Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Proving the Point: if one person writes it, they all write it

Here is a review of Built To Spill's You In Reverse that came out this past weekend in the Denver Post:

Link (third one down)

Seems eerily familiar to what I mentioned earlier about EVERYONE writing the SAME FUCKING REVIEW. Has this guy ever heard this band before? This isn't so much about BTS as it is any band that gets swept up in the hype and writers NOT DOING THEIR GODAMNED JOBS. It's like he literally read all the other reviews, didn't know what to say and re-wrote what he read. Pathetic.

Good thing I'm here to tell the 10 people that read this what's going on.

In other news, the Stellastarr*/Editors show was good. Stellastarr* ripped it up. They were the highlight of the show because Editors pretty much played it straight off the album. I love their album, but like I've said before, why did I want to pay $20 to hear them do it note for note?

Stellastarr* was worth the money and I would pay to see them again.

On a side note, saw a kid I've known for a long time at the show. He asked me if I was going down to Lipgloss (popular, long running DJ night in Denver). I said "probably not" because I had a long day coming up. He said, "Editors are doing a set down there." I responded, "and acoustic set?" (this was before they played and hearing acoustic versions of their songs intrigued me) "No, they're DJing," he said.

Shit. No thanks. Nothing worse than having to sit through some musicians "DJ-ing". I still guest DJ from time to time (I used to DJ before literally everyone was a DJ, so it's fun to do once in awhile) but I can't imagine how boring and inconsequential it must be for people who have come down to hear me DJ.

If I wanted to be bored, I'd just stay and listen to Editors play their album note for note. Which I did.

JR

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Editors/Stellastarr* Friday Nite!

Speaking of music, I’m going to see the Editors/Stellastarr* show at the Bluebird this Friday. I love shows at the Bluebird because it means I get to go drink at the PS Lounge. Many a bottle was drunk at that place before shows at the Bluebird and this will be no different. I haven’t been to a show there in a long time. And if there’s a bunch of people standing around the bar talking (as usual), I’m going to be pissed.

But again, speaking of the music, I like Stellastarr* a lot; the band’s first album is fantastic. The newest one is all right. It has a few good songs and it grew on me, but it still didn’t grab me like their debut did. They didn’t utilize the female band member’s voice like they did on the first one (please see Billy Corgan Rule #37: Let female in band sing a song. When everyone likes it, don’t let her do it again because it interferes with your stature as head honcho while solidifying reputation as big dildo).

The Editors on the other hand did grow on me, but not after an almost miraculous chain of events. Typically if I listen to an album and it doesn’t do anything for me, I won’t listen to it again. That was the case with the Editors album, The Back Room. I found it to be entirely unremarkable when I heard it the first time, but for some reason I kept listening to it (that’s the miraculous event…that I actually kept listening to it). And during the third listen, I was hooked.

I mentioned in an earlier post how bad the last Strokes album was, and yes, it is bad. I gave that one listen and the songs were so terrible, I just kept skipping ahead to the next one hoping for something better. Nothing in that record gave me a hint that I should take a closer listen. The Editors album hinted at something, and I guess that’s why I kept listening.

Really, the Editors (or just Editors) sound a lot like Interpol. A LOT like Interpol. So I figure that’s why it turns most people off due to its derivative nature. But really, doesn’t Interpol sound a lot like Joy Division? I think Editors are actually English so maybe they have a bit more right to the sound. I’m not here to nitpick who sounds like who, Editors are pretty damn good and I’m trying to convince you too.

If something can seem so unremarkable the first time around and end up being played non-stop in my car, I feel it deserves a mention. I was already going to the show before I even heard the band, so bonus for me!

Friday night, Bluebird Theater. I’ll be the one with the warm glow of the PS Lounge surrounding him and the not so faint smell of Budweiser on his breath.

JR

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

If a Press Release Told You to Jump Off a Bridge: Built to Spill and other fallacies

It’s amazing how shit takes on a life of its own. And I do mean shit.

Music critics are some of the biggest jackoffs in the history of the printed word. They’ll believe anything and write it down too. Most won’t take the time to actually listen to the music, but read a press release, get a feeling of how everyone else thinks, and then squat over a piece of paper and let it fly.

But you may be saying to yourself: “John, shining light in a dark, dark world, you too have reviewed many albums. Aren’t you a music critic as well enlightened one?”

