Pavement

Catching Up On The Week (Aug. 14 Edition)

Some #longreads as you plan a trip to Burma

The big event this weekend will be the release of the N.W.A biopic Straight Outta Compton, but before you hit the cineplex you may want to brush up a bit on your knowledge of the legendary group.  Pitchfork has an extensive feature documenting N.W.A’s relationship with “reality”, as well as a behind the scenes look at the creation of Dr. Dre’s comeback album, inspired by his work on the film.

Stereogum published an essay this week taking a look at the way hip-hop’s relationship with classic soul music has evolved over the years.  There are many sections where the explanations are obvious, but the piece is still worth checking out for the occasional nuggets and background information on production techniques that may not be so obvious.

We are still a few weeks away from the release of their new album Ones and Sixes, but nevertheless this Stereogum profile of Low is worth reading if you are not already hyped for the return of one of the most consistently great rock bands of the last twenty years.

For those of you who need your oral history fix, the Washington Post has an extended look at the story behind the 1995 version of the Lollapalooza festival.

Finally, we have linked to interviews with frontman Stephen Malkmus and guitarist Scott “Spiral Stairs” Kannberg, and now we can link to an interview with Pavement bassist Mark Ibold conducted by Noisey.  And because you surely have not had your fill of discussing the career of Pavement, Consequence of Sound has a comprehensive look at the band’s entire catalog, EPs and all.

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Over the Weekend (Aug. 10 Edition)

New music, news, and other fun useless stuff as you recover from an unexpected night out…

Last week we linked to an interview with guitarist Spiral Stairs as he revealed his favorite Pavement songs, and this week we can share the thoughts of another member of the band.  Stephen Malkmus talked to Newsweek about several of the songs that appear on the rarities compilation The Secret History, Vol. 1, providing background on their creation to the best of his ability.

90’s-influenced noise-rockers Deaf Wish shared the video for their single “On”, capturing the strange ending to what was apparently a bizarre television show.

Earl Sweatshirt also released a video this week, sharing a gloomy animated vision for “Off Top” from his stellar recent release, I Don’t Like Shit I Don’t Go Outside.

Alternative Nation has footage and background from an early Alice in Chains show, recorded in December of 1989 in Pullman, Washington.  The show takes place months before the release of their debut album Facelift, so it provides an interesting record of the group moments before they hit it big.

Hutch Harris contributes a great review to The Talkhouse, a site where albums are discussed and reviewed by other artists, providing a critical and loving assessment of the newest solo album from guitarist Albert Hammond, Jr. of The Strokes.

And finally, it was announced that singer Tunde Adebimpe of TV on the Radio has joined with vocalist Mike Patton (Faith No More, Fantomas, Peeping Tom, Mr. Bungle, etc.) and rapper Doseone for a project called The Nevermen.  Consequence of Sound has the details, including a SoundCloud link to the lead single “Tough Towns”.  After that, be sure to check out an edition of Kids Interview Bands that TV on the Radio recently shared, where the band finally answers exactly what kind of cookie can be found in Cookie Mountain.

Over the Weekend (Aug. 3 Edition)

News, new music, and other fun stuff to help you through the unbearable heat…

The biggest news of the weekend is the announcement that Dr. Dre will be releasing a new album in the very near future, though it is not quite the album many fans expected.  Instead of releasing the much-delayed Detox, which for years was teased as the expected followup to 2001, Dre is releasing Compton, inspired by his work on the upcoming N.W.A biopic.

Speaking of long-awaited followups, it has been nearly a decade since the release of Tool’s last album, and while for years fans have been teased with tidbits detailing the slow process of following up 10,000 Days, that does not mean the band members have been remaining idle.  Maynard James Keenan announced that his other, other group Puscifer will be releasing a new album on October 30, and has shared “Grand Canyon” from Money Shot this week.

