Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Anyone can play synthesizers

Radiohead has headed back into the studio to work on their new album, confirming the rumors sparked by Thom Yorke’s cryptic (a.k.a. arty, a.k.a. pretentious) announcement on their message boards.

At what point did Radiohead buy into their own hype? I guess when enough people tell you that you’re the avant garde and savior of rock and roll you eventually lose touch with reality and believe them. Not that I’m not still a fan of the band, but I guess I’ve grown weary of hearing about Thom’s tortured soul and how he’s too fragile to deal with the weight of stardom. Is this for real? Then why clamor for attention by announcing things on a message board? It seems like a far cry from their No Singles, No Video, No Touring campaign for Kid A.

Here’s the part where I join that club where everyone bitches about how said band don’t sound like they used to and how we wish they would just keep making the same music forever. Not really, I’ve enjoyed every one of their albums post-OK Comupter. There’s some absolutely brilliant stuff there. It’s just watered down when I have to skip over the ambient skwaks and bleeps. There are traces in the albums, but mostly evident in their live shows, that when these guys stop trying to fuck around, they can still be the best rock band in the world.

OK Computer and the Bends, like the Beatles’ Rubber Soul and Revolver (and in my personal opinion Gomez’s Bring It On and Liquid Skin) sparked huge debates over which one was better, but reality was that both were bloody brilliant from start to finish. Every second was packed with lush, beauty sounds. They were albums that if they got fused into the CD tray in my player, I wouldn’t be complaining. But I don’t find that true with their later albums.

The beauty of OK Computer was that the band found ways to stretch the instruments they had into new sonic territories. The guitars in Subterranean Homesick Alien still seduce me today. It’s the closest thing I can think of to relate to what people thought of when they heard the distortion coming out of Hendrix’s guitar. Now they just throw in crazy machines because they make different sounds.

I’m not proclaiming the banishing of synthesizers or other instruments. Or even weird sounds. I love the boops that count off Paranoid Android, and I’m currently obsessing over the Fiery Furnaces’ Blueberry Boat.

Bottom line is that I just want Radiohead to stop justifying that different is better. If they want to insert a strange noise then make sure it’s there for a reason. Even if they don’t strap on guitars again, I’ll give them the benefit of hearing it. But don’t expect me to stick around just because people think it’s cool and progressive if I understand the latest offering from Radiohead.

Monday, March 28, 2005

I wish I may, I wish I might...

Sometimes the weight of the world is too much on a Monday morning, so I turned from my normal NPR to a lowly local talk show where each DJ was spouting off his list of things to accomplish within his lifetime and I got to thinking about my own lifelong dreams. So throwing aside factors such as monetary investment, magnitude of the goal (although nothing hokey like World Peace) or just plain implausibility, here’s my tentative list in no particular order:

1. Surf through a barrel of a wave
2. Visit Florence, Italy
3. Illustrate a children’s book
4. Buy that Corvette for my dad that he’s always wanted
5. Own a house with my own private section of the beach
6. Be featured in a design magazine (like Communication Arts)
7. Own a bar
8. Hardwire my iPod to my car
9. Paint a mural (the one I did in 6th grade doesn’t count)
10. Live in Hong Kong
11. Design my own line of graphic t-shirts

That’s all I can think of for now. Stay tuned to see if any of these get moved over to the Mission Accomplished list... but don’t hold your breath. Maybe I should beef up that list with some less lofty goals like Eat a Raspberry Danish but frankly who’s going to be impressed with that?

Thursday, March 17, 2005

A Wolf at the Door (or What’s With Wolfowitz?)

President Bush’s nomination of Paul Wolfowitz for the head of the World Bank is a curious one. Why appoint someone with a background in defense as the head of an organization dealing with international economic development? The fact that Wolfowitz was one of the loudest proponents of the war in Iraq should raise a few more eyebrows. The whole issue reeks of Bush taking care of his constituency.

The broader outlook is probably to create a more solid validation of the invasion to Iraq. With President of the World Bank by his side, Bush would have a much easier time funding the reconstruction of a post-war Iraq. Thus expediting the recovery and stability in the region and vindicating Bush for the war. Pretty shrewd.

So, in the end, does this help the world? Does a more stable Middle East justify any possible divergence of attention from other countries in need?

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Fuck tha Police

Okay I was speeding. I speed regularly. I’m clearly in the wrong. But isn’t there something about a cop giving you a ticket that just makes you hate the police so much? Isn’t there something more important they could be doing rather than camping out on the side of a road? And it’s supposed to be okay when they flash their lights in order to justify an illegal u-turn into a 7-11? Alright, that doesn’t make my wrong any more right. Just because other people do bad things doesn’t mean I can, right? I should be enlightened enough to take my medicine. Well I’m not so excuse me while I go jump off a cliff with everyone else, which is apparently leading me down into Hell.

My rage reminded me of kids who tattled on you when you were in school. You were obviously doing something wrong, but you’re anger was directed at this kid. Sitting in detention, you’re not thinking about what you did wrong or how you’d learn to do good from then on. Oh no, you sulk the whole time and cursed the kid’s name, even wished death upon him.

Now I have to dish out $150 for the ticket and sit through some boring ass defensive driving class. Thanks Mr. Policeman, love ya. The police: to protect, to serve, to piss off.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Supreme Beings de Rigueur

The Supreme Court takes on the Word of God in the Times by trying to ban the display of the ten commandments in front of government buildings. "The Bush administration, which has filed briefs urging the justices to uphold the displays in both cases..." was a statement that doesn’t surprise me. The executive branch is trying to breach both the concepts of Seperation of Church and State, and Check and Balances at the same time. The Supreme Court may be the one remaining branch trying to maintain the ideals of the U.S. without a personal agenda, but that may not last.

As much as people were upset that Bush reigns supreme for another four years, the extent of his legacy has been slow to dawn on most of the population. Bush has the frightening possibility of electing up to four justices to the Supreme Court before the end of his tenure. Examining his history and tendencies it’s safe to say there will be a significant shift in the ideology of the highest power in the judicial branch. People are concerned that there will be a regression in civil, gay and First Amendment rights. Abortion is most certainly in the front lines of the chopping block.

The country seems very polarized, yet there is not a real balance of power. The Democrats are scrambling to regroup and I don’t think too many people are worried about that. Bush will be out of the Oval Office in less than four years, and the Congress can be realigned in the next election. But what about over in the Supreme Court where the Justices have the luxury of keeping their seats indefinitely? Bush may be carving headlines with Iraq and his War on Terror, but his architecture of the Court may have the most dramatic consequences.