Wednesday, January 26, 2005

DISCO BURN.

Electric Six - Dance Epidemic - Dick Valentine is a Hyper-Sexual Dance Cyborg on a mission to forcibly shake the ass of every man woman and child on this planet. He may or may not succeed, but there is no denying the sheer power of the sonic arsenal that his crack squadron, codenamed: The Electric Six can bring to bear. Dance Epidemic comes from the bands second assault, an album entitled Señor Smoke, full of songs about Dancing (Dance Epidimic, Dance-A-Thon 2005), Burgers, Gender, Sex, Presidents, and of course, Sex Toys. Electric Six have always been insistently aware of their own Kitsch factor, and have responded by taking it over the top, and deciding that, where living in one kitschy annoying genre hole may get you a hit, living in EVERY SINGLE ONE might get you a career. And so we have Dance Epidemic, combining the insistent, pervasive discohooks of the Scissor Sisters with the Darknesses heavy metal crunch - this Epidemic, I think it might be spreading.

Electric Six - Jimmy Carter - And yet, clearly, the boys from E6 show signs on Señor Smoke of growing bored with that sound. Case in point: Jimmy Carter. You can't really dance to this one. Minor key basslines, swirled around by AM -radio fuzz, as Dick sings of Ex-presidents, boy-bands (Yes, that was "Backstreets Back, all right" that you heard deadpanned to kick off the chorus), and paranoia. There's something wierdly sober about it all, even as the lyrics are complete nonsense. And towards the end, theirs a riff ripped straight from the Killers, but I don't know how many people will notice that and/or care. It strikes me as just being in there to add to the absurdity of it all.


Electric Six - Future is in the Future - This could be the song that takes the restlessness of "Jimmy Carter" and cashes it in to a quality song. The same crunchy metal riffs and disco beats are their, but theres also flashes of Hall & Oates in here, and Valentines lyrical delivery seems more human, more pained than in the past. Gone is the ass kicking missionary of disco, replaced by a washed up musicman, remembering the good times, Karaoke and Macarena, and yet, seeing exactly why he wanted out. It's sober, and yet, the horns and synths lift it out and make it something else entirely. The song is good to begin with, and killer brass solo around the 3 minute mark kicks it into a whole new stratosphere.

[Señor Smoke isn't due out for a while yet, so until then, go to Insound and buy Fire if you haven't already. But you already own Fire. Don't you? You should you know.]

Monday, January 24, 2005

The Words of Dead Humans.

At the end of last week, I recieved an email from Ted Barlow of the phenomenal Crooked Timber blog with a question. He was planning a friday arts post, and wanted some input from some Mp3 Bloggers. I let him know I'd be late in getting back to him, as things have been crazy, but I wanted to make sure I got to it because as soon as I read the question, the answer was pretty obvious.
Imagine that I've been asked to start a new satellite radio station. We'll be playing songs that should have been huge hits, but weren't. I'm looking for songs from any period that you liked the first time you heard them, songs that are immediately catchy and pleasurable, songs that would please your coworkers rather than the clerk at the local independent record store. The artists could be obscure or famous, but the songs should not be in regular rotation on terrestrial radio stations.

There are a lot of buried 'Hey Ya!'s, 'Tainted Love's, and 'You Shook Me All Night Long's out there. Help us find them. Bonus points if you an think of a popular song that more-or-less shares the appeal of your obscure song.


That post, and it's various replies, can be found HERE. There's some phenomenal music hidden in there. (But as a sidenote, "Chuck the Writer" - "Blue Monday" is the best selling 12" single of all time. I wouldn't call it obscure, though it is of course great.)

Back to the matter at hand though. When I recieved the email, the reason I was eager to write this response was because only one band immediately sprang to mind and stayed there. Osker.

