Friday, September 22, 2006

Snowed In - The Lessons Taught by Snow Patrol

I've got no hesitation in admitting that I've completely lost touch with popular music. Apart from new albums from artists I've always kept track of (e.g. the Roots, Basement Jaxx, Tortoise, etc), I've got no idea what's going on in rock and roll nowadays. According to the commercial radio station I listen to in the mornings (the annoyance of morning shows wake me up quickly, and the university radio station here doesn't seem to understand block format), the mainstream's consistent mainly of the Pussycat Dolls, Fergie, JT, and Gnarls Barkley (more on the latter later). A flip over to the other commercial stations reveals that rock and roll's mainly slipped into a constant state of emo, with varying shades of new wave cum Franz Ferdinand, with the odd shock of Nickelback to make sure that, uh, we're not overly sensitive fags or somethin'.

Thus, seeing the crowd absolutely swoon over Snow Patrol took me aback. I knew Snow Patrol were popular, but I had no clue as to HOW popular they are. A glance through the crowd saw at least 2/3 mouthing along with the lyrics, 1/4 shooting videos with their camera phones, and, more surprisingly, me recognizing at least 85% of the songs.

Or so I think I did. Snow Patrol's got 90s brit pop down solid. Each song's a well-crafted britpop guitar surge, cultimating in some sort of release that finds itself universal response amongst the fey cardigan-boys, the complex frat-boys, the indie flick girls and the aging hipsters. Each song sounds like that-song-that-you-just-can't-name, 'cause Snow Patrol are either brilliant at writing songs that sound just like another song you like or brilliant at writing songs that other bands have tried to copy. I can't be sure which one it is, but I do know that I at least think I recognized every song, which is much more than I can say when I hear your average rock hit on the radio (who is this 30 Seconds to Fallout at the Disco?).

It's interesting to see this whole new genre of bands that can seemingly be lumped into bands-in-Zach-Braff-movies-or-at-least-an-episode-of-Gray's-Anatomy-or-the-OC. They might not all sound the same (though they're typically guitar-based power pop with the now constant keyboard player in the mix), but a good majority are indie bands that have now crossed over into playing larger venues, and if they're anything like Snow Patrol, the growing pains are there.

Snow Patrol would've sounded amazing in a tiny club, sounded good at tonight's small arena (approx. 1000-1500 capacity, I'd say), and will probably sound tiny in any larger venue. They're a club band whose fan base demands a larger venue, even if their sound doesn't quite match. It's close - that guitar surge, backed by light show (light show!) serves for great arena antics - but it certainly won't propel Snow Patrol further, until they're able to write that song that every single person has committed to their memory, whether willingly or not, and can burn on the mixtape of their lives. Put it simply, Snow Patrol's a good band at being slightly above average, but certainly not a band that will go down in the canon, which is typically where massive arena bands end up. Snow Patrol very well might end up being the Journey or ELO of our times.

Return to the thesis statement of this post, though, and you'll hear my caveat: I've got no clue what's going on music nowadays. The last few albums I have downloaded all date back before 1985. This Slate article on Gnarls Barkley has pointed out a strange phenomenon, though: "Crazy" is entering the musical canon and we're all witness to it. So far I've recognized it as an amazingly affectious song with little to nothing wrong with it, see that it's got the same mass appeal as "Hey Ya," but haven't thought much further than that. If the Slate article is right, would I have thought "What's Going On" or "Move On Up" were merely good summer hits?

Probably...but I hope not. Hindsight's easy, and it's especially easy when you've got all the force of rock criticism behind you. But then again, I've got no idea what's going on...and that's probably easily retroactive, too.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Commenting on Comments: Re-reading the Globe and Mail

For most of us in the Canadian centre-left, there's only one newspaper of choice: the Globe and Mail. The paper's probably shifted itself in the conservative day and age we live in, but when the other options range from the right-to-far-right National Post (who recently ran an op-ed piece on how globalization saved the post-9/11, whatever) and its other regional companions to the more tabloid-y regional papers (Calgary Sun, Vancouver Province), the Globe's still the most reliable mainstay.

It's odd, then, to read the comments on the online version of the Globe. Without getting into the sheer mind-fuck of how a commenting feature changes how one reads the news (depending on my mood of the day, it might serve as an example of over-inclusion), reading the comments is a bizarre experience, capable of providing back context to published stories or of a modest sampling of national opinion, though neither result has proven to do much more than churn my stomach.

If one were to poll through the various comments on the more political-orientated of the Globe's stories, you'd think that most public opinion swung right of centre. That, in itself, isn't a horrible thing in itself - people are entitled to their political views and, like or not, there does exist the Conservative Party and its various supporters. Political diversity's one chooses to express it, though, is another matter.

I check the comments every day, and it's not an over-generalization to say that most conservative comments are, for lack of better terms, assholish beyond belief. Take today's online interview with Liberal leadership candidate Hedy Fry for an example: most range from ill-mannered to intolerant, and whatever your opinion of Fry is (I don't have an opinion on her either way, btw), she surely doesn't deserve a comment like "go back to academia -- where your radical thoughts can be foisted on unsuspecting young minds and leave the real world to the rest of us."

More specifically, the rest of us don't deserve comments like these. I can respect a good criticism of any politician, but when that criticism tries to paint huge segments of the population into the same light because they're more likely to support Fry than, say, Steven Harper, then I've got problems. Can I respect that many right-of-centre conservatives are educated, white-collar individuals sick of paying for over-inflated governments? Sure. Should they respect that many left-of-centre liberals are pragmatic realists in the same white-collar work force? They better.

These comments prove a bit more disconcerting given what I've assumed to be the Globe's readership. Granted, many of us are simply too lazy to dilute these comments out with more level-headed ones, but I would have assumed that there's be a 60/40 split given what I've assumed to be the Globe's leftist readership. The sheer volume of these often mean-spirited comments serves to color the stories they connect with, and it gives what aims to be neutral (whether it is or not - I realize the sheer subjectiveness of journalism) such an odd slant in another direction that it makes reading the online Globe a little disorientating (as a disclaimer, I'd be equally intolerant of leftist comments of this nature, and have just as much disdain for comments trying to paint all conservatives into some sort of hillbilly Cleetus inbreeding picture). I like the interaction between the story and the comments, would've loved it ten times more if the comments were informative and provided greater factual context, but given what I read on a daily basis in these comments, it's more disinformation than not.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Okay, A Few More....

It's amazing what one can find on Youtube if you put your mind to it. Focusing on heroes past, here's a crazy assortment:

1. Fela Kuti - Live!

2. Tom Ze - a documentary of sorts, but in Portuguese (there's 3 parts). Still an amazing find.

3. Bill Withers - live performance of "Grandma's Hands" and "Use Me"

4. Timmy Thomas - "Why Can't We Live Together?" I'm not sure why, but they've interspliced his live performance (which I'm not all together sure is live - it sounds lipsynced) with a girl dancing in a bikini and fur boots.

5. Curtis Mayfield - live performance of "Keep on Keeping on." Was actually pretty easy to find, but here ya go:

6. Nina Simone - somebody went and uploaded a full show of her's from 1962. "I Loves You Porgy" always makes me want to openly weep, and I've never heard this extrapolated live version before.

That should keep you folks busy. Hep me up to more in the comments.

Obligatory Lazy You-Tube Post

I know, I know. It's been awhile since I've last posted. Chalk it up to too-much-time, but-not-enough-to-say.

I was working on a kick-ass Black Eyed Peas analysis. I even came up with a line graph:

I threw that idea out the window when I realized that "London Bridge" was kinda catchy, albeit a complete MIA throwback.

I also contemplated reviewing the new JT and Thom Yorke side-to-side, considering they're both poster children of some sort, he of the grown-up teeny-bop and he of the jaded indie hipster (you can pick which is which), and I still probably will, if I ever get around to listening to either on anything other than shitty computer speakers.

I do realize I've committed myself to keeping this thing kinda current, and thus, the obligatory lazy YouTube post. Did you know that Prince was on the Muppet Show? Well, he wasn't. But he was on that 90s incarnation of the Muppet Show. Here's the proof:
Part 1 (wherein he partakes in a Hee Haw skit)

Part 2 (wherein he performs "Starfish and Coffee")

Part 3 (wherein he performs "She Gave Her Angels")