Pop culture treasure, high culture trash.

Friday, September 30, 2005

At home she feels like a purist

(w/ thanks to Kim for Brit scene reportage)

My resolution not to watch the S-K Jumpers video more than once (worship music, not musician; crush out on guitar work, not C. Brownstein in a suit) has only resulted in me watching the new Ladytron videos over and over again in an effort to figure out what the hell is going on in them. Really--in Sugar, are Helen and Mira supposed to be getting married? In, like, a goth notary public's office of the future? And in Destroy Everything You Touch, are they chthonic snow mountain divinities, or did somebody just have some extra white cake makeup and some bonsai trees laying around that day?

They should probably turn me off, all of the faux-geisha mouths and ironed hairdos and nods to glossy fashion mags. And they do. But the Tron are so fantastically upfront about it--so outrageously, violently honest in their quest for artifice--that they skip past annoying, shimmy over problematic and wind up somewhere out near interesting, if only in a hey-look-at-that-piece-of-tinfoil-in-the-gutter sort of way. Plus, I'm still handicapped with residual loyalty due to the wonderfulness that was 604. A good-ass record, that was. And that was in 2001, decently pre-electro frenzy/Kraftwerk strip-mining bonanza (c.f. early Fischerspooner).

The eye candy angle aside, it's still up for grabs what the point of making music videos actually is. If a song does what it's supposed to, it should conjure up a synesthetic Skittles California Fruits buffet of images, tastes, moods and vistas all by itself, without the band ever having to hire a director, much less rent out a soundstage. Watching Jumpers, for example, feels totes redundant (opp. to study Carrie's fretwork excepted), because when I hear it, I already see a video inside my head. Chefs don't go around composing symphonies for you to listen to while you eat their food.

Only something like Kimya Dawson's Lullaby for the Taken video (Mercury to Ladytron's Pluto in the solar system of m-vid concept & design), not in spite of being quaint and beautiful and K Recs earnest, offers something like a defense of the vid imperative. When Kimya sings about her grandma dying, and her flickering video self attaches tiny wings to a granny doll at the same time, the sounds and images join forces on the same multi-media all-star team, and you notice things about the music you wouldn't have w/o the visuals, and vice versa. And then everybody wins.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005


A longtime fan of FOUND magazine, I hereby offer up Exhibit A: a mix tape song list with detailed track notes folded inside a cassette case. Found by me, sans cassette, on the floor of the basement of my house (housemates deny ownership). Xeroxed b&w cover art features an androgynous face emerging from button-down shirt, with pieces of face cut out, S. Dali-style. Selected highlights, presented just fer y'alls free of charge, strictly sic.:

Tweed Penguin, Sampler #36 (Missy picks 'em!)
2. "The Wicked Sea" - MXYZ, Dec. 1990
"The best rock and roll song ever." -Jeremy
4. "Fuck." -The Smells, July 1990.
From the concept album, "Concept."
5. "Gunshot, " MXYZ - May 1990.
Andy complains/drums.
14. "No Room to Rhumba." -Joe, Fall 89.
From the brilliant album Cartalk.

7. "Here Comes Godot." -The Smells, July 90.
Widget Crue sessions. Formerly, "I Wanna Call Her But Her Last Name is Smith."
12. "Padded Steel Christmas." -Nat, Dec. 89.
Originally called "Stairway to Heaven," but lawsuit pending. I rip off Johnny Cash.
13. "Surfin' Vicar." -The Smells, Aug. 90.
The best song ever. Vol 36.
14. "Biker Larry." -The Smells
About a guy named Lawrence. Ted Nugent plays all solos!!

So many questions begged here...who were the Smells? What was the concept of "Concept"? Was "Surfin' Vicar" really demonstrably better than "The Wicked Sea"? Was Larry actually a biker, and how did he earn the admiration of Ted Nugent? Send any and all theories, queries, subpoenas and lawsuit updates to dancingvioletsnail@yahoo.com.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Fear of a queer anything

Spaghetti Western String Co., half of which I cooked dinner for on Sat. night, won a Minnesota Music Award last week. They won for the "Eclectic" category, which Mike says is a euphemism for "Never Going to Make Any Money." My reaction is 1 part hells yeah to 2 parts well obviously--they're the hardest-working band in my house/neighborhood/major metropolitan area. I'm flashing back to when everybody suddenly started giving Miranda July awards, and I had to fight off that same threat of uncharitable "of course they're awesome, what took you so long to figure that out?" smugness.

What I don't get is why the Miranda July love hasn't shaken down yet to other comparable DIY multi-media video and performance ladyartists, like, say, Wynne Greenwood. Oh wait, now I remember, it's because she's an unapologetic radical lesbian feminist, and those are scary. Start giving them awards, and the earth might start spinning backwards on its axis. It's like how if we let boys marry other boys it'll only be a matter of weeks before people start marrying their mothers, and squirrels, and washing machines. If Christine in Me & You had gone around saying, "I am a radical lesbian" (not impossible, since July is hella supportive) would Cannes and Sundance and Roger Ebert have fallen over themselves to crown her their quirky indie heroine du jour?

