Zombie Politics

I drank your milkshake.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The New Killers Record...

... isn't that bad.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

I'd argue that the strong presence of gay disco glitter-keyboards is enough to keep it from ever being a truly 'serious' rock album. In fact, they should have borrowed the intro from the great Release Therapy: "the following contains Ludacris material..."

More later.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Gnarls Barkley "Secret Show" @ Nokia Theatre

Tonight Gnarls Barkley played a “secret show” at the Nokia Theatre in Times Square. Actually, it wasn’t Gnarls Barkley. Instead, it was Daniel-san, a band that looked alarmingly like Gnarls Barkley’s big-ass’d touring line-up, dressed in white and red karate get-ups (if asked, they’d probably state they were “kung-fu masters” or “obident masters of time, space, and kudu” or something.) They also insisted they were just here to “play some Gnarls Barkley covers.” It was really very cute.

Before they took the stage they had a special guest announcer in none other than David “Please Don’t Bring Up Labyrinth” Bowie. He’s still the coolest motherfucker on the planet even if he is old enough to remember the invention of the steam engine, and he sauntered onstage tonight in a stunning all-black ensemble (black suit, tie, shirt) like he owned the place. Ever little indie emo punk in the audience, hair perfectly mussed, in their fitted blazers must have silently wept to themselves. He out-hipped them all.

Bowie just said something about them being one of his favorite bands (or something – maybe he was talking about the Arcade Fire) and quietly left the stage.

Then Gnarls came out. Or Daniel-san. Whichever. (They confessed their alternate name choice was either that or Kung Fu Hustle.) Actually they didn’t come out. I think the curtain just parted and they were all on stage. It was a massive line-up, with a string section and backup dancers and keyboardists and guitarists and a drummer. Like I said: Massive.

About the Venue: The Nokia Theatre was hardly filled to capacity, with maybe a hundred + people in the front part of the complex (the seated area was all blocked off). Also, it seemed that the barricade that’s comes off the stage was scaled back. The last time I was at the Nokia Theatre was for the Goldfrapp show last December and there seemed to be an impenetrable gulf between the audience and the stage; it didn’t feel like that tonight. It all added up to a much better feeling and contributed to the sunshine-y vibe of the whole affair.

The set was a quick, punchy jaunt through the hits (re: the whole fucking album) and a couple of covers. Cee-Lo warmly engaged the crowd, dropping pop culture reference after pop culture reference. Which got me thinking (never a good idea). This is, after all, a band forced from the molten lava of a thousand aspects of popular culture, and one that quickly solidified its place in the landscape it so admired and revered. It was really something to behold and quite impressive. Cee-Lo and co-conspirator Danger Mouse whipped the crowd into a dancing, stomping, feel-good frenzy, rarely pausing long enough for us to admire the G-Strings (their comely all-girls string section). With bright splashes of color and an infectively joyous attitude, they had the intimate crowd held in rapturous attention – and for just over an hour! There isn’t a whole lot more else to say. It was, in a word, like the embodiment of the whole Gnarls Barkley project, plain and simple FUN.

Zombie Politics had its professional photographer along. Pictures were snapped. They follow.

Big Thanks to Brooklyn Vegan for the head's up!

Junior Boys @ Café Nine – September 6th

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
Zombie Politics' Professional Photographer At Work

I guess I should talk about the Junior Boys show I went to a couple of weeks ago in New Haven. Not that I don’t want to, per se, it’s just that almost everyone else is (from the Village Voice to two major articles on Pitchfork). So, why shouldn’t I? I should. So I am.

On September 6th the Junior Boys played Café Nine in New Haven. I should probably start by saying I had no idea what kind of “venue” Café Nine was. The Junior Boys were playing the following night at the Bowery Ballroom in New York City, which is a fairly huge-ish sort of place. Café Nine is not. In fact, it’s tiny. It’s roughly the size of a fat man’s coffin – a long bar with a tiny, almost hexagonal stage towards the front. The guy outside the door was collecting ten dollars from people and professing ignorance to what the band was actually going to be.

“Beats me,” he apologetically informed someone right before we walked in.

This is what the clueless ticket collecting guy should have said: the Junior Boys are magic. Because they are. They’re a couple of Canadian guys (it used to be Jeremy Greenspan and Johnny Dark, now it’s Greenspan and Matt Didemus) who create some of the most blissful, pretty pop music out there. While the first album had more of a dance-y edge, their recent So This is Goodbye resonates with more breezy sensibilities. “In the Morning,” the absolutely killer lead-off single, is easily one of the year’s greatest tracks (ranking with “Maneater” and “Whoo! Alright-Yeah… Uh Huh” as one of 2006’s premiere pop achievements).

