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YES. There’s a mashup of the Notorious B.I.G. and the ‘Serial’ theme song
12.19.2014
11:17 am

Topics:
Crime
Hip-hop
Media
Music

Tags:
Notorious B.I.G.
Serial


 
The success of the This American Life spinoff podcast Serial, which in Season 1 has been looking at the facts surrounding the incarceration of Adnan Masud Syed for the murder of a former girlfriend named Hae-Min Lee, has been a major story in the world of podcasting. It’s been a #1 in the iTunes store for weeks, and if you’re a loyal This American Life listener, you’ve probably been gushing about the case with your friends since the podcast’s inception. As viewers of HBO and AMC have learned of late, the pleasures of the serial form of story-telling can be profound, something the consumers of The Perils of Pauline, Fantômas, and the death of Little Nell decades or centuries ago didn’t need to be told.

To honor a show obsessed with murder, New York-based producer Fafu decided that the thing to do was to mash up the tinkly Serial theme song (composed by Nicholas Thorburn, available here) with something a bit heavier—the Notorious B.I.G. track “Somebody Gotta Die.”

Face it—listening to a murder case week after week has made you feel like a gangsta—now you have a soundtrack to match.
 

 
via Huh.

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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Punk rock is coming for your children! Arrogant talk show host blows an easy one


 
The alarmist punk-rock-is-coming-for-your-children episode of everywhere’s local talk show was practically a genre unto itself around 1980. They typically followed a template: a safe, comfortable, grinning suburbanite moderator projects his or her values onto a movement s/he doesn’t understand at all, and expects a handful of alienated, hobo-looking kids that the producer dug up somewhere to represent punk as a whole, as though a couple of random petulant runaways should shoulder the responsibility of justifying the existence of a broad international musical and cultural movement. On better shows, they found bright kids, and the hosts at least made an effort at understanding the new weirdness, instead of just hectoring their guests about their negativity, as though all art was invalid unless it existed solely to entertain them personally.

This is not one of the better shows.
 

 
Stanley Siegel was an interviewer of some repute, who fancied himself audacious and uncompromising, but was often really just kind of a showboating dick. In one infamous episode, Siegel physically restrained Timothy Leary before sandbagging him with a surprise phone call from Art Linkletter, who blamed LSD, and by extension, Leary, for his daughter’s suicide. So yeah, THAT kind of showboating dick. On his obligatory punk rock scold show (IS IT A DEATH TRIP OR A RITE OF PASSAGE?), he managed to book credible guests and proceeded to treat them with amazing condescension. In addition to the usual few aimless kids, Siegel landed Penelope Spheeris, director of the canonical L.A. punk documentary The Decline of Western Civilization, and artist Gary Panter, whose logo for the band Screamers is such an elemental piece of punk art that it’s probably much better-remembered than the band itself. He’d become even better known as a cartoonist for RAW and as the set designer for Pee-Wee’s Playhouse.

Spheeris, right out of the gate, is just not having any of Siegel. At first it seems like she’s trying a little too hard to affect disaffection, but soon enough, what looked at first like brazen posturing (“I’d like to be a hooker?” Really?) becomes more than justified by Siegel’s smug, curt patronization. Real quote: “This woman actually produced and directed a film!” Spheeris would go on to make the cult classic Suburbia and the mainstream classic Wayne’s World, and is still directing. Not sure Siegel’s career was quite so storied, but whatever. It’s all pretty eminently watchable.
 

 
More after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Discussion
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Pianosaurus cover ‘Merry Christmas, Baby’ playing toy instruments, 1987
12.19.2014
09:26 am

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Music

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Pianosaurus

Pianosaurus
 
Pianosaurus were a ‘80s rock band from New York that used toy instruments exclusively. Forming c. 1982, they released a couple of live tapes before putting out their debut studio album, Groovy Neighborhood in 1987. Produced by Peter Holsapple from the dB’s and released by Rounder Records, Groovy Neighborhood could easily be dismissed as a joke if the songs weren’t so damn good and the performances so convincing. Pianosaurus managed to find the sweet spot between silly and genuine, and it didn’t hurt that singer/guitarist Alex Garvin’s songs are super-catchy. All Music summed up the band’s method and appeal nicely in their review of the album:

A gimmick band which transcends its novelty status, Pianosaurus play their light-hearted, pop-oriented material on children’s instruments bought at toy stores, among them tiny pianos, cheap-o organs and plastic horns and guitars. Sincere and enthusiastic, Groovy Neighborhood is sparkling, well-played pop with folk undercurrents.

The band toured extensively, making numerous radio and television appearances along the way, and seemed headed for greater success. But after they completed their second LP, Garvin apparently suffered some kind of mental breakdown and suddenly vanished in 1988. Subsequently, their label decided not to release the record and Pianosaurus were sadly no more.

More after the jump…

Posted by Bart Bealmear | Discussion
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Slint and Will Oldham discuss that famous ‘Spiderland’ album cover
12.18.2014
08:41 am

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Art
Music

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Slint
Will Oldham


Brashear, Walford, and Oldham treading water
 
Spiderland was that haunting and evocative bit of early-‘90s indie rock, the second (and final) album from Slint, four fellows from Louisville, Kentucky, the reconstituted shards of Squirrel Bait. It took a long while, but it has emerged as one of the profoundly influential albums of the post-classic era, contributing to the foundations of post-rock and inspiring acts as disparate as P.J. Harvey, Pavement, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Mogwai, and Sebadoh. No small part of the album’s appeal derives from the photograph that graces the cover, a black-and-white, ever-so-blurry pic of the band members bobbing in the waters of a quarry somewhere. The picture suggests the frolics of summer and youth, but the lack of color lends it a foreboding aura—a wholly apt introduction to the bracing, enervating music of the album. The picture was taken by Will Oldham, a buddy of the band’s who went on to record scads of music under the name Bonnie “Prince” Billy, among others.

In the following clip, filmmaker Lance Bangs brought Oldham and Slint members Britt Walford (drums) and Todd Brashear (bass) together to reminisce about the shooting of that cover. There’s some talk of Slint guitarist Brian McMahan cooking up some mayhem with a “sacrificial goat” and the entire band, save McMahan, getting arrested for trespassing. It’s evident that the quarry is the site of a tony residential community of some kind, we catch a glimpse of a billboard for a building development company from southern Indiana called Quarry Bluff, which bills itself as (initial caps and all) “A Unique Development Located on the Banks of the Ohio River in Utica, Indiana Just Across the New East End Bridge!” So it appears that the quarry isn’t in Kentucky at all but in Jefferson, Indiana.

This clip comes from Breadcrumb Trail, Bangs’ recent documentary on the band and the album. The clip ends with Oldham, Brashear, and Walford jumping into the water to re-create the album cover as best they can.
 

 
via Biblioklept

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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Nick Cave’s handwritten dictionary
12.17.2014
08:56 am

Topics:
Art
Books
Music

Tags:
Nick Cave
lexicography


 
Few musicians are as word-drunk as Mr. Nick Cave from Warracknabeal, Australia, wouldn’t you agree? As a younger man Cave kept a journal in which he jotted down new words he wanted to remember and arranged them in alphabetical order. It’s definitely a good tip for writers starting out, you’re always learning, there’s always something to learn. Take notes endlessly and don’t waver!

A section from the A’s and a section from the M’s was made available a few years ago, words include AUTOCHTHON (“primitive or original inhabitant”) and MICTURITION (“morbid desire to pass water”). I’d dearly love to see the whole thing. I hope that will happen someday.
 

 

 
More after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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Butthole Surfers, Wire, The Fall, Pere Ubu and Fugazi on SNUB TV
12.17.2014
08:28 am

