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Musings

My first individual explorations into the world of music took the form of surreptitious MTV viewings in the attic of my house in third grade. Aside from the pretty amazing collection of animated shows (Beavis and Butthead, Aeon Flux, The Oddities, etc.), MTV was most memorable for offering me the titillating medium of the music video, a form of experiencing music I only used from the years 1993-1999. In retrospect, music videos of the era (and any era really) were half-baked visualizations of the already half-baked lyrics or tone of the song. The results of these concoctions can be amazing, so I’ve decided to create a weekly dedication to my favorite hamhanded creations of the mid-nineties.

Beavis and Butthead

It’s hard to go on a hunger strike when you have the munchies.

Temple of the Dog’s “Hunger Strike” is the quintessential 90s music video. Chris Cornell and Eddie Vedder moan about sociopolitical concerns on a beach (presumably on the Pacific Northwest coast). This performance is interspersed with stock footage of a lighthouse flashing its cautionary light and a foreboding (yet hopeful!) cloudy sky. Is this song protesting American excess? Is it a confessional about conceding to said excess? Do Cornell and Vedder know if “farming babies” is metaphor or literal? Such are the mysteries of a classic third grade throwback.

I don’t mind stealing bread
From the mouths of decadence
But I can’t feed on the powerless
When my cup’s already overfilled,
But it’s on the

After the fallout of the inaugural edition of Reviewing Reviews, someone suggested that I review one of my own reviews, which is sort of like putting a math student in a room by himself with the curriculum and asking him to grade his own test.  Despite how awesome that would be, it is a very, very stupid idea.

However, it was suggested by several people that I review a contributor or staff writer because for some reason everyone decided to ignore the fact that I said I would most likely be doing more and common sense would dictate that since I do not care about anyone’s feelings and I’m a bully, I would be taking on some contributor and staff reviews as well.  You think I don’t know that thebhoy needs some criticism too?

Anyway, Sobhi Abdul-Rakhman (kingsoby1) made waves back in 2000-whenever when he became the first colored person to make it onto Sputnikmusic’s team of staffers (except for pixiesfanyo, an honorary black man).  Earlier this year Sobhi was joined by fellow brownie Kiran Soderqvist but by that point he had already one-upped the competition by having a baby, something that not even John Hanson has been able to do despite what MTV says about 16 year olds keeping their babies.  Sobhi’s claims to fame are hype, anti-hype, and how those two things relate to hip-hop.  Here are some recent soundoffs written by Sobhi (paraphrased to point out the salient parts):

People are sucking this off way too much

This might become a regular thing that I do but for now I want to take it slow and see how it goes.  I feel like most of the other staff members rarely read reviews on the site, but I read a lot of them and sometimes I’m shocked at the lack of basic grammar and punctuation skills displayed.  As if that wasn’t bad enough, a lot of reviews lack concrete ideas and are generally just poorly worded and expressed.  So I’ve picked a review that exemplifies those issues and I’m going to dissect it.  On the chopping block is Bulldog’s review of B.o.B.’s The Adventures of Bobby Ray.

Section #1: The Summary

The review hits its first snag in a very fundamental way:  the summary is horrible.  Ideally, this is the first (and sometimes only) thing that people will read when they look at your review.  It sums up your thoughts succinctly and gives the reader a good gauge of your opinion prior to diving into the meat of your writing.  Bulldog chose this to do that:

“Alternative hip-hop for the masses.  But above all, this is really a concrete testament to the diversity in, and morphability of, hip-hop…or is it?”

