Monday, November 29, 2010

A Rebuttal Rebuttal: Pointless Puppets

Well it seems that the previous rebuttal post has ignited a flame of debate around this divisive issue as another of our dedicated readers has chimed in with his two cents about modern art. You can read the previous rebuttal here and the original post here if you missed them.

It's a fact that our judicial systems strongly factors in intent when considering sentence. The difference in sentencing can be extreme between a murder in which it is demonstrable that planning took place, and a murder that was an uncharacteristic act of passion in an otherwise docile individual and the unfortunate conjunction of circumstance leading to a fatal accident.

We place importance on the motives of the accused as it allows for an understanding of nature and character and it is upon character by which we ultimately judge them.

The technique on display on the ceiling of the Sistine chapel makes it art. We all know Michelangelo did it for a buck but by his hand and talent it transcends his motives. He wasn't even a believer.

Without technique and craft are we forced to judge art by the intent of the artist alone. Art Brut for example relies on the fact that the mentally ill, the physically disabled and the socially isolated produce outside of the game court of the art world and we therefore treat the, often infantile works produced from the outside, as being created by a purity of expression. Now there's an outsider art scene it's no doubt now become quite convoluted to work out this entirely subjective value, as when there's commerce involved questions like just how retarded is this mongo prodigy and does isolating oneself in the maze of the Internets and hiding behind the comfortable modern Minotaurs of anonymity constitute isolation or saturation?

We make the mistake of romanticizing the artist as a kind of ephemeral figure wandering the moors of societies perimeter, tracking new paths and reporting back, but just like any business most folks are either in it to prove something to the kids that made fun of them in high-school and/or, usually and, just for the money. It would be naive to think that the Tate modern with all the analytical data on offer just from their sales and acquisitions books would not then start designing artists the same way we've been designing pop stars - to be market friendly and make a buck. You and I are factored into pie charts and ven diagrams, and analyzed in board meetings to come up with what we want to see as consumers and by what "types" of drunken woolen coat wearing post-feminist rock stars will make it. As patronizing as it may seem nobody would paint celebrities, build diamond rings "as art", deface themselves in some demeaning feminist fireworks spectacle allegedly about vaginas or sculpt giant reproductions of burger joint kids toys if it wasn't what we were consistently demonstrating we wanted.

In the case of Damien Hirst, so smugly rammed up the orifice of the consumer hole and operating within the politics of the symbiosis of galleries and rich collectors, any self-expression that occurs in the work he out-sources could only be the product of random chance. Damien Hirst is judged by his intent to make money and a lot of it, and so an idealistic all art is self-expression applies here only from a very literal, don't people do just the darnedest things, positive perspective. I agree that Wall Street ethics and Pacman-consumerism on display in the countless works of celebrity faces and reproductions of comic characters sold as art is in itself an accurate reflection of our grabby globalized society and therefore achieves the function of truth in art but only if I'm really, really reaching.

Without craft, without actual technique, we are bound by the same idealism as teenagers deciding to go define themselves as a Goth, a Fundamentalist Christian, a world weary John Cussack in High Fidelity or an internet Minotaur and a desperation to believe does not make what we desire to believe in true. The techniques that painted Christ on the ceiling of the Vatican city Mac Donalds could just as easily portray Bowie, Warhol, Mickey Mouse or any of the other deity worshiping mainstays of modern art subject matter and require zero bullshit, zero make-believe and zero politics to admire. Despite thinking the subject is a bunch of bullshit.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Rubbutal: Pointless Puppets

In a first for Two Bullets, we welcome an outside contributor, offering rebuttal to our previous post about declining ethics in art today, something we hope to see more of. If you disagree, and feel you have something worthy to offer please make yourself know in the comments and we'll try and get your thoughts up here as well.

Meet Bob. Bob thinks that "Modern art is a con, perpetuated by talentless, so-called artists". And meet Don. Don thinks that "One can regard modern art as by and large the history of the representation of perversion".

One of these gentlemen - let's call him Bob - is a semi-literate simpleton. Pathologically ill-suited to the critique of contemporary culture (or anything else for that matter), Bob spends his days posting smug, bile-fuelled comments on the message boards of right-wing tabloids. Watch amused as Bob flails against a world he doesn't understand; a frenzy of bad spelling, no punctuation and inappropriate capitalization. (Confession: in the above quote I corrected his grammar, and added the word "perpetuated" to imply gravitas.)

The other gentleman - let's call him Donald Kuspit - is Distinguished Professor of Art History and Philosophy at State University of New York (Stony Brook), and one of the most highly-esteemed art critics working today. Naturally, his words require neither linguistic nor grammatical correction.

