Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Clamor Magazine Reviews

As I may have written previously, I used to write for clamor magazine, which went out of biznass in 2006. The following are reviews that yours truly wrote that were published on their website ( I figgered I’d post them here, so’s I gots a record of them as well.


Pattern Is Movement


Noreaster Failed Industries, 2005,
I think all art students should be forced to start bands, and all musicians should be forced to study art. Good things often come of it: Wire’s herkey-jerky punk, Crass’s sound collages and entire aesthetic, the White Stripes garage-rock-meets-Godard minimalism. Particularly if you are going to work within the constraints of bass/guitar/drums, you either need to be a 19-year-old fuck-up going balls out, or have some sort of grounding philosophy. Otherwise you end up being Nickelback — and no one wants that.
I don’t know if Pattern Is Movement are art school kids, but they certainly sound like it. On the surface, they are your typical indie band — bass/guitar/drums, well-versed in both Belle and Sebastian and Built to Spill. However, they defy the limitations of indie rock and create something much more interesting and unique.
Their name tells you what they are going for — their music is all about patterns, repeating patterns, particularly. “Maple,” the opening song, starts out with a simple melody and the line “I love you when you come near/ Standing naked in the door.” Then it repeats the line over and over and over, until it goes from being a cute little melody into being something kind of disturbing.
The resulting album is something that is sweet, whimsical, and a little unsettling. The songs can be enjoyed on both a purely aesthetic level as a fun little indie tunes, or they can be appreciated for their experiments in song structures and sound. Like a Truffaut film, there is a depth to Pattern Is Movement, but they are also entertaining, and you don’t need an MFA to appreciate them. I’m glad bands like Pattern Is Movement are keeping indie music interesting, and I highly recommend this disc to anyone bored with the ordinary.
-Patrick Sean Taylor

Stereo Total
My Melody
Kill Rock Stars, 2006
One of my favorite genres of music is sixties female Euro pop, and Stereo Total serve it up in spades. My Melody offers up19 tracks of sweet, goofy, non-English goodness, with lyrics in German and French. I was in a horrible, horrible mood the first time I put this disc on, and it immediately put me in a good mood. How can you be bummed out listening to a girl sing about the issues of make-up in German over a quirky synth beat? You just can’t.
Stereo Total could easily be the younger sibling of Stereolab, only while Stereolab’s songs are overtly political, Stereo Total keep things much lighter. I don’t speak French or German, but from what I can understand, they aren’t exactly criticizing the current socio-economic system and fomenting socialist revolution. Most of the songs are about love, I think, except for the songs dedicated to Yoko Ono and Ringo Starr, and the one about being a badass disc jockey.
Besides their own stuff, they also cover Serge Gainsbourg, and do a rowdy version of “Drive My Car” titled “Tu Peux Conduire Ma Bagnole”. It all sounds very sixties and yet contemporary. The disc brought me back to the heyday of the Britpop revival in the mid-nineties, and the nights I spent at Bardot-a-Go Go celebrating Mr. Gainsbourg’s birthday with the rest of the San Francisco francophiles. Maybe that’s because My Melody was originally released in 1999, that kinder, simpler time, before the economy crashed and we decided to go to war with the world. My Melody is a charming and enjoyable record, and is guaranteed to do more to lift your mood than all of the antidepressants on the earth. 
-Patrick Sean Taylor

Various Artists
States of Abuse
Entartete Kunst 2006
Entartete Kunst are a San Francisco-based label who specialize in avant-garde electronica and radical politics. On States of Abuse, they’ve lined up 19 tracks of politically charged hip-hop from both North America and Europe. Hip-hop has replaced punk as the global music of rebellion, and this disc is the proof. It’s striking to see that people from so many different places sharing a similar musical language and political ideology. There are MCs rapping in French, Italian, and Spanish, along with British and American artists.
There are a lot of gems on this disc. Among them are BC400’s pissed-off rant on Bush and Chirac, which comes through even if you don’t understand French; Filastine’s “Judas Goat” which incorporates Middle Eastern instruments; and Giddee Limit’s blippy, grimey “Revolution Soldier.” These tracks combine banging beats with righteous anger, which is both cathartic and inspirational, just like a good punk song. 
As with all comps, not everything here is solid gold. A couple of the songs are too preachy and simplistic; I appreciated that their hearts were in the right place, but wished they had more finesse in turning political arguments into good songs. This comp is definitely about the message first and music second, and sometimes it showed.
However, the majority of this disc is good, and it does a great job of presenting a unified, global assault against the Bush Regime, the War on Terrorism, and corporate greed. I’ve heard a million rappers yell “fuck the police”, but this was the first time I heard one quote Proudhon. This is sure to be the soundtrack of the next WTO protest, and worth checking out.
-Patrick Sean Taylor

Found #2

Davy Rothbart

Fireside/Simon & Schuster, 2006
This is the second collection from Found magazine. Found has a very simple premise - it features photographs of notes and other detritus found by people across the country. Everything from grocery lists to greeting cards to lost pet ads to love letters to post-its are presented here with a brief explanation of when and where they were found. The book is divided thematically, with a whole section of letters to Santa, a whole section of love letters, etc.
The result is much more profound that it might sound. It is a combination of art, humor, psychology, and archeology. Seeing these everyday notes taken outside of their context puts them in a whole new light, and gives us insight into the private lives and thoughts of the people around us. Some are just bizarre (like the note that says "Today is my grandmother's 100 birthday AND there is a raccoon in my bathroom. Open at 3pm"), others are hilarious. One of my favorite pieces was an excerpt from a very serious legal contract that breaks into the absurd, including clauses about feeding mythical beasts, and quoting Jay-Z lyrics.
Then there are the disturbing ones. The suicide notes are especially heart breaking, as are the letters from jilted lovers to their ex's. One piece is a police report from a riot cop assigned to a protest in San Francisco in 2003. The officer writes lines like 'I skillfully parried [the protester's] move and struck him twice in zone one. The coward then ran into the crowd." So, who's supposed to protect us from you, Mr. Officer?
What I like most about Found is it doesn't take an ironic or mocking attitude. For the most part it treats the found items for what they are - a voyeuristic glimpse into the life and thoughts of a total stranger. A thousand years from now, when whoever is left on this planet is trying to figure out what the hell happened to us, Found is as good a guide as any into the experiences, desires, and psychosis of Americans in the 21st century. For those of us still in 2006, it is a wonderful way to better understand ourselves and our neighbors, and is a hell of a lot of fun, too.
-Patrick Sean Taylor

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