November 28, 2009
Welcome to another edition of Brook Pridemore’s The Nineties-ist. This edition discusses 1994, Courtney Love’s response to the death of Kurt Cobain (and how Rivers Cuomo plays into all this) and Pearl Jam, Korn, and the steep descent of metal. For earlier installments, go here.
One of the funniest conspiracy theories I’ve heard about in the last few years is that Kurt Cobain and Rivers Cuomo are the same person. Right: Kurt Cobain was so affected by the spotlight that he faked his own death, only to return a few months later with a new, poppier sound and a slightly altered look. Even his wife, Courtney Love, believes his death was real. Yeah.
When you think about it, the number of flimsy similarities between the two men are astounding. Nirvana and Weezer were both signed to the David Geffen Company (their recording careers only overlap by the slimmest margin). Both men were the sole songwriters in their respective bands, though Cuomo has deferred to the other guys in recent years, and Dave Grohl got to write one of the B-Sides for In Utero. Cuomo and Cobain are both often seen wearing sweaters in photographs; Cuomo’s dapper and preppy, Cobain’s most likely intended to cover up track marks. Both debuted with music most people did not hear (Weezer’s earliest recordings are still-unreleased pop metal tracks), followed by a slicker-than-owl-shit major label debut, then followed by an intensely personal, self-produced sophomore effort. In Utero is infinitely better than Nevermind, and Pinkerton is infinitely better than The Blue Album. Weezer, after Pinkerton, have slowly pissed away everything that was great about them, while Cobain didn’t last long enough to watch his career go to shit.
Of course, Cobain was a left-handed guitarist, while Cuomo is right-handed, but have you ever noticed that Cuomo became something of a fret-shredder between the first two albums?
More on #11: 1994
October 31, 2009
Welcome again to another edition of Brook Pridemore’s The Nineties-ist. This edition discusses 1990, how Milli Vanilli symbolizes our desire for authenticity, Mother Love Bone’s transformation into Pearl Jam, and links to a video of Paula Abdul as a Laker Girl. For earlier installments, go here.
By about 2002, it no longer seemed weird that most current pop music icons didn’t play their own instruments or write their own songs. There were a few golden years in the mid-90s (this is the real meat we’re going to get to in a couple weeks), in which it was cool for popular groups, to paraphrase Mama Cass, to make their OWN kind of music. You didn’t know anything about Pavement’s manager because there WAS no Malcolm McLaren behind Pavement. For those of us coming into our own in the mid-90s, there was a powerful lesson to be learned: you could speak or sing with your own voice, and people would hear it. When I was starting my first band in 1995, it was a sign of immaturity to include covers in your set – even a fifteen-year-old kid who’d been at it less than a year should have his own songs.
That ideology was nowhere to be found in 1990. Indeed, paralleling the guitar-god, fantasy lifestyle inherent in 80s metal, the 80s pop singer was not known for writing his or her own words. For example, Whitney Houston’s (in my opinion) greatest contribution to popular culture was her version of Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You.” The transitional steps between Paula the Laker Girl, to Paula Abdul the cartoon-duetting-pop-tart, to Paula Abdul the voice of reason on American Idol are not giant leaps. It was only a matter of time, then, until the “make your own noise” goodwill wore off and Lou Pearlman assumed his stranglehold on pop culture in the late 90s, with his string of largely interchangeable boy bands.
But what about a group that was so manufactured that the faces on the album cover weren’t even the voices you heard on the record? Fab Morvan and Rob Pilatus, two German nightclub dancers, were discovered by impresario Frank Farian one night in 1988. Farian had already conceptualized a dance group called Milli Vanilli, going far enough to record an entire album worth of vocals called All or Nothing. Feeling that the singers he’d picked for the album lacked a marketable image, Farian hired Morvan and Pilatus to pose as the frontmen for Milli Vanilli. It was Morvan and Pilatus’ images that adorned the cover of All or Nothing (and it’s American counterpart, the six-times platinum Girl You Know It’s True), with no mention made of the real voices behind the record.
