Wednesday, January 31, 2007

A Sad Admission -or- Becoming a True American

Sure, there are and have been and will be some legitimately great singers who sing with that sort of pow, over the top, man I got a lot of training vocal fire hose shit. Aretha, um, Fergie, whatever. Props to people who manage to pull it off. Usually it's trash.

And this is why I never watched American Idol. I know the idea is that there is diversity among the contestants, but really, it's not true. They all have pretty much the same type of voice. That being a voice with very little character. The only reason Kelly Clarkson wasn't immediately famous after she won the first Idol competition was because she'd had the humanity trained out of her voice, and some sort of homogenous "humanity" trained in: as if there is a formula, a certain alogorithm such that, if the correct sequence of wavelengths and amplitudes are filtered through it, it will make anyone and everyone break down and weep. A robotic humanity.

I don't like how these people sing.

But fuck! As deplorable as the singing might be, and as destructive as the philosophy behind the show might be, behind the music, as it were, there is some extremely compelling television
going on. I was forced to ask myself this evening why in God's name I was still watching the damn show. I've seen probably three full episodes already this season, and they've all been exactly the same. Why again? Well, I thought, the editing.

The editing? No big surprise. The virtue of pretty much any reality based show, that being a show based on footage of people doing something largely unscripted which is then edited into a coherent sequence that least sort of could be called a narrative, lies in how well edited it is. Source material be damned, an editor can make gold from straw.

And American Idol's editors are pro-fessionals. They make bad performances look bad, good performances look good, mentally retarted people look hilarious, emotionally distraught people look insane, in short, they confirm everything. Think that all the new "media mogul's" are a crock of shit? Show a clearly sort of nuts guy audition and make sure to include the part where he describes himself as a future author, singer, director, and choreographer. Think everyone in the south has a father who is paralyzed in prison because he shot his wife when he caught her in the act and then tried and failed to kill himself? Well, Idol has the stunning blond belle to prove it to you. Everything you need is there, everything that would take away from the comforting image is removed. Definition of good editing.

And man, the teasers. I've seen some teasers in my day, and of course the jokes are true: "there's something in your living room right now that could kill your entire family and leave you penniless by tomorrow morning. What is it? Find out at 11." Idol takes teasers back to a time before they were widely acknowledged; to a time when people were willing and grateful to be teased by television.

"Why the fuck is Randy opening the door to the hallway and screaming at this girl?"

"I know every terrible performance I've seen on this show has been at least semi serious so far, but honestly, was 3 second clip a joke? It had to be."

The teasers work, and as long as the teasers work the show will work. The Godforsaken thing could run 4 hours and people would watch, as long as they could believably keep holding that carrot in front of our faces.

The only conestant I've liked so far was the spitting image of Jack Osborne. May God have mercy on our American souls. And I mean all of us.

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Monday, January 29, 2007

1-21-07 Lightning Bolt at the Northsix - or - The Only Good Concert I Ever Went To Where I Wanted To Boo Two Different Bands Off of the Stage

This was a really good show? How the hell do you judge something like this?

Well, for starters, the crowd was not alienating, it was, I think an 18+ show which means that the enthusiastic kid contingent was in effect. This is always a good thing, no matter what anyone says. People jumped around, acted like they wanted to, acted like, "well, I don't really want to, but I'm ok with standing here while you do it" or got the fuck away. People did shout requests, which, for a Lightning Bolt show where all but one song was an improvo-oneoff sort of thing, was stupid. But I'll look past it and blame it on youthful exuberance.

To go negative for a mo: the openers were shit! They were shit! Lord amighty I still get mad about these things. I hate to slander bands that perhaps don't deserve it / are not big enough to deserve it, though, so I'll change names to be all protective for once. The first band let's call them Algert Hisst played one 20 minute long drone that, if played by a band like Sunn 0))) on gigantic demon amplifiers at earsplitting volumes could have been interesting. As it was it sounded puny, pointless, uninteresting and basically like the jams my band would play in high school after we were done playing real songs in rehearsal in my basement (granted, this is how I learned how to use feedback, how I learned to commune with amplifier, etc. so it isn't all bad - just don't do it on stage in front of people who came to see interesting music). I had brough earplugs, and I used them. Fuck.

White Mice were good. Good. Yes.

Slow Jams: ok. The time has come for all you crazies to think to yourself, "should we have made Girl Talk as famous as we did? Is this truly a Constructive Enterprise?" Slow Jams says "no!"

"What about MC Paul Barman?" Slow Jams: "no!"

"Does one terrible band mean that humorous laptop based hip hop created by white people is, in essence, a doomed idea, culturally irresponsible, and downright offensive?" Slow Jams: "no, I wouldn't go that far."

"While we are terrible, unskilled, untalented, unprepared, ignorant, and pathetic (in the sense that people pity us and should feel sorry for how we managed to embarrass ourselves at a high profile show), this does not mean that the buck stops with us. Just because our DJ heard Girl Talk and assumed he could do it, doesn't mean there aren't people out there who get the same feeling correctly. The ultimate lessons you can learn from us is that bands should rehearse. Bands should not create DVDs of visual content that do not work. Bands should not exist because of the scene. Bands should exist organically, naturally and without exposing the artifice that lies behind the very idea of a band. We're making EVERYONE look bad!"

Lightning Bolt wasted no time setting their music to "erase memories of terrible opening act". For this I cannot thank them enough.

