January 19, 2010
IN THE TUBE
Yes, it stars a full cast of puppets. Yes, the majority of the eleven -minute duration is spent on these puppets speaking to each other, and almost nothing to do with a Dan Deacon song. Yes, the puppets almost exclusively speak with content that breaks down almost all possible metaphysical views. No, there is no sense trying to draw out literal meaning from the nonsense of what you are about to watch:
But, as with most Dan Deacon material, even if you viscerally hate the thing, you end up with the inevitable conclusion that it is brilliant. Because buried under all the pop fluff (here, the fluff is puppets and a tiger-costumed Deacon, who is simultaneously the devil), there is just more fluff. Deacon’s music is like a set of Russian stacking dolls. You approach it under the assumption that, if you just spend enough time unpacking, you’ll get to something deeper and more significant; there must be something behind how seemingly randomly intricate the mess of organs and sequencers is.
But there isn’t. It’s as fluff-filled as any pop song or children’s show, even if it seems like it shouldn’t be. Being a genius is great; being genius enough to make everyone think you’re a genius is way better.
by Max Sebela
January 13, 2010
IN THE TUBE
It’s been a while since the last In the Tube, and to be honest there has been very little to watch the past few weeks, which is why I was excited when three new videos from three interesting artists (RJD2, Animal Collective, and Islands) showed up on the Internetz this week, ready to be viewed and judged by people like me. Unfortunately, the videos from RJD2 and Animal Collective were pretty forgettable, even though one had a Minotaur and the other had kids doing some wacky egg-painting (which is a shame, because I think the Minotaur is an important symbol of American culture and I have always believed wacky egg-painting to be the wackiest and most egg-like way to paint things). But the new video for Islands’ song “No You Don’t” managed to keep my attention the whole way through, and that was mainly because of Michael Cera.
Yes, Michael Cera is in the new Islands video, and yes, he is tripping balls. I don’t know whose idea it was, but it’s an interesting one—and it’s nice to see Cera taking on a new role, even if he’s taking it on in the exact same way he takes on all his other roles. We even see him doing an awkward run toward the camera, sweating and looking awkwardly at his hand with a “Michael Cera face,” and climbing through some bushes in a rather awkward manner. We don’t know what he is supposed to be on exactly, but it’s powerful, and it doesn’t look like he’s having a great time. He looks uncomfortable and concerned, like he might even start crying. The video makes us feel bad for Michael Cera; he always looks so painfully awkward and enduringly adolescent, even when he’s doing psychoactive drugs and trying to be a “youth in revolt.” You wish you could give him a hug and tell him that everything is going to be okay; that one day he’ll grow up and be a truly versatile actor.
And that’s when a man in a sequined wing suit appears and gives him that hug – a hug to bring him down from this scary and awkward high. But unfortunately, the sequined man is just a hallucination, and Michael is left standing with his arms around empty air. It’s actually a pretty awkward way to stand. But that’s okay. Islands is a good band and “No You Don’t” is a pretty good song, and Michael Cera is a good actor. If I were to grade this video, I was would give it an A. A for awkward. Either that or a B minus.
by Tom Mooseker
December 22, 2009
“Catch me in the crib gettin light to Jeff Mangum / It’s fun to do bad things like rhyme about handguns”
While this might be nothing more than an ironic joke by a hyperliterate hipster MC, it’s also possible that this lyric is a statement of fact, a declaration of the duo’s contradictory disregard/celebration of both hip-hop and indie culture. And if you’re watching the newly released video for the song (which mostly takes place in what looks like a Queens area thrift store) you are probably confused. Is this is a joke video, an ironic video, or an ironically serious video? Are these two actually commenting on anything? Why do they rap about fast food so much?
And speaking of fast food, if you heard anything about Das Racist (Himanshu Suri and Victor Vazquez) before it was probably because of their song “Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell,” an Internet sensation that went viral last spring and consisted of the two MC’s repeating variations of the line “We’re at the Pizza Hut / We’re at the Taco Bell / We’re at the combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell”, over a frantic and repetitious dance beat. Some people called it clever, some called it criminally stupid, some even called it transcendent. Personally, I’m still not sure how to feel about the song. Most likely it is a combination of all the things said about it: a brilliant/inane/infectious/annoying dance song/social commentary that has nothing to do with dance music and comments on absolutely nothing.
