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Posts Tagged ‘music’

The Ramones. (long essay for college)

March 6, 2012 Leave a comment

I’m going to go out on a limb here and assume that everybody thinks of the Beatles as the most influential rock and roll group of the 20th century. And as there were no rock and roll groups in the 19th century and there aren’t any as influential or universally beloved as the Beatles in the 21st century, it feels safe to call them the most influential pop band of all time. Indeed, it was John, Paul, George and Ringo who invented the self-contained band–a handful of musicians who would write, sing and play their own songs exclusively. During the 60s, the Fab Four were the biggest thing since sliced bread, but after their dissolution and into the 1970s, rock music took increasingly more theatric and ludicrous turns. Acts like Led Zeppelin opened the door for progressive rock (prog rock henceforth) and heavy metal, two genres less focused on songs and more focused on performances. These genres took skill and years of practice to get into, and were only amassing global popularity in the early 70s.

It was into this musical landscape that the second most influential rock and roll group of the 20th century was born. It was a time of guitar virtuosos and organ solos. When performers took to the stage, it was frequently in elaborate outfits. Rock music became less about rebellion and more about hobbits or satan. This was the environment surrounding four “middle class” New York boys determined to make their impact on the world. And to think, all Tom Erdelyi wanted to do was start a band. When he met John Cummings, Douglas Colvin and Jeffry Hyman through their mutual fandom for The Stooges, the pieces were in place for the Ramones to take over the world. Tommy had found Johnny, Dee Dee and Joey. All that was left was for them to convince him that he should play drums instead of being the manager. (He’d stay on as producer for their first four albums.)

Their passion came out of the New York Dolls, the Stooges and a rebellion (at least on Johnny’s part) against the idea that excessive displays of skill were a necessary part of being a rock band. Unlike their primary influences’ focus on clothing and makeup, the Ramones played strictly in jeans and leather jackets with outgrown Beatles haircuts. Their first shows were at a hole-in-the-wall bar in a New York abandoned by young urban professionals headed for the suburbs. CBGB was the only bar that would have them, and even then, their audience at their first shows was mostly comprised of the members of Television, Blondie, the Talking Heads. Being entirely unique in their style, there was no competition with the Ramones. Read more…

Chairs vs chairs.

January 4, 2012 Leave a comment

Think back, in your mind, to the last chair you sat on. I’m going somewhere with this analogy, I promise you, but for now, just think of the last chair you sat on. Perhaps you’re sitting in one right now. (Little computer joke.) I believe in the Zuckerberg Character philosophy that “a guy who builds a nice chair doesn’t owe money to everyone who has ever built a chair”. Chairs are sort of basic, mechanical objects, aren’t they. Enough legs to make balance a certainty; a back if you want your sitter to rest their back on the back of your chair. A seat, preferably, or you have legs jammed up your goolies. And it’s never good to have chairlegs jammed up your goolies no matter how restful your back is on your chair back. But the last chair you sat on is sort of a basic, mechanical thing, right? You can break it down to legs, seat and back. That’s all you need in a chair for it to be called a chair. And you evaluate its quality as a chair by how long it lasts as a chair and how comfortable you are in that chair.

So why do we let manufacturers tell us that other basic mechanical things are so much more complex and difficult just because they’re newer? With a number of things, there’s only really one metric of quality: it works or it doesn’t. Binary. Does it do the job it’s supposed to? I’m not talking about things like guitars with varying sounds or monitors with varying contrast ratios or engines with varying strengths and stuff. I’m talking about things like chairs. Tables. Music stands. Canvas bags. Knives of varying purposes. Do these things do the things they’re supposed to do? And thus, you can judge them. And you’ll notice these are all old things–things we’ve had around for years. But what if I was to tell you there was another thing, a new thing, that’s come along in the last twenty years that has a pretty much binary quality but you’ve been convinced is a matter of highly differing qualities and standards?

It’s cables. Read more…

The Streets and album archetypes.

March 14, 2011 Leave a comment

We’re all familiar with a couple basic album archetypes. We talk as though there’s a difference between a concept album, a rock opera and a plain-jane album. There are differences between those three, but those three aren’t what I’m here to talk about today. I’m here today to talk about a few album archetypes you may not be familiar with, and to provide examples of such, I’m going to use the entire Streets catalogue. Mike Skinner has said that Computers and Blues will be his final album under the Streets moniker–whether that’s true or not, only time will tell. However, with Computers and Blues, he’s released five albums that together define the course of a career. Not his career–any career in music, from The Decemberists to The Beatles to Lil Wayne to Nirvana. I am confident that if there are artists alive and working who haven’t released albums fitting this archetypes (however loosely), they either lost the chance early on or will later on. So, no pussyfooting around–let’s do this thing!

The Indie Album: Original Pirate Material

Original Pirate MaterialI’m not familiar with how these albums were written, so you’re going to have to bear with me on a few things. Instead of talking about how he made them, which I could ascertain through research, I’m going to talk about how it sounds on the other end. And this album sounds rough as sandpaper on the loo roll. Every vocal is distorted through hell by way of poor mics turned far too far up and are all so harshly gated that words are cut off. The samples don’t match, the structure’s through the floor and scattered like twigs–it’s altogether hard to listen to on your first couple runs through. That’s because this is his first album, likely recorded on poor equipment with whatever money he had around to spare before he’d found his sound. It’s cheap, it’s quick, it’s dirty, and was made not because Mike Skinner wanted to show off how awesome he was at anything, but because he needed to make music. Read more…

Why do I listen to foreign music?

March 3, 2011 Leave a comment
GD&TOP

Realer than you.

At the moment, I’m listening to Korean rap duo GD&TOP’s album GD&TOP Vol.1. For the past few months (since October) my primary hip hop albums have been outsourced, and it’s only recently with Tyler, the Creator’s work with OFWGKTA that my rap tastes have come back to North America. Before that, I was bumping Die Antwoord (which I told you all about) and Bigga Raiji, a Japanese “ragamuffin”–which they seem to think means performer or fan of a blend of reggae and hip hop. Like, reggae stylings and modern hip hop production styles. And it hit me, when I was trying to sing along to Korean or when I found out the lyrics to “Doos Dronk” are almost entirely in Afrikaans, I was identifying more with foreign music than I was with the stuff at home. And I wondered what I saw in it.

Sadly, the answer’s really simple. GD&TOP, despite–or perhaps because of–being members of Korean boy band Big Bang, they’re the only rappers out there who focus on the style and the swagger of being rappers. It’s been so long dealing with this post-prison aesthetic in rap, where everybody tries to convince everyone how “hard” they are, and how “hood” they are, and how much they’re real and from the streets. Ironically, this is entirely a fabrication by these guys who, since they began to earn millions of dollars a year, have been farther removed from you than Bill Gates himself. Jay-Z may have sold coke, but lord knows that he doesn’t represent the street or the mafia in his raps today after building an empire on legitimately legitimate business. The man married Beyoncé Knowles. The number of us who could do that without selling our souls to Satan is zero. Read more…

Why Devo?

September 14, 2010 Leave a comment

If you’ve known me long enough, or know me in real life, or were linked here from Facebook (those three things should cover all of you who know this by now) you know that I love Devo. It took a long time, but as I started watching Devo Live 1980 this afternoon, I realised suddenly that these guys are my favourite band of all time. At least, right now. But they will likely continue to be into the future. These badasses of rock’n’roll spit on the graves of mere mortal musicians with the contempt usually reserved by hippies for their corporate masters.

Devo recognised the instant they formed that music wasn’t heading toward a hippie free-sharing utopia, although we have that in our underground pirate networks. No, they saw that music was corporatized; music was a product to be exported and sold to the masses on whatever media the corporation deemed profitable this week. And instead of rebelling against their new corporate overlords like cowards, they instead used their fascination with synthesizers and robotic riffs to infiltrate the corporations they wanted to bring down, writing satire so perfect it sounds like the real thing. Devo are not a band. They are the representatives of a cultural singularity that wouldn’t happen for over twenty years. All of this, you see, was in 1974. Read more…

tibieryo and The Kleptones

September 2, 2010 1 comment

It’s 10:30. I’ve got Jonestown on the stereo, I’ve got nothing to do. Let’s post something.

Something interesting happened the other day with my review of Shits & Giggles by the Kleptones. I tweeted it to the artist because I had to tweet it somehow, and thought he might like to read it. (shrugging) I dunno, I like being complimented on a job well done myself. I thought if I sent him a (totally freaking warranted) four star review of his album, he might reply and be all like, “Oh hey thanks, fan guy! Btw, your dreams of a Canadian tour date in Toronto are entirely unfounded in reality and you better start saving up to come to Bestival next year, cos seriously, ain’t no way no how I’m flying to that frozen hellhole” and I wouldn’t’ve blamed him. I wouldn’t tour Canada if my music itself was illegal and all the clubs in Toronto blow. (Okay, just the ones I’ve been to have been horrible except for the Jungle Room they inevitably have. Jungle: It makes your booty quake.) I sent it off to him, supposing that he was warm and comfy cozy in Britain while I was struggling to meet my midnight deadline. Read more…

REVIEW: Shits & Giggles

August 31, 2010 2 comments

Occasionally, a band comes on the scene who release several albums met with escalating praise. From Yoshimi Battles the Hip Hop Robots to 24 Hours, the Kleptones have only been getting better with every album. The Kleptones, however, aren’t a normal band. They’re a DJ who goes by Eric Kleptone, who makes mashups. For those unfamiliar with the concept, mashups are (at their most basic) the vocals of one song overtop of the music of another. At their most complex, a mashup can be over eight minutes in length, sampling as many songs as The Dust Brothers or DJ Shadow in their prime, unified by a vocal line or two–or even with an entirely invented collage of soundbites overtop of the music. I listen to The Kleptones not because they make mashups.

I listen to the Kleptones because they write songs that happen to be made of other people’s songs. Read more…