Archive for February, 2013

Like Dylan in the movies – Belle and Sebastian

That documentary has really sent me back to them. I’ve watched it twice now, which i’m sure is no record. I’ll watch it again before the trend around it drops, and many times after that as time rolls on. I’ve listened to their music more, especially If You’re Feeling Sinister, which i’ve never considered their best but now i’ve been told it is it might have grown on me that requisite bit extra. But if they wanted albums without singles, or didn’t want to release singles from albums, then they shouldn’t have made such obviously standout tracks on their albums. And then released promotion videos for them. And had them as the first Belle and Sebastian song many people would hear, making them special and elevating them forever above all others. The songs, i mean.

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Big Take Over

Big take over – Bad Brains

This is in no doubt the rubiest stance to have, but my opinion of the Bad Brains has forever been shaped by their chapters in the Dance of Days book. Yes, they were for a while an incredible band but like those chapters on them they just got unbearable as they went along. Reading amazing, inspiring chapters on revolution summer, Positive Force, riot girl, the Nation of Ulysses, etc. and then between them returning to the ongoing decent into reggae, homophobia, breakup after breakup, money problems, police problems, and questionable mental attitudes of the Bad Brains, it became too unbearable.

But we don’t have to live with that. We can pick and choose, ignore and filter what we want of these bands. Keep personality out of it. Ignore abject divergences. Keep them perfect as they at one time were. Keep the Bad Brains to the three chords in the turnaround before this song gets going.

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Seeing other people – Belle and Sebastian

I start back again at university today. One day i’ll make it somewhere good and figure everything of this mess of a life out, but until then i’ll have to suffer another year looking like the most should-be-through-with-this-by-now person on campus. Everyone’s so darn young, attractive and with it, no doubt with newer, cooler formative indie touchstones than Belle and Sebastian. This is history. A relic. Everything it made me and everything it shone on and made me feel i could be is a relic with it. Ugh why do you have to go out into this world to get anywhere in it?

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Get me away from here, i’m dying – Belle and Sebastian

Pitchfork Media did one of their rare decent things a few days ago. I guess with casting their nets as wide as they do and having the manpower they have something is bound to stick eventually. What stuck is an hour long retrospective documentary on If You’re Feeling Sinister. Nicely done interviews with everyone in the band at that time just looking back at that time and these songs, that’s all. It doesn’t tell anything you might not already know, but the documentary works walking a line of nostalgia irremediable from this album, this time and the band who made and lived through it, completely indebted to and aided by the mountains of super 8 footage and photographs Stuart and others shot at the time.

Of course Pitchfork can’t help themselves in presenting it to us. i.e.:

“It might seem like artists deliberately cultivating “mysterious” personas is a recent, internet-fueled phenomenon. But while watching this documentary, it’s easy to see that the Scottish band was ahead of the curve. In those days, the band members themselves rarely appeared in press photos or gave interviews. Their album covers featured artful images of bookish outsiders and looked like stills from imaginary movies; their aesthetic was immaculately curated in a way that feels decidedly proto-Tumblr. All of this added up to the band’s strange allure.”

Don’t read, just watch.

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Scared – Verbal Assault

I think it might be easy to make fun of this song if for whatever reason you’re not open to it, especially the piano part. An easy, contrived reach for a greater grace than hardcore on its surface offers. But i just can’t fault a bunch of kids wanting that, and using what has until then come into their experience and scope as a way to find and express it. Wanting to create beauty, no matter how ersatz or clumsy, no matter how prosaic and cheesy, is nothing that should ever be taken away from someone. It works for me, now as much as when i first heard it.

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C’mon through – Lasse Lindh

Worlds colliding. Finding this song on the soundtrack of the Korean drama Soulmate after hearing him through Labrador Records compilations, and then wondering, naively, how Soulmate‘s music co-ordinator could not only have heard this song, but also inserted it so wonderfully into a national prime time television show. The whole soundtrack is incredible, not only in sound but lineup: Elliot Smith, Nouvelle Vague, Yellow Magic Orchestra, Fiona Apple, Annie, Rene Aubry, Cocosuma, Club 8 (!), BMX Bandits (!!!), alongside a whole host of Korean artists.

It’s not enough just to have these songs, and Soulmate is a drama that uses its music so well. Half these songs wouldn’t stir anything in me if it were not for where i found them in this show, this one included. Again, the world doesn’t need to have its art distributed from a central (American) source. It can go straight from Sweden to Korea, straight from one heart to another. The universality of the songs here (the Korean ones included) speak to the universality and the tone of Soulmate. One of the best meditations on love, relationships, communication, need and want, and why we go through any of it, ever to appear on television.

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Take the power back – Rage Against The Machine

Finding Rage Against The Machine as a pre-teen, leaving them as an early teen, and then looking back on them now after learning everything i have in between, there’s something this kid once interested in angry music and swearing didn’t realise: Rage Against The Machine were a hardcore band. Where once it seemed like rap rock with a blanket message of opposition and anger, looking closer these are nothing if not hardcore songs. Issue songs: Native struggle, racist police, the apartheidic element in American cities, Cointelpro, assuage to war and other violence on TV as good guy/bad guy, struggle-muting entertainment, and here the whitewashing of history reinforced by the education system. The only thing missing is a song about scene politics.

The link to Inside Out was probably the giveaway. Everything redeemable about the band lies in their connection to hardcore i.e. Zach. Zach’s lyrics were the best thing about the band – so powerful, so potent, and they only got better as they went alone. And he was a more eloquent frontperson than any i’ve seen, introducing songs without ever saying “um” or fumbling over his words and losing the directness of his message.

It’s just such a pity that these words fell to a convenient deafness in the majority of people who heard them. But the discussion Rage Against The Machine brought, and the many, many people they did touch and opened eyes and worlds for made up for it. That’s something that would not have happened at the level it did had they remained a hardcore band in a hardcore scene.

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Turn To Stone

Turn to stone – J Church

It seems a pity that the first J Church song to come on here is a cover. The amount of songs they wrote over the amount of records they put out (all great. Don’t let the never ending supply of them lying in discount bins put you off), and i subconsciously choose one of their E.L.O. covers. I have never heard Electric Light Orchestra, at least not knowingly. I imagine it’s something along the 70’s FM radio line – soft rock, smooth harmonies, easy listening, etc. Regardless, this is among my favourite set of cover songs ever. They just sound like they are having the most fun, playing these songs as loud as they can, singing their hearts out. I never even flip to the Discount side of this record – the side i bought it for. This song features Manda Rin from bis on guest vocals recorded over a telephone.

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Madrid – Juniper Moon

False starts on national television, price tag still on the guitar – Yes! Playing the song slower than on the record… Well that’s a no, but overall a resounding yes! Juniper Moon! A band of resounding yeses.

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United Cigar

United cigar – Good Riddance

Hey it’s the story of my life. My life summed up in a Fat Records song, as though i’ve pushed it to destiny. As much maligned as Fat was (and i imagine still is) among cool people, i maintain there were some good bands on that label. Especially so in the beginning, before everything seemed to be recorded in the same place by the same person using the same Fat Wreck Chord session musicians and vocal harmonisers. Good Riddance seemed caught in the middle of the typical Fat band/decent band you could take away from the label and its image spectrum. Really good lyrics and songs, almost a hardcore band, but hobbled and caught as a Fat band doing the things Fat bands do.

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