A Thought On Music Criticism and MGMT - Oracular Spectacular

I'm gonna try a different approach to constructing this then last time. Bear with me.

The worth of a music review has always been questionable to me. Is it useless? Maybe. For one, even though I recognize that personal taste is a worthy factor, I think there is music that is, in an absolute way, just good. Taste plays a part in whether you like something or not and in how many spins you give it but in a number of cases I do not believe it affects whether the music is good or not. I can't remember when I last gave Lou Reed's Transformer some needle time but I know its a brilliant record. That's ok. If you dislike OK Computer its fine, but if you think its a bad album then you are missing something.

That being said I think that MOST of the music that comes to prominence with in the independent or serious rock worlds is good. This of course does not hold true with in the worlds of commercial rock or pop, though there is a small amount of worth that can be found there. But critics can't go around giving four and five star reviews for most serious albums without being accused of lack of opinion. So in order to be opinionated a good amount of either make definite boundaries on their tastes and curse everything outside of it or they condemn albums almost randomly and for very little reason. After all, hating music is way cooler then liking music.

I'm not typing this to just bash on other music reviewers, I just want to say a little bit about my intent. I cannot speak for the other reviewers here but I am not going to give very many negative reviews. I don't think you need to be told that My Chemical Romance's latest sucks. And I'm not gonna seek out some tiny band to tell you they're crap. Why do you need to know that you shouldn't listen to them if you wouldn't even have heard of them other wise? The only time I will give a negative review is when there are factors that would lead you to believe a stinker would be worth buying. Not just an album to avoid but an album you might not know to avoid otherwise. Otherwise I will try to keep my tastes as wide as possible.

Now, the review:

MGMT - Oracular Spectacular
2008, Sony/Colombia Records, Brooklyn NY (originally Middletown CT)

I was duped. Perhaps I should know better then to fall prey to a hype band but to be honest I've liked most hype bands in the past. I find most of the people who are very down on band that came to prominence this way are more down the media raving then the bands they're raving about. But MGMT also came with more. Recommendations from two respectable friends as well as spots opening for both of Montreal and Beck, how could they be anything but great? So maybe I didn't do the kind of research I usually pull, didn't read what my favorite sites say, but shouldn't that cut through it all? So I put down the fucking money for this CD. Judging music the first time through is suicide, especially when listening while riding through a loud subway tunnel. OK, I tell myself, this could be nice and catchy. I'm sure on listening to it more I'll see what I'm missing.


It took me two weeks before I came to my decision. No, I was not going to warm up to it. Yes, my friend had mislead me. Yes, that money could and should have gone to that Portishead CD I was eyeing, it should have gone to anything else for that matter. Fuck. I felt betrayed.

This is irony. This is music for hipsters containing everything you would think the indie would should hate. Grandiose, apathy, bad funk, cheesy electronica, trow away lyrics, major labels. All for the sake of irony. Not that there isn't precedent for their sound. Beck and of Montreal are key touch stones but they don't do it like this. I don't know. Citing bands influence doesn't seem very helpful to me.

Don't get me wrong, there are some ups. Mostly the singles. Time To Pretend and Kids are choice cuts from it. If I could return this and pick up those as A and B on a 7" I would in an instant. I don't know what else to tell you. Perhaps bad reviews should be shorter then good one because the music didn't affect me in any notable way and thus there's not much to talk about.

And of course, its largely possible that I just missed something.

1. Time to Pretend
2. Weekend Wars
3. Youth
4. Electric Feel
5. Kids
6. 4th Dimensional Transition
7. Pieces of What
8. Of Moons, Birds & Monsters
9. Handshake
10. Future Reflections

i'll move to paris, shoot some heroin, and fuck with the stars

The Velvet Teen - Cum Laude!

The Velvet Teen - Cum Laude!
2006, Slowdance Records, Santa Rosa CA

In response to my co-writers lack of punctuation due to mass consumption of the song "Heroin", by The Velvet Underground, I'll be using ultimate punctuation. Or maybe I won't, because it is likely that I will over excite myself while I write this review.

