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by Diepiriye Kuku

24 Mar 2009

It would take motherhood to free the Material Girl from the juvenile exploits of one-way love and abandonment. Marvin Gaye sang, One way love is just a fantasy, perhaps just as fantastical as Madonna doing Marilyn Monroe in the Material Girl video, and still years later showing out that she was born a real Bad Girl:

That’s the way I came into this world/The doctor said, “Lady, she’s a beautiful girl.”/He gave me a spanky and I started to smile/So give it up, honey, ‘cause I want it/Yeah

The girl portrayed here on the Dick Tracy soundtrack, as we all in many of Madonna’s public personae like to be abused, at least in her sexual fantasies. However the home fantasies are a bit more real, perhaps finally resolving the grief over loosing her mother at such an early age. Notably, her beats seriously evolved upon releasing Ray of Light; she has come out, embarking on that journey of self-love, the real resolution. Still, I wondered if our cherished pop superstar would have been better off listening to some of her hometown brothers and sisters across the color line.

Whatever the emotion, there is a gospel that expresses a love lost deeper than any punishment we would feel from parents who failed to mourn and recover from the loss of their spouses, denying their kids love and attention, so they grow old with the only confidence that they just declare their independence by any means necessary. Indeed, Jeremy spoke in class today, and all he could do was takes his father’s gun and shoot. He felt unloved, and powerless, so he reached for the only real power he’d seen his father use, one which he too could abuse and harm others in the same way he had felt loved, and abandoned by his parents who refused to meet him, Jeremy, on his grounds. They refused to parent, according to Pearl Jam’s 1992 alternative rock hit, so he met love with abandonment and shot himself dead at school. Don’t you think that people learn abuse at home? How many Jeremies must our nation produce before we begin to appreciate that we gain more from cooperation, which implies dialogue on every level, i.e. at home and at the community level. Indeed, a people who feel unloved are capable of anything. A people who feel loved are capable of everything.

Madonna faced these issues at 40 upon the birth of her first child. From then onwards, she continued a string of recordings critiquing Hollywood, and a variety of aspects covering American Life, including much of the imagery that she helped generate (“Music stations always play the same songs”). Madonna has certainly profited from her reign as queen of pop and received her share of airplay. At 50 with two baby-daddies, and in a doomed marriage, Madonna found the courage to ask How High: It’s funny/I spent my whole life wanting to be talked about/I did it/just about everything to see my name in lights/Was it all worth it?/And how did I earn it?/Nobody’s perfect/I guess I deserve it. This was in this millennium. I just wish she’d heard her fellow Detroit native remake Sam Cooke’s composition, a meditation on forgiving oneself as a way of moving on:

Sometimes, I’ve had to cry all night long/Sometime’, I had t’ give up right/Fo’, what I knew was wrong/Yeah/It’s been an uphill journey/It’sho been a long way comin’

These words remind us that we matter, that we can determine our own fate, so that by Madge’s age we could have a system in tact to heal from life’s inevitable conflicts, and losses in order to abate abandonment or even the sheer feeling of terror, like the terror one feels when realizing that they are gay and may have to tell their families. Coming out at sixteen, Madonna’s Deeper and Deeper was an apt anthem, but what happens after the love is lost? What happens once the myth of childlike innocence collapses and we must resume our lives? Shall we not forgive ourselves for being weak, as Marley says? Or, following Aretha way back in 1967: Yeah everybody let the good times roll/We’re gonna stay here till we soothe our souls /If it take’ all night long. Do it till you’re satisfied, so that we can feel free.