Puscifer first https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dM3yqRp5Yy0, but that is not the only time the show skewered the music industry.  Pitchfork talked to co-creator David Cross about some of the classic sketches that revolved around music, including a fun story about a meeting with The Strokes.

With the upcoming release of the rarities collection The Secret History, Vol. 1 (which is now available for streaming via NPR), Pavement is back in the news.  Vulture asked guitarist Scott Kannberg (aka “Spiral Stairs”) about his favorite tracks that the band recorded, and Scott responded with quite the diverse set of songs.  However, we have to admit that we are disappointed by the lack of inclusion of “Unfair” from his personal list.

Remember what we said about Foo Fighters and viral content last week?  Here is another example, as a thousand Italians cover “Learn to Fly” to try to convince the Foos to visit their town.

Alternative Nation linked to a bunch of previously unreleased Nirvana tracks this weekend, but since they have probably already been taken down by the time you read this, you should probably use the site as a guide to try to track down the individual tracks on your own.

Finally, SPIN decided that this was the appropriate moment to rank every single Metallica song that was ever released, and that is probably as good a way as any to waste your time this week.

Review: Speedy Ortiz – Foil Deer

After breaking through with their impressive debut, expectations were high for Speedy Ortiz’s follow-up to Major Arcana.  Fans of the group’s version of knotty, guitar-based mid-90’s indie rock will be glad to hear that Foil Deer fits perfectly alongside their previous work.  Though at times it is difficult to determine how it distinguishes itself from its predecessors, Foil Deer is still a showcase for the band’s greatest strengths: intricate guitar noodles delivered with a satisfying crunch, punctuated by powerful percussive outbursts.

The easiest musical comparison that critics rely on to describe Speedy Ortiz’s style is Pavement, but that is somewhat misleading, since Pavement’s catalog was more diverse than what most people remember; there is nothing on Foil Deer that recalls “Conduit For Sale” or “Range Life”, for example.  Instead, Speedy Ortiz for the most part is content to explore only one part of Pavement’s aesthetic (though not the same aspect in which Parquet Courts makes their living, for the record), namely the seemingly-aimless guitar melodies, prevalence of dissonant chords, and off-kilter rhythm section.  Vocally, Pavement and Speedy Ortiz share a similar approach, but with one key difference: though the two groups will never be heralded for the technical skills of their singers, Sadie Dupuis offers a more direct approach with her singing, unlike Stephen Malkmus, who more often than not hints at a song’s melody with his vocals.  In both cases the vocals are only a secondary concern.

Songs like the quotable “Raising the Skate” (numerous publications have cited the line “I’m not bossy, I’m the boss” as the exemplar of the album’s lyrical themes) shows the band adding the punch that the band displayed with the Real Hair EP released last year to their trademark sound, and “Swell Content” shows that the band can pack their sound into a tight, catchy, and concise package. However, the highlights of the album though are when Speedy Ortiz shifts away from their comfort zone, like when the band experiments with electronics on the groovy “Puffer” or dials the attack back a bit with the almost-ballad “Mister Difficult”, whose chorus may have the best hook on the album.  These tracks help stave off the potential for monotony and help elevate the second half of the album.

Foil Deer takes some time for the listener to unpack, as it takes multiple spins for particular details to emerge.  The good news is that with repeated listens, songs that initially seem like merely pleasant background music eventually reveal their depth, as it becomes easier to spot countermelodies and other sonic embellishments.  Speedy Ortiz may not have experimented much with the formula they developed for Major Arcana, but if the band keeps delivering solid results like Foil Deer their fans are unlikely to complain.

Catching Up On The Week (Apr. 10 Edition)

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.

Independent labels are a significant part of Record Store Day, and one of our favorite labels that was one of the scene’s earliest successes was Seattle’s Sub Pop.  VNYL talks to Sub Pop co-founder Bruce Pavitt about the early history of the label as well as some of his favorite records.  On a related note, while not directly affiliated with Sub Pop,* the supergroup Temple of the Dog came from the same Seattle scene,  and fans may be interested to note the legal battle over the master tapes of their only album.

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.

We have talked several times before about the much-anticipated release of My Morning Jacket’s new album, and Steven Hyden of Grantland helps add to the hype with this piece.

Jello Biafra always provides a great interview, so it is probably worth your time to read what he has to say to Janky Smooth.

And finally, if you’re looking to kill some time this weekend, check out this list from the AV Club of bands that broke up as soon as they hit it big.  You have enough time to listen to their entire discographies in a single weekend!

*Chris Cornell and Matt Cameron were however at one point signed with Sub Pop with their main gig in Soundgarden, so an indirect connection does exist.

Enough With the Fucking Arcade Fire, Already

One of our primary goals here at Rust Is Just Right is to provide an alternative to a lot of the dismissive snark that is the hallmark of a lot of contemporary music criticism these days.  We believe that in a world that’s overflowing with great music, it’s better to analyze and promote what’s worth listening to instead of attempting to tear down what’s already popular.  Sure, it’s easy to succumb to the temptation of writing something bitingly clever about a band that we don’t like, but it’s not really going to accomplish all that much.  Besides, it’s not our place to decry other people’s tastes.  If you enjoy something, we’re in no place to tell you why you’re wrong–life is simply too short and awful to take away any such joy like that.

Given those parameters, this editorial may seem to run counter to that mission.  Yes, we are going to slag on Arcade Fire, but that’s not the main purpose of this piece.  No, our qualms are with the breathless adulation and coverage that the band receives on an infuriatingly and consistent basis, and how Arcade Fire has somehow in the past decade became shorthand for what’s “good” in “indie rock”.  This unabashed love of the band has frustratingly led to the ridiculous need that many publications and writers to shoehorn a mention of “Arcade Fire” in pieces that are completely irrelevant to the group.

First, we’ll lay all our cards on the table and explain why we don’t like the band in the first place.  Well…Eels wrote a superior album about coping with the deaths of close family members, Pavement did a much better job of writing seemingly-tuneless melodies, and Godspeed You! Black Emperor along with Broken Social Scene did a far better job of simply being a collective of Canadian musicians.  Hell, even the cover of Funeral is infuriating, since it comes off as a rip-off of the art associated with Neutral Milk Hotel’s In the Aeroplane Over the Sea–shit, it even has the same goddamn font that NMH used.  The art just screams “WE REALLY LIKE NEUTRAL MILK HOTEL AND WANT YOU TO KNOW THAT WE’RE COOL LIKE THAT!”  If you want more substantial criticism (beyond this standard rock-critic trope of accusing a group of being derivative of all these other influences), it boils down to the fact that their music is boring, they can’t sing, and have never written an insightful lyric.  They wrote a two-chord song, and they couldn’t figure out how to do it in a key that was in the range of their singer–LCD Soundsystem managed to do that, and came up with one of the greatest songs of the decade despite James Murphy’s limited vocal abilities.  This is a band that ruins their one decent moment, the song “Wake Up”, with an abrupt and inexplicable shift into fucking “Walking On Sunshine”.

Perhaps my frustration with the band can best be explained by their presence in the film “Her”.  It’s an absolutely amazing film and further cements in my mind that Spike Jonze is a true genius, and I was glad that he won an Oscar for his work.  However, I had significant issues with the score.  There was one key scene where the OS “Samantha” composes her own music, and we in the audience here it played back.  It’s twinkly piano music that sounds pleasant on the surface, even if it has no real melodic ideas, and sounds like something an entity with limited knowledge of songwriting would create.  Which seems to fit the idea of a computer attempting a human behavior and approximating that behavior except…it was frustratingly obvious that the piano was played by a human, since the rhythms were wildly imprecise and fingers were lingering too long on certain notes and making the notes stick together and therefore ruining the illusion.  That’s Arcade Fire in a nutshell: humans attempting to mimic machines which are trying to pass off as humans, and failing miserably.

For the most part, it hasn’t been an issue and aside from their presence in an otherwise magnificent film, I’ve been able to avoid Arcade Fire rather easily.  It doesn’t take much to avoid clicking links like “Watch Arcade Fire’s 25 Best ‘Reflektor’ Tour Cover Songs”, even if those links appear everywhere and on multiple sites.  No, the true problem is when the band makes a random appearance in an article that has absolutely nothing to do with them, as illustrated in this review.  Pitchfork’s review of M83’s re-release of their first three albums marked the moment when we officially reached Peak Music Critic Insufferability, as the reviewer attempted to describe M83’s style with this statement: “Arcade Fire are perhaps a better touchpoint for their overall approach: lead with emotions telegraphed big and wide enough to fill a stadium, and let the guitars and synthesizers fall into place around them.”

Now, let that sink in for a second.  Not only is it ridiculous to compare the music of the two bands (since no one who has ever listened to both bands would find a connection beyond “these are two acts that create sounds”–just listen to that video above and explain how it resembles Arcade Fire in any fashion), note that the connection between the two seems to be…that the two groups are both emotive.  This assertion that somehow Arcade Fire was the first group to emphasize emotion in some capacity in their music is completely insane (especially in an era where “emo” was huge) and demonstrates the myopia that afflicts a generation of rock critics in which in order to convey that a musician is “serious” that it must be compared to this one band.  To further underscore how clumsily the point is made in the review, note that the comparison to Arcade Fire is immediately dropped and no further mention is made in the rest of the review.

However, the most ridiculous aspect of the comparison is just simple chronology.  M83’s first two albums were released before Funeral, while their third was released a couple of months after.  Unless those crazy Canadians can bend the rules of time and space, it can be definitively stated that they had absolutely no effect on the French electronic duo.  If you’re dead-set on making some sort of comparison, perhaps another article can be written about how M83 influenced Arcade Fire, but why bother.  I mean, this is a great song that displays subtlety and mastery of melody–something that is difficult to find in an Arcade Fire song.

That’s not the only irrelevant mention of Arcade Fire I encountered this month–in a review of Death From Above 1979’s new album, I learned that apparently we started measuring time in terms of Arcade Fire album releases in the past decade.  To be fair, that isn’t the worst problem with that ridiculous review (which includes gems like finding out that Wolfmother was apparently a dance-punk band), but it once again points to the annoying habit that many rock critics employ of needlessly dropping references to Arcade Fire.  DFA1979 are as bad a comparison as M83 in terms of music, but why the hell should that matter?

These are all symptoms of the general problem of giving Arcade Fire way too much credit than they deserve.  In this feature, we see the band get praise for…incorporating “whoas” in a song, as if having an instrumental swell accompanied by a wordless chorus was a fucking revolutionary act (just one year later, we would see a much better example of this technique from My Morning Jacket).  Arcade Fire somehow also gets credit for “having an auxiliary floor-tom for intermittent bashing” when Radiohead had a hit the previous year doing exactly that (and to great effect).  Even the most diehard Arcade Fire fan has to admit that Radiohead is a much more influential band.  Besides, has this been a real trend?  Sure, White Rabbits used it to great effect on “Percussion Gun” and it helped get people to listen to their fantastic album It’s Frightening, but for fuck’s sake, it isn’t worth tricking me into clicking a link for a goddamn Imagine Dragons video.  More than anything, it just seemed like an excuse for this poor excuse for a Canadian collective to employ extra people to play random percussion, seemingly ripping off Slipknot of all bands (hey, I knew I forgot another random influence of Arcade Fire).

Arcade Fire fans, I mean you no harm.  But please, if you end up working as music critics, please refrain from constantly mentioning your favorite band.  It reflects poorly on all of us.

Feats of Strength: Pavement

We here at Rust Is Just Right like to analyze and explain the more technical aspects of music, especially with our Feats of Strength feature.  Though we often take the time to praise the intricate and complex nature of many songs, there’s something to be said to the merits of amateurism.  Sometimes, we love the simple things.

Pavement initially built its reputation along these lines, and in their early career they were tagged with the “slacker” identity.  For the most part, this was an unfair and incorrect assessment of their skills as musician.  While Pavement often seemed like they could just effortlessly toss off quirky little rock songs, there was actually a lot of structure and technique inherent in their work.  In other words, it can take a lot of work to sound that casual.

There was one area where the initial impression of Pavement was correct, and that was with their drumming.  This is captured perfectly with the opening track “Summer Babe (Winter Version)” from their classic debut Slanted & Enchanted.  Gary Young’s inexpert style contrasted with the more complicated patterns that were popular at the time; the drumming is filled with lots of space and rarely settles into a groove, and filled with idiosyncratic little fills that always stick out when listening (especially those little hi-hat rolls at the end of each phrase of the verse).  It always seems on the verge of collapse, but it never completely falls apart.

This “shitty” drumming style is different from a “simple” drumming style: we’re not talking about someone playing a basic pattern without any flourishes or nuance, like your standard Pink Floyd or AC/DC track; we’re talking about musicians who the listener might assume are unable to use all four limbs at the same time and keep a regular drumbeat.  “Summer Babe” is a perfect example the latter, and of how shitty drumming actually serves the song.  In this case, it helps maintain a loose feel throughout the song; you hear the same effect with many Tame Impala tracks, where the drumming serves to augment certain melodic ideas, but otherwise steps out of the way and tries not to weigh down the spacey ambiance.  Compare that style to Nine Inch Nails’s “Piggy”, where Trent Reznor’s chaotic drumming at the end of the song gives the sense that the entire song is about to break down; it’s “order” being systematically destroyed.  In fact, Trent handled the drums for the ending personally, because he felt that his more capable drumming partners made it sound too professional.

It’s true that drumming is incredibly important to a song; however, shitty drumming can also serve a purpose as well.

Over the Weekend (June 16 Edition)

Now that we’re all properly psyched up after the US victory over Ghana in the World Cup, let’s get to some cool videos

Our favorite news from last week, which we mentioned on our Tumblr, was the announcement that Death From Above 1979 will finally record a follow-up to their stunning debut You’re a Woman, I’m a Machine.  I’ve listened to this album hundreds of times since its release (and the handful of oddball EPs and singles to help complete the short catalog), and it never gets old.  The Tumblr post has the video of one of the coolest late night performances you’ll ever see, with the band performing on Conan with a special guest who arrives halfway through the song, so check that out.  We’ll see if this song makes the new album:

Speaking of Conan, Jack White visited his show last week, and SPIN has the link to their extended interview, plus a funny bit where Conan had interns stand-in for Jack White and his band during rehearsal.

Mastodon released a video for their single “High Road”, and this one features some LARPers in a fierce battle.

The first few minutes of the new Elliott Smith biopic have been released and are available for viewing; I’m linking to the Pitchfork announcement because it also includes a link to their extensive oral history on Elliott, which is definitely worth reading if you have the time.

And finally, Ray & Ramora shot a fun video for their cover of Pavement’s “Gold Soundz” which features a bunch of cool random cameos, including Kim Gordon, Jeff Goldblum, and Stephen Malkmus himself.  As for the cover itself, it’s an interesting pop take on the song that works pretty well.

Over The Weekend (Feb. 3 Edition)

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.

Keeping up with the Green Day theme, AllMusic takes a look at the recent history of Green Day and what’s happened to the band since they decided to release a trio of albums.  For curiosity’s sake, it’s worth a quick glance.

And finally, Pitchfork had an interesting look at “synesthesia” and its connection to different musicians.  It’s definitely worth clicking the link, if only to see Pharrell’s amazing Technicolor hat.