Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Headphones: Be Your Own Pet's Get Awkward

I like the old school Punk Rock. I like it a lot. Actually, I probably like it way more than a man my age should like it, although considering Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore signed BYOP, I really have zero to be self-conscious about. I remember a guy I worked with once wondering how I could possibly evolve my music tastes backwards – I loved sweet singer-songwriter stuff and classic Rock heavy on 10-minute solos when I was 17, but now I can barely even tolerate that stuff. I need my music LOUD, raucous, and (mostly) short and snappy. My attention span is shrinking as I age. Be Your Own Pet fit the bill nicely by piecing together all my favorite parts of the second wave of US punk, from Misfits to Black Flag, Descendents to Bad Brains, Avengers to Replacements. Howling pixie Jemina Pearl – a real-life version of what Avril Lavigne thinks she is – likes to sing about dreamy boys, bitchy girls, sex, violence, cult films and zombies, cartoons, drinking under age… you know all the finer things in life. It’s the new generation of teenage junk culture, a young band (average age now 19) for whom Dookie was their gateway drug, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fill the spot that Scooby Doo did for their parents (“Bummer Time” is Pearl’s heartfelt tribute her favorite pizza-eating mutated amphibians).

There are a couple of noticeable developments from the ’06 debut (which is a CSR fave). First, the greatest improvement is the addition of new drummer John Eatherly; the kid is only 17, but he’s already a powerhouse, leaving your jaw hanging with his power and speed. Second, the songwriting is growing in interesting ways. The band is moving away from bonkers hardcore, discovering their melodic senses (“You’re a Waste” is a straight-faced kiss-off with no fingers crossed), and trying on riff-centric classic CB’s-model punk, and like the Ramones and Blondie, they’re reaching back to elements of 50’s & 60’s teenage rebellion themes, updated with an explicit twist (though their label cut three tracks, including the BFF-breakup ballad “Becky”, from the US version for being “too violent”, which is total horseshit; find ‘em on the internets). The result is a more edgy, less cock-rocky, more fast-n-fun version of what The Donnas do, yet still with flashes of hardcore bite (though that hardcore, like the 65-second “Food Fight!” with its cries of “Sucks for the janitor!!”, and the undead love song “Zombie Graveyard Party!”, is more Milo Goes To College and “TV Party” than “Banned In DC”). Best of all, the galloping “Heart Throb” is sexual confusion at 90 mph with no seat belt. If I have one complaint, it’s that the lyrics feel a bit undercooked, but Jonas Stein’s guitar playing is getting sharper by the song, and Pearl shines with a more focused, robust performance. Her voice has matured into a powerful, bluesy belt; I’m sure in the coming years, we’ll hear her exploring her powers even more, with a tight rocket ship of a band behind her.

"Food Fight" [video]

"The Kelly Affair" [video]

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Summer Movies. Part Two.

Hmmmm...Curiosities...These would be films that look somewhat interesting, and I'm riding the fence between matinee and Netflix...

Redbelt [May 2]
David Mamet will hold a special place in film history one day. I don't know what that place is, but it will involve a lot of great, albeit stiff dialogue with lots of swearing. I feel bad that he has to resort to jumping on the UFC bandwagon to get an audience, but regardless, he's got Chiwetel Ejiofor, and he is by far the most underrated actor around today.

War, Inc. [May 23]
Long-delayed, but Cusack has earned a little faith. Basically looks like Grosse Pointe Blank gone political satire, which is fine. I just don't know, after the last five years of relentless, ubiquitous political humor, if it's $10 fine.

Mongol [June 6]
Genghis Khan biopic. I know three things: the trailer looks cool, nominated for an Oscar this year (Foreign Language), and supposed to be the first of a trilogy. OK, tell me more...

Kung Fu Panda [June 6]
LOL! Oh, Jack Black voicing a Panda who goes chop socky. How original - fat comic actor voices fat comic animated character. Wow! Genius! ...Anyone remember Shark Tale?? How'd that work for ya?? My little-kid side is a little intrigued, but really, am I supposed to be blown away by the A-List talent supporting in an animated film?? Here, for everyone to gawk at: Angelina Jolie, Dustin Hoffman, Jackie Chan, Lucy Liu, Seth Rogen, Ian McShane, Michael Clarke Duncan & David Cross. Whoopee!!!

The Incredible Hulk [June 13]
Pros: All things Edward Norton, acting, producing, writing, co-directing?, generally being more fun than Eric Bana. Also, a villain (what a novelty) played that Tim Roth? He's still alive?
Cons: Liv Tyler is not Jennifer Connelly. CGI Hulk is an upgrade but not enough. No word of the plot = Raz nervous again.
Meh: William Hurt. The Transporter director (I swear if Hulk does one bit of martial arts, goddammit I'll...).

Hancock [July 4]
I've already put my faith in Peter Berg's corner as a director. We've covered that, and it will come up again. Premise is fun. Will Smith is Will Smith, and I can just hope this is better than that mess I Am Legend. Don't like Theron, or as Rick calls her, Chuckie. That leaves Jason Bateman. Save us, brother.

Hamlet 2 [August 22]
Two words: Steve. Coogan. Give this man a Golden Globe cuz an Oscar is too stuffy for him. High school drama teacher makes sequel to centuries-old masterpiece. Kind of Chris-Guest-esque, and yet Stand & Deliver. Early word is mixed, but still...Coooooooogan. Also, Poehler says "Suck my balls!"

Babylon A.D. [August 29]
Vin Diesel in a sci-fi action epic? I'm not sure anymore. Children Of Men has a kid with Total Recall? OK, maybe I'm might be in. I am one of the few people you'll probably find who liked Chronicles of Riddick, but it wasn't a classic or anything. I'm thinking this is his last chance to wow me.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Summer Movies. Part One.

Some summers are packed with options. Others are not. At first, when I looked at the schedule for this summer, I thought, wow, there appears to be a blockbuster on every Friday. But we all know that's never how it goes. Many of those studio hopefuls turn out to be D.O.A., and after reconsideration, this year looks to be a long one for the studios' money men, sweating repeats of some of the higher profile nosedives of the past few summers.

Here are your TEN best bets for the summer of 2008...Enjoy.

Your Ten Best Bets:
10. The International [August 15]
The long-awaited English-language debut by Run Lola Run director Tom Tykwer is an espionage action-thriller starring Clive Owen and Naomi Watts as an Interpol agent and a NYC A.D.A., respectively, uncovering the illegal evils and conspiracies of a massive worldwide bank. Sounds like the Bourne films without the Kung Fu.

09. The Happening [June 13]
A lot of people are fed up with M. Night Shyamalan. I am not one of them. Unlike most sheep, I think Unbreakable is his best film, and I even liked both The Village and Lady In The Water. But even if you are not like me, you might concede that this film could be his "return to form".

08. Tropic Thunder [August 15]
I hate Ben Stiller, but damn if this doesn't look like a genius comedy. By all reports, this is the Robert Downey Jr. performance everyone will be talking about come the end of the summer.

07. Indiana Jones & The Kingdom of The Crystal Skull [May 23]
What can I say really? It's Indy. I love him like an uncle I've never met. He nurtured me when Han Solo and Dr. Peter Venkmen weren't around . But alas, as much as I want to see this, and as inspired as I think Shia LaBeouf's casting is, the heavy dose of special efx and an Area 51 alien storyline make this smell more like the Temple of Doom than the other two. Besides, it has Lucas' prints on it, and after the last decade of disasters, that makes me very nervous.

06. Iron Man [May 2]
Here's why this is going to be good: At least a few people must have seen the finished product by now, and the promotion machine is ahead-full-steam. That equals confidence. That means they think it's good enough to lead off the summer. Jon Favreau has yet to direct a classic, but all his films have been very good, with Zathura looking to hold the most hints to this one. A superb cast can't hurt.

05. Pineapple Express [August 8]
Considering how untouchable the Apatow posse is right now, how can this possibly miss?? These films should be just more of the same old thing, and yet they're not. They have a human heart underneath all the fratboy excess. Oh, and M.I.A. rules.

04. Hellboy 2: The Golden Army [July 11]
Trailer 1 looked amazing enough, but with the recently released second trailer revealing all sorts of new, wonderful, and completely fucking crazy visions from Del Toro's warped mind, this is looking like one of the greatest fantasy films of all time. Watch both, compare and contrast.

03. Son Of Rambow [May 2]
It's a winner, in that it will win us all over. Garth Jennings, as much a fantastic visionary as Guillermo Del Toro, had the unenviable task of making the Hitchhiker's Guide movie, and I personally think he did a great job. Now what does he do for an encore? He updates the movies he used to make as a kid with his friends. This is a must-see, a film with a beating heart in the season of high-gloss.

02. WALL-E [June 27]
It's fuckin' Pixar, muthafuckas!! You better recognize!!
...robot voices by Ben Burtt, Oscar winner for "voicing" your last favorite robot.