Osker - Motionless - Osker signed to Epitaph in 2000 on the strength of a demo. They soon released an EP of straight ahead, rancid-aping punk rock. It was generic, but not terrible. Especially considering that at the time, the guys were still in High School. Hell, one of them was only a sophomore. The band toured like mad, and quickly earned a reputation as "the most hated band on Epitaph." The live shows quickly became legendary for confrontations with fans. The band would often introduce themselves with a simple "We are Osker, Fuck You." Fights were not uncommon. And then, something happened. The band went back into the studio to record a full length album. And the result was Idle Will Kill. "Motionless" was the albums lead single, and it's one of those songs that, from the crunchy opening riff, to that drum kick, and the soaringly nasal, cheap-trick-esque chorus, screams "pop." And yet, lyrically, the song is... horribly bleak. Leaving aside the wrist-slittingly-emo opening lyric, we have a song that is, essentially, about stasis. About trust. And about a young band, on the brink of success, unused to actually having to give a fuck about what they're doing. Given the content of the songs on Idle Will Kill it's pretty easy to see why Osker broke up in early 2002, while still not of legal drinking age. But that doesn't mean that the breakup wasn't a tragedy, even mourned by as few as it was.

Osker - Contention - if "Motionless" is an opening single, a shot across the bow, than Contention is the knockout punch, to use a terribly pun-itive metaphor (Okay, I'll stop now). I remember the morning pretty vividly. I was in the studio of my old college radio station, with my friend James. I had only been doing the radio gig for maybe... 3 weeks, with James as my Co-Host, and we were playing mostly punk rock, and various ____core stuff. And bouncing bands off of one another. And then, I realized that James didn't know Osker. I put Contention and Motionless on the air, back to back. And while that was happening, we pulled up Oskers website, to see if there were any fun facts we could talk about on the outro. And the site had gone black. About an hour earlier, it was announced that the band had broken up. It's funny, how things like that happen. Here, I was preparing to talk about how huge Osker was going to be. How a song as driving and hook laden as Contention, a song that beat Jimmy Eat World to the "not quite punk, not quite emo, not quite pop" punch, and did it better than Jimmy ever could (I still miss the decidedly Emo Jimmy of old - see a few entries back). Those backing vocals are so sacharine, that snarl so fierce, they were destined to succeed. Except, they parted ways. And in truth, I hate them for it. Most hated band on Epitaph indeed. Osker always did love pissing off the fans.

[Buy Idle Will Kill from Insound.com!]


In other news, TTIKTDA has been nominated for A 2005 Bloggie for Best-Kept-Secret Weblog. The Competition is looking pretty damned tough, so please head on over and vote for me. Early and Often.

Now I just need to find someone to foot the bill on a flight to Austin so I can give an acceptance speech. Hey Music Mags, newssites, whatever - I'll write something for you if you send me!

Monday, January 10, 2005

And it's another prank call, in the middle of the night.

Chad Van Gaalen - Clinicly Dead - There is a special joy to albums like Chad Van Gaalen's Infiniheart. It's a compilation of a decade of home recordings, fleshed out and remastered and put into a delightful package that is finally enough to get a remarkably talented musician the attention he deserves. Competing rumors have Chad singing to such ilustrious labels as Sub Pop, Secretly Canadian, Arts & Crafts, and a number of others. Infiniheart deserves the distro he'll get from any of them. Clinicly Dead is the albums opening blast, sounding like fellow northlanders Wolf Parade in it's vaguely 80's vibe, full of buzzed guitars and xylophone accents, it's not exactly what the rest of the album delivers, but there's a power to the sort of sci-fi dreamworld that Van Gaalen paints that is utterly fascinating. And when the chorus kicks in, full of fist pumping, power pop, it's hard to not want to sing along, even though it's utterly impossible to figure out what exactly you're singing about.

Chad Van Gaalen - Blood Machine - There is a flatness to the recording of "Blood Machine" that I would often describe as distasteful. The production is muddy, it sounds like a pretty clear case of home recording, of too many overdubs on a basic acoustic song, overloaded with congas and horns and atmospheric background howls. But the closeness of this song gives it a claustrophobic quality that only adds urgency to Chads howls of "Help us Escape!" The song also provides a much better indication of the sort of electronically tweaked acoustic music that makes for Van Gaalens overriding sound - think a psychedelic, distorted Iron & Wine, and you might be somewhere close.

[Buy Infiniheart from Flemish Eye Records!]

McLusky - Dave, Stop Killing Prostitutes - in the case of most bands, it seems a cop-out for a reviewer to begin a discussion by referring to such trivial matters as the titles of songs and albums, or lyrics, before any discussion of the fundamental matter of what a band sounds like. But in the case of McLusky, there have always seemed to be few other options. It's hard to get an album title to match The Difference Between You & Me is that I'm Not on Fire, or a song to match "Dave, Stop Killing Prostitutes", or lyrics to match the immortal ones of "To Hell with Good Intentions". But, now that McLusky have announced their disbandment, perhaps it's time to take a minute to look at what McLusky did in fact sound like. And the answer is that they sounded like pure, distilled awesome. More to the point, they sounded like P.I.L., stripped of John Lydons disco dabblings, and with the noise and distortion turned to 11 while lead singer Andy Falco shouted and warbled with the sort of snotty defiance that Lydon perfected 20 years ago, equal parts arrogant strut and rebel yell. "Dave, Stop Killing Prostitutes" is a B-Side from one of McLusky's final singles, and features a more or less spoken word vocal multi tracked over a pretty straightforward bassline, bringing things back to Falcos considerable talents as a songwriter, telling the story of a friend with a bit of a problem. It's an intervention, and the moans of "WHY, WHY, WHY", are filtered just enough to take on an infantile tone that makes you wonder where exactly the band stands on the moralizing speech they're delivering - do they buy it? Or are they just going through the motions? And more to the point, is this break up serious? Or are they just going through the motions of not wanting to play music together right now, in anticipation of a return?

A guy can hope, can't he?

[Buy McLusky records from Insound.com!]

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

3-2-1-CONTACT!

Vagenius - Educated Fool - A while back, I commented that I was sitting on a band from LA that I had been tipped off to that would make me reconsider some not so nice comments about music from the city. Well, a week or two, I got a demo EP from Vagenius, and this is exactly what I needed. Slick, saccharine, catchy electropop. Some killer lyrics, a bouncy synth&bass rythym, and some decidedly sexy vox. And besides, how can anyone hate a song that quotes the theme from 3-2-1 Contact?

Vagenius - Everyone Comes Here - This song shimmers with the sort of vaguely amazing aura that can only come from the future. I don't mean to say that the song sounds like something out of a sci-fi movie (a cliche too tired with respect to synthpop to indulge in), but rather that it sounds like a song that will be a hit in some bizarre futureworld where good music succeeds. With a demanding purr of 'cause I'm from LA I will get it the song hits that exact combination of arrogance and surety that seems to make everything else comprehensible. If I have anything to say about things, Vagenius will most certainly make it. From the buzz I've heard in the past few weeks, I may for once be right.

[Check out Vagenius's website where you can stream six phenomenal songs.

Oh, and in other news, I FEEL GREAT, even if my writing today, for some reason, seems decidedly sub-par. Which is odd, because really, I haven't been as excited about a new band as I am about Vagenius since I first heard the Arcade Fire back in the cold cold months of 2004. I get a similar "Band on the way up" vibe from them.

Also, The Bloggie Awards are taking nominations once again. I feel like I might have a shot at that tagline category - "Feet are for Moving, Not for Staring At" - but if you choose to nominate TTIKTDA for anything, please enter the full url of http://teachingtheindiekidstodanceagain.blogspot.com - thanks!

Monday, January 03, 2005

New Years Day(-ish) is for New Things. (and Transitions)

Todays post contains something Old, and something New. A transitional state. Tomorrow will have one of the most exciting new bands to cross my path in some time. But today, something many of you have likely been waiting for. Some of it, you probably never even knew you were waiting for.

