Wednesday, November 26, 2008

She's Like A Black Rainbow

Dead Luke
Box Set
Sacred Bones

Gothic-y vocals and notes swarm around a cushony bed of electronics that are sorta dancy and fun; sounds like something that might not be that seemless, but it is, thanks to the overall rhythms that march on a deathrock roll. Very simplistic but it does the trick, like Crystal Castles wanting to play Christian Death’s Only Theater Of Pain and chuffing away all their filler material. A clear highlight is their appropiation of a Rolling Stones classic, converting it to “Jumping Jack Flash Drive”, dressed in bleeping synths and macabre vocal tones. The songs flow somwhere between goth rocking fare and more extended dancy, electronica numbers, mostly on the same songs, flowing in and out of each style, which is interesting and does for good grim dancefloor fodder; but it’s hardly super innovative shit. Tons of fun and danceable.

Dead Luke - Untitled.mp3

Monday, November 24, 2008

The First Star I See...

Originally, i wanted to write about Jimmy Eat World in general but, seeing as next year will mark the tenth anniversary of this album, i thought i would write more specifically about it; either way, most of the points don’t change if the subject of band and album are traded.

I encountered Jimmy Eat World in the late 90’s, while investigating on the sounds of the then-intriguing tag of “emo” that no one liked and is way more hated today; still, i didn’t listen to Jimmy until the early ‘00s when i downloaded two songs, “Opener” and the demo of “If You Don’t, Don’t” from the then forthcoming Bleed American album. I related to both songs and liked them.

Clarity, i found later on, while investigating further into the band’s career; funny enough, i don’t remember the first time i listened to it, i remember not thinking or feeling anything afterwards, which is odd. Now, it figures as one of my favorite albums ever, not because it’s groundbreaking musically (which isn’t, really) or lyrically, but it’s a collection of songs that are so well arranged, sequenced and played that, most importantly in my book, i can relate and makes me feel something (which is something that happens with most of my favorite albums, no matter if it’s Bardo Pond’s Lapsed, Boredoms’ Super AE, Wigrid’s Die Asche Eines Lebens or Merzbow’s Venereology).

The songs are all delivered with such sincerity without too much vagueness or too much specification, the music and imagery is balanced in such a way that they evoke something personal to you, while making you sing along to their songs; it’s a great album to wallow in your own misery or to scream along in excitement.

One of my favorite parts of the album is the continuity throughout, especially during the first part; “Believe In What You Want” could be a new section for “Your New Aesthetic” while “Crush”’s verse vocal melody is not that different from some found on the previous song, “A Sunday”, to the point where “Crush” seems like a more aggressive coda to the other song. Another thing that strikes me about this album is the use of strings that is so common to disposable pop these days, but it doesn’t sound cheap or corny, sounds like something that fills the sound, gives it something extra it might lack.

The rocking parts are passionate and loud, the quiet parts are melancholic and earnest, but nothing is what it seems; the aforementioned “Crush” might sound violent (by their standards) but it’s actually an euphoric number about feeling good and happy, while the sadder “A Sunday” talks about losing someone over bad decisions and drugs. Of course, the choruses of “Like a breath” and “As the haze clears from your eyes, on a sunday” might have a different interpretation for every listener, and that’s part of this album’s greatness, in a big way.

Undeniably, there’s a centerpiece in this album in the form of “Just Watch The Fireworks”, a song that begins fairly straight, both lyrically and musically, with arpeggios adorning the verses, a simple drum beat propelling the song and the lyrics all describing...well...watching fireworks, a promise of seeing them again with “you”; strings enter the picture but they are fairly unintrusive, as they have been on the album so far; the real meat of the song, comes on the bridge when Jim Adkins “said said said out loud over and over”, while the strings add to the song without making it a dumb power ballad moment, just giving the music enough strenght without relying on distortion to give it a more noble feeling, one which is reflected on the part where Jim sings after the aforementioned “loud over and over” part that he’ll “stop now, just enough so i can hear you; i’ll stay up as long as it takes” It turns the lyrics from a lonely person’s lament on missing an actual human into someone that might not be with us anymore, it comes from something completely specific (wishing a certain someone was watching the fireworks with you) to something more ambiguous, stopping now to hear a person there or someone in your memory? The way the rest of the song unfolds, it becomes both an emotional confession and a chant of celebration, “as long as it takes” is both a lament of sorrow to hold onto someone and a shout out of happiness to, somehow untangibly, be with that person and share the moment the fireworks go off. It’s not bittersweet, it’s bitter (or more like sad) and sweet.

