Dan The Automator Presents 2K7

Ask any of my friends, I hate basketball. I don’t like watching it and am absolutely horrible at the sport. Likewise, I’m not a big fan of video games. With that being said, I should by all means hate anything having to do with 2K Sports’ NBA 2K7. Fortunately I gravitate towards hip hop based soundtracks, so this works out nicely…funny how things work out like that. The albums’ tracks, all produced and composed by Dan “The Automator” Nakamura, bounce about incautiously between credible MCs but unfortunately, as a whole, miss the mark completely.

Hip hop culture and basketball have essentially become one, with the game’s brightest stars fashioning grillz, street garb and some even having attempted the recording process on their own. No other sport can identify with a musical genre so closely as hip hop and basketball, and as such the release of a formal album seems fitting. But with that being said, 2K7 should have never been released.

The reason being that there has always been a separation between the two, the music and the sport, which spurred further interest for both, with the question being - what would happen if the two found common ground and collided? Unfortunately that common ground can effectively be summed up through the lyrics of E-20 & San Quinn’s “Baller Blockin,” “Supersonics in Seattle, tough place to visit, you better play hard cause they love to win it.” The track, and others like it deliver uninspired line after line just like this; all being fine for a video game, not for a full blown release.

Years ago when the initial Tony Hawk video game was released it founded itself as somewhat of a first mover, offering the player a soundtrack suited to the tastes of the sport’s stars. That being said, the game was left with an edge and credible feel as it renewed songs, past and present, for a newer younger listening audience. Before you knew it, you had a group of early teens singing along to the Dead Kennedys and Suicidal Tendencies. That is the key to what’s missing in the album. It doesn’t explore anything and merely coughs up lyrics that were once choked down for being to crudely simplistic.

There are exceptions however, including “Anchor Man,” by Jurassic 5’s Chali 2na, and a track from a momentarily reunited A Tribe Called Quest. Sadly, it wasn’t something more meaningful that brought the legendary hip hop group back together, but simply money; though that translates nicely as the ongoing theme for the album. If 2K7 had an ongoing playful theme that closed any gap between the listener, the musician and the video game it would have found success. It didn’t however, and as a result the final product is a group of soulless tracks, each having been produced with theme and lyrical presence taking second place to what brought each artist to the project, finances.

Look Out Oprah, It’s Comedy Central!

The Peabody Awards, The Emmys and more…Hey kids, it’s not just fart jokes any more! (Fully realizing that the previous statement is about 9 years too late…but still…) One of my favorite moments this past year included visiting a taping of The Colbert Repor(t) and slapping hands with one Stephen Colbert as he made his way to the interview table. The show has taken Comedy Central further into mainstream rhetoric concerning satire and general political criticism.

South Park is heading into its 10th season. The Daily Show with Jon Stewart has been on the air for 10 years. Comedy Central has changed from a beer guzzling brew-ha-ha of middle aged slapstick jokesters to a beer guzzling brew-ha-ha of middle aged slapstick jokesters that keep societal and political implications in mind when writing. When I first saw The Daily Show it was broadcast on Canada’s Comedy Network and was highly hyped as the next big thing in the big game of humo(u)r. I, of course, only knew Stewart from various low-brow rolls such as his “on weeeeeeeeeed”-guy roll in Half Baked and found it shocking to learn that there was indeed a different side to him…he thinks too!

And South Park, a show that once started as a vulgar cartoon has turned into a vulgar cartoon that dispels bipartisan group think and levels each episode with sociopolitical commentary.

If anything I feel that even despite trying to brainwash Dave Chappelle (damn you Comedy Central!!!) I’m thankful that there’s an outlet for a lot of what I see on the air. Last night, in particular, I came home from a twelve hour shift and just wanted to sit and do nothing. The Colbert Report was on and Stephen was discussing a few things with Frontline producer Lowell Bergman. In conclusion, Bergman tried to separate the two shows by asking Colbert what he thought the difference between the two of their programs was:

Bergman: How come so many younger people watch your show as opposed to PBS?

Colbert: ‘Cause… it’s good?

Not that Oprah would ever have to worry about a cable television network gnawing away at her ever increasing empire, but I’m just saying that as more shows consciously make you think about where you stand and attack your comfort zone on many issues much of mainstream middle-American media will be changed forever. And for that, I applaud the channels writers. Just please, no more David Spade.

“Most of the time when people ask us about, you know, ripping on celebrities and featuring celebrities in the show, I always say, ‘Well, you know, it’s not personal. It’s just ripping on the idea of celebrity itself. You know, it’s just kind of this absurdist thing that we do.’ But then you look at this episode and it really isn’t that. We have to stop little girls from looking up to Paris Hilton.” - Matt Stone

Also, just wanted to mention that Isaac Hayes, despite his Scientology ways, pretty much gave South Park any intial credibility in its struggling “too-hot-for-tv” days. For those of you who don’t remember, allow me to reintroduce you to a few long lost gems from Chef Aid.

