Saturday, November 29, 2014

Video Of The Week: The Smashing Pumpkins

I could have chosen any of at least 10 videos to feature The Smashing Pumpkins, and I really almost went with one featuring Melissa Auf Der Maur on bass, and also hesitated putting their best song up (Bullet With Butterfly Wings), but ultimately I went with this one, released a couple of weeks following my 15th birthday, for Today, by acclaimed director Stéphane Sednaoui:

Despite the band being from Chicago, the Pumpkins are generally lumped into the ''grunge'' category for mixing quiet verses with heavy and loud choruses, and having lyrics that lean heavily towards the very personal but often incorporating tremendous amounts of sarcasm, such as this track, claiming ''today is the greatest day I've ever known'' and yet dealing with extreme depression (perhaps even to the level of being suicidal).

A sharp contrast to the subject matter is the use of bright colours, and all the extras making out all over the desert throughout the video.

At the time of its release, I remember thinking the Siamese Dream album the track is from to be better than Nirvana's Nevermind, but not as enthralling as Pearl Jam's Ten; both Seattle bands would release tremendous albums later in the year - In Utero and Vs, respectively - that would blow Siamese Dream out of the water, and it took until the follow-up record, the two-disc Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness, for me to finally claim the Pumpkins had made a masterpiece.

I liked that the Pumpkins, like Pearl Jam, took their influences everywhere and anywhere, including wearing their love of 1980s alternative on their sleeves. You can definitely hear Billy Corgan channeling The Cars in many overdubs of power chords, as well as 1970s arena rock; on Mellon Collie, you can tell he was inspired by U2's turn to studio doodling (à la Zooropa and Achtung Baby) as well as what Trent Reznor was able to accomplish with Nine Inch Nails, particularly off The Downward Spiral - and Siamese Dream is the low-fi, pre-dating, low-budget version of that. And while Disarm and Mayonnaise may be the best-written pieces on it, Today is the best-produced straight-up rock number on it, and the one that had the most impact - despite my soft spot for Cherub Rock's opening minute.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Video Of The Week: Beyoncé

The First Rule Of Pop is: Beyoncé can do no wrong.

The Second Rule Of Pop is: Beyoncé married Jay-Z and is still the biggest pop star on the planet, further proof that she can do no wrong.

She shocked last year when she released Beyoncé to little fanfare and advertizing, and now with the Platinum Edition set to hit the shelves (two more songs, 4 new remixes, accompanying videos or each, collectible photo albums and tour diaries), she made a seemingly home-filmed video of the new track 7/11, featuring her crew of dancers, including Quebecer Kim Gingras:

I think she could use a little more polish lyrics-wise (the repeated line ''man it feels like rolling dice'' ad nauseam is reminiscent of the same album's Drunk In Love ''riding on that surf board'' endless repetition, plus every line that follows gets the repetition treatment as well), but since she can do no wrong, I have forgiven her.

Still the Queen Of Pop.

Sunday, November 16, 2014


The last few weeks have been trying in my immediate circle with health scares and warnings, ranging from heart conditions to burn-outs and depression to erectile dysfunction to my own appointments and checkups regarding diabetes.

But the word that came back the most often this week was cancer.

One of my brother's best friends, in his early 20s, wrote this heart-wrenching piece - in French - about his current condition with leukemia, which in turn brought my immediate family back to memories of a painful past.

I also decided to bring my Twitter profile back to life - I went from having hundreds of followers to between 50 and 60, a figure that seems to change daily for some reason. No, Traci Lords is no longer following me. (insert sad face here). And I wasn't there a week that I learned more people I know were afflicted with cancer. Three people I know well were diagnosed in 2014, all in their thirties.

And that's in addition to Ottawa Senators general manager Bryan Murray's confession that he has Stage-4 colon cancer and whose only hope at this point is to extend his life, because it's too late to cure. He knows he won’t overcome his battle, but joked he wanted to prolong overtime, like during the famous 1980s game between the New York Islanders and Washington Capitals: ''Let’s go to extra overtime and keep playing, like the game we played against the Islanders many years ago, and we went to four overtime periods'', Murray said.

In the long run, no one survives Life. We are all just visiting and must make the most of what we have, try to find happiness and, ideally, try to help mankind evolve. And no one is immune from accidents, but seeing someone who knows his time is up, and trying to make the best of it while not dwelling on the fact that he's nearing the end really hits home. Hard.

And he becomes the second Senators hockey operations member to seemingly spend the end of his life as an actual member of the team in just about a decade, after Roger Nielsen in 2003.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Video Of The Week: The Dollyrots

Formed in Florida but based in Los Angeles from the minute they decided to be a full-time band, The Dollyrots were always about punk rock's primal energy mixed with pop, fun and cuteness,  so it's no wonder their original indie label (Lookout!) was also the one that launched Green Day.

