Sunday, July 27, 2008
Sunday, June 15, 2008
Akramachamarei is very typical of the current SC3 sound – a spaghetti-Eastern track that combines ultra-baritone surf guitars with lead violin lines. Uncharacteristically for SC3 releases however, this track (and much of the album) features a number of prominent solos before launching back into the main melody.
This can be effective in some songs, but the looseness of structure becomes repetitive to the point of boring in tracks like Shoel, Bezziel and Labbiel. The tracks are impeccably produced, but after a while it sounds like Spruance is just shifting between differently arranged sections of the same melody fragments to see which one will sound best.
Barakiel is another surf tune, with excellent shifts from 4/4 to 3/4 timing and a more subtle middle-eastern influence. Opening with a harp and female vocal arrangement of the main melody it then segues into a driving surf beat, parts of which are somewhat reminiscent of SC3’s cover of Halloween. There’s even a brief break with just bass and keys that sounds like a dead-ringer for Good Vibrations-era Brian Wilson. (The bass line in the main riff sounds like Phantom Of The Opera. Is this significant? Who the hell knows? This guy referenced TRON on his last album for god’s sake.)
Listening to the seriousness of SC3, it’s easy to forget that Spruance used to write music that was actually fun. I’m not going to mention the M.B. words, but suffice to say that Kemuel sounds positively Disco Volantian. Combining those creepy circus keyboard sounds that Spruance used to be so fond of, Kemuel is probably the most effective use of female vocals on the album and also allows Timb Harris a chance to play one of the most unconventional violin solos of his career. In the same vein, Omael is an up-tempo Balkans thrash piece that even my friends who don’t like ‘weird music’ would love.
Basically, this is SC3 at their best. The conceptual baggage that Spruance insists on inserting into his projects has been set aside and the music is better for it. Xaphan is an excellent album and a great interpretation of Zorn’s compositions.
Friday, June 6, 2008
Tuesday, June 3, 2008
My current quest for fantastically negative reviews originates from a casual interest in the making of Radiohead’s Kid A, the bands polarising album of 2000. The good reviews were good, but the bad reviews were really bad. I noticed that it had received glowing praise from most of the usual media outlets, but only got 1.5 stars from British music press Melody Maker. This I had to see. Referring to the overall sound as “post-bollocks”, this review almost surpasses the famous two-word review of Spinal Tap’s Shark Sandwich (“Shit Sandwich”) in its nastiness and hilarity. The track Optimistic: “we race hell-for-leather down Tuneless Wank Boulevard,” The National Anthem: “utterly redefines the notion of ‘unlistenability’” Brilliant stuff, but one can’t help but think that the reviewer had personal reasons for so damning an attack, ie. he would have rather heard an album of Creep repeated 12 times.
Music review site Metacritic conveniently has a worst reviewed list for those interested. The number 1 worst album? Playing With Fire by Kevin Federline (AKA The former Mr. Britney Spears). But surely this doesn’t come as any surprise; the reviews mostly discuss the tragicomic story of K-Fed’s semi-rise and fall rather than critique the music.
A funnier, though no less easy, target is Limp Bizkit (pictured below displaying the finesse that's made them famous). Remember them? They’re those schmucks that helped make being an aggressive, baggy pants-wearing goon fashionable to shopping centre-dwelling bogans everywhere. Limp Bizkit’s 2003 album Results May Vary comes in at No. 3 on Metacritic’s worst reviewed list. The album was described by the usually civil All Music Guide as having “inane lyrics that are shocking in their banality,” and described singer Fred Durst as “the worst front man in the history of rock.” Launch website was even more concise: “No, Fred, the results don't vary. The results are consistent throughout your new album - consistently crappy.”
Sufjan Steven’s album Come On Feel The Illinoise! has torn me lately. It was one of the best reviewed albums of 2005 and was designated album of the year by many review sites and music magazines. But who trusts critics? Rate Your Music is a community based site which invites people to (who’d have guessed it?) rate their music collection. I knew I would find unbiased advice here and potentially some really hilarious negative reviews from people who aren’t constrained by the niceties of the media. Examples: “Pointless self-indulgent chamber-pop wankery at its worst”, “If I am ever lowered into the depths of hell then this will playing in the elevator on the way down.” and the slightly deranged “if I met this fucker in an alley or something I wouldn't hesitate to beat the motherfucking crap out of him.” Now that’s a review.
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
Monday, May 26, 2008
Structurally, many of the songs follow the Remain In Light-era Talking Heads pattern of looping a bass and percussion section for the entire song and changing the other parts around it. This works very effectively on Joey's Camel and The Party thanks to quality lyrics, but just sounds repetitive on Snack Attack and Lonnie.
Some of the lyrics are just plain filler. The Problem is a recitation of a fictional maths problem 'If a man, A, who weighs 11 stone leaves from his home at 8:30 in the morning in a car whose consumption is 16.25 mpg etc.' ad nauseum - sure it's produced excellently and segues impeccably into the next track but who cares? And after that lovely segue into Ready For Ralph, the lyrics somehow get worse! 'Is the room ready for Ralph? The room is ready for Ralph, Ralph, The room is ready for Ralph etc.' One wonders why they bothered using lyrics at all.
Snack Attack's lyrics are slightly better, but just come across as amateurish proto-rapping with Godley's delivery being just plain annoying in some phrases.
Despite all these criticisms, this album actually delivered two UK top-ten singles for the duo, Under Your Thumb and Wedding Bells which are both excellent pop songs. Under Your Thumb is a pulsing yet mournful electropop tune while Wedding Bells is a motown pastiche with great melodies and great vocals.