Although The Velvet Teen has been around for 8+ years, they've only released a number of EP's and three LP's due to both a slow pace and complications within the band. First off, the band started out as a side project that took some time to pick up. In 2000, Logan Whitehurst and Judah Nagler formed the band, featuring a more electronic sound. Over time, the band has experimented with electronics, grand pianos and noises among many other musical sounds. This has led the band to develop an inconsistent style which has led reviewers to relate each release as a cheap and poorly done imitation of another band. Regardless of criticism, TVT's newest release proves that they have surpassed all the bounds of their previous albums; a band that simply cannot be dismissed with cheap comparisons to other larger and more "signifigant" bands.

On Cum Laude!, the new line up includes drummer Casey Deitz. This is the ultimate evolution of the TVT so far. Instead of the sentimental grand pianos lulling the most indie of us to sleep, the band now promises to pull you in every direction, without allowing you to fall completely out of sanity- a feat I've only seen TVT do. Casey Deitz is the prime example of the albums new sound. He is a typhoon of drums that never relents, and only reverts back to semi-normal rock drumming (still on the edge with many glitchy fills and double speed) after minutes of explosive chaotic, technical, and musical percussive bliss- which once again taking us back to this concept of reaching the bottom as much as possible without actually bottoming out. Nagler's unbelievable vocal range (sounds something like 4 octaves) is used with an assertion never before seen on previous albums. Instead of singing in an operatic fashion, he seems to embrace his natural vocal style more so on this album, using every register as a new means of emoting without ever overdoing it. However, this is probably a matter of preference because in all honesty, his voice is very extreme, especially on this album. His lyrics, however, are a little more open-ended and less direct than his expressive delivery. Nagler's extremely ambiguous, at times good, and occasionally great lyrics of TVT accommodate the music awesomely. In comparison to the other aspects of the music, the lyrics are often times drowned out often a time due to mumbly delivery, often to be dominated by the music- which may speak more than the words half the time.

Once again, a predominant factor which makes Cum Laude! great is it's ability to create as much chaos as possible while retaining cohesive songs. The songs on the album are like a wild beast contained in a cage, battering against it trying to get out only to be contained once more. Sound-wise, if Casey Deitz and Judah Nagler were the beast, bassist Josh Staples is the cage- he is unable to tame the beast, but able to contain it. Able to contain it enough that you can see the entire picture without pure fear and delusions of of getting mangled by nothing but this absolute chaos beast of glory. He carries the music along, barely retaining it but it is another important aspect of definition for the bands sound. It's brutal, self destructive music in a totally different sense but cathartic and resigning in the same way Stuart spoke of on "Heroin".

Oh, and did I mention? Cum Laude! sounds pretty unique- the general consensus of myself and the few others who've heard their music.

1. "333" - 3:35
2. "Flicking Clint" -2:28
3. "Rhodekill" -4:31
4. "False Profits" -3:11
5. "Tokyoto" -2:33
6. "Noi Boi" -3:48
7. "Spin the Wink" -4:35
8. "Bloom" -2:42
9. "Building A Whale" -3:29
10. "In A Steadman Spray" -4:19
11. "Around the Roller Rink" -3:41
12. "GyzmKid" -4:13

Not even god can change your nature
But you can hold out, right?


The Velvet Underground - The Velvet Underground & Nico

The Velvet Underground - "The Velvet Underground & Nico"
1967, Verve Records, New York City

what is there left to say about this album? i talk to a lot of people about it, its one of the touchstones of music elitism, which is to say if you can talk in depth about this album you get tagged in my mind as a 'music person' as opposed to a person who likes music. of course this doesn't always hold true, there are people who just love this album but don't get the implications, and thats ok. there are also people who don't own this album or don't care for it but can talk for years about the wonders of other brilliant music and thats ok too, so i guess its more of a guideline then a rule. but it is an easy and quick way to get my general bearings on a person and their music when i first meet them.

the most curious case is with two girls i know. perhaps its not that uncommon and its probably true with a huge amount of people, but when i encountered it it really did though me off guard. these two love the album. they tell me how much they love it. of course i don't miss up a chance to talk more about it and i mention how much 'Heroin' changed my life. they both, even though they don't know each other and these encounters happened months and miles removed from each other, they both blinked at me and told me they didn't know that song. i don't have an mp3 player and at the time i didn't have a computer so the prospect of loving an album while missing track 7 was bizarre to me but to many people listening to music is shuffle. i'm not ripping that, there are plenty of merits of listening to music that way, hell there are even tracks i didn't get until i herd them out of context but that mode of consumption is a bit foreign to me.

now i could go and tell you about the importance of this album on post-punk and alternative and the birth of noise rock and i could repeat the famous quote and i could tell the stories of worhol and reed and cale but i won't.

this album is 'Heroin'. to me at the very least that is what it is. these two friends of mine were under the misconception that it is a beautiful album and they are right but they are very wrong. it is a very very not beautiful album.

'Heroin' is about of course on the base level the drug. his dependence and his fear of that dependence. its about why he uses the drug, his fears, his want to rise above, and also his want to get away. its about how the drug is going to kill him. but of course its more then that. a little basic beat and little basic melody line repeated and repeated and repeated with that migraine electric violin always always. and it dips down as it continues and speeds up and slows down and the song swallows you. and as i overdrive my headphones sitting on the floor of my apartment it consumes me. and it consumes him. its catharsis. such a fucking release but its also isolation and withdrawing into myself and stockpiling my feeling and never never letting it out. its waves and waves of distortion and feed back and dissonance that you swim in and you get lost in. and mr. reed looks up through it all and for one second laughs, just a little 'ha' that tells you that he wants the drug to kill him and you want the drug to kill you because it would be better it would be better for you and for the ones around you because they don't need you it would be rising above, transcendent, its because the world is so cruel and so kind and its not made for you, its because you rolled the dice two hundred times and it some how never ever came up sixes, its closing your eyes and fucking screaming even though that doesn't let anything out, its because thank god i'm as good as dead. and it ends with the resignation 'and I guess that I just don't know, oh and I guess that I just don't know.'

I guess that I just don't know

1. Sunday Morning
2. I'm Waiting for the Man
3. Femme Fatale
4. Venus in Furs
5. Run Run Run
6. All Tomorrow's Parties
7. Heroin
8. There She Goes Again
9. I'll Be Your Mirror
10. The Black Angel's Death Song
11. European Son

i'm gonna try to nullify my life

Sunday Morning

So we're pretty new at this. I've never reviewed an album before or written anything at all that I cared if people read but I think we just need to get some momentum going and the rest will be easy. So to that end I decided for my first review, instead of covering something new or obscure, that I would review something not only old but also classic. Once we get things going I'll work at pointing you towards new bands you need to hear or old bands you may have missed. Anyway, enjoy.

watch out, the worlds behind you

It's All Nice On Ice, Pt II.

I guess Stuart said what I would've said if I had written the first post.

Anyways, on with the first music related post. I'm gonna be talking about Vivian Girls now, and this will begin our (or at least my own) section of First Impressions. I haven't heard much of their stuff yet, but from what I have heard, their music sounds like a fusion of standard chick indie pop in combination with some punkish aesthetic. They've been categorized as having a shoegazey sound, but I honestly don't know how true this is. I haven't listened to their album yet, so I have no grounds to 'grade' the band yet, but it's apparent that they're overhyped. But I guess they do deserve some recognition- for their looks.

Maybe that was too much for a first post. Maybe it was far too douchey. Maybe I'm just too tired for a 'first post'- the start of many.

It's All Nice On Ice, Alright

This is a music blog created by me and Adrian. We're here to post good reviews and essays dealing with new and old releases, underground and mainstream music, music culture, art, personal impact, shows, and anything the hell else we want to. We want to do this with as little irony as possible. We're gonna try to show this in interesting ways. If you want to contribute let us know.

Goddamn, that said 'we' alot, didn't it?

well i'll be damned, you were right