Thursday, June 16, 2011

Everything's getting older

It should have been a brilliant summer morning, but it's raining. Been like that for days now, you should be used to it, but no. Not yet.

You wake up already tired. In the bathroom mirror you stare at while shaving, you can see what you became. The chances you missed, the opportunities you wasted, the wounds you
got and the ones you gave, all of them draw little lines on your forehead, around your eyes, your cheeks, your mouth... Laughing wrinkles they call them. Bah. They just get deeper every day, nothing you can do.
Thinking about it, that's probably for the best. They compose a map, a map of where you've been, where you are and likely where you're heading.

Take that scar for example, that never healed nicely from that snowball fight six years ago. Or was it from a bar fight ten years ago ? And does it matter anyway ? And this zit you tried to pop at back in the days, almost a birth mark now, and the booze isn't soothing. You're not helping yourself. Listen to them. We're here for you, keeping you on your toes, they scream, in their silent but obvious way.

But you have better things to do.

Oh yes, so much more to do and chat about. We'll talk about that later, shall we ?

Friday, July 11, 2008


Sometimes life happens, you know... Relatives and old friends visiting, deadlines looming, code crashing, that kind of stuff...


As a kid, I wasn't especially fond of the "Find the differences" games. It always looked a bit contrived, and if the Devil's in the details, why should I want to drive him out ?

However, I came across some really endearing versions by Ivoryboy: the first version consisted in finding only 5 differences. A sequel has been released a few weeks back, where you have to find 6 differences this time. The graphics are still amazing and very soothing, and o don't I miss the City.

OK, what's the point, will you ask ? Well...

I recently bought "The Fallen Aristocracy EP" by the danish trio Northern Portrait. It had been heartily suggested by one of my favorite record-store clerk, as some very good Smiths-inspired pop-from-the-North, a la Cats On Fire. I can't but agree.

You still don't see where I'm going ? Well, let's play, then:

On my left:
Crazy - Northern Portrait

On my right:
Dizzy - Vic Reeves and the Wonderstuff

Oh, and Northern Portrait are releasing a new EP (Napoleon Sweetheart) some time this month, yay!

[the pix is from Ivoryboy]

Monday, May 12, 2008

Gimme coffee!

Don't be misled by the title of this post: I'm not talking about the chain of espresso bars that started in Ithaca, NY before expanding all over New York State (after all, they're really called "Gimme! Coffee"), but about the late Hot Corners, here in Athens, GA.

Yep, late. Hot Corners, this local institution providing coffee, treats and couches for thousands of students and night owls since 2003, closed its doors for good on Fri. 05/09. The very last cup of coffee was offered to yet another local institution, Gordon L., for his birthday. A photographic evidence is displayed (stolen from "Overseen in Athens", sorry and thanks guys), where you'll recognize the legendary trucker hat/glasses/beard. One can only assume that the beverage is indeed coffee, with roughly half a pint of creamers, as usual for GFL.

I'm still flummoxed by this sudden disappearance. I wasn't a regular, but it was neat to know that coffee could be found in Townietown/Tinytown at whatever hour of the night (during school months). Now, I'll have to run to Espresso Royale or Walker's to get a cup of joe or whatever sugary product to fight hypoglycemia, which is a good 3 blocks walk. No, I won't mention a third possibility, they don't need the publicity. Besides, where will I kick friends' collective ass at Scrabble, mmh ?

Moreover, Hot Corners used to be a cool place for small open-mic style shows. I'll always keep a very fond memory of a Titans of Filth show for Athfest2007 that drew a fairly impressive crowd in the "quiet room".

So, the information I could get points towards the walls being taken over by the Trappeze Pub, which opened just before Christmas 2007 in what used to be the "quiet room" mentioned above. Hardly a surprise, given the recent craze around the pub: a wide selection of exotic and expensive beers, a knowledgeable staff, semi-private booths and a patio of some sort... What else could you ask for ? Coffee ? As GFL summarized,
"the message they send is clear: in Townietown, get drunk or get lost"

BTW, it was indeed GFL's birthday last week-end, and a show was organized at the Caledonia Lounge: on the bill, Wedge, Entertainment, TJ Young, Fishboy and Spring Tigers.

  • You already know what I think of Wedge, no comment.

