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David Bowie: Still Cooler Than You

Mar

13

by

This album cover ain't half bad, once you get used to it.

When news of a new David Bowie album emerged in January, I was excited, but also a bit apprehensive. Sure, the idea of new music from one of the most vital, original, and enigmatic rock geniuses to ever walk the earth was enticing, but at the same time, the dude is 66. What if he doesn’t have it anymore, and his comeback effort proves to be the musical equivalent of Michael Jordan’s time with the Washington Wizards?

Thankfully, that’s not even close to being the case. The Next Day, Bowie’s 24th studio album, is brilliant from start to finish, and proves that despite being gone for far too long, Bowie still has a lot of creative juices in him. This is one of Bowie’s more diverse efforts, as he adeptly switches from genre to genre on each song. Lead single “Where Are We Now” is a soulful ballad, a bit reminiscent of his cover of “Wild Is The Wind” on Station to Station, but with more of the atmospheric quality that would mark the Berlin Trilogy era.

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Turn That Racket Down

Aug

17

by

Am I too old for Lollapalooza?

Young festivalgoers enjoy not yet realizing that festivals are terrible

Making a mad dash for the metro on Sunday, I wiggled through the fifth or sixth American Apparel-clad clusterfuck of the evening. As I bolted past the hordes of skinny, singing 20-somethings drunk on $7 cans of Bud, and out of Chicago’s Grant Park after an agonizing weekend of Lollapalooza, it was obvious that I was the only one in sight saying sayonara to the musical festival sans sorrow. Rather than a forced au revoir, my departure through the park gates was an all-or-nothing jailbreak. The tens of thousands of others solemnly said farewell for another year. I said goodbye for good. 

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John Mayer's New Album Doesn't Suck

May

29

by

No, seriously. Stop Laughing.

 

But will you still want to punch him?

For the past decade, John Mayer has been one of the most frustrating figures in music. Much like an athlete with an attitude problem, Mayer has all the talent in the world, but he’s never been able to not suck. He can shred like a motherfucker, but he chooses to put out wuss-rock for 16-year-old girls who think Maroon 5 is too edgy. He’s had a few tolerable singles along the way, but he hasn’t come close to living up to his potential.

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Kino: The Winged Beatle

May

23

by

These two guys don’t look alike at all!!1

Constellations never made any sense to me. The stars are just randomly plotted around the night sky and it always seemed arbitrary to me to say that certain stars make up one constellation while others are separate. And all the shapes they were mean to represent were never apparent to me, even when other people tried to point them out and connect the dots.

The Winged Beatle reminded me of how I can be astrologically challenged in that sense. It’s a documentary which promotes the conspiracy theory that Paul McCartney died in a car accident in 1966 and has now been replaced by a doppelganger. This is “proved” by a series of unrelated anomalies and “clues” mostly hidden in Beatles music and the album artwork.

The reason I say this is like astrology is that the film avoids making any definitive conclusion like the plague. Like the astrologers, the filmmakers behind this leave it to their audience to connect most of the dots. This must be satisfying to the believers since it allows for a sense of interactivity with the movie.

This is demonstrated early on when the film gets close to making some kind of claim about The Beatles trying to establish themselves at the helm of a new religion. At first I had trouble figuring out of the filmmakers were complaining about this or just “exposing” a fun new facet to this band they loved, probably because I apparently live in some kind of atheist bubble and sometimes have trouble telling what’s offensive to religious people.

After poking around a few reviews and the comment sections that followed, it looks like those who buy into this stuff aren’t very happy about it. These people are so backwards that they’re still into this idea that normal rock music is part of Satan’s evil plan. They haven’t even caught up with the ignorant hicks who think punk, metal, and hip hop are Satanic plots to get kids to cast spells on their parents.

The details aren’t quite clear, but the basic gist of what they say happened is this: Paul McCartney died in a car accident. Instead of cashing in on the tragedy the way pretty much every other band that lost a member too early would, the Beatles hushed it up. They replaced Paul with someone else. Probably Billy Shears. The band would publicly deny this any time it came up during interviews or other public appearances, but would also leave maddeningly incomplete “hints.” According to those behind TWB, The Beatles were basically trolling their fans.

