Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Many Of Donald Trump's 2017 Twitter Attacks/Rants/Spats

Here was Donald Trump's 2017, essentially, considering he and the Republicans passed just one bill of note:

And that's notwithstanding his Twitter was with North Korean President Kim Jong-un.

I'm sure glad he gets along with everybody, 'cause I'd hate to see a world where he doesn't.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Video Of The Week: Temple Of The Dog

In the beginning, there was Malfunkshun. It was Easter Sunday in Seattle, in 1980. They owed a lot to Kiss and T-Rex as far as sound and look goes, perhaps with a bit more distortion in their guitars.

They played for years with such Seattle luminaries The U-Men (est. 1981), Melvins (1983), Green River (1984) and Soundgarden (1984); they were all friends. So much so that Malfunkshun's lead singer, Andrew Wood, started playing with Green River's Jeff Ament and Stone Gossard and formed Mother Love Bone, then moved in and became roommates with Soundgarden's Chris Cornell. The other half of Green River formed Mudhoney, who went on to have some success of their own.

In 1990, Wood died of a heroin overdose, which deeply affected all of his friends - and Cornell in particular; he wrote twelve moving songs in tribute to his best friend, ten of which made it onto Temple Of The Dog's self-titled record, a project he included Wood's Mother Love Bone bandmates in, including a new singer they'd brought in to front their new unit, then-named Mookie Blaylock in honor of the basketball star but would soon be renamed Pearl Jam, a Chicago-via-San Diego surfer/artist called Eddie VedderSoundgarden's Matt Cameron was on drum duty, having done the same on the Gossard's demo that prompted Vedder to move up North to try out for the new band, and PJ's lead guitarist Mike McCready was invited as well.

It was thus no lie when the Temple Of The Dog CD was adorned with a sticker that read "Pearl Jam + Soundgarden = Temple Of The Dog", and the video for Hunger Strike, which remains one of the best songs of the 1990s, made full use of all members sporting plaid shirts and shorts with underalls. It was directed by Paul Rachman and featured such Pacific Northwest staples as a beach, a "forest" and the West Point Lighthouse:

Cornell didn't actually think much of the song originally, until Vedder came along and added his twist to it:
When we started rehearsing the songs, I had pulled out "Hunger Strike" and I had this feeling it was just kind of gonna be filler, it didn't feel like a real song. Eddie was sitting there waiting for a (Mookie Blaylock) rehearsal and I was singing parts, and he kind of humbly - but with some balls - walked up to the mic and started singing the low parts for me because he saw it was kind of hard (and I was struggling). We got through a couple choruses of him doing that and suddenly the light bulb came on in my head, this guy's voice is amazing for these low parts. History wrote itself after that, (and it) became the single.
In music, history is often made accidentally. Lightning in a bottle.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Video Of The Week: Fergie

Unbeknownst to be, I've been following Fergie's career since I was six years old, as she starred in the long-syndicated in the U.S. (but hard to find in Canada beyond 1986) TV show Kids Incorporated as Stacy Ferguson, alongside Jennifer Love Hewitt, Eric Balfour (24), Martika (who sang the theme song, and the mega-hit Toy Soldiers a few years later), Mario Lopez, and Wendy Brainard (who went on to sing with Corey Hart and Donna Summer).

I fucking loved that show so much I'd get up at 5 AM to watch it on Saturday mornings in the second grade; my parents didn't understand what was up with me, but there was something about the five songs per episode (and maybe Hewitt, Ferguson and Martika singing them as well).

Then came the girl-group Wild Orchid, whose records I bought for the album covers (namely the self-titled debut and the Supernatural single) but seldom listened to.

In the mid-1990s (and pretty much my entire life, really), some pop music suited my ears, but rock and rap more so; The Black Eyed Peas' first two records were decent underground fare, but when they hired Fergie and turned pop for Elephunk, their career hit new heights of commercial success... and creative depths that represent pretty much everything that is wrong with modern pop music.

In 2006, she came out with her first solo record, The Dutchess, which was successful, but sounded like it should have been a Gwen Stefani album, what with the reggae-ska numbers, the semi-honest/touchy-feely numbers that hint at deeper turmoil but ultimately fail at being truly poignant. And the insipid pure-pop numbers just didn't make it for me - although they made my then-girlfriend dance and act wild.

Fergie has tremendous skill as a singer, in the upper echelons, but for most of her career, it has felt like she was either holding back or refused to exploit it correctly.

There are two ways to go when you have a voice like that: the Céline Dion/Frank Sinatra/Whitney Houston way, which is to have people write songs for you to belt out like no other, or to bare your fucking soul, which works whether your voice is great or unique (Tori Amos, Charlotte Martin, Joanna Newsom, Björk), "normal" (P.J. Harvey), or awful (Courtney Love, Yoko Ono).

