Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Check us out on WebUrbanist.Com

Happy Thanksgiving folks,
Michelle and I were interviewed by WebUrbanist a few days ago. They were interested in our lightpainting and hit us up to do a feature. Apparently, their turnaround is lightning fast because its already up. Check it out at the link below, and send us some bonus internets.
MRI Lightpainting on

Also, we just found out that National Public Radio's Science Friday wants to do a video piece about us, which we are shooting next week. So stay tuned.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Un-Google-able. Five Songs With “The Nothing Chorus”.

During CMJ my good friend Katie was putting on a week of events at 205, a club on Chrystie street. She hit me up last-minute-style one day and asked me to put together a quick "top 5" type article for a 'zine they were going to give out at the event. I had an idea I had been sitting on with no place to put it, so I fleshed it out and gave it to her. For whatever reason, it didn't run in the 'zine. Not sure I blame her or whoever made the editorial decision, as this kind of thing probably only amuses me. In truth, I had a blast writing it, and I hate seeing it go to waste, so I added some videos, and put it up here for y'all to check out. Enjoy...or not.

Presented for your approval:

Un-Google-able. Five Songs With “The Nothing Chorus”.

Ah yes, the songs with “nothing” choruses. Is there anything better? Sometimes they go “whooaaa whoa whoa”, sometimes they go “ah ah ahhhh”, and rarely do they make any damn sense at all. This is fine. Their lack of words and “lyrics” show a kind of primal sophistication that says, “To hell with a message, let us just yelp a bunch of sounds and really feel it.”

What follows is a list of five classic songs with “Nothing” choruses. They might not be the most obvious choices, but they are definitely the most aggressively idiotic, exuberant, and hilarious.

1. Howard Jones: “Things Can Only Get Better”.
This 80’s relic might not seem like much, but wait until this beast comes on in the grocery store while you’re rippin’ through the malt-o-meal aisle. Howard’s brainless chorus of (I’ll do my best here) “Whoa whoa whooooaaahh whoooahh whoa whooooaaahhh” interrupts absurdly optimistic verses and blaring horns that do nothing but turn your life into one of those sweet 80’s “turning-your-life-around” montages. This song was playing on my headphones once when I saw a bum pooping on the street and it made me want to high five him and go cram for a midterm.

2. The Kills: “Getting Down”.
Kind of a new one here. This song actually kind of sucks, but in the best way possible. Over nothing more than a punchy drum machine and a simple bass groove, The Kills eschew a proper chorus in favor of a good ol’ “ah ah ahhhh ow ow ahhhh” chant that will burrow its way into your brain and stay there until Howard Jones comes through to dig it out. I finally got to say “eschew” in a sentence. Fuck yeah.

3. Baltimora: “Tarzan Boy”.
Yeah, yeah, Listerine commercial yeah. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? That too. Before all that though, Baltimora was just a simple Italo-Disco Project with a prancing Irish frontman. You know, a typical working band just trying to make their mark. To craft their massive hit, they took Tarzan’s war cry, savagely beat it in the basement of an Italian drag show, and unleashed it to scream atop a pile of canned 80’s instruments and lyrics about “monkey business…on a sunny afternoon”. Don’t ever watch this video. Ever.

4. Sam Cooke: “Good Times”.
Some next level “whoa”-ing here. Sam swings open the track with some golden “whoa”-ing and “la la”-ing and lets his voice melt the raw “whoa” into pure verbal honey, “It might be one o’clock and it might be three, time don’t mean that much to me, I ain’t felt this good since I don’t know when, and I might not feel this good again”. By the end of the barely three minute song it is clear: Be it “whoa” or words, Sam Cooke is an actual genius, not an accidental one. There’s no clever comment to add here, he’s a goddamn genius.

5. Black Rob: “Like Whoa”.
Alright yeah I know, there are other words in the chorus, but “Whoa” is the centerpiece. For Black Rob, “Whoa” can mean anything. And isn’t that the point? The musical “whoa” replaces words with pure feeling, no matter what the occasion. Doc Strange in the Range? Whoa. Grenade through your window? Whoa. Losing control of your brand new Semi Truck because you were screwing with the radio? Whoa. The “whoa” transcends language and crosses borders, and it will unite us all…which is totally what Black Rob was talking about. Duh.

