Friday, July 30, 2010

Baby octopus!

Told you so.

Via Oceangal.

Music in crisis part 99

I love to read Bob Lefsetz' column. He can be a little freewheeling and stream-of-consciousness, but he knows the music business and has a pretty clear idea where it came from and where it's going.

Here's a little breakdown:

Quote all the SoundScan statistics you want. Then call Eric Garland at BigChampagne. Illegal trading of files far outstrips physical sales, to the point where the latter are essentially irrelevant. End result, everybody’s got a lot of music, and this is good. The only piece of the puzzle left is to move the public to paid services providing everything all the time for a low price. Emphasis on low price. The majors refuse to win this war, refuse to collect a little if it insures they won’t collect a lot. But rental/streaming/rented tracks living on handsets is the legal solution that’s imminent. Just like digital books.

We’re in the midst of a revolution, that’s what you can’t see amidst the chaos. People have not stopped making music. Everybody has access to recording equipment, everybody has access to distribution, leading to an incomprehensible marketplace. But for how long?

Search was baffling until Google. Now no one complains they can’t find what they’re looking for online.

In a matter of years you’ll be able to find all the great new music. Algorithms won’t be irrelevant, but human opinion will be key. In other words, the musicians doing it for the music first will beget online sites where it’s about the music first instead of profit/selling advertising.

I keep reading Jack White (of course - I have google alerts set) talking about how things are different today and musicians have to do different things to make a living. But that's not the case. The fact is, music was different for forty years, 1960 to 2000. Now, it's back to where it was. A forty year bubble in popular musician's remuneration when considered over the 45,000 years of music making... or let's just be conservative and say 3,500 years of music making... is not a norm that can be re-established. It was a peculiarity, and using magical thinking, like only recording using reel-to-reels and vinyl records in an attempt to invoke the manifestation of the rock and roll demon, is not going to work.

You have to love the music to buy it. You have to love the merchandise, and you have to love the artists. For all my bitching about White, he is putting in the effort to have the merchandise and mystique out there. But he does seem to think that a vinyl record (mastered from CD) is a triumph of its own, when in fact it's a buggy whip. A lovely collectible buggy whip, but a buggy whip nevertheless.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

10 Writing Tips to get behind

Here are some writerly do's and don'ts that hit hard. Especially as if she saw me using a cliche like 'writerly do's and don'ts' she'd take my head off with an axe. I've read a lot of writing advice over the years and most of it takes pages to explain concepts natural writers already know, or embody. This one has some advice I'm going to have to learn to incorporate, because she's right.

10 Writing Tips

Seen via Velcro City

And don't bother me about the apostrophe placement in do's and don'ts. Just...don't.

Friday, July 23, 2010

The Dead Weather, Hollywood Palladium, July 21st 2010

That was indeed a weird show. I enjoyed it, but I'm going to rate it as "differently enjoyable".

(Teaser post yesterday featuring drunk Jack attempting to stand up and sing here.)

The support band was Harlem. I'd seen them supporting the Dead Weather in San Diego two days before and I thought they were good. They have an energetic retro sound that reminds me a bit of The Ramones and a lot of The Jam, but with nice clear 60s punk and R&B vocals over the top. Today was a different story. They played about four similar songs, endlessly tuning and talking between them. The sound at the Palladium is bad, and I couldn't tell what they were talking about. Possibly others couldn't tell either, or maybe it was just boring banter because most of the crowd didn't respond to it either. Eventually, one of the singers said, "We should have brought airplane pillows for you guys to rest your heads on." Yep, when music falls flat blame the audience.

They played some other low-battery tunes and eventually one of them said, "Hey, Palladium, is it because we're a tiny little band that doesn't matter?" In front of me one woman was doing wrist stretches and another was looking at a gallery of baby pictures on her phone. Then they tried the never-fail opening band standby, "Is anybody here excited about the Dead Weather?" LA knows manipulative speech when it hears it and didn't respond. Then they had a prolonged sotto voce discussion about what they were going to play for the last song. One of them suggested rock and roll, which they debated for literally a minute, but another recommended "the opposite of rock and roll". So they finished on a slow number and left quietly, as in you could have heard a pin drop.

