Tuesday, February 28, 2006

How did it just so happen that two of the greatest melodists rock has ever seen were born within years of each other in Liverpool?

(You know, it is instinctive for me to write to "of the", rather than just "the", but in this case I'm oh-so-tempted to reconsider)

Sunday, February 26, 2006

A lot of indie stuff I've heard lately has seemed to be lacking in sufficient quality so as to make me feel something. There have been one too many songs that just whiz by me as a dense collage of guitars, vocals and drums, with nothing really gelling to make anything memorable. At the present moment, I'm not a particularly big fan of a lot of the indie rock I've heard*; not that I don't like any of it (the Fiery Furnaces I like - the music is far too interesting for me not to notice), but my overall feeling is such that I'm still quite content to concentrate on trawling through the tonnes of material from the '60s to '80s, unlike S. The '90s and '00s will have their turn, sure, but a fair deal later I'd say. Although, I wonder if I'll get to the state Sufjan Stevens is in ("I don't have the inclination to discover new music. Honestly, I don't really care").

Melodically, though, I guess a fair bit of it has been rather good - enough so to be surprising. Of course there has been nothing in the grand vein, but quite a few of them are pretty solid. What's surprising is that there hasn't been as much "borrowing" from older stuff than I would have expected - I suppose we aren't running out of melodies just yet (but hey, don't tell me Arcade Fire's "Neighbourhood #2" doesn't borrow the mellotron riff from the Moody Blues' "The Voice" - clever guys, taking something from one of the least known Moodies songs!).

* I clearly haven't heard enough for any damning final judgement or anything, but I've heard some bands who have gotten rave reviews. But let me just reiterate that I don't mean this to be indicative of all indie music today - hey, Jens Lekman I can get just fine.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

It turns out those lines that were stuck in my head these past few months, yet whose origin forever eluded me, was from one of the various bits in McCartney's epic "Long Haired Lady" (it was the "Win or lose it, into the soul" part that's thrown into the mix at some point). I just heard it again, and what can you say, it's a work of sheer genius. It reminds me how much I love Ram, and has me wondering how many other artists are out there who are unknown to me, and yet have such epiphanies in their catalogue.

Monday, February 20, 2006

I'd be a liar if I were to call myself a gamer in any form these days, but time was when games were what it was all about. I came about this realization when P was chatting to me a few days back ("Played MDK2?" / No, haven't a clue what it's even about. "What about Deus Ex?" / Got it, but haven't played it. "You know that bit in GTA where..." / Umm sorry, but I don't particularly like GTA). The tag of "gamer" is something that has latched onto me, even as the number of games I sit down and play has fallen to, well, zero.

Is the interest still there? A little bit; when I think back to some great gaming moments, I do visit games websites and see whether anything on the horizon looks promising. Most of the games I'm interested in seem to be at least a few years old (one exception would I guess be Oblivion), though I wouldn't read into this too much - in particular, I don't think it says anything about quality of games. It says more about my attention span and tolerance of perceived mediocrity these days, which is most assuredly on the decline. Especially the latter, which is not restricted just to video games (right now, I'm living with the bitter belief that 90% of what I used to watch on TV is pure tripe).

But really, about the only genre that I still have an interest in is the good old fashioned RPG*. Except, if I think about it, I haven't played all that many RPGs anyway - the holy trinity of FF7, Baldur's Gate and Ultima (7/8/9?) are about the only real RPGs I've played. I suppose I've been lucky to have gotten my hands on such good ones. The good (great) impressions these have left on me have made me want more of the same, and so it seems that every new RPG that comes out with high scores is a promise of the same level of experience; but year after year, these golden children fade from my memory and I am left thinking about those three great games, and wondering why there aren't more like them.

Maybe the end of gaming that I have often predicted is less from the state of games today, and more about the state of me today! It's hard to imagine that I've lost the gaming drive, but the evidence seems pretty convincing. And yet, I don't think I will ever completely lose interest in regaining it - even now, there is still the hope that a game will come along and take me back to those days gone by.

*I don't see myself getting into FPSes anymore, but there is hope for strategy and maybe even adventure games. Trouble is, the world seems to be into online gaming these days, which is no good for the introverted.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

It seems that guitar tab sites may be illegal. Hunh. A tab that a user has discovered by himself (that is, from listening to the song, not by just copying something from a book) illegal? I suppose it might make sense legally, but my initial reaction sets off profanity filters.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Listener apathy

So it seems like listener apathy is rampant these days. I suppose it has been for a while, except that maybe it's getting worse of late. If emotional investments in music are minimal, and it's no surprise that so too are the returns. I think the mainstream has well and truly gotten to the stage where "it says nothing to me about my life" (mostly*). (Apologies, I'm going to start ranting again) It's all too easy to see why people like AS consider rock to be the stuff of instant gratification, the stuff of no substance; I would too if I sat through an hour of the top music videos of the moment.

And yet, I should be careful when thinking about what it means to be an apathetic listener these days. When I was in the car with A, he started talking about music and what he likes. He asked S about Radiohead's Kid A, and S made the point that it took maybe three listens to find songs that one liked. A agreed, and added "But who has the time anymore to take so long just to find something you like?". Indeed! I can see where he's coming from; it also makes me realize that people like me can make just about anyone seem apathetic. But it seems obvious enough that there has to be music that requires multiple listens for one to appreciate, simply because there aren't enough geniuses around who can create songs or albums with immediate resonance (you might think POB is a very "obvious" attempt at this, but I think actually trying to make such a thing work is a far more subtle proposition).

Since I'm on the subject of music and the public's reaction to it, I've often thanked my lucky stars that I managed to somehow get past peer-pressure listening. I suppose I left VM before it set in, and in KH, well, I guess I didn't hang out with the kind of crowd who cared about these kinds of things. I may as well put forth the wild speculation that one of the reasons that our Zeppelin friends can be viewed with such contempt by some is precisely because there are those who are so religious in their admiration of the group, that it's only natural that a group of the populace decide to completely reject this stance, sometimes letting this emotion get the better of them. Due to this reverence, Zeppelin seem to be the kind of band for which, unfortunately, people can have a gut-level dislike against. I'd probably be in the same boat had someone come up to me and said "'Little Deuce Coupe'**? The hell's this ****? Listen to 'Stairway', that's real music". The funny thing is, there is a point there, inasmuch as 'Stairway' is arguably a better-crafted song that 'Coupe'. But the attitude, man, the attitude just puts me off (the phrase "real music" does too, but again I would feel like saying it is an appropriate statement in some cases, just not this one - yet how do you draw the line!?!). If I had an experience like that (and, from what I've heard, there are dopes who go around talking like this), lord knows what sort of listener I'd be now.

I dislike this sort of musical elitism, and yet funnily enough, I sound so terribly elitist in this post. Yet I can't help it. I don't look down on those who follow the mainstream, but I do feel that those who treat music as a means of instant sensory pleasure are missing out on something. But hey, they get their kicks from other things, so I should just leave them be.

The funniest thing out of this whole experience is that now I've got them apathy blues. Not listener apathy, but rather genre apathy. I'm unable to muster the interest in the entire post-punk scene, something that I thought was an ideal milking ground for a music lover. I seem to want to retreat to the comforting realm of singer-songwriters. Since I remember reading about John Prine a while back, I now feel like getting one of his albums. Heck, all I've listened to of late is country-rock, the most maligned of all genres. The thought of Joy Division (even though I love Unknown Pleasures), The Fall, The Jam and others just makes me somewhat clammy, and I haven't a clue why.

* There's talk of the Arctic Monkeys album being really good. And it's #1 on the charts!

** My musical collection come class XI was a Beach Boys greatest hits CD. It amazes me even now.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

I feel for the Byrds. The Notorious Byrd Brothers saw me falling asleep one afternoon last year. I don't know how much of this was because of my lunch; given my later reactions to the album, I'm inclined to say that it didn't have all that much to do with the songs themselves. But what I remember is dozing off somewhere after "Get To You", awakening to the moog much later on. And now this year, I tempted fate once more by trying to listen to Younger Than Yesterday, which I was hunting for ever since I got interested in the band, also in the afternoon. I didn't fall asleep this time, but my reaction was far more disrespectful - I switched it off midway. Alright, so this was because something else came up at the time, but the thing is I was glad that I had an excuse to turn the thing off, because I was just unbelievably disappointed. Last time I listen to Starostin, that's fer sure. I don't want to put too much into my initial reaction, but let me at least note that most of the songs went by me without making any sort of lasting impression. No impressive melodies, harmonies, jangling guitar lines, nothing.

Albums that I've stopped midway have an unfortunate history of lying unlistened to. Wonder what fate this one will suffer.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Daivari: "I don't know what's going to happen, but whatever it is, it's going to be screwed up"


Commentator: "Daivari may be in for the beating of his life here"

Starostin's fall

I think I'm getting to the stage where I can begin to stop worshipping George Starostin. You might remember my post excitedly exclaiming that his site was back on the net after a brief hiatus, and at the time I was looking forward to more interesting reviews and opinions. I've got them alright, but with it I think I have started to reduce the amount of worth I place in his writings. Previously, his opinion was the decider, the final word - I would literally buy or eschew albums solely on his word. Albums that he recommended have proved to indeed be well worth my time, but I have found that taking his word as something sacred is fast getting old. It is through no particular fault of his, mind you. It is simply that my sycophancy has blinded my ability to think or talk about albums as I really see them, not as how GS sees them (which I then confuse with my own view*).

This all happened when I read an innocuous comment from one of his fans saying that The Mollusk was the best album of the '90s. Somehow, I could so easily imagine myself saying the same thing after hurriedly buying the album once it got a 14 from him. It would be done with little regard for what other people think, simply because, well, it's Starostin. What I mean is that I far too often I tend to take his word over other reviewers. So when AMG gives anything 5/5 but Starostin awards it a mere 11, I say "Pshaw! Overrated nonsense!". It's easy enough to guess what happens when Starostin's 13 comes up against an AMG 2/5.

Part of the problem is that there isn't anyone else in the WRC who has covered the breadth of albums as GS. The Capn is slowly getting there, John McFerrin has slowed up, and Jack Feeny looks promising, but it's clear that GS has by far the most comprehensive set of reviews, and so for someone who was just seeking musical direction, he provided shelter and taught me all that I know. I suppose now it's time I leave the fold and brave the musical world by myself, although I'll be sure to check back with my mentor often.

Yes, I'm still going to visit his site regularly, there's no doubt. The reviews themselves are still some of the best about, and probably the best among the WRC. He still reviews lots of artists that interest me, and introduces me to new music. All that's happened is that I will try to stop letting him become a monopoly on my musical tastes (again, which is through no fault of his!). It would help if there were a broader selection of reviewers, but hopefully the years will change that. And maybe this humble writer will too (I couldn't resist!).

* There were shades of this when I wrote my innocent lil' Doors reviews last year. I first rated Strange Days 17/20 while the debut got 15.5/20, and yet when I did this I told myself "Look, something's not right here". It was definitely because of the relative ratings that GS (and McFerrin) dished out, and I somehow let them blind me and thought that I too felt the same way. But the I quickly came to my senses and gave ratings truer to my view.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

I'd like to begin by saying that it's funny, but then again so is my sense of humour. One of the few things I can be sure of is that I will never see her again. Yet, rather than forget about her, she is destined to have one exclusive memory dedicated to her, and that is something that you can't say about everyone (she should feel privileged, no doubt). Maybe this in itself is not so remarkable - what is, or at least what seemed to be as I started writing this, is that I might never have remembered this had a fleeting image on television not caught my attention. Once it did, and her face flashed through my mind, she was guaranteed an immortality of sorts. And yet, had I arrived a minute later, or were I finding entertainment on a different channel, she would have lied dormant for a while yet. Instead of a face in a photo, she is now someone with a story attached.

But now that I do remember her, I also remember that I didn't particularly like what she said. And so instead of existing in peaceful anonymity, she is now a phantom that leaves an odd bitterness in my mouth.
A little while ago, I read something that said that good poetry required as much refinement and post-editing as prose, and that remarks that it should just "come to you" were misleading. Sure explains a lot of things.

Life is made of cakes and candles
Soggy farewells at night
Covered with a dose of cream.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

The walk back

What will I miss the most? I think that maybe it will be those quiet walks at night. The dim street lights paint the road with an orange hue, and my eyes are firmly planted on the ground as I calmly make my way back. The world always seems lighter then, the struggles of the day but a memory as I look forward to the night that is only beginning. Sometimes, I wonder where my fellow travellers are headed, but not today. Today, I just think about why I love these walks so. For the first time, I notice a crescent moon watching over us all. Humming a song or two on the way, and looking forward to the nightly news, one feels that things are alright.

The mint

Times were rough, you see. There were changes of unknown magnitude, and I had to make sure I was prepared for them. I've been caught ill-prepared in the past, so this time I knew I would have to go in with a game plan. Combatting change effortlessly would require a genius-stroke on my part, and in a moment of inspiration, it came to me. I made sure that through the changing seasons, people and places, there was that one same mint lying on my desk, to provide the one constant I needed to reassure me. I had forgotten about it till today, and I couldn't help but smile. It's funny that two months should be so easily captured in something as tiny as a mint. A tasty one, at that.

Time it was and what a time it was

It's quite hard to believe it, but the stay is almost done. I can remember my first night here, and yet, time seems to have gone by rather quickly. What once was strange and unknown is now very familiar and almost comforting. I will miss these quiet nights where I caught up on the daily news, saw highlights of the cricket, and on occasion marvelled at the wonder that is wrestling. The animated faces of wrestlers with no sound - here is where life is, my friends.