Archive for April 30, 2005

Listen to the silence, let it ring on

April 30, 2005

I’m sort of surprised by the amount of radioblogging I’ve done since I kicked ADDTF back into gear, as I don’t really ever listen to the radio. Well, not to music radio, anyway–Imus in the Morning on WFAN 660 AM on the drive to work, and a few minutes of WCBS News Radio 880 AM (just long enough to catch the traffic and maybe a few of the headline stories) on the ride home.

But what you may not know (ooh! Secret Origin time!) is that I used to be a radio DJ, way back in the day, at WYBC 94.3FM New Haven, Yale’s old frequency. I had a weekly show (mostly poppier industrial, the big English electronic-music acts of the mid-to-late ’90s, that sort of thing) that was cancelled, along with all of the station’s rock, alternative, blues, and folk programming, when a couple of nitwits with aspirations of becoming big radio suits upon graduation staged a coup d’etat, locked us all out of the station, and replaced us with a semi-pro “urban contemporary” format. So the Great Homogenization hits close to home, you know?

Anyway, the great Jim Henley points to this NYT article on the continuing death of alt-rock radio. It’s interesting for several reasons:

1) It informed me that Philly’s Y-100, my Delaware-native wife’s source for Weezer and Live and Garbage and such back when we were courting, is now all-talk. Another one bites the dust.

2) It centers on how alt-rock radio’s transition into the exclusive preserve of male-oriented mook-rock since the Limp Bizkit explosion has cost it listeners but bad. It certainly cost them me, but one thing I hadn’t thought of in these specific terms is how many women it must have cost them, too. As Jim reminds us, time was you could hear quite a few female artists on alt-rock stations–I think he’s being a little generous with his list, as I can’t ever remember hearing P.J. Harvey on the radio, but he’s not wrong generally. I’ll see him and raise by adding that most alt-rock (new rock, really) stations didn’t just not play female acts, but avoided as much as possible playing acts that were even remotely feminine. The Postal Service, for example, has apparently sold 500,000 records, but to the best of my knowledge K-ROCK never went near ’em; and I’m always stunned to hear the likes of Franz Ferdinand or Interpol on stations like that (the few that still exist). (Heck, my guess is that this is the reason Franz never relased the unbelievably awesome and very queer “Michael” as a single.) I can’t help but be reminded of another infuriating winnowing of acceptable songs during the death of free-form, as chronicled vividly in Richard Neer’s excellent book FM: In a similarly misguided effort to “give the listeners what they want,” the suits back then slowly stripped black musicians out of rock playlists, so on rock stations where you’d once hear everyone from Miles Davis to P-Funk to the Temptations, you now pretty much only hear Jimi Hendrix (and occasionally Phil Lynott, but no one I know seems to realize that he’s black). You’ve probably noticed that this radio segregation continued even during the heydey of mook-rock radio, wherein, despite the heavy influence of hip-hop on the music, the only hip-hop acts you’d hear were the Beastie Boys and Eminem, with the occasional rock-y Cypress Hill (1/3 black, 1/3 white, 1/3 Latino) track thrown in on a lark. (This despite the exhiliaratingly alternative music being made by everyone from A Tribe Called Quest to the Wu-Tang Clan.) When women, and indeed any men not content with music that presents women in much the same way as the Howard Stern Show that occupied the morning slot on a great many new-rock stations, were were written out of the equation as well, you have a recipe for demographic disaster, it would seem.

How can alternative rock radio recover? It probably can’t. As I’ve said before, even if stations were to start playing actual good music tomorrow, my guess is their listenership would probably continue to plummet. Meanwhile, the type of listener who wants to hear Death Cab for Cutie or the Faint is likely savvy enough to have explored the many new-media venues for this, from iTunes to Acquisition to music blogs to podcasts to Internet radio to satellite radio to TiVo’ing the three hours’ worth of good music-video shows left on the TV. In the world of the iPod, quirky radio is almost redundant.

Top o’ the world, ma

April 30, 2005

You know comics are a big pop-culture deal when jokes about the supposed pretentiousness of the term “graphic novels” are made in Levi’s commercials.

