Sounds Like Violence – With Blood on My Hands EP
Hard-charging indie rock with stellar songwriting.
Deep Elm Records
With Blood on My Hands provides a very moving experience. The EP’s theme centers around the anger and hurt of having your heart ripped from your chest. With this album, Sweden’s Sounds Like Violence has taken this overused and abused theme and given it new life. The anger is white hot, passionate and communicated well through their explosive sound and cleverly worded lyrics.
The lyrics are poetically written and far from contrived. They are angry and beautiful all at the same time—an expression of pure, raw emotion. It’s almost as though the EP tells a story, with the opening track “Nothing” being an introduction to the heartbreak and the closing track “The Greatest” showing that, while he is bitter and angry, he is moving on. In between are some stellar lines, such as “I called up my first love/it must have been ten years since we last spoke/I said: hi, how are you?/What have you been up to since you cut my heart out?/Is it there somewhere?/Does it fit in there?/In your nice apartment” (from “Heartless Wreck”), which paints a very vivid picture. Another great example of their stellar songwriting ability appears in “Were You Ever In Love With Me,” painting a poignant picture of falling in love and being forced out of it when the relationship ends: “You make hurt a very good name/and lies is your best friend/love, I was so in love with you/I was in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
If you’re into comparisons, Sounds Like Violence could be compared to both The Killers (with their Euro/indie-rock undertones) and At the Drive-In (with their crunchy guitar riffs and gritty vocals). It is a unique combination and it works. The Killers are very evident at the beginning of “Glad I’m Losing You,” while At the Drive-In is interwoven throughout the EP.
Having said that, in a sea of copycat indie rock artists, Sounds Like Violence is a gem, and With Blood on My Hands is an album not to be missed. Their sound is angry, bitter, gritty and captivating all at once. They are honest and real, with a performance that comes from the (broken) heart and keeps you hooked.
Soft Complex – Barcelona EP
80’s synth rock revivalists establish a solid sonic footing.
Barcelona, the debut EP by Washington, DC-based supergroup Soft Complex, begins with a solo funk guitar which is soon awash with wispy vocals and lovelorn melodies. The title track, which opens the EP, is an example of how great the 80’s synth rock revival can be. Catchy without being obnoxious, polished without losing personality and downbeat without being boring, it’s a great pop song. The following two original tracks are also successful, though they don’t quite add up to the strength of “Barcelona.” The catchy verses of “Beat The Chill” are a highlight, while “Sad Note” takes a bit longer to establish itself. Still, all three tracks display the songwriting and production strength of this young band. They will be one to watch in the future.
The remainder of the EP is filled out with remixes, all of which are extensions of the original three tracks. The final one (a great version of “Barcelona”) is the most noteworthy.
Theodore Grimm – “Someone I Used to Know”
Theodore Grimm’s blend of catchy hooks and bouncing grooves is a force to be reckoned with. Hailing from the Big Apple, this four-piece indie outfit is settling into its musical niche and shows a lot of promise. They came to us with a couple of tracks on their MySpace site, and I definitely dug what I heard.
The track “Someone I Used to Know” is a construction in itself, building constantly throughout its 4-minute duration. The song structure used by lesser songwriters would be repetitive, but Theodore Grimm has managed to keep it interesting throughout with a slew of ever-changing elements: doubled vocals, twin-guitar harmonies, and quirky (but solid) drumming. The vocals are also blended well into the song, especially during the near-epic chorus. The lyrics are very simple but still seem to fit well with the music.
My biggest complaint with this track is the recording quality. It conveys the dynamics and energy of the music, but can leave a bit to be desired at times. Apart from that, this is a sonically tight, stylistically polished example of a standout single from that weird realm of ‘retro-rock-pop-dance-indie’ that is so hard to classify but so easy to listen to.
Various Artists – Post* Records & Friends Presents: Ole!
Several great songs from predominantly folky or punky artists.
Let’s be honest. Compilations are hard to review. They incorporate different artists with different styles, each of which is usually only represented with one song. Basically, all one can do is look at the amount of good songs compared to the bad and examine how well the album flows from one track to another.
