Monday, October 27, 2008

Rage Roundup - @ October 2008

Back again, like it never left. Except for the fact that I was out of the country for weeks & weeks, so I haven't done one of these Rage posts since August. But like whatevs, man, who wants to dwell on the past..? And more to the point: what interesting new singles were on Rage this week? Not counting the latest Fleet Foxes single, because if you aren't aware by now of how awesome they are then you haven't been paying attention to me. Or to, um, Pitchfork, or to any of the other thousands of folks singing their praises this year...
No, let's start instead with Josh Pyke.

I keep on expecting to dislike Josh Pyke – he's too MOR, too wishy-washy, too nice, isn't he? – but it's not always easy. He keeps on making songs like this: disarmingly simple at first, but they're built from deceptively strong structures and great arrangements, good lyrics and subtle hooks. The video is fairly dull & twee, but it's well edited so as to intensify the song's momentum (and that's an incredibly useful thing for it to be doing). Once again, this is disconcertingly good stuff from Pyke...

Other singles from this band have suffered from a common indie affliction : monotonous dynamics and a complete lack of tension. But this tune, luckily, has some real momentum to it. It's largely due to a not-especially-original songwriting move – tension from slow-falling semitone chord changes – but there's enough interesting music built around it to keep me satisfied. The bridge between descents is actually great. In fact the arrangement is really very good overall; it sounds like it'd be especially crowd-pleasing live. Like the Wild Beasts' video (see below), the visuals are all variations on a simple visual effects trick; as with the music, however, it's the subtleties of the arrangement which avert monotony. It should be repetitive and unsatisfying, but instead it works really well. Good stuff. 

(Don't be fooled by the first 30 seconds of the clip, btw, it's not what it seems).
I love Deerhoof. I saw them live shortly after their Friend Opportunity album came out, and it was one of the most enjoyable and musically impressive gigs I've ever been to. They're probably be an acquired taste... but go on, make an effort. I say they're worth it.

Dude NBA JAM. NBA JAM. Pomo indeed. I think there's probably an air of trying-too-hard about all of this – the chorus which shouts "you're just an ad for yourself", the werewolfs, the early 90s arcade game references – but there's still something fundamentally decent about it. The synths are great, and the song is energetic as hell. It might be the vocals which are grating on me; they're more shouty and abrasive than they need to be. Or maybe they're not quite tuneful enough. But I think this is some worthwhile stuff here, anyhow – worth checking out.

I'm pretty sure I can guess the producers' rationale for teaming these two together for the new James Bond theme: Alicia Keys is perfect as a modern, credworthy version of Shirley Bassey, while Jack White channels the rockout ballsiness befitting Mr New Seriouser Bond. It doesn't quite work out that way, though. For a start, they're both singing here, even though Jack White has the most un-Bond-theme-like voice since... well, at least since Duran Duran put the nail in Roger Moore's coffin. Maybe it's me, but I just can't get into this. The horns sound tokenistic and unnatural, the lyrics are uninspired, the volume has no climax & vice versa... and Keys' wordless duel with the guitar solo made me cringe. And I'm the kind of person who sometimes likes scat.
Aw, maybe it'll work okay when it's being played over silhouettes of naked women and lava lamps. Casino Royale was pretty great, right?

Eagles Of Death Metal are kickarse fun. I'm not even sure why. It's a weird musical mix, this latest single; the vocals are in parts almost falsetto, the guitars are a fuzzy punch to the head, the percussion is bouncy and the tune a doot-de-doo, the attitude is dense rock'n'roll but it's filtered through this whole weird, post-ironic LA attitude thing... how does it work? It does. Maybe it's the mo.

I came across this and snarfed it off theirspace a while ago – in fact, looking it up just now, that was almost a year ago! But whatever took them so long, they've finally got around to making a video clip & single out of it. It's a catchy song with great momentum and a clever loopy structure; they even chuck in an unexpectedly good saxophone solo at the end. There's nothing particularly original going on, but it's all good and it's all interesting. As for the video: running around Tokyo has become a real 21st century video cliche now, huh? I guess it makes sense: you're a young band, you go and tour Tokyo, you're all like "wow! tokyo is awesome!"; how could you not want to run around the streets filming yourself? And to be fair, the video isn't all Tokyo. And the Tokyo stuff even has funny costumes and dancing, so it's not utterly dull or self-indulgent. Actually, there are a lot of neat visuals here: footage of the band playing, clever graphic cuts between black and white sets, and some great vision of the drummer which looks like it's in slow motion but isn't. Very neat.

This has a lot in common with the sort of meandery indie crap that I tend to dislike (exhibit A, bland vocals), but somehow there's enough of an edge to distinguish it. It's a good song: nice drumming, pleasant organ, a bit of dynamic variation (the lack of which is often the achilles' heel of unpolished indie bands); it's hooky. The unexpected structural turn near the end really builds it well, too. Good songwriting and worth paying attention to, I reckon.

