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

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