Where even today’s young divas like Beyoncé, or even Kelis can act Bossy and somehow get away with stuffing themselves with D-diamonds on my neck/D-diamonds on my grill- all chains of the modern female, yet chains nonetheless. Sooner or later we can’t help but look at ourselves in the mirror, not just at images posted on billboards and big and small screens. The weaning time from the seduction and self-defeating nature of stardom must shorted, so women can enjoy the limelight without reducing themselves to hot wet pussy slipping and sliding on stage, whining about how some man should come set me free- unlock her chastity belt and pop her cherry Like a Virgin, because apparently there is a sizable market of consumers who yield to the popular(ized) fantasy of screwing a school girl. Certainly, this is why young girl sex sells in porn, or pop divas pop their hot bodies in school uniforms, recording their music videos on the set of some school. That damsel in distress has never worked for Black women in America, not so much as liberation is concerned, which has of course been atop the American agenda. Imagine Harriet Tubman or Sojourner Truth waiting on God and heaven for their salvation. Rather such original divas manifest destiny here on Earth, Here and Now, as Luther would say.

by PopMatters Staff

24 Mar 2009

The Bloody Beetroots are due to release their debut album this summer, but in the meantime they have released a new video for “WARP 1.9” which features Dim Mak label head Steve Aoki on vocals. The group has a bunch of dates at this week’s WMC as well as a raft of North American dates through April, culminating in an appearance at Coachella.

TOUR DATES
3/24: Miami, FL @ Mansion
3/26: Miami, FL @ Dim Mak Party @ Fontinue
3/28: Miami, FL @ Ultra Music Festival
3/28: Miami, FL @ Louis
4/01: Baltimore, MD @ Ottobar
4/02: London, ON @ Up On Carling
4/03: New York, NY @ Webster Hall w/ MSTRKRFT
4/04: Montreal, QC @ S.A..T. w/ Steve Aoki
4/07: Boston, MA @ Great Scott
4/08: Chicago, IL @ Abbey Pub
4/09: Toronto, ON @ Kool House
4/10: Vancouver, CAN @ Celebrities
4/11: Edmonton, AB @ Edmonton Events Center
4/12: Calgary, AB @ The Whiskey
4/15: San Francisco, CA @ Mezzanine
4/16: Denver, CO @ Ogden Theater
4/17: El Paso, TX @ 69 Lounge
4/18: Indio, CA @ Coachella

by PopMatters Staff

24 Mar 2009

The Rakes have a new album coming out this spring called Klang and have also released a video for the new single “1989” from the aforementioned album. Fans on the U.S. coasts can catch the London band at a select set of early April dates (listed below).

TOUR DATES
4/01/2009 - Troubadour - Los Angeles
4/02/2009 - Popscene - San Francisco
4/06/2009 - Bowery Ballroom - New York
4/07/2009 - Bell House - Brooklyn, New York

by Bill Gibron

24 Mar 2009

Filmmakers are funny people. The movies they make are a lot like their children, and as with most good parents, they are reluctant to consider said offspring anything other than perfect. Even when their big screen brat runs around shrieking like a reject and shows as much brainpower as an inbred hillbilly homunculus, they put their aesthetic arm around their pointed little profit margin and kiss the box office boo-boo until it’s all better. In the grand pantheon of blind bat guardians, Lexi Alexander has to be the most baffled of them all. Throughout the comical commentary track she shares with cinematographer Steve Gainer, she tries to convince us that Punisher: War Zone is one of the best, most faithful comic book adaptations ever. Even if she’s right (or partially so), she’s still playing Mom to one mess of a motion picture.

After his family is killed by a mob hit gone wrong, Frank Castle, also known as vigilante crime fighter The Punisher, decides to go on a one man criminal killing spree. Taking out mafia families one by one, he’s responsible for hundreds of deaths. The police turn a blind eye to much of his activity because Castle can do what they legally and Constitutionally can’t. His current target is the Russotis, including the clan’s Narcissistic lieutenant, Billy. A stand-off in a glass factory leaves Castle with undercover cop blood on his hands, and the bad guy with a face full of deadly shards.

After some botched plastic surgery, Billy becomes “Jigsaw” and devises a plan to get back at the dead officer’s family and the man who mangled him. Freeing his insane brother James (otherwise known as “Loony Bin Jim”) from the asylum, they seek out the wife and daughter of the downed agent. All the while, Castle’s guilty conscious over the killing has him trying to help the wounded widow and child. Rallying his weapons expert Linus “Microchip” Lieberman, our street savor gets the arsenal necessary to take out these monsters once and for all.

