Thursday, July 28, 2005

Music

So if you're one of those who have ambled about the webosphere, drunkenly and quite randomly typed in joepo.blogspot.com you have duly arrived here. Congratulations. I preface that sentence with 'one of those' because I'm quite sure I've utterly turned my friends off due to my extremist political views (I'm not a republican, nor do I have much money, the two things that make it okay to be opinionated in this country... see what I mean?) or nonsensical essays on critiquing movies and karaoke. At any rate, I waste a great deal of my time reading books and listening to music, mostly indie music. If you similarly have an interest in music and for some reason don't visit websites that employ actual professionals to peddle it, I have some suggestions for an initiate.

Really, you should be going to www.pitchforkmedia.com. Hold your nose for some of the "conceptual" reviews and just look for some interesting sounding bands.

Anyway,

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah (self-titled)
You can join this bandwagon at the ground floor - nobody, and I mean NOBODY has heard of them yet. Well, by nobody I mean anyone who doesn't read Pitchfork or buy music at www.Insound.com. Like the ensuing band, CYHSY's (lame as it is to make it an acronym, but a step above a kind middle-aged lady I once knew who actually referred to agriculture as 'ag.') sound harkens back to an 80s band you don't much see namechecked anymore. In this case I detect the Violent Femmes, who, aside from some Milwaukeeans who won't let the dream die, don't seem to get much respect these days. To be honest, I never really listened to the Violent Femmes, and I don't plan to anytime soon, but we all liked 'Blister in the Sun,' right? The point is, CYHSY sounds somewhat like the Femmes, but not to the extent of, say, the Killers and something Morrissey crapped out in the late 80s. The LP starts off with a track called 'Clap Your Hands' and damned if it doesn't sound like some bizarre carnival of self-pity, with a demented ring-leader urging those around him to 'Clap Your Hands,' to which the reply is 'But I feel so lonely' and 'But it won't do nothing.' It's so weird yet so insanely catchy. I especially like the double-barrelled pounding whenever the clarion 'Clap Your Hands' is tossed out.
Bill Simmons, not a music critic, of course, but I guess you could peg him as a cultural critic or fetishist or whatever, if you wanted to, has said basically the Killers and Franz Ferdinand are the only bands that still sound like 80s bands. This is not entirely true, and I'm sure a real music critic would correct anyone who said as much. The Killers blatantly riff the 80s, almost to the point of self-parody (some might argue that they already are a self-parody, even if they are not aware of it), right down to the cheesy sci-fi keyboards. Other bands successfully choose to emulate the stripped down, raw sound of some of our favorite 80s groups, and I think the comparison to the Violent Femmes is apt in this vein, especially. You don't come away with the sense that Steve Lillywhite or Nigel Godrich were incessantly weighing down the sessions with calls for reverb and overwrought vocals. Ah, just check out Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. Tim Posnanski highly reccomends them.

The Boy Least Likely To (Best Party Ever)

I can't say much more than what I thought was a well-written pitchfork review on this album. Maybe I'll just weakly echo it. If you're like me, you're a 23 year old man child who rarely leaves the house and/or showers. You also have misgivings of adults everywhere and, while you don't wish to revert back to childhood (when boobs were a shadow of a promise from an episode of Moonlighting... or Facts of Life) you don't want the responsiblities, nay, character flaws that inherently come with your lot in life. So you opt for complete deniability, the better with which to rebuke your peers. I've mastered this technique myself, and my social life has suffered because of it. It's okay, we don't need others anyway, you and me, we manchildren of nuclear capitalism, for we have music. Anyway, The Boy Least Likely To has released an album echoing our misgivings and has given our ennui a sound. And it sounds like Dexy's Midnight Runners. Don't laugh. The opener is "Be Gentle With Me," and you 80s culture whores can pick out the strains of Dexy's, but I prefer the utterly sweet-sounding xylophone and lyrics that recall the slowly dying superstitions of youth - "I'm happy because I'm stupid/scared of spiders/scared of flying" and the emotional fragility of being on one's own when we're really supposed to have our shit together by now - "My heart gets broken so easily/ so just be gentle/ be gentle with me." There's also a line in the refrain - "I'm not as young as I was" that gives me pause. I remember in third grade, Barry Daniels called me an asshole. I threw rocks at him. In sixth grade, Erica Stimac said she wouldn't go out with me because I "[am] a dog." I went out with her best friend. Now if someone calls me an asshole I revert and stop talking for an hour. If a girl turns me down, well I have about twenty different reactions, none of them what a student of the DSM 4 would call "healthy." There's an emotional (if not physical) resilience in childhood that we lose, at least I do, as we get older. I love how thoroughly The Boy Least Likely To evokes this. Another song that caught me is "Monsters," about a town full of monsters that turns out to be run of the mill adults. These aren't used-van drivin', circus clown bein', stuttering head-cases, but married, child-rearing suburbanites. For example: "people I used to love/are turning into monsters/ getting married and having babies/ telling me how great my life is/ and how happy I would be if I could just be more like them." If you liked Calvin and Hobbes, you may like "My Tiger My Heart," and the astonishing thing about this song is that it evokes the strip despite the band never having heard of it. Another thing I appreciated were matter-of-fact hilarious lyrics such as "I just wish I could still/ see the world sometimes/the way I saw the world when I was young" which is followed by the refrain "sleeping with a gun under my pillow" in the song "Sleeping With A Gun Under My Pillow." Even the cover art of the album is evocative, with childish doodles of animals carrying instruments and apparently taking part in a birthday party. They also adorn the disc, and to be honest and not at all ironic, it is the sweetest thing I've seen all year. I suppose you could write a treatise on some of the doodles and their relevance to some songs, much like the artwork on Andrew Bird's new release The Mysterious Production of Eggs, but jaysus, what a load.

I've worn out. This was supposed to be two paragraphs. Oh well, some short takes on some not new at all albums:

Satanic Panic in the Attic by Of Montreal - fucked up, stoner psychedelia that lazier souls would outright compare to the sonic stylings of the Beatles. Now you must ask, was that a meta-joke?

Fuzzy Logic by Super Furry Animals - start with Guerilla or Rings Around the World. The CD jacket is a red herring and hilarious, though.

Some Cities by Doves - Okay, Jimi Goodwin's voice might suck, but he does not fucking evoke Christ Martin, you got that? Doves emerged at the exact same time as Coldplay, and have always been superior. Anyway, I remember Goodwin saying in an interview how he would love to score a David Lynch movie. This CD sounds like such a score. The music is outstanding, the vocals are bearable.

In the Kingdom of Kitsch You Will Be A Monster by Shining - a Norwegian band that plays sessions-jazz... fucking, I got bought this CD?

Okay, it's actually quite interesting.

Sam Prekop (s/t) - pales in comparison to his much more recent "Who's Your New Professor" with what I think are standard vanilla jazz sessions but jaysus, the closer "So Shy" just fucking soars. Not literally. Just hear the song, and I defy you not to picture the summer passing you by.
In the Kingdom of Kitsch, normalcy is the monster, but in the land of normalcy, real normalcy is also the monster. Agree? I've worn out my welcome.

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