Wednesday, May 21, 2008
Clearly, my long work-imposed absence has led to a concerning state of affairs here when someone (ahem, JR) could possibly blaspheme Robert Smith by comparing him to the fugly little fucktard J Mascis. Clearly, in the words of Michael Kors, there’s some serious taste issues going on here. Clearly, Robert is superior in every possible way, and has already kicked’ J’s ass. But still, I feel it my duty to defend the honor of my one true love.
My love affair with Robert started when I was a wee one, just 8 years old. After becoming the unfortunate pariah of the third grade, I came home after a particularly rough day, threw myself on my bed, and cried my little heart out. My older sister, who witnessed my meltdown as she was on her way out, picked up a new tape for me to cheer me up, saying, “Here, I’ve heard they’re good when you’re sad.” That tape was Standing on a Beach, the Cure’s first compilation of singles and B sides. That tape held a place of honor for many many years, and last year when it finally gave out, I wept as I filed the tangled mess of tape in the circular bin.
But from the moment when I first heard the brooding bass of “A Forest” and “Charlotte Sometimes,” I was completely hooked. The songs were moody and beautiful and had a sound that was completely different from any of the cheesy pop songs 8 year olds like. The guitar riffs were atmospheric, and Robert Smith’s voice haunting. And thus, my inner goth was born. So by junior high when my peers were making me wretch with their NKOTB obsessions, I had Disintegration and Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me in heavy rotation.
My obsession with all things Robert Smith has never faded, even twentysomething years later. Last summer when I heard the Cure was coming to town, I nearly peed my pants with delight. I had seen them with some friends a few years earlier on their Bloodflowers tour, but because we showed up drunk and proceeded to bum some weed off the Goths to our left, that show is a bit of a haze. And from what I remember, the show was heavy on their somber, newer stuff and only very briefly touched on old favorites. This show, however, I would enjoy fully sober and with some kick ass seats.
So Maise, our friend Mimsy, and I arrived to the show after nearly a year’s wait (due to the cancellation of the show last fall) with high expectations. Opening with “Plainsong” and “Prayers for Rain,” things started out slowly but built steadily throughout the 3-hour set, which included a solid mix of both new and old songs. But unlike other nostalgia acts that have reunited, like the Police, the Cure wasn’t trying to relive the peak of their popularity by rehashing a bunch of old and tired songs. Instead, they debuted a trio of new songs, which upon first listen, seem as solid and relevant musically as any of their older material.
But to the band’s credit, they didn’t focus too heavily on songs off their newest album. Instead, they balanced new songs carefully with old favorites, such as “Love Cats,” “Jumping Someone Else’s Train,” “Boys Don’t Cry,” and “Why Can’t I Be You?”. And even more to their credit, they drew deeply from all of their albums, playing lesser-known favorites, such as “From the Edge of the Deep Green Sea” (a personal favorite), “The Kiss,” and “If Only Tonight We Could Sleep.” Overall, it was an excellent mix of new and old, pop and moody, upbeat and atmospheric and at once satisfied casual listeners and hardcore fans alike.
For every song they played, I could think of five others I would have also loved to hear, like “Fascination Street,” “High,” or “Charlotte Sometimes,” none of which sadly made the set list. But this is not to say that this show was at all lacking; it’s more a testament to the vast and solid catalog of songs the Cure has developed over the last 30 years. I think everyone in the crowd would have happily stayed all night to hear their entire catalog, but sadly, Robert’s voice would not hold out.
In fact, I was quite concerned at the beginning of the show when Robert announced he was battling a sore throat and quipped, “I can barely talk. I hope the gods I don't pray to will smile on me.” The previous week, when Maise and I saw the Police, Sting’s sore throat meant the show was only 1.5 hours. That’s a respectable length, but it hardly gives fans the variety of songs they’re paying a lot of money to hear.
Robert, however, was quite the trooper, and apologized repeatedly for “sounding like shit.” No one seemed to mind, and his raspy voice didn’t at all dampen the performance. He was totally adorable when they had some technical problems during “Freakshow,” and he flailed his arms around dorkily lamenting, “I can’t hear the guitar!” Trent would have lunged menacingly at the roadies, but Robert carried on with his dorky dancing. I wanted to scoop him up, put him in my pocket, and take him home with me. Well, until he spit all over the stage. Note to Robert: even a sore throat doesn’t excuse expectorating on the floor. It’s just poor manners.
