New videos, new music, and news to help tide you over as you wait for the NBA playoffs to begin…
For weeks, TV on the Radio has been teasing the release of their latest single off their brilliant album Seeds by posting photos with the hashtag “#herecomestrouble”, and last week finally shared the video for “Trouble”. Much like the song, it has a somber tone, but there is a redemptive undercurrent that ultimately makes it uplifting.
Janelle Monáe surprised her fans this morning by releasing a new song and accompanying video, a fun romp entitled “Yoga” off an upcoming compilation EP called Wonderland Presents THE EEPHUS. The video does indeed feature some “yoga”, though the focus is not necessarily on fitness or inner peace, but as a precursor to a wild party.
Another highly-anticipated release that is now available for streaming is the newest effort from Speedy Ortiz, with Foil Deer up on the NPR website. We loved their debut album, Major Arcana, and had a lot of fun when they performed at Project Pabst, so we cannot wait to get our hands on the record when it is released next week.
Some #longreads for your weekend as you avoid the clusterfuck in the desert and watch the Coachella livestream…
On Wednesday, Rust Is Just Right will publish its long-awaited list of the Best Albums of 2014. Our newer readers may wonder why we are releasing our picks so late relative to the rest of the music world, but rest assured, we will provide our very good explication along with our list next week (or you can go back into the archives and see last year’s list to see our reasons).
Next Saturday is Record Store Day, which is perfect timing for our readers, since in addition to visiting your local record shop to peruse all the special goodies on sale that day, you can pick up some of our recommendations from our Best Albums list. Dave Grohl is serving as the Record Store Day ambassador, and Rolling Stone talks to him about the holiday and the special release that the Foo Fighters cooked up for the celebration, featuring some very, very early home recordings from Dave.
As much as I love Pavement, I never embraced Wowee Zowee as much as some other fans (though it has grown on me a bit over the years). So it is for the benefit of those fans that we are linking to not one but two appreciations for the album’s twentieth anniversary, one from Stereogum and the other from Consequence of Sound. The retrospective that got my attention was for another album–last week was the twentieth anniversary of a wildly different classic, 2Pac’s Me Against the World.
For those of you who enjoyed our review of the fantastic new Godspeed You! Black Emperor album, Asunder, Sweet and other Distress, I recommend checking out this old interview from last year from Self-Titled with guitarist and “leader” Efrim Menuck, which provides some welcome insight into the workings and motivations of the group.
Viet Cong is in the middle of a tour in support of their much-buzzed, occasionally brilliant debut album, but experienced a minor problem when one of their scheduled stops was cancelled by the promoter. Oberlin College was set to host the band this upcoming Saturday but this last week announced that the show will be cancelled because of the band’s name. Or, to put this in another way: months after negotiating a contract with the band to perform a show, the students who booked the show suddenly felt that they could not host a band with a potentially offensive name, even though the reference from said band’s name was immediately apparent to anyone. The meaning of the name “Viet Cong” did not change in the past few months, but Oberlin’s reaction to it certainly did.
To a certain extent, I can understand the weariness of the promoter. Having taken numerous history courses in high school and college that included the Vietnam War in its curriculum, I was well aware of the exploits of the Viet Cong and was initially skeptical of the group purely because of its poor choice of a name. Eventually I reconsidered, mainly because as a music fan and as someone who grew up with punk rock, I’ve long been accustomed to offensive names and never let that stop me from enjoying their music. I cannot imagine what it would be like to have never listened to the Dead Kennedys or Gang of Four or Joy Division or New Order, and to possibly have been stopped from hearing their music because of their potentially offensive name is as asinine a reason that there could be. Hell, I imagine most people only learned what the term “Joy Division” refers toafter they heard it was controversial, highlighting the fact that people can use controversy to educate themselves; at the very least, it makes the audience think about what a name means and what it can represent.
Here, I’ll let Tony Wilson explain in a more eloquent and condescending manner:
The video should be cued up to the appropriate spot, but if it isn’t, fast-forward to the 2:42 mark*
Offensive band names are part of a larger discussion that we should be having about free speech in our society. As an artist and as someone who appreciates art, I will almost always err on the side of caution in protecting free speech; we are richer as a culture and as a society when we have a free exchange of ideas and philosophies, and often that involves the discussion of potentially harmful or dangerous concepts. This is especially true in art, where we explore certain concepts and theories from all angles to better understand the human condition, but often music is held to a different standard than other forms. We don’t think twice when we see violence and other evils on screen, but if someone raps about the same thing, it’s time to protest.
Perhaps the most disconcerting aspect of this problem is that this principle of free speech is being attacked from both the right and the left. I’m sure there would be plenty of students who would be upset if they were prevented from offering commentary that attacks the Catholic church or if they could not discuss the tenets and political underpinnings of Communism, yet they want to prohibit a band from playing a show because it adopted a name of a group that shares the beliefs of the latter example. There certainly would be protests if a college banned artists that attacked Christian dogma or classes on leftist ideology, as well as they should–college is supposed to be a sanctuary where we can have a free flow of ideas with only the bare minimum of restrictions. The Dead Kennedys were about as leftist as a punk band could be, but they certainly understood that fascism can come from either direction, as they illustrated in “Holiday in Cambodia” and “California Über Alles”.
I understand if there are Vietnamese students who may take offense to a band named “Viet Cong” playing on their campus, especially if many are from families immigrated to America as a result of their actions during the war. However, attendance to the concert is not mandatory–no one is forcing these students to attend the show. The aggrieved students could express their displeasure in a variety of ways, from writing tot he band to publishing op-eds in the student newspaper to protesting outside the show itself. The students make their case and alert others to their concerns, but still allow others to enjoy the show if they so choose.
It’s one thing to complain about the possible offensiveness of the name, but it’s another complaint noted by the promoter that I find far more troublesome, that the name is “appropriative”; it’s not just the fact that the band calls themselves “Viet Cong”, but that it is four white guys from Canada that are using the name. This specific complaint has become de rigueur in the past few months, and while there are certain contexts where “appropriation” can be an issue, that is definitely not the case here. When discussing music, “appropriation” is generally applied in a pseudo-intellectual manner as a way to show off knowledge about different cultures, with total disregard for the fact that any form of music is the mix of dozens of genres derived from a variety of settings. But in reference to band names in particular, it is a particularly galling argument, because 98% OF ALL BAND NAMES ARE “APPROPRIATIVE.”**
NEWSFLASH: If an artist does not identify himself or herself by his/her own name, then they are adopting a persona that is not theirs. They are guilty of “appropriation.” In this context, Franz Ferdinand is a group of guys from Scotland, not the Archduke whose death sparked World War I, and we really should not have been expecting the latter to be performing these days.
Let us examine the potential extent of this policy. Would Oberlin have banned Nirvana from performing since they were not practicing Buddhists? Would they bar the Wu-Tang Clan from appearing since they are not in fact Shaolin monks? Would they prohibit the surviving members of The Monkees from performing since they are not in fact monkeys?!?! And don’t even ask about what Oberlin would do with The Beatles…
Before they became Viet Cong, members of the band were in a previous group called “Women”. Clearly, they should not have been able to perform under that name since they are in fact guys, but then you have to wonder that if they prevent them from performing under that name there is the implicit conclusion that the term “women” itself is offensive. It is utter and complete nonsense.
I hope that this incident wakes people up to the potential pitfalls of adopting such a poorly conceived approach to free speech. While minimal harm was done overall, I certainly hope that the band was compensated despite the fact they weren’t able to perform, since Oberlin breached their contract in such a dubious manner. Of course, venues are free to book whomever they like, and are under no obligation to hire a specific band for any opening that they have, but once an agreement is made the venue cannot back out for such a questionable reason. I wish that I was able to hear Viet Cong’s initial reaction for myself, but despite receiving dozens of emails a day alerting me to shows in the area I was unaware that they performed at Mississippi Studios just a few nights ago. Unfortunately, I feel this will not be the last time that we will be having this discussion, but until then, don’t stop yourself from listening to a band just because they have a terrible band name, even if they don’t have a good reason why they chose it.
*That’s Rob Brydon interviewing Steve Coogan in the clip, which should delight fans of The Tripfilms/series.
We’ve been enjoying the latest album from TV on the Radio these past couple of weeks, and before we unveil our official review on Tuesday, read up on the making of the new album with profiles in both the New York Times and Consequence of Sound.
Though he’s mainly known for the off-center comedic empire he’s built with partner Tim Heidecker, Eric Wareheim has had a successful side-gig as a director of music videos. The AV Club interviews Eric for its Random Reels feature, and he sheds insights on such videos as the frightening “We Are Water” video he did for HEALTH (and cited in our Scariest Videos list) as well as the weirdly gorgeous “Wishes” video from Beach House.
New music, videos, and other fun as we prepare for “Foo Fighters Week”…
The Foo Fighters are released their eighth studio album today, Sonic Highways, and we’ll be running features on the band all week long. To help get you into the spirit, SPIN has provided a ranking of all 147 Foo Fighters songs, including covers and soundtrack selections. As with all lists, this one has its fair share of faults, including a weird affinity for the band’s weakest effort (Echoes, Silence, Patience, & Grace), dismissal of some of their best recent work in Wasting Light, and an unfortunate-but-expected disdain for tracks from One By One, and ranks “Hey, Johnny Park!” at least thirty spots too low. On the other hand, it does provide the proper reverence for deep cuts like “A320” and “February Stars”, so we’ll take the good with the bad. And though we have most of these Foo Fighters singles, including several obscure ones, this list did inform us of the existence of this performance with Serj Tankian of the Dead Kennedys’ classic, “Holiday In Cambodia”.
Hutch Harris from local favorites The Thermals sat down with Late Night Action recently, and talked about subjects including the band’s early recording methods as well as the band’s personal involvement with their merchandise. It’s always fun to listen to Hutch, so watch when you can.
We’ve mentioned Interpol guitarist Daniel Kessler’s upcoming side-project before, but now we have a bit more info about Big Noble. They’ve also provided a video of one of their songs, which is a nice combination of Kessler’s crystalline guitar with intriguing soundscapes.
We’re looking forward to the second album from Father John Misty, since Fear Fun was such an excellent debut; plus we need an additional enticement to go see Josh Tillman’s stage show once again. I Love You, Honeybear will be released next February, but last week FJM performed on Letterman the new track “Bored In The USA”, and it was fantastic.
Because nostalgia always sells, you’re going to see a lot of retrospectives this year for some important albums. A couple of weeks back there was an excellent oral history of Pavement’s Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain from Stereogum, and now it looks like it’s time for Green Day’s Dookie to get its moment in the sun. SPIN reprinted its profile of the band from back in 1994, and Stereogum took a quick look back with this retrospective. After we take a moment to contemplate the fact that an album called “Dookie” sold over 10 million copies and is remembered with great fondness, and that somehow the bratty young punks of Green Day are still making albums, take a look at what I believe is the most amazing part of both articles: that there was an incident where, of all people, Jello Biafra of the Dead Kennedys was assaulted and accused of being a “sellout”.
Not surprisingly, the scenewide furor that has resulted combines the brutal energy of hardcore with all its lack of clearheadedness. Most inexcusably, at Gilman Street in May, former Dead Kennedys singer, Jello Biafra, was assaulted repeatedly and seriously injured by a punk kid while a crowd chanted “sellout” and “rock star.”
Because words apparently mean whatever we want them to mean.