Topics:
Music
Television

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SNUB TV


 
If ever a televised music program was ripe for a digital-media anthology, it’s the wonderful SNUB TV. Originally a segment within the USA cable network’s storied Night Flight from 1987-88, SNUB TV soon became a show in its own right on BBC2, helmed by journalist Brenda Kelly and director Peter Fowler. Its existence in that form, from early 1989 to mid 1991, falls almost exactly in the gap between the end of the era in UK pop dominated by the likes of the Smiths and Echo and the Bunnymen, and the ascendancy of Britpop. Accordingly, it became a go-to for coverage of the Madchester/baggy scene and the early stirrings of shoegaze. Segments featuring Happy Mondays, Inspiral Carpets, My Bloody Valentine, Ultra Vivid Scene, Ride, the Darkside, Spirea X, and Stone Roses are on YouTube, and they show a program committed to intelligent coverage, one that took the aesthetic merit of new movements as a given, without condescension. They even jettisoned presenters. There were a couple of VHS anthologies released in the early ‘90s (which is the only way I knew about its continued existence post-Night Flight), but they’ve been out of print about as long as the show’s been off the air. A DVD/Blu-ray set is desperately overdue.

SNUB TV’s strengths weren’t limited to showcasing the new noise. Kelly and Fowler did inspired features on established independents from the early punk and hardcore scenes, as well. This Butthole Surfers segment rivals any of the band’s interviews for sheer weirdness, gives us a peek at the group in the studio, and contains rare live footage of the demented downer-psych freakout “Jimi,” from the Hairway to Steven LP.
 

 
After the jump, The Fall’s Mark E. Smith, Pere Ubu’s David Thomas, Wire, and Fugazi’s Ian MacKaye…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Discussion
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Higher Revolutionary Mutation with the Jefferson Airplane, 1970
12.17.2014
07:51 am

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Music

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Jefferson Airplane


 
If push came to shove and I had to pick the ONE—just one—rock group whose message I most “resonate” with, I think I would ultimately have to pick Jefferson Airplane. Outside of the MC5, their lyrics were the most overtly revolutionary—as well as being deeply weird, intellectual and futuristic—of the classic rock era. Their druggy image was completely uncompromising and the way they flouted the rules of polite society was both bratty and brave for that era. The notion of a bunch of rich, indulgent hippies preaching rebellion while living in a mansion in San Francisco being driven around in a Rolls Royce on RCA’s tab was very appealing to me when I was young. The Airplane beat the capitalist system on its own terms and embraced the contradictions that went along with that.

Jefferson Airplane had a contract with the label (they and Elvis were RCA’s biggest selling acts of the 60s) giving them complete creative control, so they were able to get away with lots of things other groups couldn’t. Dig the revolutionary communiqué of a song like “Crown of Creation”:

In loyalty to their kind
They cannot tolerate our minds.
In loyalty to our kind
We cannot tolerate their obstruction!

That’s “Us vs. Them” (or smart vs. dumb, if you prefer) put as starkly and as radically as possible. Those lyrics will always be relevant, I suppose, but in the context of the 1960s, they were incendiary. When the band performed this number on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour in 1968, Grace Slick wore blackface and did the “Black Power” salute at the end. It was a completely insane thing to do. What were the powers that be at CBS thinking to let something like that slip into America’s living rooms? What was she thinking to do such a thing (and what did the rest of the group think?)? A year later, Slick would be the first person to say “fuck” on television (technically she sang “motherfucker”) when the group did “We Can Be Together” on The Dick Cavett Show.
 

 
The Airplane could be wildly erratic in concert as anyone who has listened to more than a handful of their live performances can tell you. They could be punky and powerful, sloppy and jammy or else razorsharp and inspired. Maybe it had a lot to do with the quality of the LSD on a given night, eh? Who knows? In any case, this short set, filmed at Wally Heider’s studio in San Francisco in 1970, is the group playing at near their peak efficiently as a revolutionary rock and roll unit.
 

 
Go Ride The Music includes interviews with band members and Jerry Garcia (credited as “the Guru”) between songs—you’ll note that Marty Balin is sick to death of talking about “the Revolution”—and utilizes a similar editing technique to the multi camera /multi screen thing that was so effective in Woodstock. The only complaint I have is too much Marty and not enough Grace. She looks goddamn gorgeous here and the camera is always on him. Numbers, in order, “We Can Be Together,” “Volunteers,” “Mexico,” “Plastic Fantastic Lover,” “Somebody To Love,” “Emergency” and “Wooden Ships.” (This version of Go Ride The Music has all of the Quicksilver Messenger Service material edited out. If you want to see them, I direct you here.)
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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Mike Kelley fronts Sonic Youth, 1986
12.17.2014
07:36 am

Topics:
Art
Music

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Sonic Youth
Mike Kelley


 
The first time I visited New York’s SoHo district in 1992 I remember seeing a large print of the cover art for Sonic Youth’s Dirty hanging in a loft window. Earlier that year, my art teacher had complained about Sonic Youth’s use of Mike Kelley’s “Ahh. . . Youth!” on the Dirty sleeve, so I probably wouldn’t have been surprised to learn that Kelley had fronted the band during a 1986 performance.