They took to the stage after an opening French Canadian band called Ensemble; only notable because of the hilarious way they pronounced their name (kind of like Ali G in Talladega Nights). It should be known that I had also never seen a picture of the band. Based on the airy, cherubic vocals on the albums I expected the lead singer to be some kind of impish waif. What I got was a tubby Jewish guy with a big red beard and a white disco blazer. Somehow, by defying my expectations, it fit perfectly. At some point he took off his jacket and complained about the heat. Someone from the back (there were maybe 50 of us there) hooted.

“No,” Greenspan deadpanned, “it’s because I’m fat.”

Later in the show he said he really liked Gilmore Girls and asked us if anyone knew Rory Gilmore. More hooting. “Really?” he asked. It was good to know that all the information out-of-towners can gather about New Haven (and Yale) is from a television program on the former WB. He asked where it took place.

“Stars Hollow,” I answered. I was right up against the little stage. I looked downward, zoning out in that singular, between-song way.

“Is that a real place?” he asked.

By the time I looked up I realized that I was having a conversation with the lead singer of a fairly important pop band, and that this singer was still on stage in the middle of a set.

“Oh, no,” I answered.

“Where’s it supposed to be?”

“Somewhere in Fairfield County I think…” and trailed off. Somewhere, someone hooted again.

The truth of the matter, when I thought about it later, is that it isn’t supposed to be in Fairfield County. Fairfield County is far too metropolitan for Stars Hollow. A quick trip to Wikipedia informed me that it is based on “Washington Depot, Connecticut (located in the middle of the western half of the state, about 45 minutes from both Hartford and New Haven).” I really fucked that one up.

The hour long set the duo performed (with the help of a drummer, which was kind of silly) was great. Laid back but easily dance-able, they covered a lot of territory; a nice mix of both Last Exit and So This is Goodbye without any real surprises (not that they were going to cover “I Would Die 4 U,” but a boy can dream). They played for about an hour, with a brief encore. The crowd was well versed in both albums (which was kind of surprising considering that the second album wasn’t scheduled to come out for another week – damn internet piracy!) An example of how intimate and comfortable the show was: at one point somebody yelled out “Teach Me How to Fight” (a ditty from the first album). Greenspan looked out at us, shrugged, and said “okay.” Then, they played the song.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

EW's Top 10 Anticipated Fall Albums (And Mine!)

So Entertainment Weekly put out their ‘Top 25 Most Anticipated Albums of the Fall’ (which really extended to the end of the year, since some of the releases aren’t coming out until December). The list was really fucking awful, with My Chemical Romance’s “American Idiot”-inspired concept album clocking in at #2. (Why? Is anyone on EW’s staff truly jazzed about this release?) So, barring the miraculous release of Kanye West’s “Graduation” and/or Annie’s sophomore disc, here are my Top 10 Most Anticipated Fall Albums. Respeck.

1.) Meat Loaf, “Bat Out of Hell III: The Monster Is Loose”
Why? Because it’s the third (and final chapter) to the most operatic saga in modern rock.

2.) Jay-Z, “Kingdom Come”
Why? Because he’s come out of retirement with the help of the industry’s best producers (Neptunes, Timbaland, Kanye West, Chris Martin, Rick Rubin).

3.) The Magic Numbers, “Those The Brokes”
Why? Because it’s the second Magic Numbers album.

4.) Clipse, “Hell Hath No Fury”
Why? Because they scrapped the first version of the album, reunited with The Neptunes, and came up with something much darker.

5.) Amy Winehouse, “Back to Black”
Why? Because “Rehab” is one of the best singles of the year, and it looks like she’s gone slightly poppier.

6.) Beck, “The Information”
Why? Because Nigel Godrich normally produces Beck’s ‘downer’ albums but this one seems quite fun.

7.) Girls Aloud, “Sounds Of…”
Why? All the singles + several new songs = excitement.

8.) The Killers, “Sam’s Town”
Why? Even if it’s a colossal failure it’ll probably a fun listen.

9.) Robbie Williams, “Rudebox”
Why? He duets with Lily Allen, collaborates with the Pet Shop Boys and gets production help from William Orbit (Madonna’s “Ray of Light”) and Mark Ronson (Rhymefest’s “Blue Collar”).

