Tuesday, February 28, 2012


So, it's been about three months since one of best bands on the fucking planet released their EP Polymers are Forever, and I've been eagerly awaiting word on when Future of the Left's new album is gonna drop. Well, The Plot Against Common Sense is slated to be released on May 28th and to tide rabid fans such as myself over, the band has just dropped this killer video for the delightfully caustic and smirking raised middle finger of a tune, "Sheena is a T-shirt Salesman."
Yeah, this might have been featured as an "exclusive" on the NME's website but thankfully we live in the YouTube age and therefore I don't have to provide that shitty publication with web hits.
Seriously, if you're not head over heels in love with this band you are failing at life.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Will Everyone Please Shut the Fuck Up About Lana Del Rey: A Plea for Moving Our Critical Energies to at Least an Interesting Subject

[Ed. note: I am well aware that the mere act of writing this piece might seem hypocritical. Deal with it.]
Every so often music writers and fans find someone/thing new to obsess over and criticize that becomes so polarizing it catapults the subject to the zenith of the pop culture zeitgeist and in turn creates a hypocritical and idiotic clusterfuck of biblical proportions. For the last several agonizing months, Lana Del Rey has gone from the latest hip indie chanteuse to Pitchfork reader punching bag to commercial success to critic punching bag to the little darling misunderstood and over scrutinized songstress that must be defended from all the mean old critics and internet haters. And now that her album is finally out it doesn't appear that the debate is going to end anytime soon and instead of devoting gallons of digital ink or boost in publicity to other (and I would say much more deserving) artists it looks like indie rock has finally produced it's own Tim Tebow: an idol whose intense praise and scorn isn't deserved at all based solely up their body of work and provokes rabid reactions from either side of the fence. When it comes to professional output, in Ms. Lizzy Grant's case that amounts to a shortly available debut album (to build the mystery and allure, some have opined) a fucking dreadful Saturday Night Live appearance and the so-hyped-to-goddamn-death record that would never appease just about any rock critic, Born to Die. That's. Fucking. All.
Take a step back and realize that artists with catalogs about a hundred times lengthier (and more impressive) have failed to receive anywhere near that amount of attention in decades plus careers. Liz Phair wrote an op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal about her for fucks sakes! That is fucking mind blowing and it makes me pause to wonder just what it is about this woman that deserves such lengthy and often inconsequential discussion. Why not Kreayshawn or Skrillex or those dickweeds Time Magazine profiled that whine about spending $100,000 a year to "make it"? It's like the entire world of music just shrugged and gave every one of them a pass after, like, a week on incessant bitching and then moved on to somewhat cover new or emerging bands that were actually worth a shit or write about forgotten bands that were worth a shit.
The arguments to be made for ignoring Lana Del Rey if you don't dig her music (I think "Video Games" is a really good song but the rest of that album, woof) are really quite simple. She is as inoffensive as it comes when you look solely at her music. The world wouldn't be any better or worse without her contribution to the pop music canon so why get worked the fuck up over it? It's not she's Kim Kardashian or Paris Hilton or...Bog forbig, Perez Hilton releasing some overglossed bullshit just because she can. There is an actual effort she has made in her career and as calculating and Machiavellian as she has been in controlling her image and output you've got to at least give her a pat on the back.
The main argument that seems to persevere is that she is "inauthentic." I have no fucking clue what that means. Collapse Board had a fantastic fucking write up about how that is such a bullshit argument. And before we delve into that let's discuss the bullshit genre known as "indie rock." I don't pretend to understand what that term means to people who actually use it to describe a musical genre. Under the broadest definition the National qualify as an indie rock band but shouldn't some yo-core group off of ICP's label count as well? Indie rock is just a lazy way of music writers to dismissively pass off quiet music made by honky hipsters in American Apparel gear. I guess, at least. It's as bullshit and lethargic of a descriptor as "alternative" was in the 90's. So, I guess because Del Rey hasn't busked for her monthly co-op rent in a loft with 50 kids in Williamsburg or has never worked as a barista then she MUST NOT BE ALLOWED TO SULLY INDIE ROCKS GRAND TRADITION OF EXISTENTIAL SUFFERING AND HEART ACHE BROUGHT FROM FEIGNED POVERTY. YOU THINK IT WAS EASY ASKING MY STEP-DAD FOR THIS FUCKING GIBSON AND THE MARSHALL AMP AND TO LOAN ME THE FAMILY MINI-VAN ON WEEKENDS? At least, I think that's what I read in the comments on a Rolling Stone or Stereogum article. Saying she is "inauthentic" is essentially saying she never pined for her boyfriend to fuck her raw while she sat beside him while he chose to focus his adoration to a video game. And even if that scene never took place she had to mine those emotions from some place. I doubt Stephen King has experienced a lot of murder or end of days cult leaders or been buttfucked in prison after being wrongfully convicted of killing his wife but those emotions and lines come from somewhere.