More on #7: 1990
Watch Video For Fever Ray’s Cover of Nick Cave’s “Stranger Than Kindness,” Which Is Scarier Than Either The Strangers, Dr. Strange, or Quark-Based Strange Matter (Only Barely, Though…That Shit Is Mysterious) [Gorilla vs. Bear]
In Other Fever Ray News, She’s Giving Away a Live Version of Her Self-Titled Debut With This Weeks The Guardian In the U.K….Good News For Those In The UK. Bad News For Us Running New York Based Music Blog [NME]
Josh Homme/Dave Grohl/John Paul Jones Supergroup Them Crooked Vultures Announce Album Details; Self-Titled LP Released November 17, Containing Song Called “An Interlude With Ludes” Which is Such a Dated and Awesome Drug Reference That I’m Red Faced With Joy [Pitchfork]
R.E.M., Rage Against the Machine, and Pearl Jam Push For Closure of Guantanamo Bay, Joining The Rest of Rational Americans Who Believe Torture Is Even A Little Not Cool [BBC]
Hold Steady Frontman/Promoter of All Things Positive Craig Finn, To Co-Adapt Chuck Klosterman’s Fargo Rock City Into a Movie; Finn Says of the Subject: “I’m Writing a Screenplay/ Camera, Lights, and Clever Kids Getting Action, Bab-ay/ I Hope The Oscars Recall It Fairly Fondly” [Idolator]
Former Island Records Boss Marc Marot Wants a Clause in Record Contracts That Allows Record Labels To Intervene When Artists Are Suffering Drug Problems; Next Year, Labels Set to Introduce “Nap Time” Clause, Requiring All Artists To Take 20-Minuter Whenever Label Deems Them “Cranky” [NME]
Watch Video For Weezer’s “(If You’re Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To” Off Upcoming LP Ratitude; It’s Very 1950s-Chic; Meanwhile, Rivers Is Probably Knee-Deep in a Melding of the Minds With Katy Perry Right Now [Babelgum]
compiled by Max Sebela
Pavement Adds Fourth Show To New York’s Central Park Summerstage 2010; Stephen Malkmus Unaware That By “World Tour,” Matador Expects Them To Leave Central Park [Brooklyn Vegan]
Stream Strokes Frontman Julian Casablancas’s New Synthy (Read: Not Really Worth Listening To) Song “11th Dimension”; Casablancas’s Debut LP Phrazes of the Young Released October 20 [Myspace]
British Art Dance Cutie Goldfrapp To Score Upcoming John Lennon Biopic Nowhere Boy — This Is Cool, But Confusing [Pitchfork]
Lego Iggy Pop to Star in Lego Rock Band; Watch Lego Pop Fall Into Lego Herion, Get Picked Up By Lego David Bowie, And Redefine His Lego Career Through A Lego Series of Lego Albums and Accomplishments [Idolator]
Andrew W.K. To Tour With Calder String Quartet; Shouts of “LETS GET THIS CRECENDO STARTED” Heard From Miles Away; Meanwhile, Quartet Unconditioned To Partying Quite So Much – All Report Hangovers, Immense Fun [CMJ]
Insane Clown Posse Fans (Popularly Called Juggalos – Find Them In The Faygo Aisle of Your Local Walgreens) and Slipknot Fans (Called Maggots – Find Them Looking Through Jack Skelington Coffee Mugs At Your Nearest Hot Topic) Don’t Get Along [Prefix]
compiled by Max Sebela
September 12, 2009
One Saturday night about six months ago, I was standing outside Academy Records in Williamsburg. It was one of those rare Saturday nights in New York, one where everyone you know decides to go out of town and, just as you get all set to go party, you find yourself in the middle of the perfect stay-at-home-and-catch-up-on-Grisham night. Not one to sit at home on a Saturday night, I found myself hanging around N. 6th Street, trying vainly to stir up a ruckus.
While smoking a cigarette on the street, I happened to overhear a snippet of conversation that set my teeth on edge. Two girls in their early twenties, obviously from money and most likely on vacation from some exclusive private college, walked past Academy. One girl said to the other, “So…do they still make records? And do people still buy…music?” The surprise and disdain in her voice were such that she might as well have been saying, “Remember when people thought the Earth was flat?”
My heart sank at the tone in her voice, because she’d illuminated the problem without even knowing there was one. The mainstream music industry, comically flawed since its inception, has been a creative wasteland for years. While I would posit that the old model for promoting and distributing mainstream music has been showing stress fractures since the fake “vinyl shortage” of the early 70s – in which albums by fringe bands like the Modern Lovers were shelved, the excuse being there wasn’t enough vinyl to meet production demands – it is my astute opinion that the old standard of modern pop music breathed its death rattle in 2003. Sometime after the White Stripes’ Elephant and before Radiohead’s Hail to the Thief (and, in fairness, the industry’s corpse may have kept flopping until Good News For People Who Love Bad News came out in April ’04) the rock-music-as-big-moneymaker model jumped the shark. The last wave of new, compelling rock music (aka the garage rock movement of ’01 – ’03) had failed to ignite: The Strokes, Yeah Yeah Yeahs and their ilk had all somehow managed to follow up stunning debuts with tepid sophomore efforts. The lifers – bands with no real hits but respectable catalog sales and devoted followers – began jumping ship from their respective labels (either by necessity or design), many realizing the benefits of working with a small organization, many more marginalized by the continued consolidation of the big label infrastructure.
