I saw WOODS (or Woods Family Creeps or whatever moniker they're going under these days) play at
Northsix the Music Hall of Williamsburg on Friday. I found out about them via shitgaze wunderkind Wavves, for whom they opened this summer and while not a huge fan, they're fun enough that you don't really need to twist my arm to get me to go. Their sound is a bit hard to describe. Are they freak folk? Indie? Jam? Who knows. There's definitely a bit of a rustic twang to them, but at the same time one member is consigned entirely to operating a rather tech-y set of pedals, mini-synths and tape-based samplers - all the while yelling into a headset hacked to work as a microphone.
One of the more charming aspects of the show was when they called out their opening band (Real Estate) for an eight-man rendition of Blind Melon's “No Rain” with WOODS' vocalist on drums and Real Estate's bassist on vox. In fact, much like the bottle of Maker's Mark the band passed around between songs, the non-techbox members all had a go at one anothers' instruments during the course of the show. megaova managed to capture the event on their iPhone and post it here, if you're interested. There's also a much-higher quality version of the same event in a different venue here, posted by dreamweaponfilm.
The band, in my opinion, really doesn't sound very good recorded. There's an energy in their live sets that is completely lost on the records. So, here is an older live rendition of “Rain On” posted by S3nzafine:
My posting here is going to get a bit thin over the next while. My personal and family life is slowly turning into a Faulkner novel and as much as blogging keeps me going, I'd rather write smaller posts than risk my troubles seep into longer ones.
Anyway, here's Laura Barrett's video for "Robot Ponies." Her ethereal voice and pink-accented black humor has kept my spirit up ever since I saw her open for the Magnetic Fields. Oh and if, like me, you are confused as to what the hell that is she's playing, it's a kalimba.
Last night the Magnetic Fields played in The Town Hall and occupying orchestra seat M-120 was your humble blogger. The stage set-up was a bit different than their last tour. Stephin played a ukulele instead of an electric mandolin, Claudia was on a synth-keyboard rather than a grand piano and Shirley played a lap-steel. Although I couldn’t actually see Shirley last time, so she may have very well had it then.
The stage banter was, as always, amazing. At one point, between songs, Stephin squinted to the balcony. “You know. There’s a lot of empty seats up here in the second row. And I see people standing in S.R.O. (standing room only). If I were you I would ... y’know.” He then mumbled "come down here" between his teeth and gestured at the front. Everyone rushed down to occupy those seats while Stephin and the band patiently waited to resume. Imagine how that must have felt. You get some last-minute Magnetic Fields tickets for pretty much the lamest spot in the entire venue and suddenly the Main Man Stephin Merritt personally invites you to sit right the hell up front.
The funniest inter-band exchange happened right after the intermission. That is how capital-C Classy a Magnetic Fields show is. Not only does it take place in a theater with seats, there’s an entire fifteen minute intermission to stretch and smoke and whatever. Now, keep in mind Stephin’s voice: bass-baritone, very slow and deliberate and if it wasn’t for the complete coherence you’d likely think he eats Valium like Jolly Ranchers. So, the band comes back on…
Claudia: How was everyone’s intermission? We had some Tazo tea, calming flavor. And cranberry juice. We really know how to live it up back there.
Stephin: I left the blow in the van.
As I don’t particularly appreciate Realism - the album they were on tour for – the set list was perfect. They played at least one song off each album which, fortunately, meant a hefty dose of 69 Love Songs. I got to hear some of my most loved songs: “You and Me and the Moon” (off Get Lost, my current favorite album, subject to change without notice,) “I Don’t Want to Get Over You” (off 69 Love Songs, Vol. 1) and “The Nun’s Litany” (off Distortion). Stephin preceded the latter by stating that Shirley refuses to sing it in front of her mother. While they skipped my favorite Realism track – “Everything is One Big Christmas Tree” – they did my second choice, “Walk a Lonely Road.” All-in-all it was fucking fantastic. Their next set - tonight’s - will be completely different and I look forward to the day I can purchase tickets for each of their dates on any upcoming NYC tour. One day. One day.
