Archive for July, 2008

29
Jul
08

What We Do is Secret: Should Punk Be Exposed on Celluloid?

I am by no means an expert on The Germs; in fact, I’m not even really a fan. To be honest, I just never sought them out, nor heard of them til a few years back, but at the same time, I was intrigued by a biopic made about them, Rodger Grossman’s What We Do Is Secret. I suppose that being an avid music fan generally makes me interested in any film about music, and punk as a cultural/sociological phenomenon has interested me for years. All I knew going in to see the film last week at Cinematheque was that The Germs were a chaotic punk band from California in the late 70’s and that their frontman, Darby Crash, overdosed on heroin just before the day that John Lennon was killed, overshadowing his final bid for immortality. I also knew that Shane West, the actor who first found fame in teen romantic comedies and later as part of the TV show ER, had apparently gotten so completely into his role as Darby Crash, that he actually became a member of the recent reformation of The Germs, adopting the moniker, Shane Wreck. Considering this rather slim amount of knowledge, rather than pontificate on whether the film was too slick for the documentary style it was going for, or whether it was actually true to the band members’ lives and the facts, I’m more interested in the broader issue of punk rock movies. This musing comes from the experience of being in last Thursday’s audience.

I didn’t quite know what to expect as far as audience members, but I did assume they would behave like regular audiences that usually attend the independent/arthouse films that Cinematheque runs. I forgot to factor in the possibility that actual Germs fans might come to see the film. About ten or fifteen minutes into the film, I realized my mistake as a large group of “punks” continued to heckle and shout profanities at each other and the film for its entire duration. And they also kept leaving and returning (I know this because I had two girls in pathetically short skirts climb over me about six times). And they thought it would be rather “punk” to light up regular cigarettes in the non-smoking theatre. I know I’m old and I don’t consider myself a punk (I love punk music and its aesthetic, but at heart, I could never have been a true punk), but this chaos around me, which emulated the chaos presented in the live shows on screen, really annoyed me. If I had wanted to feel like I was at a punk show, I wouldn’t have chosen to watch a film about it. As I braced myself for flying bottles, which never did appear, I kept thinking, “Why show up to a film if you know you won’t like it?” and “Why stay for a film if you clearly think it’s crap?” In the angry haze of that entire hour and a half, straining to hear dialogue and actually follow the narrative, I didn’t think too deeply about my situation. At the time, I did appreciate the life imitating art imitating life dynamic that was happening, but I didn’t contemplate the possible reasons for why this was happening. All I really wanted was for Darby Crash to die already, so I could go home.

Now that my head is clearer and I don’t wish to bottle every single one of those punk kids, I wonder about whom punk films are intended for. Are they intended for actual punks, or for the more objective voyeurs of punk? Should punk even be made into films? And what kind of films should they be? Just by looking at the list of punk films listed in Wikipedia, it becomes apparent that punk has definitely been filmed to death whether as documentary, mockumentary, or biopic. Whether those that ascribe to the punk subculture actually find The Great Rock ‘n Roll Swindle, the Julien Temple mockumentary about the Sex Pistols, and Temple’s later Sex Pistols documentary The Filth and the Fury, credible or not is hard to say. Footage of The Germs was included in Penelope Spheeris’s documentary The Decline of Western Civilization, which featured other bands of the time like Black Flag and Circle Jerks, and perhaps the fact that it was real footage of the band rather than a neatly constructed narrative with leitmotifs would appease punk fans. At the same time, punk’s power and identity was bound up in the pose of sneering and the rejection of everything, including art, which even documentaries ultimately are.

While documentaries featuring live footage of punk artists might seem more credible and true to the punk experience than creative endeavours or biopics, those who are members of the subculture want their subculture to remain as such – not paraded around by those they believe could never truly understand it. If I remember correctly, a lot of the punks in the first showing of Derek Jarman’s Jubilee stood up and left. And his rendering of the UK punk scene was pretty nihilist and graphic – unlike the more tempered and formulaic What We Do is Secret. I wonder how many punks actually attended showings of Sid and Nancy.

Punk, like other subcultures, lives and thrives underground to spite the mainstream that either panics about it or wants to co-opt it, and I suppose the point is that punks would never be satisfied or happy about their subculture on celluloid no matter how much a filmmaker tried to enter the inner sanctum of the subculture. And in punk there is no inner sanctum anyway – nothing’s supposed to be sacred. But then why should punks care about how their bands and subculture are portrayed on the screen either? Obviously their subculture in which nothing has meaning means something to them. It’s a catch-22 that applies specifically to punks – they’re supposed to hate everything and consider everything worthless in some sort of snot-nosed arrested adolescence, aspects which make you wonder why they bother caring to be a punk in the first place and which, in turn, led to punk’s rather rapid downfall.

Apparently, the re-formed, and likely “reformed,” Germs, with Mr. Wreck as their vocalist, played last year’s Vans Warped Tour and will once again play this year. I can see why this might rankle both Germs fans and punk fans in general, especially considering the last I heard of Shane West’s musical endeavours was a pseudo-punk effort that had a song on the A Walk to Remember soundtrack. Yes, alongside tracks by Mandy Moore and Switchfoot. Then again, anyone who thinks the Vans Warped Tour is punk shouldn’t be too fussed anyway.