Finally, at age 42, Fergie has chosen the latter, with A Little Work, from the album Double Dutchess, which is a tad cliché'd but still rings true. The long-form video (a.k.a. "short film") by Jonas Åkerlund brings the point home very well:

You may recall Akerlund's work - such as the 2002 indie film Spun, or his videos for Roxette, Prodigy (Smack My Bitch Up), Madonna (Ray of Light), Metallica (Turn The Page, Whiskey In The Jar), The Smashing Pumpkins, Blink-182's I Miss You, and countless others - is among the best in the business.

He was the perfect director to bring to life a story about drug addiction (be it Fergie's documented struggles with crystal meth or the current opioid crisis in America) and mental illness.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Video Of The Week: AC/DC

"In Rock we trust, it's Rock or Bust".

As they've done many times over the course of their careers, when AC/DC opted to have that line open the chorus of the title track to their sixteenth album, they meant it; it was the first record without longtime-riff-writer Malcolm Young manning one of the guitars (nephew Stevie Young filled in), and the video also featured Bob Richards (Asia, Shogun, Man) on drums in lieu of Phil Rudd, who was on trial for murder and drug smuggling in New Zealand (the murder charge was dropped, but the drug-related ones led to his being sentenced to eight months of home detention).

Rock Or Bust was the the 14th of 17 AC/DC songs with the work "Rock" in its title; they also have six with "Balls", so you do with that what you want.

And as he'd done many times for the band before, director David Mallet decided to play to the band's strengths for the video: the raw energy of their live shows, the musicianship, the fun they have playing together, and the riffage, filming at Middlesex, England's Island Studios, on its central stage:

It isn't the best AC/DC record, and thus far from their best song. It's still better than a lot of what's out there, both in rock and beyond.

Hail to Rock! In Rock I trust!

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Unnecessary Censorship: Star Wars Edition

Jimmy Kimmel and his staff just keep upping the ante.

This week's Unnecessary Censorship clip is all about the Star Wars saga:

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Video Of The Week: Halsey

Halsey is the stage name of one Ashley Nicolette Frangipan, from New Jersey.

She is a 23-year-old pop artist who is on her second record, Hopeless Fountain Kingdom, having released Badlands in 2015. She has toured with Imagine Dragons and The Weeknd, recorded with The Chainsmokers and Justin Bieber, and is emo to the core, citing Panic! At The Disco as her all-time favourite band.

She spent her late teens dating a heroin addict in New York City and dropping out of college, so he had the regular rebellious lifestyle worthy of a TV biopic.

Oh, and she's way more into P!nk than she lets on, as can be attested by the video for Bad At Love, which she co-directed with Sing J. Lee:

There's a lot of Thelma & Louise in there, as well, of course. Because empowerment.

And because watching and getting inspired by Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore, Gas Food Lodging, Bound, Set It Off, Mulholland Drive, Frida, Suffragette, or Lost And Delirious is not cliché enough for a young soul who only pretends to be interested in cinema.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Video Of The Week: AC/DC

2017 brought about many more celebrity deaths. Most of the cultural heroes from the 1950s and 1960s have passed, and we're entering the realm where those of the 1970s and 1980s are dying "naturally", i.e. of long-term disease.

In the past few hours, the world lost one of rock music's most impactful talents for the second time in five years when Malcolm Young died; it had already been a sad time when he sat out for 2014's Rock Or Bust tour, replaced by his nephew Stevie Young.

But even during the amazing 2008-2010 Black Ice tour, dementia had already kicked in, eliminating his short-term memory and forcing him to have to re-learn the band's songs every night before going on stage.

It got to the point where he had to be put in a nursing home, where he got and defeated lung cancer, had a pacemaker intalled and saw his verall health decline sharply, leading to his death, on November 18th, 2017, at the age of 64.

AC/DC is a hard-rock/boogie band from Australia who is known to the general public via its towering and charismatic leaders - former singer Bon Scott (1946-1980), second singer Brian Johnson, and of course lead guitarist Angus Young, he of the lightning-fast fingers, Chuck Berry-inspired duck walk and perpetual shoolboy uniform.

The thing is, behind the solos and riffs, what drove AC/DC, what made it what it is, is Malcolm's playing and songwriting. Megadeth's Dave Mustaine once said:
I respect James (Hetfield). I’m a better lead player than he is, but he’s one of the three best rhythm players in the world. (The other two being) Malcolm Young [of AC/DC] and myself. Malcolm kept it basic but brought a whole new style of rhythm playing to the world.
We can take that for what it is - Mustaine's insane, he'll never get over being kicked out of Metallica, and he knows Malcolm Young deserves respect. That wouldn't be my personal top-three, because while Mustaine is very good at all aspects of guitar-playing, his rhythm playing isn't "the best" by any stretch of the imagination and Hetfield's pretty god, but there are better talents and beter innovators out there.

I'm sure Malcolm is in my top-three, but I'd have to take a week or a month to listen to Gene Vincent closely, to see if Eddie Cochran's consistency as good as he is with Summertime Blues, Neil Young, Pete Townshend, Keith Richards, and so many others.

Malcolm is on a rare plain where it's his inner understanding of rock, the way he just feels it inside and gets it out so naturally, that makes him unique. He's a lot like Jack White that way - it's always the perfect sound that comes out, the right chord with the perfect strumming, bombastic or quick-pick attacks.

Here's what I mean, in one of AC/DC's most well-known songs, Thunderstruck. They catch your attention with Angus' mixoldian scale to start with, then the crowd chanting "uh-huh-uh-huh-uh-uh-uhn" and "Thunder!", but it's when Johnson joins in and Malcolm's chord comes in that the track hits you in the chest for the first time. Then, at 1:33, the actual song kick in. That's all Malcolm, as is the pounding first bridge a full minute later:

That's what I mean by how he and rock are just one entity. Take those away and it's a pretty naked song, yet it's so good and in its right place that you only hear it if you're looking for it.

Rest In Peace, Sir.

The video was directed David Mallet, at London's Brixton Academy - like many others he did for the band. He has also directed VH1 specials, Cirque Du Soleil show DVDs, and videos for Sarah Brightman (How Can Heaven Love Me, Music Of The Night), Olivia Newton-John (Take A Chance, Soul Kiss, Culture Shock, Emotional Tangle, Toughen Up, The Right Moment), Culture Club (Mistake #3), Blondie (Hanging On The Telephone, Dreaming, Atomic, The Hardest Part, Union City Blue), Peter Gabriel (Games Without Frontiers), Queen (I Want It All, I Want To Break Free, Radio Ga Ga, Under Pressure, Bicycle Race, Who Wants To Live Forever, Hammer To Fall, Heaven For Everyone), David Bowie (Boys Keep Swinging, DJ, Look Back In Anger, Ashes To Ashes, Let's Dance, Wild is The Wind, China Girl, Cat People (Putting Out Fire), Loving The Alien, Dancing In The Street, Hallo Spaceboy), Freddie Mercury (The Great Pretender, I Was Born To Love You, Made In Heaven, Barcelona), The Pretenders (Talk Of The Town), George Michael (Somebody To Love), Tina Turner (Proud Mary, Addicted To Love), Heart (What About Love), Billy Idol (Eyes Without A Face, To Be A Lover, Catch My Fall, White Wedding), The Boomtown Rats (I Don't Like Mondays) and Def Leppard's Photograph.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Video Of The Week: Walk The Moon

What do you get when you mix the worst haircuts of all time, the visual style of 1980s Red Hot Chili Peppers crossed with Aladdin Sane-era David Bowie and ten-year-olds trying their hands at KISS make-up, the musical stylings of Crazy Town, Fun., Imagine Dragons, The Lumineers, and the worst of Walk Off The Earth's originals, and the lyrical genius qualities of Black Eyed Peas?

Apart from a total lack of originality and a dumbed-down version of sub-par imitators, you get Walk The Moon, who recently released their new album, What If Nothing, which is exactly the kind of empty pretend-deep title you thought their record would have.

These assholes have the nerve to call their musical style "new wave", which is an insult to Talking Heads, Elvis Costello, Blondie, Devo, Nick Lowe, Joe Jackson, The B-52s, The Go-Gos, Adam And The Ants, The Romantics, The Jam, The (English) Beat, XTC, Roxy Music and the like.

Walk The Moon's sound is actually much closer to that of New Romantic acts such as Spandau Ballet, Squeeze, Duran Duran, Simply Red and Thompson Twins, i.e. "shitty male-dominated synth-pop".

Director Robert Hales (Nine Inch Nails, Imagine Dragons, Jack White's Would You Fight For My Love) should have left them to die in the Joshua Tree National Park:

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Poppy Fields Forever

As usual, my friend Mark was on point by sending me this awesome image today:
Poppy fields forever.

Now, Canada, Justin Trudeau and other politicians, make this a paid Holiday all over the country. Our soldiers from WWI, WWII, Blue Berets and the soldiers that we lent to the Crown for wars such as the Korean War deserve the respect.