Music and Culture at Dartmouth

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Hot Topic Whales



Myspace.com Artist Friend Totals as of 6/22/05:

Nine Inch Nails- 58,044
Billy Corgan- 53,737
Coldplay- 47,419
Oasis- 40,968
Foo Fighters- 32,960
The Killers- 29,748
Kanye West- 10,414
The Locust- 1,540

...

My Chemical Romance- 177,731

I thought I'd revive Fridaymag with a little case study on the musical allegiances of the hottest internet meet n' greet site around: Myspace.com. Myspace picked up the slack following mp3.com's implosion, and now allows users to upload promotional tracks free of charge. This has been great for small bands that no one knows or cares about... but, unlike mp3.com, has wound up attracting most (if not all) of the major label crowd as well. The above statistics list the number of people who have "friended" such major label acts. You might be suprised to learn that, even though they have sold close to 40 million records in the past fifteen years, Oasis cower in fear next to the mighty friendability of My Chemical Romance. It seems the more you pare down your image and sound- red ties, black suits, or red suits, black ties, perhaps with a dash of white studded belt for good measure- the more marketable you can be to the youth of America as a fellow rabble rouser. Its great to rebel- but you don't want to wind up rebelling on the wrong end of the color spectrum, do you?

Curiously excepted from this formula lie the Locust, who wear the strictest uniform of all- yeah, locust costumes- and yet chart with a pitiful 1,500 friends. Apparently, thats not "cool?"

Oh but wait! Another challenge to my cynical take on identity rock:

Weezer- 134,573

I'll never understand kids.

P.S. Myspace me, bros!

Sunday, April 10, 2005

BLOC PARTY


Let me go ahead and announce that 'She's Hearing Voices' is my official jam for the spring and most likely the summer. 'Silent Alarm' is my official default to record in the car (much like the Futureheads were in the fall). Those lads from across the sea have done it again.

Got to catch the band play an amazing live set at Bowery Ballroom this past Friday. I was a bit worried about the show after hearing that Kele lost his voice after a show in Philadelphia and mixed reviews about the Thursday night show. I was also wondering if I was getting my hopes up to high for an amazing live show after reading posts like this on craigslist.org (exhibit 1, exhibit 2 (I'm also going to admit that those two craiglist posting are my main reason for even writing this post at all, seriously people are amazing)). I'm proud to say there was not a thing to worry about.

They didn't front load there set as much as I had been lead to believe based on the Pitchfork review of their Chicago show. The crowd was mighty responsive and shockingly for the first time in my NY concert going experience large amounts of the crowd were dancing. The band hammered out their songs with plenty of frentic energy. In my opinion the MVP of the show was Matt Tong who just kept on bringing the huge beats (the man is a machine).

In other hilarious news after wandering the Lower East Side for approximately three hours after the show, Johaan and I managed to catch Russell, from the band, walking around Bowery with a girl. Yay for celebrity spottings.

It sounds like the band is getting set to play another string of shows. Don't sleep on this. Bloc Party lived up to the hype and thensome. Highly recommended.

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Guitar Wolf Bassist Hideaki Sekiguchi Dead at 38


Guitar Wolf bassist Hideaki Sekiguchi, known to fans as Billy, died Wednesday of heart failure at age 38. Sekiguchi's heart had stopped in his sleep at home the previous night, and he later died in a Tokyo hospital, said publicist Billy Nord of Narnack Records. Sekiguchi had no prior history of heart problems. He leaves behind his wife Naoko and two children; his funeral is scheduled for April 6 in Tokyo.

The band had just returned Sunday from a monthlong North American tour, and were slated to play an April 9 show in Tokyo before touring Australia. All future dates have been cancelled, and the band's continued existence is uncertain. In an odd coincidence, Narnack was already preparing an expanded U.S. release of I Love Guitar Wolf Very Much, a tribute album featuring the Coachwhips, the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Lightning Bolt, J. Mascis and the Fog, and Puffy AmiYumi, among others. The album came out last year in Japan and will be issued in the U.S. soon, Nord said.


link to story

Sunday, March 27, 2005

The New Irony

So I was in Williamsburg, VA about a month ago, and I was sitting around with my best friend and some kids in this tiny apartment that was half-filled with a band setup and filled the rest of the way with kids with beers. And we were sitting around waiting for sun to set so the band could start and so could the drinking proper, though that wasn't stopping any of us, and it occurred to me that the most important thing in the world was that I have a fucking pair of aviators on.
So we go down to the local WaWa and check out the selection. Nothing. I mean less than nothing. Nothing even very large, nothing remotely close to aviators. So what did I do? I did what anyone would do on the last day of irony's life: I bought a regular pair of sunglasses and aviator clip-ons. I couldn't see shit, but irony was going out in style.
Right there in the WaWa, I checked my watch. Time of death: 5:52 PM. Goodbye, irony. It's been real.