01. The Dark Knight [July 18]
Hmmm...let's see...Batman Begins is the greatest superhero/comic book film adaptation of all time, no contest, by a fairly large margin. Christian Bale is easily one of the ten best actors around right now, while Christopher Nolan must be among the five best directors. No Katie Holmes; Maggie Gyllenhaal = upgrade. More Caine, Oldman, & Freeman. Aaron Eckhart is a great idea, and they're saving him, not putting him in the trailers. And of course, Ledger, you tragic man... your lost soul will leave us with what your peers are calling one of the most twisted, deranged, frightening, haunting performances of recent memory. I hope they're right. You're already going to be remembered, but if you do the nerd fanboy coalition a solid, and do an iconic favorite proper, they will make you immortal. Ask the Fellowship.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

[005] Daydream Nation

Album: Daydream Nation
Artist: Sonic Youth
Release Date: October 1988
Label: Enigma [US], Blast First [UK]; reissued on DGC/Geffen
Producers: Sonic Youth with Nicholas Sansano

“Looking for a ride to your secret location
Where the kids are setting up a free-speed nation for you
Got a foghorn and a drum and a hammer that’s rockin’
And a cord and a pedal and a lock, that’ll do me for now”
- from “Teen Age Riot”

“Falling outta sleep I hit the floor
Pull on some Rock tee and I’m out with the door
From Bowery to Broome to Greene, I’m a walking lizard
Last night’s dream was a talking baby wizard
All coming from female imagination
Daydreaming days in a daydream nation
Smashed up against a car at 3 a.m.
Kids dressed up for basketball beat me in my head
There’s bum trash in my hall and my place is ripped
I totaled another amp, I’m calling in sick
It’s an anthem in a vacuum on a hyperstation
Daydreaming days in a daydream nation”
- from “Hyperstation”

The late comedian/social critic Bill Hicks once insisted that you, the human being, are not special. He was critiquing the overflowing love that a parent has for a child, and how it is misguided due to the fact that a man’s average “load” contains tens of millions of sperm, each one a possible bun in the oven, and that one just happened to make it to the egg. Having listened to this Hicks routine a couple hundred times, I should not be as unsettled as I am right now. I’m sitting here staring at author Matthew Stearns’ book on Daydream Nation for the ongoing album-spotlight series 33 ⅓, and I’m equal parts shocked and amazed, and a little pissed off at the universe. I am about 30 pages into the 160 page book, and I’ve got to stop because I am realizing that Mr. Stearns’ opinions on Sonic Youth’s definitive artistic statement, the 1988 double album Daydream Nation, are pretty much identical to mine. I’m thinking, oh great – now whatever I write for this will stink of plagiarism, and as a reflex I now have a bit of writer’s block. Except that the ghost of Bill Hicks calms me down – if I am not special, therefore neither is Matthew Stearns, admittedly a better writer than I – though in doing this list, I’ve read maybe a thousand reviews, and you’d be amazed by the amount of good authors, journalists, columnists, etc. who all say the same canned shit about these great albums that, frankly, deserve more effort. With Daydream Nation, the stars might have aligned just right to expose the album as the genuine artistic masterpiece that it is, and in such a way that anyone with a pair of ears can hear all its many timely inspirations and how they were funneled into this ‘noise’. And who am I to not also reference these virtues to death? Ha, we’ll see...

Sonic Youth’s sixth studio album, Daydream Nation is a sprawling double album that is the definition of what music writers mean when they say “sprawling double album”. Like I had alluded to in my entry on Prince, Daydream Nation is among that exclusive club of classic doubles that (a) would not be improved by shaving off songs and releasing it as a single-LP album, and yet (b) in the age of the CD, it is short enough to fit onto one disc (71 minutes). Daydream Nation is so epic that in many ways it’s a tough nut to crack – five of its fourteen songs clock in at 7 minutes. You need to prepare yourself for it, find the right mindset for the Sonic Youth experience. The band knew this, I guess seeing the reactions Hüsker Dü and the Minutemen got in 1984 with their sprawling double albums – Punk Rock does not welcome big artistic statements (in the 1993 video below, Thurston Moore even jokes about Daydream Nation being their Tales From Topographic Oceans – ah, music nerd humor...). There’s even the album closing, three-part song-suite. Are you kidding?? This is 1988 New York right, not 1973 Godalming, England?? And it all deflates with a ZZ Top/Dino Jr. reference? My head is spinning.

The four sides of the album – each with its own symbol, one for each band member, winking knowingly at Led Zeppelin’s brand of BIG Rock & Roll – were sequenced specifically as mini listening experiences within the confines of the whole album, each side averaging about 18 minutes, the length that the band determined was easily digestible; knowing that their music was too mind-blowing to absorb in one shot, but also that the epic magnitude of the songs necessitated a double album instead of a single so the songs could breathe. Side Three, for example, jerks back and forth in frantic motion, with the pounding, surrealist ode “Hey Joni” wasting no time getting right up in your face, guitars ringing and squealing and stuttering, pulling in opposite directions, before being pushed aside by the ambient interlude “Providence”, Thurston’s delicate piano haunted by an answering machine message from Minutemen bassist Mike Watt, set to explode with the undulating growl of an overheating amp, cracking and falling into the seasick dream-pop of “Candle” with its urban Wonderland reveries, before crashing into the belligerent beat poetry and hellish demilitarized-zone punk rock of “Rain King”.