A postscript for Northsix booking agents: What the Fuck were you thinking! Stop making assheads and book some good openers! What are you people! Employ people who won't be able to make me depressed in the 30 second time frame it takes for me to obtain my will call tickets! I used to like this venue! I um, ok that thats it.

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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

A Belated Eulogy -or- Fuck Off!

Let's talk about Mclusky.

Mclusky may have been the greatest band of all time. Or, at least, they may, out of all bands ever, be the band who most deserving of my retroactive respect and devotion. More accurately, I feel that the somewhat-famous-at-least-to-me David Lee Roth statement that "all your other records will melt" applies most aptly to the music, charisma, attitude and righteous indignation of Mclusky. It sure as hell doesn't have anything to do with Van Halen, but don't take me out of context - we aren't talking about Van Halen.

We're talking about Mclusky! And thank God that we live in a country where we can do this! Or maybe you don't, which is too bad because, short of listening to Mclusky in the backseat of a car driving back from a fruitless and depressing bout of binge drinking across the border in Ontario at age 19, talking about Mclusky is, undoubtedly, one of the most comforting passtimes a human being can engage in. Granted, you're with the right people, you know who Mclusky are, and all of that gibberish that should go without saying just as well.

This point, however, is not trivial. Much of the feeling one gets when they think of Mclusky - dirty, underappreciated, wilfully difficult, antagonistic - unfortunately, is inseperable from the fact that most people don't get it, or better yet, are utterly turned off by it. Story of my life, sure. But there are lots of people who like, say, black metal, for this reason. And in cases like these the reactionaries are numerous enough to create a community. A subculture is created, as the old story goes, out of a backlash against the dominant culture which devalues things that clash with its aesthetics. Black metal bad = black metal good.

With a band like Mclusky, there is no chance of a subculture latching on to the aesthetic. It's punk rock, but they don't look like punks, they play too slow, they have the wrong friends, listen to the wrong bands, come from Wales, have mutton chops, the list goes on. As it does if you try to categorize it by the standards of any other subculture. It isn't enough in any one direction in order to make sense to any large number of people. And girls, that's 51% right ther, hate it, I'm sure.

Mclusky are your band because they are the voice of them that cry in the wilderness. Ain't nobody gonna hear it, cause ain't nobody gonna want to hear it. They'll have no choice but to hear it, and listen good, but they won't want to, so they won't listen past the first few words. Before the words "sex criminal" and just after the word "cunts" is where they veer off into their caverns of liberal guilt and domestic shame. Indeed, My Pain and Sadness Is More Sad and Painful Than Yours comes right out and says it - "joy". Either you're with the program or you aren't: right there.

Mclusky eats even decent bands like TV On the Radio and My Chemical Romance alive.

I thank whatever it is I thank - nature? - for people like Andrew Falkous, people like John Darnielle, though less so, people like Travis Morrison, less and less, and people like Thom Yorke, which almost seems pass-ay at this point. And I don't need to get into why. It's self indulgent, boring, and pointless. My worldview isn't important, and Andrew Falkous's worldview is not my worldview. I might fucking hate the guy if I ever met him. There's just something so compassionate about how he sings lines like "our last singer was a sex criminal" and something so vicious about how he sings lines like "my love is bigger than your love". As in all astoundingly profound art, this is the world inside of a nutshell.


Sunday, January 07, 2007

To Love -or- To Hate Eli Manning

I don't read the New York Post, I don't read the New York Times, and hell, I'm almost always to lazy to even take a copy of AM New York or some such other rag from the poor guys who hand them out near the entrances to the subways, because I know perfectly well I'm not gonna have time to read them. Of course, if there was a guy handing out AM New Yorks by my subway station (read: if I didn't live so far off in the boondocks that AM New York considered me unworthy of being plied with their wares every morning) I might consider taking a look at it during my hideously long commute. I'm not complaining, but all we get is a guy selling copies of the Post and the Times. This means, even if I don't buy it, I steal peeks at the headlines while other people read them. With the Post this is almost impossible not to do since all of their headlines seem to printed in giant block script across half a page.

At least on the back page. For the last few weeks, barring the whole Knicks vs. Nuggets bout through which Isaiaha Thomas earned himself the coveted spot for a few days, it seems like it's been all Eli all the time. New York is tough on sports stars, and with good reason. People like Eli Manning make too much money to just throw footballs and then go home at the end of the day and forget about their mistakes in front of their Wii. They get payed to deal with the media, and the media gets payed to flay them alive every week as they see fit.

None the less, I feel sorry for Eli. He seems to be a good guy, who is trying, way way way too hard, to do a good job in place that will either adore you or scorn you. After tonight's performance, which, from what I saw was not all that terrible, really, I doubt Eli will be having an easy off season. New York will let him know that it was Tom Coughlin's fault primarily, but then his, with an underline under his, and he will take it to heart. Which isn't good for Eli. He's a thinking man, and thinking men generally don't make good big game quarterbacks. You gotta have instinct and grace to survive at the NFL's highest level - Eli's brains will only get him so far.

I recommend, personally, that Eli, instead of undergoing the traditional training, this offseason, takes himself off to the jungle, or, say, the Himalayas, pitting himself against the elements, learning to survive against nature, honing his animal instinct and hardening himself to the elements. Joe Montana, John Elway, even maybe Peyton, they didn't need the jungle, they had the instinct. Kurt Warner had Jesus. Ok, well, that's another option, but I think it's more likely that Eli goes out and tries to hone his animal reflexes and develop his primordial charismatic nature in order to actually lead the Giants next season.

Still, don't get me wrong, I was rooting for the Eagles.