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Posts Tagged ‘The Strokes’

Ignored 152: Is This It by the Strokes

In Podcast on August 10, 2017 at 12:29 am

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It’s our first episode about an album from the current century! Still, we’re going way back to 2001 to talk about the much-hyped, much-loved first full-length from the Strokes, Is This It. We gently discuss whether this and other albums of its vintage are now “retro” and revisit how well them there NYC bands from 2000-2010 have aged. Cam and Sammy also each talk about individual encounters with various Strokes (spoiler: Fab and Albert, respectively) and whether the Strokes ACTUALLY sounded like the Velvet Underground. We close with some heavy randomness by talking about Concrete Blonde, the Traveling Wilburys and Grizzly Bear.

Right click here to download the episode or visit The Completely Ignored Podcast on iTunes to stream this episode.

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Ignored 142: ‘Shoe Museum

In Graphic on May 3, 2017 at 2:58 am

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Ignored 79: Super festive

In Uncategorized on March 26, 2016 at 3:51 am

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Ignored 23: No cover

In Uncategorized on January 3, 2014 at 11:49 am

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The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame (& Museum) isn’t much.

I get the gist of what it’s trying to accomplish in creating a singular source (and tourist destination) dedicated to the immensity of popular music. In a (non-obvious) sense, I applaud their efforts in making artistic recognition more athletic recognition-ish.

I love music. I love sports. Let’s squish them together. In Cleveland.

However, on paper, populating a Hall of Fame of musicians makes no sense since artistic appreciation is 100 per cent subjective. Any effort to quantify “everything” is ultimately going to offend in the court of personal preference, not to mention realms such as gender, creed, sexual preference and age.

The physical Hall of Fame opened in 1995 and the concept seemed massively antiquated even at that time. Once Internet became the Internet, YouTube views and Twitter followers and iTunes sales became the new (and more legit) signifiers of “making it” rather than enshrinement and/or the chance to rub elbows with Jann Wenner and friends .

However, maybe that last paragraph doesn’t speak to an apples-to-apples comparison. “Greatest” (in a Rock & Roll Hall of Fame (& Museum) sense) shouldn’t be a measure of pure volume.

… and to clarify, that’s volume in the $$$/eyeballs sense and not in the “hey, Dinosaur Jr are f**kin’ loud” sense.

If we’re talking pure metrics, WWW-based signifiers would be more akin to:
– Albums sales
– Number of Billboard Top 10 singles
– Concert tickets sold

For math nerds or Nate Silver-types, these numbers are absolutes. But again, they are merely quantitative counting stats and not qualitative “greatness” measures.

The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame (& Museum) aspires to be the latter.

It never will be.

In short, does anybody really care who gets elected to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame (& Museum)? With the possible exception of Rush (who’s fan base anecdotally has a disproportionate amount of math nerds and Nate Silver-types), there have been few fan bases who visibly gave a (damn) as to whether their favourite artist(s) was/were elected or not.

For modern superstars like Kanye West or the Arcade Fire, is anybody anywhere wondering how their latest album or tour will contribute to their respective Hall of Fame resumes? Of course, not. The Hall will continue to induct acts who are quantitatively great (ABBA, The Eagles) and acts who are qualitatively great (Laura Nyro, Randy Newman).

It’s fine. Nobody really cares and nobody puts any real demands on the Hall. Again, nerdy Rush fans are the exception to this rule. And perhaps the staff of PositivelyCleveland.com.

… strangely, this whole Rock & Rock Hall of Fame (& Museum) spew isn’t even the point of this post. It’s moreso a set-up to assess a pair of other “greatness” measures and determine if they’re still relevant in the present.

Exhibit #A

Most artists who appear on Saturday Night Live have hit some level of critical mass. There have been a few outliers over the years but in general, it’s a pretty static measure of popularity (greatness?).

Janelle Monáe, HAIM, Alabama Shakes and Kendrick Lamar are some of the artists who made the leap in 2013. On paper, appearing on a TV show that is almost four decades old seems a hugely antiquated measure of anything. However, the shareability of these performance via YouTube (and GIFs) gives an SNL appearance a cultural resonance that goes way beyond the original airtime.

Exhibit B

What about the cover of Rolling Stone? In general, nobody buys magazines anymore and Rolling Stone is almost a decade older than SNL. However, back in the day, a Rolling Stone cover was typically a guaranteed measure of both qualitative and quantitative greatness.

… In spite of this and this and this. Can’t win ’em all, I guess.

Circa now, the only time a magazine cover tends to get noticed is when controversy or nudity is involved. Boston (the city, not the band) freaked last year when Rolling Stone put civic bomber Jahar Tsarnaev on its cover, he looking very much like Syd Barrett in the process. Boston’s mayor got mad, a ton of people wrote about the controversy. Etc. Etc.

A hypocrisy ensued because on the one hand, we are conditioned to believe that nobody cares about magazines any more (statistics and this Twitter feed support this). And yet on the other, we are supposed to feign outrage when a player from within this (supposedly dead) medium does something irksome.

Parallel: the public outcry in Toronto over the sale of Honest Ed’s. Arguments rooted in neighbourhood preservation and community are completely valid. But the store itself? Kinda brutal and no doubt teeming the kind of sweatshop-supplied “goodies” that’d make Walmart seem righteous in comparison.

Anyway, the point is that magazines might be dead and/or dying but in the right context, a magazine cover story can still have a broad impact.

