Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Music is the... Moving

Hi everyone,

So, first of all: thanks to everyone who's been reading the site. It's generated WAY more interest than I expected when I, virtually on a whim, got it started a few months ago. Along the way I've found some fantastic writers and some fantastic readers as well. Which is why we're closing down.

Just kidding.

Actually, what's happening is that we're moving, in a way. I was recently asked to become the music editor for Pajiba, a site I've been working with for a while now. As such, me and the writers of TMITM shall be over there, Monday through Thursday, posting at 5:00 PM every day. Look for more album reviews, live concert write-ups, you name it. Thanks for reading, and we'll see you at Pajiba!

Later gators.


ps - click here for the official Pajiba announcement!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Rules of Hell

Here's a history lesson for you: When rock and roll first started in the 50s, it was considered "The Devil's Music." Sure, you may have heard this, but it doesn't get publicized that much. If you read up on any rock and roll history books, you'll find that in the early years of rock and roll, even up into the 60s, that white artists would cover black artists material, and usually do better on the charts. See Pat Boone for an example. That is evil in its own way.

So I present to you some of my most favorite evil bands.

Black Sabbath

The kings, in my opinion, of "evil" rock. I actually was exposed to Black Sabbath by my friend, Robert DiNardo, when I was in 8th grade in Germany. Rob was a big Ozzy fan, and he had the Speak of the Devil double-live album which had Ozzy singing all the old Sabbath tunes, except he had Brad Gillis of Night Ranger playing the guitar, and Rudy Sarzo of Quiet Riot playing bass. Brad was laying down the California version of those Sabbath riffs, and just like California pale ale is more awesome than British pale ale, I always enjoyed Brad's riffs more than the original.

Over the past few years, I've become more and more interested in the stuff Ronnie James Dio did while singing for Black Sabbath. Ozzy was Ozzy, for sure, but Dio's stuff, although very fantasy (Dungeons and Dragons) - oriented, seemed just so much more real to me. In fact, RJD has quite a great bunch of songs with Rainbow, Sabbath, and his own, self-titled band.

Chuck Klosterman wrote a book called Fargo Rock City. His writing is pretty great, although sometimes he delves into more personal stuff (I know, I know...pot kettle black). This book is about his personal discovery of heavy metal, and his justification of heavy metal as a legitimate culture. I actually was able to find Chuck's email and ask him what he thought about Dio. His reply: I did not find him compelling.

I never saw Dio live, but he is somewhat annoying live, what with his, "oh ohhs" and banter while the song is going on. On Live Evil he actually shills the latest Sabbath album, like he's a DJ or something. He's still one of the best metal singers, in my opinion.


I think Black Sabbath and Judas Priest were gateway bands to more heavier stuff. I've probably mentioned ad nauseum how I had the first Metallica album when it came out in 1983. I actually missed a chance to see them open for Twisted Sister when I lived in Germany. This was before TS released "Stay Hungry."

Many of my friends moved on to other bands like Venom, Merciful Fate, and Slayer. Most of these bands freaked me out with their up-front Satanic posturing. Quite honestly, I was scared that my parents would find Slayer albums and prevent me from listening to any heavy metal. Just look at the cover of Hell Awaits. Demons ripping people to pieces as they descend into hell. Pleasant.

Then, during my senior year of high school, Slayer released "Reign in Blood" which would be too much for me to resist. Every single one of these songs is incredible. Here are two of my favorites, "Postmortem" and the title track:


Venom was another of those "satanic" bands, only they weren't very convincing to me. Some of their stuff was even kind of campy. If I'm going to go campy-evil, I'm gonna have to go with the Supersuckers.

I actually got to interview and these guys, and my band opened for them once. I still love these guys. They're really out there doing their own thing, including the release of a country album, that is more "spaghetti-country" than anything. I leave you with the Supersuckers with a bleak message about rock and roll records:

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Live Show Love: Jolie Holland

We arrived a bit late, stood in the back of our local dive-ish club, and soaked in the great set by Jolie Holland and her supporting bandmates. Holland is this surprising (and exciting, for me at least) combination of country/alt-country, soul,rock, and jazz singer. It's like she's playing country music with a jazz voice, but rocking it out into a soul/blues feel. It is incredibly easy to get wrapped up in her compositions and melodys--especially for a musician, singer, or songwriter--and seeing her live really cemented, for me, how incredibly talented this woman is.

