Friday, December 23, 2005

2005

OK – 4 months late this might be, but it’s time for the MMM train to start rolling again. Instead of writing about music, I have…well…actually I ain’t got much to share, besides moving and starting a new job. Since August, I have seen several excellent shows (The Arcade Fire [I saw the light with them some time earlier this year and now completely understand how amazing they are], Tom Vek, The Rapture, NIN/QOTSA, SFA, Art Brut, LCD Soundsystem, Depeche Mode and Goldfrapp). I don’t think I am capable of sharing enough worthwhile details about those shows now but I will say the following: a) concerts in Atlantic City are a fun weekend activity, and b) the Nokia Theater is an excellent addition to NYC’s music venues - it may be a bit corporate and sleek, but the sound is great, a variety of good sightlines and the music plays in the bathroom so you don’t miss a thing.

Now, a quick recap of 2005.

Top 10 Albums of 2005:
1) Goldfrapp - Supernature : this will unfortunately not come out in the US until March 2006, which I realize is related to the marketing and how the band will only be able to fully concentrate on breaking here at that point after a long period of becoming massive in the rest of the world. I couldn’t wait and bought an import off cdwow.com There is something fishy/smacking of psychosomatic-ness when one of a person’s favorite albums of a year is by an artist that has always been a favorite of theirs, but pathologies aside, Supernature is amazing. There is no distinctive metamorphosis in style from Black Cherry but Will and Allison absolutely nail the sexy electro disco aesthetic that they began to explore on the last album.
2) LCD Soundsystem – S/T: an album that had a lot of pressure on it because of the amazing singles that preceded the album’s release. There aren’t any songs on it that quite match “Yeah (Stupid Version)” and “Losing My Edge” but there are several great songs on it. The taut, jangly beats scattered through are capable of triggering an epileptic fit (in a good way). Spastic, self-aware rock – hard not to think of the Talking Heads when you listen to it, and if you channel them well, they are about as good a band to draw upon as any.
3) Queens of the Stone Age – Lullabies to Paralyze: QOTSA fucking rocks. It’s Josh Homme’s show and he doesn’t need Mongo Nick Oliveri to make it work.
4) Engineers – S/T: I could imagine SoF muttering something to the effect of “…shoegazing by numbers…” when talking about this album. It is what it is – swooping, ethereal waves of guitar and soft, understated vocals. But it’s very good at it and I am a sucker for swooping, ethereal waves of guitar.
5) Soulwax – Any Minute Now: Please release this album in America some day. It’s a lot of electro rocking fun. Proves that there should be no distinction between the dancefloor and the rock club.
6) Whitey – The Light at the End of the Tunnel is a Train: See 5.
7) Caribou – X: It’s also spastic (most of this list is), but in a kraut-rock meets hip-hop kind of way.
8) Art Brut – Bang, Bang, Rock and Roll: Fun songs and a charismatic attitude, I’ll take Eddie Argos over Kele of Bloc Party any day.
9) Broadcast – Tender Buttons: Because music can’t go bang all the time.
10) Tom Vek – We Have Sound: This album finds a nice, unforced balance between indie rock and electronic production.


Top Singles:
1) Goldfrapp, “Ride a White Horse”
2) Madonna, “Hung Up”
3) Caribou, “Yeti”
4) Doves, “Black and White Town”
5) QOTSA, “Broken Box”
6) Mr. And Mrs. Christmas, “Bang the Poll” (a note on this one: it’s an Underworld song released under the pseudonym. Banging banging banging – it’s more mid-tempo than say “Pearl’s Girl” or “Moaner” on the kick drum. The percussion is similar the organic steeze of A Hundred Days Off, but the rest of the song twists and turns like a shark in captivity – love it)
7) Whitey, “Leave Them All Behind”
8) Chemical Brothers, “Marvo Ging”
9) Depeche Mode, “Precious”
10) Goldfrapp, “Slide in (DFA Remix)”


Have a good holidays…

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

NIN and Billy Corgan news (jeez, that's a boring title for this post)

I am back from an incredible 10 days or so in the Pacific Northwest. Portland, Seattle, and Vancouver are all great cities, and I will say a little more about the trip later (I hope). And now MMM is back from sleep, sort of.

At any rate, as my days keeping MMM chugging along may be numbered with a new job starting in a little over a month, I need to share the nuggets I find while I still can.

a) And here is the first nugget I had to share: if you missed out on tickets to see NIN and QOTSA and Madison Square Garden (I could have used MSG but then the acronyms would be getting a bit out of control), while it did sell out, you can buy tickets via auction at ticketmaster. Interestingly, the auction benefits The Innocence Project - I am a former Carbozo so the idea of Trent using his celebrity capital to raise funds for one of the best things that the school does warms the cockles of mi corazon.

b) This happened while I was away and it was bound to happen at some point. The Smashing Pumpkins are a band that has as much of an emtional resonace for me as almost any band, but as I get older, I am learning the sad truth: Billy Corgan, the artist that was most able to articulate all those wonderful, horrible feelings that come with being seventeen years old, is nucking futs. Did he really think that after he made that recockulous statement about the Pumpkins reuniting that he might take a little heat from the crowds at his solo shows for not playing any? Perhaps I am playing Monday morning quarterback, but I think he would have been better off waiting until he was done promoting thefutureembrace before saying he was getting the old band back together, unless he merely wanted to try to shift a few extra units of the album by attracting a little extra coverage by making the announement. Billy got what he bargained for.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Automated Response

I am going to the pacific northwest over the next 8 days. Hopefully I'll have some interesting bits about Seattle, Portland, Vancouver, or Powell River, B.C., to share when I get back. In the meantime, download a chunk from a recent Underworld concert at the Exit Festival in Serbia that was broadcast on BBC. There is some new stuff in there in the mix and it sounds sharp - some of the folks on the Dirty messageboard think it sounds like drum and bass, but you can decide for yourself.

Friday, July 22, 2005

...

a) I was very upset to read on NME yesterday that Jason Pierce had become seriously ill and had spent time in intensive care. His weight was down to 8 stones (112 pounds!) because of periorbital cellulitis with bilateral pneumonia. A new Spiritualized website was unveiled yesterday, so there is unfortunate timing that the first piece of news that the site had to report was Jason's illness, although I have to say it looks pretty slick and the pharmacy motif is very par for the course. My thoughts are with Jason as he recovers and hope that he comes back stronger than ever (and that he is able to tour in support of the new album that is expected to be released next year). There are several Spritualized lyrics that would have been too appropriate for the title of this post, but didn't seem quite right to do that...

b) I love
Oddjack's irreverence, and it's even better when applied to cool stuff. Cool stuff includes USA being ranked higher than England in the world soccer rankings and I guess it also includes changes in the odds of the "hipster horserace" known as the Mercury Prize (don't know how hipster it was when Gomez won, beating Massive Attack's Mezzanine and Pulp's This is Hardcore - I really like Gomez and Liquid Skin, but that was not the hipster selection) .

Monday, July 18, 2005

Everything Counts in Large Amounts - 101

Recently, I watched 101 for the first time. Not sure if the actual title is Depeche Mode 101, or just 101. Briefly, the film captures the band's 101st performance (at the Rose Bowl on June 18, 1988) during their Music for the Masses Tour. The film crew follows the band for a short period of time prior to the concert while simultaneously following a group of DM fans that won a WDRE radio contest where the prize was riding a bus to LA with a bunch of other New Wavers from NYC across America to the concert.

I love Depeche Mode but I never got around to seeing it prior to now, probably in large part because the filmmaker, D.A. Pennebaker, was a teacher of mine in college, and not one that I remember with much fondness. It was particularly exciting to take the class with him as, on paper, he is pretty much royalty when it comes to rock documentaries - you can see his body of work here. I made a short film supposedly under his tutelege, but got very little out of working with him as he would tell the same boring stories every single week and did very little else in teaching us - unless you count repeating to us a number of times the wise advice that "you need to experience showing your work to other people and feel your asshole chewing a hole in the chair" in order to know what it means to be a filmmaker. Very inspiring. At the end of the course, he mentioned that he could have had Bowie come to our six person class had we wanted - DOH!

Perhaps what was most aggravating about DA was his M.O. for documentary filmmaking. As someone who came into his own in the sixties, at the same time as the cinema verite/French New Wavers (the original New Wave) Godard and Truffaut, he embraced the verite approach to filmmaking and applied it to documentary work. Never explain anything on film, just show it was essentially the ethos. DA was not the least bit interested in asking Dylan any questions when he made Don't Look Back, he just wanted to learn about the man by watching him brush his teeth as that is where the truth lies. Interviews on screen are too contrived. There is no question that the polar opposite (just showing nothing but talking heads ramble and providing no primary source material, which is what VH-1 has devolved into) is a terrible alternative, but the middle ground, which is where I tried to find myself as a filmmaker, was not the place to be under Pennebaker's philosophy.

101 had certain weaknesses that may have been tied to this approach to filmmaking. The glaring hole at the end of the film is that you have learned absolutely nothing about the band . David Gahan told a random story about beating up a cab driver one time, but that is about as personal as the film gets. The band dynamics are untouched. There is no context provided and it left me seeing no story, just footage of a few concerts. One of the better moments of the film was when Alan Wilder explained how the DM sound was created, using synthesizers, sound banks, and large digital rectangles that get banged like futuristic taiko drums - but that scene seemed to run a little counter to the verite approach to filmmaking. Surprisingly, in this letter the Pennebakers wrote to the DM fans, they say the film is more about the band than that concert - huh? Either there is absolutely nothing to them as people (which I find hard to image), the band didn't want to reveal themselves to the camera in their more private moments, or the filmmakers just fucked up and didn't get any revealing material, but if this movie is about the band, that is like saying Night and Day is about Cole Porter (a 40s film that gave an extremely cursory overview of his life and certainly didn't mention his homosexuality).

The actual footage of the crowds at the Rose Bowl and even of the fans on the bus was thoroughly entertaining because it is such a time capsule. The musical context of the era was captured nicely during a scene where the bus kids are drinking with some Guns N Roses fans in Albequerque, NM. The kids themselves wern't that interesting - just a bunch of beer drinkers with purple hair. Not a whole lot of fascinating material was revealed about them either and laughably, in the DVD's notes, Pennebaker and his partner Chris Hegedus take responsibility for the idea of MTV's The Real World because of their decision to follow the DRE bus.

The concert itself was exciting - a handful of songs were shown from the Rose Bowl, including "Behind the Wheel," "Strangelove," and "Everything Counts in Large Amounts." The most amazing part of the film, sin duda, was the concert finale - "Never Let Me Down Again." There is one incredible incredible image contained in that scene. A camera is on one side of the stage shooting across the stage. Gahan mounts something at the front of the other side of the stage and does his best Jesus posture and he is captured with his arms out with tens of thosands of kids behind him (but really to his side). The camera then pans over the crowd to reveal almost every arm in the stadium waving back and forth. A very powerful shot.

Pennebaker and Hegedus are kind of right in their statement about the film not exactly being a concert film. While it has several cohesive performances of songs throughout, it does not have the pacing of a concert, like Let's Spend the Night Together or Stop Making Sense, two movies that actually capture the concert experience on film. I enjoyed the performances because Depeche Mode is a great band to watch perform - David Gahan is mezmerising and it is fascinating to see a performance of one of the earlier groups to play with synthesizers instead of guitars and drums (there are occassional guitars played by real brains behind of DM - Martin Gore). But the parts in between didn't reveal enough to connect the viewer to the film. For a Depeche Mode fan, it is probably worth seeing, and you will probably bring a less critical eye than me.

Friday, July 15, 2005

This will be the last time I ever do your hair! Bridget Jones' Diarrhea (The Scissor Sisters) @ Mercury Lounge, July 13, 2005

Wasting time at work reading the music blogs is sometimes incredibly rewarding - thanks to Brooklyn Vegan, I learned that the Scissor Sisters were going to play Mercury Lounge on Wednesday night under the name Bridget Jones' Diarrhea. Peephole hooked up the tickets during a lunch break by cabbing over to the Mercury.

Well, all I can say is thank you Vegan and thank you Peephole - the Sisters were phenomenal. Not the least bit surprising - they put on a great show in December and my first exposure to them was their performance at last year's Benicassim festival (I became a quick convert). As professional entertainers as they clearly are (they did just play for billions at Live 8), apparently they are capable of stage fright even in a venue as small as the Mercury Lounge. We were standing the by the stairs to enter the stage and as they waited to go on, Jake Shears said "I am strangely nervous" - I can only guess it was due to the fact that they were about to test out 6 new songs in front of friends and family. The nerves didn't show once they took the stage and ripped into "Laura." The show felt very short (probably because it was eo energetic and fun), but they did play 12 songs - 6 new and 6 old, and of the old songs that they played were all the ones that I wanted to hear: "Laura," "Take Your Momma," "Mary," "Filthy Gorgeous," "Tits on the Radio," and "Comfortably Numb" as the closer. Obviously, the energy in that small room was overflowing. Seeing them so close also made it a lot easier to appreciate what a tight band and consummate professionals they are.

Peephole has now recovered from missing their set in Spain last summer. Here are write-ups by Brooklyn Vegan, Yeti Don't Dance, and Central Village.

I already posted my pics from the show here and here. My first foray into concert photos but when you are that close to the stage, it is hard not to.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Scissor Sisters @ Mercury Lounge - July 13, 2005 (second batch of photos)






A few more (yes, Miranda - that is your finger pointing at Mr. Shears in that picture).


Scissor Sisters @ Mercury Lounge - July 13, 2005 (photos)






Here are some photos from the incredible concert I attended tonight. I have a bit to say about it too, but thought I would do an experiment and share these first (there are more that are better - just a start):