And that’s probably a good starting point for understanding what Das Racist is trying to do. Their video, in its self-aware garishness and gritty humility, is deconstructing both the good and bad parts of hip-hop and giving us something brand new and confusing: something that has nothing to do with Jeff Mangum or rhyming about handguns, but is completely comfortable with the innate contradiction of liking both of those things. At one point in the song, after a line about playing Donkey Kong Country at Don King’s cousin’s house (?), Vasquez tells us “You don’t even know what it’s about”. And that’s true – I don’t know what this is about. But it sure is something.
Video after the jump.
More on Das Racist | “Rainbow in the Dark”
December 15, 2009
IN THE TUBE
If you haven’t heard of Dãm-Funk yet (pronounced Dame Funk), think of him as Daft Punk’s slick younger cousin who shows up in your bedroom after a rave to play you some lullabies. You can also think of him as the official “Ambassador of Boogie Funk,” or “Captain Boogie-Town”. But the best way to understand what the L.A. DJ is all about is to watch the new video for his song “Mirrors”
For most of the video, Dãm-Funk shows up as a neon-colored astral projection, dancing around the bodies of passed-out partygoers. His voice (in its sleaziest) leaks through for the song’s refrain (Mirrors… / Look inside your soul) and you hope that nothing bad is about to happen to those sleeping – one of which is a girl alone in a forest (dear god someone get her out of that forest; there are bears in the forest!). Then, at Dãm-Funk’s command, the crashed partygoers begin to wake up, each thrilled and mesmerized by the glowing metaphysical DJ. They start to dance. Sure, it’s halfheartedly, mostly just head bobbing, but of course: it is about 4:30 in the morning and everyone is still tired from the ecstasy-fueled dance party from hours earlier. The song fits the mood about right. The girl wakes up and leaves the forest. Everyone seems happy.
This video is basically a heartwarming fairy tale about a guardian angel. A guardian angel who plays a Keytar instead of a harp, and who just wants to protect people from bad dreams and bears and date-rapists, and who wants to show the world that there’s never a bad time to get up and dance. At the end of the video, we see a clip of Dãm-Funk standing on a rooftop at dawn, peering over the L.A. skyline with a look that simply says, “I’ve made a difference today”. I like to think he has.
by Tom Mooseker
December 8, 2009
IN THE TUBE
All of us must change. Every second. It’s a scientific fact: time, in its essence, is change. And as time passes each of us try to hold on to the tangible and intangible things that we feel are important, even if this means making sacrifices of anachronism. You can see this in your dad’s collection of 1980’s Pantera records, your older brother’s porkchop sideburns, and your Aunt Katherine’s insistence on wearing her old poncho. We all have those aging members of our family who carry elements of the past defiantly into the present, and those relatives who inspire (and sometimes embarrass) us with their devotion to bygone eras.
For Small Black’s Josh Kolenik, that family member seems to be his Uncle Matt. In the video for the Brooklyn duo’s song, “Despicable Dogs,” director Yoonha Park creates a portrait of Kolenik’s uncle, and it is a soft, glowing, tender portrait, filled with trips to the beach, surfboard waxing, weightlifting in the attic, and clips of Waterworld on TV. It’s a portrait of a man whose heart still rests on a beach in 1979, and one who has worked hard to maintain a connection to that time and place for many years. There’s a sweetness and a sadness to the video – each slow motion sequence is wrapped with the kind of longing that usually coincides with nostalgia – that feeling of experiencing something after it is already gone, but knowing it is somehow still important.
