Thursday, December 31, 2009

MySpace vs. Blogger











[The following may appear at first to have little to do with unsigned bands - that is until you consider the importance of social networking outlets for band promotion (and thus viability) in the current global music marketplace and how restrictions upon such effect this, our most underrepresented and vulnerable class of musicians]

Yesterday the Powers That Be at MySpace informed me they are blocking all links back to my blog site - leftunsigned.blogspot.com.  Here’s how they explained it:

We've recently discovered that BlogSpot pages are being used by spammers to send spam, so all links to that site have been disabled.

Although you or your blog may not be associated with or linked to spam or spammers, to protect all MySpace Profiles from spam, phishing, and online scams, all links to BlogSpot are blocked. 

We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause. Thanks for keeping MySpace a safe and secure place to socialize with friends.

Sounds pretty final, huh?  I'm kinda new to social networking (and most other electronic media, as well), so help me with the logic.  The folks managing MySpace are concerned about receiving spam, so they block OUTgoing links?  OK, so perhaps you can't block the incoming without doing likewise to the outgoing?  Again, not really up to snuff on all this, so perhaps this is true.  I simply don’t know.  But what I don't get is this: can't a person wishing to spam, phish or scam do so freely from pretty much any site on the planet with the ability to broadcast from one server to another?  So why not block every single link coming in or going out?  Absurd, right?  Well isn't it just as absurd to prevent MySpace users from providing links to their own blog sites?  Isn't there possibly some other means for "keeping MySpace a safe and secure place....?"

Strangely, while researching this issue I found that some MySpace users were informed of this blockage as far back as March, others, like my self, only within the past week.  I also found I was not alone in my suspicions that MySpace was hiding behind the guise of SECURITY to gloss over what might, in reality, be a case of blanket CENSORSHIP. 

I mean is it remotely possible that this has anything at all to do with corporate anomy between competing media conglomerates News Corp (recent acquirer of MySpace) and Google (owner of Blogger)?  After all, isn’t it common knowledge that both entities have been engaged in a winner-take-all competition for information-world dominance for  a while now?  (Perhaps ‘common knowledge’ is a bit of a sketchy source to site here.  For more evidence of this contention follow this link and draw your own conclusions).  For those who don’t know, News Corp. is owned by Rupert Murdoch, who also owns Fox News – so you know fairness and ethical behavior are not at the top of the MySpace list of priorities.  Not implying here that Google is run by a consortium of altruistic and on high angelic types… just wish these Olympians would keep the rest of us helpless mortals out of their fray.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

More Self Promotion





I received a note a few days back from Ryan Wirth (of Psykids Army) thanking me in the most gracious of ways for the review I wrote on his song collection Story.  It couldn’t have come at a better time as I was feeling pretty low over the whole Chicken Head incident.  Seriously, it was really great to know that somebody was reading the positive reviews as well as the negative.  I was beginning to think I’d be relegated to writing hack-jobs for eternity in order to keep my readers.  I have had other positive responses in the past – Brian Lambert, Patrick Doval and the Desert Owls all sent their appreciation my way.  What troubles me, though, is that none of their fans followed suit.  I mean, why is it that people only seem willing to put finger to keyboard when they have something mean to say?  (Although I have to admit I was pretty dour re: the RCHs, so I guess I got what I gave).

All in all, I have to say that I am grateful for any response, positive or negative.  And as far as The Radioactive Chicken Heads go, I owe them a huge debt of gratitude.  They’ve been really good sports, considering all the crap I gave them.  And since they posted my review link on their Facebook page I’ve had over 100 new blog readers and 400+ new visitors to my music sites.  Not saying they were solely responsible, but they didn’t hurt.  So if any of you Chicken Heads are reading this… let me know where to send the Champagne.  

As far as bad press goes, I only hope some day my music will become noteworthy enough to attract negative criticism.  Nothing’s worse than being ignored.  But for now I’ll have to settle for the remarks my prose elicits, both genial and hostile.  


S.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Radioactive Chicken Heads Redux

A few days back I wrote a review on a band of musicians who dress up as puppets and call themselves The Radioactive Chicken Heads (you may read the piece here if you like).  The band is extremely over-the-top and in your face and I felt that I should respond in kind with a certain degree of humor that was both brutal and hyperbolic.  The band subsequently posted a link to this review on their Facebook and MySpace pages, which led to a noticeable upsurge in my blog readership for a day or two.  

