The Hands "Lies, Lies, Lies" (Influenza)

Approach Influenza as a series which serves to help give insight as to where music is born; these are the thoughts, influences and the inspirations directly from the mind of the artists. Here bassist Michael Tyler of Seattle’s The Hands discusses the concept of war and how the term’s disassociation impacted the band’s ultimate decision to label their recent release. Whether war be of a physical, environmental, social or mental nature, its definition is flawless; it is the action to a hosting battleground, an action as Tyler suggests, that is often akin to glimpsing into nothingness.

On The Hands:

Don’t Rock the Boat, Sink the Motherfucker…

Samuel Fuller once said, “Film is a battleground. Love, hate, violence, action, death… in a word, emotion.” And while the great majority of his films weren’t about the military all of Fuller’s movies are war films. He applied the urgency of mortal conflict to each of his characters and films - as if through this reductionist perspective of the world, humanity could be simplified and understood in its purest, most primeval elements. The urge to survive. The urge to love. The urge to fuck. The urge to create. The urge to destroy… It’s about what you see when you stare into the void.

The Hands toyed with the idea of naming the record Total War. We ended up not using it - nor any of the other tentative titles (Jordan was determined to call the record Led Zeppelin I, ’cause, fuck it, why not? right?) - but Total War would have been appropriate. These songs are about war - maybe not war in the Rambo Pt III, kill-em-all and let god sort ‘em out sense, but certainly war in the Samuel Fuller sense; these are songs about staring into the void. - Michael Tyler

Lakai’s “Fully Flared” Skate Video

Earlier this past week a friend hit me up with the video clip of this, the introduction to the Lakai Fully Flared video. After taking a minute or two to honestly soak it in, my response to him was “this is the most beautiful skateboarding footage I’ve ever seen in my life.” It’s one thing to say that skateboarding, or sport in general, is art but it is another altogether to create art through the medium of the athlete. Fully Flared was directed by Ty Evans, Spike Jonze and Cory Weincheque, creating a brilliant landscape that surpasses traditional skate videos with use of brilliant shots and a fantastic soundtrack; I’d liken it to Menikmati, but I feel that this goes much further.

Welcome to flavor country.

Pete Rock feat. Jim Jones: “We Roll”

Since first hearing of Pete Rock I’ve come to enjoy the producer/MC most when he’s collaborating with other artists. Rock seems at home when he’s working with some of hip hop’s biggest names and egos, and as such my favorite track of his comes from his 1998 debut solo album, Soul Survivor, featuring the ever-sharp Method Man.

If one were to approach Rock’s forthcoming album using that same outlook, figuring that NY’s Finest will be only as good as its guest appearances, the outlook is killer; Wu-Tang Clan’s Raekwon the Chef and Masta Killa, Redman, Styles P and Jim Jones to name a few. “We Roll,” the Jim Jones collaboration, is the best of the first batch of singles released from the album, sliding a late night beat over relaxed funk…it’s almost like Rock was trying to echo someone…

Del The Funky Homosapian: “Bubble Pop”

Having not since released a solo album since 2000’s Both Sides of the Brain it would be a bit of an understatement to call Del’s forthcoming Eleventh Hour highly anticipated. Dropping albums this year with both Hieroglyphics and Deltron 3030 (rumored) in addition to his solo record, 2008 is shaping up to be not just the year that Del returns to form, but the year that he’s again praised as one of the best MCs out there.

Since I was young and rocked a Nintendo there have been very few video games that captured my interest enough to justify the purchase of an entire system. There are exceptions to the rule and the Tony Hawk series (at least the first few) were beasts, all chewing up a lot of my time when they were first released. Not simply were the games solid landmarks in the sports genre, but their soundtracks were blazing - the first three games reflecting acts from Dead Kennedys to Mr. Funkee Homosapian himself. Slightly prior to hearing Del’s contribution to THPS3 I was just getting into Deltron 3030, his collaboration with Dan the Automator and Kid Koala, so it made perfect sense that I would love his solo work - and I did.

My adoration goes back long before hearing Del grouped amongst AFI and the Ramones however, all the way back to junior high when I was still rocking my walkman too and from school. For whatever reason I went through a couple of copies of this tape when I was younger but the music from the Judgement Night soundtrack has stuck with me to this day. I’d be lying if I said that the Del/Dinosaur Jr. track isn’t one of my favorite songs of all time; to me it feels timeless and resonates so fluently compared to other acts on the album (Biohazard & Onyx…need I say more?). I doubt we’ll hear anything along the lines of “If You Must” or especially “Missing Link,” but I’ll be damned if I can’t dream. Eleventh Hour will fittingly be released March the eleventh.

MacBook Air Ad’s “New Soul” by Yael Naim

Apple has helped create a string of fantastic success stories in terms of the music behind their often clever ad campaigns. Take Feist or even Jet for example - both widely known before their respective ads aired…but did you ever think you’d see the day when Feist was on morning TV and in Targets nationwide? In terms of the company’s latest groundbreaking release, the MacBook Air: “The World’s Thinnest Notebook,” the theme incorporated is tracked by one Yael Naim. Naim, a French-born singer songwriter, lived much of her life in Israel before releasing her first album in 2001. Her second, and eponymous, release came last year yielding this fun track “New Soul.”

The Battle Royale “Wake Up, Thunderbabe!” Review

The first release in two years from The Battle Royale combines the abundance of rock bands attempting to fuse electronic overtones into rock ‘n roll with the skill of musicians who can actually combine the two ever merging genres appropriately. The Battle Royale’s Wake Up, Thunderbabe! capitalizes on the group’s youthful fervor while scantly sounding like a band of adolescents. Savoring guitar every bit as much as its vocal foundation the album sparingly seeks compensation through electronic auxiliaries, a strange formula when considering the opposite decade-spanning trend.

Vocalist Mark Ritsema (Mouthful of Bees), bassist Grace Fiddler (One For the Team), guitarist John Pelant and organist Sam Robertson’s vision for the album is very much akin to Ritsema’s mainstay in that it finds comforting residency in modern music; there’s nothing entirely shocking nor unexpected on Thunderbabe! To call the bands music neophyte would be in callous judgment however. The album’s ability to weave group-lead choruses (three quarters of the band bearing vocal duty on the album) with full bodied synth tracks is uncanny when considering the tendency for modern groups to polarize their music.

For all the undercutting of the presence of Ritsema’s keyboards there are various tracks that weigh heavy in terms of electronic influence, sometimes to a point of casting a shroud of overproduction on the album. Not to say that such is a negative, but rather a symptom of attempting to find a balance between any instruments and the often overpowering nature of a keyboard. Plowing through Thunderbabe!’s introduction are powerful tracks such as the lead-off “Wake Me Up” and “Notebooks,” both suggesting the record to be far denser than it eventually reflects. With “Hollercopter” however the group seems to strike on what has (at least locally) been deemed electropunk, a genre that is for the majority trying and a nuisance to listen to. Almost casually however, the band plays off the sound, retracting any identification with its harsh tones as the last five of the album’s tracks neglect to include keyboards whatsoever.

