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by Joseph Fisher

12 Sep 2012

By now, it’s commonly accepted that the term shoegaze isn’t the most beloved genre description that NME ever invented. However, quibbles with the term aside, it is difficult to ignore the giant steps that the scene has made in the 20-odd years since My Bloody Valentine’s Isn’t Anything dropped. Indeed, shoegaze has left footprints all over contemporary pop music—from the mainstream to the aspirational to the progressive.

Looking back, it’s easy to see why this is the case. Shoegaze’s trademark sound—rippling sheets of guitar noise—is endlessly pliable, easily molded into sonic textures smooth and abrasive alike. Yet, what is often overlooked is how innovative the rhythm sections of many shoegaze bands were. Since the genre stood squarely at the crossroads of Madchester baggy and jangle pop, many shoegazers infused their Byrdsian chiming with the reverberations of dance music. In many ways, alternative/indie rock’s beat connection started here.

by Zach Schonfeld

5 Sep 2012

The Republicans need your help. It’s the music. See, they love rock ‘n’ roll—almost as much as the bands loathe them.

It’s not a new phenomenon. In 1984, President Reagan’s reelection team famously mistook Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A.” for a patriotic, fist-pumping banger. Springsteen was less than impressed. “The President was mentioning my name the other day, and I kinda got to wondering what his favorite album musta been,” the Boss quipped. “I don’t think he’s been listening to [Nebraska].” Twenty-eight years later, at last week’s Republican National Convention, Governor Chris Christie, a diehard fan, referenced the singer during his speech. Never mind that Springsteen has refused to back Christie or appear at his 2010 inauguration.

by Brice Ezell

29 Aug 2012

Note: This piece flows from a conversation I participated in with my fellow PopMatters writers and editors. I thank Timothy Gabriele, AJ Ramirez, Alan Ranta, John Grassi, Chris Conaton, Zach Schonfeld, David Bloom, and Sarah Zupko for their help. I also thank AJ for his idea to have me write this piece.

As an avid fan of making lists, I participated in Pitchfork’s “The People’s List” experiment, the results of which were released last week. If any of you have read past lists I’ve written for PopMatters, you’ll know my choices tend to be the opposite of what people expect, and what ended up becoming my top 85 albums from 1996-2011, the current length of Pitchfork’s existence, reflects my penchant for bizarre picks. You won’t find many lists that include critically reviled albums like Oasis’ Heathen Chemistry amongst modern classics like LCD Soundsystem’s Sound of Silver. While awaiting the results of the poll, I really didn’t think much about the list. I knew Radiohead and Animal Collective would likely dominate, since the participants would almost universally be Pitchfork readers influenced by the e-zine’s opinions. But upon I seeing people share their lists and thoughts about the list overall via Twitter and Facebook, some criticisms began to arise that were definitely worth considering.

by Crispin Kott

22 Aug 2012

Calling the new Blur box set (named Blur 21, honoring the 21 years since their first official release) a treasure trove is, if not a bit hyperbolic, certainly not inaccurate. If, like many of my fellow music nerds, you’ve all but abandoned the compact disc in favor of the tried and true vinyl option, there’s a version of the box set just right for you. While including all seven of the band’s studio albums in thick vinyl cut from oak trees (probably), the collection is lacking many of the bonuses which made the CD version too tempting to resist.

Each of Blur’s albums—from 1991’s Leisure to 2003’s Think Tank—is given the double-disc treatment in the CD set, with most of the associated b-sides and non-album singles chronologically placed, allowing the listener to effectively trace the development of one of England’s greatest bands, one which transcended its assigned genre (Britpop) to become something greater, even while celebrating its own inherent Englishness. The CD box set also includes a handsome hardbound book featuring recording information and what one hopes is merely an abridged version of a much longer and more comprehensive oral history. There are three DVD’s included as well, rounding out the promo clips for anyone who already has Blur: The Best Of, and featuring a live performance from the “Singles Night” tour in 1999, a brief run through of 13-era songs from earlier that year and Showtime, a 1994 performance at Alexandra Palace previously only available on VHS. For completists, there’s also a one-sided vinyl single recorded in 1989 when the band was still called Seymour.

by Brice Ezell

16 Aug 2012

Oasis are a great rock band. The problem they face, though, is that they likely won’t be remembered as a great one overall. The narrative that’s been shaped after years of new members, critical ribbings, and the persisting sibling rivalry between Noel and Liam Gallagher is that they put out two excellent LPs at the start of their career that they never lived up to. When the group dissolved after 2008’s good-but-not-great Dig Out Your Soul, most welcomed it with relief. A new (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? had failed to materialize since the mid-‘90s, and that was all the proof some needed to show how failed the latter half of Oasis’ run was.

I join the majority in their opinion about Definitely Maybe (1994) and (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? (1996). They are superior recordings. But their strength doesn’t have to be the metric by which we judge the rest of Oasis’ career. If the only thing we consider when judging a band with a great first LP is how good the debut is, then we’ll almost always end up disappointed. Mogwai, for instance, broke ground in 1997 with Young Team, but since then have yet to receive a critical embrace as warm as that. Instead of viewing any great upstart as having to live by a standard they probably didn’t even set for themselves, it seems more sensible to view groups as progressive units that, if they’re any good, will try to divert from rehashing all their early material. “Wonderwall” is great, but if Liam and Noel had ridden that track until they called it quits, they’d have been even worse off than most see them now.

//Mixed media

Moving Pixels Podcast: Unearthing the 'Charnel House'

// Moving Pixels

"This week we discuss Owl Creek Games's follow up to Sepulchre, the triptych of tales called The Charnel House Trilogy.

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