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Tuesday, Aug 5, 2008

Tyler Cowen links to this article from an Australian newspaper that looks at research into what teenagers’ musical tastes reveal about their personalities. The article includes a quote from a psychiatrist urging that “The key to understanding any teenager is to treat them with respect by listening to what they have to say, rather than typecasting them according to the type of music they listen to”, but this doesn’t stop the paper from providing this handy chart:


WHAT STUDIES SAY ABOUT YOUR SOUNDS:


POP: Conformists, overly responsible, role-conscious, struggling with sexuality or peer acceptance.


HEAVY METAL: Higher levels of suicidal ideation, depression, drug use, self-harm, shoplifting, vandalism, unprotected sex.


DANCE: Higher levels of drug use regardless of socio-economic background.


JAZZ/RHYTHM & BLUES: Introverted misfits, loners.


RAP: Higher levels of theft, violence, anger, street gang membership, drug use and misogyny.


How very insightful. We can only hope that psychologists are working on a iTunes plug-in that will spit out a complete personality profile based on the contents of one’s library. Some parents might find that quite useful.


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Wednesday, Jul 30, 2008

Live from Abbey Road show seven (Sundance Channel, Thursday, July 24 at 10 p.m. Eastern and Pacific) has an incredibly diverse line-up this week.  Cheers to the show’s staff for presenting Modern American mainstream pop next to what’s been called the new Celtic soul sound and classic British hard rock to create another eclectic episode.


Matchbox Twenty‘s Paul Doucette admits at the outset to being “a dork for the Beatles”, and imagines he’ll have every nook and cranny of Abbey Road’s studio one committed to memory before the band finishes its session! The entire band goes into the details behind the creation of the track “How Far We’ve Come” (off of 2007’s Exile on Mainstream) before launching into an incredible live version of it. It’s the balance between these bits of trivia and the live performances that Live from Abbey Road really gets right.


In addition to rehearsals and performances of “I Can’t Let You Go” and “Bright Lights”, Matchbox Twenty pulls out its Lennon and McCartney cover. “She Came in Through the Bathroom Window” is something the band “tacked on” to “Bright Lights” because the two songs shared some elements, but add-on or no, it’s a beautiful bit of homage.


The Script is a trio from Dublin that includes former studio musicians, had a single of the week in the UK and toured with last episode darlings the Hoosiers. These interview clips give an interesting, detailed background on the first song too. “We Cry”, it is explained, is a song that came from walking down one of the meanest streets in Ireland and wanting to express to its inhabitants the idea that, “a problem shared is a problem halved”. The song itself, as well as the performance shown here, is brilliant. The Script’s other performance, “Man Who Can’t Be Moved” is a gorgeous love song so perfectly realized that if I wasn’t watching it, I wouldn’t believe it was recorded live.


Joe Eliott starts Def Leppard‘s segment by explaining how the industry has changed so dramatically since the 1980s. When Def Leppard began, bands had five albums in which to prove their staying power, often not breaking through until the third or fourth. In the ‘90s, however, the standard procedure became to cut a band if its second release wasn’t a million-seller. He theorizes that there’d be no Def Leppard if there hadn’t been a third record (which was, by the way, Pyromania!). And that would be a shame, as the band makes quite clear as it fires up “Rocket” from 1987’s Hysteria.


The band members give their all on a cover of “Rock On” and it’s amazing! Then, they play a new one called “C’mon C’mon”, from this year’s Songs From the Sparkle Lounge, and it’s not only good, it’s a prime example of rock and roll in top form. At one point during the interviews, Elliott is saying that they all saw Marc Bolan, David Bowie and Queen growing up, and guitarist Viv Campbell states matter-of-factly “Rock and Roll was a religion back then. It was something that you focused on and it changed your life.”


As the world has become increasingly focused on “product” and “the next next big thing” it’s lamentable to watch those beliefs dying out. No worries, though. Some say the old ways still yet survive, and with musical diversity like what’s shown each week on Live from Abbey Road, I predict a re-awakening!



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Sunday, Jul 27, 2008

In American culture, when we think of classic soul, chances are the names that pop into our heads are among the likes of Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, Marvin Gaye, and many others from Motown, Stax, and various labels around the country. In Brazil, the two names you are most likely to hear when talking about soul music are the recently popularized in America, Jorge Ben (thanks to the likes of Dusty Groove and the Tropicalia resurgence) and the virtually unrecognized Tim Maia.


If any were to be compared to the westernized soul sound, it would be Tim Maia. Although don’t get me wrong, his recordings were undeniably Brazilian. Unlike Jorge Ben though, Maia was able to mix these westernized elements into his brand of crooning soul that later developed into some of the funkiest sounds in the Western Hemisphere (much like Marvin Gaye’s development, in fact).


It’s important to look at Brazilian music not only as a melting pot of Bossa Nova, Samba, and its many traditional elements, but also as a nation that was able to take elements from African traditional music and put their own spin on it. Maia is one of the masters of Brazilian soul music, and if I spend my entire life dragging his presence to America, then so be it. It’s a worthy cause.


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Friday, Jul 25, 2008
Wendy Ho -Bitch, I Stole Your Purse

I first heard the homemade stylings of Ms. Ho in a song with the chorus “cocaine makes my pussy pucker, mother fucker”.  I have a weakness for this kind of reform school girl hoetry.  I know its kitsch, I fully understand that it’s quality is non-existent, though it’s certainly enjoyable as a joke and as a dark expression of our repressed desires to see Ho Heroines beating up rich bitches for their expensive accessories.  There comes a time to relax your critical faculties and enjoy a novelty act that, unlike a lot of mainstream pop, at least has novelty on its side. 


But the reason I really enjoy this kind of d.i.y. profanity is that is shows how much conservatism there is in the uniformly dull and dreary world of hip hop crime and sexuality.  Even the misogyny is boring, with the women stuffed in to clothes that look like punishments gyrating in front of expensive toys.  I guess the point of misogyny is not the desiring of women, but their potential easy, coerced accessibility.  Again, boring.  This is not to suggest that misogyny is bad because it’s not entertaining, just that people like Wendy Ho and other outsiders like the queer hip hop community have far more verbally expressive persona.  I think this sexual reserve in a lot of straight men rapping (What the hell does hittin’ it entail?) displays a lack of imagination when it comes to fucking coupled with a puritanical fear of the pussy.  Get on this, people, and unpack your adjectives.


Tagged as: wendy ho
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Wednesday, Jul 23, 2008
The Hoosiers, The Black Keys and Manu Chao...

I’m beginning to feel a bit guilty—and geeky—getting to see episodes of Live from Abbey Road before they air and playing them over and over. I’m like a kid in a candy store! Show six (Sundance Channel, Thursday, July 24 at 10 p.m. Eastern and Pacific) features a selection of several of my favorite varieties of auditory confection and might just be the series’ Best. Episode. Ever.


First up, the Hoosiers, with a perfect blend of self-deprecating humor, witty banter, smart lyrics, sharp hooks (and sharp shoes!) close harmonies, bright horns and power-pop keyboards all wrapped up in ribbon of irresistible rhythm! And these guys really have fun with the whole affair, there are far more interview bits cut into this episode than last week’s, there are the obviously great songs (Two hits off of last year’s The Trick to Life and a brilliant rearrangement of Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire” that you’ll have to see to believe!) and, of course, there are the costumes (to appeal to everyone’s inner geek). It’s the whole package!


 

 


Then, the Black Keys step into the echo chamber to talk “ham sandwiches” and studio lore (did you know that all the studio equipment at Abbey Road was once—and perhaps still is—rebuilt, repaired and maintained entirely within the building? That’s so cool! But, maybe I’m just geeking out on little details like that.). Sometimes it’s hard to believe the Black Keys is only two people, but seeing them facing each other in this setting, looking, momentarily, almost like a standoff between guitar and drums, it’s doubly easy to be impressed by the music they create from such a spare and simple setup. One is tempted to throw out exclamations like “incendiary!” and phrases like “power-duo”, with absolutely no irony (but, again, I may be geeking out a bit).


Last in this episode is Manu Chao, bringing poly-rhythmic, poly-ethnic, politically-charged, punk-infused music from around the world to St. John’s Wood. He’s another incendiary artist (and yet another to thank Joe Strummer for bringing to my attention), but one who, although he has best-selling albums and legions of fans who follow his live shows in Europe and South America, is lesser-known in the UK and relatively unknown in the US and Canada. This is a travesty, for there’s no other artist I can think of right now with his finger so truly on the pulse of the people, so on the beat of the music of the streets of the world. During one interview segment, Chao says, “[When you are] a long-time musician… you have to be able to improvise any time, you know? I think that’s the meaning of music.” It could be said that it’s also the meaning of life (and, if I were still geeking out, which I am, I’d point out that this must mean music and life are one in the same. I knew it! Music is life!).



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