Jolie Holland is one of the founding members of The Be Good Tanyas and currently labelmates with Tom Waits (who also happens to be a huge fan of hers). She is this kind of musician that I find equal parts inspiring and intimidating. Her voice is freakin' flawless; not only did she sound as good as her extremely well-produced albums--she sounded better. In fact, she blew her own pants off. The girl can SANG.

Jolie Holland, Mexico City

She is also extremely laid back and down to Earth; but most importantly, she is hot and has this cute way of talking out of the side of her mouth. And she loves Bonnie 'Prince' Billie. Le sigh!

Short interview w/ Holland:

Monday, November 10, 2008

Turn on the Radio!

When's the last time you listened to the radio?

I used to listen to it all the time. I made a throwaway comment in my last post about not having heard of Altan Urag on the radio, and it got me to thinking; I realized I hadn't turned one on in quite a long time.

It's not that I don't listen to music all the time. I do, everyday. Between my iPod on the subway and iTunes while I am at work (both in the office, quietly, and blaring over the crappy speakers in my workbox when I am on site), most of my day is spent with music on. But the radio is something I have gotten out of the habit of listening to.

So, I started listening, streaming a bunch of radio stations from all over (looking for one I liked that didn't sound like my music collection on random). My current favorite is RadioIO's Alt Country station. It's pretty great- contemporary alt-country and folk, stuff you are not likely to hear on pop country stations. You know, music that is made for the sake of making music and not for the sake of selling CDs. Not surprisingly, I heard some bands on that station that I liked so much that I ended up buying their albums. One of them was Kane Welch Kaplin, comprised of Kieran Kane, Kevin Welch, and Fats Kaplin.

Each member of this trio (sometimes quartet- Lucan Kane, Keirnan's son, joins them as percussionist with increasing regularity) is a successful solo artist in their own right, and the tracks I checked out of each of them on their own were great. This is definitely, to me at least, a case of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts, however.

Together, they manage to sound both raw and polished, complex and simple all at the same time, without coming across as formulaic or sacrificing a wide range of style and nuance. The album I bought, titled Kane Welch Kaplin, is their third, and definitely one of the best musical purchases I made this year.

Kane Welch Kaplin :: Ain't Gonna Do It

Kane Welch Kaplin :: Dark Boogie #7

Kane Welch Kaplin :: Postcard from Mexico

Friday, November 7, 2008

Soundtrack Friday :: The Ursine Calamity

I don't actually have too many soundtracks; but I realized, as I was looking at the ones in my music collection in preparation for this, that they betray me as a geek. Conan the Barbarian, Six String Samurai, Bladerunner, Crouching Tiger / Hidden Dragon, Akira... these are the things that I tend to own. The music of films much loved and watched many times, so well known that just listening to the soundtrack is enough to let me watch the story play out on the inside of my head.

There are two exceptions to this in my collection. One, A Slipping Down Life, is from a film by the same name that I have never seen, and never will. I have my own ideas, now, about the story that the music on this album frames, and I have no desire to watch the film and find it tells a story I don't like as much. Narrow and closed-minded? Maybe. But I'm okay with that.

I can't recall, now, how I stumbled across it, but it is a fantastic, soulful, mournful bit of genius. The songs are written by, in no particular order, Ron Sexsmith, Robyn Hitchcock, Joe Henry, and Vic Chesnutt; they are performed by Guy Pearce (yes, the weaselly, mostly bad actor), and let me tell you, they have achieved a rare thing with this album; this music cuts.

But A Slipping Down Life, as fantastic as it is, is not what I wanted to talk about when I started writing. I want to talk about the other soundtrack that defies my pattern of buying the music of best loved films.

I saw the film Mongol just once, and I had to have the soundtrack. If you haven't seen the film, it's worth a look. Basically, it is a sensationalized, semi-historical, almost mythological look at the early life and rise to power of Ghengis Kahn by Russian filmmaker Sergei Bodrov. It's full of action, beautiful to look at, and lots of fun.

The soundtrack, by Altan Urag, is all those things, and on top of that possesses a weight and complexity that the film, for all its enjoyableness, lacks. These guys are really serious about their music. From their MySpace page:
Centuries ago our great ancestors had conquered half the globe and amazed the world with our tradition thus we the young generation gave the blessed name “ALTAN URAG” to our band. ALTAN URAG means next generation of the king’s (Khan’s) throne. We play folk rock music and our band was formed in May, 2002. That same year we performed our first time gig at the “Roaring Hooves” international ethnic, contemporary music festival in Mongolia. Our music is collaboration between traditional based modern influenced. The goal and future of band and music is to promote our Mongolian culture and introduce traditional music to youngsters all over the nation.

Of course, I didn't know any of that at the time; I just knew that it was like nothing I have ever heard. I mean, it's not like they are playing Mongolian Folk Rock bands on the radio. At least, not the stations that I have been listening to. Maybe I am just listening to the wrong stations...

In any case, the album is excellent, and Altan Urag make the blending of traditional Mongolian music and contemporary rock seem effortless. The selections below are all from the soundtrack, and I think give a good sense of what I am talking about. You should definitely take the time to give them a listen.

Altan Urag :: Ijii Mongol

Altan Urag :: Requiem

Altan Urag :: Davalgaa

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Felicia's fall concert series: A boy and his computer

There should be an age limit on Girl Talk concerts due to amount of partying that takes place. I would say judging by the bruises on my right thigh and my thrown out back, anyone over the age of 25 should probably just stay at home. I planned accordingly by taking the following day off work, because I need a full day to recover from partying now whereas when I was younger I could party all night and show up for work the next day fresh as a daisy.

Girl Talk is the stage name of Gregg Gillis, a DJ from Pennsylvania who mashes up songs of all different genres. Unfortunately I had to sit through the two worst opening bands I have ever seen in my entire fucking life before I could start my dance party. If you like misogynistic screamy rap check out CX Kidtronik, and if you like little white boys who are trying to recreate The Beastie Boys check out The Death Set. I didn’t know anything about these bands before the show, and now wish I had never heard of them. Ever. The shittiness of these two bands led me to drink in order to drown it out. Heavily.

Part of me thinks Girl Talk is kind of a fraud, but the other part of me just wants to dance my ass off when I hear his mixes. He allegedly does not have permission to use any of the songs he releases on his albums and all he really does is play around on his computer when he performs. But he must be on to something since he was able to sell out First Ave on a Monday night.

This boy and his computer headed up the stage along with a line of bodyguards on the edge. For a second I thought the line up of bodyguards was to keep people off the stage. But oh no, they were there to bring loads of people up on stage and to keep them contained. They provided a back drop to the would-be boring stage show. Here is video from Lollapalooza 2008, which I was at but couldn't see jack shit at the time.

You can definitely argue that Girl Talk is just a techie nerd who does what a lot of other people can do, but I dare you to not dance like a fool when you hear these mixes. My local friends at How Was the Show wrote up their own review and some excellent photos here.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

They Call It Rebel Music

For the most part, this is not a political blog. It's a musical blog. But it's foolish to think that the two shall never meet. Music has always been an important part of history, of politics and of the national and international landscape. Music has been both revolutionary and a tool of revolution.

To think that the election of Barack Hussein Obama last night was not a revolution of some sort is to misunderstand the scope and importance of it. So I figured I'd do a little post today on music about the revolution, about change and politics and all of the great things that music can show us about the world around us.

Bob Marley - Rebel Music:

Public Enemy - Brothers Gonna Work it Out:

The Beatles - Revolution:

Flipsyde - Someday:

Living Colour - Fight the Fight:

Tracy Chapman - Talkin' 'Bout a Revolution:

Take care everyone.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Burst and Bloom into beauty

First of all: GO FUCKING VOTE!

Do they still teach kids to write in cursive? If so, why? Teaching a kid to write in cursive is basically the educational system saying, "here's a good tool to ensure that you'll have fucked up writing later in life." Because eventually you're going to start printing, and then you're gonna end up with some screwed up amalgamation of cursive and print that's going to just be a goddamn mess and no one's going to be able to read it. Next thing you know, your signature looks like a coked-up apoplectic tried to draw a straight line, and people are making jokes about you not being able to read your own writing. Fucking bastards.

(deep breath)

Anyway. That started out as a simple build-up that was going to end in a nice, easy segue, but clearly I have some shit to work out.

Cursive is a four/now five-piece rock outfit from Omaha, Nebraska of all places. I'm always amazed at the number of quality musical acts that come out of Omaha, and Cursive is another notch on the big O's musical belt. Formed in 1995, Cursive frequently finds themselves the victim of the dreaded "Emo" label, which to be honest, isn't entirely accurate (not to dump too hard on emo music - there's some decent stuff out there. You just have to dig. A lot. Really deeply. Like, China-deep). Truth be told, they're a little too smart, a little too self aware, and frankly, a little long in the tooth to be labeled Emo. See?

