Tuesday, November 29, 2005

No Respect

New Order just can't get a break in the US this week. Vh1 broadcast the recent UK Music Hall Of Fame ceremony that inducted the band over the weekend and again throughout the week. What did they cut out? Only a tribute to John Peel and New Order. While the lack of Peel is regrettable it is understandable that a tribute to a late BBC deejay might not translate across the Atlantic, but to completely ignore New Order? Totally inexcusable. The only indication that the band was even at the ceremony was Peter Hook in the background of a reaction shot of someone else. The two hours of the ceremony that vh1 broadcast included two performances from Ozzy Osbourne/Black Sabbath, an extended medley from Eurythmics, an “all star” tribute to Jimi Hendrix, and confusingly for the UK Music Hall Of Fame Canadian Alanis Morissette performing a tribute to American Bob Dylan. What the hell happened? My guess is a bizarre commitment to cross promotional efforts on behalf of mtv-networks’ no-longer-in-production “The Osbournes” and a heavy case of Boomer-ism. As Tony Blair’s appearance in the band’s introduction indicates, the Eurythmics peaked about the last time the baby boomer generation paid any attention to new music and while they were a decent singles band they have been quick to follow the winds of stylistic change to whatever friendly MOR-paths they take. Just in case we didn’t notice the generational bias of vh1’s special, we were treated to Woody Harrelson, who was 9 when the 60’s ended, presenting an award to the absent Dylan refer to him as the voice of the 60's and we later learned from a grey-haired retired rocker that when he first heard some underplayed song he felt that The Who were really talking about their generation. Fantastic. Actually, there were some good parts to the ceremony namely the brief “thank you”’s from what’s left of The Who and the emphasis on the multi-media aspects of Pink Floyd. But to completely ignore New Order (who were inducted as Joy Division/New Order) who continue to influence everyone from Interpol/Editors/She Wants Revenge to the entire electronic genre (see George Acosta’s recent “Blue Monday” cover as an example of how wide a net they cast) and give two songs to Ozzy?
Thanks to the wonders of the internet I was able to track down the band’s induction. Some of the usual suspects were interviewed in the introduction video piece namely Bobby Gillespie, Moby and Billy Corgan (wearing the same fishing hat that he wore when touring as a member of the band during the few Area: One dates back in 2001) once given time for an acceptance speech Bernard gave props to the guys fatter than him in the audience, namely Shaun Ryder and Arthur Baker, then took a swipe at the Slash’s guitar solo during the Hendrix tribute. Priceless.
Then there is New Order's latest single and the best electronic track on their new album "Guilt Is A Useless Emotion" had it's digital-only release today. Didn't notice it on itunes? In a week that essentially recycled last week’s “new releases” in the dance and electronic sections of the online store there is no mention the new remixes on the service unless you search specifically for the band.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Try A Little Harder

I recently discovered a small web-zine gogoray.net that has some interesting commentary from columnist Lee Wang. Ever notice that musical elitists are always so damned miserable about music? Here is some of his explanation:

...many other music listeners go through a similar travails – I’m sure – enough so that if they don’t “get” an artist, then they’ll doubt their own self-worth as a music geek. Instead, they’ll continue to torture themselves first for not being smart/cool/whatever enough to “get” Captain Beefheart or something similarly obtuse and then by continuing to listen to it in hopes of reaching that ever-elusive “Ah ha!” moment. Sometimes it’s worth it, but more often the amount of time invested in chasing “difficult” bands and albums far outweighs the miniscule amount of pleasure gained.

: I'm not the only one who occasionally reaches outside of my musical comfort zone and learns to appreciate something new, but there is something sadistic about listening to music that does nothing personally for you. Not to be too simplistic about it, but if it sounds horrible it probably is horrible. The musical elitist attitude that there is certain music that is inherently more intelligent than others fails to acknowledge that musical taste is ultimately subjective. Why else would the musical elite shift over time over stylistic issues (lo-fi vs hi-fi) and how could music that was initially critically dismissed become canonized years later after the fact? There is so much to be said for trusting your own instincts.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Rang Dang Diggedy Dang Di-Dang

Peter Hook recently opened up with some info about his current all bass side project Freebass and their need to find the right vocalist:

"I think the problem is that the three of us have such a pedigree of vocalist, that if we come out with someone that's not good we'll obviously be slated! You've got Ian Brown, bloody Bobby Gillespie, Ian Curtis, Bernard Sumner) and Morrissey. Those are big shoes to fill, especially collectively," he said.