The Chicken Heads referred to my blog post as a “Hilarious bad review!”  (I found this description flattering as few people actually find my humor very funny - let alone hilarious).  As it turns out, though, a handful of Chicken Head fans didn’t find my review amusing at all.  Most of these confined their comments in this regard to the band’s fan pages. However, several folks left comments at my blog and on my MySpace newsfeed (well, actually on the Chicken Head’s newsfeed, but, since we’re “friends” and all, I received the comments as well).  My favorite of these was left by Happy Fun Bonko Slut (you may read comments here).  Basically Happy disagreed with me and told me, quite pointedly, that I was a bad critic.  I asked an arts writer friend of mine what she thought and she concurred that I had not quite explained why I took the Chicken Heads to task.  While I preferred my friend’s rather more gentle criticism delivery to that of Happy’s smash and dash approach, the point was well taken... I obviously didn’t take the time I might have to completely flesh the Chicken Heads out.  

So, just to clarify, when I first listened to the band I enjoyed their music, but then I watched their videos and their appearance on the Tyra Banks show and had a change of heart (for the sake of brevity I’ll let you visit their site and watch the clips for yourselves).  Now if you could think of their music for a moment as a house of cards, where each card is a necessary and vital component to the whole construction, each supporting the other in a very precise and balanced, yet delicate, even tenuous manner... and then you add that one last card, the one that you really don’t need at all, and it’s weight causes the whole thing to come crashing down... well that’s how I felt about the band after watching them perform:  The costuming - in fact the whole spectacle - was just one card (or even a deck or two) too many.  And the qualities I had at first enjoyed in their music collapsed under the weight of all the excess.  

I do find them amusing (in the same way I find Glenn Beck crying on Fox News amusing), but I don’t think they are a good band.  Now if they dropped the costumes and let the music stand on its own, I might feel differently, but as things stand, I just can’t get past the visuals.  I could say otherwise if that would make their fans more comfortable in dealing with opinions that differ from their own, but that would make me a liar.

I hope that clears things up a bit.

Perhaps if I could amend my previous review in any way, I would change the conclusion, in which I stated that there isn’t anything remotely interesting about the Chicken Heads once you get past their name.  If that were true, would I still be investing any time or thought into their act?  In truth, the more I get to know of them, through their fans and just thinking and writing about them, I find myself appreciating the humor (albeit of a rather dark variety) inherent in the unapologetically low-brow nature of the Chicken Heads.  Yes, they did push some buttons in me, mostly regarding the garish and grotesque nature of the capital consumerist phantasmagoria they so brazenly embrace behind the guise of punk rock icons I firmly believe represent the polar opposite.  But that’s just show business.  

So, I hope that was a more thorough analysis and that I have, at least in part, placated some of my more outspoken critics.  And if not, that’s what the comments page is for.

Have a merry and happy whatever it is you celebrate!

S.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Nothing New Today

Sorry for not posting anything the past few days... down with the flu.  I'll have something new tomorrow, fingers crossed.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Survey




Today I will be very brief.  On several occasions now I have received feedback from friends that my blog has been running a bit too long and is difficult to get through.  However others have suggested that my shorter entries have been too bereft of information. 

I’d really like to get the opinions of anybody reading my blog (in any of its many locations) regarding this issue.  Are my blogs too long?  Am I conveying the sort of information you find interesting?  Am I boring you and driving you away?  Are there other suggestions you could make regarding content, subject matter, etc.?  Please be kind in your remarks, I break easily!

You may reply to: psmythsongs@gmail.com



Or simply leave comments on this page

Thank you, one and all in advance for your assistance.

S.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Double Elvis





Very pleased this morning to return to France and eat my words regarding my previous comments about no good unsigned French musicians.  Case in point, Double Elvis, a band from Bretagne that blends a melange of Techno-Industrial, Post-New Wave, Darkwave and retro ‘80s Pop with message songs that, with the exception of “Virginia Tech,” make their point without being too pedantic or heavy-handed.

I am reminded of New Order, The Cure, Camouflage and even late ‘80s Xymox, as well as some early Shoe-Gaze bands like Kitchens of Distinction and the Chameleons.  At the same time they are fresh and original, with a rich, lush sound and an assertive vocal style that is at times reminiscent of Billy Corgan, at others of David Bowie and, in more subtle moments, of Chris Martin of Coldplay.      

Their songs are sung in English, which I suppose makes them more accessible.  I can’t deny that the acts I find most appealing from the French-speaking world are those who do sing in English.  Personal prejudice?  This actually confuses me because I love the French language.  But for some reason I find French rock vocals detached and disinterested much of the time.  Too much ennui and nuance, perhaps?  Not like those raucous Germans!

