Sunday, July 27, 2008

"Knights of Cydonia" / Muse / Black Holes and Revelations

My buddy Eric (who, on occasion, will pop in a comment) once said to me that the first time he heard Muse he thought...."That's a Bryan band".

And, yeah, he's dead on there. With the exception of Arcade Fire, I don't think there's a band that I've been more stoked about in the 00's than Muse. They've been around a little while, but really started to break here in America around 2003 or so. You may have heard a couple of their more popular tunes, "Time is Running Out" and "Stockholm Syndrome".

And speaking of "Stockholm Syndrome", let me just stop right there before I go any further. This song has rocketed into my personal top five list with a bullet. One big contributing factor was looking them up on the Youtubes and finding this performance of that song when they headlined England's famous Glastonbury festival in 2004. Honestly, I watch this about once a week, just to revive my faith in music and make me love life and people. It's five minutes of proper song, nine total minutes of awesome.

Now, there you can see what I love about this band on display. First of all...chops. Dudes can absolutely shred their instruments. They are a tight band (and I don't mean "tight" like "Those Pumas are tight", I mean "tight" like disciplined, locked in).I'm a sucker for big, melodic, anthemic, bombastic songs. Wagnerian, even. The energy they exude, the cool rock / electronia hybrid thing they have all works for me.

When I picked up this CD back in 2006, it was everything I expected it to be. "Knights of Cydonia", in particular however, was a standout. Since then, it's gained a little bit of notice for it's brilliant video (more on that later) and it's inclusion on the "Rock Band" game. But first hearing this, I alternated between disbelief, hilarity and joy.

I really can't write about everything that's great about this song, but I'll try. It begins with a motif straight out of an Ennio Morricone spaghetti western, leading into a galloping drum line over which the guitar is playing the song's melody. It's really set up like an overture, as we don't really get to any lyrics until 2:07 of the song.

The song does set itself up as some kind of space cowboy epic ("Come ride with me, through the veils of history" reads the opening line) though what or where "Cydonia" is is for them to explain one day or for us to figure out. Anyways, they get through the first two verses quickly (the only two in the song, by the way), and come back in with the opening theme at 2:02. Soon after, the magic happens - the music falls dead away (save for some little electronic bleeps underneath) and at 3:19 we get:

No one's gonna take me alive
The time has come to make things right
You and I must fight for our rights
You and I must fight to survive

What the...I almost drove of the road the first time I heard this. So ridiculous, so over the top, so...sweet. What does it mean? Again, I have no clue, but it all fits.

They repeat the chorus a couple more times as the music builds up slowly behind it (I know, the oldest, most manipulative trick in music...but always effective) until we explode at with the new guitar riff at 4:14. Then once more with the chorus, this time, with a feeling of triumph, and we're done.

(Not to gush again about my kids, but this was Quinn's favorite song for most of last year. I was playing it in the car one day, then about twenty minutes of thoughtful silence later, he asks "Dad, why won't no one take him alive?" I smiled and thought - "That's my boy!" He made me put this on one of his CD mixes too, and had to listen to it first every night as he went to sleep. He also refused to let me talk while it was playing, so he could concentrate more on it. Of course, he will remember none of this by Christmas of this year)

The video. Oh, the video. I believe with the video they are letting you know that it's all a big, fun goof, not meant to be taken seriously. What's my favorite part of the video? Too many parts from which to choose, but you gotta love the reappearance of the hero's girl at that 4:14 climax in full on space princess outfit, riding a unicorn, while kung-fu masters practice their kicks and a cyclon projects the bands image in the desert. Or something. Unbelievably awesome stuff.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

"Railroad Tracks" / Juke Boy Bonner / Life Gave Me a Dirty Deal

W. T. F. ?

That was my first thought upon seeing this pop up on itunes. I'm not even gonna try to be cool and say I had any idea who this cat is or why he has a song on my itunes playlist.

Then I remembered...back when Quinn was about two and a half, he went through a HUGE train phase, which I'm beginning to think almost every American boy goes through (maybe like girls and ponies? I don't know) as Isaiah is in the throes of railroad dementia at this moment. Thomas the Tank Engine plays no small role in this , by the way

Click....if you dare!

Anyway, Beegee and I made Quinn a "train" mixtape CD (is that an oxymoron?) by searching the itunes music store for anything with "train" in the title. And thus, we get Juke Boy Bonner. Dude has an interesting backstory, which while typical of most blues artists (tough life, unappreciated as a musician, relatively early death) has a couple of cool tibets as well. It seems he was a poet as well ("ghetto poet", even) and was pretty much a one man band, accompanying himself on drums, harmonica, and guitar.

The song is just a straightforward boogie-woogie, nothing fancy at all. It's really good, solid music, and I think an interesting addition to your collection. I know some of you guys reading are big blues fans and like this kind of stuff; I have to admit that it's an area in which I'm a little deficient. I mean, I give you people Superchunk last week and get two responses, and one is about The Two Coreys?! What do you want from me? *puts head in arms, weeps softly*

Here's Juke Boy!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

"Hyper Enough" / Superchunk / Here's Where The Strings Come In

It's Superchunk, kids! Another pantheon band of mine, with 62 songs on my itunes playlist. If there's ever one band that I looove that I wish you all would jump on immediately, it would be the Chunk. They are the indie rock band nonpareil, in my humble opinion. Plus, they are good southern kids from Chapel Hill which is a plus. (And they have a hot bass player, but that's really neither here nor there). They had a semi-hit in the early 90's with "Slack Motherfucker" which (supposedly) is one of those defining Generation X songs. Or something. (Actually, watch that video for a taste of how amazing these guys are live)

I specifically remember how I got into these dudes too. I was at the old Big Shot records when it was back on College Square in the mid 90's (where Chapel Bar is now) and was browsing around. They were playing Superchunk's "Foolish" CD, which had just been released. I was listening with interest as I looked around, then became really intrigued as more songs came on. It's not often that a song or band strikes you upon your very first listen, but they did it for me. Once the song "Driveway to Driveway" played, that was it, and I had to ask the clerk the group and album playing, and bought it on the spot.

"Driveway to Driveway" = teh shit

(You know what? I've never seen this video. I started to watch it, but then quit because it's obviously a "story" video, and I don't want the song to be ruined for me.)

"Foolish" didn't leave my CD player for weeks and weeks. It's still my favorite CD of theirs, in fact one of my all-time favorites, and I highly, highly recommend it to any and all of you's.

Buuy /steal this

So, "Hyper Enough" is the leadoff song on the CD following "Foolish". It boils down what I love about the band into three minutes and change : great riffs, energy, melody and fun. I love that 12 second hammering intro that leads right into that ecstatic riff. The guy's voice may grate on some of you, as it's pretty high and nasal. It shouldn't work, but somehow it does. Random fact : this song leads of a mix CD that I made for Isaiah, as it's one of his favorites to "rock out" to, and just the title of the song fits that boy pretty well *end parent gushing*

They throw in a little bridge there at 1:55 for about 30 seconds, but it feels more obligatory than anything else. Then they come right back with that riff and steamroll through the remainder of the song. In fact, my favorite point is at 2:44 (3:00 in the video) when they just say "Fuck it" and rock the fucking fuck out of the song until the end. This song, as you can imagine, is kicks ass live, and is a great show opener too.

I must say, as with "Driveway to Driveway", I never saw the video for this until today. It's hilarious, though. Starting with the drummer getting pissy, it takes the band through therapy. Look for Laura to get the best scenes at 2:12 (the trust fall) and at 2:27. (And curiously, they unknowingly paved the way for Metallica's (unintentionally) hilarious therapy sessions years later)

Get the song:

Completely random addendum: Watch the hilarious "conceptual" video for "Watery Hands" starring Jeanine Garafalo and David Cross

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

"One More Time" / Daft Punk / Discovery

Let it never be said that I don't enjoy a great dance tune every now and then. Daft Punk is a duo that specializes in club hits, and they take pride in their anonymous nature (much like Kraftwerk, another electronic based dance band from the 70's and Daft Punk's spiritual forefathers), always performing publicly in space helmets. Of course, they are French.

I think I first heard these guys watching MTV late one night and seeing the awesome, sad, heartwarming story of Dog Head Guy with Broken Leg in their video "Da Funk". Does he know he's got a dog head? Does anyone tell him? Does he care? It was all very intriguing to me.

Seriously. This video breaks my heart

Something strange happened along the way, and these guys got to be pretty popular. There was the Juliette Lewis Gap commercial they did:

And then Kanye tabs one of their songs as the backing track to his hit "Stronger"

They are a pretty unlikely American hit, if you ask me. Still the boys make a damn catchy song, don't they?

"One More Time" is a bit different, it all starts with those lush keyboards that give it a 70's feel right off the bat. The lyrics go a little something like this:

One more time
We're gonna celebrate
Oh yeah.
Don't stop the dancing.

Repeat for six minutes. I realize that lyrics are hardly the key to any good dance tune, in fact, any attempt to be serious or put a message in a dance song is sort of missing the point. But, and here's the key, they use robot voice for the singer. I'm fully convinced, and may examine this in more detail later, that robot voice increases the awesomeness of any song tenfold. Plus, the video is in anime, and you can't really beat that either.

My favorite part of this song is the "Breakdown" at 2:06. They slow the tempo down, and just riff over the keybords. It's taking the piss out of songs that do that, I believe, but it's fun anyway. I mean, they actually sing, "Music's got me feelin' so free". I honestly can't decide if singing lines like that is cooler if you really mean it, or if you're being cheeky.

Here's the song, 'cause I know you want it for your next house party: