Archive for November, 2009

Nietzsche Was An 80’s Punk Rocker (And Would’ve Totally Dug The JAMC)

November 30th, 2009 | Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Okay, so I’m not really a Nietzsche scholar or anything, but this thing isn’t about Nietzsche really, it’s about why us damn kids are so crazy about all this “noise-pop” stuff. You might say, “well, that’s not really punk”, but it came out of punk and it’s all very up to debate. Was the Velvet Underground punk? Well, they definitely laid the groundwork for punk. The Ramones supposedly invented it, and what did they do other than write snappy girl group/Spector-esque pop songs and play them hard and fast. In 1985, The Jesus And Mary Chain released Psychocandy, on which they wrote snappy girl group/Spector-esque pop songs but played them really slow and softly but with a shit load of feedback. That’s kind of like out-punking punk. And that is soooo punk. So now that that’s established, here’s the deal…

Nietzsche had this idea that the human constitution was made up of a Dionysian element and an Apollonian element. The Dionysian element is what makes us want to fuck and drink and party and shit. It’s like our id, and I’m also going to throw in (perhaps injustly so) our “death drive”, which Freud believes was this drive that humans have which makes us inclined to destruction and aggression. The Apollonian element is what makes us want order, unity, cohesion, form and such. It’s like our superego and our eros drive (opposite of the death drive, makes us like all the Apollonian things, eg. order, cohesion). So every human being has these two elements within them, although some constitutions lean more to one element than the other. If they do this to the extreme though, it’s not good, as someone overtaken by their Dionysian element is just going to go nuts and end up killing themself, though they might have a lot of fun in the process, while someone who’s overly Apollonian is just going to go nuts because they’d be like OCD and they’d never have any fun.
Pretty much all art falls within these terms as well, though we refer to them differenty, eg. hard rock vs. soft rock, classical period vs. romantic period, metal vs. twee, etc. So what’s the deal with noise-pop? Well, noise-pop (and one could extend this to classic punk-rock, shoegazer and maybe even grunge) is interesting because it manages to be both things at once. It’s very Apollonian in that it’s tightly and simply constructed with sharp melodies and hooks. True, metal and emo are tightly constructed, but they’re still Dionysian because of the aggression of the music, while much of noise-pop isn’t played aggressively, but calmly, composedly. However, by smothering everything in feedback, it’s at the same time hard, aggressive and Dionysian.
See, feedback can be seen as sonically embodying the Dionysian, in that the gain created by it is kind of like sound gone wild. (I checked out the science behind this and it didn’t really help my point, so…yeah…) It makes tones sound dangerous and aggressive and it envelopes them with this kind of white noise.
I remember this idea came to me once while I was in an, uh, altered state of mind. I remember wanting to just bury my mind in noise; to reach a kind of nirvana (mental state of peace and nothingness) by blocking out all thought with just pure noise. When I came out of it, this idea of reaching nirvana through noise still seemed quite a sensible idea. This kind of ties into the idea of the “death drive” because that white noise was kind of an obliteration of the senses. It was a void of chaos, and I think something about it was attractive to my “death drive”.
The Jesus and Mary Chain were really the first ones to go all out with this idea of noise-pop. Sure the Velvet Underground had noisy songs and poppy songs and sometimes the two intermingled (especially on my favorite VU album, White Light/White Heat), but The JAMC perfected this idea. And what’s cool about what they and subsequent noisepoppers like Dinosaur Jr. and My Bloody Valentine did is that they didn’t find some kind of point of moderation between the Apollonian/Dionysian, but rather, they were both at the same time and to the extreme. If you don’t know what the fuck I’m talking about, then download My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless, The Jesus and Mary Chain’s Psychocandy, Dinosaur Jr.’s Beyond and Sonic Youth’s Daydream Nation and then you’ll figure it out. It’s just such a shame Nietzsche was never around to hear them…
(btw, if you think what I’ve written is wrong, juvenile, and misinterprets the philosophies of those referenced, please comment with your argument, as I’d be very interested in learning if I’ve got something wrong here.)
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Beach House