For me personally, I have found difficulty wrapping my brain around their bracing, atonal sound for over a decade now, but I think over the course of this project, I’ve found that my brain has accepted their sonic palette (just the fact that I could interpret “Candle” as a ‘pop’ song is proof enough). In fact, it bears mentioning that for all the albums in this top ten, with the exception of Loveless, it has taken me months, and sometimes years, to fully appreciate their greatness. None more so than with this album though. I’m not afraid to admit I simply didn’t get it. I would scream to the Rock heavens ridiculous queries like “Why does the second half of Kim Gordon’s fucking brilliant ‘Sprawl’ have to go and wank off in the arty ether??!!” or “What’s with the two cyborg halves of ‘Cross The Breeze’, the post punk anthem glued on to the abrasive Metal instrumental? Why not just make two separate songs?” Foolish boy I used to be. This album makes slapping on your headphones akin to buying non-refundable tickets to, I don’t know, Thailand or Morocco or somewhere equally exotic. If you’re not willing, the whole thing might fly over your head – it reminds me of the classic scene in White Men Can’t Jump (Yes, there is a classic scene in White Men Can’t Jump) when Wesley Snipes and Woody Harrelson (master thespians, both) are arguing over Jimi Hendrix. It’s the “just because you listen to Jimi doesn’t mean you HEAR Jimi” argument. That statement becomes profound when applied specifically to Sonic Youth, and to Daydream Nation.

It can be said until the music world is blue in the face: Punk Rock, despite all its immediacy of passion and the attractiveness of the DIY aesthetic, will always paint itself into a corner. If the artist strays outside the 3 or 4 chords and lockstep beat, they’re prog sell-outs and they’re bounced out on their asses. “Hardcore” punk rock, as it was in the first half of the 1980’s (and especially in the US), was even worse, adding mob violence to the already volatile underground scene. And so that’s why the scene died. Black Flag, the band that had burned the hottest, faded away in an almost pathetic way; D. Boon left us, crippling the Minutemen just as they were discovering phase two of their evolution, and the music’s other major artists – Bad Brains, Ian MacKaye, X, The Replacements, Hüsker Dü, etc. - grew out of, or moved on from a scene now with plenty of room for new blood. Sonic Youth did the same, progressing past the ragged trash-art No Wave of their early albums, and on to something that vaguely resembled Rock songs. Enter the likes of Dinosaur Jr, Butthole Surfers, Pixies, Big Black, Beat Happening, Green River, Mudhoney, Screaming Trees, and Nirvana, as well as Brits like the Jesus & Mary Chain and My Bloody Valentine, bands that keep all of the Punk spirit but not necessarily its self-imposed limits.

In the scheme of things, Sonic Youth has always been something of a singular presence because they straddle these waves of creativity. Before they were even a band, Lee and Thruston were learning guitar tricks from avant-garde composer Glenn Branca, so when they emerged onto the early 80’s Punk scene, their ideas might’ve been a bit more mind-expanding than most bands found on your average all-ages hardcore bill. That’s why Sonic Youth was so taken with this new generation. Sonic Youth finally had some company, from a mind expansion standpoint. “Total Trash” chugs like 70’s glam rock while “Eric’s Trip” is about exactly what a song with that title should be about – LSD, and it draws understandably from the garage rock of the 60’s, but then both are soaked in this new wave of “college rock” flavor. The epic “Teen Age Riot”, which I’ll talk about in a minute, was originally about Dino Jr’s J. Mascis running for President, and he also gets name checked in “Silver Rocket” (along with Cher, which I don’t have an explanation for). Think about it like this – a road tested, comparatively veteran band is so taken with the next generation of talented bands that they make a whole double album to celebrate their new peers and the aesthetic and out-there ideas that they’re promoting. When you break it down, it’s heartwarming, and adds infinitely to the power of this album.

There’s that moment in last year’s Juno when, after being introduced to Sonic Youth by Jason Bateman’s ‘Mark Loring’, Ellen Page’s titular pixie seethes, “Oh and I bought another Sonic Youth album, and it’s just noise!” First, isn’t that ‘noise’ comment always the criticism of SY? I know I used it in my less-enlightened years – when the first song you hear by them is “Bull In The Heather”, while your head is admittedly in the Valhalla clouds of a Led Zeppelin obsession, it’s not going to be your favorite new song. I would like to take this moment to assure the world that Sonic Youth are not noise – they are racket. There’s an important difference. We generally think of noise as something which is not to be listened to, it can be assumed, because we don’t think anything can be gained from it; Daydream Nation mostly definitely does not fit this criteria, although it can occasionally indulge in outburst of squall, in particular the middle minute of “Silver Rocket”, which then snaps back to its hardcore rush like the band flipped a switch. On the other hand, racket implies opinion; it’s what your parents yell at you to turn down because they don’t get it. Therefore, in this instance, racket is automatically the coolest thing ever. There are very few moments in Sonic Youth’s career that you could imagine even the most open-minded liberal parent digging on initially, and that’s one of the many reasons SY has been one of the most unimpeachably cool bands for over 25 years – they are the sound incarnate of Lou Reed’s wrap-around shades, Paul Simonon’s shattered bass, and Run-DMC’s laceless shell-toes stomping on coliseum floors.

Look at the panoramic photo from the liner notes of the 1993 CD reissue, showing the band standing on a gritty urban corner bathed in the yellowed light of a streetlamp, definitely somewhere in the Bowery on New York’s Lower East Side, Thurston Moore in fact doing his best Lou Reed, wearing shades at night, Kim Gordon, always the shredded punk goddess, dressed in ripped everything, Lee Ranaldo, stoic, posing both as the tough, evoking DeNiro on this mean street, and as the calm everyman, Steve Shelley acting the pipsqueak, his sinewy machine gun Popeye forearms seemingly glued onto his math nerd frame. Their cool is a post-modern cool, and they come bearing Daydream Nation as the ultimate in what went right in the 1980’s. Writer Eric Weisbard once said for Spin that this album “fulfilled New York punk’s key ambition: the fusion of gallery art and popular song”. And that’s true, but now even further in retrospect, it feels even more encompassing than that, the digestion of all things Rotten Apple turned around, running through CBGB’s and No Wave, Flash and Bambaataa, Crazy Legs and “Seen”, Basquiat and Haring, Mayor Koch and Bernie Goetz, L.T. and Dwight Gooden. This album is quintessential New York which is to say it is proof that being odd and rough around the edges and set apart from the masses can decidedly make you cooler than the rest of the nation; the rest of the nation dismisses this notion and that’s why they’re listening to Daughtry and Toby Keith right now. If you decide that you don’t like this racket, then you have found your own personal limits of Rock & Roll love, because Sonic Youth is most definitely Rock & Roll to the muthafuckin’ core, and if you can’t get with it, then you are a deserter, a traitor to whatever youth you have left, and you need to get out of the way or get crushed into the cracked, gum-stomped pavement. Kim Gordon will be 55 years old in a couple weeks – what’s your excuse? I personally will admit to being a half-deserter; I went AWOL, but they caught me, and threw me in Sonic Youth traitor rehab, so I’ll be OK soon enough.

...Wait, hold up, is it possible that the moments that Sonic Youth spent in their tiny studio writing the racket of Daydream Nation, and of course the final product, might be the culmination of the first forty years of Rock & Roll, both it’s definitive triumph and its murder at the hands of the avant-garde? Is it the peak of Punk Rock because it is Punk Rock as High Art? Is it death by drum stick or screwdriver thrust into the body of the electric guitar? Just a thought...

Second, um, well, it’s obvious Juno didn’t buy Daydream Nation, and why the fuck not?? If you are a high school student who (a) loves Iggy & The Stooges, a band which Sonic Youth has covered, (b) has no problem loving Mark’s stories about The Melvins, a band who is part of a national scene built by bands like Sonic Youth (even now, Sonic Youth are the lone survivors of the diverse 80’s scene that burnt trails across America), and (c) has either half a brain or access to the internet, which Juno should have both of, then there’s no reason you shouldn’t have heard that Daydream Nation is Sonic Youth’s best album, a towering monument of sweet melodic songs executed with precision jackhammer percussion and carpet-bombing guitar molestation. Even still, if you go to the record store (if you can find one), or I guess the big-box retailer of your choice, saddle up to the ‘S’ section in ‘Pop/Rock/Soul’, and actually look at the CD, I believe it has a big honking sticker on it with 5 stars all over it, probably “One of Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums” on there somewhere, and definitely “The Best Album of the 1980’s –”, so why in your quick-quipping, Sunny D-swilling world would you not buy Daydream Nation?? It’s got that candle just sitting there staring at you, telling you that every other album cover in the store is trying too hard. Really though, just one listen to “Teen Age Riot” and you’d be sold.



