Archive for January, 2011

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The Stabbing Knife Vol. 5: Doubleheader Edition

January 15, 2011

Don't sweat it, Roberto. I'm completely made of Tuesday.

If it’s completely true that snitches get stitches then it’s doubly true that self-righteous idiots who attempt to sand down the world’s rough edges through censorship get the business end of Roberto’s stabbing knife. And it’s been awhile, so we’re having a doubleheader. On to the wetwork.

We’ve all heard the phrase “One person can make a difference,” and we’ve all nodded thoughtfully while thinking, “Bullshit.” Just like the eternally optimistic phrase “Every vote counts” allows us to feel like our voice matters in the political arena, the sad truth is that one person has no chance in hell to make significant changes, especially in well-established institutions with years of history behind them.

And then something like this happens.

An anonymous (to us, anyway) complainant has singlehandedly gotten Dire Straits’ Money for Nothing removed from radio airplay in Canada. As many of you are probably thinking, what the fuck for?

This anonymous complainant (hereafter “AC” for the sake of my fingers) was offended by the use of the word “faggot,” which pops up three times as the narrator critiques the hair metal dominating MTV at the time. If you’re not familiar with the lyrics, I’m not going to run them down for you here. Perhaps you can get in touch with AC as you are apparently the only other English-speaking person alive who has not heard this overplayed rock radio staple several hundred times in their life.

A homophobe and his headband rarely part.

Having heard this track 26 years after it was released, AC sprung into action. Assuming the role of spokesperson for the entire gay (or “gey,” as I assume it’s spelled in Canada) community, AC fired off a letter to the offending station demanding they remove the song from airplay.

“A song was aired, “Money For Nothing” by Dire Straits, and included the word “faggot” a total of three times.  I am aware of other versions of the song, in which the word was replaced with another, and yet OZ FM chose to play and not censor this particular version that I am complaining about.

I find this extremely offensive as a member of the LGBT community and feel that there is absolutely no valid reason for such discriminatory marks to be played on-air.”

At first, they blew her off, albeit in a very kindly fashion, running down the reasons for keeping it in the rotation and citing precedent.

“In this specific case, the song in question has been played countless times in its original form, from its #1 release in 1984 to the present day, and continues to be aired on stations across the country in this form.  As this selection has been aired continuously for 25+ years, and the original version is regarded by many as an historically successful and essential rock hit in that form with these particular lyrics, management chose in this specific instance to retain the authenticity of this selection.”

“We understand the concerns you have raised regarding this particular selection and do apologize for any undue stress caused to you as a listener by the lyrical content of this selection, but based on the above reasoning, we have operated with the understanding that in this specific case, no editing of the material is warranted.”

That should have been that.

The C stands for "Capitulation."

Not good enough. AC was still perturbed and fired back, using a lot of words but mainly pointing out than anything less than removal or censorship of the track would be unsatisfactory.

“I am highly dissatisfied with the response I have received.  I do not feel the argument in favour of the unabridged version of the song was valid, and it is certainly not strong enough to justify playing such words on the radio.  This word carries an unavoidable connotation of hate.  By airing it unapologetically on the radio, this station is indirectly propagating hate.  Although I can see the value in a timeless classic rock song in its original form, I cannot help but feel that it does not overshadow the importance of ending discrimination.”

The CBSC, not wanting to be seen as “propagating hate” or not being really on board with “ending discrimination” through continued airplay of a 26-year-old song, consulted and decided in her favor, issuing a lengthy missive explaining their reasons for removing the track.

So, apparently, one person can make a difference.

Now, before you get all inspired and head out to start a carpool or become a locavore or write your Congressman in an attempt to rid hotels you don’t even patronize of PPV porn, take a good, long look at what this is.

This isn’t justice. This isn’t David triumphing over Goliath. Hell, this isn’t even the local repertory theater’s production of Pay It Forward.

This is myopic, narcissistic bullshit.

This is saying, “This song offends ME. Change it. Fuck everyone else.”