More on #1: A Prologue
August 8, 2009
HATE TO ADMIT IT, BUT…
1991 | Epic
I’ve never given a damn about celebrity gossip. So glancing at the average tabloid is, for me, a more or less completely fictional experience. I think I know that Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are still married and adopting babies from impoverished countries, but, Inglorious Basterds excepted, I don’t think I could name a single movie in which either actor starred for years. I know that somebody from Good Charlotte is married to (I think) Ashlee Simpson, but I couldn’t pick either artist’s sound out of a lineup [Editor’s Note: the factual inaccuracies present in the preceding paragraph do well to prove Mr. Pridemore’s lack of pop-cultural awareness].
And I don’t think that I’m behind the times. At all. Modern popular culture’s emphasis has shifted back and forth between quality entertainment and calculated dreck since at least the popularization of television in the 1950s: for every Beatles, there was a Mickey Mouse Club. Punk did its thing in the 70s because “dinosaur” rock, with its ten-minute keyboard solos, had sucked all of the fun out of pop music. And without Paula Abdul and New Kids on the Block to rail against, Nirvana wouldn’t have been Nirvana.
These days though, it seems to me like the artist’s talents are held as secondary, at best, to the amount of inane publicity that can be drummed up around said artist. Look at Britney Spears, who fell into a bucket of crazy for two solid years; two years in which she made no music or movies, but garnered just as much (if not more) media attention for her increasingly weird/disconcerting behavior.
Which leads me to think about one time in my personal pop-culture awareness in which artists used their powers for good instead of evil (if “evil” is too strong a word for your taste, think “inanity”). I think about Pearl Jam, who used popular interest in their breakthrough single, “Jeremy,” to steer cultural awareness toward the harsh reality of what goes on in idyllic American suburbs, and how what many people would consider “teasing” can go awry and send a kid over the edge. The song itself features all of the elements of classic Pearl Jam: flashy bass, muddy guitars and Eddie Vedder’s patented stomping-on-a-dog yell (for effect, listen to the song around the four-minute mark, and imagine that Vedder’s “hoo-hoo” vamp is the product of the singer stomping repeatedly on a wounded dog). It is deadly serious in content and delivery, and the accompanying video – the only fully conceptualized video of Pearl Jam’s “classic” era – is a dark, dark near-six-minute excursion into one kid’s decent into desperation and madness, complete with off-putting shots of his classmates frozen in different positions, low-lit shots of the band, and close-ups of Vedder looking alternately livid, scared and strangely jolly. A more cynical writer than myself would say that the latter is Vedder’s internal adding machine, working out how much money he’s gonna take home; but, truth be told, even Vedder’s “joy” looks painful.
More on Pearl Jam | “Jeremy”
The loathing, the vitriol, the wrath…haven’t we all had enough of the hipster-hating already? I mean, really. Let’s acknowledge the fact that some people like to wear ironic tees and drink PBR and then get on with it. Seriously, people, there are many more useful things we could be doing with our time. Take Mariah Carey and Eminem, for example, who have taken to writing songs/shooting videos just to dis one another. Or Marilyn Manson, who has vowed to track down every last journalist who writes something false about him. Or Pearl Jam, who has scattered pieces of their new album artwork all over the web! Now, these are people doing something productive with their time.
Admittedly, I did just come across a story published earlier this week, which may in fact warrant a little hipster-hate. Way to fuel the fire(y furnaces). I wonder which one of them will purchase these to wear to their silent-record release.
by Elana Jacobs
Psych-Rockers Dr. Dog Signs to ANTI-; Announce Tour, New LP in 2010 [Brooklyn Vegan]
Swedish Twee-Cutie El Perro Del Mar Announces Third Album, Love Is Not Pop; Released October 20 [Brooklyn Vegan]
The Perfect Gift For That Friend Who Has Everything: MC Hammer’s Parachute Pants Are Being Auctioned Off [Idolator]
Echo and the Bunnymen Tour, Announce New Album The Fountain; Released October 12 [NME]
Bloc Party’s Kele Okereke Says Bloc Party May Never Record Another Album; After 2008’s Intimacy, I Say Good Call [NME]
Pearl Jam Has Scattered Pieces of Their New Album’s Artwork, Backspacer, Around The Internet; Artwork Not Worth A Scavenger Hunt, Nor Really Worth Viewing [Stereogum]
Bruce Springsteen To Play Entirety of the Legendary Born To Run In Chicago On September 20 – Everyone Way Psyched [Prefix]
Marilyn Manson Threatens To Kill All Music Journalists Who Publish Falsities About Him. In Related News, Marilyn Manson Actually Found To Be Over 4,000 Years Old (I Dare You, Marilyn) [NME]
Deerhunter Frontman Bradford Cox’s Solo Project Atlas Sound Announce Tour With Broadcast; New Atlas Sound LP, Logos, Released October 20 [Stereogum]
compiled by Max Sebela