Archive for the 'essay' Category


Everyone’s a Critic: Fandom and Subculture


Since last year, I’ve been thinking more and more about fandom and subculture. I suppose a good deal of it came from the research involved in writing my MA thesis, but I haven’t really stopped examining both concepts. I tried to steer clear of fandom studies (led by the lovely Henry Jenkins) for my thesis in order to stay on course and not get myself mired too deeply in several different arguments (rhetoric, remediation and subculture seemed like sufficient material when studying MP3 blogs). However, I’ve now tried to delve back into the world of the fan to see how I can re-frame music fandom and MP3 blogger fandom. I also just got prompted to reconsider some ideas I’ve had about subculture via email discussion with Miles of Vanilla Swingers (but more about that later).

As I understand them, fans are often countercultural by virtue of being fans. If you ascribe to the Adorno-I’m-A-Marxist-Grumpy-Pants view on popular culture as a whole, you will see it as an extension of capitalism that reproduces power hierarchies and perpetuates the unfair economy. Fair enough. Record labels and television/movie studios have no doubt proved that over the past century. Popular culture is manufactured to be consumed by the masses, turning many celebrities into products that a passive, subdued audience can buy into without thinking too hard about it. However, many fans take their love of certain pieces of culture, popular or not, and extend it beyond a passive consumption; they extend it so far that they, in fact, become producers. This changes the power dynamic.

In books like Textual Poachers and Convergence Culture, Henry Jenkins argues that fans become active, creative artists in their own right by transforming the texts sold to them. This kind of transformative actvity could take the form of fan fiction, fan art, modifying existing video games, remixing music, and creating fan video tributes. In many ways, fans are cultural magpies and intertextual innovators by taking pieces of the art they love and putting them in a new context or connecting them to something entirely different. Once you’ve started using someone else’s art as a launchpad for your own, you’re not exactly a drone consumer anymore, and you’re actually going against the prevailing culture by using it and modifying it to your own ends.

More often than not, the people in positions of power within these cultural industries don’t like the idea of losing that power or control over how and how much their products are being consumed or re-produced, as the case may be. This scenario has played out with copyright attacks on artists like Danger Mouse and on Harry Potter fan site webmasters around the globe, and through the millions of YouTube video takedowns over the past few years. However, I’m not entirely sure how MP3 bloggers like me fit into all of this. MP3 bloggers have been under an ever-increasing threat of copyright law and post takedowns (see my comments about that here), much like the artists who remix snippets of other artists’ music together, but at the same time, MP3 bloggers aren’t exactly re-creating art from art either. Just as those dastardly Napster pirates of the late 90s weren’t considered sympathetic postmodern artist types, MP3 bloggers come under fire for giving other people’s art away for free. Peer-to-peer filesharing was considered thievery despite the fact it wasn’t a countercultural power reversal of the consumer-turned-producer type. Instead, it was and is (now through torrents) a countercultural power reversal of the capitalist market system (hey, perhaps Adorno would finally approve). Is this as seemingly worthy a cause as the transformative fandom discussed earlier?

Are we MP3 bloggers actually transforming the culture we’re fans of? My initial answer is no. The closest I come to changing the context of another artist’s song is by linking it to others in a mixtape compilation. I’m not writing fiction based on other artists’ music, nor am I creating my own music videos to it; I am merely discussing, criticizing and/or reviewing others’ art. And while some bloggers arguably do it more artfully than others, it’s not the same kind of fandom practice as employed by those who write Harry Potter slash fiction or those who create new computer games from old ones. In my MA thesis, I argued that MP3 bloggers are a subculture mainly because they include MP3s for free download, which is still seen as illegal by most authorities, but I also saw them as a subculture because of the way they positioned themselves against those in power in the cultural industries – not always the record labels, but the music press. MP3 bloggers are not transforming the art of music, which they are fans of, they’re transforming the art of music journalism.

As much as the record labels (and even some artists themselves) want to lynch the bloggers, it seems many music journalists are just as antagonistic. Not one of the music journalists I contacted for my thesis came through for me; despite agreeing to answer some interview questions, they backed out without a word or explanation. They just simply refused to respond to any of my emails. Conversely, MP3 bloggers were more than willing to discuss and argue and submit answers. I would also like to point out that I didn’t present a biased set of loaded questions to either the bloggers or journalists – I honestly wanted real opinions, positive or negative. Additionally, while researching, the primary sources of music journalism that I found mentioning bloggers often denigrated them as lesser talents, as hype mongers, and as all-out thieves (along with those evil aggregators that make it easier to steal).

While the music industry reels and spins its wheels against a digital landscape, music journalism has seemingly done the same. It’s been widely reported over the last few years that magazines like New Musical Express are losing readers and bleeding money, perhaps even leading to Conor McNicholas’s relatively recent resignation. There have been many rumors about NME becoming a strictly online publication and a brand used for concert/club night promotion. And similar fates seem to be popping up for publications like Rolling Stone, which is seen as less and less the countercultural force it once was. Yes, some music magazines that cater to an older demographic, like Q, Mojo, etc., are still doing all right, but as their market ages and dies, their days seem to be numbered. Not to mention their lack of producing anything exciting or new about an art form that was built on being exciting and new. This Drowned in Sound piece provides some interesting opinions on why official music press is failing, including the question “does anyone except those already embedded in the fabric of a system so clearly trying to shed its weighty overcoat give a shit what a critic has to say about their favourite band’s latest LP?”. It all leads back to the argument of whether music journalism and criticism are legitimate in their own right; as Chuck Klosterman says, who else gets to make a career out of reviewing their mail? It’s a precarious job, as is many a critic’s job, but perhaps even more so because music journalists are usually reviewing what would be considered low culture rather than high culture; academics who review and write about culture are arguably less likely to be dismissed. Critics, especially muso types, can argue until the proverbial bovine comes home about subjective reactions to subjective pieces of art; that’s great, I love a good argument – providing it’s actually good. I would say that I haven’t seen very good arguments, nor interesting commentary on music, in print for a long time. On the other hand, I haven’t always seen very good arguments or commentary on MP3 blogs either (especially those of the “here’s an awesome track I just found – take a listen” variety).