Not on yr macaroni.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

When fans try to talk

Tiny Mix Tapes did a Xiu Xiu interview recently that is the holy grail of awkward fan-musician courtesy waltzing. I really sympathize with the guy, and I think the result is totes better than he thought it was. I have done exactly two interviews in my life, and one was great, but the other was Mirah on live radio, and I had to watch about six hours of My So-Called Life beforehand to try to control my nerves. I spent the entire interview trying desperately not to to say, "Oh my God! Me too!" or kick her in the shins whenever I uncrossed my legs under the table. When you read or hear an interview, you never think about the spatial dynamics of the place it was conducted in--where the people were sitting, how they were oriented in relation to each other. I now believe there may be a secret epidemic of interviewer-interviewee shin-kicking running rampant in small radio studios across the country.

When we, the worshipful, starry-eyed shin-kickers of the world, are allowed to go back to our bedrooms to write free-for-all fan confessionals, the results are inspiring and opaquely personal at the same time. Witness Sara Sherr's Hot Rock-era Sleater-Kinney panegyric in the Village Voice; it has more than a couple of those magic music criticism moments where you realize why you do this in the first place, why you slog through all the hype and posturing and bitterness that are rock journalism: to find someone saying exactly what you had always believed in yr heart, but never said aloud. This style of writing is easy to take down. It's messy and esoteric and reads as if it were written in one frenzied, caffeinated sitting. But it's the mess and the esoterica that salvage the bits of shared emotional truth that traditional music journalism leaves behind. And without those, we're just auto-piloting our separate paths through record stores and murky clubs--alone.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Career opportunities

I am employed. It's not exactly curating at the Whitney, but it involves working with art, and opening up a big retractable gate with a key, so I'm six kinds of thrilled. In fact, one of my interview questions gauged my ability to deal with "angry artists" calling to ask why their art wasn't selling. Snap!

Of course, the angry artist pacifier job is severely part-time, so I am still roaming southeast Mpls daily in search of steadier work. I interviewed at an intimidating co-op cafe with six intimidating Cool Co-op Kids, their Coolness instantly recognizable from their hushed monotones and unshakeable ambivalence about everything except, on occasion, social justice and organic lentils. I had a halfway pleasant convo with one girl about bell hooks, but she seemed to be in the middle of maintaining a world record for Longest Uninterrupted Intense Frown (23 years?). Laughing around these people was like popping painkillers in the middle of a bunch of Christian Scientists. I thought they might actually call me back because, y'know, I've done stuff with collectives & co-ops & whatevs, but so far, no love. Maybe my Converse were the wrong color.

Why is it that all of the jobs I keep applying for are lady-powered post-punk bands (i.e. Shop Assistants, Waitresses)? Does this mean I should look into being an au pair? At any rate, I really need to meet rent so I can stay in my house, because it is so crazy fantastic. Like right now, as I type, my housemate's band is in the other room working out a Sigur Ros cover, cello and vocal in fake Icelandic and all. The tables are strewn with home-made press kits and posters and various promo detritus, and there are boxes full of their new EP in the corner. We eat zucchini bread and play Scrabble and talk about samurai movies.

Just one more job. That's all I need.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

You could either be succesful or be us

It's not that there isn't great new music out there. There is. And it's not like I'm a CMJ/SXSW/Coachella-hater. I'm not. But somehow, I can't get excited about the Get Him Eat Hims and Feists and Go! Teams of the world the same way I did about bands four years ago. I'll bury my head in the sweet, deep sand of nostalgia and and whine that nobody writes them like they used to:

The Rondelles
I never understood how sexual "Like a Prayer" was until the Rondelles covered it. When Juliet sings, "In the midnight hour/ I can feel yr power," I have to blush and sit down. "Back Stabber" used to get played on Grrl Radio all the time back in the day and never failed to start a pogo riot in my bedroom. This band snuck out of my very own hometown under the Teenbeat roster, and though they're long since defunct, their mp3 page is still frisky.

Dada Stunt Girl
So Finnish. So awesome. So over. I wrote them up in my zine two years ago. Anarchist singer-guitarist Riikka is cute as a duck, reads bell hooks, ran Ladybomb Distro and apparently enjoys But I'm a Cheerleader. The DSG song "Femmenstruation Liberation" was about toxic tampons and smashing the state.

