Category Archives: The Internets

Liking the Art But Not What the Artist Did: Stereogum Reconciles Liking Chris Brown and Surfer Blood

There’s an interesting debate that Stereogum opened up on its site today — at face value, and based on the splashy photo, it looks like it’s going to be another “Chris Brown is bad” article, but it also brings up the domestic violence charges to which that Surfer Blood singer John Paul Pitts plead no contest — and the interesting question of when do we or do we not stick up for our favorite musicians and artists, even when they do loathsome things. Of course, the degree to which Chris Brown is awful, highlighted by one of The Onion’s finest moments in recent memory, overshadows what limited pop appeal he has, whereas the implication of the Stereogum article is while Pitts’ episode isn’t as egregious as Brown’s dubious rap sheet and accompanying bad-boy antics, Surfer Blood’s level of indie success is relatively low-watt.

(Where it gets interesting and gets to be a really tense, telling debate is where it got with Michael Jackson. First, he was an extremely rare artist in that he had extraordinary commercial and artistic success, crossing over globally like no one since the Beatles — or, perhaps, even more so, who was then accused of unspeakable crimes and succumbed to increasing aberrant behavior, and then died dramatically, creating a pandemic of mourning — and, as I’ll never forget, the first time I’d ever seen a single event wash over my Twitter feed into The Only Thing Everyone Was Talking About in a matter of minutes. Nothing had hit home before or since as to how connected music makes us and how technology allows us to do that, cutting across geography and caste and culture, in the moment.)

Also, Stereogum brings this up because the first glimpse of Surfer Blood’s new album, a catchy, off-kilter pop song with screaming and one-note piano worked into the hooky chorus, called “Weird Shapes,” just got released a few weeks ago. Stereogum calls it “Weezerly.” Even if it is, please, please never use that as an adjective in any scenario. The debate it opens up is perhaps too important to neglect or dismiss — even though the converge of Chris Brown and Surfer Blood news might be a slightly forced landscape in which to start it.

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ESPN’s Music Issue Lets You Know: Yep, It’s February

So, the Super Bowl’s over, the NBA’s heading toward the always-entertaining All-Star Weekend (but the admittedly lackluster All-Star midseason caesura), baseball’s not quite yet in preseason, and hockey’s made itself irrelevant — taking care of the Big Four sports. So ESPN The Magazine decided to make the latest issue “The Music Issue,” which means photo shoots in which willing athletes try to help you shake off the winter doldrums by posing in costumes made to look like album covers. So, Alex Morgan dresses up like Katy Perry (giggity), MLB stars dress up like Devo on the Freedom of Choice cover (why?), Ryan Lochte undresses up like the baby on the Nirvana Nevermind cover (double why), and Josh Freeman dons the white suit (and a stuffed baby tiger) to replicate Michael Jackson’s Thriller, forever making him “the guy who posed as Michael Jackson for ESPN the Magazine that one time.” And NASCAR driver Jimmie Johnson as Bob Dylan? Imagined staff meeting at ESPN the Magazine this week: “Okay, the costumes were fun — NFL DRAFT IN TWO MONTHS! GET ON THAT NOW!”

Beyonce: Stage On Fire, Shower of Sparks Guitar, and Other Awesomeness From Last Night

Things we liked about last night’s halftime show at the Super Bowl, featuring an up-and-coming songstress named Beyonce, who you might know best from being a member of Houston-based R&B group Destiny’s Child:

1. The things on fire.

The pyrotechnics made us feel like Beavis and Butthead in vintage “Fire! Fire!” mode, as it looked like Beyonce, at points, was going to be engulfed by the flames on the stage, if not for her flame-repellent lingerie.

The best thing on fire might have been the guitar, though. Deadspin captures it nicely here, along with the observation that “Beyonce doesn’t do anything figuratively.” Of course, though, that moment reminded us of this Ace Frehley solo, which in turn reminded us of this Nigel Tufnel solo.

2. The “performance.”

Dancing. Lots of motion. Alleged singing (with mysterious vocals not created by any of the mouths on stage), with Shaq playfully adding his perspective to the Inauguration lip-synching controversy. This blogger, noting that Beyonce was an incarnation of the Hindu warrior goddess Durga on stage, also noted that one online critic panned the whole show as “Breasts of the Southern Wild.” Both views seem extreme. We do love that Beyonce inspires this range of reactions.

3. Production values

So, there was the stage itself, that looked like the cover art for a 1973 Alice Walker novel (amirite?), but there was also so much high-tech gadgetry and electricity in the halftime show that, when a power surge made the Superdome look like “every movie about football ever, minus the torrential downpour” (according to an astute Deadspin writer), that I called the inevitable flood of “Beyonce caused the blackout” tweets to follow.

4. Destiny’s Child reunion. We, of course, blew this call. After seeing Beyonce diva her way through this performance, we thought, “No way she’ll share the stage with them.” But, she made them pop up from under the stage, as if summoned (because she’s DURGA), and then made them sidekicks. Genius.

We loved it. (Then again, at that point, the game was awful. It was compelling late. But, wow, American football takes forever. Especially during the Super Bowl.)

My Bloody Valentine: The Indie “Chinese Democracy,” Unveiled

More than 20 years in the making. No, not kidding.

Gather ’round, kids, and let me tell you a story about one of the most heralded bands of the ’90s. They were called My Bloody Valentine. They were British. They were proponents of a movement called “shoegaze,” named for the predilection of bands in that movement to stare at their shoes (and, really more like it, their abundance of guitar pedals), while they played.

MBV leader Kevin Shields, in much the way that Billy Corgan is the leader/all-everything of Smashing Pumpkins, set out to make an album called Loveless — an amazing album that comes with its own cautionary tale of studio excess — which nearly bankrupted its record label and took so, so long to finally come out.

But not compared to this — there’s a new MBV album, called MBV, which Shields just casually announced on the Internets a few days ago, after an incubation period of more than 20 years.

Here’s the YouTube stream of the new album, as lovingly play-by-played by Gothamist. (The sound you’re hearing, aside from many individual guitar tracks painstakingly laid over one another by an engineer whose eyes are doing the ka-ching cartoon dollar-sign lightup, is the sound of Indie Nation collectively stopping to listen. Enjoy. If you’re truly indie, that is.)

Doves of Peace? Beautiful. Doves of Peace Fighting Off Seagulls? Hilarious!

So, leave it to Pope Benedict to try for some theatrics in St. Peter’s Square that went a bit awry. Let’s turn to Time, which did a brilliant job writing this up. We’ll start with their first paragraph:

“The release of a white dove is a traditional symbol of peace and tranquility. Like the olive branch, and more recently the peace symbol, the white dove is recognized worldwide as an icon of hope, love and friendship. That is, until it almost gets eaten by a seagull.”

They headlined the article, “Pope’s Dove of Peace Attacked By Seagull of Irony,” which is hilarious. And, to make it a happy ending, the dove fought back and successfully fended off the seagull. (Making it, you know, a Dove of Only In Self-Defense. So, sort of a Mr. Miyagi dove.)

Least Shocking Development From a Super Bowl Media Day Ever

What do you mean, a retiring, controversial-yet-beloved NFL player doesn’t want to talk about new allegations about using performance-enhancing drugs or old allegations about his role in a double murder? Really, Yahoo! Sports? (Related: Jim Harbaugh wears a Sharpie as a necklace? Tell me more!)

Chris Brown: Worst Person Alive Campaign, Chapter 43

So I guess we’re not terribly surprised that Chris Brown tried to throw down with Frank Ocean over a parking space?

Which led The Onion to this brilliance.

Would You Go On a Crazy Blind Date? (Not Shockingly, Not Everyone Would)

So, OKCupid, which is probably the least creepy of the online dating sites, created a new site called Crazy Blind Date, which allows you to set up random dates with random people — even more so than the regular OKCupid site. How it works — you register, it “scrambles” your photo unconvincingly, you pick locations, dates and times where you’re willing to meet, and then the magic will or won’t happen.

Venture Beat’s Christina Farr tried it out and documented it for the site — the highlight might be telling prospective first-daters to “step their game up” and suggest something better than Dunkin’ Donuts for a first date. She also mentions that all the user photos for OKCupid went dark for a day to promote the new venture — we do know, possibly from empirical evidence, that one photo ended up being LeVar Burton as Tuvok from Star Trek: The Next Generation. (We might have contacted that user just to let her know that was happening.)

First (Critic-Jaundiced) Look at the Coachella Lineup

Randall Roberts, at the typically-solid Pop & Hiss column at the Los Angeles Times, gives this view of the just-announced Coachella 2013 lineup, with an interesting question framing it: since this is going to sell out, do we give the people what they want or what they need? Which leads to intriguing question about promoters Goldenvoice — do they really have the sense of what Coachella attendees want or need, or are they just making best guesses through the amalgam of influencers and narrowcast websites and strategic album release dates (for the sake of illustration here, I’m just going to say album) that we all make a habit of peeking at fervently?

More questions: How much of a curatorial hand is in this festival lineup? How much more or less is there conscious curation here than in other festivals? And what does that say about our music consumption patterns and our collective vs. fractured senses of audience — exhibited most clearly in what bands we align ourselves with, and under what banners we come together under?

(Pondering this mainly because the article points out that younger fans know Lou Reed solely from the failed collaboration with Metallica, and that’s just too depressing on three different levels to even contemplate.)

Shetland Ponies in Sweaters: We Can Feel the Internets Breaking

As part of an innovative marketing campaign from VisitScotland (tasked with the unfortunate mission of getting tourists to visit Scotland), they’ve seized upon a campaign involving two delightfully-small Shetland ponies, photographed standing on pastoral Scottish landscapes in TOTALLY ADORABLE KNIT SWEATERS, Y’ALL.

The people of the Internets have noticed. They’ve totally noticed. Oh, have they noticed.

(They really are adorable.)