For all my years of Robert worship, I couldn’t have asked for a better Cure show. I wasn’t the least bit disappointed, and in fact, this show made me love Robert and the band all the more. Robert Smith really does kick ass.
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery but where do you draw the line at imitation and just plain copying. This morning I was checking my email and noticed I had a friend request via MySpace. I'm all about networking for our site in any way possible but I still generally try to "know" a little bit about the people I'm adding. So I checked out this girl's site. Turns out she likes Amanda Palmer. A Lot. From her eyebrows down to her socks, her music style, and even her day job is quiet similar to the 8ft Bride living statue bit Amanda does (or did). And did I mention she's currently looking for a drummer?
As far as I can tell she's not doing this as a tribute act to the Dresden Dolls or trying to be the Australian Amanda (although some evidence points to the contrary). I mean, everyone is entitled to do their own thing and I do like her music because...well...I like Amanda Palmer, too. Please don't think I'm a bitch for calling her out because, really, I'm not trying to hate on her. It just struck me as a little curious this morning and I wondered how other people feel about this kind of thing.
Saturday, May 17, 2008
Sunday, May 11, 2008
I've been absorbing it since it first became available to download directly from nin.com for free on May 5th. Although it was created in what seems to only be a few short weeks after the release of "Ghosts I-IV" it is an excellent album and I think it speaks volumes to the amount of talent Trent has as an artist to be able to crank something like this out so soon. Yes, I was very critical of "Echoplex" when it was first leaked on the interwebs and, while it will never be a favorite song, I see it has a definite place on this record and it has grown on me.Now when it comes down to the music I could detach myself and play the hipster bitch role and rant about the shortcomings of this album but I cannot bring myself to it because at the end of the day I still absolutely fucking LOVE this. Trent eases us into things with “999,999”, which reminds me of “Pinion” in its slow build, and then we’re hit with a wall of noisy, almost retro feeling backbeats, dirty synths, and distorted guitars that Trent has consistently perfected from album to album and that continues to get your blood pumping, your teeth gritting, and your feet tapping. It’s non-stop from “1,000, 000” straight through to “Head Down”. The lyrics are typically dark in NIN fashion but the choruses are catchy and easily get stuck in your head (“Echoplex” included).
It should be no surprise to our regular readers that “Lights in the Sky” is my favorite song from this release but what shocked me is how it has taken the number one place of all time favorite NIN tracks, a short list that included "AATCHB" and "TDTWWA" and that I never expected to change. "LitS" is unbelievably beautiful. It consists of just a piano,
“watching you drownCall it projection if you will but you cannot deny this song was meant to break your heart. Goddamn, Trent, just Goddamn.
i'll follow you down
and i am here right beside you
the lights in the sky
have finally arrived
i am staying right beside you”
The transition from song to song on the last half of the record is sheer perfection. "LitS" melds flawlessly into "Corona Radiata" and then to"The Four of Us Are Dying". Although “Ghosts” was arranged the way it was for a purpose, I wish it could have done what “The Slip” accomplished here. Overall it is a well balanced album from lyrical to instrumental and I'm pleased to hear it finished off with something with a little bite to it in "Demon Seed". Too often Trent ends things with a soft song which while that technique is usually great and blows your mind, it's nice have one that leaves you wanting more music and not just a dark corner to hide in.
If you haven't downloaded "The Slip" yet you should get on it. Immediately! Have I mentioned it's FREE? From nin.com, Trent says:
"Thank you for your continued and loyal support over the years - this one's on me."There are multiple options available for sound quality. There is a 216kpbs MP3 version available for immediate download which isn't too bad or Trent is also offering the higher quality versions as torrents and provides some links to a couple helpful "how to" guides for those who may not be familiar with the torrenting process. As a businessman you just have to use the technology that works and it's not exactly "illegal" if the artists himself is the one offering it up. Am I right? If you're curious about what it sounds like before you download you can check the whole album out here.
