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March 31, 2010, 13:20 -05 by chris
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This Month’s Buzzband Cover Art Totally Looks Like Last Month’s Buzzband Cover Art
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This Week’s Ironic Feist ‘Stache Totally Looks Like Last Week’s Ironic Cocorosie ‘Stache
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More Cowbell 2010 Totally Feels Like More Tambourine 2003
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This Year’s Ukulele Totally Looks Like Last Year’s Bent Speak ‘n Spell
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R.I.P., Alex Chilton

March 18, 2010, 12:50 -05 by chris
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Recording Session: Schedule it Like the Pros!

March 4, 2010, 16:08 -05 by chris
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Dude! Extreme!

March 4, 2010, 12:51 -05 by chris
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Jason from SMP has posted the opening title sequence of “Ski Movie 2: High Society”, featuring the track “Megaton (Doll Factory remix)”, to his YouTube channel. I feel like we should be “doing the Dew” or something.

And dat ain’t cool, fool, ’cause it’s Friday.

February 19, 2010, 15:28 -05 by chris
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Enough about Tiger Woods, already. One of the blandest guys in the world known for playing one of the blandest ‘sports’ in the world gave one of the blandest press conferences ever about something nobody should actually care about. The economy? Housing crisis? Health care crisis? Iranian nukes? Schools conducting illegal surveillance? Nope, some sports celebrity who slept around (shocker!) is the “top story”. Yech.

Is there someone else up there we can talk to? No. Now go away or I shall re-record the vocal track a second time-uh.

The “carrying on about bacon to the point of absurdity and launching products that include bacon or bacon flavoring that probably shouldn’t” and “oversaturating a niche market with more pink, cutesy storefronts that only sell cupcakes” trends need to go away already. Websites with pictures of hipsters above droll captions are still, somehow, funny, though: Unhappy Hipsters / Hipster Puppies / LATFH / Hipster Handbook / LATFHB

Q: How many performance artists does it take to screw in a lightbulb?
A: I don’t know. I left.

OK, I got nothin’. But this fulfills my ‘gotta update this thing every so often’ self-imposed obligation for the week anyway.

Let’s get random, zagga, zagga, zagga, yo…

February 8, 2010, 15:39 -05 by chris
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That N.A.S.A. song with David Byrne and a bunch of MCs makes me happier than it has any right to, in a tropical-flavored World Destruction kinda way. Only, more ‘time and space’ and less ‘Reagan and Thatcher’, of course.

Fun was had at the Editors show at the Showbox last Friday. Being on the guest list is fun, even when it’s because you won a record store contest just like anyone else, and not because you’re in some band or something. Music critics that still insist on rehashing that “hrrrgh! Sounds just like Ian Curtis!” thing are just being lame and losing the plot at this point. For the record, I did not hear anything that sounded like Ian Curtis all evening. While their three full-lengths to date are pretty divergent from each other, it seems that’s more due to production style than the songs themselves; the ‘catalog’ of songs sounds totally cohesive – to the point of struggling to remember which songs are from which album – the way they do them live. The show reaffirmed my “they’re one of those bands that makes more sense after you see them live” theory about ’em. Ran in to Kim and Geoff from C’est La Mort, who I don’t think had seen Garrick since he moved back to town.

Good arranging / editing / get-a-second-opinion-on-what-to-do-with-those-empty-four-and-eight-bar-transition-sections session on P.o.E. on Thursday. Hubristically thought we’d wrap up the song, but instead ended up finding out that there’s more work to be done than we thought… (“The only true wisdom consists in knowing that you know nothing.” “That’s us, dude!”). But isn’t that always the way with such things?

Last time I checked, I was still an American, but I still do not understand your “American football”. Even the commercials aren’t amusing anymore, but the thing apparently had the highest ratings in over 20 years, so it’s probably only a matter of time before we’re watering our crops with Brawndo.

There’s unlimited supply. And there is no reason why…

January 29, 2010, 16:31 -05 by chris
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Well, I was going to riff on the elegant simplicity of the fisheye lens and mirrored bauble camera-work in the new Hot Chip video, and on trying to come up with cool low- or no-budget video ideas based on brainstorming up and sticking to a clever idea – using one’s imagination and working within limitations, rather than throwing huge production budgets around, or, worse, trying to look ‘big budget’ when you’re not, and ending up looking like a ‘student project’ in the process (out of politeness I’m not going to cite relevant examples of other bands’ videos here).

But it seems that since the major labels bullied a deal with Google in which they now get paid some pennies-or-fractions-thereof when their videos are played on YouTube (and only when they’re played on the actual YouTube.com site), these labels have taken the typically dumber-than-just-shortsighted approach of disabling embedding across the board.

This is true even for bands like OK Go that you’ve only actually ever heard of because of people embedding and reposting their YouTube videos all over the Web. Genius.

And you can just guess that the actual bands likely don’t see any of these pennies-or-fractions-thereof the majors are so desperate to cling to that they’ll actually hamper their own acts’ ability to find an audience.

…which is a whole ‘nother layer of extra-vinegar-y awesome sauce, since songwriters (typically members of the band, if you’re talking about actual ‘rock’) get (or got) a-few-pennies-here-a-few-there-and-if-you’re-lucky-they-start-to-add-up when songs they wrote are played on the radio, on television, or in movies, through “performing rights organizations” that were invented – ASCAP in 1914, BMI in 1939, etc. – when radio stations began playing recordings, instead of hiring musicians to perform live on the air, to screw musicians out of money at the beginning of the last century (and even then, record labels would call themselves the “publisher” and try to convince you to – or require you to as a condition of getting “signed” – sign over the “publishing” half of your royalties to “the label” as well.

I could literally write a book, but suffice it to say that record labels screwing over artists and listeners alike is as old as the Edison cylinder.

Now that MTV is a trainwreck reality-show network instead of “Music (And By Music We Mean Motley Crue’s Home Sweet Home On An Endless Loop 24 Hours A Day Seven Days A Week) Television” (paid for, natch, by money the major label takes out of the band’s cut of the never-gonna-recoup-your-advance loan-shark funny-money), you watch your videos on places like YouTube, if you bother turning off your Jersey Shore, X-Box or Wii to watch music videos (or, God forbid, go read a book or something) at all anymore. And if the band is on one of the “big four” (or however many it is this week) major labels, what would have been a broadcast performance royalty to the songwriter / publisher of the actual song back when MTV was still MTV (and radio and going to shows weren’t some sort of incestuous monopoly of Clear Channel Communications, House of Blues, and Ticketmaster) is now, apparently, replaced by some virtual chump change that Google gives directly to the label.

That’s what I was going to post about, but I can’t. So here’s an old YouTube clip that doesn’t have embedding disabled (yet).

Go ask Alice when she’s ten feet tall

January 25, 2010, 14:56 -05 by chris
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While Vivienne Westwood’s Active Resistance Manifesto, or that of the Stuckists, make for interesting and discussion-provoking reading, I’m of two minds when it comes to their common and absolutist dismissal of non-representational art.

I’m with Westwood, to a point, when it comes to the assertion that every time one chooses to “read a book instead of looking at a magazine, go to the art gallery instead of watching TV, go to the theatre instead of the cinema”, one’s defenses against “propaganda” are strengthened (and that unquestioning acceptance of anything from “you’re either with us or you’re with the terr-ists”, to blithely tuning in to American Idol under the assumption that the only choice you have regarding how to spend your evening is deciding which channel to watch, to actually reading those “what did so-and-so wear to what awards show, and who was seen with George Clooney last week” magazines with a straight face, are all part of an Idiocracy-inducing “propaganda” culture that leaves the future vulnerable to a “mob drool” that could be more dangerous than “mob rule”)…

And I’m with the Stuckists, to a point, that Modernism for its own sake (particularly when it gets to the “this glass of water is an oak tree because I say it is” or “Rocks on Blocks: Number 31 in a series of Rocks on Blocks” extreme of the continuum) is “a school of fragmentation — one aspect of art is isolated and exaggerated to detriment of the whole”.

Fully “conceptual” art (An Oak Tree being a classic and prime example – there’s nothing interesting or noteworthy about an everyday, run-of-the-mill glass of water, and no traditional skill or craft in its creation; everything ‘interesting’ about the ‘work’ is the discussion surrounding the thing, not the thing itself – to the point where the ‘work’ isn’t a ‘work’ without the accompanying ‘semiotic discussion’ text affixed to the wall beneath it, to let you know it’s a conceptual work that should be discussed, and not just a glass of water that a worker forgot whilst painting the gallery wall) is always an interesting conundrum for those of us with the luxury of worrying about more than where our next meal will come from.

And I agree that an artist’s “removing the mask of cleverness” and “allowing uncensored self-expression” can make for more affecting art with greater immediacy, emotional impact, and take-away “meaning”.

That the likes of Sir Nicolas Serota and Damien Hirst are obnoxious, pretentious wankers less than a stone’s throw from a real-life version of The Schoeners skit on Saturday Night Live, sure.

And “art that has to be in a gallery to be art isn’t art”, certainly.

Usually, anyway. If that’s agreed as an absolute truth, “An Oak Tree” isn’t art (either that, or every glass of water that’s set with the table at every restaurant you’ve ever been to in your life is A PRICELESS MAS-TER-PIECE-UH!”).

But where Active Resistance’s and the Stuckists’ manifestos make absolute and finite declarations is where they limit themselves, and ultimately fall short of any “Grand Unifying Theory of Life, The Universe, and Everything”, even if it’s this same tendency toward bold, declarative statement that makes for interesting reading (or, much like “shock jock” radio hosts’ bold, declarative statements for the sake of being bold and declarative, can’t-turn-away-like-watching-a-car-crash listening).

“Artists who don’t paint aren’t artists.” Bullshit. This is no less ridiculous than a bluegrass banjo player declaring that Kraftwerk, DJ Shadow, or Kool Keith aren’t musicians, or a painter insisting that if you don’t paint in oils on canvas you stretched yourself, you’re not a real painter. Your chosen discipline isn’t the only valid one.

“We define culture as: The exploration and cultivation of humanity through art.” That’s one part of culture. But so are food, and clothing. And architecture. If “real” art can only be representational, and only “art” is culture, what of the “set of all things that are part of culture but aren’t representational art”?

I’m sure Ms. Westwood would be more than happy to deem her own clothing “art”, in the same almost-as-self-serving-as-the-Scientologists way that her Manifesto posits that one’s “art” is the only true path to “saving the planet” (and if you’re a struggling painter down to your last pack of Ramen, or Bono, or Tom Cruise, wouldn’t you like to think so?) but my Vivienne Westwood scarf isn’t representational of anything but a scarf, and “representational” food (a pancake topped with a strip of bacon and two fried eggs, made to look like a face, perhaps?) is generally relegated to the childrens’ menu at IHOP or Denny’s. Or Cake Wrecks.

And after declaring that art must be “representational” or at least a “microcosm of a shared and universal-truth human experience” to be worthy of being deemed capital-A “Art”, Westwood goes on to cite JS Bach as an example – which is representational of what, exactly?


“Named” Bach pieces such as the Coffee Cantata can be said to be representational of something, but is The Well-Tempered Clavier, composed “for the profit and use of musical youth desirous of learning, and especially for the pastime of those already skilled in this study,” any less valid because it’s not “about” something?

Backlash-to-a-backlash arguments such as the Stuckists’ or Active Resistance manifestos seem to ironically be arguing for the visual equivalent of “program music” in the hundreds-of-years-old “progam music” vs. “absolute music” debate, in which the purist stance typically argued for absolute music using many of the same arguments being made for representational art = some sort of purity or honesty today.

I’m utterly fascinated and intrigued by the likes of the Stuckists and Active Resistance, but…

Art doesn’t have to be a painting, and a painting doesn’t have to be of a human face.

That’s, hypocritically, an infinitely bigger crock than any “blank white canvas for a million pounds” such arguments rail against.

As for myself, I think An Oak Tree, Damien Hirst’s Bedazzled skulls and sharks-in-tanks, that one guy’s “Piss Christ”, and “Rocks on Blocks” are still art – they’re just bullshit “art” that I think sucks.

Art that doesn’t represent anything but what it is is still art.

Art that doesn’t exist except to provoke a discussion about what is art is still art.

I might argue that whether I like it or not, or agree with its subjective “worth” in any sense, IS “representative human nature”.

Active Resistance and the Stuckists are unashamedly and deservedly “punk” in their essence – exciting, thought-provoking, reactionary, desirous of “waking people up” or “shaking up a system”, raising more questions than they answer, and perhaps ultimately self-limiting themselves into oblivion through narrowness (or lack) of focus.

That they’re essentially “punk” arguments for classicism is a fascinating paradox, but then “punk rock” was a bit of a Moebius-strip argument for a return to classicism in rock music as a backlash against what is now ‘classic rock’, wasn’t it?

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