Hooky described Freebass' sound as "(sounding)like New Order with a bit of the Stone Rose and a bit of Smiths and some Northern Soul."

"Mani does the low part, Andy Rourke in the middle and I do the high bit. But it works out quite well," he said.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Disco Potential

Great news from petshopboys.co.uk:
Pet Shop Boys have just completed their new album in a West London studio.

The album has been produced by Trevor Horn and features 10 new Tennant/Lowe songs, a short introduction (also written by Tennant/Lowe) and "Numb", a song by Diane Warren, originally recorded for the "PopArt" compilation in 2003.

Neil and Chris started writing songs for the album in January and commenced recording with Trevor Horn in May. Chris Lowe commented: "We've really enjoyed making this album with Trevor and his team and are very happy indeed with the finished result." Neil Tennant added: "We think it's a great Pet Shop Boys album and also a great Trevor Horn record."

The album is expected to be released worldwide in April 2006.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

What's That Sound?

The most recent Voltage finds Maximus laying out a thoughtful well-reasoned argument in favor of the electronic music aesthetic that simply must be read. I would go a step further and argue that the acoustic and “organic” music’s claim of better representing human experience as false. Maybe that argument held more water in days of family farming, but consider how life is spent today surrounded by technology. Computers, electronics and machines surround us and to listen to music that does not acknowledge that simply does not address a great portion of how we live out lives.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

The Black Sea Experience

Just saw Depeche Mode last night and things have changed a bit since I last saw them during "The Singles Tour" in the late 90's. The biggest difference is that Martin Gore has picked up some showmanship. Maybe it was the solo tour, or the tension with Dave, but he's much more rock 'n' roll than before with "dramatic" rock god guitar moves (ala Metallica) and worked the crowd a little while singing. Then there is Martin's dancing around the stage in a style that suggested a mix of tribal ceremony and raver. Quite a change from the last time I saw the group perform when he seemed impossibly shy.
Dave Gahan once again showed that he is consummate showman of the synthpop-era and worked with the crowd amazingly even if ran around the stage and flung the mic stand just a little less than before. He only failed to really get the crowd into the amount of frenzy that he wanted on two occasions not convincing the crowd to sing ever word of "Suffer Well", which I believe the only song of the night he wrote, even if the song deserved it more than most of the new material and getting no one to sing along to show's closer "Goodnight Lovers." Again this wasn't his fault. That song appears at the end of "Exciter" and so pretty much every sensible listener has shut off the disc long before that song ever plays.
Then there was Fletch. He is still Fletch, but he's toned down the clapping quite a bit, maybe the internet age brought it to his attention that it's not quite the fan favorite that he thought. He also spent lots of time apparently verifying sounds one ear to the headphones dj-style and occasionally seemed to play parts that could be identified.
The new material was something of a mixed bag. It seems that arrangements have been mixed from the album, and Ben Hillier's touch was sorely missed. While "A Pain That I'm Used To" was far stronger than I expected, it was outnumbered by the train wrecks. "Precious" was a complete mess live with the acid baseline out of place within the context of the rest of the set and losing the delicate nature of the song to the clangy arena acoustics. I'm not a big fan of "Damaged People" on the album, but it was so much worse live. I suspect Martin thinks of it as an anthem of sorts for DM fans with the "we're damaged people drawn together" line but it's way too long for the uninteresting musical content surrounding it and lyrics go on to talk about forgetting about being about being cold and crying while you are old and dying and it's just embarrassing in front of people. Maybe it's just me though, because there was a group of women singing along very loudly ever word of the song right behind me.
The gems from the band's back catalogue were clearly the highlights and any real reason for shelling out unreasonable amounts of money to see DM at this point. Whoever is did the programming this time around had really excellent instincts in direction. The "Violator"-era hits changed almost nothing sound-wise (unlike the unfortunate '93 tour that rocked-out "Enjoy The Silence" long before Linkin Park got their hands on it), but let the instrumental parts breathe enough to keep the crowd ecstatic. Then they managed to rejuvenate older staples like "Everything Counts" and "A Question Of Time" going further into dance territory than Mode would on their own driving the songs a with modern electro sound.
Overall it was interesting experience because the band has clearly grown over the years and the crowd made it apparent that I had as well. While I did see some familiar faces among the assembled throng like Alison who was the HR director at the college station I deejayed at and local synthpop royalty Claudio, it was very apparent I'm not the massive Depeche fan I was in high school. I didn't have to sing at the top of my lungs every word of every song. "Goodnight Lovers" only sounded vaguely familiar and I found myself wondering why they were playing a b-side as a final encore. Maybe I’ve become less devoted, but as the 90’s wore on the band just lost the energy and spirit that energized their earlier work. I’m glad to see that they’ve regained some of that back, but as Martin L. Gore sang on his “Counterfeit” EP you’ve got to move on sometimes. Maybe I have.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Kicking It Old School

Having just joined the UK Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, NO have tried a different gig.

This afternoon Manchester legends New Order took up that invitation and played a surprise gig for the school's pupils and the media. Bernard Sumner, the band's guitarist and singer, visited the school earlier this year and was so impressed he reportedly told Ms Triska he'd do whatever they wanted to help...
"Some of the staff have been playing New Order in the classrooms since eight o'clock this morning. It's the 30-something staff that are going mad about it. Some of the pupils say that their dads were going mad when they heard."

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Semantics Won't Do

Here's a great forum post that brings to light my trouble with electronic music fans trying to sub-categorize everything:

Us here that are 30 to 40 that grew up with Progressive Dance, Razormaids, and Industrial Dance in the late 80's and early 90's would never consider bands like Depeche Mode, Celebrate The Nun, Moskwa T.V., Pet Shop Boys, Red Flag, Information Society, Erasure, Cause & Effect, Dead or Alive, When In Rome, Exotic Birds, Anything Box, T42, Cetu Javu, Tribantura, Psyche, or Peter Schilling to be Synthpop.

It was progressive dance and nothing more except electronic dance music. We'd never heard the term Synthpop back then though...

: Yet another pointless argument over genre definitions! The post went on to say that this fellow had never heard the term "synthpop" before 1994 so obviously it wasn't around until then. Maybe it just wasn't being used in Texas. Besides after all this complaining about what is what, synthpop is just an umbrella term for electronic pop. Why would you be arguing at length over it's definition in 2005?

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

The Rejection

One of the inital signings to Warner Music Group's cd free download only label Cordless Recordings is electropop group Dangerous Muse. Their ep is interesting, full of low key synthpop that suggests they are sort of a less glitchy Junior Boys. For all the talk from Warners about promoting them I found this description:

We met in New York. We write electronic music. We're supposed to enter a bio that's 50 characters long.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Talking About Liberation

A producer who remixed The Shamen and Pet Shop Boys during the mid-90's is at the center of a lawsuit with Kanye West:

A deejay who was sued earlier this year by Kanye West to keep him from distributing some of West's unreleased songs has filed a countersuit against the rapper.

Eric "E-Smoove" Miller disputes West's contention that the two didn't have a contract. In Miller's lawsuit, he argues that West worked for and with Miller in the mid-1990s on recordings of 10 songs, including "Ho!!!" and "Stop Frontin'."

Attorneys for the Grammy-winning West claim Miller offered the songs to distributors using a fake contract with West's fake signature.

Miller's countersuit, filed Oct. 28, claims Miller co-authored the recordings and that West agreed Miller's company would own them.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

All This Running Around

Depeche Mode just announced the tracklisting of their next single "A Pain That I'm Used To" and in the process united a number of my current obsessions:

01. A Pain That I’m Used To (Jacques Lu Cont Remix) [7:51]
02. A Pain That I’m Used To (Jacques Lu Cont Dub) [8:00]
03. A Pain That I’m Used To (Goldfrapp Remix) [4:39]
04. A Pain That I’m Used To (Bitstream Spansule Mix) [7:22]
05. A Pain That I’m Used To (Telex Remix) [3:28]

: I think the song is horrible choice as a single because it works within the context of the album by setting a tone but the track doesn’t really go anywhere. As a standalone track it’s doomed to flop when it comes to radio and with anyone outside the hardcore DM fans. Still, they’ve pulled together an amazing set of remixers, including the ubiquitous Stuart Price in his Jacques Lu Cont persona, who might take the song in interesting directions (although his LRD album and "Playing The Angel" feature songs called "Damaged People" so that might have been a better song to take on) and apparently following the precedent set by “Precious” are not including an album version or radio edit of the song on a standard format of the single. It might find some takers.

Monday, November 07, 2005

All Night Operator

Goldfrapp's latest single "Number 1" ranks a respectable 9th on the UK's single chart this past week, but the real surprise is how much fuss Alison has stirred up with some straight talk when asked about Madonna:

"She's always got her eye on what everyone's doing and she's always nabbing people, the latest DJ or whatever, to get them to put their thing on her thing, you know."

The singer continued her outburst by suggesting that Madonna lacks creativity. "I think it's quite clever, but I don't know if that's creative," she said.

: Nothing controversial there to my ears; just a highlight to the different approaches to music.

Goldfrapp just teased the US with the "Number 1" EP which is something of a digest of their last two UK singles and announced a one-off live date in NYC. However, Mute has once again pushed back the US release of "Supernature" even further until March 2006. The rest of the world had the album in August! Why a record company would treat fans of a band with a cult following like this in this day and age of instant on demand internet access to music is beyond me.
Stranger yet is the report of one amazon.com customer that claims Mute is blocking all orders of "Supernature" as an import. It is odd that the album is not listed on the number one consumer site on the web unless you visit the co.uk version of the site. Maybe there is something to it...

Sunday, November 06, 2005

More Than Enough

This week's Skrufff email caught my eye with this item about DJ Magazine's Top 100 Poll:

Elsewhere in the poll, No-More-Mr-Nice-Guy Brian BT Transeau took exception to the magazine's seemingly innocuous generic questions and got even angrier when quizzed about the rise of digital DJ tool Ableton.

"I have had the piss taken out of me for four years for using a laptop," BT ranted, "and now I have the honour of my superstar DJ friends calling me for tech support- constantly."

: I saw BT deejay a few years back, and I hope the guy wasn't using a laptop then. The track selection was good, if a bit heavy on long remixes of BT's own stuff, but he train-wrecked on every other transition. You don't you that you would find that from an artist who complains about poor sequencer timing and the need to manually edit each note every time he gets an interview that allows him to get technical.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Down With Price

Stuart Price is everywhere these days. Seriously. Earlier this week I was at the dentist office and found his picture in People Magazine (actually working the equipment at Madonna's recent dj gig).

Here's a link to Popjustice's energetic interview with Price, which also breaks the news that a new LRD album is in the works:
I do, yes. I mean, who can not love the Pet Shop Boys? That's the thing. They were the first ever pop act I ever listened to. All of Chris Lowe's parts… When I very first sat there with 'My First Keyboard' I was trying to work out how they did it, how they made those rhythms, how they got those sounds. I love the 'Disco' album with all the 12" mixes and I suppose it's not surprising fifteen years later that when it all pops up on the record I think 'oh, this sounds like the Pet Shop Boys.' I'm not going to try and disguise that, they're a big influence.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Say Something

I had visited Funky Mofo a couple of times before I ran into an appallingly bad review of the new Tiga single earlier this week that essentially copied the info from the website adding less insight to the quality of the material than a typical amazon.com review. Curious if this was typical for the site, I browsed through their review section and found their lengthy take on Luxxury's "Drunk" EP that equally fatally flawed. The review went on (and on) addressing claims of the band's press packet, a trend for the site apparently, and in large part attempted to debunk four words of synthpop.net's review, most likely quoted in the press release, of the same material. The reviewer then went on to claim that "dance music has always puzzled me," that the style must require drugs to understand and that EP's are always a waste of money. Clearly they had the wrong reviewer for the job, but a look at their forum shows a statement announcing "the Funky Mofo team have experienced quite a few personal attacks, especially concerning our reviewers" so maybe it's not just this guy.
However, all this might be moot at this point because as of today the website has removed their review section. The site's front page now has a statement about the site not doing well enough financially to continue and reminds us that a "webzine isn't necessarily a 'fanzine', a webzine can be just like a normally printed magazine - it can be successful and it is possible to make a living from it." As reasonable adult I understand economics issues and completely support those who choose not to loose their own money instead of "supporting the scene" or some or other nonsense like the recent argument I read dismissing people who choose to get day jobs instead of loosing money, homes and marriages to pursue their musical dreams full time. I certainly wouldn’t be the type to add insult to injury so I wish the site the best of luck (and it’s worth pointing out I don’t believe that the offending reviews were authored by the site’s founder).