Friday, November 30, 2007

The Top Ten Tracks On Elbo.WS Reviewed In 50 Words Or Less

Back when this blog was ye olde Sliver Magazine, we had a feature called 50 Words Or Less in which we reviewed the latest songs and albums with--you guessed it!--long, rapturous discussion that had 1,000 word ledes at least. Were Sliver not only read by friends and immediate family, it may have been our calling card feature. After all, the whole thing recalls Robert Christgau for the ADD generation, no?

But I got to thinkin' (which is always dangerous): How could this feature be brought back? And this is what I came up with: On a bi-monthly basis, because of the fact that the chart ranks the songs by measuring two weeks worth of data, we'd review each of the top ten tracks on Elbo.Ws in 50 words or less. And so the feature was brought back to life! It's Alive! It's Alive! Dear God, It's Alive.

One note before we begin. The songs below comprised the top ten as of this morning (11/30/07) at 7 a.m. Central Standard Time, when I last checked the chart. Things could be radically different, or they could be not different at all. At any rate, here's the first of what hopefully will be a long-going feature. Enjoy!

The Raveonettes

The Raveonettes – Aly, Walk With Me

This song should be heavily protested by more prudish folk, as it sounds like sex personified: breathy vocals, pseudo trip-hop beat, pulsating bass line and noisy guitar textures make this track sound like Sonic Youth doing Nancy Sinatra. And this song does nothing if not walk all over you.
Grade: A-

Download: The Raveonettes - "Aly, Walk With Me"

The Raveonettes on MySpace

Black Mountain

Black Mountain
– Tyrants

There’s much appreciation on this reviewer's part for the wide array of influences here (Sabbath, Pink Floyd, ELO, Fleetwood Mac, in addition to any number of bands who existed from 1968 to 1975). But, ultimately, “Tyrants” sounds like LARPers cramming in every prog-rock cliché they could into one song. Seriously, where are the unicorns?
Grade: C+

Download: Black Mountain - "Tyrants"

Black Mountain on MySpace

The Whitsundays

The Whitsundays
– “Sorry James”

It’s not so much James who needs the apology, so much as The Kinks, the strengths of whom The Whitsundays blandly copy. Imagine what wonderfully kaleidoscopic direction Jennifer Gentle could take this song, then compare that to the actual product. “Sorry James” isn’t a bad song, per se; it’s just unremarkable.
Grade: C

Download: The Whitsundays - "Sorry James"

The Whitsundays on MySpace

The Magnetic Fields

The Magnetic Fields - "Three-Way"

"Three-Way" is an odd choice for a first single, but then Stephen Merritt is nothing if not odd. On the whole, the psych-garage-rock track feels like a musical palette cleanser, in that it could follow a more serious-minded track. The band sounds like it's having good-natured fun and that vibe definitely rubs off on the listener.
Grade: B

Download: The Magnetic Fields - "Three-Way"

Official Magnetic Fields Website

Bodies Of Water

Bodies Of Water - "I Guess We'll Forget The Sound, I Guess, I Guess"

Initially, his song belongs in the Department of Redundancy Department, both titularly and musically. But Bodies Of Water stay afloat by throwing enough sonic curveballs in their garage-folk sound to keep the music engaging, and then add epic vocal harmonies. The end result is a soul-stirring conclusion to what was at first an unremarkable track.
Grade: B+

Download: Bodies Of Water - "I Guess We'll Forget The Sound, I Guess, I Guess"

Bodies Of Water on MySpace

Sally Shapiro

Sally Shapiro – "Anorak Christmas (Piano Mix)"

Download: Sally Shapiro - "Anorak Christmas (Piano Mix)"

Piano intro recalls “Come Sail Away”, but there’s no rocking as Ms. Shapiro sings the love unrequited. “Anorak Christmas” is one remix away (one more aggressive than the club mix from which this song is derived) from being the inescapable club hit that you all know and hate, but nod your head to anyway.
Grade: B

Sally Shapiro on MySpace

Oh Astro

Oh Astro – “Snow Queen”

The sound of a stuttering hard drive doesn't seem immensely appealing, but Oh Astro have pleasantly proved otherwise. Should Oh Astro collaborate with Timbaland, the result would something that only Ken from A Fish Called Wanda could understand. To call "Snow Queen" danceable would definitely not be an insult to dancing, though.
Grade: B+

Download: Oh Astro - "Snow Queen"

MySpace Page

Bright Eyes

Bright Eyes – "Coat Check Dream Song" (Exclusive live version)

Grading this song objectively seems irrelevant, considering that the cause it benefits is arguably the greatest test of mankind's moral fortitude. So I'll say this: buy this album. If some angst-filled warbling from a pretentious troubadour is the worst of your problems, then you, my friend, have got it made.
Grade: N/A

Download: Bright Eyes - "Coat Check Dream Song" (Exclusive Live Version)

Bright Eyes on MySpace

The Vandelles

The Vandelles - "Lovely Weather"

The vocals on "Lovely Weather" make it sound like they're thieves breathing down your neck. When you want to listen to fuzzed out neo-psychedelia, you shouldn't have to think about tuberculosis. Also, Serena Maneesh could do this song in a much more interesting way. This might sound cool in a Tarantino film, but it simply doesn't work on it's own.
Grade: C-

Download: The Vandelles - "Lovely Weather"

The Vandelles on MySpace

The Raveonettes

(that's right, we ran the same photo twice, because we're lazy)

The Raveonettes - "Dead Sound"

If The Raveonettes' upcoming Lust Lust Lust is filled with nothing but "Dead Sound"'s and "Aly, Walk With Me"'s, then it looks like they will release the first great record of 2008. We'll have to wait until Jan. 2008 to see what dreamy, harmonious tricks The Raveonettes have up their sleeves.
Grade: A-

Download: The Raveonettes - "Dead Sound"

The Raveonettes on MySpace

(Jonathan Graef)

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Tegan and Sara - Tonight at the Pantages

Download: Tegan and Sara - "Like O, Like H" - From "The Con"
Download: Tegan and Sara - "I Can't Take It" - From "So Jealous"
Download: Tegan and Sara - "I Hear Noises" - From "If It Was You"

Like O, like H ... like M, like G! Vancouver and Montreal homebodies Tegan and Sara are performing at the Pantages Theater this evening and it will be awesome. "The Con" has definitely found a home on my Top Ten for 2007, so the anticipation for this show has been off the chain. Here are three songs from T&S' three most recent albums to get us pumped up for the show.

