Monday, November 23, 2009

Literal Lyrics: guns kill people.

Hey there nine summertime readers. I'm Tom. I write this nonsense. I've been asked by Matt to contribute, and since I learnt how to share back in preschool, I was happy to help out. I hear he wants to turn this blog into a critical discourse on the state of modern music. Boring.

This is a series called 'Literal Lyrics'. Basically, I find the lyrics of a shitty pop song that is dominating the ARIA charts and I dissect them for the benefit of the listeners at home. It helps uncover the true meaning of these auto-tuned monstrosities. I plan to do it on a weekly basis.

This week's song is 'Russian Roulette' by Rihanna. Don't get me wrong, I think she's great. But only at dancing and singing. And getting punched in the face by her boyfriend. OH NO YOU DIDN'T! The song opens with some basic instructions on how to live.

Take a breath, take it deep
Calm yourself, he says to me
If you play, you play for keeps

Rihanna, you're hanging with the right crowd. These people have their head on right. Breathing, calmness, playing for keeps. Good on you girl.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

in rememberance: kings of leon

I’d heard others lament the transgression of previously-great bands into mainstream mediocrity and the consciousness of the cultural bankrupt long before I’d experienced that grief myself. From Daft Punk’s ‘Human After All’ to Wilco’s ‘A Ghost is Born,’ from Massive Attack, Pavement, Air, Beastie Boys, The Verve – all are artist’s that have damn near broken people’s hearts with their decreasing vitality and relevance. That’s just a selection of them. Try talking to someone who loved Muse ten years ago about the now Big Day Out-headlining band.

This is a chance to reflect. This is an obituary for the integrity and awesomeness behind a band once close to my heart. A chance to remember the good times so readily obscured by the more recent and more publicised shite. Stand up, Kings of Leon.

I bought Youth and Young Manhood while in Sydney for my uncle’s wedding without having heard so much as single note from it beforehand. I was at that point in my mid-teenage years where, devoid of an older brother and a dad that kept abreast of new music (and back when Myspace was actually used by high schoolers and not bands), I would readily hand over my monies with an adolescent, explorative excitement based on the thirty seconds I heard at listening stations (back when people still bought CDs), or the cover art, or one good review I read in some largely irrelevant publication. I genuinely miss that practice, especially the lack of expectations I had for every release and thus the greater frequency with which I was pleasantly surprised; the complete lack of aesthetic criteria or credibility concerns that now colour almost all my consumption. It was the product of a musical naivety I wish I still had. It made every release something of a mystery and almost everything (including – briefly – Jet) sound quite fresh.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

stuff i've been listening to

Bibio - 'Bones and Skulls'

This track is off Bibio's latest - and THIRD - album released on Warp in 2009. In fairness though, while billed as an album, The Apple and the Tooth is basically an EP and a handful of remixes packaged together. It's still cool if not a slight let down after the fantastic Ambivalence Avenue in June.
Apple doesn't come any closer to marrying the "two Bibios" presented on earlier albums - the glitchy, electronic Bibio, and the singer-songwriter Bibio. They remain quite distinct, though the latter is better represented on this release.
'Bones and Skulls' is a simple guitar track with a catchy, drifting vocal melody. It's a long way from Neil Young , with plenty of background noise and effected sounds filling out the empty space around the clattering percussion and crusty beats. It's the whimsical, vocodered bridge pulled straight from an Air track that really makes it soar.

The Radio Dept. - ' Pulling Our Weight'

One of the biggest regrets after my Euro trip this year was that I never made it to Sweden. I saw Sweden from the Danish shoreline, but never actually made it over there due to time and monetary constraints. This year alone, Sweden has brought us personal favs Fever Ray (album of the year) and The Mary Onettes (to be featured on an upcoming mixtape) amongst many others.
The Radio Dept. were the toast of indie music earlier this decade, with two great EPs and then a pretty good LP released in quick succession, plus no less than three tracks featured on Sofia Coppola's ultra-hip Marie Antoinette soundtrack.
This is an old song of theirs and is on both the aformentioned soundtrack and the Pulling Our Weight EP. The vocals have that dream-like quality that only continental Europeans seem capable of producing, and it's more than just the accent, the low-cut filter, the double-tracking and the reverb. It's what makes even the most fuzzed out Radio Dept. songs sound blissful; it's what draws the comparisons to other 'dream pop' bands. The bass takes the lead on this track. Its melodic line weaves throughout the track, and the one-bar-short phrase that opens the main riff seals the deal.

The Cure - 'Purple Haze' (Hendrix Cover)

Apparently this was put together for a 1993 Hendrix tribute album. I don't own said album because I find Hendrix/Zeppelin et al fairly soporific. I do, however, own The Cure's four-disc, 70-track long b-sides and rarities compilation Join the Dots. Organised chronologically, 'Purple Haze' is buried in the middle of the 3rd disc and is probably the last worthwhile track hearing on the very patchy last two discs. This shouldn't surprise anyone really since The Cure's a-sides at this point were nothing short of terrible ('Mint Car' anyone?)
The best thing about this track is that is displays the creativity that was then lacking in their own work. Robert Smith needs to find and hold onto whatever inspired him to turn air-guitar standard 'Purple Haze' into a hip hop-inspired, drugged-out ballad. It's also the most gothic sounding thing they'd put out that decade until '99s ridiculously hyper-goth Bloodflowers.
The Cure are one of my top three favourite bands ever, and if I were going to recommend any track they released in the '90s then it would be this one. Unusual, since it's a cover, but it shows what's great about The Cure better than their own material - it's eerie, oppressive, and inventive. It doesn't touch their first four albums mind you, but very little out there does.