Thursday, May 8, 2008
When I first ordered it I had to find some way to justify the expense. I figured since Ghosts was an entirely instrumental album that there was no way they'd be touring with it sooo the money I normally would have spent on going to a show and never getting an autograph went to splurging on this little present to myself. And let me tell you, now that I have it in my hands, it was worth every fucking penny! AND, lucky me, NIN decided to play Lollapalooza this year which I was already planning on attending!
The package includes two high quality, fabric slipcases with metal NIN logos on the front and an attachment on the back listing the individual number. One slipcase contains three books: the album artwork (autographed!), two Giclee prints, and the 4 discs that include the album, the multi-tracks, and a Blu-ray disc (that I have yet to watch).
The other slipcase contains the four vinyl albums. I've never owned a vinyl album in my life but I do now. Isn't it pretty?
The artwork in the autographed book is basically the same as what was included in the .pdf filed embedded with the album download. The colors and quality though...wow...the images look like they could just pop right off the page. I didn't include any snapshots here because my camera skills would not do them justice but believe me they are gorgeous! You can check out the other pictures I took here. And, yes, I photographed each step of the unwrapping process like a total fangirl but I say if you can't be a fangirl over something like this then when can you, eh?
Monday, May 5, 2008
So Iris, Mr. Iris, Ro, and I made our way over to Martyr's, a tiny Chicago club that was packed for the late-night sold-out show. Normally shows that begin at 10 p.m. (with opening acts) make me grumpy, because a ghost dog loves her beauty sleep, but since I managed to double-book myself for another important event that night, it worked out to my advantage. We arrived approximately halfway through the opening set, as performed by the Dragons of Zynth. They kind of reminded me of Living Color, and there was some funk to their harder rock sound. I never fell madly in love with them, but I was pleased by the Barack Obama poster that they had flanking the stage. Sorry, Hillary fans, but you'll find a lot of Obama-love at a Saul Williams show.
There was a loooooooooooooooong wait between the two acts, but 40 minutes later, CX KiDTRONiK took the stage in full Spiderman costume, which had to be hot as hell because even at the back of the stage, your PP correspondents were roasting. (Unfortunately because the club remained cloaked in darkness for the entire show, we don't have quite as many awesome pics and vids for you, but of course, what Iris did manage to capture is brilliant, as usual.)
When Saul finally took the stage, he was dressed in feathers and tribal face paint, and this awesome, awesome David Bowie/Adam Ant-esque coat.
Saul opened with some spoken word, invoking the names of artists and revolutionaries, and he would return to spoken word several times throughout the set, which was actually quite exhilerating. His delivery is always powerful, even if you aren't entirely sure if what sounds profound actually makes any sense. It does make me wonder if he's apt to bust out into spoken word during normal conversations:
Me: Saul, what do you want for dinner tonight?
Saul: Fresh meat, feel the beat, the poet, the painter, the jungle, the temple, my heart is broken but my pants are mended...
Me: Oh, Jesus Christ.
Although Iris felt that Saul's vocals were occasionally off-key, this was a tight, tight performance with a lot of enthusiasm. Saul moved through the crowd, stood on the merchandise table, and got a room full of white hipsters to dance like dorks (no easy feat, I can assure you). The Public Enemy-influenced "Tr(n)igger" was an explosion of energy...I was surprised because it's the song that theoretically would appeal to me least, but it's now become my favorite song on the album.
"Niggy Tardust" was a fun experience for the audience as most of us participated in the amusing chorus..."When I say 'Niggy,' you say nothing. Niggy..." "NOTHING!" "Niggy..." "NOTHING!!!!" "Shut up." Saul took a few moments to chuckle at the audience members who looked a little intimidated. "Should I say 'nothing'? Should I just be quiet? Am I allowed to say the title of this song?" I believe it was at this point that Saul explained to us his belief that we are all one, and that when one of us is degraded with a racial slur, we are all degraded. Referencing Obama, he said that you don't have to have a mixed racial background to be "hybrids," and that we are all hybrids. Which is true. I mean, I'm the whitest girl on the planet, but through my veins runs the blood of nationalities that all hate each other, plus at least one genetic wild card where paternity couldn't be confirmed, so I could be part anything. So I agree with and embrace Saul's inclusive philosophy, but I'm still not going to be spouting off the n-word. Even when I sing along with "Tr(n)igger" in the car, it usually goes like this: "The trigger is YOU...the nnnnnn...is YOU...the trigger is YOU!"
