31 July, 2007

Rebel Rebel pt. 1

Happy musical morning to you all!!

I read an article yesterday that got me thinking about musical rebellion and parallel cultural rebellion. The guy being interviewed is an X-games participant, and he told the interviewer that hip-hop music reflects the exact rebellious attitude of boarding; in some way, these two arts come from the same mental battleground (if you feel like skipping my philosophical ramblings and just reading that article, it can be found in the latest Rolling Stone magazine with Guns 'N' Roses on the cover).

I can completely understand that idea, it just makes sense, but I wouldn't limit myself to hip-hop. When musical creativity starts flowing in such a way that the sentiment is no longer apathetic or inconsequential; when artists start really caring about something and wanting things to change, the product is rebellion followed by absolute revolution. Granted, after time symbols devolve, their meanings change, and they are usually stolen by the enemy and used for their purposes; but, the ideas remain, as do the distrust and the dissatisfaction that caused the rebellion in the first place.

Boarding and hip-hop may be the symbols of our dissatisfaction, along with MySpace, illegal downloading, and a multitude of different forms of expression. Eventually, these symbols will be co-opted, you can already see it happening, but the ideas will live on. In ten or twenty years, maybe our kids will pick up an old Roots album and feel a little bit of a connection to that rebellion. I hope you guys will open your eyes and ears (obviously) to hear some of the most rebellious music of the past and the present:

"Sonata for piano No. 14 in C Minor, KV 457: Molto Allegro" by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Did you know that Mozart wasn't even very popular by the end of his career? His music was too much of a stretch for many of the listeners of his day. There is a trait of his music that makes it almost otherworldly in origins, which, I think, is why he is now so very much appreciated as an artist. Although his sound was a bit too different for his time, it has held up very well to the tests of time.

"Cross Road Blues" by Robert Johnson

He influenced Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones, and so consequently influenced almost every rock band since. His stripped down blues is a gorgeous piece of American musical history, and a departure from the happy tunes of the day.

"East St. Louis Toodle-Oo" by Duke Ellington

The Duke helped push along a musical revolution, that, in turn, pushed along a cultural revolution. Didn't you know that at one time, jazz was taboo? You can feel the pulse of the city in this song, the metronome that keeps time in a concrete jungle. That steady rhythm, that sound like the count-down to an explosion, that's what scared people.

"Anything Goes" by Cole Porter

Anyone who thinks Cole Porter was a normal guy is seriously deluding themselves. He wrote popular music and Broadway shows, but listen to his lyrics and you'll hear how rebellious the ideas really were. The man knew how to turn a phrase and create music that the whole world could enjoy, but like any great writer he also injected something sensational.

"What'd I Say, Pt. 1" by Ray Charles

This is raw music. The soul of the American youth was bared for the world, and many couldn't accept that the soul could be so ALIVE. Let's hear it for Ray.

"Roll Over Beethoven" by Chuck Berry

Rawk baby, the beginning of rock 'n' roll. You can argue that Elvis started it all, but I always liked Chuck.

"Purple Haze" by Jimi Hendrix

There's so much music from the 1960s that was, well, different that it's very difficult to pick a starting place. I had to pick Hendrix, because his music is still different. No one before Jimi or since Jimi has been able to capture that sound. There have been equally great guitarists and musicians, but no one like Hendrix.


28 July, 2007

"Timebomb" by the Old 97s

I got a timebomb, in my mind Mom.
I hear it ticking but I don't know why.
I call the police, but they don't like me.
I hear 'em whispering when I walk by.

I got a landmine in my bloodline.
I'm not immune to getting blown apart.
She's like a claymore, that's what she's there for.
She's waiting 'round here to get blown apart.

Having her on my brain's like getting hit by a train,
She's gonna kill me. Oh Celeste, oh Celeste.

I got a timebomb, in my mind Mom,
It's gonna go off, but I don't know when.
I need a doctor
to extract her.
I got a feeling she'd get right back in again

I got a timebomb, in my mind Mom,
I got it badly for a stick-legged girl
She's gonna kill me, and I don't mean softly.
I got it badly for a stick-legged girl

Having her on my brain's like getting hit by a train,
She's gonna kill me. Oh Celeste, oh Celeste, oh Celeste.

More Magical Than A Blue Ford Anglia...

It's obvious that I want a Spiderpig as my blog mascot. He can't swing from a web, but who really cares?

I LOVE WEIRD MUSIC!! I especially love eccentric tunes that make me laugh. In this post I hope to convey some of my love for odd music, while opening my readers to the world of all things strange and amusing. I'm not as talented as Spiderpig, but I hope you'll come along for the ride anyway.

