Archive for April, 2009


Everyday is Like Sunday, Except for Blue Monday and Ruby Tuesday, and…Well, Friday I’m in Love: Weekly Mix #63


After reading a post by Rol about Huey Lewis and the News and Back to the Future, I was prompted to re-visit the films that I watched when I was younger, including an obsession with Michael J. Fox starting at age thirteen. There’s no really good reason for this dedication to an actor who had hit the nadir of his career at the exact time I started delving into all of his older films (although there was a bit of a timely renaissance as he started Spin City soon after). I’m certain of my addictive personality, but there are times that I wish I could forget all of Michael J. Fox’s character names from Midnight Madness through to The Frighteners. At least I won’t be able to recite them in chronological order anymore.

At any rate, in addition to my nostalgic impulse to go back to my Back to the Future soundtrack (cassette), I went to YouTube and re-watched the absolutely brutal cult film Class of 1984, in which Fox is the trumpet-playing kid who gets stabbed in the gut, and the film was exactly as I remembered it, though perhaps not quite so traumatizing now that I’m thirteen years older; in fact, it seemed more like a poor man’s Jubilee. I was reminded of how that Alice Cooper song never really left me – especially the line “Look at my face, I am the future” – even though I didn’t actually hear the song again until recently. This then prompted me to re-watch an even more brutal, obscure film, Light of Day, starring Joan Jett, and of course, Michael J. Fox, sporting the exact same haircut and singing the Bruce Springsteen song. Lastly, I took a listen back to the title track for Fox’s relatively successful film The Secret of My Success, and since the song was by Night Ranger, I was reminded of a Christian Bale interview in which he stated one of his favourite bands is the Manic Street Preachers, but that his wife thought they sounded like Night Ranger. They don’t.

In many ways, I lived in a time warp for my teenage years. While I definitely remember seeing many of the films in the teen flick boom of the late 90s (ie: 10 Things I Hate About You, She’s All That, Can’t Hardly Wait, etc), I was most affected by and most obsessed with films from the previous decade. I’m still trying to pinpoint what could have precipitated this, but all I can think is that I had some sort of subliminal memories of my childhood in the 80s, and that these films, which evoked that time, comforted me. These movies seemed to fall in a few broad categories: fantasy, teen/Brat Pack, or dance/musical. In some cases, I’ve continued to watch these older films as I grew, and others I completely left behind or forgot I had on VHS.

As for this mix, I’ve included songs from favourite films from both my childhood (Labyrinth, Little Shop of Horrors, Beetlejuice, Princess Bride, Never Ending Story) and from my skewed adolescence (Class of 1984, Back to the Future, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Pretty in Pink, Breakfast Club, St. Elmo’s Fire, The Secret of My Success, Say Anything, Grease, Adventures in Babysitting, Footloose). While Doc Hollywood (yeah, don’t even bother trying to shame me) was technically a 90s film, I did watch it in my teens and it featured that Chesney Hawkes one hit wonder, which provided one of the better comic moments on Never Mind the Buzzcocks. And while I have seen the Brat Pack film Weird Science, as a teen, I was more into watching the television series/re-make. This one’s called Hipster Kryptonite.

Then He Kissed Me – The Crystals

Skid Row (Downtown) – Little Shop of Horrors Cast

I Am the Future – Alice Cooper

Light of Day – Joan Jett and the Black Hearts

Back in Time – Huey Lewis & the News

You’re the One That I Want – Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta

Oh Yeah (Indian Summer Version) – Yello

Weird Science – Oingo Boingo

Pretty in Pink – The Psychedelic Furs

(Don’t You) Forget About Me – Simple Minds

St. Elmo’s Fire (Man in Motion) – John Parr

The Secret of My Success – Night Ranger

I Am the One and Only – Chesney Hawkes

I’m Free (Heaven Helps the Man) – Kenny Loggins

Beetlejuice Theme – Danny Elfman

Underground – David Bowie

Never Ending Story – Limahl

I Will Never Love Again – Mark Knopfler and Guy Fletcher

In Your Eyes – Peter Gabriel


Desiring and Being Desired: Colonizing the “Other” in Duran Duran Music Videos

It’s been an unusually busy week with my freelance work and volunteering, and miraculously, I have a job interview tomorrow that I wanted to prepare for. So, I’ve decided to look back, way back, into my academic past and pull out this essay from my Representations in Visual Rhetoric class. I was 22 when I wrote it, so it’s not exactly my best work to date, but it is music-related, and I think it’s still interesting from a visual rhetoric standpoint. And it proves you can work pretty much anything into an A+ academic paper. It’s all about the reaching.

Despite resisting any impulse for dramatic revisions, I’ve taken out any citation references because they’re not really necessary in a blog post. And if it gets too pedantic and boring, skip to the bottom and get some Duran Duran songs.


Being Desired: Colonizing the “Other” in Duran Duran Music Videos

When Music Television (MTV) debuted in 1981, it was a revolutionary concept that married advertising and music in a 24-hour format; before MTV, music videos were largely taped live performances broadcast on late-night television shows. By making music into a fundamentally visual experience, the advent of music video created a medium that primarily appealed to pathos in creating pleasurable images that were intended to generate desire for the music as a product and/or the objects in the videos. Music videos also manufactured specific realities in which certain beliefs operated, which were then naturalized. One such reality was one of white dominance; when MTV was in its first ten years of operation, it replicated an FM radio’s white rock focus, largely excluding other races. Within this format of the early 1980’s, Duran Duran, a young, New Wave band from Britain, could garner success greatly built on visual images.

Duran Duran, consisting of members Simon LeBon, John Taylor, Nick Rhodes, Andy Taylor and Roger Taylor, formed in 1980, and by 1981, they were hugely popular in their native Britain. After recording their sophomore album, entitled Rio in 1982, Duran Duran attempted to duplicate their popularity in Britain in the USA; however, their album did not initially sell well. Notably, when they decided to use the music video format for each of the singles released from Rio, and soon after these music videos aired on MTV, the album increased its sales in the USA. Arguably, the music videos persuaded their audience to desire Duran Duran’s music, and in doing so, served a promotional purpose; however, through these visual pieces, Duran Duran also became pioneers in the music video field. Duran Duran were among the first bands to shoot their music videos on 35mm film rather than on video tape; they were also one of the first bands to shoot videos in exotic locations, to create mini-narratives, and to use quickly-edited clips of surreal images. In revolutionizing the music video medium, Duran Duran also produced a certain reality with an accompanying set of beliefs. By analyzing the visual rhetoric present in the three major music videos from the Rio album, I will argue that while the videos are meant to persuade desire for the band and its music, they create a British colonial reality in which the racial “other” is objectified, depicted as subhuman, and subjugated. These colonial “subjects” and their environment are also often portrayed as corrupting influences. Though these videos manufacture a colonial reality, conflicts arise because the medium of music video is promotional; ultimately, Duran Duran become both the agents and objects of the gaze. Though the linguistic content of song lyrics inevitably anchors visuals and can affect interpretation, I will focus primarily on the rich visual content of the videos for “Hungry Like the Wolf,” “Rio,” and “Save a Prayer,” which were all directed by Russell Mulcahy.

The choices of setting – Sri Lanka and Antigua – for these three videos, while often visually pleasurable in their lushness and exoticism, seem to point to colonialism. Both Sri Lanka and Antigua were British colonies for a lengthy time, only gaining their independence in the 20th century. Duran Duran’s nationality as British reinforces their dominance over these settings. Also, the choice of using a woman as the primary “other” implies the colonial ideology in that the uncolonized frontier always appeared as a fertile female figure; and the female also often represents the inferior half of a gender binary.

“Hungry Like the Wolf,” shot on location in Sri Lanka in 1982, tells the mini-narrative of Simon LeBon’s encounter with a native woman of Sri Lanka and the remaining band members’ search for him. The contrast between Duran Duran and this exotic environment becomes highly visually apparent; shots of the natives and the surroundings appear impoverished, primitive, and dirty while the members of the band appear clean, affluent and colourful, increasing Duran Duran’s salience, thus dominance, in each frame. For example, the video opens with a series of quick cuts, including semi-naked natives walking in crowds and an elderly beggar woman sitting in the street; all of these people look dusty and are dressed in muted colours of beiges and browns, blending in with the buildings and streets. Then the first shot of the band members is one in which the camera is shooting from above the street scene and behind the band members; they stand apart in their blindingly white shirts and jackets and Nick Rhodes’s bright pink pants. The perspective of this shot also allows for a sense of domination over the scene, which becomes associated with the band members. Immediately following this shot are ones showing John and Roger Taylor running toward the camera through the crowds; again, they are contrasted with their surroundings through their bright white clothing and John Taylor’s exposed white chest. This type of contrast makes Duran Duran far more salient than the other components of the scene. While most of the scenes of the street and markets appear primitive with their carts, Duran Duran rides in a jeep, signifying increased affluence and technology. The similar dress and hair styles, along with their race, seem to make Duran Duran a cohesive entity in the video, synecdoche that implies that they belong with each other but not with the other people in the video.

As already mentioned, perspective is used to present Duran Duran as dominant, and along with placement, it reinforces the band’s presence and the colonial theme. There are numerous close shots of LeBon’s face and there are several shots of the other band members kissing unidentifiable women. These types of perspectives and placements highlight the band’s dominance and keep the “other” in the periphery. There is a scene in which a young native boy revives LeBon by squeezing water from a rag into his mouth. In the scene, the boy is in a highly salient position in the upper right portion of the frame and he is also above a prostrate LeBon, implying the boy’s current power over LeBon; however, the camera soon zooms in on LeBon’s face, literally pushing the boy to the margins. Once the boy’s purpose is served – the enabling of LeBon to continue – he is discarded. This scene is similar to an earlier scene in which the camera starts with a close shot of an elephant, but than ultimately pans up to LeBon, who occupies a higher, more dominant, position in the scene. The elephant, perceived as subhuman, is squeezed out of the frame once it has been used for its exotic appeal. There are also shots that are filmed from a camera angle below LeBon as he looks up and around, making him appear more dominant.

The audience’s perspective also often switches between Duran Duran’s perspective and the “other’s” perspective, which complicates the visual message being communicated. The scenes in which the audience sees through LeBon’s eyes and the other members’ eyes makes the audience co-colonizers; the audience catches glimpses of the chased “other” and becomes just as frustrated as LeBon seems to be, and the audience wants to pin the “other’s” identity down and thus dominate her. Conversely, there are perspectives in which LeBon makes direct eye contact with the audience as he strides toward the camera, which makes the audience the object of his dominance and his demand. There are also scenes in which it is not clear whether the audience is seeing from LeBon’s perspective or the “other”; for example, the scene in which the camera follows LeBon as he runs through the jungle. The camera bumps and jars the viewer as through the viewer is also running, but it is not clear whether the audience is supposed to be running with or after LeBon. This conflict in message seems to be related to the promotional nature of the medium; though it constructs a reality in which the object of the audience’s gaze is the “other,” it also constructs a reality in which the object of the gaze and desire is Duran Duran and where the audience wants to be desired by Duran Duran. I will discuss this further later in the essay.

The representation of the native woman in this video is notable in how she is compared with other things. Firstly, she seems to be associated with the little native girl that dominates the entire first frame of the video, and whose laugh corresponds to the audio track. The little girl and the native woman become related in that they are both depicted as running out of the frame as if leading a chase. In this association, a colonial ideology emerges; a common relation between the colonized “other” and children since both are perceived as uncivilized and primitive. Because it seems both the native woman and the little girl are leading a chase, they become associated with prey, and in combination with LeBon’s wild pursuance of the woman, the native “other” also become animalistic. This animalistic trope is reinforced by the juxtaposition of extreme close-ups of the woman’s eyes dissolving into the eyes of a leopard. Animals, along with children and the colonized “other,” are also associated with savagery and inferiority. As the woman moves into a jungle environment, she acquires painted markings on her face and body, an indication of either primitive ritualism or the markings of an animal, and the woman’s unhuman movements – her head often moves like a startled bird or deer and she often opens her mouth as if roaring – further identifies the woman as bestial.
The native woman receives far less screen time than Duran Duran does, and when she does appear, she only appears fleetingly, slipping quickly in and out of the frame. Her first appearance in the video is somewhere in the street; her head tilts back and slips down and out of the frame, exiting by moving from the ideal portion of the frame into the least salient portion. The scene is so quick it is almost subliminal. This scene also contrasts with a later one in which LeBon’s head rises slowly upward into the frame from underwater, which implies a dominating of the frame. In addition to the shots in which the woman’s head slips in and out of the frame, there is a series of spliced shots of the woman running through the trees where only pieces of her are seen through the foliage.

This viewing of selective pieces of the woman becomes even more apparent in the metonymy of the scenes where her hand is featured. There are two scenes in which the woman’s hand is foregrounded and salient, and it is also decontextualized from her body. The first scene shows her hand curling over the trunk of a tree in a possessive manner. Her nails are painted red, which increases the hand’s salience even further. This scene is followed by a transition that looks like savage rips across the screen, which makes a connection between the woman’s hand and a claw, a motif that reappears later in the video when a scratch appears on LeBon’s face. The second time the woman’s hand appears, it follows the scene in which LeBon is wading through the river; her hand slides into the right side of the frame, again part of the jungle environment. This metonymy reduces the identity of the woman into a part that can be reified and then fetishized. There is a similar scene of fetishization in which the frame is taken up solely by the torsos of women. These torsos, like the woman’s hand, are supposed to stand in for the whole, but in doing so, they imply that the women are objects to be gazed at in an act of sexual desire. This gaze is further established in the semi-nakedness of the woman, the savage “other.” The woman rarely looks directly at the camera like LeBon does; instead she appears to be looking past the camera, perhaps at LeBon, so she does not make demands of her own and becomes an object. The fact that LeBon appears to be obsessed with chasing the woman already fetishizes her as an object to be gazed at and then possessed.

