The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'alternative'
If you were wondering what happened to 1990s alternative band Curve, their frontwoman Toni Halliday is working on a solo project, under the name of Chatelaine. She currently has two tracks on a MySpace page, and it sounds like a piano-based singer-songwriter act, only, of course, with more big drum machines and lyrics about self-harm and such. An album is expected this year.
As alternative-rock fans age and, in many cases, start families, a US company has brought out lullaby versions of alternative rock songs. Hip parents can now soothe their kids to sleep with mellow, ambient renditions of Metallica, The Cure, Tool, Radiohead and such played on glockenspiels and acoustic guitars (or, indeed, Coldplay, who for some reason are still classified as "alternative" (presumably because of their shaggy indie-boy haircuts or something) rather than filed next to Dido, Celine Dion and James Blunt in the adult-contemporary section). Yesteryear's teen rebellion becomes today's nursery music.
Lullaby. A whisper. The Cure's music is just like heaven to their fans. Beautiful, infinite and captivating, The Cure's best work captures a dreamy sense of love and longing. This album is a mesmerizing and serene take on the kind of quirky, romantic songs that the Cure helped make famous. If only tonight we could sleep as soundly as your child will after hearing these interpretations of The Cure.
I wonder what else we could see get the lullaby treatment. Nine Inch Nails perhaps, or Limp Bizkit? NWA? 90s rave techno? Perhaps this phenomenon will cross over with Nouvelle Vague, giving post-punk parents baby-friendly versions of the Buzzcocks and Bauhaus and such.
(via Boing Boing)
The latest youth subcultural menace, now that moral panics about goths and hoodies are passé: juggalos, who are essentially rap-metal mooks, only with clown make-up. Unlike your standard mooks, though, they actually have chapters and organisations, giving some structure to their hormonal rebellion. And now, apparently, they're getting into armed robbery:
The group, who said they were "juggalos," devotees of the Detroit-based rap-metal group Insane Clown Posse, attacked and robbed visitors to Fort Steilacoom Park while shouting "Woo, woo, juggalo!" to each other, according to court documents.
According to police reports, some members of the gang wore black hooded sweatshirts or clown make-up and told victims they would "cut their heads off" with machetes. They stole cash, wallets and cell phones, the reports said.
What happens when a company known for its ethical principles and alternative business culture is taken over by a multinational corporation? The outcomes vary; in many cases, the "funky"/ethical brand becomes merely a fig leaf over the parent's more conventional business practices:
Body Shop has just become part of the French cosmetics giant L'Oréal; Tom's of Maine fell to Colgate-Palmolive last month; Wales-based Rachel's Organic is a subsidiary of the American conglomerate Dean Foods, which has come under fire in the US over its industrial-scale organic dairies and factory-farm milk production. Pret A Manger is one-third owned by McDonald's; Ben & Jerry's has been under Unilever's ownership for six years and Green & Black's belongs to Cadbury-Schweppes, the world's biggest confectionery company.
At Ben & Jerry's in the US, the relationship with Unilever remains an uneasy one. Ben & Jerry's most recent social audit highlighted a "disappointing" lack of social initiatives at the company and poor morale among employees. It questioned whether the company was "simply a Unilever marketing operation using the brand's reputation for social responsibility to promote sales."
Ethical Consumer magazine runs an online shoppers guide, at www.ethiscore.org, which rates companies and their products on their ethical credentials. Body Shop's rating has plunged from 11 out of 20 to just 2.5 since the L'Oréal deal and the magazine has urged a boycott of its products in protest not only at the French cosmetics group's ownership, but also its links with Nestlé, which owns 26% of L'Oréal. Nestlé has faced boycott campaigns over issues from animal testing to the marketing of baby milk substitutes.This gloomy scenario, however, is not always the case; occasionally, a parent manages to keep its hands off a smaller unit and its culture, and the subsidiary continues on as before, only with the benefit of the parent's resources:
Like most of the niche businesses bought by multinationals, Green & Black's is run as an entirely separate operation within the Cadbury empire. "It's a case of how they can help us, not telling us what to do," Mr Palmer says.