"Love Today" by MIKA. A song that originally garnered attention in an iPod commercial doesn't sound amazingly promising, but this song happens to be one that, no matter how I scrub my ears, just won't leave my head! It's a contagious track that would be the perfect backdrop to your life as an inhabitant of Candy Land. Underneath all of the pink bubbles and horses, MIKA sounds a bit like Freddy Mercury, albeit a more notably flamboyant Mercury (I don't know how much more flamboyant you can honestly get!) The song is pure fun, and any underlying meaning is secondary to the ridiculously fun feeling of the music.

"Save Ginny Weasley From Dean Thomas" by Harry and the Potters. I've written about these bookish boys before. There music has graced many an obsessed bibliophile's ears, and was the soundtrack to the release of the final Harry Potter book in Boston. This is absolutely the kind of music I play when I want people to think I'm really weird, not that most people need to be coaxed into thinking that I'm weird. This particular song is an ode to Harry's redheaded love interest, and although the structure and music is pretty basic, the lyrics are out there! Let's just say that Luna Lovegood would be a big fan of these boys. However crazy the song is, I love the sentiment so much that my "wizard star still burns for" it.

"Music Box" by Regina Spektor. This song plays with opposites, as Regina sings with her softest and sweetest voice and then quickly changes to her sharpest voice (sometimes even gagging on a particularly pretty note). The song also moves lyrically, from child's play to dealing with death and violence. In some sections of the song that speak of feeling trapped, Spektor actually traps the listener, giving you a little taste of clostrophobia and then freeing you again. The juxtapositions are a nice tool used to create a perfect patchwork quilt of song. Read the lyrics below, and feel the weirdness:

"Life inside the musicbox ain't easy
The mallets hit
The gears are always turning
And everyone inside the mechanism
Is yearning to get out
And sing another melody completely
So different from the one they're always singing
I close my eyes and think that I have found me
But then I feel mortality surround me
I want to sing another melody
So different from the one I always sing
But when I do the dishes
I run the water very very very hot
And then I fill the sink to the top with bubbles of soap
And then I set all the bottle caps I own afloat
And it's the greatest voyage in the history of plastic

And then I slip my hands in and start to make waves
And then I dip my tongue in and take a taste
It tastes like soap but it doesn't really taste like soap
And then I lower in my whole mouth and take a gulp
And start to feel mortality surround me
I close my eyes and think that I have found me
But life inside the musicbox ain't easy
The mallets hit
The gears are always turning
And every one inside the mechanism
Is yearning to get out
And sing another melody completely
Is yearning to get out
Is yearning to get out
Is yearning to get out"

"Spider Pig" by Hans Zimmer. Almost operatic in sound and scope, this song completely encompasses the grandeur of Spiderpig. With high and low notes playing up his moral virtues and vices, the Spiderpig theme song is certainly music for the ages. This song has a sound that its contemporaries cannot hope to match. Listen, and you'll hear the sweet voices of angels.

(A little much? I think not.)

17 July, 2007

The Mooney Blues: The Attack of Space Rock!!!

As you can tell from all of the talk of global warming and other environmental issues in the news, as of late, the world's been pretty interested in the wellfare of, well, the world. For thousands of years the great majority of the human population accepted the notion of a geocentric universe, and even though we now know that we aren't the center of everything, doesn't it still feel like we are?

However self-centered our little green planet is, we've found time to look beyond ourselves seeking help and guidance from outerspace. For me, it's actually pretty comforting to think that someone, somewhere may actually have it more together than us little earthlings. Deep down, don't we all think there's more to life than just this?

Here are a couple albums that can make you feel spacey and then bring you down to Earth (sort of), it's your choice whether you'll be loony like Luna Lovegood or centered like Remus Lupin.

"Dins" by Psychic Ills

Eight songs that play with your eardrums, and give you the feeling that you could be living in an episode of Dr. Who (the latest reincarnation of that series is pretty freaking sweet, by the way). Quite a few of their songs are like the intros to Pink Floyd hits, so after listening for a bit, you start to feel a little panicky; "Telltale Heart" symptoms and fainting spells are in your future. The way Psychic Ills creates music is quite manipulative really, and subliminal, layering sound upon sound until you have what would normally be called a song. "Electriclife", "Untitled", and "January Rain" are all squeezed together on the album, and make me feel as if space travel is in my immediate future. Time travel is also a definite possibility, as some of these songs conjure visions of 1960s New York and San Francisco. Whatever your musical interest, "Dins" will take you on a trip that's not necessarily pleasant, but definitely interesting.

