Pap Pap Pap
by Dan
Please note: MP3s are only kept online for a short time, and if this entry is from more than a couple of weeks ago, the music probably won't be available to download any more.


The Rosebuds - "Hold Hands and Fight"

If you gave the title of this song to the guy at, I hope he would draw the picture that I see. Which is not two people with swords, facing danger, their free hands clutched together, but rather two people with both hands holding the other's, but screaming at each other. There's something more affecting about that image: the simultaneous aggresivity and vulnerability. I'm not sure which way the band interprets this song (shout-out to my man Barthes) but I think it could go either way. Apparently, they're married.



The Beautiful New Born Children - "Paper Mill"

It's like one of those dreams you have where you're running and you're going so fast you don't need as many steps to maintain your speed, so you spend way more time in the air than you do touching the ground. Run-flying, because fly-running sounds entomological. Speaking of logical, it makes sense to scream to this song, because it's hot to the touch.



Also, you've probably all seen this by now, but in case you haven't: try it, it's hypnotizing. I'm not a political person, so it could be anyone's face, but there's something serene/desperate about his expression that makes his eternal descent all the more fascinating, quietly empty.

Posted by Dan at October 17, 2005 1:52 AM

Not to pick on anybody, but shouldn't any band attempting relationship-rock (if such a distinction needs to be made, between pop music that merely concerns itself with relationships and those that obsess over it) have spent some serious time with the Go-Betweens? No one in indie pop has yet matched the archness of their humor. It's a small difference, but it ends up making all the difference. Their lyrics weren't afraid to acknowledge that everyone seriously interested in their songs (and this includes both song characters and listeners) might, in fact, be doomed to idiocy. The scene still suffers from too many songs content to float on simple melodies with lyrics that keep spitting out the same old unbalanced equation of hope and resignation ("I know a thousand ways to leave this place...we get by") that keeps getting summed in too-simple choruses ("we hold our hands and fight"), as if that logic actually works. I'm reminded of that scene in High Fidelity where Cusack wonders if he listens to miserable music because he is naturally a miserable person, or constant exposure to this music is making him miserable. I don't think of it in terms of exposure, but if you keep listening to treacle, you must have somehow made the decision to endorse the treacly pop viewpoint. Is it just by dint of overexposure that the music becomes a larger force in our lives, a kind of politics? If so, that process would turn pop into propaganda and listeners into sympathizers. It's like a romantic refinement of punk rebellion, more senseless than sense. Now the question I have to ask myself is this: should one approach pop music expecting to meet anything more than a fallacy?

Posted by Todd at October 17, 2005 9:25 AM

yes - Rosebuds(,the) are superb.

Posted by gay, the at October 17, 2005 2:19 PM

1) I really like the Beautiful New Born Children song. And what you write, Dan, is most correct.

Todd -

2) Obviously life's not really that Hornby binary - the impact of music (or whatever) has a much more negotiated effect. Chicken-and-egg, something resonates with me because I feel it, and I feel it because that viewpoint has resonated. So yeah, pop music's propaganda - just like all aspects of our life are propaganda - but it's mediated by my mind and experiences, my heart and my memory. A treacly "It'll work out, la la la" chorus won't teach you to believe that, but in the right circumstances it might confirm, or jangle sympathethically, with your intuitions.

2) The Go Betweens vs The Cure, say, or Belle and Sebastian vs the Kings of Convenience, is a very old kind of battle. Is the specific more true than the general? Who knows. The specific certainly captures the nuance of the real, but it is also less easily adapted. I've much more often felt a deep and resonating Trueness to the sound of "Why Don't We Do It In the Road" or "I Want To Hold Your Hand", than "Surfing Magazines" or "Me and the Major" (although I love both the latter).

Posted by Sean at October 17, 2005 5:05 PM

Concerning Barthes and band interpretation, were you referring to Roland Barthes Author/Writer, Death of the Author essay? If so, you should also look at some of his music writing (which you might already have). I quote John Storey quoting him here:

Excellent two songs, btw.