In the mid-‘80s, Kelley worked on a project called Plato’s Cave, Rothko’s Chapel, Lincoln’s Profile. It consisted of a series of paintings, a cave-like installation called The Trajectory of Light in Plato’s Cave, and a poetic text. The project culminated a December 1986 performance of the text by Kelley and an actress named Molly Cleator, backed by Sonic Youth.
 

 
Alec Foege’s old Sonic Youth bio Confusion Is Next gives some background on the collaboration:

In December 1986 Kelly invited the band to provide sound effects and incidental music for three performances of his piece Plato’s Cave, Rothko’s Chapel, Lincoln’s Profile at Artists Space in New York. Kelley recited an hour-and-a-half poem he had written and dramatized with the help of actress Molly Cleator while the band droned on.

Plato’s Cave had begun “as a project about the possessive,” Kelley said in one interview, “about how ascribing a quality of possession to something would equalize everything. Like, if I said that this was an exhibition of everything from Lincoln’s house, it links all this random stuff together that has no link except as a possible way to psychoanalyze Lincoln. Everybody asked me why I picked those three people. I made a whole list of possessives that were in common usage and I just picked the three that sounded best together. . . . Then I wove a set of associations between them.”

The band got together with Kelley a couple days before the performance. Kelley went through the script and told the band what he wanted at certain cues—a chunky rock sound, a bang, a spooky noise.

“I wanted to play with rock staging,” Kelley says. “For a lot of the performance, they were behind a curtain, so you didn’t even see them. I was trying to play against this rock-star thing, where there’s a shift of focus to somebody who in normal kind of rock-theatric terms would be the singer.” Kelley’s actions made him the center of focus—the singer, as it were—even though Sonic Youth’s accompaniment accentuated his actions and words with kabuki-like synergy, rather than in the traditional way in which a rock band interacts with a vocalist.

 

 
Kelley and Sonic Youth guitarist Lee Ranaldo discussed the show in a 2009 interview:

Then, to connect your and Mike’s practices—I understand that Sonic Youth provided the soundtrack for Mike’s piece Plato’s Cave, Rothko’s Chapel, Lincoln’s Profile at Artists Space in 1986. How did that collaboration come about?

LR: I think Mike and Kim [Gordon] had been friends in LA. Mike was coming to New York to do this piece at Artist Space and asked us if we would work with him. Steve [Shelley] had just come aboard as our permanent drummer, and we were at the point where we were past just trying things, and had really formed a language that we were all comfortable working with.

MK: That’s right—I knew Kim in LA before she moved to New York. At that time she was not yet a musician; she was a visual artist.  I watched the development of Sonic Youth, and I liked the music and I liked them as people. In that particular performance I wanted to have a live sound element modeled after kabuki theater, where there are musical sections that play off the language in a quite disjointed way.  I also wanted to play with the idea of rock staging. A lot of the audience was there to see Sonic Youth specifically, because at that point they were a known band, so I had some parts where the band was really foregrounded and others where they were completely hidden—behind a curtain, for instance—so you couldn’t see them. And it was great, because they sometimes were doing music not at all typical for Sonic Youth—at one point, for example, I asked them to repeat a riff from “Train Kept A-Rollin’” over and over.

Kim Gordon reminisces about her relationship with Kelley in the video clip below, produced as part of this year’s Mike Kelley retrospective at MOCA. (Kelly committed suicide in 2012.) She says a few words about the performance:

Plato’s Cave, I felt like we were some kind of a Greek chorus to it, and I always thought of Mike as a performance artist more than a visual artist. And at some point, I realized the work was the performance.