  • I was expecting the worse from Entertainment, mostly because of the blurb in the last flagpole:
    The Atlanta/Athens band plays dark, synth- and bass-heavy rock that's propulsive and layered, maybe a little like the lovechild that results from the late-night gropings of U2, Echo & the Bunnymen and The Cure.
    and this hilarious review of their latest album:
    Gender, the first full-length album from Athens band Entertainment, is a dark, dance-y amalgamation of all things '80s. The band melds post-punk, new wave, goth-rock and pop into something that sounds as if Bauhaus, Joy Division, (very early) U2, and Chrome were having an orgy.
    Wow. Once again, where's the indie police when you need it ? How did this piece ever got published ? Surprisingly, Entertainment are actually pretty good: they are old enough to have a first-hand knowledge of that musical period, they obviously love it and do a very decent job in recapturing it. I was fearing for some kind of Interpol-inspired rhythms, I was wrong, and I loved being wrong. I'm not ultra-keen on the Shaun Ryder like vocals on some tracks, but hey...

  • TJ Young is a local stand-up comedian. Gordon, if you want, I dress up as a clown for your next birthday.

  • Fishboy is a band I shouldn't have to introduce. They released one of the best concept/opera-rock albums of the decade, Albatross: How We Failed To Save The Lone Star State With The Power Of Rock And Roll. Go and listen to it now. And buy it. Twice.

  • Spring Tigers recently lost a member: their keyboardist Brian called it quit. Fortunately, Shane was able to cover most of his parts while managing with his. Great job. Hopefully the band will find a replacement soon: let's say that the coming months are expected to be full of very exciting news for the Tigers.
That's it for now. I'll post some MP3s soon, when I'll be caffeinated.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Down with the hacks

It's no secret that I don't like Radiohead. There was even a regular joke with an ex of mine that we couldn't date Radiohead fans: I still can't. I found the band's music pretentious, boring and uninspired. I'm quite willing to admit that I'm prejudiced, but you know, whatever. Normally, I would not bother post about that, but a couple of recent events infuriate me.

As a follow-up to their last winter PR stunt, where their album "In Rainbows" was available online for what you deemed it worth, the band recently opened a contest to remix the second single from the album, "Nude". The intention could be laudable. After all, it is an original way to involve their fan-base and bringing a happy few some recognition.
However, apprentice remixers have to download one to five different stems at $1 each from iTunes in order to enter the contest. That, in itself, is already a despicable maneuver. On top of it, as Ms Watercutter reported on Wired:
What's sort of unclear is what actually happens to remixers who get the most votes. According to iTunes' New Music Tuesday e-mail, "Select mixes will be made available on iTunes later this year." Uh, OK. Then what? Do the creators get a portion of the sales revenue? A "thank you" e-mail from Thom Yorke and Co.? The glory of saying, "You love me! You really love me!"? Or perhaps some American Apparel back-warmer emblazoned with "I Won a Radiohead Remix Contest and All I Got Was This Lousy T-Shirt" (front) "The Free Economy Sucks" (back)?
So, Radiohead will make money on the back of their fans ? Well, after all, that's what fans are for, right. And Radiohead, or at least, their representatives and publisher, already sent a cease-and-desist letter to Amplive, an Oakland DJ who had remixed the whole album and was offering it for... free. Gasp. Free... Anyway, that's old news, an agreement has been reached between both parties and the whole album is now available online. Get it here.

Now, the cherry on the cake is that this contest stunt seems to work very well: the song made the Billboard Hot 100. Turns out that each stem is counted as a regular download of the whole song (because Billboard considers each stem a different remix). As Wired points out:
Radiohead made the Billboard Hot 100 for the first time since 1996 because the remix stems for "Nude" counted towards sales totals for the song.
And of course, higher positions in the chart usually translate in higher sales, more frequent airplay, and therefore yet higher rankings...

OK, maybe the band members are for nothing in that matter. Maybe the blame is only on the representatives, on iTunes, on Billboard or any combination of. Maybe, maybe, maybe. Still, that stinks of scam, and I'm surprised that nobody tried yet to expose the band for the commercial hacks they are. Ah, where's the indie police when you need it ?

BTW, the picture is from the hilarious rainbowpuke site, about puking rainbows...

