Thursday, April 30, 2009

If You Go Down To The Woods Today

For this post i'm going to touch on something that I would usually avoid, namely: music videos. Now, before I begin upon my little thematic playlist, let me put the rant in Al's Music Rant for you
I've never really liked music clips - i think of them like TV advertisements. Not in their function or purpose, but in the fact that the majority of them are awful. Which means that when a good one comes along it really stands out. Too many music videos take a banal premise and run with it for the entirety of its three minutes (the bitches and bling approach), that or they'll start off well and then drop the ball or just become boring over the course of the song.
There are some great artists and directors out there who treat the music video as an artistic medium on par with their artwork, music and image; but too many bands cast off their videos as an obligation. Few are the videos that have turned me onto a new band, i might hear the track and think it's good but a bad video can really stop me from checking out more as it may show a lack of creativity. Harsh? probably Fair? definitely. The only video that springs to mind that got me on to a band i'd never heard of -with the ensuing album being thoroughly enjoyable- was Carpark North's Human.
I also revile any video that tries to cutely take a visual interpretation of the song's lyrics or the name of the band. It's too weak a concept, even for two or three minutes - so don't do it. There's an alarming tendency for artists to stick timidly to their genre. Rappers gloat for the camera while they show off their monetary prospects in slow motion, Indie kids opt for dark, jagged dance halls maybe with the occasional choreographed dance from some tre chic indie chicks, electronic artists seem allergic to appearing in their own videos instead using animation or bad actors in their stead. And so on and so forth.
I totally understand demographics and visual consistency and all that rubbish. But just once, I wish a mainstream pop artist - let's say, oooooh Britney - would work with a visionary like, mmmmmm, Michel Gondry.

....oh wait, maybe Kylie Minogue beat her to it. And guess what? i like Kylie more than Britney (sorry, Ruth).

Starting to see my point? but enough, onward and upward. Anyway, I hosted my first show for 1700 yesterday, that's right. AMR has made the leap to TV (sort of), 1700 is a live music show on Channel 31 5pm weekdays, with yours truly hosting on Thursdays with the good lass Fawn.
But enough plugging, our clip of the week was Chairlfit's Evident Utensil and it got me thinking "there's an awful lot of music clips lately that have people prancing around in a forest!" And with a little research it turns out I was absolutely right. Enjoy

Chairlift - Evident Utensil
Director - Ray Tintori

This clip uses a fancy technique called 'datamoshing' - a highly technical process whose details i won't go into here, all you need to know is it makes for a very, very cool visual. Not a bad pop song too. It's twee sing-a-long obscured by some mysterious violence that's happening visually.

MGMT - Electric Feel Director - Ray Tintori
Ah! we have an auteur on our hands, Mr. Tintori has MGMT in an equally foresty, weirdly psychedelic environment. Pretty similar sans the datamoshing technique really.

Florence & The Machine - Dog Days Are Over
Director -
Tom Beard
With this knowledge in mind, I assumed that this video too was done by Ray Tintori. It's suspiciously similar in theme and tone, perhaps there's a videos in forests for cool indie conspiracy afoot. But wait maye this all started with...

Sigur Ros - Gobbledigook (NSFW Version)
Director - Arni & Kinski

It's cheeky, innocent nudity is perfect for the bouncy acoustic incanation of the track. In short, here's a video i love as it continues the album's theme and art to a visual medium. There's something playful about it too, even if it may have inspired all these videos of people prancing about in the woods.

Death Cab For Cutie - Soul Meets Body
Director - Jon Watts

Even my beloved Death Cab join the club, sure they eventually head indoors to transmit their melancholy anthem across the globe, but that opening walk through a magic(ish) forest is pretty distinctive.

Goldfrapp - A&E
Director - Dougal Wilson

In the band's defense, this is more of a glade than a forest. But still plenty of prancing about, thanks to some cool choreography and what can only be described as 'Leave Men'. Killer track too.

Mogwai - Batcat
Director - Dominic Hailstone

Bringing us to the finish is Mogwai and their genuinely scary mini-horror movie. Set in a forest sure, but a distinct lack of frivolity here. The director, Hailstone, has previously worked with Chris Cunningham and as an effects man on Harry Potter. That explains a lot...

