Saturday, March 13, 2010


There is something about the phrase "dance music" that makes me throw my defenses up quicker than a corporate CEO caught red-handed orchestrating a Ponzi scheme. See, despite knowing better, I still associate "dance music" with trashy clubs downtown with V.I.P. areas that amount to nothing more than a velveteen rope around a semi-circle booth where you pay for overpriced, watered-down drinks. It's not just the club, the patrons or the proprietors of clubs that make them trashy in my mind. It's the music. Loud, thumping quarter notes, unimaginatively arranged or remixed (barf.) and blasted threw subwoofers to the point that one would literally have to suffering from a terrible case of rigamortis not to hypnotically bob their head up and down.

There's nothing wrong with dancing, liking to dance or even going to a club to dance. The sin is that the music is Lady Gaga at best and some flavor-of-the-week rapster wanna be at worse. Actually, it could get really ugly if the DJ played "Who Let the Dogs Out", but we won't count your cousin's wedding reception here.

Why do I not associate dance music with New Order or even, more recently, MGMT? Both groups make perfectly acceptable songs to listen to, and most of them have beats funky enough to get even the most rigid of us to swing a hip or two.

Even if dancing is the activity and listening to the music is secondary, I would still think it imperative to the conscientious listener not to pollute themselves with noise that amounts to the music equivalent of empty calories.

Lady and maybe a Gentleman: I give you Norway's Casiokids. From what I understand, their forthcoming album will be the first Norwegian language record released in the US. That's right, you won't be able to understand what they are singing. However, from what I've heard, it won't matter one bit.

This is music that dares you not to throw a party.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Second Hand News

When I first heard the song, I thought it was obscure single from Kindercore band Masters of the Hemisphere, released only as a 7-inch Singles Club A side. If you were a member of the club, Kindercore would send you a different 7-inch every month featuring a song from two different Kindercore artists. Subpop would do this too, which is where I first heard bands like The Mountain Goats and John Vanderslice. Unfortunately, more often than not, the fun was in the artifact of having a collection of a dozen or so 7-inch records than finding a new band to fall in love with.

The glaring exception was Masters of the Hemisphere. From the first time I put the record on, I was in love with the song. It had a great acoustic guitar chug and a melody that soared. For years-years!-I would fish threw my small stack of 7-inch records and pull out this Singles Club release to listen to this one song; usually three or four times in a row.

When I began to mature a little and became more open to music released by bands that were older than I was, I went on a mission to find some great classic rock that would inspire my fledging indie rock sensibilities. One such record that was continuously recommended to me was Fleetwood Mac's "Rumors", so when I saw a used copy for $1 at Des Moines' Zzz Records, it wasn't a difficult purchase to make.

I sat on the record for a couple of days, maybe, before I blocked out enough time to give the whole thing a listen. Listen: The vinyl sliding out of the paper sleeve, the crackle of the needle on vinyl, the chug of an acoustic guitar. My jaw hitting the floor.

Yes, I was, and still am, largely sheltered from classic rock and roll that many people view as staples of a well balanced music diet. I was also surprised to find out that I was semi-familiar with many of the other songs on "Rumors", but this was largely due to my familiarity with car commercials and the like.

So this Masters of the Hemisphere song that I loved was only a cover song. I was overwhelmed, I almost felt betrayed. I gradually came to accept the release as a well done cover, true to the original.

But now that I'm familiar with it, the cover is not as good as the original.