Thursday, March 19, 2009

Last of the famous international playboys

Thoughts immediately after leaving tonight's Morrissey concert at UB's Center for the Arts, which I've decided is one of my favorite places to see events in town:

1. In keeping with its stated theme, I try to focus this blog on music/musicians I'm currently or formerly obsessed with, and I've actually managed to escape the siren song of Mr. Suedehead for the length of his career. Oh, sure, I loved the Smiths in their day, but you'd have to be an idiot not to appreciate that band, would you not? I'm just saying I always took the oh-lonesome-me lyrics with a major chunk of salt (easy, since many of the best are so salty to begin with) and never once contemplated hurling gladiolas at the Heir of Oscar Wilde's feet.

2. That said, I realized the minute he walked out on stage that the guy is a World Class Rock Star, with a pretty brilliant sense of how to make a concert into a highly theatrical event. He is very big on whipping the mic cord around (this explains the immense space between his mic stand and the rest of the band) and pressing the flesh with fans (this does not explain the bizarre passive-aggressive vibe, in which he seems to encourage audience members to jump onstage and touch him, only to see them dragged away by very large security guards).

3. As for the solo songs? All perfectly fine, mostly interchangeable. I'm one of those people who won't give up the feeling that he really needed Johnny Marr as a songwriting foil.

4. LIghting: great. Big cut-out backdrop of sailor: loved it. Backing band: excellent. Band outfitted in matching t-shirts of entire band naked: genius. (Sadly, the adorable looking keyboard player does not seem to be on the shirt. It must feel odd for him to be obliged to wear a photo of his predecessor night after night, naked or not.)

5. Speaking of shirts, I imagine they are a line item in the tour budget, as two of the Rock Star's were tossed out into the audience during the show, each soaked with sweat. I actually prayed they would not be thrown anywhere near me, for I am Just Not Into That.

6. Speaking of sweat, I was quite impressed with the fact that it formed a heart shape on the back of shirt #2. This made me wonder if perhaps he has had his sweat glands sculpted to create this effect.

7. Morrissey the man: Boy, does he look old! And yet, he is my age, I think. My neck looks better than his. And yet, he is in far better shape than me, and can pull off that shirt without embarrassment. Also, he always looked old. And I find old people very handsome. Well, some old people. He qualifies.

8. A gong?! Awesome! Having messed the chance to see Led Zep or any number of 70s bands in their prime, I am happy to see them making a comeback.

9. Opening act = The Courteeners = first I'd ever heard of them = their first-ever show in the States = most pleasant surprise in this thankless slot since the Magic Numbers opened for Bright Eyes at the same venue. HIgh 80s revivalism; lotsa echoes of the Jam and, you guessed it, the Smiths. We even bought the CD; a cursory listen to the first four songs confirms that they are catchy, although I'm not sure the recorded versions capture what is so delightful about the band in performance. (Value added: Song 4, aka "What Took You So Long?," actually includes the lines "Sometimes I am bad and sometimes I am rotten / Sometimes I say things that probably should have been forgotten / about people and things, but do you know who I am? I'm like a Morrissey with some strings." Did not catch this during the show.)

10. Between the Courteeners and Moz, vintage music videos, dancehall novelty songs, nightclub routines, and snippets of British films were projected on a large screen. These were clearly curated by the Rock Star himself, as every single one was a perfect gem. Biggest surprise: Who knew he was such a fan of Shocking Blue? Three songs--and who knew they did anything besides "Venus"? (The other two were "Inkpot," which sounds like some sort of raunchy Dutch double entendre, and "Mighty Joe.") Suddenly I find myself wanting to know more about them.

In fact, what say we wrap this up with (a different but similar clip of) "Inkpot"? Note the band's groovy/shimmery black-metallic outfits, and how much the song resembles Abba doing glam:

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

We begin bombing in 10 minutes

That Steve Reich box I picked up a few weeks ago has provided many hours of enjoyment; there's nothing like driving around at night with one of his marimba-driven compositions providing an ambiguous soundtrack of anticipation. Still, I'm a little sad the box houses only one of Reich's two landmark found-audio loops from the 1960s, namely this one:

Because, as trippy as that one is, I've always preferred the gospel-sermon energy of the other one (not on the box):

In both cases, it's interesting to listen to the pieces 40 years (holy crap!) down the line, after Byrne/Eno and Negativland, after a couple decades of hiphop and electronic dance music turning appropriation into a cliché. They feel slower, more sedate, and way too long, to be sure, but they also possess a depth and singularity of focus that later experiments/ripoffs/cash-ins don't. They also sound awesome when you crank them up.

I bring up Reich mainly as an excuse to share two far more recent finds:

1)The Freesound Project, described as
a huge collaborative database of audio snippets, samples, recordings, bleeps, ... released under the Creative Commons Sampling Plus License. The Freesound Project provides new and interesting ways of accessing these samples, allowing users to ...
•browse the sounds in new ways using keywords, a "sounds-like" type of browsing and more
•up and download sounds to and from the database, under the same creative commons license
•interact with fellow sound-artists!

A virtuous goal, to be sure, but to hell with virtue. Let's get to the juicy stuff:

2)Handy audio clips of Bill O'Reilly reading the naughty bits of his 2001 audiobook version of Those Who Trespass: A Novel of Television and Murder. (First came to my attention here.) Trust me, you'll have Bill's unforgettable voice ringing in your ears for weeks, ordering you to "Cup your hands under your breasts and hold them for ten seconds" in a tone that suggests a workout instructor.

For added fun, play all of the above simultaneously. While cupping your hands under your breasts and holding them for ten seconds, of course.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Oh, Dannnny Boyyyyyyyy ...

So there we are, the husband and I, enjoying a lovely walk alongside the mighty Niagara on a sunny St. Patrick's Day, preparing for our collective future as an elderly suburban couple, when suddenly both of us think the same thing:

Are those bagpipes I hear?

And sure enough:

Happy Paddy Day.

PS. In the spirit of the holiday, allow me to recommend this wonderful album:

The bad news is, it's been discontinued by its manufacturer. The good news is, you can pick up a copy via Amazon for as low as 80 cents and enjoy some lovely and rare covers of traditional Irish tunes by the likes of Elvis Costello, Van Morrison, Sinead O'Connor, and Vince Gill for under a buck. That beats a green beer any day in my book.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Sign o' the Times

Now, more than ever. Take it away, boys ...

Update, 3/17/09
The Gang's refrain "Comrades, let us seize the time" finds a 21st-century echo in the closing lines of this recent essay by Douglas Rushkoff about how the collapse of the stock market may not be such a bad thing, as found on Arthur's ever-provocative blog:

The current financial crisis is the best opportunity we have had in a very long time for a bloodless revolution against the faceless fascism under which we have been living, unaware, for much too long. Let us seize the day.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

I'm all lost in the supermarket; I can no longer shop happily

I've got much more to say about Dutch art/design collective Platform 21 and its "Hacking IKEA" project on my gardening blog, but here's one of the more conceptual pranks on view on the P21 site:

MUSIC FOR IKEAS is an attempt to musically hack the entire emporium of IKEA through the release of a CD. Music is an effective invisible method to radically manipulate the atmosphere of a space. The CD is presented via an especially developed sound system, which can be integrated into every IKEA interior.
With thanks to Mia Adrésen and Hans Wessels.

Wish there was some way to hear the album itself, unlistenable though I suspect it probably is . Maybe I'll just have to wander into a store where some enterprising audio anarchist has installed one of those specially modified lamp/CD players. Rock on, hackers! Hack on, rockers!

PS. Thanks to Arthur for bringing P21 to my attention.