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Thursday, Oct 23, 2008
Words and Pictures by Thomas Hauner

Exalting to prominence by producing a catchy remix of an already catchy song is a golden strategy. Remix Kanye West’s song (“Flashing Lights”) and you’re thrust from the outer orbits of musical obscurity into the star’s own atmosphere. But Munroe is no Icarus and isn’t tempted by Kanye’s glare, instead working on his own material with a supporting guitarist and crafting a huge but definitively pop-oriented sound. He has remixed U2’s “Sunday Bloody Sunday” too, though.


Delivering power-pop with panache, Munroe played drums standing while also handling all vocal duties, occasional keyboards, and other samples and knickknacks. Strangely, he used plastic xylophone mallets the whole time (breaking one in the process) but probably in case he wanted to play his idle set of bells. His guitarist, playing both acoustic and electric, was incredibly solid and versatile, either strumming gentler phrases or singling out torrid lines. Coming together on “Will I Stay” the duo produced a surprisingly big sound with considerable scope. Munroe took to the keyboard for “I Want those Flashing Lights”, playing a solo intro and full verse before the pre-programmed verses and chorus ignited the pleased crowd.



Tagged as: cmj, colin munroe
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Thursday, Oct 23, 2008
Words and Pictures by Thomas Hauner

As soon as Nelo introduced themselves and their Austin origins it cemented my theory of what they would sound like. Now image is not everything, granted, but in music it is a lot of things. So when you look like you could be high school baseball teammates and you’re from a college town, chances are you’re going to sound like an amalgamation of the standard Big 12 conference college fraternity playlist: Blues Traveler, Bare Naked Ladies, Stone Temple Pilots and, last but not least, Dave Matthews Band.


As the six-piece eased into their laid back grooves, I couldn’t help but feel like I should be tapping a keg somewhere. The group showed some flair by adding saxophonist David Long and the lead vocalist, Reid Umstattd, seemed to alternate cues from Scott Weiland, Glen Phillips, and Eddie Vedder. The band was mostly listless on stage, needing at least four songs before showing any emotion. It was an opening slot, and they did profess a love of beer, but still, it’s your first gig in the Big Apple, make something of it!


Sounding very much like “Southern Cross” on their last song, the group could easily follow down the career path of successful alt-country rockers like Pat McGee. But their lack of bite and preference for easy smiles may just make them a West Texas name.



Tagged as: cmj, nelo
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Thursday, Oct 23, 2008

Megan McArdle links to this post at The American Scene by Matt Frost about what Frost calls the Nothing But Flowers fallacy: “the tendency to count on economic disruption to bring about salutary social change.” (“Nothing But Flowers,” if you don’t know it, is structured a little like Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi” in reverse: Instead of paving paradise and putting up a parking lot, David Byrne sings about modern society falling apart and parking lots devolving into paradise as we get back to the natural way of things.) He finds Joel Kotkin committing this fallacy in a Washington Post article (reposted here) in which Kotkin celebrates the possiblities for a “new localism” in the breakdown of the financial system and the coming recession. He is not afraid to cheer for the possibility that the complacent, isolating consumerism we all know and love may be involuntarily displaced at last by hardship. And presumably he assumes that the fact we will no longer having to bowl alone will compensate for no longer being able to afford to go bowling.


Preaching the silver lining of austerity is the inevitable result of mistaking nostalgia for possible progress; or rather it is the result of failing to recognize the complications that troubled the past golden ages. (McArdle quoted Frost’s best comment: “according to Kotkin, our anomic communities will also be knit back together by high energy and food prices. A good pandemic flu, presumably, is all we need to complete the rebirth of American localities.”) Obviously you don’t have to read Studs Terkel’s Hard Times to know that the Great Depression was no one’s idea of a good fun. And suddenly changes in our standard of living is probably going to introduce more anxiety and friction into everyday life as opposed to open a space for us to be more involved with the community. For better or worse, when given the opportunity to detach from the community, our parents seized it. It’s not clear why we would feel any better about being forced to reverse that choice. As Frost succinctly puts it,


If we arrange our families and our living spaces poorly when affluence gives us choices, we are unlikely to suddenly flourish when those decisions are forced upon us. Hard times won’t compel Americans into becoming their better selves, and if we are heading into some bleak days, it’s best that we all understand that in advance.


As consumers began cutting back on spending, I wondered if they might not embrace the Aldi alternative—stripped-down shopping that makes the activity a humdrum chore again rather than an entertainment experience. But it’s as likely that luxury shopping will be remystified and reglamorized by its sudden impracticality and remoteness from ordinary people’s lives—after the democratization of luxury was threatening to totally extinguish the mystique of Tiffanys, et. al. Prosperity is not the problem with consumerist societies; prosperity doesn’t necessarily lead to consumerism, because consumerism, at least how I’m thinking of it, is not automatically synonymous with a lot of consumption. The problem with consumerism is the infrastructure of persuasion shaping our values and curtailing our freedom by narrowing the scope of experience and channeling us into certain kinds of consumption. Consumerism is an ideology, a destructive one that leads to environmental abuse, intensified stress, political inertia and, yes, isolated individuals who are perpetually unsatisfied. But these problems won’t be cured by our all being denied the potential to consume.


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Thursday, Oct 23, 2008
by PopMatters Staff

The Verve
Rather Be [Video]


Frightened Rabbit
Old Old Fashioned (live) [MP3]
     


Secret Machines
Atomic Heels [MP3]
     


Stephen Malkmus
Gardenia [Video]


Electric Six
Formula 409 [MP3]
     


Parts & Labor
Nowheres Nigh [MP3]
     


Danielson
Idiot Boksen [Video]



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Wednesday, Oct 22, 2008
A Flash game that educates the user about New Orleans while providing a decent platforming experience.

It’s something of a personal fantasy (and subject of a blog post meant to be posted in 2 weeks) to begin pushing video games into relevancy by having them discuss topics besides escapist fantasy. Different games have struggled with this in different ways. My now excessive knowledge about World War 2 aside, most games opt to attain relevancy by discussing emotion or philosophical debate. Braid’s sense of the futility of pursuing goals, Planescape: Torment’s questions about human nature and how our conduct reflects it. Or, as the Global Kids Media Initiative has done, you can just set the game someplace important. Like New Orleans, the day after Katrina hit.


It’s always interesting to play an educational or informative game because you immediately recognize that their goal is not necessarily having fun. Instead, it’s fun with a side of vegetables. Video games, by their nature, are more engaging than watching a film or reading a book. I actively absorb information given because there is a chance it’s relevant to play. I pay attention to what’s going on because something dangerous might hurt me. Whereas a game solely about fun or accomplishment will fine-tune that into generating a sense of reward by delivering chunks of plot or quaint jingles, an educational game is instead using all of these elements while slipping in bits of information about a topic. You learn inadvertently as you progress, although there have not been too many games that delivered a true melding of these goals.


In that regard Katrina: Tempest in Crescent City succeeds with a good mixture of dialogue in a standard platforming game. Certain people that you speak to will give a mission of delivering bottled water or first aid. Others will relate a true amazing story about the aftermath of the storm, such as Jabar Gibson’s hijacking of a school bus and shuttling survivors out of the city before F.E.M.A. arrived. Your character is a survivor herself, re-experiencing the storm through a dream as she rushes around saving the people she wishes she’d helped during the actual events. Each level is set to a timer that is gauged by the setting sun, which creates a real sense of conflict as you realize that you can only help so many people per level. Some survivors must be abandoned in order to help yourself. And as you progress to each level, the broken levies take their toll and the waters slowly rise. The final person you rescue, your mother, is revealed to have passed in the storm at the very beginning of the game. It’s a clever analogy for drawing in people who were not personally involved in Katrina themselves: our dreams of helping the survivors during the disaster carries on into today. The website provides more information and suggestions on what other can do to help after you finish the game. It takes about fifteen minutes to play through and will leave you knowing more about New Orleans and the aftermath of Katrina than before you started playing.


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