Is anybody as bored with traditional record reviews as I am? Apart from a few writers who write original and critical reviews of albums that also carry with them some degree of literary merit, I find that most reviews are corporate (and indie-corporate) wank jobs that do nothing so much as show off the writers fabulously high regard for their own importance as 'tastemakers'. And so, when I was approached by a friend last year to writer reviews for his new magazine, I agreed on the condition that i review them in an original and comedic note. The concept was to get drunk with all my roommates and come up with a huge list of questions and criteria with which to review the CDs; this proceeded rather swimmingly (a little too swimmingly for some) and by the end of the night we had somewhere close to 60 questions. With this list in hand, i gamely say down with the first three CDs (the Rapture, the Unicorns, Hella), randomly drew 5 questions for each for a hat and proceeded to review the CDs according to said questions. Upon presenting them to the friend starting the magazine (on time and everything), he informed me that the Quebec government wasn't going to cough up the money he was counting on and the magazine was dead. Sufficiently dejected, i tucked the reviews into a folder in a distant part of my computer and forgot all about them until i started writing this blog. Once a week, or whenever i get new CDs, i'll post a review written along similar guidelines. For now, here's the first three-yes, they are really old but i spent a whole hungovery day written these, so have some sympathy. I'll probably recycle some of these questions, because I did seem to pull the better questions out for these ones.
DIG? : Erase Errata, Liars, !!!, Out Hud
Sounds: Olio, Open Up Your Heart
1. Will I be singing along with all the wrong words when they come by?
Yes-you will be singing and dancing and contorting in ways thought impossible this far North, but with lyrics this simple even my Albanian neighbour could sing along and he doesn't understand English or French. Their fantastic electro-punk anthem, House of Jealous Lovers, was the song of the summer (my spine still wavers to that bass line) and all they said was: 'house of the jealous lovers',over and over again with a couple of 'one hand ties' the other and 'shakedowns' thrown in for good measure. So you better get these lyrics right or I'll just have to shake on down the street and slap you myself if you don't.
2. Retro, nowtro or futro?
Good question; liberal sprinkles of both the first two abound, which can produce a disjointed futuristic feel in the right hands. But I'm not too sure if the Rapture have the dexterity for the task. It's not that this album has anything wrong with it, but there is such a clear divide between the eighties synth, duran duran and cocaine inspired tracks like 'Sister Saviour', 'Ollio' and 'I need your love' and the more sombre, non-dance orientated tracks like 'Love is all' and 'Infatuation' that I can't help but feel that the Rapture themselves are confused about which way to rock. And while the production by DFA does a great job of providing a gritty lo-fi edge to the album, which helps smudge away most of the gloss often associated with eighties synth rock and brings the album together as a more cohesive whole, it just can't do enough to pull it out of the past and push it to the future. All that being said, this music is very nowtro and deservedly so. The Rapture are one of the bands leading the attack against standing still at rock shows, against contemptuously looking down from ridiculous levels of hipness at those having fun and actually dancing. The Rapture will make you dance right NOW and sometimes, that's all that matters.
3. An indie rocker stole my virginity- will this get it back?
Are you kidding? Of course not. In fact, you were probably listening to the Rapture as he confessed his undying love for you and 'how he would most certainly call next time through town' before settling into the back seat of his van. The Rapture are not about regret, looking back or considering the consequences for that matter. This is hedonistic music- you know the type. Balls out dancing, going mental and going back for more, feeling like your heart just might explode but still pushing further and then watching it all collapse into a hallucinogenic dream in the arms of someone you love. The kind of music, which let's admit, is not for the faint of heart. Or virgins for that matter, because the dance steps are quite tricky and people are liable to get hurt. But isn't that the point? To get hurt? To get your toes stepped on, but keeping on dancing? Or am I just looking too much into this silly question? Next.
4. This years: EMF- no, Primal Scream circa 91 but not nearly as cool or high.
5. Six degrees of separation with Beyonce Knowles.
Too simple: the Rapture are signed to DFA records, who have produced a remix for Beyonce (I believe).
Title: Total Bugs Bunny on wild bass
Label: Narnack Records
Dig?: Rockets Red Glare, Death From Above, Don Cab
Sounds: Your DJ Children , Post-Ivy Leagure Depression
1. I loved Korn; will I love this?
If you were into Korn for the droptuned bass and machine gun drums of earlier Korn, then you must may love this guitar and drum headfuck.
If you were into Korn because Jonathan David spoke to your tortured teenage soul, then you should probably stick with Linkin Park and Evanessence.
2. Gut wrenching, nipple tingling or booty shaking?
If you can shake your ass in asymmetrical patterns and not trip over your own feet, you could dance to this. For the rest of us this is pretty gut wrenching, but not of the Jeff Buckley make you weep variety. No, this is music so wonderfully nauseating that most attempts to keep up with the impossible drum rhythms and obtuse time changes will leave you drunkenly rolling around on the floor trying not to puke- sometimes there can be such a thing as too much movement.
3. Should I wait two years and just check the bargain bin?
No. Go and get this CD right now and begin your re-education on just how much racket two men with noisemakers can produce. Hella are on the forefront of the 'broken bone' dance craze that's making everyone shake, rattle and roll like skeletons- surely, you cannot miss out on this trend!
4. Describe the perfect setting for this listening experience:
Used record store over the Christmas break; being baked and blasting this while clueless suburbanites search for the latest Celine Dion CD and cast ever more anxious glances over their shoulders at their fellow shoppers before dropping their would be gifts and sprinting for the doors.
5. What ad campaign is this most likely to be licensed to?
In the brief window between marijuana becoming legal and advertising it illegal, this will be used to promote 'northern lights' bud.
Artist: The Unicorns
Title: Who will cut out hair when we're gone?
Dig?: Built to Spill, Microphones, Daniel Johnston
Sounds: Let's Get Known, I Was Born A (Unicorn)
1. Rock and roll is all about getting laid-provide context.
The Unicorns are too cute and self consciously aware to be obvious sex symbols. But then again, there has always been an undeniable appeal to skinny, scruffy white boys blasting out lo-fi experimental pop songs about believing in ghosts, unicorns and other supernatural phenomena. For those of us not in the band, this album will not help you get laid. This is the kind of album you own and love but would never admit to it. You might even love it so much that you stay home on Saturday nights, dancing and singing along to each infectious tune in your bedroom while images of Nick and Aiden course through your filthy mind, but you will never, ever, pick up a girl by displaying affection for unicorns or boys who think they are unicorns.
2. Will this help me stay on top of hip lingo?
Unfortunately not, but it won't hurt either. There is a distinct breakdown on what it is to be a Unicorn, so if for some chance they become cool, it just might help, but otherwise it's pretty standard English.
3. This adds to music, WHAT?
A cheerfulness and sense of mission not often heard round these parts anymore. It also features what must be the first song in history about whether or not someone can qualify as a Unicorn, which will surely settle debates for ages to come. Finally, the song 'Tuff Love' features a melody line played on a penny whistle that is so catchy and hummable that it qualifies as the most annoyingly ingratiating pop songs ever.
4. None of these questions are serious. Is this serious?
I sure as hell hope not or these boys have years and years of serious professional help ahead of them. That being said, there is nothing wrong with a little sugary fun now and again and these rare and beautiful creatures provide a piñata full of it.
5. Safe for children under 3?
In actual fact, this is probably the best CD of the year for someone under 3. They will love the upbeat tempos, the irresistible melodies and crazy talk of unicorns and ghosts. And considering the charmingly lo-fi production on this record, this just may provide them with all the inspiration needed to stave off the next generation of Brittney Spears before they even got out of diapers.