Archive for February, 2015

bizarroMUSIC: Grammy Douchebaggery

Monday, February 9th, 2015

 

The Grammys,

Kanye West and

Beck:

douchebaggery continued unabated last night

and the results were rather sad

 

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…There are three things in the world of music that piss me off beyond all reason, and last night those 3 things collided.

Why do I hate the Grammys? Various reasons. Apart from being one of those gaudy, back-slapping exhibitions of excess called “award shows” that are popular at this time of year, I have never trusted the Grammys – their winners and losers seem just too perfect, too neatly arranged and playlisted like a commercial radio station. It seems as though the whole Grammy process is a manufacturing of music history: this is popular, therefore it is the best music at this very moment, and should be honoured and remembered as such, regardless of the thousands of other things that don’t get played to death on radio and television (and the internet) over the last 12 months.

 

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Don’t get me wrong; there have been worthy winners over the years, that deserve the recognition and the memorial of a Grammy honour. But if you think of the win in the grander scheme of things, it just doesn’t matter.

Two examples of what I mean, briefly

In 2001, the Grammys were a fairly bland affair by all accounts. A pre-Daily Show Jon Stewart hosted, Eminem performed with Elton John, Macy Gray won a couple and was never heard of again…blandest of all, U2 won Song/Record of the Year with Beautiful Day, which as we all know from it’s excessive use in television sports promos is definitely no Sunday, Bloody Sunday or Where the Streets Have No Name.

The lowlight of the winners, though, is this:

 

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“Who let the dogs out?”

A group of people called the Baha Men, who created a catchy novelty song about releasing canines from whence they were held hostage, were winners of the Best Dance Performance – one of the first years of the recording industry’s recognition of the dance/electronica genre, with dire results: it’s like asking your grandparents to pick out a t-shirt for you: ‘that one with those lovely flowers on, honey’- and this wasn’t the first time the Grammys shot way over the basket when it came to recognising new forms of music.

 

The first metal category Grammy went to Jethro Tull and the first rap/hip hop awards created saw DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince win immortality. Case rested.

 

Needless to say, the Baha Men were never heard of again, while their earwormy creation become an eternal cancer on daytime radio and nostalgic dinner parties that get out of hand when the bottle of apple sours comes out, and most vitally, a permanent carving on historical totem pole that says this is what music was all about in 2001.

There are many similar instances of this across Grammy history, all records now permanently kept to make us all feel pretty shitty about what music we wasted our money on over the last 40 years.

MORE GRAMMY TRAVESTIES HERE (The less said about the popular music entity known as Milli Vanilli the better):

http://www.spin.com/articles/25-most-inexplicable-wins-in-grammy-history/

 

“Hey, look a Grammy.”

The other example of how irrelevant and pointless is a personal favourite, laded with irreverence and a prime example of how some artists feel about Grammys – giving it the derision it deserves.

In a throwaway scene in Cameron Crowe’s excellent Pearl Jam documentary “20”, the camera follows PJ guitarist Stone Gossard on an impromptu tour of his home, as Stone explains why he isn’t too sentimental about keeping mementos of his career – it’s the music that counts, for Gossard (bassist Jeff Ament and Eddie Vedder are the band’s nostalgia hoarders)

As we follow Stone into his basement, this happens:

 

 

It is a perfect example of what Grammys mean to musicians – nice to have, to store away in the cupboard, maybe show it to the grandkids one day, but ultimately worthless when compared to the body of work that actually speaks as a historical document of any band, singer or group.

For interest’s sake, here is the band’s acceptance speech the year PJ won the Best Alternative Rock…or something or other Grammy:

 

 

And so, what about 2014/15?

What kind of historical document has the Grammys given the world to groan over in 10 years time, to hide behind the couch of embarrassment when our kids and grandkids go through our record collections – sorry, hard-drives – when we’re old and grey.

 

In two words: Kanye West.

 

For a more accurate, more serious evaluation of the event this year, see this link:

http://time.com/3700596/grammy-awards-2015-recap/

 

Kanye has been to the Grammys before, this isn’t his first rodeo…

The guy, apparently a musical visionary with his finger on the pulse of what will be cool five minutes from now (as well as in Kim Kardashian) has won his fair share of Grammys, most notably for paying really interesting and more talented music producers for their talents and equipment.

2009-VMA-Kanye-West-Taylor-Swift

KW is known more for his non-winning award ceremony performances, like that infamous moment he bludgeoned onto stage, like a drunken uncle at a wedding, to make his feelings known to the world about Taylor Swift winning a MTV VMA in 2009.