Maybe the majority of music writers and readers are just bored with the rhetoric associated with music; maybe no one sees the use in an expert. In this digital world, we’re all experts in our own adhocracies. This can be a good thing, opening the floor for interesting writers with real opinions and the freedom to publish as they wish; however, it also seems to take something away from the fundamental mythology surrounding popular music. Just as I’m feeling less and less separated by a gulf between artist and audience (the occasional band and artist still manage to create a mystery about their work and identity, but most are very accessible, and there are several that just come across as very ordinary people), the myth of the rock journalist is vanishing. Being the collector of the tangible that I am, I miss having good music press to put on the shelves next to the vinyl records and CDs. I really would buy it if I felt it said anything or made me actually think about the music and artists I was exposed to. Just as the record industry was rendered out-of-date and is now increasingly in the hands of fans and artists themselves, music journalism is being superceded by innovations that those in the industry didn’t seem to be prepared for.

This jaded, blasé attitude toward music and its criticism can perhaps be linked to an ostensibly different stream of thoughts I’ve had about subcultures in general. This is where Miles’ email comes in. He was telling me about why he has mixed feelings about Camden, including the sense that it isn’t that great because it’s the haven for subcultural tribes, like goths and punks, to buy their uniforms. It’s a very valid point, and one that several friends have made to me over the years. If you agree with Dick Hebdige on subculture, people that start off swimming against the mainstream end up co-opted by the same system they wanted to overthrow (and this was before people gave the practice the creepy name of “cool-hunting”). Goths, punks, and their contemporary love children, otherwise known as emos, are tribes that march to a different drummer – but many of them are marching in the exact same lockstep. I don’t have a beef with these subcultural tribes (I, myself, have dressed in the “uniform” of several different subcultures throughout my life); I can’t assume that they’re all doing it to fit in or to be cool or cooly uncool, or that their fashion semiotics are ultimately meaningless and empty. I have a friend who is over thirty and still dressing in a way that makes strangers either stare or feel as though they have the right to touch her clothes and accessories, but I know that this kind of attention makes her highly uncomfortable, demonstrating that she doesn’t look the way she does for the sake of others and their reactions, but because she likes the look herself. Not to mention the fact, humans tend to re-align themselves into tribes naturally, whether the tribe is distinguished by eyeliner and bondage trousers or something less immediately visible. Semiotics in these subcultures are just as complicated and diverse as the social meaning behind fannish practices like MP3 blogging.

On the other hand, maybe globalization just makes it a lot harder to provoke or shock anymore. In my reply to Miles, I wrote about seeing a gothy teenager in West Edmonton Mall last year; this kid was wearing a full-length fox tail and all I could think was “kids in Japan have been doing this for years.” Granted, this isn’t everyone’s response, but it’s why I feel like subcultures (at least of the sartorial persuasion, and partially their musical counterparts) are losing any power they may have had at their births. Perhaps they empower those who embody them, but they don’t necessarily make a grand statement anymore as extremes of all sorts become less and less extreme. It has become a J.G. Ballardesque and Michel Houellebecqesque world, where it will take a lot to get anyone to have a visceral reaction anymore.

Perhaps the only hope for subcultures of these sorts, which are no longer dangerous, could come from other fandom practices, from the textual poachers. Even from the “amateur” music critics like us. And maybe nowadays the most radical practice that can come from the world of music and its fans is thought itself. I may never be an actual music journalist or journalist of any kind, but this blog at least allows me a little bit of control over how I consume and produce culture. Emos may, in fact, be the defusion and diffusion of goth and punk, but the more people there are creating art from art and using language as a thought-provoking weapon, the more we can keep proving Adorno wrong.

F.A.N. – New Young Pony Club

Fan Fiction – Polynya


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


Hearing is Believing or Believing is Hearing?: Experimental Music

One of my MySpace friends is part of a band/musical project called Ear of the Rat, and listening to their work prompted me to think about experimental music and ask some important questions of myself that I haven’t done in awhile. You see, Ear of the Rat produces highly experimental pieces, some more accessible than others, and provides them all for free download. Are these people the true artists? They aren’t doing it for any financial gain whatsoever and they have uploaded their work to Open Source Audio, a site where music is truly shared for the creative good of everyone participating. But what is music as an art? Is all this endless criticizing, reviewing and proselytizing about music a load of rubbish in the end?

There have many experimental music projects, especially since advances in both communication and music production technology. The early 20th century saw French composer Erik Satie become the father of both ambient music and muzak. He called what he was doing “furniture music,” and for him, it represented the aesthetic of boredom, music deliberately produced to be ignored. Then, decades later, John Cage pushed music in a different way by developing the I Ching into a strategy for making experimental music. Of course the likes of people like Brian Eno then took this concept further. In many ways, Ear of the Rat reminds me of early Pink Floyd (in fact, they do a version of Interstellar Overdrive) and The Velvet Underground with their seemingly endless experimentation and spontaneous musical “happenings.” There’s also something vaguely Ariel Pink about them. Like many bands from past and present, Ear of the Rat don’t appear to have an agenda except to continue being creative. They plunder samples and ideas from other pieces and produce them as lo-fi as possible. What’s one of the terms for music like that of Pink Floyd, The Velvet Underground, and Brian Eno? Art rock. Isn’t all music art? At what point does it become sufficiently “arty”?

Whenever I think of aesthetics and questions of art theory, I’m reminded of Tom Wolfe’s book The Painted Word, his criticism of modern art criticism. Essentially, Wolfe argues that the art came first and then the people in the ivory tower and at the top of the social ladder created a reason for it. In order to see a work of art, in this case a painting, there has to be a persuasive theory behind it. As Wolfe states, “Not ‘seeing is believing,’ you ninny, but ‘believing is seeing,’ for Modern Art has become completely literary: the paintings and other works exist only to illustrate the text.” Isn’t this what most pretentious art critics, including those who write in-depth reviews of music, work off? The potential to get bogged down in academic musings and theories when discussing art is massive. It’s as though the world has said “art serves no practical purpose, thus it must be justified.” In fact, every faculty of arts in university is dedicated to analyzing and developing meaning for things that can’t be put to practical use. It is this kind of education that leads me to write babbling propositions like this about modern art. I’ve been effectively trained to look for meaning in everything, which while enlightening, may have also killed my ability to feel art for art’s sake and nothing else. So, to attempt to answer my earlier question of when does music become art, I suppose music becomes art when enough people with influence agree it is. The modern art critic is the equivalent of the indie hipster.