TV on the Radio “Return to Cookie Mountain” Review

What is most unsettling about Return to Cookie Mountain is its originality. When considering how much music is released in any given year it becomes dumbing as to how much of it is uninspired or generally lacking any real unique qualities. With that, just as the weight of this crashes down with full substantive force, TV on the Radio gives us something to truly outrageous to feel happy about.

When it comes to understanding the basis for any number of notable poetic examples I often find myself feeling as though I’ve missed some sort of bigger picture. Not to say that I don’t relish any number of fine poets, but poetry’s success is something that is completely relative to the audience to which it finds itself accepted by. Taking a blatant musical reference (and one which some might say is…overrated) for example, Jim Morrison wouldn’t have made a damn bit of sense with much of his writing had it not been set to the landscape and time period it was. If it were accepted by a different group of societal outcasts, it may have become infamous for quite different reasons.

“The End” could’ve really been taken to some dangerous extremes had it been cast as the theme for some apocalyptic cult; just sayin’…

With that understanding, so too could TV on the Radio’s “Blues From Down Here” have been taken as an epic cry for fresh beginnings. “Pull the pin, drop it in, let it wash away your…” unleashes a trusting statement within the context of the song that challenges one to relinquish negative past feelings that consume your mind.

“Can you picture what will be, so limitless and free, desperately in need…of some strangers hand in a desperate land.” But to find meaning within Morrison’s words one had to know who he was, and likewise, one has to understand who TV on the Radio’s Tunde Adebimpe is. Therein lies the beauty and mystery of the album. Though the band has become popular on many fronts there isn’t an overwhelmingly notorious history that surrounds either Adebimpe or his band.

The music works because it serves as a mask for the underlying poetic influence that is given birth with the album. Without gravitating heavily towards love or hate, the album finds common ground in gracefully associating itself with its own confused inner feelings, and making them known. Return to Cookie Mountain is beautiful not simply because it comes at a time in which an album pushing musical boundaries is relevant for simply that cause, but also for the fact that its lyrical content serves as something universal. Or in this case, universally confusing.

Jim Noir Interview

Manchester-native Jim Noir’s recent solo release on Barsuk is the culmination of many great things. Ultimately what shines through however is Noir’s tremendous ability to excel while undoubtedly hiding within his music. Many examples within Tower of Love prove that Noir allows much of his lighthearted songs to take precedent over his individual talent. Jim Noir’s music is everyone’s music; people can recall it without ever having heard it, it is almost as though he channeled a spirit that lives inside mankind. His track “Eanie Meany” playfully bounces about a primitive tale of a duel of childish wits, “If you don’t give my football back, I’m gonna get my dad on you.” With that, Noir follows by displaying his instrumental prowess by providing more of a soundtrack to the quarrel that develops. Likewise, in the following Noir playfully discusses this universal story of childhood dilemma, his adolescent musical success, peddling his music off in Wal-Mart stores across the nation and more.

Tower of Love seems to be the culmination of a lifetime of influence. Barsuk Records’ explanation follows the lines of a “Wurlitzer jukebox stacked with the hits of ELO, Super Furry Animals, Pepper-era Beatles, The Beta Band, The Beach Boys, early Pink Floyd and Supertramp” while I believe it’s a freak hybrid between Simon and Garfunkel (mostly Simon) and mid-90’s electropop within the context of 2006-based rock.or something along those lines. What is Tower of Love?

Jim Noir: To me I guess it’s just a diary of where I was at the time in relation to my music tastes and knowledge of what I was doing with instruments and recording equipment. The stuff I’m working on now sounds more polished and I’m slowly working in more of my electronic influences.

What significance is there within the Jim Noir pseudonym? Has it allowed for separation between art and self?

Jim Noir: It’s just the other side of my personality really. Although I write all the music with my normal mind, I call it Jim Noir ’cause he is the opposite of what the music sounds like. Jim Noir is just my name I gave my darker side which I’m sure everybody has. Does that make me sound odd? Ok, good.

Did your parents play a key role in your enjoyment of music at an early age?

Jim Noir: Not at all. I never had any encouragement in the musical department. They obviously gave me time to try and do it when they realized this was what I wanted to do, but at the start I had to go and find it for myself. I acquired most of my musical knowledge with my friend Batfinks, who had lots of stuff to play with in his house.

How did your experience at last years SXSW help expand your presence in the States?

Jim Noir: It helped a lot. We did a few gigs and managed to quite quickly do a deal with a lovely label called Barsuk. I’m not sure what they thought of the actual show ’cause I was very hung-over at the one they came to watch. We did a very good show the night before and duly celebrated our success. With much, much tequila.

What was the inspiration for the “Eanie Meany” video and what has been the overall reaction to its playful theme?

Jim Noir: The idea for the video was Tim Pope’s, the director. I always leave all that to whoever is directing it ’cause it’s not really my bag. But the finished thing looks quite cool, and I forgot that I could play football to a degree as well, which was a bonus. Everyone seems to like that track. I’m sure every kid in the world has experienced that story. Although I’m sure it would be your funny egg shaped balls the kids in America kicked over their neighbors fence.

Do performing live and recording serve as separate emotional outlets for you?

