Browsing all 12 posts in Music Features.
April 15, 2014
I’m a ten year Coachella vet now, and this year did nothing to change me from a mega-cheerleader of the festival. Yes, it is an expensive decision you have to save for, but it’s not as expensive as you think. What, wait? I thought the Daily Beast detailed a hedonistic hell for trust fund babies?
Well now, about that.
August 8, 2011
The indispensable Scott McDonald has written an insightful post that I recommend with enthusiasm. He talks about Pitchfork’s relevance and delivers an ironclad takedown of Pitchfork’s obsessive haters. (*ahem*) I’ll offer a short rebuttal…
As carefully considered as McDonald’s observations are, a couple key points are left unrebuked:
- Pitchfork’s writers are, by and large, poor writers who lack long-view perspective.
- It doesn’t matter how much “ground Pitchfork covers” if their editorial viewpoint is completely arbitrary and consistent only in its inconsistency.
The first point is the most important one.
Completely by coincidence, I got into it with my cousin about The Pitchfork Issue at GenCon this past weekend.
For me, the “problem with Pitchfork” (ugh) is that the site isn’t actually “covering youth culture.” They aren’t reacting to and investigating the inner workings of what happens in music today. They aren’t observing success or cultural events and then attempting to understand as to why those things occurred. They are aggressively promoting a specific (and maddeningly ever-changing!) aesthetic agenda.
They are not journalists. They are propagandists. Like me. They are not NPR. They are FoxNews.
And their aesthetic agenda runs opposed to mine. They’ve dissed LA’s vibrant DIY scene, covering it only in spats. After The Airborne Toxic Event’s undeniable impact in the local LA scene (irrespective of how you like their music), Pitchfork commissioned a hit job. They’ve responded to The Movies, The Happy Hollows, and The Henry Clay People with venomous disinterest.
And when Pitchfork named “Gold Soundz” the best song of the 90’s, it was so infuriating because they decided to represent themselves as “staying true to their indierock roots” when nothing in their music coverage the past five years had indicated any sort of self-identification with indierock. After five years of casting aside the rock aesthetic, they posed slacker on us for the official photo.
That’s just my personal beef. Objectively, Pitchfork’s impact can’t be ignored. I can’t ignore it. But I can’t be expected to praise or respect that impact, especially in light of the two points at the top of the page.
September 22, 2010
Last night was the final farewell show for The Parson Red Heads, who are packing-up their vans and moving to more temperate climes and cultures in the Pacific Northwest, Portland to be specific.
September 9, 2010
I’ve known Joey Siara, The Henry Clay People’s curly haired singer/guitarist, for a few years now. I can’t remember exactly when we met. I know I was already a music blogger and I hadn’t seen his band yet. Ashley Jex introduced us at Pehrspace. Joey was wearing a Chicago Cubs hat.
July 21, 2010
“They’re a bunch of tiny, tiny, tiny, little points of light – miniscule zaps of recorded information. Photographs are pieces of art built on information! How awesome is that?” ~Sterling Andrews, Los Angeles-based photographer.
November 4, 2009
- Everyone remembers the music video for “Whip It,” but Devo was pioneering the combination of video and music since their debut performance in 1973. In 1974 they filmed The Truth About De-Evolution, which won First Prize at the Ann Arbor Film Festival in 1977. It can be found on Devo: The Complete Truth About De-Evolution, a must-have for music video geeks.
- The pamphlet that inspired “Jocko Homo”:
- Former member Bob Lewis successfully sued Devo in the 70’s for theft of intellectual property. In truth, Mothersbaugh seems to have latched onto the devolution concept rather than have a hand in its invention.
- Devo’s cover of The Rolling Stones’ “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” was released as a single twelve-years after The ‘Stones unleashed the original. Without taking credit away from The ‘Stones for writing one of the greatest rock n’ roll songs of all time, Devo should get credit for making it even more important.One might assume Devo’s “mutation” of the classic track was pure mockery, but I think not. Their cover single-handedly links post-punk with rock n’ roll; when Mothersbaugh sings “but he can’t be a man ’cause he doesn’t smoke the same cigarettes as me” he’s also implicitly stating that he and Jagger do “smoke the same cigarettes” and that the frustration Jagger expressed in the song is universal.Another way to look at it: “Satisfaction” was controversial when The Rolling Stones released it in 1965. By the time Devo released their version, the ‘Stones’ relevance had been fading fast. Devo essentially made the song controversial all over again by mutating it from the cutting edge of the mid-60’s to the cutting-edge of the late 70’s.