Thanks for the kind words, but no. It is true that I have reviewed records. But I am not a “critic.” I am “critical” and that’s a big difference. To be considered a music critic you have to be paid to review music, and I’m looking at my wallet and it’s looking like usual: empty as a theater showing Phat Girlz.

So with that said, music critics suck cock. Except for the incredible Jason Heller who hates/loves more music than I ever will. He knows what he’s talking about. The rest can go fuck themselves because their ineptitude has finally been exposed.

I am a big Built To Spill fan so naturally I was excited that a new album was coming out. As the reviews started coming in, I noticed something very alarming that solidified my belief that 90% of these music nazi dorks are so completely clueless that Paris Hilton seems thoughtful and articulate in comparison.

All of the reviews started out like this, “Built To Spill is back with their first album in five years since the disappointing Ancient Melodies of the Future.”

Right there, a red flag popped out of Katie Couric’s ass to let me know that something was wrong. Ancient Melodies of the Future is not a bad album. It’s actually pretty good, but it came along after a long string of records and I think BTS’s singer Doug Martsch was a little burned out. It’s not radically different from the one before it, but like I said, it’s a great album. I’m listening to it now as I type this, and I stand by that claim.

The problem comes in because Martsch himself has gone on record to say that he didn’t like the album. Fair enough, but this is what the media dicks have seized upon. Once one person wrote that it was a disappointment (based on what the songwriter said) then everybody proclaimed it a disappointment. No research required.

If we discounted every album, movie or any creative endeavor that the artist later claimed to not like, our top 20 lists would look more like a top 7 list. I can remember Dave Chappelle has said he thinks his film Half Baked is bad and he wasn’t happy with it. Well, that’s good for him, but Half Baked is a modern comedy classic with or without Chapelle’s blessing. If you were involved with Half Baked and didn’t want to be associated with a goofy pot movie, you’d say the same thing. It still doesn’t take away from the fact that Half Baked is one of the funniest movies to come out in 15 years.

When the artist backtracks on one of his or her creations, it’s a slap in the face to the people who bought into it. I can’t stand when people say things like “what was I thinking?” or “sorry about that” in relation to something you went out and spent $15 bucks on. It cheapens what it means to the fan and unless it is a universally excepted misfire (like that last Strokes album…oh my god it sucked), I feel these musicians, directors, actors need to stand by their product.

So Doug Martsch didn’t like Ancient Melodies huh? Well tough shit. I did, and even after he stated that, it didn’t change my mind. But he influenced a lot of people with that statement who made it seem like BTS shit out a flop of enormous magnitude that just couldn’t compete with the band’s already incredible catalog. It happens.

Regardless, everyone wrote that in their review, making it seem like they were amateurs who dropped the ball only to get back in everyone’s good graces with this new album. Which brings me to my next point.

All the reviews of Built To Spill’s new album, You In Reverse, have been overwhelmingly positive. How can this be? Can this record really be that good? Well, this is where we have a problem.

You In Reverse is ok. I know, I know, it’s incredibly hard to write that line. I have been a serious diehard fan of this band for a long time. I’ve seen them probably five or six times and I was at the show where they recorded some of the LIVE album. Yeah, you were probably too, but I had to state my cred for the sake of the story.

To be fair, I’ve listened to You In Reverse twice through, going on a third. Some albums take a little longer to grow on me, but I’ve never had to listen to a BTS album more than this for its qualities to affect me. Two times through and I have to say I am completely and totally under whelmed.

The songs are definitely different sounding but kind of boring. The guitar playing is a tad cliché and the production sucks. Martsch’s trademark voice is completely washed out of the mix and the only thing that sounds different is the bass is turned up. I found myself drifting away will listening to it and not because it was magical, but because it was boring me silly. Long time producer Phil Ek was not involved this time and the band produced it themselves….typically not a good idea.

I will listen to it more because I do believe I will find some redeeming qualities in it. But the point of this post is to point out the absurdity of the “critics” who have fallen all over themselves to get on the bandwagon when the wheels came off a while ago. This album is no worse and definitely no better than Ancient Melodies of the Future.

I don’t know if it’s a form of mass hysteria, but I believe the critics all get the same press release and I’m sure it stated something similar to what they puked up in their reviews. Hey, if Martsch wanted people to believe that crap, he did a good job, but he seriously sold himself and his band short.

