Tag Archives: MTV

YouTube Killed The Video Star

I’ve been feeling particularly nostalgic lately. Something about the shorter days/longer nights of late fall makes me think about how things used to be. The recent lack of posts here on Defending Axl Rose isn’t completely due to a lack of time or interest in writing–I’ve also had little to write about. At some point, having access to every song ever written resulted in me listening to the same four Kinks songs over and over. Anyway, I was recently thinking about the halcyon days of sitting on the couch and watching MTV as a kid. I distinctly remember getting into new bands I might have overlooked simply because they had a cool/interesting music video.

If only...

If only…

But it’s 2015 and MTV is dead, are there still music videos? And are any of them cool? I took to the Internet determined to find cool music videos. I let YouTube be my guide and encountered some good stuff. Some of it was old, some of it was new, and some of it was worthy of sharing with everyone/anyone that reads my blog. So with that said, I give you my top five Internet music video finds:

These are in no particular order…

 

FIDLAR- “40oz. On Repeat”


This video was tailor-made for me and the headspace I was in when I started looking for music videos online. FIDLAR’s music video pays homage to all the classic MTV video’s I was nostalgic for. The shout-outs run the gambit from Missy Elliott to Jamiroquai to The Hives to Korn. Soak this one in, because it’s not only got a funny DYI aesthetic, but the song also kicks major ass.

Hockey Dad- “I Need A Woman”

I love the laid back, mellow surf-rock of Hockey Dad. Mix-in a classic VHS diary of the day in the life of a couple of young dudes hanging around a beach town and I’m in heaven. Though the band is Australian, everything about this is universal: all we want to do is be young and have fun…forever. Maybe summer isn’t endless, but Hockey Dad found a way to bottle a little of it for the cold winter days ahead.

Saul Williams- “List of Demands”

Holy shit did this one get stuck in my head. This is an older song, one that was apparently co-opted by Nike to sell us shit (a few years ago), but I found it to still be very relevant to my news feed today. Saul Williams has had a really interesting career, becoming friends with Trent Reznor (whose NIN-fluence is all over this song) and releasing a bunch of half-spoken word/half-rap albums. This is fantastic.

Michael Christmas- “Michael Cera”

Usually I’m not a fan of too much humor in music. Don’t get me wrong, I love to laugh and don’t think music is so serious or important that there’s no room for jokes…but I can’t rock a Weird Al album for more than a few tracks. Michael Christmas walks the fine line between rapper and joke rapper, for sure, but this (very unconventional) song and video won me over. Also any song that references Arrested Development is okay in my book

Har Mar Superstar- “Lady You Shot Me”

Though it’s a bit of cliche these days, I still love it when a fat/schlubby/unassuming person turns out to be an amazing singer. The Susan Boyles of the world have kinda made the phenomenon passé, but every now and then I fall for it hook line and sinker. Well, I fell for it big time with Har Mar Superstar. The gimmick is that he looks like porn star Ron Jeremy but has an amazing set of pipes, and even though I should be jaded and unimpressed…I’m impressed. I also really dig how in on the joke he is. But even if this guy had supermodel looks, the song would be good. So really I need to get over myself and just accept how shallow I really am.

BONUS 6th song!

Alright, I lied and want to share one more.

Studio Killer- “Eros and Apollo”

I have no idea why I like this. Please do not judge me, but this cartoon band from Europe have weaseled their way into my heart. Studio Killers make catchy, funk-fun club music that should not be my cup of tea…but this stuff is great! Their schtick is very Gorillaz-inspired and nobody is 100% sure who they are, though the word on the street is that the female lead singer is really a dude. Either way, this is pretty great.

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“Home By The Sea” Is A TWILIGHT ZONE Episode Written By Genesis

Genesis has always been a guilty pleasure for me, but a pleasure nonetheless. I’m not sure how you feel about Genesis, but I have an odd fascination with the band. In fact, I think I love them. It’s not like I really had a choice in the matter, I grew up in the 1980s thus the band is encoded in my DNA. My love for the sappy, syrupy Phil Collins-era eventually led me to the darker, stranger stuff generated in the 1970s when the band was led by Peter “Shock the Monkey” Gabriel. I can (and do) defend a lot of bands, but Genesis has always seemed indefensible, even to me.  Having one of the periods most famous drummers and then using the then-fashionable drum machine on your records? Egregious.