So what is the real value of a Rolling Stone cover in 2014?

I think the value is largely rooted in intent. Back in the day, a lot of Rolling Stone cover stories sought to lift the curtain on our heroes. Popular themes: substance abuse, the rigors of the road, grappling with fame, relationships, troubled childhoods, more drugs, more drinks, depression, drugs, rehab, a few more drinks, stronger drugs and death.

The writing had a lot of gravity (not in a bad way). The word “fuck” was typically left in (in a good way). Sometimes the articles were great and insightful. Other times, they were beyond pointless.

A 2003 Rolling Stone cover story on the Strokes is a good example of the latter. Tough assignment for journalist (and The Game purveyor) Neil Strauss, trying to get anything quotable from a band bred to look and sound bored. The full feature can be found here but more interesting is the play-by-play from Strauss’ notepad. Dude gave it the ol’ “college try” but this was an obvious “blood out of stone” scenario. Strauss should be commended for not hurling his pad towards Julian Casablancas’ face.

Again, the value of this brand of puff-y modern journalism is the intent, not the content.

In the present, lifting the curtain is a technique that publicists have reclaimed from journalists and bloggers. Wanna give your fan’s a peek at something? Put a snapshot on Instagram. Release a live recording on your website. Have your bassist tweet something wacky or offensive. Call TMZ.

The content is technical authentic but also completely fabricated. It’s so real, it’s fake.

On the flipside, subjecting oneself to a Rolling Stone cover feature is now (somehow) a post-modern means of letting go. By speaking to this under-read magazine, an artist is making this statement…

Hello. I am temporarily put my image in the hands of this writer. The resulting article will be largely irrelevant unless I say something provocative, stupid or racist. In short, the content doesn’t matter. What does matter is that this interview is an act of trust and I am comfortable with exposing myself in this manner. I hope this makes me look real. Because I am either real or want to be seen as real. Ideally.

This isn’t new. Trust has always been the subtext of any interview. What’s different is with so many more controlled options available to market oneself in the present day, there really is no need to pursue publicity in something as disgustingly antiquated as a (wretch… puke) magazine. Unless you’re consciously trying to make a statement about relinquishing control in a “I have nothing to hide” fashion.

The willingness is a statement. Everything else isn’t much.

Ignored 19: Bored to cheers

In Uncategorized on November 16, 2013 at 4:04 am

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Aside from the complementary ear plugs and requisite volume, the recent My Bloody Valentine show in Toronto was notable in that it featured two of the most seemingly-bored musicians on the planet.

MBV frontman Kevin Shields looked completely disengaged during the performance. Fellow cooer/guitarist Bilinda Butcher looked even bored-er. Speakers blared. Visuals were set to “seizure“. But reactions, energy, pulse? Nope. Just another day at the office for these two.

That’s OK.

Why do we necessarily need our musicians to look “into it”? IMHO, effort is a nice-to-have in a live setting but it’s perhaps even more impressive to see somebody create epic art with a degree of nonchalance. As was the case with MBV in Toronto. And the entire history of J Mascis playing guitar.

Aside: seeing a band look awesomely bored on-stage while making an incredible racket is another example of how contrast is an underappreciated aspect in music. For more on this genius theory, read this.

Many outfits get tagged with the “they’re awesome live” label. This can help in terms of selling tickets and moving merchandise. However, it can also act as a distraction from the actual music (i.e. art) being created. Thusly, there are some “awesome live” acts who may not get the full artistic credit they deserve based on their on-stage antics (Fucked Up, the Jesus Lizard). The end game is they may get pigeonholed by some observers alongside other acts who exist primarily as a “spectacle” rather than “recording artist” (Gwar, Monotonix) in the traditional sense.

Google nets 18,000+ results for the expression “they’re boring live” so clearly, boredom is a concern for many, many music fans. But really, it should come down to a question of expectations. It’s not really fair to the artist to expect any random concert to provide the same brand of entertainment across the board (bored?). In the case of a band like My Bloody Valentine who took a two decade break between albums, I’d be really surprised if they did appear into it. Why would anybody think otherwise? If they really wanted to play these concerts, they wouldn’t have sat out 1993-2007.

I’d argue that the only problematically “boring” concerts are when a young-ish band get massive in a hurry (i.e. the Strokes, MGMT), focus on the substances or other distractions and start mailing in performances while they’re still in the ascension phase. This seriously is the worst but these outfits are pretty easy to spot via YouTube or Reddit or countless other outlets. Do your research and buyer beware, I guess.

So My Bloody Valentine looked half asleep. I thought the concert was beyond fantastic. Fucked Up insight CONSIDERABLE moshing while their singer strangles himself with the mic cord. It’s delightful; I’ve seen them maybe 4-5 times. Again, it’s all a matter of expectations and with a slew of online resources available to give your concert going experience an anticipatory litmus test, it’s now easier that ever to vet your “entertainment” options in advance. If you have concerns…

Bonus! 10 photos of artists who are/were really good at looking bored and being awesome.

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1. Bernard Sumner, New Order
2. Charlie Watts, Rolling Stones
3. Doug Martsch, Built to Spill
4. Jamie xx, the xx
5. John Entwistle, the Who

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6. John Hassall, the Libertines
7. Mark Smith, Explosions in the Sky (accepting on behalf of his band’s unjust “they’re boring live” stigma)
8. Nas
9. Nate Dogg
10. Neil Tennant, Pet Shot Boys (mildly related, the track “Being Boring” is completely underrated)