Jim Noir: Yeah, they are both equally as frustrating. No, they are definitely different feelings for me. I prefer to actually make the records than sing them in front of people. But after the last 8 months I’ve started to get into it. I like the fact that it sounds different - but in a good way. The singing sounds a lot more beautiful live I think.

Will you be touring in support of “Tower of Love”?

Jim Noir: Yes I’ll be traveling around all the Wal-Marts in the USA and singing my songs live from the other side of the counter, throwing copies of my album into peoples shopping carts so they buy it without wanting to.

If you had one final show to play, who would you most like to share the stage with?

Jim Noir: The Audience.

Unknown Limelight: Menomena

When considering how much music is produced each year its funny when something from your past is reintroduced to you in an entirely different light. It is my belief that I stumbled into Menomena through my “Epitonic phase”…that being when I was completely enthralled with downloading free & legal music while at the same time finding a ton of great bands I had never heard of. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I remember Menomena being one of them. It was a stage of my life, however, where I was still familiarizing myself with a variety of well known (to most) bands and found myself often listening to and forgetting about a great deal of excellent music. Sometimes, as was the situation with Menomena, I simply believed that these new bands I was finding through sites such as Epitonic were widely appreciated and I was just behind the trend with them. Either way, I kind of forgot about the band.

Well, it appears the trend has caught up with the times and Menomena has found a niche. If you’re interested in the hard Texas sounds of alterna-driven rockers such as The Butthold Surfers, Menomena will sound like crap. But, if you’re interested in hearing a delicate wave of harmony translated through Northwestern accents, Menomena is for you.

Fairly Unblack Metal Alert: Cradle of Filth

It’s been years since the truest of black metal fan had given up the belief that the far too polished sounds of Cradle of Filth belonged in their world. Despite the corpse paint*, long hair and punishing rhythms Cradle of Filth reside in a sort of metal grey area, far from the mainstream and ever further from black metal credibility. I often classify the band as similar to the likes of other popular acts such as Finland’s Children of Bodom and Norway’s Dimmu Borgir, and do so with no black metal connotation whatsoever. When was the last time any of those guys killed someone, I ask you that…hmmmm?

Anyways, I asked Black Metal Dialogues orchestrator, and otherwise all around kick ass guy, Dave Hill what he thought of a track from the band’s upcoming release, Thornography, and he pretty much thought it sucked. “This might go over big with Nickelback fans, but any true black metal fan wouldn’t even get their hair cut to this music. But of course a true black metal fan wouldn’t even be getting their hair cut in the first place.”

It’s probably not far from the truth, suggesting that Cradle of Filth are to black metal what Nickelback is to rock n’ roll, but in some ways the band is moving away from their former position within the metal community. In a recent interview with MTV.com** singer Dani Davey*** discussed the months leading up to the album’s release and the sessions’ final product, “It’s like Slayer meets Napalm Death in a vat of acid.” Now I’m not exactly sure that a Slayer/Napalm Death merger would be such a great idea in the first place, but especially so if it were in a vat of acid. Actually, I think that rather than an X-Treme display of grinding metal glory, all we would really hear is “Help get us out of this vat of acid. Why did we ever think this would be a good idea?!” But I digress.

I think it’s fairly safe to say that at this point in time the band is just another metal band. A good metal band, but just a metal band. Dave Hill has a few words for those who still think that the band represents itself as some sort of black metal icon, “They’re English, which okay generally speaking, but if you’re playing black metal this just doesn’t cut it.”****

If you’re looking for a little black in your metal, Cradle of Filth probably won’t satisfy the soul (or twisted lack thereof). But if you are looking for some seriously hard rocking, they’ll suffice. Oh, if you do in fact have a hankerin’ for some black metal, Hill suggests Mayhem, Emperor and Bathory…none of which are English.

Chris Cunningham: Video Retrospective

With his recent buzzworthy video for The Horror’s “Sheena Is A Parasite” Chris Cunningham proves once again to make something stunning out of something mediocre. Nothing against The Horrors, I mean, being on the cover of NME is fairly cool and all, but the single really doesn’t offer much. It made me think of which other Chris Cunningham videos that I felt were impressive despite a luke-warm song; sometimes it is the video that makes the radio star, I thought. But after reminiscing for a while it dawned on me that Cunningham typically had a lot more to work with musically than he had for his latest video.

Autechre “Second Bad Vibel (1995)”

“Second Bad Vibel” has an Alien-like quality that harnesses blurred figures that lures you in without committing to fully acknowledging what it is that is truly there. But suddenly something happens, there’s action but you don’t know what the point of the action is and then again it stops. Nothing happens and you’re left contemplating the role that the video played in illuminating the song. It takes a fairly representative Autechre track and supports it, proving a crutch to help the underground originators grasp at some recognition.

Though there’s not a huge hunk-o-cheese moon with a face on it, the start of this video makes you wonder where the concept for Smashing Pumpkins’ “Tonight, Tonight” came from (even though we all know good and well that it didn’t come from Cunningham, it’s still fun to imagine that it did). All things considered, many spots in the video were completely unique at the time and “Light Aircraft on Fire” served as a true medium for Cunninghams’ ingenuity.

