Sep 242015

A friend of mine recently posted this song in his list of Favorite 100 Songs. As most of you know, I’m a fan girl; it’s one of my favorite songs but I hadn’t watched the video in years.

As true Rock connoisseurs, we have frequently discussed various bands’ visual styles. And while Abba is known for its sartorial excess, I think it’s time to take out those seam rippers and deconstruct their Look in this video.

It’s clear that there is no attempt at really playing music here. I mean, Benny’s boot heels are so high that he abandons the use of the piano pedals within the first few moments of the song. And as for the shoulder chains, if Bjorn’s guitar was really plugged in, wouldn’t they interfere with the amplification?

Additional questions that came to me: What is the meaning of Frida’s prominently-displayed fish pin? (I don’t know about you, but I think it clashes with the Glam Bohemian Cowgirl look she is sporting.) What is the symbolism of the chains? Is it time to bring back satin gaucho pants? As Benny is the only member of the group to wear lace cuffs, is he really the Barefoot Paul in the band? Is there any other Rock video which uses mirrored clothing to a greater degree?

I believe that there is a greater visual message being communicated to us through this video. Or is this look just further evidence that Abba is, as my friend eloquently put it, “Incredibly catchy, Eurovision-winning space aliens”?

Thank you.

May 242015

Last weekend, Mr. Royale and I went to go see The Jesus and Mary Chain perform their album “Psychocandy.” It was a sonically excellent show, and as we were standing pretty close to the stage, I got some photos of the Reid brothers doing their stuff. But I’m still amazed that these shows by the Rock Icons of my youth, which sound so good, look so odd: Jim Reid looked svelte and dapper, not like an angry Scotsman; William was still bent over his guitar, but all his unruly curls were grayish-white. Still, there was something about being in the midst of a crowd of others (some my age, some younger) who all knew the words, danced along, cheered particular choruses, etc., that brought back the experience of other rock shows of my youth.

Last week, I also read an article about the English artist Mark Leckey. After living in the US for a bit, he was feeling nostalgic for England and some of the music and dance experiences of his youth. He ended up making a video piece reflecting this nostalgia. I give you this early piece of his, from 1997: “Fiorucci Made Me Hardcore.” Please give it 15 minutes of your time.

This being an art piece, there are many intellectual things to be said about it. But I’m interested in your feelings and impressions, and what sort of reactions you have. Does it bring up feelings of nostalgia for you? Do you have to be a Brit to enjoy it? Did the musical “score” irritate you? Why are there so few women shown?

Thanks for watching and sharing your impressions.

Feb 092015

A friend of mine recently lent me a copy of some old Madness Greatest Hits. It got me thinking about the first Madness song I heard when I was a wee lass visiting my English family during the summer of 1982:

I have a soft spot for that track and even more so, for their earlier, more ska-inflected sound. (My sister had a great ska compilation that mixed “Night Boat to Cairo” into The Specials’ “Friday Night, Saturday Morning,” a one-two punch I always think of when I hear either of those songs. But I digress.)

Fast forward ten years or so to the next great Wave of English Working Class Rock, and you get songs like this:

In the early Aughts you can hear a semi-distant refrain, these guys taking the piss:

Help me connect the dots. Choose a band a decade earlier than Madness, one that celebrated the rich life of the English prols. Or can you think of their distant echo in, say, 2012 or beyond?

Jan 032015

Hello and welcome to 2015!

Although we Hallers don’t spend a whole lotta time discussing new music, I know you’re out there buying new music. Shall we have some further discussion about The Year In Music, 2014?

Here are my favorite 5 albums of the year, presented in no particular order. To make this list, each album had to feel coherent and have no throw away tracks. I’ve included a link to a track from each album for your tasting pleasure. Please raise your glasses to the following:
1. Steve Gunn – “Way Out Weather” The guitarist from Kurt Vile’s band, The Violators, is now singing along with his melodic music making. Aromas of Laurel Canyon, with some of the pong of David Crosby and John Fahey.
2. Spoon – “They Want My Soul” This album goes down easy, but with some quirky production Lindsey Buckinghamesque (really, it’s produced by Dave Fridmann a la Mercury Rev and Flaming Lips). While this album appears on so many Best Of lists, Britt Daniel continues to manage to dodge Rock Star Diva status and brings words of heartache (and notes of sour grapefruit) to the greater American People.
3. Real Estate – “Atlas” Melodic janglepop. Vanilla, oaky, earnest. Still a small vineyard production.
4. The Soundcarriers – “Entropicalia” For those of you who still mourn the loss of Broadcast and Stereolab, this fizzy concoction will get your toes tapping. Notes of The Free Design and Can.
5. Eno-Hyde – “High Life” No Miller canned shit, this is of English and African origin. Additional drone aromas and aged in a vintage “My Life In the Bush of Ghosts” cask.

Five additional albums were tasty but they didn’t make my Top 5. Included are links to live performances:
6. Cibo Matto – “Hotel Valentine” A new whimsical and thematic album from Miho Hatori and Yuka Honda and released on Sean Lennon’s label. This one’s not about food (see “Viva La Woman”) but instead relays the observations of a ghost girl (kawaii!).
7. Camper Van Beethoven – “El Camino Real” Another thematic album, and the twin to 2013’s “La Costa Perdida.” While the earlier album focused on NorCal, “El Camino Real” is a narrative of Southern California’s sights and people. Mellower than vintage CVB but with sharp, dead-on observations.
8. St. Vincent – “St. Vincent” I don’t care for Annie’s new blond hair, but this album yielded a couple of very good singles and live performances.
9. Tricky – “Adrian Thaws” More club oriented than some of his previous albums. Sexy and violent.
10. Deerhoof – “La Isla Bonita” More noise from that crazy formerly-of-San Francisco foursome. Spiky, melodic, poetic.

What were your favorite albums of 2014?

Dec 222014

In these dark days of winter, I thought sharing a special video could make the season just a bit more light-hearted and bearable. But then I found this, thanks to my brother’s Facebook page, and I couldn’t resist sharing it with you:

I don’t know if I’ve ever seen such a horrible video. It makes classic 80’s low tech, big hair synth pop videos look positively regal. In it’s absolute ridiculousness, however, it attains a level of almost surrealistic meta..something.


Nov 172014

So a friend gave me a copy of Of the Blue Colour of the Sky, from Ok-Go, a band I was planning to not like very much. I knew they had catchy videos and all that. So maybe it was that this music made a good accompaniment to prepping a Sunday night lasagna, but I ended up enjoying the album more than I expected. There’s a distinct Spoon/Flaming Lips/Air vibe, and the best non-Prince Prince song I’ve heard in a while.

So I got to looking at some of the videos that go with the songs on the album, and found this:

Say what you will about the band and their music, I think this is a pretty cool way to engage the audience and perform a studio track. Granted, the audience is sitting down, but they seem to be interested in the process of “creating” some music. They aren’t wielding guitars or maracas or jumping up on stage to jam, but they are also not taking stupid selfies or videoing the whole thing.

Is this where music performance is going? Would you want to be part of this audience?

Oct 192014

So the other day, I was listening to Rattus Norvegicus, which contains one of my favorite tracks, “(Get a ) Grip (on Yourself).” For a long time, I’ve liked this song but didn’t realize until a couple of years ago that it was the Stranglers. (I entered the Stranglers fray with Dreamtime, but worked my way back to La Folie, another of my favorite albums. Anyways, I digress.)

Because I spend too much time commuting, I get ideas about RTH posts in my head while I’m driving, but by the end of a long day with too much screen time, I don’t get around to writing down and researching a lot of my ideas. Here are a few thoughts I had while listening to this song and this album. Please feel free to pick up my slack and help me write this post.

  • Is Rattus Norvegicus one of the best and overlooked punk albums? I mean, it contains quintessential punk lyrics territory: violence (pro), sex (pro), anger (pro), poverty (con), religion (sarcastic con), government (con and more con).
  • Is there a place in a punk band for a keyboardist? (Especially, one duded up like depicted in this video…)
  • Did Mark E. Smith crib Hugh Cornwell’s sneer and style of vocalizing?
  • What kind of a wanker would use Latin for a punk album title?
  • Are there other songs that lose their titular punch by too many parentheses?
  • Isn’t a DIY post really punk?

Help me. Help us.


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