But amid the  puppet music videos, the drum machines, and embarrassingly earnest love ballads, Genesis never really stopped being a prog-band at heart. Even long after Gabriel had vanished from the band Genesis would tuck weird (and lengthy) progressive rock songs onto their albums. These songs no doubt confused the average pop fan who bought their records for the radio singles. Worse, however, these progressive artifacts always seemed to bring the band’s albums grinding to a halt (even though many of these songs are quite good). I find it interesting that a faction within Genesis fought the good fight to keep the band weird even as they were churning out mega-pop hits like “Invisible Touch.”

"Spoooky"

“Spoooky”

As the 1980s wore on, Genesis evolved away further and further from Gabriel’s version of the band replacing his cold theatricality for Collins’ affable charm. And yet, even as they basked in the neon glow of the mainstream (read: MTV), the band continued to make strange music that the public enjoyed.  I’m not 100% sure, but I have the feeling that the majority of people consuming Genesis’ music were oblivious to the darker nature of some of the bands output. I am no exception. The best Genesis songs, in both the Gabriel and the Collins era, are the ones that strike a balance and perfectly merge the band’s bizarre oddball sensibilities with more mainstream pop music. For my money, the best peanut butter and chocolate mix of the two sides of Genesis is the 1976 album A TRICK OF THE TAIL, which was the band’s first post-Gabriel album. If you find the Phil Collins stuff to be too poppy and the Gabriel stuff to be too stuffy/overblown, I implore you give A TRICK OF THE TAIL a listen. It’s the best album the band ever released, mostly because Gabriel was gone and Collins had yet to fully commit to being a pop idol.

Anyway, a few months back, I became obsessed with “Home By The Sea” off the band’s 1983 album GENESIS. For most people, myself included, GENESIS is the record where pop finally won out over the progressive side of the band.  I always remembered if for it’s pop hooks.  It was these same hooks that led me back to reevaluate the album. After hearing “That’s All” on the radio for the 10,000th time, I gave GENESIS another listen.

It was just as I remembered. The album is loaded with hooks, but among the tracks one stood out. “Home By The Sea” isn’t just a good song for this period of Genesis, it’s a good song period.  It’s so good, I found myself humming it all day long. I hummed it while brushing my teeth, driving to work, making a cup of coffee, riding in an elevator, and staring up at the ceiling while I waited to fall asleep. In short, I was haunted by the song.

Home By The Sea cover front

The more I thought about the song and the lyrics (the ones I could remember) I realized that despite being catchy, “Home By The Sea” is a dark, strange song. I decided to read the lyrics and re-listen to the song. When did, I was immediately struck by something incredible: “Home By The Sea” is a fucking Twilight Zone episode! Well, not really…but kinda. The song is about someone sneaking into a house, presumably with ill intent, and getting accosted by ghosts!

“Coming out the woodwork, through the open door

pushing from above and below

shadows but no substance, in the shape of men

round and down and sideways they go

adrift without direction, eyes that hold despair

then as one they sigh and moan”

These ghosts are lonely and force this person to stay with them as they relive their lives. The song talks about pictures coming to life and while it all could be a metaphor for holding onto the past (or growing old), on the surface this is a creepy ghost story of a song.

“Images of sorrow, pictures of delight

things that go to make up a life

endless days of summer longer nights of gloom

waiting for the morning light

scenes of unimportance, photos in a frame

things that go to make up a life.”

I’d heard this song on the radio countless times over the years growing up and none of this had ever occurred to me. During my re-listen of GENESIS, I discovered that the song is actually part one of a two-part suite of songs, the other being “Second Home By The Sea.” That second half is a fantastic near-instrumental (Collins sings a bit of “Home By The Sea” at the very end) that adds a sense of grandeur to the ghostly tale. Combined into one, “Home By The Sea/Second Home By The Sea” is over 11 minutes long which probably explains why it is broken apart (which feels like label interference). But taken as a whole I find these songs to be incredibly powerful.