For their 15th music video in 10 years of professional music-making, director R. Ian MacLeod decided to have the band (singer-bassist Kelly Ogden, guitarist Luis Gabezas and part-time drummer Aixa from Go Betty Go pretending to play Stacy Jones' parts) and various characters pose and dance in front of green screens and white backgrounds, with added effects popping up, including the complete lyrics to Get Weird.

And it's a fun song, in the same vein as the rest of their songs that have appeared in movies, TV shows and film trailers - it just lacks the actual element of weirdness. And perhaps a bit of edge, a bit of balls. Or a message. Some consistence, like former label-mates Green Day, or the owner of their second label Joan Jett.

I like art for art's sake (Radiohead), and I'm not adverse to straight-ahead rock, and The Dollyrots score a fine 7/10 on that scale, but they have 5 albums now, and Barefoot And Pregnant is their second after a $33,000 Kickstarter campaign that was originally slated for $7,500 - perhaps it's time they added a bit more value to their output.

I suggest taking a full year to make their next record, keeping their feet on the ground by raising their kid (Ogden and Gabezas are a couple in ''real'' life), and listening to one ''message band'' per week and nothing else - I suggest the following 52: Bad Religion, Joan Jett, Pearl Jam, Rage Against The Machine, Ani DiFranco, Bruce Springsteen, John Fogerty, Sonic Youth, Hole, Tupac Shakur, Public Enemy, Fishbone, Meshell N'Degeo'Cello, Living Colour, Stevie Wonder, Sex Pistols, Me Mom & Morgentaler, Megadeth, Suicidal Tendencies, Infectious Grooves, The Clash, Social Distortion, Green Day, Fugazi, Outernational, Jack White, Placebo, Pennywise, Nine Inch Nails, Vulgaires Machines (sure it's in French, but they'll get the gist of it), Sahara Hotnights, The Raveonettes, The Minutemen, Ben Harper, Michael Franti & Spearhead, Mos Def, Erykah Badu, The Roots, Damian Marley, SuperHeavy, Dead Kennedys, Against Me!, The Mahones, Hawkwind, Crass, Flux Of Pink Indians, X, Ghost Mice, The Nightwatchman, P.J. Harvey, Bikini Kill, and Amanda Palmer / Dresden Dolls.

But there's a good base with The Dollyrots. They can carve out a guitar-driven pop song, they just need to take some polish off the production and not sound so calculated, so maybe just work a bit on their lyrics and delivery. But it's good stuff, I own three of their records myself, and never go more than 10 days without listening to at least a couple of songs all the way through.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Top 10 Songs This Week

Top 10 Songs:

10. FIRE, A Devil's Din (2014)
9. CONTROL ME, Kandle (2014)
8. SHARP, Red Mass (2014)
7. DEMON, Kandle (2014)
6. THE TITAN ABOVE US, Moloken (2011)
5. RIGHT TIME, Nikki Lane (2014)
4. LAZARETTO, Jack White (2014)
3. TWO COFFINS, Against Me! (2014)
2. NOT UP TO ME, Kandle (2014)
1. IN MEDIA REST, Anti-School-Year (2014)

Top 10 Love Songs For Broken Hearts:

10. ESTRANGED, Guns N' Roses (1991)
9. TIME AFTER TIME, Cyndi Lauper (1984)
8. WHAT IT TAKES, Aerosmith (1989)
7. I REMEMBER YOU, Skid Row (1989)
6. BLACK, Pearl Jam (1991)
5. MAPS, Yeah Yeah Yeahs (2004)
4. HAPPY TOGETHER (The Turtles cover), Frank Zappa & The Mothers (1971)
3. I MISS YOU, Blink-182 (2003)
2. THE SCIENTIST, Coldplay (2002)
1. I COULD HAVE LIED, Red Hot Chili Peppers (1991)

Video Of The Week: Die Antwoord

Die Antwoord were never my cup of tea, really. And this time, the South African zef superstars went electro-pop with Ugly Boy, a ''shocking'' subject matter of a girl not falling for the pretty guy, shock-full of hits in the face, blood spilling, blood-like paint on walls, celebrity cameos, an Aphex Twin sample, and what the internet knee-jerk reactors were quick to assume was blackface.

So let's start with that, the Richard D. James masks, from the Windowlicker video, in which some were white, some were black. It wasn't blackface, it was the opposite: it was face-face. Everyone had Aphex Twin's face, except the ''super RDJ mask'' with the teeth. Die Antwoord's video just has that mask. As far as I can tell.

As for cameos, Jack Black in scar tissue is a sight, as is Dita Von Teese in her daily clothing. Marilyn Manson was himself, probably because he went with the ''ugly guy'' shtick in 1994. I'm not entirely sure why Flea's in there doing contemporary dance, but ok. Cara Delevingne is the model with the facepaint; she's starting a career as an actress, too, so expect to see a lot of her in the next 3 to 5 years. Cypress Hill's DJ Muggs is in there too. Perhaps under the RDJ mask.

Let's talk about the music itself. The sounds are centered around Aphex Twin's Ageispolis, and the lyrics borrow as much from Roy Orbison (''anything you want, you got it / anything you need, you got it / anything at all, you got it'') to Sade (''this is no ordinary love'') to Deez Nuts (''unfuckwithable'') to Mick Smiley (''I believe it's magic! magic!'')  to film titles (''There Will Be Blood'').

But we're in postmodern times, they're a post-racial act, playing post-rave pop for post-adolescent young folks who will never know what it's like to go to a post office.

As the boys in Sloan used to say: ''If we feels good, do it / even if you shouldn't''.

As for the subject matter of giving love to someone others are repelled by, it's been tackled by Christina Aguilera this decade (in Beautiful, among others), TLC the one before that, and Smashing Pumpkins (most songs, but Ugly is the most obvious example) and Pearl Jam (''so I'll just lie alone and wait for the dream / where I'm not ugly and you're looking at me'') in the 1990s. Probably some in the 70s and 80s, too.

Every decade needs to bring that point home, but to glorify purposely looking ugly, Manson seemed to put a lot more thought into it 20 years ago, personifying the essence of what it meant, not just in his appearance but his entire art, and almost every quote given in the media as well.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Flipbook Squad

Did you see Vladimir Tarasenko's goal the other night, when the St. Louis Blues forward showed speed, determination and a lot of agility and ability in deking out half the New York Rangers? Here it is:

But it looks even better animated in flip-book mode, by The Flippist:

Sunday, November 2, 2014

The Canadian Environment

There's yet a another petition making the rounds in Canada, asking Prime Minister Stephen Harper to not go overboard in allowing the complete destruction of our environment. It's a weekly occurrence, it seems.

He does not see the small picture, let alone the big one.

Whether (or not) federal elected officials prefer to support big businesses instead of the people who elected them and whom they represent is irrelevant.

The bottom line remains: if they allow anyone or anything to compromise our environment, we are all screwed. And not just Canadians. Pollution and devastation knows no borders, no boundaries.

Even the businesses who pillage nature to sell it back to us need it to not be a finite resource. That's in addition to biodiversity proving everyone its actual food sources. Basing decisions we know are wrong on some half-assed biased research is worse than just a skewed lack of vision, it's step-by-step suicide.

I mean, shit, right, the companies have proven for a long time that their profit-driven ways go in just one direction with blinders on, and always need us to protect them from themselves - not help them fuck the rest of us up more.

This is a fast way to get to a post-apocalyptic world, when ''I told you so'' won't mean anything anymore.

Darren Aronofsky and Leonardo DiCaprio took a trip to the Albertan tar sands earlier this year and came back with a troubling report. Once pioneers in progress and progressive views, and formerly the voice of reason on the international scene, Canada has become the laughingstock of the international community, particularly on environmental and scientific issues.

Ironic that the country who wouldn't let the U.S. back out of the Kyoto protocol now won't even come close to meeting its own objectives on the matter.

Bad Cops, Bad Cops, Whatcha Gonna Do?

Here is a list of recent ''awful cop stories'' excluding those involving them killing someone.

They came to light after this video was leaked:

Again, I come from a family of - I hope -presumably good cops, including one who arrests other cops. I know the ''guy culture'', and I understand some might feel underpaid for the shit they have to go through.

But police committing crimes should be subjected to twice the penalty a citizen would, on one hand. And there should be no level of tolerance of minimizing crimes they might have to deal with.

I'm as appalled in this video by the cops' talk of ''turning a blind eye'' as I am of the rape ''joke'', as a principle, but this is exactly what people refer to as us living in a ''rape culture''. If you can't trust the police to take you seriously, when they are merely the first step on a long and arduous ladder of justice, then the case is hopeless from the start.

That's why a lot of sex crimes go unreported. Events like this one, precisely. As much as news stories about rapist cops, maybe more so because it occurs more often.

You want to make jokes? Grab a microphone and get on a stage. When you're paid and wearing your uniform, take your job seriously. Or quit. Or volunteer to get raped yourself.

Go Texas, eh?