Friday, August 17, 2007

MUSIC: Growing Pains

I will assume for the purposes of this writing that at least a few people who are reading this that collect records (AKA CDs/Tapes/LPs, whatever). The mindset of this kind of person (and I include myself) is that when you find an artist that you like, you will purchase most records that they put out, regardless of any inconsistent critical favour. This habit for me started in high school, at the outset of my first McJob when I realized I could spend all this money I was getting on music. If I liked The Colour and the Shape by the Foo Fighters, I had every reason to buy One By One and every other record by them. (However, that example is perhaps a bit "cooler" than was typically the case, for the purposes of not embarassing myself.)

Since this happened in high school, and I have grown a bit in terms of maturity and taste (as you all have as well). The artists that wrote all of my favourite songs, as strange as it may seem, have also grown, albeit through different life stages (This is not always the case, as Billy Corgan always believed he was a fucking genius.). Consequently, they're going to keep putting out records that reflect their current emotional state. In some unfortunate cases, these emotional states are motivated primarily by money, but this is not the case that I am talking about specifically.

So, you go off to college and a band you liked in high school comes out with a new CD. But since their last CD, you've discovered tons of new material that is much more artistically challenging, and better reflects your current existence. You like this band, but they're not your holy grail.

It's like buying Weezer's Make Believe (Which I haven't yet, partially prompting this writing) after you've gotten into Tom Waits. There's nothing particularly bad about the album, but they no longer occupy the same space on your "My 50 Favourite Bands" list (Come to think of it, I should write one of those, just to satiate my own curiosity in 20 years.).

(Speaking of Weezer, what the hell is with them claiming that they are either breaking up or 'have written and are demoing 8000 new songs' after every album?)

There are however, bands whose output changes drastically with time. Or maybe it doesn't, but you change the point where their current artistic (irony-quotes omitted) output is kind of alienating, and maybe even insulting to your past associations with them. It's like being friends with a quasi-outgoing sort of person who liked intelligent punk rock, and was maybe a little too much into Chomsky.

You meanwhile leave town, and eventually come back for Thanksgiving/Christmas/Etc., and decide to call this person up. They have since stopped reading altogether, don't really listen to anything worth noting and do nothing but smoke pot and play GTA all day in their parent's basement.

I will buy bad records by artists that I love if I think they are going to go somewhere interesting eventually. But there comes a point where you have to sever ties with crappy music from your past. I have a few bands that I'm still toting around in my head, thinking "I still don't have their newest album...", with part of me knowing that it will never happen. It's the equivalent of "taking a break" in a relationship, or falling out of touch with old friends. It's most likely not going to start up again, and I'll probably never buy another Unwritten Law album.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

FILM: There's a 9 Dollar Hole In My Head

The following is a list of movies that someone made this year, expecting someone else to pay to watch...
This year, I'm approaching September a lot like how I approach the hours between 9 and 10 AM after a night of drinking: groggy, sweaty, and hell bent on never, ever, doing that again. Why? Because this summer's blockbuster movie season has, for all intents and purposes, left me with a giant gapping hole where my brain used to be. The mere fact that my cranium now resembles something like an empty (and hairy) punch bowl is of very little consequence to Mr. Warner or his rat-bastard brother, Mr. Bros. As they light their money rolled cigars with money wrapped lighters which emit money-based flames, I wonder if they realize that now, more than ever, they completely, and utterly, suck.

I say this because I believe movies have no soul. Not that they ever did. In fact if ever there was something that was completely bereft of a soul, it's the miles and miles of celluloid we make race for us for 9 dollars. But now when I slip comfortably into my Coming Soon mode at the local Galaxy, I can't help but feel that there's something even less in the movies than before. I watch the previews and find myself getting unbearably angry at the dribble, the faux-sensation, the "one-ordinary-man-in-extraordinary-circumstances" this and "isn't-it-funny-how-these-two-characters-are-so-unalike-but-damn-they-better-
get-along-or-else-they'll-never-_____" that. I can't bloody well take it much more to be honest. I find myself not only witnessing a thing without a soul, but feel my own dying - slowly at first, and then as the not-so-clever pun above the release date winks it's smarmy asshole at me, it speeds up and my everything crashes all around me only to be built up once more for the next trailer. Except each time my soul is weakened, vulnerable, and can't stand as much punishment. It'd make a pretty epic movie if that story line weren't so god-damn-beaten to death.

It's the concept of the Swiz, really; one of those old fashioned phrases you'd expect to hear someone in an old-fashioned movie (hey...) say. By definition (who's exactly, I'm not sure), a Swiz is something that appears to be giving to you, but is in actual fact taking something away. A useful hint here would be to picture a cow at a milking farm. To the cow, they are being provided with shelter, grain, and although it has never been witnessed by farmer eyes, a wicked spot to rave when the humans go to bed. But for the farmer, they're getting a sweet deal. They're taking the milk, making mad cheddah (monetary and dairy types alike), and won't stop till the cows come... oh...

A crude analogy, perhaps, but you get the idea. When you strap yourself into the movie theatre expecting to receive all the wonders the dude with the voice in the trailer promised, you realize he is a liar. And liars get their nads kicked.

So, fellow cows, let's think about our situation a minute. Movies today have no soul, meaning that they are bereft of meaning, provide no substance, and enrich our lives to the smallest degree that I've enjoyed mosquito bites more. They're sequels and carbon copies of originals which are adapted screenplays themselves. They're not artistic, they're made solely to make money, and are completely unconcerned as to whether or not you remember them. Most frustratingly, they leave you feeling like so much more could have been done with your time. The grain, per se, sucks.

Does this mean that there aren't bad movies every year? No, of course not. Does this mean that there won't continue to be bad movies in the future? P-lease! But was 2007 ESPECIALLY bad? Yes. Dear God Yes it was, and I hope you're nodding your head in agreement right now thinking back to that time you bought a ticket to I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry and heard a tiny scream emit from somewhere deep inside you. That was your soul, and the movies have killed it.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

MUSIC: Hospital Music Review

Matthew Good's long awaited Hospital Music is finally here. Surprisingly enough, it's not doing too bad on the charts already. Why is this surprising, you ask? (Please take note at this time that I am a devoted Good fanboy who has followed his music and writings since 2001's The Audio of Being. So, SPOILER: I dug it.)

Mr. Good has created a starkly honest record about the tumultuous last year of his life. Dealing with all of those terrible things that start with "D" (namely divorce, drug addiction, disease, death and general despair) had taken a toll on him that needed to be expressed. The record itself can be primarily described as cathartic, to say the least.

Sounds like it could be shaping up to be a Roger-Waters-esque rock-opera? Not entirely, although it does contain some bits that resemble other works like that.

Although many of the songs are based on very specific incidences, they speak to larger more universal themes that I can imagine will have a profound effect on those who have been through similar circumstances. What I can't imagine is the alienation that one goes through during an ordeal such as this.

Dealing with his failing relationship with the former Mrs. Good, the artist is surprisingly revealing (and has been in other forms for the past year) in the songs Metal Airplanes and She's In It For the Money. The former song is one that plays on the eventual realization in many relationships that you may not be as righteous as you think, and I think that's a particularly far-reaching and powerful statement to make. And although many will take the latter's lyrics at face value ("She's a money grubbing whore"), that could apply to anyone who dates/sees/marries someone with a condition like this. I can't imagine looking up from that hospital bed and seeing the look in her eyes that says "I didn't sign on for this."

While most of the songs deal with the aforementioned "D" word, that's not to say that it's all depressing. When I said that there were parts that resembled a rock-opera, I was thinking in particular of The Boy Come Home, which seems to be about Good returning to his parent's home for a period of time. There is a definite change in the album at that point, with a shifting tone moving more towards optimism (The Devil's In Your Details (although I could be way out to lunch on this one)).

I would have assumed that the two cover songs included on the record would stick out like a sore thumb, but I am happily mistaken. The Dead Kennedy's Moon Over Marin and the late Daniel Johnston's album-closer True Love Will Find You In The End fit perfectly in the framework of the record.

Production wise, the album is a complete departure. Self-produced and (mostly) self-performed, Mr. Good manages to make the rough-around-the-edges aesthetic work to his advantage, and it's something I look forward to in the future.

All in all, this is the kind of record that separates an artist from his contemporaries. If this doesn't translate into album sales, then that is a shame.