Lexicon Devil – The Germs

Circle One – The Germs

27
Jul
08

Everyday is Like Sunday, Except for Blue Monday and Ruby Tuesday, and…Well, Friday I’m in Love: Weekly Mix #27

I had been toying with the idea of having a Britpop mix for one of these weeks, but at the same time, felt like it would be a bit boring (despite the fact I find the whole “Cool Britannia” and “Britpop” phenomenon fascinating in a cultural and political way). Not to mention the fact that I refuse to post any Oasis on this blog at any time. So, next I thought I could post a mix of lesser known or lauded Britpop artists. And then The Vinyl Villain started a series of lesser known Britpop artists, and as that concept is much better in his more than capable hands, I decided just to make a mix of British artists that I enjoy. To prevent it from becoming a game of Russian roulette with my iTunes shuffle function, I tried to focus on artists/bands that often don’t get a lot of attention (ie: still no Blur, Suede, Pulp, or The Verve), and looking at the list now, I realize a lot of them are now defunct, and in fact, several of them, like Mansun and The Longpigs, were more loosely connected with the Britpop era. However, while Britpop was pretty much an English movement, this mix will feature music from the rest of Great Britain.

Being an anglophile or unitedkingdomophile, the majority of my music collection is British. Somehow I’ve always identified with the caustic wit, the romantic gloom, the fey camp, the offbeat quirkiness, and the melodic sensibilities of British music. Not to mention it constantly amazes me how the British tend to be ahead of the curve for most subcultures and innovations in music. And when they’re not, they borrow bits from other places and transform them into something completely brilliant, and then sell it back to the people they took it from in the first place. It also just feels like they care more about music than many other places in the world – they have considerable music press, decent record shops (even in small towns), and whenever I’ve been over there, it just seems like more people bother to shop in music stores and actually buy music than other places I’ve lived in or visited. This love affair with British music (and many other things British) has conspired against me by setting me apart from most people I’ve encountered in my home city. Thankfully, the Internet has made me feel less alone in my obsessions and interests.

My first encounter with British music was David Bowie when I was eight (yes, it was via Labyrinth, but that was a genius movie), and as I grew up, I continued to search out more and more of his music. Then when I was eleven, my best friend, who was far more into music than I was as a child, introduced me to the glam theatrics of Queen (to this day, I can’t help but think of the image my friend came up with of a frustrated person swatting flies dead when I hear Another One Bites the Dust). In the following few years, with her, I discovered more British artists from the 80’s, including New Order, Tears For Fears, Duran Duran, Billy Idol, The Cure, Simple Minds, and Depeche Mode (I had the extended dance mix of Bizarre Love Triangle on a compilation cassette called Choose 80’s, and I rewound and played it over and over again – incidentally, that tape also included songs from The Jam, Squeeze, ABC, Bronski Beat, and Dexy’s Midnight Runners). This is also the time when I started watching a lot of 80’s music videos, and falling in love with the British artists with their synthesizers and eye make-up. I also had a very vague sense of Britpop with the odd Blur, Oasis, and Pulp song that found its way onto our radio stations and music television during my teenage years – the biggest impression being made by Jarvis Cocker’s limp-wristed, jerky dancing in the video for Common People.

When I began university, I started getting into punk, but of course, I tended to favour the British side rather than the American side of punk, listening to The Clash, Sex Pistols and The Damned. Soon after punk, I also fell in love with the jangly indie bliss of The Smiths and the formidable Manic Street Preachers, who have influenced me much more than a lot of the people I’ve known. As my knowledge continued to expand, and with it, my range of tastes, I embraced more and more British music, encompassing the mod, glam, punk, post-punk, New Wave, New Romantics, acid house, twee, shoegaze and Britpop.

When trying to create this mix, I figured I’d attempt to focus on artists I hadn’t featured in previous mixes, so at least 50% haven’t been posted on this blog before. There will probably be another one of these in the future, especially as I wrack my brain for more weekly themes. For a rather comprehensive look at the Britpop phenomenon and its connection to Tony Blair’s nauseating New Labour, read John Harris’s book on the coinciding rise and fall of Britpop and New Labour, The Last Party. I believe there was also a documentary hosted by Harris – you can likely watch it on YouTube. I’m calling this one The UK Made Me.

Six – Mansun

Vendetta – Adorable

All the People I Like Are Those That Are Dead – Felt

Chinese Bakery – The Auteurs

She Said – The Longpigs

Obscurity Knocks – Trashcan Sinatras

Calliope! – The Veils

I Feel Better – Frightened Rabbit

You Are the Generation That Bought More Shoes and You Get What You Deserve – Johnny Boy

We Hate the Kids – The Indelicates

Kill Everyone – Codename Sparrow

Don’t Forget to Remember – Puressence

Total Recall – The Sound

Hey Bunny – The Cherubs

Bloodbeat – Patrick Wolf

The Novelist’s Wife – frYars

The Far Too Simple Beauty – Trembling Blue Stars

England Made Me – Black Box Recorder

The Campaign For Real Rock – Edwyn Collins

26
Jul
08

Suntanning in the Nuclear Fallout: The Very Sexuals’ Post-Apocalyptic Love


I came across the Netherlands’ The Very Sexuals via The Walrus, and the fact this blog threw in the words Cocteau Twins and Mazzy Star when describing their sound made me stop to check them out. Also, the fact the band have made their debut album, Post-Apocalyptic Love, available for free on their Web site makes the life of an amateur reviewer a lot easier. Having listened to the album, I don’t think it’s quite up to Cocteau Twins stratospheric standards, but I do hear hints of New Pornographer-type shimmery pop harmonies and shambolic beats, youthful excitement and vocals similar to Ash, and some spaced-out melodies à la Dandy Warhols. Consisting of Joep van Son, Pien Feith (who also does her own music – worth checking out), Niels Philipsen, Cox Dieben, and Rob Bours, The Very Sexuals espouse a strangely positive view of a post-apocalyptic world:

It’s 2008 and the apocalypse didn’t wait for you
It did not wait for you or for me, it waited for nobody
Only a few could escape the fire
And they don’t know why they were so lucky
Maybe it’s because they still had a message to convey
Maybe they are functioning as prey
Or maybe it’s because they are
So.Very.Sexual.

