February 14, 2011
Well, besides the fact this blog celebrates the Independent Ethos in music and occasionally film, it should come as no surprise to read my endorsement for Arcade Fire‘s Grammy win for album of the year. They are the only truly independent band on an independent label (Merge Records) to win the honor.
I had not planned to write about the Grammys at all, as it usually celebrates the contrived dreck that is pop music: from rock to disco. But the voters got my attention this morning.
Arcade Fire deserved the win for many reasons, and to those who call them “upsets” to crap like the music of Lady Antebelum, Lady Gaga and such: get some culture. They are true musicians making creative music with real instruments. Their energy live is unmatched and forgoes the distracting trappings of theatrics. Their music is creative while strongly rooted in rock (especially the progressive kind). Hence they have fans that span the ages from the current hipster youths, to respectable rock elders like David Bowie and Peter Gabriel.
So good for them. The Suburbs is a great album, as seen in my top 10 albums of 2010. OK, so it was not a personal fave of the year, as the exuberance of first hearing Arcade Fire via Funeral is a tough act to follow, but Arcade Fire are good enough to only measure against themselves. It’s all downhill from here.
May 11, 2010
As DVD dies away to make way for an array of new visual new mediums from downloads to on demand HD to even a revitalized interest in 3-D movies in theaters, I’m afraid we’ll be seeing less of mass-manufactured oddities like the now long out of print Disco Inferno. I may hate disco, but this DVD entertained beyond expectations.
This is an amazing throwback to the 70s. Some if it’s pretty damn hilarious in its horridness and speaks to the idiocy of many popular music trends that too many swallow without any aesthetic consideration. Kelly Marie, Imagination and Baccara are particular travesties to pop music featured on Disco Inferno that are obviously forgotten for a reason. Now, 30 years later, these performances are heightened by their dated qualities.
Most of the stuff on the DVD is lip-synced, but who cares with all of the dated eye candy. The audience can be freaking amazing to look at. Yes, some are bored (these are a bunch of white Europeans mostly, and as many of these performances are indeed from the Musikladen show, then that means they are Germans, so what would you expect! [I'm half German, so I can make that joke]). But the dated style of what was cool in the discotheques is extraordinary. Dancing behind Donna Summer, on one track, there’s a guy dressed as a farmer and another guy in a running outfit and a trucker’s cap! Also, I must admit it’s cool to see the bra-optional fashions seen in clips by the Gap Band and Lipps Inc. (the actual band in the latter is never seen in the video, however, as a white girl lip synchs to the music and another dances along). Then there are the skimpy outfits on the girls in the Imagination clip that paved the way for the style of Lady Gaga, Ke$ha and Peaches.
The production on the DVD is slap-dash effort, as a lot of the songs are cut short, but what does that matter when most of them are not even live, so there is no loss there, and you get enough of the songs as not to get sick of them because, let’s face it, disco is dated for a reason. However, James Brown is only guy who performs live because he has a real, plugged-in band, and his track grooves with nature and strong energy. Michael Jackson, on the other hand, gets carried away with his dancing and even gives up trying to lip synch, which is cool in its shamelessness. There’s nothing like it when the singers get into it: Boney M’s singer is downright scary, but, man, is he into performing (plus, their track is one of the few complete ones).
There are some great moments of music history captured here. Check out Sugarhill Gang with their pioneering hip-hop track “Rapper’s Delight.” Back then, rap seemed like a gimmick that would soon fall out of fashion, like disco did, but who would have thought that song would have paved the way for the leading form of pop music of today. On the other hand, you have “Mariana” by the Gibson Brothers, black guys doing a hybrid of soul and Latin music that, of course, failed to catch on with the same fire.
In the end, Disco Inferno is a thoroughly entertaining piece of pop music history, even for someone like me who preferred the post punk and prog rock of the time. Though DVD has ceased its run, you can still find it from secondhand sellers here. Even YouTube has some, so check them out here:
January 23, 2010
My representative at EMI has informed me that for the second time, the David Bowie LP reissues of Aladdin Sane, Diamond Dogs, and Young Americans for its “From the Capitol Vaults” series, have had their release dates pushed back once again to an as yet unknown date.
The 180-gram vinyl reissues, which were supposed to replicate the original packaging of the early to mid-70s releases, were first announced to come out as part of the Nov. 3 series of Vinyl Vaults reissues. Then I was told they would be out on Jan. 26. The reason for this first postponement was never made officially clear, except for the explanation that logistics had delayed their release.
Now, as Jan. 26 approaches, this second delay is even more vague, as I was told I will be informed of any new information when it is available. So, for now, the reissues have been postponed to an unknown date. Let me note: I was not told they were cancelled, just postponed once again.
So, we are left to hope that maybe, just possibly, the label will go out of its way to find something other than the digital sources that were first supposed to provide the music on the wax. This series is not known for going back to the master tapes for its reissues, but we can hope. You can read about the planned original sources for these Bowie reissues here.
I leave you with the stark image of the Aladdin Sane album cover: Bowie looking spent and sad, with the iconic “Ziggy bolt” splitting his face in half and a single tear laying in the nook of his clavicle, a metaphor for the difficulties he suffered while maintaining his alter ego of Ziggy Stardust to wide acclaim during the early 70s. Don’t be misled by the likes of Lady Gaga and Ke$ha, glam rock is never all glitter and good times, kiddies, especially when you are as sincere an artist as David Bowie putting on an act.