My favorite line in the whole album is “The first star i see, may not be, a star”, a song that probably means the most to me now right now, “For Me This Is Heaven” contains some of the band’s most ambitious music compressed into a palatable song format, while it asks big questions for small people, it talks about the end of the time we have now, about how if he doesn’t let himself be happy, then when? And about still feeling the butterflies AND the last goodbye. Is this really heaven? Is it “the comfort of being sad” or is it about still feeling a sublime way about times gone and cherishing them, since we don’t know when our time will end? While i ask myself these questions (after all, i don’t care if it’s about something specific to Jim or anybody in the band; the song is about stuff i relate, that’s why they are important to me), i can’t stop feeling like there’s no need to answer these questions because i already feel what it is about. Whenever i listen to this song, i feel like it’s not only something i know and understand, but something about me.

I love all the songs in this album, but “Goodbye Sky Harbour” has a special place for me, because it proves how great artists Jimmy Eat World are; lyrically, it’s the shortest song on the album but musically, it’s the longest; the lyrics are far from under-realized, they are in fact, as good and expressive as the rest of the album, relying in simplier images and more ambiguity. The music continues with the rockier, Dischord-like angularity the mightier side of Clarity possess, but soon leaves it away for an odd timed, layered and repetitive instrumental, recalling a bit of Slint, Tortoise, Tristeza and early Mogwai, after which Jim adds layer after layer of non-wordly vocals, accumulating a big mass of them, with the band leaving and an IDM piece takes over, a track of dancey yet challenging electronica noodling that reminds of Autechre and the gentler side of Aphex Twin. An epic finish for an epic album.

This album is a very personal thing for me, i can't think about objectively much, but i guess it could be that way for everyone who likes it, by design. There's something oddly melancholic and warm about their songs, especially here, that makes it feel like something to play on a gloomy day during your teenage years, or whenever you think about someone you're not with, for a reason or another; perhaps if you turn the volume down for a bit, perhaps you'll hear her/him with you, perhaps all it takes to hear her/him is listening to these songs.


Jimmy Eat World - Lucky Denver Mint.mp3
Jimmy Eat World - Crush.mp3
Jimmy Eat World - For Me This Is Heaven (live at La Scala, London 2002).mp3
Jimmy Eat World - Goodbye Sky Harbour (live al La Scala, London 2002).mp3


Thursday, November 20, 2008

Millions Now Living Will Feel Like Singing Along

Windsor For The Derby

How We Lost
Secrectly Canadian


Shoegazer indie pop has been all the rage for the past couple of years on semi-underground circles, but what about indie pop with tendencies towards atmospheric instrumental music? Sure, there’s tons of Mogwai lites everywhere, but they are hardly the stuff to sing along, is it? While Windsor For Derby’s music is obviously ambicious instrumentally, it’s not mathy enough to gain comparisons to Unwound and their ilk, and not minimalistic enough to gather some pompous name or place in the “heady, easily liked hipster headphone buzzer” category. Windsor remind me at their most profound of bands like Tortoise, Seefeel and the Kranky roster yet they are not afraid to have melodic vocals that make you sing along but are restrained enough to be cool about it, which isn’t that surprising considering they have released albums on both Trance Syndicate and Young God. The band also has the bravery to include a bunch of simplier, catchier and rockier songs to make you want to dance or jump or something in between; how to balance such desperate camps of direct reaction songwriting with the more cerebral stuff? Take a page from Stereolab’s approach, of course, making it fun and using a few tricks learned from Neu! albums; and, while the stuff is hardly as awesome as the ‘lab’s own material, and you can hear a sort of schism going around between the two camps of songs, write songs well enough not to give them such a hard time about it. More than anything, a fun, harmless listen.

Windsor For The Derby - Maladies.mp3
Windsor For The Derby - Good Things.mp3

Who Watches Them Indeed

Here's the trailer for the Watchmen movie:

I think it looks promising, especially since i thought 300 looked like crap and it's the same director and all, still this one looks like it could be a great movie, aside from some details. I'm also not sure if, since i know and love the story already, there's some sort of bias of my part towards this trailer; anyway, i do think it's good.

I read the graphic novel a few months ago and instantly turned me into a comic book fan, it's completely mindblowing; the story is amazing and merciless.