Jack introduces the band with the comment about how he's hoping "gentlemen admirers" contact him while he's in California. (I think that can be arranged, Jack. Do you bottom or top?)

Then behatted suited men arrived and started arranging familiar things around the stage. Jack's Sam Kay drum set, half a dozen gorgeous guitars, boot-scuffed monitors. Behind Jack's stool was a Jacob's Ladder, staple of Frankenstein films. The young men behind me hadn't ever seen one before, although when I briefly explained it, they immediately saw the similarity to a Tesla coil, so Jack is certainly helping improve the education in this country when it comes to Steampunk physics. On top of four of the lighting towers were blue-horned animal busts. I'm thinking they were wild sheep, goat, oryx and bongo, though the latter could have been an antelope. During the support act they were covered up. One of the roadies came to the front of the stage, took a bow, and took off the cover of each one in turn while the audience screamed. This struck me as really weird. I mean I've known people who invented religions - no, I really do know people who have invented religions- and that's a bit weird. But getting 4000 people to scream at a goat within two weeks of the introduction of the idol is pretty good going.

For the first time in the six or so shows I've seen, instead of going straight from Captain Beefheart to racket to 60 Feet Tall (or other chosen opener) they messed around. Jack walked to the front with his hat on, ostentatiously popped a champagne cork and arrogantly chucked it into the crowd. He then pouted his way over to Alison, handed her the bottle, got behind his kit and then the band went into 60 Feet Tall.

60 Feet Tall with intro. You can't really see Jack hurl the cork, but you can see him swearily hand over the champage bottle to Alison.

60 Feet Tall.
Jack attempting to remove a champagne cork while off his tree.

60 Feet Tall
Good shots of the goat or whatever it is

The crowd erupted like a BP deep-sea oil well with an inoperative blowout preventer, and immediately there was no chance to take notes, no chance to even stay on my feet. Between and during songs there were at least three rants from Jack. The sound was so bad I couldn't tell what they were about until I saw the videos on YouTube the next day. I asked the guy behind me about one, and he said, "Something about the governor and money". It turned out to be a tirade about a plan to put Ronald Reagan's mug on the $50 bill. The words "motherfucking" and "goddamn" featured prominently. For You Just Can't Win, Jack was helped to the front of the stage by a bearded guy dressed as a roadie and was held up swaying for a moment like James motherfucking Brown before singing the song straight, if rather drunkenly. (See yesterdays post for a video.)

I Cut Like A Buffalo

By the middle of the set, I had to get out of there. I'd ricked my knee two days before, dancing in San Diego to the sounds of um, that would be The Dead Weather, and had no strength to push away marauders. Two tall skinny young ladies managed to force their way that deep into the crowd, squashed the woman in front of me and stood there with their cameras. One held it with her hand against her shoulder when not in use so the lit white screen was covering my view of the stage and blinding me at the same time. The crowd was pushing so hard - not moshing, just pushing - that I was lifted off the floor and my ribs were getting crushed. The squashed girl in front of me bailed - and I'd promised her she was going to have a good time seeing this band, too. Another strong, fit-looking woman gave up then. I couldn't see, and I was close to being injured, so I also made my way to the back, limped up to the balcony and watched the band from a distance. The sound was poor there, but not as bad as in the auditorium. I still couldn't hear what Jack was saying. At least I could watch Alison, who had hair the size of a B1 bomber (and it stayed that way - she must have solved her "entire can of hairspray" problem).

I stood next to the mixing desk at one point and watched the lighting man. He had a mixer almost as big as the sound guy's, with lots of sliders and knobs and sequencers. His fingers danced to make the banks of lights complement the music and action and I really admired him - his instrument looked at least as difficult as the musicians' instruments. When the song I watched finished, he jumped back and shouted "Fuck yeah!" completely in the moment.

I can't hear you
I've only watche
d it once, but it appears Jack falls over twice and jumps off the stage once. Or maybe he just fell three times.

Hang You From the Heavens

Die By the Drop

On the way home down the lovely concrete delta of 101 to I5, my mp3 player shuffled up Grace Jones' My Jamaican Guy, followed it with something else - actually Marilyn Manson's Beautiful People - and then Kid 'n' Play's Undercover, which samples the main riff of My Jamaican Guy. Sometimes it's like it knows it's doing this.

