06 January 2009

No Age For Old Men

"Hey/Wait/I've got a new complaint"

From tinyluckygenius:
I am in the transcription trenches--Randy Randall, from the an interview I did with No Age in October, with a florid, extended mix 'n match metaphor:

"That’s the irony of this. The thing is that for decades there has been amazing underground culture in LA that has just been passed by media, we're in the belly of the beast, and thats been one of the reasons why it’s been able to exist. Because everyone has their eyes on the prize, chasing the dragon, we can just continue to exist, just be dirty kids hanging out at the Smell. And no one pays attention, and so we can get away with doing our own thing, and then suddenly the dragon turns it’s head on you and says “You belong to us! You are from LA, come into the fold.” We’ve been here the whole time and you didn’t want to know anything about us! We poked you in the eye and now you want to be our friend?"

I guess this means that if Kurt Cobain had to deal with Pitchfork he might have shot himself while Nirvana were still on Sub Pop.

05 January 2009

Rabbit Habits

Shave and a hair cut: two bits

These guys should have named themselves Your Girlfriend's New Favorite Band, because that's what they're gunning for, and their initial choice, Frightened Rabbit, is a Hall of Fame shitty band name. Basically, like a lot of these groups, Frightened Rabbit layer a little bit of quirk – Scottish accents, occasional earnest expletive in a chorus ("It takes more than fucking someone to keep yourself warm"), anachronistic references (they have a song called "Old Old Fashion", not to put too fine a point on it) – on top of the same U2-by-numbers that underlie Snow Patrol or Coldplay. It's the aural equivalent of wrapping your dog's heartworm medication in a piece of baloney so she'll eat it.

So the real question is: did I enjoy their album, Midnight Organ Fright, more than Viva La Vida? Well, Coldplay are at an advantage, freely admitting to world-beating aspirations (Delacroix's Liberty Leading the People is their fucking album cover for crissakes), whereas Frightened Rabbit from the name on down seem to be under the impression that they can con sensitive frat dudes and their dudettes into thinking they make bedroom pop, which they do if you happen to sleep in Madison Square Garden. Coldplay have progressed beyond communicating human emotions to rally-ready sloganeering, which is great rock and roll fun if you prefer Hannah Arendt to Elvis Presley. Frightened Rabbit still communicate human emotions, but not the kind real people have, at least not regularly; rather they convey the types of complex, grandiose Emotions that, in reality, are only regularly expressed in real life by someone sitting next to you on a packed commuter train into their cell-phone. FR fill the same workaday Wagner role as U2: if you ever want to feel truly self-conscious about the gap between your interior life and the genuine article, think about it the next time you are listening to "Where the Streets Have No Name" on your iPod while waiting in line at Starbucks.

03 January 2009

Pop Idyll

"Am I really all the things that are outside of me?"

By God, finally a pop record recognizable as such by the great unwashed; that is to say, by the great mass of folk who have yet to confuse Panda Bear with Justin Timberlake, or Brian Wilson, even. Merriweather Post Pavilion is the indie-rock event of our young 2009, and make no mistake you will be living with the consequences of this record, both musically and critically, for the entire year. Animal Collective have occasionally copped to a straightforward pop sensibility, most famously on the irresistible "Who Could Win a Rabbit?", "Grass", and "Fireworks", but this is the first entire album to push towards the mainstream, to make the "for-lack-of-a-better-word" Beach Boys comparisons tangible within the music and justify whatever reputation for genius the group had yet to actually earn. Songs like "My Girls" and "Summertime Clothes" have genuine hooks to catch fish upon (finally, the hope of coherently singing along with an A.C. song!); meanwhile a track like "No More Runnin" listens like the b-side to "Dream Baby Dream", repeating a half-resigned, half-exulted reading of the title against a watery, narcotic backing track, crosshatched by a lazy, barely palpable bass figure. I wish I could tell you what Merriweather Post Pavilion is about, insofar as pop records can be "about" anything in these days of mp3-enforced atomization. My guess is a vision of domesticity, not as an end result, but another theater of operations in which the intermixed anxiety and bliss of interpersonal relations – between spouses, partners, parents and children - plays out. Is our satisfaction ever attainable, or is its endless deferral an intrinsic part of the human condition? Animal Collective don't answer that question here, and perhaps they don't even mean to ask it; the great beauty of pop music, as Greil Marcus pointed out, is that it "says what it says, not what it's told."

