Thursday, November 29, 2007

Essay: Of Montreal frontman on why Punk/Indie elitists can go fuck themselves

Kevin Barnes, one of the most creative and interesting artists in the indie world, has written a brilliant article about how ridiculous the old-school-punk mentality is, especially when it comes to whiny indie elitists slamming bands for becoming commercially successful. I agree with every single word in this piece. After the ridiculously unfair backlashes against The Killers, Rilo Kiley, Against Me, and countless other indie bands lucky enough to discover mainstream success, it's good to see someone in the industry taking a stand against all the bullshit.

Here it is:

Selling Out Isn't Possible
by Kevin Barnes

Are you a sell out? Yes. Don't let it bother you though, cause apparently I
am also a sell out, and so are your parents and everyone you've ever known.
The only way to avoid selling out is to live like a savage all alone in the
wilderness. The moment you attempt to live within the confines of a social
order, you become a sell out. Once you attempt to coexist you sell out. If
that's true, then selling out is a good thing. It is an important thing. If
we didn't do it, we'd be fucked, quite literally, by everyone bigger than
us physically who found us fuckable.

The pseudo-nihilistic punk rockers of the 70's created an impossible
code in which no one can actually live by. It's such garbage. The idea that
anyone who attempts to do anything commercial is a sell out is completely
out of touch with reality. The punk rock manifesto is one of anarchy and
intolerance. The punk rockers polluted our minds. They offered a solution
that had no future. Of course, if the world would have ended before
Sandinista! was released then everything would have been alright. It
didn't. Now we have all of these half-conceived ideas and idiot
philosophies floating around to confuse and alienate us. I think it is
important to face reality. It is important to decide whether you are going
to completely rail against the system or find a way to make it work for
you. You cannot do both -- and if you attempt to do both you will only
become even more bitter and confused.

When I was younger, and supported my parents, I chose to float between
the two. A lot of people choose to do this. There are so many confused
young people running around now polluted by this alloyed version of the
tenets of the punk rock manifesto. Of course they're confused. It isn't
possible to be in chorus with capitalism and anarchy. You must pick one or
the other. Very few people are willing to do it, though. The worst kind of
person is the one who sucks the dick of the man during the daytime and then
draws pictures of themselves slitting his throat at night. Jesus Christ,
make up your mind! The thing is, there is a lack of balance. When
capitalism is working on a healthy level, everyone gets their dick sucked
from time to time and no one gets their throat slit. It's impossible to be
a sell out in a capitalist society. You're only a winner or a loser. Either
you've found a way to crack the code or you are struggling to do so. To
sell out in capitalism is basically to be too accommodating, to not get
what you think you deserve. In capitalism, you don't get what you think you
deserve though. You get what someone else thinks you deserve. So the trick
is to make them think you are worth what you feel you deserve. You deserve
a lot, but you'll only get it when you figure out how to manipulate the

Why commercialize yourself? In the art industry, it's extremely
difficult to be successful without turning yourself into a cartoon. Even
Hunter S. Thompson knew this. God knows Duchamp and Warhol knew it. Some
artists are turned into cartoons and others do it themselves. I prefer to
do it myself. at least then I can control how my cock is photographed. Why
should it be considered such an onerous thing to view the production of art
as a job? To me, the luckiest people are the ones who figure out a way to
earn a living doing what they love and gain fulfillment from. Like all
things in this life, you have to make certain sacrifices to get what you
want. At least most of us do. If you're not some trust-fund kid or lotto
winner, you've got to slave it out everyday. People who wanna be artists
have the hardest time of it 'cause we are held up to these impossible
standards. We're expected to die penniless and insane so that the people we
have moved and entertained over the years can keep us to themselves. So
that they can feel a personal and untarnished connection with our art. The
second we try to earn a living wage or, god forbid, promote our art in the
mainstream, we are placed under the knives of the sanctimonious indie
fascists. Unfortunately, there isn't some grand umbrella grant that
supports indie rockers financially and enables us to exist outside of the
trappings of capitalism.

The thing is, I like capitalism. I think it's an interesting challenge.
It's a system that rewards the imaginative and ambitious adults and
punishes the lazy adults. Our generation is insanely lazy. We're just as
smart as our parents but we are overwhelmed by contradicting ideas that
confuse us into paralysis. Maybe the punk rock ethos made sense for the "no
future" generation but it doesn't make sense for me. I like producing and
purchasing things. I'd much rather go to IKEA than to stand in some bread
line. That's because I don't have to stand in a bread line. Most people who
throw around terms like "sellout" don't have to stand in one either. They
don't have to stand in one because they are gainfully employed. The term
"sellout" only exists in the lexicon of the over-privileged. Almost every
non-homeless person in America is over-privileged, at least in a global

Obviously, I've struggled with the concept. I've struggled because of
the backlash following my songs placement in TV commercials. That is, until
I realized that the negative energy that was being directed towards me
really began to inspire my creativity. It has given me a sense of, "well,
I'll show them who is a sellout, I'm going to make the freakiest, most
interesting, record ever!!!" ... "I'm going to prove to them that my shit
is wild and unpolluted by the reach of some absurd connection to mainstream
corporate America."

I realized then that, for me, selling out is not possible. Selling out,
in an artistic sense, is to change one's creative output to fit in with the
commercial world. To create phony and insincere art in the hopes of
becoming commercially successful. I've never done this and I can't imagine
I ever will. I spent seven years not even existing at all in the mainstream
world. Now I am being supported and endorsed by it. I know this won't last
forever. No one's going to want to use one of my songs in a commercial five
years from now, so I've got to take the money while I can. It's the same
with pro athletes. You only get it while you're hot and no one stays
commercially viable for long. It's not like Michael Vick is going to be
receiving any big endorsement deals anytime soon. As sad as it may seem,
one of the few ways most indie bands can make any money whatsoever is by
selling a song to a commercial. Very very few bands make enough money from
album sales or tour revenue to enable themselves to quit their day job.

Next time you see a commercial with one of your favorite bands songs in
it, just tell yourself, "cool, a band I really like made some money and now
I can probably look forward to a few more records from them." It's as
simple as that. We all have to do certain things, from time to time, that
we might not be completely psyched about, in order to pay the bills. To me,
the TV is the world's asshole boss and if anyone can earn some extra bucks
from it and they're not Bill O'Reilly, it's a good thing.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Remixes: Skeewif's Bitter:Sweet remix

God bless Bitter:Sweet and their crazy songs. The coolest duo in electronic music create the most remixable songs in the industry. "Dirty Laundry" was a irresistable piece of underappreciated brilliance, and damn near every remix I've heard of it has been genius. The best of the pack though is the Skeewiff remix. It strips the original down and then glosses back over it with a new slick rock-tinged riff that draws you in and doesn't let go. One of my favorite remixes of the last few years.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Covers: Shawn Lee does Kylie

I'm in love with Shawn Lee and his Ping Pong Orchestra, and Lee's work is actually one of my strongest influences as a producer. I still have his "Hits the Hits" album in heavy rotation on my iPod a month and a half after its release, which is impressive considering how A.D.D. I am about music sometimes. We talked about his Bollywood take on "Toxic" a while back, and now we're back for more. The closing track is one of the albums strongest songs; a jazzy instrumental cover of Kylie's "Can't Get You Out Of My Head". He didn't just switch out some instruments; he clearly put a lot of thought in tweaking the song just right so it would be completely different from the original, but still instantly recognizable. Impressive work. Expect more posts related to Shawn's album in the future.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Remixes: Raconteurs vs Gnarls Barkley mashup

The Legion of Doom is responsible for the some of the best mashups in the business, and this one's near the top of their list. Indie rock and R&B soul are really fucking hard to mash together, but this is an example of how to do it RIGHT. It's "Steady As She Goes" vs "Crazy", and it owns.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

New Music: One Republic

OK, here's the thing: "Apologize" does nothing for me. I think it sounds like it's O.R.'s trying too hard. So I was really surprised when I heard their new album, "Dreaming Out Loud", and really enjoyed it. It's not groundbreaking, but it's totally listenable and worth an hour of your time. I assumed One Republic was going to turn out to be one of those 1.5-hit wonders like The Fray, but this is a really solid album that could put them on the map for a while. Here's the video for their upcoming single "Mercy", a song that's ten thousand times better than anything I had come to expect from "The Apologize Band".

Monday, November 19, 2007

Live Music: Justice Live Set

If you don't give a fuck about electronic music, move along, you can come back for tomorrow's post. But if you do, you might be interested this: Someone posted a video of 10 minutes of a live DJ set Justice did during the I Love Techno 2006 event. I recommend watching this to any DJs reading this blog, because it's pretty cool to see them in action for a long period of time.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Live Covers: Ryan Adams does Alice in Chains

On his live tour for "Easy Tiger", Ryan Adams (with The Cardinals) has been covering "Down in a Hole" by Alice in Chains, one of the best songs from 90s rock. He totally sells it, and it's brilliant. Totally worth the nine minutes.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Music Videos: Gwen Stefani regains some credibility

"The Sweet Escape" was a fun song, but it wasn't enough to forgive the godawful shittiness of "Wind it Up" and 2/3 of her last album. But this new single is good enough to put the past behind us. "Early Winter" is Gwen's best song in years, and I would love it if it was a huge hit. Unfortunately, the commercial failure of "Return of Saturn" taught us that America doesn't like Gwen to be serious, so this might end up being as obscure as "Now That You Got It". Too bad. It really is amazing.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Random video craziness: God the DJ

Not many Youtube videos are worth 7.5 minutes of your life, but this one absolutely is. It's called "God Is a DJ", and it's the most wickedly surreal short film I've seen in forever. It's ten kinds of brilliant, and whoever made it deserves all the money and success in the world.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Random Track of the Day: Sia

I've gotten so used to thinking of Sia as the down-tempo performer from Zero 7 and "Breathe Me" that I was a little shocked when I heard this song. In "The Girl You Lost to Cocaine", from her new album "Some People Have Real Problems", she's pissed. Really pissed. And it's amazing.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Remixes: Eurythmics vs Eminem

This mashup is hella old, but it's one of the best ever made, so I'm posting it anyway. I will never get sick of this.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Random Track of the Day: Ryan Adams

I kinda forgot what a good album "Love is Hell" was until I ran across it yesterday while I was iShuffling (my word). Yeah, there's a stretch in the third quarter where the album wallows way too much to be engaging at all, but there's still some classic stuff on there. One of the more impressive tracks was its quiet opening song, "Political Scientist". It doesn't do anything special sonically, but the lyrics are ridiculously well-written. They're the kind of lyrics that you can study for days and still not get a complete understanding of what he's trying to say. It could be about corruption, and how politicians sit on the sidelines of their town while the core falls to pieces. It could also be about The White Stripes. Really, it could. Check out the bold lyrics below the audio. Is it one, the other, both, or neither? Or does it even matter?

He is drinking water from the faucet from the river
From the tributary it comes through rusty pipes
Outside his window sees the water
That's supposed to be clean by the chemicals
Polluted by the candy factory lines

Someplace on the edge of town
Someplace on the edge of town
Is where they live
Political scientists

So now she is crawling on her hands and her knees
She is dirtying her jeans choking on her own perfume
With a pen she writes below the sink
In someone’s restaurant
This place is inconvenient for my name
She forgets to write it anyway
She forgets to write it anyway
The government supplies the cocaine
Political scientists

There’s no guarantees
There’s no guarantees
There’s no guarantees

Banging hard upon her crooked drum
She feels them tearing down
Salvation Army houses back in Michigan
Her husband’s divorced
But he treats her that way of course
Because he needs her just like he needs medicine

She forgets to write him anyway
She forgets to write him anyway
What’s red and white and nearly over?
Political scientist
Political scientist
Political scientist

There’s no guarantees
There’s no guarantees
There’s no guarantees

Thursday, November 8, 2007

As Seen on TV: "Stripper" by the Soho Dolls

New segment: posts about awesome under-the-radar songs that have gotten some exposure from being on big TV shows. I actually discover a lot of music this way. I might never have heard of Sia if she hadn't been played on "Six Feet Under" ("Breath Me") and "Nip/Tuck" ("Numb"). I might never have heard of Page France if they hadn't been played on "Weeds" a couple weeks ago. I might never have given The Bravery's last album a second chance if "Believe" hadn't been plastered all over "Friday Night Lights" ads. So, now we're going to start pointing out the best unknown songs to surface on TV soundtracks.

First up: "Stripper" by the Soho Dolls, a Eurotrash-influenced pop gem that's rock-bottom shallow but still adrenaline-filled. NME put it best by calling their music an “Utterly magnificent slab of haughty electro-sleaze which makes Peaches sound as predatory and erotically charged as KT Tunstall. Let them get frosty on your ass – it is winter after all.” The song got a pretty good plug during two Burlesque club scenes on last night's "Gossip Girl", a show that, like "Stripper", doesn't pretend to be deep or intellectual and just enjoys being wild and ridiculous. People seeking deep meanings in their music should move along and come back for tomorrow's post; people just looking for a good time can stick around and press play below.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Live Music: Tori Amos

OK, so if you like Tori Amos at all, you've probably heard about her recent performance of "Me With A Gun". The song is normally acapella, but yesterday she performed it with a full band. She performed in the character of Pip, one of her alter egos created for "American Doll Posse". The performance is totally chilling and a little scary, since the new instrumental for the song is really dark, apocalyptic rock that Marilyn Manson would play on a bad day. Even though using the props is a little hack, it's a brilliant performance overall.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Music Videos: More Jenny Owen Youngs

I heart this video. It's the video for Jenny Owen Youngs' surreal indie pop cover of "Hot in Herre", and it's completely fucked up in the most awesome way imaginable. It's a demented gem featuring hard-partying eskimos and polar bears, a hillarious contrast with the sluttiness of the original song.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Live Music: Brandi Carlile

Wow. Just fucking wow. I never would have thought Brandi Carlile would be able to maintain that amaazingly huge voice from the studio during a live performance, but she pulls it off flawlessly, and here her voice sounds even better live than it does on the album. It has a raw, intense quality that the album version lacks. It's "The Story", and it kicks ass.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Mark Ronson DJed TomKat's wedding.

Seriously. Here's a link to a video where he talks about what an awful dancer Tom Cruise is. Also, he makes jokes about Amy Winehouse not showing up for the shooting of the "Valerie" video, so there's clearly no bad blood between them. Good thing, because that's the best producer-singer match since Butch Vig and Shirley Manson.

Go here for the video

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Remixes: Daft Punk vs Eminem

One of my favorite recently-discovered mashups: Daft Punk's "Harder Better Faster Stronger" and Eminem's "Without Me". Actually, HBFS works better for Slim Shady than it worked for Kanye. It's kinda amazing.