Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Arms, Distance: Now On Wordpress

Sorry Blogger. You no give me stats, and no love. I got shizzle blowin' up on Wordpress already, so this is just to consolidate stuff:

Oh. I'm also still contributing to the Chicago arts & culture scene over at UR Chicago too.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Coldplay: Follow-up Thoughts

Really good comments from my pals Chuck and Tim, and also in a few drunken bar conversations this week. A few more points, and clarifications on my Colplay rant below:

Bombastic, challenging albums will always exist, thank God. I have nothing against broad experimentalism (even when it is unsuccessful), and quite frankly would hope every artist continually pushes themselves to create, and challenge their own fans in the process.

Songs like Deathcab For Cutie's new “I Will Possess Your Heart,” the soaring Sam’s Town, even Green Day’s concept-y American Idiot are all good examples of this ... and all good albums. I’d also throw out there Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, Half the Radiohead catalog, and as you guys mentioned: Pet Sounds and Sgt Pepper, irrefutably yes; incredible albums that redefined pop music. Also, the failures … Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music, Bob Dylan’s Street Legal, these are bold movements, sometimes embraced, sometimes disregarded.

A lot of those albums and songs we’ve listed above challenge the rules of rock music, be it in content or sonically, and prove you can create (and succeed?) outside “the formula”, and ultimately push what people consider popular music.

I think Coldplay’s A Rush of Blood to the Head is an incredible album, a completely unexpected jump, and rightly heralded as one of the best albums of 2000. Rush... could be added to those albums listed above -- an LP that changed the way you think about a band and their capability to expess. For Coldplay, that album was sonically daring, revolutionary, even confrontational, but this success exists completely outside the realm of injecting yourself in socio-political conflicts.

I’m now referring directly to the “Violet Hill” video (released virally-only). It opens up with Department of Defense test colorbars, a rocket missle launch with Bush overdubbed with monkey sound effects. The rest of the video focuses on various political figures dancing, bomb/firework footage, and George Dubbs conducting a "war orchestra” while Tony Blair plays backup guitar.

Here’s the thing: This is very “safe” criticism. They’re taking potshots at Blair, who stepped down from being the British PM more than a year ago, and a lame-duck President who is already the most universally-loathed man to ever hold the position. This is easy, safe, empty criticism.

Mind you, criticizing these two was not always okay to do, and had this focused outrage came out 2+ years ago, I would be a lot more impressed and receptive to the message. For instance the Dixie Chicks (of all bands) who saw massive radio station boycotts, their records burned, and received death threats after expressing their displeasure with the Texas-born Prez.

Or, when Conor Oberst sang “When The President Talks to God,” live on The Tonight Show, asking the middle American crowd if they think George Bush “ever smells his own bullshit,” live on national television; three years ago. At that point, as I mentioned before, Chris Martin was more concerned about making trade fair.

Coldplay alt video for "Violet Hill" 5/20/08:

Bright Eyes, Live on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno ~5/04/05:

Monday, June 09, 2008

The Never-Ending Polaroid

People take pictures of each other / Just to prove that they really
Bob Nanna (Braid, Hey Mercedes, City on Film) has allowed the world to see his on-going “Never-Ending Polaroid” project, now on display until July 8th at the Threadless retail store on Broadway. Nanna, along with tourmate Brian Shorttall came up with the idea nearly a decade ago, and have kept the visual string going much longer than anyone ever anticipated.

It should be stressed that these are Polaroid images, which is significant in a few ways. Firstly, I like the juxtaposition of the medium; the immediate gratification a Polaroid image provides, combined with the longevity and diligence this project demanded. Also, because these are Polaroids, each one of these photos in one-of-a-kind, unedited, and unphotoshopable, pulled from the camera by Bob (or in some cases Brian), and most likely shared with the subject before it was dutifully filed away.

On one level, the project can be appreciated by scope alone. I can’t imagine years of lugging a camera around, and keeping track of EVERY picture its ever taken (as well as the name and relationship to the subject). But a further significance is embodied in the photos because Nanna, a journeyman of the emo/indie scene, is behind the lens. The names and faces of recent rock history pop up in-between Bob’s family, friends, co-workers and roommates. Keep your eyes peeled for members of Fugazi, Death Cab for Cutie, Jets to Brazil, Weezer, Get Up Kids and a bazillion other indie bands and kids captured in a never-ending string of picture-in-picture.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Coldplay: Gonna Say Somethin'

First things first, I must admit I really like Coldplay. Dammit. It’s true. Perhaps this is why I’m about to be hard on them.

Remember when Coldplay was the sleepy London band that gladly accepted the “music for bedwetters” tag, and wrote obtuse guitar-led ballads and strolled on the beach in slow-motion at dawn? I miss that band. From what I’ve heard of the new leaked album, that band is completely and totally gone.

Chris Martin and crew have, in four albums within a decade, attempted to cultivate the sort of grand sound and message that U2 worked nearly three times longer to cultivate, and even now U2’s preaching still seems like a fight for relevancy. I’m not saying setting your sights on being the next U2 is a bad idea--I can’t think of another band that’s stayed more-or-less “important” for as long as they have.

To me, Coldplay’s current trajectory seems baffling. With an upcoming double-named LP like Viva La Vida or Death and all His Friends, you know they’re aiming for a “statement” album, and god bless ‘em for giving it a go.

If the opening single, "Violet Hill”, is anything to judge by, the upcoming album is a soaring political and spiritual (and self-deifying) CD that forgoes anything you might have liked about 2000 A.D. Coldplay. For a band whose debut album, Parachutes, featured 10 tracks of which only three tracks had more than one-word titles and none of which veered away from troubled love-drunk troubadour territory, this is an suspect undertaking.

The thing that irks me the most is that I don’t know why Coldplay feels it’s their place to produce some sort of politically, socially, and spiritually conscious album. Have they discovered something since the disappointing X&Y that caused a revelation about modern times?

2000’s Parachutes rolled in with sweet guitar strum and nondescript lovelorness, and the impressive Rush of Blood to the Head followed in 2002. Hmm, maybe at that point, 2002, with 9/11 and London Subway Bombing memories still raw, it would’ve been a good time to say something about something. No dice. Coldplay upped the bombast, but the lyrics still wallowed in romantic vagaries and abstract forlornness. Though, now that I think about it, Martin seemed very concerned with Free Trade at that point. Hey, what happened to that?

So. Can stadium-filling bands make serious statements? Yes. They Can. Do stadium-filling bands really make a difference? I don't think so. They can succeed in looking serious, but then your encore is “Yellow” and then it all goes to shit.

Now that I’ve lambasted a band whose music I may or may not have used for College-era seduction purposes, we’ll have to sit back and see. Maybe they’ll pull it off. Maybe Coldplay will have a seat at the G8 convention. Maybe people buying 80$ arena seats will absorb whatever message of universality and global consciousness Martin is communicating. That would be an incredible and wonderful thing, and I will gratefully write an adoring and redeeming retraction.

P.S. “Life in Technicolor” sounds fucking great.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Jeremy Bentham

I suddenly have an interest in Jeremy Bentham. I have no idea. It came to me in a dream. Oh, also, shirt sales at the green-friendly TeeCycle.Org are going really well. Good times all around.

Thanks Wikipedia:

Jeremy Bentham
Birth 15 February 1748 London, England
Death 6 June 1832 London, England

Influenced by John Locke, David Hume, Baron de Montesquieu, Claude Adrien Helvétius, Thomas Hobbes

Influenced John Stuart Mill, Michel Foucault, Peter Singer, Iain King, John Austin

Jeremy Bentham (15 February 1748–6 June 1832) was an English jurist, philosopher, and legal and social reformer. He was a political radical, and a leading theorist in Anglo-American philosophy of law. He is best known for his advocacy of utilitarianism, for the concept of animal rights,[1][2] and his opposition to the idea of natural rights, with his oft-quoted statement that the idea of such rights is "nonsense upon stilts."[3] He also influenced the development of welfarism.[4]

He became known as one of the most influential of the utilitarians, through his own work and that of his students. These included his secretary and collaborator on the utilitarian school of philosophy, James Mill; James Mill's son John Stuart Mill; and several political leaders including Robert Owen, who later became a founder of socialism. He is also considered the godfather of University College London.

Bentham's position included arguments in favour of individual and economic freedom, the separation of church and state, freedom of expression, equal rights for women, the end of slavery, the abolition of physical punishment (including that of children), the right to divorce, free trade, usury,[5] and the decriminalization of homosexuality.[6][7]

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Whew. Phew. That Was Fast

Hi Chicago!

The Promoter Ordinance that I just mentioned earlier today has been pulled from the table. Thanks to lots of concerned citizens andTONS of letters going to local aldermen. As of right now, the main site, SaveChicagoCulture had this to say:

I’ll get the details and post them ASAP.

As of now there's 5,700 comments on the S.C.C. blog. So, yeah. Are they excited or what? Thank's all for now, but remember the ordinance is going back to committee, and may get adressed in another month or so, so keep your eyes peeled. Jim DeRo's got more thoughts about it, check out is just-updated blog post here.

Made aware of concerns in many corners of Chicago's arts communities, Schulter asked DBA for more facts and figures about the alleged "problem venues" and "underground promoters" that the ordinance was designed to curtail. Some of those who attended the meeting said DBA had to admit that it had no hard information and that it has not formally studied the extent of the alleged problem that the law was crafted to address; they had only the anecdotal evidence of the single tragic incident at the E2 Nightclub five years ago.

Ouch. Well, let's hope this can facilitate an open-forum type discussion among the committe and the city's reputable venue owner/operators. Check out Chicago Tonight tonight (WTTW) at 7pm to see a roundtable about this. Huzzah, etc.


Chicago Music Venues in Trubbs?

Dear Anyone Who Cares about Culture in Chicago,

On Wednesday 5/14, Chicago City Council is planning on (quickly and quietly) voting on an ordinance that would "severely impede small music venues from hosting and promoting live music."

The ordinance would require all venues with a capacity of over 100 people to:

  • Purchase an event promoter license that could cost as much as $2000 every two years
  • Possess liability insurance of $300,000.
  • Subject the possesor of the license/insurance to finger-printing and background checks.

The idea is to crack down on illegal promoters and make venues safer for the public, but the steps involved seem poorly thought-out, and hastily assmebled.

The new ordinance will make it even more difficult for DIY promoters,and smaller/non-established venues to put on a performance (be it music, theatre or art) without some very expensive regulations.

As written elsewhere, "It could effectively nullify Chicago's music scene, fracture our creative communities and send young artists to other cities that are more supportive of local [...] events."

From Sun Time music critic Jim DeRogatis' blog:

“'The language of the ordinance as drafted unnecessarily and perhaps prohibitively increases the cost of doing business for any promoter seeking to work with PPA- [public place of amusement] licensed music venues, including, among many others, Schuba’s, Buddy Guy’s Legends, the Vic Theater, the Riviera Theater, the Metro, the Hideout, Uncommon Ground and Martyr’s,' said Alligator Records founder and CMC board member Bruce Iglauer."

Spread the word, call your Alderman, do whatever but DO IT FAST please.



Find your Alderman here: http://www.chicityclerk.com/citycouncil/alderman/find.html

Offical Website: http://savechicagoculture. org/

Jim DeRo's Blog: http://blogs.suntimes.com/derogatis/2008/05/update_musical_advocates_gear.html

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

It's been three...

...days since I last shamelessly plugged a fun 'lil side project TeeCycle.Org

check this shizzle we just put up this week:

And there's new ones every flippin' day. Yeah. It's like dat.