10.) Various, “Marie Antoinette” Soundtrack
Why? Modern pop songs, classical music, rarities and remixes – all for Sofia Coppola.

ALSO: I’m really looking forward to Lady Sovereign’s “Public Warning,” Bertine Zetlitz's “My Italian Greyhound,” Badly Drawn Boy's "Born in the UK," XL's "Serious Times" collection, the Tenacious D movie soundtrack, The Hold Steady's ""Boys and Girls in America," Danny Elfman's "Charolette's Web" soundtrack, Sugababe’s hits collection “Overloaded,” Alesha Dixon’s “Fired Up,” Ludacris' "Release Therapy," and other stuff I can’t remember. Go figure.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Scissor Sisters II: The Verdict

I’ll be the first to admit it: I was more than a little afraid that the second Scissor Sisters album was going to suck (big time). The thing that made me so frightened was the “comeback” single (although they really haven’t been away for too long – at least by the American release timetable of the first album… if that made any sense). It really wasn’t “comeback”-y enough. It didn’t make me remember why I had missed them; it didn’t get me all hot and bothered for new material; it didn’t make me scream “fuuuuuuuuuuck yeah” while running through the neighborhood in my underwear. And that was disappointing. Because it’s the Scissor Sisters - if there’s one band that should illicit giddy, half-naked tomfoolery, it’s them. I figured that music journalists and snotty bloggers must talk about the ‘sophomore slump’ for a reason. A glowing review in Q did nothing to alleviate my fears – as much as I love them, they still named Coldplay’s “X&Y” as album of the year last year.

(Please keep in mind that I missed all of their summer festival performances, most notably – and regrettably – Coachella. I’m told they “rocked the motherfuckin’ desert.”)

Then I heard the album. And that shut me up real quick.

“Ta Dah,” the band’s second full length, is nothing short of a masterpiece. Really, truly, this is an exceptional pop record.

A couple of things are shocking, right off the bat: First off, the complexity of the lyrics seems to have grown by leaps and bounds. If memory serves, Jake Shears writes the lyrics and Baby Daddy writes the music, although the exact nature of their collaborative process remains a mystery. Whoever’s responsible, there’s a maturity, humanity and sophistication (and wit) that was absent from the first album. Not that the first album is lacking lyrically, but these are lightyears more advanced. The music is so sonically dense that it’s easy to overlook lines like “Is it a chemical that makes this moment true?” but when you catch them, you’re taken aback. The album’s full of ‘um.

Secondly, Ana Matronic seems to have disappeared almost completely. This is pretty depressing. As cute as lil’ Jake Shears is, Ana Matronic was truly the sex symbol of the band – the first female female impersonator. If she’s here, at all, it’s hard to get a grip on where. It reminds me of the second-half disappearance of Senior on Junior Senior’s sophomore disc. Maybe future listens will bear her out. I hope so.

And lastly – the album is super fucking dark. There’s an obsession with death that permeates the album. But not in a grim, Nick Cave-y way; in a joyous, Mexican Day-of-the-Dead, Oingo Boingo way. Take, for instance, the lyric (one of my favorites) from the jaunty “I Can’t Decide:” “I could throw you in the lake or fed you poisoned birthday cake.” I mean, that’s great. It’s dark and playful and not in the least bit serious. And the ballads/slow songs aren’t slow enough to bring the entire album to a screeching halt. As much as I love “Mary” and “Return to Oz,” they bring things down quickly and with much drama. It fucked with the flow. Everything here seems much more cohesive, thematic and otherwise. (This extends to the little bonus disc of B-sides that’s part of the ‘limited edition’ package’.)

Again – the inspiration is pretty apparent. “She’s My Man” is an ode to Elton John and the Pointer Sisters – all at once! “Lights” is almost a Chicago song, even if it contains the lyric “I ain’t got nothin’ but your seed on my face.” “Paul McCartney” captures perfectly the moment when disco got some new toys and turned into electro; and “The Other Side” and “Might Tell You Tonight” showcase the kind of oversized balladry that Meat Loaf pioneered (which reminds me – I’m really fucking pumped about “Bat Out of Hell III”). The exceptional thing is that all these influences and nods and odes equal up to a sound that’s all there own – in two albums the velveteen richness of the patented Scissor Sisters sound has been cemented, and the results are nothing short of stunning.