Call for Essays About Any Aspect of Popular Culture, Present or Past

 
Bookmark and Share
Text:AAA
Tuesday, Apr 22, 2008

“Come on Baby Say Bang”
by Jane Vain and the Dark Matter


All You Pretty Boys and Girls are all breaking my heart/ They all look so cool that I can hardly tell them apart/ They’re all looking for a little love, power, and control


Let’s stamp the night with vigor/ Whose guns are bigger?/ You can put yours right between my eyes honey/ If you promise to pull the trigger


There are so many admirable turns of phrase and mood in this song that it’s hard to pare them down to a just a few. The nihilistic confidence of the female narrator seethes with equal parts flirtation and crosshair curses. “Stamp the night with vigor” has to be one of my favorite ways of saying “let’s have a good time” because it’s so territorial and domineering as if to say we should cattle brand the evening so that every claim to joy has our signature at its root. Vigor also sounds like such an aristocratic adjective, reeking of equestrian competition and absinthe poured through a slotted spoon onto a sugar cube. As a curmudgeon, I love songs that manage to be blow out clouds of toxic disdain while keeping the rhythm hip-swiveling, finger popping, the very portrait of antiseptic coolness. I reminded of the Kills in the way that the song’s narrator undercuts each compliment with an insult, noting the beauty of the crowd, the homogeneous, robotic beauty. She also impugns any motives that they might have for being fans in the crowd in the first place, noting that the admiration we have for musicians is just as much love as it is a desire to see them fail for failing to fulfill us as passive participants in the performance. Top that off with some good old fashioned suicidal ideation, in the line begging for someone to show the depth of their bravado by putting a bullet hole between her eyes and you have a track that’s a tangle of seduction, snare and psychosis. For a song that sounds like a lilac strewn stroll through a Renaissance Fair, it is indeed a dark and disturbing world.


Bookmark and Share
Text:AAA
Monday, Apr 21, 2008

Many thanks to Sasha Frere-Jones for posting what has to be one of the funniest satirical riffs about women in music that I’ve ever heard.  Erykah Badu is one of music’s most inspiring musical figures for me, in part, because she remains oblivious and impervious to musical fads and the pressure for seasoned artists to reinvent themselves.  There will never be “Honey” the Hot Chip Redux.  With the proliferation of bands who throw together singles and blow up based on a few myspace demos, it’s refreshing to see such a painstaking craftswomen meticulously mold something that still aspires to the much maligned and increasingly elusive category of “art”.  You can pretty much read her satirical statements in this video as line for line refutations of all the criticism directed at her.  I like that Badu can be powerful, sexy, difficult and sophisticated without doing, as she puts it, “ho” shit.  Not to mention, as evidenced by this video, she has the big picture, in all its grotesque proportions, on point.


Bookmark and Share
Text:AAA
Friday, Apr 18, 2008

This is really just an excuse to play a track from Estelle’s sophomore album, Shine, one of the year’s best pop soul records. Shine is as infectious as my worn through copy of Lauren Hill’s debut, before she picked up a guitar and decided to join the ranks of the tortured and sermonizing. It’s not the ideal track to pick (for that see the Cee-Lo collab “Pretty Please”), especially since Kanye’s flow consistently deflates his musical surroundings and his “moon/June” rhymes are fairly low hanging fruit. Actually that’s an overstatement, Kanye’s rhymes are, more often than not, of the “moon/moon” variety. As a video, it lacks coherent art direction and narrative, especially in the split-screen montages of various typical American boys, all of whom look like they’re doing ads for the Gap’s new edgy urban Ivy-leaguer line. Sure, black and white is always carries a certain entry-level morsel of cool cache, but for this song it’s cold and comparatively drab. The only part that captures some of this song’s buoyant Summer energy comes from the disconnected dance play between Estelle and her shadow, which provides sexy liquid movement in a video with static pictures of men backdropped with the kind of white void you’d expect from a near death experience. She’s too vibrant to be framed by such McArty deserted space that could just as easily sell a parka, a cheeseburger or Windsong perfume. And, if you can get John Legend in the video, why not have him pick up Kanye’s half of the duet.  Just saying.


Bookmark and Share
Text:AAA
Friday, Apr 18, 2008
by PopMatters Staff
UK solo artist, Frank Turner, formerly of hardcore band Million Dead answers PopMatters' 20 Questions.

1. The latest book or movie that made you cry?
A book of poetry by Philip Larkin. I’m a latecomer to his work, and I don’t usually do this, but a combination of his awesomeness and a hangover made me cry. On the train. Everyone thought I was weird.


2. The fictional character most like you?
Hmm, maybe Sal Paradise from On the Road. That’s what I’d like to think anyways. A recordist for the madmen of this world.


3. The greatest album, ever?
Almost impossible question. Possibly Springsteen’s Nebraska.


4. Star Trek or Star Wars?
Star Wars, but no way the new episodes.


Bookmark and Share
Text:AAA
Wednesday, Apr 16, 2008
Analog Surfing

Analog Surfing


Chuck Klosterman’s Esquire piece, ”Anyone Seen My $4.2 Billion?” is refreshingly free of intellectual artifice. Stealing music has been one of those causes that, because of its ubiquity, hasn’t really had to intelligently defend its practice. Klosterman’s bar fight prose handily cuts through the bullshit about stealing as a critique of capitalism or somehow an act of anti-corporate defiance. This is no small feat when the prevailing internet culture is to mob anyone who might suggest that using an artist’s intellectual property requires that you find some way to financially compensate them for its use. When Matthew Perpetua of Fluxblog fame ridiculed album-sharing OiNK users for their perceived “right” to steal, his comment board became the wailing wall for self-righteous fulminating about business models and technologies, theories built entirely as moral veils.


Even if Klosterman is brave for cutting to the chase of “you steal because you can”, he doesn’t seem to offer much in the way of theorizing why exactly people do on the internet what they would abhor in a more obviously physical context. (i.e. people download who would probably not shoplift) He claims that people steal because of credit card debt, but seems at a loss to explain why DVD and video game sales have skyrocketed while CD sales drop through the floor. The most obvious answer seems to be that the opportunity cost of stealing movies and video games is still much higher than pilfering music files. It’s more time consuming and requires more technological saavy to steal a film. But it’s easy to perceive a world where all entertainment forms are merely stolen because of an internet culture that promotes the idea that everything technologically possible and personally beneficial is, by default, moral.


I’m more interested in how the very narrowly targeted decimation of intellectual property for a single set of producers (musicians) has affected music culture. Has downloading’s allegedly anti-corporate justification actually contributed to a far broader and deeper commercialization of formerly “indie” music. Judging by the omnipresence of the indie single in selling everything from steak to blood diamonds, it’s hard not to see some kind of connection. But there are subtler, more aesthetic effects that involve people erasing the resistance offered by something as passé as the album format. I find it unsettling that Idolator can mock the act of listening to an album and still pretend to be taken seriously as critics. I’m no stranger to downloading, though unlike Klosterman’s test case I still spend plenty of disposable income on music (mostly vinyl), but I have noticed that my exclusively downloading friends seem to have nothing but the most ephemeral and passing connection to the music they listen to. They seem frequently unable to remember tracks put on a mix that’s less than a week old. I fully support some of the positive developments brought about by MP3 bloggers, but the fever-dreamed utopianism seems to have nothing at its core but mob-rule assertions.


Now on PopMatters
PM Picks
Announcements

© 1999-2014 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters.com™ and PopMatters™ are trademarks
of PopMatters Media, Inc.

PopMatters is wholly independently owned and operated.