Monday, January 18, 2010

Off ya tree of souls

Avatar? More like...Shitatar! Oh my god! Somebody stop me! Where do I come up with this stuff? But really, I just couldn't resist a ranty panning of Jim Cameron's bloated half-billion dollar soap box epic of blue bombast. Maybe I'm just an elitist contrarian, unwittingly compelled to loathe all status quo-determined zeitgeists, but I was frankly gobsmacked by the dumb CGI sermonising of the prophet Cameron.

Sure, it's a visual spectacle to be matched- no qualms there, JC (heavens, even the initials are redolent with holier-than-thou-ness), you've certainly dazzled us with sweeping landscape/artillery porn. If this is solely the reason for it's immense popularity, then I will be at peace. But if cashed up bogans are genuinely flocking to this flick in their gas-guzzling foreign made four-wheel drives and walking out feeling like shrewd social commentators on Iraq and climate change then I will readily seppuku my innards in a heartbeat.

Just to clarify- if JC didn't quite beat you hard enough over the head with his subtle take on neo-imperialist land rape and jingoism- the greatest director who ever lived literally set out to 'educate' Americans, and the world (hmmyes, two different things, apparently), about the ill effects of invading and subsequently bombing the proverbial out of Iraq... what? There's negative ramifications of launching missiles at Baghdad schools and hospitals on a daily basis? Fuck, good thing Jim Cameron pointed that out to me via $500million of three-dimensional awesome! Mmm, where was I? Popcorn and mega-cola! If you want intelligent critique of war-mongering America, read some Chomsky or Pilger, don't go to the megaplex.

Not to mention his blatant use of the 'noble savage' plot device, really only a few rungs down from the 'magical negro' plot device on the latent racist plot device ladder. So we're all to fall in love with the Na'vi and their huntin', avian-enslavin', paganistic ways, right? Again, Western colonisation indeed led to abhorrent genocide and heartless assimilation of indigenous peoples the world over- most sentient beings are aware of this fact, and multiplex sci fi actioners are generally not ideal source material for this topic, so maybe avoid citing 'Cameron: 2009', along with Wiki brilliance, next time you're compiling a political science essay reference list.

Next- the cardboard cut-out gung ho meathead cowboy military stereotypes. Yes, sadly they do exist, and in large numbers, particularly in the US armed forces. But could JC have made it any more black and white- shite was I at a loss as to who the antagonists/protagonists were! Sooo...the shaven-headed, buff, gun-toting types who want nothing more than to cold-bloodedly and gleefully blow up some trees of souls and "savages", mostly for the sheer heck of it, partly to mine 'unobtainium' (I know- they really do call it that- outstanding, Cam!) are the baddies? Well I'll be a thanator's uncle! Could Colonel Whatshisname be more of a George W. Bush/poor man's Lieutenant Colonel Kilgore from Apocalypse Now caricature? ...Sorry, I'll try and curb the cynical rhetorical questions, they do become tiresome I suspect- but really? "...Fight terror with terror"? Come on Jim, make us think just wee bit. Maybe Colonel Shootemup had a difficult childhood, with an abusive father or something? He just wanted to be a classical pianist instead of going to military school. Maybe blowing up pagan god trees and blue aborigines was his only way of expressing that angst? Let's flesh out some of these characters, eh Jim.

What else- oh, of course, Worthington's stellar American accent!
I could extrapolate more, but I think that's enough ire. Essentially, it's dumb, overly idealistic people and aging hippies like Cameron who give the Left a bad name, with such unequivocal preachings through 'art'. There's countless films and songs that combine politics and art successfully and subtly, and the thought that Avatar could be referred to as something more than simply a gargantuan piece of well-styled summer cinema entertainment is rather dry retch-worthy.
Leave the humanist ideologue to intelligent people. And hail Eywa! Oh, gosh- it really is addictive! I take it all back, Jim!*
*I don't.

Monday, January 11, 2010

postmodernism, and why it should leave hardcore music alone.

Postmodernism is a wonderful thing. It made it acceptable for people to be weird and alternative back in the 60s, which made it easier for indie/arty/blogger types to be alternative now. It brought about things like pop art, which brought us both Andy Warhol silkscreens and the cover to Sonic Youth's Goo - both of which can be easily worn on a shirt to communicate one's obscene alternative...ness? (alternativity?)

