Music

The Sun: Blame It on the Youth

David Bernard

The first DVD album in the world comes from the Sun. Fourteen videos plus 14 songs equals 28 things that could go wrong. Surprisingly, not many things do.


The Sun

Blame It on the Youth

Label: Warner Bros.
US Release Date: 2005-09-13
UK Release Date: Available as import
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It's rare that I criticize cleverness. Yet it was with my red critic's pen in hand that I received the Sun's new audio/visual experience. The sticker on the jewel case explains that the disc inside is a DVD, not a CD. It claims that Blame It on the Youth is the first DVD album in the world. More on that later. Another problem ripe for my complaining is the press release itself. The front page indicates that it is written in "Band Libs" format. Remember Mad Libs? It is the game in which verbs, nouns, adjectives, and other parts of speech are removed so that the participant can fill in the blanks with dirty words, or less funny normal words. For example: "He played MUSIC GENRE and MUSIC GENRE in high school then at 19 dropped out of Ohio State to VERB the stand-up bass for singer-songwriter Tim Easton." That's an actual quote from the actual press release. I gave the band a slight nod in recognition of the cleverness, but reading pages of the release is more tiring than funny or enjoyable. Would their album suffer from the same misguided cleverness?

Let me get back to the big deal here. This is the first DVD album released in the world, if we are to believe the sticker (and stickers never lie). Each of the 14 songs on the album is a music video. It's a world first, and it comes from a relatively unknown American band. I received an audio-only copy as well (boring/traditional listeners will have audio-only options available on digital music sites and as a double vinyl), which I listened to first. I'm the type of moviegoer who reads the book after watching the movie, so that the movie isn't disappointing. By the same token, I wanted to hear the music first, then flesh out my audio-visual experience with the music videos. Hearing just the music wasn't odd; it's not like hearing only the audio track of a movie, but I expected more. Some songs are fantastic as traditional visual-less artifacts, but others desperately need videos to redeem them.

I wouldn't be doing the world's first DVD album justice if I didn't review it as a whole. So here it goes. The Sun is an interesting choice for a video band. It looks cool enough with its jeans or tailored suits, but lead singer Chris Burney looks kind of like a meld between Napoleon Dynamite and either dude from the Proclaimers. He still screams and acts like a rock star, though. Blame It on the Youth opens with three amazing songs backed by somewhat cool visuals. "Must Be You" rides an intricate guitar lick most of the way through and tells the tale of a guy getting arrested in high school due to some magical handmade birthday card. Or something like that; it's hard to tell exactly. "Say Goodbye" is a more abstract video, but the closing section of the song features revved up pop bliss usually found only with the Super Furry Animals. "Justice" has the catchiest chorus of any song on the record and relies on '80s imagery, Asian models, and really fake looking plastic ray guns. You'll be singing "Two of us entwined / This is not just justice" all day long, if you have a soul. You do have a soul, don't you? These songs are excellent with or without the accompanying videos.

"Romantic Death" is one example of the video improving the audio/visual experience. After the parental warning leaves the screen, the video shows cropped images of guys and gals, as if shot by an 8mm camera. We only get to view the actors' heads and the tops of their shoulders. Over the course of the song, the people masturbate. The shot never moves from the faces as we watch them build to a climax, release the endorphins, and calm to a resting state. The images are uncomfortable and tantalizing, often at once. Many of the participants have their most powerful orgasm moments during the abrasive, industrial bridge with these lyrics: "So much blood collected in this short time connected / Making little kiddy zombies". The video is anti-war, pro-sex, and a startling piece of experimentation. It won't be included on TRL any time soon, but even your little brother might be intrigued enough to give it a viewing.

Other highlights include "Waitin' on High", in which the band members are tended to by an Indy Car pit crew. During one hilarious segment, a crew member squirts water onto the glasses of a startled Burney. The grainy video for "Pavement Jive" showcases the band's frenetic live energy. "Taking the Lord's Name in Vein" features more anti-war sentiment. This time, photographic negative images and paper cutout ribbons float in the background. At one point, a crucifix penetrates the spread legs of a ribbon. Later, planes crash into buildings and explode into a storm of ribbons. And at this point I've only mentioned less than half of the songs. There's also the fast acoustic punk of "2B4", reminiscent of Pixies and the Violent Femmes. That video features what can only be described as newspaper zombies. Songs like "Valentine" have more traditional videos that work well alongside artsy clips.

Overall, the video images make the boring and/or unlistenable sections of songs intriguing. The one problem I see for this new format is that music is generally a secondary activity. We listen to music while we work out or ride in the car or write music reviews. Do consumers want to have to watch something, too? And does an up-and-coming band want to risk releasing the world's first DVD album instead of a regular old CD? God knows, but the band has its music down pat. Mostly excellent and occasionally head-scratching, the Sun's album is definitely a worthwhile experience. But I wonder what songs they could have written if they hadn't spent so much time in front of those damn cameras.

7

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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Music

The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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