Once There Was a Boy Named Colin

Tarkio - Sister Nebraska - Colin was a young man from Montana. Much enamored of Music, and of the writing thereof, Colin formed a band. That band would go by the name of Tarkio. It was pretty standard alt-country fare, though Colin never did try for the sort of affected twang that too many Johnny Cash and Uncle Tupelo tried for. Instead, in a rich, expressive voice, he sang of cold winters and pigeon toed girls. Leaving behind memories of the coast as he moved inland. The music was good, but it never did reach the audience it could. The doors wallking off Alt-country fromt he rest of the music world hadn't yet been kicked down, completely, and while the country kids were clearly taking an interest in what was going on in the rock world (evidenced by the song you'll be hearing in a moment), the rock world hadn't yet really taken an interest in them. What's really notable here is the lyrics though. Colin had a storytelling style rivaled by few other singers, which fit perfectly into the sort of western gothic ouever towards which he was headed - alternately modern and rustic, twangy and anthemic, it's great stuff... but it wasn't enough. Also, by way of dedication, this one goes out in congratulation to my good buddies Ben & Lesley, Omahas favorite Son & Daughter as far as I'm concerned, who, since last I posted, have become engaged.

Tarkio - Eva Luna - Colin did know how to write rock songs though. Eva Luna is a killer one. It sounds a bit dated now, but for an album released in 1998, it sounds perfectly of it's time. The song is all kick drums and chiming, melodic guitars, and of course, Colins lyrics, full of all the wierdly surrealistic and yet shockingly concrete imagery. There's a very literary sensibility here - not terribly surprising, considering his background and degreen in Creative writing, but nonetheless refreshing in a world of more or less generic lyrical work - or hopelessly pointlessly obscure ala Interpol (Stabbing Yourself in the Neck?).

No They'll Never Catch Me Now

But nowadays, everyone knows who Colin is. And everyone wants to hear some of his new material. And who am I but a humble servant to oblige. These next two tracks are down. The reviews will remain for posterity.

The Decemberists - The Mariners Revenge Song (Bloggers Note: Sorry, this track is down. You missed it.) - Our hero Colin eventually grew tired of the great inland expanses though, and moved to the shore. And when he reached said shore, he ditched the country music. Instead, his new band, the Decemberists, drew attention both for his lyricism, and for a charming anachronism that led to many accusations of Colins Meloy being a writer of "Sea Chanteys" - or just another Jeff Mangum knockoff. Well, Picaresque moves farther away from Mangum territory, but it does so by making the music more literary than ever. These are concrete stories with identifiable charachters - I wouldn't be surprised to read a story like "The Mariners Revenge Song" in a pulp mag - hell, you wouldn't even need to rewrite it. It works just fine without a single word changed. And OH is it a Sea Chantey. Accordions and violins, and Meloys voice ringing out like a trumpet over it all. The story is exactly what the title would indicate, the tale of a sailor obsessed with vengance against his stepfather, the man who had abandoned him and his mother. As the tale concludes, we are trapped in the belly of a whale with these two men of the sea, watching as our titular mariner, finally, gleefully extracts his revenge, and we are left, dancing and singing along, to a scene of delighted, maniacl, frenetic, musical torture.


The Decemberists - The Bagmans Gambit (Bloggers Note: Sorry, this track is down. You missed it.) - And yet, Picaresque is not just another album of Sea Chanteys. It's not Her Majesty Pt. II, and it's not The Tain LP either. The Bagmans Gambit is just as epic, but it's concerns are far more powerful and modern, and proves that for the Decemberists, instrumentation is not a cage, but rather seems chosen to suit whatever story Colin has thought up most recently. And in the case of "The Bagman's Gambit" it's "The Spy I Loved". The song opens with a quiet, simple acoustic guitar melody, as Colin sings the story of his beloved secret agent. He talks of being a pawn in the great game, of rendezvous in bathroom stalls, and of more tender moments. The song is beautiful, but it's too mournful for such happy memories - there's darkness lurking here. Something has gone sour. And when the chorus comes in, we know what. The ever boastful spy must have been captured, for dreams of his boasts begin to dominate the song. The story is filled in as the song progresses, and concludes with meloy reaching for - and fittingly failing on that long, high note. There's something in the striving that is somehow more bautiful though, more aching, the pain becomes more real, the subtle flourish of a violin, the wild cathartic chorus, contrasted with the quiet power of the narrative verses. This may be my favorite of any Decemberists song I've ever heard.

[Picaresque doesn't come out for a while yet, but you can buy other stuff by the Decemberists while you're waiting. And, Colin has also written a great little book about the Replacements which you should all read.]