“Thunderbird” sounds about a fuzzily recorded as some of the great early Alan Lomax recordings, succeeding in creating a wholesome conclusion to the album. The track echoes a warmth not unlike the feeling of sitting around a dim room, far too late into the night listening to friends play guitar as another sip of whiskey washes its way down. In conclusion, Wake Up, Thunderbabe exits with the appropriately titled “Let’s Leave.” The track is stymying in execution as its wavering violin backdrop attempts to erase from memory the first half of the record, leaving the listener purely set on remembering the band for its accessible, mellow sincerities. Wake Up, Thunderbabe! touches on the band’s influences without forcefully grasping to one above the next; in doing so The Battle Royale has created a piece of music not simply advantageous to the local scene, but adventurous and faultlessly appropriate to boot.

Blue Ribbon Glee Club, Fugazi & The Reistance

Idolator’s Maura Johnson posted a fantastic video mashup by Chicago’s Blue Ribbon Glee Club this past week, which sparked a trend of comments (well, just two actually) which bounced about the accessibility of Fugazi’s “Waiting Room.” The limited query was started by one comment asking, “My only question is, why is ‘Waiting Room’ ALWAYS the go-to Fugazi song? For a band who never had any proper radio singles or music videos, why does one song rule over all the rest? It’s not anywhere near their best song either.” Responding immediately (and subsequently ending the discussion) was the next comment, “I think it’s pretty easy — ‘Waiting Room’ has one of the greatest bass lines and opening riffs in all of recorded music and is instantly recognizable. And that riff has been played and recognized for almost twenty years now, so that it’s part of the subculture. I agree that there are plenty of great Fugazi songs, but none have quite the same playful immediacy of ‘Waiting Room’.” All this kind of made me thing, since Fugazi has recorded and released so much great music, why don’t I like Fugazi more in practice than I do in theory?

Since I was in junior high I’ve continually had a difficulty with retroactively sinking my teeth into bands. There have been exceptions to the rule however, bands like the Led Zeppelins, the Van Halens, the Primus’; bands that really helped form my taste in music at a young age. But since then my tastes have grown increasingly close minded in terms of exploring back catalogs; with rare exception I tend to focus on where we are rather than where we’ve been. Fugazi continues to be a shining example of this.

Best I can remember, my first memory of ever hearing Fugazi was on a snowboarding VHS called The Resistance. I went to high school out West in a part of the prairie that found itself neighboring the Rocky Mountains. As such there was a large conglomerate of friends that I had who were heavily into snowboarding (I never drew interest though; one of the biggest regrets I have in my life is not spending more time with the beautiful nature I was graced with during my adolescence). So in high school we did the same things that normal high schoolers did, we got high, drank beer, listened to punk; but our experience was different in that it eventually began to evolve around house parties where we watched all types of skate and snowboarding videos. The only one that I can really remember with any sense of fondness from those days is that of The Resistance, a video that introduced short skits along side a fantastic array of music, making it (to this day) my favorite of the genre.

In the coming years I left Canada, bounced around Minnesota a bit and eventually landed in Iowa where I spent the majority of my collegiate years. It was during my freshman year that I again found The Resistance and introduced it to a number of my friends. The point is, that during this time I never once felt the urge to expand on the fantastic “Styrofoam” which I had grown to love; Fugazi remained a band that I was completely happy enjoying in small doses. Even as my friends continued to flow through Fugazi’s music, then back to Minor Threat and Rites of Spring, I found myself always clasping to something other than the DC based quartet. I’ve listened to just about every one of their albums, as best my memory serves me, and each is fantastic in its own right (even Instrument) but there always seems to be something else that I love more that I tend to gravitate towards whenever I’m reminded of the band’s music; much like right now. So until the storm breaks and the boys at Castle Dischord decide that the hiatus has gone on long enough (about six years now) I will probably continue to be a fan in theory.

Recently I had the privilege of sitting down with a beautiful girl to mince words over a few beers, but as words seem to continually fail me I asked her what she thought about some of the bands which were on the club’s calendar handout on the table. Steve Earle, she responded, was an musician that she’s always enjoyed in principle, but not necessarily someone whose albums she would rush out to buy. I can respect that, not simply because I feel the same way about Earle, but also because I feel the same way about any number of other bands - including Fugazi. And unfortunately unless the band releases any new material in the future “Styrofoam” and “Waiting Room” won’t only continue to be my favorite Fugazi songs, but pretty much the only two I know.

Gnarls Barkley “Run”

Before everyone starts flipping out and getting violent & bitter because the new Gnarls Barkley single is being played on every station, across every possible medium I thought that it would be nice to share it here, on the internet, as god intended. The only starting point that I’ve read in regards to what the song sounds like seems to be aimed at the duo’s infectious “Crazy,” and how “Run” sounds nothing like it…but that’s a bit unfair…don’t you think? Such teasing is akin to asking Marky Mark & The Funky Bunch to put out another “Good Vibrations,” like asking Chumbawumba to put out another “Tubthumping,” like asking Clay Aikin to put out another…well, I’m sure he wrote something good too. The big difference between Gnarls Barkley and the aforementioned schlubs is that I honestly love Danger Mouse and Cee-Lo, I love “Run” and really love the idea of hearing an entire album of new material!

Yacht Rock Episode 11: “Footloose”

Jason “Holy Jumpin’ Christ” Lee makes a return to fine form in this the (unexpected though kind of expected) eleventh episode of my favorite online series ever, Yacht Rock. How about a brief glimpse of what you’re about to watch:

James Ingram: “It’s mellow, but not smooth. Kind of shitty…”
Michael McDonald: “Jimmy Buffet!”

Michael McDonald: “They’re not people James Ingram, they’re Jimmy Buffet fans.”

Kevin Bacon: “Care for a Me.L.T?”
Gene Balboa: “I love this sandwich.”
Kevin Bacon: “I love that my last name is bacon.”

VBS’ Thumbs Up! Season 2 with David Choe

In this, the second season of VBS’ Thumbs Up!, the show sets up a journey for acclaimed artist David Choe and the son of his uncle’s nephew (sidenote: he’s insane) - the premise taking them all the way from Tijuana, Mexico to Alaska. When I was in college I promised myself that if I ever felt like suicide was the only answer, I would just take off and turn my life into an experience. This is what I had in mind when I had that idea. Who knows, the world is a crazy place and my mind still has a lot of time to turn sour…Mexico could yet be in my future.

Chuck Klosterman on The Patriots’ Immortality

“It is not just that the Patriots have not lost any games; it is that they seem incapable of being a team that loses. At no point has their 18-0 run felt unnatural or unreasonable, just as there is no element of this photo that makes Tom Brady seem anything less than a man who is supposed to date Brazilian supermodels without any hint of awkwardness or guile or self-adulation. This is normal. For Tom Brady, being perfect is normal. Which raises a question: Does this make you like him more, or make you like him less?” Thus concludes the introduction to Chuck Klosterman’s brilliant examination of the 2007 New England Patriots and the team’s quest towards athletic immortality.

