Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Blonde Redhead - 23 (music video)

Here's the music video to the title track off Blonde Redhead's new album, 23. I won't be doing a full review because I don't really have a lot to say about the album other than it's really good and getting better. The use of layering and repitition makes this song ripe for a remix. Which, if I was in the band, would be my idea for the next EP, a remix of Blonde Redhead songs. Anyway, here you go.

You know, it kind of reminds me of this music video from back in the day.

If you relax your eyes you'll see a sailboat.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Walking With the Baldwins

Walking With the Baldwins

Evolution. First posited by Charles Darwin in his 1859 book Origin of the Species, this scientific theory has become widely accepted as the explanation of how our Earth could be inhabited by such marvelous and diverse creatures. It not only explains how we got here, but it shows us where we’ve been. The implications of this seminal work have been far reaching and challenged not only how we view the world, but also how we view ourselves.

Of course, the theory of evolution has not been without controversy. In 1864 the School Board of Dover, Pennsylvania made it a requirement to teach Intelligent Design, a somewhat-less-than-a-scientific theory posited in Of Pandas and People that claims a giant bearded man in the sky made both Pandas and people but that all other animals were Satan’s work and should be eaten. The book was written by Snidely Moses Darwin, Charles’ evil twin brother.

Over the next one-hundred and fifty years Darwin’s theory has been perfected and is now considered the cornerstone of modern day Biology. But has science gone far enough? Millions of years to get from species to species seems a bit much. What about in the womb? What about from child to child? Or, as everyone in Hollywood is thinking all the time, what does this have to do with me and why aren’t you talking about that?

Because Hollywood is the center of the universe after all, I will discuss what evolution has to with the “me city,” and, specifically, how did America’s favorite acting fraternity go from bit parts to appearing in every other movie Hollywood released in 2006? Travel back in time and witness a story of evolution that spans decades as we go…walking with the Balwins [cue strings and pan out].

Watch as the primitive Australopithecus DannyBaldwinesis evolves all the way to the modern Homo AlecBaldwinesis. It’s an extraordinary journey that spans from Vietnam Vet #1 in Born on the Fourth of July all the way through Jack Donaghy in 30 Rock and beyond!

Australopithecus DannyBaldwinesis, or Danny Baldwin as his brood calls him, may not be a household name but he is often the subject of many arguments as to whether that person up on the screen is Stephen or Alec Baldwin.

After a stint of small and nameless roles, Danny Baldwin received his first major break in the television show Homicide: Life on the Street. For years Danny’s career survived in those cold days before Republicans fessed up to Global Warming by spending his time at Homicide’s snack room, and became the first Baldwin to build up a significant amount of blubber to keep him warm during California’s winters. Danny also spent much of his time huddling for warmth with other C-List celebrities. However, when Danny had a desert shoot for Vampires, directed by the prehistoric creature John Carpenter (Oncegreatdirector Nowhackesis), the temperatures took their toll and extinction was certain. This change in the weather was compounded when a Republican president admitted that Global Warming exists. Except for a mug shot uncovered by scientists, Australopithecus DannyBalwinesis is almost non-existent.

Paranthropus StephenBaldwinesis started off strong in the 1990’s Indiefilmithic Period with his portrayal of Michael MacManus in The Usual Suspects. After this brief moment at the top of the food chain Stephen began a long slow decline. Even though Stephen’s jaw muscles allowed him to chew a larger variety of food than his brothers, paleontologists have attributed his eventual decline to Stephen’s smaller head and thus a tiny brain. Stephen tried to make use of this disadvantage in roles like Bio-Dome, Half-Baked, and The Flinstones in Viva Rock Vegas but could not adapt when 90’s stoner humor slowly died out. Stephen’s extinction finally came when he converted to evangelical Christianity, which disavows evolution. Once Stephen stopped believing in his own evolution he successfully thought himself out of existence.

Adam Baldwin, or scientifically Homo AdamB…oh, wait. He’s not related? Never mind.

Homo WilliamBaldwinesis, or Billy as his friends and family call him, at first made an impressive debut on Earth. He was a skilled hunter and gatherer and managed to capture large roles in the successful films Flatliners and Backdraft. After several more starring roles in less successful films, however, Billy’s kind was fading slowly. Billy was unable to compete for projects because, unlike the more advanced Hollywood stars, Billy did not fashion himself a more advanced agent. After the 1990’s it was long thought Billy had become extinct. However, like the sealacant, he was uncovered years later by Noah Baumbach who decided to put him in his film The Squid and the Whale. In order to keep his kind going, Baumbach attempted to mate Homo WilliamBaldwinesis with Laura Linny, but unfortunately the two did not take and he is currently on the endangered species list.

Homo AlecBaldwinesis is the only Baldwin who is not extinct or on the endangered species list. Much like his less successful relatives, Alec managed some memorable lead roles early on in his career and, also like his relatives, he managed to make a few bombs. Archeologists have puzzled over why Homo AlecBaldwinesis has survived and his brothers have not. Many theorize that it is due to his pair of brass balls he confidently displayed in Glengarry Glen Ross. Alec’s brass balls have given him the advantage of chewing through each role more quickly than his competition. In 2006 alone Alec appeared in four different films. Of course, even Homo AlecBaldwinesis has his own natural predators, particularly Homo KimBasingeresis. KimBasingeresis is known to first mate with her prey and then feed off their wealth to survive the winter months using a pair of mandibles that can also be used as high profiled lawyers. Thanks to Alec's brass balls, used, presumably, to crush KimBasingeresis's lawyer/fang aperatus when she bit on them, Alec has successfully evaded his most dangerous natural predator. Homo AlecBaldwinesis’ success has guaranteed that for the foreseeable future a Baldwin, most likely Homo AlecBalwinesis (sorry other Baldwins) will be a familiar face in the entertainment industry.*

*Amazing enough, this article was written long before the infamous recording of Homo AlecBaldwinesis' threatening grunting used to intimidate his spawn. Apparently Homo AlecBaldwinesis is also capable of eating its young.

