Monitor Down

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Archive for August 2009

The Curioso’s Guide to Radiohead

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radioheadThere are three things everyone seems to have opinions about: politics, religion, and Radiohead. On two of those topics, one dissenting view can cause a flat-out argument. When it’s Radiohead, it can cause someone to go insane. It’s quite a phenomenon.

That’s because, like politics and religion, Radiohead is complicated. When an ardent Radiohead fan hears disparaging remarks, or even worse, lack of acknowledgment about their favorite band, it’s easy for them to assume the disparager is uninitiated, and therefore not equipped to make the call. Because “getting” Radiohead isn’t like “getting” Puddle of Mudd. It doesn’t just happen after hearing a couple of songs on Internet radio (“They’re so dreary and weird … how can you like this?”). Most people who are wanton over Radiohead have listened to them for years, seen them evolve, and have grown immensely attached to them.

This is why whenever you ask someone what they like about Radiohead, you get a vague, impassioned gushing of adjectives, with no real explanation. It can leave you even more clueless than before. Or thinking your friends are hippies.

But if you’re into music, and a little open-minded, Radiohead is totally worth getting into. Because the hype is true. They’re like the 200-piece orchestra of pop bands. They’re a punk mentality shoved into something that is about as far from punk as you can get (without involving bagpipes or accordions. Yet.) Their music explains why Thom Yorke is so twitchy and paranoid, and why he sings like that. (He doesn’t always.) Radiohead is pure, 80-proof sonic bliss, if you get what they’re doing.
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Written by Peter Kimmich

August 31, 2009 at 12:41 pm

Noel Leaves Oasis, WTF?

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noel gallagherApparently, Oasis guitarist and absolutely the most arrogant dude in rock history, Noel Gallagher, has left the band after the cancellation of a Paris concert Friday. This sucks big time.

Oasis had planned to play the Paris concert Rock en Seine Friday night, but canceled just before they were due onstage. Event organizers explained, holding back no detail, that the cancellation was caused by an “altercation.” (Further details provided that the altercation occurred “in Paris.”)

Afterward, the hard-headed guitarist, who has also written the bulk of Oasis’ material and provided backup and occasional lead vocals, posted a statement on the band’s Web site saying he was calling it quits.

The statement reads: “It’s with some sadness and great relief to tell you that I quit Oasis tonight. People will write and say what they like, but I simply could not go on working with Liam a day longer. Apologies to all the people who bought tickets for the shows in Paris, Konstanz and Milan.”

If Noel means what he says, and we all know how insistent he can be, then it’s definitely a sad event in music, especially considering the new direction the band had been taking. Now who will bear the brunt of my obnoxious snob analogies? I don’t know.

The story is available at NME.com.

Written by Peter Kimmich

August 31, 2009 at 8:01 am

Posted in Old, stale news

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Army Navy Tweets Their Way Through UK Fueled Only by Pints

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Army NavyFollowers of Justin Kennedy’s Twitter stream the past few months got a nice indie-2.0 treat: a ride through the backstreets, pubs and record shops of the UK on the coattails of Los Angeles-based indie outfit Army Navy. Fans tweeted and gabbed with the band as they toured in support of their self-titled debut album, released in October 2008.

Sending Twitter updates from the road, from motel rooms, and from wherever they could find free WiFi, front man Kennedy kept followers posted on the band’s crazy, rowdy and sometimes grueling tour through the angled country with pics, jokes and commentary. One tweet spoke of “living off very little sleep, lots of pints, and walking miles every day with all our gear,” evoking images of the band trudging through narrow, rain-soaked alleys, amps hoisted above heads like Vietnam grunts. In reality, it wasn’t far from the truth.

“It was pretty brutal,” Kennedy said through a recent email interview. “The tube is great and gets you all over, it’s just lugging all the gear into the tube and trying to find the clubs was a bit stressful … Next time we are hiring a helicopter.”

At least the beer was good.

“There have been lots of amazing shows, and we’ve met some great people along the way as well,” Kennedy said. “So it all balances out.”

The band played pubs, record shops and festivals for a week straight in July, even hitting two places on one day. Surprisingly, each location seemed to find them in front of familiar ears.

“We find we have a few fans in towns all over… I guess it’s the power of the internet,” Kennedy said. “People can really come across music wherever they are now, even if the local record shop doesn’t have the album.”

And the UK isn’t the only new soil on which the band has trodden. Among Kennedy’s Twitter pics they can also be spotted setting up to play on the Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien. The band hung out with Conan himself and performed “My Thin Sides” in front of the comedian and a live studio (and Internet) audience.

army navy at pure groove

The band setting up at Pure Groove Records, London

“We are all massive Conan fans, so it was a really exciting and scary opportunity,” Kennedy said.

Of course, with good fortune always comes shitty luck. The band managed to get almost all of their gear stolen during a Seattle tour stop in May, losing several vintage guitars, drums, amps and other equipment. It happened in the oddest of places – out in front of Kennedy’s parents’ house.

“We always bring our gear in on tour, but we thought we would be fine out in Port Orchard, Washington,” Kennedy said. “But we were wrong. We have no idea if people knew we had gear or they just lucked out.” Among the lifted items was Louie’s dead grandfather’s ’76 Telecaster. “It really sucks,” Kennedy said.

Fans and online music publications rallied to the band’s support, calling for the lynching of equipment thieves everywhere, and alerts went out to keep an eye on area pawn shops. The band posted a blog entry on Myspace, and are patiently waiting for any word.

But for now, they’re concentrating on better things — like the next record, and the next tour.

“We are in pre-production … we’re getting really close,” Kennedy said. “Also we’re about to put our debut album out in the UK and follow it with another, bigger tour this fall. Then releasing the next album early next year is the plan.” (Namewise, Kennedy is torn between Living Poor With Style and The Last Place I Want to Be is in My Head. We’ll see.)

If all goes well, Army Navy will be another solid entry on the list of indie bands the rest of the world worships, that most of the U.S. still doesn’t know about. Which would make them as good as any great indie band out there. But hopefully it will be better than that.

Check out the band’s Myspace page and latest video for “Saints.” The debut album is available on Amazon.

Written by Peter Kimmich

August 26, 2009 at 11:43 am

Posted in Interviews

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So You Think Nirvana Sucks…

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nirvanaPeople can say some pretty stupid things online. Maybe it’s the anonymity, maybe it’s just a spur-of-the-moment thought immortalized forever on a message board. Some of them are understandable, given circumstances. OK, your brain farted and spat out that retarded statement, and now you’re feeling better. Alright.

But sometimes, the things people say can cause great need for release of frustration. Some of them can make you want to steal a car and ram it into a shopping mall, or grab the next person to walk past you and shove his face into a tree trunk. For example, I’ve heard, more than once, someone who is supposedly into rock music say they hate Nirvana, and that Nirvana sucks. This is utterly berserk. Listen up, pinhead.

First of all, the words “hate” and “sucks” are oversimplified ways to express discontent with something. People use them when they don’t know how else to identify or explain what they don’t like about something. And don’t get me wrong, there is much not to like about Nirvana. (Big hint: It’s designed that way.) But to say Nirvana “sucks” and that you “hate” them is entirely missing the point, like saying “man, Casablanca is so damn sappy,” or “why does Van Gogh paint so many sunflowers?” Let me explain.
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Radiohead’s Latest Available for Download

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harry patchRadiohead has released a composition written in honor of Harry Patch, the last remaining UK veteran of World War I.

Patch died July 25 at age 111, having been one of the world’s last four survivors of the First World War, the third oldest man in the world, and briefly the oldest man in Europe. As Thom Yorke says on Radiohead’s Web site, “I had heard a very emotional interview with him a few years ago on the Today program on Radio4. The way he talked about war had a profound effect on me.”

The song, inspired by Patch’s story, was composed and recorded a few weeks before his death. Johnny Greenwood arranged the strings, Yorke wrote the lyrics, and everything was recorded live in an abbey.

The song’s feel is old-fashioned and awe-struck, the way one would imagine a dirge for every fallen soldier would sound. The lyrics are bleak and dark, evoking an old war documentary or Normandy footage. It is sparse and delicate, and powerful at the same time. The abbey’s echo can be heard in the strings, giving it an ancient, wooden feel.

“Harry Patch (In Memory Of)” is available for download at Radiohead’s site and can be previewed, 30 seconds at a time, through a somewhat irritating flash player. The cost to download is 1 UK pound, or around $1.70. All proceeds are going to the Royal British Legion.
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Written by Peter Kimmich

August 5, 2009 at 1:27 pm

Posted in Old, stale news

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