What's More Unbelievable?

Friday, May 30, 2008

Mothra likes a moving picture

This week I rediscovered music videos. Up until this past Wednesday, I though new bands releasing new videos was pretty much a dead art form. I've lived without cable television for about ten years and the likes of MTV and VH1 gave up on their mission statement years ago anyway. I'd also given up on the internet as a source for watching bands' music videos since searching around their myspace pages always annoyed me and felt like a waste of time.
But Wednesday night I was reading a review of the new Al Green album on Pitchfork and noticed a sidebar ad for Pitchfork.tv. I clicked away from the review to find a whole bunch of music videos by bands I generally find interesting. Now, please don't think I'm a shill for Pitchfork or one of those bloggers who gets cash for plugging shit. I just get excited some times when I discover new things, like the time I discovered volume control buttons on the side of my cell phone; ask anybody - I couldn't stop talking about them. Anyway, since my ignorance of music videos lasted roughly a decade, there have been some pretty cool things happening it seems. My favorites are animated videos. Check out this Justice video that totally floors me everytime I watch it. See if you can spot all the corporate logos referenced.

Architecture in Helsinki's video is an embroidery breakthrough:

Also check out a new Hot Chip video. Those boys can dance!

Do yourself a favor and also check out Gamera's post from a while back with Vampire Weekend's A-Punk vid.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Peacock Shows the Way

I love love love pop radio. Or at least the idea of pop radio. I was raised on mix stations before I discovered the glories of WHFS (R.I.P.) and always liked the way the sets vacillated between saccharine slow jams, mild rock songs and bumpin fresh beats. It's probably the cause of my voracious appetite for all genres of music and the occasional lack of quality control when it comes to MOR pop and other hits meant for kids 18 years my junior.

These days I don't listen to as much Top 40 radio as I did in my middle school days and without access to MTV or Hot Topic or other bastions of teen and tween culture, I am at sea without a Justin Timberlake-endorsed life jacket. I really do miss having my finger on the pulse of today's youth so I try to at least have some idea of what's out there but reading the top 20 charts always proves to me how out of it I am. Of the top 10 albums on the Billboard 200 right now, I know 6 of the artists but that's only because there are dinosaurs like Madonna, Frank Sinatra and inexplicably, Neil Diamond on there. Looking further down the list, I drift further away from my comfort zone, stuck in a crowd of unfamiliar faces. Who the hell are the Flobots? Seriously are we out of band names?

Occasionally, a band and/or track will be so hot that I can't avoid it and I once again fall in love with a slick radio gem. Oftentimes, I have Saturday Night Live to credit with the assist. They book musical guests that I rarely pursue in my own life but I give the benefit of the doubt when awake at 12:30 am. In the past I've had my mind completely blown by performances by Kelly Clarkson and Avril Lavigne whose angst-filled rendition of slow burn "I'm With You" changed my opinion of her before the first chorus.

Kelly Clarkson - "Since U Been Gone"
Kelly Clarkson - Since U Been Gone (Saturday Night Live 12 February 2005) -

Avril Lavigne - "I'm With You/Complicated"

I also renewed my interest in Radiohead when I saw Johnny Greenwood twiddling knobs and pulling plugs during "Idioteque," a song so strange & beautiful it nearly gave me heart palpitations.

Radiohead - "Idioteque"

Recently I've fallen in love with Gnarls Barkley after witnessing their breakneck attack on the single "Run." It was like a punk rock soul song performed by a Pentecostal Southern Baptist preacher. Most times, even the sucky bands put on a good performance so I try to catch the show each week and while there have been some interesting choices this year, nothing has hit me as hard as Usher's recent run through of his smash "Love in This Club." I had just read about the song that same day in Entertainment Weekly (my source) and was intrigued by the sound of it, mostly because it's a song about getting busy in a club and not caring who is watching. It's like the unofficial theme song for Swinger Nation. The song did not disappoint, it's a modern soul masterpiece and well deserved it's top spot on the singles chart, plus the dancing was insanely choreographed and included a pop and lock drum breakdown which seemed to defy physics. NBC seems to scour online video posting sites, especially YouTube, to remove all videos of SNL performances but they don't post them on their site either so it's very hard to rewatch your favorites and it's incredibly frustrating. Thankfully, other sites have stepped up to fill the gaps. Enjoy these videos while you can before NBC's brain police find and eliminate them.