In summation, the “Nothing Chorus” represents pop music at its most base and simple. Sometimes the human language isn’t big enough to express the emotion of Howard Jones, or Sam Cooke for that matter. Sure, there are lyrics between the primal yelps and hollers, but it’s the yelps and hollers that punctuate the words and give them feeling. For our short list, the evolution of language is an afterthought. As long as we can make the “whoa”, we’ll be fine. In “whoa” we trust.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

CMJ Recap Day 5 - Transexuals, Zombies, Strangers

Alright, lets wrap this up people.
The final night of CMJ came too quick. Looking back, the amount of good music experienced was staggering even for a New York Transplant who is used to this kind of thing.

I'm not sure what happened during the day, but I am guessing it involved me beating the piss out of Ant in Blitz The Leage 2. Yeah, I'm pretty sure that was it. After that, we stepped into a cold, wet night to Otto's Shrunken Head, a Tiki bar in the East Village to celebrate a friend's birthday party.

I put down a Zombie (best drink with confusing ingredients that ISN'T a Fog Cutter from the Red Dragon...Ogre, you know what I'm talking about) and a beer before heading to the Bowery. The agreement was that we would high five the birthday guy, run to the Bowery to see Marnie Stern, (Who has a restraining order out on Ant after the last time we ran into her.) A Place To Bury Strangers and Crystal Antlers, and then meet up with the party around 3 am. Surprisingly...we succeeded. We weren't thrown off course too terribly...pretty amazing.

We showed up to see the last 30 seconds of Marnie Stern...Ant threw his panties onstage.

Then it was Vivian Girls, who as of this writing, I have completely forgotten everything about...uhh...

Then I finally got to see Crystal Antlers, and they really did live up to the hype. I don't think there are any New York "fans" of this band, who know all the songs, and truly enjoy themselves non-ironically, but that's neither here nor there. They were noisy, and their songs went on for a long time, which is a good thing when it comes to noise. Check them out.

After that we stuffed in earplugs for A Place to Bury Strangers. They are loud as fuck and are pretty reckless with other people's hearing, which makes them great. I saw them for CMJ last year in a basement and it was deafening, so this year I was prepared. They weren't AS loud, but their squalls of noise were much thicker, making it harder and thus more rewarding to find the near-pop songs underneath. In my opinion, they killed it, and had me drooling and stumbling by the end of their set...which devolved into sheer feedback, the singer whipping his guitar with its own cord.

Their track "To Fix the Gash In Your Head"

The end of their set

After that, we reconvened with the birthday party to drink some whiskey and hear about the trannies that saw the birthday boys nuts by request. Good times.

Dying in a cab at 4 am on the way home, I was glad. CMJ was done, it was over. WIt was a fucking mess, but if you let yourself get into it, disregarding the branding, the bored audiences, the lame industry people, the hype, and the expensive drinks, the fact is that you have an opportunity to see a month's worth of unbelievable music in one short week. Just don't stop, you can't ever stop.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Name Drop Zombies

Taking a break from this CMJ madness, I just had another Zombie story posted on Tales of World War Z...if you are into that kind of thing. It continues the story of my zombie pimp and my main character maniac. It's extremely graphic and possibly offensive, you have been warned.

Untitled Part 4 on Tales of World War Z

Thursday, November 06, 2008

CMJ Recap Day 4 - Rugby, Stabbings, Homosexuals

Friday, and the week is drawing to a close, by this point I hadn't been home before 1 am in 4 days. My nose ran compulsively, and I sneezed into my hand more times than I washed it. Yet, I was happy, I had seen so much damn good music, and everything had gone off without much of a hitch. I had taken to napping in chairs on the NYU campus, and I think these 45 minute naps saved my life. After all, I was just a guy with a backpack, so I blended in quite well with the frazzled idealists scurrying back and forth trying to get one signature or another on an audit to drop their African Foreign Policy class and pick up a Survey course in consumer electronics. Or whatever it is college kids do these days.

I stumbled bleary eyed into the streets near NYU around 6, craving coffee, on my way up to see April Smith at the Rugby Store. My friend manages her, and I wrote her bio. April, on top of being a ridiculous talent, is cool as hell. She drinks whiskey, loves Tom Waits, and thought Robert Plant was Jesus until she was like 7 years old. She really is going places. I believe in April Smith.

After that we grabbed dinner with Metal Sucks Ben. I shoveled down another load of Pho, and felt it save my insides from civil war. A quick tab later and we were en route to the land below Canal street, through the busy tangle of fashion SoHo, past a shady mixtape spot or two, and into the Knitting Factory for the Panache Magazine showcase featuring a thousand hip-ass bands...