He adds: "You can be fiercely independent and not have any funds to grow. But does that help the cocoa growers in Belize?"Perhaps Green & Black's having fared well is more a result of Cadbury's not particularly ruthless corporate culture (weren't the Cadbury family, who owned the company until not that long ago, Quakers or something?). I suspect that had they been bought out by, say, Nestlé, it may be a different picture altogether.
I just heard on 3RRR that apparently Ratcat have reformed and are doing gigs again.
I remember Ratcat from various times and contexts; when they were current, I was in high school, and they were popular with the various skate-punks, alongside Dead Kennedys and various hardcore punk bands and such and such. A decade and a bit later, I discovered that they were a staple of Australian indie-pop; the Fanclub night in Melbourne (circa 2004 or so) had a policy of putting on Don't Go Now whenever the dancefloor was looking insufficiently busy. Which makes sense, as they were basically a skronky indie-pop band, just noisy enough for the Vision Street Wear kids to be able to thrash to them without scaring away the indiekids.
Were I in Australia right now, I'd probably book a ticket to see them. And if their contemporaries, The Hummingbirds, were reforming and doing gigs, I'd probably be kicking myself for being on the wrong side of the world.
Momus opines on recent attempts to promote Satanistic occultism as a key part of "alternative culture":
Yes, Satanism just strikes me as... silly, I'm afraid. Why abandon the idiocy of God if you're not also going to abandon the idiocy of The Devil? Sure, I love mystery, and I love "the old religion", the Greek pantheon, the Celts, Shinto, all that stuff. What I hate, though, is the way Christianity vilified fertility religions and made them "evil". You can still see the result of that in the way various speakers at the Disinfo conference, included on the DVD, have a certain "evil glow" in their eyes, or believe they possess an "evil charisma". America's idiotic binary culture forces you to be good or evil, with or against, constructive or destructive. The result is that alternative culture people internalize the stigma of otherness, becoming Fashion Goths and Slayer fans.
I dislike Satanism for aesthetic reasons too. Occult sections in bookstores are usually magnets for the spottiest, stupidest, most badly-dressed people. Occultist websites are appalling cautionary tales, evidence that, whatever else he does, Satan makes you commit every graphic design sin known to man. But I particularly resist precisely this thing that Jason Louv is advocating in Generation Hex, the stringing together of Satanism and alternative culture. I resist it because it's just fucking boring to see the counterculture summed up with a skull. But also because alternative culture has some important work to do, work it needs rationality and clear-headedness to carry through, and work which it needs to believe in its own ethical goodness to bring to mainstream acceptance. Wouldn't it be terrible if everyone, for instance, who thought there were other shibboleths than endless economic growth, all turned out to go to secret meetings and make secret signs to each other and think they were "evil"?
The Graun's Alexis Petridis looks at why the (ostensibly) mentally disturbed make such compelling rock stars:
According to Oliver James, a clinical psychologist and author of They Fuck You Up: How to Survive Family Life, the rise in numbers and popularity of emo acts may be linked to a rise in mental illness among their obvious target market of 18- to 24-year-olds (the age group most likely to be affected by psychological problems, according to studies published in Europe and Australia).
But if fans buy into it, that may be because rock music, unlike other art forms, is depicted as benefiting from being created by those with mental illness. Most critics would tell you Van Gogh's paintings are great despite, rather than because of, his psychiatric problems - but that's not true of the Beach Boys' Smile or Barrett's The Madcap Laughs or Nirvana's In Utero, for example, whose greatness is widely held to be inexorably entwined with their creators' mental problems.