With the Marvel imprint MAX as her constant mantra, and a bubbly personality that betrays a wealth of pre-release publicity on her “happiness” with the film’s final cut, listening to Lexi Alexander wax warmly about the movie she supposed abandoned over “creative differences” is reason enough to give Punisher: War Zone a spin. This is a filmmaker who can excuse away anything, from wooden performances (“this is exactly how the character acts in the comic”) to blowing off half of an old lady’s head (“it’s great”). There is no denying the fact that if you like bullets and lots and lots of them, this version of the second-tier antihero will definitely satiate your ammunition jones. More poorly aimed artillery rounds are expended here than in an entire season of a ‘70s crime drama. Utilizing the stylized approach to atrocity made famous by Hong Kong and indie Hollywood, Alexander tries to paint a graphic novel vista loaded with pain, anger, and wall-to-wall violence. What we get instead is the firefight equivalent of a gang bang.

Granted, this is a lot better than the Thomas Jane joke that Jonathan Hensleigh made out of the material. So Lionsgate has to be thanked for getting their head out of their horror films long enough to realize a new direction was needed. But what should we make of the reports circa July of 2008 that claimed Alexander was kicked off the film for delivering a blood spattered send-up of all things gun and gun-like. Obviously, arguments over the dollar sign differences between an R and a PG-13 rating were part of the process. But nowhere on this DVD do we hear about the supposed spat. It’s important to note, however, that the disc carries over the original theatrical cut of the film. Anyone hoping to get their hands on the “Unrated” brains and body parts edition of the title will be very disappointed indeed (if one even exists, that is).

That being said, Punisher: War Zone can be called a groveling guilty pleasure. It’s not in the same league as The Spirit, or Crank, or Ultraviolet, but it’s just bugnuts enough to find a place in the less discriminating facets of your movie loving logistics. As our corpse grinding “good” guy, Ray Stevenson puts on his best Brit glower and gives the Queen’s English the heave-ho for lots of guttural grunting. He’s matched in UK jive by the paisan paltriness of Dominic West’s Jigsaw. So stereotyped he might as well be eating dinga-magoo off the back of a bearded Italian grandmother, he gives the entire Mediterranean a bad name. About the only actor surviving this surreal shoot ‘em up is Percy Wetmore himself, Doug Hutchinson - and to hear Alexander tell it, he found his inner psycho all by himself.

As for the rest of the digital package, we are once again fooled by the so-called “two disc” tag. The second DVD is reserved for a downloadable copy of the film only. Talk about a big shrug of the shoulders. Elsewhere, we get the standard EPK material, puff pieces on casting, make-up, behind the scenes scuttlebutt, and that incredibly cockeyed alternate narrative track. When you consider that Alexander and Gainer get a chance to, more or less, “set the record straight”, the rest of this material is meaningless. Still, it’s fun to hear actors who basically know better explaining the motives beyond earning a big fat paycheck.

And you have to remember that, no matter the good/bad karma, no matter the kiss and make-up quality of this presentation, no matter the lack of butts in seats or total disrespect from critics (Rotten Tomatoes has this at 25% and dropping), what matters in the end is the movie. Fans have spoken, and they seem to like that Alexander mimicked the pen and ink publication they loved so well. For those outside the comic cult, this will be some hard media mindlessness to swallow. Sure, there’s a lonely Saturday night out there somewhere just waiting for you to rent this title and take a break from using your brain, and if you’re in the right mood, you may actually enjoy yourself. But don’t be fooled by Alexander and her unrealistic mother and child reunion. This is one cinematic kid that deserves a good spanking.

by Rob Horning

24 Mar 2009

Ordinarily I confine my Hipster Runoff commentary to this blog, but this post, an apparent reaction to the environment of desperation at South by Southwest, thick with media consultants and other assorted douchey brand-management types, warrants further attention. It’s an elaborate recognition of the fact that bands don’t have to worry about making music so much anymore; they need to generate internet memes.

