Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Senator Inhofe Welcomes Our New Overlords


Gore Warns of "Planetary Emergency"

I know this is serious business and all, but I can't help but think that it had to be really exciting for whoever gets to write the headlines. How often do you get to write the words "planetary emergency?" And, if you're an ex-future-president, wouldn't you secretly love saying it, at least a little? Everyone will be doing it soon. If somebody declares a "galactic crisis" next week, I'll be suspicious. ("Our taxpayers should not have to bear the burden of repelling the Saucer People!")

Saturday, March 17, 2007

...But they lost out to the dead guy.

Neon Bible debuts at #2. David Marchese in Salon begins the most halfhearted backlash in history. ("Gee, everybody, are we sure about this?") Biggie firmly maintains his grip on the top spot from beyond the grave, so it's not like the world is really turned upside-down or anything. But it's still a funny moment--between this and the Shins (also #2), this music is officially big business. It's all kind of fun, but a hundred thousand would-be hipsters can now stop pretending to be on the cutting edge of anything. (You can include me in that category if you like, but nobody's ever accused me of being cool.)

...and look at the rest of that top 10! Reliant K? Yeesh. (Aren't they into Jesus?) Though I know that some of you are fingering your copiesw of Korn Unplugged as you read this, muttering resentfully. You know who you are.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Rebellion, Lies, Repeat

So, today I went ahead and got the Most Important Album Ever to Be Released or That Ever Will Be. The cultural authorities told me to do it. (This guy too.) But hype aside, I’m pretty excited about it. I liked Funeral as much as the next fashion victim—and it really, really was that good. And the tracks I’ve heard so far from Neon Bible sound like more of the same, but bigger. (I didn’t see the SNL performance; I downloaded some of the audio. Everybody said it was great.) It’s on the headphones right now; I’m getting happy! Funny, I tried to turn on my friend’s radio show the other night and I heard this song that I'm listening to right now, “Keep the Car Running.” I immediately assumed it was some old Springsteen song I hadn’t heard, which would’ve made sense. Then I thought—hey, this is the Arcade Fire! Then I realized I was listening on the wrong night and that it was just some hipster doofus who’d decided to throw that on.

But while I’m on the subject I need to bring up a painful issue that we’re all going to have to face up to and resolve: just what exactly is the name of this band? It’s a problem! Do they have a “the” or not? For a long time it seemed as if they weren’t sure, or didn’t care. On the self-titled album, it said “Arcade Fire” on the front and “The Arcade Fire” on the spine. Funeral, I’m not sure. Writers have seemed to use both versions interchangeably—that NYT writer uses “the,” Frere-Jones at the New Yorker doesn’t. With this album they seem to have definitely dropped “the” across the board. (And Sasha F-J, uber-hipster, would’ve been sure to get it right. Though in the current issue he’s enthusiastically endorsing Fall Out Boy, so anything is possible.)

Anyway, it’s fine. Really. They can call themselves whatever they want. But they can’t pretend it doesn’t matter! Names matter!

Got the new Bloc Party a couple of weeks ago, and I just don't know what to say. Maybe it'll grow on me, but it felt like a pretty big disappointment. Silent Alarm used to get me so excited! There's a select group of albums that are exactly perfect for my usual fifteen-minute super-intense stationary bike workout--naturally, they're the albums that start with the perfect fifteen minutes. Primal Scream's XTRMNTR, Songs For the Deaf by Queens of the Stone Age. And at the absolute top of the list, Silent Alarm. I could listen to those first four songs all day. But apparently, for this new album, the band sat down and decided that what was good about Silent Alarm was...all the other songs. The slow ones. A Weekend In the City wants to be all big-sounding and serious--people have accused them of wanting to be U2, but this isn't even as much fun as a U2 record. I will say that "Hunting for Witches," and "I Still Remember" are almost as good as "Little Thoughts" from Silent Alarm, which was the fifth best song on that album. But that's all I'll say. I'm gonna go listen to "Helicopter" again.

