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Sunday, Jan 17, 2010
This rising Canadian quintet has developed quite the unique indie-rock sound, getting an assist from Broken Social Scene's Kevin Drew while also expressing their desire to witness the dinosaur fight to end all dinosaur fights.

Still Life Still waited awhile to put out their debut album.  In fact, they waited for more than a decade.


This Canadian five-piece formed in East York (a Toronto suburb), initially just as barely-teenagers with a passion for music, but as the years have gone on (and the lineups and band names have changed), Still Life Still have persevered as a group of lifelong friends whose love of infectious indie-rock isn’t too far removed from that of fellow label-mates Broken Social Scene (whose Kevin Drew co-produced their debut album Girls Come Too).


Marrying catchy guitar riffs to cryptic, sometimes blatantly dark lyrics (the climax of “Planets” is “it’s a family of wolves out there / yeah they bury their young”), the group is able to balance pop immediacy (“Kid”) with full-on rock squall (album opener “Danse Cave”) without so much as batting an eye, something that’s best exhibited during their energetic, participatory live shows.  To top it off, the band have garnered quite the reputation as road trip pranksters, once apparently slinging an entire meatball sub at the van of tour/label-mates The Most Serene Republic while driving. 


After opening for the Hold Steady during the Canadian stretch of their latest tour and with Girls Come Too still garnering lots of acclaim, drummer Aaron Romaniuk sat down to participate in another fantastic installment of PopMatters’ 20 Questions, here declaring his love of dinosaur fights, his true feelings towards Jingle All the Way, and reminding us all what the greatest album of all time really is ...


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Friday, Jan 15, 2010
How long does it take to document a relationship's implosion? If you're Liz Phair, it only takes three minutes.

After reading a solid month of “decade’s best” lists, I couldn’t help but think back to my “Best Album of the ‘90s” pick, Liz Phair’s Exile in Guyville. I occasionally have pangs of regret not choosing Radiohead’s OK Computer because technically, I believe it’s a superior album. But in general, I have no qualms about letting this pick stand because while other albums may have defined their specific genres like Nirvana’s Nevermind and Dr. Dre’s The Chronic, Guyville perfectly encapsulated not one but two major defining trends of that decade: the rise of a new generation of female singer/songwriters and the do-it-yourself ethos of indie rock, which took on a whole new life this past decade.


When Phair’s album came out (and several years after), most people I talked to readily brought up one of two songs: “Flower” and “Divorce Song”. For many, “Flower” was often-quoted because of the brazen, graphic lyrics, which was one of the first major elements of the album that made critics take notice. At one party, a fellow student talked about how she quoted the lyrics to her boyfriend whom she didn’t think knew the artist or album, and the boyfriend said “Can you say something to me that did not come from a Liz Phair song?”



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Thursday, Jan 14, 2010
Some artists are more than merely great. There are some artists that for a period of years, a period that is finite, consistently produced music that, it can be argued, far exceeded the work of their peers. For that brief period of time they were definitely Masters of the Form.

Some musical artists are able to move; others are a movement. Such artists tap into a need within a mass of people, musically feeding off of the axiom that there is strength in numbers. George Clinton has always had both, strength and numbers, and from 1975 to 1978 he led a funk movement that changed the landscape of popular music forever. For that four-year period he and the numerous members of his bands Parliament and Funkadelic, always two sides of the world’s funkiest coin, were Masters of the Form that traded masterpieces back and forth while creating a new brand of musical expression and black consciousness. It was a movement that any casual Funkadelic fan should have known was coming. The title track of their 1974 release, Standing on the Verge of Getting It On was a proclamation to all that would listen that Funkadelic should be listened to by all. The following year they released the amazing Let’s Take It to the Stage.


Let’s Take It to the Stage was part invitation, part challenge, part promise and all funk. It was the work of a group that had turned a corner, a combination of all the disparate aspects of Funkadelic’s music up to that point, the extended jams, aggressive guitars, smooth ballads, tight vocals, psychedelic flourishes, risqué sexual lyrics and dirty funk into the most concise songs they’d ever recorded. In 1974 they had asked listeners to, “Stick us in your ears and dig us”; in 1975 they promised, “to be good to your earhole”. On Let’s Take It to the Stage it’s a promise the group kept.


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Wednesday, Jan 13, 2010

After its opening chord crashes and drum beats, “Sassafras Roots” settles into a four-bar A-E5/A-A-E5/A-D-E chord progression that it relies on throughout much of its duration. Billie Joe Armstrong’s quick guitar upstroke chord changes dominate the first half of this figure, while Mike Dirnt’s noodling bassline is more noticeable in the second half. It’s an appealing instrumental passage, but honestly it’s relied on so much that it quickly becomes repetitive. Luckily the chorus and bridge sections add variety to the whole proceeding, in particular providing a setting for Tre Cool to unleash some cracking machine gun drum rolls.


 


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Wednesday, Jan 13, 2010

Billy Squier was a worldwide megastar until the day he decided it was a good idea to show the world that uber-macho guitar gods could… dance around in a pink tank top and white satin sheets in a video directed by choreographer Kenny Ortega. Ortega of course went on to make such iconic paeans to testosterone as the High School Musical franchise and Miley Cyrus’s Best of Both Worlds concert film, but Squier could not have known that this would be his legacy, considering he’d only been known for Olivia Newton-John’s “Let’s Get Physical” video and Xanadu choreography at that point. Wait… what? OK, so Squier already knew full well what he was getting into by hitching his wagon to Ortega’s star.


Which, in my book, makes him a revolutionary! I mean, this video lays it on thick. He starts out waking up in the nude, shaking on a jaunty pair of pegged white drawstring pants and Flashdance-approved white muscle shirt featuring his quintessentially ‘80s Emotions in Motion color blocked logo (despite the fact that the song is from the album Signs of Life). And when that drum (machine?) kicks in, Billy goes to TOWN with the dancing. He’s finger-popping, he’s high-kicking, he’s floor-slithering—hell, he even throws in a stripper-shimmy down a fire-engine red poll. This is not the listless swaying or ham-shouldered jerkiness of your average rock frontman—Squier is so full-bore Bob Fosse in this performance that one half expects a sequined top hat to emerge from behind his perm.


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