In the spirit of educating people who apparently only started paying attention to pop when singles from The Fame started getting airplay on U.S. radio, here is a brief list of things that, despite many stans’ assertion to the contrary, GaGa cannot yell “first” about.
10. Setting things on fire in videos.
8. Egregious product placement.
7. Name-dropping big-name designers of the moment.
6. “Outrageous” videos that warrant opening and closing credits.
5. The willful marriage of high and low art.
4. Use of the word “monster” in the title of a pop song.
3. 4/4 time.
2. Not wearing pants.
1. There was only one Lester Bangs. You are not him. You will not be him. Find your own voice/and style.
Don’t write: “And I was tweeking the buzz and felt that sound come over me like a giant meatball squish squishing through a mud track to nirvana or is it Nirvana?”
2. Don’t compare what you hear to anything common. I know it’s a stretch. It requires some creativity, some direct listening, but if you make an effort you can do it. If you say something ‘sounds like X,’ then we’ll think of ‘X’ first and not give the new band a chance on its own. Don’t tell us what it’s like. Tell us what it IS.
Don’t write: “It’s like an updated version of the Doors with Jello Biafra sitting in for Jim Morrison.”
3. Even worse than comparing a new band to a familiar band is comparing it to an obscure band. Yeah, we know you’ve listened to every MP that’s ever been MP3-ed and you’re wetting your pants to prove it. BFD. If you want to tell us about the obscure, just do it. Using an unknown band for comparison is worse than using a famous band. Comparing the obscure to the obscure doesn’t impress anyone. It just makes us turn the page.
Don’t write: “The Beard Boogers sound like the Pubic Unknowns with the horns mixed a bit more up-front and a rhythm section reminiscent of Naval Lint.”
4. If you love music, you should promote it. If you hate music, I suggest you try a different vocation. Of course you shouldn’t blindly love everything that comes your way, but you should realize everything that you hear takes time and effort and deserves some time and effort in return. Nothing except shit is pure shit. And even then, you can always find a kernel of corn in the offal. A purely negative review means you’re lazy—or squeamish. Your dainty little fingers didn’t want to get themselves dirty by sifting through the shit. Your verbal pooper-scooper packs away the whole kit and caboodle, weeks—maybe even months—of work, and just dumps it in the nearest litter bin (it should happen to your writing). Find something to like in everything.
Don’t write: “The Bigamists’ newest release is not worth the electrons it’s recorded on. It is a jumble of worthless crap…”
5. Be more of a con man than a whore. I know, you’re in the biz for the perks. You expect backstage passes and blowjobs. More likely you’ll get a free admission and comp CD… occasionally. You may even get a press kit or two. Take ‘em. If you like the band, keep ‘em. If you don’t like the band, sell the CDs on Amazon or GEMM.com. You’re entitled. But don’t write to get records to fill the empty slots in your collection. Write to inform (and maybe entertain) your readers. Don’t write: “And the band’s promo-Goddess, Sylvia Goldstein, was a woman among women. She could have starred in her own band. What a gal! She blessed me with not one but TWO copies of the band’s latest CD—and I got the vinyl and an exclusive interview you’ll see next issue.”
6. Finally, don’t write to review yourself… unless you’ve got the personality to pull it off (Jim Hayes can do it. Otherwise, see rule number one).
People don’t want to read about how you palled around with semi-famous people and how they fawned over your genius. Jerk off in private, please! Don’t write: “So Billy Joe says to me, ‘Hey, you know I really have you to thank for putting the GREEN in GREEN DAY.’ I tell him, shucks it was nothing, but he insists on buying me a drink. So I’m sitting there getting drunk with B.J. and then Billy Joel comes up to me and says, ‘Hey, Sammy, you know I really have you to thank for putting the WOMAN in “SHE’S ONLY A WOMAN TO ME.”’ And he’s right too. Did you know that song was originally going to be “She’s Only a Wombat to Me”? I am the one who suggested to B.J. (the other B.J.) that he change it to WOMAN.”
Okay, that’s it. You’re free to violate any of these rules if you think you can get away with it. You probably can’t, but that’s how you learn. Send me copies of any extra CDs or vinyl you score. I’ll take tickets too, to anything in New York. As for the blowjobs… good luck! If you get one, send me the video. See you in Hell… or your local weekly, whichever comes first.
MYKEL BOARD, contrarian and columnist—Maximum RocknRoll inPopmatters.
[this says it all better than I ever could … xoxo, michaela]
What’s the takeaway here? That the way to “win” isn’t about thoughtfully designed, clear, simple, intuitive interfaces and experiences. It’s about throwing every single piece of crap you can find onto the screen all at once and then crosslinking the hell out of it until your servers bleed.
“Both the album’s themes and how it was made suggest a model that may become increasingly popular: the semi-professional musician. Making music as a pastime has appealed to talents as diverse as the modernist composer Charles Ives and the post-punk engineer and guitarist Steve Albini. If hits are to be had by only the very few, perhaps more musicians will feel free to stop worrying about making them.”—
Oh. This just. Oh … you guys! It completely made my afternoon go all 180 degrees. Of course, there’s little beef-lettes starting in the comments, but I have no complaints. Except maybe the lack of "Apache"? Which, admittedly is a little weird.
“The problem is that along with those inevitable traits of great cities, Manhattan and certain of its surrounding boroughs happen to dominate American media, finance, and letters so thoroughly that even the most impressive achievements of other cities are routinely ignored while New Yorkers talk about local matters of comparatively smaller consequence, either tempting or forcing the whole nation to eavesdrop on their chatter depending on the day.”—
Thoughts? Feelings? Comments? I think he mostly nails it, certainly with this statement. Though a huge city, NYC is a small portion of the national population, around 5%, but it fairly dominates the national cultural discourse, much to the continued chagrin of those of us who don’t actually want to live in NYC (*gasp*). It was certainly detrimental to my PR job at times. When you can go out to drinks with the editors and writers of a mag, it’s a lot easier to get them to cover your stuff, and that’s just the truth of it. It’s probably cliche now to say so, but the NYC media/artistic class is something of a cabal, a system of self-perpetuating patronage and nepotism. I’m not saying it’s a meritocracy everywhere else, or that NYC bands don’t deserve coverage, or even that writers/artists/musicians are acting in bad faith to move there to find their fortunes. I don’t fault anyone for doing that; it’s probably a great idea for one’s career. But, you know, there is a whole country out there containing 95% of the rest of Americans, and things are happening not just in “cool towns” like Athens (where I live) or Austin or Portland. Think about any band or musical artist you like and ask yourself if you would have heard of them if they were from Starkville, Mississippi, or Coeur D’Alene, Idaho, or Harrisburg, Pennsylvania? Think the National gets in the NYT if they’re from Amarillo? Why do I feel like the Internet era has only tightened the grip that New York City has on us?
Is this just me being a whiny, put-upon Southerner? Let it be known that I love New York City and surrounding areas; I just don’t really want to live there. Feel free to trash me because I don’t feel like calling a square block area a “neighborhood.”
This selection from the amazing (in a revolting sense) tongue bath given to Bono by Nancy Koehn doesn’t sum up the whole piece but it does come close. There actually IS something to be said about everything Koehn addresses in her piece, however indirectly or unintentionally — the nature of the modern celebrity machine to allows ways of ‘access’ on multiple levels not least. (However overblown the Horatio Alger rhetoric.) It’s just that I don’t think this is the piece to say it, especially since since it’s being done in a fashion signalled by, well, by that quote above.
(Does Bono ever get tired of the deification? I sure hope so…)
Four minutes and thirty-one seconds: You knew there’d be a New Order song eventually, right? Here’s how I tried to explain New Order when I reviewed the reissues for Pitchfork.
“Following the suicide of Ian Curtis and subsequent retirement of the Joy Division moniker, New Order began as a band without a frontman; the trick of them is that they stayed that way, even after Sumner had become the regular vocalist. Sumner’s often flat, affectless voice might be a familiar point of contact with New Order but it’s rarely their focus. Their notoriously careless lyrics— Sumner has generally made great play of how last-minute they are— are a further sign of the group’s discomfort with the way rock music tends to be lensed through its singer. So it’s no surprise the 12” format was so attractive for New Order— more lovely space for the vocals to wander out of entirely.
So if Sumner isn’t a frontman, what is he? “World in Motion” suggests an answer. It’s a song that uses soccer as a metaphor for raving and resistance— “Beat the man! Take him on!”— so why not use the sport as a metaphor for what the band who made it do? In those terms, Sumner isn’t a frontman, he’s a target man: The striker whose job isn’t just to score, it’s to hold the ball so his teammates can move forward and into play. New Order’s secret is their fluidity, their easy sharing of the spotlight. At any time in any song, any one of them might provide the hook— the bright drama of Gillian Gilbert’s keyboards, the giddy sequencing of Stephen Morris’ percussion, Peter Hook’s famously liquid basslines, or indeed Sumner’s own guitar lines, as gorgeously full and melodic as his vocals are blank.”
This isn’t “World In Motion” - my rule here is that I’m not allowed to feature tracks I’ll be covering in my other big web project. It’s “Run”, from the glorious Technique album, one of their most straightforward songs in fact. “Well, you don’t get a tan like this for nothing.”: actually Sumner’s singing is the focus here, or at least it is until one of those luscious bursts of guitar comes in, and after that he’s happy to step back and let Peter Hook wander generously all over the song. Beautiful stuff, might be my favourite thing by them.
What would your 4’31” track be?
I just felt like reblogging this because this is one of my top five New Order songs, and every single thing Tom says here is on the money, particularly the part about how each member of New Order (and I’m not talking about newish stuff here, but the class quartet) might supply a hook (pun maybe intended) from any instrument. I don’t think there has ever been or will ever be another group able to wring so much melody out of the most simple song constructions (fellow travelers the Cure and Depeche Mode seem downright prog compared to them), with barely there song structures that rarely approach four chords. I don’t think a month goes by that I don’t go through a New Orderaissance.