Sunday, February 24, 2008

In happier news

I started emailing back and forth with Chris Bathgate's uncle randomly on Metafilter (he knows the GLMS guys too), and he sent me this article.

Money quote that simultaneously illuminates why I like Brandon Zwagerman and why I like to make fun of him: "'I think his power lies in the synthesis of his haunting, vaguely accented vocals and his talent for writing songs that more often than not hit that bulls-eye in your chest called your humanity,' Zwagerman said."

Dude, fucking move your fucking car!

"And you know Ugh. Your answer to the OP was judgemental, dismissive, and totally out of line and you really ought to just apologize for it and move on, instead of trying to justify it. Period." from Iconomy.

This morning, we woke to find that some jackass had parked us in. While we were wrangling with tow companies (our usual one was having some sort of weird phone problems), the guy finally rolled out (one of our neighbors managed to wake him up, when my girlfriend's door pounding hadn't had an effect). This chubby, pale white dude, looking like a boiled potato in a tracksuit. Instead of just apologizing and moving his goddamned car, the guy kept trying to argue that his cross-ways parking was a legitimate spot and, you know, whatever, man. I just kinda went off from my balcony, yelling at him in this stream of profanity "Move your fucking car! Don't fucking argue with me, just move your fucking car! What the fuck are you doing, standing there like a fucking retard? Why the fuck aren't you moving your fucking car? Move your fucking car!" We'd been trying to leave, to go grocery shopping, for over an hour and the guy just had this vacant, open-mouthed stare while he's standing there with his door open, unable to process what the hell was going on.

And it was the same car that we've had towed previously for parking in that same exact fucking spot, man. So I've been keyed up all fucking morning, and I heartily endorse the idea of drinking. I think I'm gonna get drunk and go to the movies.

I even had to apologize to the poor woman from the police that I was on the phone with when the guy came out. Sheesh, man.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Atlas Sound!

Atlas Sound—Let The Blind Lead Those who can see but Cannot Feel” (Kranky, 2008)

There is something to be said for being too nice to pull off ambition. For “Let the Blind Lead Those who can see but Cannot Feel,” that’s mostly a good thing—the title is a good glimpse of the type of silliness Deerhunter lead singer Bradford James Cox can veer into, especially with no band to hold back his whimsies. But that Cox has such a good head for arrangements and records such a pretty album that his straining doesn’t undo the core.

His album opener is built around a child telling “A Ghost Story” and the slight narrative becomes a warm, reverberating fable. In the hands of a band like The Books, the sample would have likely been a sparse and morose, but Cox ends up treating the kid with surprising tenderness.

Likewise, reading his interview with Pitchfork makes the songs less interesting, not more. The themes behind are usually moments of poetic suffering, but little of that comes through—“Winter Vacation” is easier to enjoy if you just accept it as a Sigur Ros rip-off; “Cold as Ice” is a jaunty David Byrne loop rolling along with Cox’s endlessly washed voice, and he could just as likely be singing about his favorite Foreigner songs as some adolescent romantic humiliation.

Still, all the songs are enveloping, all reward headphones or good speakers, and all follow the inexorable logic of dance music, succeeding through emotional tones rather than concept. That may be best shown on “Scraping Past,” where Cox works from the same aesthetic that Matthew Dear does, using the title as a looped wash over a plucky glitch backbeat and a simple two-note bassline. Instead of developing the melodies, he mixes them to develop the song, which gives the song a simple propulsiveness that might have otherwise spiraled into twee jetties.

If “Let the Blind Lead Those who can see but Cannot Feel” had achieved the depth that Cox seemed to want, the album would have been a slog. Thank God Cox realized the shallow pleasure of listening to music, and made a good album rather than a “great” one.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

America's next what the fuck, TV?

New cycle of America's Next Top Mongol!

Kim's, like, considered totally dumb or something, but she's really just deaf.


I love this show. It is the number one assault on reality in America, the sort of shit that Warren Ellis only fucking dreams about. There is nothing that isn't rendered in the most explosive, expressionistic way possible.