I think most of the “evidence” presented in the film can be lumped into two categories, and I’m going to illustrate the categories by using two examples. First would be some supposed backwards messages in the music, especially a bit in Strawberry Fields Forever which is supposed to be John Lennon saying “I buried Paul.” The Official Story from the Beatles is that he was actually saying “cranberry sauce.” Of course when this excerpt is played in the movie, the audience is primed with a caption suggesting that Lennon was saying that he buried McCartney.

This, along with another instance where someone close to the band said that Paul “isn’t the same guy” – a seemingly obvious reference to a sudden change in McCartney’s character – I think falls under the category of deception on the part of those spreading the idea that Paul is dead. Either they’ve fooled themselves or they’re consciously fooling others. And they do it by cherry-picking and misrepresenting evidence so that it fits with their theory.

The other category of evidence presented in TWB involves when I think the Beatles were trolling their more gullible fans as part of a marketing gimmick. I don’t have evidence to support this but what this interpretation has over the alternative (i.e. that McCartney really is dead) is that it involves less scheming and intense secrecy.

So let’s say you’re in a rock band and some people mistakenly believe your bassist died. This adds intrigue to your group and intrigue means money. So you feed into that by, say, using some death imagery in some of your album artwork. Like the flowers arranged in the shape of a bass at the lower left-hand corner of the Sgt. Pepper album cover, which is supposed to represent a grave.

Lots of bands have done this kind of thing since the sixties and it’s gotten to the point where it can all be very blatant and over-the-top. One of my favorite bands growing up was called the Mephiskapheles, whose debut album was called God Bless Satan. Lots of punk and heavy metal bands embraced Satanic and death imagery back in the 80s. Fans appreciated it when their favorite bands directly confronted the religious right’s hysteria over the supposedly degrading culture in that way.

To be sure, I’m not saying I have some secret memo from the Beatles manager where he pitched these ideas to the band. But this is just a simpler explanation for the data points TWB brings up that aren’t intentionally deceptive. So if you take out all the evidence TWB brings up that is deceitful and misrepresentative, and then you take out everything that would be better explained by simple opportunism on the band’s part, you’re left with, well, nothing at all.

But really what’s most frustrating about this stuff is in how so many questions are left unanswered. Why would the band give away this secret? What’s the point of that? The only thing close to an explanation is that Alesteir Crowley wrote a couple of sentences about how he liked backwards writing and backwards speech in one of his books once.

The Winged Beatle doesn’t deal with any of the obvious follow-up questions. It only focuses on pattern recognition, and we as a species are very susceptible to false positives when it comes to perceiving patterns where none exist. We’ve been doing it for a long time. Back when we lived outside and slept under the stars, we invented constellations. Now that we live indoors and fall asleep watching TV, we make nonsensical patterns with our pop culture.

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Beast Music: Ex-Stripe Shines In Solo Gig

May

03

by

Review of Jack White’s Blunderbuss

Considering how many bands Jack White’s been in over the past decade, you wonder why he even felt the need for a solo album. But after dissolving his main act, The White Stripes, last year, White chose to go on his own. The result is one of the most diverse, intense, and ultimately rewarding albums in a discography full of classics.

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Best Albums of 2012, part 1 of 4

Mar

27

by

I was looking over my music collection the other day and noticed that when I sorted it by date, the number of albums I have released over the past 3 or 4 years is much smaller than previous years. And an alarming number of the newer releases I have are from old groups. Last year I picked up new albums by such ancient bands as The Beastie Boys, Skinny Puppy, KMFDM, Flogging Molly, the Dropkick Murphys, Radiohead, Mogwai, Jane’s Addiction, Daft Punk, and Atari Teenage Riot. Sure, they all still make great music but they’re also all just a few years away from artificial hips and pill cases with the days of the week marked on them.