LeBon’s apparent obsession with hunting the woman again points to a colonial ideology, specifically the belief that the wildness of an uncolonized land and its people can change a British person who stays there too long. This fear of becoming the inferior, savage “other” stems from the fear of losing control and dominance. As the music video progresses, LeBon appears to become “infected” with the savagery of the “other.” It is implied by his encounter with the native woman and the subsequent chase that the woman has made him irrational and wild with desire. The scene in which the camera pans from the elephant up to LeBon exposes the detail of the sweat and dirt on LeBon’s face. These details appear to indicate a contrast with LeBon’s initial clean condition, the condition of the band as whole. After the quick sequence of shots documenting LeBon and the woman running through the jungle, there are two shots that appear to come earlier in the narrative because both LeBon and the woman are in a restaurant and neither look dishevelled. These contrasting shots also make the change in LeBon that much more salient, and the turning of his head corresponds with the next shot of the woman turning her head, implying the first eye contact with her. Immediately following these shots, the audience is transported back to the jungle where LeBon’s face is now painted, indicating his devolution to the animalistic.

The climax of LeBon and the woman’s encounter in the jungle is an extreme close up of both of their faces as they open their mouths at each other and the shot freezes for a moment. By ceasing movement for a few seconds, this particular scene has more salience; it is also repeated later in the video, increasing its presence further. This scene positions LeBon slightly higher than the woman, a more dominant position for the ensuing battle between them. The scene quickly changes to a close up of LeBon’s head being thrown backward, revealing three parallel scratch marks on his neck that look like they have been made by an animal’s claw. Without visually showing the woman’s act of scratching him, it can be inferred that she did it and the scratches become an index of her. By not showing her actually injure him, her act of aggressive dominance becomes invisible and less powerful. The scene continues with LeBon and the woman crawling on their hands and knees – the posture of an animal – and wrestling with each other. LeBon is at first overthrown, his ripped shirt exposed as he comes down, but the next shot is a repeat of an earlier scene in which LeBon overturned a table in the restaurant. When the camera comes back to the wrestling scene, the woman is on her back below LeBon; this juxtaposition of scenes seems to be associating the woman with the table, once again turning the woman into an inanimate object that can be dominated through force.
The transtextuality of this video’s association with the film Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark further reinforces the theme of conquering and controlling nature and foreign lands.

In watching “Rio,” the music video for the album’s title track, a pattern congruent with “Hungry Like the Wolf” becomes apparent. Shot in Antigua later in 1982, “Rio’s” mini-narrative is less straightforward than “Hungry Like the Wolf,” but it still involves a female racial “other” becoming objectified and made subhuman. Like “Hungry Like the Wolf,” this video has one main female who is being pursued by Duran Duran. Duran Duran members are once again represented as affluent as they lounge on the beach and a yacht; the “othered” woman is seen on a rickety raft, a raft that is later dominated by Nick Rhodes as he plays saxophone on it. Dominating aerial shots of perspective and shots from beneath LeBon once again demonstrate the authority of the band over the “other.”

The video begins with metonymy and construction of a colonizing gaze. The first shot features a black screen with a circle in the upper left focused on the woman’s mouth. As this circle fades away, a new one appears in the middle of the screen with just the woman’s eyes. Lastly, a circle appears on the right with her entire face as she tilts her head backward with an open mouth, an action much like the one performed by the woman in “Hungry Like the Wolf.” The next shot creates the sensation of binoculars by using two circles to view the woman in the distance; immediately following this scene is one featuring the woman – scantily clad – lying with her back towards the audience; John Taylor is foregrounded taking her photo, and the audience soon sees what he sees through his viewfinder as he zooms in on her buttocks. These reductions of the woman into parts, that can be contained in frames and stared at, make the woman into an object to be controlled and fetishized.

The foot and ankle of the woman is foregrounded several times, including one scene in which it is painted with bright pink spots; a colourfully-painted arm is seen controlling the helm of the yacht; and a painted hand “crawls” into the frame and across the deck of the yacht. These body parts become representative of the “other.” One shot of hands pulling the rigging of the yacht features a bright red flower attached to the rope; the flower is highly salient because of its colour and defamiliarized setting, and it becomes metonymic, standing in for the woman. At the end of a black and white fantasy sequence in which John Taylor sees himself as a commando-type character storming the beach, an unidentified woman is laying in the foreground with a margarita on her back. The woman appears to be a tray, an inanimate, passive object of service, much like the association of the woman in “Hungry Like the Wolf” with a table.

Like the woman in “Hungry Like the Wolf,” the woman in “Rio” is represented as animalistic. She is often nearly naked and painted in vivid colours, much like a parrot. When she is painted like this, she behaves differently than when she is clothed and unpainted. When painted she walks hunched forward and on tiptoes, like the posture of a bird, and seems to skulk around the yacht attempting to see while not being seen herself. The audience sees her legs in the background out the cabin window while Rhodes is foregrounded; he looks up to see the woman’ face briefly in the window, but she remains elusive. It seems that the only time at which the woman can assert any power is as an animal-like being; there are shots with the painted woman staring directly at the camera, the most notable one coming near the end of the video where she looks directly into the camera and winks while Duran Duran do not appear to see her at all. If the woman only has power when she is animalistic and/or unseen, the implication seems to be that the woman can only maintain power if she is passive and already perceived as subhuman. The woman in “Hungry Like the Wolf” was also only able to assert power over LeBon when she was in an animalistic state and unseen when scratching him.

There are also several scenes of the woman standing on the yacht wearing streaming, blue clothes with blue markings painted on her face and body. The way that she stands with her arms outstretched and at the edge of the yacht makes her look like a figurehead, an object reminiscent of old colonial ships. Sometimes the sun comes from behind her, obscuring her face and identity; she becomes merely ornamentation.

The framing in “Rio” is notable in its intensifying and containing effect. There is one shot of two unidentifiable painted women who share directional substance with each other and the black bars that come down to frame them. The women are leaning back on their arms and they arch in synchronicity as coloured water is poured on them, creating a strong diagonal. By sharing directional substance with the framing device, they are wholly contained, thus controlled, by the frame. Just as the women are constrained by framing, they are also often contained by being a reflection. In one close-up, Nick Rhodes is wearing mirrored sunglasses that reflect the woman, containing her in the lenses. A second scene features a compact mirror featuring John Taylor and Nick Rhodes in each of the mirrors, but one mirror then tips away, revealing the woman’s face; however, because members of Duran Duran are also contained by these mirrors, the message becomes conflicted as in the first video’s alternating perspectives.

As I mentioned earlier in discussing “Hungry Like the Wolf,” I will argue that this conflict arises because of the promotional nature of the music video as a medium. As much as Duran Duran gaze at and dominate the “other” in “Rio,” they themselves become an object of the audience’s gaze – the audience arguably being Duran Duran’s target market, who are urged to sexually desire the band. With their colourful, stylized clothing and often vibrantly coloured hair and made-up faces, Duran Duran are highly salient and visually pleasurable, and they are also highly feminized in appearance. This androgynous image blurs the lines of a male/female binary, thus of a colonizer/colonized binary as well. This blurring of oppositional categories can be defined as Goodwin’s “both/and” relationship in which certain contradictions are deflected or condensed into a dream-like site. In “Rio,” the members of Duran Duran are often scantily clad, and in “Hungry Like the Wolf,” John Taylor often bared his chest; this exposure generates a gaze from the audience and perhaps desire, which would incite them to purchase Duran Duran’s album. In “Rio,” various band members are also shown to be knocked down by female “others,” and in one scene, even dragged away in a net as prey. This pattern of conflict is once again apparent in “Save a Prayer,” but because it does not have a female “other” as the object of colonization, it does not follow the same pattern of the first two videos as closely.