Standout songs include “Sea of Ashes,” “The Art of War” and “Perdido Street” - a rich, dreamy ballad that is my absolute favorite.  As I alluded to above, the song “Virginia Tech” bugs me a bit.  It’s one of those songs in the tradition of Paul Hardcastle’s “Nineteen” in which news soundbites become the lyrical, narrative content of the song.  I don’t like “Nineteen” at all, so I guess this is just my personal bugaboo.  I hate being assailed with news reports in musical arrangements - I just think it’s a too easy and overstated way to make one’s point.  But enough about that, there is plenty more to this band that I find truly interesting and compelling.  I wish them gobs of success and hope I can find some downloads soon...


S.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Kill the Drama



I’ve only been thinking and writing about the world of unsigned musicians for a very short while, so that probably explains my continued mystification with what sort of acts do and don’t attract record label attention.  Case in point, Kill the Drama, a self-described alternative-progressive rock band from Pittsburg, PA. with a significant following whose sound treads paradoxically between emotional rawness and flawless polish.  

According to different sources, Kill the Drama first took the Pittsburg stage somewhere between 2005 and 2006, quickly gaining local acclaim and amassing a sizable fan base.  They released their first CD, Close Friends with Sharp Knives in 2007, re-releasing it to electronic venues such as iTunes in 2009, where it enjoys a solid 5-star listener rating.  

They are a bit more pop-driven than I typically prefer, but you’d think this would be a desired selling point.  Their songs are memorable and catchy, neither overly simple nor needlessly complex.  Their videos are professionally produced, their studio recordings rich and full of depth and texture.  Of the songs I’ve listened to, “Sunshine” is by far my favorite.  It appears to be their most popular song, as well, garnering in excess of one million plays on their MySpace site.  

Bryan Laskey, the band’s vocalist, delivers his pathos-driven lyrics with a force and passion reminiscent of Muse’s Matthew Bellamy.  Guitars are rough and distorted, drums are full of symbol crashes, and bass riffs harken to early pioneers of progressive rock such as Yes’ Chris Squire and Geddy Lee of Rush.  I’ve also read comparisons between the band’s sound and that of groups like Smashing Pumpkins and Placebo.  According to the band’s Wikipedia page, Ben “Skinny” Solnik, their original bassist left in 2008 and was replaced by Marios “Mars” Papachristou.  The band subsequently announced last month that they had replaced “Mars” with a new bassist, Chris "Oz" Olzewski (makes me wonder if repeatedly hiring bassists with nicknames might not be such a good idea).

My biggest regret over writing about bands like Kill the Drama is that I don’t have more readers and thus the power to affect any change to their current unsigned status.  Although I’m sure they’ll do just fine on their own.


S.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Shameless Self-Promotion




Originally Posted at PsmythSongs.com December 14, 2009

I’ve decided to make some changes to my blogging habits.  First of all, writing seven days a week is simply unrealistic - it requires several hours each day to find new acts, listen carefully to their music, dig up biographical info and write something that I hope is pithy, insightful and informative. 

So from now on I will post only 3-5 new entries per week, depending upon my other schedule demands.  I have also decided that I will periodically spend some time promoting my own work.  Which only seems fair, seeing as I came up with this whole blogging idea to gain more visibility for my stuff in the first place...

OK, about my music.  I write, perform, record, mix and master all my songs, by myself, in my puny recording studio that also doubles as an office.  I like to describe my sound as Gothic Americana.  Influences range from ‘60s and ‘70s psychedelia to ‘80s, 90s and beyond goth, grunge, dance music, Johnny Cash, Ennio Morricone, and a whole slew of other genre’s/musicians/composers.  I realize this appears a bit unfocused, but if you listen to my songs I think I kinda pull it all together... maybe???  I try to write about flowers and puffy white clouds, but it just doesn’t work.  No, you’ll discover little of what one might describe as uplifting in my lyrics - unless you find inspiration in surrendering to the capricious and unpredictable laws of an indifferent, if not hostile universe.  I know I do.  

Anyhow, in the interest of time (I really need to work on a few songs today...) and my flagging attention span, I’d like to leave you with these few words of hope, inspiration and yes, sadly, desperation:

Please visit any and all of the following sites, listen to my music and watch my videos - and leave ratings and comments.  You see, even negative remarks can be very helpful and constructive... I just need feedback!!!


Thank you all.  And may the forces that be bless you if you choose to visit my sites and punish you mercilessly if you do not.

S.

The Radioactive Chicken Heads




Originally Posted at PsmythSongs.com December 12, 2009

OK, now time for The Radioactive Chicken Heads, a band I think is just plain awful... and I don’t believe they’d disagree, as awful appears to be what they’re striving for.  Equal parts Dead Kennedys/Stooges wannabes, Gong-Show rejects and Banana Splits [or possibly HR Puff-n-Stuff?) cartoon character puppet-things (if you’re too young to remember any of these cultural references... I envy you).