How long did it take to film the above to below water sequences? Looking back at it, the video serves as a window allowing obvious connections to modern goth-punks. It’s absolutely dark throughout while the ending sequence is scattered with sunlight above the surface of the water, characteristic of Placebo’s dark yet warm androgynous appeal. Seriously, how much does Davey Havok look like Brian Molko throughout “36 Degrees?”

One of the cleanest songs that Cunningham’s work has surrounded, the video for Dubstar develops an average clean cut character until about two thirds the way through when diverging shots make you wonder if there’s something far more dirty underneath the surface.

“Come To Daddy” served as an introduction to the crazy Richard D James-faced characters that would later plague “Windowlicker,” but more importantly it served as an introduction for many, including myself, to Aphex Twin. It is haunting, unrealistic on all levels and undeniably nihilistic. It’s scary and it’s creepy. It is good. “Come To Daddy” is a direct look at what happens when two very curious, very experimental minds collide, James and Cunningham.

The video for this Portishead track represents somewhat of a dark embodiment of trip hop as a whole. It is completely eerie and while listening to it you know that something’s just not exactly right. It’s a bizarro scenario where everything is familiar but it all takes place in another universe, under different rules. Typical of other Cunningham videos this hints at some deeper storyline that is never revealed. Why is the boy watched while he’s floating?

To be honest, I had forgotten that this video existed. I had actually forgotten that I knew the lyrics, and re-watching it made me shiver…how much time did I waste watching this video? What was/is its appeal? It is entirely stripped down, as far as Cunningham’s work goes, but to do otherwise, given that it is in fact a Madonna video, would come off as unnecessarily arrogant and over the top. Instead, by understanding both his audience and his artist, Cunningham created something distinct and underwhelming without neglecting the music or the celebrity that accompanied it. Furthermore it helped shift Madonna’s image from that of the sexual ‘bitch’ character (as portrayed in her “Human Nature” video) into the Kabala-reading, Guy Ritchie-loving, monogamous soccer mom we know today.

The dirty English setting now becomes familiar but this scene begins to recall the Biblical story of the leper as we see a man shun from society. No Jesus appears, however and the leper is left to continue falling apart, literally. The look on the leper’s face when facing the break dancers are close to damaging him is truly shocking, putting an exclamation mark on this entire video. Funny to think that despite the ending, Bambaataa took the role of the momentary hero, helping the leper off the ground. In some ways, history too looks at Bambaataa as a hero, helping many to a rebirth in life.

Clips of this video were used in advertisements on Canada’s Much Music for the longest time and it took me forever to find out who the song was by (pre-internet). Essentially, again, Cunningham is responsible for introducing me to another amazing electronic artist, this time Squarepusher. The video, placed in the Osaka Home For Mentally Disturbed Children, predates the American trend of thieving Japanese movies showing that (it’s getting old saying this) Cunningham was again ahead of the curve. Combined with the song it serves as some sort of live-action anime with violence and a bit of humor to boot - really cool stuff.

This is my favorite of all Chris Cunningham videos. It comes at a time close to when he would remove himself from the genre and work on other projects for half a decade. It is his longest music video, clocking in at over ten minutes, and by far the crudest, sexiest, funniest…the best. Also, the Richard D. James masks make a return, but this time they’re not disturbing…well, not in the same way as they were with “Come To Daddy” at least. If a director can help give an artist like Aphex Twin mainstream attention and attention on modern music video channels, it speaks volumes for him. (If you want to skip the dialogue and start the video skip ahead to 3:50)

One of oddest love scenes ever in the history of on-screen robot love scenes. (Having never seen the movie, I feel fairly certain that my assumptions are correct) Two words: I Robot.

It really makes me wonder why Cunningham would come back from his long absence from making music videos to work with this particular band and this particular song. Maybe it inspired him, who knows. I do find it interesting that it goes back to the Alien-type theme first scene in Autechre’s video, this time going the route of the gross-out theme. It is quick, short and absolutely disturbing.

Busk or Bust: Rodrigo y Gabriela

Rodrigo Sanchez and Gabriela Quintero, a pair of guitar masters, have played to a vast company of dynamic fans whose typical favorites range from that of metal to bossa nova, all of which helped them take top position on the Irish music charts earlier this year. Sounds strange? Yes. Brilliant music? Absolutely. What is absolutely phenomenal about the duo’s accomplishments is that they did so while outselling (then) recent releases by both The Arctic Monkeys and Johnny Cash. And they did so while their roots were still thousands of miles away in Mexico

It was in Mexico where they supported their craft by taking on a variety of day jobs and activities including teaching the local children Metallica riffs and programming music for a local television station. A spur of the moment solution lead them to Europe, and left them broke. They literally busked their way to fame, playing in a variety of countries and eventually befriending fellow street player, and soon to be household name, Damian Rice. The synchronicity between the duo is absolutely stunning, and the development of original material compiled with Zeppelin and Metallica covers leaves a strict impression that some of the greatest players the earth has ever seen have yet to be heard by a broad listening audience.