In our modern world, 99% of ‘bands’ could be defined as groups of people who created a myspace page and uploaded 1.5 songs. These people have no vision of the modern landscape, and do not understand what it takes to grow into a ‘band worth following.’ While the ‘live performance’ is eventually a critical element in a band’s rise to prominence, there is a game which can be played on the internet to achieve success.
Your band must invade the Perception Economy. Your Band must no longer be a band. Your band must be a meme. A Meme Which Generates subMemes. These memes must be compelling, intriguing, and interesting enough for people to ‘follow’ or at least think that you are ‘worth following.’

If Twitter is the hot medium, in other words, than content producers of all stripes must change their output to accommodate it. People need to be able to “follow” what they are doing without having to devote more than an instant of their time. Relative to memes, songs are cumbersome. And music has never determined which bands are important to know about—instead there are certain bands whose names circulate as currency with no regard to their music. This has always been the case. I’ve found that the best thing about not trying to be up-to-date with pop music is that I’ve lost touch entirely with those sorts of bands; I know there are such bands as MGMT and Grizzly Bear but feel no need to find out what they sound like or confirm that they suck just as much as I expect them to. I’ve moved on to a different status hierarchy, I guess. But memeification, as Carles, the proprietor of Hipster Runoff, depicts it, is a good way of conceptualizing how the shifts in the music hierarchy have accelerated, asymptotically approaching realtime, where memes would be instantly outdated the moment they are broadcast online.

Carles augments his argument about memeification with several charts, parodies of the sorts of things marketing gurus presumably present during actual conferences at SxSW. He diagrams, for instance, the “music memeosphere” and details it with this account of the cultural food chain:

  * BAND GENERATED MEMES - These are units of information which are generated by the bands themselves. Bands with more creativity and personality tend to create the best memes. However, bands have been successful being ‘cryptic’ and ‘weird’ in recent years. The bigger your band is, the less you have to do to create a gimmicky meme that people want to follow. The MP3 is pretty important, but not always as important for certain bands.
  * THE TASTEMAKING MEME AGGREGATING & CONTENT FILTERING SERVICE INDUSTRY - These have replaced magazines and the radio as the optimal sources for music. These services & openly-biased news/meme sources are meant to build trust with consumers. Whether it is an algorithm to filter new music, a team of bros who love music writing about new bands, or just some bitter ass hole who ‘couldn’t make it as a band’ and decided to ‘cultivate influence’ any way he can, these are all providing a service to consumers. They all work together. While it may seem that they are covering ‘different niches’, they all sort of balance eachother out.
  * MUSIC MAGAZINES AND RADIO - These make modern people feel sad and constraint. These put a bottle neck on consumer individuality, feeling like they only see a ‘limited snapshot’ of what is available. Minimal ‘personal relationship building’ means less authenticity and less trust. When a band is viewed as ‘relevant’ from these sources, people who like them are either ’stupid’, ‘just want to fit in’, or ‘ironically like the band/artist.’
  * REGULAR PEOPLE/CONSUMERS - These are consumers like you or me. We want to listen to music and populate our iPods for different reasons. Some people enjoy ‘hunting for music.’ Others just get it from friends. Humans are at the tail end of the meme trail, but they do create a demand for memes which can sometimes force a band to exhaust their presence.

As with virtually everything on Hipster Runoff, it’s hard to tell the degree to which Carles is joking, or even whether that determination would have any meaning. He’s basically guilty of everything he mocks, making his blog a sort of self-consuming artifact. It points two mirrors at one another and records the infinite regress: a blog worth blogging about. Memes as memes. Consequently, there is nothing exaggerated about what he reports here—this really is a pretty accurate portrait of the “music-meme economy.” It lacks only the oozing cynicism.

In its way, Carles’s discourse is far more performative than anything Derrida ever managed. I’m wondering, though, if Carles’s style of discourse, the mode of proceeding by tautology and negating irony by both fully indulging it and entirely rejecting it simultaneously, is the only creditable form of discourse for addressing the contemporary cultural scene. It captures perfectly how every phenomenon is already processed and accepted as a strategy, and the possibility of appreciating any given thing in earnest is always already in quotation marks, without the presumption of there even being a reason why.

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