|A blog for commentary regarding the music of today (and yesterday...and the day before...)|
Click here for a review of Dark Circles by The Devils.
Click here for a review of Bangs...Sounds of the 80s.
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August 30, 2002
Notes on the friggin' VMAs....
Please be advised: I am not a big fan of MTV. I tune in for the Osbournes and I admit that I have been hooked to a Real World series or two, but to be honest I'm not that impressed with the musical selection that MTV videos have to offer (when you catch an actual video, that is). I had no desire to watch the VMAs this year, but my evening plans were thwarted and so I found myself tuning in to the re-broadcast at 11PM to at least keep myself occupied for a while.
The only part of the show that I found interesting was The Vines and The Hives, two artists currently being showcased on MTV2. I don't have MTV2 because I'm a little stuck in the 80s with classic cable service (no digital cable or satellite as of yet) so this was my first exposure to these two bands. I have to say I was quite impressed; I liked the performance by The Hives a bit better and I may have to run to the record store and pick up a CD. Surprise surprise...MTV actually had a use for me last night; they got me interested in a new band!
The rest of the show sucked.
Michael Jackson looks like a complete freak. That plastic surgery thing has gone to far. He's starting to remind me of the woman who kept getting procedures done on her face because she wanted to look exactly like a cat; a leopard or something. I don't know what Michael Jackson is going for, but his face has stopped responding to voluntary muscle movements due to all the plastic in there (for a complete history of Michael Jackson's plastic surgery, go here). And dude...wasn't Britney just telling the guy "Happy Birthday" and giving him a cake? Where did this "Artist of the Millenium" thing come from? I'm so confused....
Speaking of Britney, that outfit was totally out of control. And you know, it pisses me off that she decided to wear what could arguably be a "whacked-out chauffeur" costume when I just got the sexiest chauffeur in the universe tattooed 11 inches high on my leg. For the record: my chauffeur was tattooed before the VMAs, okay? And she is definitely much more interesting than Britney Spears.
Speaking of tattoos....don't get me started on Pink. Since when did she go all dark and goth and tattooed? I liked her better when she was much more "Pink". And in case you didn't notice, that tattoo was fake. Note to Pink: this is the real thing, honey. I dare you to actually go through with it.
I really should stop right now before I become really brutal and insulting (if I start typing about the "grand finale" there may just be a lawsuit from Guns and Roses....that gives you an idea how strongly I felt about it). There was just so much that was wrong with last night's presentation! But I think I can find a few good things to say....
Bruce Springsteen's opening was amazing. That was the Rose Center at the Musuem of Natural History right behind him; if I had known about the performance I would've walked down there to check it out. My bad.
Eminem's performance was a trip; I'm digging that new single. And although I'm not big on P. Diddy, I must say the guy puts on quite a show. The Osbournes were hilarious (as usual), J. Lo looked damn fine, I'm glad Kylie Minogue won for Best Choerography ("Go team Kylie!!"), and James Brown has still got his stuff.
I was still rather bored and disappointed with the whole affair. Am I the only one on the planet who hasn't been blown away by the White Stripes? I don't like Shakira, Alicia Keyes, Ashanti, or Michelle Branch. Sheryl Crow's performance was lovely, but I've never been a fan of her, either.
Too bad Fat Boy Slim, Radiohead, Basement Jaxx or any of those other artists I currently dig weren't up for awards. I'm hoping between now and the next awards show that there will be a huge musical coup. Is it too much to ask that industrial and electronic grooves take over the music scene for a little while? Aren't we tired of the Christinas and the Justins yet?
On Saturday I entered the big-ass cat tattoo into competition. For each category they gave out three "artist's choice" awards and we picked one up in tribal. My tattoo artist, Darren, also picked one up in the "Most Unusual" category for a Salvador Dali piece that he tattooed on a friend's back. That day I had a quick photo session with a tattoo magazine photographer; with any luck the tattoo will finally appear somewhere in print! The photographer also took some photos for his own collection; he has a book called The Illustrated Woman full of his tattoo photography. Unfortunately we had to cut the photo session short, and we were supposed to get together again on Sunday but I couldn't find him. So I have no idea where these photos will end up.....
Later on Saturday I went out to dinner and coffee with some friends in D.C. I also finally got a chance to see their apartments; they've all lived in that area for a year now and I've never paid a visit. !!!!
On Sunday Darren and I took a trip to the Smithsonian and went to the Freer Gallery. He bought me dinner later and then we set off back to NYC.....