While “Save a Prayer” is perhaps the most different of the three videos, it still follows elements of the pattern and themes set up in the first two videos. This video, like “Hungry Like the Wolf,” was shot in Sri Lanka. Its narrative appears to be comprised of scenes of Duran Duran wandering around Sri Lanka and viewing ancient sites spliced with scenes of the natives and LeBon’s apparent lost romance. Like “Hungry Like the Wolf” and “Rio,” perspectives often connote domination; there are several sweeping aerial shots over the landscape and ruins of ancient temples; these shots also often reveal members of Duran Duran standing on top of the pyramid structures, salient because of their bright white clothing. By showing them on top of these structures, the video implies their authority over the land and its people. Further evidence of this supremacy is in positioning within the frame. There is one scene in which the camera pans from a prostrate stone figure from the country’s culture to the band members standing in the foreground. Their foreground and vertical position contrasts with the horizontal statue and makes Duran Duran more salient, thus more powerful in the frame.

In addition to perspective and positioning, there is also juxtaposition of scenes of the natives and the band members, which creates the sense that the natives are far more primitive and ritualistic while Duran Duran are more advanced and civilized. There is a series of scenes near the end of the video in which the camera switches back and forth between night time scenes of the natives performing rituals by a reddish light and scenes of Duran Duran standing between ruined pillars in daylight. The darkness of the native scenes seems to connote a premodern, unenlightened mood while the Duran Duran scenes are bright and open as though superstition could not hide there.

Though there is not a woman to be an animalistic “other” in this video, there is a juxtaposition of scenes: one features a little native boy playing and splashing in the ocean and one immediately following features an elephant splashing in the water in much the same way. Both of the subjects in the scenes share directional substance indicating their similarity. By juxtaposing these scenes in this way, the “other” once again becomes animalistic. The scene in which the elephant sprays itself also points to the “both/and” conflict stated before; in this scene, members of the band are semi-naked playing in the water as well. In doing this, Duran Duran become objects of the gaze and in their semi-nudity, parallel the “other,” especially the female “other” featured in the first two videos. While Duran Duran’s position appears to be oppositional, the two opposing facets of their identity exist simultaneously; they are both passive objects of desire and active subjects of domination. I would argue that this “both/and” relationship appears in these videos because of its association with the fantasy space of advertising. In these videos, the audience can concurrently reconcile desire for the objectified other and for the members of the band.

Duran Duran’s pioneering of music video led to more salience than previous videos in the vividness of their narratives and the verisimilitude of 35mm film. All three videos from Duran Duran’s Rio album create a British colonial reality in which the “other” is objectified and subjugated through metonymic reduction, perspective and positioning. Duran Duran’s dominance and salience in the videos demonstrates their power to control and colonize the “other”; however, their salience also places them in the position of the objectified. Because of the promotional nature of the music video medium, this “both/and” relationship can exist. If one was to examine the lyrics in conjunction with the visuals of these videos, the lyrics could become the caption that both complements and complicates the visual; this aspect of the videos warrants further investigation.

Rio – Duran Duran

Khanada – Duran Duran


Everyday is Like Sunday, Except for Blue Monday and Ruby Tuesday, and…Well, Friday I’m in Love: Weekly Mix #62


It’s been one of those weeks where a mix idea just fell into my head from absolutely nowhere. I guess if I were completely honest, I happened to take note of songs about sound (of which there are many in my collection) and decided the five senses might work as a theme. Surprisingly, I think most of the senses are adequately represented here, and I know there are many more related songs that I either don’t own or didn’t think fit into this compilation. This one’s called Why Can’t You Touch, Taste and Smell Evil? (I’m sure I have).

It’s Your Touch – The Black Ghosts

Taste the Rust – The Vince Noir Project

Touch Too Much – Hot Chip

Sound and Vision (Live at Sony Studios) – David Bowie

The Smell of Bob – Kaji Hideki

See No Evil – Television

Stop and Smell the Roses – Television Personalities

See Emily Play – Pink Floyd

We See the World As Our Stunt Doubles – Fosca

Heard You Whisper – The June Brides

Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before – The Smiths

Taste – Animal Collective

Sigh’s Smell of Farewell – Cocteau Twins

Taste the Floor – The Jesus and Mary Chain

Touch Up – Mother Mother

A Sucker For Your Sound – I Monster

The Smell of Outdoor Cooking – Arab Strap

Love at First Sight – Gist

The Bugle Sounds Again – Aztec Camera

Touch My Bum – Tom Rosenthal


Bildungsroman For the Postmodern Paranoid: Del Marquis and Embryoroom’s Litter to Society


It’s been quite some time since the last Scissor Sisters album, and admittedly, they weren’t top of my mind for the past year or so. I was also completely unaware that their high-trousered lead guitarist, Del Marquis, was involved in several solo outings, including his latest collaboration with Embryoroom, a multimedia group headed by writer/director/producer Edward Quist and Michael Wargula. This album, called Litter to Society, will release digitally on May 26 via and comes on the heels of two recent projects in the same series entitled Hot House and Character Assassination, respectively. Interspersed with regular instrumental interludes and featuring “shadow” tracks, which are meant to represent an ulterior personality of the work, Litter to Society is a continuation of a larger narrative; this work, along with the preceding other two, come alongside a video element, which follows Marquis as the character, Viz, “who has been abducted by a mysterious force and taken into a world where he is seemingly ‘dissected’ emotionally and psychologically, therefore forced to confront his fears.” Marquis describes the theme for Litter to Society as “an account of depravity in modern life, told through songs about urban and social decay. Within each moment, there is hope, the ‘child inside’ and the possibility of redemption.” Treading a Blake-like dichotomy of innocence and experience, Marquis and Embryoroom take this romantic notion and give it a sci-fi, existential gloss.

In some ways this record is bright and shiny with the biggest, 80s-style production, flouncing about in bolshy excesses; then at other times, it is highly subdued and the brashness is tempered either into a subconscious humming or a glistening renewal. The record opens with the title track, which begins with a chorus of soulful female vocals. Rather than mere icy electro, this song is raw with funk and scratchy grooves, and its refrain of “child inside” acts like a dream-like wake-up call to the id, inciting debauched freedom rather than reflecting the innocence of childhood. Marquis’s vocals leap from seductive, low tones to higher, soul-inflected cadences (reminding me a bit of George Michael in places), revealing the struggle between gritty experience and wispy purity; however, this dialogue ends while the last minute features pared back instrumentation and old-style crooning. There is then a rather brief instrumental interlude called Backroom, which sounds like the rough hum of laser bars on an electronic cage, pulsing to a tribal rhythm and surreptitious approach. The suspense lifts to display the first “shadow” of the piece: Litter to Society Shadow, a darker re-imagining of the first track. This time, the track features liberal use of vocoder and the brass section is replaced by angular shades of synths and drum machines. There is a more mechanistic, industrial feel that recalls Depeche Mode, and rather than explosions of sonic colour, the new version, filled with distortion, moves like a re-animated automaton sparking with a network of cold, blue lightning. Freewheeling hedonism seems to be replaced with a pervasive economy of movement and rigid, clinical enjoyment.