It’s important to remember that this song(s) appears on the same album as “Taking It All Too Hard.” I can’t think of a greater tonal shift than the leap from “Home By The Sea” to “Taking It All Too Hard.” Sure, the songs don’t appear back-to-back, but the fact that they inhabit the same album is very strange. Not ghosts coming out of the walls strange, but strange nonetheless. That GENESIS reaches such sublime heights while also spiraling so low seems like proof that the band isn’t very good. However, I actually think the opposite. I think it takes real talent and chutzpah to be both on both ends of the creative spectrum on the same record. Straightforward radio pop and a mini-prog suite about ghosts? Amazing. Like something from The Twilight Zone. 

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Metronomy’s “Month of Sundays” Video Is Rad

Remember music videos? Really good bands would put out awesomely artistic, visually interesting mini-films to promote their new music. Once upon a time, a decent song married to a visually groundbreaking video was not a big deal. But these days? These days nobody makes a music video, and if they do it’s usually sponsored by Motorola and doubles as a commercial.

But apparently not everyone got the memo vis a vis music videos, and yesterday I woke up to find a really sweet Metronomy on my feed. Metronomy is great little indie/New Wave-ish band from England who’ve been quietly releasing solid albums for the past eight years. I especially liked the band’s 2011 album THE ENGLISH RIVIERA.

metronomy-month-of-sundays

Anyway, the band’s new album LOVE LETTERS is out and part of the promotion for it included the creation of the below video. “Month of Sundays” is great song with a neat-o video that makes drab, dreary utilitarian architecture of our modern world and turns it into a lovely piece of modern art. Check it out and pretend you’re watching the MTV of your youth:

 

Metronomy Month Of Sundays from Callum Cooper on Vimeo.

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Dire Straits “Money For Nothing”

Now that I don’t have Spotify, I’ve been forced to return to my expansive CD collection.  One of those shiny, shiny discs, was a copy of Dire Straits 1985 album BROTHERS IN ARMS.  It’s the band’s most famous, best-selling albums.  I hadn’t heard it all the way through in a while and when I recently re-listened to it, I was astounded that the first three songs were all singles.  The album’s also really long, the songs are lengthy but none of them feel overly long.  That’s something that’s kinda lost in this age of ADD-riddled post-MTV age.

Speaking of MTV, I’m still completely blown away by “Money For Nothing.”  Talk about a song that wouldn’t work today, where to begin: I love that Sting is on this track.  I love the sentiment, the commentary on music videos and the perception of being a musician.  I love that guitar riff, man is that a million dollar riff! And the best part? That super-meta video with the primitive CGI.  I feel so blessed to have had young parents that were into MTV during it’s initial hey-day. I remember seeing this video, not when it first came out mind you (I’m not THAT old), and being really wowed by the visuals.

Dire Straits Brothers in Arms cover

Mark Knopfler is such an amazing talent, I think I prefer his solo stuff to Dire Straits, but BROTHERS IN ARMS is a damn fine album.

Yeah buddy, that’s his own hair.

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Aping The Beach Boys

 

Last month, Ben Folds Five released their first new studio album since 1999.   After reading a few favorable-to-glowing reviews, I decided to check out the new album despite being a casual fan of the group.  To my great joy, THE SOUND OF THE LIFE OF THE MIND is a really fantastic album that’s chock full of really good pop songs, I encourage you to seek it out.

The opposite of “Rire and Rain” but not PET SOUNDS.

One song, though, really stood out to me: the second track “Michael Praytor, Five Years Later.”  The song, which begins with drums and very familiar-sounding vocal harmonies instantly made me think of Jellyfish.  Particularly their second album SPILT MILK which my mom got me into durin the 1990’s.  Hypnotized, I found myself listening to the song over and over.

Then, around the 30th listen or so, I had a realization: The Beach Boys.  In this modern age, where artists are paying homage to other artists who were paying tribute to other artists, it can be tricky to trace the musical genealogy of a group or song .  Now that I’ve thought abou it, it’s obvious to me that on “Michael Praytor, Five Years Later”  the band is clearly doing something that goes back to the 1960’s: they’re aping The Beach Boys.

The Beach Boys, as I’m fond of reminding you all, were pioneers in rock music and highly influential.  The band has a stuffy/boring reputation among many young people today, but nothing could be further from the truth.  I’ve written before about my deep love of PET SOUNDS, but beyond that monumental album, the band’s influence can be felt today.  Being such a cultural-touchstone, other bands have been making sly (and sometimes not so sly) references to The Beach Boys in their work.  That this has been going on literally since they achieved their initial popularity in the 1960’s only serves to underscore just how damn important they were/are as a band.

We don’t know how lucky we are, boys.

The first time I can remember thinking “this band is making fun/referencing The Beach Boys” was when I heard The Beatles self-titled double album THE BEATLES (also known as the “White Album”).  The first song of the first album is “Back in the USS,” which is a direct parody of “California Girls.”  The Beach Boy-esque backing vocals are a perfect copy of The Beach Boys, but more than that The Beatles also poke fun at the band’s Apple-Pie/Baseball American-ness with their song’s Soviet Union-theme.  The Beatles were not the first, and they were not the last to ape The Beach Boys however.

Growing up, another band that I was exposed via my parents was REM.  I remember to practically wearing out their cassette of OUT OF TIME when it came out in 1991.  I had no idea what any of the songs were about, but I really liked them all, in particular the fourth track “Near Wild Heaven.”  The song, co-written and sung by bassist Mike Mills, is pretty much a spot-on WILD HONEY-era Beach Boys song.  And like “Back in the USSR,” it’s not the just vocal arrangement that’s referential to the Beach Boys, the lyrics and chords are also reminiscent of the band.  Looking back on it now, I think it’s weird that one of my all-time favorite REM songs is really just them riffing ironically on The Beach Boys. 

Not near enough…

English rockers XTC recorded a series of albums as their alter-egos The Dukes of Stratosphear and recorded “Pale and Precious,” a song that channels Wilson’s PET SOUNDS and SMILE-era lush production so well it borderlines on plagiarism. I feel weird mentioning the song because The Dukes were sort of a jokey-novelty, but “Pale and Precious” is too good to ignore.  Many people think these over-the-top homages are cheap, easy ripoffs but the amount of detail and knowledge required to create what essentially amounts to a “lost” Beach Boys song is incredible.  Anyone who willing to disregard the artistic merits of “Pale and Precious” can should try their hand at writing such a loving tribute–I have a feeling it’s harder than Andy Partridge makes it look.

Alt-rockers Everclear started their third album, SO MUCH FOR THE AFTERGLOW, with a massive Beach Boys nod on the album’s title track “So Much For The Afterglow.”  The song has an opening so Beach Boy-esque that when it comes on when I shuffle my iTunes I always mistake it for an actual Beach Boys song.  Jellyfish likewise opened their second album, the before-mentioned SPILT MILK, with “Hush” a lovely lullaby that exists thanks to The Beach Boys.

Sounds like The Beach Boys drunk on everclear.

Much like there are for The Beatles, there are a large contingent of modern bands who’s primary influence is The Beach Boys.  I vividly recall when California rockers Rooney broke onto the scene and were hailed by (the then-still somewhat musical) MTV as the “modern Beach Boys.”  The comparison wasn’t completely off-base, though I don’t think Rooney is as strongly connected to The Beach Boys as say,  South Carolina rockers The Explorers Club.   The Explorer’s Club have managed to cultivate a small, but growing fanbase with their supremely Beach Boys-like pop sound.  I  particularly enjoy their song “Run Run Run” of their most recent album GRAND HOTEL, which sounds like an eerily like an early 1970’s Beach Boy number.

This is a fantastic album, you should check it out.

If imitation truly is the sincerest form of flattery, then Brian Wilson & Company must feel very flattered indeed.  It’s one thing to write a good song, it’s another thing to invent a unique style that others copy and build upon.  Below is a Spotify-playlist I’ve started for this interesting sub-sub-sub-genre of music, if you are a Spotify user please feel free to add songs you think fit into the category of Aping The Beach Boys. I’d be interested to see how massive the list can get.

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