Fittingly, Small Black’s song is filled with a sense of things falling away; of images lingering and slipping through one’s reminiscence. The electric drums and lo-fi production create a liquid fuzz that fits perfectly with the use of water in the video – crashing against a beach in the background or splashing against the camera lens while our surfer dude washes his van. Everything around him is fading, but he makes sure his surfboard and van still glisten, as they are essential vehicles in his maintenance of the past. “Do this without me/ do this when I’m gone” – the song is calling out to the future, letting it know that we understand the sacrifices it’s asking for. But in an era when time seems to be changing things faster than ever before, our relationship with the past feels increasingly more important and more difficult to maintain. Our surfer dude stands as a tragic and noble figure in the effort to piece together the pieces of our personal history and live honestly – to hold onto what’s important while time washes over the rest.
More on Small Black | “Despicable Dogs”
December 1, 2009
IN THE TUBE
For some reason the blogosphere was rich with a certain phenomenon this last week: videos of bizarre, ridiculous, and sometimes baffling cover songs. There was that clip of seminal jam band Phish doing a live cover of TV On The Radio’s “Golden Age” in Albany, turning a decent four-minute song into a boring ten-minute song (but not turning too many heads, because, besides the fact that this cover makes no sense, who really cares about Phish?)
There was that uncomfortable video of tabloid ruffian and Babyshambles frontman Pete Doherty (accidentally?) singing the Nazi-era German national anthem to a German audience (who greeted the song with a mix of cheers, boos and FUCK YOU’s).
And then there were the videos of some older looking band doing half-hearted live covers of Pixies songs on the The Tonight Show and Late Night.
More on IN THE TUBE: What the Hell Was Broadcast Over Thanksgiving?
November 24, 2009
IN THE TUBE
When I saw that Vampire Weekend released a new music video this week, my first thought was: great, this week’s In The Tube will be easy. All I have to do is watch this new video and then write about how awful Vampire Weekend is; maybe throw in a line like “I liked them better when they were Paul Simon,” and then top it off with a joke about Cape Cod (Kwassa Kwassa). Easy. When I finally watched the video, however, something strange and profoundly disturbing happened: I liked it. And not in an ironic way. I sincerely liked it.
But why? I hate them. I hate their inane, unapologetically self-aware songwriting, and I hate their stupid Ivy League clothes and their annoying proclivity for Afro-pop. So why did this video make me feel so…good? I played it a second time, and as I watched each band member take turns banging wildly on a church bell while being dollied through explosions of white confetti, it came to me: I like this video because it is good. Honestly, it’s a good video. Quick, succinct, somewhat creative, and undeniably fun. Even the song itself, in its own contentedly meaningless way, is good. I still hate Vampire Weekend – in fact, I might hate them even more now, but I can’t deny how this video makes me feel.
It’s like watching the TV show Friends. Just like Vampire Weekend, the entire cast is made up of white, post-grad 20-somethings who live in the Upper West Side of NYC, a place where, apparently, people have no real problems, only heart-warming comical hijinks. I despise show’s premise, characters, and ridiculously saccharine opening sequence. And yet, whenever I watch an episode (which, admittedly, I do from time to time) and Chandler makes a sarcastic, self-effacing retort to one of Ross’s whiny foibles, I can’t help but laugh. Because it’s funny – despite what most of my brain thinks. And that’s the key, I think, to enjoying Vampire Weekend. You just have to turn off the critical, discerning part of your brain, and like their music for what it is. Later on, when “A-Punk” starts playing at a party and the girl next to you starts singing along, you can let the hatred seep back in.
by Tom Mooseker
November 17, 2009
IN THE TUBE
Who likes weird shit?
Who wants to watch the newly released music video for DJ/producer Edan’s upcoming project “Echo Party”?
Me. But only if it features ridiculously obscure found footage from the 70s and a hyper-montage of colorful psychedelic imagery.
Who wants to do acid?!
I don’t! I’ve never done acid. But after watching this video I’ll make the obvious and unnecessary observation that “this must be what an acid trip is like”, and then tell my friends that I’d like to try doing acid once, just to see what it’s like, even though I have no real intention of doing so.
Who wants to DANCE?
Who wants to chill for a bit now?
Me, I’m tired from dancing.
I do. I hope it uses collage-style animation to depict scenes from a post-global-warming-disaster New York in which the city is underwater and people are living on boats. That sounds like something I’d like to see.
More on Edan & DJ /ruptures’ New Videos: A Dialogue