Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Might As Well...

Artist: Van Halen
Song: “Jump”
Rating: A+++

Ever wonder what David Lee Roth meant when he said "Might as well jump"? I reject the kill-yourself-to-stay-alive theory that seems rather popular. I'm taking a higher route and speculate that Roth meant "might as well ROCKKK THE FUCKKK OUT." Happy New Year.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Bipolar Badass

Artist: Ozzy Osbourne
Song: “Bark At The Moon”
Rating: B+

This Christmas, I was given Fargo Rock City, a memoir of sorts by Chuck Klosterman on heavy metal music. Friends of mine would rave about Klosterman - “Any self-anointed music journalist needs to be familiar with his works,” one said – and after the first three chapters, I can see why. He’s funny. For a writer, to be funny is to be really good. I’ve come to the conclusion that being funny might be my only shot at byline recognition, as you can tell by the attempts at humor that crowd this blog (see Bing Crosby below).

Klosterman is beyond funny though, as one can tell by his serious analysis of heavy metal. He makes the argument that there is quality artistic expression creeping underneath the sludge riffs of his beloved genre and he uses ole’ Ozzy as his shining example.

According to Klosterman’s book, Ozzy’s lyrics were pointedly focused on themes of weakness and despair. He writes: “(‘Bark At The Moon’) was about losing control of one’s personality… There is almost always an unintentional metaphor to Ozzy’s rock.”

Being the curious reader I am, I immediately Youtubed “Bark At The Moon” and found Ozzy playing mad scientist suprisingly charming. Maybe this is because my generation and I would never think of “Bark At The Moon” as anything other than the daunting final challenge of the first Guitar Hero game.

But watching this video, I almost wonder if Ozzy was actually attesting to a more classical struggle within: the battle of two personalities vying for the same brain. I mean, isn’t it obvious? We watch a frightened Ozzy stumble about in a hallway of eyeball-bleedingly bright rooms (presumably the rooms of his harried mind) and then quite suddenly, he’s being chased by his much hairer, almost frightening alter ego.

Werewolf Ozzy is very cool, barely cheesy. The only exception is that bit at the end, after a well-rested Ozzy looks back at his castle treatment center and there’s fucking Werewolf Ozzy looking back. Ozzy flashes it a smile and moves on, and then the camera does a DOUBLE TAKE ON WEREWOLF OZZY as if we hadn’t seen him four seconds earlier.

I was expecting (and would’ve preferred) a Thriller-esque surprise ending.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

The Crosby Show

Artist: Bing Crosby
Song: “White Christmas”
Rating: B-

Sorry Bing. Just because you’re a black and white legend doesn’t make you invulnerable to criticism. Sure, your song might have become another Christmas staple, but is anyone rushing out to buy the Blu-Ray edition of the actual White Christmas movie, as featured in this video here? Surely not!
Be thankful that “Santa” here is giving you anything higher than a D. That fox, Rosemary Clooney, is earning your soggy ass bonus points tonight.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Top Vids of '08: #3

Any decent blog has to have some kind of "Best-Of-Year" list. Never wanting to be a blog that strays from the beaten path, I bring you...


Artist: Kanye West
Song: “Flashing Lights
Rating: A

I know how frustrating this video is, being that it ends on a cliff hanger, cuts off before the end of the song and will come off as boring to some, especially when compared to other ultra-creative works that came out this year. But when this gorgeousness dropped, all I could say was “Damn Ye.”

Its honey and sugar cinema, flowing gorgeously with West’s flow and hey, the cinematography is pretty great too. It’s inspired my own abduction-by-centerfold fantasies too; who wouldn’t mind getting kidnapped by va-va-voom honeys? Rita here is my video vixen of the year.

Top Vids of '08: #2

Artist: Santogold
Song: “L.E.S Artistes”
Rating: A

I’ve got a primetime mind and the day hasn’t come when it’s not hankering for some violence! But I like it with a side of iconography and message. Santogold and her two dancer hoods (who apparently go wherever she goes; they even showed up onstage with her when I saw Santi live) are the opening eye candy, but right before the viewer tires of seeing them, the video takes an exciting upward shift in terms of placement and meaning, it’s the sloppy pork n’ beans to be served up alongside one of the best songs of the year.