In those regards, Post* Records & Friends Presents: Ole! does exceedingly well. While there are a few weak points, especially earlier on in its 23 tracks, the featured songs are mostly great selections, the majority of which either have a folky or punk sound. (It is interesting to note that the information provided on iTunes lists the genre as “Unclassifiable.”)
Opening with Dodger’s brief track, “Ballistic Picnic,” and continuing with “Soar Spot” from Happy Valley, the eclectic mix of music is immediately brought to the forefront. Both songs have a punk edge to them, but while “Ballistic Picnic” is more accessible, “Soar Spot” is harder to listen to due to its slightly off-key vocals and unorganized structure.
In sharp contrast is Kingsbury’s “The Great Compromise,” the first of many folk-influenced songs on the album. The track is a mellow ballad that fans of Death Cab for Cutie or Youth Group would enjoy.
Continuing the folksy sound is Summerbirds in the Cellar’s exceptional electric-flavored “Beware of False Profits,” the compilation’s first standout song.
Among the more bizarre tracks is “Car Picnic” from Yip-Yip, which reminds me of my days playing Zombies Ate My Neighbors on Super Nintendo. It’s not a bad track, just unique.
Some low points on the compilation are “Honky” by Pooball and “I Know Alphabet Good” by The Punching Contest. With its poor sound quality, the instruments are hard to distinguish from one another, though you wouldn’t be missing much; it’s a jumbled mess of a song.
It is quickly made up for with “Bird in Rain” by Tres Bien! And “Up in the Trees” by Mumpsy. Both are reminiscent of The Shins, highlighting catchy choruses and well-written guitar lines.
Also noteworthy in the middle section of the comp is the They Might Be Giants-like song, “The Lives They Behave” by The Ocean Floor, the main problem being that it’s too short.
Indeed, the middle and end sections are worth buying the compilation. It combines folk-rock and punk, including outstanding tracks like Derek Lyn Plastic’s ska-infused “Walk the Dead,” the Pete Yorn-esque “Leave the Night Behind” from Jason Choi, and the endlessly fun closer, “I Like To Fuck When I’m Wasted” by The Swirling Bees.
While some tracks are not for everyone, or just downright bad, there are many to be enjoyed on Post* Records & Friends Presents: Ole!
Paper Airplanes – Boyhood
These guys are willing and capable of re-drawing the lines of indie-rock.
54 40’ or Fight! Records
A year or two from now, you will stroll into your post-modern short-short-fiction class, pull up a chair and wait. The professor will rush in five minutes late, papers all a flutter and cue up a song for the class to analyze. A Paper Airplanes song will jump from the speakers, maybe “True Men Like You Men” or “Julius.” You will listen, parsing phrases, straining to nail down the squirming narrative, and you will find it. When you do, you’ll realize that you enjoyed listening, too.
Because that’s what Paper Airplanes do. On their newest full-length album – Boyhood – they push and pull at music’s concept of narration, and they do so while paying musical homage to indie-rockers The Flaming Lips, Built to Spill, And Academy, and The Strokes. “Julius” opens with the words, “From the start I’ve lacked narration,” and spills through a meander of words and images, proving the bobbing and weaving they claim is both musically and lyrically accurate.
Paper Airplanes’ instrumentation reads more like a traveling orchestra than an indie-rock outfit, scattering violin, cello, accordion, French horn, timpani, chimes, trombone, and trumpet across the breadth of Boyhood. The term breadth is warranted; this album sprawls ten songs over nearly 45 minutes, and Paper Airplanes does so without losing this listener’s interest.
Opening with “The Fences,” the album thematically traces the feelings of being young, coming of age, and the questions we wanted to ask but weren’t quite able to put words to. A twinkle of bells touches off a stripped-down acoustic intro, accompanied by the fuzzed-out vocals of Marcus Stoesz as he repeats “Sometimes the world brings me back to old / never mind the fences I once called home.” This is repeated as the entire ensemble barrels in. A brief interlude of synth, timpani, bells, and falsetto voices follows before an abrupt, single electric guitar walks down a scale into a drum-and-cymbal race. The tension mounts with each measure until it cannot be held in, and just when you’d imagine the big, crashing conclusion, it drops to near-nothing. I can’t help but imagine Paper Airplanes, sitting around listening to Weezer’s perfect “Only In Dreams,” unknowingly laying the structure for “The Fences.”