It’s not that I think Money for Nothing is a classic work of art or that using the word “faggot” is ok in all circumstances. But maybe, just maybe, this instance is alright because FOR FUCK’S SAKE, THE SONG HAS BEEN OUT FOR 26 YEARS AND YOU WANT TO CENSOR IT NOW??

For Christ’s sake (or so they say), the Parents Television Council is always trying to censor this or that offending bit of culture but at least they’ve got some sort of quorum and the signed petitions and email carpet-bombing to back it up. I don’t agree with them ever but at least it’s not just one person wheedling away with a 2-year-old’s sense of entitlement, moaning “I don’t like this! Changeitchangeitchangeitchangeit!!!”

Dr. Alan Gribben is unaware that his moustache is on slightly crooked.

This is no different than Twain scholar Alan Gribben who’s working tirelessly to crank out a version of Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn, free of the troublesome word “nigger,” which has coyly been replaced with “slave.” (Also on the chopping block: “Injun” and “Half-breed.”) Once again, lots of history but at least in this case he’s not the first person to censor or ban this book.

“The idea of a more politically correct Finn came to the 69-year-old English professor over years of teaching and outreach, during which he habitually replaced the word with “slave” when reading aloud. Gribben grew up without ever hearing the “n” word (“My mother said it’s only useful to identify [those who use it as] the wrong kind of people”) and became increasingly aware of its jarring effect as he moved South and started a family. “My daughter went to a magnet school and one of her best friends was an African-American girl. She loathed the book, could barely read it.”

His main issue seems to be that it makes him “uncomfortable,” especially now that he’s relocated to the South. If he can’t handle using this in its historical context then he probably shouldn’t be teaching. Obviously it’s too much to expect that he might provide his students with the historical background or engage them in a discussion of how hearing/reading this word affects them.

No, I guess it would just be simpler to jack Tom Sawyer’s brush and whitewash the shit out of an American masterpiece. Even worse, he’s teaching a new generation that if something offends you, you should get rid of it no matter its history or context or importance to other people who aren’t you.

In this era of self-victimization thousands of people are running around with a chip on their shoulder and hot tears of self-righteous humiliation in their eyes. Why should something that offends them need to disappear? Are these self-appointed guardians of our culture really that selfish?

If you think that you might be offended by the word “faggot” leaking out of your speakers in the near future, just shut it off or dial away when you hear the very distinctive opening of Money for Nothing. And if you think you might not be able to handle the word “nigger” in print then just fucking read/teach something else, you projecting bastard.

Stabbity-stabbity-stab-stab-stab.

Quick postscript: Reaction to the ban of Money for Nothing has been pretty much completely negative. Here’s a typical take from an actual gay man, Scott Thompson (Kids in the Hall):

“Shakespeare would be rolling over in his g-word,” said Thompson, the 51-year-old actor/comedian best known for his work with the Kids in the Hall troupe.

When you ban a word, you make the word more powerful. All this banning that’s going on just makes (the hate) go deeper and deeper into the soul, where it festers. Let it it out. I want to know what you really think. I can handle it.

“It makes me feel like we’re five years old and need to go potty. The n-word, I guess, is number 1 and the f- word is number 2.”

Check on previous victims here:
ASCAP
Steve Dahl
Garth Brooks
Bono

-CLT

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<(<0)

January 14, 2011

As Downey Jr. tries to sober up for the day's shoot, McCarthy attempts a new expression called "pensiveness."

[This is a followup piece to the Top 50 post involving  Lazer Crystal, specifically how much their music sounds like the perfect soundtrack to drugging it up 80s-style. Unfortunately, this film gets both the music and the drugging it up completely wrong. So, rather than the nihilistic depravity of Ellis’ novel, we get Andrew “Jiminy Cricket” McCarthy and Poison covering KISS.]

Adapting the “unfilmable” Bret Easton Ellis to the big screen has always been a challenge. The first attempt was so poor it’s amazing that Rules of Attraction or American Psycho even got greenlit, much less critically acclaimed.