Warhol et al showed the dissolution of boundaries that attended the postmodern movement. Not only high and low art, but also genre divisions came tumbling down. Suddenly you could 'appropriate' from some trashy sources and simultaneously create art and a statement on contemporary culture. What's not to love? Shit's easy, makes you look smart, and some of it was actually pretty cool.

Everyone with a BA knows the postmodernism was good because John Cage and Foucault already told them so. Fact: there's little that can make a cultural studies major renounce his (largely superficial) devotion to the postmodern movement.

The hardcore/electro genre blur is one of those rare things.

(thanks for Tal via Maddy for the tip on these guys)

I didn't think it would be necessary for me to divulge the reasons why electro and hardcore shouldn't mix, but apparently some people didn't get the 'decent taste' memo. Attack! Attack! are amazing artists at the forefront of postmodern music. Look at how they seamlessly (read: not seamlessly) gloss over various styles in just one song, sometimes even playing multiple styles of music at the same time. "Why don't we play this monophonic synth preset over some distorted guitar?" Holy shit. Amazing. This superficial treatment of opposite musical styles is evidence of true originality and forward thinking. So forward, in fact, that it is in need of pulling back.

This level of genius doesn't just come from nowhere. No, it comes from compiling a whole bunch of different passages of other peoples music into a musical clusterfuck. It's almost like someone recorded a karaoke machine stroking out and accidentally combining a heap of bad covers. Or like the song-structure equivalent of 'exquisite corpse,' and everyone who participated was eleven years old.

I've known about Attack! Attack! and others like them for a while. My current wave of anger is motivated by a fear that this genre may infiltrate our pure Australian shores. Damn you internet for opening our secluded country up to crappy tweenage cultural imperialism. If only we could keep this shit locked on a boat in Indonesian waters...

Alas, here is an Australian band bring the techno-core closer to home - alarmingly singled out as a Triple J next crop artist last November. Admittedly it's not as extreme a treatment of the hardcore/electro fusion that I detest, but this is just the beginning. Soon, the the artistic inventiveness that saw fit to lazily tack on a trance-ish outro to that song with creep into the entire tune. And then there may even be some rapping. And we'll have our own shitty genre mash-up epidemic to deal with.

Help me make sure this doesn't happen. This is the worst thing to happen to music since nu-metal. Stop these forward-thinking musicians right now and pull them back into musical territory that's more stylistically comfortable.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Literal Lyrics: Make your own rules.

Literal lyrics is back! After a brief Christmas holiday in which it travelled to the ends of the earth in search of a good pavlova, it has returned victorious. Turns out a small coffee shop in western Ukraine really knows its New Zealand desserts.

This week we will be covering the first single from John Mayer's new album, 'Who Says'. In typical John Mayer fashion, he sounds just like a year 12 jock douchebag who bought a second hand guitar and takes it to every party because he knows like five chords and can totally bust out the first half of a bunch of Powderfinger songs and chicks dig that. Mr Mayer has totally nailed that market. Unfortunately, John is now 32 and hitting on 17 year olds is borderline illegal.

As such, it would appear Maybags (a smooth combination of "Mayer" and "douchebag" that rolls right off the tongue) has become a little jaded, probably after numerous attempts at failing to score with Jennifer Aniston, Hollywood's most damaged goods. Seriously John, I could bag that scalp if I wanted to, and I'm a poor, mostly talent-less Australian guy nearly 20 years her junior. You've got everything (well, not exactly everything, but money and fame are two good starts) and you managed to blow it.

So, Maybags has written what I can only describe is the apathetic anthem of the Naughties. Ladies and gentlemen, Who Says...
Who says I can't get stoned
Turn off the lights and the telephone
Me in my house alone
Who says I can't get stoned
Well, for starters John, the Government says that. They make these things called laws and the citizens of the country, who more often than not elect said Government (your country, as much as you desperately try to fuck it up, does this) must obey these laws. Now you may turn your nose up at this, but its these laws that keep people driving on the right side of the road, keep people from just waltzing into a shop and taking what they wanted, and stop angry members of the public from raping and murdering each other on a whim. They provide people with consequences, and help guide them in the right direction.