Another instrumental interlude appears as AKL Shadow brings the high-gloss synth-funk back with bass and brass. Instead of the tension of Backroom, this track feels lighter and freer, and it reaches its climax in the following song, Any Kind of Love, a strutting, preening piece backed by a full, soulful chorus of female backing vocals. As horns wail and synths squeal, it feels like the room is awash in a mardi gras of flavours and influences, and all inhibitions are drowned out by the sheer size of the sound. The other, colder side of the album reappears with Bug and its use of cleaner, stuttery beats. A vocoder surges like a misfiring circuit beneath the clicking rhythm until the last quarter takes a melodic turn, sending light haloes of sound puffing into the air like laconic smoke rings. Entitled Backroom II, the next track does, indeed, act as a sequel for Backroom with its sonic slices and whistles sounding like the whetting of some neon blade or an ensuing duel in the dark. The brief, weaker reprise of “child inside” precedes the metallic battle sounds as though the bacchanalian party is becoming a distant dream. The rapidly dissolving reverie continues to the last minute of the song as a nearly monotone voice declares, “there is only time and space and the gap between them.” The album concludes with I Believe In You, a surprisingly vulnerable ballad of acoustic guitar and piano with a tender vocal performance from Marquis. The dirty female chorus is replaced by angelic voices as the narrator appears to re-discover himself and find the latent spring of self-worth. In its wide-eyed, earnest prettiness, its contrast with the slick excesses and the mechanical conflict of the earlier songs feels like the dispelling of a swarm of black butterflies.

While I no doubt enjoy the styles of music Litter to Society explores (this kind of soulful synthpop is right up my alley), what truly grabs me about it is how it is attached to a much larger concept, which has obviously been carefully crafted and encompasses multimedia elements. Using massive production and a brilliant mixture of the earthy and glacial, Marquis takes on some fascinating existential and moral quandaries while telling a bildungsroman for the postmodern paranoid. I’m now very curious to explore the earlier installments of this series and look forward to seeing how the fourth and final installment unfolds.

Litter To Society – Del Marquis and Embryoroom

Any Kind of Love – Del Marquis and Embryoroom


Probing the Anatomy of Human Reality: Stanleylucasrevolution’s Demolition 45 EP and David Shane Smith’s Cloud Pleaser


I so enjoyed stanleylucasrevolution’s album, Evolutionary Sunset Call, that I both reviewed it and included it in my Top 40 Albums of 2008. Now it’s time to review the latest stanleylucasrevolution offering, the digital-only release, Demolition 45 EP, and a Stroboscopic labelmate, David Shane Smith’s album, Cloud Pleaser. Both of these works are world-weary social commentary in their own right, but they differ in the mood and style in which they depict modern urban decay; the former is gospel-glam, like a sermon delivered from the void of space, while the latter is attempting to find the organic amidst the artificial by taking folk and bissecting it with more modern lines.

The Demolition 45 EP begins with the title track, which assaults you with an onslaught of verbiage held together by strings of poetry and a gospel swagger; it’s like turning the faucet on an overworked, overheated brain only to find it has the pressure of a fire hydrant. There are brief interludes for the singing of the line “Demolition 45,” which provides a pause in the torrent for a broken lament. The same struggle against the world that permeated Evolutionary Sunset Call beats its wings and casts its shadows here; it’s a call to arms for the loners and the misfits, the intelligent babble of a mad person. The second track, Today, is gentler in its pulsing, guitar-based melody, but the reverbing, filtered overdubs of vocals bring a feeling of soaring, self-inflicted numbness as they sing: “If there’s one thing that’s for sure, it’s no one feels anymore.”

The following song, Behind, unfolds over a backdrop of melancholy acoustic guitar and soaring strings, and the vocals kind of waver between 70s David Bowie and Axl Rose in an epic sweep of a song. It surges into a rueful ballad of loss and confusion, a paean to troubled souls in a world with too many suggestions but not enough answers, and accents it all with those trademark echoey vocals, like hollow pronouncements from bouncing satellites in deep space. Appropriately, the EP finishes with The End, a briefer, pulsing track that feels like an egg of sweet sunlight being slowly cracked by the grey static within until it hatches into a black hole of both utter destruction and calm. With this EP, stanleylucasrevolution continues to explore a very human fragility that teeters at the edge of modern insanity, but continues to offer glimpses of escape and strength in realization.


David Shane Smith’s Cloud Pleaser has a folky base with flourishes of electronic elements and vocals that have the rapidfire delivery and self-assured flow of hip-hop with an indie folk inflection, making for a fascinating, consistently engaging listen. This record is crying out for authenticity in a world filled with the search for superficial redemption and cleansing, and where everyone is an empty, lonely actor attempting to fill a human-sized void with poly filler; it becomes a completely appropriate album as it’s the first one since Smith’s move from New York to California. The shifts in musical style and abrupt experimentalism are meant to unsettle you and keep you in a state of active engagement; you have to work for this album, and your brain, which is usually sustained on a diet of easy-to-swallow saccharine liquid, needs to chew through the crunchy resistance of this album, but you feel the better for it in the end.

The opening track, City of the Future, sets the offbeat folk tone of post-apocalyptic musings for the record. Like stanleylucasrevolution’s Demolition 45, there’s a lot going on lyrically, producing gems of lines like “when the populace explodes from the broken hospitals,” “take a picture of perfection in an orgy of dysfunction,” and “blind distracted nation.” The following track, Actor, shifts the style, but not the mood, as machine guns punctuate an ominous humming and muffled bass drum. The distorted vocals have a muddy, underwater feel as though they’re coming from a corpse face-first in a war trench. There’s a claustrophobic, psychotic atmosphere to the lyrics and their delivery as the line “I just hope they can’t see how sick I am” keeps repeating throughout. There’s a lucid, intense detachment to the clamouring stream of ideas and thoughts, the clarity gained by relinquishing the mind and stepping outside of society to break down its “realities” otherwise taken for granted. The social satire continues with Brand New, a twisted, postmodern tale of redemption, where the world sets about sanitizing itself by artificial means, set against a curtain of flickering Spanish guitar samples that skip like a flickering, jumping filmstrip. The best line of the song, and one of my favourites for the whole album, is “We all want explanations as to why we’re all see-through/Well, we’re only half-created/As everything’s brand new,” expressing the mood of a ghostly society without substance, but which is being fed on a non-stop, false assurance of human potential and the eventual progress of self-actualization and reinvention. In a world of plastic surgery and genetic engineering, anyone can at least appear perfect and be cleaned into a blindingly bright conformity as white as leprosy. This jolting style is smoothed out in a country-tinged bump and sway for Empty Action, but despite the lulling, low thrum of acoustic and bass guitar, you are kept inside the increasingly intolerable world order. In many ways, this song feels like its being sung by a narrator who is idly rocking on a broken-down verandah in an American, suburban wasteland and drowsily uttering “I need a u-turn the size of California to rip through this screen and retire my character.” The creeping isolation and fakery of the narrator’s surroundings eventually hews down the comfortable melody with the sound of a buzzsaw and disjointed muttering with a termite’s persistence.