You’ll find a short clip of their appearance in a talent contest from the Tyra Banks show posted to the band’s MySpace page.  They lost the competition... by a significant margin.  I dare you to convince me they intended otherwise.  They are so bad, it has to be on purpose.  

I’m still trying to figure out just exactly what they’re trying to do here.  I mean, I understand the whole costume gimmick.  And they aren’t all that bad musically (if not tediously derivative).  But I believe they’re whole act is tied to a premise that if you create a ghastly enough spectacle, fans will buy your silly merchandise - which is also available at their site.  

The only reason I’ve even chosen to write about these guys (and one gal, I believe - she’s the one with the tomato for a head) was because I was shamefully drawn to their sensational nome du plume.  It’s too bad there isn’t anything remotely interesting once you get past the name.



S.

Vermillion Lies






Originally Posted at PsmythSongs.com December 11, 2009

No, it hasn’t escaped my notice that for the past few weeks I have almost categorically ignored female musical acts in my blogs.  I did devote one post to Simone White and I briefly mentioned Jen Gloekner (at the very end of my narcissistic love fest “All About My Self”), which is doubly ironic, as both performers actually have recording contracts.  So today I shall endeavor to rectify, in at least some small way, my past transgression of only writing about unsigned men.

I found Vermillion Lies among Amanda Palmer’s MySpace friends.  Which is precisely the sort of company you’d expect them to keep.  As with Palmer’s other band, The Dresden Dolls, Vermillion Lies is a modern cabaret duo - although in this case the band consists of two sisters (Zoë and Kim Boekbinder).  And unlike the Dolls, they are a bit more folk than punk.

According to their bio they have performed in venues “From Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas, Nevada to Moscow, Russia and Braga, Portugal.”  They describe their songs as “ranging from lyrical folk ballads to raucous circus marches.”  Their performances, both in their studio recordings and live acts, are full of vigor and whimsy.  They routinely employ antique instruments and typically non-musical devices (a barbecue grill for percussion, for example) in their songs.

I can’t say they are my favorite act of this sort.  I still prefer the Dresden Dolls hands down, but they are definitely worth paying attention to.  BTW, each sister recently embarked on respective solo projects.  I’ve included links below to each of their sites.



S.

The What The F*cks

Note:  This is a censored version of the original post... The band does not actually use an asterisk in place of a "U" in their name... I removed the "U" just in case the folks at Blogger consider such expletives as constituting adult material... If you'd like, you can visit PsmythSongs to read the band's name intact.  SPS.

Originally Posted at PsmythSongs.com December 10, 2009

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a very brief piece about unsigned musical acts from Argentina.  Somehow I missed today’s featured band - The What The F*cks (or TWTF)  What can I say, I’m learning as I go.  Anyway, I found these guys during one of my daily “trawling for new MySpace friends” exercises.  When I saw the name I thought ‘you know, I don’t even care if they suck, I’ve got to have a blog entry with this band in it - for the name alone.’  But guess what, they don’t suck.

Their music isn’t anything stupendously groundbreaking or original... just sort of good old toe-tapping acoustic rock and roll with an overtly Latin savor (o sabor?)... I wish I had more book-learning as regards the history of Latin American music - I should, since I rip it off on a regular basis - but I don’t.  So the only insight I can really offer here regards my personal, visceral responses to their songs (Sorry I don’t have more to offer.  However, anybody interested in furthering their knowledge of Argentinian Rock can start here). 

From the first time I listened to this band I found myself smiling and wanting to think good things about the world... which, trust me, is a very odd and unusual state of affairs.  And I don’t think I’ve ever seen or heard a band have more fun while performing.  At the same time, their melodies really get under one’s skin in that catchy, haunting, I’m gonna find myself humming this while I do the dishes this evening but won’t remember where I heard it, sort of way. 

I do speak a bit of Spanish and could probably translate some of their songs’ lyrical contents given enough time... but honestly, I rarely write about lyrics at all, simply because I don’t have the time such explication requires (I already spend way too many hours on this blog as is).  What I can do is tell you that the first song on their site, “Que Bajon” (loose translation: What a Slump) I believe has something to do with salad and ham.  

In all honesty, I know less about these guys than I do about Argentina and it’s music, other than that I really like their songs... There is scant biographical info on their MySpace page and, after minutes of surfing the web, I found little more, other than a Facebook fan page and postings for shows and appearances in Argentina.  

In fact, for all I know, these guys could be some shamefully regarded, hack cover band with a sensational handle they use to the gain attention of silly American blog writers with little knowledge of Argentinian culture or Latin American folk or pop musical genres or modes in general.  In any case, I highly recommend The What the F*cks and hope they’ll deliver more music to us soon...  