It's the whole dionysiac genius thing; the myth, deeply ingrained in the Rockist mindset, that primal authenticity and true brilliance comes not from carefully honed technique, deep knowledge of the genre, cleverness or anything so square and totally un-rock-and-roll, but from abandoning oneself to the frenzy like a Viking berzerker. To give a topical example, crack-smoking, junk-shooting fuckup Pete Doherty is one of the greatest geniuses of our time, and his new band Babyshambles is ten times the band that The Libertines (who kicked him out) were, as the world would find out if he'd ever get his shit together for long enough to actually play a gig.
The article also mentions Ol' Dirty Bastard, as an example of the fine line between empathy and voyeurism. One notable omission, though, is Wesley Willis, described by Jello Biafra as one of the most punk-rock artists ever.
Of course, with the rising popularity of emo and various forms of fuckedupcore came a lot of opportunists putting on the "tortured genius" act, acting like caricatures of pissed-off, fucked-up, tantrum-throwing teenage nihilists and raking in the cash. Thirtysomething Universal Music executive and part-time teenage mook Fred Durst is one name that's mentioned there; and I'm sure you can think of other notable examples (anyone remember Vanilla Ice's reinvention as a tortured, angry-white-guy rap-metal mook? Or cyberpunk boy-band Information Society's post-Reznorian take-a-walk-through-my-nightmares industriogothic makeover?)
Are fans of rap-metal group Insane Clown Posse just another teenage mook trend, or something more sinister?
Behind the face paint, Juggalos are teenagers mostly. Self-described outsiders -- tired of trying to fit-in with quote, normal society. Most will tell you they had no sense of belonging until they joined the dark carnival.
What they're saying is hardly inspirational. Most of the lyrics we found are about things like assault and murder. But, Juggalos argue there's a religious message hidden in the violence.
"Well, the thing I found most interesting is that they're very organized. As I mentioned they have web-sites with local chapters and memberships. And also, they have an actual philosophy they follow -- don't know that I'd call it a religion exactly."
The Guardian's Zoe Williams talks to Robert Smith of The Cure:
Smith says he hates cynicism, and its sidecar of irony. A lot of artists say that; normally, they mean "I hate it when critics are mean about me, what do they know?" Smith doesn't mean that. Which isn't to say that he has no critical faculty. He'll be plenty critical about his contemporaries - he still has space in his heart to say that Duran Duran epitomised everything he hated about the 1980s (although he's fine about Simon Le Bon . . . "I wouldn't say we were friends. But he's all right. I can chat to him"). And he has a frankly cock and bull theory about the Smiths, and how their influence on the era is overplayed because there's a media conspiracy, full of media people who liked them much more than anyone else did (mind, I would say that: I'm in the media, and I really like the Smiths).
Smith's disdain for The Smiths aside, The Cure seem to have followed Morrissey onto the mook-producer bandwagon; their next album (titled simply The Cure) is being produced by US nu-metal producer Ross Robinson (of Slipknot fame), who is apparently getting them to talk about their feelings about the songs more and so on.
(The fact that it's a self-titled album and there's a commercial-alternative producer on the project doesn't bode too well for it in my opinion; it sounds a bit too much like The Cure are trying too hard to be The Cure, and/or to make a record that moves as many units as possible. I wonder whether they chose Robinson for non-commercial reasons, or whether they had him pushed onto them by their label; I suspect the latter. Mind you, in my opinion, The Cure haven't recorded a memorable album since Disintegration in 1989; Bloodflowers, in particular, was deadly dull, comprised of overly long, tedious stadium-rock dirges. It seems to me that Smith has exhausted the narrow form in which he has specialised, to the point where anything else he does sounds tired and stale. Perhaps if he did what he did before The Cure became, well, The Cure, and set out to write songs with themes other than the usual Cureish mood swings (Killing An Arab and Boys Don't Cry come to mind, as do various stream-of-consciousness exercises like The Walk, written before Smith started weighing his lyrics down with his trademark angst/euphoria), they'd find a new wind.)