Always a fan: jnp.

Posted by jeff at October 17, 2005 9:51 PM

I didn't mean to make it a pissing match between two bands (although my post was originally how I prefer Yo La Tengo to the Rosebuds, go figure); I was using both bands as examples of slightly different approaches -- not better or worse, per se. What I meant was more subtle, not entirely a judgment of aesthetics, i.e. lyrics using different levels of irony. I would like to tease out the critical dimensions of this thought somewhere else. Admittedly, using the comments box is probably not the best way to begin that process.

Sean, I can't agree that all aspects of our life are propaganda; I don't know if I read you right there. To me, that's a worst-case scenario. Even if the edge looks dizzingly close sometimes, I still think that point is a long way off; if it ever happens, that kind of stranglehold would take a radical technocratic revolution -- still sci-fi to me.

Picking "Surfing Magazines" is, of course, hitting the band at their weakest point. I was strictly thinking Tallulah when I mentioned them, and concede the point that "Surfing" is just as fluffy as anything out there. Classic Go-Betweens, I should've said (which in turn would beg another debate).

Thumbing through A Whore Just Like The Rest, Meltzer swears that there was actually a time "before choreographed, telegraphed insincerity was the name of the rock-roll game; before, in any event, it was compulsory." I would like to think that the indie scene could provide an environment like this again, where you don't have to throw up a huge screen of sarcasm and run a million-watt BS meter to put on a show at which the kids can knowingly nod. Sometimes it still does, but there's still plenty of ill-conceived effort wasting good potential. There needs to be established a ground where people can think before they make their next move and don't have to worry about how market pressures, without becoming total puritans about it. Dischord worked that angle, but that's only one approach for one scene, and I don't think their kind of success is easily duplicated, nor would it work for a lot of bands and fans. (Anyway, is there a dream label like this around today? Arts & Crafts? I don't know, I'm asking.)

Posted by Todd at October 17, 2005 10:05 PM

Todd: I think I dig where you're taking this, but really what it comes down to is that you just need to look harder. Irony may (unfortunately) still be the hand most frequently played, but it's by no means the only one. As much love as I have for Dischord and what that label has done/meant, it hardly has the monopoly on sincerity--not now and not ever. StG has archives, you could start there.

Posted by ASG at October 17, 2005 11:36 PM

Yeah, Dischord was a bad good example -- a talented, long-standing stable for the D.C. post-hardcore scene, but also historically an easy target. The negative view is that they're so limited as to be just a glorified clique, and who would advocate emulation of that? The ex-sXe assocations, rightly or wrongly, don't help this common impression. Throwing out Dischord, I was trying to think of a joint effort among musicmakers, in a kind of guild mentality, and that's one that everybody knows.

And yes, irony is just one example, but it's a very big thing, not just in any one scene, but in the culture at large. It's in the air we've breathed since birth. George Bush (like it or not) knows irony. The intelligent use of it is another thing. To what ends -- is a bigger question. I think of it as a tool that can, among other things, pry art from the jaws of mass indifference, but how, when, and why would have to considered unique to each situation. I guess it would be more honest to post an argument for the Go-Betweens' use of it than to attempt to prove the negative with comments on the Rosebuds.

Finally, it sounds like a good idea that we should read more Barthes. I haven't read Death of the Author, but I've found his writing very hard to digest. Speaking of French theory, I hear Attali's Noise is both readable and enriching. Anybody concur?

Posted by Todd at October 18, 2005 5:57 PM

(After doing some homework) Attali seems like very workable theory. Bookmarked:
It's all Foucault to me, applied.

Posted by joe chip at October 18, 2005 11:15 PM

everybody on earth is political

Posted by Anonymous at October 23, 2005 1:42 PM

no, everybody on earth is bisexual. only elected and appointed officials are political.

Posted by Anonymous at October 24, 2005 1:49 PM

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Sean Michaels is the founder of Said the Gramophone. He is a writer, critic and author of the theremin novel Us Conductors. Follow him on Twitter or reach him by email here. Click here to browse his posts.

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