Does theory and the meticulous extrication of meaning from art matter? Is it all part of experiencing art? Do I need to understand art before I enjoy it? Replace the word “art” with “music.” Do the answers change? If pushed to answer, I would have to say that there are pros and cons to theorizing and understanding context. Back when I knew much less about music and its history, every album or artist I listened to sounded new and I responded to it on a purely emotional level without overthinking things. Now I find myself comparing the music I listen to with others and placing it in some sort of context for myself in order to evaluate its worth. Like the critics in Wolfe’s book, I sometimes realize that I’m trying to make excuses for certain music and trying to understand why it should be considered valuable. Of course it becomes very reassuring to have the artists themselves come to me and say that I completely understood what they were trying to do (this has happened more often than I would have expected) – at least in those cases I know I didn’t shoehorn them into some sort of pre-meditated framework. Oh, the occupational hazards of being a music critic, as amateur a version I may be.

Along with the pushing and testing the limits of genres and musical possibilities, artistic advancement has also developed alongside the capacity to participate and share in music creation; the line between listener and performer has blurred. A strong, and perhaps simpler, example of this process in action is Phil Kline’s Unsilent Night, where people in a particular locale all bring out their portable stereos to blast whichever Christmas music they happen to have and walk through the streets together. Supposedly, the ever-shifting soundscape comes to represent community and a non-hierarchical performance in which everyone’s ability to perform is equal. Musical communism in a way. Via faster computers and Internet service, sharing information, including music, has become possible at an unprecedented level. But aside from wholesale downloading of completed tracks and the sampling done in the hip-hop and electronic world, would all that many “regular” people bother collaborating on musical projects over long distances? Do artists need to bother? Isn’t creating music always going to be an indirect collaboration anyway?

Art comes from art. It took me a relatively long time to learn that, but it’s true. There’s nothing original in this world, just original ways of re-assembling. To declare some band as utterly revolutionary is always a fallacy. They didn’t create in a vacuum (and if they did, they may be suffering from the lack of necessary gaseous elements), so like John Milton said, plagiarism of a work occurs only “if it is not bettered by the borrower.”

But does this highly experimental music have a chance at resonating more than a tightly produced four-minute track with that many people? There are times when listening to a twenty-minute track of noodling and improvisation that you start thinking this is what reading Finnegan’s Wake would be like. If I’m completely honest, most of the music I own and listen to on a regular basis is accessible. I would say 90% of it is based on some recognizable semblance of musical structure and the songs are usually under eight minutes long. Is it pretentious to love and champion the music that pushes the limits so far that it becomes inaccessible just because it is inaccessible? I think it only becomes pretentious when you’re not being honest about it.

I’m not going to attempt justifying Ear of the Rat’s output, nor am I going to explain why I would likely listen to New Order or The Smiths more readily than Ear of the Rat, or even Pink Floyd for that matter. Nor am I going to worry too much about what that says about me as a music lover. I think there’s a difference between finding a piece of music interesting and truly loving a piece of music; some music is meant to be furniture music for me. I admire artists like those in Ear of the Rat for doing the art they do for the reasons they do it for, but I don’t want to fall into a “believing is hearing” state of mind. I live for those songs that I will never be able to explain my reactions to. It’s that incommunicable connection with certain pieces of music that keeps me listening and believing.

Wind Cries Mary – Ear of the Rat

Interstellar Overdrive – Pink Floyd


Sound the Last Post, Then Unite and Take Over

I, like many MP3 bloggers, am deeply disturbed by the information gathered on a post over at The Vinyl Villain. JC has collected links to the following posts that all address the current censorship and bullying that is taking place in the MP3 blogosphere:

To Die By Your Side Post
Song, By Toad Post
Teenage Kicks Post
17 Seconds Post

I encourage you to read them all because each of them provides a slightly different insight into the rash of MP3 blog post removals, specifically by Google’s Blogger. I would also like to add a couple of my own links to relevant stories, including this story about Metallica and the Muxtape story. Now, as many of you know, I’ve been studying MP3 blogging with a fair amount of depth this past year, and as far as I could tell, most MP3 bloggers appeared safe from legal action because of the ephemeral nature of most download links, because of their disclaimers about asking for removal of MP3s, and because of the fact that as long as they posted only a few MP3s, and not full albums, they were operating under the following “fair use” clause of the Copyright Law:

“Notwithstanding the provisions of sections 106 and 106A, the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright. In determining whether the use made of a work in any particular case is a fair use the factors to be considered shall include—

(1) the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;

(2) the nature of the copyrighted work;

(3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and

(4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

The fact that a work is unpublished shall not itself bar a finding of fair use if such finding is made upon consideration of all the above factors.”

As evident through the above bloggers’ stories, this safety net has been torn from under us. Now there are talks of blogs disappearing and/or going underground (ie: email subscription services), but what I fail to understand is what record labels hope to gain by attacking MP3 blogs. Have they heard of torrents? Is it because it’s easier to target a bunch of relatively small static entities rather than massive networks whirling around the globe? To treat MP3 blogs and their offshoots as though they’re the same as the P2P filesharing frenzy started by Napster in the late 90s, is utterly ridiculous. There are so many flaws in these actions on the part of both major record labels and Google, but I would like to point out a few pertinent ones.

Firstly, how can archaic copyright laws be applied to drastically new developments in technology? How can you steal something whilst leaving it with the person you “stole” it from? This process is one of cloning, not of physical products leaving one spatial location to be in another. And after being in academia so long, I know the copyright law well enough – of course you can’t photocopy a whole book, but you can definitely copy portions that you need for your studies. The reason why this analogy doesn’t quite work is because photocopying a book would be a lot more time-consuming than downloading and burning an album or several. But I would like to point out the fact that research and epistemological processes have been built upon the foundation of citation. You cannot write an academic piece of literature without references, citations and examples from previous works to bolster your argument. Well, MP3s are bolstering our arguments. We are not plagiarizing entire books, we are providing our examples. Consider our MP3 links to be inside quotation marks.

Ideas and art do not spring from a vacuum. This is the civilized world that literacy ushered in. Once thoughts and information could be recorded for reference, they could be easily used to continue building on, generating a sense of progress. Science and technology themselves couldn’t have gone anywhere without the free flow and dissemination of information. Knowledge generates knowledge, and by preventing access to ideas and cultural artifacts, big businesses are only killing civilization as we know it. However, when you take a look at the history of communication, we are merely repeating it. When the printing press became more widespread, copyright laws were created by those that feared losing power, and restrictions were placed on who could produce printed news and books, but eventually, progress broke the elitist hold and the presses were opened again. This is not to say that censorship isn’t alive and well and that “free” societies are actually completely free and democratic.