Neoclassical Roots: Daniel Heffner

Daniel Heffner is a unique musician whose style sounds something like a busker playing to an upwardly mobile house of philharmonic-going spectators is exactly that. Heffner, who built his craft from a young age, has in fact played as an opener for the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra; but don’t let that sway you, his roots are found far from any upscale performance theater. Rather he spent time through the years practicing on stage as well as in small, intimate (and generally unusual locals) locals such as local farmers markets and even the occasional science classroom before and after class. Playing for a variety of social causes in and around the city has proven beneficial for “Heff” as it not only expels any preexisting negative persona surrounding the traditional classical musician but brings warmth and character to the already overflowing spectacle that is his own work.

Duane Andrews “Caravan” Review

Acclaimed East-Coast folk instrumentalist Duane Andrews’ recent offering, Caravan, represents a shift towards further defining himself as a tangibly diverse musician. Throughout there are flirtations with ragtime, a variety of waltzes and boggy jazz lullabies, all proving Andrews to be either a glutton for genre-defying mood shifts or simply a wonderful musician. Caravan looks at a variety of numbers that feature both Andrews’ originals, traditional tunes and the occasional cover. All of which seem to flow together as opposites working in spite of one another.

Creating a context for music is a tricky thing, as context can divide the emotion surrounding a piece and strip it of its meaning or caress it and bring it new light. As such instrumental pieces can also field an array of emotions and change a given setting without even trying. If you were to walk into a dimly lit club with candles acting as your only guide and began wading through the compact basement with its low-level ceiling, all of which is in a neighborhood where you might not normally venture after dark, you might feel somewhat unwelcome. But if Andrew was sitting at a stool in the corner, barely visible, strumming his rendition of Django Reinhardt’s “Swing 42” while a trumpet glossed the surface of the club, you might just find yourself in an environment that is the furthest possible thing from uninviting.

And that is the key to Andrews’ music. Caravan is unaggressive in its slow appeal which doesn’t quickly draw interest, nor does it abruptly stir conflict. It sits in the dark corner while everything else around it reinforces its necessity.Caravan is tricky in that it allows everything else that’s going on to continue around it, while creating an atmosphere that breathes energy and at the same time allows itself to be forgotten. At the end of the night, it will be the strangely arousing conversation or delicious drink you had that made the night special, while the music might’ve been the night’s true inspiration.

“A Birch Broom In The Fits” is a speedy latin-jazz piece that finds itself as the odd exception. It is classical music on-the-go, and finds itself at odds with the songs that come before and after it. Though it serves as one of the songs previously hinted at, the kind that upset the flow of the album without disrupting Caravan’s overall feel. It serves as one of the few songs that works because it is a change of pace. It’s a different animal altogether, and so is Andrews with his Caravan as living proof that music can excite without becoming overwhelming.

Patience Hodgson (of the Grates) Interview

Building a lively reputation for the band in its native Australia, The Grates found great success including nods from Australia’s national radio station Triple J and the Australian Recording Industry Awards (ARIA). The band is completing the North American leg of its current tour which corresponds with its album’s recent release in the States. Singer, and all around ball of fire, Patience Hodgson checks in after a late night international flight to discuss the band’s reception in its native Australia, what can be expected when heading out to the band’s live show and The Grates’ ultimate swan song.

Growing up in Canada has given me a tremendous appreciation for a variety of Canadian bands. What Australian groups have had the most influence on you and your music?

Patience Hodgson: There are so many great Australian bands that never get the chance to tour overseas & being Canadian, you guys would probably know exactly what I’m talking about. Some Australian bands that we have admired in the past are Regurgitator, Grinspoon & Spiderbait. There are some really great new Aussie indie bands too like I Heart Hirroshima, Violent Soho, Operator Please, New Rules For Boats, Little Birdy, Faker, Expatriate, Sarah Blasko (not a band but amazing…) and we also love The Vines!

How did the release of your EP help prepare it for the full blown release of “Gravity Wont Get You High?”

Patience Hodgson: Well it definitely meant that people could hear our music & gave them some insight as to what we do. It’s a much dirtier more lo-fi sound but between the two you can still hear everything that makes us us. The release of the EP just helped us gain a small audience & presence & also help us get on some great tours like Go! Team & We Are Scientist.

How has touring and the band’s reception in your native country compared to touring and playing abroad?

Patience Hodgson: Every country’s different & things in Australia are going awesome! They love it when we tour overseas ‘cause we’re representing! Things are obviously not on the same scale everywhere ‘cause our album’s come out at different times. For example our album’s only been released in north america for 2 weeks or something now. I definitely think our biggest asset is live shows though!

You left a lasting impression on my sister when she saw you when you opened for The Go! Team in Minneapolis. What can someone expect to see when coming to see The Grates live?

Patience Hodgson: A bunch of nerds & girl next door types rocking out to their own sounds & having a great time! Plus maybe some jokes & ribbon tricks!

As summer is slowly fading away and fall approaches, what can be expected from the band in the coming months?

Patience Hodgson: Hopefully a sweet tour filled with fall romance near a pot belly wood fire! If only! No fires on the bus! Maybe a tour of our own!

If the band had one final show to play, who would you most like to share the stage with?

Patience Hodgson: Giant Drag! Fiona Apple! Flaming Lips! The Vines! I Heart Hirroshima! Best swan song ever!

Me First and the Gimme Gimmes “Love Their Country”

How many times can a cover band reinvent itself? In the case of Me First and the Gimme Gimmes the answer would be infinity, duh. The band pulls me in because the Gimmes always, always play music that is genuinely fun to listen to. I saw them play a brief set in 2001 and, without knowing what to expect, was blown away by luau chic…tiki torches and Hawaiian shirts, baby! The band’s forthcoming album, Love Their Country will feature a great selection of tracks from country music stars, past and present, including Dolly Parton, Johnny Cash & Kris Kristofferson and the Dixie Chicks. Remember, back before they were exiled from country’s inner circle due to the questioning the president’s actions, to a time when some guy Earl really had it coming to him? I don’t either, but whatever, here’s a Dixie Chicks song by my favorite cover band, Me First and the Gimme Gimmes:

Domestic Credibility: Asobi Seksu

There’s a point where it becomes hard to keep up with much of what is considered credible music, domestically, let alone that of music worldwide. In this situation I find myself greatly appreciative of an email introducing me to Asobi Seksu. Though it be through the form of a remix, by Cassettes Wont Listen, the entire tone of the music translated as deeply beautiful and was definitely worth another listen.

InCureable: Roger O’Donnell

One time member of such bands as The Psychedelic Furs, Thompson Twins, Berlin and The Cure, Roger O’Donnell branches out further into abstract electronic with his solo debut The Truth In Me. It seems strange that after so many years through so many musical opportunities, O’Donnell now views that his truth is in fact unspoken word. Though his traditional role was through that of a keyboardist, which would then make for a smooth transition into electronica, it just seems different and strangely refreshing to hear something new from such a well traveled musician. “Not Without You” isn’t a groundbreaking track, but it’s nice to hear the freedom that such a could-be-jaded rock star (of sorts) takes in this realm.

dj BC Interview

Reviving underground eminence with his recent ragtime/hip hop set, Wu Orleans, Boston based bootlegger Bob Cronin, aka dj BC, takes a tip from his past releases and once again changes the ever shifting view on what is possible within the confines of mash-ups. Cronin established himself within the mainstream with his release of The Beastles in 2004, a collaboration that saw him fuse various tracks by the Beatles with vocals performed by the Beastie Boys. As the presence of mashups received national notoriety, Cronin gained praise for his work from the likes of Rolling Stone, Q Magazine, and Newsweek, establishing him as one of the world’s premier bootleggers. In this conversation he talks of Wu Orleans‘ reception and inspiration, the legal implications of mashups and his upcoming original release(s).

A recent article on Spin.com suggested that you were constructing Wu Orleans as “the spiritual rebirth of the storm-torn area” and concluded by taking a poll on whether or not this mashup project does its part to commemorate Hurricane Katrina’s aftermath? As mashups haven’t historically been given tons of artistic credit, especially in these terms, how does this publicity make you feel?

dj BC: Well, I am always thrilled for my mixes to get attention, as most people would be and this isn’t the first time I have gotten press, so the excitement was a little less than it was when the Beastles first came out and it was popping up in various news sources. However I really did appreciate it, as it meant that more people would hear the tunes. And it was SPIN, which I used to read in high school, so that’s pretty cool. All in all, I wasn’t that surprised, as there was a lot of buzz surrounding the Katrina aftermath and New Orleans, making this an ideal blog item.

Were there any intentions of actually creating the set as a tribute?

Well, yes and no. I love New Orleans, and I got married there last April. I’ve visited as often as I can, and my wife lived there for several years when she went to grad school at Tulane. So even before the hurricane happened, we were pretty focused on the city as we were planning the wedding: listening to the music, reading up on the city and its history, visiting NOLA to make the plans, that sort of thing. And then once the tragedy happened, it was almost all we could think about. Of course we went through with it, and we couldn’t be happier that we did — but it was touch and go for a few months!

We’d booked clarinetist Chris Burke, drummer Barry Martyn and a couple of other musicians to play our wedding. When I got a True to New Orleans CD (Chris Burke and His New Orleans Jazz) from Chris Burke, and another amazing CD from Barry Martyn, I knew I wanted to mix with those tracks. We also saw Rebirth Brass Band play when we were down there, that was a no brainer, because those guys are amazing, and of course their music is very rhythmic and really swings. “New Orleans Method” was the first track, using Chris Burke’s recording against Method Man’s somewhat goofy lyrics and easy, almost drunken rhyme flow. It seemed to me a perfect fit that cast both musics in a new light and created a new vibe.

The album concept of “Wu Orleans” came to me in a flash, really, but it follows from that first track. However it really did start to feel more and more like a tribute as I worked on it, though more of a tribute to the music and the vibrancy of the town than to the Hurricane victims or as a remembrance of a tragedy. When I was nearly finished I realized we were coming up on the anniversary, so I pushed to finish it on time, which explains some of the rougher edges.