In fact, i was going to be Rorschach for Halloween, but didn't pan out.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Cathedral Of Devastating Wait

Sunn O)))
Southern Lord

It must be scary for the Grimmrobed ones to dare give a master to a pressing plant, or so is the way they are acting; after the almost unanimous acclaim they received for 2005´s (yes, three years ago, kids) Black One, attempting a new album that’s not twice as mindblowing would be considered shit in the eyes of the all knowing, all seeing dronefanhood, so they keep releasing stop gap records while they can. While last year’s Oracle was patchy at best, this year’s Dømkirke is a bit more flourished and developed, continuing to experiment with the drone metal formula borrowed from Earth but adding and substracting many elements, their m.o. for most of their career; opening with a grand organ dirge accompanied by Mayhem’s Attila Csihar’s pseudo-gregorian vocalizations, the band (playing here inside a massive Norwegian cathedral) goes to familiar, if quieter ground on the second side of the offering, with a trombone adding colour to the sustained guitar chords (yep, they have been listening to Robe.) while Attila and the organ re-enter the picture around halfway through. Side three, meanwhile continues with a little calmness over more sustained notes and feedback tones (and some sound processing thanks to noise wizard Lasse Marhaug) to scale into a murkier patch of sound that continues to the next side, letting go only to find Attila calming everything with his humming voice accompanied just by the organ to lull the visitors into it’s drone. With a journey that ebbs and flows like this, i’m not sure if it’s good or bad that Sunn O))) keep pushing expectations for their next studio album, considering the high quality of material like this

Sunn O))) - Cannon.mp3

"I Said 'Em-E-Aitch'"

So big fucking news, "meh", the popular demi-word that expresses apathetic reaction to situations or exclamations, is already a word by itself.

I can't remember but perhaps there was a time when including a word on the dictionary was something relevant and even exciting to some; on the pre-internet ages, language, no matter what language, was something completely serious and erudite even, learning the correct uses and spellings of words was a matter that separated the boys from the men, the men from the animals and so on; it was something very strict and even pompous to many. Now, and this has to do with my first reaction to this "news" item, nobody gives a crap about language, as long as a word is accepted massively, it's not only well viewed but also accepted. This is the case with "meh".

I'm not here to preach about the days of old (the ones i wasn't yet born to have witnessed) or to say how shitty people speak and write today, but rather about how easy it is for words to become not only part of our daily lives but also part of our sciences and practices. Like i said, i can't remember when and if it was actual news that a word got included in the dictionary, but it seems now that if a TV character or an internet fad (that may be taken by a TV character later on) gives us a misspelled, misappropiated or plainly a brand new vocalization of a sense or emotion into a word, then a year or two later it's in the dictionary. Why? Is this really progress? Is it the way to go?

On the one hand, words are nothing other than things that allow us to communicate with one another in the easiest way possible, if by using a word we explain ourselves better, be it gramatically correct or not or existant even, then it's probably a good thing; and if many people use the word (with, exponentially, more people receiving and using said word) and you can universally express something with less effort, then that's the use of language in itself, right there.

On the other hand, this reeks of catering to the masses, having a dictionary being sold with words the common man can digest and understand, that he/she can relate because he uses them on a regular basis. "New Improve DICTIONARY!!! Now, with 'Meh' and many other of your favorite words!!! Only $19.99". I'm not saying this is something of grave offense or anything, but not because something is popular means it's something good.

I think words, mostly, are irrelevant to communication; as long as the message is clear, words, grammar and all that can take a back seat. But ignorance is bad and can be very dangerous, and giving license to be ignorant to people is just not right. As i said, communication should be clear.

I use 'meh' a lot, but i think the power of the word (a very strong power, might i add) has been losing itself; i'm not sure if it's good or bad, that remains to be seen (although, if less people have the power of using words, then it's possible that the few who still know the art and use of it might use them to their own advantages and get better results). All i know is that the addition of words to the dictionary is nothing to get excited about anymore; or, simply put, M-E-H.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Selling Out A Heart Full Of Soul

The Yardbirds, or so do the almighty critics tell us, was the band that gave us the talent of some of the first guitar “virtuosos” in rock music, spawning no less than Eric Clapton (he of Cream, Derek and The Dominos and solo fame), Jeff Beck (he of...uh, the Jeff Beck Group fame and the main inspiration for Spinal Tap’s Nigel Tufnel) and Jimmy Page (he of Led Zeppelin fame). Yet they are wrong if they think that’s all the Yardbirds were about.

Just listening to their music you get a feeling of exhilaration that few bands from that era gave, they possessed a sense of desperation and energy that made you smash your head to the wall or dance like a lunatic; sure, they had a very refined perfection to their playing but that counts for squat if it wasn’t for the way they played, like they meant it and with everything they had. No wonder most garage took upon their sound and it wasn’t until the slash-and-burn excesses of Blue Cheer, the Stooges and the MC5 that those levels of energy were exceded.