Tegan and Sara on MySpace

(Ian Anderson)


Dillinger Four at the Entry Tonight

Download: Dillinger Four - "Fuzzy Pink Hand-Cuffs" - Off "Situationist Comedy"

Rumors keep flying back and forth as to whether or not Dillinger Four is ever going to come out with the new album, you know the one. But to tide us over, D4 is playing an all ages show at the 7th St. Entry tonight. Doors at 5 p.m.

Dillinger Four on MySpace

(Ian Anderson)


Thursday, November 29, 2007

Speaking Of The Replacements...

Check out this video of The Mats performing "Johnny's Gonna Die" at the 7th Street Entry way, way back in 1981. That's just a little bit older than I am. Whoa.

Thanks to the A.V. Club for unearthing this clip. To read Noel Murray's thoughts on the video (and many, many others), go here.

(Jonathan Graef)

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Band To Know: Tentacle Boy - "Western Lullaby"

Download: Tentacle Boy - "Western Lullaby"

Recently featured on More Cowbell, Minneapolis-based duo Tentacle Boy is making waves with their two tracks featured on their MySpace page.

Adam To
and Chris Sexton are reviving beats that sound like they’ve been neglected for years, left to rot in a 1980s time capsule. There’s something about their synth-sounds that echo the infectious "Axel F" by Harold Faltermeyer, (the theme to Beverly Hills Cop). New-fashioned little melodies meshed with pop-friendly techno: it’s familiar but far from boring. Tentacle Boy is a smidge reminiscent of popular indie-tronic bands like Octopus Project (weird similarity with their names, no?), but instead of having solid drumbeats and guitar riffs synching with Casio tones, Tentacle Boy sticks to the basics of slinky keyboard rhythms and likeable choruses. It’s simple, and it works.

"Western Lullaby" is like a funkier Postal Service tune, with To and Sexton’s vocals blending aesthetically together like a digital jigsaw puzzle, giving you the strange impression while listening that they may have recorded this underwater. It’s a really fun pairing of soft, lulling lyrics and hypnotizing little sonic blips.

Their page also features song and video for "Nobody,” the video bearing a slight resemblance to the Beastie Boys’ "Sabotage" video. Instead of cops running around raiding hotel rooms, these boys are criminals wielding kitchen knives and hurdling living room furniture. The song itself is a trippy mix of lyrical loops and digital percussion. Tentacle Boy is resurrecting sounds and images that feel like they’ve been long forgotten in a sea of acoustic indie-rock. They’re all about concocting danceable computer sounds. These guys are on to something, and I’m thinking a live show would be pretty damn fun.

Keep your eyes peeled for upcoming dates. Listen to "Western Lullaby" at the top of the post, then head on over to the band's MySpace page to download "Nobody".

(Tara Rogan)

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Tay Zonday in Cherry Dr. Pepper Commerical

Holy balls.

(Ian Anderson)


Eels Documentary Parallel Worlds, Parallel Lives Makes Its BBC Debut

Download: Eels - "Fresh Feeling"
Download: Eels - "Railroad Man"
Download: Eels - "Hey Man (Now You're Really Living)"

The documentary Parallel Worlds, Parallel Lives aired on BBC4 two nights ago. The film follows Mr. E of the band Eels as he seeks to uncover information about his late father. E (real name Mark Everett) and his father, physicist Hugh Everett III had a very distant relationship. Everett was the father of an idea (in addition to Mr. E, of course): the many worlds theory. It's pretty complicated stuff, but the core focuses on the idea that each outcome to every possible event defines in its own parallel universe. You can read about it here if you're so inclined.

But at the heart of the documentary is the story of Everett and his father. Critics across the pond have applauded the documentary for its intense emotion and the taste with which the legacy of this important physicist is treated. Unfortunately, it's unlikely that those of us in the US of A will get to check out this documentary unless it gets released to DVD, syndicated to another station or put online. We'll keep you posted.

In the meantime, you can read Mr. E's personal reflections on making the film here.

(April Wright)

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Band To Know: Maps Of Norway Post Live Show Online (With A Little Help From Their Friends)

Download: Maps Of Norway - "Traffic"
Download: Maps Of Norway - "Marathon" (New Song, Live at Big V's)

Minneapolis-based, post-punk inspired quartet Maps Of Norway are an intelligent group of people. One can tell simply by reading this witty disclaimer that's part of their MySpace bio (written by STNNNG's Chris Besinger, a man who definitely has a way with words):
Post-Punk, Post-Rock, Post-Post-Punk, what post are we at now? Is it still after the last thing or is before the next one yet? Is that bass line retro-ironic or proto-serious? I cant even tell anymore.

Whether or not Maps Of Norway are "retro-ironic" or "proto-serious" is an issue that can be discussed at another time. What one can immediately discern is that sharp, bass-driven hooks, sultry vocals and metronome tight drumming propels their tunes well past the point of mere casual listening, especially in a song like "Traffic".

Simply put, you probably want to hear them play songs live.

Well, being the smart people that they are, MAR, with the help of the good people at Warning Of The Ships, have decided to put up an entire live show online for you to download. WOTS posted this about a month ago, but it's still definitely worth listening to.

The show took place earlier this summer at Big V's and contains material from 2006's Sister Station as well as brand new material, including the opening song, "Strict Ritual", which combines Joy Division/New Order-style angst with an more open-ended, post-rock jam.

You can hear "Traffic", from last year's Sister Station and "Marathon", a moody little number with a slinky bassline and guitar harmonics similar to Sonic Youth, at the top of the post.

To hear the rest of the set, head on over to Warning Of The Ships.

Buy Sister Station here.

MySpace Page

(Jonathan Graef)

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Band To Know: Astra Moveo

Download: Astra Moveo - "Dollface"
Download: Astra Moveo - "Wrecked"

Is Denver the new Omaha? Probably not, but the jam bustin', disco punkin', synth wailin' trio Astra Moveo is about to encroach on The Faint's territory. Moveo is a hot little dance rock band gearing up to hit the nation's indie rock scene with a fresh infusion of disco.