Bob and Don aren't necessarily making the same argument, and they are certainly coming at the subject from entirely different perspectives. However, what both quotes illustrate is the ease in dismissing modern art as decadent, elitist, narcissistic and lacking moral and/or artistic value. Even a cursory online trawl throws up manifold criticism from a spectrum of sources. Diphtheria, opera, Obergruppenfuehrer Richard Heydrich - all generate bad press, yet for some strange reason modern art gets under people's skin far more frequently.

Kuspit is by no means the only art historian to have an intellectualized issue with modern art, and criticism from within (what can broadly be called) the art community has clearly defined boundaries, analysing the validity of artists, movements, and vogues within both historical and cultural frameworks. When (for example) respected critic Hilton Kramer complains that "the basis of our established culture" has been overwhelmed in our post-modern era by "a carnival of rubbish", he writes from a specific perspective. His views may be gibberish, but it's well-informed, logically-argued gibberish from a vested party with a far greater knowledge on the subject than, say, me.

Sadly, the vast majority of modern art criticism doesn't have this context. Instead, it's ill-informed, anti-intellectual and focused upon the flawed Emperor's New Clothes model: the failure to understand art on the objective level, extrapolated from a subjective failure to appreciate.

It is this failure to contextualize that makes such criticism ridiculous. Modern art itself is a meaningless concept. It doesn't exist beyond hazy, subjective definitions, and yet this very generic of beasts is challenged as if it's a cohesive entirety. When modern art is mentioned, is the reference to everything post-Cubist? Post-Pollock? Post-Damien Hirst? Is the reference restricted to the contemporary, something defined by a period of time but little else? Or is it specific strata that are being referred to? Conceptual art? Installation art? Ideas that are designed to challenge the individual on a range of levels?

No, such criticism is blanket. It may use specific, bete-noir examples, but it remains pinioned to our ill-informed, inane notions of categorization. Only a simpleton would perceive modern music, or film, or literature as a single movement worthy of generic comment.

And only a simpleton would fail to see that the key to evaluation is the application of time. Just as irrelevant, sub-standard art from the 1930's or the 1540's has been forgotten, so a plethora of current exhibits will, in future, be worthless curios. It's how a society's cultural heritage is underpinned; creativity - and the evolution of that creativity - are what makes us human, what grants perspective to our surroundings. You're not a simpleton if Exhibit A fails to float your flotilla, but you are a fucking idiot in dismissing that self-expression as in any way invalid.

This isn't to let contemporary art off the hook. As our new friend Bob will tell you (in-between ranting about immigration and picking at his belly button fluff), elements of the modern art world are cringe-worthy in their elitist, self-obsessed, vogue-led buffoonery (and my own, Marxist-slanted analysis will have to wait for another day). Yet, just as art history has the scenesters as a footnote, one day even Bob might stumble upon a sculpture, or triptych, or exhibition that triggers a resonance deep within his cranial vacuum. And who knows - maybe then even Mike might learn to put his trousers on all by himself.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Pointless Puppets: A Downward Spiral Of Ethics In Art Today

When was the last time you went to a gallery opening for the art rather than the free booze? I'm sure that for most of you the number doesn't extend beyond three, and that most likely only because a friend of yours was exhibiting. I know that's the case with me at least. Let's face it though, considering the amount of tripe on display these days if you have been excited more than thrice you must have almost no taste.

What happened to art? I went to see the European Masters in Melbourne earlier this year and the sheer amount of skill, dedication and just work that went in to those pieces was staggering. Standing before them you feel dwarfed by talent, and while not every piece was too my liking, almost all of them displayed a sense of craft that is nearly impossible to find in modern art today. The closest I've seen in years are the penny an hour artists working in South East Asia recreating the work of the bygone master of western art.

By contrast I went to a gallery opening the other month, to meet some friends and grab a few free drinks, and what I was confronted with was videos of the faces of three women left on loop, their faces showing subtle signs of inner turmoil. That or they needed to take a shit.

Now I'm sure there is some great concept behind all this, they looked vaguely Aboriginal so it probably had something to do with that, but where is the craft in it. All that is at play there is some 'artist' using the emotions and conflict of others to portray themselves as creative. Maybe the 'artist' directed them to feel that way, but even then it strikes me as nothing more than pretentious wankery with no inherent meaning, playing off the fact that most people today are so easily impressionable that anything put up in a gallery can pass for art, just because some fuckwit says it is.

Another 'art' show that took place recently consisted of nothing more than hot girls dressed up as Indians playing in cubby houses in some pathetic and shallow evocation of childhood. That is not art, that is nothing but the idle fancy of someone who yearns to be creative while lacking any sense of vision or ethics in their work. I read a quote for the artist in question once where he said that it was because of his and his contemporaries lack of education in their field that they were able to be artistic, that because they lack knowledge they have to courage to make art and that if they knew more about art they probably wouldn't do it. This sums up the problem. If ignorance is what makes you creative you really need to be reevaluating your creativity.