Well, kudos for not taking the boring title route. (In a week when at least two bands release singles titled "Heartbreaker", this is a more kudos-worthy feat than it probably should be). Luckily, the music is also not boring. The vocal has its patchy moments, but episodes of ragged intensity nicely offset the twee falsetto segements. There's some nice drumming and some neat guitar patterns; bit of a post-punk feel to the whole thing. Interesting stuff, if they turn out to have more than one musical trick in their future. Their video, though, takes one visual effects trick and runs it all the way home. Luckily, it's a pretty neat trick; and it's enough.

The lead single from their new album, which has been garnering some odd reviews... but the more I listen to it, the more I think I really like it. The main difference from their earlier albums is a cleaner, more polished production sound. This might seem at odds with the Drones' edge and intensity, but it's because they've maintained that same shredded intensity in their performance that the music doesn't feel obviously "cleaner" or sanitised; it's just easier to hear, and (sonically) brighter. I guess that does make for a subtle change in the emotional direction, an inevitably greater emphasis on their sardonic rather than suicidal aspects... but it feels natural enough to me that I'm not too bothered. The songs are still excellent; of which, however, this is not the finest example. Although: Middling Drones still equal Excellent Most Anyone Else. As always it's Gareth Liddiard's voice which makes it, but the rest of the band are great too.
And as for the video – a bit dull and cheap, you reckon? I'm still not sure if the animation really works, even if it is an homage to ancient Greek pottery art. It's not as interesting as the stock footage montage they used for Jezebel, that's for sure. But then Jezebel was a substantially more impressive song overall, to be honest...

Ten songs is probably an appropriate limit at which to conclude, I think. Too much to write and/or read about, and I have no time besides. Any opinions?

-Musical Thoapsl

Friday, October 24, 2008

Friday Is Out Of Context

Hey, Jemaine from Flight Of The Conchords has allowed a beard on his face. See here for the context. I especially like the audio book excerpt...

This Friday Is Out Of Context Thoapsl says: A chord is not a disagreement.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

What I Did On My Lunch Break

Dentist came in slinking, low and sneezy. I've been talking to your teeth. That's what she said, I think like I'm pretty sure. So okay? Your teeth are good. Very good. No decay, or, other bad things of any descrip', it's all sweet without the bad sweet. No cavities. Nothing else. I looked at the whiteness and it shone, it shone like gold. Smooth and supple. I leaned in close and the mirror reflected only perfection. Like, honest. The saliva glistened. Alive. The calcium was so firm and solid, the structure so perfect, the balance! Oh lord the balance was sacred. Like geometry of pyramids, or crop circles or broken angels tinkling into a whiskey bottle. Oh it was delicious. Your teeth are awesome. Seriously, I love them. I think about them at night. I lie there in the dark, and there's something that feels so right. I curl up under the blanket and I'm going to recommend no change to your current dental regimen. Perfection is. Don't worry about it, yeah. Your teeth are awesome.

Okay'm, I said. No fillings then.

No way man, said dentist. I lifted her fingers out of my mouth and collapsed next to the chair. That's okay, I was sleepy anyway. The next morning I caught my teeth writing a farewell letter, or it might have been a suicide note – I didn't read it more than once. I tossed it into the fire and showed my teeth the back of my hand. How dare you! I said. It was a rhetorical question. If you wrote it down, you wouldn't even put a question mark at the end. My teeth started weeping. I found them hiding in the attic later that night. It was pretty dark, but I'm pretty sure that's who it was. They seemed kind of busy, so I decided not to disturb them.

The next day, the dentist was back in my mouth again. I tried to remove her fingers but it wasn't as easy this time. There were more of them, so it took longer. So maybe it wasn't less easy, it was just more, like time-consuming? Whatever. Totally sick of the dentist. I told her, seriously, I'm pretty sure this consultation was over a short while ago. But she was all like yeah but, housecalls and chalk dissolving in milk and there's teeth cancer going around, kids want the pox but the sick shop was all out so they gave them the teeth cancer instead. At a discount, though? I went to the shop but then my lunch break was over so I had to stop

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Out Of (The) Loop(s)

It's been a while, huh? But here am I, finally back in and/or at my home. Detravelled and unenholidayed. Utterly prepared to type, once again. So what happened while I was gone? Apparently: economic disasters, sporting triumphs, weather, &c. There was some music, I think? I've been feeling kind of weird, all week.

And now it's October. The octopic month. This means that I have only a few months left of 2008 in which to finish writing that great epic novel of mine, find a real job, eat something really delicious for lunch...

Wait a minute, it's already half past two in the afternoon! Too late for lunch!

No worries. And speaking of where I am: I'm actually in two minds as to where to go with this blog from here. I certainly don't want to abandon it, but I'm not sure I can give it the attention it really needs while I'm still trying to finish my aforementioned book. ("Great epic novel" = possible misnomer). But if I don't use this blog to actually (and regularlydo something, then it will never be the kind of blog which people actually read. The lazy blogger's catch-22.

Solution: attempt to continue with both endeavours. Just as before. But prioritise the book, because it needs to be finished before 2010 in order to preserve my pride and sanity.

Interpretation: no actual or apparent change.

Hey, am I using this blog entry to talk myself through a personal life matter? That's not what blogs are for! Hecks. What do we say to that sort of malarkey, jungle lady?
Damn right.

--Thoapsl needs a better-sounding pseudonym