Laws aside though, the other thing that says you can't do that is our basic desire for sound mental health. If you sat alone in a darkened house and had no contact with the outside world, you would literally begin to go mad. And that's even if you weren't getting high all the time. Our brains crave social interaction. There are actually methods of psychological torture that involve locking people away from society for extended periods of time. It's called 'solitary confinement' and is regularly used in prisons to break the spirit of tough inmates.

Is that enough reason for you Maybags?
Who says I can't be free
From all of the things that I used to be
Rewrite my history
Who says I can't be free
You want a clean slate John, is that what you're getting at? You want everyone to forget all the terrible shit you've done? Or worse, all the cool shit you've done? Unfortunately Maybags, you are a worldwide celebrity, so the chances of everyone forgetting who you are and you being able to start over again are very slim. That would involve everyone else on the planet suffering a very specific kind of amnesia, in which we forgot just who you were but retained all other information. Plus there is the logistics of removing any trace of you from the internet and society at large. That's a pretty big ask Maybags, just so you can give being a different person a new try.
It's been a long night in New York City
It's been a long night in Baton Rouge
I don't remember you looking any better
But then again I don't remember you
Now we begin to see some evidence of how you managed to fuck up the whole Jennifer Aniston thing. I'm going to assume you're talking to a women in those last two lines. Bad move. "I don't remember you looking any better" is basically saying, "You look pretty shit right now, I much prefer what you were wearing last night". And following that line up with "I don't remember you" is bound to make any woman you've met more than twice feel like shit. I mean, sure, you're famous, you meet a lot of attractive women, but that is no reason to act like a dick. Do what most men do and lie, make shit up. And the excuse "It's been a long night in New York/Baton Rouge" really isn't going to work. Firstly, pick just one city (preferably the one you are actually in) and then say you've had a long night. Simply pointing out that it is the Winter solstice is not a valid excuse.
Who says I can't get stoned
Call up a girl that I used to know
Fake love for an hour or so
Who says I can't get stoned
More stoned talk, we've covered this Maybags. As for the drunk dialling, while there are no hard and fast rules on such a thing, it is generally frowned upon in social circles. More so by the person you are tricking into thinking you like them, but also by their friends. It really is a dick move. And just doing it over the phone and only for an hour is really just a waste of everyone's time. If you're going to mess with her head, at least invite her around and sleep with her. At least if she hates you she'll have had a night of pleasure. I am also getting the feeling you did this to Janiston, which probably didn't help your chances with her at all. As a general rule, no one likes any sort of emotions to be faked, particularly not love. And considering you did this to a woman who had her heart publicly broken by Brad Pitt and then Angelina Jolie basically spent the next five years rubbing it in.
Who says I can't take time
Meet all the girls in the county line
Wait on fate to send a sign
Who says I can't take time
Are you trying to tell me that you want to meet and, I can only assume, fuck, every girl on the county line (which, for Australians, is basically all the women in a certain post code) and then wait for fate to tell you which one to maintain a relationship with? Possibly an even worse idea than your psychological torture plan, Maybags. Firstly, the health issues. You're going to have to wear a condom the size of a pair of trousers, and that's not even considering oral sex. Secondly, those types of things can't just be left to fate. There will be a certain number of women who will pursue you and you will have to deal with them, you can't just wait for a sign. Finally, good luck keeping the fact you're shagging every woman in a 100-mile radius a secret. Much like the drunk dialling thing, women don't like being lead on. And considering you've already demonstrated your inability to talk to women, I can't help but feel this plan is going to crash and burn.
It's been a long night in New York City
It's been a long night in Austin too
I don't remember you looking any better
But then again I don't remember you
Again with the bad compliments and even worse excuse. Perhaps try "I've never seen you looking this beautiful" next time.
Who says I can't get stoned
Plan a trip to Japan alone
Doesn't matter if I even go
Who says I can't get stoned
Finally, you have proposed something that isn't frowned upon by normal society. I mean, it is a little depressing that you want to go on a holiday alone, but the fact you want to get out of the house is good. Baby steps Maybags, baby steps. And you're right, you don't have to go if you don't want to. However, I would recommend not paying for it if you're unsure about whether you'll actually show up to the airport. Otherwise you could waste a fair bit of money. However, considering the fact that you're both rich and willing to buy copious amounts of marijuana, maybe a missed flight to Japan isn't such a big deal. Also, a word of advice, don't fly stoned or take any pot with you. I may be incorrect, but I think that thing is illegal. They've been pretty anal about plane travel for the past few years and you could find yourself in a bit of trouble if they found you out.
It's been a long night in New York City
It's been a long time since 22
I don't remember you looking any better
But then again I don't remember you
John, you're a quick learner. Finally a decent excuse for not remembering someone. You haven't seen them since you were 22. That's ten years. She'll understand if you say that. Again I would avoid the thinly veiled insult and instead try, "You look amazing, I didn't even recognise you, have you lost weight?"

