Friday, June 30, 2006

Stop Me If You Heard This One Before

I just discovered an article in The Believer written around the release "You Are the Quarry" that suggests that Morrissey is "blurring the lines between what it means to be a pop icon and a religious icon". On the whole the article has some interesting points, but there were a few things that annoyed me as the author went about her own ritual of Morrissey worship. Notably, this line got my attention:
Arriving on the pop scene at a time when the charts were dominated by boys with synthesizers, asymmetric hairstyles and all the emotional depth and intellectual insight of the ZX Spectrum, Morrissey's genius was simply to transfer the obsessions of his bedroom on to the stage.

: It's a given that Morrissey has always been on his own path, but given that article's author was 13 when The Smiths broke up (full disclosure: I was younger) it's a bit odd to give the 80's such a dismissal for not simply charting tracks from bands with rockist values. That an article in a serious publication would paint a decade's worth of music with such a broad brush to say that it had "all the emotional depth and intellectual insight" of an antique computer is simply mind numbing.
Then there is the article's occasional shaky reasoning. How is it that a 1992 concert gimmick that was misinterpreted by the Brit press left our hero:
Ostracized and pushed further into the margins, Morrissey became a pariah in his home country, eventually excommunicating himself to Los Angeles in 1998 where he has lived alone ever since.

: If a 1992 incident had such an effect to isolate Morrissey from his countrymen why did it take six years to make the move? Becoming a "pariah" didn't stop him from having a number one UK album in 1994. Perhaps it was the British public's indifference to Morrissey on the heels of confused efforts that motivated the move. It made me want to move on as well.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

It's Psychological

The long wait for the US release of Pet Shop Boys "Fundamental" is over today. Is it a masterpiece or simply a good album? Listen for yourself here.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Symphonic Potential

Jeff Mills is one of the pioneers who helped form the foundation of techno in Detroit back in the 80's as one of the first dj's to spin minimal techno, notably appearing on the influential Detroit radio show hosted by The Electrifying Mojo. Mills went on to become a member of Underground Resistance with a career that has spanned decades as he has added label owner to his resume while continuing to create mix albums and produce music under his own name.

"Blue Potential" is his latest release which finds Mills revisiting his back catalogue with the help of the Montpellier Philharmonic Orchestra in an impressive orchestral and techno fusion. This is the sort of the things that when done wrong can be unlistenable cheese like the "Acid Brass" compilation, but fortunately this is done with high minded artistry of Aphex Twin's Philip Glass collaboration. Pet Shop Boys "Battleship Potemkin" is another reference point, and one would wonder if there wasn't some influence given both works had premiers as free concerts. I'd wager on it but Mills beat PSB to the punch by following in the footsteps of Giorgio Moroder with his own score to a silent film.

Some of "Blue Potential" can be streamed here or enjoy this teaser of the DVD:

: On a related note minimal and Detroit techno fans in the Bay Area should rejoice because Mr. Goodwrench, who hosted "Just Desserts" on KFJC in the mid-90's, has returned to the airwaves. His series of profiles and interviews with Detroit techno producers introduced me to Jeff Mills, with a memorable interview discussing Mills' "30 to 50 records within an hour" mix technique, as he brought a unique point of view and an appreciated intelligence to the college airwaves. Those out of town can tune in 12-3 Saturday night/Sunday morning PST at the station's website.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Weapon Of Choice

Fatboy Slim's "The Greatest Hits: Why Try Harder" is out this week and PopMatters posted a review that argues for a reevaluation of Norman Cook's most famous alias because "the musical establishment is predisposed to dismiss artists who don't take themselves very seriously, and you've got a profound disconnect between the quality of the music on display and the disrespect accorded to Slim by critics across the globe." I've been following Fatboy Slim since my buddy starting playing "Everybody Loves A 303" off a compilation for his college radio show and I picked up the import of his first album the week it came out based on hearing it at record store listening station so it's been a bit strange to see him exploding onto the pop culture landscape with a handful of hit videos and commercial radio play. The "dance music for frat boys" insult has become synonymous with Slim, but I would agree with PopMatters that:

In a very real way, Fatboy Slim changed the rules. Even moreso than the Chemical Brothers or the Prodigy, Fatboy Slim proved that dance music could compete with pop on its own terms and more importantly, he also proved that dance music and pop weren't as far apart as most people probably believed. Whereas previous commercially successful artists such as Orbital, Leftfield and Massive Attack had sometimes gone out of their ways to seem more recondite than they actually were, Fatboy Slim could never be mistaken for aloof. He was, and remains an extremely user-friendly musician, someone who still believes his highest calling as an artist is to play fun records at parties. You've got to respect that.

: Two of Cook's mixes for other artists are included on "Why Try Harder" and the review notes that many of his remixes outshine the originals. The last few years have seen a decided shift in critical opinion on the importance of remixes as works of art and it's certainly worth considering that Cook's consistency inspired some of the attention that DFA and Ewan Pearson receive from the likes of Pitchfork as their every mix is analyzed. Would this had happened if people hadn't started collecting Fatboy Slim mixes into compilations? I doubt it.
Listen to "Why Try Harder" here.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Stop Of The Pops

The famed UK pop music institution Top Of The Pops was just cancelled by the BBC after a 42 year run. Having never made it across the pond TOTP always sounded like an amazing show featuring all these fantastic bands that I've loved throughout the years. At least I have some highlights from youtube:

Friday, June 16, 2006

It's All About Access

Music biz insider Bob Lefsetz has occasional rants published on the Rhino Records site as the The Lefsetz Letter. He recently touched on some interesting points about YouTube:

Why should I bother to record the performances on these lame shows when I can find them INSTANTLY, on YouTube. Oh, they're there, just search for them.