Then maybe like a week or two ago I'm sitting on the porch of my house in the late afternoon, just enjoying the warm weather and watching people walk by. And all of the sudden God appears, and he's wearing a trucker hat and drinking a PBR. And God tells me that irony isn't dead, or maybe it was but it's resurrected (to borrow from an old theme), and then he shows me the light.

The new irony isn't looking consciously ridiculous. The new irony is looking like you're trying as hard as you can but can't quite get there.

The new irony isn't PBR; it's Coors Light.
It's not trucker hats. it's baseball hats. forward.
Say goodbye to tight, expensive jeans, boys. Say hello to levis that don't quite fit. (Don's cousin used to have this one DOWN)
It's not bright, gaudy colors these days. These days it's different shades of blue that don't quite match.
The new irony is these fucking sunglasses my mom gave me that look like something out of a year in the '90s that never quite figured out what year it was.
The new irony is actually trying to dance well, unless you actually can dance well, in which case it's standing in the corner drinking a beer (COORS LIGHT) and pretending you're too cool to dance.

The best part is from now on hipsters [whatever the fuck that means] everywhere won't be able to distinguish each other from kids who are really just trying as hard as they can. So there will be a secret handshake. which is also almost cool... but just not quite.

Friday, March 25, 2005

30 Seconds



The average commercial is 30 seconds long, and lately those precious seconds have been set to the music of sweet indie tunes. Here are a few:

Target -- "Say Something New" by the Concretes
Aspen Edge Beer -- "Mahgeetah" by My Morning Jacket
Arrowhead Water -- "Oh Sweet Susanna" by The Mooney Suzuki
General Motors -- "Bohemian Like You" by The Dandy Warhols
Hummer (!!) -- "Seventeen Years" by Ratatat
K-Mart -- "That Great Love Song" by The Raveonettes
Nissan -- "Surfin' On a Rocket" by Air
Nissan -- "Gravity Rides Everything" by Modest Mouse
Nissan -- "A Good Man is Easy to Kill" by Beulah
HBO -- "C'mon C'mon" by The Von Bondies
Nintendo -- "Strict Machine" by Goldfrapp

and of course,
Volkswagen -- "Pink Moon" by Nick Drake


One of my favorite commercials is the Pepsi ad with the girl in a hotdog suit who meets a guy in a Pepsi suit. They used Blind Melon's "No Rain." That video was really cool, too.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Y Kant Tori Leave



Tori Amos' Boys for Pele was one of the first cds I owned as a kid. My older, cooler, cousin bought it for me when I was in sixth or seventh grade -- I can't really remember, to tell the truth. All I can recall was that I liked a few songs on the album, and either fell asleep to, or didn't understand, the rest. I also remember being shocked by Tori's wail of "STAAAAARFUCKER, just like my daddy" on "Professional Widow." I liked Tori, though. Not too much, but enough; she made playing the piano seem cool, which meant a lot to an asian girl who diligently played her piano every day, growing up.

I kind of forgot about her after that album, though, and went back to fetishizing the Smashing Pumpkins and STP.

Senior year of high school, however, I got back into Tori Amos in a HUGE way. My friend Hero and I mooned over every album, especially Little Earthquakes and Under the Pink. In fact we were so in love with this crazy, red-haired, uber-feminist, that we imagined reasons for liking her atrocious covers album, Strange Little Girls. It had come out earlier that year, and we had coughed up 55 fucking dollars to get nosebleed seats for the supporting concert in LA.

Looking back on it now I can admit that yes, after Little Earthquakes, it was all downhill. Each album became less accessible, lyrically, and more akin to New Age, or Adult Pop Music, musically. I guess Tori was getting older. With her first album she had shocked audiences – channeling raw emotion into powerful lyrics and original music solely composed, classically, with pianos. She was an original, uncontrollable, unpredictable, and easily set-off, twenty-something redhead (though I hear she dyes her hair, and is a natural brunette). On stage she would gyrate and noisily wail while pounding on both (!) pianos – and off-stage she was known as a generous woman who reached out to her fans (often rape victims and gay men)- so much so that she was known for her pre-show and post-show “meet and greets.”

