Sunday, July 27, 2008

Meet Smiley Boy


Another example of inanimate object pareidolia. Feel free to imagine a Lolcats style caption for it (ie. HAPPY HEATER..RADIATES WARMF). Coming soon, a photo of a kitchen sink plug that looks like a negro charicature from the 1930's!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Album Review: Xaphan, Secret Chiefs 3 (2008)


Although I like John Zorn’s sense of melody, I find it often gets lost in the delivery. Imagine my joy at hearing that Secret Chiefs 3 were going to be interpreting some of Zorn's Masada material as part of the Book Of Angels series. Trey Spruance, who for all intents and purposes is SC3, has an incredibly high standard of quality in his work and Xaphan is no exception. Stripped of the conceptual pretentiousness that has become expected with SC3 releases, the music is more song-based and accessible than its predecessors.
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

Mohammad appears on piece of bark in Chicago?

God, I’m told, moves in mysterious ways. He showed up once 2000 years ago, told everyone to be nice to each other, got nailed to a piece of wood for his troubles (what a way for a carpenter to go – the irony!) and hasn’t made an appearance since. Unless of course you believe the hoards of credulous pundits who have seen God, Jesus, The Virgin Mary etc. appearing live in toasted cheese sandwiches, tree stumps and stained highway overpasses. Catholics have been particularly notorious for Virgin Mary sightings – one of the most famous being ‘Our Lady of the Toasted Cheese Sandwich’ which sold on eBay for $28,000. Muslims have not been as keen as their Christian counterparts to play these games of ‘Spot The Deity’ until very recently. But they’ve gone one better and found the actual name of their god rather than an indistinct figure or face. (Just to go off on a diversion, it seems that people just see what they want to see; Catholics see the Virgin Mary, Christians see Jesus – it’s solely based on context. It’s my theory that if the indistinct image of a bearded man showed up on a wall in Abbott, Texas they would build a shrine to Willie Nelson on the spot. But I digress.) A Muslim man in Chicago has actually found the name Mohammad written on the bark of a tree by insects. Assad Busool heard tree bark hit the ground in his front yard ‘as though God was trying to get his attention’ and when he picked it up he saw the name Mohammad carved by termites. "I was astonished," said Busool, 69. “I have a holy tree in my yard." (I’m going to pass on a termites/holy tree gag at the risk of sounding like my parents.) Undeniable proof that the Islamic god exists! (The sacred bark is pictured below so you can see for yourself how miraculous this item is.) Now, we all know that God is pretty good at doing stuff, but how exactly did he go about instructing his invertebrate minions to do his holy bidding? Busool explains all: “They don't know Arabic. To eat the inside of the branch and make that writing, it's guidance from God, of course. The termites were worshiping God". Of course. It turns out, in fact, that the insects ‘worshipping God' were wood borers rather than termites, but who’s going to argue with a man who clearly has a direct line to God via the trees in his front garden? I think the final word should be left to Busool’s wife Ann: “Either we have some very intelligent termites out there or something else is going on”.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Brutal music reviews

Call me a contrarian, but there’s nothing I enjoy more than reading a really scathing music review – even more so if it’s of something I like. And believe me there’s no better place for really bitchy reviews than our very own internet.

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

Album Review: Ismism, Godley & Creme (1981)

After the debacle that was Consequences, Godley & Creme's creative peak was captured on their two subsequent albums L and Freeze Frame. Their fourth album Ismism represents the beginning of their descent into mid-career mediocrity - it's not a terrible album, but it departs from their usually high standard.
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

Ye olde inanimate object lolcat...


Irritating misconceptions #1. "All Americans are stupid"

If I went around saying that all Norwegians are lazy or that all Pakistanis cheat on their partners I would be labelled a generalising, racist twat by polite society. But if you state that everyone currently residing in the United States is a moron, even the most hard-left tolerance-mongers will start pumping their fists in the air in approval and point out that they're all morbidly obese as well. It's racist and it's stupid. How can you possibly make any sweeping generalisations about America? It's absolutely massive and incredibly diverse. Sure, they democratically elected a dullard for a president, but we had John Howard for almost a decade! Do you want to be personally held accountable for that?

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

Inanimate object lolcat competition bonanza!

While I was researching the internet subculture of inanimate object lolcats (henceforth to be known as I.O.L's) for the previous post, I ended up on the Wikipedia page for pareidolia - the tendency for the human brain to intepret meaningless stimuli as something meaningful or significant. On the page they have an image of a clock that looks like a sad face. Observe: In other words, exactly the sort of thing that makes a great I.O.L. Unfortunately, I don't have the creative genius required to create a really classic lolcats image. This is where you, teh internet public, come in. I want you to submit your suggestion for a lolcats-style caption for this picture and our panel of crack-adjudicators will decide on the winner. Simply write your suggestions on the comment page of this post. Will there be a prize? I can't say, who knows what I might find on the side of the road between now and when the winner is announced! At the very least, your I.O.L. will be posted on this blog for all the world to see. And fleeting internet fame is what lolcats is all about. Get lol-ing!

Friday, May 16, 2008

I can haz new blog?

IF the Victorian Liberal Party is good for anything, it's inspiring people to get back to their blogging. And although I can't promise anything as funny as the Liberal Party-powered anti-Ted Baillieu blog (may I nominate hewhostandsfornothing.com for blog address of the year?), I do intend to write about a subject equally as vile and insidious: lolcats. Surely no human can fail to be unaware of this pervasive little meme. These are the photos captioned with misspelled sentiments attributed to the pictures' subject(s), traditionally a cat but occasionally other adorable mammals. Observe an archetypal lolcats image:


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: A Review

So I'm in New York as the Stealth Bomber flies over for the airstrike and the bombs fall like living poetry from the skies and

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.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

A Review of American Presidential Candidates

In Australia, the parties select their leaders, but in America the people get to chose. State by state. These elections are called the Primaries. There's a lot of voting in American democracy. You vote like a motherfucker in this country. I write this from New Hampshire, USA where the election is taking place right now. Politics hasn't been this exciting since a few months ago when the now former Australian Prime Minister John Howard lost the election. So today I saw a shitload of placards and I also met Bill Clinton. This was in Exeter, New Hampshire. He had a pasted on smile and his eyes were vacant and glazed like donuts. It was weird. I've seen this look before. It was in the eyes of David Beckham while he was dressed as a Roman warrior. He was standing in a pile of Pepsi cans at the time. I wanted to ask Clinton what World Domination feels like but the answer is obvious (pretty fucking good!). A Secret Service guy brushed past me and I noticed the bronze glint of a pistol butt within his opened jacket. These guys all looked so ordinary which is probably the point but I was thinking I could fucking take these wimps. Clinton tried very hard to appear ordinary but we all know that for a short time not long ago he was one of the most powerful people in the history of the world. I'm haunted by that experience. Clinton was creepy. But it's a great time to be in New Hampshire right now because everyone is talking politics. This is my assessment of the contenders:

THE REPUBLICANS (aka the fucking GOP)
The four major Republican candidates are four of the scariest guys EVER. They seem like the types to suffocate babies while nobody's looking. Maybe they are the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse?

Shitt Romney - Mormon Fascist.

Rudy Guiliani - Heartless Bastard. He looks like a mobster.

Mike Huckabee - I DON'T heart Huckabee.

John McCain - I like his anti torture stance but I don't like his stringent bomb Iran stance (which you can see on YouTube).

THE DEMOCRATS

Hilary - She is so fucking Establishment it's sickening. She acts like her presidency is inevitable and her 'vote for me because I'm a woman' platform is fucked up and very undemocratic. Does she really understand women or does she just understand rich women? Maybe Condi Rice will vote for her.

Obama - This guy seems to be the best. He seems to be the most likely one to change stuff for the better. When I hear him speak I don't get that horrible weighted feeling of dread I get with all the other candidates. I know people think he's inexperienced but people said the same shit about Kevin Rudd (Australia's PM) and it's worked out fine. Better than expected actually. So the inexperienced factor doesn't bother me.

John Edwards - Boring smarmy prick.

Mike Gravel - It seems like nobody has heard of this guy except my uncle and there's no way he'll get elected because he speaks the truth (and nobody has heard of him). He's 77 and talks about how military spending is obscene (437 billion per year last I heard, and that was before the surge), and how the healthcare system is messed up etc etc.

America is hurting for preferential voting. That way voters could give candidates like Gravel a voice. With preferential voting the politicians would get a better understanding of the electorate. The all or nothing system in place now is less democratic because it forces voters away from candidates they would vote for but for whom they don't think have a chance. People like Gravel could still get votes with a preferential voting system and it would give voters more power, and that is how democracy is meant to work.

The Cambrian Explosion officially endorses John McCain for the Republicans and Barack Obama for the Democrats.