Sunday, June 21, 2009

Rage Roundup!

Okay go! Unauthorised thanks, as always, to the delightful music-video televisual broadcasts of Rage.

Departure — Crystal Stilts

Remember how for a while there, it seemed that every new group out there was a wolf? Wolfmother, Wolf & Cub, Wolf Parade, Patrick Wolf...
There's a new meme in the namehouse now, I think. Crystal Castles, Crystal Antlers, and now Crystal Stilts. Is it surprising that these Crystals are edgier, harsher and certainly way cooler than the Wolves? Wordwise, is "crystal" more punk than "wolf"? Maybe so, I guess...

Anyhow, these Crystals are as much fun as any of the others. The music is all very "I wish I was Ian Curtis, I wish I could live in 1978 forever" but for what it's doing, it's certainly convincing. And although it's derivative, it's derivative in a very specific (and elsewhere underexploited) fashion. The rhythm section produces a genuinely excellent and powerful momentum throughout. In fact, the music sounds – vocals aside – as if the entire band are trying to be the rhythm section. (That's not an insult. Musically, I think that what they're doing here really works.) Meanwhile, the video is made out of some interesting Spirit-of-'68 file footage, visually intriguing and nicely edited (albeit ideologically ambiguous, if you like).

A couple of other Crystals turned out to be well worth a bit of effort. Here's hoping that these Stilts have more than one trick up their sleeve. (Although, if they only have one trick, at least they're doing it well enough, huh?)

This is an interesting one. Do you think it's being kind of insensitive and flippant, domestic-violence-wise? Or is it just a fierce metaphor, evocative and poetically appropriate? The video itself is a visual showcase for the singer's superhuman legs (among other physicalities), her diction produces a passionate rhythm throughout... – so, sex and violence. Hm. If I watch it a few more times, will I come up with an answer?

I don't know. It's a good song otherwise, and you can't deny that it's punchy as hell, no matter what. A lot of the chord progression is a kind of rip, but not annoyingly so. Do we like it? Let's say we like it.

Hey, it's that synth sound from Kid A! I'm glad someone decided to pick that up. Don't worry, though, this is definitely not a Radiohead rip-off. If anything, it reminds me vaguely of Catcall (or maybe even Pikelet) in that it's an interesting electronic-based meld of (let's say) most of the non-mainstream genres of late-90s-mid-00s, swirled together? (The sound of the million daughters of Björk?) Electro, indiepop, alternative hip-hop... you could pick out a number of different elements in play here, but they're assembled in a package that sounds surprisingly original. And at the very least, this is certainly also a good song, good enough so that I don't care if some of the packaging may have been used previously. (The vocal sound is lovely, too.)

Another thing I like about this single is the video, which puts a nice new spin on the old animated-live-action-via-rotating-track-camera-stop-motion effect. (I can't think of the proper name for what I'm sort of talking about, but take a look at the video and you'll see what I mean.) It's a simple enough trick but it works well, and it's a very good visual metaphor to match the circular chord progression and the driving rhythm. Keep an eye out.

(Also, let me say for a PS: I think that "Watusii" is an excellent song title. There's at least two clever jokes hidden in that double-i.)

Hey, look at that! A Rage Roundup post finished and up on a Sunday! I may be down to only three and a half songs per fortnight, but I'm maintaining reasonable haste. For a Bonus (!) I'd like now to direct you to Postcard Guy by Lauren Horton. This looks like it's probably one of those no-budget homebrew releases, broadcast once at 4am and never heard from again, but I'll be very disappointed if that's all it ever is. It's a truly neat tune, charming as heck, and wrapped in some really eccentric production – not complicated, but never boring. Great stuff.

Okay. It's almost time for next week. We'll talk then.
--the Musical Thoapsl

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Happy Bloomsday!

Eat some kidneys and think about piss! Say hello to a lady on the beach!

Have you read the chapter that's all questions and answers? Or the one that's all musical?

It is one lurid heck of a book. Say yes!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Friday Is Out Of Context

Let's say you saw this on the cover of a magazine.

When you think of alimony, do you think of circus laundry? Personally, when I think "weapon of female revenge" I think of something a little more literal, but I suppose that's maybe a generational thing? You tell me, magazine readers of the past – what the hell is up with you people?