Just like that Sleater Kinney album that came out awhile back, the hype has not matched up to the product and it basically comes down to an insult to the band: they are being praised for their worst work because they’re like the office worker who’s been there for 40 years and never got employee of the month.

Well, here’s your reward, a great review from a bunch of jerks for a mediocre record; it’s the indie rock equivalent to the Lifetime Achievement Award and it’s written on toilet paper.

JR

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Passion of the Christ for the Kids

I just watched the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe the other night. It was Easter so what better TV watching then a kiddie version of Christ’s crucifixion?

Yeah, everybody knows about the obvious parallel between Aslan and Jesus. Even as a kid I figured that out when I read the books for the first time. And they definitely play it in this movie. Not surprising considering a Christian zealot (and Denver billionaire) by the name of Phillip Anschutz was behind the production of the film.

But I must digress for a moment. I liked the movie. And when I heard it was coming out, I started re-reading my copies of the Chronicles of Narnia as a refresher. The books aren’t great. C S Lewis was a poor man’s Tolkien. Lewis is Skeet Ulrich to Tolkien’s Johnny Depp. You get the picture. Lewis’ books were made for kids and I understand that. Re-reading them it’s obvious. But the film translated well and they did a good job of moving the story along….except for the fact that they left in the part about Santa Claus showing up. My god, is that not the worst turd in the punchbowl plot stopper? I mean fucking Santa Claus shows up in Narnia! I always felt that was just utterly stupid in the book and to use it in the movie was laughable. I mean, you can’t really put the Christ back in Christmas when you’ve got Santa hanging around right? Geez.

Tilda Swinton as the white witch seemed to be one of the weaker parts. She’s a fine actress and looked great as the witch, but her role was reduced to one liners and making faces for the camera. But she got what was coming to her in the end from a vengeful god. Just what the slack jawed, Christian movie going public wants to see. The other part that bothered me was Mr. Tumnus the fawn. Tumnus befriends Lucy and helps her escape. Their relationship is touching but the whole time I kept thinking, “I don’t think it’s appropriate to have this guy’s nipples showing when he’s talking to this little girl.” Well, as long as Jesus is involved, the dummies watching it probably don’t mind a little man nip…but I did.

But do you think these dullards would have really understood this symbolism had it not been hammered into their heads? I remember when the film came out and there were big rallies for it at churches across the country. I was watching CNN and it showed a youth minister talking to a group of young kids, Hitler Youth style:

He was yelling, “AND WHO IS THE LION SUPPOSED TO BE???”

And the kids all screamed in unison, “JESUS!!!!”

I mean you can’t get force fed any more directly than that. It’s literally punched right down their throats.

For myself, I like it when something unfolds in front of me. I can remember realizing the parallel to Jesus and really thinking that was cool. I figured it out for myself and it made it all the more mysterious and sweet. I mean, it was the first time I actually gave the idea of Jesus any consideration because it was hidden (not very well) in a story about a magic lion. Don’t you think the kids who were being led by the hand to understand that Aslan is Jesus would like the same thing?

Naw, because if you didn’t explain it to them, they would never get it, just like they don’t really understand what the fuck they’re doing sitting listening to this guy in the first place.

Christ is a symbolic device used in tons of fiction. This one just happens to be a kid’s story and a pretty cool one. Anschutz and his cronies wanted to make sure no one missed this point in the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe so they hammered it home even before the movie was out. That’s cool, it’s their dime. I don’t think it affected the movie adversely but that guy’s nipples sure did.

JR

Monday, April 10, 2006

Pitchfork gets forked over…and takes it with a smile

It’s one thing to get duped into printing a false news story, it’s another thing when that fake news story involves shit-stained, lame ass college rocker, Sufjan Stevens.

Pitchfork reported last week that Sufjan Stevens was having a baby with Rosie Thomas, some chick he was collaborating with. I don’t know anything about her and I don’t care enough to go back and check (kind of like Pitchfork) but I can imagine if she’s aligned herself with the likes of Suckjan, then she’s gotta be just as shitty.

So the story was about their collaboration on some album that college-rocking wusses will eat the ass out of, AND that Thomas and Sufjan were going to have a baby. I read the story, for some reason, and since I don’t care about this kind of news item, I took it for what it was. I wouldn’t know anything about these people; if they reproduced asexually like amoeba or if they stick in like the rest of us. So I just figured it was true.

