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Archive for July, 2009

How many times have we heard someone say, “it could make a grown man cry” and then went home disappointed, with only the sweltering sun to be blamed for the water trickling down our cheeks. It is quite amazing the amount of crap that leads to the beloved act of passing of the tissues. Yeah yeah I know, to each his own and all that; still I will continue to judge people who cried during Stepmom or Million Dollar Baby. Or drunk guys who scout for fellow simians to ‘jusssst hug it out’ whenever the aging DJ spins the super-annoying quasi-acoustic intro to Metallica’s Nothing Else Matters at the pub. Some even get all mushy and text poetry to their never-to-be fiancés. Fred Durst’s crayon could easily sue them for copyright infringement.

Why the rant?

zero7-bandIn the spirit of promoting all that is dandy and nice, I would much rather have people cry to the beautiful sounds of Zero 7.

Zero 7 is an UK-based downtempo/jazz pop act comprising Henry Binns and Sam Hardaker – former sound engineers for the likes of Pet Shop Boys and Robert Plant. They have been crafting pristine electronic music that harkens back to the trip-hop boom of the early Nineties while giving erstwhile nods to French pop of the 1960s. They first came into prominence with their remix of Radiohead’s Climbing Up the Walls, which appeared as a Karma Police B-side. The common consensus (for once, it is right) opines that Zero 7’s debut Simple Things is their best effort till date. It really is one of the most delicate albums I have ever heard (and I own three Tori Amos acoustic compilations); jazzy, intricate and smoky.

sophie bakerFeaturing guest appearances by pop princesses Sia Furler and Sophie Barker, this album should have rightfully started a riot. A mellow one in which, the underprivileged and the wronged get together to roast marshmallows over a warm fire and write songs about the funny noises the flame makes.

In The Waiting Line” is my favourite song on Simple Things. It is a perfect soundtrack for putting things into perspective at the end of a particularly bad day. As the song drifts on, backed by an achingly lovely harmony section and Sophie Barker barring her soul into words like “do you believe in what you see, motionless wheel, nothing is real, wasting my time, in the waiting line,” you feel vulnerable…scarily close to shedding an uncomfortable tear and then BOOM you start to wonder,

“How in the hell can a song that has Lars Ulrich in it make anyone cry?”

But that’s just me. You might continue drifting along with the song.

Download

Zero 7 – In The Waiting Line

Watch

Zero 7 Destiny

Zero 7 – Somersault (Danger Doom remix)

The Sonics – Have Love, Will Travel (since I stole the words)

Buy

Stuff for your grandma

Zero 7’s Simple Things

Eagerly Anticipate

Yeah Ghost

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In reference to two earlier posts on Indian rock music (this and this), more than a few pissed off people have decided to take time from their precious lives and tell me that I don’t know anything about the Indian heavy metal attitude. Yes, I don’t. Neither do I know how to lure kids with hard candy. I am thankful for both. A few however actually brought common sense to the conversation. Vijay Prozak, owner of the delicately titled heavy metal website http://www.anus.com (American Nihilist Underground Society), wrote to me about heavy metal breaking barriers and becoming the voice of culture. Dale Sykes, an irate resident of parts unknown, even insulted me for not recognizing the fact that a person’s financial status should have no bearing on the music he/she listens to.

I can’t argue with the validity of what they have written, but heavy metalI will say this…I write only from personal experiences. Most of the so-called purists and fans (with a rare few exceptions) that I have met in India have had no clue as to why they felt that connection to heavy metal music. Some just woke up one fine day with long hair and decided ‘what the hell, might as well’. Others think that such non-conformance entitles them to have an intellectual opinion on society, which might magically lead them past puberty, virginity and other fragile moments of desperation.

I mean, these people were petty, fashion conscious, self-righteous, and under the impression that it was far more important to look rebellious rather than to actually go through the pains of being so. Frankly, I see no difference between them and that dude wearing a tight T-shirt and lip-syncing the words to Ricky Martin’s Un Dos Tres on the dancefloor while everyone else wonders if they have been teleported to fucking 1996 again.

*****

The other question that has reared its head lately…why haven’t I written a tribute to Michael Jackson? Uhmm I don’t like his music very much. Even though, like a few gazillion others, I grew up listening to him…I did so because my sister was the only one I knew who could somehow miraculously afford audiotapes at the age of 10. The day I could actually afford to spend 80 bucks on music, I rushed to Landmark and probably bought a John Secada or Peter Andre album. Once the Best Of Bob Dylan and The Ozzman Cometh tapes entered my stereo (my sister had flown to Germany by then), I started using the MJ album covers as makeshift ashtrays.

The Trail

Daniel Crown on Stroszek and the death of Ian Curtis

A bunch of good writers at Stylus Magazine on the 50 Greatest Rock Drummers

Scholar brings in the benefit of sound on Dead Men Walking Don’t Dream

Saul Williams offers a free glimpse into Chapters 18 – 22 of the Dead Emcee Scrolls (Lost Teachings Of Hip Hop) and also lists out five of his favorite political songs

Exploitation Retrospect has been feverishly bookmarked. Feel free to spend hours and hours on their complete online guide to Klaus Kinski

Go to I Can Has Cheezburger, it might make you a better person

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The title ‘The King Of Pop’ gets tossed around with little to almost zilch commitment to lending itself to introspection; mostly by those who have this weird fondness for associating aesthetic superiority with familiarity. Apparently, these good people also think acceptance is a pre-requisite for greatness. Ahem…you know what, let’s not talk about such people on such a fantastically cloudy day. Over the years, pop music has had its share of gemstones. With so many people having so many interpretations of what perfect pop music is all about, I can think of very few bands that have been faithful to both mass consumerism and awesomeness in crafting good music. However my interests lie in those ones whose greatness have not always been entirely visible to everyone.

Mark EverettI’m sure each one of you at some point have heard a surprisingly fantastic song by some obscure band and then proceeded to find out more about their music. In fact I love it when people express copious amounts of love for largely unknown acts; I guess, I feel all fluffy when I have first-hand proof of the fact that sometimes obscurity in music is drooled over. A very charming person called Lesley mailed in last week and professed her over-the-top adoration for Mark Everett, the singer / songwriter / guitarist / keyboardist/ erstwhile drummer for the band – The Eels. God bless her soul for reminding me how truly great The Eels are.

See, Mark Oliver Everett, like so many others before him, clearly expresses pain through music.  If you must,  give a quick read about the crap that he has had to endure through the decades. It might give you an insight into the sheer visceral acidity of his songwriting. His music is yet to meet a genre that it could fall in love with and get married to, but it is such non-conformance that has caused Everett to craft some of the edgiest pop songs of his decade. Before you think he’s the bastard son of Tori Amos and the lead singer from that death metal who claims to have found solace in Satan and designer underwear, you should know that the actual music sounds rather jangly; I mean, if you didn’t pay attention to the lyrics, you’d think it’s the perfect soundtrack for apples to fall off trees during summer. More often than not, backed by stirring melodies and tiny, upbeat percussion blasts, he sings about the life’s tragedies in a way that will make Michael Stipe blush. The confliction in emotion between sound and language might even freak you out.

Electro-Shock-BluesIn fact, their 1998 album Electro-Shock Blues is dam near shocking in the extremities of ambience it looks to concoct. Songs like Ant Farm, Climbing To The Moon and Jeannie’s Diary have no business being this intense as the catchy melodies almost make for awkward listening, considering the depraved level of sadness Everett must have felt while writing them. He even managed to get the world-weary ‘I Need Sleep‘ single on the Shrek Soundtrack (thankfully, the director didn’t realize how friggin depressing the song actually is).

Much like Lanegan, Sly Stone, Lou Reed and other fascinating men of music, I can never write enough about Mark Oliver Everett to signify how truly smitten I am by his music. I mean, I would take no less than a few thousand words to summarize the mellowed joy that can found on The Eels’ double album Blinking Lights and Other Revelations and the extremely pretty Daisies Of The Galaxy album.

Hence I implore thee to discover more about The Eels, the lead singer and their music. For what it’s worth, you might feel ever so slightly fluffy too.

Watch

The Eels – Flyswatter

The Eels – Souljacker Part 1

The Eels – Efil’s God (couldn’t find it on YouTube)

The Eels – Elizabeth On The Bathroom Floor

Buy

His book

His music

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Even homophobia has no business clouding one’s mind when it comes to decriminalization of homosexuality. It doesn’t even qualify itself for a debate. It should have been the norm considering that Hindus, Jews, the Japanese, Albinos, Dyslexic people, frock-wearing chihuahuas, plump activists, Zhongwei Goats, French mimes, grumpy painters, short human resources managers, tapeworms, jazz musicians, and irritating kids have been walking around freely without being viciously judged for who they are.