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Like a Boss

Mar

07

by

Review of Bruce Springsteen’s Wrecking Ball

In Bruce Springsteen’s late period, there’s been one constant: the shittier America, the better his music. In 2002, when the country was still reeling from 9/11, he gave us The Rising, the one musical statement about the attacks that didn’t feel like a massive pile of jingoistic garbage. Then, in 2007, when Bush was just about done destroying the universe, he released the excellent Magic, which made the already painfully obvious point that Dubya was an awful president somehow seem interesting and relevant. By contrast, in early 2009, when America was willing to overlook its many problems because “OMG Obama! YAY!” he released the decent, but rather lightweight Working On A Dream. Quite simply, the man thrives on pointing out America’s flaws.

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Fuck You, Dave Mustaine

Feb

17

by

BEAST Metal Geek is Mad

Like many suburban white kids who don’t get to be part of the popular clique, I acquired a taste for heavy metal in my high school years. There were plenty of metal bands I was (and still am) into — Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Metallica, Slayer, etc. — but the band I identified with the most was Megadeth. The pissed off ravings of Dave Mustaine really spoke to me. Whether he was rallying against the negative influence of religion on “Holy Wars…The Punishment Due,” or the military industrial complex on “Hangar 18,” I understood what he was saying, and as someone who was new to being a bleeding heart liberal, it felt like it mattered.

Mustaine, seen here, being a douche

Now, however, all that is gone forever. In recent years, Mustaine had shifted to the right a little bit, becoming a born-again Christian, and his last album had a song called “We The People” which seemed to just be a straight up endorsement of the Tea Party.

This was disconcerting, but nothing to get too worked up about. Now, however, Mustaine has truly gone often the deep end, endorsing Rick Santorum for President. Rick Fucking Santorum?! Are you shitting me, dude?! The most vile, racist, homophobic piece of shit in a race crawling with them? That’s just fucking low.

It wouldn’t have shocked me too much if he had endorsed Ron Paul. Mustaine seems like the kind of guy who screams about liberty in a way where you’re not completely sure what he’s talking about. But no, my heavy metal hero had to go all the way into the deep end, endorsing the absolute worst of the worst.

Why does this matter, you ask? After all, as Chuck Klosterman pointed out, it’s not like this is going to actually help Santorum. It’s because this a complete betrayal of everything I thought Dave Mustaine stood for. He seemed like a crusader for the little guy, someone who actually cared about the outcasts of the world. Not in a sloganeering sort of way like Lady Gaga, but in a way that was actually relatable. If he thinks a man who wants to treat gay people as less than human should be president, however, then I know that was all a lie.

Additionally, so many of Mustaine’s classic lyrics seem like utter bullshit now. Like the aforementioned “Holy Wars…” Its opening line spoke against “killing for religion, something I don’t understand.” So wait, killing for religion is wrong, but justifying hatred on the basis of religion is fine? And in “Hangar 18,” he delivers the immortal line “military intelligence/two words combined that can’t make sense,” but he’s cool with a President who wants to bomb the fuck out of Iran as soon as possible? Both those lyrics came from the Rust In Peace album, which Megadeth was performing in its entirety as recently as 2010. Why sing that shit if you clearly don’t believe it, Dave?

So yeah, I’ve loved Dave Mustaine and Megadeth for a long time, but now, he can fuck off. In the immortal words of the Simpsons’ Jimbo Jones, “You’ve changed, man! I don’t believe in nuthin’ no more, I’m goin’ to law school!”

UPDATE: Apparently, Dave saw how pissed everyone was getting about this, and released a statement on Megadeth.com saying that he never truly endorsed Santorum. This feels like blatant backpeddling, though. His exact words were “I’m hoping that if it does come down to it, we’ll see a Republican in the White House next year … and that it’s Rick Santorum.” Even if he didn’t actually use the word “endorse,” it doesn’t matter. That quote is practically the definition of an endorsement. Just like Metallica can’t undo the damage they did to Mustaine’s psyche when they kicked him out, Mustaine can’t undo this dumbassery.

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