Thursday, October 18, 2007

Feeding the Indie Rock Beast

So rather than diving into my record collection to unearth something that is ten years old I chose tonight to surf around looking for some new music. (Actually it started with listening to the new JIMMY EAT WORLD record which got me thinking that they sounded alot like another band I liked called THE KILLINGTONS which led to the following search...)

THE SECRET 6 are a Long Beach, CA band that formed after The Killingtons fell apart. Although the sound is still very similar in that it relies heavily on some of the great emo tricks of the trade, there is a little more subtlty and depth to the new material. I particularyl enjoyed the poppy "1992" (you can acutally picture the audiance pogoing to this song live) and the acoustic "Lost" Their site says they have a record coming out this month so stay tuned for more from these guys.

After that I took a jaunt over to one of their friends, a four piece band call MODERN MEMORY. With a flair for the Radiohead-esque, these guys turned out to be pretty decent. Using synths to flesh out the darker guitar sound and then layering some breathy vocals over the top, the band would not feel out of place in the brit rock scene of about 8 years ago. They have a record out now that I might actually buy.

In an attempt to move away from the emo/shoegaze world I checked out a a 5 piece band called REPEATER who are also from Long Beach (clearly something is going on the LBC lately). More theatrical in their music than the other two, this band dips its pen in the David Bowie ink jar and mesh it with a brit rock feel (most likely an Americanized version of Suede). I could have really enjoyed this band except the singers voice isn't the best. But it is musically very enjoyable.

The last stop on my bried Myspace tour was a four piece band called ESKIMOHUNTER. You know how some band names just seem to fit, while others are widely misleading when it comes to the music. Well, these guys could not have picked a better name if they stumbled onto it by accident. You literally feel the chill of the music. Classic shoegazer rock in the vein of Spaceman 3 or My Bloody Valentine. Very enjoyable for when the December frost hits the ground.

As always if you have any suggestions of artists to check out please let me know.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

The Mode Goes It's Own Ways

There was a moment a long time ago when I stood in a record store for the first time trying to decide what tape I wanted to buy (back when cassette tapes were in vogue) On one shelf was the entire catalogue of THE CURE. Below it was the entire DEPECHE MODE collection. Now there are some decisions in life that define us as people. This was one of those times. I was still an impressionable youth and had yet to really form a true identity (after all I was a freshman in high school at the time). In the end I snapped up "People are People" and that, my friend, has made a world of difference. Now I have come to also count The Cure as one of my personal favorites but I don't think at the time I was ready to travel the mascara and goth path with the same reckless abandon (preferring the more subtle S and M look of Depeche was I naive then)

Anyway, the reason I recall this little tale is because through a confluence of events Depeche Mode are back in the news. Now the band hasn't made a really great record in awhile (although the last record "Playing The Angel" was at least a tolerable return to earlier form), but what's interesting is that most of the band is releasing solo material. So it seemed to be a good time take stock on all things Mode.

At the heart, Depeche Mode is the unique chemistry between Martin Gore and Dave Gahan. Gore has been the principle songwriter since Vince Clarke left all those years ago. Gore has always had the keen ability to tap into the pain and misery of flawed romance and marry it to music that is both catchy and danceable. What I find odd is that when he strikes out solo he only covers other people's songs. Is this an artistic attempt to separate himself from the brand he helped invent? Or merely a creative lark because he doesn't want to throw away good material on a record that won't sell very well? Either way, the music on his two solo albums, "Counterfeit" and "Counterfeit2" is certainly in line with the majestic ballads he tends to sing on DM records. The first ep was released ages ago with the proper solo album out in 2003 so the music is somewhat dated by now. It's a shame he doesn't stretch more (other than really giving in to his obvious love of gospel). Not surprisingly, my favorite song of his solo work is the most reminiscent of classic Depeche Mode, the poppiest song on his first ep called "Compulsion".

In a kind of musical irony its Dave Gahan that has used the solo platform to try to establish himself as an artist. For the entirety of the band Gahan has been the vessel for the words of others so his solo records have been an attempt for him to tell his story (and anyone familiar with his tale knows that there is certainly enough source material for several albums). Musically he does not stray much from the Depeche sound of later years (he even is credited with three songs on "Playing the Angel"). Lyrically his material is full of pain and misery and he a surprisingly adept wordsmith. The first album, 2003's "Paper Monsters" used to blues influence that had been creeping into the band's work to it's fullest effect. I here that the new record (to be released on October 23rd, my birthday) is a continuation of this sound to the point where it's hard to separate it from a proper Depeche Mode record.

And perhaps this is the problem. When bands start putting out solo work it should take risks. Why otherwise would people be interested. If the members of a band are going to rehash their sound under their own moniker then there is really little point (other than the monetary benefits of not having to share royalties.) Wouldn't the time be better spent going back into the studio as a group and rekindling the magic that made them great in the first place?

p.s. for a real treat you can jump on over to Pop Will Eat My Blog and get the album by former DM member Alan Wilder's other band RECOIL. A true artistic risk, Wilder enlisted Toni Halliday and others to make a whole new sound (for it's time) This is how you make a solo album. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!!