There are a number of reasons why Less Than Zero failed spectacularly, none of which are named Robert Downey, Jr. or James Spader:

The Political Climate
Of all the behind-the-scenes tinkering that went on, it was the attempt to appease the national anti-drug climate that did the most damage. The conversion of the protagonist into a sympathetic, moral character pleased nervous studio execs and the First Lady herself but was completely at odds with Ellis’ coke-fueled tale of amoral hedonism.

(Specifically, this was the era of Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” campaign which posited that only reason kids were doing drugs was because no one had mentioned it was ok to turn down offers from drug pushers.

Speaking of which, drug “pushers” only exist in the fevered waking dreams of PTL/PTC members and the sordid cartoon tales of Jack Chick. The infamous Chick tracts in particular paint everything and everyone in ridiculously broad black and white strokes. Drug pushers are nihilistic wraiths of pure evil and the users themselves fare even worse, being prone to prostitution, theft, homicide, child abuse and suicide, all within 15 2-frame pages. Definitely something everyone should check out at least once.

Chick was right about one thing: hippies are idiots.

Ever since the government began placing various substances on various schedules, it’s been a seller’s market. No dealer really has to push his product. The shit practically sells itself. Just ask Rick Ross, whose massive amount of blow must have sold itself while he was in prison. As a guard.

[Notable exception: the Recession of 2008 when drug dealers were cold-calling previous customers hoping to drum up some sales. This lack of interest would seem to indicate that a lot of people can actually just use drugs rather than only abuse them. If you can stop scoring just because it no longer fits in the budget then you don’t really have a problem. Some people drove less. Some people bought more generics. And some people, apparently, bought less coke.]

/digression)

The Soundtrack
While it is very much a snapshot of the charts (Poison, Public Enemy, Aerosmith, Red Hot Chili Peppers, etc.), it is not in any way a good soundtrack, having more in common with Patrick Bateman’s avidly mainstream music collection than anything cutting edge or, indeed, fitting. Had the movie been made with any intelligence, we might have found some irony in the tracklisting. As it is, it reeks of calculation and demographic gladhanding, much like the film’s staunchly anti-drug message.

McCarthy tries (and fails) to produce more charisma than his tie.

Andrew McCarthy
McCarthy grabbed the starring role based on his work as the lead in Mannequin,a phrase that has never been deployed since. Bringing with him all the tabula rasa charisma that allowed him to portray a showroom dummy, McCarthy blands up the action with his tiring sincerity and an acting range that stretches from emotionless to a mild brow furrow when called upon to express something other than “warm body.”

Jamie Gertz adds nothing herself except some additional repressed awkwardness. The combination of these two leads’ sexual magnetism (we’re adding negatives at this point) adds a disturbing layer of self-consciousness to their sex scenes, coating these set pieces with a sheen of nervous sweat.

Nothing says "hot" like two people who look like that have no idea what the fuck they're doing.

It doesn’t help that the movie tries to have it both ways, pouring inordinate amounts of shoehorned morality all over the insincere hedonism. The principals go at it like two valedictorians attempting to slum it on Frat Row, conjuring images of your parents getting juiced and banging each other on the balcony of their Disneyworld hotel room.

McCarthy and Gertz never acted so hard in their lives, an effort which shows through clearly during these “passionate” moments. It creates a sense of empathetic embarrassment in the audience with their every sweaty maneuver being somehow less erotic than coke fiend Downey’s desperation mens room blowjobs. It all becomes like a trip to an American nudist colony where your initial enthusiasm is quickly dampened by the realization that the people who most want to run around naked are also the people who you most want to see with way more clothes on.

All in all, this travesty was enough to cause Bret Easton Ellis to disown it, distancing himself from the half-assed “message movie” that rose malformed from his breakthrough piece of narcissitic nihilism.

