Thursday, August 31, 2006

New Artist: Sunny Day Sets Fire

With an eclectic mix of backgrounds in their band (two guys from Italy, a girl from Hong Kong, and a guy from London), I was expecting something truly special from this, Sunny Day Sets Fire's second ever single, released earlier this June - and I wasn't disappointed. While there aren't any distinct Italian or Asian sounds really showing themselves in the track, withIn Wilderness, Sunny Day Sets Fire have managed to create a track of blissful, sunny (how appropriate) indie pop. And while I think most of this uplifting feeling is a direct result of the catchy-as-hell xylophone hook that permeates the track, the rest of the song ain't half-bad either.

A proper EP release should be coming out later in the year.

I'll try and upload the track for you all to enjoy but for now, you can listen to the track, and download a few of their earlier stuff at their myspace page.

Just found that there's an equally strange video-clip released for the track. Here you go:

The Grey Album: Danger Mouse's black and white cookie

The hip-hop outfit Gnarls Barkley which came to fame with the phenomenally successful single ‘Crazy’, looks like it might disappoint with their decidedly lacklustre second single and disappear into obscurity like, i dunno, (Australian Idol!) Casey Donovan. However, DJ Danger Mouse, the paler-skinned half of Gnarls Barkley already guaranteed himself a place in the pop music history books with his 2004 release, the notorious Grey Album. The album is an ingenious mash-up of hip-hop maestro Jay-Z’s ‘final’ recording, The Black Album and the Beatles 1968 double album The White Album.

While mash-ups had existed for decades before The Grey Album, what makes the album stand apart is the simplicity of the concept: Use the socially conscious rappings of Jay-Z and lay it over the music of the perennial poster boys of skinny white rock. The highlight on the album is track 5 where Jay-Z’s ‘99 Problems’ is mashed with the Beatles heavy metal ‘Helter Skelter’. Besides the fact that this track sounds like totally awesome and stuff, track 5 is especially fascinating for its link to American race relations. Jay-Z’s lyrics tell a narrative of the artist maligned as a successful rapper and being harassed by the law just because he is black. The Beatles backing track, instead of tackling social issues, originally contained fairly incongruous lyrics about a playground slide from Paul McCartney’s childhood. Helter Skelter became much more controversial in the seventies when Charles Manson thought that the Beatles were sending him messages through their music. The messages specifically predicted a race war between blacks and whites. He called this war Helter Skelter. When it became apparent that the war wouldn’t start, Manson decided to start it himself. For Manson, the White Album was the rock equivalent of Mein Kampf. Manson and the family then committed the murders for which he is infamous. The murderers also stole a wallet from the Polanski’s house and dropped it in a public toilet in a predominantly black neighbourhood. Manson thought that this would start the race war but all this really achieved was blocked pipes. However in Manson’s mind, the blacks were going to win the prophesised race war and kill off the white population during which Manson and the family would hide underground. Then, after a period of time the children of the Family would rise from their underground hidey hole, kill the black population and rule the world. (The world = America for all intents and purposes). With this in mind, it is much easier to see The Grey Album as Danger Mouse trying to musically reconcile two opposing political positions. If I may say so, Danger Mouse is the Martin Luther King of hip hop. Or the Professor Charles Xavier of hip hop. Or whatever. My point is that The Grey Album is attempting racial reconciliation in the same tradition as Jerry Seinfeld’s black and white cookie.

Danger Mouse sampled from Jay-Z and the Beatles without authorisation. Normally this is done and no one really cares but the enormous buzz created by the album caused EMI to order Danger Mouse and retailers carrying the album to cease distribution. In response, the activist group Downhill Battle led a massive Internet-based protest dubbed Grey Tuesday to express the opinion that sampling is fair use and that a statutory license should be provided in the same manner as if a given song had been covered. Since The Grey Album, mash ups have become increasingly popular, though none have been as successful as Danger Mouse’s moment of conceptual genius. Notable efforts include the Kleptones’ mashup of the Flaming Lips’ album Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots with various hip hop artists entitled Yoshimi Battles the Hip Hop Robots. The one-off mash up single has become more likely. The intrepid internet user will be able to track down Destiny’s Child vs. Nirvana in ‘Smells like Booty’ or Christina Aguilera vs. the Strokes in ‘A Stroke of Genie-us’. The lesson to be learned here is that a mash-up is only as good as the wittiness of its title. How about Guns N’ Roses vs. Michael Jackson in ‘Don’t Stop ‘til You Get Sweet Child of Mine’? Or Guy Sebastian vs. Nelly Furtado in ‘Angels Brought me Promiscuous Girls’?