Tuesday, October 09, 2007


So everyone knows by know that Radiohead decided to surprise the world and announce their new record could be downloaded from their site for whatever you felt was an appropriate amount. (For the record my price was 5 pounds or roughly 10 bucks). Obviously these guys are not only musicians but social scientists interested in seeing just what we as music fans feel is fair market value for their extraordinary work. Under the old system the seller (or label) determined price and we were forced to shell out the outrageous costs for a CD that cost about 2 bucks to actually make.

Now Radiohead has changed the dynamic, basically daring their fans to say that we are entitled to their music for little or no cost. Basically its the entertainment version of a guilt trip. Under normal circumstances, I would have probably tried to cobble together the record from various Internet sources for free, but by allowing me to determining the value of the music, they got money out of me that they would not normally have. Is this the future of purchasing music? Probably not. ITunes wouldn't allow this sort of behavior to exist if it ends up threatening their digital empire. The record labels, already teetering on the brink of being irrelevant, will continue to strike at the nature of downloadable music because it threatens their bottom line. What makes this situation unique is that it is a group with a proven track record for sales and a fan base that is willing to leap into the unknown with their band. Had this been any other band (an in fact I know that HARVEY DANGER actually gave away their last record for free on their site) tried this they would have been looked at as fools for messing with their profit potential. But because we trust and respect Mr. Yorke and Company, they may have made more money this way then they would have using traditional means. You have to at least tip your hat to them for trying something new.

As for the music on "In Rainbows"? It is of course brilliant. Very similar in style to "Hail To The Thief" it has a lot of the same sparse rock nature with the electronic flourishes to give it that slightly otherworldly feel they have been crafting for awhile now. It appears that Thom Yorke's solo record has not had any real impact on the band's sound. I will probably give a better analysis later in the week when I have fully digested it.

For now...enjoy a couple of tracks (and for goodness sake, spend some money on it, let's not be total anarchists shall we?)

(mp3) Radiohead -- All I Need (great bass line on this one)
(mp3) Radiohead -- Bodysnatchers (probably the hardest rocking thing on the album)

Friday, October 05, 2007

The Stomach Punch

One of my all time favorite sports Columnists, Bill Simmons, recently wrote a column detailing the different levels of losing when it comes to sports. I find this eerily appropriate given what has just transpired in the Angels-Red Sox playoff series where the Angels lost on a walk off three run home run. Simmons sums it up like this:

The Stomach Punch

"Definition: Now we've moved into rarefied territory, any roller-coaster game that ends with (A) an opponent making a pivotal (sometimes improbable) play or (B) one of your guys failing in the clutch. ... Usually ends with fans filing out after the game in stunned disbelief, if they can even move at all. ... Always haunting, sometimes scarring. ..."

This is what I feel like right now. The Angels hung in the game the whole time. I paced around my house until I wore a hole in the carpet. My nerves were frayed after every pitch. Then, BANG, Manny Ramirez hits a three run homer and then time stops. I could actually feel my heart sink with the realization that my team had lost. Believe me this is not a fun feeling. I'm despondant and depressed. I will of course watch on Sunday with the faint hope that the guys can turn it around. But I don't think you ever really get over one of these types of games...

(mp3) Beck -- Lost Cause (from MFR)

Thursday, October 04, 2007

A Quick Beat

So I was driving home from the store tonight and heard this on a cool little college radio station (KSPC in Claremont) and was instantly taken aback. DIGITALISM is a duo from Germany who apparently grew up on a steady diet of Depeche Mode, New Order and Kraftwerk and mixed it all together with a taste of Daft Punk and The Fall to make an intoxicating blend of dance music. They could best be compared to The Klaxons or LCD Soundsystem. (I know, I know could I name drop a few more bands...)

I haven't heard much of the rest of their album but this is a great song!!

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

The Agony and the Ectasy

Today has to be have been one of the most emotional days I've had in a long time. The day can really be split into two pieces, one containing a bittersweet but joyful moment; the other a gut wrenching and torturous display.

First the good stuff. Today was the first day of pre-school for my two boys (I know it's sappy but bear with me). Now my guys are only 1 1/2 years old but are in need of some socializing time to help develop their speech so we got them into this school where they could be around other kids and learn better speech patterns. So why is this a good thing you ask? Well, it's something of a rite of passage seeing your kids take their first tentative steps into the world of education. Now I wasn't there to pick them up but the report from my wife was that their was paint involved, leaves were collected and decorated, and toys were shared at an appropriate level. All in all, a good day.

(mp3) Jack Johnson -- We Are Going To Be Friends (great little kids at school song originally by the White Stripes but my guys like this version better)

Now the agony. Anyone who reads this on a semi-regular basis knows of my love for the Los Angeles Angels. Well today was the first playoff game between the Halos and the Boston Red Sox. So I raced home from work (leaving a ton of things to do and a mass of disappointed co-workers in my wake) to get in front of my big screen TV to watch this game. What followed was 3 hours of sheer torture. There is very little I can do to describe what it feels like to have your favorite team in your favorite sport lay an egg on national TV. I mean they were hapless...just a bunch of guys hacking at pitches and overwhelmed by a clearly superior team. This is why baseball is the cruelest of sports. It takes 9 months for your team to get to the playoffs and within in week it could very well be OVER!!! And yet, being the glutton for punishment I am I will watch again on Friday (and Sunday), in the futile hope that my team will somehow come through. I know it's pathological but that's the price you pay for being a fan...

(mp3) Bloc Party -- The Prayer (Hadouken! Remix) as in the Angels don't have a...