Saturday, April 14, 2001

Beta Band album details: Yet another date to mark on the calendar. If you're too lazy to do it yourself, you can always check out DJ Martian's frightnengly extensive release calendar. (Now added to the side bar for easy access, hur hur hur.)
Jay-Z arrested on gun charge: Like Jay-Z needed more legal trouble. (Everyone remembers that he's due in court on charges that he stabbed a record executive, right?) If I were him, I might have to lose one of my nicely-polished Gucci shoes in the behind of that bodyguard.

Friday, April 13, 2001

Ian McCulloch solo album to be produced by Ian Broudie: There is a gem of information buried in this story. Echo and the Bunnymen will be releasing an album within a month. Did anyone know that they were still recording as a group?

I need to mix up my sources of information. I feel like the musical world is zipping by me and laughing.

Calm in Cincinnati allows reflection on race relations: My wife's parents live in Cincinnati. We've been understandably concerned by what's been going on there, but it turns out they're okay. What is not okay is for unintelligent morning radio DJs to shoot their mouths off about how unfortunate it is that some types of people (meaning poor black people) can't solve anything without resorting to violence. BULLSHIT. I guess it's convenient to forget about the epidemic of crazed white children who have decided to shoot up their middle-class schools while grandstanding on the radio. Fuckers.

Apologies for cursing, Mom.

Thursday, April 12, 2001

Back from the dead: It's alive! It's alive!

I had something blindingly cool to talk about, but the technical difficulties Blogger accidentally foisted upon me has drive the inspiration from my fragile little mind. So, I think I'll just mention that I got the Ravel solo and leave it at that. Yay me! The Concordia Society concert where I'll be singing this (5 second) solo has been confirmed at the Harvard University Memorial Church in Cambridge at... damn. I need to double-check the time, but I think it's at 8:00 PM. Check out the Concordia website for more accurate info (or wait until I update the right-hand sidebar).

Wednesday, April 11, 2001

Kathleen talks comics: Why is it that some comic book characters have reached cultural icon status (ie, Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Spiderman, the Incredible Hulk, the Fantastic Four, the collective X-Men, the collective Avengers) while other, equally important characters languish in practical obscurity (Green Lantern, the Titans, Doctor Strange, Swamp Thing, the New Mutants)? What is it that fires the imagination and casues a character to "catch on"? Does the character have to be modelled on a simple archetype? Instantly recognizeable? Is it a question of longevity? Or is it really, as the cynical part of my brain insists, all down to which ones had television shows?
ALBUM REVIEW: Depeche Mode - Exciter

Short version: BUY THIS ALBUM.

It's been a few years since Depeche Mode has given us a full-length album of new material. I was, um, excited when I heard about Exciter. David Gahan and Martin Gore are two of my pop music heroes, Gore for managing to come up with such great pop tunes time after time and Gahan for having a great voice and (this is key) pretty much the exact same vocal range as me, meaning I can sing along with them without having to drop down an octave or sing in a horribly reedy falsetto. (The exception is "Shake The Disease", where the chorus goes up to something like F# or G and always leaves me pouting in the dust. One day I will sing that full voice. Oh yes, I will...) Because of this, it was going to be very easy for them to please me with this album. What I was not prepared for was to be absolutely, completely blown away.

I will say without hesitation that Exciter is one of the strongest Depeche Mode albums in their discography. Gore has methodically expanded his songwriting style with each album since Violator. This album shows him firing on every creative cylinder. The chord progressions, melodies, harmonies, and arrangements are uniformly stellar. The album swerves smoothly from fuzzbox snarl ("Dead Of Night") to etherial acoustic guitar ("Dream On") to shimmering psychotropic burble-pop ("Comatose") to lyricless dream-dub ("Lovetheme") to dancefloor doom-stomp ("I Feel Loved") without feeling artificial or forced. These songs all have very distinct flavors, yet each one grows out of a mood set by the piece before it. It's very difficult to imagine these songs on any other album or even in any other order.

Gahan and Gore both invest a lot into the album emotionally. Gahan has loosened up quite a bit since the chilly pre-Violator days, displaying disdain, pleading, seduction, loss, and beauty where appropriate. The real revelation, though, is Gore. His singing has always been very pretty, but also very controlled, almost as if he wrote all of his emotion into the melody and was content to rely on the notes to put across his emotion (notable examples being "A Question Of Lust" and "Blue Dress"). On "Goodnight Lovers", the robotic pose is completely thrown away, leaving a vulnerable Martin to bare his soul to an unrequited love. It's a marvelous effect that makes this an outstanding song. (The perfect backing vocals are merely icing.)

Another notable thing is how warm this album sounds. Most of the synth settings used are very rounded, mellowed sounds that lend an inviting, intimate tone to much of the album. This is yet another trend that the group has pursued since Violator, an album which can now be clearly seen as a creative turning point for the band which allowed them to venture out of the "chilly 80's synth-based dance-pop" box. Gone are the one-note melodies and two-steps-above-Casio-preset drum programming that endeared them to a generation of alienated teens. Their latest effort distills the flashes of pure musical brilliance that have popped up throughout their career ("Somebody", "Strangelove", "Waiting For The Night", "Shouldn't Have Done That", "Shake The Disease", "Sacred", "Home", "Higher Love") into something amazing. Songs Of Faith And Devotion and Ultra aspired to this, but had their missteps. This one is perfect. Once May 15 rolls around (May 14 in the UK), I expect to see you all in the stores, cash in one hand and Exciter in the other.


Eminem sentenced: I'm somewhat torn on this, actually. Whenever I see the words "probation" linked to a famous individual, my first reaction is almost always that the get-out-of-jail-free card that seems to be available only to people of an appropriate fame level (ie, not Shyne) has been used. If you look at the judgement, though, the only thing Eminem was guilty of was carrying a concealed weapon. It is my personal opinion having a concealed weapon shouldn't automatically send you to jail. (Using said weapon, depending upon circumstances, is an entirely different kettle of fish.) One could convincingly argue that he should be fined more than $7500, but that's the only real quibble I have. (For a more learned opinion, ask my brother; he's actually a lawyer.)

Tuesday, April 10, 2001

On a more positive note: Here's a break from the heaps of musical invective for some moderate chatter about things I actually like:

Radiohead - Amnesiac I've had an opportunity to listen to some of the tracks off of the upcoming Radiohead album. Man. It's good. Like, really good. As in, "Oh my God, I can't believe how good this album is!" You know all of those mildly alarming stories that circulated shorlty after the release of Kid A which basically said, "Don't worry, once we've stopped futzing around we'll release an album of proper Radiohead material?" Forget about them. Yes, the guitars are more present than on many of the Kid A standouts, but you also have to contend with the anti-rhythmic single "Pyramid Song" (if anyone has figure out what meter this song is in, please email me) and the completely bizarre techno-funk of "Pulk/Pull Revolving Doors", a song so strange and grand it's causing Tom Ewing to sing praise. This is yet another strong entry from a great band. You never would have been able to convince me that Radiohead would be high on my list of bands I adore when Pablo Honey came out.


Actor Seagal Reveals Musical Roots: Continuing down the trail of horrifying musical travesties, we stumble across this gem. Steven Seagal's reggae album produced by ex-Fugee-turned-shameless-musical-pimp Wyclef Jean. Feel the heady rush of pure, unadulterated hate course through your veins as you contemplate what that end result will sound like. Tremble with the knowledge that even though you know better than to purchase this evil, evil thing, someone else most certainly will.

See what happens when you let a Republican into the White House? I hope you've all learned something from this.

William Orbit remixes new Limp Bizkit single: This is a sign of the Apocalypse. I now have a reason to potentially purchase a Limp Bizkit release. Normally, I just listen to what I want to listen to and dispense with embarassment, but just the concept of this is making me feel... dirty.

Monday, April 09, 2001

absorb reviews Orbital: Well, here's a surprise; 10 out of 10! Is it April 30 yet? Never fear, I will be posting my thoughts on the album sometime this week.

This link comes to me courtesy of the indefatigable DJ Martian, a fellow traveller on I Love Music who loves Orbital and Tool almost as much as I do. (People who know me are quivering in fear.)

Home of disturbing Robbie Williams videos: Want to see Robbie rip off his flesh and fling it at cannibal supermodels? How about a 3-D cartoon Robbie (yes, yes, obvious jokes noted) shagging several buxom babes in various exotic locations? Then you must visit the Robbie Williams home page. Perhaps you can take or leave the music, but the videos are uniformly stellar. Dig in particular the cel-shade rendering on "Let Love Be Your Energy", a technique that first popped up on the Dreamcast.
Coldplay appear on 'Saturday Night Live': And the nation falls asleep. I mean, while I'll admit that some of their other songs are actually pretty good, "Yellow" is one of the most overrated pieces of tripe ever to hit my eardrums. It's boring and over-earnest. I am embarassed that it seems to be climbing up the charts. (Not nearly embarassed as I am at Olivia's "Bizounce", but still embarassed.)
Dido pens tracks for Britney: Could someone please show me the gateway to the parallel universe where this collaboration has a chance of being successful? Dido writes bland songs that highlight the wispy voice. Britney sings like a whiskey-laden duck-butt. Dido's music tends towards the "restrained" end of the spectrum, while Britney is most successful when she's completely over-the-top. Imagine Britney frog-marching through "Thank You" (the song with seven notes that still manages to be outside of dear Brit's range). If that doesn't send cold chills down your spine, I don't know will.