But back to The Grey Album. Unfortunately I will never know for sure whether Danger Mouse intended for it to be the anthem of racial tolerance that I have read it as. One cannot overlook the undeniable pleasure of skinny white kids in tight jeans and Converse sneakers trying to navigate the rhythm of Jay-Z’s rhymes on the dance floor. Meanwhile, Charles Manson will be eligible for parole in 2007. If he is released, what will he think of The Grey Album? Will the murder mastermind be outraged at the recording as Beatles sacrilege? Will he be moved by Jay-Z’s political lyrics resulting in a more empathetic, loving and tolerant Manson. My guess: he won’t even get to hear it. Wouldn't want his parole officer to catch him downloading illegal MP3s.

Film Review: Breakfast on Pluto

Breakfast on Pluto is the latest film from Neil Jordan, director of The Crying Game and Interview with the Vampire. The film tracks the life of Patrick Braden (Cillian Murphy) who is abandoned as a baby in his small Irish hometown and from a young age decides that he prefers life as a transvestite. The small town becomes too conservative for the grown up Patrick who sets off for London in search of his birth mother. Along his journey, Patrick encounters many colourful characters such as the mysterious Father Bernard (Liam Neeson), a rock singer Billy Rock (Gavin Friday), a cheap suit magician (Stephen Rea) and best friend Charlie (Ruth Negga), who is pregnant to her boyfriend who is involved with the IRA.

Breakfast on Pluto is set in Ireland and the UK during the ‘60s and ‘70s and the intense political climate of that era comes to impact on Patty, culminating in a violent nightclub bombing in London. Despite the harsh world that Patty finds himself in, he never loses his sense of optimism. Director Neil Jordan intended the film to be a lesson in how to survive in a deeply aggressive world. Unfortunately, the film comes off more like a lesson in apathy. Patrick is never really affected by the terrible things surrounding him and as a result he appears as an unreal character with no real emotions. He falls in and out of love with no real joy or sadness and at one point in the movie, surrounded by wounded bomb victims, Patrick’s main concern is the state of his stockings.

Patrick is consistently annoyed by people telling him to take things seriously but I found that instead of siding with the main character I was agreeing with the others. Surely we should be encouraging people to take political issues and current events seriously instead of ignoring that these things exist and becoming distracted by materialism.

Cillian Murphy may look convincing as a transvestite but his one-note performance is consistently irritating though this may have as much to do with the script as with the performance. The vacuousness of the main character makes it hard for the audience to root for him and the whimsical style with which the story is told is strained. Despite strong performances from the supporting actors and a fun soundtrack, Breakfast on Pluto quickly wears out its welcome.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Sufjan's Talking Heads.

Recently, at a Bookeaters benefit concert in New York, fans of the two acts performing that night - Sufjan Stevens and David Byrne - were there, and obviously there in plague proportions; or at least enough to cough up the $5,000 mark set by Bookeaters that would guarantee an combined encore of the two stars. In fact they went way beyond that measly sum - punters raised over $15,000 on the night! So now that they paid the money, you too can share in their rewards in all their full-colour handycam glory:

Yeah Yeah Yeahs: Gold Lion

First saw this video a few months back, but I thought I should share it with everyone. Definitely one of my favourite "band video clips" so far this year.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

The Coolest Band You've Never Heard

As I'd like this blog to become a music blog, I thought it might be good to put up some music. In particular, some good music. The quick mission statement then is that I'm going to be putting up whatever promo tracks I can find of bands I've become recently enamoured with, as well as new tracks from all the myriad (or plethora, if you prefer) of music blogs already out there, which I've decided are actually worth your ear-time.

Without further ado, the first band I'd like to introduce you to are Crystal Skulls. Hailing from Seattle with their sunny indie-pop, I've come to absolutely love their debut effort "Blocked Numbers". Part of their appeal to me is the fact that I can't seem to think of any bands which they have directly taken their sound from. If you really need another band to be mentioned, I'd mention Spoon. But that's just off the top of my head. You be the judge.

grab these:
Airport Motels
No Room For Change

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

let's try this again.

i started this blog just before I left on a globe-trotting adventure, so that all you invisible people out there would have a way of keeping up-to-date in your jealousy about the cool shit I was doing.

However, 4 months and 2 posts later, I realised it was never going to happen.
So, now that i'm back in wintery melbourne, and have nothing better to do than fall behind with classes, I'm going to try and make a go of this. Fingers crossed.