6/27/2011

Revisiting bands that only exist in Gchat

Last week I read two books on music – Rob Sheffield's Talking to Girls about Duran Duran (whose first memoir Love is a Mix Tape actually made me ;( a little) and Jennifer Egan's A Visit from the Goon Squad (awarded the Pulitzer for fiction this year). They made me want to reexamine my own relationship with music and technology, so that's what I'm about to do now, sort of. Starting by telling you that...



I’ve always wanted to be in a band.

Rephrase: Aside from the hours of practice, amount of money spent on equipment, the not showering, and actually having talent part, I’ve always wanted to be in a band!

Of course this was back in the days before I had a cell phone bill, before Sallie Mae kept me on speed dial, and before the Internet caught this STD called MySpace. This was back when all I cared about socially online was monitoring the status of my Napster queue while eating microwaveable bacon that I microwaved sometimes. This was back when I was just beginning to build my personal encyclopedia of music one burnt CD and a VH1 countdown special at a time – back when music meant everything. This was back in the 9th grade.

By that point, as a high school freshman, I felt like I had listened to enough Weezer to confidently decide I was going to learn an instrument, be in a band. “Blue Album wasn’t built in a day!” I affirmatively wrote on the back of a Pokémon card and taped to the inside of my locker. I understood the weight of what I was about to undertake. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy, but neither is being Rivers Cuomo, okay? I was determined. I was ready. I enrolled in a Beginning Guitar class.

And as quickly as I picked up that communal classroom guitar, its strings were plucked from my tiny fingers. Why? I just told you. My fingers were too tiny! “Your hands are a little…small,” the instructor winced. “Come back next year?” He retrieved it from me, placed it in its leather shell, and the snapping sound of that guitar case’s metal brackets were like the nails in my Teenage Coffin.*

I walked out of that class into a Free Period Wasteland** replaying what just happened in my pre-pubescent mind and it sounded an awful something like, “So much for being in a band. So much for channeling Lenny Kravitz. So much for getting laid!” I was floored and disappointed and wanted to pull a Pearl Jam “Jeremy” on the entire class with the visceral song I was going to write about that crushing moment, except, oh wait, I couldn’t…I was 4’8”!

That was then, this is now.

Now, I can levelheadedly say I still love music, but I don’t loooove music because, looking back, if I did, I would’ve got out from under my LA Gears and learned the guitar anyway. Instead I eventually saw the movie Almost Famous and came to terms with being that kid who loves the fantasy, not the reality. Now, I can tell you I thankfully went through puberty. I’m 5’10”. I no longer wear light up sneakers. I even have sex sometimes. I’m okay, everything’s okay! Rock ‘n’ roll.

Over the years, I discovered the next best alternative to being a band: talking incessantly about being in a band. When an interesting combo of words comes up in a convo – usually in the garage of Gchat – a fellow music lover and/or real musician friend will type, “Band name! Such a good band name!” opening the airwaves for us to elaborate on its sound, the album art, it’s Behind the Music episode. Best part is I’d be included because the only instrument I can play is the MacBook keyboard. For a second, it’s kind of like I’m in a band, which is good enough for me.

I did a recent Gmail/Gchat search of variations on “band name,” “our band,” “I’m bored,” and pulled up two pages of results. Here’s a sample of a few that should further illustrate while I’ll never be in one like, for real.

The Bogarts

Sounds like: Devo, The Plastics, The Dead Milkmen, Sparks, math rock

The Bogarts was the first band I was ever “in.” There were a lot of “The” bands going on at the time – The Strokes, The Vines, The Hives, The White Stripes – my “band mate” (whose “instrument” was Adobe and drew all these illustrations) and I wanted to jump on The “The Band"wagon. We were also vaguely into classic films/noir and not being invited to high school parties, which should again explain the name. The Bogarts had a simple back-to-basics garage pop sound with a new wave influence and the entire band narrative was booking gigs around Hawai‘i’s non-existent Bar/Bat Mitzvah circuit and performing a Ramone’s cover they changed to “I Wanna Be Your Goyfriend” with video montages of Phoebe Cates superimposed over geometry problems projected behind them. Jewish moms loved The Bogarts.

