Monday, February 22, 2010

Writer’s Jukebox – Oh, February

RAAAWWWRRR I’m happy I don’t have to contribute this week.  I’ve been too busy working, reading, and otherwise being captivated by the Winter Olympics.  Seriously, maybe it’s just my Scot blood, but I’m obsessed with curling.  It’s the perfect mix of congenially competitive pub sport and kind-of serious, glacially-paced real sport.  Oh, and that US v. Canada hockey game?  Sick.

Whoa.  I clearly need to wean my brain off the winter games.  Maybe Boivin and Chris can lend a hand.  Both are dealing with the specific challenges that February presents.  Valentine’s Day.  The sunless winter doldrums (I believe we all know what I’m talking about).  It’s still winter, but it’s a light at the end of the tunnel. 

Though unrelated to the February theme I’ve slapped on this amalgam of an article, Steph’s sentiments re: Lady Gaga are not to be ignored.  In fact, I think she’s pretty on the money.  Whatever Lady Gaga is, she isn’t going away.

Boivin – Valentine’s Day with a Battery Acid Threesome

For those of you with genuine concerns who can't be bothered with made-up holidays, last week was Valentine's Day. I am, of course, a bachelor so there wasn't too much celebrating going on as far as I was concerned. Normally around this time of year, I lock myself in my room and listen to The Smiths all day, but I've been on a Morrissey and Marr bender recently enough already, so I turned to another canonized group of patron saints of heartbreak and bitterness: Alkaline Trio.

Something I've always found fascinating about the Trio is that they have in their song catalog what is, in my sick and depraved mind anyway, the single best song ever about an angry, hurtful break-up ("Radio"), while at the same time possessing the most unapologetically romantic one as well ("Clavicle"). Therefore, I think Alkaline Trio is the best band for people like myself: closet romantics aspiring towards high-functioning alcoholism.

Alkaline Trio has a new album coming out this week that the band promises to be a return to the sound that made them famous. The title track sounds promising enough and you can hear a lot of their early stuff from the From Here To Infirmary-era and earlier in it. As they are one of the few bands from the late 90's/early 2000's emo/post-hardcore scene to still be around and recording, this is quite welcome on my end.

ChrisFebruary is a Cruel Mistress

I've been on a big R.E.M. kick lately, mostly inspired by a friend who has been burning me lots of their CDs, and I've been going back and forth between Murmur, Automatic for the People, and Monster. The interesting thing about the band is that, even though they're fairly versatile, any one of their tracks is always instantly recognizable as R.E.M. within the first ten seconds. I don't know how they do it, but there's something to be said about a band with a musical identity which is that distinct. And R.E.M. works for any purpose you want, whether it be a close listening, or mere background music while you're doing something else. 

In other news, I've been rewatching Mad Men to catch up on the few episodes I missed the first time around. One such episode in Season 2, where Don and Pete jet off to California, featured the song "Telstar" by the Tornadoes, and that's inspired me to explore my back catalogue of surf rock and put "Telstar" on frequent rotation this week. It has everything I love about 1960s surf music - crazy space-age sound effects, jangling guitar, primitive synthesizers set to sound like wailing horns, and a gradually ascending tonal structure that only adds to the excitement. Here at ChargeShot!!!, we've always considered February to be the cruelest month. But a song like "Telstar" helps make those interminable twenty-eight days go by a little faster, by helping me imagine I'm in sunny southern California circa 1960...or in space.

Stephanie – Trying Not to be Gaga for Gaga

Lady Gaga has been following me around lately. Everywhere I go I hear her ridiculous music in the background – on the radio, at the bar, in a friend’s car, or on the headphones of someone riding public transit. It’s never the same song, but each one is just similar enough to sound like it might be. Finally I’d had enough. When Amazon offered me five dollars of promotional mp3-download credit, and The Fame just happened to cost exactly five dollars, I did the only thing I could. I bought a Lady Gaga Album.

It had to be done. Her music is everywhere, and she’s rapidly growing into a substantial cultural phenomenon. I first heard Poker Face around this time last year, and her current lifetime as a pop artist already means she’s bigger than Mandy Moore was (does anyone remember her?). Unfortunately, I don’t trust myself to generate a reliable opinion of something until I have given it a chance, which meant I had to give it a chance. Lady Gaga’s explosive celebrity emergence sort of demanded that I be familiar with her music, at the very least so that I don’t catch myself accidentally liking one of her songs.

All of them are annoying without fail, and yet I’m always finding myself with one stuck in my head, or what’s worse, catching my boyfriend with one stuck in his head. That’s embarrassing, but it does say something important about her influence. It has the dance-provoking effect of techno, and the catchiness of 90’s advertising jingles (break me off a piece of that Kit Kat bar still makes me want a Kit Kat bar). I can’t say that I’ve grown to like or even appreciate any of it, but … well something has changed in how I feel about it. I still roll my eyes and fain disdain, but it’s not fully sincere. Maybe someone more culturally inclined than me can explain to me how that happened.