Klosterman continues by defining what it means to be perfect, with commentary ranging from that of the philosophical Aristotle to legendary undefeated ISU wrestler Cael Sanderson. Though raising many key issues, one in particular stands out, one that is especially true when remembering the Sanderson’s legendary run as a collegiate athlete, “When measuring — and particularly when remembering — the greatest performances in the history of any sport, the moments that matter most are almost always tied to situations when that entity failed.” As such Sanderson is neither celebrated nor adorned on the same level as Dan Gable, who went 181-1, losing the final match of his career while wrestling for Iowa State. “Wins tend to run together,” Klosterman continues, “negating their own influence. Conversely, losses demarcate time.”

Concluding his argument, Klosterman suggests that no matter how unlikely Eli Manning and crew are of taking on the Patriots in victorious fashion, that situation may serve The Patriots best - forever identifying them as the closest to perfection the sport has ever seen. That being said, if The Patriots do actually lose in Super Bowl XLII, I will have but one digression, “They should’ve put Flutie in.”

Make Fists or Be Chopped Off: the Hands

How refreshing a thought it is to think of a Seattle band without even conjuring up the slightest thought of grunge. Breathe in the air, it is 2008 and while a haze may surround the ivory tower of Count Amazon, the time seems to have finally arrived when music can go back to resembling some shade of normalcy. Having said that, asking right at this moment, it would honestly be a stretch for me to name a half dozen bands from the great Emerald City; though now that Alice in Chains has somehow been resurrected I suppose that leaves just five. Four, actually, counting The Hands.

A week or two back Seattle Weekly called the band’s music out on being “loud, back-to-basics rock,” but in all honesty I doubt that those words really mean much to anyone. The Hands’ songs are loud, they do rock, but I perceive them as being a few steps beyond whatever it is that back-to-basics might mean to the author in question. The introductory bass line to the group’s “Lies Lies Lies” sounds like “Money” if only it had just had its ass kicked in a fight and was drunkenly struggling to walk a straight line upon a cop’s request. The song continues, like much of the band’s forthcoming eponymous release does, by pushing ahead belligerently without attempting to gradually allow a song build by creating some sort of ambiance or aura. The band’s not fast enough to be punk, not bold enough to be hard rock…well, maybe it’s not quite time yet to give up on the power that once inspired the music of the cities late ’80s legends.

Muja Messiah & Of Montreal Cover M.I.A.

Last week I heard (live nonetheless) one of the first covers using a sample from M.I.A.’s brilliant Kala; that being from local Minneapolis MC’s Muja Messiah and M.anifest who take on “Paper Planes” with their own vibrant flow of street-theory. The track isn’t necessarily a cover in the typical sense, but rather follows more of a mix-tape pattern whereas the the MCs take the original beat and theme while creating their own story. On the other side of the coin in this situation is the comparatively low-fi cover of “Jimmy” adapted by Of Montreal. The track follows the typically effeminate sounding set details that the band historically puts into their music, adding a strange sense of mysticism to the already peculiar original.

Bone, Teeth, Dirt: Flowers Forever

Out of a disastrous feeling described as either having seen god or having had a bad bout with mono came Flowers Forever. Awaking one morning on the verge of a nervous breakdown lead singer and guitarist Derek Pressnall came to earth shattering resolve that there was something he needed to inject into his life; as the song “Golden Shackles” repeats again and again, “change better come!” The Tilly and the Wall guitarist immediately turned to art and the exploration of creation, working towards whatever he could. The result was Flowers Forever, a band almost tragically based around a save-the-world type of positive self expressionism. That being said, standout “Black Rosary” commits a dark story of the future and what may be to come; once again, could result from a giant nervous breakdown, seeing god, or a bit of both.

Black Mountain “In The Future” Review

A few weeks back, during a discussion on what makes LCD Soundsystem’s “All My Friends” such a fantastic track, a friend of mine fell heavily into the details underlining his enjoyment of the song. “Patience eludes me,” he said, “I strive for patience, I so desperately want to learn musical patience.” “The beginning of ‘All My Friends’,” he continued, “The way it loops and contrapunts, reminds me very much of (American composer) Steve Reich, though Reich’s piece is from way back in 1976, and it transitions much more quickly at the start.” Unsurprisingly so, my friend was right, there is a beauty to music that eludes the ease of cannonballing into a break; there is a beauty to music that takes the time to dip its instrumental feet in the water before dramatically diving head first in minutes later. Such is a perfect way of describing Black Mountain’s sophomore release, In The Future.

The strength of Black Mountain’s latest comes from the anticipation over it gauges throughout the course of the album’s ten tracks. Bill Lipold of I Rock Cleveland solidifies this idea, citing the band’s tactic of approaching the album with enough security in itself to attempt to develop blood-curdling anticipation just as much as it works towards building each song’s eventual peak. Not to say that each track masterfully incorporates the act of surprise, but when it does the band can do no wrong.

For a group that has historically been linked to the often self-explanatory stoner rock, which may influenced its inclusion on Komodo Records’ 2006 Invaders compilation along side The Sword, Dungen and High on Fire, In The Future breaks free from pattern and restraint with every track. The album almost argumentatively suggests at times that its post-organ hard rock influence was on the break of taking over the album during its recording; as Pitchfork’s Adam Moerder commenting, “The eight-minute ‘Tyrants,’ sounds like a Middle Earth baptism by fire.” Opposing that, the Pink Floyd homage “Wild Wind,” contributes a gentler correspondence, suggesting that on the other side of that dark moon, decades later, we were always meant to hear a softer Black Mountain.

One of the many shining moments on the album comes in the form of “Evil Ways,” a song that admits its influences early on by the summoning of patriarchal big-band era jazz and “Hush“-era keyboards alike. But when hearing the track in the context in the album, its attraction comes partially as due to those surrounding it. What follows is the very “Wish You Were Here”-like “Wild Ways,” and what precedes is the “Queens Will Play,” a track which itself fails to peak until the very last minute suggesting it the rising action to the inevitable climax of “Evil Ways.” But even there, in the moments that follow, the album sheds any shape of predictability as Black Mountain shifts into “Bright Lights,” a near seventeen minute triumph.

And just as In The Future surfaces with the Amber Webber-lead “Night Walks,” the track vocally strong and sounding a faint bit orchestral, the band reflects on its dive and escapes the water, fleeing for seclusion, leaving the listener only to think about what they had just heard. A listener left thinking that if such a journey, full of such snowballing climaxes and fulfilling closures, was as good as they thought it through its first listen…it may just be better the second time around. I am one such listener.

Spoolwork: Dave Fischoff Remixes Jens Lekman

This Jens Lekman remix serves as the first piece in musician/producer Dave Fischoff’s latest project entitled Spoolwork. Fresh off opening a select few Midwest dates for Lekman, Fischoff returned to his native Chicago and began cultivating the idea behind the series where he will be “adding details and flourishes and sonic decorations to structures that others have already built,” in essence - remixing. Adding an interesting twist however, Fischoff invites interested parties to submit tracks to be submitted via the Spoolwork MySpace page, “if you’re an artist looking to have a song remixed, or if you’re looking for someone to provide an arrangement or a beat for one of your tunes, feel free to drop me a line.” Doubt you’d see such an offer from Timbaland these days.