Not only were the guitar players excellent in this band, they were all a classic case of the “sum is better than the individual parts” that most great bands have; one of their greatest achievements was the so called rave up part of their songs, a section where they would concentrate into playing harder and more intense until the sound exploded just to go back to where they left off and finish the song (almost 30 years before Daydream Nation), Keith Relf sang with such bravado and intensity but hardly ever letting his voice get out of control, he was not just making the blues standards they used to cover jump, he made them scream! I call bollocks on the reason why Clapton left the Yardbirds, he wasn’t offended by them abandoning their purist roots since they would inject those pure blues numbers with so much adrenaline that they turned them into something else, something that was almost beyond rock back then, something original and all their fucking own.

But yes, the Yardbirds sold out.

Clapton, then nicknamed “Slow Hand” and a little later being the subject of many a “Eric Clapton Is God” graffittis, quit the band as they hit the charts with “For Your Love”. The reason i think Clapton quit is because of this song, namely a) the song’s lead instrument is not the guitar and b) it was a smash hit, unlike all the blues songs Clapton favored; but “For Your Love” is anything but a poppy bland attempt at mass comercial success; in fact, it’s one of the best damn songs to ever be recorded in this Earth; seriously, from the first chords of the harpsichord to the backing vocals to Relf’s delivery to the impossibly heavy breakdown in the middle to the grand last chorus, it retained the rave up quality of their blues adaptations but did it in a picture perfect song format.

Replacing Clapton wasn’t hard, since he recommended a friend of his, Jimmy Page who was then, a studio session player who enjoyed his job and had good pay so he preferred not to join them, instead telling them about his friend Jeff Beck, who had played in minor garage bands in which he experimented with feedback, noise and distortion, something that expanded the band’s sonic palette tenfold coupled with their new found song oriented material, gave the world such blazing recordings such as “Shape Of Things”, “You’re a Better Man Than I” and “Heart Full Of Soul” (the later’s riff originally intended to be played by a sitar), as well as more blues versions like the absolute expressway to their skulls climax of “I’m A Man” that always gives me the chills.

Bassist Paul Samwell-Smith left the band some time after, giving them an opportunity to invite Page again to the band, with the extremely underrated talents of Chris Dreja leaving the rhythm guitar for the four string to have room for Jeff and Jimmy to really let loose. Problem was, there was almost no time since Beck fell sick and was soon after being falsely diagnosed, he was fired while on the road, ending a truly magical era of music when rumours would fly about him slashing his speakers or loosening the tubes in his amp to get his distortion and when bands, sometimes spearheaded by the very own Yardbirds, would experiment with raga forms or gregorian chants.

The band went on to have minor hits with Page but they mostly exploited their experimental side, extending their songs and obliterating them to noise onstage, using the studio as an instrument and not caring about the results or having fear; Jimmy introduced the band to his freak folkish song “White Summer” and the prog noise metal of “Dazed & Confused”, developed by Relf and the rest of the band, although they wouldn’t last very long after.

Today i listen to this band with immortal melodies, daring ideas and incredibly exciting executions and i wonder about what would it have been to be around when they were around and perhaps watching them live with anyone of their brilliant lineups. Often, people look at me funny when i talk about Clapton and Beck and Page and assure them i positively despise Cream, don’t feel like listening to Led Zeppelin most of the time or that i’m not terribly excited to look into the instrumental work of Beck, rather i refer to their early to mid-60’s selves, as much as Bob Dylan felt old newspapers were more relevant in the sixties than the rags of the day; those were the days when a simple blues standard could make you want to slamdance before you could even think about stuff like that, it was music that makes you feel alive over under sideways down, i’m not sure if then but i’m completely positive that they do now, to me at the very least, with a sip of muddy waters, a fuzzed out sitar line and a heartful of soul to make me feel alive.


The Yardbirds - Too Much Monkey Business (Five Live Yardbirds).mp3
The Yardbirds - For Your Love.mp3
The Yardbirds - Heart Full Of Soul.mp3
The Yardbirds - The Train Kept A-Rollin'.mp3
The Yardbirds - I'm A Man (live 1968-Mar-30 Anderson Theater, NYC).mp3
The Yardbirds - Jeff's Boogie.mp3
The Yardbirds - Over Under Sideways Down (live 1968-Mar-30 Anderson Theater, NYC).mp3
The Yardbirds - Happening Ten Years Time Ago.mp3