Astra Moveo is currently recording their first LP (so remember where you heard it first, folks!), which is due for a spring release. Moveo's balance of finessed dance beats and an aggressive punk stomp provides a wonderful backdrop for any dance party: There's enough smoothness to their sound to get listeners out on the dancefloor, but not so much that the band sounds unpalatably saccharine. The one problem with the songs as they stand now is that the vocals are mixed in a little rough. There are a couple clunky moments that result from the vocals being a little too prominent. But honestly, if the skeleton in your closet is a rough mix, I'd say you're doing pretty damn good.

And, on top of it, Astra Moveo is happy to share the wealth. Check out their MySpace page for the songs at the top of this post as well as some remixes. Listen to MP3s of "Dollface" and "Wrecked" at the top of the post.

(April Wright)

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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Tonight: Hold Your Life, Because You Just Might Lose It At The First Ave. Replacements Tribute Concert

Download: The Replacements - "Bastards of Young"

Tonight at First Ave. is the book release party for Jim Walsh's oral history about The Replacements, All Over But The Shouting.

Before you go:

Set Details And Times Over at More Cowbell

Thoughts about The Replacements by the bands who are participating at Reville (which, in the interest of full disclosure, includes One For The Team's Ian Anderson, who plays the concert tonight and writes for this blog).

Listen to our playlist of songs from Let It Be here (inspired by Jim Walsh's appearance on "Sound Opinions")

Read Idolator's take on the book here.

Buy tickets here.

(Jonathan Graef)

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Band To Know: Kat Flint - "Go Faster Stripes"

Download: Katflint - "Joseph"
Download: Katflint - "Go Faster Stripes"

Oh, Kat Flint, you are one of my favorite new finds. Judging from the airy, windswept sound of her voice, I swear, Flint must have blown all the way across the sea to us from her UK home.

"Go Faster Stripes," a track from her forthcoming debut album Dirty Birds, drapes layers of vocals over a simple piano frame, but then adds little percussive details into the mix. The result is a track that has weight, but still moves and has buoyancy.

The best thing about Flint is that she doesn't fall into the trappings of lonesome female performer. Her sound is full and clean, which allows Flint to stand out in her understated beauty.

Listen to "Go Faster Stripes" and "Joseph" at the top of the post, then stroll on over to her MySpace to listen to some more mp3s.

(April Wright)

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Six Organs Of Admittance - Shelter From The Ash

Six Organs Of Admittance
Shelter From The Ash (Drag City, 2007)
Grade: C

Download: Six Organs Of Admittance - "Strangled Road"
Download: Six Organs Of Admittance - "Jade Like Wine"

Six Organs of Admittance is back with another album. Ben Chasny, Organs' sole constant member, has been on a blitz, releasing three albums in as many years. His latest, Shelter From The Ash, contains only eight songs, but clocks in at an impressive 43 minutes.

I tend to be a little skeptical of the "release tons of music all the time" thing. A lot artists who release albums all the time fall into the trapping of putting out half-baked songs that could have used a little more planning and others that should have been left on the cutting room floor (I'm looking at you, Ryan Adams!). And unfortunately, my skepticism proved to be well-founded on Shelter.

opens up with "Alone With the Alone," a freak-out guitar solo overlaid with haunting Indian-inspired melodies. The whole acid-freak, pseudo-hippie jam-based song construction normally strikes me as a little self-indulgent Chasny, however, has just the right amount of subtlety in the layering of instruments and allows the melodies to dribble in and out in their own time. The song feels incredibly organic, but there's still enough complexity to keep the listener's mind from wandering.

"Alone With the Alone" comes across as gloomy as possible despite its soaring guitar lick. But the darkness really sets in on the following track, "Strangled Road." The track starts out with Chasny's low voice drawling and scraping over a sparse, slow guitar. Throughout the song, Chasny gains extra guitars, steam and contributing vocalist/girlfriend Elisa Ambrogio (Magik Marker, Basalt Fingers) until the track breaks open into a lonesome, weeping guitar solo.

"Strangled Road" sets the tone for the rest of the album, but is also the album’s highlight. Shelter certainly lives up to its name – the record absolutely brims with songs for the lonely. But they all blend together. What impressed me on the first two tracks, like the overlay of Indian-themed melodies over lonesome cowboy blues, the slow folk stomp and wrenching solos – becomes painfully mundane. The slow build to a soaring solo structure feels incredibly worn by the halfway mark and by three-quarters through, the album had completely lost me. "Jade Like Wine," however, puts up a brief struggle, infusing the album with one last bit of energy before the decline.

As someone who normally enjoys the drama and delirium of Six Organs of Admittance, I hate to say it, but this record completely lacks any sort of momentum. While "Alone With the Alone" and "Strangled Road" are impressive tracks, the album collapses in on itself due to formulaic, uninspired songwriting.

MySpace Page

(Jonathan Graef)

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D-O-Double Muthafuckin' Gizzle!

Because MFR needs nothing if not a little hip hop flavor. "Sensual Seduction" is taken from Snoop Dogg's upcoming Ego Trippin'. That record is due out in March of 2008. You can stream additional tracks from Ego Trippin' on his MySpace page, the link to which you can find at the end of the post.

Snoop Dogg on MySpace

(Jonathan Graef)

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DeVotchKa Sign to Anti-

Download: DeVotchKa - "You Love Me"

The Denver-based mega-Eastern European-influenced quartet DeVotchKa have signed to Anti- (Tom Waits, Neko Case). This is pretty big considering the group just picked up a a Grammy-nomination for their work on the Little Miss Sunshine score.

Here is my favorite DeVotchKa song, "You Love Me," which their press release claims conjures "images of the serious intensity of a troika being danced in a smoky bar on a Siberian plain and the soaring sweetness of a mariachi serenading a Mexican wedding party are conjured by the band’s lively performances and singer Nick Urata’s evocative voice." Nice.

DeVotchKa's Anti- debut will be out in March 2008.

DeVotchKa on MySpace

(Ian Anderson)


New Thermals Video - "Returning to the Fold"

In grand Thermals-esque style, their videos continue to produce mega smiles.