S.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Psykids Army




Originally Posted at PsmythSongs.com December 9, 2009

I’m beginning today’s blog entry with a friendly disclaimer: 
I have two 6-month-old Boston Terrier puppies who are the cutest, most playful, loving, smart, cuddly (blech... enough already) creatures on the planet, who also like to bark at the wind, shadows, the furnace, lint... Well, last night they did this from about midnight until, well, right about now - which is roughly 7:06 am.  So I’ve had zero sleep and my mind is a bit sluggish.  So I’ll do my best to be coherent and insightful and to do justice to this morning’s topic - not the easiest of tasks on my good days.

So this morning we have another unsigned artist I found on MySpace a few days back called Psykids Army (aka Ryan Wirth).  Here is yet one more instance where I find myself questioning the malignancy of the gods when it comes to who does and does not get access to recording contracts.  I mean, there are so many major and indie label acts out there generating gobs of just absolute crap and yet time and again I find myself listening to artists such as Mr. Wirth who are producing some really sophisticated and wonderful music - you know, the sort of music that might edify rather than drive one to drink a forty and put a cap somewhere or another.

I hate to gush and all that, but I absolutely love the Psykid sound and I  think Wirth is an amazing composer and musician.  He describes his style as “moving photography.”  I’m not certain if he is referring here to a conceptual motility of fixed images or to the poignancy of such (perhaps both/and?).  His songs are moody, melodic, languorous daydreams.  His voice, a breathier, somewhat less angst-ridden reminder of Conor Oberst, floats atop lush layers of soft, clean guitars (a bit David Gilmore here, a bit  Buckethead there [I’m thinking Colma and Electric Tears]), glowing synthesizers and industrial percussion. And yet there are moments, particularly within the song “Confusion is Always There,” when I am, strangely enough, reminded of Sonic Youth, even though most of the song is acoustic.      

The narrative arc of Wirth’s current song collection, Story, is reminiscent of Doves (particularly The Last Broadcast), with each song supporting the others thematically.  Story is present in its entirety at his MySpace site and available for free download.  I hope he gets this out into the paying marketplace soon - he’s clearly put his heart and soul into it and deserves some remuneration.  

I wish I had some biographical info on Wirth, but, like so many of us unsigned types, who’s only real selling point is the mystique of our own obscurity, he provides few if any personal details on his MySpace page (nor could I find other online sources for such information).

OK, my work is done here... off to nap now.


S.

Wild Indians(sssss)



Originally Posted at PsmythSongs.com December 8, 2009

Despite a politically incorrect appellation (particularly piquant to my friends in AIM), I am nonetheless compelled to devote a paragraph or two to Wild Indians (AKA Wild Indianssssss, AKA Jon Powell), an apparently one-man-act from Baltimore.  I found Wild Indians completely by accident during what I will refer to from here on in as my ‘quest for a good unsigned French band period.‘

I can’t help but draw tangential comparisons between Wild Indians and Brian Lambert, whom I wrote about in November.  With vocals both labored and maudlin, reminiscent at times of Death Cab For Cutie’s Ben Gibbard and at others of early ‘70s Bowie, Powell melds avant-garde Americana with retro post-hippie folk pop.  His recordings are minimal, mostly acoustic, rough, raw and a bit shaky - although he deftly maintains that elusive balance between unpolished and just plain sloppy.  

I find everything I’ve heard from Powell/WI (which consists solely of the tracks housed at his/their MySpace site) compelling, provocative and stirring in that just-short-of-unsettling manner.  However, the song that keeps me going back for more is the cymbal-crash-driven ballad, "Heavy in the New Ages."  It is here that Powell sounds most like Bowie, adroitly paying homage to the past master’s plaintive falsetto.  

I wish I had more information to provide here, however WI’s MySpace site is distressingly laconic and I could find no further info on the web.  If more becomes available in the near future I’ll be sure to share.


S.

Belgium





Originally Posted at PsmythSongs.com December 7, 2009

I’m accepting recent events as a collective sign from the musical universe that I haven’t spent enough time listening to work hailing from the French-speaking world.  Let me explain.  I approach each of my blog entries by visiting a MySpace friend and then clicking randomly on their friends until I find a few unsigned acts.  I continue this way until I discover something I feel moved to write about.  Well last night the first act I clicked on was a guy from Belgium named Paul Léonard, recording under the name the mechanicalbrains.  Although he only has two songs posted to his site, I really enjoyed them, especially the second one titled “Hurt.”  I sent Monsieur Léonard a note asking for more tracks... I haven’t heard back, but hopefully he’ll add some by the time others visit. 

From Leonard’s site I followed links to several other Belgian acts and found a lot of really great stuff there.  I mean really great.  If you’d like to hear more from the land that brought us Rubens, van Eyck and Magritte, you can explore some of the links below.  