This was the very 1st Washington D.C. tattoo convention (which was actually in Crystal City, VA). It was very small, but not bad for a first effort! There weren't a whole lot of folks getting tattooed; one of Darren's clients mentioned that school was just starting so most people were probably busy. Incidentally the whole convention was MCed by a local DJ (I wish I could remember his name) who entertained the artists and convention-goers with a strange collection of music.....
I'll post my new tattoo over at the main Late Bar Radio tattoo pages once it heals. It's a gorgeous tattoo....I'm really happy I found this artist and that she had the time to tattoo me.
There is of course a "but" in this situation. You see, most everything I own in terms of computer equipment I got for free. Don't worry, it was all procured very properly and legally. I just didn't pay for any of it. My MP3 Player is no exception; I got it from the dotcom I used to work for (the company is now gone, of course, just like most other dotcoms in the world). The company was working with digital music media, and so for promotion purposes they had a bunch of Nomad-II MP3 Players stamped with the company logo and compatible with special flash cards that could read our proprietary MP3 encryption technology. It came with 32MB internal memory and a 32MB flash card that reads the company's encrypted MP3s, as well as standard MP3s.
All good so far, right? But there are problems. Such as....the charger/uploading cradle uses a parellel interface. My parallel port is being used by my Zip drive and my scanner, and the cradle won't work if daisy chained from the scanner; it has to be plugged directly into the computer. Also, the included software was custom-made by our company, and has a tendency to fail. When it does fail, I have to uninstall the program, reboot with the cradle plugged in, and then reinstall the software. Even though the player is a Nomad, I can't download new loading software from Nomad's site without paying for it (and yeah, I surfed around crack/hack sites, but you know, after an hour the porn popups get REALLY annoying....); and besides, it is unlikely that it would recognize the proprietary flash card in the expansion slot, therefore bringing my total storage space down from 64MB to 32MB. The battery life is also crap; I'm lucky if I get 1 1/2 hours out of it (at least I can recharge them, though, which I do often). And finally, this version of the Nomad has issues with the display screen; apparently it dies after a few months. Sure enough that happenned to me, so now I can't tell what track I'm listening to, how much battery I have left, or what my equalizer settings are. This is very troublesome when I am trying to upload new songs, because I can't tell if the thing is on, and it will shut off automatically if it's not playing anything, and the charger/loader won't talk to the player unless it is powered up....
Rotating tracks on my P.O.S. (but free) MP3 Player is a daylong event, mostly due to crawling around the spaghetti of computer cables behind my desk and digging up the right ones to switch (not to mention the possibility of having to reload the darn software). So I must take on this task with extreme care.
I am coming up blank on what tracks I want to put on there, so I want y'all to help me out. Here is my current playlist:
Give me your song suggestions. I use the player mostly for going to the gym, so keep that in mind (FYI the tracks by The Devils are worthless for the treadmill but okay for the Stairmaster; and surprisingly "Losing My Religion" is perfect for pacing a good speedwalk). Also, I never used Napster and I don't trade MP3s with file sharing programs, so hopefully y'all will suggest stuff that I actually have in my music collection.
So I have a confession: I like Eminem. I wouldn't say I am a fan, but I can appreciate his talent (he's got amazing vocal control in his raps) and even though I may not agree with his personal opinions, he has a degree of honesty and truth that is kind of endearing. I admit I don't own any of his albums (yet), but I love "The Real Slim Shady", "Stan", "The Way I Am", and I'm really digging his new single, "Without Me".
There are probably a dozen more rap artists I could name that I have enjoyed over the years. I wouldn't say I am huge fan of the whole genre (I could really care less for Puffy/P. Diddy/whatever or Tupac or L'il Kim and Will Smith really makes me nauseous) but now and again a rap artist pops up with an amazing rhyme or groove and I just gotta get down to it.....
That is all. And why is there only one comment on this whole blog? Geesh, it's the closest thing I'll ever get to a guestbook, ya know...use it, people! Use it!
the Sex Pistols will headline Los Angeles radio station KROQ's second Inland Invasion show, set for Sept. 14...Other punk notables set for the event include the Buzzcocks, Circle Jerks, Bad Religion, X, the Damned, T.S.O.L., the Distillers, the Vandals, the Adolescents, Pennywise, G.B.H., Unwritten Law, and New Found Glory
This, my dear readers, is a certifiable dream come true for my inner 14-year old. The frickin' Sex Pistols!! And the Circle Jerks? And The Damned???
If you've read the Devils post you'll recall that I used to consider Johnny Rotten the only god in existence. I was pretty pissed that I was born too late to catch the Sex Pistols in their hey day. I saw Public Image Ltd. on the "Happy" tour and had a good time, but I so wished it was 1978....
I am much older and wiser and now my fandom has switched from John Lydon (formerly Mr. Rotten) to Steve Jones. I was kicking myself in the ass for being in John Taylor la-la-land (read: I couldn't care less about Duran Duran or any of the members) from 1995 - 1999 and therefore missing his side project and live shows with Steve; the Neurotic Outsiders (somewhere in the archives there's a post about this...I'm too lazy right now to find it).
And now...here they are...Steve, Johnny, the Sex Pistols...playing in the U.S.! Oh why-oh-why is this in Los Angeles. Come to New York! Come on now, punk bands have a ton of fans in the Big Apple! I just saw Murphy's Law and the Bosstones last year...we'd love a line-up like this! Besides, don't you care about the 9/11 business?? Doesn't everyone come here just to show their support?????
I guess it is not meant to be...what is an unemployed Computer Network Engineer to do? My traveling money is all gone....I need a job now, desperately; I have not one penny for frivolous trips to L.A. Anyone want to donate some cash to help my inner child be fulfilled?
All I ask is that you try and keep the posts clean....offensive posts may be deleted.
I'm sure the template will change over the next few days, but for now I'll leave it as is. Go ahead, have at it. Remember to look through the archives and speak your mind there, as well.
It's at times like these that I wish I had a "comments" section on this blog. Because frankly, I'd love to know what people think. The options are to continue on with my computer career, or apply to grad school. Ugh. Decisions, decisions, decisions.....
Anyway, I'm listening to "Dark Circles" by The Devils a lot. I definitely do like it. I hope my long post about the CD doesn't give anyone the wrong impression; I do think it's some good music. It's just the production techniques that irk the hell out of me...
I am a Type A personality and I constantly have potentially lethal levels of caffeine and nicotine coursing through my bloodstream. This means that it is impossible for me to sit still. I find it difficult to just listen to music; I have to be doing something that occupies my hands or feet or at least expends a little energy. It's a damn good thing I am a Manhattanite; we are a population that are always on the move. And so my listening time comes during travel, with my trusty Discman or MP3 Player; on the subway, the bus, or just walking down the street.
Last week I decided to listen to Dark Circles while running errands prior to my trip up to Massachusetts. On my way to the drugstore I listened to the instrumental track "Memory Places", and with the volume set at its highest level I could hear something vaguely familiar: Gregorian Chant. I thought this was an interesting background sound among the pounding underlying rhythm and the ethereal voices. The mode of the chant is sometimes off from the key of the synth and guitar, but instead of clashing miserably it blends to a pleasing mix.
In the Post Office line "Big Store" was much more enjoyable than it had been on the hot, sweaty subway platform on the Saturday I had purchased the CD. The simplicity of the guitar line combined with the frank simplicity of the lyrics works well. Duffy's voice mixes beautifully over the haunting sounds of Rhodes synths; this is the most gothic-sounding track on the album, complete with drum machine ("looking for my keys" dance, here I come...). However, the background vocals really bugged me. This is a track that was originally written in 1979, and the addition of the female chorus seems like an attempt to add 2002 studio production onto a song that could have held up just as well in its simple, original form.
On the subway platform I found myself wiggling to "Dark Circles", a track that, although written in 2002, is consistent stylistically with the rest of the CD. It has a great groove; quite funky, actually. I would love to remix this one into a dance track (incidentally this song was stuck in my head for the whole four days I was in MA, and I actually forgot to bring the bloody CD with me and thus it drove me completely batty). "Signals in Smoke" (another 1979 original) is very dark; it was good background music as I whipped out a notebook and started taking notes on the tracks I had listened to up to that point (engaging in a nice bout of subway surfing as I did so; thank goodness I had a fairly steady conductor...). "Come Alive" (written in 2002) made me tap my foot again to a great groove (much like "Dark Circles"), but I was ready to scream when once again I heard backing female vocals and then a vocorder.
I'll spare you the play-by-play account of the songs and my errands. I took a break from listening at the Urban Outfitters on 72nd Street, and resumed listening on the subway ride to 34th. By the time I was crossing 7th Avenue to go to Macy's, I was up to track 11; "Barbarellas". I was listening to the drum machine loop in the background, Rhodes' pleasant little synth noises and Duffy's dark voice crooning out nostalgic lyrics ("We named our first group after Barbarellas....we got to play on stage at Barbarellas...") and I started thinking about the entire “Dark Circles” project. I thought it appropriate that I was about to step into Macy's; forget the "biggest store in town" (as Duffy sings in "Big Store"), this is the biggest damn department store in the world. And I remembered the first time I came to New York City at the age of 16; stepping out of Penn Station and my friend yelling, "We've got to go to Macy's!!!" and how awestruck I was stepping into that place. Eight floors (plus a basement), two entire buildings spanning a whole New York City block (avenue to avenue; that’s a full quarter mile). We got lost looking for silk Armani suits for my companion and I laugh to think of the look on my face when we discovered the restaurant on the 7th floor ("My god! We could even eat here!!!").
And then I remembered who I was at that age. I smoked Silk Cuts, cigarillos and brightly colored imports with gold filters in between my endless packs of Camels. I wore berets and smoked pot and analyzed Pink Floyd's "The Wall" and hailed the Dead Kennedys for their bold political statements. I thought there was no higher god than Johnny Rotten and I loved to push safety pins through my ears and wear black trench coats by London Fog and expound philosophy like a tortured art student instead of the suburban geek I really was.
I thought about the song “Big Store” and an interview where Duffy and Rhodes explain how the song came to be written:
“…at that age, department stores are the most glamorous buildings you get to go in,” Rhodes contextualises. “The trans-continental allure of a logo — I mean, Christian Dior next to Chanel is still something I can get excited about.”
Meanwhile in Macy’s I bought a huge bottle of Obsession for Men at the Calvin Klein counter and a Vamp lipstick at the Chanel counter (my two mandatory beauty accessories) and I had plenty of time to ponder my thoughts as I got lost three times looking for women’s swimwear. The lyrics spun through my head in a constant loop:
And smoke long cigarettes
I'm going out tonight
Leaving god alone
In a big store
I found myself relating to the track as a 16 year-old growing up in a Massachusetts suburb; not as an adult living in Manhattan.
Rhodes and Duffy have been very clear about the origins of the album. They set out to record songs that they had written in 1978 and 1979, before Duran Duran became a five-piece pop band with Simon Le Bon as the lead vocalist. The majority of the album was written from the perspective of teenage art students living in Birmingham, England (Rhodes was 16 in 1978). In this context the simple, bold lyrics and the wavy synth sounds make perfect sense.
Just a few more comments on specific tracks before I wrap this up. I have been longwinded again, and I apologize. I suppose this is a good sign, right? It means the album has made an impact on me...that's for sure.
"Hawks Don't Share", written in 1978, is a track that really makes me wish I still did drugs. The lyrics and instrumentals build slowly throughout the track over a steady heartbeat rhythm. The incessant beat never wavers throughout the track, and I can imagine the mind-blowing effect it might have on an altered mind. It is a sad, mournful track; certainly the darkest tune on the CD.
"World Exclusive", written in 1979, has a great little lyric ("Hear my world exclusive, I'm the greatest man alive...") and another funk-filled groove, but I cannot stomach the background singers and the needlessly poppy chorus (as the female singers croon "Shalalalala WOOOHOOO!!").
"Barbarella's", written by Duffy in 1996 as an ode to a Birmingham club where Duran Duran once played, has a great nostalgia factor, but I don't have anything particularly positive to say about the lyrical or musical content. Sure, it's a sad little song, but besides the nostalgia for Duran Duran fans, I didn't find much redeeming value. "Newhaven-Dieppe" has a pleasant little arpeggio thing happening and is nice to listen to, but it reminds me too much of The Smiths. The lyrics are sad and tragic, yet the music is happy and sweet.
I really like the instrumentals "Memory Places" and "The Tinsel Ritual" (both written in 2002). They contain great examples of some of the classic analog sounds that I was so looking forward to with this CD release (see this post for my long ramble on analog technology). "Hawks Don't Share" is my favorite track on the album, but in terms of singles, I think "Dark Circles" and "Big Store" are the best bets.
All in all I like it. I still wish that the "2002 production" did not include the female background vocals and the vox effects (most notably the dreaded vocorder). My roommate has dubbed these effects as "cheesy euro-pop". I just find them annoying. I think the album would have held up better as a whole if the songs had remained in the simple realm of teenage art students. I am very interested to see what they may come up with for the second album; it would be all brand new material and I wonder what sort of hybrid sound they may attempt next. With any luck there will be a lot more of the New Wave/retro style as opposed to the modern production.