Friday, March 13, 2009

"The Mother Of All Funk Chords" -- Kutiman (Thru You)

From Thru You

Really only a couple of things to say about this. It's not that you haven't seen or heard this kind of thing before. The wow factor comes not from total originality so much as just simply doing it better than anyone has done it before. Second, the lo-fi-ness of YouTube in an HD era is a clever echo of the DJ's of the 90's mixing records in a CD era.

I hereby announce that we are formally Post-Web 2.0; you will now aggregate or you will be aggregated.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

"Tangled Up in Blue" -- Bob Dylan (Blood on the Tracks)

Dylan...boy, I dunno. I really don't, actually. It isn't that that I don't like Dylan--"Buckets of Rain," from the same album is another song on my completely imaginary all-time top-20 songs list--I just don't get him. I think he's somehow untimely. So let me now be the nth person to take up the question, "What is it about Dylan?" (where n is a very large number).

The song is an interesting story, told idiosyncratically, atemporally. Onion satire notwithstanding, the man could construct a rhyme. It's 1975, so the accompanying 12 string guitar sounds good (the 80's 12 string sound's bad). There's an entire other point to be made about his voice, though I don't know if I have an opinion about whether he's a good or bad singer. The only thing I've got to add is that he's unapologetic about the way he sings, and he sells it.

Is the point here that I, who was 2 in 1975 and thus have no experience of the cultural context in which this song was released (and, you know, never will) and, unable to hear this song in context, will never actually understand what made it a popular song? I might be able to appreciate it/like it/love it/form some totally new association with it because my girlfriend put it on a cd of narrative songs that I listened to on a drive across the country/whatever, but I'll never get it. Similarly, I didn't grow up in the 60's and I didn't get Dylan in context, so I'll never get Dylan.

Is there an even larger point about context that I am missing? Possibly, but it will take me in another direction, so I'll leave off here for now.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

"Flagpole Sitta" -- Harvey Danger (Where Have All the Merrymakers Gone?)

A short programming note: for those of of you figuratively champing at the bit for the release of Control Of Electromagnetic Radiation (the brand new E.P. from The Calculus Affair! Woo!), there will be a brief delay for some editorial work before I release it to the world (Also, I didn't want to step on today's release of U2's No Line On The Horizon). It's not that it turned out badly--I can't really tell at the moment because I'm incredibly sick of it, but I think it turned out pretty well. But I also think it could be better. So, yeah.

How to become an overnight rock sensation: step one, cut a hole in a box. No, step one, form an über-crunch power-pop band. Step two, write songs that set a twee-intellectual sensibility against hyper-fuzzed up guitar and bass instrumentation. Step three, have one of those songs be incredibly catchy (okay, and what's up with the actual video being pulled from YouTube? Must we go through this again?). Step four, have a DJ on the local alternative radio station start playing your song. Step five, MTV.

"Flagpole Sitta" seems to be one of those occasions where the world somehow shifted and a perfect Harvey Danger-sized hole opened up in popular culture, and Harvey Danger was there to fill it. There's a lot to say about why that hole didn't stay open, but maybe it's as simple as: their second single flopped, they recorded a follow-up album that was (and remains) frickin' awesome, but record-label machinations and the cluster-fuck that is the music business insured that it was a failure before it was released. That's all probably outside the purview of this blog, though.

There are a bunch of things this song does well. It rocks like punk, it has a bubble-gum pop chorus, but the lyrics are "I'm not sick but I'm not well/And I'm so hot/'cuz I'm in hell." That's it. It's simple and the 2/4 march beat gives it a lively bounce. And then it's just cool. Cool like you can't even quite define how cool it is. Cool like it's smarter than you and it's mocking you a little bit but you don't realize it. It's sort of like the Kicking and Screaming of pop songs.

It's this last attribute--it has distilled what I've referred to above as Harvey Danger's twee-intellectualism to it's purest form, where it just kind of nibbles at you ("I wanna publish 'zines/and rage against machines" is about as spelled-out as it gets)--that might be what put it over the top. Compare it to the single from King James Version, Sad Sweetheart of the Rodeo. Some days, today for instance, Sad Sweetheart is my favorite H.D. song of all time (I mean, the video stars Ione Skye. COME on). On the other hand, maybe it's just too smart for its audience. And it's not that "Flagpole Sitta" wasn't also, it's just that it was clever enough to sneak it by them.