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Entries in Music (28)

Tuesday
Aug302005

Homeless romantic.

I “performed” my first ever DJ gig on Saturday at [info]samhumphries’s art show in Santa Monica…

(Actually, that’s not exactly true. I DJ’d a couple of dances in high school, but since I was of course the most popular guy in class, there wasn’t much risk involved and I just blasted as much New Order, David Bowie and Pet Shop Boys as time allowed)

…and mighty fuck, it was nothing at all like I expected.

I’d put off other work to practice and “rehearse” for most of the week prior; perfecting my flow and learning a huge chunk of trax Sam thought would come in handy. If you’ve known me long enough you’ve probably noticed I’m a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to certain things, like stuff that involves me… doing… them… do you ever forget how to speak? Anyway, like painting my place, throwing parties, writing web-novels and picking which black shirt to wear today, I panicked in agony. Track selection, backup track selection, software configuration, adequate scratch disk space, the big heavy thing I use to hold down the sound jack because it goes weird and only gives you right channel sound sometimes… I checked and rechecked every conceivable detail of my imminent DJ debut.

Unfortunately, I’m a fucking retard — no, really, I have DOWN SYNDROME — and forgot my laptop’s power cord at home and the music died twenty minutes into my set. Because my heart didn’t claw its way out of my ribs, fly into the air and explode in my face, I lived long enough to realize there was nowhere to go but up and that I should just chillax and call Sam and tell him to bring a cord. The fact that nobody had arrived yet was also helpful in diverting what really would have been an Akira-level meltdown. That was easily the biggest act of n00bery I’ve ever committed. Fucking hell.

Replacement cord secured, I restarted my set with some mid-tempo groovy tracks from various DFA types; Chemical Brothers; A Tribe Called Quest; the Doves; Suede; Prince; David Bowie; Talib Kweli; Pharcyde; Pizzicato Five; Talking Heads; Gorillaz… you get the idea. I kept this up for more than two hours and while I received a number of compliments, no one danced. This was primarily because the crowd was full of older squares and moms (no offense, moms) who wouldn’t dance anywhere under any circumstances. The only people interested in dancing were a small group of friends of ours in the 18-30 range, and, unfortunately for me, they weren’t even remotely interested in any of the kewl indie/electroclash/punk/new wave stuff with which I had practiced when I anticipated a hipster art crowd.

I played LCD Soundsystem, New Order, Chemical Bros, Dee Lite, Soulwax, the Faint, Richard X, Louis XIV, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Michael Jackson, Jay Z and even Daft Punk to absolutely no one dancing. The group would call out and react favourably to my choices, but no one actually danced. All they’d do was scream obscenities and demand (read: god modding in FULL EFFECT. I’ve never seen such blatant and abusive god modding since the last time [info]iceage_coming planned a dinner-movie outing) that I play — and I’m not making this up — the unspeakably evil “Noma numa” songby Moldovian techno-satanists O-Zone, immortalized in a compelling and powerful lip-sync by New Jersey fatass and unwitting internet hero Gary Brolsma.

I wish it to be known that I objected to this in the strongest possible terms. But even my considerable protestation was no match for the combined might of Dennis T. Culverand the Ladies of the PQ, whose resolve was nothing less than relentless. This predicament sparked in me a memory of similarly unexpected and god modded events nearly ten years past.

I went to a party at this chick’s house up on a mountain. We all got really drunk, watching movies like Trainspotting and William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet. I passed out on a couch upstairs and woke up later mostly stripped and lying on a bare mattress in the basement with this girl on top of me. Too riddled with drink to even move, I kept slurring, “No… no…stop…” but she just kept going. We finally passed the point of no return… and I became a man. 

Being forced to play the “Numa Numa” song in my DJ debut left me with a remarkably similar sensation. I’ll be god damned if that fat little bridge and tunnel fucker didn’t get everyone on the dance floor. I’m not even kidding. It was both glorious and terrible, just like that night ten years ago.

After “Numa Numa,” I was in total improv mode, throwing down any similarly flamboyant Euro-dance and bumpin’ cheez I could find. I definitely played Roxette, Spice Girls, Missy Elliot, Britney Spears, M.I.A…. you get the idea. While I’m not exactly super fan #1 of that music, it felt really good keeping my friends dancing track after track and seeing them having such a great time. A homeless man got on the floor and started dancing with [info]thedoublepeace, which was a situation I can only describe as completely new. He was really fucking good. 

The hyphocity level was beyond any form of measurement. My mind stretched and flexed and went all 2001 just before a big glowing white strange thingy formed over my head and traveled down passed my eyes and dissipated around my sneakers. I realized the only way to conclude my set was to play “Batdance,” Prince’s six-minute-plus 1989 sample-ridden megamix epic. There is no emoticon to describe the intensity of that moment. Literally everyone who remained was now one the dance floor. Boys were dragging their girlfriends out to dance, which of course never fucking happens. That more people danced to “Batdance” than to anything else taught me the role of the DJ is nowhere near as easily defined as I had believed. I’d presumed to guide my crowd, but what I learned from the experience was that the crowd largely guides you, and that like in most areas of life, I would as a DJ have to live as if all hell were about to break loose at any moment. 

Homeless Romantic Mix

Running time: aprox 74 min.
Size: 101.4 mb

This is a continuous mix reflective of what I played that night, including only what people seemed to enjoy and eventually builds to “Numa Numa” and company. I’ve hidden the tracklist in case you wish to listen in ignorance, which I always recommend when listening to mixes. There’s no fancy beat matching or anything, but there are some good transitions.

01. David Bowie : It’s No Game (Part 1)
02. Gorillaz : Feel Good Inc. (Single Edit)
03. The Chemical Brothers : The Boxer (Single Version)
04. Kasabian : L.S.F. (Lost Souls Forever)
05. Richard X featuring Kelis : Finest Dreams
06. Shiny Toy Guns : Le Disko
07. Jay-Z : 99 Problems (Grey Album Version)
08. Louis XIV : Finding Out True Love Is Blind
09. Dee Lite : Groove Is In The Heart
10. DJ EZ Rock & Rob Bass : It Takes Two
11. Richard X vs. Liberty X : Being Nobody
12. O-Zone : Noma Numa Yei
13. Eric Prydz : Call On Me (Radio Edit)
14. Roxette vs. Dancing DJs : Fading Like A Flower (Every Time I See You)
15. Spice Girls : Spice Up Your Life
16. Britney Spears : Toxic
17. Missy Elliott featuring Ciara and Fat Man Scoop : Lose Control
18. M.I.A. : Fire Fire
19. Annie : Chewing Gum
20. Prince : Batdance

Saturday
Feb052005

Coachella.

For my undying faith and relentless pursuit of truth and righteousness, the lord has seen fit to reward this humble servant with the most fucking fabulous Coachella lineup in the history of all things. Not one, not two, not three, but FOUR of my favourite bands are playing the festival, and I’m so excited it’s all I can do to not go outside and push models into traffic.

As many of you may already know, I have been waiting ten years to see The Prodigy in concert. One of the first bands I followed religiously, The Prodigy have in the past cleverly planned their US visits to coincide with times during which I was trapped in boarding school; visiting overseas; sick with chicken pox; immobile with depression; or consumed with a fierce obsession to crusade around the country and talk about freaky mutant people spanking each other. It’s unfortunate for the Prodigy that their first US performance in years is coming so many months after the release of their latest, underrated album,Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned. Even the briefest of promotional tours — just Los Angeles and New York! — would have, I suspect, improved the disc’s sales considerably. As of this writing, AONO is generally considered a flop.

Reports of European shows have been exceedingly favourable, with news that mastermind Liam Howlett’s continued to develop and evolve many of the new tracks on stage, as well as reexamine the old classics (the new version of “Firestarter” is most welcome, as far as I’m concerned). As I said in my review last September, AONO is a booming proclamation of Howlett’s renewed vigor for songwriting (read: fucking you to death on the dancefloor), and I can’t wait to get rocked proper in the desert later this year.

AONO’s greatest strength is inspiration. It’s been a long time since I heard a dance record that so beautifully conveyed how much fun its creators were having during the production. Since, maybe, the last release by The Chemical Brothers.

Push The Button, released stateside last week, is (I think) the fifth album by the duo, whom, you may be surprised to learn, I was not a huge fan of as a kid. Probably thanks in part to my obsession with David Bowie and Brian Eno’s incalculably brilliant 1995 death-of-the-twentieth-century concept album 1.Outside, and because of my having been forcefully inserted into what was essentially a McCarthian, segregation era right-wing gulag of a town, I was extremely preoccupied with the idea of living in the future. As such, I gravitated towards music and fiction that my adolescent self felt would reflect the culture of and be mainstream in the new millenium. My favourite comics and films were things like Transmetropolitan, Cyberella, Blade Runner, 12 Monkeys,and Terminal City, and my music of choice was all but exclusively what they were calling electronica.