 

 

This time, he did it again, but this time he po-mo’d himself, and made it all a cool throwback joke on himself and the world.

Smugly hijacking the acceptance speech by folky-funky-cant-decide-what-kinda-music-I-wanna-make-but-the-melancoly-acoustic-thing-is-cool-with-the-hip-chicks singer Beck for his Grammy win

 

…For a moment, the world and Dr and Mrs Dre held their collective breathe. Was Ye gonna “Imma Let You Finish” again?

 

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Indeed, he did, but that’s okay, he was only joking…this white guy with a guitar deserves the award – a white guy, let it be known, who was burning up samplers and laying down the funk long before someone called Kanye West was a twinkle in the eye of hip hop.

 

 

Look, I am not a big fan of Beck myself – love Mellow Gold and Midnight Vultures kept me warm in a cruel, cold London in 1999 – however his whole creepy devout Scientology thing is a little off-putting – I’m afraid if I listen to his music, it may subconsciously make me want to read Dianetics and hold two copper bars for no reason whatsoever. As a rule, any music even tinged with trace amounts of zealousy religious dogma is not my bag. But…

You had to feel for poor Beck last night, with this raving lunatic showboating his spot in the light. Much like Swift did, Beck handled it all with as much dignity one could muster in front of a worldwide audience. And soon enough, thankfully, the incident was over…but was it?

Soon after, after faking-out Beck and the world all ha-ha-like, the Ye went on to offer some more commentary on the whole incident on the E! channel (otherwise known as “my wife’s personal YouTube channel”) and elaborated a rambling tirade about…well, some bullshit about “…diminishing art and not respecting the craft and smacking people in the face”

All essentially packaged in this handy soundbite: “Y’all know what it (means) when ‘Ye (walks) on the stage.”

Full transcript and video here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/style-blog/wp/2015/02/09/kanye-wasnt-joking-tells-e-that-beck-needs-to-respect-artistry-and-he-should-have-given-his-award-to-beyonce/?tid=sm_fb

 

 

That is Kanye West in a nutshell: the world’s greatest superiority/inferiority duplex, moneyed-up and click-worthy enough to be allowed to bungle uncontrollably with unlimited pop culture approval.

 

He did it once before, he did it again last night and give him half an opportunity on any world stage, he will keep doing it…God help us all.

So, well done to all the winners, Beck, Sam Smith -whom I am convinced is actually Adele in a tuxedo – etc., etc. you’re all deserving tastemakers for the year 2014/2015, and while we might not hear about some of you come next year, we hope you keep that trophy somewhere safe and special, like your basement, in a box, gathering dust.

 

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 …as if to say: “you kids, y’all be tripping”

Post-script: Prince, the artist formerly known as some sort of faux-Egyptian squiggle, who incidentally released a couple of kick ass funk records this last year, was on hand last night to present the Record of the Year award to Beck.

Prince/Squiggle/whatshisname was kinda like the Kanye of the day – except a little quieter and a bit more passive aggressive. Apparently, if you looked at him funny across a crowded Grammy after-party dance floor, you’d turn instantly into stone and he would sleep with your girlfriend.

 

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But, last night, Prince turned into an elder statesman of music with his quietly humble (for him anyway) presentation and in insistence that the “album” as art form is not dead. In the less than four minutes it took for him to walk about, give a short – powerful – speech and hand over the award, Prince managed to class up the place considerably, without resorting to hysterics and pomposity.

 

 

#albumsstillmatter

 

Prince has been around the block more than few times, and quite possibly ‘round the loop more often than not, but despite his various grandiose indiscretions and pronouncements, Prince still knows to let’s the music do the talking.

 

Something to think about, Kanye Kardashian.

bizarroMUSIC: Dreaming with JEFF BRIDGES

Monday, February 2nd, 2015

The Dude Speaks:

Jeff Bridges’ spoken word album

for sleeping coolly.

 

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If we are to know at least undisputed fact in this crazy universe of ours it is this:

 

Jeff Bridges is the coolest person in the world.

 

Why JB is cool is hard to pin down, he just is. Look at him, listen to him, see his movies, hear his music, see his incredibly talented photography, and one is washed over with a warm fuzzy feeling of being witness to some utterly cool shit.

 

Even in dogs of movies, he uplifts proceedings impeccably, and beyond anything they deserve (see: RIPD, Seabiscuit, How to Lose Friends…)

 

He’s been man enough to out-John Wayne John Wayne as Rooster Cogburn in True Grit, eaten more scenery than Robert Downey Jr in Iron Man. He can play everyman, the bad guy, the loser, the winner, the father, the son, the holy spirit; JB is one of the truly great actors…ever.

 

JB GREATEST HITS

http://www.rollingstone.com/movies/lists/10-greatest-roles-of-jeff-bridges-20101217/the-last-picture-show-1971-19691231

Naturally, every argument made to counter the true awesome power of Jeff is begins and ends in one word: Dude. Or The Dude, to give him his full name, or His Dudeness, or Duder, or El Duderino if you’re not into the whole brevity thing.

 

Jeffery Lebowski, the Big Lebowski.

 

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In the 117 minutes of the Coen Brothers’ 1998 crime comedy anti-movie, Jeff solidifies an iconography that has lived on ever since, creating one of the best loved and most iconically, ironically, cool characters in the last 40 years.

 

 

Anyone who doesn’t at least fall in the love with The Dude, even if they don’t get the movie, doesn’t have pulse. Lebowski the lovable loser, creates high art out of slacker-dom, a philosophy out of not giving a shit, a religion of doing what you want, when you want, no matter what…or not doing it, whatever, man.

 

MECHANICAL

 

But as much as I can eulogise The Dude, there is now another chapter in the cool canon of Jeff Bridges and it is beautiful.

 

Bridges has been musically inclined before, not only earning Oscar gold out of his role as Otis Blake, the down-and-out Americana song-slinger on the road to redemption in the film Crazy Heart, he has also been a capable and understated musician in his own right, releasing two collections of subtle country blues rock over the last 15 years.

 

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In 2015, he has released The Sleeping Tapes aka Dreaming With Jeff, and it is something else altogether. It is essentially an ambient, drony collection of spoken word pieces, a series of disconnected but warm fever dreams, gently presented by Jeff in his relaxed, laconic drawl, over which Keefus Ciancia, keyboardist, producer and score composer for True Detective amongst others, lathers up some eclectic dreamy sound manipulations, sending a listener off on a sensual but good natured journey between states of consciousness.

 

As Jeff explains in the opening piece: the album has been created to

“inspire you to do some cool sleeping, some cool dreaming and some cool waking up”

 

It is a remarkable collection, there is nothing else quite like it, and as one listens to it more and more, you pick up new things, different directions and subtle messages in its undergrowth.
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The album is available to download (free, but it is recommended to pay what you can, as the monies from sales of the album go towards a worthy cause – the NO KID HUNGRY initiative to help eliminate child hunger – https://www.nokidhungry.org)

 

DOWNLOAD HERE: http://www.dreamingwithjeff.com/#music-section

 

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The album artwork is by renowned California surrealist Lou Beach (http://www.loubeach.com), in collaboration with Jeff, and also adds to the mischievous reverie of it all.

 

 

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A particular highlight is the 11 minute odyssey Temescal Canyon – a simulated field recording of JB narrating a walk through the wilderness – up a mountain – that, like any dream, moves swiftly between the serene to the absurd, covering such quirky tangents as finding a collection of old Spanish doubloon coins “hey, man, we’re rich”, to finding a discarded office chair “I’m going to sit on this when we get to the top (of this hill)”, to the final denouement:

 

“I hid a couple of hang-gliders (up here)…we’re going to hang glide outta here”

 

Throughout, Jeff’s voice is warm, friendly and inviting, you feel enveloped in the whole event with remarkable tangibility that is quite comforting, much like a dream, of course.

 

 

Jeff begins the latter half of the album with Feeling Good, a fun and funny take on the concept of popular subliminal sleep tapes that are supposedly designed to help you sleep while simultaneously giving you some much needed affirmation for life.

 

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In a voice with tongue firmly in cheek and a wink and twinkle in the eye, Jeff gently builds your brittle postmodern ego:

 

“I like your haircut”

 

“You belong…and are accepted”

 

“You have strong hands, capable of woodworking”

 

“You smell nice”

 

“You order well at restaurants”

 

“You are very good at guessing when a traffic light will turn green”

 

…And you believe.

 

 

Jeff Bridges is a remarkable storyteller on the Sleeping Tapes, creating a beautiful realm of the fantastical and slightly bizarre. Forming a world with words for us all to live in for a few moments, again and again, a truly original piece of sound art that does much to cement the continuing cool of Jeff.

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