I’m still not quite sure where the sex is fitting in, just as I’m not so sure the band name is the most appropriate for the type of music they make, but I definitely feel a life-force pumping throughout the record. While sex may be part of this band’s idea of recovery and dealing with post-traumatic stress, the music itself reflects a generally more twee atmosphere rather than sweaty and seedy.

The album opens with the psychedelic WWIII Rocketeer, which features fey male vocals from van Son until the lilting, jazzy female voice of Feith joins in, setting up a brilliant vocal pairing. Second track, Carla, is one of my favourites with its jubilant, explosive sound like some of Puressence’s latest songs. The guitars jangle and chime beneath sunny vocal harmonies, a soothing balm for a diaster-ridden world. Bowie Eyes announces itself with squeals of feedback and fuzzed-out vocals as it bounces around like postmodern surfers on a beach of the ash from incinerated civilization while Anti-Valentine has a rather retro Phil Spectorish feeling to it and child-like crooning vocals – like Raveonettes without all the shoegazey feedback. Romping along like children taking pleasure in kicking over sandcastles, Wrecked This Century feels like one of those irrepressible youth anthems where the best the new generation can do is rip everything up and start again while they cheekily sing: “Give me the year 2000 and I’ll make it bleed.” While the melody for the next track, Billy Idol Lookalike Contest, isn’t as memorable as some of the other tracks, its narrative is quirky and random enough for me: “We met on the evening of the Billy Idol Lookalike Contest/You look so very pretty/And hey, you look exactly like him.”

Can You Promise Me the Sky Won’t Fall On Us has heavier, dirtier electronic beats to it and Feith’s vocals resemble a more aggressive Feist; only here does the possibility of an ominous post-apocalypse surface like a primordial weed in a field of radioactive heliotropes. While this song does stand out against the breezier fare of the rest of the record, I actually think it’s one of my favourites. Final track, Finn, is a puffy cloud of a song with simple guitar and airy voices, finishing the whole album off with the line “And the sun dies out.” But somehow, it still leaves you thinking everything will be okay. Also, it features the quite brilliant line of “boy meets girl and girl steals his potential to be cruel.”

Overall, Post-Apocalyptic Love is a great pop record for summer listening – if this is what the end of the world sounds like, I think we’ll all survive just fine. So while I may not have gotten a new Cocteau Twins, nor a new Mazzy Star, I did get a fantastic soundtrack for weathering the apocalypse. Just pass the SPF 5000.

The Very Sexuals’ MySpace: http://www.myspace.com/theverysexuals
Pien Feith’s MySpace: http://www.myspace.com/pienfeith

Carla – The Very Sexuals

Can You Promise Me The Sky Won’t Fall On Us – The Very Sexuals

23
Jul
08

Human After All: Daft Punk’s Electroma

I only recently got to see the 2006 film Electroma, which was directed and written by Daft Punk (Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo) and which recently released on DVD. Though I can’t say I’m very familiar with previous Daft Punk film efforts, this piece does stand out as not including any music from the electro duo, and I think this aspect was key to its impression on me; rather than shoe-horn in music that doesn’t fit the story or use predictable electronic music for a film about robots, Daft Punk chose to paint feelings onto their robots through strokes of genius music. Also, rather than donning the iconic helmets themselves this time, Bangalter and de Homem-Christo have Peter Hurteau and Michael Reich play the two hero automata, walking purposefully about in their Hedi Slimane-designed, skin-tight leather suits as the soundtrack alternates from an eerie, nearly uncomfortable silence, to the likes of Brian Eno, Haydn, Chopin, Linda Perhacs, and Sebastien Tellier. There’s something about its cinematography that gives it a rougher ’70’s feel – like one of those older films predicting the future, not the slick CGI films of today.
The narrative of this minimalist sci-fi follows the two robot heroes in their failed quest to become human. While the visuals are hugely important, exploiting the alien-like sandscapes of the American southwest and using interesting effects in which white figures void out everything else in a white laboratory, the music is equally important through its restrained use. The film opens to silent abstract shots of the natural rock formations in the American southwest desert before the robot duo (one with a silver helmet and one with a gold one) get into their Ferrari and drive down endless highways, both silently and then to Todd Rundgren’s International Feel, which communicates a very human feeling of excitement and adventure on the open road. When the robots finally enter a town, you realize that in this version of reality, everyone is a robot, making the duo’s quest for humanity a stranger reversal of Frankenstein. Interspersed throughout the film are inexplicable flames, a portent of a grim ending, licking at the celluloid and burning into the narrative.
In this film, music tends to come as a relief for the pregnant silences, and I found myself actually musing about the choice of music for each scenario it illustrated; the music’s meaning was heightened to the point that it couldn’t be merely ignored or subsumed into the background. For example, after the heroes’ helmets are covered in oversized, plastic human faces, they stroll proudly through the streets to the hugely appropriate, jaunty Billy Jack by Curtis Mayfield. Their stroll and the song abruptly ends as the duo confront a child robot holding an ice cream cone and he/she drops it on the pavement in one of the most salient images of the movie. Of course without the skillful manipulation of music and silence, this specific shot wouldn’t have carried the meaning it does. The music shifts soon after to sombre choir music as the two heroes are chased by an impassive mob of robot citizens; the contrast to the earlier Mayfield is palpable as the heroes no longer strut, but stumble along, trying to shield themselves from the sun, which is melting their human masks into deformity. When they take refuge in a run-down public toilet, the gold robot furiously tears at his human mask and wig, and in another salient image, his human face stares up at the camera while being flushed down the toilet. In contrast and without the aid of dialogue, the silver-headed robot appears more reluctant to shed the grotesque remnants of his human face as he stares at himself in the mirror and a faulty lightbulb strobes and sways above him, mimicking the silver robot’s emotional turmoil.