This is the tablature for Thurston Moore’s guitar riff in “Teen Age Riot”; what I really wanted to do here was have the sheet music for it, but I had no luck scouring this web which supposedly has everything. If you play guitar, I encourage you to retune your guitar and play it for yourself. I would argue that the riff is the greatest of all time, disconnected from blues underpinnings that might hold back some of its more ‘classic’ competition; it barely even constitutes a riff because most riffs exhibit a sort of aggression, a release of strength or emotion (original “Layla” = great riff; unplugged “Layla” = waste of my fuckin’ time). Thurston plays the riff lazily at first, in an almost sleepy delivery, one might even call it delicate, but by the climax five minutes in, he’s in a frenzy, and the riff packs its punch with wrecking force. The melody snakes its way into your brain and latches on, freeing your mind from the preconceptions of the Arena Rock of the 70’s, though SY have never been hipsters or haters, instead the ultimate “difficult” sounding band has remained fiercely inclusive, including footage of Kiss in the video for “Riot”. With that freedom, Thurston stirs up that indescribable magic quality in Rock & Roll. In fact, when the riff launches the song at 1:21, after Kim’s introduction, it serves not as theme music for J. Mascis, but as royal fanfare for Daydream Nation, an entrance march for what the band saw as Rock & Roll’s presidential campaign after eight years of the suffocating cultural anesthetization of the Reagan Administration, and indirectly the spiritual son of Dylan’s “Like A Rolling Stone” for the all of the hard-working, long-touring network of the 80’s independent label underground. It is an anthem in the purest sense, able to stand alongside presupposed classics like “Like A Rolling Stone” or “American Pie” or “Stairway To Heaven”, caked in the gob and broken pint glasses of countless Punk club shows. There is something hidden in that melody, something supernatural which dives right under your skin, forcing all hairs to stand at attention. It is, as suggested before, the distilled cultural energy of New York City, of Punk Rock, of youth itself and the symbiotic relationship Rock & Roll must have with the young people of the world.

It is OK for two people to feel the same way about music; I think it should be kind of obvious by now that that’s the fun of it, especially with something considered “underground”. It’s the tightly knit community that makes the come-up happen in the first place; it’s the whole concept of them being small enough to be “my band”, until that band “makes it”, and then they get disowned because they’re “sell-outs”. But that would be the complaint leveled against Sonic Youth after this album, ones which they met by continuing one of the greatest careers in music history with a remarkably high level of consistency. Daydream Nation however is the turning point of their career, which is to say that everything that Sonic Youth has ever done can be classified as pre- or post- this album. Furthermore, it might even be fair to say that the massive universe of “alternative” Rock can be split with the same division, as Daydream Nation somehow completes an era of exploration that began with The Velvet Underground & Nico twenty-one years earlier (I would love to posit that there was an album of similar weight in the last couple years to complete another 20-year arc, but kaleidoscopic instant classics like Return To Cookie Mountain or Sound Of Silver don’t have the zeitgeist-defining air to them that DN does – maybe we’ll get one in 2008). Up until this album, to call something “Punk” actually meant something, having not so much to do with chord limitations and speedy tempos, but with the catharsis involved with bucking the culturally accepted, and significantly, doing something new. After Daydream Nation, well, “Punk” as a tag has become more nebulous because there’s a widespread view that everything has already been thought of, and so the label gets pinned on artistically unbridled acts, without a doubt more applicable to Public Enemy or Aphex Twin than…take your pick of the faceless bands on Fuse. On this album, Sonic Youth made what has been recognized as one of the few definitive statements of edgy, alternative, independent, underground, avant-garde American Rock. Shit, just ask the Library of Congress... “Culturally, historically, or aesthetically important and/or inform or reflect life in the United States” – yeah, that seems about right.

01. “Teen Age Riot”
02. “Silver Rocket”
03. “The Sprawl”
04. “’Cross The Breeze”
05. “Eric’s Trip”
06. “Total Trash”
07. “Hey Joni”
08. “Providence”
09. “Candle”
10. “Rain King”
11. “Kissability”
12. “Trilogy: a) The Wonder”
13. “Trilogy: b) Hyperstation”
14. “Trilogy: c) Eliminator Jr.”

"Teen Age Riot" [single edit - video]

"Silver Rocket" [live on Night Moves, 11.88]

"Eric's Trip" & "Hey Joni" [live at the 2007 Pitchfork Music Festival]

"Candle" [home video]
Super 8 footage filmed & edited by guitarist Lee Ranaldo
Shot on set of the "Candle" music video

- BONUS: "Teen Age Riot" [live in Dusseldorf, 04.96]
- BONUS: "Teen Age Riot" [live at the 2006 Osheaga Festival]
- BONUS: "Teen Age Riot" [live at the 2007 Pitchfork Music Festival]
- BONUS: "Teen Age Riot" [live in London, 08.07]
- BONUS: "Silver Rocket" [video]
- BONUS: "Silver Rocket" [live in Pittsburgh, 08.06]
- BONUS: "Silver Rocket" [live in London, 08.07]
- BONUS: "The Sprawl" [live in Cologne, 06.07]
- BONUS: "'Cross The Breeze" [live at the 2007 Pitchfork Music Festival]
- BONUS: "Eric's Trip" [live in North Carolina, 06.06]
- BONUS: "Eric's Trip" [live in Pittsburgh, 08.06]
- BONUS: "Eric's Trip" [live at the 2006 Osheaga Festival]
- BONUS: "Total Trash" [live in Berkley, 07.07]
- BONUS: "Total Trash" [live in Ferrara, Italy, 07.07]
- BONUS: "Total Trash" [live in Rome, 07.07]
- BONUS: "Hey Joni" [live in Dallas, 10.07]
- BONUS: "Providence" [video]
- BONUS: "Candle" [single edit - video]
- BONUS: "Candle" [live in Lisbon, 07.93]
- BONUS: "Candle" [live in Perth, 02.08]
- BONUS: "Rain King" [live in Ferrara, Italy, 07.07]
- BONUS: "Kissability" [live in Ireland, 09.07]
- BONUS: "The Wonder" & "Hyperstation" [live in Austria, 08.07]
- BONUS: "The Wonder" [live in Barcelona, 06.07]
- BONUS: "Hyperstation" [live at the 2007 Pitchfork Music Festival]
- BONUS: "Eliminator Jr." [live at the 2007 Pitchfork Music Festival]
- BONUS: "Eliminator Jr." [live in Dallas, 10.07]

Friday, April 18, 2008

The Black Keys are better than your band

How could I not post this?? Fucking aces!!

"I Got Mine" [live on Letterman]

Friday, April 4, 2008

Classic for the Weekend 04.04.08

Here's something I came up with on the way home for lunch. Every friday I'm just gonna throw up a video for a classic song to ease us all into the weekend. First up: the 1992 anthem "Who Got The Props?" by Black Moon. Have a good weekend everyone.

Black Moon: "Who Got The Props?" [video]

Netflix Diary 4

The Game [1997]
I’m a big David Fincher fan, and Fight Club is one of my favorite films of all time, so it is a complete mystery why I’ve never seen this decade old film. Well, now that I’ve seen it, and been suitably blown out of my shorts by it, I think I want to make a big statement: The Game is Fincher at his Hitchcockian best. That’s right. I said it. It’s rare that I feel as satisfied by the journey in a film as I did when this movie was finished. Everything was in its right place, and that’s kind of the point; if there were any goofs or loose ends, the film wouldn’t work. The ending got me just as it got Michael Douglas’s character; I was totally suckered, and I loved every minute of it.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Overpriced Popcorn: In Bruges

Anyway you explain the story, it sounds like comedy gold: two hitmen hide out in quiet European tourist town. The town is in Belgium. One hitman (Colin Farrell) is a rookie, the other (Brendan Gleeson, ‘Mad Eye Moody’ in the Harry Potter films) is gay. The gay hitman loves the sightseeing, while the rookie is a foulmouthed lout. The rookie meets the girl of his dreams, and she turns out to be a drug dealer who tries to have him mugged (by her ex, with a gun, loaded with blanks). And there’s a midget who gets high with whores and makes racist remarks, and later dresses as a schoolboy. NOW, all that is hysterical on paper (and probably on weed, which is likely where a lot of these ideas came from), and it mostly translates onto the screen as well, in gloriously filthy and politically incorrect fashion, but there’s also a downer of a subplot with Farrell dealing with his shocking...error during his first kill. So if there’s a problem with In Bruges, it’s that the director couldn’t decide whether he wanted to make a screwball comedy or a sobering drama, so he made both at the same time. Luckily, the comedy wins as far as screen time.

In Bruges [uncensored trailer - NSFW]

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Headphones: The Raconteurs'
Consolers Of The Lonely

Look, this isn’t a bad album. It’s really not. But I also can’t recommend it to you. I should like this, but it’s been too many long years of hearing countless bands and albums that sound like this. I know my Hendrix Experience and Zeppelin backwards and forwards because they were special, like truly, to the core, on some other shit, but it’s all downhill from there. I have stacks of CDs like this one that collect dust, admittedly good even great, from Derek & The Dominos to Rod Stewart & The Faces to Machine Head to two handfuls of AC/DC to On The Beach or Rust Never Sleeps to most of Tom Petty or The Black Crowes or the Dazed and Confused soundtrack to anything Pearl Jam’s done after Yield. It’s Classic Rock. There’s not much else to say after that. The single which I posted the video for last week is good, and likewise any other song that has a tasty riff and a brisk pace sticks out as more fun, good for a BBQ soundtrack. Beyond that, it’s unfortunately forgettable.

Headphones: The Gutter Twins' Saturnalia

It’s the Fall of 1996, and my favorite albums are The Afghan Whigs’ cinematic Black Love and Screaming Trees’ psychedelic Dust. How could I know that one day these soundtracks to my college commutes would one day collide on “Idle Hands”, the first Gutter Twins single? It sounds just like I would’ve hoped – a swirling, dramatic, baroque, swaggering beast...sort of. It also kind of sounds like The Cult made a song for a horror movie tie-in...and the chorus isn’t that great. Everything about The Gutter Twins looks good on paper. Mark Lanegan and Greg Dulli are both booze-swilling, hard-living, recovering-smack-addict Grunge survivors...or were; they’re now “elder statesmen” who've hit bottom and are wise enough to know not to fall back down the rabbit holes they once sang about so vividly. They are, essentially, what Layne Staley wishes he had lived on to be, and they know this, happier now knowing that their comparative “lack of success” (if you can say that about men able to have 20-year music careers) probably saved their souls. All of this gets funneled into their songwriting, long on brilliant noir lyricism full of Catholic guilt and nailed to sweeping gothic arrangements. Their union as The Gutter Twins was a match made in the darkest corner of heaven.

Or at least that’s the way I hoped this would end. You see, with Dulli’s recent Twilight Singers albums, I like the songs but I’ve never been crazy about the production and the mix. His albums have been way too clean for the vibe of the music, with the vocals way too out front. Lanegan on the other hand has had all that worked out, but his melodic sense isn’t necessarily his strong suit, instead preferring to lean on rough, bluesy atmosphere. So, where’s the problem, right? Shouldn’t The Gutter Twins work if Dulli just writes songs for Lanegan to sing? Well, yes. And Saturnalia, while not the sinister masterpiece their fans would beg for, succeeds way more than it falters. “Idle Hands” really isn’t that bad – it’s actually pretty good – but as is the case with most of the album, Lanegan’s singing saves the day. “The Stations” opens the album with a straight duet, a perfect hybrid of their sounds and sensibilities, allowing you a brief high as you think that maybe this is really going to be ‘it’, that album you’ve been waiting for. But then “God’s Children” comes through, and it’s basically a Twilight Singers track with Lanegan singing backup on the chorus; don’t get me wrong, it’s a good song, but this album is supposed to be about the two of them together, and to lose that so early is a minor misstep. “All Misery/Flowers” recovers though, in a most strange way – by evoking Tricky (and not for the only time). Lanegan presents a cyclical blues lament, purposefully staying off the beat, and creating a tension which Dulli pulls along when he shows up halfway through.

Dulli must’ve been listening to late period Beatles while he was writing his songs, and his lifts produce a few of the worst and best moments on the album. His slow-burning solo “I Was In Love With You” is just the kind of song that doesn’t fit here, betraying the mood of the rest of the album with out-of-place keyboard work. On the other hand, “Circle The Fringes” is the type of ballad he excels at, beginning as an evil-twin take on Side Three of The White Album, before being shocked to life by a stuttering guitar, just in time for Lanegan to growl. The great “Bete Noire” recalls another 60’s supergroup – Blind Faith – filtering the melody of that band’s “Can’t Find My Way Home” through Lanegan’s lighter moments on the Trees’ Dust, held high by spry electric piano.

As on the opening two tracks, the duo’s religious dilemmas provide a fertile lyrical source; the acoustic gospel soul of “Who Will Lead Us” produces one of Lanegan’s most nuanced vocal performances. One of the best songs, “Seven Stories Underground”, returns to Tricky’s deconstructed Blues-Hop shuffle, with Lanegan intoning “Heaven is quite a climb”. Further on, the rush of “Each To Each” manages to be quite infectious despite its thin “1979” machine beat and a looping guitar figure that sounds like that Sting sample on Nas’ “The Message”. Saturnalia closes with “Front Street” which admittedly begins too naked, just the duo and an acoustic guitar, and the lyrics aren’t as strong as they should be for an arrangement like that. But as the song builds, it’s not in a heavy-handed way, it’s methodical and considered, and the song gains power from the steady roll. As the music swells, the former trouble-making Rock veterans sing, “We’re gonna have some fun, son”, and you realize that, with a twinkle in their eyes and mischievous smirks on their faces, they might be singing to each other.

"All Misery/Flowers" [video]

"Idle Hands" [live on Letterman]