November 29th, 2009 | Uncategorized | 0 Comments

This week’s band of the week is a popular indie band with a haunting, minimalist sound. They came seemingly out of nowhere with no hype or anything in 2006 and subtly overnight became a major name in indie rock. A healthy dosage of Pitchfork and blog-love didn’t hurt either, and now, according to Wikipedia, this band is cited by MGMT and Grizzly Bear’s Ed Drost as their favorite band. This week’s band of the week is…

The guitar-organ duo of Alex Scally and Victoria Legrand is the kind of band that might have been relegated to obscurity in the years before the blogosphere came to power, but in 2009, they’re just the type of headphone-bliss band hipsters eat right up. And deservedly so: the band’s beautiful melancholic melodies and hazy atmospheric sound are instantly recognizable and just plain great. Admittedly, I’d lodge the complaint that at times, because of their sparse arrangement perhaps, their songs can be hard to tell apart, but even so, it’s hard to complain when the songs are as good as they are.
And sign of the times, bitches – because of the friendly communal sphere that the world of indie rock has apparently become, the band’s moody siren-voiced female vocalist Victoria Legrand has gotten so far as the soundtrack of Twilight: New Moon on which she guested with Grizzly Bear on “Slow Life”. She also appeared on the Grizzly Bear song (and Veckatimest highlight) “Two Weeks”.
The band’s first album, 2006’s Beach House, was a strong collection of songs, bested by 2008’s Devotion, which essentially was a slightly better collection of songs with slightly better production values. The group’s latest, 2010’s Teen Dream, comes out in January, but like most albums these days, it’s already leaked. How is it? Pretty much just like what’s come before but maybe a little bigger, more ambitious and still very, very good. This is one beach house well worth spending time in.
Buy “Devotion” on vinyl here.

Shout out: Why Write?

November 29th, 2009 | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Why Write? is a new musical project of Danish singer/songwriter Jacob Faurholt, who’s resume includes an album with the now-disbanded Sweetie Pie Wilber, as well as two solo albums: 2007’s Hurrah Hurrah and 2009’s Are You In The Mood For Love?. His latest EP, apparently self-titled, is 5 songs of a kind of scruffy indie-pop somewhere between 80’s British Indie-Rock and modern Jonathan Richmond-idealizing Swedish indie-pop, characterized by Faurholt’s untrained vocals and enigmatic but homey lyrics. And yeah, it’s good stuff.

The EP was released on the Candian What A Mess Label last week and was mixed by KRAMER, the dude who mixed albums by Galaxie 500, Low and Daniel Johnston. Check out the video for the song “Burning Holes” below.


Thoughts On Providence In The History Of The Beatles

November 28th, 2009 | Uncategorized | 0 Comments

I was playing Beatles Rock Band with my brother the other day, and again I was led to thinking about just how incredible the story of The Beatles is. If anyone has every played the game, or seen Rain (the Beatles cover band), The Beatles Anthology DVD set or even The Ruttles, you know that the story of The Beatles is so beautifully clear, so full of ideas, fundamentally human conflicts, so grand and eloquent, divided up into their Hamburg days, early Beatlemania and the Ed Sullivan show period, their psychedelic period and their bearded Abby Road/Let It Be final chapter, that it’s nearly Shakesperian or Biblical.

In fact, it’s too perfect. The characters are too beautifully drawn, the conflicts too fundamentally human, the accomplishments too incredible and in-diminishable. Fuck, I’ve often said that when one poses the challenge of The Beatles vs. Logic, somehow The Beatles win nearly every time.
How is it possible that the band could contain not one, but three of the greatest songwriters of all time, who all both with the band and after it, would write some of the most indisputable classics of the 20th century?
How is it possible that when the band was considered merely a couple cute boys with some catchy tunes that the girls liked, they could quickly pump out the blockbuster A Hard Days Night and have it be so great and classic a film as to be named by Time-fucking-Magazine one of the top 100 movies of all time? Imagine The Jonas Brothers releasing a movie next week that everyone agreed was a kick-ass movie with great music: that’s what odds we’re talking about here…kind of.
Can you imagine people getting organized today to burn Jonas Brothers albums because one of them said that they were “bigger than Jesus”?
How is it possible that after the band made Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band – which even at the time of its release was widely considered the greatest album of all time – they could follow it up so perfectly with a double album with a literally blank slate as a cover and fill it with such great music as to not disappoint anyone?
How is it possible that, to fulfill a contractual obligation, The Beatles basically simply consented to have the animated Yellow Submarine made, had fuck all to do with the film, which was supposedly marketed to children, who are rarely taken seriously as an audience in terms of the quality of movies (unless you happen to work at Pixar) – and then it turns out to be a totally kick-ass classic, so great that Disney is remaking it in 3D with Back To The Future-director Robert Zemeckis! (Note: asides from the entire Star Wars saga, Yellow Submarine is my favorite all-time movie.)
And how could they make such great music that could be so popular for over 40 years across at least three generations!? No other band or artist can even compare, not Elvis, not Sinatra, not Dylan, nobody.
And people always talk about how the mainstream for some reason has to like the most gawdful shit and only some kind of intellectual elite or some bullshit can like good music. As if there’s some kind of law that confirms William Blake’s belief that, What is grand is necessarily obscure to weak men. That which can be made explicit to the idiot is not worth my care.” The Beatles proved that statement wrong, as the most schooled and brilliant musicians and critics, as well the most clueless and uncultured, had no problem appreciating The Beatles just the same. They proved that great art and commerce need not be mutually exclusive.

It’s too much to just accept as pure chance, as just random coincidence or something. In the story, the sheer greatness of it all, one has to see some kind of providence at work. There appears in their history a mark of Hegel’s weltgeist, the “world spirit” that guides history which acts through great men. Hegel used Napolean as a good example, and in the 20th century there were a number of great (and not so great) men who acted as vessels for that “world spirit”, but what’s amazing is that The Beatles, a pop band, should be counted among them, most of whom were politicians, rulers, activists, spiritual leaders, etc.
But it’s true: The Beatles were all of t
he above. Just think of how many people were changed by the music of The Bealtles, by the messages they expressed.
Imagine how many people began exploring Eastern spirituality – things like meditation, yoga; all of which are totally commonplace today – simply because they were reading about The Beatles hanging with the Maharisha and doing it. Simply because they heard George Harrison singing songs like “Within You, Without You” and “Love You Too” and thought, “Hey, that sounds interesting, I’m going to look into that.”
Imagine how many people started caring about bringing about world peace simply because John Lennon and Yoko Ono sat in a hotel bed for a couple days and called it a protest for peace. It probably accomplished far more than 99% of peace protests actually do!
Imagine how many people starting “opening up their mind” with hallucinogenics simply because they wanted to be able to understand what how The Beatles could arrive at such incredible sounds and visions as they did on albums like Revolver, Sgt. Peppers and Magical Mystery Tour.
Imagine how many people saw and heard The Beatles and thought, “That’s what I want to do. I want to be a musician or an artist.” I know I’m one of them.
It’s huge. The influence they had on the entire world in terms of all those things – politics, spirituality, life choices – made a huge difference, one couldn’t even legitimately study the 20th century without studying The Beatles and the role they played in shaping it.
Just think about how amazing and insane all of this is. Because it is. Seriously. Insane because a pop group that started off by writing songs about girls could have such an effect on human history. Amazing because it shows the power that art can have.

Awesome Album Covers!

November 25th, 2009 | Uncategorized | 0 Comments

“That’s an interesting umb…uh…where is your head?”