One of the main criticisms of Electroma was the sequence in which the two robot heroes walk endlessly through the sun-baked salt flats – and I will admit it’s pretty wearisome and tedious, but at the same time, I can see why it was likely included to highlight just how pointless, lonely and endless their quest is. This sequence also reveals subtleties that foreshadow their unhappy end, particularly the fact the silver robot’s head remains slightly bowed as he walks while the gold robot remains completely erect; of course this small detail blossoms into fruition as the silver robot begins to lag behind his more purposeful companion. After forcing his gold-headed companion to trigger the detonator on his back, the silver automaton walks a fair distance away to commit a rather explosive suicide. As the gold robot ranges over the cracked earth, which is covered in shards of black plastic and metal, his grief is made poignant and real with classical piano translating via minor chords.
During yet another deafening silence, in one of the most pitiful and memorable scenes of the film, the remaining hero is helplessly writhing, his helmet grinding into the dust, trying to no avail to reach the detonating lever on his own back. Ultimately, the robot decides to remove his helmet, and when he does, I actually felt surprised – because I had so much emotionally invested in these robots, I was a little unsettled by the flat circuitboard face even though I knew there wouldn’t be a human face beneath the helmet. Ultimately, the gold robot sets himself on fire with the same sun that stripped him of his dream of being human, and the film closes with the gold robot as a figure in flames, striding across the darkened, voided landscape as the haunting and mournful Jackson C. Frank’s Dialogue plays. In my opinion, the song is the star of this scene.

This film had more of an emotional effect on me than I would have expected. Because this film is about robots, who ostensibly cannot have emotions, but who in the heroes’ case do have, the soundtrack, with its alternation between clinical silence and beautiful, affective pieces of music, reflects this dilemma. And unlike a ham-fisted music video of quick cuts and less than salient imagery, this film is a piece of art that unfolds naturally with its music, building, receding, undulating. Despite my pre-conceived notions of a Daft Punk film, Electroma is a well-crafted piece that, for me, emphasizes the connection of music to affect, the connection between music and humanity. Where even the long, blank stares of robots with only a black visor in place of human features, can convey that, in fact, they are human after all.

Human After All – Daft Punk

I Want to Be Alone (Dialogue) – Jackson C. Frank

22
Jul
08

Has the World Changed Or Have I Changed?: Musings on the New Musical Express Train to Nowhere

I’ve been meaning to write something about my general feeling of malaise with new music, and now that I’ve read two very eloquent posts about this same feeling at To Die By Your Side and The Vinyl Villain, I very likely don’t need to now because I don’t know if I have that much more to add, to be honest. But since I must write something to keep this blog alive, I’ll do it anyway. It’s my blog and I’ll rant if I want to.

I’m twenty-five, so why I feel so jaded about music already is something I would like to try to understand. I agree with what the bloggers above have said about how maturity and acquired knowledge does eventually make music sound less “new” and “innovative”; the more you know about music and music history, the more connections you can make between new and old music. And if there’s one thing I had to learn over the years, it’s that art of any kind must always use what’s come before it in some way. Originality is a flawed concept, and it’s a concept that has dogged me for many years as I shied away from writing creatively for long periods of time, believing that I had nothing “original” to say. In fact, I wrote a short story called Life is Art is Life all about that particular conundrum. I realized that it’s how you build on what’s come before you that makes you special and memorable; no one reinvents the wheel, instead, you get fantastic variations like cars, ferris wheels, and my personal favourite, the pennyfarthing.

As others already noted as well, the music of your youth or the music tied to “new” experiences in your life will always be special to you. It’s why there’s such a thing as nostalgia. I like to think that there will continue to be new bands that will impress me in the future as I grow old, but at the same time, I don’t think they could ever make me feel the way the Manic Street Preachers, The Smiths, The Clash, and New Order do. These artists/bands got to me first and changed my life in their respective ways; for the most part, they ushered me into adulthood. Sadly, only one of them is still around, and through unfortunate circumstances, have had to change from their first, truly brilliant incarnation.

So, have I changed? And is that at the crux of my lack of excitement over most new bands? Likely, that’s a big part of it, but at the same time, the music industry and its attendant press has changed rather drastically in recent years. Technology and the Internet have expanded access for both artists and fans, and they’ve sped up the process of production and promotion. While these developments can be hailed as the next stage of a truly DIY music scene, in a lot of ways, to borrow from Dick Hebdige, they’ve defused and diffused it. It’s become increasingly harder to pick through the sheer masses of artists/bands out there (for my thesis, I made some rough calculations and figured there are at least 450 000 artists/bands with profiles on MySpace). Add to this overwhelming number the erosion of interest via media bombardment, and the situation gets sadder – the more information people are exposed to, the more apathy there is. The brain can only handle so much before needing to defer to others’ opinions to make decisions, and in some cases, the brain just shuts out information wholesale in an act of self-defence.

And of course the advent of MP3 blogs and their aggregators have made it quite easy and speedy to hype a new artist based on very little. Of course, if a band is ultimately worthy of praise, they will weather the hype and continue to make interesting music. But this mad rush for the “new thing” has accelerated to such speeds, I can’t bother to keep up, and instead, have found refuge in filling out my collection with older bands’ back catalogues. Often I end up discovering an old band that I had never heard of before (some blogs can be thanked for this). For example, I only just found out about the post-punk band The Sound this year, and I now consider them one of my favourites. I’m also very aware that the bulk of new music I end up paying attention to is created by artists/bands that have been around for awhile – though, I can often also be disappointed in new output by old artists as stated in my post about The Cure. That’s a different discussion for a different time, mind.

