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Friday, Apr 2, 2010

After months of being exposed to Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” (a song that contains what I consider the single most annoying hook of 2009) via its endless plays on the top 40 radio station every store I enter seems to be piping in, I was reasonably certain I had no pressing desire to further explore the work of pop music’s current It Girl. Ah, but nothing demands attention like a zeitgeist-capturing hit, the sort everyone around you seems to have already heard dozens of times. Given the massive attention afforded to Gaga’s latest single “Telephone”—a duet with new millennial R&B diva Beyoncé Knowles—I took that as a sign that I should probably see what the fuss was about. So I caved and watched the video for the song on YouTube (which, it must be said at every opportunity, is so much more a fitting vehicle for the music video medium than any cable network currently is).


And, well… the song didn’t impress me. A rather routine modern dance-pop tune that demands attention based more on its volume than due either to its hooks or its groove. Not bad, but not outstanding either, and also not as effective as Gaga’s previous singles. But to be fair, it isn’t necessarily the song I’ve been hearing everyone yabber about. It’s the epic nine-and-a-half-minute video directed by Jonas Akerlund that’s really demanding the public’s attention.



Tagged as: beyoncé, lady gaga
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Sunday, Jan 31, 2010

It won’t be long until the music industry hands out honors at the 52nd Grammy Awards ceremony. Sure, much of the annual hubbub surrounds the Best Song, Record, and Album categories (Will Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face” trump both Beyonce’s “Halo” and “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)”?  Discuss!). Let’s not forget that the Grammys have handed out an award for Best Short Form Music Video since 1984.  Music videos have been the one of the most important methods of disseminating new music to audiences for nearly 30 years (not to mention they’ve been works of art in their own right on countless occasions), but considering the award program structure the Grammys still treat them as mere afterthoughts.


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Thursday, Oct 15, 2009

The ravages of time eventually claim everyone, but it’s a sad fact that some talents go before others.  In light of the recent release of The Fountain, the eleventh album by the long-lived British post-punk group Echo and the Bunnymen, now is an appropriate occasion to ruminate on the premature loss of a great voice in rock music.  While still very much alive, head Bunnyman Ian McCulloch’s vocal talents have unfortunately diminished in recent years.  McCulloch long possessed a wondrous, powerful voice that rivaled that of U2’s Bono, but smoking, drinking, and age have clearly diminished what used to be an epic sound.


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Wednesday, Jul 29, 2009
Part 2 of our video venture through lost musical geniuses discovers an unhappier tradition in The UK, where comebacks are not de rigeur! Exemplars include Joe Meek, Brian Jones, Syd Barrett, and Ian Curtis.

Like the US, the UK has its own such lists of musical geniuses, though their fates are far less hopeful in general. This affect is caused perhaps by the UK’s post-war culture seemingly backward turning from Macmillan’s “white heat of technology” towards Thomas’s “damp smoky coal fire”. This confusedly anti-progressive nature is wonderfully elucidated in Pete Shelley’s “Nostalgia”:


I always used to dream of the past
But like they say yesterday never comes
Sometimes there’s a song in my brain
And I feel that my heart knows the refrain
I guess its just the music that brings on nostalgia for an age yet to come


First up in our run through the early musical geniuses of UK popdom is uniquely someone who is not a star performer but rather a producer first and foremost. What Preston Sturges was to ‘30s Hollywood, Joe Meek was to the late ‘50s/early ‘60s UK music scene: a prolific, wildly successful sui generis auteur, who burned bright but flamed out soon thereafter. Meek’s brightest flame was his first, the hit single of 1962: The Tornados, “Telstar”:



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Tuesday, Jul 21, 2009
F. Scott Fitzgerald was wrong. Artists as various as Roky Erickson, Brian Wilson and Shuggie Otis prove there are second acts in American popular music.
Roky's Birthday Cake (7/15/09) Photo by G. E. Light

Roky’s Birthday Cake (7/15/09) Photo by G. E. Light


F. Scott Fitzgerald was wrong. Nowhere was this more self-evident than the night of Wednesday July 15th at Antone’s in Austin Texas, around 10:30 pm when headliner and birthday boy Roky Erickson strode to the stage and burned through a pounding 90-minute set of rock and psychedelia, necessarily concluding with his first big hit: The 13th Floor Elevator’s “You’re Gonna Miss Me”:


Roky launches into

Roky launches into “You’re Gonna Miss Me” Photo by G.E. Light



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