 

 
You can listen to the 38-minute (not hour-and-a-half, pace Foege) Plato’s Cave performance in its entirety here. A CD is available from Kelley’s label Compound Annex.

 

Posted by Oliver Hall | Discussion
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Making Wham’s ‘Last Christmas’ eight times as long yields a minor ambient masterpiece
12.16.2014
07:14 am

Topics:
Music

Tags:
Christmas
George Michael
Wham


 
It’s December 16, and If you’re a human being in the western world, you’re probably sick to death of Wham’s synthy 1984 classic “Last Christmas” by now. I argue that it’s the last song ever released to enter the Christmas canon—a friend recently argued for Mariah Carey’s 1994 song “All I Want For Christmas Is You,” but I disqualify it on the basis that it’s a fuck-song, it’s a song about fucking your boyfriend, it’s not really about Christmas at all.

Anyway, “Last Christmas.” Had enough of it yet? If you have, you may find the antidote in this YouTube video, in which someone had the genius idea of slowing down the song to a length of nearly 36 minutes, which works really well. Then it sounds like some kind of 1990s dance music, like The Orb or Autechre or somebody. Slowing it down by a factor of 8 gives the sparkly and tinkly yuletime anthem an oceanic, Eno-esque aura. Sure, it’s not Bauhaus’ “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” stretched out to a brain-pulverizing nine hours, but then, what is? You have to take such pleasures where they come.
 

 
via Das Kraftfuttermischwerk

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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Members of Curve and Primal Scream talk My Bloody Valentine’s ‘You Made Me Realise’


 
One upside of being “a certain age” is that some of the concerts you went to as a matter of course seem impossibly cool in hindsight, and for me, one of those was My Bloody Valentine on the Loveless tour. I doubt I have to tell anyone who bothered to click on this how amazing the show was, and I almost didn’t go! It was a fairly expensive ticket and I was a flat broke 20-year-old, but a friend with a little flow to spare—in a move that would mark her for sainthood in whatever religion I would be in if I was in one—bought me a ticket, just because she thought it was something I should see. (In kind, I would years later take her to see Kraftwerk in Chicago on her birthday, and I’m not sure that I don’t still owe her.) MBV was exactly everything I wanted in music at the time—a noisy guitar offensive totally outside the dead-to-me hardcore milieu, but otherworldly, pretty, dense, loud, perfect.
 

 
A much-discussed feature of their shows at the time—and I understand still, though I haven’t partaken in a reunion show—was the insane noise break (often referred to as “the holocaust”) in the middle of the song “You Made Me Realise.” On the EP of the same title, the song stops cold in the middle and turns into a vortex of white noise. In concert, that sonic hurricane was intensified to painful levels. At peak volume, and with blaring lights aimed at the crowd, MBV stretched that noise break out for 15 caustic, head-melting minutes or longer. Trendy kids who weren’t prepared for such meat-and-potatoes hatenoise (they’d all go on to buy Spooky by Lush and be ultra psyched about it) made for the parking lot with dad’s car keys, but the faithful stuck it out. You couldn’t see anything but those lights. You couldn’t talk to your friends. You just took it. If you were attentive you started to notice all the over- and under-tones and implied rhythms that emerged from the huge, sick, beautiful racket they were making. Nuances asserted themselves in the punitively loud assault of guitar grit and cymbal-wash, and you might have been hallucinating some of them, but that blank wall of sound was rich, complex, and anything but blank. And then, after who even knew how long, without any cue discernable to the audience, on a goddamn dime the band dropped back into the song’s propulsive main riff. It remains to this day one of the most glorious things I’ve ever seen.

The recently released documentary Beautiful Noise by Eric Green and Sarah Ogletree focuses closely on the origins and impact of the scene that MBV galvanized (and amusingly, the press release does a fine job of teasing the film without once ever using the words “shoe” or “gaze”). A recently-released clip from the film features Toni Halliday of Curve, Bobby Gillespie of The Jesus and Mary Chain/Primal Scream, and MBV drummer Colm Ó Cíosóig talking about the “holocaust.” There’s some wonderful rare footage and photography. Billy Corgan also appears. You take the bad with the good.
 

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Discussion
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