Thursday, January 29, 2009

Not Sure What To Make Of This

So I was flipping around TV and ran across MTV2 and saw something that intrigued me. First off, the channel was playing a music video, which in and of itself is mind boggling. But what was interesting was the song, a trippy little dance number from a band called FLOSSTRADAMUS, was sponsored by Mountain Dew's Record Label. That's right, the green, sugar filled soda has a record imprint. Now corporate synergy with music has long been in place here in America, with songs popping up in commercials, movies, TV Shows and other cross promotional opportunities. Many record companies are just parts of the larger conduit of commercialism that fuels American consumerism. How many soundtracks have you bought to films you never intended on seeing because of an artist on the record you liked? How many times have you downloaded a song heard on a commercial?

I'm not here to write about the evils of big business exploiting our collective love of music for their own profit. I can't really tell you if I would have been more inclined to purchase an iPod after U2 made a commercial endorsing the product. But the fact that products are now posing as purveyors of music that is cool is of a concern to me. I just don't know what to make of all this. Am I supposed to drink more Mountain Dew because I liked this song? Do I think less of the band who got in bed with an obvious advertising ploy in an effort to get their music heard? Would MTV have played their song if they had been on another label that wasn't attached to a soft drink?

Maybe I should just enjoy this slice of retro 80's pop and get over it. After all, it's the new millennium and apparently, everything is for sale.

(mp3) Flosstradumus featuring Caroline Polachek - Big Bills

Seriously I am not making this title up. It's as if the band knew they were selling out and decided to make it into a joke.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Lost Bands of Britpop (Part Eight)

During college I experimented with leftist politics and hip hop during my Sophomore year in college. For a brief period of time I was a political science major studying middle east politics. This led to many deep conversations with other like minded individuals about the ills of society and how it really is the government's fault (we will ignore for a moment that these talks took place at a state university that provided a low cost alternative education that was essential to my formation of these thoughts). So when the 25TH OF MAY put out what turned out to be their only album "Lenin and McCarthy" needless to say I was drawn in. "White, English boys rapping over pop hooks about the injustices of the poor and disenfranchised! Where do I sign up?"

Okay, so the rapping is a bit hilarious in hindsight. Especially compared to PUBLIC ENEMY, NWA and ICE-T. But the songs had hooks and it was so radically different from what I had been into that it just came along at the right time. It took awhile to track the record down and after much searching I found a used copy at a local record store. Seriously, who would sell this back? More importantly, was I selling out by buying a used copy and not searching for it brand new? The answer of course is no, after all they were on a major label so they had already sold out for me.

I must have played "What's Going On" about 15 times in the first two weeks I had the record. My radio partner at the time got so sick of it that he threatened to sneak into my house and destroy it so he could get some respite. (Scott, I'm sorry, I was blind at the time...) Over time, my politics have mellowed and my music taste has mellowed. I am no longer the leftist hell raiser I was in my youth (paying taxes will do that to you), but listening to the 25th of May again makes me nostalgic for a time when I may have just stood up for something I believed in...even if it was for lower prices at the bookstore.

(ed. note: the pic is actually some of the members of the band in their new band MANBREAK, which was pretty much the same sound only harder rocking. Personally, I preferred the first incarnation of the band to the one in the pic but I couldn't find a photo so this will do.)

Thursday, January 22, 2009

New music from old guys

Here's the fundamental problem with getting older as it relates to music. What was once a fresh and exciting sound over time dulls as more and more music is released. It becomes harder to get excited about records by older artists because A) it's easier to listen to the songs I liked by them in the first place and B) new material tends to sound derivative of their more popular work. This is why bands break up and change line ups and record with oddball producers on far flung locations. They, like us, get bored with their sound and need to change. But that change is not always met with open arms which then causes the artist to retreat into their familiar cushion of the familiar sound they cultivated in the first place.

Which brings me to two immensely influential and talented artists releasing new singles; U2 and MORRISSEY. Let's deal with the Irish lads first. Their new single, "Get On Your Boots" has been met with some guarded praise from many popular media outlets. I will admit I was left unimpressed the first time I heard it, but as I digest further I find it has a unique appeal unlike other lead singles from the band's most recent work. Where "Beautiful Day" announced the sonic return of Classic U2 and "Vertigo" gave us punk rock U2, "Boots" has no real natural tie to their other work. It's a cross between blues, rockabilly and industrial music that still sounds like the biggest stadium band in the universe. If the rest of the record holds true to form, it would seem the natural progression from ACHTUNG BABY and ZOOROPA that should have happened instead of POP (which was just a misguided project altogether...but that's for another time)

Where U2 seems to be trying out some new musical muscles, Morrissey is firmly grounded in what he knows. "I'm Throwing My Arms Around Paris" could be an outtake of the VAUXHALL AND I sessions. It certainly is mellower than anything on his last record (clearly Morrissey was very angry when he recorded RINGLEADER OF THE TORMENTORS) and has that happy/sad dynamic that he has patented since leaving The Smiths. There is always one good song on a Moz release and this is probably it. At that seems to be the problem. Lately it feels as if his albums are just placeholders for his poetry rather than coherent pop songs. Maybe he should just write a book instead of record an album. But I will certainly entertain him for one more go around. I guess old habits die hard.