Breathe deep the gathering gloom

April 26, 2005

For your listening pleasure tonight (or until the ATF triumvirate sees what I’m doing, whatever), I present three chills-inducing Tori Amos live covers.

Father Figure (George Michael)–from her concert in San Francisco a couple of nights ago. Sexy.

Nights in White Satin (Moody Blues) One of my favorite songs, by my parents’ favorite band. Gorgeous, dead-on vocals and piano on this one–ooh, just thinking about it gives me goosebumps.

Purple Rain (Prince)–This tune (which served as, shall we say, “inspiration” for Tori’s song “Hey Jupiter” off Boys for Pele) is a perennial favorite amongst Toriphiles, but the version I’ve uploaded is one I hadn’t heard until recently. Rather than play it on her grand piano, she went with a harmonium instead, which is a very different and somehow more intimate vibe. There’s also some lovely, soaring guitar, just before those killer high notes.

More to come, if Ken, Ben, and Ton don’t yell at me.

Pulling Teeth

April 26, 2005

(Blogging likely to remain sparse until the home-internet situation is fixed, which doesn’t look to be any time soon. Just F y’all’s I.)

Question: What kind of idiot would argue that Trent Reznor’s angst on the fragile felt phony and forced whereas his angst on with teeth constitutes “music we can believe in”?

Answer: The kind of idiot who writes cover stories for Spin!

It’s really fascinating to watch the critical consensus backtrack and rewrite itself Nineteen Eighty-Four-style. (This is what enables every Prince record to be his comeback, every David Bowie album to be the only one worth listening to since Scary Monsters, and The Blair Witch Project to once again be one of the best horror movies ever made now that The Ring uses videotape.) In this particular Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia incident, the author points out that Spin named the fragile the Best Album of 1999, but then goes on to say it’s a plodding, by-the-numbers affair that didn’t really deserve the accolade. I’ve seen this notion reflected in any number of reviews for with teeth, used to praise wt‘s (let’s put this politely) somewhat straightforward approach to songcraft as opposed to the fragile‘s legendarily obsessive construction. Boo, hiss. Not only is this a manifestation of Woody Allen style Earlier, Funnier Stuffitis (albeit in chronological reverse), it rejects earlier acknowledgements of the depth, intelligence, and beauty of the fragile pretty much solely because the album didn’t sell very well whereas with teeth‘s nu-rock-radio-friendly singles-in-waiting will probably do just fine. (Again, many reviewers have all but acknowledged this, and this feature’s no exception.) Blecch.

Interestingly (to me), I listened to the fragile today and it holds up unbelievably well, much better than I thought it might given my headspace now versus then. When listened to in headphones many tracks have an odd tendency to break into their constituent parts, almost like you can see the ProTools strings, but for my money that only enhances the insular man-and-his-madness transmission quality of the record.

An observation

April 20, 2005

Number of New York area radio stations that played mostly new alternative rock in 1994: Five (92.3 K-ROCK, 92.7 WDRE, 100.3 Z-100, 102.7 WNEW, 104.3 Q-104.3)

Number of New York area radio stations that play mostly new alternative rock now: Zero


April 19, 2005

If these posts have felt rushed and disjointed lately, it’s because they are: My net access is limited these days so I’m blogging in a hurry. Hopefully this will be rectified soon, but I’m not holding my breath. I hope you’ll tough it out with me.

Okay, now I can’t stop listening to with teeth. I’ve talked myself into really enjoying it a great deal. True, Trent is no longer at the vanguard of rock development–gone are the days where Spin would list him as the most vital artist in the industry. And the electroclashy moments, though naturally I enjoy the hell out of them, are more follower than leader. (O’course, he was there before them–you could slide “Ringfinger” into any Larry Tee DJ set you’d care to.) But as a whole it propels along with a crunchy glee. Even “every day is exactly the same” is starting to grow on me in its ploddingly catchy fashion; I just wish it did something unexpected at some point, like the wonderfully weird dance-rock of “Only” or that terrific dental-drill guitar(?) in “Sunspots.” Well, one thing I (re)discovered yesterday is that it sure feels great to roll down a suburban street with your car windows open, blasting a song that says “fuck” a lot.

Rose Curtin comments on the harmful effects of glib rape references, even when those references are made in ostensible protest of other glib rape references. The post is worth reading in its entirety and so I’m not going to run the risk of summarizing it by commenting upon it here. I will say that it reminds me that with the death of Dworkin, there are issues far more worth thinking about than debating whether or not Dworkin herself was a reactionary paranoiac.

In the year of the scavenger

April 18, 2005

I have revised my opinion about the new nine inch nails record, with teeth. It is no longer an “eh”–it’s a “hey, that’s really good except for those two momentum-killing stinkers he saddled it with!” And those would be “every day is exactly the same” and “the line begins to blur.” Both songs’ titles give you some idea of how you feel upon listening to them. I got bored quick, and I’m a person who loved the fragile, which other NIN fans of my acquaintance have referred to as the boring, so that should maybe tell you something. Anyway, I’d recommend it.

Not recommended: Silent Alarm by Bloc Party. If you’re looking for the bigwinner of the “Who Can Most Slavishly Imitate K-Tel’s Classic Post-Punk Hits of the late ’70s and Early ’80s?” contest, here you are. I spent the whole time thinking, “What, do they think we are unable to download Gang of Four albums?” Almost entirely superfluous, and I think the huge wave of critical support they’re earning says a lot about record critics and how happy they are that they finally have something dour, humorless and Important-Sounding to support amidst the Franz Ferdinands and Fischerspooners of this big ’80s revival we find ourselves in. However, as my friend Josiah pointed out to me, his voice does sound an awful lot like Damon Albarn’s more heavily accented moments circa Parklife, and since Damon himself has been unlistenable for the past few years, it does have that to recommend it.

Line of the day: “If I was not me, I would hate me too.” Fischerspooner, “Never Win.”

Supposedly Tori Amos covered “By My Side” from Godspell last night. Holy shit. Ugh, holy moses, I’m getting chills just thinking of it. (I am the biggest Godspell fan this side of the members of the State.)

Hey, doesn’t the State sound like the name of a retro-rock band? Like a group that only plays analog synths and is signed to Sympathy for the Record Industry or something?

David Jones reviews David Bowie! I know Bowie had heretofore pretty much disowned his live albums David Live and Stage, so I’m surprised to see them re-emerge. And I’m thrilled that Stage has been resequenced to represent the playing order of the actual concert; the original album’s songs were rearranged in chronological order of the original songs’ release, an odd and project-defeating choice. On to the Amazon wish list with you!

I would like to take this opportunity to point out that I am a recurring character on my brother-in-law’s podcast, Air Ferg. I feature rather prominently in the latest episode if I’m not mistaken, so download accordingly.

I think that’s everything.

Ain’t there one damn song that can make me break down and cry?

April 15, 2005

Today’s Bowie songs:

72. I

Hazy cosmic jive

April 14, 2005

David Bowie songs I’ve listened to today:

1. Repetition

2. Art Decade

3. Fill Your Heart

4. Little Wonder

5. Rock


April 12, 2005

Two interesting essays on horror to talk about today.

First, courtesy of Jim Dougan, comes this piece by the Washington Post’s Stephen Hunter. Man OH man is Hunter in love with the sound of his own written voice, but that aside it’s an interesting enough read, tracing the horror film’s evolution through various temporal and generic stages in a fairly comprehensive fashion. (Of course, I’ve yet to see a piece of this type that doesn’t miss at least one major phase; in this case he glosses over the sci-fi anxiety of the ’50s.) If you can get through his belabored attempt to argue that the true purpose of horror films is to get teenage boys to second base in the theater–not particularly convincing at least as far as the current crop of horror flicks is concerned; today’s kids (and my days kids, come to think of it) are apparently doling out oral with more frequency than handshakes, so who needs to go see The Amityville Horror in order to score?–he makes at least one truly valuable point in tying The Blair Witch Project to the current crop of J-horror