A lot of people have written about this with much more conviction and passion, so you should go read their stuff. As for the rest who are sort of glad about the decriminalization, but wouldn’t really think about it in two weeks’ time unless some a bunch of idiots have something hilariously offensive to say, read on.

Soup DragonsI was thinking about what would have made for a good background score when this news broke. After a brief introspection I have decided that it would have to be I’m Free by Scottish alternative rockers The Soup Dragons. I first heard of these guys during high school when a distant uncle of mine, a Catholic priest who had more in common with Bud Spencers than any other person I have met, gifted me a random “Say What U Want: Artists for Rock the Vote” CD. Apart from featuring stunningly good, edgy pop music by The Wonder Stuff, Michelle Shocked, Phranc and Tears For Fears, the CD also introduced me to a fantastic cover of a Rolling Stones’ song (I’m Free) by The Soup Dragons. Sean Dickson’s vocals are eager more than anything else and it works wonderfully well what with the rest of the band bringing down the house with a heck of a rhythm section.

As he croons, “Cause I’m free, to do what I want, to be what I want, any old time,” you really start questioning your sanity for having believed that happiness can be sort of boring.

In hindsight I can safely say that I’m Free reaffirmed my faith in joyous music. Despite being committed to the notion that cynicism and overwhelming pain spur music to greater heights than any other permutation of emotions, I think happiness lately has been given an unfair run in music. A couple of decades ago, a thumping beat followed by soulful vocals, handclaps and gentle synthesizers would have amounted to a great soul track sung by the likes of Aretha Franklin, Brian Wilson, Ray Charles, Sly Stone or Smokey Robinson. In today’s recurring playlist, you would sooner hear these classic sounds on a Goa trance album than on anything worth giving a second listen to.

And now…ahemmmm…now for the most loathsome part of casual writing, the summary of an hour’s worth of thinking.

Lessons Learned

I’m glad that the judgment on Section 377 has been given a warm welcome

I’m Free by The Soup Dragons might make you want to dance

You should buy the Say What U Want: Artists for Rock the Vote CD (or stay sadly ignorant of The Disposable Heroes of Hypocrisy)

I didn’t have time to talk about the joyously fantastic My Nutmeg Fantasy (Mos Def & Angie Stone remix) by Macy Gray, but do listen to it

And don’t fucking judge people who don’t bother you

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I am a petty petty man whenever I write about films. Even though I have zero credibility, I still sit on a pedestal, put my grubby fingers on the keyboard and pass judgment as though mere admiration for cinema immediately brings with it a superior understanding of the same. Matter of fact, I’ll bring in an IMDB quote to clear things up.

anton egoIn many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgment. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read. But the bitter truth we critics must face, is that in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is probably more meaningful than our criticism designating it so. But there are times when a critic truly risks something, and that is in the discovery and defense of the new”

As much passion as a critic/writer feels during the course of defending the refreshingly unproven, I think he feels just as much while berating the unfortunately unexpected. In lieu of such delightful ironies, here’s a review (questionable usage) of some of the most overrated films I have seen…

No-Country-For-Old-ManNo Country For Old Men: The first time I watched this film I thought it was really really good. A couple of viewings later, I turned turtle on it. While Intolerable Cruelty remains the only truly horrendous mistake committed by either of the Coen brothers, I think No Country For Old Men is one of their most overrated moments. Now look, I think its fantastic that sometimes intelligent directors get awarded these nice trophies. As much disrespect as I have for such industry-standard recognitions, I cannot help but feel all warm and fuzzy inside when directors like Chris Nolan, Sam Raimi and the Coens win those golden statuettes. In that sense I was sort of glad when No Country took the best film award. However when compared to the most of their other films this one pales like the offspring of Mr snowman and Mrs albino monk(ess).