The Thermals on MySpace

(Ian Anderson)


Sigur Ros - Hvarf/Heim

Sigur Rós
Hvarf/Heim (XL Recordings, 2007)
Grade: A-

Download: Sigur Ros - "I Gaer"
Download: Sigur Ros - "Hljomalind"

With the onslaught of highly anticipated albums being released this year (Radiohead, Nine Inch Nails, and Björk, to name just a few), there's something to be said for the many die-hard fans waiting in the wings for one of 2007's last big releases, Sigur RósHvarf/Heim. It’s been two years since Takk, an album that was adored by fans and critics alike. This latest two-disc album is comprised of unreleased recordings and new live versions of older songs, like "Starálfur," a song that listeners may recognize from its use in The Life Aquatic. Whether or not this album is all “new material,” is one thing. But the listening experience is, in and of itself new, and as always with Sigur Rós, ethereal. Would one expect anything less here?

Hvarf takes off with "Salka", a dreamy, entrancing song that echoes older works, like "Njósnavélin" from 2002’s ( ). Drums are teased with wire brushes, soaring vocals from Jónsi Birgisson lead into an explosion for the senses that becomes something larger than life, larger than a song – it’s a sensory experience.

Other songs off this first disc like "I Gaer" change the album’s mood completely, from peaceful bliss to haunted dreams and explosive sounds. "I Gaer" could double as music for a Tim Burton film as it begins with an eerie little melody, sounding like a xylophone buried in ice, creeping its way into song.

The song eventually gives way to a fierce and strong buildup with bellowing guitars and dramatic drumbeats with a musical build one would expect from the likes of Roger Waters. It’s something a little futuristic and perhaps loud for Sigur Rós, slightly steering away from their trance-inducing slower stuff. It's a strange step for them to take given the fact that it’s not technically a new album. For those familiar with Sigur Ros' music, it may sound a bit like these guys are itching to get some band new material out there.

The acoustic live tracks come off well on Heim, where each song was recorded in a different natural landscape: near water, fjords, and in valleys. Classic tunes such as "Ágætis Byrjun" are brought into a different light, maintaining it’s composure while adding the rawness of live music to its composure. Both discs give a little something to everyone, with a little bit of new stuff, along with tempered classics.

To enhance the auditory experience of Sigur Rós’ even further, they have also released a film, titled Heima (meaning “at home”), giving fans a visual to coincide with their music, set appropriately in their homeland of Iceland. If one didn’t already have images of crackling white glaciers, deep purple skies and epic green fields in their heads while listening to this band, there’s no escaping it now. It’s a documentary of sorts, but is mainly focused on the music, and where their visual inspiration comes from.

A trailer for Heima (which will be released on DVD next week) can be found on Sigur Rós’ MySpace Page as well as a few tracks from Hvarf.

MySpace Page

(Tara Rogan)

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Conor Oberst And M. Ward Colloborate On New Project

Download: Bright Eyes - "Black Comedy"
Download: M. Ward - "Chinese Translation"
Download: Bright Eyes - "Another Travelin' Song"

Today's dose of "Holy crap, This Would Be Awesome!" news comes to us today via Conor Oberst, M. Ward and P4K. From the article itself:

The news comes from an Omaha City Weekly report, which indicates Oberst and Ward's unnamed band plans to record an album next year. Representatives from neither Oberst's nor Ward's camps could confirm the collaboration, however. But given these guys' history, it falls a wee bit closer on the likeliness scale than, say, a Bright Eyes/Soulja Boy collabo.

What are the odds of this happening? It would be undeniably very cool to get these two very talented young folksters to come together and build some sort of Mega-Institution of Awesome, but this could also be a total volatile flop. Ward and Oberst have both been very in control of their careers thus far, which raises the question of whether two people who are very used to getting their way can come together.

The Pitchfork article also makes mention of a possible reprise of work with Jake Bellows (Neva Dinova), which is a testament to two marvelous things coming together to make something very impressive. Hopefully an Oberst/Ward collab could turn out something just as sweet.

Bright Eyes MySpace Page
M. Ward MySpace Page

(April Wright)

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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Electrelane Goes On Indefinite Hiatus

Download: Electrelane - "To The East" (via P4K)

First, Deerhunter goes on a limited hiatus, and now Electrelane has decided to go on a more indefinite one. The band states that:
We have decided that the upcoming gigs will be our last for the foreseeable future. After ten years of much fun and hard work, we have realised that we all need a break and time to do other things. This was a tough decision for us to make, but ultimately a positive one.

Read the rest of the statement, including appreciation for their fanbase here.

MySpace Page

(Jonathan Graef)

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Deep Elm Label Head Speaks Out on Illegal Downloading

Deep Elm Records label head John Deep Elm released today an interview he did in regards to illegal file sharing and the future of the music industry. Here is a brief excerpt from the press release, read the entire piece here.
"Illegal downloading is killing indie rock. The signs are everywhere: bands are giving up, indie labels are shutting their doors, mom and pop record stores are closing, new artist development opportunities have dried up and touring is way down. Why would anyone steal music...especially from independent bands and labels that only survive on selling very few records in the first place? Illegal downloading is not right...and it's against the law.

Music is the cheapest form of permanent entertainment...yet it means the MOST to nearly everyone. A compact disc or legal download generally costs $9.99...and it's have it forever and can make duplicates for your personal use. $10 can literally change your life...I know it did for me.

John Deep Elm was recently interviewed by the Norwegian music press about illegal filesharing. Here is what he had to say:

1. In 5 years, how do you think your label structure be?

We expect to be a digital-only label if CD sales continue to slide. We are already limiting the number of CDs we press for new releases...they are all limited to 1,000 CDs. Digital sales are building, but fans need to understand that illegal downloading is's a crime.

2. Is it realistic to think that in the future music will, or can, be given away for free?

I have a lot of respect for RadioHead as musicians and songwriters. OK Computer is the best album ever recorded...well, a close second to our new release "Aurora" by Desoto Jones. But what they started really makes me angry...devaluing music. And many other big artists are following suit. This will eventually trickle down to the indies because fans will think they should get music for free. I think what they did has given validity to illegal downloading. Ironically, in the first week there were 200,000 "free" downloads of their new album, but an estimated 500,000 illegal downloads. Fans did not even want to pay �0.01 for it because of this insane mindset that music should be free. I think it's a definite possibility that major labels will give music away for free...only to their eventual detriment."