Wasn't that a fun journey into the inner psyche of John Mayer? Turns out he's just as much of a douchebag as you thought he was. Daughters is a pretty song though.

And now, something less vaginally cleansing than Maybags...

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Inaugural Post, Or How I Learnt to Stop Worrying and Love the Proverbial J's

Guten tag there, Nine Summertimers. I'm Alex, the conspicuously as-yet-until-these words-gracing-your-screen-unpublished third member your venerable trio of advisors to the Board of Cutting Pop Culture Dissection. My old drinking/charades buddy from our heady student politics days in Young FARC, Matt, kindly extended the olive branch to join he and Tom in knowing, wry social commentary, to which I gleefully replied, "nice olive branch! Kalamata? And I'd love to join the writing team!"

I hope your Yuletides have been gleeful and consumerist, like an awful Disney-or-similar madcap, hijink-fuelled Christmas caper stacked with insipid family values, starring some interchangeable ex-comedian who may or may not have once been funny, but one day had kids and thus turned to doing solely shitty wholesome family 'comedies'.

Either way, I hope you got some gems. One of my appreciatiatively bestowed gifts was none other than Triple J's Hottest 100 of All Time, that much celebrated behemoth of a poll they trot out every so oft, with invariably unchanged results from previous outings. I like the CD, despite criminally little (read: no) Smiths, criminally little female artists (consisting, vocally, solely of Cocteau Twin Elizabeth Fraser's guest vox on Massive Attack's 'Teardrop' and Kim Deal's backing wails on Pixies' 'Where Is My Mind?') and criminally little explanation as to what process was employed to whittle the initial hundred down to thirty six- in fact, how do these sexy kingmakers at the J's get away with such murder year in year out with the annual contemporary 100's, in having the gall to include the crucial '100' in the disc title. Sure we're all so unquestioningly complicit to it now, but someone really should have held them accountable at very first compilation, and suggested: "why not 'Hottest Bits of the Previously Announced Hottest 100 (Culling Process for Featured Cohort Omitted)'?"

Still, I have to love Triple J. Even if they do make it difficult at times. Such as mediocre hip hop, flogging 'Sex On Fire' ad nauseum throughout '08, and the aforementioned ambiguity of track selection/omission on compilations.

The Hottest 36 of All Time, is a polarising affair, and was always going to be. And it did seem as though the Association of Cynical and Sometimes Angry Men Who Were Teens in the Early-Mid '90s rallied their membership base in an unprecedented voting spree.

Apart from this fact it does remain a comprehensive collection of alt hits of decades past. When listening to the countdown attentively earlier in the year, it was quite clear once it got inside the top ten that 'Smells Like Teen Spirit' would probably top the poll, a bit of a disappointment considering those back-of-neck hairs don't quite stick up as tinglingly as when hearing it for the first few spins in one's adolescence, and it's not even the band's best work.

Highlights include: RATM's anthem for boisterous angry men who don't understand the actual sharp political diatribe of the song, 'Killing in the Name', the ill-fated yet still mystical and legendary Stone Roses' 'Fools Gold', New Order's 'Blue Monday', it's throbbing bassline easily one of the most pinched bits of music since the Bo Diddley beat (even Rhianna's had a crack), Jarvis Cocker oozing wit and shrewd socio-cultural observation on Pulp's 'Common People', Bowie's 'Life on Mars?'- not my pick of his catalogue, but anything by the greatest man ever in any professional field suits me dandily, the aforementioned 'Where Is My Mind?' of Pixies fame, who arguably influenced every '90s artist who appeared on Triple J, The Shins' wistful signature 'New Slang', You Am I's seminal 'Berlin Chair'- I don't care if you don't much care for Rogers' exuberance, they made an inarguable contribution to '90s Oz indie and were channeling the retro gods in a much more inspired and original way then Jet ever would or will. By Christ! I mentioned Jet in text! I swore never to do such crime- I am indeed allergic to the band, you see. Well then, before the harrowing convulsions set in, I'd best wrap this up.