In the current state of the world, it is becoming increasingly apparent that information is the new power, not military. Wars shall be fought with information and gathered intelligence – knowledge is indeed power. Chomsky and Herman’s Propaganda Model makes the point that journalism is greatly shaped and filtered by restricting means of production and communication to only those who have the financial means to do so. These filters are firmly entrenched in the world of journalism, so much so that they tend to be invisible to most people. I suggest you read Manufacturing Consent to illuminate this fraudulent concept of freedom of speech. My worry is how these filters will eventually find their way from the world of “official” journalism to the world of “unofficial” journalism. In some ways, they already have. For those without the money for a computer or high-speed Internet, MP3 blogging wouldn’t be an option in the first place. But soon the privileged, but non-elite people who maintain MP3 blogs could be silenced, too. If more of the financial elite get control over the Internet and its applications, the supposed freedom of online communcation and creation will completely disappear. My only hope is that there will continually be innovative people one step ahead, using their individual brains and sources of knowledge.

The issue here is primarily MP3s – I highly doubt blogs that merely discuss music without free downloads are being targeted in the same way. In many ways, MP3s are art, but they are also literally encoded information, so by stopping bloggers from using a few samples, music labels are obstructing the flow of information and attempting to curtail individuals thinking for themselves. Music fans are gaining power through being able to sample before buying, so record labels need only fear if their artists aren’t good enough to convince people to purchase their product. It’s hard to believe that the people in charge of the music industry have any business acumen at all with the absurd strategies they’re using. These strategies include the hidden Copyrighting Board Private Copying Tariff on the prices of blank audio cassettes and blank CDRs.

Secondly, it seems mad that record labels haven’t learned from their first go-round in which they fought the very technology that affected the future of their industry/commodity. Now, they’re fighting the future of music publicity. It’s like reaching for the bail bucket on the Titanic. The removal of MP3 blog posts is a pyrrhic victory for the music industry and a classic case of the music industry gnawing on the hand that feeds it. To attack people who have provided disclaimers and expired links, is an exercise in futility and ends up infringing on the property of others. And these others are the “real” music fans -the ones who actually buy music and go to live shows as opposed to the casual music fans who don’t care whether they get all their music from torrents and who will likely never be the target market for excessive music buying.

It appears that Coxon of To Die By Your Side could have been targeted because he wrote a critical review of Cold War Kids’ latest album. Well, I did, too – here. And perhaps one of the reasons I haven’t had my post removed yet is because I’m still flying under the radar and not generating huge traffic. I, like most other bloggers, have had plenty of positive feedback from the artists themselves, who are happy that their art is being exposed to the public by people who are just as passionate about it as they are. Unlike the music industry, and to an increasingly greater extent, the music journalism industry, many MP3 bloggers view music as art, not as strictly a commodity. If the music industry is so in tune with the laws of capitalism, they should recognize the moment when a business has to adapt or die – that moment has already come and gone, but the industry has found no viable solution for itself; thus, industry people busy themselves by bullying those that can’t feasibly fight back so that they can feel proactive rather than the lumbering retroactive people they are.

Fear generates fear. The obsolete middlemen in the music industry are fearing for their livelihoods, and are thus using fear tactics upon both blog hosts like Google and MP3 bloggers. I refuse to be fearful. If and when it comes to sounding my last post, I, along with other music fans, will find a new way of communicating because the process that literacy set in motion cannot be stopped. If we are to be viewed as shoplifters, then all I have to say is: Shoplifters of the world unite and take over.

Shoplifters Of the World Unite – The Smiths

Can the Haves Use Their Brains – McCarthy


Does NME even know what a music blog is?: The rhetoric and social meaning of MP3 blogs

Well, here’s the fruit of my four hardcore months of labour: my MA thesis on MP3 blogs. I had a few qualms about posting it here for download, not for intellectual property rights (because that would be rather ironic given the content of the thesis), but because I still feel there’s so much more to be done and I know I could potentially have more reactions and responses than I can handle. For those who download and read it, bear in mind, I needed to make an argument of some sort, so I can understand there will be counterarguments and/or disputes with what I came up with, especially from those bloggers who have far more experience in the actual act of blogging than I do. Having said that, I will appreciate any and all comments and criticisms (unless of course you all pick up your pitchforks and run me out of the blogosphere). At any rate, it seems the powers that be have signed off on this thesis (thankfully, without any requests for revisions), and I think I’m in the clear to graduate with my MA degree. What comes next is anyone’s guess…

Does NME even know what a music blog is?: The rhetoric and social meaning of MP3 blogs (Download)

And some song treats to help the academia go down:

College – Johnny Boy

A Strange Education – The Cinematics


MP3 Blogs vs Music Blogs: Part II

Largely unbeknownst to me, it seems my last, rather informal, post on the differences between music blogs with MP3s and those without became a wee bit of a meme (let’s put it this way – I got far more mentions on other blogs, feeds and sites than I ever had before and would ever had expected from my cobwebby corner of cyberspace). Now that my MA thesis on MP3 blogs’ rhetoric and social meaning is finished, and now that I’ve thought myself into a nervous breakdown of sorts, I have a few more opinions about this topic that I came to while finishing the behemoth.

Before I explore my own arguments a little further, I would like to address a few different opinions that seemed to emerge in reaction to my earlier post. Firstly, I found a post from incidentals and accidentals, which took issue with the fact I said posting music that you didn’t like would be a waste of time, especially for those who write music blogs for a hobby. This blogger’s exact words were:

This is the line of thinking that always really burns me. All the kvetching about the sheeplike tendencies of mp3 blogs is precisely related to the fact that so many bloggers think it’s a waste of time to talk about stuff they don’t like. More specifically, to articulate why something isn’t good, beyond a mere “this sucks” lobbed into a comments box or message board. It’s not a waste of time, particularly if you value the fact that people are regularly reading your blog. Dislikes give shape to likes. The fact that someone might be able to explain why they think one artist is shit might add weight to an argument for another artist’s strengths. I’m not saying you have to get into compare-and-contrast lists, but regular readers will grow to know and trust your tastes.

Oh and the whole thing about text-heavy bloggers being largely professional critics – Personally I’m an exception to that idea, and I know there are plenty of other exceptions as well. Again it just goes to this whole idea of people not wanting blogging to be “a waste of time” – as if one can’t write seriously about music for fun, sans paycheck. That is the hobby! Putting an mp3 online is not a hobby, it’s an impulse.

This is an interesting point – dislikes do throw your likes into relief. Perhaps to clarify my “waste of time” comment, I could argue that posting MP3s of music you hate seems counterintuitive (“Please take the time to download and listen to this song that I just provided a solid argument against listening to”). I’ll be looking into the significance of MP3s as a medium later in this post. However, just as I can’t assume that everyone writes positively about music (which I don’t), no one else can assume that bloggers should write some negative reviews, or in fact, that they all do. I’ve come across many blogs who do either or both, showing that time and time again, MP3 blogs cannot be lumped together into one general genre of media. It’s pretty much impossible to make any generalizing statement at all – the same blog can be different things between different posts. Like this blogger from incidentals and accidentals says, there are too many exceptions. There is also an implication in this blogger’s argument that a certain type of MP3 blog is more valuable and “truer” to the genre than others, these “others” being those who just post MP3s rather than write text-heavy opinions or criticism; that those who just post MP3s are less thoughtful, less perceptive, and somehow acting on a lower, more instinctual level than one of higher, intellectual deliberation. This implication points once again to purpose, which I will get to shortly.

I also had a couple of interesting comments left on the post itself, one of which provided a link to Nevver, an MP3 blog which just posts photos and MP3s without any text, implying rather than explicitly stating connections between the two forms of art. This example takes MP3 blogs to their extreme conclusion, where words are no longer necessary. Another comment was also very helpful in that it drew a line between MP3 blogs being the new radio whilst music blogs are discussion and opinion, comparing MP3 bloggers to DJs. Together, these comments really got me thinking about why people create and maintain MP3 blogs, and the connection between how they do it and why they do it.

Now, after sorting out some rather ridiculous Kenneth Burke Dramatistic ratios about MP3 blog rhetoric, I learned a few things. The most significant one is that MP3 blogs are in no way a cohesive body with the same purposes; these purposes, however, do vary depending on which media the MP3 blogger favours to remediate, in other words, the agency he/she utilizes to convey his/her purpose and act. But how does the purpose affect the choice of agency? Or is it the other way around with the agency affecting the purpose, and then the act itself? I’m inclined to believe and argue the latter.

Let me track back a bit to remediation, which is how a medium re-uses and re-interprets a different medium. Remediation can work backwards and forwards, meaning that television is a remediation of film, which came before it, but it can also increasingly be seen in terms of interactivity, as a remediation of the Internet, which came after television. I see MP3 blogs as a remediation of the diary, music journalism/criticism, fanzine, pirate/alternative radio, and mixtape. These are the media, with their attendant purposes, that shape the purposes of MP3 blogs.

The diary element of MP3 blogs affects the purpose by making it personal and reinforcing the affective relationship between the blogger and the music he/she is writing about. This diary remediation shifts commentary into a subjective rather than objective direction, and serves to highlight the newer development of blurring between public and private, which combines self-disclosure with self-promotion. The self-promotion characteristic innate in blogs, evidenced by site traffic meters and inclusion on aggregators, is one that can gain a lot of criticism, especially when traffic and attention becomes the primary motive; however, this attitude presupposes that MP3 blogs as a genre should be something purer of motive, where only the music matters, which is an assumption that ignores the inherent and inherited diary element remediated in the blog medium. Even if one doesn’t believe they’re promoting him/herself along with the music featured, the very fact the blog is made public and that there is the concern for appearing trustworthy and credible, including having enough subcultural capital, makes the MP3 blog a site of self-promotion.

The music journalism/criticism remediation is one on which those who believe in an MP3 blog revolution would depend. With the access that the Internet brings, amateur writers can research and publish their own pieces about music. It is too simple to say that MP3 blogs have replaced or will replace traditional music journalism, and the fact this remediation is also bound up with public relations/promotional remediation and self-promotion makes it less clear-cut a substitution. The fanzine remediation is connected to the rather positive impulse of celebrating and promoting music that one loves, which I mentioned in the earlier post, and to a more subcultural purpose, supposedly working against and in spite of the mainstream media, promoting artists who don’t get promotion through mainstream channels. However, it is also too simplistic to think that MP3 blogs are actually sticking it to the man, even if their rhetoric says they are. The symbiosis of mainstream media and subcultural media is too much a part of subculture as a concept for MP3 blogs to exist in an alternative vacuum, shunning all mainstream media. Even in defining oneself against mainstream media (ie: criticizing NME in a post), one uses and depends on the mainstream for identity and position.

The remediation of the aural media of radio and mixtape is very signficant in that it brings collection, selection, and organization into the foreground of MP3 blog purpose rather than commentary and opinion. Like DJs and mixtape makers, MP3 bloggers attribute meaning to which music they collect and then to how they present it, often without text. While the radio remediation allows for brief background and commentary about tracks (as opposed to lengthy criticism and commentary), the mixtape remediation actually offers music to blog vistors like a word-of-mouth gift – the receiver not only gets to listen to it, but gets to keep it. The mixtape remediation is pervasive in both MP3 blog content and the musical end of the Internet, including sites like Muxtape and technology like Mixas, emphasizing the fanatical impulse for collection, selection, and arrangement along with love and passion for music as motive. Ultimately, MP3 blogs are a bricolage of media that came before them, making them rather slippery to define as a genre.

While it becomes difficult to classify MP3 blogs as a genre based on purpose, the one aspect that does hold the genre together is the MP3s themselves. Regularly posting MP3s on your blog simply makes your blog an MP3 blog. MP3s themselves are fundamental to the medium of MP3 blogs. To get all McLuhan on you, “the medium is the message,” and in this case, the MP3 is largely the message. In the Burkean sense, if every selection of reality is both a reflection and a deflection, making most statements, textual or not, rhetorical and/or persuasive, then the mere selection that MP3 blogs employ by choosing the MP3s they feature for download automatically deflects other choices, implying preference and value to music without having to explicitly state anything negative. Or positive. Or to state anything at all. The very act of selection is persuasive, and is made even more salient by the fact MP3 files are included. In this way, MP3s speak and argue for themselves just as other non-verbal elements like images can. Furthermore, blogs, which are of course actually “web logs,” have an inherent filter/selection function in which hyperlinks act as both evidence and a record of “pre-surfed” and pre-approved information. Rather than convince by authority and “unquestionable” sources alone, which journalists and critics depend on, bloggers convince by providing a way for their readers to participate in the information they consume, assuming a more active role. With this in mind, MP3s are the primary links provided in MP3 blogs, providing support for the blogger’s claims, and their very existence argues for pre-approved content.

Ultimately, MP3 blog influence is far less than many bloggers would believe it is or like it to be. While aggregators like The Hype Machine and Elbows do collect and reify disparate blogs, giving the impression of power and solidarity, they do not set the agendas as much as they would imply. For the most part, the most popular MP3 blogs are reactive rather than proactive in music selection. Unless more bloggers actually exclusively search out new, mostly unsigned, artists and collectively promote them to the point they “break” into the consciousness of those outside of the music blogosphere, they cannot be said to have all that much power to change the system already in place.