First of all, “morphability” is not a word.  No discussion.  It does not exist.  Google it and you will find a bunch of websites talking about the “morph ability” in Dungeons and Dragons.  This is actually a fairly common mistake.  People will invent a word and dismiss…

The Smiling Assassins aka F**k-Nuggets

 “F**k-Nuggets”. That is the first word that entered my head upon the elimination of Siobhan Magnus last night on Season-9 of American Idol. Why? Well, you know when you just have a feeling that something is going to happen at a certain time? Well, I superstitiously predicted this exact occurrence for this exact date. Call it pessimism, a lucky guess or a dreaded sense of fortune telling, but it sometimes is just the way things work. For you see, it is not the American public that I am calling “f**k-Nuggets” (although they have clearly played their part), it is 4 of those 5 d!ckheads currently smiling at you from your computer screens. 

 “But Davey, the judges liked Siobhan’s performance on Tuesday night and weren’t the ones who voted her off” I hear you exclaim. That is not my issue. My issue dates back 3 weeks ago to April-7, when Cowell & Co. inexplicably decided to use their ‘Save’ vote on Offensive Lineman Michael Lynche. For the uninitiated, the 4 judges have the ability to save a contestant who has just been eliminated. However, there are two huge catches: (1) They can only do this once, and (2) they could only do it up until the Top 5. So why in the hell they would choose to do this when a contestant was eliminated in 9th position is beyond me… A fact

Five points from an outsider:

1) Logic would surely dictate that the standard of American Idol would be much better than that of its UK equivalents, The X Factor and Pop Idol. Roughly speaking, there are 309 million people in the US and just 60 million in the UK – surely a country with five times as many people will have five times as many brilliant singers, and ergo, would be five times as likely to have a seriously world-class talent? Apparently not; we shouldn’t forget that Leona Lewis was a complete fluke, but the fact remains that AI hasn’t even come close to producing anything on her level. Not even Kelly Clarkson is comparable; she survives by having great songwriters and producers, not a great voice. Even taking the average ability of the contestants into account, the only reason the US have the upper hand on the UK is because we, as a nation of cynical, hate-filled piss-takers, are obliged to field one complete joke every year. Take them out of the equation and we stack up. We probably shouldn’t.

2) I sure am thankful to be watching a singing competition that doesn’t have Jedward in it, mind.

3) What the hell is with all the guitars? Is there some sudden obsession with a pre-conceived notion ‘authenticity’ on this show, or has it always been this way? In the UK at least, the show has always been happy to embrace its gleefully vapid nature, but the US…

Super limited deluxe special editions of albums (I think I got all of the adjectives) are getting a bit ridiculous.  On one hand, I think it’s really awesome that there are bands out there who want to give the fans a little something extra, but then I realize that most “special editions” contain some shitty, half-assed DVD that has thirty minutes of footage (if you’re lucky) about what five of the songs are about.

The horrible thing is, I will almost always buy the special edition even though logic has proven time and time again that it is a total waste of money.  And do I legitimize my purchase by watching the DVD/listening to the bonus tracks/utilizing surround sound technology to hear Opeth’s Still Life in a whole new light?  Nope.  I very rarely take advantage of the band’s decision to bestow insight into their writing process and/or the things they do while they’re on their tour bus or inside their tour van.  Here is a list of some of the bonus content that I have done absolutely nothing with:

- The DVD included with Underoath’s Lost In The Sound Of Separation.  It’s worth mentioning here that I bought both the special edition of the CD that came with the DVD, and the special vinyl box set that also includes the CD and DVD.  So I have two Underoath DVDs that I will most likely never, ever watch.  But hey, 10″ vinyl in the shape of a sawblade!

- The…

Sweden has always had a strong DIY culture. Look no further than the brand name most famously exported from the Scandinavians, IKEA, for an indication of the trait. Easy, self-assembled and stylish furniture, much like the music that the nations independent scene has made its name with. Where the status quo of mainstream pop music in most other countries is that of record executives with dollar signs for pupils and the incendiary scorn of independent/niche fans, Sweden owes a huge part of its musical history to the genre; ask anyone to name a Swedish artist and seminal pop act ABBA will undoubtedly fall from their lips, and for good reason. ABBA may in fact have been the most important group ever to emerge out of the country. As well as lighting the world up with hustle inducing hits like “Waterloo” and “Gimme Gimme Gimme (A Man After Midnight)”, they encouraged a nation to let loose their inhibitions and muster up the confidence to write music in English; simple, excellent pop songs, kooky accent and all. Bands like Roxette (of “Listen to your Heart” fame) and The Cardigans followed suit, creating intelligent, accessible pop that lit up the charts throughout the 90’s, with the former registering four #1 singles in the US and dozens more UK Top 40 hits.