John Harris (who wrote The Last Party) on how popular music has been subsumed by corporate globalisation:
For musicians whose sensitivity to such chicanery places them a few notches up the evolutionary chain from Busted and Avril Lavigne, the implied contradictions can be pretty hard to swallow. Put bluntly, Anglo-American popular music is among globalisation's most useful props. Never mind the nitpicking fixations with interview rhetoric and stylistic nuance that concern its hardcore enthusiasts - away from its home turf, mainstream music, whether it's metal, rap, teen-pop or indie-rock, cannot help but stand for a depressingly conservative set of values: conspicuous consumption, the primacy of the English language, the implicit acknowledgement that America is probably best.
As the record industry's corporate structure has hardened into an immovable oligarchy - EMI, Time-Warner, BMG, Sony and Universal - so the range of musical options on offer has been dramatically scythed down. In 2004, there are but a handful of international musical superstars: Beyoncé, 50 Cent, Justin Timberlake, Eminem, Norah Jones, Coldplay. To characterise the process behind their global success as top-down is something of an understatement. MTV may have initially been marketed with the superficially empowering slogan, "I want my MTV"; more recently, with billions gladly hooked up, it has used the flatly sinister, "One planet, one music". Those four words beg one question: who decides?
Such, to use a phrase beloved of the Bush White House, is the cultural aspect of the New American Century. How long, I wonder, before Halliburton and Exxon start sponsoring festivals?
Band name of the day: Knorkator. They appear to be some kind of German industrial/metal/mook outfit...
According to ads in the most recent Beat/InPress, there's a new John Butler Trio (for those not in the know, that's a sort of "funky roots/blues/folk" delivered by a studmuffin with dreadlocks and appealing primarily to a younger female audience; think an unusually well-scrubbed white "feral" version of Lenny Kravitz or something) album out; and, for a limited time only, it comes with.. a trucker cap. This is proof that trucker caps have lost whatever element of irony they once had and have become just a mindless piece of fashion.
Crikey looks at the decline of "yoof" broadcaster JJJ; who seem to have all the sterility of commercial radio only without the market savvy; that and the fact that they're run by a bunch of old fogies who think they know what the kids like.
Furthermore, all during the dance music boom of the 90s, it was persistently in love with bad 3-chord 'indie' -- every two bit semi-tone flat nasally singing neo-punk thrash band from Kansas got a run (with their out of focus super-8 film clips wearing out the video machine's heads at Rage HQ) while plenty of excellent locals where overlooked because they didn't fit into the 'format'. They were just interested in the Chart Music that one might find at HMV, so while they had 'dance music' it was typically of the same type you find on other chart stations that would play that sort of thing. Finally dance music runs out of steam and JJJ decides it's time to cash in on that market -- but too late -- and still its moribund music policy changes glacially it appears.
(Ah yes; "JJJ" used to almost be a genre in the 1990s, signifying naff post-grunge yoof-rock, of the sort labels like Mushroom churned out by the bucketload. That and songs with drug references and the word "fuck" in them, because that's naughty and goes well with hormonal rebellion.)
Perhaps the best demonstration of this is a couple of years ago when new rock was at its unfortunate zenith, and JJJ responded by playing stock standard Triple M new rock, interposed with the odd wigger anthem and one particularly unfortunate track from the Bomb Funk MCs called 'Freestyler' and the occasional modern classic. The mixture was clearly calculated to offend each and every listener in some way. In some sets the mix was so inappropriate it was as if Classic FM ground to a halt half way through an opera and unleashed Eminem.
(via The Fix)
A Grauniad piece on punk rocker Avril Lavigne, who seems to be some sort of Alanis for the wallet-chain set or something.