At this stage, my modest patch of cyberspace has by no means garnered too much attention by promotional people, but out of the emails of this nature that I have received, I’ve only been interested in two or three, and only really and truly loved one. As Coxon from To Die By Your Side stated, most bands are just too samey to be worth listening to, let alone worthy of a blog post. I require more than just a new Libertines or Arctic Monkeys, and I am too often disappointed by the comparisons of these new bands to older bands that I love, comparisons which never pan out.

Not only do I have to be critical of the promotional hype I get in my inbox, but I have to be just as critical of the information I get from “professionals.” I know I’ll sound like some whiny curmudgeon when I say that the music press isn’t what it used to be. Sure, in the past, editorial and journalistic styles have displaced that which preceded them, but the recent shifts really don’t speak to me. I like to believe that I would have been far more impressed with the work of Lester Bangs and Nick Kent had I been alive at the time they were prominent. I may also have romantic notions of the more politicized, intelligent NME of the early to mid-eighties, considering I was a small child then, but I do long for those times. I read less and less music magazines these days because either their information is out-of-date, or they’re too busy chasing the next Libertines/Strokes to care about what really matters in music and the discourse that surrounds it. You will never see as brave a cover as that nearly all-black 1986 issue of NME that discussed youth suicide, nor content as brave. As much as I love The Mighty Boosh, they are merely a sales figure booster for the NME with comedic links to music and Noel Fielding’s rather pathetic public antics. I can’t imagine the bands being championed in the recent press as being as iconic and meaningful even ten years down the line as bands like Joy Division and The Smiths were/are. And though I don’t expect all artists/bands to carve “4REAL” into their arms in order to prove a point to the NME, I do long for those who are willing to stand out and stand by their beliefs and opinions, or frankly, willing to have an opinion at all.

Having said all of this, I will say there have been rare instances when the white noise of bands clamouring for attention has cleared for a moment, allowing me to hear new music that I believe has that capacity to change my life. I believe in these bands and what they stand for; not only do their music and lyrics affect me, but so do their ideologies and philosophies, aspects which make art meaningful. They take the brilliant elements of previous artists, musical and otherwise, and multiply them into something more than the sum of their parts. They are “4REAL” in the same way Richey Edwards once was. And these bands aren’t even at their peak yet; there’s no reason they should be, and that very fact makes them exciting. These bands are Vanilla Swingers, Stroszek and Black Umbrella, and you can read about them in more detail when you follow the links below.

Post #1 on Vanilla Swingers

Post #2 on Vanilla Swingers

Post on Stroszek

Post on Black Umbrella

These are the bands that will mean something to me in ten years time. These are the bands I would feature on the cover of a magazine purporting to be about “new” music. These are the bands that continue to give me hope that not all good music was in the past.

Goodbye Lennon – Vanilla Swingers

Railway of Bones – Stroszek

Secret Kiss – Black Umbrella

21
Jul
08

Everyday is Like Sunday, Except for Blue Monday and Ruby Tuesday, and…Well, Friday I’m in Love: Weekly Mix #26

My very first weekly mix was one entitled When the Humans Are Away, The Robots Play, and the time has come, my friends, for another robot-inflected mix. It was very fun the first time round, and I know at least one reader out there highly enjoyed it. Oddly enough, the only actual link to robots in that mix was the fact Robots in Disguise featured – this time, I made a more concerted effort to include songs with robots in the titles without compromising the sound and flow of the mix (this rule ultimately made me discard using the song Sister Robot by The Trons, a band that is actually composed of robots – the song just didn’t really fit with the feel of the rest of the songs).

In the midst of the ridiculous fun, I included robot classic Mr. Roboto from the notorious Styx and another track from Flight of the Conchords, which, like last week’s track, is quite a ribtickler (“The humans are dead/We used poisonous gases/And we poisoned their asses”). Don’t worry, I’ll resist the urge to include an appropriate track from Flight of the Conchords in every mix. This mix is called More Than Meets the Ear.

Arcade Robot – Boys Noize

Kicking and Screaming – The Presets

The Lake – Muscles

Robot Love – Ganymed

Robot High School – My Robot Friend

The Anthem – Bitchee Bitchee Ya Ya Ya

Mr. Roboto – Styx

Robots – Flight of the Conchords

Too Many People (iamchemist Plus One Remix) – The Retrosexuals

Disko Eskimo – Salon Music

Professional Suicide – Ladyhawke

Bunny – Zeigeist

Wow (MSTRKRFT Remix) – Kylie Minogue

Neue Strassen – Metropakt

Heartbeats – The Knife

Someone Like You – Revl9n

Girl – Robots in Disguise

We Are Rebels – Alice in Videoland featuring Maja

The Negative Sex (US version) – IAMX

17
Jul
08

Cleanse Your Spirit: Bodies of Water’s A Certain Feeling

I’m still kicking myself for not actually talking to the L.A. band Bodies of Water when I saw them open for Sons & Daughters in Toronto earlier this year. Instead, I hung about like a vagrant outside the venue, surreptitiously watching them duck in and out of their trailer and take photos of the gig poster. You see, I was embarrassingly early for the gig, and was literally the first and only audience member for at least twenty minutes after the doors opened. So, rather than skulk next to the door and slightly shivering, I should have attempted to engage Bodies of Water in some sort of conversation. In the end, I only spoke to them when I bought their debut album, Ears Will Pop & Eyes Will Blink, off them directly after the show. They seemed very sweet, but I being a dunderhead, will never truly know. At any rate, their second album, A Certain Feeling, is due out this coming Tuesday, and I’m counting myself very lucky that I got to see them live, and in fact, performing Gold, Tan, Peach and Grey from this album.