(Ian Anderson)

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Gorilla vs. Bear Top 15 Performances of 2007

Alright, so tons of top whatever lists have come out today, but the most interesting by far is Gorilla vs. Bear's top 15 performances of 2007 list, which includes live footage and some solid picks. Click here to read the full story.

Below is their No. 1 pick, the Polyphonic Spree at SXSW in March.

(Ian Anderson)


The Hives - The Black And White Album

Download: The Hives - "Tick Tick Boom"
Download: The Hives - "T.H.E.H.I.V.E.S."
Download: The Hives - "Giddy Up!"

The Hives
The Black And White Album (A&M/Octone, 2007)
Grade: A-

One has to feel kind of bad for The Hives. Commercially and critically speaking, they got kind of relegated to second-class status in favor of The White Stripes during the "The" band revolution of the early 2000s. Their last album, Tyrannosaurus Hives, got the shaft in the US. But they won't get unnoticed again: this time, they're taking us to the pavement.

The Black and White Album opens with "Tick Tick Boom" a song that bares all kinds of menace, with lyrics warning that "its too late" for someone to come crawling back to the songwriter (Presumably the subject of the song Nicholaus Arson, who is purported to write all the band's songs, despite the band’s own claim of a hidden “Sixth” member who really writes all of the group’s material.). While it's probably an anthem to an ex-lover, given the band's ego and three-year absence, the song takes on new life as a reveille for a new age of The Hives.

After “Tick Tick Boom”, the band clings to a base of jarringly jangly guitars on most of The Black And White Album’s other material. But Pelle Almqvist and company also expand sonically into previously unknown territory: The Hives hit just the right mix of old and new to have a signature sound rather without getting stuck in a rut.

The Jacknife Lee-produced "Hey, Little World" is one of the more conservative tracks on The Black and White Album, but rather than reeking of stagnant ideas, it shows how well The Hives have come to own their sound. From their beginning, they've expanded their repertoire of sounds and increased the complexity of their songwriting. They still do loud and raucous really well, but they don't rely on volume as much as they once did.

And that's a great, great thing because it allowed The Hives to spread out into disco, snapping dance-punk and …video game music on the sinisterly cute "A Stroll Through Hive Manor Corridors." The song is a spooky little number that channels Mario 64 music at its best without getting too camp. Another highlight is the disco jam "T.H.E.H.I.V.E.S.", with its over-the-top falsetto vocals, and quaking bassline. The song’s refrain of "We rule the world!" gives it just the boost of egomaniacal ridiculousness that makes the track awesomely kitschy, rather than just plain silly. A lot of that campy appeal has to do with the fact that Pharrell Williams, whose work always skirts the line between being ridiculous and mind-blowingly awesome, produced the track (along with one other song, “Well All Right!”).

In a similar vein, "Giddy Up!" is a bawdy dance punk song sure to shake hips. Pelle's eponymous howl finds a home in shaky, sweaty dance punk as well as it does on "Hey, Little World." And the brash guitars so characteristic of The Hives prove remarkably adaptable to many styles without losing their vibrant thrash.

While this is the Hives' most ambitious record, The Black and White Album proves that the Hives are a band capable of growing and expanding stylistically while remaining firmly rooted in their own sound.

MySpace Page

(April Wright)

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Stone Gods (Featuring Former Members Of The Darkness) = The British Audioslave?

Download: The Darkness - "Is It Just Me?" (from One Way Ticket To Hell...And Back!")
Download: The Darkness - "Hazel Eyes" (from One Way Ticket To Hell...And Back!")
Download: The Darkness - "English Country Garden" (from One Way Ticket To Hell...And Back!")
Download: The Darkness - "Christmas Time (Don't Let The Bells End)" (B-Side)
Download: The Darkness - "Street Spirit" (Live, Radiohead Cover)
Download: The Darkness - "Growing On Me" (from Permission To Land)
Download: The Darkness - "I Believe In A Thing Called Love" (from Permission To Land)
Download: The Darkness - "Friday Night" (from Permission To Land)
Download: The Darkness - "Grief Hammer" (B-Side)
Download: The Darkness - "Makin' Out" (B-Side)

Whenever a famous group splits up, acrimoniously or amicably, it's members usually have one hell of a condrummer to face when moving onto their new post-band break-up projects: they have to assert their own musical identity, to a degree where their fans and critics won't accuse them of merely recycling their past; also, to remind aforementioned aficionados and skeptics of how they got to the position of being able to judge their favorite musician's new work in the first place.

The Darkness are a rock and roll cautionary tale, if there were ever was one. It's not entirely surprising that, of the two acts to spawn out of The Darkness' demise, one would fully embrace certain elements of The Darkness' sounds while the other completely turns their back on it.

Download: Justin Hawkins - "Do It In The Dark"

We'll start off with former Darkness singer's Justin Hawkins new single, "Do It In The Dark", a song designed for a website that encourages responsible energy consumption. Good for Hawkins. The partnership is a great idea: the political group gets to show that it has a sense of humor, while Hawkins gets to show that he's more than the guy whose former band had a video where a pterydactol humped a spaceship.

The problem lies with Hawkness taking all the aspects that made The Darkness great and - ribald humor, campy vocals and shredding guitar solos, huge hooks - and making them even more over-the-top, to the point of being almost shrill. Simply put, at the beginning of the song, Hawkins sounds like he's trying to regurgitate his lungs and the Def Leppard-style vocal overdubs aren't endearing either. The main riff has a nice, treble-heavy, AC/DC sheen to it, and some of the lyrics are very clever (the line “I wanna lay you out in Quark /I wanna do it in the dark" is absolutely genius). But even though "Do It In The Dark" is only 2 minutes, the song still needs to dial it down, for the sake of reducing energy consumption - both Hawkins' and the Earth's.

Stream: Stone Gods - "Burn The Witch"

Meanwhile, the Stone Gods (consisting of former Darkness members Dan Hawkins, Ritchie Edwards and Ed Graham, along with recruited bassist Toby McFarlaine) sound like they are attempting to disavow any trace of irony or tongue-in-cheek humor that were preset in The Darkness. No doubt that this in order to convey the impression that the are "Serious Rock Band." Take a look at the photo at the top of this post. How much more black can it be? The answer is none. None more black. If that's not enough evidence for you, then the the press material on the recently launched Stone Gods website, which states that the Stone Gods is "an entirely tougher, edgier and heavier beast than their former band", should suffice.