Yeah yeah Javier Bardem almost hit Michael Madsen’s level of coolness with his brooding presence and the storyline too was alright, I guess…a sly veer from cinematic norms. But I ask you, can any facet of No Country even dream about reaching the skull-crushing, bone marrow-sucking, badass awesomeness of films such as Miller’s Crossing, Big Lebowski (it’s not “just a slacker comedy”), Blood Simple or the grossly unappreciated Barton Fink? No friggin chance, if you ask me. In fact apart from the great Catherine Zeta Jones-inspired atrocity of 2001, I can’t think of one other Coen brothers’ film that has left me with such emptiness. Oh and I did not dig the ending at all. Too often directors have taken this route to escape giving closure for their characters. Apparently there is some sort of a pseudo-intellectual acumen attached to leaving films in limbo. Let the audience figure out the ending, it seems. I have at times wished that Ernest Hemmingway had never kickstarted this interactive connect with his readers through The Lady And The Tiger; perhaps then we wouldn’t have had to sit through these too-breezy-to-qualify-as-stylish climaxes. As if that weren’t lame enough, the brothers had the audacity to let Tommy Lee ‘I forgot how to act after Natural Born Killers’ Jones lead us through to the final scene. If I had to choose the actors who were supposed to do  that last scene in No Country For Old Men, my last three picks would be Dennis Quaid, Tommy Lee Jones and Harrison Ford. Of course I’m spiteful. It’s true, folks…what you love the most can also hurt you the worst.

walk_the_lineI Walk The Line: Now now keep your knives back inside and play nice. I am not finding fault with the film or the performances in it. I do however question its decision to leave out few things that defined Johnny Cash and the way he lived his life. We see precious little from his childhood years and even less of his later years. I mean, Wikipedia could tell you that Johnny Cash had started writing songs way before he enlisted in the Air Force during the early Fifties. His mother and a certain childhood mate taught Johnny how to play the guitar; legend even has it that he wrote his own songs and sang on a local radio station at that time. In 1972 when he got to perform at the White House, he turned down President Nixon’s requests for a few dainty folk songs and instead performed some of his most politically charged ones. During the early Nineties, he rebelled against his label Columbia records and recorded an “intentionally awful” self-parody called Chicken in Black. As it turned out, the song had more commercial success than “any of his recent material”. In 1994, under the very questionable supervision of producer Rick Rubin, he released American Recordings – an intense collection of songs that he created in his living room, accompanied only by his faithful dreadnought guitar.

In the very same year, the crowd at the famed Glastonbury Festival gave him a rousing reception that had the Man In Black in tears. In 2002, at the age of 72, Johnny Cash covered a Nine Inch Nails’ song (Hurt) and turned it into one of the most harrowing folk ballads of all time. A year later, both him and his lovely wife were no more. So, when the Walk The Line was released, I was extremely friggin excited. I sat down in front of the TV and threw away the remote in cool disdain, even foolishly scoffing at the fact that remote controls would become extinct if more people made biopics about folk rock legends. And what did I get instead? The lady from Legally Blonde yodeling her precious little heart out and a silly notion that the song Walk the Line was written for June Carter. Hell no, Cash wrote that for his first wife – Vivian. I can understand the director’s intention to focus on the certain sections of his life but I think it’s hardly coincidental that the film contained the most inspirational, glossy and predictable moments. Cash, Elvis and Jerry Lewis on a rock and roll road trip? The final thanksgiving family showdown? The Folsom prison concert? Jeez man, they might as well have shown his stupid cameo appearances in Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman.

reality_bites3Reality Bites: This is proof that good music and passable humour mean squat to a film when its storyline is uber lame. Add Ethan Hawke to the mix and you have a film that just cannot be saved unless Klaus Kinski gets to play a psychotic dramatist, Mr Reality ‘John’ Totality, who likes biting stupid slacker kids who misconstrue poetry as foreplay. That would so rule. As for Ben Stiller’s debut Reality Bites, it doesn’t just bite, it friggin sucks.

Forrest Gump: Take away the corny dialogues and the background score whenever something inspirational happens and you have a pretty decent movie. Now, replace Tom Hanks with Adam Sandler and Bubba (Mykelti Williamson) with Steve Buscemi, and you will have comedy gold.

A Beautiful Mind: John Forbes Nash Jr was a mathematician and economist extraordinaire. He was also promiscuous, paranoid, schizophrenic, racist and anti-Semitic. And who gets to direct the film? That freckled kid – Ritchie Cunningham (Ron Howard) – from Happy Days, of course. Excuse me while I go puke.

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Oopsy

All the broken Roger Ebert links will be fixed very soon.

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