As you have released a number of high profile mashup “albums” along the lines of the most recent Wu Orleans, and the amazing Beastles, what precautions do you take to help prevent any legal problems from arising?

I don’t really take any. I have a little message on my site, and if I get hassled by The Man, which has happened a few times, I immediately remove the songs in question and do not repost them. I guess I am living on the edge?

In a way, the more publicity you get, the higher the likelihood that someone in a high position within any number of record labels is going to see your work and take action against you. Do you believe it was a scenario along these lines that spurred action from Apple?

I suppose so. I think the record companies are trying to figure out how they can make money from this without becoming bad guys or trying to squash the scene. As of yet they have left many mashers alone, thankfully. I hope they come up with something as a lot of the bootleggers have made stuff that deserves to be released, and people like hearing it.

By the way, it wasn’t Apple who shut me down, it was EMI’s legal department. And they told me they were acting on the behalf of both the Fab Four and the B-Boys. No ill will there, mind you, just setting the record straight.

With the ever-increasing publicity surrounding your music, have there been any artists that have approached you praising your work or asking for remixes?

Yeah, John Meyers (formerly of the Pogues) and Pete Yorn have said nice things. I ended up working with John on a track and plan to do so again. I did a remix for Heaven 17 this year, and last year I did one for the Americana band Uncle Shaker, and one for Boston punk band Veronica Black Morpheous Nipple.

I am currently working on a full length album of remixes and mashups for the Boston punk/ska outfit Big D and The Kids Table.

What other opportunities have come from your mashups in the past few years?

Well, the Big D project I just mentioned is one fairly solid opportunity. I also have a couple of other “official” releases in the works, but the whole thing is so dodgy, and the releases are as of yet tentative, so I would rather not jinx it. But I have done a few talks at colleges and the like on the subject, have DJed at events, had guest DJs from around the world at Mash Ave. I have done some music work for TV. The most gratifying thing is finding out that the Beastles was spinning in NYC bars, in Paris, or that one of the tracks was on MTV Brasil, or making Rolling Stone. Very exciting!

I often look at your “Yoshimi Battles Snoop Dogg” as my favorite mashup, hands down. What is your personal favorite in terms of your own work and what makes it your favorite?

That’s tough. I love a lot of my boots. Hearing something old like Yoshimi actually makes me cringe sometimes, because that was before I was really mastering and tweaking the tracks as much as I do now. It’s tough to say. I love them all like my babies. Usually my favorites are the newest ones I have not yet released. Right now, that’s a Paul Simon/Kanye thing for Bootie, and one I have been working on for the holidays — John Lennon vs. the Jackson 5. I am probably most proud of “Summer In The City” and “Crazy 80s” as those were probably the most involved and difficult tracks I’ve made.

How much time do you spend on your bootlegs compared to what some might consider “steady work,” such as playing weddings and other such events?

A fair amount of time. I am doing music full time now so I spend at least a few hours working on music every day, sometimes more.

Have you ever been overtaken with a sense of awe while playing an event?

Yeah, when no one shows up, and I feel like a heel. I haven’t really done many huge events like that. Looking forward to spinning Bootie San Fran in October though. That’s the largest bootleg night in the world, I think.

If you had one final show to play, who would you most like to share the stage with?

Man, this is tough. Because I am a DJ, not really a live concert performer, I would feel a bit odd being up there with, for example, the Beatles. I can just picture John’s snarky comments. But honestly, I would have to say I truly envied the gig Freelance Hellraiser landed — spinning Beatles bootlegs as an opening act for Sir Paul. Now THAT would be an “is this for real” situation.

Nothing Like The Jesus Lizard: Rye Coalition

Rye Coalition fire hard rock with enough flare to put any comparisons to the likes of The Jesus Lizard far from…no, actually, Rye Coalition resemble the harder sounds encompassed by The Jesus Lizard, only if The Jesus Lizard had Vince Neil’s cousin singing against the backdrop of modern day glamless glam-rock. They’re powerful without being stupid about it, which is probably just one of the many reasons that the band’s recent album Curses was picked up for production by Dave Grohl. Come to think of it, my initial reaction was correct, the band really doesn’t sound like The Jesus Lizard at all, sorry about that. Either way though, the band wails fairly hard on their instruments and doing so only serves as further evidence that it still might be kind of cool to respect Mötley Crüe. Or not. I am curious about why Grohl is protecting his balls in that picture…makes you wonder…maybe there’s a little more glam in the band than I had originally thought.

Steven Slingeneyer (of Soulwax) Interview

Soulwax has taken many shapes and forms over the years, varying between an electrolush club hopping dance troop to mash-up forerunners to chic post new-wave rockers. Nite Versions proves to be somewhat of a return to the basic Soulwax sound, before the 2 Many DJs side project took over, before band members came and went, before the group forgot about traditional instruments. In this conversation Steven Slingeneyer discusses the comparison between the group’s reception in Europe and America, corresponding influences that both the 2 Many DJs and Soulwax projects have had on one another and the full circle return that is Nite Versions.