I’ve just been reading, watching TiVo, sometimes just sitting there and thinking

April 12, 2005

Our Internet connection at home is still down. Lousy timing, considering I just resurrected this blog, but we’ll get by. So real quick:

As if in response to my recent wond’ring aloud as to why there aren’t more horrorblogs, three of the comics blogosphere’s most horror-friendly writers, Kevin Melrose, Rick Geerling, and Sam Costello, have joined forces to create Dark, But Shining, a blog dedicated to horror, fantasy, and sci-fi. AWESOME. It’s already a daily stop. I’m hoping to participate in some capacity myself soon, so watch this space.

Toriphiles are directed to, where the titular Toriphile offers her take on the Tori show I saw this weekend. (No permalinks, inexplicably–look for the April 11th entry.)

Marc Mason, Kent Allard Jr. and Julian Sanchez ease into the warm, welcoming waters of Caesar’s Bath.

Finally, here are some songs I’ve been enjoying over the past couple weeks.

* Tori Amos: Beauty Queen/Horses

* Tori Amos: Doughnut Song

* Tori Amos: Yes, Anastasia

* Azure Ray: Displaced

* Azure Ray: The Drinks We Drank Last Night

* Azure Ray: Sleep

* Beatles: Don’t Let Me Down

* Beatles: Taxman

* Black Leotard Front: Casual Friday

* The Brian Jonestown Massacre: Jesus

* Citizens Here & Abroad: Appearances

* Death from Above 1979: Blood on Our Hands

* Death from Above 1979: Romantic Rights (that’s right, I changed my mind)

* Doves: Black and White Town

* Doves: Snowden

* Electric Six: Radio Ga-Ga

* J.O.Y.: Sunplus (DFA Remix)

* The Juan Maclean: Give Me Every Little Thing

* LCD Soundsystem: Beat Connection

* M83: Don’t Save Us from the Flames

* Roxy Music: Sunset

* The Venus in Furs: 2HB

What’re yours? Email’s to the left!

Beauty Queen

April 11, 2005

Last night Amy and I went to see Tori Amos play at the Bushnell in Hartford, Connecticut. I had a good time, but personally, I just think I’m not the target audience for a Tori Amos concert anymore. I’d seen her once before–in 1995, I believe, after her third album, Boys for Pele, came out. At the time, she’d recorded three albums (Little Earthquakes, Under the Pink, Boys for Pele), all of which I loved. In the intervening decade, however, she’s made two records I didn’t like (From the Choirgirl Hotel, To Venus and Back), two records I like but have not listened to that much, particularly compared to the first three albums (Strange Little Girls, Scarlet’s Walk), and one record that just came out and I hadn’t heard anything from prior to the concert (The Beekeeper). So I was basically attending a concert at which I had no real connection to more than half of the material the artist would be drawing from; a first for me. Also, we went with a posse of people who follow Tori around on tour, some of whom have seen something like 60-80 shows of hers; this also puts a different spin on things versus just picking up a couple of tickets and going to the concert. So I’m afraid I felt at a bit of a loss to evaluate most of the show. Any time she played anything from the first three records, I loved it; four of my favorites from those albums were accounted for (“Beauty Queen/Horses,” “Silent All These Years” (remember, if you’ve only seen two Tori concerts in your entire life and the last one was a decade ago, that song is not overplayed), “Cloud on My Tongue,” and “Twinkle”–which, as a matter of fact, was actually played for Amy, who requested it in person before the show in honor of our friend Bobo.). As for the rest of the songs…well, you can certainly appreciate the musicianship and the showmanship–it’s pretty impressive to see her play a technically perfect rendition of a song while straddling her piano bench, one hand on the big Bosendorfer on her left, the other on an organ on the opposite side. And I thought her voice was just phenomenal, particularly on lower notes, which seemed to flow right out of her and coat the audience. But I have a very particular set of Tori Amos-based expectations and emotions, and she’s different, and her audience is different. I can sit around and say “What about ‘Bells for Her’ and ‘Yes, Anastasia’ and ‘Doughnut Song’ and ‘Little Earthquakes’?” all that I want, but would that really be a better show? I want an experience that she’s just not going to be able to give me at this point. Which is fine.

This weekend

April 9, 2005

Blogging will be light this weekend, because, alas, our pirated wireless connection has disappeared. (I’m writing this at the Apple Store, bless its Genius Bar heart.) In the meantime, Bill Sherman has dived into Caesar’s Bath. But that’s pretty much all I got.

Wash this

April 8, 2005

More Caesar’s Bath goodness!

Dorian Wright!

Jim Henley!

Shane Bailey!

And since I’ve been making a lot of headway with all these Internet-radio suggestions I’ve been getting, does anyone know of any good music blogs I should be reading? MP3 blogs or review/crit blogs, whatever.

I’m also looking, somewhat desperately, for horrorblogs. Suggest away–the email’s to your left.

Mix and match

April 7, 2005

(Like the title, longtime readers?)

Hot on the heels of his new comic, Jim Dougan has a new blog! (Or LiveJournal. Whatever.) Jim is one of my bestest Internet friends, and also one of the few I’ve met in person, much to my delight. I’m glad he’s blogging.

Speaking of Internet friends, Alan David Doane has posted his version of the Caesar’s Bath meme. Gee, when you see that two things he doesn’t really see the fuss about are music and comedy, it makes the arctic shit-knife a little easier to understand, no? 🙂 Ha ha, I kid because I love.

And hey, Joe Rybandt did it too! Folks, it’s not too late to get on this bandwagon.

It is good to see that Phoebe Gloeckner is blogging a lot again.

Yesterday my coworker Justin and I were discussing this article about the continuing decline of rock radio, and in particular, this quote:

Those within the business cite poor quality music with the sharp decrease in rock listenership and ratings figures.

It is to laugh, we both thought, so we did. After all, if rock radio is dead it’s a suicide, without question: The relentless uniformity of the “format” and its aversion to playing all but the surest-things in terms of new music has made it almost entirely worthless. (Oh, how I pine for the days of freeform.) My friend and I both chuckled because, of course, there’s plenty of great rock music out there–you just wouldn’t know it from listening to your FM dial. Infinity Broadcasting, heal thyself, in other words. But then I got to thinking: Would it really make a difference? K-ROCK could have switched from its usual diet of mook-rock to nonstop LCD Soundsystem and Death Cab for Cutie and freaking Azure Ray ’round the clock, and my guess is its ratings would have gotten even lower. Sometimes I wonder if the awful stuff really does choke out the good stuff–if it isn’t just that the good stuff is thought of as such by too few people for it to be viable. And sometimes I think that it might be good to keep this in mind when discussing similar issues in other media.

Aside: I’ve now gotten several recommendations for good radio stations listentable over the Internet thanks to this post on the dearth of good music video shows. So maybe there’s some hope.

As it turns out, Citizen X is an excellent film.


Finally, one of my favorite writers on horror, Sam Costello, has good things to say about The Outbreak. Perhaps you will too?

The bare essentials

April 6, 2005

In the dozen or so entries below this one you’ll find most of the substantial posts I wrote for my new blog The Outbreak before, alas, its name became eerily prescient. There’s a month’s worth of material to go through, so may I be so bold as to recommend several items?

* A look at the videos played on three music-video programs that are actually pretty good

* The Best Albums of 2004

* Ways I could have fixed The Matrix Revolutions if anyone had asked for my help

And have I mentioned that The Outbreak is an ongoing chronicle of my life during a zombie plague? Yes, this was something I’d planned out when I started the blog as a relatively normal personal/pop-cultural affair, so it was certainly fun fielding concerned emails from confused readers when the shit started hitting the fan–I felt a little bit like I was doing my own personal War of the Worlds broadcast for a second there. But really, my goals in writing The Outbreak are to a) do something with the medium of blogging that I don’t think has been done before; b) work around some of the pitfalls of horror fiction by personalizing it with non-fictional autobiographical elements; c) get in the groove of writing fiction every day; d) tell some scary zombie stories. Anyway, I first dropped hints that something unsual was going on with this post, so start there and work your way to the present day.

