January 21, 2016

REVIEW: "Blackstar" by David Bowie

Blackstar is Bowie's everlasting
wink from heaven
As I listened to David Bowie's new album Blackstar for the first time, the artist himself, unbeknownst to me at the time, was ascending into eternity. Bowie’s 25th album, and now his last, arrived January 8th on the icon's 69th birthday. Two days later it would be announced in the night that Bowie was dead. He juked us all again. A surprise album. A surprise death. A true artist through his life’s final breath.
   Instantly the dynamic of the music on the album changed. Blackstar couldn't be more fitting in tone and timing. It's extravagant, ghostly, teetering on the outskirts of what is considered to be a traditional rock and roll album. It swivels and sinks into the poorly lit backroom of the musical mansion Bowie built over his fifty-plus-year-career.
   Blackstar is a seven-song voyage, a trek through the panicked headspace of someone too aware of their mortality. It shifts in moods and tempos, wandering, but never too far.
   The title track is a near ten-minute ride alongside the Thin White Duke as he passes through the layers of Heaven. The song wears many faces, turning inside out and evolving with the minutes. At the midpoint of the song the instruments start to lose their beat, pacing around one another in odd rhythms slowing down. It's the sound of our artist exiting earth life and throttling into the next. “I’m a black star,” he sings, catatonically.
   After slowly being peeled during the first track, Blackstar picks up with “‘Tis A Pity She Was A Whore.” A heavyset drum and bass union churns through the song as it progresses into a perpetual Coleman swirl, horns gone akimbo. Bowie hits the high notes with a twisted sadness, a hidden anarchy while singing the title line. You can see his chiseled grin slowly rise with each word.
   “Lazarus” is when the listener begins to really ache. The song, backed up with an authentically creepy video, saunters in with a clean, melancholic guitar scale and steady drums. But, then these soft devious horns slither in just slightly offbeat. When Bowie enters he sings, “Look up here / I’m in heaven,” and your heart skips a beat. In his slow drift outward he’s catching the wind currents like the bluebird without misgiving.
   The album continues its seesaw with “Sue (Or In A Season Of Crime).” Opening with a scattershot drumbeat, the song flails wildly. Genres are taken apart, thrown onto the floor and resculpted. Everything falls on the offbeat with Bowie weaving vocals in a posthumus quiver. “Sue, the clinic called / The x-ray’s fine,” he sings. The listener’s head ping pongs into full force headbanging by the finish.
   Bowie gives some of his strongest, most outlandish, hair-raising vocals on Blackstar and “Girl Loves Me” represents that best. Lost on the calendar, Bowie sings, "Where the fuck did Monday go?" The song works on hypnosis, pulling the listener into a trance. The final song, “I Can’t Give Everything Away,” finishes the album on an upbeat, celebratory note.
   Blackstar is a lasting statement to not only David Bowie’s artistry, but to how he lived his life through that artistry. He worked hard through the end of his days to give us a product he’d be remembered by, a final soundtrack to the epilogue of a life lived in constant creation. Your man did us proud, Iman.

Key Tracks: all

source: http://imp

January 09, 2016

storm in and hail , the

I Was A Teenage Music Snob

The writer during one night in high school.
I don't want to feel this way forever
   At the switch of the centuries I can remember the early days of downloadable music. Songs would take full days, two, three, four. Single songs. The computer would heat and hum all night long. Single tracks would only give a taste, forcing you to spend money to own the full, physical album. I can remember downloading songs from Glassjaw, My Chemical Romance, You & I, Saves The Day, Bright Eyes, Racebannon and Thursday before knowing anything about them. It felt like I was given special access to this new music. I felt privileged. I was the prime discoverer and so, felt an exaggerated ownership.
   I can remember being especially taken by Thursday and buying Full Collapse, their second album in the early months of 2001. The album became embedded into my psyche like a steak knife through a juicy, raw steak. The songs surrounded my bedroom and left echoing webs in the walls and in the ceiling. It was very special to little old defunct me. My punched and held down emotions came belting from Geoff Rickly's desperately panicked cries of pain. It felt like he was channeling my own isolation and gloom and that made it okay, tolerable.
   When something like that then crosses into the mainstream it becomes like an intrusion on that shared intensity, making it less so. It was difficult to handle in an over-the-top pathetic teenage way. When my favorite band, who's ill-fitting t-shirts I wore weekly, started to become known, it felt like betrayal, like my darkest secrets were being exposed. I can remember being snot-faced with a curled up frown at the lunch table with my friends and someone, smiling widely, saying that Thursday was my band with a mocking tone. I could only laugh along. It was ridiculous to let a universal appeal ruin something I cherished, but it did.
   What most likely did me in was probably the debut of their music video for "Understanding in a Car Crash" on MTV. That was the white flag moment. The wall was coming down. I watched the blurred clip with wide gushing eyes knowing that this thing I had held so dearly was no longer going to be mine.
"Full Collapse" was released April 10, 2001 on Victory Records.
   Early on I saw Thursday open for Saves The Day in a room crowded with Saves The Day admirers. Months later, after that video hit, they played the unwholesome basement of the Nile Theatre in Mesa, Arizona. The space was so jam packed with sweaty fans, dried out and thirsty, that I ended up pushed onto the small stage to the right of guitarist Steve Pedulla. Before the show started he politely reminded me, "just don't step on these pedals." I probably had no response, shocked into silence, and spent the set dodging the spear end of his guitar. Still one of the best shows I’ve witnessed. Top ten.
    As the years went on the bleeding heart poetry of Thursday came to be almost comical, an easy target, and the band never made another record quite as powerful. Emo and Screamo music blew up so much to the point that the all-American high school jocks who had once made fun of our ironic t-shirts, unkempt hair and glasses, were suddenly donning Thursday and Jimmy Eat World t-shirts trying to be our friends. But who knows? So, they kind of thought Full Collapse was cool. Maybe they, too, had some darkness lurking that the album could explain. Who was I to take that away from them?
    Over a decade later and most of the bands I discovered on KaZaa early on have rose to prominence with a quicker fade out. I have grown a lot since then and so, too, has the culture. Now, we share things. We share songs and albums with total strangers. And that's okay. Or, at least there's no stopping it, so why bother griping? All music from all eras is now available to us streaming and downloadable. We can relive the crusty gutter punk past or shake our hips to rare disco b-sides like our living rooms are Studio 54. In my Recent Downloads folder I have, side-by-side, without attempting to achieve any irony, The Misfits' 12 Hits From Hell and Selena Gomez's Revival. So, who really am I now?

source: http://imp