And, thanks to the magic of the future (and jeanniek980), here is last night’s rendition of “I Don’t Want to Get Over You”:
So around 1998 I got a copy of the new hot CD-based music magazine Launch. It was an odd look into the future of the Internet, as, in retrospect, it functioned almost exactly like a Flash-oriented website in the mid-2000s. There were a few simple games, music interviews with audio clips, &c &c. What I remember most, however, was a clip from a music video for "Drop Dead Gorgeous" by Republica. You may have heard the band's much more popular sing "Ready to Go." I had not heard of the band aat that point, but I instantly fell for them. The lead singer was space-agey in her metallic dress and red-streaked Louise Brooks coif. The guitar licks nice and smooth and there were plenty of electronics in there for contrast. The lyrics were in-your-face self destructive Of course, I didn't actually grasp any of this at 13. All I knew was that I loved the hell out of this song even though I'd only listened to 30 seconds. Over and over. This was the first band I discovered with complete independence, without the guiding hand of someone more knowledgeable or, ahem, cooler. This was the first band that I could truly call my own.
Image co. Last.fm
Of course, this all took place before the MP3 and filesharing revolution. Hell, the computer I was using the play this magazine-of-the-future ground to a halt a year later when I tried to play the first MP3 I had ever downloaded - Nirvana's cover of "Lake of Fire". Well, not to a halt, precisely, but doom metal wasn't exactly popular yet and that is exactly what was came out of my speakers. Fortunately, I eventually received Republica's self-titled album for my next birthday. I wore it out. By the end of the month, 14-year-old me knew every word on that entire CD. I'm sure if I got my hands on it now, I'd be able to sing along to an embarrassing degree. And here is the video which started it all:
I start the post off lazily co-opting the script technique of the videos below. I mention how uproariously funny they are and use the word “fantastic” about three times before going to Thesarurus.com to find some synonyms. I note a comparison to some piece of high-art or cite some philosophical piece which regards itself with the concept of “meta” and of which I have read five pages, tops. I link the the first video which is slightly shorter. As it is news-related, I make an offhand crack at Jon Stewart or the Daily Show.
Now I link the longer video. It is film related and I have enough opinions on film and technique to fill an ale cask, so I go on and on. You probably lose interest at this point and begin watching the video. Hopefully. I may mention something resembling this that I saw in my youth and describe the circumstances in an equally detached and nostalgic manner. I finish the post, advertise it on every social network I subscribe to and go eat a hamburger.
This weekend was the 2010 Armory Show – a large exposition of contemporary art, most of which was painted/photographed/constructed in 2009 and 2010. Sadly, it paled in comparison to last year's. Compared to the dynamic neon pop-art paintings and visceral,organic sculptures of 2009, 2010 seemed safer and less willing to cross that line into “what the hell is that?” That's not to say I didn't enjoy it. As I had the foresight to bring a notepad and camera this year, I now have a small Flickr album devoted to my favorite pieces. Here's a few selections from those selections:
Gormley's best known work is probably England's towering “Angel of the North”. At roughly six feet, “Sublimate XXX” is a tenth of the Angel's scale. The figure is composed of brushed steel and arranged so that the individual blocks seem to hover in midair. It is both imposing in the natural, industrial strength of composition while decaying in a manner suited to the digital world. There's a certain resemblance to a JPEG suffering from over-compression and littered with artifacts. Nothing is recognizable but the very essence of the figure, adding a certain inhuman dread to a distinctly human form.
This painting, with its grand scale caught by eye by way of the visual allusion to the space station design in Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey. The little individuals on the bottom – lab coated scientists/engineers – are all either gawking at or cheering their invention. The scaffolding lines, abstracted into two dimensions, lend a vague occultist feeling to the enormous phallic object. In fact, the perspective of the entire painting struggles to retain itself in the medium. The hubris of the title is not just the object represented, but our endless attempts toward a perfect representation.
This work is by far my favorite of the entire exhibition, although I'm not really sure why. The quote on the bottom reads “Because there is no escape from what does not exist” - a conflictingly hopeful and damning sentiment reflected in the rest of the painting. Everything shown is in visual conflict with itself and with the other elements of the painting. One of the two figures is facing the wrong way, although the girl's withdrawn resolution makes it as though the escalator is descending. It is descending as she faces upward, gaze fixed and illuminated, her face both ready and resigned. She is early adolescent, boyish and yet there is an unmistakable curve of developing breasts. Her posture is grossly unnatural, entranced and yet relaxed with weight tilted onto her left side. Every aspect of the painting speaks of conflict, but the conflict is in the details and the overall feel of the work is a calmness. There is no escape from the clash of parts because they render an untroubled whole.