In the decade that Soulwax has been together, how has the group’s direction changed?

Steven Slingeneyer: It’s changed from just playing instruments to DJing to producing to remixing to playing our instruments again. It’s been a weird evolution and we are pretty happy we’ve become something unique in the modern day music business.

What influence has the 2 Many DJs project had on Soulwax?

Steven Slingeneyer: That’s a hard one. We can’t really answer that one too honestly cause we are part of Soulwax and 2 Many DJs. They have cross-influences each other. We always need Soulwax as a starting point: 2 Many DJs, Nite Versions, Production, Remixing…

How does remixing/mashing relate to original productions in terms of creative output?

Steven Slingeneyer: Some of the remixes we’ve done consist of just the original vocal with us playing and composing a completely different melody over it, or taking two existing tracks and making them into something different; you make something original out of existing material.

Soulwax and Europe, how does the group’s reception there compare there to overseas in America?

Steven Slingeneyer: I think the fact that we are/do all these different things have made it ward for people in America to get their heads around what it is we exactly do. Also, dance music and rock music are two completely different genres in America, they cross over a lot more in Europe. We’ve been surprised with the success we have had so far as Soulwax and 2 Many DJs, so maybe we are not the right people to ask.

For those who haven’t heard Nite Versions, what can they expect?

Steven Slingeneyer: A rock band reconstructing it’s music for the dance floor and playing those versions live as a band.

If Soulwax had one final show to play, who would you most like to share the stage with?

Steven Slingeneyer: Bill Hicks.

The Black Keys “Magic Potion” Review

Just what happens that when a band, so powerful and marketable, takes advantage of a sound that many are using and penetrates modern pop music with it, its many contemporaries are often forgotten? In the case of The White Stripes and The Black Keys though, it is the contemporaries that deliver absolutely striking music that doubles as an exemplary look at modern blues/rock and pop music in general. The two-piece from Akron, Ohio grew up together, Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney, but it was only later in their friendship that they developed their band. The group found themselves in a strange situation with the release of their first few albums, they were both young and full of inspiration, but just didn’t have the mainstream appeal and mystique that The Stripes did. That being said, the band has continually driven a far more reputable esteem than many others playing similar styled music. But why?

The Black Keys literally don’t waste a second on the album. There aren’t any experimental synth streaks punctuating drum machine loops. There aren’t any long, draining, made-for-Bonnaroo, let’s-just-roll-with-it type solos ruining their short, simplistic structure. The band is compelling because as musicians, both Auerbach and Carney seem to play at a level they are comfortable at, and both seem to know that exceeding those limits would make for a completely different band.

The Blues.

The distinction between The Black Keys and any number of other bands is the duo’s conscious decision focus the tempo of their songs on a certain leveled pace. Throughout Magic Potion The Keys’ maintain a grinding crunch that serves as some sort of bizarre Memphis chic compared to much of the other outstanding modern blues acts.

That being said, there is no doubt that this is not a typical blues album, nor would The Keys want you to think it so. As much as Auerbach channels any number of prolific blues singers, he is singing through his voice alone. And as much as the band’s music sounds like it is walking towards you, clenching its fists, with a look in its eyes that makes you want to shiver and hide, it won’t hurt you, but only heal you with its touch.

What Made Milwaukee Famous “Trying To Never Catch Up” Review

How much do I love you? That’s such a silly question, my love for you is unconditional. Well, I mean, I love you, but sometimes you really stretch my emotions and make me fear seeing you again. “It’s not no much the way you hurt me, it’s more like the way you make me want to hurt myself.” There’s a give and take throughout the entirety of What Made Milwaukee Famous’ Trying to Never Catch Up, in which singer Michael Kincaid goes round after round with someone he truly cannot live with(out).

Leading up to the album’s release has been a year of absolute marvel for the band which essentially started as it took the stage as one of the hundreds and hundreds of bands at 2005’s SXSW. It was within that strange period of time in which something happened that would change the band’s path forever. Features in Billboard, touring dates with The Black Keys, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, and The Arcade Fire as well as a national feature on PBS’s Austin City Limits program (which also featured Franz Ferdinand) quickly helped divide the band’s fans into those that were on “the cutting edge” and those that now could never love the little band they once knew due to wave after wave of hype.

Hype or not, What Made Milwaukee Famous warp gloomy piano/percussion driven songs along with acoustic ballads into a war of the words through which crossed lovers fear to tread. “The Jeopardy of Contentment” advises that “alibis are only excuses, allowances for us to abuse the truth (the truth is I’m done with them).” What isn’t heard, though, is an end to it’s harsh unapologetic love songs. There’s always an opening, and the bridge that crosses the border between love and hate still remains untorched and alive. The album’s title track, “Trying to Never Catch Up,” keeps hope alive that someday things might be right again as it grinds through a moody guitar-driven harmony. “I need you not to cry. I promise that you’ll be that someone that you see…I know it’s tough to heed these apologies, but for now though I’ve got to leave you behind.” The bridge remains.