And now, back to France (because that horse looks like it’s still twitching a bit). I believe I know why I’m having such difficulty finding good unsigned bands there.  I’ve noticed that many acts list themselves as signed to indie labels, then neglect to mention the label’s names.  Could it be that many French musicians would rather list themselves as indie than as unsigned?  Is there perhaps some shame in not having a record label?  Or could it be that I’m encountering a moment of linguistic slippage, a difference (or differance, if you will) between what is meant by words such as indie and unsigned across similar, yet divergent, cultures and languages?  (BTW - if you haven’t read Derrida’s writing on linguistic issue, I’d rush out and get a copy of Of Grammatology, it won’t clarify anything - ever - but I wanted to appear all smart and educated for a moment).  What I’m trying to say here is that it’s possible at least some of the bands listing themselves on MySpace as signed actually aren’t and that I should share some of their music on this forum after all... n’est-ce-pas? 

OK, I promise not to mention France again until tomorrow, or maybe the day after, when I’ll finally share some of what I really like from there, unsigned or otherwise.

And now for the Belgians, in the order they show up on my friend list:




S.






Sunday, December 13, 2009

Nightmare of the Elf [part 2 (part two)]



Originally Posted at PsmythSongs.com December 6, 2009


{continued from Nightmare of the Elf [part 2 (part one)]}


Disclaimer: I wrote this and the previous post on a Saturday morning between 4 and 6am... I hadn't had much sleep and might have strayed into my own waking nightmare of sorts during the composition of said posts.  I considered not including these entries here and then decided that I must be true to my art and share anything and everything I happen to  spew forth while under the influence of the muse.  Also, I think I thought I was being drolly irreverent at the time... in retrospect, I think I was just plain obnoxious... I left a message with the Elfs to get their opinion of the piece(s).  They did not respond... However, I have not attempted to contact France.  (Honestly, though, I'm a complete Francophile, so don't let the vitriol and bitterness fool you - it's all meant in good humor... seriously). 


So here now, for your reading pleasure, I present to you Nightmare of the Elf [part two (part 2)]:




... As to the Pose Punk reference... either this term is so new as to confound every source I could find, it was simply made up by those in Elf land, or it is a hybrid of the terms Post Punk and Poser Punk (both terms arguably aimed at those who don Punk Rock trappings without engendering the sensibilities of the Punk Rock milieu).  I’ll go with the latter... The point here is this... anybody who thinks they’re punk rock today isn’t.  I’m actually old enough to have witnessed the death of Punk Rock first hand... it happened sometime around the very early ‘80s.  So anything that calls itself Punk today is, by definition, Pose(r) Punk.  Wait a second, that wasn’t my point at all.  Here’s my point: I could have figured all this out on my own without any “research,” but I wanted to be certain there wasn’t some novel, creative way the term Punk was being twisted and perverted to suit the greedy motives of some mad marketing geniuses too unoriginal to coin new terms and too heartless to let the old ones RIP already.   

So anyway, after listening to Nightmare of the Elf and reading a bit of their meandering rhetoric, I’ve concluded that pretty much everything about them is designed to confuse, confound and decentralize meaning, definition, textual contextualization... terribly PoMo, PoCo, PoFoucault... or was that Derrida?  No matter.  The real point, after all, is this...


I wasted yet more valuable time this morning on useless research.  So thank you, Elf, like the French, you’ve been both edifying and annoying.  So much to love and so much more to drive you out of your F*ing skull trying to figure out why you wasted thousands of dollars and 10 hours of turbulence and the threat of contracting swine flu due to bad air circulation just to end up in a country where most everyone wants to spit on you... and not in that gratifying, fun way folks like Johnny Rotten used to do “back in the day...” but in that “get out of our f*ing country you stupid American swine, with all your tourist dollars and bad taste, and deplorable uncouthness, and... and... your many tourist dollars (or would that be francs?) kind of way. (rollover this link to follow the thread...) 

Fat ass... gonna buy you a donkey-ee-ee...


S.


Nightmare of the Elf [part 2 (part 1)]











Originally Posted at PsmythSongs.com December 5, 2009

So what I wrote yesterday about French bands sucking was meant to be confined to a very limited group of French musicians - those both unsigned and in possession of MySpace sites.  I honestly came across a glut of really great French bands, particularly of the Goth variety, who, sadly, had recording contracts.  I also loved most of what I heard from the France-based Manic Depression Records.  I know, I know, I have transgressed my golden rule of only writing about unsigned musicians in the past... but I’m trying to keep this from becoming a habit.  I’m not a complete purist, but I do like to maintain recognizable boundaries.  So, to clarify, my critique was not of French music in general, nor of the French people nor of the entire country of France, but of the tiny sliver of French musicians who do not have record deals whom I was able to access given my limited knowledge of how the internet actually functions. 