I would also like to direct you to my extremely not safe for work autobiographical comic “1995,” written by me and drawn by Shawn Cheng. Originally created for and subsequently rejected by the True Porn 2 anthology, it probably reveals more information about me than you need or want to know, but nevertheless, I hope you enjoy it. Shawn and I both tought it accomplished what we set out to accomplish, and we’re very proud of it. There are no zombies involved at any rate.

One of the nice things about being once again ensconced between the warm and nurturing breasts of the All Too Flat websprawl is that my readers can click the links at the top of the page and find some funny stuff. But maybe the funniest thing my fellow Flatmates have ever done can be found here: Ladies and gentlemen, the Open House prank. If you ever read any other page on ATF, make it that one.

Back to The Outbreak, I started a meme over there that never really went anywhere, so I’m bringing it back here and forcing it down people’s throats until they swallow it.

Behold, the Caesar’s Bath meme! List five things that people in your circle of friends or peer group are wild about, but you can’t really understand the fuss over. To use the words of Caesar (from History of the World Part I), “Nice. Nice. Not thrilling…but nice.”

1. The Simpsons

2. Coffee

3. The Arcade Fire

4. Darwyn Cooke’s DC: The New Frontier as representative of Everything Superhero Comics Should Be

5. The Incredibles

Since Ian already did it, bless ‘im, I’m assigning this one out to Jim, Jim, and Alan, because I have no idea how or if they’ll respond. I’ll also kick it over to The Missus, if she’ll have it. But don’t forget: Anyone can pick this up and run with it. Try it, you’ll like it!

A fond farewell to one of my favorite bloggers, Franklin Harris. He was one of those bloggers who may have been a linkblogger but felt like a thinkblogger. Best of luck, Franklin!

Finally, remember: Never trust anyone who doesn’t like the Beatles or Abraham Lincoln.

I’m glad to be back here!

The Big Fat Noon

April 6, 2005

My friend Jim Dougan wrote a comic, and his friend Mike Fiffe drew it. It’s a half-Western, half-Frank Miller parody called “The Big Fat Noon.” You should read it.

Outbreaks, part one: Bands that I just can’t get into

April 5, 2005

Originally posted at The Outbreak on Feb. 25th, 2005:

I just can’t get into the Killers. It’s weird, because everything I listen to these days is totally faggot-ass retro: the Faint, Franz Ferdinand, Scissor Sisters, the Bravery, the Dandy Warhols, Interpol, LCD Soundsystem, Elefant, Fischerspooner, W.I.T., and on and on and on and on and on. I downloaded the Killers’ whole album after going back and forth on “Somebody Told Me” (My question was, Can something that rips off Blur so flagrantly still be good? the answer is Yeah, it’s still pretty good), but I don’t know, something just didn’t click. It’s not like I hate ’em, I think they’re alright, but I feel like I should be flipping out about them and I just ain’t. I will say this for them, though: They dress well. And points for eyeliner, of course.

But this can only get you so far. I so wanted to like the Zutons because they looked damn sharp in the original video for that “Pressure Point” song (the version they show on Fuse as opposed to MTV), but if I hear that “ah-ooh, hoo, hoo” one more time, I’m going to drive my car through a Starbucks storefront.

I also just can’t get into the Arcade Fire. I find this band really interesting because I think 90% of the people who’ve listened to them (myself included) had never heard of them before they started showing up on every, and I do mean EVERY, Best of 2004 list at the end of last year, in many cases in magazines that hadn’t actually reviewed the record when it first came out. I know other *music critics* who hadn’t heard of them until they showed up in the Best Of list their own publication published. I think a week before I first read a Best Of with them on it, one of my co-workers asked me if I listened to them and expressed surprise when I said no because I was his quote-unquote “hipster music connection,” but that’s it.

(Please note that I don’t think anyone is less of an Arcade Fire fan due to when they started listening to the band, eg. after all the press they got. You can’t listen to a band you haven’t heard of! Life’s too short to get worried about stuff like that.)

Anyway in the car on the way to lunch this friend from work played me “Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)” and I loved it–I thought this was another Rapture-style dance-rock band, and MAN, that sense of urgency. So I ran back to work and downloaded the album, and eh. Again, I don’t hate them–the first 30 seconds or so of the first song are GREAT, and “Power Out” is still awesome–but the rest doesn’t quite wang my dang, and I can’t understand the absolutely RAPTUROUS reception they’ve gotten.

I think part of my problem with them is that the guy can’t really sing–he’s got one of those warbly Frank Black/Wayne Coyne/guy from Modest Mouse voices that don’t really do it for me in the context of Big Anthemic Rock Music. (The only exception, for some reason, is the guy from the Polyphonic Spree, but they’re so goofy and over-the-top that it doesn’t matter; on the other hand you didn’t see me running out to buy their second album, I guess.) If Arcade Fire Guy could sing like Thom Yorke they’d probably kick all kinds of ass, but as it stands it’s like going to a Radiohead concert and finding out that Thom is sick and the guy who sets up the speakers is going to be singing tonight.

I dunno, like I said, I don’t hate ’em, I just could take ’em or leave ’em.

Outbreaks, part four: I’m comin’ like Lebanon and givin’ the people what they want

April 5, 2005

Originally posted at The Outbreak on Mar. 1st, 2005:

I truly did not intend to start a music blog. And this isn

Outbreaks, part three: Fit

April 5, 2005

Originally posted at The Outbreak on Feb. 27th 2005:

Thank you to everyone who’s linked to the blog so far. However, I do feel obligated to let Johnny Bacardi readers know that, alas, this is not strictly a music blog. But I expect you’ll see a decent amount of that sort of activity going on here, at least until an oft-promised freelance opportunity along those lines finally materializes.

I could start by saying that I’ve heard the lead single of the next nine inch nails album (single: “the hand that feeds”; album: with teeth), and it’s not very good. Musically it’s nowhere near as interesting as the bizarre analog crunchscapes of the fragile (which was at one point my favorite album of the decade, though I feel I’ve grown away from it since), and lyrically–well, I suppose a part of me had assumed Trent Reznor’s lyrical preoccupations would by this point have advanced at least slightly past where they were on Pretty Hate Machine way back when, but this does not seem to be the case. In fairness, the lead single (that is, the song the radio chose to play first; it was a b-side from the actual lead single, technically) from the fragile, “starfuckers, inc.,” was by far the least interesting song on that album–aside from the cheeky carly simon swipe, it could have been done by Gravity Kills–so maybe we’ll see a repeat of that pattern here.

It’s interesting when an album by a band you were extremely heavily into a few years prior comes along while you’re immeresed in music that’s nothing like it. Last time this happened to me was when Underworld released A Hundred Days Off, at which point in my life After the Gold Rush, Hunky Dory, Beggars Banquet and Pink Moon were in heavy iPod rotation. But good will out, and that Underworld record was quite good indeed, and worked its way right into the ’68-’74-fest in my brain without much hassle. nine inch nails have never been simply about metal aggression, but the bands I’ve been listenting to aren’t about that at all–I read an interview with Interpol frontman Paul Banks in which he specifically stated he eschews his aggressive side when writing and recording. I’ll be curious to see how the new NIN record meshes with the skinny-tie set.

On the other hand, my favorite song for the past two weeks or so has been Doves’ new one, the astounding “Black and White Town.” Naturally this group of moody Mancunians has the same main touchstone as Interpol (and nine inch nails, for that matter)–Joy Division–but the technicolor direction they take this in is a lot different from the angular dance-rock I’ve been into these days. (Does the “Heat Wave”-style piano take it back in that direction, or move it further away? You make the call!) Then again, Interpol themselves went in a more brightly-hued direction on their last record, so perhaps it’s all more seamless than I’m making it sound. (Still, someone’s gonna have to explain why I’ve been digging on Billy Joel’s “Big Shot”…)