What’s Santi getting at here with the crimson-less carnage unfolding all around? I’ve got my wordplay theory: the senselessness of violence. Can you dig it?

Top Vids of '08: #1

Artist: Justice
Song: “Stress”
Rating: A+

Is it so wrong that two of my top three videos are for songs that dropped last year? I guess the artists had to give directors a little bit of time to illustrate their efforts, but I’m so damn happy Justice picked this song out of its impressive catalog for production. The unrelenting horror flick throb was a risk, as was documenting a ragtag group of cross-bearing, mean-spirited Parisian thugs who can escape from even the thickest of situations (I won’t ruin the surprise, but let’s just say when you shit all over the living room, Daddy isn’t going to stand by idly.)

The looming doom and gloom of these beats are effortlessly melded into the story craft. The direction is excellent, the cinematograpy is superb and the dark finality of it all makes for a wildly beautiful portrait of anger. It’s one of those rare videos that augment the song and the artists to its needs, including a self-depreciating “D.A.N.C.E.” cameo!

Should we root for these destructive protagonists or wish the worst upon them? Good luck achieving the latter.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Fate Grab It, Real Snape

Artist: The Young Knives
Song: “Terra Firma”
Rating: D+

Absurdism is the name of the game in this plain-faced visceral jaunt from Brit rock trio Young Knives. It’s the kind of video musicians would put out to entice foolhardy bloggers into hours of hard analysis, copies of The Republic in hand. I’m no student of philosophy by any means, but I struggle to know where to even begin to seek out a message among off-colored fruit, empty expressions, replicated rabbits and very-much-alive boas. I understand that some bands just like to have fun, but if that’s what Young Knives are going for here, they’re falling a bit short of delivery.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Roe: 93.3's 2008 Hometown for the Holidays winners!

Originally published in Colorado Music Buzz, December 2008

Backstage at the Aggie Theatre, hours before the release show for Roe’s new album Letters and Lights, bassist Nick Daniluk drops a bit of a bombshell: “This album saved the band. It got to a point about a year ago,” he says, “where we all kind of sat around and were like, ‘Well, we’re kind of ready to go our own ways, or start playing something we all want to play.’”

The end seemed inevitable. Back then, the group’s original four members – vocalist/keyboardist Jake Espy, vocalist/guitarist David Anderson, drummer John Breeding, and Daniluk – considered each other associates rather than friends. The four had struggled to find their desired fifth, a lead guitarist in touch with Roe’s sound and approach. Playing tracks off their 2006 release, Frame By Frame, had gotten tiresome.

Something had to be done, so last winter, the Pop/Rock outfit disappeared from the scene and buckled down in the studio. It was time well spent. The group finally found their missing guitarist in Jake Breeding, John’s brother. The band also took time to revise their songwriting process, using a group-based effort when working out new tracks (Espy had written six of Frame By Frame’s seven tracks.)

The five mapped out nearly 30 tunes using their new method, but they won’t deny that some painstaking breakups along the way helped get the creative juices flowing. “It’s so interesting how you can be so much more in touch with your emotion when you’re sad and depressed then when you’re happy,” says Anderson. “That’s when, I think, true writing comes out.”

“Some of the songs on this record did span outside of relationships,” Espy adds. “’Coming Down,’ the first song on (Letters and Lights,) I wrote about how I struggled with certain aspects of my religion. David wrote ‘Excuses’ about friends, and one of David’s songs is about his uncle, who was going through a really hard time. Outside of the first layer, it seems like a lot of our songs are about relationships, but that’s not necessarily what it’s all about.”

It’s easy to make that impression with Letters and Lights, an album of crooner Rock n’ Roll that swings between autumnal acoustic offerings and bold carnival rides of rhythm and guitar. Just be careful when tossing out comparisons to The Fray. “We get that cause we’re a Colorado piano band,” says Daniluk. Espy adds, “They really thrive on that smooth sound. We’re more raucous.”

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Clay & Fire

Artist: Bloc Party
Song: “One Month Off”
Rating: F

What is Bloc Party trying to say here? I’m struggling with this one just a bit too much for my own good.