Usher - "Love in This Club"
[LIVE] Love In This Club Feat. Young Jeezy / Usher -On SNL- -

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


As far as instrumental bands go, Ratatat is one of my favorites. Mothra's too, I suspect. What's not to like? Crunchy guitar riffs, awesome programmed beats and heavenly synth lines form a holy union to rock your pants right off.

Their first album kicked off with the absolutely perfect "Seventeen Years" and didn't let up from there. The first time I heard that song switch from electro-funk to a soft bed of ethereal genius halfway through, I was hooked. My son also fell hard for them and this cd is probably high on the most listened to albums in our house. 5 years later, the pleasures still haven't dulled.

For their second album Classics the duo stuck to the formula and produced another magical masterpiece. As they themselves said, highlighting the nearly Xerox-like qualities of the new batch of songs, Classics sounds like the first lp played backwards. Good enough for me. Plus there's a bad ass wildcat on the cover. Rowr!

LP3 is due out in July and they just posted the first video on YouTube. The song seems more electronic based than the earlier guitar heavy tunes but it's still got those slinky, intertwining lines and booty rockin beats. This one's for all the Predator fans out there, you know who you are.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Our Version of Good Times

In honor of the great sitcoms, we offer you a night of spinoffs and side projects.

The Gothic Archies - City of the Damned

The Rentals - Waiting
John Linnell - Michigan

Matthew Friedburger - Wisconsin River Blues
Thurston Moore - Silver > Blue
Loose Fur - Apostolic

Sentridoh - Cause For Celebration
Latin Playboys - Chinese Surprize
Golden Smog - Jennifer Save Me

The New Year - Alter Ego
Crooked Fingers - You Can Never Leave
Tortoise and Bonnie Prince Billy - Thunder Road

The Raconteurs - Broken Boy Soldier
Desaparecidos - The Happiest Place on Earth
Foo Fighters - Big Me

Temple Of The Dog - Hunger Strike
The New Pornographers - Star Bodies
Ugly Casanova - Barnacles

The Breeders - Oh!
A Silver Mt Zion - The Triumph of Our Tired Eyes

Stars - Reunion
Broken Social Scene Presents Kevin Drew - Backed Out Of The Cause
The Halo Benders - On A Tip

Tobin Sprout - Whose Adolescence
Carl & the Passions - Marcella
The Postal Service - Sleeping In

Barry Black - Tropical Fish Revival

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Mix Tape is Still King

When I was in high school, I was in a band called Mitten that prided itself on two things: our unrelenting amateurism and the commitment to play anywhere we were invited, no matter how silly or lame. This led to us playing at a library to senior citizens, on the Mall in DC on a plank of wood for an Amnesty International event, at the summer camp where I was a counselor for 8-12 year olds and in an empty coffee shop on the Jersey Shore.

One time my brother, who was also a guitarist in the band, was having a house party in his college home 'The Planetarium' and invited his own band to play at the affair. The rest of us lived over 2 hours away but jumped at the chance to play another gig, packed up our gear and were on our way. The show was an intense mess. We were crammed into a tiny space in a tiny basement competing with the understandably inattentive crowd. At one point, the sound proof wall fell down on the drummer's head midsong and had to be held up by the head of the bass player's instrument. It must have looked pretty pitiful. At one point, one of the guests came downstairs and said to his friend, "What is up with this Post-Polvo Snooze Fest." It was surely the best one sentence assessment of a band since the infamous "shit sandwich" review. It was also the perfect name for a fanzine.
The following summer, 3/4 of the band and Listmaker worked diligently to put together our first fanzine. It was made the old fashioned way with glue sticks, tape and the help of a friend at Kinko's who promised to look the other way as we used their services at no charge. Post Polvo Snooze Fest was dedicated the art of the mixtape and we were so proud of it. Looking back on it now I can see that it was insanely low budget and slapped together but it's still chock full of good advice. Years later we made Volume 2 but this one was all digital - no more paper cuts. They're the perfect way to waste time on this slow spring day so check them out and relive the old days before iPods and MP3s, when cassettes still ruled the world. Or at least my world.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Crayola Missed the Boat