Thursday, April 10, 2008

My couch is a pop-star

Our good friend Keith John Adams just completed a 3-weeks tour with Andy From Denver, and the last show was Tuesday at Flicker, with Andy opening and Casper & the Cookies headlining.

It's always a rare pleasure to catch Keith our side of the pond. My first introduction was in 2005, for the second Popfest. Keith played part of his set in the street, outside the 40W, with an acoustic guitar. We were lucky to have the same experience Tuesday, when the first half of the set was performed outside the Flicker bar, this time with an electric guitar (Keith had a tiny amp on his belt) and the famous toy-piano. As a bonus, Keith showed us some sweet moves while backing up Andy on tambourine...

Keith's new album "Unclever" has been out since mid-February. You may remember that as a special promotion, you could pre-order the album and for a few extra bucks have KJA himself write a song just for you (provided you gave him a funny story to write about). Way cheaper than Momus' "Stars for a day". The offer was limited to the first 40 subscribers, and the songs have been shipped on 2 CDRs along with the actual CD. Mike Turner already posted 7 tracks on his blog, and asked friends of his to post the other tracks. If you don't want to spend afternoons surfing, you'll find shortcuts to some stories and the corresponding songs below...

Of course, I couldn't resist and asked Keith for a song, who was graceful to dedicate it to... my couch. A word of explanation is needed:

When I moved to Athens, I shared an apartment with some friends. In the living room were two couches that came with the flat, old 70es-style pieces of furniture of unknown origin that must have seen a lot of action over the last decades. One late afternoon in Summer 2006, the Cookies, the HHBTM family and Keith came to pick my then-girlfriend and myself for some sushi delights. As we were waiting for the little Miss to get ready, I started fixing up some drinks while everybody picked up seats. Here's an excerpt of the conversation :
- Me, to Keith approaching the divan : "Mate, be careful with the..."
- Keith, springing back to his feet and holding his arse : "Ouch, ouch, ouch !"
- Me : "...couch, it'll rape you if you try to sit on it too fast."
Since then, I had to leave that apartment, but the couches came along, and they still torture careless guests. You've been warned.

Links & MP3s

Ouch Couch : a true story...

Three Imaginary Girls
Indie MP3
You Ain't No Picasso

Monday, April 7, 2008

A visit from the real world

Some old and dear friend of mine and a friend of hers came to visit Athens this week-end straight from up North, somewhere "in the real world" as they nicknamed their Massachusetts haven. Luckily for my guests, there was plenty to do...

Fri. 04/04 (incidentally, the 7th anniversary of my American Adventures) saw Spring Tigers rocking the Flicker Bar out. That was the second Tigers show since their return from SXSW, and they were really tight. Unfortunately, the PA had some difficulties catching up with their set-up and the sound was sub-par for most of the tunes. Nevertheless, a very efficient show.

Till we are talking about Spring Tigers, let me open a parenthesis and urge you to check "New Improved Formula", their first video-clip, shot and edited by their keyboardist, Brian Smith. 90s of pure energetic catchiness, a fast and in-your-face editing and... kittens. All the ingredients for a youtube hit, as you can see for yourself below. FYI, most of the footages were filmed in Austin, TX during SXSW: the astute viewer will recognize bits of the Kindercore showcase performance at the Light Bar, as well as pictures of the Congress district. And a bunny.

We moved next door (40W) afterwards, where Dark Meat were playing an "acoustic" show. The quotes indicate that even if the guitars/bass were not electrified, the full band was on stage, keeping intact the power and chaos of their more "classical" performances. The show was a benefit for Gus Ramos, a local musician still hospitalized in critical but stable condition after a moped accident. Also on the bill were Music Hates You, but I phased out. On our way home, we got called inside a party where I narrowly escaped being savagely mauled by a tiny dog, who hated me. I wonder whether its name was music.

After recovering in front of Godard's "Bande Ă  part" and strolling along the Oconee River Trail, we eventually found ourself Sat. 04/05 evening at the Go Bar, for a show of one of my favorite local bands, The Buddy System. No need for introductions as I post regularly about them. Portable TV sets and monitors appropriately placed in the bar let the whole audience enjoy the animations, their classical ones along a new song, based on a new concept (think a kind of photonovella, with Lauren Gregg's characteristic touch superimposed). It was refreshing and bodes well for the near future, as TBS keep pushing their limits. Great job, guys... And then we danced our ass off as Dan Geller spinned a tiny part of his 80es/90es indie -dance standards collection, before moving to Little Kings for DJ Mahogany's BDay Bash, and finally to the famous DIY venue where we did not catch any show but still had a lot of fun.

Sunday was spent in a mini REM pilgrimage (Weaver D's, the steeple...), watching Kitano's "KikujirĂ´ no natsu" and yours truly realizing that preparing food for your friends is not a cook-out if you don't cook outside. We could have tried to catch We vs the Shark at the Farm 255, but a certain bottle of whiskey had to be finished before going to bed: guess who'll be married or hanged in the year, as we say back home ?

Anyhow. Guys, come back soon, we miss you already. What's so good about the real world anyway ? Oh yes, I forgot...

Dark Meat - Three Eyes Open
Dark Meat - Freedom Ritual
Spring Tigers - Wichitalinemanager
Spring Tigers - Beep Beep

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Fun with the Federal Reserve

Dear reader, can you spot the inconsistencies in the following speech, given today by Fed. Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke ? Here's an extract (the full speech is available here):
Well-functioning financial markets are essential for the efficacy of monetary policy and, indeed, for economic growth and stability. To improve market liquidity and market functioning, and consistent with its role as the nation’s central bank, the Federal Reserve has supplemented its longstanding discount window by establishing three new facilities for lending to depository institutions and primary dealers.
The Primary Dealer Credit Facility was put in place in the wake of the near-failure of Bear Stearns, a large investment bank. On March 13, Bear Stearns advised the Federal Reserve and other government agencies that its liquidity position had significantly deteriorated and that it would have to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy the next day unless alternative sources of funds became available. This news raised difficult questions of public policy. Normally, the market sorts out which companies survive and which fail, and that is as it should be. However, the issues raised here extended well beyond the fate of one company. Our financial system is extremely complex and interconnected, and Bear Stearns participated extensively in a range of critical markets. With financial conditions fragile, the sudden failure of Bear Stearns likely would have led to a chaotic unwinding of positions in those markets and could have severely shaken confidence. The company’s failure could also have cast doubt on the financial positions of some of Bear Stearns’ thousands of counterparties and perhaps of companies with similar businesses. Given the current exceptional pressures on the global economy and financial system, the damage caused by a default by Bear Stearns could have been severe and extremely difficult to contain. Moreover, the adverse effects would not have been confined to the financial system but would have been felt broadly in the real economy through its effects on asset values and credit availability. To prevent a disorderly failure of Bear Stearns and the unpredictable but likely severe consequences of such a failure for market functioning and the broader economy, the Federal Reserve, in close consultation with the Treasury Department, agreed to provide funding to Bear Stearns through JPMorgan Chase. Over the following weekend, JPMorgan Chase agreed to purchase Bear Stearns and assumed Bear’s financial obligations.
Clearly, the U.S. economy is going through a very difficult period. But among the great strengths of our economy is its ability to adapt and to respond to diverse challenges. Much necessary economic and financial adjustment has already taken place, and monetary and fiscal policies are in train that should support a return to growth in the second half of this year and next year. I remain confident in our economy’s long-term prospects.

Emphasis are mine.

OK, hold on a minute, I'm getting confused. So, we live in an allegedly self-regulated market economy, where profits made by companies are redistributed only among their share-holders, and where companies in weakened positions are ruthlessly bought by healthier competitors, right ? Basic application of Darwinism to global economy, I can understand. But when the market gets screwed up, when the very same companies took too many risks and can't assume them, the federal administration intervenes with a big pile of public cash and erases the tab before things get worse ? That's pure genius ! As a speculator, I could have my cake, eat it, and have an affair with the pastry girl ! I still feel a piercing pain in my back pocket...

I'm also quite fond of the opposition "financial system / real economy". Should I understand that our current financial systems are fake economy ? Argh. Hard science and computing are so much simpler.

[Insert Billy Bragg/Stereolab song here]

Anyway. Caribou show tonight at the 40W. Looks like they found a new drummer...