The new Sparklehorse is pretty good. Please don't make me type the title; it's long and stupid. Just click the link. The songs are what you'd expect if you've heard the others: pretty and dusty, with occasional bursts of fuzz. But boy, this album just sounds great--Danger Mouse did the production; it's all rich and warm and crisp. Like a cookie, or something.

I got this Six Parts Seven album today, too. Never heard of them until a few weeks ago, but WOXY plays them a lot. I checked the album out on a listening station, then started downloading stuff. It's real pretty. Hypnotic, soothing instrumental rock stuff--guitars, pianos, whatnot. I need a certain amount of that in my life--and they're from Ohio! Who knew we had our own Mogwai? Though these guys never get scary like Mogwai or Explosions in the Sky, so they may be too soothing for a lot of tastes. But there's a scary viking dude on the cover! They're not tame! (This band has a "the" problem too, I have to add. Though it seems more clear cut: they definitely used to have a "the," and now they definitely don't.)

Links for all! (Right-click or control-click; you know the drill.)
Falling Over Evening -- Six Parts Seven (Gentle. But if that's not good enough...)
Welcome, Ghosts -- Explosions In the Sky ('s something a little rougher. But still pretty.)
Black Mirror -- Arcade Fire (This is nowhere near the best on the album, but it's the free one.)
What Light -- Wilco (And a new Wilco track! Before you can buy it!)

Good Movie, Troubling Resemblance

Hey, I really liked Andrew Bujalski’s Mutual Appreciation. You probably should check that out. This is the second of two tiny-budget movies for Bujalski—2002’s Funny Ha Ha was the first. (Worst. Title. Ever.) They’re both rambling, elliptical, and defiantly deadpan. An aimless hipster musician arrives in New York to get a new band together, and bounces seemingly at random among parties and gigs and long conversations that don’t appear to go anywhere. Gradually he develops a crush on his best friend’s girlfriend. And that’s pretty much all that happens—some critic trying to be clever said that “every generation gets the Jim Jarmusch it deserves.” But that’s really pretty lazy—there’s not really a lot of common ground between the two except for a superficial minimalism. Bujalski doesn’t have any of Jarmusch’s cheerful surrealism, or his love of genres and types—his films are aggressively naturalistic, and they’re centered on very particular sorts of people.

The dialogue is what you notice first; it seems to be made to be as close as possible to actual speech without being unlistenable. Plenty of people would argue that it is unlistenable, there’s so many awkward pauses and so much muttering and stuttering and sighing. But for me, it works wonderfully, especially considering there are no real actors in these movies. It’s not at all like improvised dialogue, like you’d get in a Mike Leigh movie or something. You can tell it’s all as carefully, lovingly mapped out as a Whit Stillman or Noah Baumbach script; it’s just not mannered or clever like that. Bujalski is a poet of awkwardness, diffidence, and passive-aggression. Everybody in these movies is in constant emotional danger; they can’t help hurting each other and getting hurt. Justin Rice’s Alan can’t reject the clumsy advances of his drummer’s sister, but he can’t really go through with it, either. He’s likable and sincere, but there’s a blankness and a distance to him. He knows he’s fumbling around on borrowed time. Funny Ha Ha’s Marnie (Kate Dollenmayer) can’t escape her hopeless attraction to a completely unworthy friend, while Bujalski’s character Mitchell can’t stay away from her. Bujalski beautifully smudges the line between goofy-but-endearing and downright creepy—Mitchell suddenly dropping a full beer off of Marnie’s balcony when he starts to realize he’s not going to get the kind of attention he wants is hilarious, scary, and just embarrassing all at once.

This could be bleak material, but the movies have a kind of sweetness to them—Mutual Appreciation actually ends with a group hug, for crying out loud. Everything may or may not be okay for the three principals, but for a moment at least they all want it to be. You could believe that Bujalski maybe isn’t a million miles away from Lawrence, his Mutual Appreciation character, who just can’t be mad at his friends.

One more thing that I have to bring up. It’s a little disturbing.
Am I being completely paranoid here? Monsieur Bujalski, c'est moi!