Wednesday, January 27, 2010

inside my teeth i'll scream, i know that i miss you, i know that i miss you...

anniversaries are tricky. the very nature of a day with such meaning that it merits acknowledgement a month, a year, a decade or more after it's original occurrence is in and of itself an odd idea. you might want to remember a birth or a marriage or for some, a break up making these events wonderful, sickly sweet or just plain old sadistic.

since time is linear (as far as we know it anyway) the thought of an anniversary can be soothing and provide for a brief moment a chance at recapturing the experience of the original day. at the same time it can be a time of reflection, repentance, revenge or anger. the word "anniversary" conjures up many things to many people. they are practical, fun, mystical, earth shattering or four dudes and a chick from Kansas.

that's right, five people from lawrence, kansas that teamed up in 97 to form, in my opinion, one of the best emo/synth rock bands of the time. many people call them "indie rock" now because emo is an insult to most. at the time, emo wasn't a bad word and the term "indie rock" didn't exist. thank bands like saves the day, dashboard confessional and deathcab for cutey for making the word emo synonymous with pussy. but i digress...

in the late 90s there was a surge of emo/indie (whatever offends you less) groups that featured a synth of some kind. these acts were usually all male except for the one female playing keys. i honestly lost count of the number of times i heard someone say, "i want to start a band and get a hot girl to play key board for us." or something to that effect. unfortunately this led to a large number of bands adopting a synth and filling that space with the girlfriend of a band member. now obviously women are just as talented musicians as men because it comes down to practice not gender. more often than not with these bands it was just an unfortunate coincidence that these girls had never played an instrument and this trend helped continue the stereo-type that synth was a joke instrument because so many bad bands had worse synth players. it was not uncommon to see a synth stand, hear a joke about the girl who was playing it before she got on stage and then hear people making bets on who she was sleeping with. fortunately for us, adrienne of the anniversary was kick ass, played great live, could sing well and with heart and was just all around a great stage presence.

like most of the things i've posted here, i loved this band. they were poppy as hell which is odd when you look at what i listen to but it's hard not to sing along to music like this. it was so unabashedly catchy and full of the relationship politics that you'd expect from early 20-somethings.

this album helped me get through some rather nasty personal crap because music has always been one of the things that helps me realize i'm not alone in feeling the way i do. i'm reminded of high fidelity when rob asks, "was i depressed because i listened to pop music, or did i listen to pop music because i was depressed?" and that's kind of how my listening experience has been since birth. melancholy runs a rude streak through my collection of recordings and even the happy, lighter pop sounding stuff is full of the kind of love that encourages razor blades to dance up your arms. the anniversary is one of those bands. they're dead catchy but even a cursory glance at the lyrics shows they are not happy songs.

i was young and full of unrequited love so it stands to reason that a good number of the records i was listening to would be full of the same themes. designing a nervous break down was just so full of the right kind of energy for getting off your ass and either moving on or moving through whatever my problem was. it took five more years for me to realize that i didn't like waking up sad and feeling like the weight of the world was on my shoulders. i wish i could say that this record was one of the things that helped me realize that but it probably pulled me further under. whatever the case is, i was happy to have it along for the ride.

i won't be posting this one because it's not that hard to find. the last i checked it was still in print. if you can't find it let me know and we'll talk.

in my time...

when i was in my mid to late teens i spent too many hours in records stores, shows or discussing music with people that liked bands no one has heard of. when i wasn't doing that, i was reading liner notes to see who bands toured with or thanked. you can easily find out about ten to twenty new bands just by reading most thank you lists in a liner note. those were interesting days because there were several music scenes that were really just starting to come to term and give birth to new exciting styles (and reinvigorate an old one) of music and bands that would be truly drowning in fans in a few short years. this lovely little scene helped nurture a few little bands like, grade, moneen, boys night out, sum 41, billy talent the list is so long and illustrious that several young film makers are making a documentary about the "905 scene". i'll admit now that i'm not endorsing it because the last bit of information i heard about the project has them talking to a host of bands that either weren't in the scene, weren't influential in it, or weren't part of the "golden era" they claim to be representing. hats off to them for the attempt and i wish them well but i hope i'm mistaken about their interview focus.

