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Momus interviewed by The Local

12 Sep

Check out this intriguing interview Momus did about the city of Berlin being an unconventional artistic hub:

Momus speaks: ‘Berlin is potentially a very provincial city’

…I kind of like the fact that it’s hard to sell work here, it keeps you thinking about other things than the market. I do a lot of art shows in New York and the burning desperation of artists there to compromise as soon as possible, to make work that collectors want to buy because the devil is there: you’re at the top of the mountain with the devil and he’s saying “look there’s the money, shake the tree and the money will fall on your head”. In Berlin that doesn’t happen because it can’t: all the rich people are all in Frankfurt or somewhere, and it’s just galleries here. There’s a certain kind of delay, it’s not like we’re living outside of the system but we are living at arm’s length.


Why Is Keith Murray Confused?

18 Aug

When I interviewed We Are Scientists last week (check out the first half here), one of my questions regarded the significant change in Keith’s lyricism that’s visible in their current release. Due to several factors–unbalanced food-alcohol ratio, anxiety and decreased eloquence–I’m not sure I explained my point correctly, and in turn, I would like to take a second look at this now that I have a bit more input from Keith & Chris. Before I begin, I want to clarify some things in case this post gets taken out of context. Do lyrics truly determine the overall potency of a song? No, they do not. Do the lyrics on Barbara really bother me that much? No, not really. Nevertheless, when complex gets construed as better, which is what I think Mr. Murray has convinced himself by shunning his lyrics off of With Love and Squalor because they’re “whiny,” I get pretty annoyed.

Chris, who is the voice of reason, does admit that “if for good or for bad” the lyrics on Barbara are more sophisticated. Though he did not elaborate further, I did agree with him. Not only are the lyrics from Barbara more diverse in the themes that they encompass, but I imagine the way in which they were conceived–Keith states that they weren’t topics that directly related to him, so I’m assuming constructed from an observer’s standpoint–requires a little more effort. So in turn, the scope of the lyrics do extend further than those from With Love and Squalor and did require a touch more labored imagination to do so. But do these traits make them better lyrics? Absolutely not! The problem occurs when mere phrase construction gets marked down as being the means to improvement.

This isn’t a new misconception–this kind of faulty thinking is outlined in the study of causation (usually describing why most social policies fail to address the issues they’re trying to resolve, aka “correlation does not imply causation”), in statistics (in the form of a spurious relationship), and even modern philosophy. Richard Rorty, in his book entitled Philosophy and Social Hope (1999), goes into depth regarding this kind of assessment by stating why “moral progress is not a matter of an increase of rationality.”

Nor is what Dewey called an increase in intelligence, that is, increasing one’s skill at inventing courses of action which simultaneously satisfy many conflicting demands. People can be very intelligent, in this sense, without having wide sympathies. It is neither irrational nor unintelligent to draw the limits of one’s moral community at a national, or racial, or gender border. But it is undesirable–morally undesirable. So it is best to think of moral progress as a matter of increasing sensitivity, increasing responsiveness to the needs of a larger and larger variety of people and things.

So Chris wasn’t too far off when he described the lyrical success of With Love and Squalor as arising from an “[identification] with the grade of intensity [that the listeners] then apply that to a situation in life where they had high-grade emotion;” this is the increasing sensitivity that Keith so convincingly accomplished by writing from a highly personal perspective, which people then co-opted to their own situations. Keith suggests that because he removed the specifics from the songs, they then became vague and too broad to be viewed as interesting or holistic to the experience. I feel like he might have even caved into calling them cliché if pestered long enough by the wrong person.

Yet, Mr. Murray can’t be farther from the reality of the situation. It is his responsiveness to the environments present in With Love and Squalor that make the lyrics powerful, whereas the lyrics from Barbara read like an advice book for dealing with the tragically immature. Do some of the lyrics off of the first album reek of adolescence? Yes, but it’s hard not to empathize with the narrator because they’re themes that not only everyone has experienced in their own unsteady psychological growth, but also themes that still plague us when we face rejection, loneliness, petulant intoxication, contentious denial of reality, the detrimental outcome of pushing limits, or romantic vulnerability.