Now... about my ignorance of contemporary music jargon and genres.  I mentioned yesterday that Nightmare of the Elf describe themselves as Pose Punk/Dork Wave.  I further intimated that I had no idea what that meant.  So I Googled both phrases and here’s what I found... Last term first:

According to the online Urban Dictionary, Dorkwave is defined as (in addition to manipulating one’s penis in some strange sort of greeting or salutation):

    A dance muisc [sic] subgenre and its associated subculture that 
    spans dance-rock, indie-techno, electro-punk, monkey-acid, 
    boot-gazer, and any muisc [sic] that would get one called a
    "freak","fag", "squid", etc.  Dorkwave is like a movement without
    the bother of all the meaning. 
                                                        by Michael Doyle May 8, 2005

I still can’t say if this accurately describes Elf, since after about an hour of investigating the Dorkwave “movement” I still don’t know what the f*ck it is other than a few guys from Detroit with DJ setups and really, really bad music who, at least in TV interviews, were unable to articulate even minutely what they were doing - other than making money off young adults dancing to their parent’s old vinyl records... I think the term is more an advertising slogan than an actual musical trend.  If you can enlighten me further, please do...

{end of Nightmare of the Elf [part 2 (part one)] return tomorrow for..... Nightmare of the Elf [part 2 (part two)]}



S.

Nightmare of the Elf [part 1]




Originally Posted at PsmythSongs.com December 4, 2009

So I murdered over three hours this morning scanning the web for notable French musicians to write about.  Problem was, the only unsigned bands I uncovered sort of, well, sucked. 

So I gave up on my Parisian pipe dream and returned to a land much closer to home yet in many ways just as foreign: That’s right, the San Fernando Valley, home to both the (straight) porn industry and a frightening band of noise-makers who call themselves Nightmare of the Elf.  I can’t really tell you much about them you won’t learn yourself by clicking on the link above.  Suffice it to say this band is really different… from anything - at least that I’ve ever heard.  They describe themselves as “The Greatest Pose Punk / Dork Wave band EVER!”  I’d definitely have to agree - if only I knew what that meant. 

When I listened to the first of three songs posted to their site, “Fat Ass Gonna Buy You a Donkey,” all I could think was “what the hell is this shit?”  But after multiple listenings I’ve decided it’s either one of the strangest, funniest, most disturbing and most brilliant pieces of horrifying a-cappella codswallop I’ve ever listened to or, well, I guess that’s exactly what it is.  I love it so much I’m afraid of it.  And now I can’t stop humming its haunting, yet trite melody… fat ass…gonna buy you a donkey-ee-ee, gonna buy you a donkey-ee-ee, gona buy you a donkey... 

I’m sorry I wasted so much time searching for the French indie scene today but thrilled that that experience left me too weak and exhausted to hit the pause button once I’d begun listening to Elf.  In any other state of mind I’m sure I would have fled after the first note or two.  So thank you, France, you’re the best!   


Saturday, December 12, 2009

Rant




Originally Posted at PsmythSongs.com December 2, 2009

This morning, as I reviewed some of my recent blog entries, I couldn’t help but notice what I can only describe as a palpable lack of objectivity and criticality.  It’s true, I prefer to focus on what I feel is working with any given artist and their oeuvre (and lavish praise upon them in the process) and to veer from what I may find lacking, boring or outright irritating in their work.  I have also made a concerted effort to seek only those musicians who really get inside me and shake things up a bit (even if their instrumental technique, song writing adeptness or production prowess might suffer from a minor lack of mechanical or critical perfection).  Today, however, I’m going to be really mean and nasty about something that really irritates the hell out of me - both to demonstrate that I am willing and able do such a thing (and with unmitigated  abandon) and to provide some balance to what has otherwise been a big love-fest between myself and some of my favorite independent musicians.

So here it is:  I was searching on Youtube yesterday for more unsigned musicians/video artists to write about, thinking I would find the same vast talent pool I’ve found lately on MySpace.  Instead, I discovered what I would characterize as a lot of absolute crap.  I mean seriously bad, awful, terrible, hateful garbage.  I’m not going to name names, but here’s what I will say to those making such abominations: Just because you own a guitar and a web cam does not mean you have a right to make a music video.  Especially if you find it necessary to do so while sitting on your bed.  

