Thursday, November 22, 2012

Revisiting: OK Computer

I'm late getting to this post, but I've been rolling it around in my head for a while. Reason: I am deeply confused by this pitchfork reader's poll, which named Radiohead's OK Computer the most significant album of the last fifteen years.
I know. Reader's polls. Pitchfork. Each one is an easy reason to dismiss the list. Combine them, and it's kind of pointless to even waste a minute worrying about it. What we have here is basically a guide to the formation of hipster taste, as imagined by hipsters.

I don't want to beat up on hipsters too badly. I'm probably one of them. But if you're canonizing OK Computer, you're ripping it out of its context. That's what canonization does; hipsters could look at their parents and learn how this works. Elvis, the Stones, the Beatles: when you pull them out of history, you lose the depth of field you need to assess what their music was doing in the culture around it, other than frothy inaccuracies like “it changed EVERYTHING” or “it just sounded like NOTHING ELSE,” etc etc.

What OK Computer did to the culture around it—and I remember it being celebrated right away as something like the future of rock music—is make electronic music safe for the mainstream again. Remember The Prodigy? They were the other big breakout band of 1997, the year of OK Computer. They did a sort of comic book version of the punk-electronica clash that bands like Refused and Atari Teenage Riot made the moment's sound of choice for some critics. (Pitchfork wasn't around yet to lobby for a certain tasteful blandness. You could still be tacky and overbearing and get listened to.)

Refused and ATR were radical leftists. The Prodigy had no politics, though you could probably argue that they embodied a warped mirror image everything social conservatives feared in 90s rave culture: they were loud, extravagantly dressed, probably fucked up on pills, threatening, multiracial. Pure difference, in a way that tries too hard.

They were also, it seemed at the time, the future of rock and electronic music. "Breathe" was on modern rock radio. The future was in the air: Refused called their album The Shape of Punk to Come, ATR was releasing The Future of War, politics claimed to have found a Third Way that cured capitalism's excesses, and so radical politics resorted to a dour millenarianism. The Prodigy also wanted to embody that future. This was not a reassuring idea. Their imaginary world was half Billy Idol and half nightmare frat party. “Smack my bitch up?” Shut the fuck up. These guys were like the Gilbert Gottfried of pop music: calculatedly annoying, and pushing taste into a place where they were easy to dismiss.

So Radiohead basically saved rock from this bullshit. It's not necessarily a bad thing. But to call OK Computer the most significant album of the last twenty years is to basically say that we'd rather have music that doesn't want to challenge middle class taste. The Prodigy were terrible, but the bands whose shoulders they stood on weren't. Radiohead pushed them all off the critics' desks, and made it so that criticism doesn't have to talk about art and politics in the same sentence, ever. Say what you want about Thom Yorke's politics, which I'm fine with, but the music isn't trying that hard to upset anyone. And neither is Pitchfork, and neither, it seems, are their readers--just look at how introspective and tortured the rest of that top ten is on their list.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Revisiting - Pennywise

It's kind of funny the shit you get up to on a long airplane ride.

Generally, I'm an album listener.  I like albums.  But when you're in that slumbery never-neverland 8 hours into a flight, it's tough to commit.  So I started exploring a bit.  And I stumbled upon Pennywise.  I was going to specify Pennywise, but look at any of the first three (Pennywise, Unknown Road, About Time) and you really can't go wrong.  But check out Wikipedia.  Can you believe this fuckers are still making music?  Okay, Full Circle was a decent album.  But that's a "classic" now?  Jesus Christ.

Incidentally.  I work with a religious dude.  He says "fuck".  He says "shit".  But he's visibly distressed when I say "hell" or "jesus christ".  I'm struggling to adapt.

So.  Back to Pennywise.  So many good songs.  And, it's not embarrassing to listen to this music, what...20 years later.  They were just so fast.  Some of the solos are a bit embarrassing, but nobody can touch this right now.

Okay.  The whole of Pennywise is just fucking awesome.  I guess I should have specified that one.  Wouldn't It Be Nice.  Rules.  The Secret.  Living for Today.  Come Out Fighting.  Ending of with Bro Hymn.  Come on.  It's a classic.

Then you have...Man.  Just go listen to that album.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Revisiting - Gob

I have a new challenge for you guys to not do every month - come up with an old album that needs revisiting.

I'm going to start us off with the Gob EP from 1994 (Holy shit I can't believe there is a Wikipedia entry for this).  Honestly, I think that this album is about as important as any to me as far as learning to love music.  I didn't really have much experience with music released on anything other than a major label before this.
Gob rolled through Kamloops around this time.  I think my friends band was talking to them about opening, but they never did.  But I remember the show and they seemed so...just beyond all of the other things I was listening to.

I bought this little EP and it stayed in my CD player for weeks.  I'd listen to it 3-4 times in a row, no problem.  These were the days of lots of Pixies and Jane's Addiction and whatnot for me.  I'd consciously avoided the whole Offspring/Bad Religion thing that was going on.  It scratched an itch.

And listening to it now, man, it's actually really stood the test of time.  It didn't fall victim to the horrible staccato drumming of pop punk that would come in the next few years.  There seems to be a reason that I really liked it.  Too bad all the shit they made after this EP kind of sucked.

Oh wait.  Bad drums show up on the last song.  I forgot about that.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Friday, August 3, 2012

"Thanks, King."

In the spirit of the Olympics. I just got on the internet and found out a little more about Jim Thorpe.

Why? Here's why: won both the decathlon and the pentathlon in the 1912 Olympics, after which King Gustav of Sweden (the Olympics were in Stockholm that year) reportedly said, "You, sir, are the greatest athlete in the world." Thorpe replied, "Thanks, King." Played three professional sports: baseball, football, and basketball. He was good at all of them, but best as a football fullback, where most agreed he was a pain in the ass to tackle. There are awards, days, and a town in Pennsylvania named after him. Half Native American (Potawotomi). Had his medals stripped, then reinstated, because of racists and apologists.

Why, though? Check the picture. It's from Stockholm in 1912, when he won those two events, pentathlon and decathlon, which is really like winning every event. He's wearing two different shoes. His own shoes got ripped off and he wore two mismatched ones that he found in a trash bin, with an extra sock on one foot.

(thanks to Wikipedia and, yes, My Daguerreotype Boyfriend.)

Monday, July 30, 2012

Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey

I'll firmly admit that I'm only listening to this due to the recent Pitchfork reissue review.  But I just put on Paul McCartney's Ram (perhaps this is a subconscious result of the Olympics?  Have you noticed that everybody that is not an official Olympic broadcaster is digging up all sort of British movies to show all of a sudden?).  Anyhow, I just realized that Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey is one of my favourite songs ever.  It's immediately recognizable, but I always assumed it was a Beatles song.  It has a magical, irreverent Sgt. Pepper's feel to it.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012


As I get older, I no longer have the eloquence to explain my obsessions.  However.  Holy shit you have to watch this show.  This thing hits all of the necessary nails on the heads.  Espionage. Terrorism.  Iraq.  Etc.

Start watching an you will be finished in a week.  Guaranteed.  We can have a discussion after that because I don't want to give up any spoilers.

Royal Headache

I listened to this album twice in succession today.  I may even listen to it on my drive home (Yes.  Yes I did).  I haven't done that in a long time.

I couldn't put my finger on exactly what it was that made it stand out.  The ingredients do not suggest greatness (3 man garage rock).  But something about it suggests more than that.  Hints of greatness.  It's like you're listening to a classic rock station blaring out nameless 60's rock hits, but they've somehow updated it to modern standards.  I went and read the Pitchfork review and they put all of the success on the singers shoulders.  Perhaps that is it.  Regardless, have a listen.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Why Girls and that Creepy Adam Dude are Great

So.  We've been watching Girls.  And I wasn't sold at first, but it's really grown on me.  I can in no way explain this.  It doesn't seem to be a show written for me.

And as I look at the show, I realize that my feelings for the show have changed as my understanding of Creepy Adam have.  Them be spoilers.  Down there.

So, we start off with Adam being this weird dude that treats girls like shit and does creepy weird things.  He seems like a real asshole.  And all you can think is "Why would somebody sleep with this asshole?"

But then, she starts trying to date him.  Really pursuing him in, well, pursuit of a relationship.  And all you can think is "Why would somebody want to date this asshole?"

But then it all changes.  Suddenly.  His response to this sort of childish longing based on nothing is "You don't know me.  You don't know anything about me.  You've never tried to know me and you're in love with some sort of image of me."  Which seems entirely true and really insightful.

And then it's all summed up (paraphrase) in one statement made about this character: "Is he the deepest guy ever or just a total fucking asshole".  I'm going to go look that quote up right now.  Nope.  Here it is. "Is he like a great thinker or just a total fucking idiot?"  Much better.
And then as the show progresses, you start to see it.  Here is a guy that may be an asshole, but he's completely up front and honest about everything he is an asshole about.  He doesn't promise something up and not deliver.  He doesn't skulk around in the background screwing people over.  He just tells you exactly what he's about and you can either accept that or not.  And really, how can you possibly complain about that?

And then, he just seems completely and entirely aware of himself and what he is doing and who he is and, maybe not where he's going, but at least knows his direction.  And he can see through your bullshit and not accept it.  And that is why I think this guy is great.  He has a surety of self that almost borders on arrogance.  But it isn't.  And that's why I like him.  I admire the decisiveness.  Wow.  "Decisiveness".  Try spelling that correctly the first time.

And yes, he's still an asshole.  But, really, he's kind of awesome at the same time.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

I watched this so that you don't have to - Real Housewives of Vancouver

So, a month or so back the hype machine of Real Housewives of Vancouver really hit.  And I will admit, it made me angry.  I think it was supposed to make me angry, so I guess mission accomplished.

Anyhow, I got a bit up in arms that they would glamourize the life of the wife of a should-have-been-convicted-of-murder gangster.  I can understand that they would want that notoriety.  But it still made me angry.  I had visions of watching this ridiculous shit so that I could cast shame down upon anything remotely attached to the show.  Luckily, I don't spend much time at Earl's or the Cactus Club, so it probably won't be an issue whatever happens.

So I watched this show.  And let's not fool ourselves, this show is shit and these women are idiots.  Just total fucking idiots whose redeeming qualities are buried way too far for television to see.

But I wasn't angry as I watched.  See, I think they want me to be angry.  I think they want all the rage and the "How could she!" and all the crap that goes along with it.  And the characters that these women play are just so superficially shallow that it's sad to watch.

Now, allow me to expand on that.  Yes, these woman are most likely a batch of tarts that I wouldn't wish to spend more than 5 minutes around.  But their TV character are even worse.  This show is just so painfully staged that it's hard to feel anything but sad for these ladies.  You can sense the producer off camera telling them that it's now time to argue.  You can see when he flips the switch and tells them to get drunk and act stupid.  And it's one thing for a poor loser to sell his soul for a television show.  But there's something much, much, much more troubling about a batch of people with more money than sense throwing their remaining shame away for the fame attached to a really crappy TV show.

So, I'm not going to let it bother me that these walking facelifts are poncing about town celebrating their 15th thirtieth birthday in a cloud of shame.  Just ignore them.  Please.  Ignore them.  And maybe they will go away.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Reddit Memes

I know.  I e-mailed you guys about this yesterday.  And you don't even care.  But it's just so funny and here it is again.

Lazy College Senior
Engineering Professor