(Interestingly enough, Ellis’ sequel to Less Than Zero, Imperial Bedrooms has given him hope of a cast reunion. Unfortunately, he wants McCarthy and Gertz as well:

“Easton Ellis is hoping that a movie would reunite Spader, McCarthy, Jamie Gertz and others – and, after Robert Downey Jr.’s well-chronicled substance-abuse difficulties and subsequent triumph over them, feels that the recent Oscar-nominee could bring something special to a second turn as Julian Wells.”

Hellfire.)

-CLT

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Heavy Rotation V. 57: Obscene, Dirty, Filthy, Immoral Edition

January 9, 2011

In which Hey Champ consult their Ouija board and their rhyming dictionary, King Unique lay down their own brand of “dirty house” (and provide us with a theme and title), Cassetteboy does terrible things to a very British celebu-chef (followed immediately by an apology to his Mum) and D12 does all sorts of heinous things to their collective Mums with the assistance of Mellow Cake’s wonky propulsiveness.

Oh, and in the bonus round, Giko takes time to clarify that he doesn’t hate you, he just wants to be your proctologist.

Here are the links: (All links open in a new window.)

Bruce Sterling takes a very clear-eyed (and slightly profane) look at the Wikileaks controversy, waving away the murky haze of myth-making that currently surrounds it.

Stuff Very Specific White People Like.

Speaking of stuff white people like, Rap Genius is here to clue you in on what exactly Rick Ross, Jay-Z, Lil Wayne et al are talkin’ ’bout. “I just whipped up a watch, tryin’ to make me a Rover,” indeed.

Obscene
Cassetteboy – Nigella’s XXXMas.mp3

Dirty
King Unique – Dirty.mp3

Filthy
Hey Champ – Demon Semen.mp3

Immoral
D12 – Shit On You (Mellow Cakes Remix).mp3

Bonus:
Giko – Asshole (Facteur Mix).mp3

-CLT

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The Top 50 Tracks of 2010 Redux/Stripmine

January 1, 2011

The complete list with downloadable links. (Right-click on track name to download.) If you haven’t got the OCD to click them all, the entire Top 50 has been split into 3 archived files (links at the bottom of the post). Archived files are hosted on Mediafire. Links will open in a new window.

1. Justin Bieber – U Smile (Shamantis’ 800% Slower Mix).mp3
2. Crocodiles – Mirrors.mp3
3. Lazer Crystal – Love Rhombus.mp3
3a. Lazer Crystal – Hot Pink BMX.mp3
4. Glitter Bones – Ceremonial Secrets.mp3
5. Rraaiillss – Halogen/Out of the Bag
6. Felix & Volcano! – Shaadow.mp3
7. Whitey – Liars, Vipers, Jokes and Fakes
8. Clive Tanka y Su Orquestra – All Night, All Right.mp3
9. Cyan Tablets – Amaretto.mp3
10. Black Books – The Big Idea.mp3

11. Siriusmo – Einmal in Der Woche Schreien.mp3
12. Foster the People – Pumped Up Kicks.mp3
13. Housse de Racket – Gwendoline (Gemini Club Remix).mp3
14. Miniature Tigers – Gold Skull.mp3
15. Arcade Fire – Sprawl II (Tommie Sunshine’s Quaalude Edit).mp3
16. Rick Ross – B.M.F. (Caligula Mix).mp3
17. Acid Washed – Acid Washed (DANGER Remix).mp3
18. Led Zeppelin – When the Levee Breaks (Sidney Frost’s Redneck Mash Mix).mp3
19. Crocodiles – Hearts of Love.mp3
20. Telenovelas – Bloody Mary.mp3

21. Pink Mist – Longer.mp3
22. Grinderman – Bellringer Blues.mp3
23. Joy Division – Means to an End (Eamon Harkin Edit).mp3
24. Arno – All the Young Dudes.mp3
25. Unkle feat. the Black Angels – Natural Selection.mp3
26. Luger – Swastika Sweetheart.mp3
27. Deftones – Rocket Skates (M83 Mix).mp3
28. Twin Sister – Lady Daydream (Glitter Bones Remix).mp3
29. White Ring – We Rot.mp3
30. Young Boys – Bring ‘Em Down.mp3

