Music

The Mae Shi: Heartbeeps

Cosmo Lee

Short attention spans are often liabilities. But the Mae Shi have fueled their creativity with ADD -- in one-minute bursts, of course.


The Mae Shi

Heartbeeps

Label: 5RC
US Release Date: 2005-06-07
UK Release Date: Available as import
Amazon affiliate
Amazon
iTunes

Heartbeeps, their latest EP, races through ten tracks in 16 minutes. Four of these songs break the two-minute mark. This is incredible considering that their debut album, Terrorbird, had 33 tracks in 42 minutes and only had five songs longer than two minutes. The Mae Shi may be the perfect band for a generation weaned on audio clips. Want to hear this song? You just did! If only rock criticism could be so succinct.

Bands have written short songs ever since they (a) heard the Ramones, (b) started running out of ideas, (c) discovered that more songs meant more money in publishing, or (d) played so intensely that longer songs would kill them. Napalm Death took the latter approach, taking the short song to its logical limit with the one-second-long "You Suffer". Famous for their incendiary 15-minute live sets, the Mae Shi take a similar approach, but with pop and electronic music elements.

After the sprawling Terrorbird, Heartbeeps focuses on pop songs -- or fragments of them, anyways. "Born for a Short Time" is angular, propulsive post-punk that builds towards a thrilling climax... and segues into the next song. "Crimes of Infancy" begins with a jerky, stop-time intro, then dispenses with body of song entirely, exploding straight into its closing rideout. Heavy breathing and beeping noises follow, perhaps the sound of the heart attack the listener (or band) just had.

Thing really gel in "Eat the Prize", which, at 3:16, is an epic for the Mae Shi. After forty seconds of swinging, catchy garage rock, the song drops into a slow electro interlude; a minute and a half later, the garage rock reignites and somehow morphs into Rolling Stones-esque harmonies. The changes are abrupt, but they work, almost recalling the ABA structure of classical music symphonies.

At times, the brevity verges on self-sabotage. "Spoils of Injury" is shiny indie-electro that could give The Postal Service a run for their money. But it lasts one verse (and 42 seconds) before heading into the next song. One wants to shake the band and say, "You were two minutes shy of a massive pop hit!" As They Might Be Giants have amply showed, though, there's a certain charm to the micro-song, and there's no better way to fill the end of a mixtape.

Heartbeeps itself is like a mixtape in that it has almost nothing but hooks (insert "more hooks than" metaphor here -- fishing convention, butcher shop, pirate hospital, etc.). On their first tour, the Mae Shi asked fans to trade mixtapes for copies of their first EP. From these tapes, the band made the ultimate mix CD, a 70-minute opus of snippets from 1,200 songs, which the band now trades for new mixtapes. No doubt this "nothing but the essence" mentality has rubbed off on the band's own songs.

Post-Mae Shi, even three-minute pop songs begin to sound long. Do we ever need to hear more than one verse by 50 Cent? In a world of movie jump cuts and Internet surfing, it's a wonder that the three-minute pop song has remained intact. The Mae Shi are more than capable of writing three-minute hits, but let's hope they never take Ritalin. As the human attention span dwindles, the Mae Shi's one-minute anthems may well become the pop hits of tomorrow.

8
Music

The Best Metal of 2017

Painting by Mariusz Lewandowski. Cover of Bell Witch's Mirror Reaper.

There's common ground between all 20 metal albums despite musical differences: the ability to provide a cathartic release for the creator and the consumer alike, right when we need it most.

With global anxiety at unprecedented high levels it is important to try and maintain some personal equilibrium. Thankfully, metal, like a spiritual belief, can prove grounding. To outsiders, metal has always been known for its escapism and fantastical elements; but as most fans will tell you, metal is equally attuned to the concerns of the world and the internal struggles we face and has never shied away from holding a mirror up to man's inhumanity.

Keep reading... Show less

In Americana music the present is female. Two-thirds of our year-end list is comprised of albums by women. Here, then, are the women (and a few men) who represented the best in Americana in 2017.

If a single moment best illustrates the current divide between Americana music and mainstream country music, it was Sturgill Simpson busking in the street outside the CMA Awards in Nashville. While Simpson played his guitar and sang in a sort of renegade-outsider protest, Garth Brooks was onstage lip-syncindg his way to Entertainer of the Year. Americana music is, of course, a sprawling range of roots genres that incorporates traditional aspects of country, blues, soul, bluegrass, etc., but often represents an amalgamation or reconstitution of those styles. But one common aspect of the music that Simpson appeared to be championing during his bit of street theater is the independence, artistic purity, and authenticity at the heart of Americana music. Clearly, that spirit is alive and well in the hundreds of releases each year that could be filed under Americana's vast umbrella.

Keep reading... Show less

Two recently translated works -- Lydie Salvayre's Cry, Mother Spain and Joan Sales' Uncertain Glory -- bring to life the profound complexity of an early struggle against fascism, the Spanish Civil War.

There are several ways to write about the Spanish Civil War, that sorry three-year prelude to World War II which saw a struggling leftist democracy challenged and ultimately defeated by a fascist military coup.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Film

'Foxtrot' Is a 'Catch-22' for Our Time

Giora Bejach in Fox Trot (2017 / IMDB)

Samuel Maoz's philosophical black comedy is a triptych of surrealism laced with insights about warfare and grief that are both timeless and timely.

There's no rule that filmmakers need to have served in the military to make movies about war. Some of the greatest war movies were by directors who never spent a minute in basic (Coppola, Malick). Still, a little knowledge of the terrain helps. A filmmaker who has spent time hugging a rifle on watch understands things the civilian never can, no matter how much research they might do. With a director like Samuel Maoz, who was a tank gunner in the Israeli army and has only made two movies in eight years, his experience is critical.

Keep reading... Show less
9

South Pole Station is an unflinching yet loving look at family in all its forms.

The typical approach of the modern debut novel is to grab its audience's attention, to make a splash of the sort that gets its author noticed. This is how you get a book deal, this is how you quickly draw an audience -- books like Fight Club, The Kite Runner, even Harry Potter each went out of their way to draw in an audience, either through a defined sense of language, a heightened sense of realism, or an instant wash of wonder. South Pole Station is Ashley Shelby's debut, and its biggest success is its ability to take the opposite approach: rather than claw and scream for its reader's attention, it's content to seep into its reader's consciousness, slowly drawing that reader into a world that's simultaneously unfamiliar and totally believable.

Keep reading... Show less
7
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image