In which Bwog music critic Bryan Mochizuki forgives the Shins their trespasses and disses the music blogosphere…oh wait…
Depending on whom you talk to, the new Shins album is either lethargic and dull or some more euphemistic variation on those words. Except for this song. This is THE SHINS. This that Zach Braff shit. If you listen closely, you can actually hear the A+R guy yelling “I smell money! It smells like money!” What’s strange is that there aren’t more of these “New ‘New Slang’” sorts of songs on this album – at least “Phantom Limb” has a chorus/is compelling. Apparently James Mercer was cool with doing three-minute pop songs when he was 35, but now that he’s joined the big 36 mafia, he aspires to be a more wizened, mature dude singing in quasi-falsetto?
Before YouTubing them, I didn’t really get GB&Q, Damon Albarn’s new side project. On record, the music is maddeningly minimalist and yet puffed up by Dangermouse’s obnoxiously over-mixed production. It seems pointless, too, to have so much talent – the bassist from The Clash, the guitarist from The Verve, and Tony-“Oh shit, really?”-Allen – and to let Dangermouse either bury it or reduce it to what might as well be a $10 loop from a session player. Sure, it’s clearly not a solo record, but then again, its hard to really give anyone daps on this one except for Albarn. Oh yeah – almost forgot – Dangermouse’s mix sucks.
But live, GB&Q becomes a little clearer and a lot more impressive. Sans le ‘Mouse, the group is essentially four old dudes – ranging from kinda old (Albarn) to really old (Clash’s Paul Simonon) – who have all done their fair share of rocking and are now just innately cool (by both the standard and the Miles Davis definitions of the word). Watch “Herculean,” their first single – they’re playing to a huge hall of screaming kids and yet they’re barely even touching their instruments. The songs are already extremely quiet, introverted, and anti-Chris Martin, but when underplayed, they border on chilling, in a way that doesn’t come through without the power of YouTube. The group is so restrained that when there’s just a little upswing like the “it all looks good on YOU” part in “80’s Life,” it feels like the slow-burn equivalent to Albarn’s first “woo-hoo” in that one little Blur single from back in the day. Add the theatrics of Simonon stalking around the stage and GB&Q is an early front-runner for best live band of the young year.
Of Montreal is pretty standard indie-pop fare. They’ve been around for a while and they have plenty of fans. Unfortunately, this latter detail kinda works against them, because while a few years ago such people were relegated to the front corners of shows where they could stand with their minidisk recorders and ball out, now they all have blogs. And they write things like “this album manipulates your senses with unbridled exuberance” or “I also wonder who controls love: a supernatural force of an individual? I don’t think it’s either and it appears Barnes is perplexed as well” (Barnes being the group’s ostensibly perplexed songwriter). Even more detrimental is that while the blog system gives bands exposure, the bloggers often tend towards the more polarizing, fan-favorite pieces. Such is the case with our friend “Heimdalsgate” here, a bad Hot Hot Heat rip that’s somehow the most blogged-about song from Of Montreal’s new album. It really will either completely sell you on the band or, as a result of that “c-c-c-chemicals” chorus, cause you to make like the dude in Pi with the brain-drill. I’m kind of tending towards the latter. On the other hand, the very pleasant, dig-able “Miss Blonde, Your Papa Is Failing” (from this EP, also out tomorrow) only pops up twice online. Go figure.
I’m really only interested in listening to this album – titled Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer? – just to see if they actually want beef with the real Destroyer (that being the popular pseudonym for Daniel Bejar, king of the indie-people). Maybe not, but it’s tantamount to a rapper making an album called Squabbling Fish, Are You The Hova? Like, come on Canada, we know who Hova is.