So Polvo week kind of fizzled and died. My brother is a very busy boy and so the emails dried up but don't fear, more Polvo missives will come in time. For all those waiting desperately to hear our thoughts on Cor-Crane Secret, you'll just have to wait a little bit longer.

Even though we don't have news of the recent Polvo reformation show we can still party like it's 1994 - the year indie rock and ringer tees ruled the land. It was also the year of the greatest color to ever descend on the music world. That color is Indie Rock Orange. I don't know if this is a color we invented due to the overabundance of bright orange band t shirts sold by drummers after shows or if it was a nationally recognized occurrence but it was the shade of choice for New Balance wearing indie kids who could be found at tiny clubs dotting the Northeast doing the dance that the Dismemberment Plan so aptly called "The Standing Still." It was a time when bands listed the members by first name only in the album credits and sloppy artwork and amateur musicianship were the norm.

I searched Google and Wikipedia and all over the internet but couldn't find any mention of Indie Rock Orange so it must have been a term common only to my circle of friends but it lives on to this day. I also couldn't find any images of old Polvo T shirts so check out the shirt on the left here and imagine that the P stand for Polvo.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Alfabet City

A to Z fun!

American Analog Set - First of Four
The Breeders - Mad Lucas
The Constantines - Soon Enough

Dressy Bessy - Lookaround
The Exploding Hearts - Sleeping Aids & Razor Blades
Franz Ferdinand - Cheating On You

Guided By Voices - Mincer Ray
Hazel - Push to Close
Islands - Rough Gem

The Jayhawks - The Man Who Loved Life
The Kinks - Arthur
The Lucksmiths - Broken Bones

Mr. Bungle - Chemical Marriage
Nation of Ulysses - Last Train to Cool
Of Montreal - Du Og Meg

Prine, John - Far From Me
Q and Not U - Soft Pyramids
Roxy Music - If There is Something

Silver Jews - New Orleans
Thinking Fellers Union Local 282 - Noble Experiment
The Undertones - Teenage Kicks

The Vaselines - You Think You're a Man
Wreckless Eric - Wreckless Eric
XTC - Dear Madam Barnum

Yeasayer - 2080
The Zombies - The Way I Feel Inside

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

No Self Respecting Indie Rocker Wears New Balance

It's Polvo week here at the Battle for the Earth. After a long, long hiatus, the band has renewed it's commitment to odd tunings and is bringing their unique brand of noise pop back to the aging indie rockers and new musical youth. To me, they are a very important band because along with Sonic Youth, they opened up a world of sounds unlike anything I was bred to listen to. My parents did have the best of Bread on lp but the universe occupied by Polvo was mystifying and magical. They typify the somewhat hermetic world if indie rock in the mid 90s. Polvo was a band who sounded weird, achieved a small group of dedicated followers and never really strove for more, nor were they ever likely to move out of the indie ghetto with songs as willfully obtuse as theirs. They were indie-prog in a way and are probably the cause of my love of King Crimson, Rush and Genesis. My brother Jamie loves them passionately to this day and when I found out they were playing their first show in years at the Black Cat (the club we visited countless times growing up) I got him a few tickets and looked forward to his review. I still wait for the write up on the show but until it shows up in my inbox, let's let him look back at their first ep. Bake it away, toys:

"I love Polvo," writes Jamie, "let's just get that straight off the bat. Not that it
would be hard to discern from what's to follow. I certainly couldn't be called anything like an impartial observer.

Polvo, S/T (1991) - At the time of their existence, Polvo was always lumped into the 90s Chapel Hill scene with its Superchunks and Archers of Loafs, its Small 23s and Ashley Stoves. And while in fact one of the best shows I ever say featured the Archers, Superchunk and Polvo all on the same bill, Polvo always seemed a bit separate to me. I even remember when the Archers’ “vs. The Greatest Of All Time” EP came out, a guy at the college radio station heard a snippet and said “looks like they’ve been listening to a lot of Polvo.” Yes they rocked, but something about their detuned, Asian-inflected sound seemed to put them on a different level. Further, they had a guy named “Ash Bowie” playing guitar – a great name that reflects on Rock history (and the original Bowie’s tendency to be a bit “out there” sometimes) while retaining an element of mystery. But he was the only one who looked the part. The rest of them were just a bunch of kinda-dorky white dudes wearing New Balance sneakers and shorts. It only made the sound coming out of them all the more incongruous and intriguing.

So by the time I had come to fully appreciate Polvo, it was around the time that 1994's "Celebrate The New Dark Age" had come out, full of angular momentum and quasi-eastern bombast. They were polishing their sound, getting tighter and gaining confidence. I don't remember when I even became aware that they had released a double 7" in 1990 or that it had eventually been released on CD, but there it was one day in the store and I had no choice but to buy it. Not that I'm much of a completist - I just don't have the drive to track down every stray crumb that bands tend to drop during their existences and I've never allocated large swaths of money to the pursuit of rarities and imports - but price wasn't an issue and it's likely that the used bins had been a little bit lacking that day. And so Jesus Christ Records #001 made it's way into the collection.

Listening to it in the context of knowing their work, it’s an obvious first album. The influence of shoegaze and MBV/Sonic Youth-style noise is mixed with an appreciation of 60s psychedelia and 70s arena rock. And an absolute lack of anything resembling decent singing. The opener “Can I Ride” showed up in a slightly different version on “Cor-Crane Secret”. The original retains most of the charm and drive of the first but obviously benefited from further refinement. “Leaf” gets derailed by working for a big chorus that just doesn’t go anywhere (I couldn't agree more - ed.). Moving on, the opening segment of “Lull” hints at what’s to come from this band. With it’s swinging, jazzy intro it sounds like something from Exploded Drawing, before kicking into a great riff held underwater by the looping and droning of the second guitar. More hints of the future appear in “Tread on Me” with a staccato opening giving way to loping arpeggios and conversing guitars leading into an aggro chorus/verse concoction followed by an outro that reminds me a lot of Flower (that’s a reference that about 3 people will get). And then there's “Teen Dream” - sung by which band member I have no clue, but whoever it is sounds like a redneck who has done a considerable amount of peyote. The closer, “Snake Fist Fighter” has nothing much to recommend it other than its name, which foreshadows such song titles as “Vibracobra,” “Ox Scapula,” “Stinger (Five Wigs),” and “Enemy Insects.”

In the end, I’m happy to own it as a mile-marker for a band that would go on to do more exciting things shortly thereafter. The songs have some redeeming qualities and obvious hints of promise, much the way cake batter is fun to lick off the spatula (another Chapel Hill band!), but much better after having been baked and covered in a thick layer of icing."

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Mothra Returns. Gamera Weeps

Danzig - Mother
Pete Wingfield - 18 with a Bullet
Captain Beefheart - Her Eyes Are A Blue Million Miles

The Who - I'm a Boy
Talking Heads - Born Under Punches
Ween - Learnin to Love

Beck - Asshole
Papa M - Pissing in the Wind
Tarbox Ramblers - Jug Band Music

Andrew W K - Girls Own Love
Weezer - Why Bother?
Pixies - Alec Eiffel

The Flaming Lips - This Here Giraffe
Hall and Oates - Rich Girl
Blank Blank and the Wilson Street Warriors - He-Man Hit Me

Smog - My Shell (Electric Version)
The Replacements - Androgynous
Tom Waits - Lie To Me

The Kinks - Stop Your Stobbing
Creedence Clearwater Revival - My Baby Left Me
Sam Cooke - Bring It On Home To Me
The Minders - Big Machine

Polvo - Tilebreaker
Pavement - Circa 1762
The New Pornographers - Breakin' the Law

Rob Cartelli - Father's Best
We Will Build - Greece, Finally
Akron/Family - Shoes

Friday, May 9, 2008

Two Shades of Tambourines

Long gone are the days of 120 Minutes, Yo! MTV Raps and Headbanger's Ball so I don't see many videos these days but I did want to share this one with you. At work today, we were talking about ASCII art, that amazing old skool computer art created by a bunch of letters and symbols all perfectly placed to make a larger picture. Initially, these works were done by hand but now there are programs that allow text or image to ASCII conversions without stress or strain or hours wasted finding the perfect letters to represent your ASCII Mona Lisa's mouth.
Here's an example of an ASCII bird, in color!

If you search through the internet you can find pages and pages devoted to this amazing art form. There are picture galleries and animation galleries but also Star Wars, The Incredibles and even an ASCII version of Deep Throat.

Apparently, Beck is also a fan because he made a video done almost completely in ASCII art. The song is ok but the artwork is mindblowing, especially half way through when font sizes increase and decrease at will.

"Black Tambourine"

Here's another tambourine while we're on the subject. I love how the guys in the Lemon Pipers aren't even trying to hide the fact that they're lip synching. Stick around after the song for the extremely awkward interview.

"Green Tambourine"

Monday, May 5, 2008

My Three Thoughts

1. Mothra is officially back in town. It feels like half a year since we did a show together and I'm horribly excited to have him back in town and back in the studio. Gamera Jr. has been wonderful as a copilot and it's fun to do a self indulgent noisefest now and then but I'm ready to get back the theme shows and the theme song which I can't bring myself to play when he's away. This Sunday the fierce battles resume.

2. I'm falling in love with Les Savy Fav lately, partially for their unhinged frontman Tim Harrington but mostly because they are carrying the torch for bands like Candy Machine and Fugazi. Tim is famous for accosting the audience at every Les Savy Fav show. He attacked Mothra a few months ago when we saw them in Northampton. We stood close to the stage filled equally with excitement and pure dread as he launched himself into the crowd repeatedly. Mothra held his own pretty well as Tim put his arms through Mothra's jacket and forced him tight against his body. I was amazed at how well Tim was able to still sing with Mothra's hands inside of his mouth. There's a fantastic interview on Pitchfork today with Mr. Harrington. Here's my favorite exchange from the article:

Pitchfork: Have you ever regretted anything you've done on stage?
TH: Obviously, anytime I've fallen. Sometimes I fall hard on my coccyx. I've regretted that...you mean like, ashamed?
Pitchfork: Yeah, maybe. Like waking up the next day and thinking, "maybe I shouldn't have fed that kid my hair," something like that?
TH: No, it all seems like it's OK.

3. We don't get too many visitors here at Battle for the Earth (tell your friends) but I do like to know who is stopping by which is why we installed a site meter. We have some regular readers and many strangers who stumble across here due to various search terms. Lately, strangers worldwide have found us by searching Google for pictures of Guanabana fruits. None of these people stays for very long as I'm sure they're disappointed to come across long, rambling music notes instead of recipes for that delicious treat. On May 1, someone visited us using a search I found very curious. Here is the Google search someone typed in: "the hangovers - all dolled up." This shocked me and made me curious. Looking at the site meter closer, I discovered this user was in Durham, NC. They stayed for 0 seconds but I'm left to wonder who this could have been. The Hangovers was the name of a home recording project of a friend of a friend named Jack Watson and I'm pretty sure he recorded these songs while living in Durham. Jack's been in several bands (Raygun Theatre, The Diplomats) but as far as I know he only recorded two songs under the Hangovers moniker: "All Dolled Up" and "Now She's Coming Out." Who is this mystery person looking up the Hangovers? I'm so intrigued.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Moody Blue Sunday Sandwich

2 hours of blissful noise.

Ted Leo - Me & Mia

The Mountain Goats - There Will Be No Divorce
The Shins - Your Algebra
Polvo - Twenty White Tents
Animal Collective - Unsolved Mysteries
Fugazi - Cashout
Liars - Plaster Casts of Everything
John Coltrane - Dearly Beloved
Burial - Endorphin
Tangerine Dream - Mysterious Semblance at the Strand of Nightmares
Genesis - More Fools Me
Lymbyc Systym - Invocation
Bjork - I See Who You Are
Radiohead - Nude
Jean-Claude Chapuis -Luminescence
Friends of Dean Martinez - Armory Park/Dwell
Sonic Youth - I Love Her All the Time
Mogwai - With Portfolio
Theme From "The Wicker Man"
Bettie Serveert - Leg
Electrelane - Bells
John Cage - 15 Minutes of Repetition
Beck - Get Real Paid
Six Finger Satellite - The Greatest Hit
Neutral Milk Hotel - April 8th
Panda Bear - Carrots
Matmos - The Struggle Against Unreality Begins
Archers of Loaf - White Trash Heroes
The Cure - Play For Today
Billy Bragg - Waiting For the Great Leap Forwards
Sportsguitar - So Healthy

Guided By Voices - Echos Myron

Thursday, May 1, 2008

The Glory of Lurv

Damn you Dirty Dancing! You have cast your spell on me and I can't get you out of my head. Some films you miss out on and as others grow attached and obsess and trade lines you sit idly by and figure you have lost your chance. You will never feel the same way about it that they do. Those jokes are so deeply embedded in those who were there from the beginning that they are part of their DNA. You have arrived late to the party and can either scramble to play catch up or abandon ship. I figured I was in the latter camp when it came to Dirty Dancing but when I finally got around to watching it, the masterpiece of 80s filmmaking sank its claws deep inside of me and has yet to let go. I get it! I see why this film is a classic of escapist cinema. I may have missed out on 21 years of good times and giggles watching these two star crossed lovers circle each other like carnivorous birds but it didn't ruin the experience for me. I'm just surprised how quickly this film took over my psyche.

Do you know how I know the sickness has invaded my every pore? It's because when I watch the video for "She's Like the Wind" I don't gawk and roar with laughter at Swayze the singer's over emoting. No. Instead I swoon as Baby and Johnny practice dance moves, jump on a log and swim in a lake. What kind of voodoo has kicked me in the head? Take a gander for yourself. If you have a soul, you too will find yourself flooded with conflicting emotions as you watch this. It's like viewing home movies starring someone else. The feelings this stirs up make me feel like I was there, like I was Johnny or perhaps Baby and lived through this magical summer at Kellerman's. I am converted and it feels so good!

I feel about Dirty Dancing the way I felt about The Karate Kid. I left the theater after that one ready to do some serious kicking and since having my life altered by Swayze and Co. I want to lift my dance partner over my head and smash a car window to get to the keys I locked inside. I want to help carry a watermelon into a party for sweaty minimum wage slaves. I want to live dammit!

And of course, thinking about The Karate Kid makes me think of Peter Cetera and how he is one of the guiltiest of pleasures. "You're the Inspiration" and "The Glory of Love" are inescapable smash hits that will echo through my skull for all eternity but what is the deal with the way Cetera sings? It's really odd. Check out this story about a throwdown he was in back in 1969 at Dodgers Stadium: "Four marines didn't like a long-haired rock 'n' roller in a baseball park," Cetera recounts, "and of course I was a Cub fan, and I was in Dodger Stadium, and that didn't do so well. I got in a fight and got a broken jaw in three places, and I was in intensive care for a couple of days. The only funny thing I can think about the whole incident," he says, "is that, with my jaw wired together, I actually went on the road, and I was actually singing through my clenched jaw, which, to this day, is still the way I sing." He's so much cooler than I thought. What a badass. Set the wayback machine for 1986: