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):

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Supernature/"Ooh La La"

The first single off Supernature,the new Goldfrapp album, "Ooh La La," can be streamed on their website now (as well as excerpts of all tracks on the album). Shockingly, despite the office firewall's best efforts, I was able to watch the video at work. First impression: the song is itself is fairly close in style of Black Cherry - starting with the dirty synths of "Train" while adding a stomping, more uptempo beat. I dig it and, like the singles off Black Cherry, I imagine it will continue to push Goldfrapp towards the top of the club charts. The video is quite interesting - riffing off of the green background and reel to reel tape motif of the single's artwork - it's basically a performance by an androgynous/mixed gender glam band (although, were there keytars in the days of glam?) with a bellbottom-clad Allison vamping it up as the group's frontwoman. I doubt this is the real Goldfrapp touring band as I can't imagine any of them putting on the lederhosen and playing the violin on the Felt Mountain songs. Aside from the bellbottoms, the video gets more disco than disco when Allison rides across the sky on a discoball horse!

The artwork for Supernature is on the site here. A tasteful photo of Allison in her birthday suit. There is something a bit mysterious about the bit that obstructs her breast - doesn't it look a little odd the way it has that cut-out? It's pretty racy cover art, but why not? Everything about Goldfrapp's music smacks of sex and she is a foxy chameleon whose look as always tastefully paralleled the music.

Unfortunately, according to Arjan, the US release of Supernature has been pushed back to February so Allison and Will can promote the album in the US simultaneous to its release. This is annoying, but at least this means there should be a NYC show in the new year (2006!).

Never could I have imagined when I got Felt Mountain that Goldfrapp would go on to become purveyors of electro-disco. It's been a fascinating metamorphosis as I have found their more club-friendly music just as good as their icier downtempo homages to Bavaria and old soundtracks. Of course, it's not like the sound of Felt Mountain was abandoned, just that the singles now tend to be much punchier songs, outside of "Black Cherry" (and I imagine at least one single off of Supernature). I suppose the common denominator in all of Goldfrapp's music is that it's sexy. At any rate, this album ranks up there perhaps just short of the Super Furry Animals' Love Kraft as my most anticipated albums left to come out this year, although now it's going to be a 2006 release for here (I doubt I will hold out that long and I will get a copy in the fall)

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Chems in Central Park / Live 8

1) The rumored Chemical Brothers' show in Central Park has been confirmed. The line up is essentially what was rumored as well. Tickets are on sale at the Ultra New York website. This will provide a very nice note to end the summer on. While the DJs spinning that day (Jokenfold, Erick Morillo, Danny Tenaglia, and Timo Maas) wouldn't be as exciting as 2manydjs or Erol Alkan, I am not complaining, as I imagine some decent house will be played. Including the scrubs that are also supposed to play that day (yeah, a jerky comment - but I have never seen them spin, so they can't possibly be good!), there are 7 DJs plus the Chems' performing, with more to be announced - how is everyone going to play anything more than 30 minutes if they only have one stage? Perhaps there will be a couple of tents, which could be interesting.

I am a bit torn on how successful I want this event to be. On one hand, if they sell out (as the website promises), that could lead to other similar events in Central Park, which certainly would be a lot of fun. I also llike to see the Chems be successful in the States. However, my big fear is that this is the kind of event that is ripe for an awful crowd that would be the type of characters you might see at Crobar on a Friday night.

Tickets are 50 bucks during the "presale" (which appears to mean a certain number of alloted tickets rather than a specific time period) and go up to 60 once they are on sale proper - pricey, so buy your duckets soon, kids!

2) I watched a bunch of Live 8 on Saturday. Like everyone else, I found MTV/VH-1's coverage to border on the offensive. Who the hell cares what your idiot C grade hosts have to say about Pink Floyd? Fading out during "Comfortably Numb" was such a foolish call that it was funny. Fortunately, I discovered AOL's very commendable coverage on the internet. Any of the myriad concerts from around the world was available to watch live, and without any technical interruptions. I loved Floyd - and I thought that David Gilmour's voice sounded good (Rajeev and I argued the merits of his voice vs. Roger Waters on and off for much of the weekend). The Who rocked. Richard Ashcroft's performance of "Bittersweet Symphony" with Coldplay was tolerable - mainly because it was fun to watch shoeless Mad Richard strut onto the stage carrying his boots. Macca's Beatles set at the end of the show was enjoyable. Peephole was instantly smitten (and I imagine Frauds was too) when we watched Robbie Williams belt out "Angels" during a re-webcast of the London concert.

Why on earth wasn't Rush on the virtually all-Canadian Toronto show?

Perhaps I am getting old, but I surprised myself this weekend while watching this rediculous epic concert and instead of being snarky and cynical about it, I was just happy to see the classic rockers.