Linda Hamilton Arms

Sounds like: Rage Against the Machine, Alice in Chains, Death, an animal sacrifice

Linda Hamilton Arms refers of course to what everyone’s mom tried to achieve at the gym following the theatrical release of Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Just like Sarah Connor’s physique, their sound was well toned, solid and rocked hard in venues where fog machines and pyrotechnics were commonly involved. They wore all black with bulletproof vests and aviator shades and their most popular song was “Chill Out, Dickwad”. It was a ballad.

Confettitties

Sounds like: The Runaways, Hole, Bratmobile, The Shining Twins, spooky glam tween

Confettitties didn’t know who or what they wanted to be. They didn’t know what waves of music and feminism they wanted to ride and if intentionally wearing lots of eye shadow was a Girl Power thing or not. When they originally formed they made melancholic Mirah-esque music that required cutesy vocals over whimsical instruments like a triangle and tapping a metal spoon against a block of wood. Then they discovered Kathleen Hanna, feather boas, and cassette tapes, which morphed their sensibility towards writing simple riot grrritty songs like “Coca-Cola and Pop Rocks Is My Plan B” and “I Found This Zine Under a Barbie at Target.” They titled their album Tavi’s #1 Favorite Band!!!, which got them mad web hits and a spot on the Juno 2: Look Who’s (Still) Talking (on a Hamburger Phone) Now soundtrack. Two Tumblr refreshes later, one member had a baby and they broke up due to Ironic Differences.

Male Polish

Sounds like: Catherine Wheel, Boris, Ride, Salem, nightmare pop

Male Polish is kind of like the ultimate pomo homo band. Behind their skateboards, PFLAG bracelets, striped Stüssy t-shirts, and kitschy frosted tips, it’s hard to tell who’s straight, bi, gay or James Franco. In homage/outrage to the Top 40 of their youth, their entire set were covers of boy band songs circa Y2K reimagined as shoegaze (shoegayze?) songs. Crowd favorites were LFO’s “Summer Girls” (reworked as "Summer Boys") or Soul Decision’s “Faded” slowed down 300% and buried under nine layers of guitar because “Girl, I’m faded / But I feel all right” was one serious shoegaze lyric if this band’s ever heard one. Dennis Cooper blogged about them once.

...and I’m going to stop here. I mean, I could go on and tell you about Bleached, Mystery Airhead, and Habibi’s one-hit wonder “You Say Muslim, I Say Moslem” – and in turn would actually love to hear about some of the bands you’re all “in” – but the Gchat tab on my Chrome is blinking, so I gotta split. I have “band practice.”***

*Band name created exclusively within this blog
**This album name too
***Right after I shower

6/22/2011

4 most played bands, songs, and albums in my car in May/June

BEN L'ONCLE SOUL
BEN L'ONCLE SOUL (2010)

Tres bien. No clue what he's saying, but will someone slow dance it up with me and let our bodies do the talking in a smoky '70s-inspired French discothèque? The real kind with the backwards accent mark thing? You can reach me at 1-800-DESPERATELY-URS.


CULTS
CULTS (2011)

I really liked the singles that were leaked online last year ("Go Outside" and "Most Wanted"), but something about all of it together on one album isn't exactly sticking with me. To be honest, I find most if it be sort of...grating. I still find it challenging how some new groups can make me dislike a reference as awesome as '60s girl groups (The Like, comes to mind), but Cults isn't nearly as polarizing. Which sucks because I want to be on the side that loves it, but wah, I'll just keep crying Millenial tears until I do...


BON IVER
BON IVER (2011)

Justin Vernon is a super serious musician, okay? And hipsters are super serious about their music, so even if you're just the caj Bon Iver fan you will be thrown in with the stereotype. #firstworldproblem So just deal with it, all right? Because that's what I've been doing. Over and over and over again as I let his new album score my life as I commute to work every morning. In the sprinkly rain. With squirrels and birds and salamanders frolicking after me. INTO A FOG OF NOTHINGNESS.


ALEXANDRE DESPLAT
THE TREE OF LIFE (2011)

10–15 people walked out of the theater I saw this in. I can understand that. In place of a traditional plot, there's a 25-minute stretch of space, evolution and nature imagery that literally means what it is showing ("You think you know, but you have no idea. This is the True Life of...Life.") I'm not by any means ~*in love*~ with this portion of the film, but I didn't find it so unbearable as to like, leave. And none of it is to seriously mean Terrence Malick thinks Tree of Life is deep. Because the movie isn't deep. The same way life isn't deep. Which makes it...deep. I did love any- and everything about those 1950s sequences and connected with those moments all the same.

Sidenote: I think it takes ~0.09% effort to describe/write this movie off as "pretentious." To me, "pretentious" insinuates being disingenuous while coming off superior in the process and while watching this movie, I got the sense that Malick is being incredibly sincere and even with us. My opinion is it takes guts to write dialogue like, "The only way to be happy is to love. Unless you love, your life will flash by." Sure, it doesn't sound smart, but as I get older I'm starting to care less and less about stuff "sounding smart" in place of stuff "sounding honest." Yes, Tree of Life is embarrassing at times (CGI dinosaurs and a symbolic mask floating in an ocean), but who isn't? Malick's just a guy who bleeds this movie and I can respect that.

The music is pretty dope too.

6/19/2011

Some sweet Father's Day movies

I have a pretty low-maintenance dad which means today for Father's Day we're just gonna hug it out over a game of Time Crisis II in the theater arcade while we wait for X-Men: First Class to start. Maybe afterwards we'll make it a double feature, go back to his "bachey pad" (his words) and throw in any of these DVDs...

Die Hard


Tagline: The Duh Hard movie for dads.

Field of Dreams


Tagline: Never striking out in dad jeans.

Predator


Tagline: DADZ LUV ALIENZ & GUNZ.

Corky Romano


Tagline: Help! I'm no longer 10 years old and my dad is still trying to convince me this is the funniest movie ever made for the 30th time!

Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery


Tagline: Daddy's favorite mooooooooooooovie.

Father of the Bride


Tagline: Uh, yeah... IF I WERE A GURL.

Face/Off


Tagline: Not even watching it seriously, just bonding over our killer Nic Cage and Travolta impressions for 90 minutes.

Frequency


Tagline: Okay, this is actually a really good movie.

6/16/2011

Cool movie directors saying cool movie director things

Jean-Luc Godard


What do you rebel against in particular?
"It's not really rebelling. It's annoying not to be able to do what you want."

"I don't know what to say."

"What surprises me about my second film compared to the first is that I'm already tired. By tired, I mean there are lots of things – it's hard to explain. I feel like I love cinema less than I did a year ago, simply because I made a popular film. I hope people really hate my second film so that I'll want to make movies again. That's what I meant before about being contrary."


Do you believe there's such a thing as a fair review?
"Yes, but criticism isn't an artistic creation. It will always be inferior."

Doesn't [being a critic] run the risk of stifling the imagination?
"No. It made me love everything. It taught me not to be narrow-minded, not to ignore Renoir in favor of Billy Wilder, or something like that. I like them both, even though they are extreme opposites."

Can cinema be a pure profession?
"I think so. It consists of so much compromise that in the end it has to lead to purity."

John Cassavetes


"Yeah, I like all music. Good. Makes you feel like living. Silence is death."

"Crime and Punishment. I would like to make that a musical."

Federico Fellini


"I'll say it again, you may think I'm being facetious, but it's absolutely true. I don't believe in total creative freedom. A creator, if he is given total creative freedom, would tend, I think, to do nothing at all. The greatest danger for an artist is total freedom. To be able to wait for inspiration, the whole romantic discourse. Psychologically, the artist is an offender. He has a childish need to offend. And to be able to offend, you need parents, a headmaster, a high-priest, the police..."

Agnes Varda


"One part is conceptualizing and ordering the world, and the other is accepting the world as it is. Those two things together shape the visual arts."

David Lynch


"Abstractions exist way more in real life."