Remembering Heath Ledger

Some friends at work were cynical about why I’m so obsessed with the news of Heath Ledger’s passing today, and at first I really had little explanation. I often feel as though I can’t make it in the world, and occasionally I get down and start feeling sorry for myself in some boring pitiful manner. But even at the bottom of the bottle there’s still a sense that life could be more. Heath Ledger may have just been an actor in the public eye, but Heath Ledger was a symbol of privilege. And to be reminded, again, that even at the top you can be at the very bottom is a stunning reminder of the truth of life. Life is never certain and, if nothing else, this is a moment that helps remind just how short it can be.

While I have not seen it in its entirety, one of Ledger’s last films, I’m Not There, depicts a wave of Bob Dylan’s life through a period of outgoing romanticism. That role along with his hugely anticipated roll as The Joker in The Dark Knight were two that could have helped Ledger continue to build his reputation as an increasingly reputable actor after the breakout success of Brokeback Mountain.

Yacht Rock’s Wade Randolph Visits JD Ryznar

Though not necessarily as good as a new webisode of Yacht Rock, JD Ryznar (Michael MacDonald) and Wade Randolph (Daryl Hall) give a solid effort, in the process developing an innovative new style of rap that combines the popular medium with…politics. In the video the duo initially takes an online quiz to see which 2008 Presidential candidates they are best suited, only to then take the spirit of their unofficial nominees and create such groundbreaking lines as “My favorite Presidential nominee is Hilary, H to the ilary. She’s gonna run this country with skillary, you feelin’ me?” If only this were a segment were from Acceptable TV there might have been hope for the show.

UPDATE: I found the web site that was used to generate the appropriate candidates in this poll, and actually…I call shenanigans as I, too, am supposedly to be fond of one Mike Gravel. At least he’s out of the race now…though I still think it’s a sham that I’m to endorse him opposed to the other candidates - greater than Ron Paul - greater than Barack Obama…shenanigans.

First Avenue’s Best New Bands (Minneapolis, MN)

First Avenue’s annual showcase of the Twin Cities’ best new bands returned this year bringing together 2007’s unusual talent pool that included acts ranging from ambient noise to African hip hop to stoner rock. Though each set was far too short to allow any band to leave an honest impression the overall consensus was that Minneapolis is one of the best in the country in terms of emerging acts.

To Kill a Petty Bourgeoisie, the one-time Stereogum favorites, were burdened with the difficult position of opening the show to a still-scattered audience yet ahead of the night’s six other bands. In an attempt to combine a booming triumph of sound the band overshadowed itself however, clashing a bit as it failed to harness a mixture of textbook level shot calling and with spontaneity. The ultimate reality was set by a band with eyes possibly still bigger than its stomach; shooting for Sigur Rós but coming up quite a bit short.

A Night in the Box followed by introducing a trend of energy that would continue through much of the rest of the evening’s showcase. Multi-instrumentalist Travis Hetman began the set by tuning up his mandolin, plugging in and leading drummer Alex Dalton and violinist Kailyn Spencer in a effortless introduction to the band’s version of electric busking. Singer/guitarist Clayton Hagen joined the group as it proceeded with its set of fierce bluegrass and dirt road gospel. Oddly then that the following band, Black Audience would retroactively pursue that trend with the showcase’s next set, playing a sit down blend of deceptively authentic music. Singer Jayanthi Kyle fronted the act as it utilized the historical puzzle pieces that had come to help define American music many years ago; the guitar, banjo, bass, drums and even the spoons. In the process Kyle and crew delivered a set strongly based in realistic theme while expelling the seriousness of the evening with a parodiable crowd pleasing, seductive finale.

The sounds of the next band, Gospel Gossip, are entirely misleading when heard as individual recorded tracks. Ironic then, that singer Sarah Nienabor mumbled something to the effect of “this is our pop song” before trouncing the stage during the band’s extended conclusion. The performance can best be described by a brief conversation I had with a friend after the set had finished. “I can’t recall if anyone’s written this anywhere, but didn’t the singer remind you of…” “Yes.”

I’ve been witness to some fantastic moments of spectacle on stage, but the impressive display of intuition and sheltered chaos by the young Nienabor can only, if even to a fault, draw similarity to that of the once self destructive Kurt Cobain. Playing pop songs has never lent itself kindly to thrashing about the stage, throwing trash or casually falling over, but surprisingly Gospel Gossip destroyed any preconceived ideas I may have had of the band with its fantastic set.

M.anifest took the stage after a brief set of introduction, joining an already waiting crowd of comprised of backup singers, a DJ and backup MC. The Ghana-come-Minneapolis rapper, who appeared draped in a knee-length dashiki, immediately began fueling the crowd with usual hop hop hype spots before breaking into a string of fantastic socially-centric material. Playing a variety of tracks from his 2007 release Manifestations, including “She Lives,” “Africa Represent,” and “Babylon Breakdown,” the high spot of the set came when Muja Messiah took the stage with M.anifest, both joining in on Messiah’s of M.I.A.’s “Paper Planes.

Prior to Mouthful of Bee’s first note, the night’s MCs Dave Campbell and Jason Nagel introduced them as the band with the most hype leading to the event, and without a doubt they were right. The obvious fan favorites, Mouthful of Bees’ return to the live setting was greeted with an eagerly awaiting full house, a luxury that few bands had during the evening. There was an odd feel to the set however, one that measured itself by a sense of constricting awkwardness. While it has been since the summer since the band maintained any sort of live schedule the set felt a little bloated, with keyboardist Simon Larson seemingly distancing himself from the tight four piece. Whether or not the short set was indicative of a negative state within the band however is a bit of a mute point though as Mouthful of Bees played as confident as ever, especially so with its ever-growing audience.

The one true shame of the showcase was the way that Campbell and Nagel jokingly name dropped Gay Witch Abortion throughout the entire even leading up to the duo’s performance. It wasn’t in a way that was cynical or harmful, but it still insinuated that the name was the attraction and the band who subsequently played fantastic music was extra. For a genre that heralds such acts as The Fucking Champs it seems unnecessarily so that the duo may have been named as such for sake of publicity rather than just blend in with their contemporaries (though it must be noted that Gay Witch Abortion is a fantastic name for a band). All the same Shawn Walker and Jesse Bottomley took the stage with little show, immediately driving into the first of many pulsating tracks. Bottomley, who could double for Josh Homme if only he were about 40 pounds heavier, had a rock star wife and a full band backing him, was shattering in his stoner-picking delivery - often bouncing his Cry Baby off the stage as it shuttered and chirped out. Likewise, Walker’s smashing delivery only took up rest for slugs of PBR (with the occasional water chaser…musicians need hydration too) before ensuing with the duo’s set. If it weren’t for A Night in the Box’s refreshing string of well crafted songs and me being a handful of beers closer to bed by the time they hit the stage Gay Witch Abortion could have very well been my pick as the best performance of the 2007 edition of First Avenue’s Best New Bands.

Dallas Cowboys’ 2007 Season in 8 Seconds

How many people didn’t see this coming…OK, how many people don’t care but find it mildly amusing that Jessica Simpson is on the fast track to bringing failure to every man she sleeps with? But for reals, you didn’t see this coming?

No matter how much I’d like to get into Super Bowl favorites (and I will: the Patriots will probably win) I must point out that while I’m technically rooting for the team I’m not really cheering for Randy Moss or Tom Brady. Rather, I’m cheering for them because the Patriots were simply the last team whom Doug Flutie played for during his illustrious career. Had the all-around Raddest Dude to Ever Lay Finger to a Football in fact come back for one last stint with the Argos I may have had to wait a few years before paying attention to the NFL again. But as such, I’m cheering for the Patriots. Deal with it.

You Suck at Photoshop

After venturing over to My Damn Channel to continue watching David Wain’s hilarious Wainy Days series a few weeks back I found that the site has a lot more to offer in terms of fresh exclusive-type content. Of course, there’s Wainy Days, but did you know that not only is Andy Milonakis still alive, but he has a show where he does his usually-a miss, but sometimes close to a hit type skits and freestyles and whatnot. The best find however has been You Suck at Photoshop, a hilarious series that combines two of my favorite things: watching others work their magic on image manipulation programs and cynically harboring bad feelings for one’s significant others.

Chairs in the Arno "Popsicle" (Influenza)

Approach Influenza as a series which serves to help give insight as to where music is born; these are the thoughts, influences and the inspirations directly from the mind of the artist. Here Chairs in the Arno singer Jeff Excell discusses the spirit which brought the band to begin recording music and recalls the inspiration and events leading up to the song “Popsicle,” one of the many from the recent release File Folder.

On “Popsicle”:

Pissed off that most of our favorite bands had broken up, (Figurine, Barcelona, The Rentals), me, Ryan Fly, Jeff Knight and Becca Hsu started writing songs just for ourselves just to keep the carefree sense of music around while popular culture stuck their heads in the emo microwave. We wanted to write songs about lost cats, playing badminton in our back yard, and just having fun in general. Being inspired by the simple guitar workings of one of our musical heroes Jason Korezan, we never got too fancy with our song structures. Lyrically, inspiration never really came in a complicated package either; it was usually something quite plain like losing a pet. The song “Popsicle” sprang from our kitten (named Popsicle) who mysteriously ran away from our house only six months after we had adopted her. Not even a week later our other beloved cat Switters jumped under the wheel of a passing car, completing the feline mass suicide. We were all sad, and I dreamed up some lyrics about the possible scenarios that Popsicle was in after ditching us and put it to an already existing song that we had been playing around with. - Jeff Excell

Tracy Morgan on The Late Show with Letterman

In between DL asking Tracy about his ankle bracelet and his sobriety Tracy dropped comedy gold on the nation. It’s moments like these that make me wonder if I should start watching TV again.

“It’s in the Smithsonian next to Michael Jackson’s glove, and his nose.”

“Now if I go near alcohol I turn into a Gremelin.”

“I’m just doin’ karate and getting females pregnant…at the same time.”

“Tie Tony up the night before the game and make his legs like spaghetti.”

“I call him by his government, Phillip.”

“I found the edge a while ago and jumped off, I’m crazier than a box of rocks.”

Sans violence, it reminded of this:

Chairs in the Arno “File Folder” Review

Chairs in the Arno’s debut, File Folder, is strikingly smooth in comparison to the band’s electronic-driven rock counterparts, focusing on casual lyrics and vocal harmonies rather than attempting to struggle towards making each track 2004-chic or danceable. The eight song set serves as a short-playing scrapbook of stories and inside jokes amongst the band, each track helping to distinguish the its members as a group of playful youth slightly past their youthful years. The band’s name itself directly coming from a drunken night of college-aged shenanigans while on a European trip together, one night concluding in the tossing of furniture into Italy’s expansive Arno river. But youthful optimism or casual indifference fail to capture the essence of the band’s music, that being something far more innocent and oddly unyielding.

File Folder is unwavering in that it has a definite formula to which its songs stick to; a sound along the lines of a relaxed Atom and His Package shuffled together with tech-friendly lyrics all set to the key of that final scene in Juno where Michael Cera and Ellen Page sing and play adoringly to one another - you know the one. And if such a description sounds a bit unimaginable, the track “Size Thirty” does wonders in proving it a worthy characterization, guitarist Jeff Excell and keyboardist Becca Hsu flirtatiously teasing each other about their clothes for a couple of minutes before the song fades away.

It is such a sense of playfulness that really puts this album over, the opening track “Never Loved You Anyways” being another key example. While not entirely following the same pattern, the story parallels that which many experience growing up, one of two friends who (many times drunkenly) start kissing only to realize that they always made better friends than lovers. The song represents more of a narrative of inner dialog where its subjects attempt to convince themselves that life will go on however, giving it an oddly adult-feel. Such sentiment is what helps the album succeed, Chairs in the Arno capture that moment in life when you realize that it’s alright to begin to reflect on the fun you’ve had, that moment you realize you’re some strange form of an adult - all the while knowing that there will be plenty of good times to still be had.

Moby’s “Last Night” May Be Moby’s Last Call

The first time I ever heard of Moby was when I saw him on the cover of a magazine’s year end release circa the turn of the new year 1997 (Magnet?). The picture caught my eye, and though I can’t find it online to save my life (Moby seemed to be growling with a clump of thick wires protruding from his mouth, best I can remember), it and the DJ Shadow reference on the cover sold my impressionable young mind on the magazine. But low and behold the references in the zine’s pages were too deep and too far from my knowledge base and I quickly grew tired of attempting to figure them amongst my pre-Napster adolescence. But those names, DJ Shadow and Moby, stood with me; shortly after I purchased the phenomenal Entroducing as well as Moby’s Everything is Wrong and Animal Rights. What struck me initially with that last record in particular was the almost comical contrast between it and his previous…hell, between each song and the next on Animal Rights.

In AR Moby jumped between every influence that had seemingly affected him up to that point in time, focusing largely on industrial confrontationism and prolonged ambiance. Comparing it then to its predecessor Animal Rights left me with a strong impression that I was going to have a hard time shifting along with Moby as he moved away from his trance-friendly club stage. One track however eased the shift between EIW and his commercial breakthrough Play, that being “That’s When I Reach For My Revolver.”

It wasn’t until recently that I learned that the song was a Mission of Burma cover, but all the same it moved me…it still does as a matter of fact. And despite the criticism towards Moby for changing the lyrics and title of the song in sake of finding commercial viability for it, which was subsequently unbeknownst to me for roughly a decade, that is really the song that solidified my position of his as a fan of his.

“Alice” comes at a time which would have been of great importance to Moby’s career if not for the continuing residuals he receives from Play’s success. Regardless of Last Night’s future financial success however, I feel like it’s the last straw in terms of where fans will decide to either stick it out with Moby or begin to give up on the idea of reclaiming their admiration for his music considering his ongoing mediocrity. That being said I think “Alice” is better than anything I remember being on 18, his follow-up to Play. I’m still going to have to hear the entire album before making the decision to continue pulling for the man or start remembering him by his classics however. If anything can be said though, the sampler available via Moby’s web site reminds me a lot of Everything Is Wrong, so much so that I believe that I’m thinking this could be the most enjoyable Moby album (from start to finish mind you, not that half of the album is boring nonsense that people forget about when glorifying Play) since his 1995 release.

Chairs in the Arno "Winter Song" (Influenza)

Approach Influenza as a series which serves to help give insight as to where music is born; these are the thoughts, influences and the inspirations directly from the mind of the artist. In this, the second of two parts featuring music from the Saint Helena based electronic quartet Chairs in the Arno, bassist Jeffrey Knight discusses how skateboarding lead to inspiration on the band’s recent album File Folder.

On “Winter Song”:

Jeff (Excel) and I were on our way to the Fairfield skate park when we decided to work on lyrics for an otherwise complete song. I threw out a subject that was near and dear to my heart at the time: summertime is for having fun damn it and I want to start having some more of it! I guess I was feeling a little overworked at the time. The weekday morning shift at our local coffee shop left me drained. We skated the park for a bit and started hammering out the lyrics on the way back to St. Helena. We threw in all the stuff that represents summer fun to us: water fights, neighborhood mischief, skipping work, and road trips. - Jeff Knight

Joe Duplantier (of Gojira) Interview

Gojira will be playing the Myth in Maplewood this Wednesday, taking the stage with All That Remains, 36 Crazyfists and In Flames. Recognized as one of the greatest French Death Metal bands of all time, Gojira recently released its fourth studio album to a wave of critical acclaim. Prior to taking its world tour to North America, guitarist/vocalist Joe Duplantier caught up with Culture Bully’s Chris DeLine to hash over some of the band’s history and tour highlights in addition to determining once and for all who the best band in the world is.

I’d like to start with something that I find absolutely interesting. In 1999 the band changed its name from Godzilla to Gojira. Did this have anything to do with that god awful Matthew Broderick movie that came out in 1998?

Joe Duplantier: Yes. When this movie came out it really destroyed the image we had of Godzilla. We liked the fact that this character was not too famous and it had this mystical flavor from eastern culture, almost mythology. We were pissed off and wanted to change our band name and call it Gojira (the original Japanese pronouncement) when we received a letter from an American lawyer asking us to forget about that name. It took us five minutes to decide to adopt Gojira.

There’s also a UK Drum and bass group that goes by Gojira. Have you guys ever confronted them about it?

Joe Duplantier: No we don’t know them and never talked to them but I think it’s not a real problem since we don’t play the same music at all.

The idea of having a French metal scene is something that just seems odd to me. I’m originally from Canada, and I still have a hard time identifying heavy bands with the country. Is there any sort of metal scene in France? How about something even heavier like a black or death metal scene?

Joe Duplantier: In France we have a tradition of underground Black Metal bands and some pretty good “French singing social political concerned bands” like Trust from the 1980s or Lofofora from the 1990s. These bands still play and draw pretty important crowds. There is also what we could call a new scene with bands like Eths, Psykup, Black Bomb A, Manimal, Klone, Ultra Vomit, Hacryde and a lot of good solid bands that represent a “new wave” of french metal…

How important is it to you that the original lineup is intact after roughly 12 years?

Joe Duplantier: I don’t know, I guess it’s a sign that our intention as a band is very strong since the beginning and also I could say that we work a lot on a human level, our goal is to have a good life, we want to be a good band and feel well-adjusted in this project. We have band meetings when we’re on tour so each one of us can express himself, and we try to communicate anyway as much as possible.

Had the band had any relationship with either Igor or Max Cavalera before you were recruited for the Cavalera Conspiracy?

Joe Duplantier: Not really but we were all big fans of Sepultura and it’s been a big influence for our music. We played with Soulfly at European festivals several times and Max told me that he liked Gojira live a lot and that was the reason he got in touch with us.

Another band associated with Gojira is Empalot. There is very little information available online about that band though, what’s one thing we should know about Empalot?

Joe Duplantier: Empalot is the best band of the world. It’s a crazy project we had, my brother and I, with close friends from my high school thrash band. We played pretty intensively between 1999 and 2004. Imagine nine people on stage, two basses, one guitar, percussion, drums, keyboard, saxophone, strange voices, and a mix between Frank Zappa, Nirvana, Tom Waits and Cannibal Corpse with a little bit of weird cheesy melodies. Every show was totally different, we would create a different atmosphere with different invented characters, fake names and crazy outfits like robots, clouds or dinosaurs. It’s been a fantastic experience, and we had so much fun. We could draw 1000 people in our home town. We’ll maybe release something when we’ll have time.

Gojira has played with an amazing array of bands ranging from Cannibal Corpse to Amon Amarth to Immortal. That being said, one thing that distances Gojira from the rest are the themes used in the band’s songs. Could you tell me a bit about the environmental focus on The Way of All Flesh?

Joe Duplantier: I would say that we feel concerned by the situation on earth and we try to bring some hope on a certain level instead of just saying that things go wrong. We try to put some positive intention in the music and lyrics to make a difference somehow. We consider that being part of a band and release records is a great chance to give a constructive point of view to our fans. But this album is not only about the environment but more about the soul and the notions of mortality and immortality.

The new album seems to be universally respected amongst critics, Kerrang giving the album 4/5, Metal Hammer 9/10 and 4.5/5. Do you guys care about critical accolades at all?

Joe Duplantier: Yes of course, it’s a great feeling. It would be a lie to pretend we don’t care… even if it’s probably “cooler.”

On the current tour the group is playing with 36 Crazyfists, All That Remains and In Flames. What have been the highlights of the tour so far and what can we expect to see at the Twin Cities show on November 12?

Joe Duplantier: The shows in Europe were amazing… It was interesting to be confronted by about 15 different countries in just one month. The atmosphere between the bands was also pretty mellow… I would say the highlight for Gojira was the show in Lyon (France)… For In Flames, I would say all the shows in Germany. We’re about to come to America for the second chapter… It’s going to be brutal!

Chairs in the Arno "Size Thirty" (Influenza)

Approach Influenza as a series which serves to help give insight as to where music is born; these are the thoughts, influences and the inspirations directly from the mind of the artist. In this, the first of two parts featuring music from the Saint Helena based electronic quartet Chairs in the Arno, bassist Jeffrey Knight discusses the inspiration and theme for “Size Thirty,” an upbeat, unique love story from the group’s recent release File Folder.

On “Size Thirty”:

Jeff (Excel) had a good melody in his head but asked for help on lyrics. So Becca (Hsu) and I sat down with him, some paper and a tape recorder. We kicked around some song topics: from the sad, derelict electronics found in thrift stores to the benefits of living underground. We settled on a topic and began throwing around the ideas and lines for what became “Size Thirty”: a story of a girl dating a guy who is thinner, more fashionable, and probably looks better in her pants (bitterness ensues). We three guys in the band can relate. We gravitate towards fitted clothing and were once described by a friend as being small like circus jockeys. Ouch. - Jeff Knight

Kelly Stoltz “Your Reverie”

The first time that I was introduced to Kelly Stoltz’s music he was opening for The Raconteurs here in Minneapolis. He seemed a bit possessive, slightly compulsive and entirely indulgent in each layer of sound that he created while on stage. But all the while he seemed genuine in his delivery, his music simply didn’t seem as though it was conducive to the live atmosphere. “Your Reverie,” the first single from his forthcoming February release Circular Sounds, comes across as though Stoltz has separated himself from the urge to over-do anything. Musically the single presents itself as a wonderful pop gem, orchestrated on the back of the song’s infectious organ and guitar; something miles away the memories I took away from the show a couple years back.

Between Two Ferns with Zach Galifianakis

I think the vote is still out as to whether or not Between Two Ferns is as good as The Michael Showalter Showalter, but at this point I’m going to have to stick it out with Showalter (though this is the only episode of Ferns as best I know). In this episode Zach Galifianakis accosts and demoralizes Juno star Michael Cera about the pitfalls of Superbad before attempting to molest him. Naturally it’s hilarious.

Bring Back “2 Scoops”!

This past weekend the next generation of American Gladiators was unveiled unto a national audience craving an end to the ongoing writer strike. First hand accounts left me interested, could the Gladiators honestly be back? Well, this really depends on how you look at the program, is it simply a medium for muscle-clad athletes to peddle their wares again on national programming or rather is it a showcase for some of the nation’s finest unknown athletes to trump steroid-bound jokes? This new version of the Gladiators (or best YouTube has shown me) pretty much leaves me to believe that the new program is nothing but a last straw at grabbing some ratings by resurrecting a universally recognized brand name, one which has historically had a patronage calling for its revival. But the new Gladiators lack that one piece to the puzzle, that one defining aspect that defines what the show is about, those two simple words: Two Scoops!

A while back I posted a brief reminder, long before ruminations about the new Gladiators began, about the best contestant in the history of the program, Wesley “2 Scoops” Berry. I was greeted with a few brief comments, one of which came from someone claiming to know Berry, “The legendary saga of 2 scoops continues…I am part of a ministry where I go to San Quentin prison monthly and play basketball with a select few of the inmates. I had heard a rumor that one of the guys on the inmate team, who introduced himself to me as ‘Preacher’ or “2 Scoops” was an American Gladiator. So just for fun, I tried to find him on the internet which led me to your site. All this to say that Wesley ‘2 Scoops’ Berry is alive and well and still displaying his crazy athletic ability for others to enjoy. He is now called ‘Preacher’ as he has fully given his life over to Jesus Christ and ministers to other troubled inmates while serving out his remaining sentence.”

A man of troubled circumstance nonetheless once shocked audiences as he displayed superhuman charisma, ability and athleticism. Plain and simple, he dominated the American/International Gladiators in a fashion that will never be seen again. That, my friends, is what’s missing with the new American Gladiators.

(Alternate title for this post: “The New American Gladiators Are A Joke Because…”)

Nada Surf at The Nomad (Minneapolis, MN)

Playing a free acoustic set at a small Minneapolis bar as a part of the band’s ongoing promotional tour, two thirds of the one-time one-hit-wonders delivered a few new tracks in addition to a handful of old favorites.

Asking around before the show it became obvious that the majority of opinions leaned towards knowing the band only from its 1996 narrative hit “Popular,” but all the same the small college bar was packed by the time the singer/guitarist Matthew Caws and drummer Ira Elliot took the stage. Both sitting amidst the bar’s dim lighting, Caws with his guitar and Elliot sitting atop his drum box, the band joked around, talked to the audience and introduced new songs such as “Whose Authority,” one of the ten new tracks on the band’s upcoming release Lucky.

The hour long set took a turn toward the absurd when the duo broke into the band’s historical children’s song, the “Meow Meow Lullaby.” For those unfamiliar with the song, its lyrics go something to the effect of “Meow, meow, meow, meow, meow, meow. Meow, meow, meow, meow, meow, meow.” Maybe it wasn’t something I had anticipated as highly as say, a blazing acoustic version of “The Plan” (my all time favorite song by the band), but it was fun, upbeat and really captured the spirit of the evening. Hopefully when the complete Nada Surf returns to town with What Made Milwaukee Famous in April however they play a broader selection of tracks, showing those who still only know of them because of a decade old single exactly what they’ve been missing out on all this time.

Victor Scott “Good Times” Review

It’s amusing to learn that Victor Scott approached Good Times, his second full length, influenced heavily by soundtracks. Not necessarily influenced by those those similar to The Big Chill, but rather the idea that albums don’t have to follow a pattern, or a set genre to make sense and maintain their flow. As such Good Times is as unexpected a mixture as the oddball collaboration that saw Quentin Tarantino and the RZA find common ground; even more strange however is that Good Times is in its own right as an album so much more complete.

Scott has mentioned Kill Bill in particular as a muse, one that inspired his latest set, noting of an epiphany that hit him when listening to the soundtrack, “I realized that records didn’t have to sound the same. In fact I liked it when they didn’t.” Accordingly no tracks on Good Times sound the same, each finding their own pocket of individuality. As for that Kill Bill thing, the album has its “Hollow Leg,” evidence of sountrack-veteran Tomoyasu Hotei’s seemingly omnipresence in modern film. Good Timesalso hits its quirky novelty peak with a fusion of synth and’s-like energy on “Dance Dance Party.” Even as Good Times introduces itself to your speakers for the first time, knowledge of his muse or not, it becomes obvious that it is nothing if not a soundtrack to Scott’s thoughts.

Embellishing the album’s differences and straying points fails to fully convey how it sounds though as the record presents itself as a solid piece of consistency all the way through. “I Walk Alone” is the traditional everyman song, gently, bluesily explaining pop music’s gazingly indulgence of loneliness. “The Red Dragon” and “Zygamatix” assimilate worldly sounds, (North) Americanizing historical references for the sake of making them digestible. “Want U Need 2″ is a crafty minimal drum machine ballad that sounds of nothing less than a bizarro top forty love song. That being said the tracks “Oh No (Baby Don’t Go)” and “Fortune Favours the Brave,” both of which root themselves as much in low-budget independence as in mainstream rock, give album its structure, serving musical backbones of sorts.

“Oh No (Baby Don’t Go)” glares with the fastest pace of any song in the set. Given its running time of under two minutes the track firmly plants itself in the belly of the album as a laxative, making sure that the relaxed pace the music on the album later takes isn’t digested at a snail’s pace. “Fortune Favours The Brave” is something altogether different however, revealing itself as having the album’s most accessible riff melded with the funnest set of lyrics offered in the set. It’s hard to place the song within the context of the rest of the album, as it sounds little of everything else around it yet not too far from the ordinary; but isn’t that the point?

It’s interesting to think of Scott’s attempts to broaden the album by unburdening each individual track from generic labels because he did so in a way that takes little away from the act of actually listening to the music. With Good Times the listener isn’t forced to endure a brooding lullaby for seven minutes, nor are they subjected to a piece of music shockingly chaotic and out of place. The album’s fourteen tracks span a mere thirty five minutes, no track really leaving an impression of being too short nor too long. All the same, no track sounds neither alike nor out of place in terms of those it neighbors on the track listing. Good Times does in reality fail in achieving the that of its muse, however. The album is unsuccessful in capturing Kill Bill’s gut wrenching bipolarism while presenting itself as a complete and curiously linear collection of wonderful music.

