East Bay View (a blog about several things)

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Friday, July 25, 2008

Hit count: Listen to my works, ye mighty, and despair

Rihanna, "Take a Bow": This Stargate production, which Wikipedia alleges is secretly a Prince song, is safely outside Rihanna's interpretive range. That's for the best: a better singer (like Prince) may have made it too bilious to be palatable. Few besides the irreplaceable Beyonce could've got the balance between sorrow and spite right.

KAT-TUN, "Don't U Ever Stop": From the album KAT-TUN III QUEEN OF PIRATES. I'll repeat that: from the album KAT-TUN III QUEEN OF PIRATES. I love these guys, but every time the glass breaks I'm waiting for Steve Austin to come in and stunner them.

Estelle ft. Kanye West, "American Boy": Brits never have and never will understand the U.S., so don't blame Estelle for not realising how far New York and Los Angeles are from each other. Angelenos never have and never will understand New York, so give will.i.am credit for making the misunderstanding interesting. Kanye, like Chicago, seems extraneous, but this is a era for uniting not dividing, or for hope, or something.

Coldplay, "Viva la Vida"; "Violet Hill": The real plagiarism of "Viva la Vida" was from Alizee (since they've probably never heard that Joe Satriani solo). At least Chris Martin had a good idea for a song: Head of State turned street cleaner reflects on life, prefers former career. Martin doesn't exactly spin this into "Ozymandias", but a concept gets you most of the way in pop: it's just not necessarily a better concept than "teen girl in wetsuit gets wet". Still, "Viva la Vida" cuts "Violet Hill". In the latter, Coldplay prove they're a Serious Band by horribly misconstructing the dirge, with a solo that should be a riff, a one-and-a-half bar chorus, and a fizzling ending. If this is conscientious objection, give me "Onward Christian Soldiers".


Sunday, July 20, 2008

The history of the cartoon universe: Mickey's Choo-Choo (1929)

The canonical choice for 1929 would be The Skeleton Dance. But where that cartoon undermines reality the same way as all horror (though it also undermines horror itself through, like, skeleton pogo sticks), Mickey's Choo-Choo undermines (wait for it) perception itself*. Stealing the show from Mickey is his anthropomorphised locomotive: not quite soft architecture, but on the way. Iwerks makes the choo-choo memorably malleable: it moves like an animal, wobbles like a jelly, and generally hams it up. Between this and The Skeleton Dance, Ub and Walt basically achieve what Dali was aiming for, except with more laughs and arguably less kitschiness**.

*yes, I know The Skeleton Dance also undermines perception, just not as much
**though as both Disney and Dali knew, kitsch can be great


Thursday, July 10, 2008

Favourite cartoons by year: Steamboat Willie (1928)

Because these days I don't have time to watch features, let alone blog about them.

Walt: So Pete gets mad at Mickey, Minnie gets on the boat, then what happens?
Ub: They play "Turkey in the Straw".
Walt: Then what?
Ub: Mickey throws a potato at the parrot, and that's the end.
Walt: That's it?
Ub: That it.
Walt: What about the jokes?
Ub: Let's see... we get to look down Minnie's underwear. That's funny, right?
Walt: Um...
Ub: And Mickey grabs a cat and swings it around over his head.
Walt: Uh, Ub...
Ub: Oh yeah, and there are lots of teats and udders, and sometimes Mickey gets to poke them.
Walt: Look, Ub, I don't know if the public will go for sexual violence.
Ub: You look, Walt. You think you can draw this thing?
Walt: ...
Ub: Well, do you?
Walt: No, Ub. Sorry.
Ub: Goodbye Walt, I've got pictures to draw. (Walks out.)
Walt: Goddamn Ub. Doesn't know what real comedy is. (Draws picture of duck in blackface.)


Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Top ten: Don't bore us, get to the thesaurus

1. Alphabeat, "Fascination": The "word is on your lips" bridge is so thrilling that it's disappointing that the word in question is the title. Why not "wangle"? "Wangle"'s an awesome word.

2. Nellie McKay, "Identity Theft"/"Mother of Pearl": She nimbly skips from one Broadway-flavoured genre to another: who says formalists don't have a sense of humour? It's all part of her plan to create an unstealable identity. She won't limit identity to data, or even actions: she rages against subversion of characteristics we use to define ourselves, poor Pluto, while making sure she's not so easily pigeonholed. Along the way she might borrow your identity for a bit: it's not stealing if you return it before anyone realises it's gone, right? Very actressy of her, which ought to mean people capable of dealing with irony in real life can nut her out. Maybe. Here's a video with a laugh track, just in case.

3. Blow Up, "John Travolta": Hey now, now: homodance for frat boys.

4. Erykah Badu, "The Cell": The funk is approachably avant without being that hard, something it achieves through sheer weirdness. Then when the accompaniment drops out, she reminds you what a singular singer she is.

5. The Mountain Goats, "So Desperate": Not much of an actor, which means he sounds autobiographical no matter how many swamp creatures he writes about. His feelings feel like fact: he's been around as long as that.

6. Les Amazones de Guinee, "Deni Wana"/"Wamato": The stop-on-a-dime arrangements showcase a crack band, especially lead guitarist Yaya Kouyate. "Wamato" is a posse cut that gives the saxes some. "Deni Wana" is a rumba that Kouyate takes home.

7. Gwen Stefani ft. Akon, "The Sweet Escape": Yeah, turns out this is a good song, and I'm willing to give Akon all the credit. Note, though, that minimising the number of dictionary words Akon writes and sings is crucial.

8. James McMurtry, "Ruins of the Realm": America, year zero.

9. The Roots ft. Wale & Chrisette Michele, "Rising Up": I can't work out why this Roots albums is supposed to be better than all the others, but I hope they do get paper like John Travolta hey now now.

10. Robert Forster, "Let Your Light In, Babe": Victorian hanky-panky set on Silius Farm, which isn't a farm.

Fifteen more: Les Amazones de Guinee, "Meilleurs Voeux"; Apparat, "Birds"; Andrew Bird, "Imitosis"; Mariah Carey, "Touch My Body"; Hayes Carll, "She Left Me for Jesus"; Imperial Teen, "Everything"; Bola Johnson & His Easy Life Top Beats, "Buroda Mase"; The Juan MacLean, "Happy House"; James McMurtry, "Fire Line Road"; The Mountain Goats, "Autoclave"; My Chemical Romance, "Teenagers"; The Roots ft. Mos Def & Styles P, "Rising Down"; Tinariwen, "Imidiwan Winakalin"; Celstine Ukwu & His Philosphers National, "Okwukwe Na Nchekwube"; Albert van Veenendaal/Meinrad Kneer/Yonga Sun, "Posthume Verleumdung".

Good but not that good: The Field, "From Here We Go Sublime"; Girls Aloud, "Call the Shots"; Glen Hansard, "Falling Slowly"; Klaxons, "Golden Skans"; Maximo Park, "Our Velocity"; Roisin Murphy, "Overpowered"; Brad Paisley, "Ticks"; R.E.M., "Houston"; Sally Shapiro, "He Keeps Me Alive"; Rufus Wainwright, "Nobody's Off the Hook".

Must try harder: Editors, "Smokers Outside the Hospital Doors"; Foo Fighters, "The Pretender"; Manic Street Preachers ft. Nina Persson, "Your Love Alone Is Not Enough".

Trying too hard: Patrick Wolf, "The Magic Position".