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Not with a bang, but a whimper

Hello all,
so very sorry to be absent so long but i have been a very busy bee and the usual time and effort it takes to write a post or album review, i have been putting in to my Beat magazine submissions. Speaking of which - you should be picking up Beat anyway but - you should all be picking it up from your local record store (Dixons always seem to have a bevy of them).
So that's not all that's been taking up my time - i've also been involved in a Comedy Festival show called Occupation: Ugly. This isn't quite the place to be plugging it, but if you're interested check out the Comedicate or Comedy Festival websites.

Anyhoo, i've been tinkering with another themed playlist to tickle your earbones. Enjoy.

(EDIT: Ah, it just wouldn't be a return to blogging without being served a takedown notice, so the playlist now consists of the requisite YouTube clips)

AMR's Apocalypse Playlist

OK here's the deal, songs about the end of the world - literally or metaphorically - with your usual dose of music trivia as well as a fictional account of just what kind of end of the world scenario each track would be soundtracking. So get to the bunkers! pray for your souls! It's the end of the world!

David Bowie -Five Years
The Facts: The opening of Bowie's seminal 1972 album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust, a concept album in itself about the end of the world. Five Years until the end of the world, or in our case Fifteen Tracks.
The Fiction: Let's stick with the orignal, as the lyrics say "News had just come over/we had five years left to cry in

/ News guy wept and told us/ earth was really dying." What a great scenario, five years seems too soon to rectify any damage and yet far enough to have to deal with the awful dread of the inevitable end. Sounds like any evening news bulletin really...

My Chemical Romance - The End
The Facts: Concept albums are a great place to mine for armageddon scenarios, so too we have the emo royalty of My Chemical Romance and The Black Parade. Setting the tone and template for the album in sound and theme, it too helps our playlist with some dramatic posturing. The Fiction: A vast crowd of people convene and rally against the dying of light and life, marching down the city streets as the fires explode from the concrete and people collapse in the streets with jagged smiles on their faces.

Muse - Apocalypse Please
The Facts: With a brilliantly pun-tastic title and suitably apocalyptic lyrics, Bellamy charges his piano into a cacophony of rhythm supplied by his bandmates to create a suitably grandeloquent finale. The Fiction: As the last rockets escape from planet earth, those left behind - stranded - embrace their final moments as a kind of biblical miracle, as devastating as it is awe-inspiring.

Blackfield - End Of The World
The Facts: The side-project for Porcupine Tree frontman Steven Wilson and Tel Aviv's answer to John Lennon: Aviv Geffen, Blackfield give the apocalypse an appropriately melancholy anthem. The Fiction: What if the human race weren't wiped out by a single cataclysmic event but instead had to limp on dealing with the fallout of the apocalypse? It may as well be heaven or hell really...

Gorillaz - Last Living Souls
The Facts: The end of the human race is filtered via Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett's cartoon simians and their genre defying pop. The Fiction: a sea of burnt fields and craggy mountains, a small band of pilgrims wander across the landscape in search of salvation, though secretly they have abandoned all hope of ever surviving - they soldier on in unison, casting aside their grievances with a sing-a-long.

U2 - Until The End Of The World
The Facts: The theory is that this song is actually about the final hours of Jesus Christ, trust U2. But i think it works perfectly well as a modern parable for modern excess and narcissitic partying - something Jesus represents anway right? The Fiction: With the impending news of the end of the world, everyone just ignores it and gets down and dirty with mass hedonism as has never been seen before. Shopping, partying, fornicating - it's all here in one last excessive hurrah.

Dave Matthews Band - When The World Ends
The Facts: The apocalypse as love song. If your'e lucky enough to be with the one you love when the clock hits zero it would make sense to sing your love's praises until the final moments, complete with a cheekily abrupt cut-off The Fiction: A Romeo and Juliet recite their final vows as their shadows are framed by a vast mushroom cloud.

Tom McRae - End Of The World News (Dose Me Up)
The Facts: Using modern media infatuation and saturation as a metaphor, McRae's cynical lullaby decries religion and apathy as any kind of salavation from not only the end of the world, but the state of it. The Fiction: The depression and sadness of mankind is so dense, it's like a living fog that winds its way across states, oceans and people. Engulfing and consuming everything in its path.