A seamless flow into “pda” follows, as a driving piano and distorted drums lead along Anthony Piazza’s rising bass lines. The song rollicks through break-downs, with Stoesz hollering, “Steady fingers holding hands / steady fingers holding hands. / Why is it you’re not around?” They reiterate the theme of lost or forgotten childhood, as a gang-vocal sings, “Oh nothing can take my childhood away, oh no no no (this is starting to aggravate us all).”
Boyhood tests limits in “Appalachia,” with a banjo line backed by a string section and sleigh bells… Yes, I repeat: sleigh bells. Paper Airplanes aren’t settling for limits in Boyhood, but I’m not sure they’ve come to their conclusions. These guys are restless…creatively restless. If this is what getting into one’s stride sounds like, I can’t wait to hear what’s to come.
-Timothy C. Avery
Morose Ghost – Life is Good
Experimental indie-pop with unique instrumentation and charisma.
Rabid English Records
Ever since I inherited my sister’s 1997 Lumina, I’ve had to listen to the radio. This may not sound like much, but it is slowly killing me and turning my insides black. It is, however, a learning experience and now I am somewhat more understanding of mainstream music tastes. Some of my friends complain that I don’t appreciate their tastes, and they always argue with me when I tell them that a good many mainstream bands sound too similar to one another. For example, if you were forced to listen to a 3 Doors Down track and then a Nickelback track, could you tell the difference? Most of us couldn’t, but maybe I’m just being a music snob. The next time that they try to start that typical argument, I will counter by making them listen to some Morose Ghost.
Morose Ghost’s debut album Life is Good is like a puzzle piece in the wrong box. It doesn’t seem to fit anywhere. Jesse Latham seems to be making his own puzzle with pieces from everywhere. Life is Good is filled with surprises; a few discouraging, but most pleasant.
After a quick intro to the “Birth of Noise,” Latham moves into “The Good Life,” which is a fairly repetitive and forgettable track. Suddenly, Latham isn’t just playing his acoustic guitar, but is instead playing synths, computer programs, and a piano. All of these combine in “The Accidental City” for an unexpected experience. Throughout the album, piano melodies are sprinkled. “The Kissing Disease (Whoeverse)” is no exception, and when combined with Latham’s quivering whisper, turns to gold. He doesn’t stay on it for too long though. On “Faking Your Death,” Latham is back to synth, computer programs, and piano. This proves to be Latham’s algorithm for success, never using the same thing twice in a row. The albums sums up with “The Bad Death,” a quickly strummed joyful tune reminiscent of a happier Bright Eyes.
Latham has found a niche. He pushes the envelope just enough to cause commotion. Despite his choice of album art, the album itself is not bleak, but rather a hopeful start for an aspiring artist. This is one ghost that shouldn’t disappear into the crowd.
The Marble Tea – Fantastic Day EP
Carefree, honest and catchy lo-fidelity indie-pop songs.
You can split most eclectic indie-folk into two categories: the scripted, co-opted, packaged version and the authentic. Knight Berman Jr.’s recent EP release Fantastic Day falls under the latter heading. Berman is the one-man music whiz behind The Marble Tea, which brought me a greater respect for this tight, little EP. Listening to its compact collection of pop tunes gave me hope that a singer-songwriter who writes unpretentiously about real life could still exist.
Initially, Fantastic Day’s five songs seemed to be Berman’s first foray into the recorded music realm; repeated listens changed my mind. The songs on this album are tightly constructed; sound levels are well mixed and mastered; the vocals—although not your average pop-vocal— never flinch or crack. I began to see the album more as a well-crafted, eclectic pop offering than an amateur’s first crack at songwriting. I researched Berman’s discography and found that he seems to prefer EPs to full-lengths. Fantastic Day is his sixth release in as many years, fourth EP and second EP of 2006! Suffice to say, Berman is a prolific songwriter with a penchant for nostalgia.
One songwriting aspect where Berman shines is his ability to infuse meaning into what many might consider trivial or mundane. In “Say Goodbye,” Berman breathlessly sings the lines: “Say goodbye to the couch you used to rip apart / say goodbye to the pantry where you slept / say goodbye to ceilings high above your head / say goodbye say goodbye,” referring not to some emo-stained relationship, but the simple experience of moving. He reassures, “And I will understand if I find you in the covers / and I’ll understand if you’re under the bed / I’ll understand if you’re hiding in the closet.” I couldn’t help but believe Berman’s unabashed sincerity. He turns a blind eye to the emotional pretension and objective distance many songwriters exhibit, describing real life from sometimes unusual, always engaging perspectives.
“Fantastic Day,” the album’s most catchy and prominent track, could have been ripped from a lost Monkees B-side. Berman rejoices in a day seemingly plucked straight out of an episode of “Leave it to Beaver.” An easy, electrified acoustic guitar and two alternating synthesizers accompanied by a twiddling bass-line are backed by Berman’s rich, bassy, deadpan tone. His voice sounds like a scrubbed-up Leonard Cohen’s. The foot-tapping melody is contagious the way pop used to be; lo-fi enough to be eclectic.
I’m hesitant to say this was a great EP. I wanted to hear more songs like “Fantastic Day” and “How Does It Feel?” They are pure 60’s bubble-gum pop indie-fied, sealed in a time-capsule and left unearthed until today. They stuck with me where the others fell short. Although Berman dabbles with his style on Fantastic Day, I’d be more apt to buy a full-length brimming with songs such as these two; the others are good in and of themselves, but none captures that stand-alone, distinct indie-pop sound as well as “Fantastic Day,” and “How Does It Feel?”
-Timothy C. Avery
Bowles, Henry M. “Snobs OD’d on the ironic.” Daily Northwestern. 28 Feb. 2006. U-Wire. LexisNexis. U. of Nebraska Lib., Lincoln. 2 Nov. 2006. .
Cross, David and Eugene Mirman. Interview with Laura Gilbert. “Six Rounds With…David Cross & Eugene Mirman.” Entertainment Weekly. 15 Oct. 2004. .
Forrest, Perry. “Why Hipsters Aren’t All That Hip.” Monthly Review: An Independent Socialist Magazine. Sept. 2006. 57-62. U. of Nebraska Lib., Lincoln. 2 Nov. 2006 .
“Hipster.” Urban Dictionary. 2006. 8 Nov. 2006. .
Leland, John. Hip: The History. New York: HarperCollins, 2004.
Plumley, Aimee. Hipsters Are Annoying!. 2006. 8 Nov. 2006. .
Potter, Andrew. “Newsflash: cool’s out.” Maclean’s. 16 Jan. 2006. Vol. 119 Issue 3, p8-8, 2/3p, 1bw. Academic Search Premier. EPHost. U. of Nebraska Lib., Lincoln. 8 Nov. 2006. .
Sherman, Steve. “Fake Divide.” The Daily Iowan. 30 Nov. 2005. U-Wire. LexisNexis. U. of Nebraska Lib., Lincoln. 2 Nov. 2006. .
The Squid and the Whale. Dir. Noah Baumbach. Perf. Owen Kline, Jeff Daniels, Laura Linney, Jesse Eisenberg, William Baldwin. American Empirical Pictures, 2005.
“Two Hipsters Angrily Call Each Other ‘Hipster.’” The Onion. 29 Mar. 2006. 42-13. .
“You Got F*cked in the Ass.” South Park. Comedy Central. 7 Apr. 2004.
Hipstercritical: The First Completely Counterculture, Neo-Bohemian Introspective Analysis of
Thrift Shop Paraphernalia, Belle and Sebastian, and Pabst Blue Ribbon
READER’S NOTE: Let it be known that this is the first manifesto of its kind. What I have done with this postmodern literary companion is completely original, unique, and non-ubiquitous. I am, by definition, a hipster, and therefore I did it first. However, if this report becomes popular at any level beyond the underground frontier, please destroy it and extinguish any traces of its ideas, insights, and most importantly, its creator, who did it first.
Sure, I could shop at the mall with the masses of uncultured, shallow suburbanites, but why? I’m different. I’m individual. I’m unique. I do what I want, and I like what I like. I’m not going to spend $30 on a sell-out surf-shop brand t-shirt at The Buckle when I could buy a perfectly ironic, undersized, three dollar t-shirt at the Goodwill on “O” Street that says, “Welcome to Wonderful Wisconsin!” and was made in 1984. No, man, I wear what I want, I listen to what I want, and I watch what I want. For me, it’s all about Wes Anderson, Weezer’s blue and Pinkerton albums (definitely not their new radio-friendly, corporate trash), and green Chuck Taylors, size 9 ½. For me, it’s all about Jim Jarmusch, Neutral Milk Hotel, and bold, dark-framed, Buddy Holly-esque glasses. For me, it’s all about Michel Gondry, Of Montreal, and 100% sweatshop-free American Apparel. For me, and every single other hipster, that’s what it’s all about.
What I am about to admit completely undermines hipster law and surely cuts my street cred in half, but please bear with me. I am a hipster. There. I said it. I know “real” hipsters aren’t supposed to submit to such a degrading label, but the truth must be told. I am precisely what they say I am. I generally listen to indie rock (at this very moment: Rilo Kiley), hang out in coffee shops (at this very moment: The Mill in Lincoln, NE), shop at thrift stores and talk about things like books, music, films, and art (Urban Dictionary). I am a hipster.
Although my counterculture instincts would lead me to write this argument in a very unorganized, haphazard style, and the Wes Anderson in me would drive me to fill it with quirky irony and loose ends, I am going to lay this out in terms that everyone can understand, be it Pabst Blue Ribbon drinkers or Busch Light drinkers, fans of Weezer’s blue album or fans of the green album, Connor Oberst or Jason Mraz. Individualism, eccentricity and eclecticism are to be praised. Elitism, pretentiousness and American bands that pretend to be British (The Killers, Kings of Leon, etc.) are not.
The definition of “hipster” differs dramatically and varies widely between those living socially above ground and those denying their hipster-centricity—us. To those looking from the outside in, the definition of “hipster” takes on a more negative connotation: “Someone who thinks they’re being ‘special’ and ‘unique’ for liking some underground bullshit no one else cares about” (Urban Dictionary). Some even go so far as to say that, “Hip is a convenient excuse for fu**ups” (Leland). In contrast, we hipsters, although rarely acknowledging the title, hold the term in a much more fashionable esteem: “Our generation’s aristocrats of taste” (Henry M. Bowles). Either way, it is undisputable that “hip” as we know it today is occupied by a select cultural subdivision, which neither admits to being normal nor admits to following the trends that engulf the hipster culture. This is who we are, and frankly, I’m sick of denying it.
I’ve had it with pretending that I’m not different, because I am. We are. And we like it that way. Henry M. Bowles, a columnist for the Daily Northwestern at Northwestern University, has described hipsters as being “driven by a total lack of self-confidence, in an age of social anxiety, to overdose on irony” (Daily Northwestern). I can’t help but think this is mostly true. We have developed an image, but we do not defend it. We delight in the niche, but we deny it when called upon by the conventional majority. As David Cross tells us in an interview with Entertainment Weekly (I swear I thought I was reading Paste Magazine), if you want to fake being a hipster like him, you should, “get one electroclash CD, whatever it is, then pretend you don’t listen to it anymore and you hate it.” And worst of all, we have failed to act contradictory to our beliefs well enough for anyone to believe us. We’ve neither stood up for our beliefs, nor constructed an effective masquerade to hide them. We’ve become the shy kid in class who only raises his hand halfway; high enough for a select few to notice he has something to say, but not high enough to get called on. The following article taken from The Onion, titled “Two Hipsters Angrily Call Each Other ‘Hipster,’” accurately satirizes our community’s lack of self-confidence:
Austin, TX—An argument between local hipsters Dan Walters and Brian Guterman has devolved to the point where each is angrily calling the other “hipster,” those close to the pair reported Monday. “Hey, hipster! Here’s 12 bucks—why don’t you go get yourself a bucket of PBRs at the Gold Mine?” Walters, 22, is said to have told Guterman, 22, invoking the name of a local bar known for its “poseur” clientele. “Whatever you say, scenester,” Guterman allegedly replied. “Don’t you have a Death Cab For Cutie show to be at right now?” Acquaintances of Guterman and Walters trace the long-running conflict back to high school, when they reportedly threw pencils at each other and argued about who was more “emo.”
If this is who we are and these are the things we like, why are we denying it? I’m not saying that we need to hold a hipster pride parade, but there’s no reason not to own up to the title. If we’re going to do this, let’s do this right.
In my hipsterstentialist voyage for a deeper understanding of our purpose in life, which obviously took place completely subterranean, I stumbled upon a disturbing and humbling website called hipstersareannoying.com. This is what it told me: “Hipsters have lost all context of reality” (hipstersareannoying.com). Dear Lord, I can actually hear my street cred decreasing now. But dare I say it’s right? Again, I think the use of the term “all” slightly exaggerates the point, but the idea should not be overlooked. Due to our hesitancy towards self-recognition, our ideology is being ignored. We are catering to ourselves, and maybe we like that. Maybe that is how we want it to remain. But we’re the ones who seem to have the strongest opinions. We’re the ones who seem to have a critique for everything. Ultimately, it is those who speak up who make the real difference, and if we really care about what we’re talking about, if we really care about global warming and deforestation and the monster that is Wal-Mart and the war in Iraq, we need to start doing the same. John Leland, author of Hip, The History, explains:
The word “hip” is commonly used in approval, but this glosses its many limitations. Though it likes a revolutionary pose, hip is ill equipped to organize for a cause. No one will ever reform campaign finance laws under hip’s banner, nor save the environment. A hipper foreign policy will not get us out of this fix. Hip steps back.
We can chill like roadies all day long, but until we start our own band, we’re never going to get recognized, and we’re surely not going to change any of the problems we love to complain about. Our passivity is only patronizing our ideology.
What we are not, on the other hand, is superior because we take the road less traveled by the mainstream. As one South Park episode portrays with a group of emo/goth children, by striving to be so dissimilar to everything and everyone mainstream, we are actually harboring our own demise (“You Got F*cked”). Due to the fact that all the other Goth kids refused to join Stan’s dance troupe because, “being in a dance troupe is totally conformist,” the last Goth kid agrees to do so because, “I’m such a nonconformist, that I’m not going to conform to the rest of you.” Just like those who listen to Fall Out Boy, watch War of the Worlds, and read John Grisham books because they are popular, most of us listen to Tilly and the Wall, watch Broken Flowers, and read throwback classics like those written by Kurt Vonnegut and Franz Kafka because they are not (or not anymore.) Essentially, we are different in our tastes, but we are very similar in our philosophical attack. The mainstream does things because everyone else is. We do things because everyone else isn’t. Hipsters are trying so hard today to distance themselves from the majority that we’re all becoming the same. According to futurist Faith Popcorn, as quoted by Maclean’s, “It’s like everybody’s hip now. It’s exhausting. There’s no discovery. It’s not original.” Save for maybe Michael Bolton (or John Bolton for that matter), this isn’t far from the truth. Our misguided quest for individuality is leading straight to social conformity.
Not only do we denounce popularity, but far too many of us see our interests as better. This, my fellow cohorts, is flat out wrong. No certain interests are better than others, unless we’re comparing Alan Jackson to Ben Gibbard. Of course we have reasons to believe that supporting local, anti-corporate, organic coffee shops serves a better cause than sipping coffee at a commercially driven Starbucks. And it does. But we fall into the practice of stereotyping when we assume that because the mainstream supports Starbucks they surely don’t appreciate Stephen Malkmus or Pavement, or vice versa. Our support for certain causes is awesome. But we also support many aspects of art and culture simply because we like them. Things we like are not better than things other people like. As John Leland explains in Hip, The History, “Hip is not genius, though it is often mistaken for such by people who ought to know better.” This idea is further recognized by Steve Sherman, in his column headlined “Fake Divide,” which shows just how ridiculous our platform can sometimes appear:
My grandpa Charlie is a rather fashionable dude, and I don’t think he knows it. Boot-cut Levi’s, tight cowboy shirt, mesh seed cap, aviator sunglasses, and a Carhartt jacket – you could spot that same ensemble donned by the hundreds at a Blonde Redhead show in hipster-infested Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
We are not better. It is not our interest in niche culture that gives hipsters a bad name, nor is it our underlying desire to halt deforestation and pollution; it is the pretentious attitude that we all too often adopt. It is the attitude exemplified by Jeff Daniels as Bernard Berkman in the following scene from Noah Baumbach’s The Squid and the Whale:
Bernard Berkman: Ivan is fine but he’s not a serious guy, he’s a philistine.
Frank Berkman: What’s a philistine?
Bernard Berkman: It’s a guy who doesn’t care about books and interesting films and things.
Bernard Berkman: Your mother’s brother Ned is also a philistine.
Frank Berkman: Then I’m a philistine.
Bernard Berkman: No, you’re interested in books and things.
Just as I am justified in listening to Sufjan Stevens, my friend is justified in listening to Garth Brooks. Culture as concerned with art is meant to be enjoyed. If someone does not like the film The Science of Sleep but likes Mission Impossible 3, why wouldn’t they watch the one that will give them more pleasure? It is time we step down from our pedestal of hipster pompousness and start conforming to the ideals of an individual who is respected by all. We may carry on with our own interests and remain truly individual while simultaneously accepting the fact that mainstream culture also possesses some quality.
By shunning everything pop culture-produced, we are acting contradictory, or dare I say “hipstercritical,” to the very foundation of our way of life, that of complete open-mindedness. As hipsters we root for the underdog because we understand that the minority has just as much to say as the majority, and probably more. We know that those on a ramen noodles budget have an equally as interesting story to tell as those living off their papa’s Fortune 500 company. Yet by ostracizing all that is popular, by turning an elitist cold-shoulder towards “the crowd,” we are just as guilty of the very same crime: refusing to open our minds to those ideas that are distant from our own. The reality is that the American society is fueled by its social norms. We have lost a great deal of context with this reality both because we refuse to allow our ideas to develop beyond our own environment and because we fail to give an equal chance to those ideas of culture sitting above ground as to those nestled below.
I think we could all learn a lesson or two from Bill Murray, whether we sport cardigans as youth or not. As Dr. Peter Venkman, Bill Murray starred in two of the most popular movies of the 1980s, films now firmly rooted in mainstream America, Ghostbusters I and II. He also starred in a number of films both before and after Ghostbusters I and II that were highly praised by all that is the American majority, including Caddyshack, Groundhog Day, and Kingpin. However, as popular as Bill Murray may be with the conventional America, Bill Murray has also become a star and hero for independent films, playing Herman Blume in Rushmore, Raleigh St. Clair in The Royal Tenenbaums, Bob Harris in Lost in Translation, Steve Zizzou in The Life Aquatic, and Don Johnston in Broken Flowers. Bill Murray has managed to grasp what many of us have not: that it is okay to enjoy multiple sides of culture. Sadly, he has yet to grasp an Oscar.
Seinfeld, arguably television’s most popular sitcom, was hysterical. STYX? Well dude, say what you want, but they rock (Seriously. Go to their live show. You’ll be surprised.) The blockbuster hit The Day After Tomorrow may have presented some sub-par acting, but it was a theatrical ride. I love The Family Guy, but a show can’t get much shallower. I like Bright Eyes, but there’s no denying the genius behind the moniker is whiney as hell. I loved Broken Flowers and The Squid and the Whale, but what happened to the conclusions? My point is that there’s shit on both sides of the divide. But equally as important to notice is the fact that there are also some of our generation’s finest ideas both in the world of Pitchforkmedia.com and in the world of MTV.com.
To be truly indie, we need to quit lying to ourselves. We don’t like Wolf Eyes. We enjoy singing along to Fall Out Boy’s “Sugar, We’re Going Down.” We are extremely uncomfortable wearing such tight clothes. The guy wearing the loose fit American Eagle jeans looks comfortable. In no way am I suggesting that we denounce our passion for Harvey Pekar and American Splendor, The Fiery Furnaces or Donnie Darko, nor do I believe that mainstream culture has done nearly enough to hit a healthy balance between what is Tom Cruise and what is Jason Schwartzman. What I am suggesting is that we allow ourselves to step beyond the confines of hipsterdom, and acknowledge that those who don’t indulge in the hipster lifestyle may have a few redeeming values.
“Those who enjoy success in the struggle to be recognized as cool know that whatever strategy they use, it must consist in distancing themselves (in the appropriate way) from what is considered ‘mainstream society,’” explains Forrest Perry in his essay Why Hipsters Aren’t All That Hip. As a hipster who doesn’t follow what’s “cool,” I’m going to snuggle as close to the mainstream as I feel comfortable with.
Mötley Crüe and Jack Johnson still suck.
Heavy Heavy Low Low and the Indian Curse
With a sound that has been described as brutal, ferocious and “sexy,” Heavy Heavy Low Low has taken the grindcore scene by storm. The New Weathermen Records band mates Danny, Robbie and Chris sat down with me and photographer Allison Frank in their van before their set at Chameleon Club on February 3, 2007.
IC: So how’s the tour been going?
Danny: This tour has been awesome. First couple of nights were a thousand plus. Some great kids are coming out and everyone’s really enjoying the tour.
IC: You guys are out with Fear Before, Murder by Death and Thursday. What’s it like to play on the same bill as Thursday?
Robbie: We’re all fans of them; I’ve been listening to them since high school.
Chris: Yeah, my old band covered one of their songs.
Robbie: Yeah, It’s kind of been a reality check, touring with bands like [Thursday, Murder By Death, Fear Before”>. It’s like, what the f*ck? How the hell did we get here? It’s really sick.
IC: So how have the kids been? Are they going crazy or is it more a chill group?
Chris: I don’t know dude. The kids almost seem afraid on this tour. The shows are always crazier when it’s more of our kids. The last tour with Haste the Day, The Calico System and Flee the Seen had some crazy kids though
IC: How’d that tour go?
Danny: It was fun. We really didn’t chill with those guys much.
Chris: We really didn’t get along, we just had different personalities. They’re nice guys though and their music is solid so it was fine.
Robbie: We had fun but this tour has been amazing.
IC: Yeah, I saw you guys last time out at Champion Ship in Lebanon. I ended up with a concussion and I was bleeding when I talked to you.
Chris: Yeah that show was f*cking crazy. Calico is solid as hell.
Danny: We had some good kids out there, but security was a bitch. A kid was dared to jump off the stack for a t-shirt by Calico System. The kid jumped and got the t-shirt then got kicked out. It was bullshit.
IC: So you guys have the one full length, Everything’s Watched, Everyone’s Watching. Are there any other albums?
Danny: Well, that’s the only one that you can really get.
Robbie: Yeah we have a 6 song EP, a 9-song we released on a label from our home town called 12 Gauge Records and we have a demo called “F*ck It” that Ferret is re-releasing this summer. It’s going to be 1000 press, web-only release.
IC: I’m sure you hate categorizing yourselves, but what would you call your sound?
Danny: Heavy, brutal, nasty as hell and damn sexy.
Chris: Well, I guess I’d call us space metal. Since we smoke…we smoke. And that influences us a lot. Basically, whatever sounds pimp we usually put together.
Danny: Yeah dude, we basically take any sound we like and just play it.
IC: So what do you guys listen to?
Chris: We all listen to a lot of different stuff. I listen to stuff like Blood Brothers, The Locust, Horse the Band, Converge.
Danny: I listen to pop-punk.
Chris: Ryan, who isn’t here, listens to the crazy metal-core shit. But we all listen to different things.
IC: So do you guys have any stories from this tour?
Chris: Well, our van shit out last week and we missed three shows on the tour. We ended up renting a U-Haul to get to the shows. We had to have two guys in the front and the rest of the band in a metal box in the back.
Danny: Yeah, damn cattle travel better than we were.
Robbie: Yeah, and we’re under an Indian curse right now.
Robbie: Yeah, we got it on the first day of the tour in Connecticut.
Chris: Yeah, we got robbed. We lost four Gs, a dvd player, a GPS system.
Robbie: Then Chris and Danny got some kind of weird shitting disease.
Danny: Yeah, we were shitting all over the van, then we shit ourselves on stage.
Robbie: Basically we’re under the cure. Just end the interview with that.