31. Parties in Belgrade – Statues.mp3
32. Brian Eno – 2 Forms of Anger.mp3
33. ///▲▲▲\\\ – How They Kill You.mp3
34. The Delta Mirror – He Was Worse than the Needle He Gave You.mp3
35. Golden Ages – It Doesn’t Mean Shit.mp3
36. Holy Fuck – Lucky.mp3
37. Record Eating Machines – Roover.mp3
38. The Vaselines – Ruined.mp3
39. Mater Suspiria Vision – The Afterlife.mp3
40. Yu(c)k – Weakend.mp3 // Daughter.mp3

41. †‡† – goth bb.mp3
42. SALEM – King Night.mp3
43. Spider▲Webs – Do the Psycho.mp3
44. Wise Blood – STRT SRNS.mp3
45. Humans – Mon Ton Ton.mp3
46. Chemical Brothers – K+D+B.mp3
47. Haunted Tiger – I’m a Mummy.mp3
48. Grave Babies – Eating Babies.mp3
49. Finkielkrauts – Cocksucker No Blues.mp3
50. Teddybears – Chrystal Meth Christian.mp3

The whole Top 50 compressed and available for download:

Top 50 Folder 1

Top 50 Folder 2

Top 50 Folder 3

-CLT

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Top 50 Tracks of 2010: The #1 Track of the Year

January 1, 2011

Once in a great while, a happy accident results in a great track. Acid house pioneer Phuture yanked the batteries out of his TB-303 bass emulator, kicking it into “failure mode” and bypassing the original settings to tweak out a screeching, wobbling unnatural noise henceforth known as “acid.”

The result? Acid techno and acid house that added  noisy vitality to a nascent club scene.

As some point a guitarist leaned into a hot amp and be rewarded with a high-pitched blast of white noise — feedback. Soon a long string of musicians would come to consider this a “feature” rather than a “bug.” That piercing tone has colored the work of everyone from Jimi Hendrix to A Place to Bury Strangers, the latter of which has adhered to the Jesus & Mary Chain’s “feedback as lead guitar” blueprint.

Other some fortunate glitches exist. New Order rides a drum machine test pattern to the top of the charts with Blue Monday. Prince hears a mix of When Doves Cry without the bass mixed in and likes the sound so much he leaves it off permanently.

The happy accident/experimentation behind the #1 track of 2010 begins in Houston’s hip hop scene, way back in the early 1990s. Local producer and cough syrup aficionado DJ Screw begins producing his own “chopped and screwed” remixes of local rap acts. In an attempt to synthesize the narcotized sleepwalk of a good sizzurp buzz, DJ Screw manipulated his makeshift cassette-deck-and-turntable setup to crank out incredibly slow reinterpretations of various rap artists, turning their gun/crack-slinging boasts into demonic incantations backed by drip-drying electronic smears and jet black, molasses-thick beats, bearing a cursory resemblance to playing a 45 at 33-1/3. Thousands of imitators hopped onto the Screw bandwagon, each of them offering their own stabs at the patented “chopped and screwed” sound.

One such fan of Screw’s was Romanian programmer Paul Octavian Nasca who wished to decouple speed from pitch, thus allowing him to create new tones from existing material without dragging everything into a low-end, somnambulistic slump. However, no such software existed. Being the avid tech-head he was, Nasca decided it would be simpler to write the software himself, cranking out the open-source “Paul’s Extreme Sound Stretch.”

With this tool, producers could create unearthly tones more closely related to the upper echelons of ambient music rather than the darkened, druggy alley of “screwed” remixes. At some point, a bedroom producer got ahold of this software and did something truly amazing while simultaneously doing everything wrong.

How wrong?

Is this any sort of ingredient list for creating something transcendent and the best track I heard all year?

1. Grab the biggest slice of commercial cheese available.
2. Crank all settings to “illogical.”
3. Allow software to work its magic.
4. Click “play.”
5. Ho…ly…shit…
6. Release into the wild.

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