6/12/2011

Moi musical make out memories


1. Echo & the Bunnymen - The Killing Moon We just came back from the beach. We were high off your friend's weed. We were seventeen. I sat on the edge of your bed, you flipped on the TV. You told me to pick out a movie, so I chose your Donnie Darko DVD. You sat down next to me, we started watching. This is the song in the opening scene. You turned and asked if I was hot in my jacket abruptly. I said I was okay, but you helped slip it off me anyway. My jacket was nylon, but felt like water all over my body. I laughed a little because it tickled and rested my head against your collarbone, I don't know why, I felt like I was drowning or something. I remember wondering what it'd be like to kiss you, so I did. My hands didn't know what to do with themselves. My teeth clinked against your teeth. I felt stupid, so I stopped. This was such a bad kiss, but it was my first.

2. Marvin Gaye - Come Get To This We were at some club. A really awful club. Like, laughably awful because those are the best. Nothing could save it. Until this song. All of us decided to dance, it was so unexpected. Somehow we ended up next to each other and smiling because dancing in groups does that sometimes. You said my sweater looked like Charlie Brown and kept calling me "Charlie Brown" instead of my real name the rest of the night. I didn't care, I thought it was funny, I thought you were funny. You leaned in and asked, "Are you single?" and I wasn't sure what to say. We barely knew each other, maybe twelve minutes, so I said, "I think this is the part where I tell you I'm single?" like a question. You answered by kissing me. I think you just wanted to freak out the friends you came with, I didn't mind, like I said, I thought the whole thing was funny. Afterwards, I went back to your apartment and we played card games on your bedroom floor.

3. The Jesus and Mary Chain - Cut Dead We were at the beach. It felt like it was over 100 degrees. You brought your iPod speakers, I brought the sunscreen. No one was around, typical summer morning. We kissed the boring away. You blinked sand out of your eyes, just laid there burning. I drew a little happy face on my chest with sunscreen so it would leave a mark.

4. My Bloody Valentine - Sometimes We were in my car, just idling there in expired parking. I hadn't seen you in so long, I didn't know how it would feel. You were always looking the same, but I could never remember your face exactly. I readjusted my rearview mirror for the tenth time, stalling. I so badly wanted to tell you what I couldn't, so we started kissing. It was confusing. You probably thought I was just over thinking, I don't know, sure, maybe. I hid my head in your chest, the only way I could bring myself to admit it to you, quietly. We kept kissing to prove something, whatever it is was we were doing.

5. Sparklehorse - Shade and Honey We were in bed. You were eating leftover birthday cake, I was checking my email with iTunes playing. I asked something, you said you couldn't understand me. I repeated myself, again you said you couldn't understand me. Before I could ask a third time, you slowly shoved cake in my face while saying that you couldn't understand a single word I was saying. I couldn't stop laughing. You pretended to be sorry and said you'd clean up everything, you tried licking the sprinkles off my teeth. Your lips tasted like toothpaste and frosting. We got crumbs on everything.

6. Foo Fighters - Everlong We were singing karaoke. This was the designated anthem of the evening. I thought it would be funny, so at the chorus I got down on one knee. Everyone started laughing. I bit my lip in weighted suspense, quietly begging. You gasped into the mic, make-believe contemplating. To encourage you along, the room started screaming the lyrics! What were you going to say?! When we kissed, everyone was clapping. I felt so cool when you winked at me.

7. James Blake - The Wilhelm Scream We were in a stairway. I was here, but you were right there – right there! – I kept thinking, and the music was blaring. I couldn't wait any longer, my head was warm from drinking. This isn't the actual song, it was a remix I can't remember clearly. But my memory of it felt inside-out like this version or something. While we were kissing, I kept squeezing your arms to believe it was happening. I'm an idiot, so I started talking because I felt like it was ending. We decided we were hungry and promised to get pizza, I don't remember who suggested pepperoni. I felt a smile on your mouth like, why were we talking about pizza suddenly?

8. Mazzy Star - Blue Light We were at your place getting ready to leave. You were taking forever, our friends were waiting. You were always playing Pandora while trying on another shirt or something. I decided to finish The Abyss on Netflix that's how long you were taking. I vaguely wondered if we were fighting. You could tell I wasn't happy and tried to excite me. I considered whether or not I could get bored of kissing you, which I thought was scary. I began second-guessing the dumbest things. I switched my shirt. I put on another pair of shoes. I spent five minutes fine-tuning my tie. I was taking forever, our friends were waiting.