Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Sham of Award Shows

We are officially into awards season, which brings out a special kind of ire in my view of the arts. First off, since all art is subjective, how can one thing be better than another? Who says one person's best song is better than another? I personally, have little or no knowledge of ADELE, LADY GAGA, or LEONA LEWIS but apparently they are all very important artists of our time. For the past two weeks all I have seen is the vapid, meaningless "musicians", prance around accepting various forms of statues for their contribution to the music world. Seriously, they may be truly great at what they do, but how can you award art? Isn't the reward to the artist that their music is appreciated by fans who find meaning in what they have created?

Secondly, it seems that these pre-taped shows have merely become long form infomercials for artists latest product (whether its a new record or a new perfume it apparently doesn't matter). No more so is this apparent then in the honoring of a certain artist for "lifetime achievement". The genesis of this particular rant came from a segment of this year's Brit Awards that I stumbled across. It seems that THE PET SHOP BOYS, were honored with a special medley of their hits as an homage to their longevity. Now, I have loved the Pet Shop Boys for a long time. I own several of their records and even sat through the self indulgent film they made years ago. What angered me was the inclusion of the what I found out later was their latest single, "Love, etc." into this mix. Now it is a decent song, but to include it alongside "West End Girls", "Suburbia" and "Domino Dancing" is just wrong. It sounded out of place and turned me against the whole notion of what they were there for. Instead of giving them credit for their place in pop music, it was merely a marketing ploy to promote their new record.

So these shows are shams. Why even bother giving out awards anymore if they are arbitrary and apparently can only be given to those artists with records either just released or about to come out? Why must we have winners and losers in music? Why can't we just like what we like without mainstream media throwing things down out throats? Why does this bother me when it's not a new thing? Maybe, I should just sit back and listen to what I like and ignore the rest...

For your own review

Monday, February 16, 2009

New Music: White Lies

WHITE LIES have been starting to get some publicity here in the US (I understand that they are already quite big in the UK nut we Americans can be a bit slow on the uptake...must be too much American Idol). Anyway, this band has several things going for it. First, they are signed to Fiction records (home of THE CURE) so they come with a built in sense of cool. Second, their music is full of great guitar hooks and big, anthemic choruses. This is the kind of thing that will translate well live which means that they might have some staying power (musically, they have a similarity to THE EDITORS).

Finally, they write depressing songs. Now you might ask, why is this a good thing. Well, given the current climate of the US and how everyone is losing work and money, you would think that people would gravitate to music that is poppy and escapist.But I beg to differ. I think when times are tough, people look for music that is real and filled with genuine emotion. The last major economic crisis in America gave us NIRVANA, PEARL JAM and the other Seattle bands. Now we search the landscape for music that reflects our reality, which dark and gloomy. Here is where White Lies will come in. Now I'm saying these guys will sell a million records or become international pop stars, but I do think they represent a trend in music that will drift to the more depressing side of emotion.

So now that I have thoroughly saddened you, go listen to their music. If you are a fan of THE CURE or JOY DIVISION you will like these guys. Just don't drink and listen to their record.
**If you like this you will like the whole album. It is very representative of their sound.

**You don't here to many songs written in the second person. Kind of a neat trick.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Hitting Shuffle (Episode 2)

When I get a little more time this long weekend I will try to post something a little more exciting but in the meantime:

Fugazi are the ultimate DIY band. Their records are slices of hardcore punk ethos with all the warts and bumps of a band recording on their own. I dipped my toes into their music briefly while in college and, while most of it was a bit to abrasive for my tastes (this song included), there are some of the tracks that have a certain draw when one is in a particularly angry mood. I have always admired them for not selling their soul and becoming homogenized by the music business (even though they could have made a lot of money augmenting their sound like Bad Religion did in the 90's).

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Hitting Shuffle (Episode 1)

This will be a new feature here on Your Moment of Zen. Essentially, its a way to increase my productivity in the event I don't have a long time to think about a post. Often when I sit down in front of the computer to do other things, I will simply open my iTunes library and let it shuffle from song to song. Since I share the computer with my wife's music and, now, much of my kids' stuff, it can be a bit disjointed. All in all it provides the appropriate backdrop to what I am doing. So for this new concept, here are the rules:
1) The song selected must be the song that is playing when I open up a new post window.***
2) It cannot be a children's song (I won't make you suffer through "She'll Be Coming Round The Mountain...I do have a heart you know)
3) If a song appears that is from my wife's collection I cannot skip it (I do not want to end up sleeping on the couch). However, I do not have to be positive in my review of the song.

***denotes the seldom used Madden Bump rule. If a song is so abhorrent that it should have been removed from the library and just hasn't, I reserve the right to reset the shuffle once (similar to "accidentally" hitting the reset button when losing on Madden Football for the playstation) I do however, in the interest of honesty, have to tell you when I have used this rule.

So here we go, (opening iTunes now and hitting shuffle)

Bands that make double albums are pretentious bastards. Seriously, one out of every 10 double albums make you say, "yeah, that was a good idea releasing all of those songs at once." Most of the time, there is one good record full of material and a lot of artistic noodling that could have been left in the studio and developed into better material later on. This song comes from a huge collection of 29 songs entitled "Businessmen and Ghosts". The song is a nice little shoegazer style number that I got for a podcast I did awhile back (back when I did those sorts of things). The rest of the record is a mish mash of styles that never really coalesces into a coherent sound. Intriguing but not overwhelming. But this song is a pretty good indicator of what you are getting.


Monday, February 02, 2009

Random Peter Murphy Post

I admit that I never got the whole GOTH thing. I had no affinity for dressing in all black (although my wife will sometimes chastise me for the fact that I wear black slacks to work every day), the mascara and the wild hair. Outside of a love for THE CURE, the rest of the goth crowd was just a bit to extreme. For the most part I missed the boat on SISTERS OF MERCY, SIOUXSIE AND THE BANSHEES and BAUHAUS. I opted for the poppier side of alternative which was probably best for my overall social life. So when I eventually ran into Mr. Murphy it was with little knowledge of his prior band affiliation.

His 1989 album, "Deep", was merely another intriguing product of my musical investigation. Obviously the first thing that hits you is his voice. It has an otherwordly quality that can dive into a deep baritone one minute and a half falsetto the next. Hearing it for the first time takes some getting used to. Then come the lyrics. For someone in his late teens, early twenties, this sort of existential poetry full of images of love and death can be a bit much for someone who was a relatively happy guy at the time. But I just couldn't shake the sound. I came back again and again to hear the tortured tale of "Marlene Dietrich's Favorite Poem" or the soul bearing honesty of "Cuts You Up". It just had this depth to it that was missing in a lot of music at the time.

The odd thing is that for a record that I was so obviously entranced with, I never moved beyond it into the rest of his catalogue. I tried some of the Bauhaus stuff, but it wasn't the same. His next record, "Holy Smoke", felt forced and overproduced to the point where I lost interest very quickly. Some artists are like that; just flashes in our musical journey. But in this case, a flash of needed oddity to shake me out of a stale part of my life.

(mp3) Peter Murphy -- Cuts You Up

(mp3) Peter Murphy -- Marlene Dietrich's Favorite Poem