Now, the funny part (and not “ha ha” funny like Pitchfork tried to spin it) is that Thomas was bullshitting the popular music website. There was no baby, they weren’t an item and Sufjan has no genitals that we are aware of. They actually ran the story and it was nowhere even close to being true. As I mentioned before, Pitchfork tried to play it off as “oh you kids!” and “how clever! They sure pulled one over on us,” but really all this did was make them look even more like douchebags. To be fair, Stevens himself apparently wasn’t involved in the hoax, but that would just make me even more pissed that some no-name pud, leeching off the fame of Suckjan would have played me like this.

"I kid around so often, I forgot that some one might take me seriously," Thomas was quoted as saying.

Oh yeah, you forgot? Well maybe we’ll forget to review whatever crappy album you put out next? That’s what I would have said to her. I know Pitchfork is just a website, but it’s a website that a lot of people read. Fucking around like this really demeans everyone working on it. I can sit here all day and make fun of them because what you’re reading is a website based on criticism. But if I were in the music making business, I would want Pitchfork to review my music. And if I fucked with them like this, I would fully expect them to banish me forever. That’s just the way it goes.

I’m sure this happens all the time: some flighty musician or artist rattles off some bullshit and it gets printed. I mean, who’s going to verify some small detail like whether this person really ate Mexican food that day? But when this does happen and it turns out to be false, most people who printed the lie are pissed. But Pitchfork wasn’t pissed. They took it in the ass because Sufjan Stevens was involved. Hell, if I was Sufjan, I would have pissed that this dummy used my name and jeopardized my relationship with the music site; considering how much press he gets from them, fucking with Pitchfork could ruin his career!

If Beck blatantly lied to Rolling Stone about something along these lines and they printed it, RS would blow a fucking gasket. And unless Beck (or someone of equal stature) made nice with them, the fallout would huge. I would wager his albums wouldn’t get reviewed and interviews would certainly not appear anymore. But this doesn’t happen to Rolling Stone or Spin etc. because most people looking for publicity know this is essentially career suicide. Not to mention the heaps of trouble that would follow because of it.

That one guy who lied to Oprah will never be taken seriously again. If you did something that basically made the most powerful woman in the world have to apologize and look like a fool, you’re done. Fuck with Oprah and you not only get the horns, but you might have someone come and break your kneecaps as well.

Now, Pitchfork isn’t Oprah. In the power rankings of journalistic media, I’m sure they’re waaaaay down there. Somewhere below The Smoking Gun and somewhere above the guy counting down until the actress who plays Hermione Granger is 18….oh, and good ol’ War Time Smile. But since Pitchfork is a music news site, shouldn’t the people they are reporting on take it seriously? Musicians who send press releases to the Fork and hope for interviews to promote their ear diarrhea should respect them enough to tell the truth. Paul McCartney doesn’t have to respond to a request for a Pitchfork interview. The lame woman who claimed to be having Sufjan Steven’s baby should be showing up at the office for a round of blowjobs just to get the press.

Even if you were the smallest publication, web or otherwise, you couldn’t take this with a smile. You would have to make someone pay for this. I don’t give a shit that Pitchfork dedicates half of its daily news section to the musings of Suckjan Stevens; in my world of small time media (and I do mean SMAAAAALLLLL) someone would have to answer for this. If a local band played me like this, even one that had some clout, they wouldn’t get one more letter printed from me. No matter what you gain from the journalist/musician relationship, if you’re on you’re knees all the time, and they’re making a joke out of you, it’s not worth it.

As I’ve said countless times, I read Pitchfork on a daily basis. At one point I really thought it was the cream of the crop for music journalism (on the web and in print). But now it’s apparent that they’re really just a bunch of half-asses journalism students who can write, but are too blinded by shitty indie rock musicians to simultaneously pull the dick out of their ass and mouth. It’s obvious that they don’t want to overreact because their beloved Sufjan Stevens is involved in this hoax. After all, if they cut him out of their site, there’d be nothing to report on.

I can’t help but think the editor over at Pitchfork isn’t hopping mad about this. I’m hoping (and not just because I hate Sufjan Steven’s crappy music) that there will be a reprisal. If not, it just further cements my belief that Pitchfork is like the creative geek in high school: independent and rebellious…until the head cheerleader looks his way and in classic “Can’t Buy Me Love” fahion, he abandons all he was for a shot at just being near her.