We cannot herald the MP3 blog as the substitute for music journalism/criticism, nor for radio, because in remediation, it is much more and much less depending on which aspects are focused upon. For as many people as have access to the Internet there are as many opinions, especially about what MP3 blogs should be, and more importantly, what they should do. I fully acknowledge this plurality, and whether bloggers use MP3 blogs to criticize, to promote, to share, or to express themselves, they are collectively an organism still growing and changing. And since the Internet is a fickle medium, turning attention into one of the rarest commodities, all MP3 bloggers can hope for is their slice of a fragmented, but loyal audience that believes in the purpose presented. Whatever purpose that may be. I, for one, am still thinking about it.


This Is the Industry, But For How Long?: Thoughts on the State of Music Today

It’s undeniable that the world of music is changing, and along with it, the industry that has accompanied it ever since the music publishing boom and the likes of Tin Pan Alley. The twentieth century made music more of a commodity than it had ever been before, and now the twenty-first century is seemingly tearing all of that down. I feel like discussing all of these thoughts here, so it can serve as a bit of a brain dump for the ideas that have been floating around my head ever since I started my MA thesis on music blogging and music journalism. As sustained arguments and their attendant research tend to do, this thesis has led me well beyond my original hypotheses and topics. And all this expansion into other areas is about to tear my brain into its separate hemispheres.

With the advances of digital technology, the world has seemingly both exploded and imploded in a McLuhanesque way. Privacy and publicity have morphed into “publicy” and the alternative has effectively blurred into the mainstream. So many people have more access to ideas and commodities, and at the same time, many people are putting more of their ideas and products out there. I consciously use “commodity” and “product” differently – to me, commodities are primarily there to be bought and sold for financial gain while products can be creative results produced for the sake of those producing them with or without financial gain. This distinction is significant for me because I feel as though music is moving from being a commodity back into being a product, and those who depend on it being a commodity, are the ones most upset about this shift.

Due to the emergence of the MP3 file and fast Internet connections, music now freely circulates the globe, both legally and illegally. The music industry itself was slow to realize and anticipate this fact, and will probably forever pay the price. As I mentioned in an earlier essay on digital music, the medium does transform the message, and in the case of the Internet and music, the medium is multiplying and fragmenting the message. Because making, promoting and distributing music has become so democratic (technology and software in combination with the Internet has made it quite possible for anyone to create and promote their own music), there is a proliferation of music, bands, and artists out there in cyberspace. So many, in fact, that it would likely cause you brain damage if you tried to listen to them all. You also can’t possibly know about them all. One look at MySpace and you can hear them all screaming for your attention, for their fifteen minutes. MySpace has made Warhol Nostradamus.

With the glut of music, worthy or not, the market for music has both exploded into fragmentation and imploded into solipsistic subcultures and subgenres solidified by the smaller communities who support them. Musicians used to depend on a major label deal to gain global publicity and popularity – even the bastions of DIY, the punks, all ended up selling out to the majors. Now musicians are able to promote themselves globally, but often within a sliver of society – definitely not to the heights of bloated stadium pomposity.

The danger of having so many people claiming to be musicians and claiming that their music is worth listening to and/or buying is that people become overloaded and apathetic. This has already happened in the realm of politics and news. If there’s too much music out there, most people cannot be bothered to care and take the time to figure out which artists they actually like. Mainstream media serves a purpose for those people who are casual music fans by literally telling them who to adore and whose music they should purchase. Mainstream media, which includes television, advertising, and regular Top 40 radio, selects the reality these fans see and hear. In the latter half of the twentieth century, music journalists came into the music scene to help influence those who weren’t as likely to be convinced by mainstream media and the popular music it was flouting. They became more discerning selecters of music reality and those music fans who were more than casual looked to these journalists as their tastemakers.

Now here we are in the twenty-first century, the irony and skepticism of the 1990’s still fresh in our minds, and the big media pundits have only gotten bigger and swallowed up smaller ones, while consumer markets have shattered into thousands of slivers. Casual music fans are being influenced by media conglomerates, passively consuming the next bland music act, while true music fans are being smothered by the choices offered by the Internet. These people who are truly passionate about new, innovative music, have largely abandoned traditional music fan publications. The NME, which used to be the tastemaker for rabid music fans, is now the most maligned piece of music press out there. Because music publications like the NME cannot and/or will not keep up with the explosion of new music that anyone with an Internet connection can find for themselves, they are becoming increasingly obsolete for those who are passionate about music. But even these truly passionate music fans need help in this sea of undiscovered music talent, and so step in music bloggers.

Music bloggers, or MP3 bloggers as they are also known, are the new tastemakers with a word-of-mouth style rather than the official, paid stance of a journalist. These disparate voices in the wilderness of cyberspace have now also been united by music blog aggregators like The Hype Machine and Elbows, making the disparate seem unified. These aggregators can generate little waves of hype for artists as they crawl the Internet for new music blog posts and reveal who has been blogged about the most at that particular moment. Is this hype having an impact in today’s fragmented market? It can be difficult to gauge. In looking at some traditional music publications, it seems music bloggers can have an effect on the music press that they are slowly and quietly subverting. Spin featured Vampire Weekend on their cover before the band even had an album out – instead, their popularity and worth was based primarily on the hype generated by music bloggers. At the same time, I know for a fact that most people I know do not even know what a music blog is, let alone religiously check aggregators and music blogs for information. In effect, music bloggers often seem to be preaching to the converted, and the ostensible unity shown via aggregators is an illusion of solidarity, where music blogs serve various fragments of music fan audiences. If there is a soldiarity amongst all these blogs, it comes from being a solid genre with tacit rules and conventions. And perhaps this sort of solidarity will eventually change the face of music journalism.

As more of the mainstream public become aware of music blogs, maybe they will serve a larger purpose than they currently do. In a world wary of advertising and continual corporatization of the Internet’s freedom, music blogs provide a way for music to exist outside of a commodity-driven framework. Most music bloggers use a distinct discourse about music, a discourse which puts love and passion about music above all other goals. They want to share music that has touched them or meant something to them with their friends, and because of the blog medium they use, they also end up sharing that music with the world.