We now live in an age where people who want to be creative think they can be creative just by saying that they're creative. This is art that is essentially hubristic, it's arrogant, it says this is art because I say it is and I don't need to know the craft of art to make it. Artists like Damian Hirst and Tracy Emin trade in disposable bullshit that is only considered art because it is sold to those who have no idea what should go into making art, and who are more concerned with the culture surrounding art and the price tags on the work than the art itself.

We've become a culture that seems to elevate consumer choices to the level of art. That because you've got diverse and interesting influences you're an artist. An artist should be able to explain why their art is art, and not just in the throwaway manner a uni student might use shallow terminology in an attempt to give something empty weight. Art after all stems from the term artisan, and it implies the altering of something into something else or the creation of something that expresses an idea, notion or feeling. Any art that is explained as being art for art's sake, or because the artist likes it is naive and lacking depth. An artist should be able to explain why what they've done, how what techniques they've used work to achieve a goal or express an idea. Meeting the question 'why is this art,' with an answer like 'why isn't this art,' shows nothing more than a lack of respect for art and it's craft.

Not to delve into common knowledge but Andy Warhol is responsible for this. His genius was not in his art but in his startlingly accurate and low estimation of the art world. He saw that people were more interested in being associated with art and artistic endeavors rather than truly engaging with art as an artform. We've become a culture of Andy Warhol disciples, made all the more absurd by the fact that he was taking the piss, so in the end the joke is really on us.

Now I'm not saying that all art today should be on the level of Vermeer or Rembrandt, that would be impossible, and simple art doesn't necessarily have any less worth than complex art if it's ideas are well expressed and worthy, but we now live in a society that almost exclusively produces art at the venal end of the spectrum. Art will always reflect culture as much as culture reflects art, and this current monotonous mediocrity only exists because we allow it to.

Where once upon a time those people who appreciated art knew it's mechanics and craft, art has now become something we put on our walls to impress our friends with how chic we are. We have become consumers rather than enthusiasts or collectors, and like most consumers we are swayed by the persona based advertising of the profiteers more often that we resonate with the personal and honest offerings of those who dedicate themselves to their art.

This sort of cult of personality has been around for a long time, I'll admit, but it was usually associated more with their art than with their lifestyle and who they hung out with. Think about it, we don't know shit about who Michelangelo and Leonardo Da Vinci hung out with or who they fucked but we know more about Andy Warhol's circle of friends than we do about his work. This is a trend that extends well beyond art itself and it reflects our increasingly consumer based culture where people want to consume art, rather than understand it and appreciate it. We demand work that doesn't make demands on us. We want portraits of fucking Mickey Mouse dressed up to be vaguely artistic. Apathy has so infected the populace that something shallow resonates more with us than something that explores the depths of our experience and emotions, mainly because people today are unfamiliar with them because we've been conditioned not to be concerned with them.

As I said before art reflects culture as much as culture reflects art, and it seems to me like we're caught in some vicious feedback loop of declining artistic ethics and the proliferation of craftless indulgence rather than valid expression. There is only one solution. Education.

If you are an artist, in any discipline, educate yourself, learn your craft and become the best artist that you can be rather than settling to be just another blind duck sitting calm on a fetid pond while your legs frantically pedal to keep you moving forward. Our society is already too clogged with pointless puppets hungry for fame and not willing to work hard at what they do.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Two Bullets: Spookyland

SpookyLand - Killin' One Bird With Two Stones (EP) by showoffservices

Remember that kid in high school who had no friends and spent all of their time learning how to play Bob Dylan songs in a vain effort to try and impress people into liking them? While I can't say with any certainty that Spookyland was that kid, I'm pretty confident that statement doesn't fall far from the mark.

Let me first say that Spookyland is a solo project. A nineteen year old named Marcus Gordon writes and performs everything himself, and honestly shows quite a talent for crafting pretty pop songs. Aside from the highly derivative nature of the music, the naive lyrics and his painfully whiny signing voice, Gordon obviously has talent. The sad fact is though that having lacked a band to bounce ideas off what he has delivered is a sort of worst of both worlds EP that manages to be both incredibly self-indulgent and pathetically subservient to popular trends.

Titled the Killin' One Bird With Two Stones EP, Spookyland's debut offering is yet another worrying blemish on the rash covered and diseased flesh of modern music. Much like contemporaries such as Operator Please or Tom Ugly (about whom the less is said the better) there is an abundance of talent unfortunately caught up in a lack of taste. It just sounds like someone eager for fame and attention who mastered standard pop and blues structures and never looked back. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, look at Jack White, what makes it bad in this case is that there is a marked lack of conviction in the songs, a sense that everything is being dressed up to seem more interesting and edgy while lacking any substance under the clothes, glitter and face-paint.