It’s been fifteen years since she debuted as that flame of a woman. Now she’s a mother, a wife... and a really bad musician. Her fanbase is still incredibly devoted; she continues to sell out shows, and her aging fans (dubbed “Ears with Feet”) still sit in huge concert halls, donning fairy wings (apparently they call her “The Fairy Queen”) for the occasion. But these days Tori has resorted to milking those fans for what they’re worth: she charges more than fifty dollars for tickets to her shows, has published an autobiography, and continues to put out unnecessary albums and live recordings that only those diehards would want to buy. She should have known when to end things -- in a burst of flames in the early '90s. Instead she has slowly piddled out, sucking away her fans' dignity, along with her own.

It’s sad, really, because I’ll always hold a place in my heart for her. I’ll keep singing along to “Silent All These Years” (much to the annoyance of my male friends- and well-balanced female ones) and I’ll probably buy the dvd of her collected music videos... if it ever comes out (stupid bitch!). On the upside, I guess she’s sort of a MILF now.

ps. I saw Andy Dick at one of her shows.

Only The Fake Shit



Moultonborough, New Hampshire based three-piece The Westies have lost their drummer, taken totally apeshit photos of the remaining members drunk, half-naked, and hanging out with guns (all two of them- Its kind of homosexual in the raddest way possible), and reformed as a duo under the name Hello Princess. Their website has been ripped to shreds recently, and the only evidence of the change over is a drawing of two totally gay unicorns and the slogan "Only The Fake Shit." So I tracked down Grae Nonas (bass/vocals) to talk shit about the legend of The Westies, and how it all fell apart:

National Pop League: So The Westies started writing songs early in 2003?
Grae Nonas: Yes, this is true. By an eager kid damned from his childhood.

NPL: You guys kept a pretty serious archive of all your recordings, live shows, and practice sessions on your website. A lot of the time, when writing new songs, the archive entries note that the song "originated from Grae"- how did the songwriting process go for you guys? Were you writing the songs and bringing them to practice?
GN: Yeah, I would write the songs and then perform them for the band.

NPL: Just bass and vocals?
GN: Just bass and vocals. The rest of the band would fill in later. Thats how our band has that different sound; the one where it never seems good enough. Its because, compared to other bands, the bass is more of a lead. Also a rhythm but in this case mainly a lead.

NPL: You guys originated early on as a four track band, doing a lot of self-recording and songwriting... lo-fi shit. According to your archive your first live show wasn't until a good five months after the formation of the band. How much of that was intentional- that emphasis on songwriting and recording as a foundation for the band? It seems like a lot of bands sort of throw together a few songs and jump into shows before they even have the material to do it right...
GN: It wasn't, really. We tried to get gigs but after several fights with booking people, we lost our chance. We aren't allowed to play at the Bomb Shelter or this place in Nashua ever again, but anyway... We just weren't ready to be heard; our early stuff, like off our black tape 1, is terrible. I mean I guess it would be after playing Weezer covers for a year. Not saying Weezers bad. Just that we had no talent at that point when it came to writing.

NPL: You guys got banned from the bomb shelter!?
GN: Yeah, this was after our first demo in the summer of 2003. We got this 18 and under gig on a Sunday... we were supposed to sell tickets at 10 bucks a piece. So we didn't sell any tickets. And no one showed up for us really. The first band went on and talked about how they "went to drive thru records." They were like the gay groupies for blink 182's lead frontman Tom Delonge. They played this fucking gay guitar with one pickup... anyway they brought, of course, hot girls and a shitload of people; POP PUNK. Then this incredible metal band called 13 winters went on. Now these pop punk kids might have been curious about us but once the metal band started up they all left. So now no one is in the place. I said fuck it... and I told them we're not playing, and we're not giving you money for the tickets we sold. But we hadn't really sold any. Well Serge (owner of the bomb shelter) flipped out... called me a Prima Donna and told us we'd never make it in this industry and that we'd never play there again. SO I said okay, packed my shit, and went to Applebees.

NPL: You went to Applebees!?
GN: I was hungry and broke. Its Manchester, too man...

NPL: So I know Modest Mouse meant a lot to you guys, in terms of shaping your sound... you've made mention of a sort of epiphany you guys had listening to them, in the past- but what were they doing that caught your ear? And do you feel the music of The Westies began to change as a result?
GN: Isaac Brock's vocals... The shouting/screaming that you find on Tom Waits albums, and from Frank Black.... Modest Mouse's melodies and rhythms.... its such a different sound, where at a mellow point in the song, like the breakdown, he syncopates his vocal range over the beat of the song. That has been an incredible influence on my style of singing.

NPL: To date how many songs have The Westies written and recorded?
GN: Oh jesus ummm... we have a live recording from Luna Lounge in NYC marked Dec 17th I believe. It was our last recorded show, and our last show in New York... so I would say we have about 20 songs on record: 3 demos and Live at Luna... But all in all we had about 35 songs written.

NPL: Ah yeah, Luna Lounge. What do you think of New York City?
GN: I love it... I'm telling you this: if I dont go to school up in NH next year, I'm moving to NYC. I have an apartment available.

NPL: On the archive one of you kids wrote: "The night of the show @ the Luna Lounge. What the fuck, honestly. I mean yes we are unknown, its a given. AND is it me or does everyone in NYC look the same? Motherfuckers. Fuck, piss, cock, shit." So I ask you: does everyone in NYC look the same?
GN: Yeah in The Village or in Soho they all look the same. Fucking hipsters man... I didn't write that [on the archive] but it is true.

NPL: How would you say The Westies fit into the Hipster scene?
GN: Ummm I guess if you took thirty hipsters, one of them would like our music. Our music could be presentable. With a good producer or a manager guiding us we could get our sound to where people would want to look like me, and get a tattoo like me... but yeah, so we do and we don't.

NPL: You got tatts!?
GN: Yeah I have two now, man. My brother did them. Ones a moth customed on my lower forearm near my elbow, kind of hard to explain. The other one is a tattoo of a classic sailor tattoo of a devil's face, courtesy of sailor jerry, and sailor jerry rum. That one is on my upper arm, but near the inside of my arm. Its nowhere near my shoulder.

NPL: What?
GN: I dunno.

NPL: So you guys were a band for two years, wrote a whole bunch of songs, played some shitty shows... moved down to New Jersey, scored a house to keep the tunes flowing... what happened?
GN: Our drummer [Joe Willwerth] fucked it up. I'm telling you this: drummers are evil. Though I'm a drummer now. But our drummer fucked it up. I looked to him for inspiration and he couldn't do it. He's a pussy. You met him- he wouldn't even drink. Anyway we were playing a ton of shows at the time and we'd just started getting shows in NYC... so when he left I got into this weird mood where I kinda just didn't do anything at all. We tried to get a new drummer... I met all these fucking drummers who play like EmoCore shit- you know like Thursday, or Metal. I wasn't willing to work with them. But now I look back on it and know I didn't need Joe. I just need someone to play the tunes. So now I drum. I've learned. And I want to start a band where I can drum and play bass and sing, as well as drum/sing; like a Phil Collins thing. I think thats the new wave of playing. You don't see that anymore really. Death From Above I guess.

NPL: So Hello Princess is you and Alex (guitar)?
GN: Umm yeah, doing Misfits covers. I wrote a song today on bass and drums and recorded it ... by myself. The bass has an effect which I like a lot. Alex and I have tried to do some things; we've written a couple of songs with me playing drums and singing. Some of them were good.... I saw a mix of kings of leon/arcade fire with my vocals, and some Unicornish type music, I don't know, shit.

NPL: You guys still play any Westies songs? Or is it pretty much a new band?
GN: New band. I don't have a bassist or another guitarist, so it is just a new band for now. I would like to bring some of it back. Maybe with the right band we can do that.

NPL: So one last question: What do you think of Dartmouth?
GN: Well, the school looks great. I wish I could go there. It seems like the movie Rules of Attraction. Anyway... I love the rock club thing you've got going on. The lights are awesome in there. Your house was fucking awesome. I've never had that much fun playing a show. Partying with the other bands and the people and shit. Its like the dream you know? Playing music and having fun... Dartmouth was a great experience for me. And for the band.

NPL: Do you think if Joe had stuck around to party after that show he would have never left the band?
GN: Great question. You know he parties, but he has never had that kind of experience. So if he had he probably would have waited it out. That experience is what we grow up wanting... being a rockstar, in a sense, you know? I definitely believe he would have stayed. He would've had a reason to live.

MP3: White Panther @ Garage Band

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Louis XIV


After reading some very positive show reviews on the site, I just wanted to take a moment to highlight one of the worst live performances I've seen in a long time: Louis XIV. They're a pretty terrible band. Strike that. More accurately they are one of the most boring bands I've ever seen.

My friend dragged me to the Hot Hot Heat show. Due to our old age we have a habit of trying to get to the show just in time to see the headliner. We just don't have the patience for most opening bands and these days, and it seems that bands aren't doing a very good job of choosing their opening acts. So we made the mistake of showing up thirty minutes early and had to suffer through some of the worst live music I have ever seen. The band was stiff and boring. The same could be said about their music.

I'm OK with revivalism, but please, at least bring new to the table, or do it better than the other guys. This was mediocre cock rock at its best, and pure garbage at its worst. Here's the truly sad part: people did and will eat this up. This is a band that puts it image completely before their music. How about a little less time applying the mascara and a little more attention to writing non-insipid lyrics...

No offense, but their sexual politics also disturb me. For example I submit their cover art and this great quote from an interview with Rolling Stone:

"On the Killers tour, there were lots of little girls, and that's who I like playing to. One night in Seattle, there were some guys up in the front trying to start a mosh pit, and I was thinking, 'Get the fuck out of here.' "

Congratulations guys, I'm sure you'll find yourself some very gullible 13 year old girls to eat this up and make out with you.

Pitchfork's Review of Illegal Tender

P2P - Not always evil

The Decemberists have harnessed that wonderful scourge of the internet BitTorrent to release their latest single '16 Military Wives' to their fans. One of the main problems with distributing video on the web is that high quality video consumes a lot of bandwith (lots of bandwith = $$$). Using BitTorrent to distribute high quality video to fans is a great idea and one can only hope that more bands follow in their footsteps.

You can read the full article at:
http://www.wired.com/news/digiwood/0,1412,66969,00.html

Skateboarding at Dartmouth: Synopsis

Riding Dartmouth: Over 300 years of history and architecture clashes with a few kids who want to ride it…but not really destroy it.

Extreme skateboarding and the Ivy League – what do they have in common? Nothing really, except one or two kids here and there like me. We are the few neighborhood skate punks who broke the mold and somehow got through the Ivy League admissions process reminiscent of post-9/11 airport security. Sorry Mr. Admissions Officer, I forgot to write in my application that I would be conquering all the 8-stairs on campus and incessantly scraping paint off all the railings with the trucks on my skateboard. I’m glad you liked my accomplishments though.

Dartmouth College’s campus features plenty of ramps, curbs, ledges, stairs, rails, and construction zones that are just begging to be ridden. I really enjoy the absence of “No Skateboarding” signs here. No one thought to put them up. After all, what good ol’ Ivy League boy would ever want to skateboard? The idea seems preposterous. When students want recreation, they will of course join the crew team. Or the sailing team. Or maybe the golf team (get out the plaid pants…you know you love them). The plain fact is we skaters are way too few and far between to even be noticed. And thank God. It makes it a lot easier to have fun.

Of course, we all miss our “crews” back home, our buds who we would see regularly at the local skate shop, who we would play Skate with after school. Sometimes it is lonely being one of the few skaters on campus, not to mention one of the very few out of that group who actually can land tricks. But the good thing about feeling like an “outcast” is that I can get a lot more heartfelt about what I am doing. When I cross another skater on campus, I treat him like family. We feel elitist about what we do. We feel united by a common bond. Not like back home, where every kid on the block can varial-flip.

In short, while I know my kind are a small group who are never going to grow into larger numbers, I feel confident that we will never die out, because our situation brings us close and makes us strong. There will always be at least one or two Ivy League kids who skate hardcore. You might see us occasionally in the street. And we will always be underground. It is like The Casualties say, “We’re the f***ing punks, we’re few but we are real, the way we f***ing feel, this noise is for real.” Skate hard.

Consumer Culture



Songs heard in an Outlet Mall 3/18, matched to the google search descriptions of the specific stores that played them:

Mates of State- Goods
Aeropostale- Mall-based specialty retailer of casual apparel for young people.

Le Tigre- TKO
DKNY- Features store locator and company information.

Wilco- I'm The Man Who Loves You
Fossil- Huge Selection of Watches, Clothes, Wallets & More-Free Shipping Offer!

The Shins- New Slang
J Crew- J.Crew is a leading retailer of men's and women's apparel, shoes and accessories.

Joss Stone- Fell in Love With a Boy
Guess- Latest fashion collections for men, women, kids and babies. Shop online or use the store locator to find a store near you.