Switchblade Kittens
These SxE & feminist Kittens are still around, kind of, and have added "My Dad's a Janitor" to their back catalogue, which already includes "Ode to Harry Potter" and "All Cheerleaders Die." Say what you will about their song structures and Shonen Knife cartoon aesthetic--this band is the real fucking deal. "You'd Be So Pretty If" is every bit as urgent, essential, and oh-my-god-why-hasn't-anybody-ever-done-a-song-about-this-before as "Double Dare Ya" and "Suck My Left One."

Another Teenbeat phenom. I played them on my radio show like they were going out of style...and um, they were. But The Pink Album is lyrical gold. No, platinum. To wit: "She's a latex dominatrix/ her rubber bras are made by Playtex/ the men hand over their paychecks/ to ride her down the road/ to safe sex...just because she's for hire/ doesn't mean there' s nothing to admire/ it's clear no fear for all of these years because/ no man can truly buy her." Melissa Farris was in Dame Fate for a while, but they just broke up this summer.

To say nothing of the Bangs, Frumpies, Peechees, Emily's Sassy Lime, and all 6,000 rocktastic KRS bands now surfing the permanent hiatus wave. Until any of these bands resurrect themselves or produce love children with Jenny Toomey, and while Partyline and Spider & the Webs are touring Europe, to treat withdrawal I prescribe liberal application of obscure YoYo comps and Bald Rapunzel 7 inches. If all else fails, check out an amazing Minneapolis band called Coach Said Not To and their song "Words That I Employ"-- it's guaranteed to cure what ails you.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Everybody get random

Waiting for the bus today, bench-sharer asks what my nationality is. I stall, genuinely nonplussed, "Uh..." He offers, "Bohemian?" and laughs so that I think it's some kind of dig at my clothes/age/general appearance. But no, he actually means Bohemia, as in the region of Germany. Dude is nice, so we breeze-shoot until the number 8 pulls up and I get on, and he guesses my age at "18 or 19." I realize I am officially over being offended by people thinking I look this young, seeing as how my footwear of choice have soles of about .001 in. and boost my full height to knee-high to a fire hydrant.

Turns out Lady Sovereign goes through this all the time, and shares my towering 5"1'-itude. Although how old is she, actually? Eighteen, offish, yeah, but who's to say she's not really 13...or 30? And why is it that, having broken stateside this year or whenevs, grime feels over already? All it needs is David La Chapelle and his "high octane" docsploitation and it'll be deep-sixed as a legitimate underground movement in no time! Which will suck, because one of the best things about grime as a genre was that it didn't have either "post-" or "neo-" in it.

I wish I could set up some kind of Lady Sov-M.I.A. compare-and-contrast action, even though M.I.A. is not true grime, because of the two of them, only M.I.A. is at all marketable as a booty-baring model/fashionista, and she's the one poised to tear up the U.S. media, not Sov, whose unwavering commitment to baggy tracksuits promises to keep her obscure, Jay-Z collaboration or no. Just look at the Galang and Bucky Done Gun videos. In terms of video-disseminated self-image she could go either way, planting her feet in the Wynne Greenwood/Le Tigre experimentalism of Galang or riding the chainlink fence humping of Bucky into jerk-off billboard diva superstardom.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Oh, dirty river

For some outlandish reason, my abilities to read the Iliad in Greek and summarize Foucault's repressive hypothesis (and incitement to discourse!) have not translated into marketable job skills, and I am still Unemployed 'N Angsty in Minneapolis. Every day I hit the streetz and plod, carless, out of Prospect Park and across the mighty Mississip into the Seward n-hood, going door-to-door with my charming intro line, "Do you happen to know if you're hiring right now?" Yesterday I wandered into a pottery studio where a bunch of punky art kids were setting up a show and listening to the Ramones. I wanted to throw my arms around their knees and wail, "Please! Adopt me! I'll be yr slave, yr personal back scratcher, just let me stay here with you and be yr friend!" Instead I pulled it together, hit up more businesses for apps and shook my fist at the downtown Mnpls skyline from the middle of the East River Road bridge, shouting, "Employ me, damn you! Employyy meeee!"

Maybe I picked the wrong Prospect Park?

Friday, September 02, 2005

I don't rock hard enough

(sucked, suck·ing, sucks)
v. intr.
1. To draw something in by or as if by suction: felt the drain starting to suck.
2. To draw nourishment; suckle.
3. To make a sound caused by suction.
4. Vulgar Slang. To be disgustingly disagreeable or offensive.
5. To move to a city where you don't know anybody and have no way to get around; to spend weeks and $$$ getting ready for a job interview, to totally put yr heart and soul into said interview and give it all you have and get rejected anyway; to be living in a room without any furniture w/o the hope of ever acquiring any and sleep on the floor every night, and not in a cool punk rock way, but in a spinal injury way; to have yr box full of books lost in the mail and be told it will never be found; to realize yr love for music & feminism is worth jack shit, and that you're probably never going to get to do something you like, let alone believe in passionately, for a living.
6. To complain about yr life when it has not been completely destroyed by a hurricane.