Friday, May 28, 2004

bits 'n' bots

Biting Simon Reynolds's feeling/not feeling somewhat, here. Since it's the first time I'm doing this, I'll go back in time a bit.

NERD - "She Wants to Move"
The first time I heard this, my reaction was "WTF?" Now I love it. A great dissonant mess of guitar plinks, vocal yelps and cascading faux-tribal drums, it's more rock'n'roll than so much of the rock'n'roll surrounding it on the radio stations I listen to. And it took a couple of hip hop producers to do it, WTF?

Basement Jaxx - "Plug It In"
The title track to Kish Kash is pretty cool too, but "Plug It In"'s female chorus is simply awesome (and very NERD-ish, I found. Coincidentally (or not) Basement Jaxx have remixed "She Wants to Move"), enough to make JC Chasez's parts bearable stop-gaps.

The girls are not giving it up
What's with the spate of no-sex songs? Avril Lavigne is throwing some poor sap off her bed, Pink isn't putting her hands in the air on the first date and I'm not sure who is loudly declaiming that she doesn't want to have sex with us... at all. Avril, I can understand: she's only 19 (and who's having sex at 19?) and has a fanbase to think about; plus, her lack of humour is well-known. Pink I have more trouble understanding: she's a bit old to be so hung up about a first date. Move on, love. Of course, there's Christina "Beyonce doesn't glitter like I do" Milian helping out desperate girlfriends everywhere, but I suspect she's lifting her advice from a self-help manual rather than from personal experience.

Phoenix - "Everything Is Everything" & "I'm An Actor"
"Everything Is Everything" has been playing to death on the radio and I should be sick of it by now, but I'm not. Awesomely layered, polyrhythmic and funky foundation (love that triangle!) supports resolutely morose and gramtically- and semantically-challenged Frenchman-speaking-English musings: "Things are gonna change/But not for better/Don't know what it means to me/It's hopeless, hopeless." Nothing to do with the Donny Hathaway and Lauryn Hill songs of the same name. "I'm An Actor" is narrated from a diva's point-of-view, but it's the heavy 7/4 (or 4+3/4) loop of plodding guitars that makes this one a winner. The Phoenix guys are right to call this their most violent song, but on an absolute scale, Richter for example, it scores only a middling rating. It's a shame the rest of the album is so tepid, Phoenix could have been the French NERD.

Ratatat- Ratatat
I first heard "Seventeen Years" on the radio, where it was described as "synthesizer music made with guitars." It sounded pretty cool to me at the time and still does. However, over 45 minutes, the paucity of sounds and compositional approaches is grating (simple melody, warm textures, repeat, then change after a few minutes). Nice background music, though, with lots of nicely optimistic rising tones. What's up with the hip hop-derived answering machine messages? Of the few hip hop-ish beats, only "Lapland" doesn't sound like a pastiche.

The Claudia Quintet - I, Claudia
Not pop, but almost. If Ratatat is a snack, this is a light meal. 21st century cool jazz that acknowledges contemporary music, electronica (in nicely subtle ways), gamelan, looping, avant-jazz and (post-)rock. Or something like that. Check it out.