02 January 2009

"Do You Think This Is a Free Ride?"

Oh I just want to see you smile

Listening to a bootleg of Springsteen's famous July 1978 set at Hollywood's Roxy, I found myself wondering what the lean young killer absolutely assassinating a club audience for three hours would think of the "myth-addled softy" – Joe Strummer's initial assessment of The Boss, according to Greil Marcus – shitting out fridge-magnet poetry like "Working on a Dream", the first single from his upcoming record of the same name. Sure, "Radio Nowhere" wasn't any great shakes, but what it lacked in lyrical precision it made up for in sheer insistence. On the other hand, with lyrics like "I'm working on a dream/ Though it can feel so far away/ I'm working on a dream/ Our love will make it real someday", "Working on a Dream" almost seems like a parody of Bruce the Blue Collar Saint; it's a song that will probably sell more life insurance than rock albums - an end we can no longer put past Springsteen, given the cash grab Wal-Mart-only "best of" destined to hit the monolithic retailer's shelves in time to capitalize on his impending Super Bowl performance. Regrettably, the comp will not include "The River", a fixture on Springsteen's two prior "greatest hits" collections: presumably "The Boss" – new connotation – would not consent to airbrushing the lines "And for my nineteenth birthday, I got a union card and a wedding coat" out of the song.

* * * * *

The flip side of the coin is Springsteen's live cover of Suicide's gorgeous, elegiac "Dream Baby Dream", recently released on a limited edition 10-inch on Blast First records. On paper, "Dream Baby Dream" makes "Working on a Dream" look like Proust: "They say that dreams they keep you free baby/Yeah you gotta make them dreams come true/Oh keep them dreams burnin' baby/Yeah yeah keep them dreams burnin' forever..." Yet where Springsteen's song sounds on record like a second-hand summation of his career by a third-rate imitator, Suicide's tune is a reinvention, taking what would otherwise seem like an amalgam of tossed-off cliches and investing them with an inarticulate emotional resonance. Suicide's original rendition is a surprisingly tender, if anxious, reading: Elvis coming down off of the speed. Springsteen's advantage as an interpreter is in his richer vocal instrument, which lends the song a sincerity – perhaps credibility is the right word – that elevates "Dream Baby Dream" into that rarified all-or-nothing territory; say what you will about The Boss, but when his losers lose, they lose big. But if Springsteen breathes new life into the song by locating it within the context of his own mythology, Suicide reinvigorates Springsteen by giving him a new dead end to drive to. In "Dream Baby Dream" he finds a new language in which to offer Jersey girls the old empty reassurances while sitting in a car that's forever parked in the darkness on the edge of town.

Why I'm Troubled That The Dark Knight May Be My Favorite Movie of 2008

Ideologically unsound

Apart from Heath Ledger's updating of Andy Serkis' Gollum from The Lord of the Rings, Christopher Nolan's Bat-sequel was hotly-tipped for its core War-on-Terror metaphor; confronted with the cartoon equivalent of a bin Laden (or Mumbai suicide attacker), American audiences applauded torture - Bale's Boredman..er..Batman dropping Eric Roberts off of a fire escape in order to break his legs and cuffing the Joker about in a police interrogation room - and warrantless wiretapping all the while rooting for more more more murder and mayhem from Ledger's necro-pornographer. It was an odd dichotomy that I think says something either about our inability to grasp Nolan's central conceit or his inability to articulate it in a clear enough fashion. I get the sense that The Dark Knight's makers, unlike, say, the producers of 24, don't approve of the outgoing (how sweet it is) Bush administration's extralegal tactics; however, nothing in the film apart from a few weak-kneed mumblings from Morgan Freeman's character - here, as always, the voice of moral authority - communicates any type of counterpoint. Batman's brutality and illicit surveillance lead to the capture of the Joker before he can murder another clutch of innocent civilians, the apotheosis of the so-called "ticking time bomb" scenario that occurs only in 24 writers' meetings, Dick Cheney's imagination, and Fox News' running-dog round table discussions. In other words, Mitt Romney's words, we "ought to double Guantanamo."