Thursday, February 25, 2010

YouTube Clips That Live Up To My Expectations

What a wonderful tool today's bored rock historian has at his disposal! When unlimited access to mp3s simply isn't cutting it, there's unlimited access to old video clips. And not just videos, but concert footage, fan-made films, even the occasional interview excerpt. A small minority of these clips are a waste of time. The overall majority are interesting, but nothing you'd want to watch more than once or twice. But then there are those certain clips that perfectly manage to capture everything you love about that song, or that band, or that song coming from that band at that particular time and place. These are what I would call "YouTube clips that live up to my expectations."

Although the combination of music and video has been popular for a long time, I've generally felt that music videos are a let-down. They tend not to match the more interesting images in my head. Unlike my fellow blogger Zrbo, I did not grow up with MTV. In most cases I have spent at least a decade or two becoming intimately familiar with the recording of a song while having no knowledge of its video. Perhaps part of my lack of enthusiasm for the art of video is simply based on my previous lack of access to it, i.e. "Well, I can't watch the video, but it probably sucks anyway so hopefully I'm not missing out on anything too good."

Well those days are over. Now that I've started watching many of the videos I may have missed, though, I have to say I don't think I was too far off in my judgment. But every once in a while, there are exceptions. A great band treats a video as simply another extension of their art, the way that they treat album covers, liner notes, and interviews. It becomes part of their image. Sometimes a band really manages to just nail it. I will see a clip and think, "This is everything I hoped it would be and more."

For example: R.E.M.'s "Radio Free Europe" (embedding is disabled so I have to link it; it's also mislabeled as "Driver 8" but ignore that). For me this video perfectly encapsulates what makes early R.E.M. so unique and distinctive. College. The South. Jangly things. Like Murmur, it's brooding and moody and yet so indecipherable it retains an odd, humorous touch. I can really imagine some kid up late at night in his dorm room in 1983 catching this clip on TV and thinking, "Who the hell are these guys?," and yet wanting to know the answer. "It's not quite mainstream rock, but it's not quite underground punk. It's not Toto, and it's not Minor Threat. What is it?" In other words, I think, my friends, that they nailed it.

Friday, February 19, 2010

We Are The World, But Who The Hell Are These People?

Seriously folks, does anyone know who the hell these people are? And how the hell did they get Michael Jackson to appear?? (which coincidentally might be the only decent part of the whole song, too bad it was the part recorded 25 years ago) And they let Lil Wayne use Autotune? WTF is going on? All I know is that Jamie Foxx really wants you to care.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

America Is Like The Raiders

A while back I came up with the greatest sports/politics metaphor ever constructed. If you are not familiar with the recent history of the Oakland Raiders, I'm sorry, you'll just have to do some research on Google. If I have to explain it, it's not as funny.

Obama is like Tom Cable. He can only do so much given the hand he's been dealt. He may have some skill and talent as a coach, but he's stuck under the weight of his own organization.

The American people are like Al Davis. Their once-great sense of what it takes to win is on the decline. Even when they're losing, they're too proud and stubborn to make the necessary changes, because that would mean admitting they were wrong. They pick a guy to coach their team, but they have completely unrealistic expectations and they get insulted when he actually tries to make some painful decisions that could probably give the team a better chance of winning.

The Republicans are like JaMarcus Russell. They're fat and lazy and they don't even know how to throw the damn ball. Tom Cable (Obama) is trying to build a winning team, but Al Davis (the American people) is forcing him to deal with the world's shittiest quarterback (Republicans) in order to do it, because Al Davis (the American people) has no idea what the hell he's doing anymore and he likes it that way.

And thus, the team keeps on losing.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Flaming Eels Out Of Your Butt

Excerpts from Pitchfork's interview with Flaming Lips frontman Wayne Coyne:

Pitchfork: What movie do you think Embryonic would go well with?

WC: The movies that triggered some of the imagery while we were actually making Embryonic were these two weird movies that are sort of about S&M and obsessive sexual freak-out behavior: The Night Porter, this Italian Nazi movie, and Last Tango in Paris. I must have been considering these elements of pleasure and pain and masochistic shit. Why not? I'm an adult, I can do that.