Bodies of Water fall somewhere between the power and cultishness of the Polyphonic Spree and Arcade Fire, but unlike those two bands, Bodies of Water only use four people to generate their massive sound and spine-tingling atmosphere. Of their opening slot for Sons & Daughters, I wrote:

For only four people, they create a choir of voices, filling the small venue with waves of beautiful sound. Their songs are long and meandering, switching time signatures several times before ending, but it never gets tedious; instead, you feel like you’re accompanying them on a journey that no one has mapped out yet, but is bound to be filled with serendipity and wonder. Styles seamlessly moved from gospel to reggae to latin to operatic epic.
Of course, the recent departure of drummer/vocalist, Jessie Conklin, may shift things a bit for live performances and/or future recordings, but to fill a venue with such palpable emotion without the aid of matching robes or the waving of flags, was/is a grand achievement. A Certain Feeling is certainly on par with their debut with perhaps a slicker production, which I’m not one to find fault with.
The album begins with the magnificent Gold, Tan, Peach and Grey, which starts rather subtly with guitarist David Metcalf’s tenuous, evangelical vocals, but when the rest join in for the “oh-oh-oh’s,” the song launches into a whole new level. And just when you think it can’t get any more intensely beautiful, Meredith Metcalf, who also plays organ, sings a counter-melody over top of the “oh’s,” pushing her voice into a breathless, implosive force, and then the song shifts into a driving, chanting juggernaut. The following track, Under the Pines, which can also be streamed and downloaded from the band’s MySpace, begins with a spindly organ line only to be joined by rather dramatic guitars and drums, and then a scratchy guitar line starts up (with an angularity akin to the riff from Franz Ferdinand’s Take Me Out), making way for more choir-like strains from the entire band. The melding of Meredith and David’s vocals creates a springboard for the syncopated drums and half-shouts that arise when the rest of the band’s vocals comes in. They slow it down for the briefer Only You, which features Bjork-like vocals as Meredith plaintively sings, “I am trying to be near you.” Water Here then begins with brass sounds and Kyle Gladden’s bass, almost sounding like an orchestra tuning up, until a playful melody kicks in, see-sawing along with the band’s voices, rallying like a well-tuned band of revolutionaries, and then the song changes speed as though it has a mind of its own, moving into a jazzier, funkier style as voices overlap and criss-cross each other in a lattice-work of sonic intricacy.
The second half of the album is just as commanding and meandering as the first. Keep Me On recalls the dramatic openings of songs like Gold, Tan, Peach and Grey, with quieter strums of guitar and light organ paired with their unique vocal ensemble, and has an eerie Old West feel, reminding me a bit of Nick Cave. Lines and phrases like “hold me on the narrow way,” “in the grey grass” and “sting of the nettles” conjure up a difficult, but sublime journey, reminiscent of a hymn. For its first minute, Darling, Be Here is a more straight-ahead rock number, but as is expected with Bodies of Water, it wriggles out of those constraints into different, unexpected rhythms and instrumental combinations. With the theatrical flourishes, it feels like a mini-film-soundtrack contained in five minutes. Like Water Here, Even in a Cave starts with random, yet pleasing sounds like honks of clarinet and muted trumpet, and then Meredith comes in with a hushed voice, but through the fantastic serendipity of the song, it all ends with a festive, squiggly Latin style. If I Were a Bell makes several different stylistic choices before settling into that arcane wailing that they do best. The album closes with the two-minute The Mud Gapes Open, a folkier tune with a sense of slightly warmed earth parting for new life – a wonderful way to end the record.
There is something undeniably organic about Bodies of Water – in fact, they move like one natural body, but with the unpredictability and versatility of water. When you try to put your finger on their music, it rises and resurfaces somewhere else, all the while it pushes you in strange directions with a gentle, but insistent power, sometimes baptizing you with a wave of fervour. Their esoteric, pastoral lyrics add a further austere, magical quality to their work. I highly recommend both purchasing this latest effort and seeing them on their coming tour (I’m quite stewing over the fact I won’t be anywhere near to the cities they’re playing this time around) – it’s bound to be a religious experience.
So as not to be emailed with notices from Secretly Canadian to take down the tracks not authorized for download (other blogs appear to have been told already), I’ve only included the legal MP3s provided by the label and then one track from Bodies of Water’s debut album. It’s more than likely that the label never would have found me and my humble little blog (it, like me, is as stealthy as a ninja), but stranger things have happened.

Bodies of Water Web site: http://www.bodiesofwater.net/
Bodies of Water MySpace: http://www.myspace.com/bodiesofwater

Gold, Tan, Peach and Grey – Bodies of Water

Under the Pines – Bodies of Water

Our Friends Appear Like the Dawn – Bodies of Water




The Hype Machine
mp3 blogs
Add to Technorati Favorites

Blog Stats

  • 444,788 hits

Gigs Attended

Arcade Fire w/ Bell Orchestre + Wolf Parade (2005)

Arctic Monkeys w/ Reverend and the Makers (2007)

Austra w/ Young Galaxy + Tasseomancy (2011)

Big Audio Dynamite (2011)

Billy Bragg w/ Ron Hawkins (2009)

Billy Idol w/ Bif Naked (2005)

Bloc Party w/ Hot Hot Heat (2009)

Buzzcocks w/ The Dollyrots (2010)

Damo Suzuki (2012)