Everything sounds too washed out and drenched in reverb, which matched with how overly obtuse the lyrics are at times makes it all sounds pretty fucking pathetic. When he's not spouting some nonsense along the line's of 'her eyes are like the spinning bodies of a world celestial, and I alone, anxious and fear prone gather my power bestial' (note: I just made that up) he's way too literal, singing about winning a girl a toy at the fair or throwing rocks at her window. These last lyrics are later proven to be all part of a cunning attempt at leading you to think one way, before Gordon twists your perspective at the end, an interesting choice that is unfortunately carried out with the subtlety of a back alley abortion. Like everything on this album, there are good ideas, they are all just executed poorly.

To cap it all off though his voice is just so annoying. It sounds like a year or two of making 16 year old girls croon with his whiny nonsense has led him to believe sounding like Bob Dylan before his testicles descended is a good vocal style. In reality it's both unoriginal and self harm inducingly difficult to listen to.

His press release which you can read here is full of overly literary and facile bullshit. It reads like the opening chapter of some bad choose your own adventure fantasy serial, and doesn't tell you anything about the artist other than he must be a pretentious cunt if he thought this sort of nonsense was a good way to present himself as an artist.

Really Gordon just needs a few more years to experiment, after all at 19 years of age, it's understandable his music lacks the sense of complexity it pretends to hold. The fault here doesn't land with Gordon in the end, at least not all of it, but at the feet of those predatory industry types who have heard his music, thought 'yeah young girls will cream their panties over this,' and then signed him. I don't mean to say it's intentional on their part either, they probably generally like the music, as I'm sure many others will. What's happened here is what happens all too often in the industry nowadays. An artist, with all the right influences and the right look has been picked as a cash cow. There may be some short lived fame in store for him, and if he puts his head down and really works on expanding his musical vocabulary maybe even some degree of longevity, but in the long run his music will be tossed amongst the already towering pile of disposable indie-pop that clogs up our airwaves and web pages, another slice of crap lacking any meaning after the first few listens.

It's a shame to see another semi-talented artist get sucked into the ego stroking and mythology rife industry of manufacturing indie-pop idols, but it's their own fault. If it's fame you seek, it will be fame you will find, but for how long and on what terms is decided by each artists willingness to put in the hard work rather than outsource it to the ravenous wolves of the music industry.

Two Bullets to the back of the head for Gordon and those cruelly ignorant industry fools who have built him up for an inevitable fall.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Bloated Corpse: Parasites & The Music Industry

He really says it all.

Working in the music industry, the first thing I was struck by was the sheer amount of parasites, ahem, people in the employ of artists. Trying to get in contact with bands I found myself wading through an industry swamp, seething with managers, agents, publicists and booking agents, all this on top of label reps, A&R staff and whoever else had managed to leech of their creativity.

I understand artists often don't want to have to deal with the business side of things, but these small armies of industry types, none of them in possession of anything other than a fat email contacts list to justify their fees, seemed not only unnecessary but essentially damaging and counter-active for the artist. Like Albini pointed out, these people have a vested interest in the artist getting paid, not in their music being appreciated or their image being protected. The best of them might approach bands with the idea of promoting them as a whole. More often than not though, if faced with an opportunity which pays well or one that will see the band gain exposure playing to a friendly audience, these people only think about the revenue. Just think about how many times you've seen upcoming local bands playing rubbish festival slots to no one?

What this has then led to is on one hand the proliferation of these types of people, but also the proliferation of disposable, fame hungry artists to feed the industry's need for flesh on which to leech off. For every successful band there are 9 unsuccessful ones, and for each of those 9 bands there is a small swarm of people who lined their pockets out of what little success the bands had. These people don't care if you fail, by the time that's happened they've moved on, hungrily exploiting the next lot of bands eager to succeed and naive in believing that these people have their best interests at heart.

I do understand that for some bands, doing everything yourself isn't going to work. Whether because the band aren't good with business or just that they're too lazy to handle it, not every band is cut out to have to deal with the crushing grind of the music industry. Still in such cases doesn't it make more sense to employ one person who handles all of your business as an artist. If your agent, manager, publicist and booking agent are all the same person, and they work for you and you alone they only have your interests in mind, because you and you alone are their source of income. This is pretty much the 360 music management model and it has worked wonders for artists. Building such a mutually dependent partnership is far more effective than employing the services of a company which deals with a whole roster of different acts. Just think about Jerry McGuire.