The Prodigy sounded like the future. Underworld sounded like the future. All the drum n’ bass, jungle, hardcore, trip-hop, rave, ambient, house, prog-house and the rest of those impossible genre classifications all sounded like the future.

The Chemical Brothers did not. Their music was too retro. The psychadelic imagery, the funky basslines and guitar licks, the old skool vocal samples and rap sounds; even the the soulful britpop singers created an all too organic experience for me to appreciate. In my mind I imagined us now living in apartments that looked like the insides of iMacs with pixilated Japanese text tattooed on our faces and listening to misshapen wave forms for sex music, not chilling out in a flannel beanbag with a Corona, a cigarette, a pair of Pumas® and mouthing the words, “the brothers gonna work it out” over and over.

Naturally, my 15 year old vision of the future never happened, electronica returned to the underground with a quickness, and I became a big Chemical Brothers fan. Also, I now drink Corona, wear sneakers and lip-sync, but no beanbag yet. Ironically, as the Brothers became “dancier” with each new release, I found myself most drawn to the first two albums (although I try to make it a point to listen to “Hey Girl, Hey Boy” almost every day — for strength). That’s probably why I like Push The Button so much; it’s a return to finding the best things about the music these guys love and spinning it (heh) into something new and glorious.

“Galvanize,” their bombastic lead single collaboration with A Tribe Called Quest’s Q-Tip (whom, for the purposes of this journal entry, I will pretend to know a lot about) is an instant Chems classic that actually improves with every listen (but avoid the radio edit, it’s definitely missing something), and they turn in yet another (potential) hit with The Charlatans’ singer Tim Burgess (“The Boxer”). Other standout tracks include the dirty hillbilly instrumental “Marvo Ging,” tribal and ethereal “Hold Tight London” featuring vocals by somebody called Anna-Lynne Williams and drums by The Charlatans’ drummer Joe Brookes, and “Believe,” the album’s only electroclash conceit with vocals by New Order tribute band du jour Bloc Party’s Kele Okereke. And speaking of New Order, the Chemicals have, after several attempts over the last decade, finally written the New Order song they’ve always wanted to, and it is the stunning instrumental “Surface To Air,” easily their best album closer yet.

But Push The Button’s not all fun games. The Anwar Superstar collab “Left Right” is clearly the standout shit track of the album, followed closely by “Come Inside,” which may contain the most annoying vocal sample the Chems have used yet. A very respectable backing track saves “Come Inside” from total failure (instrumental mix b-side, fucking please), but nothing can save “Shake Break Bounce,” which is dire and stupid and goes nowhere and resembles the duller, more meandering tracks on the Prodigy’s Always Outnumbered….

All in all, a very successful comeback by The Chemical Brothers after the largely disappointing Come With Us. It’s a shame the Flaming Lips won’t be returning to Coachella this year, because a live performance of the excellent “The Golden Path” single would please me immensely. Even more tremendous than that would be New Order’s Bernand Sumner joining the Brothers on stage with his guitar for a rendition of their Surrender single “Out Of Control.” More orgasmic still would be the Chemicals joining longtime heroes New Order on stage to perform their amazing 24 Hour Party People collaboration, “Here To Stay,” the best New Order single since 1993’s “Regret.”

There is nothing I can possibly say about New Order that hasn’t been said before and doesn’t dramatically understate their importance. New Order are fucking heroes. There is absolutely no music produced in the last fifteen or twenty years that doesn’t owe something to those musicians, and it’s a tragedy that so few Amerikans seem to be aware of it. Hopefully this high profile festival appearance — which is to follow the release of their new album Waiting For The Sirens’ Call, already assessed by some journalists as the album of the year — will be a crash course for the ravers. Er, I mean punks…?

Eh, probably not, since Frank Black’s apparently the only one allowed to be an old, fat, ugly rock star anyway. Oh well, good luck, boys.

(and no, i’m not saying the Pixies suck, i’m saying the man’s getting on a bit, leave me alone it’s true)

Redemption and relevance in the eyes of fickle Amerikcan children seems to be a chief theme of this year’s Coachella festival, which brings us, finally, to nine inch nails.

