Friday, April 24, 2009

Friday Is Out Of Context

This is how we sell meat.I LIKE YOUR HAT.



For context: find more & similar here, if you like.

This Friday Is Out Of Context Thoapsl Says:  A steak is not poetry in reverse.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Rage Roundup @ 17 April '09

After a long and difficult week, here I am again. Dial C for Compulsion?
Okay. Here are some recent music videos that I thought were kind of interesting.

Quite a neat video, this one. It's shot with such magic-hour elegance and classy professionalism that it's always pleasant to look at. But if I feel sort of empty now, it's strange: in retrospect, the whole video feels weirdly insignificant to me. Images without affect. But that can't be entirely true, because the visuals match the music very well, and the melody has a definite kick of attention to it. It's a well-written song all over; the arrangement is clever, and the whole package is varied and dynamic enough to be compelling throughout. It's good. The chorus lyrics are a bit daft, maybe – "we are all the same, we are" – but I think they get away with it. Perhaps I'm distracted by the girls in tank tops? But even there, at least the presentation of the dancing girls is more inventive and less blatantly exploitative than usual.

Man, I just don't know. Is it the music's undeniably weird emotional tenor, irreparably infecting my mood, now? Damn. Ask me tomorrow.

Okay, so they've come to fame via an iPod commercial, but let's not hold that against them. These guys are actually pretty good, and they're certainly interesting. (I grabbed a song from theirspace a while back called "Planet Health," which has some hilariously wonderful lyrics – I almost want to use a word like bonzo, but that would probably be inappropriate.)

The video here is the most obviously interesting aspect: it's based around a visual effect that's disturbingly familiar, even though I'm sure I've never seen it before. I won't spoil the novelty by trying to describe it: just watch the video, it's fascinating.

Aside from the visuals, I think the music itself is quite intriguing. It's certainly another example of the late-'00s goldrush into '80s pop aesthetics, but it's playing with the synths and production here in a way that seems wilfully unusual. Each individual musical element is so retro it's almost hokey, it's almost clumsy, but the way the song is put together – it's like a ten-year-old kid builds a Transformer toy out of unrelated Lego blocks. The finished product seems terribly familiar and cheesy and obvious, at first: but the closer you look, the stranger and more unique it becomes. And it's still just as fun to play with, too. I think I like it.

This is the first I've heard of these guys (they're from Sydney, apparently?), but it's a cracking debut. When I first started watching this video, I was five seconds away from fast-forwarding through it to get to something else: but five seconds was enough to hook me for the next five seconds, and then the next, and in the end I watched the whole thing without a break. This is a great punchy rock tune, a good example of the current strain that's evolving out of post-punk angular riffage + grunge/emo melodic intensity.

Also compelling is the video. At first, I was hooked because it captures so well the geography of inner-suburban terrace-house parties I've known (damn my nostalgic heart). At second, the old music video trick of actors-mouthing-the-lyrics is exploited here more cleverly than I've seen before. Rather than singing along in a typical music video way, instead the actors' expressions and behaviours are exactly matched to the visuals' implied plot: it's like the characters are saying whatever they would actually be saying, except that their words happen to fit the song, instead. It's a clever surreal device that I've often seen attempted, but it almost always falls flat. However: here, I think it works really well.

Not only does this make me excited for more releases from these guys, it also reminds me a bit of Red Riders. Man, the debut album from Red Riders, a few years ago: absolutely killer. Have they been quiet since then because they imploded, or because they're crafting an awesome Album #2, or because they're crafting a crap & overblown Album #2? Wherever they are now, their return is relevant to my interests.

Wait, is that it? Only three singles worth talking about? What?

I guess it really has been a quiet couple of weeks, music-videos-wise. Ben Harper released a new single (though I can't find it on youtube), but I'm worried that I can't consider that one too closely without putting myself at risk of some kind of pathetic existential implosion. (I'm pretty sure that this would not be a risk for people who weren't impressionable teenagers in 1997.)

Oh wait, here's something else – actually a few weeks old, but I didn't mention it last time for want of space & time:

You have to admit that "Summarize" is a pretty neat name for a pop single, right? (Even if Little Birdy, notwithstanding their origins within a certain socio-linguistic environment, have caved to the lingering possibilities of America and spelled the word with a "z" instead of an "s.")

This is a real nice song. The production on their previous (i.e. second) album was kind of clumsy and over-commercialised, but in a very vague sort of way – disappointing, is what I'm saying, and also without the consolation of pop success. So this new single returns to a more natural Little Birdy sound: less obviously trendy, and probably more Australian, too. The tune has a number of nice '60s-soul-/-rhythm-&-blues influences (you'll know them when you hear them), but it's never a pastiche. It's not spectacular, but it has a couple of great moments in the chord progression and it's very easy to like.

The video is nice, too. The setting is a clever nod to '60s pop tv, and it makes a good match for the music. Clever editing stops the scene from looking too dorky or ridiculous – mostly – and the black-and-white filter casts an appropriately Mod sheen over the whole thing. Overall, this is a genuinely decent and promising return. Good luck to them.

Aw hecks now, let's just leave it at that. This morning, I finished reading Infinite Jest: I'm pretty sure I must be overdue for some kind of a nap.

--the Musical Thoapsl

Monday, April 13, 2009

Happy to the Monday of the Easter

Yarr. Is happening.
Tho I'm honestly not that much of a fan of chocolate eggs, okay.
No music videos this week, I'll be back later...

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Excelleunt! Crazeunt! (sic)

So I was looking up the exact technical definition of "Exeunt" (I'm unemployed right now). You know? It's what you see written in the script of a play when it's time for some actors to get off the stage already.

So, it turns out that the prime wikipedia link (& a top google too) isn't a definition of the word. It's a link to SPL: the Shakespeare Programming Language. A programming language that is constructed so that its program code reads like a Shakespearean play. Follow the links to see for yourself, it's really something...

It turns out there's in fact a whole bunch of "esoteric" programming languages like this, each specifically designed to require program code that looks like a joke. Chef programs read like recipes; brainfuck is nothing but punctuation. Huh.

No comment, I just wanted to draw your attention to this.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Rage Roundup @ 3 April '09

I am absolutely basking here, up in the glory of the end of local daylight savings time. An extra hour of sleep! I finally got back the hour they took away! About time, about time...

Anyhow. Call me Well-Rested or call me Relieved, I guess. Here are a few of the music videos played on Rage last Friday night. More words to follow.

Man, this is one well-turned-out song. The guitars, the bursts of dissonance, the crisp drums, the balance of the arrangement altogether: the whole thing is so complete, so just so. I don't know how well it'll do as a single, given that the mood is so very 90s to a fault (or i.e. so typically PJ Harvey, I guess), but it's damn fine anyhow. Have we made it to the mid-90s-alternative revival, yet? I guess we still have to work our way out thru New Grunge, first...

I'm curious to figure out the exact influence of this John Parish guy – the song sounds just a lot like late-90s PJ Harvey, to me – but of course that doesn't matter. Whatever Parish is doing, he can keep it up. And I like what they've done with the video here, too: it's very slow and simple, but never not compelling. Good stuff.

You wouldn't guess what the song's really like based on that endless synth intro/outro, would you? Interesting strategy, that... but it's really there as a declaration of punk, I think. And that makes sense: despite the drum machine and synths, the streaming guitars are resolutely, punkishly thick and dominant. And with the emphatic vocals and 1977ish chorus, the whole thing comes on like an alt-universe Iggy Pop (or, even moreso: Suicide). I like it.

The video does a nice job in abject bodyhorror craziness, too (& that's also a bit of a punk move in itself, yeah?). The lamplit foggy darkness is suitably eerie and dreamlike; I thought of Winnipeg. The vomitous black goo motif is taken far enough into grotesquerie that it sidesteps the typical uninspiration of "oh look, vampire zombies or whatev" that you'd otherwise be bored with. If you want to shout "gross!" then it must be doing something right, right? Lovely.