And I love the beats behind it, this unceasing emotional narrative that's propulsive like the score to a musical. That may be the best comparison—the reality show as '50s musical.

But oh shit, they're gettin' thirsty over breastmilk what the fuck?

Monday, February 18, 2008


The core of There Will Be Blood should be readily apparent to anyone who loves metal, especially the epic drone metal of bands like Sun 0)))), Sleep or Om. It is long, concerned primarily with evil, and heavy.

In There Will Be Blood, there is only one character—the rumbling bass note of Daniel Day Lewis's Daniel Plainview, an oil prospector who is more a force than a man. He is not particularly reflective, and the film only gives him two foils to communicate with, and both are removed abruptly.

He is black, oily and essentially simple. For all the praise that Daniel Day-Lewis has received, most of it has been deceiving, given over to the size of the character he portrays (the Onion AV Club note on "Big Acting" is particularly dead on) rather than noticing that he gets some surprisingly subtle moments out of a lumbering beast of a film. While generally, he's just acting the living fuck out of the movie, acting with great effort and attendant bombast and bellow, he's able to draw humor out of his humiliation at the hands of an Evangelical. Conversely, the intensity that he puts into "I DRINK YOUR MILKSHAKE!" makes it as "scary" as Venom's protestations that they are truly evil, in league with Satan.

Add that to Anderson's juggernaut direction, which emphasizes an unresolved and ever mounting tension, spurred on by Plainview's drinking and alienation, and it has the feeling of a particularly turgid metal opera. To strain the metaphor only slightly further for increased accuracy—set that metal opera in Deadwood and you have There Will Be Blood exactly.

Which isn't to say that it's bad, because it's not. It's just unabashedly portentous while being nihilistic about what it portends, and it's interesting to me that this is treated seriously when a lot of metal isn't. It has the same technical virtuosity, the same aesthetic power, the same mythological vocabulary, the same moral fixations (there is arguably nothing more moral than nihilistic art). And this movie is up for the picture of the year, while Pelican's City of Echoes is ignored at the Grammy's?

Where I have to abandon this point is that, like City of Echoes, I didn't enjoy There Will Be Blood all that much. I thought both were interesting, and I'm glad that they exist, and I can put each in its genre context, but they're things that I'd like to think about, rather than experience again. I would urge anyone reading this to see There Will Be Blood on the big screen—I would have abandoned it about ten minutes in on a small screen. But then, metal's better live, innit?

So fucking hip

In upping my hipster quotient, I went and saw a show at Shepard Fairey's print shop in a weird downtown warehouse district.

Playing were Crystal Antlers, Wooden Shjips and Darker My Love.

I've been on this mission to hear Crystal Antlers for, like, a couple months now. My coworker Phil is their erstwhile manager, and he gave me an EP of theirs that I really dug—they sound like Comets on Fire meet Funhouse-era Stooges. So, since then, he's put on a half-dozen shows, and through a combination of me being old, miscommunication and just bad luck, I've managed to miss them every time. Like, I either show up too late, or can't stay late enough, or end up at a different show on the same night… whatever. I missed Crystal Antlers AGAIN. I thought they were headlining, when Darker My Love was.

But Wooden Shjips were awesome—just that loose, casual, four-note groove behind all of their space rock, I really dig it. And Darker My Love was OK. They were more a Jesus and Mary Chain rip, which is cool, because Wooden Shjips are a Spaceman 3 rip, and I like JAMC.

I picked up two Crystal Antlers 7"s though, and both are pretty good. "Parting Song for Torn Sky" is the lead-off on the EP that I've got, and when I heard it I mentioned that it sounded like Blue Cheer done right (I've always been kinda disappointed by Blue Cheer's inability to balance their awesome riffs with their experimentation), and Phil had no idea who I was talking about, but the band thanks Blue Cheer on their cover of Mose Allison's Parchman Farm. **EDIT**—Phil knew who I was talking about, but I guess I didn't think he did or something. He just didn't want them compared to Blue Cheer—which I still kinda think is funny, because the band mentions 'em. But I didn't mean to make Phil come off as a dumbass!**

Plus, that one's on clear vinyl!