Monthly Archives: November 2008

The greatest ‘band’ in the world

Here is a stunning performance by the world-famous Pete X, featuring (in this configuration): A “drummer” who only sometimes can get through Rock Band songs on the Hard setting; an inexplicably shirtless lawyer; a disco ball; a tambourine-less backup singer; and one bona-fide guitar hero.

Mostly we just did this to see if Prince’s people would send a takedown notice.

UPDATE: Drumroll please…

Dear jskorr,

This is to notify you that we have removed or disabled access to the following material as a result of a notification by The Publisher claiming that this material is infringing:

Pete X – Purple Rain: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tp71CqKcgaE

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Best paragraph of the week: Chuck Klosterman on ‘Chinese Democracy’

From Chuck Klosterman’s great review of the new Axl Rose and Friends* album (I’m adding a paragraph break for easier reading):

But it’s actually better that Slash is not on this album. What’s cool about Chinese Democracy is that it truly does sound like a new enterprise, and I can’t imagine that being the case if Slash were dictating the sonic feel of every riff. The GNR members Rose misses more are Izzy Stradlin (who effortlessly wrote or co-wrote many of the band’s most memorable tunes) and Duff McKagan, the underappreciated bassist who made Appetite For Destruction so devastating.

Because McKagan worked in numerous Seattle-based bands before joining Guns N’ Roses, he became the de facto arranger for many of those pre-Appetite tracks, and his philosophy was always to take the path of least resistance. He pushed the songs in whatever direction felt most organic. But Rose is the complete opposite. He takes the path of most resistance. Sometimes it seems like Axl believes every single Guns N’ Roses song needs to employ every single thing that Guns N’ Roses has the capacity to do—there needs to be a soft part, a hard part, a falsetto stretch, some piano plinking, some R&B bullshit, a little Judas Priest, subhuman sound effects, a few Robert Plant yowls, dolphin squeaks, wind, overt sentimentality, and a caustic modernization of the blues. When he’s able to temporarily balance those qualities (which happens on the title track and on “I.R.S.,” the album’s two strongest rock cuts), it’s sprawling and entertaining and profoundly impressive.

Runner-up:

Throughout Chinese Democracy, the most compelling question is never, “What was Axl doing here?” but “What did Axl think he was doing here?” … On the aforementioned “Sorry,” Rose suddenly sings an otherwise innocuous line (“But I don’t want to do it”) in some bizarre, quasi-Transylvanian accent, and I cannot begin to speculate as to why. I mean, one has to assume Axl thought about all of these individual choices a minimum of a thousand times over the past 15 years. Somewhere in Los Angles, there’s gotta be 400 hours of DAT tape with nothing on it except multiple versions of the “Sorry” vocal. So why is this the one we finally hear? What finally made him decide, “You know, I’ve weighed all my options and all their potential consequences, and I’m going with the Mexican vampire accent. This is the vision I will embrace. But only on that one line! The rest of it will just be sung like a non-dead human.”

* Remember, Chinese Democrasy is NOT a Guns N’ Roses album.

What is that thing on Beyonce’s hand?

Saturday Night Live had one of its stronger episodes of the season this weekend — further proof that Paul Rudd makes anything awesome. But forget the comedy (and Justin Timberlake’s awesome cameos).

What the heck is Beyonce wearing in her new video (and live performances, apparently) of Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)? It’s some kind of silvery metal glove-claw. You can get pretty good glimpses of it at :45 to :50 and 1:50 to 2:00 in the video:

cm-capture-1

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Best paragraph of the day: T-Pain and superheroes

From Nathan Rabin’s latest My Year of Flops entry — a double feature on The Phantom and The Shadow:

We live in the age of superheroes. And T-Pain. If you were to remove superheroes and T-Pain from pop culture, the world as we know it would devolve into madness and anarchy. Society would crumble. Incidentally, I’m listening to/reviewing the new T-Pain CD as I write this, so I apologize if my various roles at The A.V. Club bleed together. That’s why I’d like to humbly propose a new superhero franchise about a musician who stumbles upon a voice distorter laced with gamma rays, which gives him the magical ability to bang drunken skanks at will, secure half-priced lap-dances, wear ridiculous hats without shame or self-consciousness, and telekinetically convince rappers and singers who really should know better that their songs are fatally incomplete without his signature brand of creepy digital harmonizing.