For increased context, here's the complete picture: cover of Coronet magazine, May 1952. (Found via.) Note that this issue apparently sold well enough to justify at least one printing of two and a half million copies. Note also that the complete picture still fails utterly to link the elephant-watches-man-hang-circus-laundry image with its "Alimony: Weapon of Female Revenge" headline, in absolutely any way. Was there a last-minute editorial change? Were they trying to appeal to that lucrative men-who-fear-women-but-love-the-circus market? Am I missing an important visual metaphor, or something? Help me out, seriously.

This Friday Is Out Of Context Thoapsl Says: An ex-wife is not an elephant in the room.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Rage Roundup @ Recently

A week late? Not exactly. I wasn't going to do a Rage post at all for this week, but then a few nice tunes stuck around and here they are. (Thanks again for your always delightful free-to-air broadcasts, Rage.)

This is a short song. Under two minutes. Now, under three minutes is a rarity in today's marketplace – pop songs really have been bloating since the '60s, yes? – which makes this as sharp as a slap. Should I be disappointed that it's so short?

The verse is marginally annoying indie singsong, but the chorus is where it's at: a wonderful, wistful, Wilsons-ish call over a Be-My-Baby backbeat. And then that's it, it's over! So – two verses, which I could leave or take, and two choruses, which are genuinely lovely. And an unremarkable video featuring the singer (who's so nerdy, he might be too much even for indie geek chic).

The chorus wins. Next?

Vigo. Scourge of Carpathia, sorrow of Moldavia. Known as Vigo the Cruel, Vigo the Torturer, Vigo the Despised, and Vigo the Unholy. It's a nice enough song. Sounds a bit like Duffy without the speech impediment* or Missy Higgins without the real accent; there's nothing bad about it, but there's nothing spectacular. It's a vase of flowers on the kitchen table. Yes. But also I'm pretty sure that there was a copy of Ghostbusters II on VHS lying around my house when I was a kid, and I'm very, very happy for the opportunity.

*Note to self: stop teasing people from Wales, it's just not right

Oh, so this is why there's been so much buzz around these guys. Holy cow, this is one damn crafty slice of tune. But unfortunately, the video above isn't it. This here is actually an earlier version of the tune (from 2007, I think) – I'll post the new version as soon as I can find it on youtube. (So why isn't it there already, if the new video has already debuted on the teev? Must have a hole in the head.)

UPDATE EDIT!: As of June 17, here we go.

The differences between the two versions aren't drastic – 2009 has crisper production, tweaked arrangement, a more energetic solo at the two-minute mark (& more energy all around, really). But the arrangement is a frame for the song, and the song itself is bloody excellent. Criminy, what a sweet hook. I'm not sure if the polish shows thru so well on the earlier version – the 2009 arrangement is definitely a more effective delivery mechanism – but both versions are quite something.

Really – when was the last time you heard something quite like this from an indie band? It's Split Enz via Bryan Ferry. The video (not the earlier one, the new one) is simple but engaging, and also surprisingly charismatic; the bandmembers themselves, too. The frontman does an adequately Jaggeresque butch camp. The music makes it. Overall this is the kind of left field chance that pop deserves, I think. Here's hoping that these guys are, if nothing less, at least a shot at being the next Little Red.

And finally, for a Bonus (!) you could easily check out Fossil, I by Sky Larkin. More echoes of '90s grunge/alt revivalism, alright... but it's truly fine & modern guitarwork in its own right. Nice riffage. I think I need to hear more before I'm sure the songwriting is worth paying attention to, but either way: likely worth looking out for.

What a fortnight! What a week! What a minute! It's past midnight and I need to work. Good night.
--the Musical Thoapsl

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Concept Art for your Nostalgia

Turnips are great. They're especially nice baked in Cornish-style pasties.

I never thought about it, back in the day, but are those things masks... or faces?
Either way, they have no eyes. Only darkness.

*doki doki, doki doki*

(Also, Winona Nelson is great. & I saw it here first.)

Monday, June 1, 2009


I've talked about this sort of thing before.

It's not too original. Its returns diminish on repeat viewing. It's probably much the kind of manatee humour that many simply people don't like. Nonetheless: great stuff, huh?

There's a whole bunch of these around, actually – they're all fun – but the mysterious introduction makes this first one the best, I think.

PS: I know, I know I shouldn't have. Roman numeral puns are the lowest form of pun.