Joey's Camel is the interesting tale of venturing into the desert to find the tablets of the ten commandments, finding them and then facing certain death. Obscure yes, but one of the best examples on this album where both the music and lyrics are interesting and compliment each other well.
During their tenure with 10cc, Godley & Creme were particularly adept at crafting 60's doo-wop and Beach Boys homages/rip-offs such as Donna and Rubber Bullets. So why is their doo-wop homage/rip-off from this album, Sale of the Century so bloody awful? This is so poorly conceived all it serves to do is seriously pull this album's average down.
The album closer The Party is a brutally cynical swipe at the vapid world of show-biz parties and music industry bullshit and is one of the few examples of subject matter on this album in which the duo actually had first-hand experience. Lyrically very funny ('You're a cocksucker Michael, You are what you eat David'), musically falling somewhere between Talking Heads and Ween, it's an excellent point to finish the album on. The boys were obviously a bit pissed off about their fall from grace and the remaining duo of 10cc finding a career taking their old band's name and making bland yacht-rock for 70's commercial radio. One of the characters in the song urges them to 'write yourselves a hit or three like I'm Not In Paris or The Dean and Me'. Well, they got two hits out of this album and a few decent tracks amongst excellently produced filler, but it just doesn't come close to the quality of their first three albums.
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
It's somewhat striking to note that the majority of people I encounter who talk about how stupid Americans are have no problems wearing American clothes, listening to American music and watching American television. If Americans are so dumb, why are Australians so eager to absorb every aspect of their culture? Because we're dumb. Call it a generalisation if you will, but it seems painfully apparent that the majority of people living on this planet are dead set retards. Why single out the Americans? Australia's biggest cultural exports so far have been Crocodile Dundee, The Crocodile Hunter and Savage Garden - it seems to me that people who live in dumb houses shouldn't throw stones.
For example, would you be shocked to hear that half the Australian population are of below average intelligence? If so, consider yourself amongst them.
Saturday, May 17, 2008
Friday, May 16, 2008
Gold (although, technically, I think 'Hi' should have been spelt 'Hai'). Occasionally hilarious, very rarely thought-provoking and utterly inane. Despite the fact that some arts student is inevitably drafting up a dissertation on the significance of lolcats in a post-911, globalised information oriented paradigm and it's affect on synergy, the popularity of these cats surely represents the death knell of a thinking society. Now, as an internet writer I am contractually obliged to identify and describe schismatic and potentially non-existent 'subcultures' (within subcultures where possible), and I think I've found a new one; inanimate object lolcats. Check it out:
Look at it. It's hilarious! It's anthropomorphism meets comedy meets Dada. The lolcats format has become so absorbed into internet culture that it even works on furniture. Here's another example from this fascinating movement:
Is it a parody of a parody? Is it more, or less funny because it deviates subtley from the original source material? Who cares - it's an angry barbecue!
The reason inanimate lolcat pictures work is because of the human brain's innate tendency to recognise faces even when they aren't there. This process of unconsciously organising meaningless stimuli into something meaningful is called pareidolia. It's responsible for the man in the Moon, the face on Mars and has caused innumerable sightings of Jesus and The Virgin Mary in baked goods and highway overpasses. In that vein, it should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with the internet that even god himself is not immune to the charms of the lolcats. As we speak, the Bible is being translated into lolcats speak. Here's an excerpt from Genesis:
'Oh hai. In teh beginnin Ceiling Cat maded teh skiez An da Urfs, but he did not eated dem. Da Urfs no had shapez An haded dark face, An Ceiling Cat rode invisible bike over teh waterz. At start, no has lyte. An Ceiling Cat sayz, i can haz lite? An lite wuz. An Ceiling Cat sawed teh lite, to seez stuffs, An splitted teh lite from dark but taht wuz ok cuz kittehs can see in teh dark An not tripz over nethin. An Ceiling Cat sayed light Day An dark no Day. It were FURST!!!'
God bless the internet.
Saturday, January 19, 2008
Cloverfield is . . .
a movie that
I had chills. I was sweating.
Goose bumps flowed through my body and tears streamed down my face. But they were glorious tears. There seemed to be a total media blackout with this movie as there was nothing written about it in the numerous New York street presses. I had to be content with a poster showing a burning New York.
A burning New York. The characters were great. Good looking burning New Yorker yuppie twenty something kids at a party. Which made the shots of the girl scrambling up the walls of a shattered skyscraper or running along subway tracks in the dark wearing a sexy dress and heels especially awesome. This is a 21st century apocalypse movie that is just as good as 28 Days Later and Children of Men. There were echoes of the Half Life computer games (which is my apocalyptic benchmark) - weathered signs in the background, ominous noises in the distance and fluorescent lights that don't work properly. The movie cleverly contrasts light and dark, loud and quiet. It was smart and disorientating. The dialogue was spontaneous and natural. There were no recognisable actors. There was no typical knowledgeable character explaining everything to an ignorant one. The billboards in the background become darkly ironic during the catastrophe (Nokia: Connecting People). The camera doesn't work all the time. It focuses in and out, it flips back to previous films of the owner with a girl on a holiday. Cloverfield gives you a chance to use your imagination. There are parts that take you back to your childhood on those nights when you woke up from a lucid nightmare and the monster was still in front of you.
Manhattanites are so marooned and I never realised this. Without the bridges and the Lincoln Tunnel you're stuck. It would be the perfect place to enforce a dictatorship because you could trap people on the island and control the amount of food that gets to it. I stepped out of the cinema and had to catch my breath. I stepped out and noticed the Manhattan sky was clear and the streets were cold and windy. There was a sign on the sidewalk advertising a tour - The ONLY way to see New York City.
I got chills again.