Medeski, Martin & Wood - End Of The World Party
The Facts: Like a funky theme tune to a seventies cop show of the same name, jazz fusionists Medeski, Martin & Wood offer a glimpse to earth's last days as toe-tapping boogie. The Fiction: Against a sky of permanent midnight - humans, monsters, demons and angels all live together on the burnt out rock of Earth's once lively surface. But hey, they're all in it together.

Metallica - My Apocalypse
The Facts: It just wouldn't be an Apocalypse Playlist without some heavy metal now would it? And who better to provide it than Metallica and a cut from Death Magnetic, in which they recapture the speed metal theatrics of their eighties output complete with grisley lyrics and chugging guitars. The Fiction: Just picture any number of Metal album covers and take your pick. Whether it's an oversized demon reaping a bloody swathe over us or an army of skeleton soldiers marching upon earth's feeble forces. It's any and all of the above, but always with a maniacal, toothy laughter echoing in the background - is that the sound of James Hetfield himself?

Avenged Sevenfold - The Wicked End
The Facts: Avenged Sevenfold manage to blend not only punk aesthetics with progressive metal tendencies, but also some emo-centric lyrics with full on Chrstian fire and brimstone. And there is no better example of this than their 2005 album City of Evil and the seven minute opus of The Wicked End, complete with a choral breakdown that Tim Burton would approve of. The Fiction: Continuing our metal theme, the grim reaper sweeps the land in a skeletal chariot. Cause unknown, only now the consequences, as his gleaming scythe cuts down thousands upon thousands in a sweeping carve.

Tool - ├ćnema
The Facts: The (sort of) title track from their second studio album, Tool imagine if Los Angeles was swallowed by the ocean, taking with it the surfeit of artificialiality, consumer culture and a bunch of scum who deserve it (Fuck Ron L. Hubbard/and fuck all his clones). In short, flushing away all the crap and starting over - just like an enema. The Fiction: Let's run with that swallowed L.A. scenario because it would also mean the destruction of Hollywood, and probably America's economy proper. Plus all this is happening because the polar icecaps melted - so goodbye Australia, England, and 3/4 of the world's surface.

The Doors - The End
The Facts: Best remembered as the opening to Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now. There has been few greater synergies between song and image as this. Robby Krieger's chromatic guitar fiddling combined with Jim Morrison's Oedipal fantasy make for a spooky and terrifying end indeed. The Fiction: War. Endless, bloody, meaningless War. So consumed by the engines of conflict the world eventually pushes the big red buttons the world over and blows itself up in a smoke of nuclear arms, biological weapons and blind hatred.

Radiohead - Idioteque
The Facts: A harsh, glacial beat loops as a wailing Thom Yorke intones a series of holocaust driven prophecies and buzz words. It could all be hyperbole if it wasn't for Yorke's keening sincerity, "We are not scaremongering." The Fiction: With the sun's energy and power fading, and mankind's race to the outer stars lapsing horribly - the earth is transformed into a dark and icy tundra of desolation.

R.E.M. - It's The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)
The Facts: In actual fact it's considered a surreal polemic on the re-election of Ronald Reagan, but with Stipe's fabulously open-ended lyrics, it's always been used as a chirpy anthem for our own annihilation. The Fiction: That's great it starts with an earthquake, and ends with a big song and dance. Because hey, we're all done for, but we feel fine.

Sigur Ros - Untitled #8 (Aka Poplagid)
The Facts: Though the lyrics of the Icelandic group's album ( ) are utter nonsense, (Hopelandic they call it) to which this track closes, you can still feel the emotion in them. This is more of a personal choice because in a state of fevered sleep i once had a terrifyingly realistic dream soundtracked by this song (which follows). That and the band often use it to close their live sets, which led me to dub the track an example of Ragnarok-N-Roll. The Fiction: A planet-sized meteor slouches it's way towards earth, as people of every colour, creed and nation gather to face the comet, so too does a prophetic vision reveal that the oncoming meteor too is populated. It's own inhabitants reflecting earth's in a firey mirror. As the two planets' inevitable collison draws ever closer, the striking similarities become clearer and clearer till it is as if each face of the human race is staring into it's exact copy. A large flash and...

Spooky, well, barring any world-wide plauges or a worsening in the GFC, i should be getting back to a more regular pattern of blogging. But in the meantime, do pick up Beat, and check out my various album reviews.

Cheers Dears