Last night, while watching my friend's newly acquired copy of the second season of the Simpsons (highly recommended!) he confided in me that he had never seen an episode of the Twilight Zone. This surprised me. My primary social circle has at some point in their lives given themselves up to the neon claws of television addiction. This is why I can watch something, say a random episode from the second season of the Simpsons which I have not seen in ten years, and recite the dialogue – pauses and grumbles intact – as if I have been diligently studying the script for a soon-coming performance.
Original Pilot Intro
I watched a lot of the Twilight Zone as a kid and teenager. Most of it took place in the form of New Year's Eve marathons, which was the only way I could catch it before we got cable. When I was in high school, the SciFi Channel put it on somewhere around the prime time hours and, having discovered the dark secret to getting Bs without doing any homework, I ate it up every night.
Alternate Intro for Season 1 or 2
I can't say the show ever genuinely scared me. Only two supernatural things scared me as a kid and I guess I was fortunate in that neither the gremlins from the movie Gremlins nor abductions by Greys featured on the show. So I was good. Honestly, the only feeling I had toward it was honest-to-goodness delight and excitement. Every episode was creepy music, cheesy special effects and a genuinely well-written twist ending. I loved the twist endings the most. I guess I could probably see them coming these days, but as a nine-year-old every single one was a chilling surprise: “It's a cookbook?!” “Oh no! His glasses!” “Holy god giant jack-in-the-box!” &c &c.
So, if you have never seen it, go on YouTube and watch some Twilight Zone. escodavi has a few episodes in great quality.
After watching an episode of the unnecessarily ill-fated show Freaks and Geeks a few chums and I started my high school's Dungeons and Dragons club. Unfortunately, a club-wide lack of organization devolved it into a room of screaming nerds before you could say “roll for initiative.” Finding absolutely no fun in the chaos, one of my closest friends and I obtained the necessary manuals and defected to his basement, eventually convincing his girlfriend and a few others to join in the fun. We started playing every weekend. That was ten years ago. These days, I play D&D (3.5) every other Sunday. We have neither the teenage stamina nor empty schedules for twelve-hour marathon sessions anymore, but the gang still looks forward to pizza, metal and goblin-slaying.
...and, much like any other group of D&D players, we quote this incessantly:
While context would help you to identify with one of the characters in this scene, the complete lack thereof is the perfect way to identify with the other:
Click to Enlarge
All-Star Superman #1, 2005, Grant Morrison & Frank Quitely
This is the first page of Grant Morrison's hyper-lauded All-Star Superman series. It is also the most perfect example of how you tell a globally-recognized superhero's origin in this day and age. Morrison had to retell it in All-Star because he was spinning his own continuity off right at the last panel. His Superman was not the current Superman inhabiting the DC multiverse. Everything would be different in his comic, because he wanted to tell the story of his Superman, and not decades upon decades of conflicting editorial decisions.
Comics characters, especially highly socially cemented ones – Superman, Batman, the X-Men, et. al. – do not have an origin story. No, that's not exactly correct - they do not have a single origin story. The variations are as multitudinous as they are frequent. You can't go to the very first telling as that is akin to gleaning insights about a Picasso through a cave painting. You also can't go to the most recent as origins, in these days of ever-present crisis, tend to be twisted into barely-coherent and staggeringly illogical pretzels meant to fit the conceits of the latest sell-you-ten-one-shots-a-month, it-all-ends-here crossover event.
With this page, Morrison boils down the mythology to both what you need to know and what has been stable throughout Superman's protean history. Eights words within four captions on four panels and suddenly you don't have to worry about whether Brainiac was responsible for the explosion or if a baker's dozen of other Kryptonians made it out of there alive. Certainly, the comic regularly references minutia from decades-forgotten issues in countless cellars, but there exists no expectation of recognition. There's no “SEE ISH #571” here; only a quick and satisfied smirk when the writer dusts off and wields a character or plot device long deleted from the continuity. And it all begins with a story told by the reader as much as Morrison himself.