This was the only night my badge was denied, so I paid my fare and made it in for An Albatross, who I've been wanting to see for a while. They were alright, not as nuts as I thought, but I still support anyone tinkering with the components of metal as they do.

Then it was downstairs to see Sole, who was there with his Skyrider Band. Now, I haven't seen Sole in fuckin forever, but he was always a presence when I was chasing Rhymesayers around Minneapolis...back when they ran with Anticon. Now, both Anticon and Rhymesayers have blown up in separate sectors, and Sole has stayed busy, just not in front of me. I was excited to see him again, so it was funny when I saw him that night as a drunk, kind of fat, and sloppy version of his former self. Belushi. His music stayed quality though, and the live band is a decent touch. If you really focus though you can tell he was oiled up and about a millisecond behind the beat. Sole...

Then it was The Mae Shi. I love them, they were the reason I showed up. 10 minutes into the set, the "stand around with hands in pockets" bug left me, and I grabbed my girl, and used her as a battering ram to clear into the crowd, where we jumped up and down, grinning idiots matching their ecstatic music.
"What do they sound like?"
"Joy", I said.

Bonus bands...there were a lot of acts playing that night on three stages, so we buzzed around to see them, seeing only one or two tracks by each before heading to the next one.

Aa (Big A Little A). Noisy as hell, I loved it, even if I couldn't really see them. Midgets, obviously.

The Homosexuals. Their singer was an old british dude, looked like a Crass roadie or something. I don't know their story at all, but it was fun to watch.

Somewhere in there, it got really crazy. Ha. They had a free photo booth there, where you can go in with your drinks and take hilarious pictures. The guy running the booth was awesome. So, after shooting a few pictures, we were standing around waiting for our prints. Sole and his band got thrown out for being drunk, which provided some entertainment while we waited. Then the group after us went in for their photos...a bunch of bro type guys who were funny as hell, crackin' jokes and busting each others balls.

Everyone was having a great time, when all of the sudden my girl looks at this guy walking past and belts, "WHAT THE FUCK?!". The guy was hammered, about six feet tall, lanky and goofy looking. He turned around and shot her a weird glance, blowing her off. It was the kind of exchange I would have with a friend I hadn't seen in a LONG time, so I thought they knew each other. They didn't. She puts her drink down and runs up to the guy, jabbing him in the throat saying, "WHAT THE FUCK?! APOLOGIZE MOTHERFUCKER?!" I was stunned, she's about 5'2", he's pushing 6'1" and drunk, which was hilarious to watch...she'd need a step ladder to get him in the nose. I still didn't know what he had done, so I threw my bag down, ran up, and asked her what he did, her anger kept her focused on him, so she didn't respond. I NEEDED to know what he did, and once I knew, I could hit him. So since I wasn't getting any answers, I asked him, "What did you do??!! What the fuck did you do?!!"

Before anyone could answer, the bro's in the photo booth whipped out walkie-talkies and started hollering "Security!!" 2 more guys came out of nowhere, grabbed him, grabbed her, and started escorting them out. Photo booth guy came to the rescue, a cool southern guy saying "No way man, she was minding her business when this guy came up and grabbed her ass".

So there it was, an ass-grab. Apparently he didn't just grab a piece though, he went for the "full exam", from front to back, like a fuckin subway stalker. Thinking about it now, if I would have known I would have ran up and picked her up so she could chop his adam's apple in two. Even security hesitated so she could get a few good hits in.

So they let her stay, and offered to buy her a drink.

Security: "Sorry about that, what are you drinking?"
Michelle: "Uh...nah, its no big deal"
(Too polite to accept a free drink, and I hate a wasted opportunity, so I chime in)
Me: "I'll take another one of these Coronas with a lime."
Security: [Laughs] "I'm sorry, did you get YOUR ass grabbed?"
Me: "No, but this whole thing was very traumatic for me."
Michelle: "Jesus. I'll take a Vodka Cranberry"

After that, we were cool with security and got to go check out the rest of our bands. The best part though, is that if you check the photos of the bro security squad, the first three are all good times, the last one is them rushing out the booth with walkie talkies held high.

Michelle was pretty amped up though, like dog in a fight that didn't get to finish it off. So she stabbed a bum on the way home, I think she felt better after that. Hell hath no fury and all that...I'm proud of her.

Thats it for now. whew.