No one would dispute that when listening to the opening moments of "Burn The Witch", the new song streaming at the band's website and MySpace Page. The opening lick, and the chord progression beneath it, has a little minor-key, NWOBHM thing going on before setting into a more generic, sludgy blues riff that perks up a little bit due at the end of the phrase due to some Aerosmith-style syncopation.

It's unfair to judge Stone Gods based on a clip of a song that's a little over a minute in length, but, so far, the band sounds like they're trying too hard to convey solemnity. Rather than being powerful, it comes off as just being humorless. We'll have to wait and see what more the band has to offer. If the band writes even one halfway decent song, they could become the British Audioslave.

Stone Gods MySpace Page
Justin Hawkins' New Project MySpace Page

You can find a bunch of The Darkness MP3s at the top of the post, including b-sides.

(Jonathan Graef)

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Video: The White Stripes - "Conquest"

Download: The White Stripes - "Conquest"

Not that The White Stripes were a super serious bunch to begin with, but it's nice to see the band inject some humor into their work. Dig the matador outfits and motif.

MySpace Page

(Jonathan Graef)

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Monday, November 26, 2007

Magnetic Fields Reveal Cover Art For Distortion

Courtesy of ye olde Stereogum. Listen to first single "Three Way" here.

(Jonathan Graef)

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Rivers Cuomo - "Blasts Off" Alone

Rivers Cuomo posted a new Rivers-only jam called "Blast Off" on his personal MySpace page (click here to listen) this morning along with a blog entry which stated:

"I've compiled a CD of my favorite demos from the years 1992 to 2007 and Geffen Records has agreed to put it out this December, on the eleventh. I hope you enjoy it. I may also be able to put out more demo CDs in the near future.

I put up one of the songs, Blast Off, on my page.


I want to share with everyone the excitement I felt when I went back and heard the original master tapes of these demos. In most cases, they sounded much better than the mp3s I've been listening to for years--clearer, warmer, deeper. I highly recommend that listeners buy the CD rather than the digital version so that they can enjoy the highest quality listening experience."

(Ian Anderson)


Hell Freezes Over As Music Blogger Engages In Sustained, Strenuous Physical Activity

Download: Tom Petty - "Runnin' Down A Dream"
Download: Liz Phair - "Fuck And Run"
Download: U2 - " Where The Streets Have No Name" ("I want to run...")
Download: U2 - "Running To Stand Still"
Download: Let's Get Out Of This Terrible Sandwich Shop - "Run Through The Mountains"
Download: Arcade Fire - "Keep The Car Running"
Download: Chin Up Chin Up - "We've Got To Keep Running"
Download: Bruce Springsteen - "Born To Run"
Download: The Replacements - "Run It"
Download: Iron Maiden - "Run To The Hills"
Download: The Velvet Underground - "Run Run Run"
Download: Van Halen - "Runnin' With The Devil"

Welcome back from Thanksgiving break to our United States readers! Most of Thursday involved getting my food on. Also, at 9 o'clock Thursday morning, I ran a 8K (5 miles) in Chicago, where I reside, called the Turkey Trot. 2007 is the thirtieth year that the Turkey Trot has been raising money and canned goods for the Greater Chicago Food Depository. Annually, about 5,000 people participate in the run.

Training took about six weeks, and the amount of effort put into working up to running five continuous miles paid off. Like Lenscrafters, it took about an hour. It would have taken even less time, but there was a cramp and/or a pulled muscle in my right calf. As a result, everyone else in the picture above looks smiley and happy, whereas I look like I wish I was dead.

However, the run was undoubtedly for a good cause and finishing was a great reward in and of itself. And so, in belated honor of thanksgiving, running and the Greater Chicago Food Depository, here's playlist of songs that have the word "run" in the title (with one exception). Hope that you enjoy!

(Jonathan Graef)

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To Kill A Petty Bourgeoisie Receive A 6.7 On Pitchfork

Download: To Kill A Petty Bourgeoisie - "Lovers and Liars"

The score is a little on the low side, but Pitchfork's Aaron Leitko makes some interesting points regarding the band's use of a narrative (The Patron tells a story about two merging companies falling in love) and praises the band by saying that "the duo's combination of pop melody and lo-bit-rate noise provides plenty of lilting and creepy moments." However, the review also says that "for all of its myriad atmospheric charms, the sampler-and-guitar set-up inhibits TKPB a little. Plodding lifeless rhythms largely dominate the record and any dynamic shifts come slowly, if at all."

In listening to The Patron, which we reviewed here, the rhythms don't come across as plodding at all, but rather, they have the icy quality of a moving glacier. The Patron sounds like the sonic equivalent of a Stanley Kubrick film (to make a potentially pretentious comparison), with each atmospheric texture serving the same purpose as the film director's long, uninterrupted takes: to look at humanity's failings in as coldly objective way as possible, and to maybe mourn the loss of that humanity. That theme may not necessarily come out explicitly in the lyrics, but the music certainly makes the subtext as clear as it can with the juxtaposition of the haunting, sorrowful vocals and the jarring, detached sonic textures.

Read P4K's take on TKAPB here. The band plays Thursday night at the 7th Street Entry. Buy tickets here. Update: Never mind, show has been canceled. However, the openers for TKAPB are still playing, if you are interested in seeing them.

MySpace Page

(Jonathan Graef)

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Band To Know: Gospel Gossip - "Shadows Are Bent"

Download: Gospel Gossip- "Shadows Are Bent"

Gospel Gossip are a trio from Northfield, MN, who merge together the wistfulness of three different kinds of sub-genres: there's the longing wistfulness of vintage girl-groups from the 50s, mainly in the sighing female vocals; the swirling, feedback-laden destructive wistfulness of shoegazer bands like Ride; and the jangly wistfulness of the bands from the 80s who successfully reinterpreted and reincoporated the folk-rock of the 60s into a more introspectively visceral sound (groups like R.E.M. and Echo & The Bunneymen come to mind).

The end result of all of these musical elements in constant collision is not a band overdosing on ennui, but rather creating transcendent melodies based on mundane things like walking around with too many thoughts in your head. "Shadows Are Bent" details such an event, along with the efforts of trying to alleviate the boredom that comes with the territory of thinking way too much about things. The ringing, opening chords set the jangly mood which slowly and steadily carries the rest of the band to a ringing, glorious climax. Should there be a Gen Z-remake (or whatever the young people of a few decades from now will be called) of Lost In Translation, the future Sophia Coppola would do good to include these tracks from Gospel Gossip on the soundtrack, like the sadly beautiful "Lucky Lemmings". The song is the musical lovechild of The Ronnettes' "Be My Baby" and Ride's "Dreams Burn Down", with the slow, heartbeat-like drum of the former colliding with the heartbroken, reverb-drenched guitars of the latter.

Check that track out at the group's MySpace Page and listen to "Shadows Are Bent" at the top of the post.

Gospel Gossip are playing on Friday, Nov. 30th at the Hexagon.

MySpace Page

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New Demo from Husbands, Love Your Wives

Husbands, Love Your Wives

Throw Me The Statue

Download: Throw Me The Statue - "Conquering Kids"
Download: Throw Me The Statue - "About To Walk"
Download: Throw Me The Statue - "Lolita"

The season has finally transitioned into winter, at least in my neck of the woods. It's cloudy and foggy all the time, it's dark when I get out of lab, and I caught myself wearing four sweaters under a jacket last night.

That means that it's high time to bust out the winter artists and albums, which is where a group like Husbands, Love Your Wives come in. Consisting of Jamie Spiess and Scott Reitherman, the tiny, but magical Seattle-based duo just released another demo last week on MySpace.

"Put The Hatchet Down" is a minimalist little folk song that probably wouldn't catch the listener's attention that much if it weren't for Speiss' adorable voice; the way Speiss pips up over the mellow and slightly dreary folk on HLYW's tracks pretty much encapsulates the feeling of a Minnesota winter. Since everything on HLYW MySpace is in demo form, production and mixing are obviously not top priorities. But ultimately, it's a good thing when someone sits down with a guitar and arrives at a sound this nice without any production tricks.

Since Scott Reitherman has already been brought up, we might as well talk about his other band, Throw Me the Statue. TMTS is just coming off of a flurry of activity following the release of their album, Moonbeams. I found out about them when they were opening for Jens Lekman earlier this fall.

is out on Baskerville Hill Records and is a phenomenally fun record laden with bouncy pop and burbling synth. Oddly enough, it's definitely a summer record. If I were you, I'd buy a sunlamp to go along with it. As I was picking out mp3s for this post, the juxtaposition of the jangle on most of Moonbeams with the weather outside made me feel like my life is being mocked by the whole damn universe.

Purchase Throw Me The Statue and Husbands, Love Your Wives albums here

Husbands, Love Your Wives MySpace Page
Throw Me The Statue MySpace

(April Wright)

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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Georgie James - "Places"

Download: Georgie James - "Places"
Download: Georgie James - "Long Week"

D.C.-based Georgie James are the sleeper hit band of the year. Although they did a brief stint with Camera Obscura last year, GJ pretty much came out of nowhere this summer, and came out swinging.

"Places" (Saddle Creek, 2007) is a wonderful record. In fact, it may be the best non-Oberstian record to come out on the label in years. It's clever, well-constructed and just freaking catchy without being too sugar-coated.

However, I wasn't completely convinced if their ass-kickingness until they performed at the 7th St. Entry on Nov. 10, which blew me away. Laura Burhenn and John Davis were both completely charming and the pop-rock was just flowing over me like, like a wave of pop-rock.

My two favorite songs are above, but the best song both on the record and live was "Long Week," which jangles along a descend piano line that brings out Burhenn's soulful voice and powerful presence.

After spending some time with the band, I inferred a few key elements of their essence: a.) they're actually super good friends, which was refreshing to see and b.) Q and Not U has nothing to do with this band. I know, I know, Davis was the drummer, but this band is a completely different beast, and it was clear that all he gets wherever he goes is, "Hey weren't you that guy in..." and so on.

GJ just released a music video today for "Need Your Needs" and also performed on the Current last week. To stream the Current performance, click here.

Check out this video: Georgie James - Need Your Needs

Thanks to Elliot Manthey who took these pictures at the Entry show, there's even one of him and Davis that I thought was too funny not to post (featured below).

Georgie James on MySpace

(Ian Anderson)

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Mountain Goats Announce Album Title And Release Date

Download: The Mountain Goats - "Source Decay"
Download: The Mountain Goats - "Dance Music"
Download: The Mountain Goats - "No Children"
Download: The Mountain Goats - "Minnesota"

In my daily wishful glance at the Mountain Goats homepage (oh, John Darnielle, won't you come back and play "The Sign" for me?) and Last Plane To Jakarta I found something actually worth reporting.


Well, technically it was announced back in July. But now we have a release date and a title. Heretic Pride will be out on Feb. 19th, just in time for my 21st birthday.

The album is being produced by Scott Solter and the awesomely fantastic John Vanderslice. On top of it, Annie Clark (from St. Vincent) is going to appear on the album, which will surely send Jon Graef into spasms of pleasure.

The tracklist is as follows:
1. Sax Rohmer #1
2. San Bernardino
3. Heretic Pride
4. Autoclave
5. New Zion
6. So Desperate
7. In the Craters on the Moon
8. Lovecraft in Brooklyn
9. Tianchi Lake
10. How to Embrace a Swamp Creature
11. Marduk T-Shirt Men's Room Incident
12. Sept 15 1983
13. Michael Myers Resplendent

I'm really excited about this and I'm already formulating all kinds of ideas about what these songs are about. I wonder if "Sept. 15 1983" is a revisit of the encounters described in "Source Decay," in which Darnielle sings about a former friend with whom he visited Bangkok in 1983. Well, Harry Potter, eat your heart out. I have new unanswered questions to ponder.

The Mountain Goats Official Website

(April Wright)

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Video: Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings - "Amazing Grace"

(YouTube via Music Slut)

This is a performance that was taken from French television. While you're watching the video, check out the photos of Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings show at First Ave. from last Friday over at More Cowbell.