Oh, wait, are we saying she co-opted the "indie" image in taking great pains to appeal to that cult of personality? Great, she got some collagen in her lips and decided to start dressing like a Bond girl from the early Sean Connery era. Ah, that's it. It's true, adults or even kids in their late teens don't like being marketed to and that is exactly what has happened here. But, that still leaves me asking why is it so fucking hard to just give the songs a listen and walk away? And as someone writing under a Mark Twain I sure as shit ain't gonna go into the dumb as all fuck whining about how she changed her name. I'm sure Interscope (a label that has released a shitton of great music) wants to rake as much cash from her as they can but when did it become so offensive to have a record label try to sell you on a pop star so hard? It's not like she's being passed off as the new Cat Power or Kathleen Hannah or P.J. Harvey, after all. Shouldn't all be old hat by now? I get that some deranged and self proclaimed protectors of the aforementioned purity that has always been a part of the "indie" scene (*coughPITCHFORKcough*) don't like the big boys pissing in their sandbox but then why not just dismiss the whole charade and assign and asinine .25939439439 score to the record and move on?
Looking solely at her music it's apparent she has a great voice with mediocre songwriting talents that maybe could produce something solid in the future. However, where some artists would take the critical and cultural lashings she's received and lock themselves in a closet with a Casio, acoustic guitar and four-track for months to prove their haters wrong I don't get that sort of passion from Del Rey. When she says things like, "I don't think I'll write another record" two things go through my mind.
First, she is completely full of shit. I doubt anyone would take the (father's) money, time and effort to create the PR swirl she has engineered (it certainly didn't come through in the music. Seriously, the album is a mess.) if she didn't really want to make a go at being a musician, at least not a non-famous one. But, after listening to Born to Die and her insisting that the album was inspired by a break up and that she's expunged her soul successfully through it I can kinda buy it. I don't see her having much to offer beyond its tracks act least as a songwriter. Her voice has a somber power but if we get Born to Die V2.0 I doubt it will be as interesting. And it's only interesting to listen to so we can dissect to figure out whether or not all this hype was worth the time. Maybe if she ditched the electronic bullshit and horrible DJ EZ yelps and had somebody prop her in front a microphone with just a piano or guitar we might get somewhere but the reliance on the late 90's wanna-be hip hop beats seems like its masking a lack in having an actual song behind her coos. It's almost as if the music was an afterthought. All of that flies out the window when you're reminded that she released another album before this. And that NO ONE could create this kind of buzz without having some heavy industry influence.
The other thing, and it's more intriguing when it comes to the matter at hand is this: is she pop music's current Queen Troll? Was all of this just a calculated ploy by a well to do gal to gauge the reaction to her bedroom musings on a large stage and then decide later on whether or not she wants to continue down this path? It's certainly a cynical assessment and unfair as well. Good for her that she had loads of help getting her music checked out by millions of people it's not like there are really any pure pop music fairy tales to speak of. Katy Perry had to pretend to be bisexual and sell out her Christian pop past to achieve her level of boob worship ya know. And to be sure, her interviews are often grating in their narcissism like when she proclaims to be a "gangsta Nancy Sinatra" or the aforementioned "I've said everything I wanted to say...maybe I'll just collect my check, cash out and go back to chilling in Miami."
I do believe that there is a lot of sexism at play when it comes to the casual dismissal of Del Rey, too. Kings of Leon didn't get called "inauthentic" when they went from being Southern rock apes to unwashed, douchebag, contemporary adult pop bullshit. The Strokes got NO RESISTANCE (except from Buddyhead) from the music press when their preened garbage faux-garage rock was heralded as saving rock music from being mired in shit. I don't remember as intense of a backlash when perma-pretty boy Jared Leto decided to goth it up and unleash the wave of audio diarrhea that is 30 seconds to Mars. Shit, no one blinked twice when Skrillex went from screamo front-man to the dubstep people's champion (to be fair, he was properly slagged for propagating our enduring international nightmare that is dubstep). So, I ask, for the last time, why Lana Del Rey?
Could it be that all Lana Del Rey is guilty of is being an eager and easily malleable cog in the ever running music industry hype machine and that it's the music journalists that have committed the far greater crimes. After all, the label just puts the album out and promotes it but no one has to cover it or continue to serialize the myth they've carefully cultivated and delivered to your inbox in easily cut and paste press releases. Why don't we all just agree to from now on treat the whole Lana Del Rey thing like Jennifer Connoly at the end of Labyrinth when confronted by Bowie as the Goblin King. Repeat after her, "You have no power over me."