If you haven't yet heard Saul's previous self-titled album, it's definitely worth checking out, as "List of Demands" and "Black Stacey" were standouts at this show and audience favorites.
Going back to Niggy Tardust, we also got "Sunday Bloody Sunday" and "Scared Money," the latter being one of my favorite tracks with the tambourine and voodoo rhythms. And as I'm trying to achieve some kind of self-actualization, the chorus has become a mantra of sorts for me. (Not that I'm talking about actual money when I remind myself that "Scared money don't make none.")
In other audience-bonding moments, Saul assured us that he reads his Myspace messages as he wished a happy anniversary to a fan who didn't seem to respond. So he felt like a dork for a moment, I think. He also encouraged us to visit the merchandise table, considering that most people just downloaded his album for free. (I'm very happy with my hyena t-shirt, folks, which was a reasonable $20, so I recommend indulging in some "Tardust" fashion. I was also happy to see that my t-shirt did not include the word "niggy" anywhere, as I didn't want to be the subject of any misunderstandings in public.) And we all got to sing happy birthday to the woman selling the merchandise for the night, and she appeared to be charmingly embarrassed.
I know I'm jumping all over the place, but it's hard to recount the intensity of this show. Here's a clip of "Banged and Blown Through," as filmed by Iris. You'll have to excuse the darkness and sound quality, as they had the volume turned up to 11 in the tiny venue.
There were also quieter, more contemplative moments. We were particularly moved by the part of "No One Ever Does," when he sings, "Suddenly, who I thought was me/ was not me at all/ and I feel so small/Sitting way beneath who I want to be/I don't want to be who I've grown to be..." At this point, Saul started removing the feathers from his headdress and dropping them to the audience, looking lost. An excellent performance of a song that I tend to write off as something that sounds like a Seal track.
When I walked out of Martyr's, well past my bedtime, I felt refreshed and invigorated, rather than exhausted. My ears were ringing, to be sure, but I'll forgive Saul for any aural damage, as this was one of the best live shows I've ever seen. At one point, I texted Gabriel to inform him that Saul Williams live was truly a mind-blowing experience. One that I can't recommend highly enough to all of you.
If you would like to check out more Saul Williams pics, look here!
Saturday, May 3, 2008
Trent goes on and on and on throughout this ditty how his "voice just echoes off these walls." You know why your voice just echoes off the walls? Hmm? If this song is any indication, it's because you've got nothing left old man and the room that used to hold inspiration for amazing music is EMPTY! And that place, a.k.a. this song, you built from broken parts is exactly that. A song you built out of older, better ones. Is that the whirling noise from "Wish" at about the 2:15 mark? Then there's the piano tinkering thrown in. We get it. Those couple bars of piano are lovely but you're even wearing me out with it already and I'm a piano junkie. Even the guitar (bass? I'm terrible with identifying instruments) towards the end sounds VERY familiar...can't quiet place my finger on where yet but it strikes me as March of the Pigs but slowed down slightly. Maybe. Maybe not. Either way the whole thing just seems like a bad patchwork quilt of old and borrowed sounds.
The only thing "new" to this latest release is the drumbeat but even that isn't original. Just new to the NIN realm. Most others will recognize it as the prerecorded sound bite that comes programed on all keyboards. I believe it's Funky Beat #107 if I'm not mistaken.
I appreciated the seemingly straightforward lyrics of "Discipline" and I'm not saying the lyrics for "Echoplex" aren't honest, it's just that I don't know that I like the direction you're going here. Are you trying to tell us that you're going to be fading away into obscurity and won't be making music anymore because, as I deciphered earlier from the lyrics, you're inspirationally drained? Or is it that you're calling yourself out that all your new songs are echoes of previous works? Can someone help me out here?
Okay, so I may be a bit cranky in this assessment but I stand by my opinion that this song is not working for me in the least little bit. I really want to like it but...um...no. Sorry Mr. Reznor, can we please try this again.