For avid BDWPS Podcast listeners, I want to let you know that this month’s episode was recorded last night, but I ran into some technical issues afterward. Today, those issues continue, and it may not be another week until I’m able to publish the episode. To help fill the void until I’m able to resolve this issue, I decided to post my favorite song of the moment, PWR BTTM’s “1994.” Musically, the song hearkens back to the sounds of my youth (the 90s), and the video is just as nostalgic in its imagery. The only issue that I have with this garage-pop gem is that it’s over way too soon. I’m sure you’ll find yourself hitting the replay button just as much as me.
Podcast returns later next week.
The Agent Intellect
Hardly Art; 2015
In the past few years the once crumbling city of Detroit has seen a resurgence. In the wake of the automotive industry’s near collapse, companies like Quicken Loans and Shinola have made the corpse of the motor city their home. In 2010, Detroit became the fastest growing region for technology jobs with names like Google, IBM, and ProQuest seeing the bedraggled city as a great place to make their mark (tax breaks don’t hurt, either). As a result of this resurgence, many in the area fear that this gentrification of the city is wiping away the remnants of the city’s rugged history.
Protomartyr, a band of Detroit natives, execute this narrative perfectly in their latest release, The Agent Intellect. On the surface, Agent Intellect explores frontman Joe Casey’s struggle with the recent death of his father, but this discussion of mortality also doubles as an omen for the state of the band’s hometown. This isn’t Dan Gilbert’s squeaky clean, renovated Detroit; this is the seedy underbelly, filled with songs of arson, auto theft, drug abuse, and violence.
Sun Coming Down
One look at the presidential race in the two respective parties, and it is easy to assume that the United States has lost its mind. Leading the GOP is Donald Trump, a megalomaniac millionaire who trumps himself daily with more and more offensive/ludicrous statements that somehow only bolster his standing with conservatives. Young democrats have found their flavor of the week in Bernie Sanders, a self-declared socialist whose idealistic platform seems highly unachievable in a beltway that is more partisan than ever. One can’t help but wonder how these two unlikely candidates have gained such a following.
I like to believe it’s not so much the message of this duo that has excited the American people – it’s the fact that they are outsiders. Both candidates have refused to take money from corporate entities and special interest groups, the usual suspects who have put a stranglehold on the government, making citizens feel frustrated and powerless.
The Canadian quartet Ought have mirrored this frustration in both of their releases on Constellation Records. On 2013’s More Than Any Other Day, the band boiled down this helpless feeling to a life where shopping for milk is a highlight in a world where we can only assure ourselves that “everything is okay” while always “sinking deeper.” It’s common for bands today to focus on the dystopian, apocalyptic downfall that lies ahead, yet Ought have remained focus on the mundane patterns of everyday existence that we have all passively agreed upon.
This past Thursday I rode my bike to downtown Minneapolis so that I could catch post-punk outfit Ought perform at the 7th Street Entry. Since moving to the Twin Cities a couple months ago, this would be my third show at the club that plays little brother to the more famous First Avenue, where Prince filmed “Purple Rain” and an incredible list of artists have performed.
As I stood in line waiting to get into the Destroyer show at Fine Line Music Café in downtown Minneapolis, a couple of women in front of me turned around and asked, “So who do you think Dan Bejar sounds more like: Bob Dylan or Leonard Cohen?” I hesitated to respond, jumping back and forth in my mind between the luminary songwriters. It’s probably a mix of both yet neither at all. As this episode revealed, it’s hard to define Dan Bejar’s work, a strange combination of a snarky stand-up comedian, mocking everything around him, and a poet, taking the nuances of life and revealing their frailty through insightful and distinctive metaphors.
My confusion continued an hour later as Destroyer and his six-man band came out. As smoke machines began masking the band and the stage, the guys standing in front of me began laughing maniacally, feeling they were in on Bejar’s apparent joke. No self-respecting artist would use the dated stage theatrics of a 20 dollar smoke machine unless it was for satirical purposes, right? Therein lies the uncertainty of Destroyer – is his music meant to be taken seriously or is it all one big joke that only the most skeptical of listeners are in on?
Yesterday was supposed to be Ryan Adam’s day to shine. After months of teasing his re-imagining of Taylor Swift’s 1989, he finally revealed his work yesterday for the world to hear. The afternoon was filled with lemming bloggers heralding Adams for his takes on Swift’s album of mundanity. Why he got patted on the back for attempting to bring authenticity to an album of manufactured, overtly polished, radio-friendly schlock is beyond me, but you have to commend him for having the foresight to cover an album by the most popular “music artist” in the world. If you want to bring in a younger demographic after a stagnantly predictable decade of music, what better way than to hop on the magical coattails of Ms. Faux-Humility.
But then, amidst Adam’s day of glory, Father John Misty came along and trolled both him and Swift with two mp3s posted to his SoundCloud page. The first clip was a cover of “Blank Space” with the note: “My reinterpretation of the classic Ryan Adams album 1989.” Ouch. As if a cover of a cover wasn’t enough of a face to Adam’s desperate grasp for a younger audience, the audio revealed that FJM opted to cover Adam’s cover of Taylor Swift’s “Blank Space” in the style of The Velvet Underground (welcome to the rabbit hole, my friends).