MySpace Page

(Jonathan Graef)

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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Lily Allen Is A Smug Bitch And Other Subtle Characterizations

Download: Lily Allen -"Everything Is Just Wonderful"

The last issue of Rolling Stone has one especially useful little tidbit: an article containing various performers' reactions to Radiohead's release of In Rainbows. I decided to make it a separate post because the types of comments left on it would be more discussion-based and wouldn't have much to do with talking about RS in general.

has some good songs, but she's kind of dumb sometimes. On Radiohead's decision to allow fans to pay whatever they want for In Rainbows, she had this to say: "It's arrogant for them to give their music away for free - they've got millions of pounds. It sends a weird message to younger bands who haven't done as well. You don't choose how to pay for eggs, why should it be different for music?"

Well, that's rich coming from someone who owes much of her success to MySpace, which is a more-or-less free publicity vehicle. I'm not sure what the weird message Radiohead is sending is supposed to be, and I'm don't know why paying for luxury items is equated with paying for food, but how on Earth is doing something nice for your fans arrogant? Would it be arrogant to play a free show?

Now that we're all over the novelty of Radiohead's method, I think we can appreciate that this might not be as revolutionary everyone initially raved. I think Mike Mills from R.E.M. hit the nail on the head with his reaction: "My faith in humanity is not such that I would leave it up to the consumer to decide how much to pay for music. At the same time, I enjoy watching Radiohead take that risk. I wish them the best of luck."

(Note to Mike Mills: R.E.M. has a lot of cash from that $100 million dollar deal you signed…you guys could probably afford to do this)

Similar reactions highlighting the viability of this model for successful performers came from Stone Gossard of Pearl Jam, and Will.i.Am of the Black Eyed Peas.

I still feel good about what Radiohead did. I suspected that it might not be as viable for new bands who don't have much of a following, but is this really that different than putting up your album to stream on MySpace? It's pretty easy to get programs that extract music from a page without paying anything. I feel like Radiohead's plan might be the solution casual music listeners need to get back into buying albums. And die-hard Radiohead fans are still going to shell out full price for the hard copy when it comes out, so I don't see how this could hurt them. On the other hand, I do see how this could be an issue for a smaller band without the support base of diehards who will buy and cherish everything they ever do.

Now that the hype and hysteria is over, what do you all think about the way Radiohead released In Rainbows? Is this a viable model for small bands? Is the public ready to start setting the cost?

Lily Allen MySpace Page

(April Wright)

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Film Review: Joe Strummer: The Future Is Unwritten

Joe Strummer: The Future Is Unwritten
Dir. Julien Temple, 2007
Grade: B

Download: The Clash - "London Calling"
Download: The Clash - "I Fought The Law"
Download: The Clash - "Lost In The Supermarket"
Download: The Clash - "Rock the Casbah"
Download: The Clash - "Should I Stay or Should I Go?"
Download: The Clash - "Rudie Can't Fail"
Download: The Clash - "Stay Free"
Download: The Clash - "This Is Radio Clash"
Download: The Clash - "Spanish Bombs"
Download: The Clash - "Tommy Gun"
Download: The Clash - "White Riot"
Download: Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros - "Johnny Appleseed"
Download: Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros - "Willesden To Cricklewood"
Download: The 101ers - "Keys to Your Heart"

There are two distinct types of particularly earnest young men: the first is a long-haired, lanky and bearded fellow and the other is an earnest, but also cynical, lanky short-haired young man. One is a hippie and the other is a punk. Both question the very nature of authority. However, one key difference is that the punk is overtly antagonistic, bordering on nihilistic; the other, while also anti-establishment, focused more on beauty, peace and love.

One of the many, many friends, admirers, family members and former bandmates (just to name a few) who appear in the documentary Joe Strummer: The Future Is Unwritten makes the observation that Strummer started out as a hippie, evolved into a punk, and then, after a 10-year hiatus following the dissolution of The Clash, emerged a hippie again.

The Future Is Unwritten shows how, why and where Strummer became a fascinating complex figure in rock. And Strummer was nothing if not complex. He was the son of a diplomat who played a key part in making some of the most confrontational music of its time. He was a genuine individual who insisted on telling the truth at all costs, but who also made up new identities for himself. He grew up relatively privileged, but became a spokesperson for the disenfranchised. Then, as if that weren't enough of a conundrum, he became rich and famous for being said spokesperson.

Temple throughly explores these questions by taking the exact same approach he did for The Sex Pistols in The Filth And The Fury. That is, using archival footage (including film of Strummer's bands before The Clash, especially the 101ers), home films and bits of pop culture to create ironic juxtaposition (dig those Animal Farm references) and make commentary about the subject himself. Temple's other artistic device is to frame the film by using campfires--if you're a fan, you'll understand why--as narrative motifs. He also chooses not to include any titles for the people who are speaking about Strummer.

These artistic approaches have their advantages--with the former, one gets the sense of how Strummer struggled with how to balance his ideals with the pursuit of artistic excellence and success (something a certain Schmevin Schmarnes may want to take note of); the latter creates an warm, inviting atmosphere where those who knew Strummer best can open up about him, which in turn makes for a more informative, revealing film.

The problem is that Temple's stylistic touches over threaten to overwhelm the film itself. In The Filth And The Fury, contrasting Johnny Rotten with Richard III seemed both darkly appropriate and ironic. In The Future Is Unwritten, the contrast Temple draws between Joe Strummer and Napolean from Animal Farm is fitting (for reasons involving Strummer's personal life), but also is jarring and takes the viewer out of the realism of the film.

Fuck, how else could one react to a talking pig?

As far as not having titles identifying those speaking at the campfires, it's pretty obvious that we don't need to have Bono (who makes his 19,233rd rockumentary appearance with this film), Steve Buscemi or John Cusack introduced to us. But when a relative unknown speaks eloquently and truthfully about Strummer's music and life--Don Letts, for example--it's incredibly annoying that we don't get to find out who he is. During this time, the viewer should be reflecting upon Strummer's accomplishments and legacy. Instead, we're referring to people who aren't Johnny Depp as "what's-his-nuts".

Still, there's a lot of information about Strummer that the film delves into with humor, pathos and passion. While some more insight into the records that The Clash made (I don't think Give Em Enough Rope was even discussed), this is a documentary about Joe Strummer, and a fine one at that.

Those who want to see an insightful film about an undeniably influential, talented and ingenious performer and an interesting man should be able to disregard any artistic indulges in the name of watching a solid documentary about their idol.

The Clash Official Website

(Jonathan Graef)

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