If you're not one of a company's highest earning act, most of the work they do for you will be an afterthought, as these companies tend to work with quite large rosters of artists. Getting you an interview in the street press, securing you a slot on the side stage of some mid range festival, these companies are very well practiced at keeping a long list of artists happy by doing the bare minimum.

There are certain examples where working with an outside company can be beneficial I'll admit. If you were making post-punk music in the early 80s, getting picked up by Factory Records would have grabbed you a whole bunch of fans you might not have otherwise found, and it's hard to imagine The Beatles having gotten as far as they did with Brian Epstein and NEMS Enterprises behind them, but these are rare examples where a bands artistic objectives match up with the approach of the companies, and most companies nowadays don't conduct their business in the same way. All they look at is the bottom line.

While getting some tour supports or media exposure might be hard without these people on your payroll, the fact of the matter is that the music will speak for itself and it's only the most artistically bankrupt of bands who have to rely on such industry professionals to maintain their popularity. It is because of such professionals that so much sonic tripe is made popular in the first place. Management companies and booking agents can make a lot more money in the short term promoting several mediocre bands than they can by nurturing a few very talented artists, and with the industry now collapsing under the weight of it's own bloated parasite riddled corpse, the short term is all these companies can afford to think of.

Like Albini points out, it's almost pure mathematics. These company's don't have the interests of the artists at heart, all they care about is how much money the band can get, regardless of how that money will be made. Consider how many bands have been convinced to have their songs used in advertising or bad television shows. Sure Jet getting on the iPod ad made them, or should I say their managers, agents and record labels some money, but in the long run does anyone care about Jet anymore? I think not.

I don't mean to say that no bands can succeed under this model, bands have in the past, and I'm sure they will continue to do so in the future, but for the vast majority of bands being fed through the system their limited success will only serve to further propagate the exploitation of other musicians. It's time those musicians who are serious about their music, and want a career with longevity realise you are better off working with individuals or organisations who believe in your music and not just your profitability.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Kirin J Callinan

She (edit) by KirinJCallinan

Photo by Mclean Stephenson

This music makes me happy.

Something about the way he sings, matched with his inhuman mastery of guitar effects literally send shivers down my spine, and while I understand how some people might not get the music, perhaps finding it too odd for their liking, his debut single She, in my mind, is one of the most important Australian release in a long time, and one of the most thrilling songs I have heard this year.

Too often artists seem intent on referencing old artists or appropriating genres from the past, but with Kirin there is this sense of freshness and danger in what he's doing. Not to say the music is without influence, but it somehow it dodges even the most obvious of comparisons. What he does he makes his own in a way that shows a surprising maturity for such a young artists' first release.

There isn't a shred of compromise in his music. This unrestrained sense of experimentation underlies it, Kirin standing bare before the audience, his own creativity the only thing standing between him and the audience rather than having built up a wall of hip touchstones of familiarity to shield himself and appeal to hsi audience. While there are other artists who achieve a similar sense of indivuality, it's the obvious attention to detail and an intense level of scrutiny applied to his songs that set him apart from other artists who seem so intent on being different they lose the sense of craft in what they're doing. Kirin has standards of songwriting that he is clearly dedicated to, and the result is that the music, while having a freewheeling feel of discovery and innovation, still sounds cohesive and mature. Nowhere do you feel like you're being led through hallways of improvised sonic indulgence, everything has a purpose and everything is in it's right place.

While his MySpace showcases other earlier and skeletal works, mostly recorded at his home, She is very much his coming out. With every sound on the single being made with his guitar, as well as a few little splashes of drum machines and live drums here and there, the song takes the convention of a singer/songwriter playing with nothing but a guitar into a strange new world. With his highly musical and melodic use of guitar effects, he really shows how they can be used as instruments unto themselves, yet he doesn't allow them to overpower the music and turn it into art noise, the songs all coming back to his powerful vocals, walls of noise giving way to sparse and open arrangements leaving ample space for his voice to shine.

It's just such a joy to see an artist with ethics, and to whom such ethics mean more than commercial success. When too many artists seem pre-occupied with playing up to the expectations of their increasingly fickle audiences, Kirin, who played guitar in Mercy Arms and plays with Jack Ladder, refuses to conform to the what those fans from either project would expect him to sound like. While you might call him stupid or stubborn for not exploiting such an opportunity, of not playing the old game of get famous first and then make the art, in the end such concerns should never encroach on creativity and it's great to find an artist who doesn't let them.

There is true courage in this music, true courage and true expression, two things that are becoming very difficult to find in music today.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Sick Marionette: How Corruption In The Music Media Has Destroyed Our Appreciation Of Music

It's pretty apparent to most people with even a vague understanding of the music media in this country that it is all run by commercial interest, using an iron fist of advertising money to enforce a policy of silence when it comes to real criticism.

Having worked in almost every facet of the music media, I couldn't tell you how many times my articles have been edited and rejigged to cast a more favourable light on a band because their label is threatening to pull ad spend. I also couldn't tell you how often I have written glowing articles of rubbish bands purely because in this industry it's hard to get ahead and have a well formed sense of ethics. Principles and poverty pretty much go hand in hand.

Again this is probably unsurprising to you. It's plainly obvious that most of the content in Drum Media or on FasterLouder is heavily motivated by keeping the labels, venues or promoter's happy. The Brag pretty much won't give you a second glance as a band unless you can afford to buy ads, and sites like Music Feeds or Throwshapes can only exist due to patronage from places like World Bar in exchange for blindly positive editorial.

From a business perspective this makes lots of sense. How can a publication or website afford to bite the hand that feeds? I agree. From my experience in the industry I know the editors of these sites would much rather work with creative and critical freedom to cover what they want how they wanted, but the commercial concerns get in the way of the journalism. the reason for this is the massive conflict of interest inherent in a music publication getting most of it's revenue from record labels or promotions companies and venues buying ads. I mean you don't see the liberal party sponsoring The Australian do you? At least not openly.

It gets worse though. When it comes to the really big acts, the one's where there is a lot at stake in getting the media coverage on message and in line, the record labels will actually conduct interviews themselves, paying an in-house writer over 10 times what the publication would pay a writer to write a glowing article that is then printed verbatim.

This is the music media equivalent of Fox News.

If any outlet raises an eyebrow at this the touring company or record label will then pull thousands of dollars of advertising, leaving the publication crippled and infirm. In my time in the industry I have seen Sony pull almost 200,000 dollars of ads, just because a certain publication didn't include some of their artists in an end of year best off list. They didn't even say anything negative, they just didn't bend over the barrel fast enough.

The real question is, why does the music media let it happen. Surely with the amount of readers these publications and sites reach they could find advertisers such as alcohol companies and clothing brands who would present no conflict of interest, whose ample pockets could keep them afloat while affording them the freedom to actually say something? The problem is that with this lack of opinion, this lack of principles, most people have lost interest in such media, and now their livelihood depends on suckling at the industry's diseased teet because it's the only industry out of touch enough with the public to patronise them.

With strength of principles comes faith and loyalty from readers, and no where does this now exist other than sites like Polaroids Of Androids, which are free from any advertising, existing purely out love for music. It seems that to make a living by offering honest and incise criticism of music is impossible today. I hope I'm wrong. I hope that one day this blog can somehow turn a profit, that my ramblings and ranting strikes enough of a chord to earn some remuneration, but I sincerely doubt it. For every blog out there, like this one, Polaroids of Androids, or The Au Review, for every blog that attempts to deal with music on as honest and critical a level as is possible (a goal I often fail to reach), there are hundreds of others trading in fashion and trends. With the death of the music media we have seen the birth of an even more menacing creature; fan critics. Uneducated and fashion obsessed teens with nothing better to do than rant on about how amazing Animal Collective's new b-side is or to discuss how cool Tame Impala's clothes are. Regardless of how sad this is though, it is somewhat fitting as it truly reflects the way most people appreciate music today.

It's very difficult these days to find a review that actually engages with the craft of the music, instead they all trade in hamfisted and whimsical description, myself included more often than not.

Where with literary and film criticism, critics understand the craft of the art-form, considering factors such as structure, plot, and character development to piece together a verdict on how well a film or book has achieved it's goals, its seems that in music we have all forgotten how to speak the language and are only left with nondescript hand signals and grunts to make ourselves understood. Even if a reviewer can discuss the music intelligently, the readers usually lack the education to understand the commentary.

Classical music and jazz aside, as well as certain exemplars such as Radiohead or The Drones amongst others, so much of today's music ignores the artistry of music, preferring to trade on an image of being artistic. The music media's bowing to commercial interest has played a big part in this, their lack of critical rigour resulting in a generation lacking the tools to appreciate the art of music, and that's exactly what the industry wanted. They wanted to destroy people's ability to objectively judge music as good or bad, hence giving them the power to tell the public what is good through their puppets the music media, and it's the journalists who let this happen.

When studying journalism you learn about Edmund Burke's description of the news media acting as a Fourth Estate of Government, meant to act as an impartial body holding the government accountable for it's actions. This is a view that is unpopular and uncommon today even in the news media, and one that never really took hold in the music media, but it is an idea that we would do well to take up, lest we allow the commercial interests of a few companies smother the most human and evocative of human art-forms, turning it's corpse into a sick marionette that dances awkwardly to entertain the masses as the world crumbles around us.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Two Bullets: Squarepusher

It's a sad day when you're teenage idols go the way of your mid life crisis addled parents, trading in their own style for some pale imitation of what they think is young and trendy. Sadly it seems Squarepusher is the latest musician to go the way of Ed Hardy jackets and phallic sports cars as he embraces a live band/electro sound with latest project Shobaleader One.

If I'm honest though I think this has to be some sort of either piss-take, or piss-weak attempt at cashing in. Megazine (above) sounds like a poor man's Daft Punk, delivering a repetetive and cheesy fuzzed out bassline under laughable vocoded vocals.

This is a live band though, no programming or backing tracks, and part of the idea behind the project might be to show that a live band can make electro and not sound like a bunch of pathetic bullshit munchers like The Klaxxons or something, but regardless of that, the music is still an unimaginative appropriation of a genre that has long passed it's used by date.

It really does sound like it's a joke though, the vocals especially sounding like they could be taken from one of those South Park 'now you're a mayong' songs.

The single, Cryptic Motion

isn't much better, delivering a sort of spacey RnB vibe, that also sounds cheap and tawdry. None of these songs have any depth, they just sound like shallow exercises in borrowing aesthetics, with no emphasis on composition.

Having stated in an interview that "the basic premise at the outset was 'space pop' - a Utopian pop music hallucination. It's a stand against the affectation of knowing indifference in urban life and its corollary in music. I've always wanted to sabotage coolness as for me music is about laughing and crying, not about standing around smoking cigarettes," I can sort of see how the music's ended up where it is, but it's still sad to see one of the most challenging artists of modern times fielding such nonsense, instead of focusing on what he does best.

At best the music reminds me a bit of this blog, an artist's pathetic attempt to undermine what offends him.

Two Bullets, to the back of the head, and mine.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A Festival Of Tired Ideas: Fuck The Big Day Out

Fuck The Big Day Out.

Seriously ever year it gets worse and even if this years line-up is one of the strongest in recent memory, most of the acts have played before, a lot of them very recently. One of the major problems with the festival is that no matter how good some of the bands are there is always more shit than quality. There is always some point in the day where there is nothing good on, and you're left to pick through the refuse of what's been put on the side stages (or god forbid watch Birds Of Tokyo), when there are so many quality local acts who would kill to be on the bill and who would deliver much more interesting material. I mean sure Bridezilla played Lilyworld a few years ago, but that local produce stage they have is usually fucking rubbish.

What quality there is is then usually ruined by poor sound or drowned out by a sea of fuckwits more concerned about 'getting their mosh on' than anything else. Bjork being booed off stage in 2008 pretty much sums it up.

While this year's line up is a vast improvement on last years yawn-fest with Grinderman, Die Antwoord and Primal Scream breathing some life into the festival, for the most part the line-up is a case of leftovers from past line-ups. Sure Rammstein and Iggy & The Stooges are great leftovers, leftovers I would eat out of a dog bowl using a used cricket cup as a utensil and leftovers I am thankful to have a chance to taste having missed them in previous years, but they are rare birds next to pigeons like Lupe Fiasco who was out here only a few months ago for Playground Weekender, while Bloody Beetroots Death Crew 77 were also here not too long ago. And Tool as headliners again, I'm sorry but repeating a headliner that quickly can only amount to laziness. This is a festival of tired ideas.

Add to this LCD Soundsystem, Booka Shade and CSS, and The Big Day Out seems like a refuge for every band out there that are whoring themselves on the festival scene. I mean who gives a shit about Booka Shade, they've played here so often they may as well get Southern Cross tattoos. Why aren't we seeing more headliners like Neil Young, something that challenges the increasingly Channel V appearance of the festival.

Meanwhile people are buying more and more tickets each year despite the line-ups growing staler, everyone caught up in the experience of The Big Day Out, an expereince which realistically amounts to not much more than getting sunburned while waiting in long lines for overprices beer after almost dieing in an oven of a train car and having to run the gauntlet of sniffer dogs only to watch a series of bands you've probably seen before play mediocre sets with poor sound while a frothing horde of mindless drunks drown out the band as they holler at the stage as if they're part of some twisted pagan ritual. Really that's all the Big Day Out has become, it's a ritual for those people who's lives are so empty they have turned to worshiping musicians rather than Jesus.

Whenever I go, I feel afraid of what might happen considering the amount of aggression and lack of responsibility exhibited by most of the punters. There is a palpable sense of danger and blood-lust in that crowd, everyone so eager to get to the front to see some band, which will somehow give their life more meaning. It's idol worship in it's most frightening form. Even Hillsong pales in comparison, no ones ever been crushed to death at one of their services.

However I think it is this very cult like nature of the festival that makes is so popular. People go to let go of social inhibitions and release their inner animal, to essentially act like adolescents again. No matter what piss-poor line-up they throw at us we seem to lap it up like a starved cat does vomit, because we are so eager for an excuse to escape our pointless and soul crushing lives of tedium and mediocrity. The musicians serve as Dionysian priests, presiding over this primitive celebration of intoxication and conformity.

Now I believe letting go of social inhibitions every now and again is a very good thing, but The Big Day Out seems to bring out a darker and more aggressive side than is healthy, while at the same time inundating these empty vessels with the talismans of commercial culture. Rather than channeling people's need for release into such mass marketed and mass produced avenue, which favours giving money to big name international acts over supporting up coming local talent (unless you play one of those joke Unearthed slots to no one at 11am on some V branded side stage), the promoters would do well to find a way to promote a calmer and less aggressive atmosphere, as well as focusing on delivering a better live experience, better sound, better lighting, a broader range of bands on offer. To bring it back to the music rather than the ritual.

"But where are they supposed to get the money" I hear you say? The backstage area. Having been backstage on numerous occasions over the years I can tel you that a lot of money goes into keeping the artists happy. Not only does each band have their own air conditioned trailer, rider and ridiculous demands (for instance lat year Lily Allen had a beach made of sand, a palm or two and a kiddie pool constructed in front of her trailer, even though she spent almost no time there), but they also have a games section, a swimming pool, a free Tiki Bar, an open buffet with fresh seafood, multiple jumping castles and even fucking dodgem cars. Considering how much pay for your ticket you might expect some of this decadence to be swung your way, but alas all the punters are usually left with is Lilyworld, which is getting more and more pathetic with each year.

But who cares, the punters keep coming anyway. The music seems almost secondary, the bands serving as bait to get the wild animals into the cage to spend all their cash on alcohol, cheap merchandise and terrible food. You can't really blame the promoters though, they're just businessmen out to make a buck, no more. We should demand more from them, we should choose to patronise other festivals like All Tomorrow Parties or Days Like This that go out of their way to offer a mixture of big name headliners and quality lesser known acts, but we don't. The truth is, as a culture, we want the cheap thrill. We want the porn star over the homegrown beauty. We want the fast food over the well cooked steak. We like going to the supermarket rather than the farmers market because it's easy, and even if we're getting ripped off for sub par products we don't care. That's what Big Day Out has become, a fucking musical supermarket.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

When Keeping It Real Goes Wrong: How Mystikal Became A Registered Sex Offender

Lot's of rappers talk shit about being gangsta, but few really follow through with their claims.

Mystikal on the other hand keeps shit well real, choosing to rape a woman, even though with his money and success one would assume he could either pay for it or at least get a groupie to service his needs.

Read on for an account on how keeping it real went oh so wrong for him.

Quoted from Wikipedia

"On June 26, 2003,[1] Michael "Mystikal" Tyler pleaded guilty to sexual battery and extortion. On January 15, 2004, Tyler was sentenced to six years in prison after pleading guilty to forcing his hairstylist to perform sex acts. He also admitted to extortion. The rapper and two bodyguards forced the woman to perform oral sex, have sex with them, and accused her of stealing $80,000 in cheques. Tyler initially held firm that the incident was consensual. A videotape of the incident was found at his home shortly after the charges were initially made. Negotiations during the trial held the videotape from being entered as evidence and Tyler agreed to the plea bargain offered by the prosecution, avoiding the mandatory life sentence for sexual assault in Louisiana and expecting to receive probation. The case took a twist when the judge viewed the videotape at the sentencing, took into account Tyler's two prior arrests (for drug and gun possession) and had him remanded into custody to begin serving a six-year sentence immediately. Bodyguards Leland "Pokie" Ellis and Vercy "V" Carter also pleaded guilty to sexual battery.[2]

In August 2005, while incarcerated on the state sexual battery and extortion charges, Mystikal was charged federally with two misdemeanor counts of failing to file tax returns for 1998 and 1999. On January 12, 2006, he was convicted in federal court of the tax offenses, but was allowed to serve the one-year federal sentence concurrent with his six-year state sentence.[6]

Mystikal was incarcerated at Louisiana's Elayn Hunt Correctional Center. On January 19, 2006, Mystikal was denied parole at a parole board hearing.[7]

On January 11, 2007, Mystikal was released from custody on the federal misdemeanor tax convictions (as his one-year sentence had expired), but he remained in custody on the six-year sentence for the Louisiana state felony convictions. The news of his release caused confusion among fans who heard the news and mistakenly thought he had been released on parole.[8]

He was released January 14, 2010.[9] After his release Mystikal said:
“ I was gone so long, all the things I achieved, all the accolades I attained, it felt like it was a dream. It felt like I'd never done that stuff. But watch how I shake this world up now — I want reparations.[9] ”

After his release, Mystikal registered as a sex offender."