And they do literally share this music with their audiences. Music blogs feature a few tracks for free download with every post, allowing their audiences to sample music before making a decision to purchase and/or support live gigs. This practice points to a new way of consuming music – it is no longer the commodity it once was. Because of the onslaught of new music available, much of it not terribly good, true music fans have become more selective than before, they have had to become more selective in this current explosion of bands and artists. This provision of free music, legal and often not, has been one of the contentious issues surrounding the music blogosphere, but in light of other filesharing issues like torrents, they are hardly worth the RIAA’s batting of an eyelash.

The fuss about illegal sharing of music and copyright violations just leads me to another question about whether music should even be the commodity it once was. It isn’t a coincidence that the first law about copyright and intellectual property came about in the eighteenth century when capitalism was moving into full swing. Music itself, whether it is an intangible file stored on a computer or a groove on a record, has rarely been particularly lucrative for the artists themselves. Most of the money made on album sales is sucked up by the record label. If a musician was going to make any significant amount of money, touring live shows would be the most effective way of doing so. Of course the arguments put forth by music labels and the RIAA always conveniently sidestep these facts.

It has also been pointed out before that many artists, including writers and visual artists, cannot support themselves by their art alone, so any musicians who believe millionaire stardom is their birthright need to re-think things. Perhaps music itself shouldn’t be viewed as a commodity anymore. Perhaps it needs to be seen as art once again in order for it to make sense in this brave new world. I, myself, am a firm believer in abolishing the whole middleman music industry. Those musical artists who can grasp and hold onto fans’ attention will continue to do so without interference from bottom-lines and media blitzes.

Music blogs are just an increasingly more visible portion of a seachange in the way music is created, promoted and consumed. There are so many other Web sites and platforms out there that are promoting a democratization of music tastemaking. Sites like MOG,, muxtape, and The Sixty-One, are all ways to share your impeccable music taste with the world, and in cases like The Sixty-One, the concept of choosing who the best artists are becomes entertainment itself. Ordinary fans are increasingly taking the place of A&R people, and even festival promoters are taking note of this.

With the proliferation of music-makers, corporate-sponsored events are becoming just as ubiquitous and overwhelming as the waves of new bands on MySpace. It seems every mobile phone provider hosts a music festival, and looking at many of the line-ups, very few of them deviate from the same roster. However, more and more are attempting to get fans involved in choosing those bands who get to participate, including the Green Man Music Festival and their Green Poll ( and Benicassim Festival and their contest via Supajam (, yet another music social networking site. Whether all this A&R frenzy at being the first to discover a new band is actually productive or not, time will tell. Yet another danger of music blogs and their online offshoots is the hyper-speed of music discovery, where finding obscure music and being the first to post about it becomes the sole goal, barring any actual commentary or connection to the music being promoted. And in the end, posts like these disrupt the music discourse set up by music bloggers in the firstplace, making them less of an alternative to and subversion of the traditional music press.

Where is all this heading? I don’t have a clue. And that’s probably why I find it so fascinating and chose it all as a topic for my thesis. For the most part, music bloggers don’t promote music for money, nor do they do it at the behest of record labels (unless they feel the music warrants it), and they don’t have editors to please and/or contend with. These facts about music blogs can very likely change in the future as each new medium topples the next, and for some music blogs maybe these facts have already changed. But as it currently stands, music blogs are at the frontlines of music, wading through the mind-boggling masses of music out there and separating the wheat from the chaff for the benefit of those who have otherwise grown completely apathetic in the face of such choice. Too much choice can end up eroding any interest at all and weakening people’s passions. Music blogs will hopefully continue to make sure this doesn’t happen. Music is a special, affective art form (the most affective one for me, personally), and it deserves a promotional medium that matches that. Not another commodity-driven “industry.”

Glamorous Indie Rock & Roll – The Killers

This is Industry – Calvin Harris


The Medium is the Music: An Essay on Digital Music

I realize that this post may be a bit lazy, but I’m in the process of writing a take-home exam this weekend for my social semiotics class, and I’m a wee bit panicked at the moment. So, I decided I would post an essay I wrote for a previous media studies take-home exam because it involves music and new media. It may seem a bit too academic for a blog post, but I think it’s a relevant topic for those who are interested in music and the study of media in general. The question for this exam was to discuss the following Wired article about Universal and its CEO Doug Morris and their being completely unprepared for new media in the music world: . In addition, we were supposed to reference Neil Postman’s book Technopoly and Mark Poster’s book Information Please. It was actually one of the more fun essays I’ve ever written.

The Medium is the Music
Seth Mnookin’s article about Doug Morris, the CEO of Universal Music Group, reveals how the music industry’s major, and costly, mistake was its inability to understand the nature of digital media in relation to traditional analog media. This error extends to the music industry’s misunderstanding of the Internet as a medium as well. Mnookin demonstrates how not only did Morris err in failing to recognize the changes that digital music and peer-to-peer sharing would pose, but he also initially responded in a way that attempted to control a medium – through lawsuits against Yahoo, YouTube, and MySpace for using Universal music videos without paying for them, and through charging Microsoft’s Zune Marketplace for using the Universal back catalogue – that cannot be controlled by traditional means, and perhaps not at all. As Mnookin notes, “the more restrictions you put on your files, the more you encourage customers to turn to illegal services to get songs the way they want them.”
Mark Poster views the potential of the Internet and peer-to-peer music downloading as having two possibilities: “an Orwellian extension of governmental and corporate controls or a serious deepening of the democratization of culture” (193). In Mnookin’s article, it appears that Morris and Universal Music tends to favour the former more than the latter. Because Universal’s goal is to increase profit, and because its primary way of achieving this goal is through selling music, Morris ostensibly still sees peer-to-peer downloading of music as theft. Poster argues that the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), who also view MP3 sharing as theft, was making errors in their understanding of media differences: “In their suit of September 2003, the RIAA acted as if downloading music files is the same thing as taking a music CD from a retail store without paying for it. This claim of equivalence is a political move that ignores the specificity and differences of each media – CDs and digital files. When the CD is taken from the store, the store no longer has it; when the file is downloaded, the person sharing the file still has it” (189). Morris’s “blasting MP3 players as merely ‘repositories for stolen music’” makes the same assumption as the RIAA, an assumption which does not make sense in that digital objects like MP3s are copied, not actually stolen in the traditional sense of theft. This issue also complicates and evades traditional copyright law. Poster states: “Copyright law covered the medium in which inventions or acts of genius were embedded for reproduction” (197). However, now that the medium has changed from traditional ones like printing presses and CD manufacturers to the Internet and its attendant programs, the nature of how production and reproduction function has changed drastically.