Whopper Freakout: Ghetto Version

Filmed by Minneapolis comedian Asa Thibodaux this hilarious parody takes aim at the god awful marketing scheme that is the Whopper Freakout. Best lines from Whopper Freakout: Ghetto Version:

“Taking the whopper away from the hood is like making me get a full time job, you gonna bring a lot of people down.”

“I need a whopper like Britney Spears need panties, like Nicole Ritchie need two pounds.”

Littler Superstar: Weng Weng

While India’s “Little Superstar” Thavakalai has had his time in the sun it may now be Weng Weng’s chance for glory, albeit postmortem glory. The actor became the world’s shortest to star in a feature film, measuring in at 2′9″, as he found fame in the early ’80s through a series of Philippino-based flicks. As a ruthless action hero he may not offer the charm as Thavakalai (or measure up in terms of mean street throw-down freestyling dance skills), but frankly, I’m not sure you need charm when you have a rocket pack and know how to slang a bō staff.

Victor Scott "Good Times" (Influenza)

Approach Influenza as a series which serves to help give insight as to where music is born; these are the thoughts, influences and the inspirations directly from the mind of the artist. In this, the third edition in the series, Vancouver-based solo artist Victor Scott describes various bits and pieces that made up a handful of songs from his latest album Good Times.

On Good Times:

With Good Times I wanted to continue the soundtrack approach from Happy Days, but smooth out some of the rough edges. “The Red Dragon” is one of the few songs on the record where I can tell you where every part is from. It’s like a big bold fruity homemade plonk. It started off with a lot of Dubliners and back in the day, even more Pogues. A nice saucy sea shanty, but classy like a Parisian musette. In an alternate universe this song would have accordion on it. If the song had a bibliography, it would be Nathaniel’s Nutmeg by Giles Milton, a book my wee grannie in Edinburgh sent me.

“Want U Need 2″ has that funky Indonesian music with the detached love lyrics that take me back to the eighties. A mix of the Talking Heads, New Order and Prince.

“Fallen Arrow,” in my mind, is a cross between R.E.M., Bruce Springsteen and The Cult. I wanted to try to create one of those songs that has lyrics that come from that small place inside myself, but deliver them in a hooky poppy way. Sort of like “Dancing in the Dark.”

“Dance Dance Party” is a tribute to all the kids who dance to songs and post them on YouTube, particularly to all my friends who filmed themselves for my video for “Gotta Go.” There’s a video in that thar song. - Victor Scott

Victor Scott "Seasides" (Influenza)

Approach Influenza as a series which serves to help give insight as to where music is born; these are the thoughts, influences and the inspirations directly from the mind of the artist. In this, the second edition in the series, Vancouver-based solo artist Victor Scott brainstorms thoughts surrounding the tracks that ended up on Seasides, the bonus disc to his recently released album Good Times.

On Seasides:

Choosing songs for a record is pretty difficult for me. For my new one, Good Times, it turns out that most of the songs for which I had a clear idea of what I wanted, in terms of influences, ended up on the bonus record, Seasides:

“Drinking Wine (Again)” - A melancholic ukulele Chinese Flatt & Scruggs.
“I’m Just a Little Old Fire” - “You Are My Sunshine,” and other old timey tunes.
“Atomic Clock” - A cross between “What’s New Pussycat” and “Sweet Caroline.”
“Loop de Loop” - “Mambos No. 5,” Perez Prado and Lou Bega versions.
“Love Bug” - Kraftwerk, Jesus and Mary Chain, AC/DC.
“Happy Days are Here Again” - Influenced by my first record Happy Dayand I keep hearing “Funky Days are Back Again” by Cornershop whenever I think of the title.
“Oh My Dog” - The theme song to Jeeves and Wooster.

-Victor Scott

A Patch Unto Itself: AM Syndicate

Reminiscent to a distortionless My Bloody Valentine, Austin’s AM Syndicate delivers a chorus of pop-conscious rock songs while lead singer Omar Chavez’s drifting vocals continually distance the band’s sound, finding a patch of sound unto itself. No more evident is this than on the band’s “To the Peasants of the Emperor,” one of the many airy songs currently featured on the band’s MySpace page. But deeper, and slightly uncharacteristic of the band’s makeup is that of “My Neighbor the Sleepwalker.” Emphasis is often taken away from percussion and in this track drummer Vince Dercan delivers something closer akin to that of his former band, …And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead, than anything else I’ve heard from AM Syndicate. In it, Durcan’s beat isn’t overwhelming, but rather proper; one that is circumvents corrupting the song by playing to the Chavez’s guitar rather than over it, all the while allowing keyboardist Golfball to squeak in a few moments of spotlight.

Victor Scott "Soundtracks" (Influenza)

Approach Influenza as a series which serves to help give insight as to where music is born; these are the thoughts, influences and the inspirations directly from the mind of the artist. In this, the first edition in the series, Vancouver-based solo artist Victor Scott describes his latest album Good Times and the correspondence between listening to soundtracks and the album’s lead track, “Hollow Leg.”

On Soundtracks:

My first record Happy Days was originally intended as a series of four song EPs, but I could never get more than two of my songs to sound alike. I couldn’t figure out what to do until I went through a phase of listening to soundtrack records; in particular, Kill Bill. I think I must’ve been on the bus listening to “Battle Without Honour or Humanity” when I realized that records didn’t have to sound the same. In fact I liked it when they didn’t.

The song “Celia’s Ghost” from my first record started out like “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)” but luckily didn’t end up sounding much like it. “Celia’s Ghost” is in three time, like a lot of my songs. That’s probably because of all the jazz records I listen to. A good jazz waltz is like a secret weapon that has the potential to just kill anything else in the room. Pop songs in three are criminally under represented anyways.

The first song on my new record is in three, “Hollow Leg,” and there are at least a couple others, although I hardly notice anymore. With “Hollow Leg,” you can hear those soundtrack influences, I probably wrote the guitar part while I was watching Buffy and the slide guitar part after seeing the Creaking Planks in which a friend of mine plays the electric saw. - Victor Scott

Nick Cave & The Bad Seed’s “Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!” (Single)

There’s something about hearing the Grinderman release that urged a want for new material from Cave and The Bad Seeds; liken it to an aged marriage if you will. For years you go about your business, all the while caring with unabashed love - no matter what the other were to do, or how they were to do it, their actions would be beautiful in your eyes. As such, I’ve loved many of The Bad Seeds’ albums for years, no matter what they were to sound like I adored them without reserve; but I always ended up wanting something more. Just as many fail with the struggles of infidelity, brought on by a passionate new romance that teases everything you thought you wanted, Grinderman appeared with its self titled release flaunting all the cockiness and pounding rhythms that The Bad Seeds had always teased. On the surface it seemed something perfect, but it wasn’t, it was The Bad Seeds that I loved all along. I loved the band’s albums for what they were in the end and it seemed that the comfortable approach the band’s albums often took were misinterpreted as stale, and as such I felt them to be tired when in fact they were simply becoming favorites. I loved Grinderman and hope that some day another album surfaces, but I can’t help but think that Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!! will be far more complete and fulfilling. The album’s title track and lead single seems to offer just what I had hoped, a song that teases Grinderman, but is ultimately Bad Seeds at its core.