The next track, a folk song disrupted by electronic, fuzzy beats and reverbing keys, Crumb, ultimately succumbs its pastoral feel to a frenetic, lonely pace of the future, where you talk to ATMs, read street shadows, and “make small talk, smaller talk, smaller ’til it’s gone.” Even though it features some of the most serene vocals of the record, Miserablism keeps your belly tense as the constant arpeggios of guitar sit on a taut wire of minor chords; the second half moves from a spinning choral piece into a hip-hop beat and lines like “nervous system too nervous for the system” roll out like a lifeline of renegade commentary. Then comes another deceptively gentle folk song, Eyes, is riddled with an icy wind blowing through it and a shivering narrator, naked in the face of mass consumption. The next track, Entourage, is a glitchy piece with snare and piano samples, creating a juxtaposition of nervous energy and pastoral calm and inviting you to join an entourage, a gang, that has the ability to disappear. This is followed by a purely instrumental track called We Live On, which sounds like it was composed strictly on an old Casio keyboard, complete with pre-recorded drums and liberal use of different effects. The album concludes with Beauty Force, a bubbly melody that yearns for something simpler and more real, and offers the light at the end of a tunnel filled with the spectres of modern life, a yearning to “join the beauty force to crush the hate” and allow someone in to “shake my opinions like an earthquake tambourine.”

Both Demolition 45 and Cloud Pleaser are products of a truly poetic, intelligent vision
about the state of society and what we call humanity. In probing the anatomy of human reality, they are brave pieces of work that dare to step outside of the suffocating smoke and garish mirrors, ask difficult questions and provide salvation in art.

You purchase stanleylucasrevolution’s Demolition 45 EP here and David Shane Smith’s Cloud Pleaser here.

Demolition 45 – stanleylucasrevolution

The End – stanleylucasrevolution

City of the Future- David Shane Smith

Brand New – David Shane Smith


Everyday is Like Sunday, Except for Blue Monday and Ruby Tuesday, and…Well, Friday I’m in Love: Weekly Mix #61


Well, I just watched the Doctor Who Easter Special, and I’m already itching for the next one in autumn. Of course, I’m also getting more and more nervous about the inevitable regeneration – I guess it’s true what they say: you always remember your first doctor. Despite the fact I knew Doctor Who was on TV when I was a child, I never watched it (for some inexplicable reason, I was too disturbed by the theme music to stay and see what it was all about). Had I watched it then, my first doctor would have been Sylvester McCoy. And perhaps by rights, Christopher Eccleston should technically be my first doctor since I caught the first couple of episodes when Doctor Who resumed with Russell T. Davies at the helm; however, I didn’t watch enough at the time, and Eccleston didn’t hang around long enough to make a huge impression on me (in retrospect, I do still really appreciate that first series, which set the calibre of writing and acting for the subsequent ones). When David Tennant took over, I started watching in earnest and became addicted – the quirky, exuberant talk, maniacal energy and arched eyebrow playfulness, which could all turn on a dime into a rather intimidating, righteous anger or a meditative, timeworn sorrow, all endeared Tennant’s Doctor to me. And those Converse sneakers. During Tennant’s time as the Doctor, the character’s loneliness and perpetual loss were made all the more poignant and affective, so I wonder which direction the series will head in with the youngest Doctor and Steven Moffat in charge. Considering the episodes that Moffat has written have been among my favourites and have contained some of the most challenging, thoughtful content, I’m thinking the franchise is in good hands.

Although I’ve become a bit of a Doctor Who nerd, I’ve never really considered myself a science fiction buff or uber sci fi fan. However, I would still probably choose science fiction literature over fantasy for the potential in science fiction for exploring societal flaws and very real prognostications. I’ve really enjoyed books like Brave New World, Neuromancer, and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep because they extrapolate the present into an often eerily correct future. Novels about space wars and different worlds just for the sake of a different fantastical setting for Jungian heroes don’t attract me as much as those with more societal commentary.

I think my fascination with space is similar to humanity’s general timeless obsession with it: the mystery of the unknown and the incomprehensible vastness of it. Within that stretch of limitless dimension, humans have mentally filled it with the music of the spheres, although the alternative absolute silence is all the more mysterious and strange. There’s also that sense of escape, adventure and discovery beyond our own well-traversed globe and that yearning to feel a little less alone in the universe. But there’s always space’s potential to drive you Major Tom insane with its infinity. I really appreciated the film Sunshine for its display of that kind of madness and its reversal of Heart of Darkness; instead, the increasing light became too much to handle, creating a fabulous metaphor for the problems of progress and “enlightenment.”

I took Astronomy in my first year of university to satisfy the Science Requirement for my degree and because I thought it would be interesting, especially since, in high school, I seemed to take everything else related to science except for astronomy. In the end, it wasn’t really the course I thought it would be; I remember doing rather futile exercises like tracking star luminosity in the depths of -30C winter, and when I wanted to be more challenged in the physics and math end of things, I was thwarted by the fact the professor believed we were all arts students with a math disability. There was also a three hour lecture on dust.

In addition to an interest in space, I’ve enjoyed the idea of it colliding with time. I always wanted a Flux Capacitor, which for a rather hefty sum, you can now purchase here. Along with snags in the space-time continuum, I rather like the idea of parallel worlds, which has led to a love of TV series like Life on Mars, Ashes to Ashes, Sliders, and even the Australian kids show, Spellbinder. The real made strange is often far more compelling than complete fantasy.

Where is all this headed for the weekly mix? I guess some of these science fiction elements enter into a portion of the music I like as well. After all, glam rock was rooted in some sort of futuristic, alien aesthetic (if Todd Haynes is to be believed, Oscar Wilde dropped out of space to bestow special powers upon glam rockers), and electronic music itself is often the sound of the future or otherwordly music produced by something that seems decidedly unhuman. Something that looks like Gary Numan. So here’s something you can blast out of your TARDIS. This mix is called Bigger on the Inside.

Doctorin’ the Tardis – KLF

It’s Always Nighttime Sometime – Los Electricos

Totem on the Timeline – Klaxons

Knights of Cydonia – Muse

Sands of Time – Cut Copy

Astroboy – Indochine

Timebomb – The Whitest Boy Alive

Alien Monsters – Mikrofisch

Replicas – Gary Numan

Space Oddity – David Bowie

Strange News From Another Star – Blur

Space – The Beta Band

Satellite – The Asteroids Galaxy Tour

Omelette From Outer Space – Adam and the Ants

Space Clown – Jobriath

Velvet Spacetime – Carter Burwell

Astronomy Domine – Pink Floyd

Space Cadet Apology – Birdy Nam Nam

On Planet Off – The Notwist

Alien – Japan

Satellite State – Jon Ryman

Invasion – Simon Bookish

Time Code – Bright Eyes

Breakfast on Pluto – Don Partridge


Aplomb and Amusement: Thomas Balmforth’s Discography


Sometimes I get email, read it, tell myself I’ll come back to it properly when I have more time, and then forget to do so. This leads to unfortunate inbox clogging and the occasional miss of something really fantastic. I received an email from Yorkshire artist, Tom Balmforth, way back at the beginning of February, and I only just came back to it now and listened to his debut digital EP Discography. It’s an incredible, small packet of musical inspiration that had me wanting much more. Based largely around fanciful piano lines, electronic squiggles and a sense for expansive melodies, this group of five tracks has gripped me more than so many full-length albums I’ve heard lately.

The EP begins with My Paper Face, the track that initially trapped me. It starts deceptively low-key with laconic piano and ride cymbal before bursting into a refreshing cocktail of melody and counter-melody with reverberating refrains of “Hold me” and “Echo” darting in and out like a giant, teasing game of hide-and-seek. Halfway through, it comes down to a static-filled interlude before resuming its bubbling course, and it feels like an Alka Seltzer for my brain. My Paper Face has the same joyful, playfulness that first endeared The Sounds of Arrows to me. The second song, April, utilizes more beautiful droplets of piano amid ticks and fizzes of static and soaring string arrangements. It’s a bit like splashing your way through a cloudy spring day under a grey-bluish light, plodding through eddying puddles, but with a sweeping gracefulness of windmilling arms; it’s both fidgety and austere.

The mood brightens with The Writer, which pairs classical finesse with evocative, cinematic potential – think a slightly cracklier Yann Tiersen. It’s not often I see such a clear story unfold through an instrumental; in the crackles and pauses, I see the crumpling of pages as newer, better ideas arrive, and in the frantic melody, I see the intensity of a hand skidding across the paper in a flurry of cursive, only stopping temporarily to whip the pages across the desk and let the fingers fall in rapid succession, like a visual representation of cerebral pistons, on the tabletop. The only track to feature full lyrics, BA Music Production Composition – Motown definitely uses Motown flavour to fine effect as it sparkles with impassioned energy. There is an added whimsy of bits of chamber pop and a different, British vocal quality to it – there’s a welcome rawness there. The final song, Promote Pistols, is meditative, but with surges of chords that flutter into one ventricle and out the other. There is an unbelievable texturing to this track that creates the sense that as new melodic lines keep coming in, each is better than the last.

There is a warmth and vitality to these songs that I want both to drink and immerse myself in. I truly hope Balmforth produces many more compositions like these; in the meantime, you can visit the links below and listen/download for yourself. Balmforth’s music has all the aplomb and amusement of a laughing cavalier and slashes a baroque pathway through the modern walls of your heart.

Thomas Balmforth’s Web site:
Thomas Balmforth’s MySpace:

My Paper Face – Thomas Balmforth

The Writer – Thomas Balmforth


New IAMX Album Leaks and Chris Corner Reacts


There was a blog post entitled “STATEMENT” on IAMX’s MySpace yesterday. It read:









This was my comment in reply (it doesn’t seem to have been approved and put up at the time of writing this post):

As you say, online, digital communication has made people impatient, solipsistic and absorbed with instant gratification. Everything is available all the time, and because of that, it’s all lost value. In a sense, the Internet and its myriad developments are working against capitalism, demands are being immediately met by an endless supply without money changing hands; working against capitalism isn’t always a bad thing, especially when it allows for information and art to circulate. In fact, IAMX has used the Internet as a tool for promotion to fine effect. Most independent artists rely heavily on the low cost of online promotion.

However, the wholesale uploading of albums has crawled out of Pandora’s box along with the good, and it’s an unstoppable issue. Instead, laws like the DMCA, which were created to halt this, have continually targetted the wrong people, like individual bloggers who put one or two tracks up for a limited time in order to encourage people to buy music. These little victories for the industry and bodies like the RIAA are pyrrhic ones, and they do not stop the real perpetrators, who can find their way around any restriction and law. The Internet is difficult to police, and art is increasingly being turned into information – a series of zeros and ones – while contextless information has become a global currency and a means of cultural capital. Everyone wants to be the first one to prove he/she has a piece of information – the value is inherent in the fact it is coveted, new data, not in its emotional, human value. I suppose, in a way, we are all becoming more and more like data-crunching machines. And this whirl and glut of information feels like a disease in my brain.

It all comes down to whether art should be a commodity or art, and the way society is (d)evolving, I’m not too sure which would be a better idea. Or the more profitable idea. The future of the artist is a difficult one, including the musician, who, leaving the ludicrous, bloated major label industry behind, seems to have jumped from the pan into the fire. In the end, the leaking of albums is just one of the new, immutable realities of this online culture, and I’m not sure I have an answer for a way to combat it effectively. My only suggestion is to keep making art you love and communicating it to those who also love it, and trust that they will support you via purchases and seeing you live. And never trust a music journalist.

I’ve always believed that the true music fans, the ones you’d actually want as fans, are the ones who will always buy your music and merchandise. The people who download it for free are either people who never intended to buy the album in the first place, or fans who couldn’t wait – in rare cases, they could be potential fans, who will buy once they sample it. I have a feeling art is your way of being, and despite financial restrictions, you would continue to create, at the very least, for yourself. But I, for one, do not want to be shut out from it and its inspiration. Art begets art; information births databases. Rather than become obsessed with information architecture and organization, we need to re-embrace an aesthetic pleasure that engages all the senses. In the past, artists were supported by patrons, individuals who truly believed in the artist and desired and appreciated their art. I, and many others, believe your art has value – please consider us your patrons.

I could probably go on and on regarding this topic as my lengthy comment indicates and as the pages of replies on IAMX’s blog grows. Yes, in many ways, Corner and his management were naïve to think that they could trust music journalists and that a leak wouldn’t happen. Just about every album leaks these days – sometimes three or four months in advance. And while it will hurt independent artists more than major label artists and/or established artists, it’s become a part of the music industry, and efforts to stop it just end up hurting the wrong people. It’s a part of digital advancement that cannot be halted; it needs to be adapted to, and while everyone involved in the music industry tries to find their feet during all this, I’m not too sure what the ultimate method for adaptation will be. I do know that accusations and punitive measures against fans are never a good idea.

Maybe there will be a day when artists don’t make livings at selling their art, and instead, make art for the love of it and strictly because they can’t stop, regardless of who their audience is. There are already tons of artists out there, including writers and painters, who don’t rely on their art to make a living. And no one has condemned libraries for allowing anyone to read thousands of books without purchasing them. While the analogy isn’t perfect, it does point to a possible shift in the way people consume music. It’s often a try before buy culture, and with the sheer amount of “art” out there, this aspect can often be helpful. How many of us bought major label albums on the back of a few singles and then hated the rest of the album? I’m old enough to have not grown up with MP3 filesharing (Napster came into being during my last year of high school, and I didn’t have a home computer until I was in university), and I was burned many a time buying terrible records for $20.00 that I’ve now had to sell for a $1.00. At the same time, I try to imagine what it would be like coming of age in this MP3 world and having access to so much music so instantaneously and freely; if that’s all you’ve ever known, you’re bound to have a different perspective on consuming music. The music industry has always been dependent on making a quick buck, churning out one hit wonder, hyped singles that sell enormously well and fading into worthless obscurity once millions of people are left stood there with their useless single in hand. Maybe this digital revolution is the price we all must pay for an industry that hoodwinked and exploited everyone so long and so ludicrously. And who continue to do so whenever they can (see X-Factor singles and transient NME bands).

Having said all this, phenomena like the recent renaissance in vinyl show us that there are still true music lovers out there, and there likely always will be. I think it comes down to people themselves and how much they value art; I believe the real, discerning fans will continue to buy from and support their favourite artists, especially those who continue to create quality music. In that regard, I don’t think Chris Corner need worry. Trust your fans. Not music journalists.

You Stick It In Me – IAMX

You’re the Conversation (I’m the Game) (Acoustic) – Chris Corner


Paul Haig Day


Thanks to the efforts of JC from The Vinyl Villain and the cooperation from Paul Haig and his management, April 6 is Paul Haig Day in select parts of the blogosphere. There are over 20 of us across the world dedicating a post today to Paul Haig after the kerfuffle and hullabaloo over Blogger takedowns despite artist permission, Haig being one of the consenting, and publicity-deserving, artists, and JC being the one targetted by Blogger copyright Nazis. If you want a history of the man’s career, pop over to The Vinyl Villain, where JC lays it out quite nicely. Instead, I shall try to outline my experience of Paul Haig.

I’ve been a fan of Haig’s former post-punk band, Josef K, for quite some time, but I remained completely ignorant of Haig’s solo work until I read some of JC’s posts about it. The tracks I sampled there made me want to hear more, so I searched out Haig’s first three solo albums, Rhythm of Life, The Warp of Pure Fun, and Chain (due to some obsessive-compulsive impulse to start things in a linear fashion from the beginning). The first thing to realize is that this is no Josef K; aside from the distinctive quirk of Haig’s vocals, the sound has changed – the angularity of Josef K’s music is sanded down into funky, synthy grooves and glacial hooks. However, the same Haig wit and poetry continues to twinkle in these later songs.

Rhythm of Life screams to life with single Heaven Sent, a dancefloor filler with chunky beats and the unexpected premise of flying up to heaven, bourne by the rhythm. Vocals on this album snap at you like a taut rubber band against the punches of synth and horn. Rhythm of Life also features singles Blue For You, and my personal favourite of the album, Justice, a moody melody with a fabulous texture of synths. In an evolutionary jump from Rhythm of Life, The Warp of Pure Fun hit me with dreamier, effervescent waves beginning with Silent Motion, a haunting, heart-achingly beautiful track. The smoother, delicious pop mixed with the low, rich tones of Haig’s voice makes this sophmore effort a bright shiny development. This album also features the killer single Heaven Help You Now, an ecstatic anthem for relationship games and the ulimate surrender to them, and Bernard Sumner/Donald Johnson produced The Only Truth, which has traces of Blue Monday in its drum sequencing, but a looser, funky feel rather than a Teutonic precision. Haig’s third solo album, Chain, takes the progression further with more the addition of more jangly and/or driving guitars against a pumping, electronic engine. The only single to be released from this unfortunately ill-fated album was the lead track Something Good, an uplifting gem of a song that gives me the same happy chills as early New Order does. However, there are so many more tracks that deserve a listen, including the vulnerable True Blue, the whiplash-inducing Communication, and the hard-rocking, brighter-than-the-sun Chained, a song written by Haig’s friend, Billy Mackenzie, whose career also included The Associates and his own solo material.

In addition to these first three albums, I’ve had a listen to Coincidence vs. Fate, which released in 1993 and takes Haig’s sound into Chicago-house-inflected territory, proving Haig’s constant versatility and aptitude for experimentation. I’ve also really enjoyed Reason, a single released a couple of years ago, which JC had posted; it pulses with a NIN-worshipping-Bowie-era flavour and fuzzed out darkwave electro. In fact, I just ordered Electronik Audience, the album from whence it came. And I fully intend to keep listening to any future releases while delving back into the Paul Haig catalogue. Paul Haig is an artist to keep watching.

It’s fantastic to be a part of something like this and to feel a little less like one voice in the wilderness; it’s nice to break out of the solipsistic world of digital communication and actually flex some collective power. We are bloggers, here us roar.

Buy Paul Haig product here. And get some reissues here.

Justice – Paul Haig

Silent Motion – Paul Haig

Something Good (10″ Mix) – Paul Haig

Reason – Paul Haig


Everyday is Like Sunday, Except for Blue Monday and Ruby tuesday, and…Well, Friday I’m in Love: Weekly Mix #60


So, I missed the end of the world again. Apparently the Conficker worm was supposed to awaken on April 1 and do something to millions of computers. No one was sure what. No one is sure still. I frankly don’t care either way. So far, everything’s working fine on my end and if someone should want to destroy my life via my computer, so be it. If we should care about anything, it should be the fact that fear is the worst thing to give in to – it is the root of most of the world’s problems.

Humans seem to have both a hysterical fear of the end of the world and a morbid fascination with it. Just count the number of apocalyptic films and books out there. Then the news media bombards us with information that gives us the false sense that more horrible and unjust things are happening in the world than there have always been when the only thing that’s changed is the amount of coverage. It can make us all feel either paranoid or impotent. Between global warming, nuclear threats, incompetent politicians, greedy corporations and economic catastrophe, the world tends to feel pretty doomed. The only way to combat this issue of information overload and apathy is to arm yourself with knowledge; then, you can at least attempt to filter through the masses of information coming your way and then act rationally as possible. If the information is about something you truly can’t have an effect on, discard it. You’ll feel better for it. You will likely end before the world does, so relax.

In any case, for those of you who are waiting for the world to end, here’s your soundtrack. This one’s called Chicken Little Syndrome.

And another reminder about submitting songs for my Day of 200 Songs – see here.

I’m Afraid of Americans – David Bowie

Paranoiattack – The Faint

I’m Afraid of What’s There – Zombie Zombie

Price of Gasoline – Bloc Party

Panic Attack – The Sunshine Underground

Thoughts of a Dying Atheist – Muse

New Dark Age – The Sound

Armageddon Days Are Here (Again) – The The

London Calling – The Clash

It’s the End of the World As We Know It – R.E.M.

Waiting For the End of the World – Elvis Costello

Panic – The Smiths

God Made the Virus – McCarthy

Tiny Apocalypse – David Byrne

Acute Schizophrenia Paranoia Blues – The Kinks

Agoraphobia – Deerhunter

Paranoid Android – Radiohead

It’s Only the End of the World – Black Box Recorder

Fear Made the World Go Round – The Dears

The End – The Doors

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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)

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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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


My body is your body

I won't tell anybody

If you want to use my body

Go for it


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


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


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


Running on


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


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' 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


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


You must let her go

She's not crying



Feeling like I'm waiting

Modern times



Hating to distraction

Just leave them alone


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


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


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


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


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


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


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