ABBA, in all their glory.

Looking specifically at the contemporary state of the independent scene, you wouldn’t have to go further than the…

After a long hiatus from the blog, I am determined to return in magnificent splendor. In this simple and unassuming post, you’ll find no less than 3 stellar tracks for your listening pleasure. Enjoy.

Gold Panda – You

Genre: Electronic
Buy it here

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The Mary Onettes – The Night Before the Funeral

Genre: Indie Pop

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DOM – Burn Bridges

Genre: Indie

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As any Sputnik regular will know, a couple of the staffers here have got a thing going on for UK hip-hop; Orphans of Cush did gatecrash our 2009 top 50 at an impressive #27, after all. You might have realized, too, that the latest record from the scene to makes among us is Devil May Cry by Iron Braydz.

Now, I couldn’t tell you why, but something about Braydz made me cast my mind back to the early part of last decade, when UK garage was just beginning to turn into grime, and British urban music has a stranglehold on UK radio and people still gave a crap about the MOBOs. So Solid Crew were absolutely massive then. Hell, they were probably the biggest band in the country, regardless of country; they genuinely revolutionized UK rap. Angus Batey pointed out as much in a recent Guardian interview with the group’s lynchpin Megaman, while the band still gets respect in the scene; Durrty Goodz, on the state-of-the-nation address “Switching Songs”, acknowledged the change they brought to the UK garage scene.

‘Deep basslines and a load of energy
And I loved the beats because they came with melodies
I could go raving and sip on the Hennessey
And wouldn’t even think about looking for enemies
Then shit changed, everyone just bugged out
So Solid came and it all got thugged out’

That lyric encapsulates why the band were never really embraced…

The new staff members aren’t yet able to post in the staff blog, so I’m doing my favorite son Adam Thomas a big favor here and posting his blog about this year’s Record Store Day.  I’m lending my support to this blog post, as Record Store Day is a big fucking deal for guys like us who buy vinyl and albums that you can’t get at Best Buy, etc.  So give Adam your full attention and support your local record stores if you have any!  As a sidenote, here are some possible names for his future column:  Adam’s Spasms, Adam’s Orgasms, Adam’s Chasms.  Just some suggestions.

Just a little reminder for y’all, the fourth annual Record Store Day is this Saturday, April 17th. For those not in the know, Record Store Day is a world wide celebration of independent music retailers, marked by a plethora of special releases from musicians on both major and indie labels, and special in-store appearances by tons of bands both big and small. So why honor the local record shop? Despite the fact that they can at times be a bit more pricey than their superstore counterparts, local record stores foster a sense of community amongst their consumers, stocking albums based on what their clientele want, not based on corporate buggery and marketing deals. This personal touch is what they rely on to survive, and with retail giants like Wal-Mart, Target, and Best Buy holding brick and mortar retail music sales by the balls and…

I’ve been a fan of most the music that Peter Steele has put out including Carnivore and Type O Negative. Based on that, I’m not going to jump to any conclusions based on all of the news that’s floating around right now – we’ll save that shit for a different day. I did want to take this time to highlight his band prior to Type O Negative, though, because they were always a bit underrated in my opinion. Their first album was kind of sloppy thrash but their second release, Retaliation, was straight up hardcore with a huge streak of sarcasm and a warped sense of humor. None of these songs were supposed to be taken seriously, they were just supposed to be so incredibly stupid that they were funny. Of course, when Peter became famous through Type O Negative critics returned to this album to accuse him of everything from racism to homophobia to just about everything else (prompting the song “We Hate Everyone” on Bloody Kisses).  Anyway, hopefully Peter is somewhere sleeping in New York (it is only 11am)…

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- Jesus Hitler

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- Angry Neurotic Catholics

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Can I be serious for a minute?