David Bowie w/ The Polyphonic Spree (2004)

Diamond Rings w/ PS I Love You + The Cannon Bros. (2011)

Diamond Rings w/ Gold & Youth (2012)

Dragonette w/ Ruby Jean & the Thoughtful Bees (2009)

Frank Turner w/ The Cavaliers (2010)

Frank Turner w/ Into It Over It + Andrew Jackson Jihad (2011)

Franz Ferdinand w/ Think About Life (2009)

Gang of Four w/ Hollerado (2011)

Good Shoes w/ The Moths + The Envelopes (2007)

Hot Hot Heat w/ The Futureheads + Louis XIV (2005)

IAMX w/ closethuman (2007)

IAMX w/ Coma Soft + The Hourly Radio (2007)

Interpol (2007)

Janelle Monae w/ Roman GianArthur (2012)

Joel Plaskett Emergency w/ Frank Turner (2012)

Jonathan Richman (2011)

Keane w/ Lights (2009)

Lou Reed w/ Buke and Gass (2011)

Manic Street Preachers w/ Fear of Music (2007)

Manic Street Preachers w/ Bear Hands (2009)

Manic Street Preachers at Wanaja Festival (2011)

Mother Mother w/ Old Folks Home (2009)

Mother Mother w/ Whale Tooth (2011)

Mother Mother w/ Hannah Georgas (2012)

MSTRKRFT w/ Felix Cartal (2008)

Muse (2004)

Nine Inch Nails w/ Death From Above 1979 + Queens of the Stone Age (2005)

of Montreal w/ Janelle Monae (2010)

Owen Pallett w/ Little Scream (2010)

Patrick Wolf w/ Bishi (2007)

Prince (2011)

Pulp w/ Grace Jones, TV on the Radio, The Hives, The Horrors, Metronomy, Devotcka, Vintage Trouble (2011)

Rufus Wainwright w/ Teddy Thompson (2010)

Snow Patrol w/ Embrace (2005)

Snow Patrol w/ OK Go + Silversun Pickups (2007)

Sons and Daughters w/ Bodies of Water (2008)

Stars w/ Thurston Revival (2006)

Stars w/ The Details (2008)

Stars (2010)

Steven Severin (2010)

Stroszek (2007)

The Antlers w/ Haunter (2012)

The Flaming Lips w/ Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti (2010)

The Jesus and Mary Chain w/ Nightbox (2012)

The Killers w/ Ambulance Ltd (2004)

The New Pornographers w/ Novillero (2008)

The New Pornographers w/ The Mountain Goats (2010)

The Ordinary Boys w/ Young Soul Rebels (2006)

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart w/ Suun (2011)

The Rakes w/ The Young Knives (2006)

The Raveonettes w/ Black Acid (2008)

The Stills w/ Gentleman Reg (2009)

The Subways w/ The Mad Young Darlings (2006)

Tokyo Police Club w/ Smoosh + Attack in Black (2008)

TV on the Radio w/ The Dirty Projectors (2009)

Yann Tiersen w/ Breathe Owl Breathe (2011)

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

The only certain thing that is left about me

There is no part of my body that has not been used

Pity or pain, to show displeasure's shame

Everyone I've loved or hated always seems to leave

Photobucket

So I turned myself to face me

But I've never caught a glimpse

Of how the others must see the faker

I'm much too fast to take that test

The Smiths Queen is Dead

A dreaded sunny day

So let's go where we're happy

And I meet you at the cemetry gates

Oh, Keats and Yeats are on your side

A dreaded sunny day

So let's go where we're wanted

And I meet you at the cemetry gates

Keats and Yeats are on your side

But you lose 'cause weird lover Wilde is on mine

The Clash London Calling

When they kick at your front door

How you gonna come?

With your hands on your head

Or on the trigger of your gun

Photobucket

Charles Windsor, who's at the door

At such an hour, who's at the door

In the back of an old green Cortina

You're on your way to the guillotine

Here the rabble comes

The kind you hoped were dead

They've come to chop, to chop off your head

Photobucket

Then you came with your breezeblocks

Smashing up my face like a bus-stop

You think you're giving

But you're taking my life away

Photobucket

Won't someone give me more fun?

(and the skin flies all around us)

We kiss in his room to a popular tune

Oh, real drowners

Photobucket

Don't walk away

In silence

See the danger

Always danger

Endless talking

Life rebuilding

Don't walk away

Walk in silence

Don't turn away in silence

Your confusion

My illusion

Worn like a mask of self-hate

Confronts and then dies

Don't walk away

Photobucket

You don't want to hurt me

But see how deep the bullet lies

Unaware I'm tearing you asunder

Oh there is thunder in our hearts

Is there so much hate for the ones we love

Tell me we both matter don't we

The Associates Affectionate

I don't know whether

To over or under estimate you

Whether to over or under estimate you

For when I come over

You then put me under

Personal taste is a matter of gender

Photobucket

I wake at dusk to go alone without a light

To the unknown

I want this night inside of me

I want to feel

I want this speeding

I want that speeding

Photobucket

You'll never live like common people

You'll never do what common people do

You'll never fail like common people

You'll never watch your life slide out of view

And dance and drink and screw

Because there's nothing else to do

Vanilla Swingers

All I have is words, words that don't obtain

And I feel I'm a stain on your horizon

So I stay away - it's easier that way

And there won't be no-one I need to rely on

Is it him, is it me

Or is there something only I can see

How did I get here, why do we blow around like straw dogs on the breeze

I'm a special one, what they used to say

But I've to stay on, finish levels-A

You don't need exams when you've read John Gray

The Indelicates American Demo

And nobody ever comes alive

And the journalists clamour round glamour like flies

And boys who should know better grin and get high

With fat men who once met the MC5

And no one discusses what they don't understand

And no one does anything to harm the brand

And this gift is an illusion, this isn't hard

Absolutely anyone can play the fucking guitar

JAMC Darklands

And we tried so hard

And we looked so good

And we lived our lives in black

Photobucket

Plucked her eyebrows on the way

Shaved her leg and then he was a she

She says, hey babe,

Take a walk on the wild side

Said, hey honey, take a walk on the wild side

Photobucket

Hide on the promenade

Etch a postcard:

