Archive for March, 2010

Obnoxious Noise is Awesome! (Dan Deacon)

So last year I really got into Deacon’s first album Spiderman on the Rings.  Hey Spiderman is an actual word as defined by Microsoft word spellcheck.  Isn’t that cool?  Oddly enough, spellcheck, spelled just like that, without the spaces,  isn’t a word.  Yet you’d seriously think it was, right?  I mean, wouldn’t  Microsoft be into that?  It automatically capitalizes Microsoft, but you have to spell spell-check with a hyphen.  That’s weird.

Oh yeah, Spiderman of the Rings.  Basically Dan Deacon makes music that I would file under electronic/dance, because I simply don’t understand the various subgenres of electronic music.  It’s all techno to me.  Drum ‘n’ Bass is the kind that sounds the most stupid, I think, but I have no idea where to go with the rest of them.  Where does trance start and glitch end?  What the fuck is house music?  Man, these guys have too many damn subgenres for their own good.  The cool thing about Dan Deacon is that he doesn’t really fit into any of them.  There’s the standard instrumentation you associate with techno, but also a lot of xylophones, chipmunk vocals, animal noises and indecipherable lyrics.  Deacon describes Spiderman of the Rings as “very youthful and carefree, sort of partying for the sake of partying.  Bromst is more of a celebration.”  Bromst is Deacon’s second album and it’s even better.  I get where he’s coming from with the celebration thing.  This record is bananas.  Ten mallet instruments stacked on top of ten people singing, half in auto-tune, the other half are dogs, stacked on top two kick ass basses, stacked on top of two or three drum sets.  I dunno.  Something like that.  I’m not great at describing music, especially Dan Deacon.  The best I can do is usually to compare something to something else, but I got nothing with this guy.  This shit is bizarre, but not like Black Dice, where it’s boring, or Pullhair Rubeye, where it’s just stupid, this is fucking awesome.  It’s the ultimate feel good record because it’s so damn obnoxious, you just KNOW that everybody else can barely stand it.  If they can put up with it, then they must like it, and they must be your friends.  Congratulations, you just made a new friend.  Dan Deacon kicks ass.  I even wrote this review as a stream of consciousness thing to kind of simulate what it feels like when you first listen to Dan Deacon.  His stuff is a little more coherent and composed than this piece, but it doesn’t feel like it at first.  I refuse to check for errors or proofread this bitch.  Now dance motherfucker dance!  Also, watch this video for Woof Woof.  It’s wacky.

I just read on his Wikipedia page that he toured with both Deerhunter and No Age last summer.  That’s fucking awesome.

Near Dark

First off, let’s get one thing out of the way-Avatar was a good movie.  People were only hating on it because it got nominated for an award it probably didn’t deserve, but who gives a shit?  It didn’t win, and it’s not like The Academy Awards are infallible, definitive bastion of movie praise.  Remember, these are the motherfuckers who give awards to Crash, Chicago, and Driving Miss Daisy (in the same year they fail to nominate Do the Right Thing).  The Oscars are just 2 ½ hours of Hollywood hotshots patting themselves on the back.  Stop pretending otherwise.  The best we can hope for is that they make PRETTY GOOD choices.  Don’t take them so seriously, is what I’m saying.  Try to look at them with a more objective eye.  Honestly, I thought this year’s selection of The Hurt Locker for best picture was a great choice.  The movie was genuinely great, and it was cool to see someone like Kathryn Bigelow, a lady who’s spent pretty much her entire career making action movies, get credit where it was due.  I liked The Hurt Locker so much, I decided to explore the Kathryn Bigelow archives.

Kathryn Bigelow is all the rage right now after winning all those Oscars, so you can impress your friends by bringing up Near Dark, her second feature, after The Loveless (A biker gang movie with Willem Fucking Dafoe!  I’ll get to that one later.)  Near Dark is all about this kid, Caleb, who gets bit by a hot young vampire girl and then he has to join her vampire gang and learn the ropes of vampirism.  You know how it is.  I’ve got mixed feelings about the movie.  On one hand, there’s certainly a lot of COOL moments, but on the other, it can be a bizarrely illogical film.  Characters make a lot of dumb decisions, and most of the vampires are just ridiculously amoral.  It’s one of those vampire movies where, not only do they never say “vampire,” but everybody acts like they don’t know what vampires are.  Never really understood the point of that.   But hey, this is pretty fuckin’ cool-

Damn, that's awesome.

And honestly, if you think that’s cool too, it’s probably worth a look.  I’ve got to err on the movie’s side.  It aint perfect, but I think it manages to pull it off, if just barely.  Bigelow’s inexperience shows.  There’s a lot of weird cuts and bad acting, but the violence is all well-staged, and it’s got some genuine suspense, mostly revolving around whether or not Caleb has it in him to kill a man.  Somehow, despite some paper thin characterization, I even managed to care about, not some, but ALL of the characters, so way to go on that one.

The supporting characters, at least the vampires, are all great.  These guys come from the bygone era when crappy movies at least had the decency to have some colorful characters.  Bill Paxton’s Severin being the star of the lot.  Paxton steals the show every time he’s on screen, stabbing and maiming his way into our hearts, but the other vampires are good too.  In addition to Paxton, you’ve also got Lance Henrikson and Jenette Goldstein.  That’s half the cast of Aliens!  Awesome!   I even liked Homer, the child vampire.  Jenny Wright and Adrian  Pasdar have good chemistry as the two star-crossed lovers.  However, the girl playing Caleb’s sister is pretty obnoxious, but luckily she’s not in it that much.  I normally don’t mind bad acting that much, but I have no tolerance for adorable children.  If those things can’t act (and they never can) they piss me off.

Lapses in logic aside, this is a pretty good, if sometimes frustrating movie.  It’s no Let the Right One In, but it’s still better than half the other vampire-related shit out there.

Digable Planets – Reachin (A New Refutation of Time and Space)

Man, good thing I was in a really shitty mood this week, or I probably wouldn’t have been able to get into Digable Planets.  I’ve been listening to their debut album, Reachin (A New Refutation of Time and Space) and I have to say, I’m pleasantly surprised.  Emphasis on pleasant.  If these guys are one thing, it is definitely pleasant.  They’ve got the laid-back jazz-rap style down perfect.   The three MCs even go so far as to get some good non-threatening names-Butterfly, Doodlebug, and Ladybug, respectively.  These guys do not trade verses with Ghostface Killah, is what I’m saying.

Eric B and Rakim had just released their final album, Don’t Sweat The Technique, a year prior to Reachin, but the Planets raps are still from the pre-Rakim school of hip hop-Basic flows and songs about street life.  They even trade bars now and then.  I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that people who named themselves after adorable insects don’t spend half the album boasting about their microphone prowess, but after listening to nothing but Jay Electronica for a week prior, it was a nice change of pace.

One thing they do like to brag about is how good the MUSIC is, and I am all for that.  My favorite track, Nickelbags, is a celebration of funk, funky samples, and other things that are funky, and funk, ah, funk it, I mean fuck it.  I don’t know where I was going with that.  Just listen to the song.

This song is so good at 3AM.  That barely there flute is incredible.  It’s sleepy yet happy, entirely content with the world.  That was Bob Marley’s problem.  He needed more flutes.  (Well also most of his songs sucked.)  It reminds me of Sesame Street.  I doubt that’s what they were going for with this record, but it’s definitely what I got from it.  I think that’s more to do with the majority of my Sesame Street viewing coming from early 90’s tapings.  However, they do mention Snuffleupagus in a song, Bert and Ernie too.  I don’t know what the hell they’re talking about, but hey, it’s there.

The album is very relaxed, it doesn’t have any true bangers, but it’s a great one nonetheless.  It’s a record for those summer days when it’s just too hot to do anything, or those spring days when you’re too depressed to listen to noise-metal, I guess.  Can’t wait to hear it on crappy car speakers.

Fela Kuti, Jay Electronica and Shwayze

A friend was bugging me about Fela Kuti for quite a few months.  I finally took him up on his word and I’m glad I did.  I decided to start with 1975’s Expensive Shit, which is probably the London Calling of the Afrobeat scene, but 1) Ya gotta start somewhere, and 2) you got a problem with London Calling?  Because I sure don’t.  So of course this must all be old news for both of you Afrobeat kids, but I gotta spread the praise among my less enlightened pals.

The album might seem a little intimidating at first, all the songs are over ten minutes long and everything’s sung in Nigerian pidgin.  But don’t fear!  It’s not lyrical music anyway.  Most of the lyrics are call-and-response type stuff.  They don’t make the songs.  The horn section is the real star here.  Fela’s band keeps things funky in a way that’s exciting and uplifting.  What Bob Marley wishes he was.

On the modern side of the spectrum, Jay Electronica has a new song.  “Exhibit C” here came out a month or so ago, but my computer broke so I didn’t get this blog off the ground as soon as I had originally planned.  Still, the delay doesn’t make Jay’s new jam any less relevant.  This guy’s a serious artist.  Look forward to him dropping an album one of these days.

Also, I’ve got this art class where it seems like this other kid and I have become the de-facto class DJs.  Of course, my music is always great.  On occasions, his is tolerable.  He’s usually on a Jack Johnson/Dave Matthews Band kick, but today, we were treated to some modern pop rap.  Not bad.  At least until he busted out the Shwayze.  If you haven’t heard of this asshole, you’ve obviously been doing something right.  Apparently, he had an MTV show a year or two ago when The Hills was really huge.  I think that’s a pretty good indication of where he’s coming from, musically.  I thought it didn’t get much worse than Jack Johnson covering “We’re Going to be Friends,” but this is kind of like if Jack Johnson teamed up with Asher Roth to remake De Stijl, but they rewrote all of the lyrics to be about weed.  Except this is a little worse.  Shwayze makes Hollywood Undead look cool.  The only good to come from this fiasco was that it helped me regain a little faith in Kid Cudi.  For a while, I was worried he was going to be the Dave Matthews Band of hip hop, but I now realize that that spot’s already taken.  Cudi’s got potential.  He’s kind of interesting.  Also, he doesn’t make me want to kill something.