I would post the other track but I have a sneaky suspicion it would lead to a deleted post, but I'm sure a quick search will secure you a copy to listen to. Ah, the joys of the blog police.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Say Hi to Say Hi

SAY HI would have been one of those bands that, back in college, I would have played every week on my show. I would have kept a cassette of their songs on me at all times to shove in my friend's faces to immediately make them listen to. I would have brought their name up every chance I got to try to convince others that they were the single most F***in brilliant band I had ever heard. This is how I would of felt then and its how I feel now. So here it goes.

If you do not give them a listen you are an idiot. Stop reading this right now, scroll back to the top click on the link to their myspace page and listen to the first song. Go ahead, I'll be here when you get back...

(patiently waiting for you)

See what I mean! Try to tell me the bass line doesn't get under your skin. Convince me that the sound isn't some blissful cross between early Beta Band, the best of 90's American Indie Rock and the wonders of the low fi aesthetic of Seattle after grunge left town. Everything is there; the hushed vocals that appear to make little or no sense, the spacey keyboards, the clean guitar lines that pop up at just the right time. It is the perfect indie kid band. They are now part of the BARSUK universe, which once was the home of Death Cab for Cutie, so obviously they get extra cool points. They are set to release their next record in March but have put a ton of mp3's on their site for download. This is a band worth listening to and worth telling others about. So go Say Hi!!

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Lost Bands of Britpop (Part Seven)

One of the strange things about living in the LA is that there are pockets of people into every conceivable type of music. LA's scene is the absence of a scene. During my formative musical years (High School and College) there were people who were the leftover metal heads, the indie kids, the ravers, the hip hop crowd and the britpop kids. Being that I was kinda into all of these styles it made it weird to go to shows and know exactly who I would see without question. Take the Brit kids for example. Here was this collection of boys and girls who dressed like Morrissey or Damon Albarn, attended every show by a band from the other side of the pond and in many cases spoke with fake English Accents. It was kinda sad actually but also they were so rabid and so passionate about these bands that it gave the shows a real energy that was lacking in a lot of American acts when they played LA. Which brings me to the INSPIRAL CARPETS.

The Carpets were a really good band. My first exposure to them came as part of a record label compilation that had a remixed version of "Commercial Rain" that was almost a dub reggae song. What struck me was lead singer Tom Hingley's voice. More baritone then the other Manchester acts, it gave the band's sound a distinctive feel. That along with the prominence of a Hammond Organ in most of their songs (and everything is cooler with an organ accompaniment)

When the Carpets hit LA to support what turned out the be their biggest record (Revenge of the Goldfish) I trekked down THE PALACE in LA to see them. The place was a sea of the Brit Kids which made the venue some sort of weird tribute to the British life style. I can only think the band was backstage laughing. But the show was great, the band was great and the crowd lifted the event to a new level (a similar thing happened when I saw JAMES right around the same time, which might be the best small venue show I have ever been to)

By the time they came back to tour for their next record, the band was being looked at for an opening slot for DEPECHE MODE on their US tour later that year. So we went back down to see them again. I cannot honestly tell you if it was a good show or not because I was far more interested in who was at the bar at the show. My friend Tom and I had a bet that someone famous would be there. It just had that type of feel to it. So when he came back from the bathroom practically hyperventilating I could tell something was up. He dragged me out of the show to the bar where MARTIN GORE and The other dude who doesn't really play but manages the band secretly were drinking. I sheepishly approached Martin with the intent of merely saying hi and asking for an autograph. He was actually looking for a reason to leave the bar and his band mate (who was very interested in the blond next to him) so he walked back into the show with us and we chatted while the band played. It was very surreal.

So what does this have to do with the band. Every time I hear the Carpets I think of that night. I think of the kids who were so into them the first time I saw them and the way Martin Gore spoke of them in such glowing terms (US record label politics did not make the bill materialize). The band broke up after that record and has only been together sporadically since then. Which seems to be a common theme amongst the britpop bands. But I still have a warm spot in my heart for them for giving me two great concert moments.

Monday, January 05, 2009

A really good cause

Saw this post from a couple of other blogs and had to share it. As someone who has had family members touched by cancer (in my case my grandmother battled breast cancer twice), I found it to be moving and will certainly donate my part in the fight against all forms of cancer (and you get some great music out of it as well.)

Bootleg legend Soundhog has prepared an exclusive dance mix for ACID TED. This is not available in the shops or anywhere else. Get it now whilst stocks last. But I am asking for something from you in return.
For those of you who haven't come across Soundhog (or Ben); he is respected for his consistently fantastic bootlegs, his engaging remixes and his ability to rock the dancefloor. He's an essential part of modern bootleg history, but has been noteably quiet of late. Read an interview with GYBO's McSleazy for more details

This mix is one done specially for ACID TED readers. You really won't find it anywhere else. It is an astonishing mix of tracks. Not just the tracks themselves but they way that they have been chopped up and reassembled in Soundhog's inimitable style. The tracklist is:
Finitribe - 101
Bassomatic - Fascinating Rhythm
Sub Sub - Jaggernath
The Prodigy - Poison
Bomb The Bass - Beat Dis (Freestyle Scratch Mix)
DJ Mink - Hey, Hey, Can You Relate?
Renegade Soundwave - Biting My Nails
The 25th Of May - It's Alright
MANIC - I'm Coming Hardcore
Joey Beltram - Energy Flash
Chemical Brothers - Chemical Beats
N-Joi - Malfunction
Digital Orgasm - Running Out Of Time
Mental Cube - Q
Carl Cox - I Want You
2 Bad Mice - Bombscare
Altern-8 - Hypnotic St-8
Fatboy Slim - Song For Lindy
E-Lustrious - Dance No More odd little bits of other things in there.

But I'd like others to benefit from the time that Ben has put in. In particular, to raise money for research on brain tumours in children. If you want a copy of the mix, there are a couple of ways to donate:1. Use the donate button on the sidebar (via PayPal). And I will use your email details to send you the link.

2. Give directly to the Samantha Dickson Brain Tumour Trust (UK) by donating here or Children’s Brain Tumor Foundation (USA) here or to a children's cancer charity in your own country. Once you have done so, you will get an emailed reply from them. Forward that email to me (see side bar) and I will send you a link to the mix.
Please, please donate. How much you donate is up to you (£5 = US$7 / EUR5). Brain tumours are the commonest solid tumours in children in the UK and USA. More children now die from a brain tumour than any other childhood cancer.

So donate and support what he is doing.

I Have Arrived

Today I received a badge of honor among music bloggers. I had a post removed with no notification for what I can assume was unproper posting of music. This despite my notification that I will gladly remove anything that is unwanted for public consumption. As JC from THE VINYL VILLIAN commented on the aforementioned lost Top Records of 2008, my Top 11 was an over the top commercial love fest, so most of these bands have sold in excess of 500,000 records or so. But of course we are speaking more of a philosophical protection of artistic integrity rather than the deisre to spread positive support for a much beloved record or artist.

This is what I don't quite understand about removal of posts. It's not like I was bashing someone as crap, in fact it was the exact opposite. These were the records I enjoyed the most. But hey, I guess it means I have been noticied by the powers that be. Maybe it will lead to an increase in readership...

For review my Top of 2008

11. Kings of Leon -- Only By The Night
10. The Charlatans -- You Crossed My Path (a record the band made available for free on their own)
9. Tokyo Police Club -- Elephant Shell (single available via the record label site.
8. Beck -- Modern Guilt
7. Death Cab For Cutie (Songs available for free on the old record label Barsuk)
6. Counting Crows -- Saturday Nights and Sunday Mornings
5. Chris Walla -- Field Manual (Single available for download via his label)
4. Bloc Party -- Intimacy (Several of their remixes are available for free on their site)
3. REM -- Accelerate
2. Frightened Rabbit -- The Midnight Organ Fight (a band with a lot of live and rare stuff out in the world for download)
1. Coldplay -- Viva La Vida (a band who has given away songs on it's own site for free

(If I were a betting man I think the REM track is what got me in trouble, but the other two culprits (Counting Crows and Beck) are on the same US label so they are certainly possibilities. In any case it kinda breaks my heart a little)

Sunday, January 04, 2009

And now for something completely different...

I do not, as a rule, like musicals. I tend to laugh when people spontaneously break into song and have found that often I lose track of the plot as I try to listen to the lyrics. So when the wife stated unequivocally that we were to attend a showing of WICKED before it left LA, I found myself trapped without an excuse. Again, this is not my normal sort of musical interest and I went in to the whole thing a bit skeptical, but if millions of people have enjoyed it then who was I to be a stick in the mud.

Of course, since I am writing about it it must mean I either really liked it or really hated it. So I was very surprised at just how much I did like it. The music is not at all operatic (one of my major complaints with some musical theatre is the need of the singers to over dramatize because they are acting) and had enough hooks to keep you humming. The staging was magnificent and the story was very inventive (for those that don't know it's the story of the Wizard of Oz told from the witches' perspective). But the real test was would I listen to the music after the images died down in my head.

So, I went a got the soundtrack of the Broadway show and put it on the ole' iPod to see if I would click to it at a later date. Sure enough, yesterday I found myself scrolling to what I think is the best song of the collection, a soaring ballad called "Defying Gravity" which is the central song of the play and has a melody that is as infectious as any pop song. While I have not necessarily replayed the whole thing yet, this one song has transcended the genre to be just another song in my collection, which is quite a feat in and of itself.