“Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get”. Wise words, and ones that spring to mind when I think of receiving parcels of review discs in the post. Since I’ve been reviewing records, I’ve grown accustomed—almost addicted—to the kind of anticipation these packages bring when they drop through the letterbox. It’s rarely the case that there’s something specific I’ve asked to hear, so that doesn’t explain it. No, more often than not, I choose to be given random selections, each cache bringing with it a slim but ever-present possibility that something special might come my way. Occasionally “special” means something I hear which, while never going to set the world aflame, I immediately forge a strong personal attachment to, not just in terms of liking a record, but also somehow beginning to feel almost connected to it. In September 2008, Foreign Slippers’ debut EP Oh Death was one such example.
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Ontario’s own Tokyo Police Club has alternately had a very drama-free existence since its Lesson in Crime EP came out in 2006. The group didn’t get in huge drunken fights, get dropped by labels, or engage in intense legal wranglings over songwriting royalties, no. Instead, the only real drama the group had to deal with was a bit of blogosphere backlash following the heralding of that aforementioned EP, some saying that the band’s 2008 full-length Elephant Shell was the sound of the group selling out, with just as many trumpeting it as the logical extension of the group’s poppy, guitar-driven aesthetic. During all of this, though, the band seemed to not really care, instead touring like hell and having a good time with its legions of fans.
Now, with the release of the group’s lean, muscular new album Champ, few people seem to be snickering, as the band has fully come into its own, with angular guitars mixing with spritely keyboard patterns and an ever-shifting set of dynamics, like on the storming “Favourite Colour”, which uses stop-start guitar spurts to ask a very simple question to a possible love interest, adding high drama to an everyday sentiment. Indie rock don’t swagger like this.
Taking some time out of his busy touring schedule, Tokyo Police Club’s drummer Greg Alsop answers PopMatters 20 Questions, here revealing how The Velveteen Rabbit “cauterized my tear ducts”, how he positively thrives on human interaction, and why lightsabers trump phasers each and every time.
We’re always on the lookout for great new tracks to share with our readers, and William Brittelle’s “Sheena Easton” definitely falls under that category. It’s a cut off of Brittelle’s sophomore release, Television Landscape, which landed in stores just weeks ago. In the course of an album marked by complex orchestrations that are by turns jazzy and jarring and some frankly mind-bending arrangements, Brittelle collaborates with a slew of musicians from bands like the Long Count and Alarm Will Sound, and on “Sheena Easton,” the patently unfairly talented kids of the Brooklyn Youth Chorus. And if that’s not enough of a taste, you can get a load of the album’s opening track, “Dunes of Vermillion”, on Brittelle’s MySpace page.
“Nineteen eighty-nine! / The number another summer”, Chuck D declared on “Fight the Power”, the pinnacle song from that summer’s most incendiary movie, Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing.
But that summer was far from just another summer. The summer began with the protests in Tiananmen Square, which at first looked peaceful, but then turned shockingly violent as thousands of demonstrators were killed during China’s brutal crackdown. Also during that summer, the Eastern Bloc countries were falling at an astounding rate, culminating with the fall of the Berlin Wall in November.
The collapse of the Berlin Wall was a defining closer to the 1980s. For many, the ‘80s felt like a big party. This was reflected in popular music, fashion and movies. Sure, East and West had the threat of “mutually assured destruction” looming over, but heyah, at least the economy was booming. But as the ‘80s and the Cold War drew to a close, there seemed to be a collective bit of hangover’s regret going on. For too long, it seemed like pop culture was a non-stop party. The charts were filled with either boy bands or hair-teased pop metal (with a few bright exceptions, thanks to U2 and the unlikely top ten self-titled smash from Tracy Chapman). Now, as peace has broken out, it was time to get serious. If only there was a cause to galvanize this newfound sense of responsibility.
Since punk’s bricolage in the `70s, the anti-consumerist DIY ethic of self-reliance, self-production, and streetwise distribution has been an integral part of underground music, unchecked within the various “scenes” that have come to us as sub-genres and subtle variations on the themes that all that is indie has given us. This ideology, applicable now to everything from education to the Green Movement’s digs at urban gardening and organic lifestyle, seems most resolute, by way of sheer technology and perhaps owing to its genesis, in the realm of music production and recording.
And while the breadth of this aesthetic is perhaps immeasurable, it seems that DIY is something that Dan Barrett’s Enemies List record label, specializing in home-recorded music, is doing right and very well, releasing shoegaze, black metal, drone-y noise pop, some of it like the infant works of the Jesus And Mary Chain and M83 further wrought through a beautiful pedalboard. It’s a wonder someone from the Deftones hasn’t contacted them for work.