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Sunday, March 13th, 2005

Must I Paint You A Picture?

Just bits and pieces today.

Thanks to Hold My Life for pointing me to Billy Bragg’s website where he’s offering a number of free live download clips (and one full-length track for newsletter subscribers) taken from his Live At The Barbican album (which is available for sale in digital format). I am still sore at Billy for not making good on his promise to tour through North America last year – he said he would when he played here for his Talking Woody show, but a year and a half later, I’m still waiting for him and The Blokes to show up. WHY DO YOU LIE TO US, BILLY? WHY? A poke around his website reveals a pretty good archive of materials, however – there’s a wealth of reading in the Words section. Note – not recommended for those who don’t like politicking.

Coolfer is more diplomatic than I’d be in pointing out the market for post-punk/disco/new-wave-inflected bands is getting pretty damn saturated. Death to disco hi-hats! It’s gotten to the point where I don’t even have to listen to a band to write them off, their haircuts are enough to tip me off as to what they sound like. Unlike Coolfer, I don’t think it’s necessarily the fact that the mainstream has latched onto the sound so much as the fact that the newer bands who are trying to hop the sytlistic bandwagon just sound so BAD. And by bad, I mean so derivative and obvious. Sounding like a band that was big twenty years ago is one thing. Cribbing from a band that was big twenty months ago is another. Call it the indie rock equivalent to the Pearl Jam->Creed->Nickelback syndrome, call it the second law of thermodynamics in action (each copy will be less perfect than the predecessor), or just call it tired, but bands have really got to find some new marrow of inspiration to suck dry.

And in this interview with The Oregonian, M Ward agrees with me. Via LHB.

Kathryn Yu has been working on a documentary film on The Wrens and has just released a ten-minute preview of the work-in-progress. It does make me wonder how much longer the band will be working The Meadowlands (which still has to come out in Europe!) and when we might expect some new music from them.

Another year, another 4AD reunion tour. Dead Can Dance comes to town on October 1 at Massey Hall.

Electrelene are in Toronto at a venue to be determined on June 8 to promote their new record Axes, out May 10.

N’oubliez-pas! Jens Lekman instore at Soundscapes this afternoon at 4, show at Wavelength tonight at Sneaky Dee’s… sometime!

It is with no small amount of apprehension that I realize today will probably be the last day for at least a week, probably two, that I will have anything resembling free time. I still have a number of things to do to get ready for SxSW (like play with this PDA app with the complete schedule). Between travel, work, various extra-cirricular activities, it’s going to be a pretty exhausting fortnight before I get to the Easter long weekend. I will endeavour to reply to some emails and whatnot that have been gathering dust in the past few days because if I don’t get to them now, they’re never getting taken care of.

np – Sigur Ros / ( )

By : Frank Yang at 10:25 am
Category: Uncategorized
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  1. D. says:

    Hmmm this whole issue is interesting, not least because it’s broken in the same week that The Bravery, of all people, have graced the cover of the NME.

    The first thing to note about these scenes is that they always fall to bits after about 18 months, due to lack of invention and a horde of hastily-assembled copycat bands.

    Each time it happens I’m amazed by the collective amnesia. For God’s sake people, just think back to the garage rock scene that spawned the current post-punk one. From Easter 2000 to summer 2003 it was led by that reasonably dynamic trio of The Strokes, The White Stripes and The Hives. At its margins there were a host of more interesting bands following that sound, Ikara Colt, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs etc.

    Eventually however MTV2 started to fill its schedule with identikit acts like The Star Spangles, The Raveonettes, Young Heart Attack and others I don’t even fucking remember. It was at that point that the DFA sound peddled by The Rapture and Radio 4 suddenly seemed pretty damn exciting, and it just took Franz Ferdinand to ride the crest of a wave.

    Stalwarts of the old bandwagon meandered into obscurity, and I can’t help but smile whenever I see one or more of The Datsuns wandering without purpose outside The Astoria in Central London, the venue they must have been playing when the wind changed. I see them there a lot.