How I dearly wish I was not here

In the seaside town...that they forgot to bomb

Come, come, come - nuclear bomb

Photobucket

Back when we were kids

We would always know when to stop

And now all the good kids are messing up

Nobody has gained or accomplished anything

Wire Pink Flag

Prices have risen since the government fell

Casualties increase as the enemy shell

The climate's unhealthy, flies and rats thrive

And sooner or later the end will arrive

This is your correspondent, running out of tape

Gunfire's increasing, looting, burning, rape

Photobucket

Well, maybe there's a god above

But all I've ever learned from love

Was how to shoot somebody who outdrew you

It's not a cry that you hear at night

It's not somebody who's seen the light

It's a cold and it's a broken hallelujah

Photobucket

And what costume shall the poor girl wear

To all tomorrow's parties

For Thursday's child is Sunday's clown

For whom none will go mourning

Photobucket

My body is your body

I won't tell anybody

If you want to use my body

Go for it

Photobucket

Oh it's opening time

Down on Fascination Street

So let's cut the conversation

And get out for a bit

Because I feel it all fading and paling

And I'm begging

To drag you down with me

Mansun Six

And you see, I kind of shivered to conformity

Did you see the way I cowered to authority

You see, my life, it's a series of compromises anyway

It's a sham, and I'm conditioned to accept it all, you see

Japan Gentlemen

Take in the country air, you'll never win

Gentlemen take polaroids

They fall in love, they fall in love

Photobucket

We just want to emote til we're dead

I know we suffer for fashion

Or whatever

We don't want these days to ever end

We just want to emasculate them forever

Forever, forever

Pretty sirens don't go flat

It's not supposed to happen like that

Longpigs The Sun

There's no perfume I can buy

Make me smell like myself

So I put on perfume

To make me smell like someone else

In bed

Calvin Harris I Created Disco

I got love for you if you were born in the 80's, the 80's

I've got hugs for you if you were born in the 80's, the 80's

Photobucket

Does his makeup in his room

Douse himself with cheap perfume

Eyeholes in a paper bag

Greatest lay I ever had

Kind of guy who mates for life

Gotta help him find a wife

We're a couple, when our bodies double

Simple Minds Sons and Fascination

Summer rains are here

Savaged beauty life

Falling here from grace

Sister feeling call

Cruising land to land

No faith no creed no soul

Half a world away

Beauty sleeps in time

Sound and fury play

Bloc Party Silent Alarm

North to south

Empty

Running on

Bravado

As if to say, as if to say

He doesn't like chocolate

He's born a liar, he'll die a liar

Some things will never be different

Photobucket

LCD Soundsystem

Well Daft Punk is playing at my house, my house

I've waited 7 years and 15 days

There's every kid for miles at my house, my house

And the neighbors can't...call the police

There's a fist fight brewin' at my house, my house

Because the jocks can't...get in the door

Johnny Boy

I just can't help believing

Though believing sees me cursed

Stars Set Yourself

I am trying to say

What I want to say

Without having to say "I love you"

Josef K Entomology

It took 10 years to realise why the angels start to cry

When you go home down the main

Your happy smile

Your funny name

Cocteau Twins Bluebell

Photobucket

Doesn't she look a million with her hairagami set

Hair kisses 'n' hair architecture

Yes, she's a beautiful brunette angel from heaven with her hairagami set

Hair kisses 'n' hair architecture

Augment a beautiful brunette

New Order Power Corruption

How does it feel

To treat me like you do

When you've laid your hands upon me

And told me who you are

Photobucket

You must let her go

She's not crying

Photobucket

Baiting

Feeling like I'm waiting

Modern times

Valentines

Hating

Hating to distraction

Just leave them alone

Whipcrack

Girls in the back

Girls in the back

Puressence Don't Forget

They say come back to earth and start getting real, yeah

I say come back to earth and start getting real

I know I can't

Photobucket

So I walk right up to you

And you walk all over me

And I ask you what you want

And you tell me what you need

Photobucket

The problem of leisure

What to do for pleasure

Ideal love a new purchase

A market of the senses

Dream of the perfect life

Economic circumstances

The body is good business

Sell out, maintain the interest

Photobucket

Sitting in my armchair thinking again and again and again

Going round in a circle I can't get out

Then I look around thinking day and night and day

Then you look around - there must be some explanation

And the tension builds

Psychdedelic Furs

India, India

You're my love song

India, you're my love song

In the flowers

You can have me in the flowers

We will dance alone

And live our useless lives

Ladytron Light Magic

They only want you when you're seventeen

When you're twenty-one

You're no fun

They take a polaroid and let you go

Say they'll let you know

Photobucket

No consolation prizes

Spit out your lies and chewing gum

Cut off your hair yeah that's it!

If you look like that I swear I'm gonna love you more

Photobucket

All the neighbors are startin' up a fire

Burning all the old folks, the witches and the liars.

My eyes are covered by the hands of my unborn kids

But my heart keeps watchin' through the skin of my eyelids

Photobucket

Prince charming

Prince charming

Ridicule is nothing to be scared of

Don't you ever, don't you ever

Stop being dandy, showing me you're handsome