Monday, April 16, 2007

The Shins - Australia (music video)

The Shins - Australia (music video)

Normally I don't really like the narrative video, but this one's whimsy so easily matches that of the song that it really won me over. Besides, the end of the video reminded me of going out to Red Lobster as a kid, getting a balloon, and then releasing it in the parking lot...and then probably killing a whale.

And so it was James Mercer who was responsible for the Great Whale Genocide of 2007.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Ted Leo & The Pharmacists - Living With the Living

Ted Leo & The Pharmacists – Living with the Living (5/5)

“‘Cause we're not trying to change when you tell me that I change
and when I try not to change, well then you tell me that I don't change
And there's not much I can change about that, sir”
- Some Beginner’s Mind, Ted Leo & The Pharmacists

Ted Leo makes music to set your life to. While other bands are content with introspective navel gazing, and still a few others deal strictly with the political, Ted Leo finds a comfortable medium between the public and private, and, ultimately, he shows us there’s not a whole lot of difference between the two. Ted Leo attempts to wrap his arms around the immensity of our world. Leo’s success is credited to his ability to make his politics seem about the individual. For example, on The High Party he lets it slip that 9/11 is his birthday while ruminating on the politics of propaganda, and on Living with the Living the most strident anti-war song, Bomb.Repeat.Bomb, is told through the eyes of a bomber pilot. His politics sound less like sleep deprived manifesto than the ruminations of someone walking around the city without a destination.

On their fifth LP Ted Leo and those irascible Pharmacists construct a musical diorama of all the styles that have informed their sound. While in his previous albums these influences could be heard through parts of his songs, a bass line here or a lyric there, on Living with the Living, Leo has adopted these styles whole instead of piecemeal. The album feels like he’s making a mix tape of all his favorite styles but with his own music. Living with the Living runs through hardcore (Bomb.Repeat.Bomb.), Irish folk (Bottle of Buckie), reggae (Unwanted Things), and new wave (La Costa Brava) just to name a few. There are also genres you wouldn’t necessarily associate with Ted Leo, like funk (Lost Brigade) and R.E.M. style jangle pop (Colleen).

I think the reasons behind these genre specific congs can be found in Some Beginner’s Mind. The aforementioned quote shows the paradox of this album: Leo’s sound is evolving by devolving his songs to their genre origins. It makes a kind of sense. I read somewhere that this song is referencing the Zen concept of shoshin, or “beginner’s mind.” I ran across this little quote by Shunryu Suzuki: “In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, in the expert's mind there are few.” By rediscovering the sounds that first made him excited about music in the first place, Ted Leo is actually uncovering multiple ways of songwriting.

The strength of Leo’s political writing doesn’t end with his ability to make the political personal. The political songs on Living also make great use of analogy to attack the current war in the Middle East. Nowhere does Leo mention the second Gulf War. However, he has called Bomb.Repeat.Bomb. a song about America’s involvement in Guatemala, Annunciation Day/Born on Christmas Day references the Falkland War, and C.I.A. takes on our overly secretive institution. At the same time, the shadow of our current war can be felt throughout the album. Ted Leo is implicitly drawing attention to the fact our current war is not a finite problem, but rather a part of our systematic dealings with the rest of the world. His call for change is as far reaching as it is individualistic. Once again, Leo manages to wrestle a complex view of our world through seemingly disparate dichotomies.

I’m sure you’ve noticed that I haven’t even touched upon whether or not the album is any good. Ted Leo is such a natural songwriter that his albums are always good, but more than that, Ted Leo’s work has become such a part of my life I’m less interested in the mostly boring question of quality, than I am interested in how his craft is evolving. Judging by Living with the Living I’m sure I’ll be returning to Leo’s latest album, whatever that album may be at the time, until he no longer puts music to disc.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

R.I.P. Kurt Vonnegut

R.I.P. Kurt Vonnegut

Kurt Vonnegut passed away today. It's a real shame. No other author has been able to capture post-modernity the way he has. Nope, not even Don Delillo. Delillo is a great writer, but he's obsessed with the idea of high art and low art, and his books are filled with unease that this low art will overtake what he considers high art. You can tell that even though he uses the structure of a post-modernist, he pines for the days of Fitzgerald and Gertrude Stein.

Vonnegut, however, may have had a pessimistic view of the world, but he was perfectly happy working in what some would consider low art. He had zero compunction about writing a science fiction novel for example. In fact, Vonnegut and Williams S. Burroughs are the only two science fiction writers who are taken seriously in academia. The mere fact that he was able to write his way out of a literary ghetto is a testament to his talent. He truly was the 20th century's Mark Twain.

Several reviews below is a review of Vonnegut's Mother Night for anyone interested. "So it goes."