Thursday, September 27, 2012

Video Of The Week: Love And Rockets

Sure, I could have chosen any track from Love And Rockets, and especially any they'd written themselves, but I wanted to pick Ball Of Confusion because of its history particularly. Written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong for The Temptations, the song sends a strong political message while never really taking a definite stance on specific issues, because the last song Whitfield had written at the time, War (which became Edwin Starr's lone #1 hit) had been censored by the label.

Years later, Tina Turner made her own version of this song for the British market, which may explain why such acts as L&R and Duran Duran have covered it, and U.N.K.L.E. sampled it. In the U.S., it was covered by acts ranging from Widespread Panic to Tesla and The Neville Brothers.

Recently, I went to a Public Enemy show and they played the riff to back one of their own songs.

I've been listening to it a lot lately, at a rate of once per day.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Homer Simpson Votes For Romney

Now that The Simpsons are sure to be paid until Season 25 and not come back for a 26th, its creators and writers aren't afraid to take sarcastic political stances on current events and going against the Fox family - even in its ads!

Usually, Family Guy and The Simpsons stick to complaining only on their shows and not bite the hand that feeds them outside of the framework they're given. This time, they went further:

Reality Catches Up To Fiction

Project X Haren. It's what they're calling the birthday party gone awry in the Netherlands (Holland) when one girl's party/Facebook event turned into a riot because that poor girl's so-called ''friends'' invited unwanted friends, who in turn did so again, until it went viral and people started making ads and posters and YouTube videos to get the largest amount of people to crash it.

Days later, they are still merely assessing the damage, and the girl is in hiding with her family. They may require the country's witness protection program to start their lives anew.

According to BBC News:
The party had been cancelled and police had issued an appeal to would-be revellers not to come to Haren but at least 3,000 turned up anyway.
Many of them wearing Project X (based on a recent American movie) garb:

On days like this, I kind of envy my grandparents' generation, who still have no idea what the internet is.

Video Of The (Past) Week: The Soft Moon

I've read uneducated music critics compare them to Joy Division, but their sound is a lot more guitar-oriented gloomness than bass, so I'd say they're actually much closer to Love And Rockets / Bauhaus in that regard, or even Chrome or Suicide.

I'm talking of course of talk of the town The Soft Moon, who played at Pop Montreal on Saturday and whose concert was attended by all the hipsters you can imagine and given additional hype with most of the city's big show promoters also present.

I like their energy and sounds, myself, but I'm also a huge fan of Love And Rockets, so I would kind of prefer if the real thing would release more music than bands they inspired...

Nevertheless, as autumn's gloom and rain and depression hits like it does every year after my birthday, this band fits right in.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Joe's Week In Comics

I have a friend, Joe Chamandy, who is a musician in Montréal bands. He's also a coveted poster artists because he has a style that's ''all his'', which consists of childlike drawings on normal, ligned paper. He does them for his band's shows, but also for others, such as Pop Montreal.

Well, now he's back in school and wants to tell us all about it, but instead of blogging ''normally'', he did so in the form of drawings...

It's pretty cool, when you think of it.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Video Of The Week: Freeez

After a little too much seriousness of late, politically-charged songs and whatnot, it's time to lighten the air with a bit of cheese in the form of U.K. dance/funk fusion act Freeez with this song from the film Beat Street, produced by Arthur Baker, who had previously worked with Afrika Bambaataa.

But this is nowhere as innovative as even Bambaataa's weakest songs; this is just sub-Break Machine, NYC-inspired music to dance on a cardboard box to. So, well, just take out your fixed bike, do the robot, or just vomit watching this British mistake take on a worldwide movement about to get serious.

Here are things to look for: starting at 0:50, you can witness how a pop act sounds when their instruments aren't plugged in, with the guy on the left looking like a leftover member of Wham! while the guy on the right should be playing ''Uncle Jessie'' on Full House; at 1:20, old folks are enjoying the music (which can't be a good sign according to all the movies I've seen); at 2:05, the 1980s version of Eva Logoria (or is that a Kardashian?) is looking out the window looking for a basketball player to stare at; at 2:22, a kid doesn't yet realize he may like the colour red a little too much; and for the last 20 seconds or so, the blonde seemingly leader of the band does some sort of Walk Of Shame in front of everyone who's appeared in the video, although he doesn't seem to realize he should be ashamed, thus proving British people have no shame. None. Whatsoever.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Inevitable Irony

Just hours after I'd posted the Vote With A Bullet video, a man erupted at the Parti Québécois' victory celebration, shot two people and started a fire with a molotov cocktail. One died, the other is in critical condition; someone else is treated for extreme shock.

Newly-elected (first female) Prime Minister of Québec Pauline Marois was escorted off mid-speech, but returned a few moments later, asking attendees to leave the place calmly, because ''that's how a Premier reacts''.

More to come as it develops, probably.

Marketing 102

Marketing 101 is easy: come up with an idea that will get people talking and, hopefully, get some people to try and like your stuff.

Marketing 102 strives to take that to the next level: by getting people to talk about your thing / idea, without actually talking about it, thus bringing in a larger crowd who couldn't care less about what you're selling but who, by talking about it to enough people, will expand your reach to potential clients well outside of your usual circle.

Case in point, Where Magazine, published in countless cities/counties around the world:

By strategically placing a woman - yes, it had to be a woman - on top of the first ''e'', you make your magazine look like it's called ''Whore'', which will, as Will Ferrell would put it, ''gets the people going'' in addition to being ''provocative''.

It has to feature women because by doing so, you get their consent by default and can use tired stereotypes that stopped working in the 1990s to ''keep them in their place as a subdued minority'' when they, in fact, outnumber men both in population and now, in the workplace in jobs that require higher education. They haven't quite reached equal pay yet in many markets, but that's just one more fight to help them forget they outnumber men anyhow.

Also, if a cover like this - devoid of highly sexualized imagery and offensive visuals - can still anger a few nutjobs just with the placement of a head over half a letter and get media coverage, that's an added bonus.

Much ado, meet nothing. Nothing worth the internet sensation it will soon become, nothing that will solve the real issues (equality), even if the rags stop being so obvious about their participation in the generalized conspiracy to keep women and minorities ''in their rightful place''.

Video Of The Week: Corrosion Of Conformity

On this election day in Québec, one on which we must decide between the current, corrupt status quo, the status quo of the mid-90s, a new right-wing party made up of old candidates from other parties or smaller, more regional fringe parties, I opted to follow the theme our leader Jean Charest has been hammering about in the media (''it's us against the street, violence, and chaos; we are the Party of Law and Order'') and go for one of the best metaphors in hard rock: Corrosion Of Conformity's Vote With A Bullet.

While C.O.C.'s first two albums were mostly thrash metal hybrids, 1991's Blind was more melodic, heavy, and groovy, pioneering a sound Pantera would later perfect. Perhaps no stranger to this was the fact that it was the only record with Karl Agell on lead vocals, letting Pepper Keenan concentrate on his guitar abilities. Ironically, the song I chose is Keenan's lone lead singing track...

By their next record, Deliverance, C.O.C. really became Keenan's band, as he was its chief songwriter, guitarist, and lead vocalist.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Video Of The Week: Public Enemy

They may be the most important rap group of all time. They're definitely the highest-selling, message-heavy, intelligent rappers to criticize their government and the media, and to stand up for the rights of African-Americans.

And they're in town tonight, performing at the first Expérience Montréal festival, on the grounds of the Olympic Stadium. An all-day pass to see them along with a dozen other acts costs... $12. Yesterday, Jello Biafra and Atari Teenage Riot co-headlined; tonight, it'll be all about PE.

I'm surprised it's the first time I'll feature PE, seeing as I listen to them all the time. My favourite record of their is Fear Of A Black Planet, which also contains many of my favourite songs (including the Flavor Flav-led 9-1-1 Is A Joke, a song that proves Chuck D isn't the only smart guy in the house), but I chose to go with a rarer song, the title track off the He Got Game soundtrack, which features an interpolation of Buffalo Springfield's For What It's Worth sung by its author, Stephen Stills.

He Got Game is widely considered one of Denzel Washington's few film flops, but it's a decent Spike Lee film that just didn't get the attention it deserved because it focuses on basketball (it's actually about the love-hate relationship between a high school basketball player and his jail-bound father). The soundtrack works really well with the movie, PE's hip hop acting more like a score than an album - but the title track remains a stand-out song.

Killing The Truth

The Republican Convention is over, and many will remember it because of Clint Eastwood's surreal stand-up comedy act featuring an interview with an invisible President Obama in an empty chair. It showed that, should Condi Rice not run in 2016, he could definitely pull a Ronald Reagan and become a two-term, senile, funny, everyday man in charge of the world's biggest economy and army. Would be entertaining, to say the least.

But that moment overshadowed the Republican presidential and vice-residential nominees' speeches - more specifically, the fact that they were full of lies, half-truths, and dangerous innuendos. Many of them were outed by the New York Times in this article, not surprisingly the most of them coming from Paul Ryan, who has made it his mission to see Barack Obama fail and has obstructed everything the President has attempted, even his attempts at compromise and Republican-friendly policies.

Here is but one example:
In his attack on the president’s time in office, Mr. Ryan said: “It began with a perfect AAA credit rating for the United States. It ends with the downgraded America.”
When Standard & Poor’s lowered the nation’s credit rating, it was in large part because of the standoff last year over the debt ceiling — which needed to be raised so the government could borrow money to pay for spending that Congress had already approved. The White House had asked Congress to simply raise the debt ceiling; Mr. Ryan and House Republicans balked at doing so without reaching a deal on significant spending cuts. The ensuing standoff took the nation to the brink of default.
In its statement explaining the downgrade, Standard & Poor’s wrote that “the political brinkmanship of recent months highlights what we see as America’s governance and policy making becoming less stable, less effective and less predictable than what we previously believed. The statutory debt ceiling and the threat of default have become political bargaining chips in the debate over fiscal policy.”
That one's on the Republicans - not Obama.

For decades, politicians have exacerbated the population's cynicism by lying making deliberately false campaign promises, such as ''vote for me and I'll fix the economy'', or ''vote for me and I'll fix the roads / schools / system / healthcare'', and we accepted those because they were pipe dreams told by snake oil salesmen. We knew they were likely to try a little, but never completely succeed, and it's not like we wanted their jobs anyway.

But in the past 15 years, with negative ads becoming more and more prevalent, it seems the speech / ad writers feel the public has assimilated the ''personal attack'' technique and may be ready for the perpetual lying about the opponent's positions. Except that TV ads, usually paid for by a SuperPAC or a lobbying group of some sort, could historically be called out by the candidate it supported, who would just have to say ''I don't agree with what was said in there and apologize to my opponent'' while the message still got across; nowadays, the politician will spew the bullshit himself, live, in front of an audience (and the media), but for some reason, there isn't an entity who can put them back in their place, and maybe fine them (hit them where it hurts, their money).

I guess that's what you get for always demanding a smaller and smaller government: you get a free-for-all party of bullshit and fuckery, and may the meanest asshole win (and fuck up the country).