Is Shepard Smith always so fair and balanced? (no, really)

This video of Fox News’s Carl Cameron dishing on McCain insiders’ views of Sarah Palin has gotten a lot of attention today.

It is pretty remarkable that McCain staffers would claim to a reporter that Palin didn’t know Africa is a continent — remarkable if true, for obvious reasons, and remarkable if false because that would show an incredibly intense smear campaign. (It sounded implausible to me at first, but Andrew Sullivan* points out that nobody has denied the claim. Plus if it’s not true, why make it up when there are surely plenty of other true embarrassing tidbits they could have told instead?)

But something else struck me in watching the video. Two-thirds of the way through (starting at 2:05), Cameron switches to reporting the spin from those in the McCain camp who are still defending the Palin pick.** He says (or rather they say) that McCain was leading from the time he picked Palin until Lehman Brothers failed. In other words, the economy, not Palin, lost it for McCain.

Then, before you can say fair and balanced, anchor Shepard Smith smoothly counters:

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Three reasons why the Beatles video game could disappoint

I love the Beatles, and I love video games. So I suppose I should be overjoyed that there’s going to be a Rock Band-but-not-called-Rock Band music video game featuring the fabulous foursome.

Sure, it’ll be fun to shred to Taxman and show off my terrible John Lennon impression. But there are three issues that could keep this game from being bigger than Jesus.

First, not all of the great Beatles songs are suited to virtual rock. Just on a quick glance, the game will probably have to leave out Eleanor Rigby, Yesterday, Blackbird, A Day in the Life, Strawberry Fields Forever, Penny Lane, Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds, All You Need Is Love, Hey Jude, Let It Be. Songs like Norwegian Wood and You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away would have to be separated from the full-band songs (unless you want your drummer and bassist to just sit there for three minutes).

True, there are dozens of guitar-heavy songs that will make it, but that will make for a decidedly uneven overview of the group — unlike, say, Guitar Hero: Aerosmith, which can leave out Janie’s Got a Gun and Amazing and still give a pretty good idea of what the band sounds like.

Many of the earlier songs that do have guitars feature a fairly quiet, jangly acoustic guitar that would get drowned out by wannabe Ringos smacking the game’s plastic “drums”: Help (the verses), Eight Days a Week, Can’t Buy Me Love, to name a few.

That leads to the second potential problem: without a decent remastering, many of the songs could sound terrible. Take 1964 production values pumped through standard TV speakers and combine them with the clicking “strum” of fake guitars, the aforementioned loud drums, and inevitably too-loud singers, and it’ll be hard to hear the parts to many of the pre-Rubber Soul songs.

The reports on the forthcoming game are based on a vague conference call, during which the subject of remastering was rather conspicuously unaddressed. So maybe Paul, Ringo, Yoko, Gloria Harrison, and Apple Ltd. will get their collective act together before the end of 2009, and the Beatles catalog will finally be remastered and re-released first online and then via the video game. But I’m not going to get my hopes up.

The game could be fun even with a somewhat-circumscribed track list and less-than-stellar sound. But the whole effort could fizzle if it focuses on the guitars and forgets about the harmonies.

There are many reasons to love the Beatles. The complex-but-beautiful melodies. The deeper-than-they-seem lyrics (well, maybe not “love, love me do”). The innovative production. For me, the most exciting aspect of the band is their exuberance, their sheer joy of playing — something that infuses pretty much all of their recordings, no matter how much they were fighting outside (or inside) the studio. And nothing is more exuberant than their effortless, intricate harmonies: the falsetto “If there’s anything I could dooo!” in From Me to You; the call-and-response backups on Soldier of Love; the pristine overdubs on And Your Bird Can Sing.

But Rock Band doesn’t register harmony — only the melody. I haven’t played Rock Band 2 or Guitar Hero World Tour yet, but nothing I’ve read indicates that they’ve added harmonies. SingStar 2, a just-released (in the U.S.) sequel to the PlayStation karaoke series, does have a harmony mode; we’ll see if the others follow suit.

You’d think the brains behind the Beatles game would make sure to build a harmony feature into such a marquee project. But given the seat-of-the-pants announcement and the lack of innovation in the current round of full-band music games, I wouldn’t bet on it.

So, Alex Rigopoulos, if you’re reading this (and I know you’re not) — don’t let me down. Without harmonies, it’s not the Beatles. Simple as that.