In all, a good listen, but could have been much better. Oh and the incredible The Cure are another big highlight with the heartstring-tugging catchiness of 'Close To Me'. In fact I could go on with the highlights for, golly, at least a couple more tracks! I say go purchase it if you don't already own most of the songs, liked the '90s, or are a misogynist.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

krudd's ultimate summer mixtape, vol. 1

So here's probably the best mixtape you're going to hear all summer - it's scientifically proven to improve your summer by 87% and comes straight from the decks of the Hon. kRudd. In the PM's words:
"This mix is meant to evoke all the feelings of summer. From the breezy, chillaxed mornings, through to afternoon storms and partying with yr bros at nite [sic], this is is where it's at. Throw in a bit of 'what-the-fuck-parliament-doesn't-sit-until-Feb' and you've got the right combination of songs to enjoy in due season - and that season is now: summer!'
Hard to argue with that. I've listened to it myself and can assure you that 87% is a more conservative figure than the ETI - this is the balls.

Shit is epic - 90+ minutes of sweet tunes. Tracklist after the jump.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Tell me something I don't know.

 There is no doubt that music has a unique effect on the human brain. As William Congreve once wrote (and is commonly misquoted) "Music has charms to soothe a savage breast." Neurologist Oliver Sacks has written an entire book, 'Musicophilia', about music and the fascinating influence it can have people, particularly when modern medicine has failed.

He writes stories of an Alzheimer's sufferer who is unable to string a coherent sentence together, however when asked to sing, he returns to his former self in a dazzling display of raw emotion and lucidity. Tourette's sufferers have their incessant ticks calmed by playing the piano, patients who are incapable of remembering anything longer than 7 seconds, except for intricate musical compositions.

Indeed, any music listener can vouch for their favourite album or song being able to lift them out of a bad mood. Emo music has thrived on the fact that angst-ridden teenagers find an escape from their emotional existence (whether real or imagined). Couples have "their song" that reminds them of when they first met, groups of friends have a tune that stirs memories of a particularly wild night or epic holiday.

But for all of music's good, it has committed unto me a heinous crime. Its great power can be used for both good and evil. This is made evident through it's ability to get a horrible pop loop stuck in your head for hours, days, even weeks at time, coming and going as it pleases. My problem? It has created a false memory.

Not just a little false memory mind you, an entire semester of memories. The album "Let's Bottle Bohemia" by The Thrills crafted, over a matter of weeks, the following memory:

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

remember the titans: then and now...

I went to an all-boy private secondary school, and as anyone who attended such an establishment for any even insignificant period of time can testify, two things are pretty much held up as the pinnacle of male adolescence – sport, and masculine bonding (through sport). Thus, when teacher’s were trying to kill time after exams were finished or an ethics assignment was on the horizon, it made sense that they’d repeatedly reach for one movie several times a semester – Remember the Titans.

This is a movie about the first inter-racial football team in some region/“conference” in (mid-west?) ‘50s America. The football team is a microcosm of the town, which is a microcosm of broader America, and through their success as people and sportsman, teach others that black people are the same as white people but slightly more athletic and sassier. Like every fifteen-year-old male at the time, I loved this movie. It was the kind of movie that could make you cry (on the inside), and simultaneously making it acceptable to cry (on the inside) because a) it’s a movie about brotherhood, and b) everyone else in the class was similarly crying (on the inside).

It was about high school boys overcoming adversity and basically saving the planet just by playing sport. It’s the dream that every male at that school secretly had – that their physical prowess would put an end to the world’s problems and then the team would all be BFFs. I literally saw this movie over fifteen times during high school, which is more than three times a year. Furthermore, I discovered that I actually own two copies of it on DVD. This was a movie that I would forever identify with that period of my life, a shiny compact disc that would carry the glorified nostalgia of my high school days.

I watched this movie again recently and realised it was pretty shit.