Hussle and Cuss

I Cut Like a Buffalo
With tipsy dance at the beginning and bonus rant. He looks a bit like a very large leprechaun.

Live video: You Just Can't Win, The Dead Weather, Hollywood Palladium

Here is a lovely video of an inebriated Jack White being helped to the front of the stage at the Hollywood Palladium on Monday so he can warble a semblance of Van Morrison's You Just Can't Win - after an f-bomb rant. (NSFW)

[Edit: Alas this video was removed]

Yes, the goat on the lighting stack is a goat. There were four ungulates present on stage, not including Little Jack.

I was at this Dead Weather show and will describe it later, with illustrations prominently featuring Jack cursing and falling over. Though to be fair, he did manage to hold on to his drumsticks at least 85% of the time he was drumming, which was about 50% of the time he was on stage.

It was great.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Just sayin' no

Well, maybe the blunt thing isn't deliberate. Here's the Wall Street Journal talking about drugs:

With catchy nicknames like Meow Meow, Spice and NRG-1, the drugs are often sold online as "legal highs." They typically come in powder form and can be snorted, licked or packed into tablets and create highs that mimic drugs ranging from cocaine to ecstasy, which some narcotics experts say has become less available amid a world-wide effort to blunt production.

Maybe I don't write like

The LJ-osphere (is that a word? if not it should be) lets me know that yesterday's post on I Write Like, which was based on a supposed textual analysis by another site, might not actually be, y'know, 100% correct on who I really do write like.

Much of the criticism is a lot of fun, where fans test the site to see what exactly goes into 'writing like' (the word 'duck' features prominently) and some of it is the usual LJ rant on whether the writer of the analysis is only considering white folks (apparently yes).

Fun (Making Light commenters with added ducks)
You're Racist (James Nicoll's commenters)
It's all commercial (Making Light second thoughts)

Thursday, July 15, 2010

I write like...

I write like
William Gibson

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

I plugged in a few paragraphs of fiction and got this. May I say I'm extremely happy with that result.

Neuromancer was the game-changing book for me. I'd read SF forever before that but Neuromancer was the book where I wanted to live. (You may not be surprised to learn that Mad Max II (The Road Warrior) was the film where I wanted to live.) I don't think I write like Gibson, though - his style is quite challenging for me to read, however much I love it. Obviously my own stuff isn't challenging to write in the same way. (All writing is challenging, but I'm not consciously going over my comfort level in a William Gibson direction for effect.)

Just the other day, I was listening to the 1981 Duran Duran track Planet Earth, with its line "some New Romantic looking for the TV sound" and imagined young Bill Gibson thinking, "Surely that's New Romancer - like Necromancer...wait, Neuromancer?" and everything falling into place like lock tumblers. I don't know that for a fact, I just wonder.

For Mad Max lovers, here's the Dead Weather singing Gasoline while their resident artist paints a picture of the incredible Alison Mosshart.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Just sayin'

I went to Netflix to add the movie Stoned (about the Rolling Stones' Brian Jones) to my queue, and Netflix suggested I might also want to rent the movie Too Stoned for TV, which is a documentary about Hip Hop culture and marijuana. Now as it happens I don't, but the capsule review of the movie at the website begins, "This blunt documentary explores...".

Blunt! I get it! I keep seeing things like these and have no idea if they're Freudian slips or sly insertions. A couple of days ago I read the phrase "in-depth reporting is thin on the ground these days".

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Radio One is Wonderful

I was never much of a fan of BBC Radio One. It began in 1967, part of a BBC radio revamp and intended to take back youth radio audiences from the offshore pirate stations. The enduring and possibly indestructible fuddy-duddiness of the BBC (that's why she's known as Auntie Beeb) inflected the station from the beginning and although it didn't suffer too much from the housewives'n'recipes formula of Radio Two, it wasn't exactly edgy. One confined one's listening, as far as possible, to the late evening - John Peel and Bob Harris - when new rock music, as opposed to current pop music, was played. But then, of course, I emigrated to the United States, where pop music was and still is such utter shit that it made British pop sound like a Golden Age of Youthful Exuberance. (Of course I exempt a few, like Michael Jackson, from this shotgun contempt.) Currently I only hear US pop at All You Can Wrangle Down Your Neck Sushi Bar in town, and it appears to currently float loosely around a center of mimsy R&B topped by Auto-Tune vocals, intermixed with an unhealthy percentage of limp folkie droning done by young men with unnaturally quiet acoustic guitars and testosterone peaking at 300 ng/dL on a good day.

Then I bought a new car. New cars come with a free trial of XM radio. Although 15,000 channels of XM consist of US pop as described above (and another 30,000 or so take care of Christian, jazz, classic rock, heavy metal and so forth) one of the channels is BBC Radio One, weirdly time shifted by a few hours, putting it as far as I can tell about half way between when it was actually broadcast in Britain and the time of day it's supposed to be listened to.

When I first heard it, it felt like falling down a rabbit hole. A bizarro world of quaint accents, weird regional tones half of which seemed to have been developed after I left the country, as though dialects sprouted in the Thatcherite weeds and bore strange new fruit carefully plucked by Auntie Beeb and put on display. And in between the chatter is playing some of the most unusual pop I've ever heard. Most of it is dance music, some of it hardcore, and all of it unlike the American stuff. Trance, Drum & Bass, House, Reggae, Dubstep, Electronica of all sorts, some of it actually broadcast from Ibiza, like the real thing. They must still have needle time restrictions, as a seemingly large fraction of it is re-recorded live for the BBC by the original artists, either at Maida Vale studios or in hosts of live and festival venues and interspersed with a number of interviews and guest appearances by the musicians, many of whom have their own home-grown regional accents despite singing in pure bi-coastal American like the best LA artists.

Even the folkies apparently have a pair, or share one, and it's possible to listen to say, Bombay Bicycle Club, a current favorite of the Beeb's, without wanting to shoot them to put them out of their misery. Most of the DJs are the usual Beeb fare, although enhanced now with the magic of instant texting which means a funny story can be instantly followed by ten more funny stories or other reactions from the listeners. Many of their routines are identical to the routines of the seventies and eighties but either they've gotten better at it or I'm getting senile (I don't know which is more likely) because one bit of banter today had the two of us laughing out loud in the car. I haven't listened to the most serious muso DJs as I'm in the car when they're broadcasting daytime school/college fare. (The texts and tweets when I first got the car all concerned "I'm revising for me exams!" and the ones today were all "I'm off on me holidays!" so I'm pretty sure who the audience is, at least that part of the audience the DJs acknowledge on air.) The most muso so far is the excellent Zane Lowe, one of the few I'd already heard of, as his interviews regularly make it back over here. For instance, I have a nice interview of his from last year, with two Maida Vale-recorded live tracks from an apparently genuinely-interested in being there Dead Weather. His regional accent is Kiwi. Some of the DJs can actually DJ, as in mix beats - I assume they go out and play live shows a lot. Many of them seem more at home talking to the teenyboppers and students, though.

It's possible for the music to be dreadful. Listening to The Mystery Jets' Two Doors Down today almost made me rip off my own head and eat it to get away from the Americanitus. MGMT are just whimsical and Oasis-y to get away with their erectile dysfunction music and some, such as fave artist Diana Vickers, really seem to have little going for them. (Except that when we first heard the DJ exclaim "That was DIANA VICKERS!!" I responded, "And her Magic Knickers!!" which has now caught on in the household and it's important she really does form a band with that name.) And of course, on occasion the DJs play American pop, so we can enjoy the Auto-Tune.

The XM free trial ended today, and I didn't renew. Its odd behavior of cutting off for three seconds two seconds after going under a bridge threw me, for a start. (And yes, I know why that happens.) And the $15 a month to continue the subscription seemed outrageous. I'm thinking more like $8 would be a reasonable option.

Right now I'm listening to BBC Radio One's Dubstep show. How, you may be asking yourself? Because the Radio One feed is free on its website. You can listen to it all day long. You don't even have to be in a car!

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

It Never Rains in Southern California

Today, my bedroom has holes through the walls that would admit a large rat, or a small (or determined) raccoon. My bedroom has been the seventh circle of hell for a while, and it's not getting any better.

First, we had the mold remediation guys in to take off the drywall and paint over the mold. Their job was to do that, complete some hepa filtering and go away. For some reason, they instead chose to cut off the lower 18 inches of paper and Kill-Z the stucco. For those people who don't live in the south west, that's probably meaningless. But for us, I shall explain, the paper on the outside of our house is the moisture barrier. Our houses are made of wood papered on the outside, and that's their integrity. The porous outer coat of the house (ours is stucco) is just a physical barrier outside the moisture barrier. Cut the paper at the bottom and the rain will soak through the stucco, run down the paper, and where it's cut, drip onto the wood framing of the house. Not ideal.

Due to other issues with our house, we've just had some regrading outside, and the concrete break-up has damaged the lower part of the stucco. We knew that would happen when we planned it. Not an issue (I hope) as the insurance company had already agreed to replace the stucco when they replace the paper. But for the moment, we have a house with the bottom two feet of drywall taken out (for mold remediation), the bottom two feet of paper taken out (because the mold remediators were idiots) and the bottom foot of outer stucco knocked off during regrading.

No one (who is not worried about sneaky evil raccoons) would worry, except this is the first July 7th in Southern California in human history where it's actually rained. WTF would believe I could have the stucco and paper both off my house in JULY and it's raining? So far it's been mild rain and there's some indication we'll have the house back in one piece before the actual floods start.

But I'm not holding my breath. And tonight I'm sleeping in a room with a raccoon-sized hole in the wall, again.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Prince of Wails

Prince - the artist formerly known as the Artist Formerly Known As Prince - recently railed against the internets. Not because they were failing to make him a profit, or the home of pirates, but because they were 'over'.

‘The internet’s completely over. I don’t see why I should give my new music to iTunes or anyone else. They won’t pay me an advance for it and then they get angry when they can’t get it.

‘The internet’s like MTV. At one time MTV was hip and suddenly it became outdated. Anyway, all these computers and digital gadgets are no good.

‘They just fill your head with numbers and that can’t be good for you.’

I learned about this sentiment on the internet, since I don't have newspapers during the week or TV at all. I'm willing to believe whatever Prince used to see on the internet is over, but I'm pretty sure the general concept is still soldiering on despite its presumed irrelevance.

In the spirit of obsolescence, I re-present All Your Base Are Belong To Us. It's from 2001, or thereabouts.

I loved that one. Shame the interwebs are over. And shame that the last Prince record I bought was in about 1988 or kind of like that.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Eurockéennes -The Dead Weather

I thought I'd lay off the Dead Weather for a while, but they've forced me back into it. Here they are at Eurockéennes, Belfort city. It's a killer version of Will There Be Enough Water, which is a standout track any time, but here is a total motherfucker. As a bonus, Jack gets to insult a moron who climbs on the stage, Little Jack completely kills it with a Bonham-level assault on the drums at the end, and Jack (playfully) knocks Baby Ruthless over, once again. The Dead Weather are playing the sort of shows that haven't been seen for thirty years and might never be seen again. I'm going to see them twice this month because I do know what I got before it's gone, and it might be gone in a couple of months.

Dead Weather Interviews from UK Radio

Courtesy of our friend Mike, three long interviews from the recent UK tour - with Steve Lamacque, Zane Lowe and Vic Galloway.

These are flac files (think VLC player) which have been rar'd.

Part 1
Part 2

Sunday, July 04, 2010

The Dead Weather at Glastonbury

Here's a link to the BBC's Dead Weather at Glastonbury video, courtesy of Mike. Any BBC feed except Radio One is unavailable here in the US, so I can't see it, but here it is if you can. For the rest of us, Traders' Den has the goods here. That is a UK PAL DVD, but if you are a torrenter you can probably figure that bit out.

That is a hella backdrop. Much as I loved the rorschach thingy, that's a doozy.

Serious collectors of this stuff may want to try the traders' forum White Swirl, or the traders' threads at The Little Room, by the way. That's why I don't post all of this stuff's already on teh webz.


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