The hilarious thing is while Suckjan might be the head cheerleader of indie rock, his collaborator Rosie Thomas is more like the fat, smelly chick from biology class. And Pitchfork just fingered the fat, smelly chick from biology class to keep their seat next to the cheerleader. Way to go dumbasses, way to go.

JR

Monday, April 03, 2006

Grinder: Looking for Meat!

I guess writing a piece about someone else’s blog is kind of strange. Isn’t that what the comment section is for? Well, when the sanctity of TV is called into question, I feel a strong need to dedicate valuable resources to defending its honor.

Television is like America: Evil and corrupt. Sneaky and foul. Always trying to get into your mind and sell you some crap. Just the very reason why our society seems to be falling apart on a daily basis. TV is one of the main roots of our societal problems and a direct cause of our apathy as lazy-assed American consumers.

With that said, TV is also a glowing comfort. It’s a savior from our daily mental woes. A way to drift off for a few hours at a time, gently rocking us into a state of calm and whimsy. You can be entertained, informed, enraged or just plain zombified by what’s offered on the boobus toobus. In short, TV FUCKING RULES.

If you don’t know TV is simultaneously evil and wonderful, you are the sheep that TV leads to the slaughter. You are the person who is being bombarded with ads and don’t know it. You are the person who a TV executive would describe as a “wet dream.”

Chances are, if you’re reading this, you don’t fall into this category. You’re probably a lot like me: grew up watching a lot of TV, yet fully understand how full of shit it really is.

I read this post about canceling cable from this snooty, up their own ass, anti-TV person.

http://www.columbia.edu/~ip71/w116/2006/03/why-you-too-should-cancel-
cable.html


In it, this person talks about how bad TV is and questions whether they should be paying for cable. They cancel cable and instantly lose weight…..Lose weight? How fat were you that you lost weight just by not watching TV? The First rule of TV watching should be: If you’re a big fat ass, you need to exercise before you sit down to watch TV. Makes sense to me.

This person went on to say that they couldn’t justify spending $50 a month on cable when all they watched was The Daily Show and The Colbert Report. Hold the motherfucking phone! Did you just read that? The Daily Show and The Colbert Report is the ONLY thing they watch on cable. I just about shit when I read this. If, among the many things to watch on cable television, you’re only watching Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, you are fucking douchebag.

I like both of those guys (Colbert’s turn as Mr. Noblet in Stranger With Candy is his crowning achievement) but as I’ve said before, if you’re one of those people who is so pretentious that you “only get your news” from Jon Stewart, you suck the warts off a dick.

Sure, cable news (or regular news) is just bullshit these days, but the people who proclaim superiority because they gobble up a comedian’s take on current events like it was, well man-seed, deserve to be called out as the pompous fucks they are.

If you don’t know TV is a mind numbing exercise in trying to get you to buy something because you’re supposed to be incomplete without said product, you deserve what’s coming to you. People who don’t watch TV will tell you all about it…because they have nothing else to talk about. For someone who’s supposed to be so smart and worldly from not watching TV, they sure as fuck are boring.

On the other end, if someone is shocked and dismayed that you don’t watch the usual CBS crapfest, then you probably don’t want to associate with them in the first place. TV watching comes down to one simple thing: are you in on the joke or not? If you are, then enjoy the high points (Flavor of Love) while condemning the low points (Flavor of Love). If you’re in on the joke, take it for what it is: at times tedious entertainment that everyone needs once in awhile. I mean, it’s better than smoking meth right? Right.

A friend of mine referred me to the post that I have been commenting on. He is an ex-TV junkie who hasn’t had cable for a long time. He’s not self-righteous about it because I’m sure if he had some free time and some bad cable to watch, he’d be there. When we were discussing the content of the post, he said it was disturbing to drive around at night and see how many people are glued to the TV. But this is what people do. After a hard day’s work, don’t you sometimes want to shut down and have some assholes on TV entertain you? I sure do. But again, I came back to the point that if you don’t understand how TV is evil, then you deserve its bad influence. Those types of people, the ones who suck TV up like pigs in a trough, are essential to America.

“Besides,” I told my friend, “we need those people to fight our wars for us.”

“We need more meat for the grinder,” he responded.

If Jon Stewart needed you for the war effort, would you answer the call?

JR