Glee is awesome.

seriously, it's awesome

But it’s come to my attention that there are a lot of people out there who don’t like it.  Now, I’ve never seen a specific comment on this website stating dislike for Glee, but I’m going to assume that there are bunch of you guys who hate it.  My first response to you, if you’re out there, is Fuck you faggot Glee rules. My second response is Have you seen it? You probably answered that question with a “no,” because this is a website where we give albums a rating of “1″ just because we heard the beginning of “Tik Tok” on the radio and turned it off, repulsed and intent on lowering Ke$ha’s rating when we get home.  So what have you heard about Glee?  That it’s like High School Musical for people who enjoyed High School Musical but are now slightly older?  That it’s full of high school drama that you will most likely find beneath you?  That it’s gay?

Well, first of all, High School Musical was awesome too.

i'm ashley tisdale's homosexual twin, he's the… black girl

Second of all, I got news for ya.  It’s all of those things!  But in a good way.  I can hear you guys now:  ”But how can something that’s a bit gay actually be good?”  Well, we all listen to Animal Collective, right?  Those guys seriously…

I have to admit that I’m a bit worried by these song samples. Despite everything I’ve read, this album just sounds like it’s going to be very dull. With the exception of “The Termination Proclamation” and the title track, every song felt like something from Dead Heart in a Dead World (an album that I’m not a huge fan of). Worse, it sounded more tame and generic than that album did. You’d have to go all the way back to their debut to find something as lifeless. I hope I’m wrong because 30 second samples definitely aren’t the whole story, but this has definitely dampened my enthusiasm for this release.

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Titus Andronicus (And The Problem With Aiden)

Generally, music does not make me want to go out and do things.  I guess there is a large demographic that becomes motivated by music, but I’m certainly not a part of it.  I hear a lot of people – wait, let’s be honest here; I read a lot of comments from people online – talking about how they’ll listen to music to pump them up before they hit the field to play a football game or something.  When I get done scoffing at the fact that someone on a music forum is pretending to be manly beyond having the ability to grow some kind of creepy neckbeard, I get to thinking.  I mean, if I wanted to pump myself up about getting my frail, super indie body crushed under a pile of sweaty jocks, I’m pretty sure I would just put on some show-tunes and get my ass down to the Drama Department where I so obviously belong in the first place.

home sweet home

But seriously, listening to, say, a Pantera song to pump me up for a certain event would just make me want to…listen to more Pantera.  It reminds me of when I was still in high school.  I never actually was in the Drama Department, by the way.  It was a good thing because I was never labeled as a homo because I liked to wear tights on stage in front…

Here at sputnikmusic.com, we have a whole crap-load of users who have yet to write a review.  It’s not necessarily in my job description as a staff writer to notice things like that, but then again it’s not my job to stare at the leggy photographs in the liner notes for Joanna Newsom’s Have One On Me for hours on end either, which is what my day generally consists of.  Some of these users are fairly established, with a few hundred comments or so.  It’s clear they’ve read plenty of reviews and would theoretically be able to accurately reconstruct one of them in their own unique voice, so why haven’t they?  And then it hit me:

I haven’t written a how-to guide yet.

this guy looks familiar

I have been on this site for far too long now.  I won’t say how long exactly but I will hint that it may or may not be more than four years.  As such, I’ve watched reviewing trends come and go out of style like all those articles of clothing in the American Apparel ads (or maybe they’re cool because they’re out of style?  Are they post-out of style??  What sort of man wears a scarf in the summer anyway?).  Back when I first joined the site, people were still writing track-by-track reviews and at that point I think there were still only 175 or so Pokemon.  Things were simpler back then.  There was a basic reviewing progression…

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