Tag Archives: LCD Soundsystem

On Detroit, and refreshing lack of pretension

You spent the first five years trying to get with the plan
And the next five years trying to be with your friends again.
You’re talking 45 times just as fast as you can.
Yeah, I know it gets tired but it’s better when we pretend.

–LCD Soundsystem, “All My Friends”

I wasn’t sure how the NY Times columnist Frank Bruni was going to praise Detroit, but he got me with this:

The people there don’t tether their identities to the luster or mythology of their surroundings. Their self-image isn’t tied to their ZIP codes.

That’s undoubtedly true of many, if not most, American cities, of Cleveland and St. Louis and probably Omaha and maybe Houston.

But if you inhabit the gilded precincts favored by those of us who fancy ourselves power brokers or opinion makers or players of one kind or another, it’s a remarkable thing — and a welcome one.

The political operative in Washington, the financial whiz or magazine editor in New York, the studio executive in Los Angeles, the Internet impresario in Seattle or San Francisco: all are creatures not just of a profession but of a profession that blooms and struts in a given self-regarding place. Many have egos nourished by that terrain, which feeds a hyperawareness of status, a persistent jockeying for position.

I LOVE New York and a few of those other major cities for all the reasons you are supposed to love them. But an unexpected bonus I inherited from not growing up in one: I am not obsessed with personal prestige tied to borrowing the brand of a place. Or as he puts it my “self-image isn’t tied to [my] ZIP code.”

I can visit those cities with a comforting clarity of perspective. I can return home (to a cost of living locale that affords such discretionary spending on travel) without suffering the persistent jockeying for position. (And without moving with resignation to New Jersey, either.)

One of the beauties of living in a mid-size city with major cultural attractions (but minor traffic) is you can find the fulfillment if you look for it. It is not plastered on billboards nor embedded into the local radio station or infinite traffic jams, but all the pleasures of a fulfilling life and fulfilling people are within reach.

And all of it is accessible without spending personal energy on being seen.

Man’s Search for Music, Armed with XM

Now accepting all suggestions for new (or old) music…

With a new vehicle (pronounced “vee-hickle” around these here parts) came a free 3-month teaser of XM Radio. In the absence of new Killing Joke or Radiohead material, a teaser of XM meant I make one last, futile attempt at exposing myself to “what’s new?” music before my tastes — like the closet of every man (according to the Seinfeld riff) — permanently freeze to reflect the best years of my life*.

*not sure if those were defined by when a man was most young and hip, when his body had no quarrel with daily aches and pains, or simply when casual sex was most attainable for the least amount of effort.

There Are Problems with This Approach

First, make no mistake: The XM experience is quite fun. There are “decades” stations like “’70s on [channel] 7,” ’80s on 8, etc. Those are a memory trip. But for those, the decade in question is literally the only criteria. So you can have The Cure bookended by Pat Benatar and Michael Jackson. Or Stone Temple Pilots sandwiched between TLC (“Don’t Go Chasing Waterfalls”) and Erasure. I don’t care what your tastes are, that combination is like a twisted psychological experiment.

What at first is a novelty quickly becomes a jolting, fucked up memory trip. It’s a reminder of what was on back then, but it’s also a reminder of what I hated back then. I need a very quick trigger finger lest Creed invade my head.

What’s worse — but interesting in a Musicophilia kind of way? With this experiment going on, I don’t need to hear a song at all to have it stuck in my head. I’ll hear part of one song I didn’t like then (or now), and then half an hour later I’ll be on the hockey bench realizing that some other song from that era is now rattling around in my head. It’s haunting. How do our synapses do that?

Sad to Confirm, New Music Modern Rock Often Sucks

But the decades stations are just land mines of last resort. There are a couple of stations that are pretty decade-specific, but much more up my alley. “Lithium” focuses more on my kind of ’90s, while “First Wave” hits my kind of ’80s, which are happily Michael Jackson-, Bon Jovi- and Pat Benatar-free.

Then there is a “modern alternative” station that I counted on to be my introduction to What I’ve Been Missing. Now, Mrs. Fall of Because calls me a “music snob” — but I’m hardly informed enough to claim such a title. What I do have is pretty specific tastes across multiple genres, so if something doesn’t strike me in multiple areas of melody or bass or tempo and certainly lyrically, my patience wanes. I’m not a snob, it’s all subjective at its root; I just want music to smack me in the head and the gut, and knock my knees out — or else I’ll turn back to old standbys that do.

So there’s a lot of Mute Math or Sun-something-Pickup or Muse or Killers or Kings of What-Not … more names than I can remember. They’re trying to incorporate multiple eras and influence — while recognizing the synthesizer is not to be feared — all intentions I applaud. The songs grab me a little bit at first, then kind of plateau. I’m not feeling it. Now I’m hearing the same songs cycled through the rotation again, and I’m recognizing them, and they’re still not grabbing me, and I’m feeling a bit hopeless. Even the singles that grab me, I can tell from other material it won’t be an album’s worth (and by god, I’m still going to clamor for the full album that grabs me).

I need to (nervously) check out the Headlights’ latest album, because some how their “Kill Them With Kindness” album resonated with me. Based on the lone single I’ve heard, though I fear disappointment there, too.

The Tipping Point

But you know what really killed it for me? Some outfit called Airborn Toxic Event has a song “Sometime around Midnight” that sounds to my ears like a close (and worse) rip-off of LCD Soundsystem’s “All My Friends.” Structure, pace (slowed down for dramatic effect), lyrical rhythm: The first time I heard it, I thought somebody was just making up new words and instruments to the same song, a song I rather dig. Maybe a tribute? No, not so.

They’re not at all the same, yet they’re the same. Also hindering my appreciation: The lyrics of the former are whining about a girl, treading the wrong side of that line (for my money) between sincerely sentimental and just melodramatic. Yuck.

Finally, a song that I’ve heard multiple weeks in a row from whatever radio feed is used at our Saturday morning hockey: Some bastard decided to cover Pearl Jam’s “Black” — a pretty classic song, Pearl Jam-wise — by doing nothing but slowing it down even further and even dragging out the lyrics to truly oversaturate the drama. The original “Black” was already quite slow and already tread that line between moving slow song and over-the-top. So this cover is like some tool in his dorm room saying, “No, that song means so much to me, I need to slow it down, drag it out and make it mean more.”

So yeah, I guess I’m a snob, I’m being overly negative, and I need some serious help in the ol’ music catalog department. But this cover makes me vomit. And makes me want to dig back through some Butthole Surfers to exorcise the damage it inflicted. At least they knew how to do a cover (of “Hurdy Gurdy Man“) to hilarious effect.

No longer hip – but hey, I know that one song!

The joke I re-used (er, ich wiederverwerten) through my post-graduate 20s (now expired) was that we were no longer “young and hip.” College’s singular state of being was gone. Growth, maturity, and financial semi-independence were all wonderful developments, but one couldn’t help the realization that they came at the price of losing our “young and hip”-ness.

(Of course the other joke, which family and friends use on me — a joke far closer to the truth — is that I was born a 52-year-old-man. So really, “young and hip” was never even in the picture for me.)

Now comes the realization that the 2000s, “the Aughts,” are almost over. (Shit!) Which means lists. Which means the first-ever musical retrospectives of an entire decade in which I was no longer young and hip.

But there is hope! (Well, not “hope,” but a gradual rather than sudden crash into irrelevance … which is nice.) On Pitchfork’s Top 20 songs of the 2000s, I actually know some of them! I even like the ones I’d heard of. And one I’d never heard before, I really like.

So we have: Continue reading No longer hip – but hey, I know that one song!