now the funny part about this scene was that it was made up of a bunch of kids that were into so many different kinds of music it was almost overwhelming. this was unlike any group of people i'd been a part of before because everyone i knew till then was locked firmly in whatever belief system came with the style of music they identified with. hip hop kids were interested in partying, making money and dressing like thugs. punk rock kids were skating, smoking and thinking of new and interesting ways to use their parent's money for anarchy's sake. ravers got high. ginos/housers drove around in crappy souped up cars and picked fights at dance clubs. of course this is a broad generalization but you get the picture. i knew two punk kids that were interested in doing more than getting drunk and being "punk". yet somehow this group of kids that comprised much of the "905" scene were about human rights, feminism, veganism, living drug free, monogamists or fully abstained from sex (some of the kids said they were born again virgins.) there were so many cultural/political/sociological theories and ideas floating around that it was hard not to want to be involved and make the world a better place. my commitment went as far as humanism, feminism and veganism. sxe always seemed preachy to me.

as for the music, these shows were hardcore shows. that word has been thrown around a lot but at the time hardcore really was it's own style of music. it was metal but not. it was punk, but it wasn't. it was a bunch of kids screaming their lungs out in church basements, school gyms, seedy bars, someone's back yard or a field. it was an attempt to take control of a world that a number of young people felt increasingly disconnected from. it was angry at times and beautiful others. it was raw and heartfelt and laid people bare. it was community and family. then limp bizkit and korn fucked it up and turned it into a frat boy pissing contest.

whilst bullshit male posturing was still taking centre stage, some sensitive, intelligent older "hardcore kids" started playing a style of music that came to be known as emotional hardcore, or "emo" for short. love it or hate (and most people hate it these days) emo has become as mainstream as any other safe, watered down and banal style of music. unlike many other styles of music that would come out of the various under ground scenes, emo had very little to rally around. the music itself started out of former hardcore kids deciding that singing about politics was boring and it would be more interesting for them to write songs about their wives, their experiences as adults and just mature as song writers in general. the music itself was really just slowed down punk music at first and sounded like pretty standard rock music. the chord progressions followed closely with punk and hardcore punk and gave emo a somewhat edgy sound at first. after several years of bands that sounded like what most people call "indie rock" emo started turning into a look more than a sound. as emo gained more popularity and slowly became part of the public lexicon, the music took a back seat entirely as any message emo tried to carry with it in the beginning became a distant memory. emo has since become an insult for most people and most bands. true to the ignorance of young people common insults thrown around in public might include "you emo fag" or something similar.

it's hard hearing people say things like this when that music was such a big part of my life. it's pathetic to watch something you once loved be turned out and prostituted to the point that it no longer resembles what it once was. perhaps i'm romanticizing it but i remember a friend of mine trying to explain emo to me when i first heard about it. i didn't understand what the point of it was because i was to firmly entrenched in my ways. music was supposed to be loud, angry and fast for me. something sweet and emotional didn't sound like fun. my friend simply said, "it's softer and about relationships usually but has as much feeling as any hardcore show. just come out and you'll see kids going just as crazy." and they did. i saw just as much floor punching and chest beating and screaming at the top of lungs at those shows because those kids were just as emotionally invested in songs like tinfoil as they were in past our means.

i guess what i'm trying to say is that i've seen some things and while it would be easy to dismiss the new generations of music as derivative and boring there are countless interesting things still being made every day and all art is derivative these days and has been for a lot longer than i've been alive. it seems like people aren't as interested or never were very interested in finding out where these cultural artifacts came from and how they developed which is truly a shame.

rant over.

