Monday, March 31, 2008

Dastardly, Heinous Logistics

When DHL tells me they offer the customer support I deserve, it offends me terribly.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Good Music

I like most kinds of music. Different kinds of music are good for different reasons, and I enjoy them to different extents, but generally there are very few styles that I dislike on the whole. Generally, when I do dislike some particular music, it is for reasons that are specific to the artist, song, album, etc. more than to the style or scene that they are a part of. That said, if there is one sort of music over which I can throw a blanket of general distaste, it is music that I find to be lacking in substance.

Now, musical/artistic substance is sort of a hazy qualification, but I think I've got it figured out (at least for the purposes of my own peculiar world view). The fact is, most music has substance in some way. The most common music accused of lacking substance is pop, but pop music does have a kind of substance. Its substantial element is its pursuit of accessibility, fun, ease of enjoyment, etc. The construction of a generally accessible song is an accomplishment worthy of note, particularly if it can be enjoyed under more scrutinous listening. Brutal/extreme music is sometimes accused of not having a lot of substance, but I would say the pursuit of brutality or extremeness in music constitutes as worthy an artistic endeavor as any.

So what music really lacks substance? The works I find to be most offensive in this regard are not really a particular style themselves, more of a particular mindset that some performers seem to exhibit. It is the attitude of being more interested in expressing their image through sound than any particular musicality.

Yes, this probably sounds Allow me to explain with an example: Akimbo. Akimbo are a Seattle act, usually called metal, but the extent to which this term could be used is debatable. Akimbo are in any case a band that seem to what to blast the fact that they are awesome rock stars through their amps more than any sort of music. They pose, they scream, they pound their instruments, but what comes out doesn't seem to be doing anything other than underlining what you see when you look on stage.

A more commonly known example might be most mainstream rap/hip-hop since the ealy-00s or so, and some preceding. Mace, Li'l Wayne and Birdman, Souljah Boy Tell'em, etc. There is usually neither a particular musicality nor any apparent attempt at impressive or meaningful rhymes. Just sort of "I-Am-Awesome" attitudes compressed into sonic form, passed off as pop music.

Third example just for fun/loathing: These Arms Are Snakes. I hate this band a lot. More of the same, each piece is just their image rather than a song. Each of these examples is just a different performer's take on the same idea.


I wrote this a couple weeks ago and felt it was incomplete, but I really didn't have much more to say on the matter so it was left unpublished. Then some stuff happened.

First, I had a weekend of excellent musical experiences, but that will be gotten into below. Next, I was introduced to a band called Protest the Hero. I was at first extremely sceptical of these guys, given their name (2003 metalcore style, straight up), their appearance (one of the dudes actually resembles Ben Gibbard a bit), and the fact that they were raved about by a non-metal music site. Now, the latter isn't always a bad sign (see the bands mentioned in the next section), but it often is. Just sort of depends on the source. For example: I don't, as a rule, trust The Stranger regarding metal. Anyway, immediately I was very impressed by Protest the Hero. They sounded like an explosion of Symphony X-core madness. I was immediately hooked. I listened to their myspace songs a bunch. Then I thought about it a little more.

These guys are JUST WHAT I WAS TALKING ABOUT HERE. There's a shit ton going on there, musically. It's just dense with action. But there's no real substance to it. It's just a rehashing of a bunch of different sorts of riffs. I wouldn't quite call it generic, more of just a jumble of things. It's just like Dead Man. The band who talks loud, says nothing. Nothing, anyway, besides "LOOK AT HOW AWESOME WE ARE!" This really speaks to me of how powerful this kind of music is. Even when I had just been thinking about these sorts of musical shenanigans, I was weak to its power. Partially, I must admit, I resent being tricked by it. Mostly, though, I resent the facade. Bad music should not be treated like good music, and substanceless music should not be treated like substantial music.


Now, the positive experiences. I saw two excellent bands live, one of which was new to me but totally blew my mind, and bought a new CD by another band whom I had already adored. The band I already knew and saw live was Agalloch, the ambient gray-to-black metal band with an adorably short singer/guitarist with very long hair. Agalloch do a lot with not that much, musically speaking. Mostly simple but long songs, standard metal two-guitar quartet, fairly rare overdubs by solo strings or similar. The new band I saw live was Grayceon, whom I was very skeptical about when they took the stage. A guitar-cello-drum metal trio? I thought to myself, these guys are just going to play the most predictable metal imaginable, but it was not so! It was amazing, deep, multi-textured, powerful stuff. I enjoy them a lot. The new CD was by Sculptured, their first new LP since 1999. Boy how they've grown. I think those guys are what Solefald wants to be. Unless, that is, it turns out Solefald wants to be aggressively hit-and-miss.


Monday, March 17, 2008

Trying Hard

Perhaps Wen Jiabao woke up this morning and said to himself, what can I say that will make me look the most asinine, and eliminate any credibility I might have.

What other explanation is there for this?

Friday, March 14, 2008

Not Cool

Iced Earth are releasing new material with old singer Matt Barlow. Generally, I could give half a shit about this turn of events, as Iced Earth bore me stupid, kings as they are of the dullest brand of power metal. But one thing struck me in particular about their upcoming single, "I Walk Among You." Specifically, the release along with it of an iTunes only track called "A Charge to Keep." If the phrase means nothing to you, I suggest Googling it and seeing what the first thing to come up is.

I knew they were big American ape men, but really? Did they really see fit to do this? This makes me feel dirty for having ever owned their material or seen them live.

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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Corrupt Party Is Well Attended

If the Democrats are smart (and this is a big if), we should be able to make the resignation of Eliot Spitzer work for us. People The idea of the Republicans as a corrupt party is already and constantly in the public consciousness, what with people like Vitter and Craig and Foley and etc. etc. etc., not to mention any of the non-fucking-related scandals that have gone on. So, while some GOPs will probably try to use this incident to say "see, the Demoncrat party is corrupt too, look at this filthy filthy filandering New York lieberal!", we have the convenient fact that he was forced to resign promptly, while Senators Craig and Vitter can still be found on Capital Hill - if they're not in bathrooms or brothels, respectively. But of course this is one of those things that assumes the party has a little more backbone than they tend to show.

For the record, I don't care if any politicians are using prostitutes - provided they don't spend their on-the-record lives denouncing prostitution, just like I don't care if a Senator likes to do it in the can, as long he isn't an outspoken homophobe. Eliot Spitzer was a hypocrite for busting prostitution rings as Atty. Gen. and then patronizing them as Gov., so I think it's right for him to have resigned.


It's All for You

A new song for you all to enjoy.

Also, be sure to come check out Teapot Dome at the Funhouse on March 24th! It will be a grand old time.

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Wednesday, March 05, 2008

The Little Things

Kosovo has declared independence from Serbia, pissing off the Serbs. Greece and Turkey are scowling at each other over Cyprus. Greece and Macedonia are grousing at each other over Macedonia's name. Georgia and Russia are perpetually at each others' throats over assorted breakaway regions in Georgia. And now Azerbaijan and Armenia are actually killing troops over a little pocket of ethnic Armenians. This is to say nothing of the ongoing conflicts in parts of the world other than southeast Europe, the fight that never stops in Sri Lanka, the turmoil in Thailand and the Philipines, etc.

You'd probably like a point about now. My point is that with all the attention given to one ethnic conflict between Palestinian Arabs and Israeli Jews, all these other little countries most Americans never think about, may never have even heard of, tend to sneak up on us. Remember World War One, when a bunch of parochial little mishaps led everyone into a pointless conflagration of death and mustard gas? If we don't start paying attention to all the tiny little countries, it'll happen again in no time. Hell, it may well be too late even now.

Watch out for the ethnic Catalan in France next.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Finland's '08 Eurovision Entry

Lordi eat your heart out.


Saturday, March 01, 2008

G(r)eekin' Out

Last night I went and saw Christos Govetas and Pasatempo at the Triple Door. It was some fantastic rebetika, and the Triple Door is an awesome venue. It brought to mind a few things: Firstly, that I really love Greek music and the Greek language. Next, Greeks love Greek culture, perhaps like no other peoples love their own cultures. Schedule some Greek music and they'll come together, all the old restauranteurs and their extended family. They get up on stage and dance, they shout "Opa!" and they generally have a great old time. It's an amazing thing to witness. I will also point out that the food at the Triple Door is excellent, and so is the wine.

The whole thing makes me want a bouzouki more than ever.

I will add lastly, for those who don't know, a note about rebetika. It generally seems to be the kind of music that most people associate with Greeks: bouzoukis/accordion/baglama, tremolo picking, harmonized vocals, etc. If you still don't know what I'm talking about, Monty Python's Cheese Shop Sketch features some. Rebetika has been called "Greek blues" by some because of its dark subject matter and who generally plays it, and is usually described as the music of the Greek underworld. This latter description rather makes me think of the story of Orpheus. I'm sure Hades played a mean joura.