In reality, Cursive is a sumptuous blend of sounds, as if Fugazi and Built to Spill mated and threw in some piercing, jangly guitars... yet they are distinctly their own band. They've clearly got some punk rock in their roots, but also a flair for creative instrumentation and clever, ascerbic lyricism. Similar to another favorite of mine, Murder By Death (sans the awesome gothic/country flavor), they also incorporated a cello that was featured featured in their stellar album Burst and Bloom. Between torturing their guitars into a beautiful sound, they are fronted by the versatile Tim Kasher, equally at home with gentle murmers and cacaphonous caterwauls. With six albums over the last 13 years, they've gone through a series of break-ups and reformations, always keeping most of their core croup together, and always coming back strong with new and innovative material, including adding a brass section to the engaging concept album, 2006's Happy Hollow (the last album they've released). Very true to their indie roots, they consistently put out strong, interesting music and are deserving of more attention. Here's a few tracks:

One of my faves, here's "The Recluse" from The Ugly Organ (2003):

Rocking out a little more, here's the brilliant titled "Art is Hard" from the same album (read the lyrics here.... they're brilliant and wickedly funny):

"A Little Red Handed Sleight of Hand" again from The Ugly Organ:

"Dorothy at Forty" from Happy Hollow:

The wonderful "The Martyr" from Domestica:

Enjoy (and don't forget to vote!).

Now playing: Cursive - The Great Decay
via FoxyTunes

Monday, November 3, 2008

what about innovation, man? what about art and sex?

back when i was young and impressionable (as opposed to not-so-young but still quite impressionable) i was introduced to a whole cadre of what might be described as art-rudeboys. most of them aren't self-described as such, (and really, many of them are now dead or otherwise incapable of self-description,) but that's beside the point. ween, karleinz stockhausen, the boredoms and momus more or less define my awareness of the dawn of the 21st century.

the best of the best of these, to my taste, was momus' 2001 release, folktronic.

popmatters reviewed this album saying "for the smarty-pants listeners who gobble up high-concept art pieces, folktronic is a 'fake folk' masterpiece."

i disagree. it's not for smarty-pants listeners. i mean, sure, smarty-pants listeners included. but i kind of believe that this album is for everyone who understands that making fun of something doesn't mean you hate it.

momus, for those who aren't familiar, is a performance artist, a journalist, a social critic and a japan-obsessed post-modernist. that's all well and good. but above all that, he's fun. after all, he named himself after the greek god of mockery - he has a sense of the ridiculous.

in earlier albums, such as ping pong, he explored personal identity and a whole lot of sex. ("my pervert doppelganger," "professor shaftenberg," "hairstyle of the devil.") but in folktronic, he took on america. inspired by predecessors who visited appalachia and recorded their folk songs for posterity, momus twisted that information through his usual filters and created plastic folk. plastic folk is described thus:

hideously pompous baroque keyboard licks of 80s synthpop climb into bed with fakely traditional ballads, jigs and sea shanties; mock prog epics full of tempo and key changes collide with neo-vaudeville numbers on the subject of the penis; eulogies to decadent roman emperors rub shoulders with passages of bach played by cartoon fiddle yokels through massive ring modulation. it's those prolific medieval songwriters trad. and anon. finding the missing link between unicorns and unix.

this is an america you may have never noticed, and that's what makes it so fascinating. this is america as viewed by a postmodernist scot with identity issues. when he sings "smooth folk singer," it's disturbingly familiar, for all its strangeness:

more heavy than leadbelly, more hooky than hooker
(smooth folk singer)
not sleepy like estes, a rambler and a looker
(smooth folk singer)
not a rocker like richard, baby I'm a folker
(smooth folk singer)
and around my neck I wear a velvet choker
(one time, two times)

and "folk me, amadeus" offers us yet another view of our america, the one that we forget to consider:

my children were fair and wore stars in their hair
now they're bald, watch tv, and buy new age cds
the unicorn's a horse on whom some sad bastard
has superglued a horn of plastic
in this post-everything world it still pains me, girl, to spell it out for you
the celtic skirl of alan stivell might as well be 'cotton eye joe'
put it flat on the floor with a 4/4 beat, add monsieur oiseau

i accept that momus is not for everyone. my sister listened to two cuts from folktronic, made a face and turned it off.

but if you listen to music with a wink, and are aware that the world is a thoroughly ridiculous place, and you're fond of such wacky things as art, angels, devils, history and sex, momus might be for you. and folktronic might be the place to start.