Monday, January 18, 2010

je ton amor

so you're probably going to laugh at this but i can't get lady ga ga's song "bad romance" out of my head.

i was bored last weekend and she popped up on one of those msn news posts and i thought, "what the hell. i really don't know enough about her to form an opinion." so i watched some videos and i'm confident in the knowledge that i still don't like her music. it's still a thinly veiled, poor woman's madonna but it is well produced and catchy as hell. her videos are a mix of bowie and jackson in that couture meets short film kind of way which you have to hand it to her, like the outfits or not, she's got a style to her videos that force you to pay attention or look away and that's a pretty powerful bit of media that can do that.

that's it. that's what's been consuming most of my brain power lately.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

lemme get a chop at this lumba

goodie mob were one of the first real "dirty south" rap groups. there were other groups coming out of atlanta but goodie mob followed in the foot steps of the getto boys and were contemporaries of outkast before dre went all crazy with the production bug. this was also the first time i had the pleasure of hearing cee lo's voice. i'm not a gnarls barkley fan but cee lo is fantastic no matter where you put him and it's been interesting watching his career evolve since 1995.

goodie mob (the good die mostly over bullshit) were all about the message their music held. they were political in a grass roots way. they spoke about their life and experiences and it was easy to tell they weren't lying about them. there was no bravado and they weren't proud to tell stories about being arrested, selling drugs or being shot at. they tell stories about their families and friends and the politics of the music industry and they manage to do it without flashing gold, spinning rims or pouring champagne on scantily clad ladies.

there were a number of really good tracks on soul food with a little guest vocal from andre 3000 on thought process. my favourites are probably thought process, cell therapy and soul food but i can't think of a single track that i don't like for one reason or another.

i'm sad to say this was the only goodie mob album i ever owned. they went through a few line up changes and the third album just didn't have the same feel to it. after cee lo and big gip left t-mo and khujo were back to the original duo the lumberjacks. i still kick myself for not buying that album when it came out.

i'm not sure what this album meant to me but it holds an interesting place in my heart. in 95 i was living in a new city that was about an hour drive away from everything i knew. an hour doesn't sound like much when you're old enough to drive but when your a kid and your only option is three plus hours of transit, making the trek wasn't an easy option. i spent a lot of time on buses and trains going back and forth to my old school to see my friends. i actually spent more time in class at my old school then i did at my new one. six hours a day at least three times a week i would hop on a bus and listen to tape after tape until i got home. groups like goodie mob and souls of mischief kept me sane because they were a link back to what i felt i'd been forced to leave behind. i hated school but i went because of the friends i made there. i hated the new school almost as much as i hated the people in it which is why i never went.

i guess that answers my question. soul food spoke to me of community, family and brotherhood which were things that i felt i was sorely lacking at the time. looking back on that time it's quite easy to see that some of the best experiences of my life happened in and around that time or as a direct result of it. if i hadn't met the people that i did at my new school my life would probably be remarkably different today. i wouldn't be writing this blog for one thing and while i'm sure i would still have a deep love and appreciation for music, i wouldn't be playing it.

Friday, January 8, 2010

six million ways to die, choose one.

i've hit 500 hits which i think is pretty good for a blog that hasn't done anything to advertise itself. obviously there are a few people reading this and i'm touched. i hope i can continue to be entertaining enough to keep you coming back for another 50000000000000000000...hits.

at the same time i'm hoping to get more people reading this thing and would love to hear any suggestions on how to do it.

more music coming soon.

Friday, January 1, 2010

for self assigned penance for problems with easy solutions...

and what did you do for new year's eve?

if you're like most people you gussied yourself up, hopped into a vehicle of some sort and made your way to an event bursting with liquor, music, people and all the joy and sorrow that the new year has to bring.

how was your year? honestly. i'm all ears.

i thought about doing a count down or top however many or something to try and wrap up the year in a little bow and i realized that my heart just isn't in it. while i do enjoy helping people find out about new and exciting, or old and exciting pieces of media i've started to think that maybe, just maybe the tried and true, "last year's top..." lists are a tired concept. perhaps instead of looking at the year that has just passed we should pay more attention to making the coming year even better.

so that's what i'm doing. while there were a great many things that happened last year i'm quite happy to put in on the shelf like so many old forgotten year books.

c'mon 2010. let's see what you're made of.