Boy, that's some bad singing right there. I mean, I enjoy wayward antivocals, okay. I love Sonic Youth, Bob Dylan, the Meat Puppets, Tom Waits, et al. But this singing is seriously just bad, I think. Sorry, Nick. (It's that guy, one of the less glamorous Strokes.)

On the other hand: the music here is otherwise really good, I think. So, can you listen to the music and not be distracted by the vocals? (Also, the lyrics aren't good. "Brandy of the damned" –?)

Heck, maybe you'll like it after all, okay. Maybe the vocals aren't that bad. Think of it as a challenge.

It's a gutsy move, to style the entire video like a performance on The Porter Wagoner Show, oldstyle visual repetition & familiar slow dissolves & all. But then the music itself keeps to a surprisingly straightfaced country sound the whole way thru, so it makes sense.

Lyrically, it's not as gutsy as Allen's last single; but it's good. She's handling a topic that could easily become tacky, but her touch is too deft to let the mood collapse*. "I think you're really mean" – it's a response that feels honest and realistic, but it's wonderfully unexpected to hear as a lyric.

I know Allen still takes a lot of crap from the tabloids, but she's damn clever and canny, so far as I can tell. (And that's a sight more than she's typically credited for, okay.) I'm really loving her new stuff, actually; I should really go and purchase her entire album, I think. Yes.

*You see what I did there?

Yo, puppets! Nice one. (And the torrents of bloodstring near the end are a lovely evocative visual, too...)

Mighty fine music, here. At first it seems like it'll be a simple funky dance tune, but then the organ starts to riff, and then the horn stabs are jazzier than usual (like, Mingus-like)... and now we're heading somewhere unexpected, somewhere a lot more interesting than "simple funky dance tune". And what's great is that it does all this without ever losing the essential, funky catchiness it started with. It's a really clever balance. Excellent.

Okay, no! Damn it, you know I really want to like these guys, honest I do. I hear the intro and I'm, like: could this be awesome? This could be awesome!

However. NO. The singer sings, the verse verses, the chorus choruses, and after all of this the answer is inescapably NO: yet again, the Galvatrons are NOT GOOD. I can't help feeling this way. I mean, at least The Darkness had some genuine songwriting talent, but this? To me, it's simply the same monotonous bullshit that made 80s hair metal horrible the first time around. There's no twist to it, there's no flair, it's not interesting or smart in any way. "I bought a ticket to your aeroplane" – that should be an awesome lyric, but it's not.

I'm still not sure exactly what I'm irked by, here. Maybe it's the singer's ridiculous fake accent? Or the synthesisers, or the traumatic drums? Maybe it's that the Galvatrons aren't serious enough to be properly ironic. I'm unsure. I guess I'll have to think about it.

And by contrast: here's something that's also completely aping a particular early-80s sound, but instead it's coming up with something actually quite good as a result. Here the oldtime flavour to the sound is just a means to a song, rather than the other way around. (And the musical 80s-isms wouldn't even be that obvious, without the retro visual cues of the video...)

Checking out theirspace, these Golden Silvers folks have definitely got some interesting stuff coming up. The songwriting is in a classically Beatlish mode, but they've got that England-after-post-punk organ & synth flavour to lend the sound an '00s retroism. This single makes me think of !!! doing a tribute to early Elvis Costello, or something, actually. By which I mean: good, interesting stuff. Grease up your stovepipes, for sure.

And on that note, I think it's time for me to leave it alone already.
Until next time –

--the Musical Thoapsl

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Saturday Morning Is Sometimes A Bear

Is that really some kind of white whale, there? It looks more like an albino dugong to me, but I thought dugongs didn't live anywhere near bears. Unless there was an escape from a zoo? (Or... an escape from an aquarium? But that would be a rather complicated sort of escape, I figure. Yes.)
Whale or not, it's an awesome illustration, am I right?

Ah, hmm. To summarise: I think I am just not yet feeling completely with-it or properly awake this morning, no sir no indeed.

Also the bear is cool