Matthew Tow joined the Brian Jonestown Massacre back in 2003, but he’s also the main man behind pysch jangle poppers the Lovetones. The Lovetones put out their debut Be What You Want in 2002 on venerable pure pop label Bomp!. They return this year with their fourth album, Dimensions, releasing on February 24th through Planting Seeds Records. Their US tour is set to begin in April. “Journeyman” is heavily ‘60s drenched, like much of this band’s music.
As embarrassing as it is to admit, I somehow heard Devendra Banhart before I heard Tyrannosaurus Rex. Of course I’d heard T.Rex and their glam hits “Get It On” and “Metal Guru”, but I had no idea about Marc Bolan’s past as folk-pop crossover genius, I only knew him as the “Electric Warrior”.
Upon first hearing Banhart I thought he was amazing; such a grasp on melody and not afraid to do semi-hippy folk-pop, such a distinctive voice – I thought it was incredibly original. When I heard Tyrannosaurus Rex’s “Debora” I quickly dismissed Banhart as the flakey shameless Bolan-aper that I still believe him to be.
Perhaps most people were luckier than I and were somehow exposed to Bolan’s early period as the folk-pop duo of Tyrannosaurus Rex rather than his glam period as T.Rex, and were able to get their tastes in order accordingly – but for those who’ve led a Tyrannosaurus Rex-less life, get ready to get excited.
Though championed by John Peel and having a number of hit albums that charted in England, in North America Tyrannosaurus Rex has been largely overshadowed by Bolan’s glam incarnation: T.Rex. Full of Tolkien-imagery, beautiful and original vocal melodies, fast-paced bongos and madly strummed guitar, the first two Tyrannosaurus Rex albums are folk-pop gold – probably the best it’s ever been done.
After Bolan left his first band, John’s Children, he enlisted the help of percussionist Steve Peregrine Took (he took the latter part of his
name from a hobbit), and the two set out as a folk duo, playing concerts and busking around London. Thanks to a huge push from John Peel and his BBC show, they gained national attention with their 1968 debut, My People Were Fair and Had Sky in Their Hair… But Now They’re Content to Wear Stars on Their Brows. All of the mysticism and majesty that the title suggests is represented on the album. The album follows in typical Bolan fashion by swinging wildly from the otherworldly to American banalities – from “Dwarfish Trumpet Blues” to “Mustang Ford”, from “Frowning Atahuallpa (My Inca Love)” to opener “Hot Rod Mama”.
Rob Walker’s latest Consumed column in the Sunday NYT magazine looks at criminally overpriced chocolate as a vehicle for “compensatory consumption.” Professors at Northwestern University found in a study that “subjects who had put themselves in a powerless frame of mind were willing to pay measurably more than the other group for high-status items” and that “individuals who felt less powerful showed a preference for clothing with larger and more conspicuous luxury logos.” In other words, our status anxiety may register to us as a lack of autonomy, as powerlessness, and we may compensate by exercising the sort of autonomy with which we are all familiar—making a wasteful shopping choice to prove that we can. Hence, spending $8 on a chocolate bar.
If this phenomenon of “compensatory consumption” holds, there would be seem to be incentive for marketers to make us perpetually anxious about our status, in good times and bad, and to make sure that status remains a meaningful social category with as much salience as possible. This implies that there can be no end to the social barriers derived from class as long as there is a robust advertising industry. That industry, of course, is not so robust currently; unfortunately, its services in making us anxious about our future are not especially necessary right now.
Could the chocolate taste so good that it would be worth that much? That question is irrelevant, as it is for wine as well. The causality must be reversed; it tastes better because we spent the extra money on it, because we are eating our own sense of power.
Because I live in a neighborhood where cheap imported chocolates from Eastern Europe are readily available, I have a different relationship with chocolate. I get to enjoy not the ersatz thrill of pseudo-luxury spending but the ersatz cosmopolitanism of consuming unusual imported goods. Apologists for consumerism tend to celebrate this sort of access to goods as a kind of “power,” but really the variety of goods is not improving my life so much as it is further articulating the status hierarchy. In this case, the status boost I get comes not from my sense of extravagant spending on an overpriced chocolate with a fancy brand name but from a different sort of privilege: the undeserved sense of superiority that comes from living in the sort of neighborhood where I can find Bulgarian and Croatian candy bars that other Americans can’t get so casually. Nevertheless, I can’t give you an honest appraisal of whether this chocolate tastes better or worse than Hershey’s for the same reasons mentioned above. On the level of relative obscurity, they rate highly. What I worry about is the way the status value masks the flavor; it becomes hard for me to tell the relative “objective” worth of things in the ordinary course of life. I would have to go through life blindfolded to really taste anything as it is.
I always felt like this should’ve been the first single off of 2008’s You & Me. Even though it lacks the awesome organ swells of “In The New Year”, the percussion is infectious and the misleading chord progression always satisfies. The video is pretty good—the still-motion stuff is interesting but there are so many beautiful scenes and scenery in the video that, at times, I want everything captured smoothly. Overall, it looks really nice, and there’s something refreshingly ego-less about a band who doesn’t appear in their own video. (video via Pitchfork TV)
4/19: Agannis Arena, Boston, MA
4/20: La Sala Rossa, Montreal (Solo Headline)
4/21: Air Canada Centre, Toronto, ON
4/22: Palumbo, Pittsburgh, PA
4/24: Patriot Center, Fairfax, VA
4/25: Spectrum, Philadelphia
4/27: Constant Convocation Center, Norfolk, Va
4/28: Koka Booth Ampitheatre, Raleigh, NC
4/30: Bojangles Coliseum, Charlotte, NC
5/04: St Augustine Ampitheater, St, Augustine, FL
5/05: UCF Arena, Orlando, FL
5/07: Bank United Center, Miami, FL
5/08: Sundome, Tampa, FL
5/10: North Charleston Coliseum, Charleston, SC
5/12: National City Pavillion, Cincinnati, OH
5/13: Tower City, Cleveland, OH
5/19: Mesa Ampitheatre, Phoenix, AZ
5/21: Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, San Francisco, CA
Pet Shop Boys fans finally get a taste of the duo’s forthcoming album Yes and they should be pleased. It’s cold, catchy, synth-pop and it’s what the Boys do best. Produced by UK production team Xenomania and featuring a guest spot from Johnny Marr, Yes is out March 23rd. The “Love etc.” single is out March 16th.