Nobody on the ticket has as much to prove this year as NIN. Once considered by many fans (and now just many journalists and other musicians) to be on par with Nirvana as one of the most important acts of the 90s, Trent Reznor has squandered the people’s good will in remarkable Bush-like fashion. Following a hugely successful period in the mid-nineties that saw Reznor release the mega-selling, genre-defying masterpiece The Downward Spiral and its subsequent remix projects; tour with David Bowie; produce the Natural Born Killers soundtrack album, featuring yet another new song; launch his record label nothing with the debut of Marilyn Manson; produce and co-write Manson’s multi-platinum Antichrist Superstar; and record a lauded cover of Joy Division’s “Dead Souls” for The Crow soundtrack, Reznor went into hiding, emerging briefly in 1997 with the Lost Highway soundtrack on his own nothing records, featuring the shockingly impressive “The Perfect Drug,” a single so anarchic in its style that it defies any accurate classification. It was impressive, to say the least, but its heavy drum n’ bass influence and pop chorus alienated some fans. I loved it, myself.

nine inch nails finally returned with 1999’s double-disc The Fragile, “their” first album in five years. The Fragile was a remarkable achievement in sonic artistry that set the production bar so high no major rock band has since reached it. Unfortunately, the album was impenetrable (and possibly too expensive) for basically everybody, and plummeted from the number 1 spot more quickly than any record ever had. The Fragile has aged clumsily since it came out six years ago. While the production and instrumentation remain very impressive, especially on the more experimental and instrumental tracks (which most casual listeners probably wouldn’t enjoy), about half the songs on the double-album feel shoehorned-in and would be better suited as b-sides. Reznor’s apparent lack of concern for grammar also hurts the album considerably (which is pretty damning, considering the run-on sentences in this journal). More bloated than epic, The Fragile would have made a brilliant single-disc album with accompanying EPs in the tradition of The Downward Spiral. Had this been the case, I think we would have been reading a lot of comparisons between The Fragile and Kid A, an equally difficult album that was still embraced by the public). There are a million ways to compare and contrast the two albums, and another million ways to speculate why one did better than the other, so I’m not going to go into it here, but I think it’s an interesting discussion. Unfortunately, having the discussion would mean someone would have had to actually listen to The Fragile, and such people are scarcer than girls who read Batman comics.

Six years absence after a total flop album is a recipe for suicide in today’s music industry (and yesterday’s, too, I suppose), yet tickets for the first new NIN tour dates in London are reported to have sold out in just twenty minutes, and somebody has enough faith in Reznor’s new album to give him top billing at the extremely important Coachella Music Festival, although it is true that nine inch nails concerts are by definition fucking brilliant, and that alone might be enough to ease any skepticism the Coachella promoters may feel. In any case, it will be very interesting to see what nine inch nails returns with in April.

Also appearing are lesser dieties Weezer, Wilco, The Faint, Fantomas, Josh Wink (who’s collaborated with Reznor before — another live duet, maybe?), Gang of Four, Roni Size, Junkie XL, M.I.A., and the great Dresden Dolls. It is my hope to see all these acts and to avail myself of the high content of underground hip-hop at this year’s festival. You know, so I can roll.

So thank you, O lord, for bestowing this concert lineup unto me, and for letting me get that hotel room fairly close and at a reasonable price.

Please, God, don’t let it suck.

And please don’t blow up my radiator again on the way out to the desert ok thnx God bye.

Thursday
Sep162004

Crap music reviews (which is to say, music reviews that are crap).

Went to Amoeba yesterday for the first time in more than a year and picked up some new CDs.

-The Charlatans : Tellin’ Stories.
-David Bowie : Jump They Say (single).
-David Bowie : Little Wonder (ltd edition single).
-The Prodigy : Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned.

Music probably couldn’t have changed more in the seven years it’s been since The Prodigy released The Fat Of The Land to #1 on the charts (in the same week OK Computerdebuted). The electronica take-over my machine-obsessed sixteen-year-old self was so excited about never got any further than a shitload of similarly-styled film soundtracks and an anemic late-night MTV programming block called Amp. Hip-hop bursted forth from the Earth, slapped the shit out of the ravers and stole all the girls, and that was pretty much the end of that.

We’ve had a few noticeably different sorts of rock phase in and out, particularly Nu-Metal and Emo and now Retro-Rock, or whatever the fuck it’s called. Frankly, I find myself more and more disgusted with each genre-distinction I invoke, but I also find myself lacking the talent to talk about this stuff in any other way, so whatever. Anyway, during this time, soldiers of the electronica non-revolution like Underworld, the Chemical Brothers and Orbital all continued to release great records (well, maybe not Orbital— RIP). Naturally, there’s been a popular aberration here and there, like Moby, Bjork, and (thank you, God) Fischerspooner’s mining and repackaging of electro for the People. Conspicuously absent all this time was The Prodigy.

Unquestionably the loudest and grandest of all electronica acts (although I think Chemical Bros. actually have more hit singles), The Prodigy all but vanished from the spotlight for years at a time, reemerging with only small morsels of activity such as the rerelease of the first album, Experience. However, The Dirtchamber Sessions vol 1was also unleashed upon us during this extended period of nothingness, and it is widely considered to be one of few gems to be found in the limitless dark depths of wankerific DJ mix compilations. If you’re a fan of old school rap and hip-hop, punk, techno, funk, rock and pop, then you should seek out Dirtchamber. It makes excellent party music.

Despite the fierce brilliance of The Dirtchamber Sessions, the most memorable artifact of the Prodigy’s last seven years is probably the spectacularly awful one-off single,Baby’s Got A Temper. The song was just so irretrievably bad, not even its creator— Prodigy mastermind Liam Howlett— could stand it. The reaction to the song seems to have been so negative that it more than anything else expedited the completion of the mythical fourth Prodigy album, Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned.

As I said, music probably couldn’t have changed more, and the Prodigy know it. We live in a glorious time where a thriving community exists to celebrate virtually any form of dance music (except techno in Los Angeles) and AONO is a meticulously crafted sonic assault vehicle designed to appeal to listeners in all of them. Bizarrely, Howlett achieves this without entirely sucking. Lip-service is often paid to various artists for mashing-up genres, but it’s actually true in Prodigy’s case. Seamlessly blending breakbeat, punk, indie, electro, hip hop and techno, Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned would sound at home in any number of club settings, including the puzzingly electronica-disliking electroclash scene. Unlike the very self-aware The Fat Of The Land, AONO all but abandons the notion of the radio single and concerns itself almost exclusively with getting people rocking on the dance floor. Dance music is a notoriously snobby area of music and fandom, and it’s my guess that this approach of Howlett’s was a decision made in direct response to the Baby’s Got A Temper catastrophe. So determined is Howlett to regain the Prodigy’s dance floor credibility, he’s completely left off any trace of fellow Prodigy members Keith “Firestarter” Flint and Maxim “Smack My Bitch Up” Reality (yeah, I know “smack my bitch up” comes from the Ultramagnetic MC’s but I’m quite sure Maxim performed the vocals in the Prodigy version). Instead, Howlett’s recruited a pretty varied platoon of vocalists including Princess Superstar, Twista, The Magnificent Ping Pong Bitches, Kool Keith, Juliette Lewis (yeah, I know, but she does one of the best tracks, “Hotride”), and the Gallagher brothers (Liam and Liam are now brother-in-laws, after all, both having married those two All Saints chicks).

The record sounds as if Howlett has discovered how to use BOOOOOM as an instrument itself. The bass is so heavy on such tracks as “Action Radar” and “Spitfire,” it actually makes my teeth shake. The lead single, “Girls,” seems to be intentionally designed to showcase all the different styles you’ll find on AONO. It’s saying, “You like this? Okay, how about THIS? Now THIS! You want more? Come on in…no, there aren’t any ravers here anymore….” The album continues to genre-hop, but not with the ferocious contrast of “Girls.” If anything, this is really the major downside to it. I wonder if Howlett completed the album and, just for fun, threw everything into one track and came out with “Girls.” I hope he makes more songs like it in the future.

Girls mp3.

Is the record worth a seven year wait? No, absolutely not. I think Howlett may have gone too far out of his way to avoid a catchy tune here and there in favour of pure groove and beats, and I do miss Maxim and Keith (Maxim does return on the b-side “More Girls”). But it’s still a good album, and that it won’t be massive will hopefully prevent Howlett from recoiling under the weight of the world’s expectations and keep him at the keyboards for another release soon.

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