I know, I know... if I hate this sort of thing so much, why not just ignore it, right?  Well, here’s why:

1. There are a great many monumentally talented, hardworking and devoted musicians writing and recording sublime songs and producing compelling videos who go lamentably unsigned.  
2. The excess of detritus being expelled from so many of those I discovered on Youtube who call themselves ‘unsigned artists’ only makes it more difficult for those with real ability to achieve recognition above the relentless din of mediocrity.
3. I loathe people who take no pride in what they do.  I mean seriously, could you even try to make it look like you care?
4. Finally, I think any and all of these wannabe recording artists are shooting themselves in the foot by demonstrating to the world (and anybody with the will and resources to grant them a record deal) that they don’t care enough about their public images to even try to be interesting.  There may be some real talent out there, but, quite frankly, if some unknown hack writer like me can’t be bothered to take the time to sift through the trash, no record executive is going to, either.

Whew, I feel much better now.  I also feel more resolute in my quest to find those truly talented and rigorous unsigned artists and to help them tout their wares.  And if I tend to privilege strength above failing, well, I guess that’s just my thing.  If you don’t like it, go write your own blog about touchy-feely bloggers who bug the sh*t out of you.   (BTW, I have no problem using profanity, but for some reason I find the [expletive deleted] versions of such words really f*ing funny).

Desert Owls



Originally Posted at PsmythSongs.com December 2, 2009

Rummaging about the Myspace archives this morning I discovered this Canadian group calling themselves Desert Owls.  A posted message to the Coachella Valley Music and Art Fesitval’s site reads   “... hopefully we’ll get to play your festival one day.”  I figured they must be real indie, since one normally hires a manager and publicist to carry out such solicitations.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t find an MP3 to download at itunes.  Which is too bad, because I would have happily parted with the $.99.  

I find their music terribly catchy, despite its being far from my usual taste.  They describe themselves as Punk / Thrash / Trance, commenting that their music sounds like “our parents are disappointed.”  It’s always inspiring to find unsigned musicians with ample senses of humor.

The band blend in-your-face dissonance with melodious, toe-tapping pop.  I’m reminded of the more aggressive offerings from early Pixies, “Something Against You” or “Debasers,” say.  Could I have found a more recent band to compare them to?  I suppose so, although aside from my friend Dyami’s band Poor Man’s War, I haven’t listened to a lot of this sort of music.  So yes, I’ll date myself and trace this band back to the source of all things rough and wonderful... In all honesty, though, a band like Desert Owls is to Pixies what Yeah Yeah Yeahs is to The Pretenders.        

I wish I could say something critically negative about their songs... I don’t want to come across all wishy-washy and sycophantic.  But if I didn’t like them I’d have moved on.  Which is what I typically do for about an hour each morning in search of something compelling to write about.  OK, I don’t love every single song, but those that I do, I like quite a lot.

My favorites, in this order are: “Go Go Go,” “Who,” “The Transitional Stereotypes of the Comm” and “The Letter E.”  I suspect there may be more to that third title - something cut off due to limited space..?  Or not.  

If they do play Coachella some day I’ll make sure to go - since I only live about twenty minutes away... although on festival days it still takes about an hour through slogging traffic to get there.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Patrick Doval


Originally Posted at PsmythSongs.com November 27, 2009

Digging through my Myspace Friends’ Friends I found this recording/video artist named Parick Doval and instantly fell in love with his sound.  So much so that I went right to itunes and purchased his two collections: Deliverance and Fractured.  Very retro-eighties proto/pre/post - or whatever - goth, psychedelia ala early New Order, Cure, Siouxsie, etc.  His videos likewise possess that same naive early MTV quality - they dare to be artsy as opposed to the banal, unabashed lifestyle porn that most video ‘artists’ currently strive to embody.   

I especially appreciate his use of the bass as a musical instrument (rather than as a tool for irritating one’s neighbors at 3am - Uh oh, am I showing my age here?).

He’s unsigned, and his recordings are, as with most unsigned artists and their very limited budgets, a bit raw.  But I think that actually works in his favor, lending his music that uncluttered, underproduced sound that made bands such as Bauhaus and Joy Division so distinctive.  

Standout songs:

Ashes of Life:  Reminds me a lot of post-Joy Division-New Order (when they were still fresh and original).  Although Patrick’s vocals foil the comparison, being more dramatic and vibrant than Bernard Sumner’s deadpan monotone.  The video is also a lot of fun.  Can’t get the freakin’ song out of my head.

Don’t let me go:  Sounds like it could be a lost track from some early Cure album, say Seventeen Seconds or Pornography.  Extremely haunting and moodily melodic.  Another one I can’t stop thinking about.  

Many Faces: More aggressive and Industrial than the others.  Reminds me a bit of Gary Numan’s more recent work.  

Also:

Empty Road
Turbulence
Caged

OK, no matter how much I write here, it won’t do justice to Doval’s music.  I urge you to check him out.  Really great, compelling material.

For more info on Patrick you can visit these sites: