Archive for July, 2009


Pulp – Smudge

The best use of the word “pulp” in this household. What an amazing band Smudge were. They were just before my time, or at my earliest of times with all impediment of the misguided and inflexible tastes i had back then, but over the 5, 6, 7 years their brilliance finally reached me and i’ve succumbed to every bit of it. So i fall on another posthumous appreciation of an excellent band. At least this one had some amount of deserved success. I would have loved to have been around for it, with this expanse of taste and love for them i have now. At least they left such a significant trace all the components readily exist for discovery. Walk into any second hand record store, find the Smudge CDs, fall in love. We’ve had a lot of good bands here that seem prime for such rediscovery: Pollyanna, The Hummingbirds, Sandpit, Even, Sodastream, Screamfeeder (who just rereleased Kitten Licks in a deluxe edition), etcetera. It’s like giving a contemporary face to those old Recovery bands. It’s like realising amazing music existed beyond me as close to home as this, as well as on distant shores. To be everywhere, everytime at once.

splndour in the grass

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When nice people think dumb things, attack, and vote – Armalite

I seem to have reached a point of repetition, of bands at least. Oh well, who writes about or gives any exposure to this most ephemeral of bands these days? Anything i can do to ressurect their profile and delegate them in my own slight, almost invisible way as a notable at the least, great at the most appropriate, band, i will.

Will i ever hear anything from Armalite again? There always seemed to be this sense of impermanence about them, and that seems to have been fulfilled. Maybe they do still play the odd show, confined to where their lives, schedules, and other responsibilities allow, but what good is that to me? A record sent to the other side of the globe, played to myself in a room, all involvement, benefit and inspiration found in that listening room, is what i need.

I’d like for Armalite to do something more. Who else is going to sing about type 2 diabetes, the French New Wave, growing up and punk rock warnings thereof from a post of being already grown up, the permanence and effect of one’s life set apart from punk’s lofty ideals, being in the system and writing from that perspective, and those moments in life where, separated from punk rock and agreeable company and now in the real world, you find yourself having to deal with the differing, sometimes hard to swallow political views of otherwise nice, compatible people, and the volume of such people in the world becoming more and more apparent to you (as in this song) – all done in the best DC influenced pop punk in the past five years?

Armalite were an older band, i.e. a band full of older people. It’s nice to know no matter how old i get there will still be that older band to look up to and not only make myself feel better for not being as old as i possibly could be, but also have that band with life experience to impart with perspective i don’t yet have. Makes me feel like a kid again. But these four people had already achieved far more at my age than i have. Plainly. They did things.

Oh, look what came in the mail today:

I’m such a loser.


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Rehab – Amy Winehouse

I know nothing of Amy Winehouse except those unflattering things i read in magazines on breaks at work, and i’ve heard nothing of Amy Winehouse save for dull 10 second clips i catch in passing on TV commercials. It’s that same soundbite that keeps playing over in my head this morning. Why? I don’t know. So really, on downloading it this morning, this is the first time i’ve ever heard it attentively, and i really do not think it’s that great of a song. This might be the first time i’ve posted a song i don’t like. It’s not an intense, active hate, just polite dismissal in response to something that doesn’t appeal to me. Controversial…

Ok. Maybe i can hate it, and launch myself to an uncomfortable moral highground at the same time. As said, i only know Amy Winehouse by what i read in tabloid magazines, and as virtuous a journalistic platform they are this song, these lyrics, this autobiography, her visible tendencies and behaviour at once celebrated and condemned by public and media all point to someone who may benefit from some kind of rehabilitation. But to benefit, you would have to admit the problem, want recovery and accept help offered, and this song is plainly renouncing that path. So Amy Winehouse has substance abuse problems that cannot and will not be dealt with in the traditional celebrity, public eye appeasing method of the rehabilitation clinic. Stated. It is on the threat of divorce from those things that give her being in her life – music, inspiration, family, friends, relationships both good and harmful – that she denies rehab. Her problems run to a depth she believes incurable through clinical help. Who doesn’t? It sometimes can help.

Her problems. I am not writing about a person here, i am writing about a construct of expectations, from both her status as an r&b/soul singer who lives, breathes then sings the hard life and the horrible tabloid circus of that life we see. All throughout, we pray for her to get cleaned up and have her life, her relationships, everything that drives her to a life she needs rehabilitation from all sorted out. Yet at the same time that life gives fuel and authenticity to her as a musician. Where would she be without this hard living? There comes a purity with the life this character leads to the music she plays, the stories she tells, the soul with which she sings, elevating it to art, to the venerable, to something honourable, to the real. Substance abuse giving substance.

Reviving music associated with so much hard living in its time, to be inattentive to that aspect of it would render the music trivial and erroneous. Amy Winehouse’s precision in capturing and carrying that aspect that gives her a respected place in this music’s canon, possibly above all her evident talent as a musician. It is to this legitimate artistry you can award Mercury music prizes, Grammys and Rolling Stone articles. It is to this music snobs grant their attention and praise. It is to this she is of consequence. This is living, this is compelling, this is romance, this is heart and soul, this is worth, this is life. It is never dying.

It’s unfortunate attention is concentrated to her on this rather than her music, which, while not my cup of tea, she undeniably loves. It’s unfortunate how marketable it all is.

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Deliri-loco – Assfactor 4

Assfactor 4 are simply the greatest band. Well, maybe not the greatest band, if i am to be absolute about it and rest one (1) band on that pinnacle. And i know who they are, and i know several filing just below them. Nevertheless, Assfactor 4 are more than deserving of the heights unexamined hyperbole can reach. This is a fantastic song by them, one of my favourites. A slower one. The melodic, two guitar line outro is something the band did so well, and something i think i copy too much in my own attempts of songwriting. So much so that i’ve already repressed any appearance of something resembling it before it’s ever had the chance to appear in a completed song.

Today i have to go get my haircut (bad thing), buy a stylus (good thing), and save a set of swings from being torn down (desperate thing).


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Dead of the night – Demon Flight

Metal! At least i hope so. The vocals on this song seem so artificial, so whiny, so “when i squeeze my nose i sound like Axl Rose”, and yet so awesome that i hope on hope that this is genuine and not some sham hipster parody. I should probably do some research on it. Until then, my love and appreciation of this song is entirely contingent on the legitimate proprietry of heavy metal – those that live and die by it, who contribute to it, who have a sincere love for it, who have place and little where else to go, not capricious, appropriating, occupying forces who claim stake to all through whim, endorsement from on high and apathy; who come and go through no struggle or overhaul of identity. This must be of the former. It must be. I don’t mean to say that a certain purity is mandate for certain endeavour, just that this song, if it were sincere, would have a value it otherwise would not.

an actor's revenge

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Luka – Suzanne Vega

Such a great song by the godmother of the mp3. I had always expected it to be a light, cheerful song, as once all i knew of it were the first two to four lines sung by Homer Simpson, Space Ghost and Bjelke-Petersen Youth. I was expecting it to be like Rio, who dances in the sand, the song designated to that soft, palatable world of pop music subject matter. But this is Luka, who lives on the second floor. It is to Suzanne Vega’s credit that the lyrics are so resonant and affecting, that the content, and the most horrible and sad aspect of abuse is the excuse and denial of it, is never obscured by what really is the catchiest of songs. It’s sad that this was her only real success.

mother joan of angels

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N.I.T.A. – Young Marble Giants

I’ve wondered before here to where, if there exists a where, i would go next with music; who i would fall in love with and which formerly closed world would open up to me next. It’s no distant world, and i wonder why i’ve not gotten into them earlier, but for the past few months i’ve been enamoured of Young Marble Giants and every sublime thing they did in their two years of existence. They’re my new thing.

The method and minimalism the Young Marble Giants used in their songs, and Alison’s voice, delivered always beautiful things, but the synthesizer/organ lines in this song in particular are so fantastic, so enchanting, so otherworldly. It sounds like it belongs in a Jacques Cousteau or a Jean Painlevé documentary, without any illustration of the scientific underwater, just the magical, unearthly underwater, unknown, unstudied, illusion intact, possibly with mermaids and mermen, sunken treasure.

So what does N.I.T.A. stand for? There’s my next step: Complete immersion in and comprehension of the band, from lyrics to gear used to philosophy.

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Shelly’s Boyfriend – Bonnie Hayes and the Wild Combo

From the incredibly fruitful Valley Girl soundtrack, though not the original album, but the decade later released, follow up, overflow-control album: Valley Girl: More Music From The Soundtrack. That’s how great it was. I will go on record that Valley Girl has the best soundtrack out of all 80s teen movies. Try and find one better. It doesn’t quite have that mixtape, English-band-in-one’s-bedroom feeling that the John Hughes movie soundtracks exude (though there is that Modern English song on there. Oh, and Psychedelic Furs…), just an effortless impression of setting, identification, sympathy and elation through a few new wave songs. Though there is the chance, only ever seeing it on video, that i’ve never heard the intended soundtrack, due to licensing issues, etc. But this is the shape of the movie in my mind and i love it.

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In the Country

In the country – Cliff Richard

The song that got Belle and Sebastian in some trouble when they either unknowingly or not used the same vocal line for Wrapped Up In Books. I really don’t think it matters, but then i don’t have stake in that melody or the money melodies make. It’s for the courts to decide, i guess. The controversy with Elastica “stealing” Wire and other bands’ riffs in what was obviously homage and never plagiarism, culminating in out of court settlements, also seems astonishing and needless to me. I don’t like it. And i don’t like the stirred antipathy of fans, screaming for blood, justice, going to war for their band in the face of a pillaging, heartless other.

Oh Cliff!
Sometimes it must be difficult not to feel as if
you really are a cliff
when fascists keep trying to push you over it!
Are they the lemmings, or are you Cliff?
Or are you, Cliff?

black narcissus

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What’s so strange about me? – Eight Dayz

I have been watching a lot of skate videos recently. Ones before my time; classic, revolutionary ones, from Bones Brigade videos to Video Days and Questionable, spanning so few years but so much in progression and what can be done with a skateboard. And in how a skateboard video can be shot. Lance Mountain, Ray Barbee, Mark Rogowski, Natas Kaupas, Pat Duffy, Mark Gonzales, Sal Barbier, Salman Agah, Christian Hosoi, Matt Hensley, etc. Skateboarding represented so impeccably – everything about it, from how these incredible skaters use their boards, the sense of freedom, mastery, purity, creativity, to the sensation of the… sport: sweat, heat, empty lungs, concrete, the sound of the wheels – by something so simple as putting a camera in front of a skater. And maybe shooting in slow-motion once in a while. The skateboard video is one of the most stimulating things in the world – always short, but enough within to inspire/oblige you outdoors and on to concrete. It’s always sunny out in these videos. These are no ordinary advertisements.

This song soundtracks the Christian Hosoi, Rob Roskopp and Claus Grabke ramp part in Santa Cruz’s Wheels of Fire. Claus Grabke’s band Eight Dayz offers four songs to the Wheels of Fire soundtrack, none of which sound like they come from the same band. One minute they sound like the Smiths or the Bodines, then Age of Chance or maybe New Order, then southern bar rock, then to this fantastic, (i want to say) Cure, Joy Division or Sisters of Mercy-sounding song. But they all fill their respective parts so well. Skateboard videos would not be the same without the songs to service them.

Watching these videos is made all the better through their soundtracks, what i can recognise and what i am picking up. Dinosaur Jr., Bl’ast and the Minutemen, and other great bands, are all over these videos and it’s nice to know that so many over time have heard their music, possibly fallen in love with it, simply by popping a tape into their VCR. The first time i heard Fugazi was through a 411 video. I’ve never been sure how the music becomes associated with a certain skater’s parts, if it’s the skater’s, the company’s or the filmmaker’s choice of song for the soundtrack. I like the idea that it’s the skater, the song an extra gift. That they soundtrack something so pure, that the song choice is always so idiosyncratic, and that you are invariably so stirred by watching the video, the impact of the song is heightened to something beyond simply an auditory transience.

I really want to skate again. I haven’t stepped on a board in maybe three years, since i broke my last board. That’s always the pattern with me. I’ll somehow acquire a new board, skate enough, become ok, one day break my board, and not ever have enough money to buy a new one. I’m too scared, honestly. I don’t know these streets. And i am too old to be as bad as i will have to revert to. I was never very good, but i liked it. Going to Wilberforce Public School or the shops at the latest of hours when i couldn’t drive, or to Windsor, Richmond, and to Clarendon and North Richmond skateparks at the same covert hour when i could – these stir some powerful and moving memories. I had Henry and Adrian and others when i first started, but mostly, through my inexorable self-imposed hermitry, i skated alone. Skating with friends is better, less stifling, and a more powerful feeling, but there is something about you, a board, and the night. I miss it. I want to relive it.

I also want to learn karate.

lawn dogs

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