Pitchfork: Wasn't Last Tango in Paris pretty controversial when it came out?

WC: Yeah, the most controversial scene is when Marlon Brando has that woman put butter on her fist and stick it up his ass. Even though you don't really get to see it, that's always kind of brutal. It's not like watching stuff on the internet now, where people actually do these things, which isn't really fun at all. But the way they do it-- with good lighting and nice-looking people and good music-- it's still disturbing. Context changes everything. You know, when you stick things up your ass, context takes precedent. [laughs]

Pitchfork: Do you watch those kind of videos online?

WC: No matter who you are, you'll run into somebody who'll be like, "Jesus, you gotta see this video!" and there'll be some woman squirting eels out of her ass or something. In some ways I think it's funny. We live in good times; we can watch something like that and get on with our day. I mean, I don't want to have a woman squirting eels out of her butt while I'm there, but I'll watch it on video for 20 seconds.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

The "My Way" Killings

So I just read in the NYTimes that singing "My Way" can get you killed in the Philippines. Eat your heart out Sara Vowell*:

"The killings have produced urban legends about the song and left Filipinos groping for answers. Are the killings the natural byproduct of the country’s culture of violence, drinking and machismo? Or is there something inherently sinister in the song?"

Well I have my theory...but go read the article for some theories about why this song in particular evokes so much violence.

"Karaoke-related killings are not limited to the Philippines. In the past two years alone, a Malaysian man was fatally stabbed for hogging the microphone at a bar and a Thai man killed eight of his neighbors in a rage after they sang John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads.”"

Now this I can understand. "My Way" is one thing, but eight of your neighbors insisting on singing John Denver? Who amongst us wouldn't feel the urge to kill?

The article gets even weirder when sexual politics enters the mix:

"A subset of karaoke bars with G.R.O.’s — short for guest relations officers, a euphemism for female prostitutes — often employ gay men, who are seen as neutral, to defuse the undercurrent of tension among the male patrons. Since the gay men are not considered rivals for the women’s attention — or rivals in singing, which karaoke machines score and rank — they can use humor to forestall macho face-offs among the patrons."

So the gay men are neutral? Or they're exempt from the machismo pressure to be an asshole?

*If you don't get this reference you should listen to "This American Life" on public radio more often. Before Sinatra's death Sara Vowell begged media figures everywhere not to play "My Way" when the old guy finally went to that nightclub in the sky.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Herr Zrbo: Professional Reviewer?

Folks, I just might be famous now. How famous? Internet famous. In one of my classes we're currently learning some advanced Google commands. One Google command, [link:], shows all the other websites that link to that site. Naturally I wanted to see if anyone was following the ol' blog here, when I discovered just how famous I am. I stumbled across the site where to my surprise they've quoted my review of VNV Nation's Reformation 01 as if I were some actual respected authority. Oh yes folks, as they say on the internet i am teh famous. Don't believe me? Check it out right here (about 3/4 down the page). Eat your heart out Erlewine.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Where The Wild Things Are (Jonze)

Things I liked about this movie:

1) It wasn't written by committee
2) It didn't sugarcoat the situations it presented
3) The monsters looked like real monsters and not like lazy CGI creations (even though apparently some CGI was used), i.e. I just plain enjoyed looking at the monsters
4) It didn't have an obvious target audience
5) It didn't throw in a bunch of cringe-inducing pop culture references destined to become dated in three years

Things I didn't like about this movie:

1) The story seems forced. The original book is only about nine sentences long. It seems like Dave Eggers wanted to write an "edgy" children's movie, but he didn't really generate enough of a plot for a full-length film. It's as though Eggers and Jonze thought of the challenge first, and then the story second. As a result the movie feels a little unnecessary.
2) Jonze does a little too much of that "shakey-cam" thing. What happened to keeping your camera still, people?
3) I didn't think the "indie-folk" soundtrack fit the visual look of the film and I don't think it will age well. But I'm not much of an indie-folk guy anyway.

In summary: I liked the idea of this movie more than the actual movie itself. Which seems to be happening a lot lately.

Film critic rating: **1/2
Little Earl rating: **1/2