"Noble Creatures" the Gourds

The cover of this album looks just like a 1980s cover of a $0.50 science fiction story; a man, boat, and giant squid are all surrounded by craters, stars, and sketchy planetary outlines. Funnily enough, much of the music found behind the crazy cover art, would fit better in a bar on Earth, than on Mos Eisley (let's hope I spelled that correctly, or I'll succumb to the wrath of rabid Star Wars fans all over the internet!). The Gourds are making the soundtrack for the places on Earth where stars can still be seen, and, in this country at least, those places are quickly disappearing to light pollution. Alt-country rockers like "How Will You Shine?" and "Moon Gone Down" seem penned as odes to deep blue skies on stuffy summer nights. "The Gyroscopic" is my favorite song on "Noble Creatures". The song trembles and bursts, as the Gourds pull influences from Mexico and California, singing of the "noble creatures of the sea". The lyrics on this album aren't focused, and they're very eccentric for a alt-rock band, but they still make sense in a roundabout way, which is really what you can say of the album and the band. Take a listen to "Noble Creatures", and see for yourself what it all means, if it really means anything.

10 July, 2007

NEW RELEASES: 7/10/2007

There are quite a few new albums that I've been looking forward to this year, and most of them have not disappointed me. This week, I'll quickly review some new releases that should be acknowledged.

Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga by Spoon.

It took me a long time to see what was so exciting about Gimme Fiction, but after watching the movie Stranger Than Fiction and hearing Brit Daniel and Spoon's soundtrack music, I gave their albums another chance. There's really something pretty cool about this band. Spoon can delve into a new genre, and make it sound like they've been doing it for their whole careers.

On Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, Brit Daniel plays with lyrics and sound, and Spoon moves towards the interstellar classic rock sounds of Muse with a smudge of jangly country rock on their platinum spaceship. In my opinion, the best tracks are "The Ghost of You Lingers" which echoes, haunts, and spooks with flair; "You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb" which channels the Supremes' sweetness mixed with the Rolling Stones' nastiness; "Eddie's Ragga" which could be written by the Clash; and "Black Like Me" which howls and simpers in a very bluesy way.

Overall, this album is very nice, and quite cohesive. I don't think there's a bad song in the bunch, which is why you should listen to Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga as an album, not as a few interesting tracks.

Super Taranta! by Gogel Bordello.

Gogol Bordello have always been multicultural wanderers in the music scene, and even though they're often thrown into the same Gypsy music category as DeVotchka and Beirut, their music travels further and their sound is more eclectic. On Gypsy Punks: Underdog World Strike, Gogol Bordello had a lot of Eastern European sound, even bringing in a definite Klezmer influence. Dub was thrown in a bit, and the punk scene was a definite breeding ground for many of the tunes, but the album always felt like the kind of music that Tevya would listen to if he were born in the '80s (or '90s).

On Super Taranta!, Gogol Bordello have travelled southwest towards Italy and Spain, and probably off into Africa. The journey is a rewarding one. Before, Gogol Bordello created the sound for the party, but now they've created the sound of the night clubs when the lights have gone on, the janitor is cleaning up, and most people have gone home to sleep off the alcohol. The band has definitely learned the power of a soft, quiet, song. Tracks that I would highlight are "Zina Marina", the first song to emphasize that Spanish influence with the bouncy horns; "Tribal Connection" which is a sing-along worthy tune if I've ever heard one; "American Wedding" which highlights Gogol Bordello's storytelling prowess; and "Alcohol" which is soft and sad, lilting like a person filled with the titular drink.

Very nice effort from Gogol Bordello, and I commend them for changing up their music so often while still maintaining an original sound.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by Nicholas Hooper.

A soundtrack that I've been looking forward to with great expectations. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is one of my favorite books, and I'm hoping that the new HP director will stay very true to it in the movie. If the soundtrack is any indication of the fun we'll have when we watch the new movie, then we'll be dancing in our seats.

Moving further from the original John Williams creation than any other composer, Nicholas Hooper lets the darkness float in. In some ways, this new soundtrack reminds me of a Danny Elfman creation for a Tim Burton movie. It's not too subtle, but it doesn't sound as if it will overpower the movie. Nicholas Hooper never fully lets go of John Williams' sound, but he makes it heavier and darker. After all, Harry is moving into a future that is clouded with unhappiness; Voldemort has returned, and he has killed.

Professor Umbridge is given a fittingly horrible song with saccharine bells and hemming horns, while Dumbledore's Army is strong and beautiful. The Kiss is a nice song which brings in the Christmas element from the book (oh, I can just smell the Christmas trees!), and The Death of Sirius is fittingly dark and dramatic.

04 July, 2007

Robots in Disguise

Last night I watched the new Transformers movie, and it was pretty awesome. Plenty of giant robot battles, and just enough Shia LaBeouf to keep me happy (I think he's sweet). To top it all off, I really enjoyed the soundtrack which you can preview on iTunes and hear in full when you see the movie. Right now you can listen to my favorite song from the movie:

It's a new Linkin Park song called "What I've Done", and it fits really perfectly with the whole movie. Running through the credits, this song made me feel really pumped after watching Megatron and Optimus Prime battle it out. WOOT!