- Following the release of that single and Q: Are We Not Men A: We Are Devo!, the band would release Duty Now for the Future, which was mostly comprised of material from the same period. Freedom of Choice is Devo’s third full-length but it’s the first full-length of “new” material. Without coincidence it is also the first Devo record which can be comfortably labeled as “new wave,” not “post-punk”.
- A lot of Devo “fans” only appreciate the band’s post-punk beginnings; to them the electronic albums are an abomination and “Whip It” was the point where Devo sold-out and jumped the shark. Maybe. But “Whip It” really is a perfect pop song. And Mark Mothersbaugh has made a living with perfectly formulated music. Even his experiments are perfect equations.
- Booji Boy, the Devo stage character that satirizes what is worst about fearful American culture, predicts the end of the world in the Neil Young film Human Highway.
- Human Highway was released in June of 1982 and also features a performance of “Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black)” where Booji Boy sings with Devo while Neil Young plays guitar.Young would record his electronic album Trans about three months after the film’s release.
- Booji Boy also has his own song (“Words Get Stuck in My Throat”) performed live on the essential rarities two-disc set, Recombo DNA. Buy that now.
- Smooth Noodle Maps is a criminally under-rated album. It’s hard to tell if the record is a sincere attempt (and success) at symmetry-perfect new wave or a searing send-up of the genre Devo helped pioneer. Either way, it ages much better than the other later entries into the Devo catalog.By the time Smooth Noodle Maps came out, Daydream Nation was nearly two years old and Dave Grohl had just joined Nirvana. Released in 1990, one might call Smooth Noodle Maps the great, dying gasp of new wave music; “Et tu, Brutus?”
- Devo side-projects include Dove (“The Band of Love,” really Devo performing as a faux Christian soft-rock band that opened for Devo on tour), Visiting Kids (Mark Mothersbaugh, his then-wife, Bob Mothersbaugh, and his daughter), Jihad Jerry and the Evil-Doers (Gerald Casale), The Wipeouters (an allegedly reunited, pre-Devo surfrock band), and Devo 2.0, a Disney-financed rerecording of Devo songs (recorded by the band) featuring child actors singing lyrics edited to be more family friendly and non-subversive. Now that is devolution.
- Most hipsters know that Mark Mothersbaugh scores most of Wes Anderson’s films. (His Royal Tenenbaums score being the best) But he’s also defined the sound of several generations of childhood. Mothersbaugh’s greatest hits in scoring include the Rugrats theme, Beakman’s World, and some work on Pee-Wee’s Playhouse.
- Not to suggest Devo isn’t self-aware, but it is hard to ignore that the aging, overweight white guys who still dressing-up in silly costumes and sing subversive anthems for a lot of money are starting to represent the very culture they once subverted. I think they know that and don’t care, but it does taint the band’s earlier work.
Top 15 Devo Songs (originals only, no mutated covers)
- Whip It (Freedom of Choice)
- Gates of Steel (Freedom of Choice)
- Uncontrollable Urge (Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo!)
- Girl U Want (Freedom of Choice)
- Jocko Homo (Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo!)
- Come Back Jonee (Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo!)
- Beautiful World (New Traditionalists)
- Smart Patrol / Mr. DNA (Duty Now For The Future)
- Through Being Cool (New Traditionalists)
- Freedom of Choice (Freedom of Choice)
- Spin That Wheel (Smooth Noodle Maps)
- Shout (Shout)
- Pity You (New Traditionalists)
- Devo Has Feelings Too (Smooth Noodle Maps)
- It Takes a Worried Man (Pioneers Who Got Scalped)
Originally published for WebInFront.Net
October 9, 2009
My second feature article for Radio Free Silverlake is up. It’s on Manhattan Murder Mystery, a band that CGT readers are already familiar with. (Feature #3 is on a very new, very different subject.)
