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VICE is an interesting animal. Both the yin and the yang. Shiva and Vishnu. The dreamer and the destroyer. On one hand a record label that puts out some really impressive stuff (Ed Banger, Panthers, The Black Lips) along with some great music reportage, and on the other hand they are serious deriders of any music ‘scene’ regardless of genre or locale. They do the same with fashion and current events. It’s as if everything is a joke and they just don’t care. They contribute and criticize without seeing any contradiction or conflict of interest. They come off like the most arrogant bunch of hipster/scenester assholes Williamsburg has ever seen. Nothing is good enough for them. Their opinons are the only ones that matter and they’ll laugh at you for agreeing with them. Fairweather friends and fiends all in the same breath.
With that being said I have to say I think they are doing an excellent job. If they can get away with this (which they are doing an admirable job of) they ought to have fun with it. The fact that they are so successful might be a sign of the utter saturation of irony and discontent within the music and fashion scene. And while they often come of as fuck-look-at-how-awesome-it-is-when-I-swear-sensationalsts, they do provide some pretty impressive journalism. The VICE immersionist style has provided some pretty exclusive insights into the war(s) in the middle east, and world poverty.
Although I must say that while VICE walks a fine line (every once in a while stepping over it), it appears that a large portion of their readership has no idea there even is a line. The irony, wit, and impact is lost on those who could care less about the Emperor’s new clothes, because they don’t have a fucking clue who the Emperor is. Reading through the comment section of DO and DON’Ts, or any of the articles, proves that there are a lot of ingorant, dumb, racist, sexist, and just plain shitty people on the internet. Oh wait! All those people on the internet? They exist in real life too. And as long as they’re there VICE will be laughing at them.
Who has the Internet killed?
The internet gives us an incredible amount of access to music. Not just any music, ALL music. It’s possible to find whatever genre you’re interested. Cambodian garage rock, Tibetan throat singing, North American birthday ballads, even prog rock. But has this access destroyed the decade genre? What artists or songs do you think about when you think about the 60s? 70s? 80s? Even the 90s had grunge. But what about the double naughts? I can’t think of any specific genre to associate with the age of the rise of the internet. Is this because the accessibility music is at an all time high? Because the record companies aren’t loading the radio airwaves with what they deem to be profitable (actually the still do this but people are listening to more online radio and podcasts, so it matters less.)?
I might be in the minority in thinking this. A lot of people might say that the likes of Britney, or The White Stripes are the ‘official’ sound of the double naughts. I’m not going to argue that they aren’t popular, but it’s not a cohesive genre. It’s not Disco, or Brit Rock.
Has the internet undercut the sociological and human elements that have historically driven the advancement of music? In some ways yes. The social and geographical implications on music have been lessened. Would Hip Hop have happened if the internet had existed in the 1970s when it would have been easier to push your music out and find an audience with a podcast, rather than ‘taking it to the streets’? I think not. Although I still think everything we do relates back to how we are human even how we use the internet. It will be artists that have really utilized the medium to push all music forward that will be remembered. Artists like Radiohead and their pay-what-you-want album ‘Rainbows”, and Danger Mouse (remember The Grey Album?). The double naughts will remembered for music, not for The Music.
I had this article sent to me a while back, and have just now gotten around to reading it. It’s a rather enjoyable read about a teenagers Guitar Hero skills. As I breezed over the comments I noticed a couple that referred in pointed amazement to the younger generations ability to interface with on screen data. Now, I’ve never played Guitar Hero (I played a real guitar for a number of years) but it seems that the skill needed to ‘interface’ with musical data has existed for a couple THOUSAND years! It’s called musical notation! And yes it does take a certain amount of skill to master reading it, just like in Guitar Hero! Whether it’s notation, tablature, or GH3 is irrelevant, they are all just different languages used to make music. This begs the question; should that kid in the Best Buy aisle be placed on the same level as Herman Li as far as guitar chops go? Aside from the creation vs. recitation argument, what remains is the idea that because one can play the notes does not mean one can make the music.
I loves me some Cat and Girl.
We here at the Siren have been a little lax in the postings lately, but rest assured it’s not due to a dearth of ideas. On the contrary, there have been too many ideas coming in too fast. It seems that just as we hammer down an idea for an article we get slammed with something else equally engrossing. We have also been doing a little soul searching in the attempt to better define what The Acme Siren is, and how it should carry itself into the future.
This weekend The Siren heads down to the city that Maj. Charles Emerson Winchester III once described as; “The hog butcher to the world.” Chicago. We are going to see Prefuse 73 and Blank Blue since Chicago was the furthest north they were coming on tour. We are also going to see some friends, eat some hot dogs, and maybe some pizza, and probably freeze our asses off. When the Siren returns you can look forward to such articles as:
A Series of Open Letters to Rolling Stone
What I Learned at the Opera: The Siren gets Cultured
The After-Bar: An Investigation of Morals and Human Interaction
Why be a Zero When You can be a Guitar Hero
-and of course-
What I Learned at the Prefuse 73 Show
Until then enjoy this video from another Chicago band, TRS-80 (they’re one of my favorites):
(You can find a higher quality mpeg version over at the film-maker Eric Fensler’s site. He’s the same guy that did the GI Joe PSAs)
Several years ago I found a website featuring the music and life of a man named Shooby Taylor. I feel obligated to share this website with the rest of you for a two reasons. One, I think it has some of the coolest audio content on the internet. The second reason is a bit more complicated.
The previous Acme Siren post was taken from a Friendster “About Me” profile I wrote some time ago. I was listening to some jazz music at the time I sat down to write the profile and began singing along. What followed was 20 minutes of scat singing and writing which eventually became the profile. I thought is was funny that someone would sit down for 20 minutes and write scat, with shout outs and descriptions, in prose form: totally detaching it from the vocal, freeform improvisation that makes scat so cool.
Then I found Shooby Taylor.
In comparison to Mr. Taylor my little post is tiny, pointless, and dumb. You see, Shooby Taylor was a singer. He sang improvisational scat to rather well-known songs, and some of his own original compositions. He would sing along with the actual recording; overdubbing his voice on top of the track. He called himself “The Human Horn” and was a serious musician.
Now, most people know scat singing from listening to Louis Armstrong. And he was a very good scat singer. But he did not possess the desire, seriousness or commitment to scat that Shooby did. Shooby was not, by any measure, a “good” singer. But when you listen, you know that every note comes from the deepest recesses of his being. Listening to Shooby is a musical Pandora’s Box. An exercise in audio endurance. If you can get past the first few seconds of shock and discomfort you will become a believer, and there is no going back from that.
On his website there mp3s available for download and an unbelievable video of his famous Apollo Theater performance. When I first saw and listened to Shooby Taylor, I was struck dumb. He had taken the power of scat singing and projected it into a new dimension. What I tried to do on my rinky-dink little blog he did for real on the stage of the Apollo Theatre. What I thought was a wise-ass goof, he had done (semi)professionaly.
Sadly Shooby died in 2003, but his music lives as an unforgettable part of anyone who comes within earshot of it.
Today there is a movement looking to clear the rights of Shooby’s old recordings and release them again on CD. Since Shooby recorded over other copyrighted songs the the process of clearing the rights for all of them is proving to be difficult, but hopefully it will be completed soon.
Ba ba ba da dum. Ba da dum. Boobity bop bop. Ba ba ba ba BAM! Shoobity bop bop. Shoobity bop bop. Shoobity bop bop bop bop. Ba ba ba da dum. Da da dum. Da da dum. Bop. Bop bop. Bop bop bop. Bop bop bop bop boobity bop bop bop. Deedley deedley deedley deedley dee dee dee (this is the clarinet solo) Deedle deedle dee dee dop. Dee dop dee deedle dee dop. (toss it to the bassist for contrast) Baw baw baw baw baw baw baw baw baw baw baw baw baw. Baw baw baw baw baw baw baw baw baw. (Everyone!) Ba ba ba da dum. Ba da dum. Boobity bop bop. Ba ba ba ba BAM! Shoobity bop bop. Shoobity bop bop. Shoobity bop bop bop bop. Ba ba ba da dum. Da da dum. Da da dum. Bop. Bop bop. Bop bop bop. Bop bop bop bop boobity bop bop bop. (DRUMS!) Shocka shocka shocka shick shick shick sock. Sssss. Shocka shick shock shocka. Shocka shick shock shocka. Bum bum bumpita bum bum bum. (he’s on the toms now) Bum bumpita bumpita bumpita bumpita. Shhh shicka. Shhh shicka. Shhh shicka. Ba ba ba da dum. Ba da dum. Boobity bop bop. Ba ba ba ba BAM! Shoobity bop bop. Shoobity bop bop. Shoobity bop bop bop bop. Ba ba ba da dum. Da da dum. Da da dum. Bop. Bop bop. Bop bop bop. Bop bop bop bop boobity bop bop bop. (take it to the bridge) Shoobity bop bop. Shoobity bop bop. Shoobity bop bop bop bop. Ba ba ba da dum. Da da dum. Da da dum. Bop. Bop bop. Bop bop bop. Bop bop bop bop boobity bop bop bop. Ba ba ba da dum. Ba da dum. Boobity bop bop. Ba ba ba ba BAM! Shoobity bop bop. Shoobity bop bop. Shoobity bop bop bop bop. Ba ba ba da dum. Da da dum. Da da dum. Bop. Bop bop. Bop bop bop. Bop bop bop bop boobity bop bop bop. Shoobity bop bop. Shoobity bop bop. Shoobity bop bop bop bop. Ba ba ba da dum. Da da dum. Da da dum. Bop. Bop bop. Bop bop bop. Bop bop bop bop boobity bop bop bop. Baaaaaaaaaaaaa. Bum.
Department of Eagles-No One Does It Like You
Grizzly Bear-The Knife
My good friend Bud Snead, turned me on to Take Away Shows by Blogothéque. Each “show”consists of taking a band or musical act out of the studio, off the stage and out into the street to play a live “show”. The occurence is filmed and offered as a podcast. They are filmed in one take, often times improvised to accommodate a lack of instrumentation, or done a capella, and are wonderfully gritty, real, and honest.
From the website:
“Sessions are always filmed as a unique shot, without any cut, recorded live. We usually haven’t much time to record them, so the groups have to be spontaneous, to improvise, play with what they have with them, and with their environment, whether there’s a public or not.”
These Take Away Shows show us that music is a human experience, best shared between people with as little distance between each other as possible. Each band is filmed walking among the masses, and shown to be humans in their own right, rather than a photo on an album cover. These are not the gigantic, overly produced and polished mega-stars of American Idol. These are real musicians whose talent and love for what they do come across loud and clear as they walk the streets playing for the public, and the camera.
Some acts are notoriously reclusive and don’t garner a lot of press, such as Liars, and Department of Eagles. Others have had more public exposure, such as Architecture In Helsinki, and Andrew Bird. But none of these bands have ever been seen like this. Enjoy.
Drew over at Toothpaste For Dinner hits the nail on the head.