In explaining these fundamental shifts, Poster writes: “Digital cultural objects do not fall under the laws of scarcity and the market because they require almost no cost to produce, copy, and distribute, and like ideas they do not diminish when they are given away” (195). In this way, digital cultural objects threaten the capitalist market and those, like Morris, who gain most from it. If music is no longer viewed as a commodity, but instead a public possession that does not require economic power to exist or be distributed, then corporations like Universal seem to be obsolete under this new system: “In short, digitization changes the nature of the producer and the consumer, blurring the boundary between them” (Poster 195-96), and “Digitization threatens the media corporations because one no longer requires great amounts of capital to produce, reproduce, modify, and distribute cultural objects” (198). Mnookin writes that Morris and Universal’s “current moves – DRM-free songs and the Total Music subscription service – aren’t about serving consumers, at least not principally. They’re aimed at taking on Steve Jobs and, specifically, limiting the power of iTunes,” meaning that it appears that Morris has still not completely understood the nature of the new media and how it is changing the capitalist market for cultural products.

Morris insists on continuing to think about competition within the traditional capitalist system, and his long-term competition is not other corporations, but those who understand the new media better than he does – the consumers themselves. Not only is there a serious threat to the cultural corporations of America, but there is a further political link in that, for the US, cultural objects are “second only to defense in export value” (208). If the national economy can no longer support itself through cultural exports like music, the entire country will be affected, and the government may be more likely to try to step in and control media sharing; however, as demonstrated by the control problems experienced by the music industry, there would be great difficulty policing the Internet for media sharing, especially under current laws. The global networked nature of the Internet also poses a dilemma because every country would have to adopt the same laws regarding media sharing, a daunting task, and it would not necessarily safeguard against constant innovation in technology finding ways around these laws.
The constant innovation in the sharing of digital music creates an interesting paradox in which the very foundations of the capitalist system are the cause of its problems. Despite Morris’s acquiescence with giving music away through Total Music, Mnookin points out: “The irony is that if he decides to base his plans around DRM, Morris will be missing the larger truth that has propelled his business for the past 30 years. Ultimately, it’s convenience and ease of use that drive new media formats.” Morris’s attitude demonstrates this paradox in that “If the music industry wins its case against Internet technology, capitalism loses its legitimacy as the bearer of progress” (Poster 190). With the advent of digital media and file sharing networks over the Internet, the progress narrative of capitalism is halted because the advances that appear to be in the processes change the nature of the product; in a McLuhan-like way, the medium becomes the message.
Furthermore, this aspect of the Digital Age has been overlooked by the music industry, and it ensures that process exceeds content in its importance and dominance. Neil Postman argues that “Because of what computers commonly do, they place an inordinate emphasis on the technical processes of communication and offer very little in the way of substance […] The computer is almost all process” (118). By looking at the issue of digital music sharing in this light, it seems that the computer and the Internet value speed and reach of communication over what is actually being communicated between users; this is not to say that people do not care about the music they listen to, but that they feel entitled to it because of the very process and medium that makes it available to them.
In Mnookin’s article, Rio Caraeff, executive VP of Universal’s digital strategy, says “the company will eventually need to transition from running a product-based business to running a service-based one,” including ringtones, subscription services, and deals with mobile providers. This shift in strategy shows how the attempted control over the products, which are arguably the content of the medium, has been shifted to control over the form of the medium; in effect, Universal realizes that music and many other cultural products are no longer physical, tangible commodities, and their existence is both fluid and public. This issue also raises the question of what happens when something becomes part of the public domain, and with the Internet, what is actually public? As Poster demonstrates with his discussion of internet identity theft, everything tends to become externalized through the medium of the Internet, radically changing the perceptions of privacy and the public domain.
Besides the loss of profit for the corporation, the music industry’s main argument against peer-to-peer file sharing is that it is also violating artists’ royalty benefits. Poster gives three reasons to refute this argument: it is not necessarily true that artists receive compensation for the reproduction of their work, file sharing does not mean the sale of commodities, and the artists themselves have “borrowed” from others in the creation of their art (201-02). He also argues that most of the royalty money an artist earns is taken by production costs, and that distribution of an artists’ music has not been a fair process before file-sharing in that radio stations and DJs were often bribed to play certain artists on heavy rotation (205). The “unfairness” of file-sharing is unfair to the industry only because it negatively affects the industry itself and has nothing to do with popularity being an indication of music’s status as an art form.

The recent tactic employed by Radiohead in allowing their fans to choose the monetary value of their latest album poses an interesting alternative to current music download practices and raises particular issues about the capitalist market and the value of cultural objects. Since Radiohead was no longer attached to a contract with a major label when they released their latest album, they chose to release their album as a download and those who wanted it could pay any amount they deemed worthy of the album, including paying nothing. The average price chosen by those who purchased the album turned out to be £5 (approximately $10 US), which perhaps places the album at a slightly lower price than it would have sold at conventionally; however, considering the record company was not involved, thus not making money from it, the band likely made more profit per album than by selling it through a major label, which would have taken a higher percentage of each total, thus increasing the price presented to consumers. Also, there may have been a higher percentage of people who paid a considerably lesser price than the average, but would have illegally downloaded it for free elsewhere otherwise. A tactic like this may not have worked as successfully without a high-profile band with an established, strong fanbase, but it does change the way in which people think about music and other cultural products. By allowing consumers to assign their own worth to a cultural product, Radiohead relinquished the control that Morris and Universal refuse to.

There also many bands with profiles on MySpace, who are either unsigned or are signed to a truly independent label or distributer rather than an “independent” branch of a major label. In these bands’ cases, they remove the middleman of a major label and sell their music directly to their fans. Because music production technology has also become more available and relatively cost-efficient to use, many artists no longer need a major label to pay for studio time or producers. The role of major labels as having promotional clout is also waning with the amount of buzz being generated by either the artists themselves or independent music bloggers. Most recently, an independent act named IAMX (, which is based in Europe, managed to tour successfully throughout North America without any promotion outside of their Internet networks and “street teams” composed of fans. In effect, they have cut out the need for a major label for production, distribution, and promotion. While Morris and Universal have chosen to attempt “an Orwellian extension of governmental and corporate controls,” artists as diverse as IAMX and Radiohead are embracing “a serious deepening of the democratization of culture.” The difference lies in the recognition and understanding of the new media and its inevitable effect on capitalism and culture.

Nude – Radiohead

House of Cards – Radiohead

We’re in the Music Biz – Robots in Disguise

The Hype Machine
mp3 blogs
Add to Technorati Favorites

Blog Stats

  • 449,038 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


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