This one was tricky in large part because I felt that I’d already said most everything I could say about the band on this blog, but they were one of the first bands Joe Fielder mentioned when we talked about me writing for RFS. I had to work really hard to come-up with an original take, but I found my inspiration from Teardrop’s Facebook page and I am proud of how it came out.
Really though, my words are uber-eclipsed by Laurie Scavo’s amazing photos. MMM has never had photos this good before.
“The next time I saw Teardrop was through beer telescopes. He led me by the arm, like an indie rock Tom Bombadil, into a strange van after a night of blistering music at the art gallery-turned-music-venue Echo Curio. There was wandering through a mysterious house. Strange people. Sweet smells and bitter liquids. Later Teardrop drove me home at an abyssal hour, street lights smeared across my vision through a dirty windshield like electric shit-streaks on midnight underpants. It was a helluva night.”
READ THE REST HERE AT RADIO FREE SILVERLAKE!
October 9, 2009
(This post originally appeared on WebInFront.net)
“Why you should care about Steve Earle: Anyone who keeps company with Elvis Costello, Emmylou Harris, The Pogues, and the late Townes Van Zandt is someone who probably knows a thing or two.”
September 7, 2009
My first feature article for Radio Free Silverlake ran Friday evening. YOU CAN READ IT HERE.
It’s on Leslie and the Badgers, a wonderful little band that you should know about. They play every Monday in September at The Echo for free, so you don’t have much of an excuse not to check ’em out.
I want to thank RFS editor Joe Fielder for having me on board. He’s courted me since RFS first went to a staff format and I hope to do the great RFS brand justice.
My goal then for these feature articles on Radio Free Silverlake is to write something that is enjoyable to read. I’m less interested in reporting the details of how a band got together or how the record was made and more interested in trying to tell a story that somehow gives the reader a reason to care about the subject. I’m looking to old Rolling Stone features for guidance here.
We’re also trying to have exclusive photos for every piece. I think that matters. I want to try to transcend simple blogging with these; a feature article elevates. And exclusive photos help elevate. In my own small way I want to elevate both the local music and the writing about local music. We also want the features to be timely, generally centered on the release of a record or a residency or some such thing.
I’m considerably happy with how this first one turned out. Leslie and the Badgers were a real joy to interview. Every band member was extremely quotable. They also said some really intelligent, insightful things about technology and touring that were well-stated but just a little too dry for the piece. But as far as covering unsigned bands goes, they truly made my job easy.
I went with pretty colorful descriptions of the band members. The Badgers are a funnier bunch than the piece conveys, and I regret not getting that aspect of their personalities in there. I don’t feel I perfectly captured the subjects this time, but I think they at least come to life. I took some minor liberties with sequence but every quote is still in its original context.
As for the writing… oof. There’s some truly treacherous paragraph transitions in there, but I think 95% of all music writing is boring and I erred on the side of “keep the piece moving” vs. “classical style says do x”.
On a personal note, it’s strange seeing my words on RFS’ font and layout.
I welcome feedback in the comments section. I scaled-down CGT in part due to burnout. I was running out of things to say and ways to write about local music. This feature poured out of me though; it was the most fun I’ve had writing in almost six months.
Anyways, go to their residency. It’ll be worth your time.
August 25, 2009
I’ve been trying to be less of a “blogger” and more of a “writer,” which has meant spending less time posting on CGT and more time working on my short stories, poems, and scripts. I’ve also taken-up monthly writing gigs at Web In Front and Radio Free Silverlake.
More on RFS later, but my first Nerd’s Eye View for Web In Front went up today. The premise behind NEV is to offer a CGT-styled “Collected Thoughts” type post on one national artist who is coming through town, ideally one who has been around for a while. The first Nerd’s Eye View is on Ted Leo and The Pharmacists.
“How big of a geek is Ted Leo? His old band, Chisel, wrote a song called “Beta Ray Bill,” named for the alien Korbinite whose mind was transferred into cybernetic spacebeast’s flesh husk and who briefly assumed the power of Thor’s mighty hammer Mjolnir in the Marvel Comics universe.”
READ THE REST AT WEB IN FRONT!