Is the band unhappy about militarism encroaching culture? Or, conversely, are they making a statement about the consequences dealt in a fairy tale lifestyle?
Then there’s the obvious answer: maybe they just get a kick out of burning down Ray Harryhausen’s unsettling world of clay.

Go to town, I say. But be a little stylish about it; no shitty clip-on explosions and “vaporizations” please. It’s unlikely any clay animator will ever be able to capture the Harryhausen’s aesthetic (the ghastly Hansel and Gretel skeletons attest to this), so why not just hire clay animators to make a similar clay world?

In the probable case of a reasonable budget, it would’ve been better just to go with simple animation, seriously, because Harryhausen’s world simply was not built to be kicked down so easily. Half this video is footage of trees and forests and other nice things digitally aflame, but even when we are treated to some crafty images of fairytale carnage, it looks sloppy. Little Miss Moppet getting fragged is the visual equivalent of a gut punch and the castle carpet bombing is the knee to the face.

Saturday, December 6, 2008


Artist: Sigur Rós
Song: "Glósóli"
Rating: C

I was quite ready to dump a D rating on this video, because the music of atmospheric architects like Sigur Rós really shouldn’t be pegged into a particular image, but into the imaginations of millions. It’s expansive and endearing in that sense, no need to limit it to a movie.

For me, it’s melting polar ice caps and bare winter wastelands- beautiful, but hauntingly so. I was somewhat disappointed with the children-existing-on-an-island concept, which was quite boring up until the 3:50 mark. I cannot spit on cinematic magic with a below-average rating, no matter how dull the build-up might be.

But the fact lingers: these guys shouldn't be making music videos. Even then, they know they can do better.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Crawling on the Planet's Face

(Be patient. It will load.)

Artist: The Strokes
Song: "You Only Live Once"
Rating: A+

The end of everything really can come any day now. Pretend as much as you want otherwise, but one big explosion would do it. Maybe it'd be a nuke, or a hydrogen bomb. I guess a massive biological weapon could do it too. World War III would last for a few days. Or maybe it’ll be unexpected, like some kind of flesh-eating nanobots, a meteorite.

The possibilities are endless, I suppose, but I hope someone has enough foresight to build a chic satellite containing every little facet of the former existence of those “tiny insects called the human race.”

And I hope this music video is playing on it too; these are the sounds of Earth. This song is synchronized gorgeousness, fitting for this video in so many ways: the emotional stirring, the exciting aesthetics and the straight-forward moxie.

I love this song and I love this video. It’s stunning. The transitions work perfectly. The use of imagery makes me understand that notion of being “reeled in” that movie critics so often toss out in reviews. I suppose it’s worth mentioning this isn’t the only version, but with something as majestic as the art above, why would you even want to click that link?

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

CD Review: 10-4 Eleanor

Originally published in Scene Magazine, December 2008

There a couple of reasons I enjoy 10-4 Eleanor’s latest recording.
I’d like to reflect on the nostalgia sparked by its floppy disk jacket boasting the Galaga fighter ship or write out pretentious musings on the meanings of the track titles, but the music of Words is deserving of all attention.

Try as I might to keep from stuffing underground darlings like 10-4 Eleanor into a genre, Words is a smattering of subgenres: here a little surf punk, there a little skate punk. The difference is in the riffs.

There’s no mistaking a West Coast influence in “Celebrity Taxidermy!” which wields Offspring-styled, boogie board guitar. But then there’s the loosey-goosey grime of standout “Dressed To Impresstevez,” aggressive in the way your average skate punk track ought to be. Its barreling riffs are rough, but not to the point where its delicious melody gets buried; 10-4 Eleanor prevents that happening on any of the tracks.

No, these gutter punks have a superb understanding of fun, never really seeking to make a point but rather to get asses moving. “Massive” is a catchy bundle of hooks that doesn’t thrash like the tracks that come before it, opting instead into a merry dish of dance. The closer, “Midwestern Hearts,” is a bit of a downer though, its midtempo acoustics underlining the misery-able vocals.

The rad CD jacket might scream gimmick band, but the 17 minutes of homely punk goodness within will convince you otherwise.