Monitor Down

The music blog that doesn’t want to hear itself

Archive for March 2009

Depeche Mode’s Tour Path Across the Universe

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Depeche Mode at the O2 Arena, London

The UK new-wave / goth outfit (“Depressed Mode,” one of my favorite band nicknames) is preparing to launch its world tour, the ambitiously titled Tour of the Universe. The avalanche of awesome begins Wednesday, May 6 with a warm-up show in Luxembourg, and ends (for now) December 18 in Manchester. The group had reportedly planned to end it in Florida in September, but recently added six extra Europe and UK dates.

The schedule is below. I will be eagerly descending upon the first Hollywood Bowl show. Cheers.

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Written by Peter Kimmich

March 27, 2009 at 1:09 pm

Song-o-scope: Malcolm McClaren’s “About Her”

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I hate the power of suggestion, and I hate being marketed to. Thus, I’ve made a point never to buy albums based on the latest hyped song. This also entails never purchasing anything solely because it was handed to me in a movie soundtrack.

But however stubborn my mission is, there’s one problem. Dammit, it can always be overridden by a good song. A good song has the ability to plunge straight to the center of my brain, put a gun to my brain’s head, and force my brain to drop all of its principles with regard to “resisting the will of the man.” That’s why when Uma Thurman, aka Beatrix Kiddo, got into her VW Carmengia and ruefully cruised the backroads of Ciudad Acuña, Mexico while the background swelled with Malcom McLaren’s “About Her” — a plushy collage of the Zombies’ “She’s Not There” and Bessie Smith’s “St. Louis Blues,” — I had no choice.

The sorrowful piano melody! The hypnotic textures! Did I mention the piano melody? Even the light R&B beat, something I almost never approve of, seemed to coax me in with its mournful innocence. Bessie Smith’s wretched croon echoed hauntingly, conjuring the image of a wasted soul trudging through existence in a self-pitying stupor. And when the chorus opened to reveal my old friend, Colin Blunstone’s tender voice from “She’s Not There,” wrapped in gentle orchestration and slowed to a melancholy drift, it was the slap across my brain’s face that forced me to take action.

So I went out and bought a Zombies compilation. Of course, I still listen to McLaren’s creation whenever I want, free on YouTube. Damn the Man.

Written by Peter Kimmich

March 18, 2009 at 4:17 pm

It’s St. Patty’s Day – Listen to Some Flogging Molly

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The Americans may not have the rich Irish heritage the Emerald Isle has, but we definitely support our homemade version of it: All hail Flogging Molly and their hearty, snarling, Irish punk-rock. I need say no more:

Written by Peter Kimmich

March 17, 2009 at 9:07 am

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Apparently, Commercial Covers Don’t Always Have to Suck

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acdcOn occasion, I will be in some department store or other where I am exposed to the business side of pop culture. This basically means music that serves as background fill, creating a comfortable, mindless soundtrack that makes people more inclined to shop. And usually, what I hear irritates me beyond words (though I tried to express it once, here).

However, a recent event managed to re-open my judgment on commercial pop covers, and I’ve realized something rather interesting: The commercialization of music doesn’t always have to involve the dumbing down of obscure, artistically challenging songs. It can go both ways.

This occurred to me in the sale section of a slightly upscale clothing store, where my discerning eardrums were introduced to a vaguely funky, jazz-style version of AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell.” Sounds awful, I know. But hold on.

It was performed by a female vocalist, with some combination of keyboards and horns fleshing out the main chord progression, and a broken-down beat that almost entirely avoided the main beat of the song. The whole thing barely resembled the original at all. In fact, it took a few bars for me to positively identify it. And I would even say … I wasn’t pissed off about it. (Side note: I tried to find it on YouTube to no avail, but here’s a goofy, lamer jazz version of it by Tom Gaebel and Jazzkantine, to give you some idea.)

I’d like to contrast this experience with an earlier one, the example I hinted at earlier. This was the Killers’ hipster-pop version of Joy Division’s “Shadowplay.” Hearing that cover brought my blood to a boil instantly, and here’s why: The original version of “Shadowplay” isn’t supposed to be perfect. It’s not meant to be readily absorbed by people who don’t “get” music, or serve as the backdrop to a mindless club atmosphere — and it’s certainly not intended to be the soundtrack to a Forever 21. (I realize this might sound elitist and snobby. It is.)

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Written by Peter Kimmich

March 13, 2009 at 1:33 pm

Meet the Primrose League: the UK’s Web-Only Rock Band

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the primrose leagueThe first time I saw Daniel Earwicker he was tearing through a cover of the Smiths’ “How Soon is Now?” on an old Rickenbacker. He was doing it without vocals, so the screaming lead guitar poured in like a crashing wave. I thought he was impressive for a guy with no head.

The people who watch Earwicker play, in fact, usually only see him from about the shoulders to the knees. That’s because his primary audience is on YouTube, where Earwicker, 36, has established his presence as a self-contained Internet band, complete with a growing base of rabidly loyal fans. (Me: guilty.)

His band is the Primrose League, and the lineup is as follows: Guitar, Daniel Earwicker; bass, Daniel Earwicker; drums, Daniel Earwicker; vocals, Daniel Earwicker. Production … you get the picture. He records on his home computer in the south of England, videotaping himself on each instrument. He then cuts it all together into a homemade music video, featuring himself as all players. As of yet, he has about 14 original songs in his catalogue, which he’s made available in album form to anyone who wants them. And yeah, they’re good.

“I’ve never sent a CD off to a record company or anything like that,” Earwicker said over an email interview last week. “YouTube is the first time I put music out to somewhere that the general public could find it.”

At first, he said, he had only posted a few covers to his channel – a pretty common phenomenon among “headless” YouTube musicians. He only began posting his own material at the request of listeners, never imagining people would start following him.

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Written by Peter Kimmich

March 3, 2009 at 2:27 pm