They're not on (late shows) site(s). They're not on the record company site. But the FANS have captured them and placed them on YouTube. Doing the label's work FOR THEM!

You should be able to watch EVERY act on Letterman RIGHT AFTER IT'S AIRED! As many times as you would like. Almost none of the target audience is viewing when they're shown. You're spending all that money on travel, never mind makeup and hair and backup musicians. Why not get something for your buck. Why doesn't EMI announce EVERY TV APPEARANCE OF THEIR ACTS WILL NOW BE INSTANTLY AVAILABLE! SOMEWHERE!

: I was going to post something earlier in the week about KT Tunstall's Leno appearance earlier this week, but couldn't find it online because NBC has active lawyers who keep pretty much everything from the network off the web in what I assume is an effort to keep people watching tv. It's a bit frustrating given that every clip that surfaces on the web comes from someone shouting "you should be watching this" but I've never been a media executive so I wouldn't understand.
As for KT, who has a fanbase that leans towards anti-tech folk rockists, she took an interesting approach on her Leno appearance. It was just her, a guitar, a tambourine and a couple of stompbox samplers. Here's her approach on a different show:

Friday, June 09, 2006

Emotions Have An Echo

Newsday posted a piece that attempts to explain the rash of covers of Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy":

What may be a better indicator of the song's future strength and long-term influence, though, is the way it has already been embraced and performed by other artists - an increasingly rare move in today's music industry, where many pop artists balk at promoting the current work of their competitors.
The artist support for "Crazy" is a refreshing, much-needed reminder that musicians are music fans, too, and that they can get overwhelmed by a brilliant new pop song just like everyone else.

: I know that the song is so last month in the blog world but the song's near universal appeal is amazing. The songs ability to cross the generation gap is impressive, but even more startling is the way it has crossed genre boundaries being played on alt-rock, hip hop and adult contemporary radio. Every now and then everyone can be "overwhelmed by a brilliant new pop song". Just like me.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

This Rock Thing Was True

Ministry's Al Jourgensen recently announced that their next album will be the last for the project:

Jourgensen, who has led the group and its numerous side projects since 1981, says he plans to go right back into the studio for what he says will be "the last Ministry album." And, he promises, this is no cheap ploy to get attention for the band.

"I've got other things to do," Jourgensen explains. "I just started a label (13th Planet Records), and I want to sign some bands and really build it up like I did with WaxTrax in the '80s, not just a vanity label. I think it's time -- and I'll be leaving on the top of my game instead of hanging on too long and doing crappy Aerosmith and Rolling Stones albums 30 years later."

: I don't know that "top of my game" applies to Ministry's recent material it's more like an improvement on the really horrible material produced at the height of Jourgensen's drug problem. If he was looking for untainted glory he could have left after the one-two punch of "Jesus Built My Hotrod" (Live 105 used to play the 8-minute version of the song during drive time radio) and "NWO". When you've got killer rock industrial songs like that and synth-goth anthems like "Everyday Is Halloween" on your resume you know there's no where to go but down:

Jourgensen, who lives near Waco, Texas, says that like its two predecessors -- 2004's "Houses of the Mole" and this year's "Rio Grande Blood" -- the final Ministry album will be politically minded blast at the administration of President George W. Bush.

"It's a trilogy," Jourgensen says. "The next one's going to be called 'The Last Sucker,' and it's also about this corrupt administration. That seems to be my muse."

: I found it really interesting when Ministry took a left turn into the political arena because a profile interview in a family newspaper during the height of Ministry-mania spent lots of time discussing, for the benefit of their Boomer readership, the band's non-political anger with Jourgensen denying any specific message when sampling Bush 1.0 for "NWO". For a taste of Ministry's political direction here's a download of "Lies Lies Lies" from their current release "Rio Grande Blood".

Monday, June 05, 2006

Is Moby Funny?

He has had amusing moments in interviews, but this video directed by fellow political activist and "Hotel" siren Laura Dawn... Well, just watch for yourself:

: Eliminating net neutrality = bad. This video = not good. So long as the message gets out I suppose...

Friday, June 02, 2006

Listen To Pet Shop Boys In Concert

Pet Shop Boys recently recorded a concert for BBC Radio 2 with an orchestra and a number of guests. Click here to stream it for the next few days. This is how the official PSB site described the event:

On stage with Neil and Chris were the 60 (approx) members of the BBC Concert Orchestra conducted by Nick Ingman plus Trevor Horn (bass), Phil Palmer (acoustic guitars), Steve Lipson (guitars), Anne Dudley (piano and keyboards), Paul Robinson (drums). Backing vocalists were Lol Creme, Andy Caine, Lucinda Barry and Sylvia Mason-James.
Special guests Rufus Wainwright, Frances Barber (star of the original production of "Closer to Heaven") and Robbie Williams each sang a song. Trevor Horn was the musical director.

: The broadcast also opens with an interesting interview with the Boys where they talk about the stages of their career, their history with strings, the sound of a hit and turning down the opportunity to sing "Kisses On The Wind". Interested in more on PSB, then the new Skrufff interview with Neil is up and it touches on a broad range of subjects including their approach to "Fundamental":

We brought Trevor Horn into the album because he is an amazing guy and a real record producer. It was a bit like making a film with many re- shoots, where you spend a lot of time beforehand setting up the cameras and getting the lights right. With Trevor you have many musicians coming through and experimenting, he’s not a one take wonder type of producer. It’s an interesting way to work for us, Chris and I would normally work in a quicker way, but we appreciate what Trevor does in order to get the sound right.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Far From Home

LetNoManJack is one of the world's most foremost experts on Tiga reminding us that even Tiga's visuals reflect a postmodern philosophy "about the construction of the self and false authenticity." Yes, even Tiga's album cover is a cover.