    Rock ‘n roll movements always follow the law of diminishing returns. Oasis -> The Verve -> Embrace -> Keane. The Strokes -> Hot Hot Heat (who started out chasing the emo bandwagon) -> Jet. The Libertines -> The Ordinary Boys (originally an opportunistic nu-metal band) -> The Others.

    Rock music is the Darwinian Antichrist.

    What genuinely worries me though, is the trend that these scenes have taken on since the mid-90s. Yes, Britpop’s Great War Crime. Britpop was preceded by scenes like grunge, baggy and shoegaze which followed the traditional peak-then-trough and threw up just as many hopeless bands as the scenes that followed them. But – and this important – they were based on producing genuinely new ideas within rock music. Rock+Dance, punk+metal, that ol’ cliche "cathedrals of sounds". Often awful, yeah, but NEW. Britpop was mainly about imitating the late sixties, garage rock about imitating the late seventies and our current post-punk the early eighties.

    The critic Paul Morley (a pretentious tosser, but sometimes an insightful one) has pointed out that bands like Franz Ferdinand are conservative in the purest sense of the word. They take on the hairstyles and sound of Gang of Four, but ellipt the political context that made the latter revolutionary. There’s never been a band as much about nothing as Franz Ferdinand. They simply ‘conserve’ (albeit in a very catchy manner).

    I’m open to suggestions – has there been a band since My Bloody Valentine or Slint who have genuinely pushed guitar music in a new direction? That’s two bands who disappeared a couple of years before I was even into music, and that’s pretty depressing.

    At this point, like the rest of you I’m sure, I reach for Nietzsche and his idea that humanity should entirely abandon past cultures before it can come up with anything vital and new.

    So where’s the zeitgeist going next? This time last year it was clear from the MP3 blogos that the focus was going to be post-punk for a while yet. Right now I have absolutely no idea.

  2. Frank says:

    Wow, David – can I just copy your comment and replace my post with it? It’s far more interesting.

  3. D. says:

    Hmm, on reflection I really can go on a bit sometimes…

  4. Chris says:

    You may be waiting for Bill a little while longer – heard he’s working on a book.

  5. Jasper says:

    Frank,

    Apropos of nothing…

    I just wanted to tell you that you’re in for a real treat this weekend when you see Centro-matic at SXSW. I’ve been seeing them since way back around Redo the Stacks. Anyhow, I can honestly say that they’re better than they’ve ever been. They are band that gives me chills. I mean that. They are a group of musicians that play together beautifully as an organic, exciting unit in the way that Wilco or Willie Nelson’s band does. I can’t wait to read your raves when you get back. On second thought, maybe I should try catching ’em down in Austin this weekend.

  6. chris says:

    what did m. ward agree with you about?

  7. Frank says:

    I was referring mainly to the pullquote that Largehearted Boy used: "Whatever you do, whether you’re an athlete, or an automobile repairman, or a musician, requires that you know a bit of the history of the profession — the mistakes that have been made, the accomplishments — to be a ‘student of the game.’ For my particular musical education, older texts are more valuable than being up to date on everyone who’s in Spin magazine." Maybe a bit of a stretch, but it seemed relevant at the time I was writing it.

  8. toddc says:

    I’ll take your comment about Pearl Jam back one step. I hated PJ when they started because they were ripping off the Seattle/Sub Pop sound, but with a singer who took himself way to seriously and a band who all wore cowboy hats (I believe the Evenflow video documents this crime.

  9. toddc says:

    Here’s my problem with everybody piling on the Bravery. The whole movement is a ripoff of something 20 years old. Are The Killers really any better just because they got signed one year earlier? Seems to me The Bravery pissed off somebody at Spin and have now become the new Jet. Not that The Bravery are that good, but they’re no worse than the Killers.

  10. Frank says:

    I swear on my life I have never heard The Killers.

  11. D. says:

    In a way the Killers ARE better just because they were signed a year earlier. Y’see, I was twelve months less bored of the post-punk scene back then.

    I do like Bloc Party though, hypocrite that I am. But I can hear as much Radiohead and Mansun in that stuff as early Cure/GoF.