The four punk rockers have been trying to school Lavigne on what she should listen to. "For her birthday, I got her [AC/DC's] Back in Black, the Clash singles and the new Me First and the Gimme Gimmes - your straightforward rock & roll, your punk and your pop punk," says bassist Charlie Moniz, the resident indie-rock connoisseur. Brann gave her a copy of Nirvana's Nevermind. And Colburn gave her the Smashing Pumpkins's Siamese Dream and some Pixies albums."I started her off with the more palatable ones, like Monkey Gone to Heaven," he says. "Then I give her Debaser, and she's like, 'I don't know about that.'"
Reid contends that "there are no guys in suits that can manufacture artists like Avril Lavigne. I wish there were. God knows the record business needs them right now."
She may not be manufactured (according to the article she was singing for a while before LA Reid (of LA and Babyface, who were the Stock/Aitken/Waterman of 80s R&B) snapped her up and made her into a star), but it's apparent that any association between her and any sort of "punk" tropes is entirely artificial; even more so than for the usual mook bands whose members weren't born when Sid killed Nancy. Mind you, if she didn't have this gimmick, she'd probably not get anywhere other than small clubs and open-mike nights, and some other malleable giglet would be storming the Top 40 in her place.
(It seems these days that everybody has forgotten Jello Biafra's maxim that "punk means thinking for yourself", and it has become just another form of rebellion-through-aspirational-consumerism. Or maybe not even so much rebellion, at least not of any form that leads to questioning, soul-searching and finding one's own identity, but merely a mindless outlet for excess testosterone, like video games or backyard wrestling.)
Via MeFi, reviews of heavy-metal musicians by groupies; and they're not concerned with their musicianship here, but rather their physical endowment and sexual performance, all laid out like so much meat in a butcher's window. (And not just metal musicians either; basically anyone with mook appeal will do. The likes of Eminem and Trent Reznor make appearances.)
The pendulum swings both ways: while the teen-rebellion industry fuses rap into hard-rock, a new generation of black musicians in America, disappointed with the limited scope for expression in hip-hop and so-called "R&B" are picking up guitars and turning to rock.
Their sound is most often a deeply soul-inflected rock reminiscent of the mellower moments of Jimi Hendrix, Prince and Parliament Funkadelic rather than the full-on guitar assault of Fishbone or Living Colour. Much of this rock is difficult to distinguish from soul music, but the musicians use the word rock to distance themselves, they say, from the overly produced treacle that passes for modern soul.
(Meanwhile, commercial R&B producers such as Babyface have recently been knocking off '90s alternative-rock sounds for some of their projects (such as the very aptly named Pink).)
"Vulnerability doesn't work at all in hip-hop," Mr. Luther said. "You don't want to expose a weakness in that arena. Rock 'n' roll has no boundaries. You can talk about your dreams, fears, all kinds of things."
Though the black-rock movement faces serious barriers in the formulaic world of American radio/TV, not fitting into either black/"urban" formats or the predominantly white world of rock/alternative music. I.e., Clear Channel probably won't play it; though maybe it'll flourish in the MP3 underground.
Rock, they say, gives them the freedom to express their own ideas. Santi White of Stiffed said: "There's a Smiths song that I love that says, `Hang the D.J. because the music he constantly plays says nothing to me about my life.' And that's how I felt. So I said, `Fine, I'm going to find some music that does say something about my life.' "
Funny that they should mention that, as that quote is sometimes cited as an argument for Morrissey being racist. Though what would that make the equation of skin darkness with dance/club music? (via FmH)
The Chaser has more articles online. Of particular note: "Harry Potter fans warn against dangerous effects of Bible", "CAMP X-RAY 'INHUMANE': Ruddock asks for brochure".. and don't tell me that Ratcat have reformed. (If so, wonder what they would sound like; would they just playing their 1990-vintage skater-pop hits on the nostalgia circuit for all the mortgaged new parents who used to be into them when they were kids, or have they jumped on the mook/rap-metal/big-yellow-shorts bandwagon and tried to reach out to a new crop of suburban teens?)
Those ever-tasteful thirtysomething teenagers Limp Bizkit have released a violent moshpit game, in which you have to avoid "security goons" and getting killed in the pit. Is it any wonder that frontman Fred Durst became Senior Vice President of teen-rebellion sausage factory Interscope, the brand which brought you Snoop Doggy Dogg, NIN and Marilyn Manson, brought goth and gangsta rap to the seething, bored, mall-lurking masses of suburban teenage America and then single-handedly manufactured the "mook" subculture, combining the ugliest sides of jock, goth, metalhead and hip-hop into one mall-ready packaged lifestyle product? (link via Virulent Memes / Lev)
Smashing Peanuts, or the story of heroin-pop band Smashing Pumpkins told as a Charlie Brown comic strip. Amusing even if you don't own a single Smashing Pumpkins CD.
"And there was, across this country in the late 80s, bad pop music like Milli Vanilli. And lo, an angel of indie appeared before the mainstream and said unto them, fear not: for behold, I bring to you tidings of great joy, which shall be marketed to all people: alternative rock!"
A biographical piece on oddly-named game designer American McGee, creator of the entertainingly goth-as-fuck take on Alice in Wonderland. Not surprising that this guy's a friend of such pillars of the teen-angst industry as Trent Reznor and Marilyn Manson.
Insert Wayne Kerr intro here: If there's one thing worse than that bloody busker playing on the train, it would probably have to be an entire teenage grunge band playing on the train. Some genius at Connex had the idea that live bands would attract more customers, and so they recruited a bunch of teenagers who could almost play Smells Like Teen Spirit (they got through the intro before fumbling and going onto another song). Their drum kit and amplifiers were set up in the aisle; being a Friday afternoon, this made the rest of the carriage considerably more cramped; and never mind the oldies like myself who aren't into three-chord yoof-rawk.
The most amusing thing was the gaggle of teenage girls standing in the aisle, watching the band and carrying on. Obviously they were not groupies, but were pretending to be groupies, and having a lot of fun doing so. Oh, the hypermediated postmodernism of it all...
Speaking of that bloody busker, btw, he was on the train again this evening, and since there was only one carriage open, there was no chance of escape. Maybe next time he asks for requests I'll ask him to play something likely to be outside of his repertoire; at the moment it's a tie between Anarchy in the UK and I Should Be So Lucky.
Mooks. No, not the retro-fratboy fashion label, but a youth subculture inspired by rap, metal, burlesque images of black culture, professional wrestling, porn and the 'white-trash' identity. (via Follow Me Here)
what white artists have taken from hip-hop is a towering sense of resentment. Rap today has a well of aggrievement, and when a black artist is sloppy about his rage, race relations have a way of focusing the issues for him. It doesn't take much thinking to imagine what a black rapper might be mad about. But when white kids start talking that talk, the rage often comes out inchoate; it appears and vanishes like a half-formed thought. And it doesn't take much to release it... And the easiest targets get flayed the worst: women, of course, and gays.
Half of the 98 percent-Caucasian crowd is dressed for a tractor pull, the other half for a Puffy video. There are longhairs with John Deere caps and denim jackets drinking beer alongside pals wearing Fubu shirts and Avirex footwear. Rednecks dress like roughnecks, and people who in their daily lives keep a distance from black culture have given themselves a ghetto makeover. I ask one fan who loves Kid Rock, Limp Bizkit and even the Marxist, multiracial Rage Against the Machine if he has many black friends. He smirks and removes his baseball cap... He is a skinhead, and he knows he has answered my question without saying a word.
Rap ... makes life on the streets seem as thrilling as a Playstation game. Pimping and gangbanging equal rebellion, especially for white kids who aren't going to get pulled over for driving while black, let alone die in a hail of bullets
Kid Rock starves to death. MP3 piracy blamed. (The Onion)
An all-star fundraiser CD featuring Kid Rock, Limp Bizkit, and Korn was similarly scrapped when an individual known only by the user name PimpKracker69@aol.com acquired a promotional copy and made it available to millions of fans over the Internet.