Don’t get me wrong–not every single song off of Barbara breaks away from the methods used to write With Love and Squalor lyrics (Jack & Ginger, Ambition, and Central AC are obvious exceptions) and not every song from With Love and Squalor benefits from the strengths of its counterparts (Nobody Move, Nobody Get Hurt, Cash Cow, The Great Escape are some catchy culprits). Despite this, a concern with jumping from exposition to overall statement remains a problem that plagues Barbara, much more so than in With Love and Squalor. Those few songs off With Love and Squalor with scantily clad narration are such high-powered tunes that all is forgiven–but the songs from Barbara which similarly possess a lack of emotional atmosphere cannot claim the same merit.

It’s true, though, when Chris argues that having Keith focus on playing beautiful chords suitable for a rhythm guitarist rather than fancy lead guitar parts is going to get people fussy and unreasonable. People like me, will then state that the band isn’t harnessing all their talent in creating a compelling album when they are probably expending twice as much of their musical craft and ability than normal. The fact remains, however, that the band has not completely compounded all that they have to offer in one album. They’ve definitely expanded their range and corrected prior shortcomings, but they still need a bit more of something before everything comes together in the studio.

Alright, well, now I should go use my college education for more suitable endeavors, like proposing a middle east peace solution, rather than constructing a droll argument on why I’m miffed by song lyrics. SORRY Y’ALL.

photos © 2010 Mahsa Borhani, all rights reserved

punks fuckin’ jam

1 Sep

click on image for myspace

1. Grand Buffet and Mrs. Paintbrush (two different acts involving Jackson O’Connell). I had heard some Grand Buffet stuff before and still am not fully converted into a believer, but hearing Mrs. Paintbrush is a good way to get back into them. when it comes to Jackson’s independent work, the fluidity in terms of sounds, but also in terms of lyrics, captured my interest. I think his partner in crime, Lord Grunge, has some dynamic beats, but I think the way he executes his verses comes across more as separated declarations, and is a little incongruous with his beats.

And to be completely honest, when I saw Jackson dance to DJs Huck Finn’s & Glenn[electric]’s sets this past friday at the Brillobox…man, this guy has a method to wild performance and I think it will go very well with his slick raps at the Grand Buffet show this upcoming Saturday. Grand Buffet will be opening for Don Caballero at Mr. Small’s (Sept. 6th).

Centipede Eest at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, 8/23
© 2008 Mahsa Borhani

Let’s just say that this show will be very interesting in terms of attendees. Don Caballero, who are from Pittsburgh but now based in Chicago, will draw a bit of an older crowd. Centipede Eest and Don Cab obviously have more in common than Grand Buffet–however–judging from what I saw at the PCA show a week ago, Centipede is more influenced by an ambient noise aesthetic and now that Don Cab has released Punkgasm, I am assuming there will be an even greater diversity between these two acts.

Don Caballero
Centipede Eest
Grand Buffet
@ Mr. Small’s Theatre
9-6-08, 8 PM

2. Black Flag minus Henry Rollins. As much as I enjoy this interview that Rollins did:

it’s much more admirable to see Chuck Dukowski talk about the band and defend them from the ruffian stereotype in this interview at 3:43

Later on in his life, when Chuck talks about how he saw government armed forces wait insidiously as kids gathered to see the show, and then unleashed all of society’s hatred at a moment when they thought they’d eliminate all the voices of this movement–I guess it never really hit me till now how incredulous that can be. If police can freak out about music, then how bad is it going to be when it’s about something that directly addresses the policies and regimes of the government without art as a method for dissemination? Is it worse to see the people around you disappear mysteriously, or is it worse to see them die or be injured in a highly publicized event that society just stares blankly at?

I don’t have any answers to these questions. Yeah the punk rock movement is over. But from an Iranian-American point of view, it is more relevant now than it could ever be. At the time of that interview, Chuck Dukowski was a voice for the kids who couldn’t really speak for themselves, who were letting out their “desperation” in the most primal way they could–a physical oscillation to the constant force of music.

In two months everyone from age 18 and on can speak for our friends in other countries who support democracy and allied federations. I hope everyone is following the ever-frenzied presidential election campaign as close as possible to develop a viewpoint that will help them choose the right candidate.

music news from other places

23 May

  • Basia Bulat and Devotchka concert review – some thoughts on the recent show at Diesel. Don’t really agree with the Denver comment, but check it out.
  • Blurb in the Post Gazette about Olympus Mons – saw them play at Gooski’s with Suburban Sect a while back and they were pretty sweet. CD release show TOMORROW.
  • An old preview about British Sea Power – did anyone go to this show? It was last week and I’ve liked The Rosebuds ever since Chris Cain mentioned them in this great interview on The last minute is gold.
  • Aaron Jentzen talks to the Takeover UK about their new EP on Rykodisc – I know you guys like them as they are probably the most searched local band hit for gigawave. Here’s an ending quote from the drummer:

    “It’s basically just a lot of hustling, man, just getting out of Pittsburgh,” says Sickels. “You’ve just got to get out, or you’re never going to get anywhere.” Snyder quaffs his beer and offers a little barstool philosophy: “You basically have to shrug off every single responsibility that normality would give you.”

Sad but true. Unless you play hockey, do research for CMU, or curate. I can’t really think of any other career-catapulting opportunities here. ALSO, afternoon beer? Really?

lots of news!

29 Mar

So Many Dynamos Coming to Pittsburgh

Yes it is true! SMD are planning to play a date in the burgh. From their myspace bulletin:

In the almost-as-near future, we’re about to do another tour. Here are the dates so far. As you see, there are lots of TBA’s so feel free to message us about it, we’re still in the booking stages and could use assistance if you feel like you can help.

04/30 – Pittsburgh, PA @ TBA (details will be announced soon)

So Many Dynamos – In Every Direction
So Many Dynamos – Progress

Triggers Interviewed for Post Gazette Article

Triggers explode with power-pop debut
Thursday, March 27, 2008
By Scott Mervis, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

“At first we kind of didn’t take things too seriously,” says singer-guitarist Adam Rousseau. “We had all sort of gotten out of ‘bad relationships,’ so to speak, with our previous bands and I, at least, was really just thinking of Triggers as something to do just for fun. I mean, I thought we played well and had some decent tunes, but it wasn’t until we played our first show and got such a positive reaction from the audience and our friends that I thought, ‘We might be on to something here.’ “

read the rest of the article here

New Book of Photography on Pittsburgh

Local photographer Mark Bolster has recently published a book filled with elegant and poignant photos of places in and around Pittsburgh. The book is available in digital format online, or physical format from bookstores, or you can buy it directly from the artist himself. For more information, click on the image of the cover in order to view samples from the book:

New Records for the Radio Station

Seeing as I missed Mixel Pixel two nights in a row, I decided to hit them up for a 12 inch of “Coming Up X’s” last night; the song is one of my favorites off their 2006 album Music for Plants. Very exciting. Rob Corradetti, who does the art for the band, was also nice enough to slip in the 7 inch of “Kind of Girl.” Definitely am going to spin those next time I am at the station, maybe even make some mp3 files to share. Mixel Pixel = quite an affable band.

Ra Ra Riot interview

2 Feb

Dying is fine, to Ra Ra Riot
by aaron jentzen

The song, from the band’s melodious yet melancholy self-titled 2007 EP, was one of the first written by the group. Inspired in part by a poet forever popular on college campuses, e.e. cummings, it features the sprightly chorus, “You know that dying is fine, but maybe / I wouldn’t like death if death were good / not even if death were good.”

Pretty good article, once again by Pittsburgh City Paper’s Aaron Jentzen. He seems to interview most bands of interest to me, so I created a tag for him. How special. If you haven’t gotten your ticket to this show next Tuesday, it’s 7 bucks. If you don’t have a ride, take the bus. That’s what I’m doing. NO EXCUSES!! A very nice person is lending me their flash, I will be there taking pictures probably around 9 PM. Come say hi!

LISTEN (to what you’re missing):

Ra Ra Riot – Dying is Fine

this is BSS

11 Nov

A Conversation with Kevin Drew of Broken Social Scene

NOVEMBER 8, 2007

“I suspect Drew is actually fairly shrewd. Witness his first solo album, Spirit If … released under the moniker, “Broken Social Scene Presents: Kevin Drew.” Not only does that name trade in the brand recognition and goodwill the Toronto collective has amassed over the years, but the album also features many of the Social Scene’s members and musical trademarks: lush indie-pop orchestration matched with cacophonous fury, tender moments contrasted with unintelligible yelps, sweet nothings marred with expletives.”

read the rest of the interview