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Archive for March, 2007

100 Years, 100 Songs: #96. Front 242 – “Welcome to Paradise”

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on March 31, 2007

“Oh God, I’m a sinner / I deserve to go to hell”

Sometimes I wish I went to more (or really, any) parties that played industrial music. I guess with most people, industrial is basically an all-or-nothing prospect–aside from token bands like Nine Inch Nails and maybe Ministry that almost everyone can be comfortable listening to in some capacity, you don’t find too many casual industrial listeners out there. And I’m not really any better–what I know of the genre is basically limited to a couple mixes, some of my brother’s old cassettes and viewings of VH1 Classic’s “The Alternative.” Still, the best songs I’ve heard have been fairly mindblowing–the power, mythology and energy of metal, just with much less focus on guitars and much more on the rhythm. Who can’t get down to that?

Back in the days of Front 242, industrial still meant Coil and Throbbing Gristle and lots of bands that had the look and methodology currently associated with industrial, but without the phat beatz. In my mind at least, the turning point came with Depeche Mode’s “Everything Counts” in 1983. “Everything Counts” definitely had the sound and attitude of industrial, down to the lyrics about power struggles and the beginning synths meant to mimic construction sounds, but it has also one of the funkiest beats to come out of Europe in the early-80s. Soon would emerge a term to classify this more dance-influenced industrial wave: Electronic Body Music.

And the band which invented the term (and for which it’s probably most associated with today) was Front 242. I actually know very little about the band aside from a few songs, so I can’t say whether they really deserved the epiphet, but based on the two sides of their best known-single, it makes sense enough–this is dark, deep and dense music, but it was still definitely made for dancing (alliteration only semi-on purpose). I don’t know what industrial purists and/or Einsturzende Neubauten freaks have to say about it, but this music will always be way more powerful to me than that of their more bare-bones forefathers.

Headhunter,” the a-side, is probably better remembered, but the b-side, “Welcome to Paradise” is the song I prefer. Unlike the relatively straightforwardly structured “Headhunter,” “Paradise” is vocalless, except for a stream of sampled chants, confessions, incantations and prayers. It feels like a Hell House in 5:19, with repeated shouts of “Hey poor! You don’t have to be poor anymore! JESUS IS HERE!!!,” “Oh God, I’m a sinner–I deserve to go to hell!,” “In the name of Jesus–Hallelujah!” and, of course “NO…SEX…UNTIL…MARRIAGE!!” All of these samples–from old movies, radio broadcasts, who knows–are layered molasses-thick over one of the blackest, most juttering dance beats ever created.

You feel like a sinner just listening to it, which is probably the greatest appeal that most of the best industrial (or EBM, whatever) music has to offer. It’s decadent, rebellious and wholly unclean, but not in the frivolous or self-indulgent way most id-satisfying music seems to operate. It uses its sonic bombast to sound important and extremely relevant, in the empowering manner of the best Public Enemy singles of the time, and back in the evangelical and nuclear era of the late 80s, this was probably really pressing shit. And the best part of the song is the lack of boneheaded shouty lyrics to drag it down–Front 242 lets the samples speak for themselves, merely providing the appropriately apocalyptic podium on which they can preach.

It’s probably the greatest aural approximation ever created of what the Second Coming would sound like. And when it comes, you know I’ll be dancing.

Posted in 100 Years 100 Songs | Leave a Comment »

Time of the Season: S1 of Veronica Mars

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on March 30, 2007

Thank God for Bit Torrent

So after being advised and/or bothered by a number of my friends to watch it (mostly female, but at least one or two guys too), I decided to give Season One of Veronica Mars a shot. And I’m glad that I did–first and foremost, Veronica Mars passes the most important test for TV, which is “Was I Properly Compelled to Get Through the Whole Season in Under a Week?” (something that all worthwhile shows, regardless of how busy I am, should do without fail). And I think I made it through in about five days–not quite a Sopranos-worthy rate, but a fairly good score nonetheless. That said, the show is still highly imperfect, and I have some doubts going into season two. Here’s how I break it down (and spoiler alert, obviously):

The Good:

  • Kristen Bell, and perhaps more importantly, the character of Veronica Mars. First and foremost, one of the great protagnoist character names in history–appropriate, elaborative and instantly memorable. And more importantly, she just seems like the kind of totally unrealistic girl that you nonetheless wish you had at least for an acquaintance in High School–exciting, attractive, and rebellious and yet somehow mature, intelligent and down to earth. Yeah, right. Still, Bell makes her feel plausible.
  • Veronica’s relationship with her father, Keith (played by Enrico Colantoni). Keith is from the Sandy Cohen school of impossibly perfect fathers (the first of many, many facile O.C. analogies I’m going to make in this post, so bear with me), the kind of Dad who always seems to know what’s right, even when he’s wrong. His relationship with Veronica makes for some of the show’s most genuinely touching moments, especially in the season finale–his casual response to Veronica’s tearful declaration of love after he saves her life and is being wheeled out in an ambulance, “Who’s your daddy?,” alone justifies the series’ existence.
  • The way the show cleverly exploits the sense of mystery that High School has to outsiders, where everyone not in the know secretly suspects a world of decadence, intrigue and scandal going on under the surface. House parties and drug use aside, it probably wasn’t really that exciting–but I guess we’d never really know for sure, would we? Veronica Mars posits that the truth is Out There, and it’s fairly thrilling to watch.
  • The theme song, Dandy Warhols’ “We Used to Be Friends.” Far from a great song, and I’d probably never care to hear it outside of the show, but it’s so great to finally have a teen drama without a weepy, wimpy theme song (Gavin DeGraw, Hillary Duff, ….Phantom Planet), as well as one that actually seems to fit the show so well in attitude and theme. Plus, it’s the kind of song that can be perfectly summarized in 30 seconds or less.
  • Jason Dohring as Logan Echolls, easily the show’s best character. Logan epitomizes the kind of Spader-esque rich asshole TV who, despite his relative lack of human decency, is irresistibly charismatic. Too often on female-focused TV shows, male characters only exist in response to the female characters, and with a character as strong as Veronica, that was definitely a danger, but Dohring can more than hold his own against Bell (he can level the great majority of the cast with a flick of his hand), and watching the two of them spar provides many of the show’s highlights.

The Bad:

  • Teddy Dunn as Duncan Kane, exactly the kind of character Logan puts to shame. Sort of a reverse Luke from The O.C.–whereas Luke started out as cartoonishly violent and stupid and transformed into a veritable saint for no apparent reason, Duncan started out as a way-too-nice-and-sensitive-for-his-looks-and-social-standing wet noodle and was about one step away from turning into a total psycho by the end of the season. Whoops. Wikipedia lists him as “Former Cast” on their front page, though, so hopefully they learned their lesson somewhere into the second season.
  • Amanda Seyfried as Lily Kane. A great wild child for certain, and had she still been alive for the first episode, she might’ve made a solid character, but surprise surprise, she turns out to have been a thrill-seeking nympho, thus multiplying her list of possible suitors/murderers exponentially (sounds maybe like another TV teenage girl whose murder was the impetus for a different cult drama about a decade and a half ago?)
  • The case-an-episode format means Veronica has to take on some seriously unbelievable (and often downright stupid) cases–corrupt dog pounds? Corrupt internet hack0rz? OMG!
  • The a little-too-canned dialogue. I mean yeah, it’s TV, and I mean yeah, it’s high schoolers, but at least five times an episode I feel like screaming out NO ONE TALKS LIKE THAT at the screen. At least on Gilmore Girls, the dialogue’s snappy enough for me to overlook it. Not quite so much here

The Questionable:

  • The finale. Great episode, posisbly the best of the whole season, but it seems like it wraps pretty much everything up–just about every mystery, from whether Veronica is spawn of the Kanes, to what happened to Veroncia the night she lost her virginity, and yes, to who killed Lily Kane, is solved, all neat and pretty. I gotta wonder what’s left for season two, aside from the personal drama–which is good, of course, but without the mystery element, the show loses its drive and its originality. That other TV show about a murdered teenage girl didn’t last too much longer after its central revelation, could Veronica Mars?
  • The show’s inability to sustain major characters as enemies. Once again, it’s a problem that The O.C. suffered from–eventually every character that started out as a main antagonist eventually was humanized and welcomed to the fold, and Veronica Mars has a tendency to do the same thing. Even Logan and chop shop bad-boy Weevil, the warring between whom seemed to be one of the show’s main (and best) tensions at first, were already poker buddies by halfway through the season. It’s all right to see the symapthetic side of these characters, but eventually, what drama is this show going to have left?

In any event, onto season two…

Posted in Time of the Season | 1 Comment »

Charts on Fire: 03-29-07

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on March 29, 2007

Ridiculous. Akon replaces Fergie on the top of pop charts this week with “Don’t Matter,” now tying her streak of two #1s and a #2 off the same album, and somewhat incredulously, his three are far worse than Fergie’s. The real chart story of the week has to be Beyonce & Shakira’s “Beautiful Liar,” however, which after its first week of being available for download on iTunes, shoots from 94 all the way up to #3, the biggest gain in the history of the chart. I dig it more than I thought it would–a surprisingly successful blend of the two’s styles, and far more original and compelling than “Upgrade U” or “Whatever the Last Spanish Shakira Song That I Didn’t Pay Attention To Was” were.

HOT ONES “Girlfriend” and “Throw Some D’s” inch around the bottom half of the top ten (7 and 8, respectively), while “Cupid’s Chokehold” slips 4-5. Lots of small gainers elsewhere in the top 40 this week, including Diddy (15-12) R. Kelly / Bow Wow (20-17), Young Jeezy (23-18), Pink (29-19), T-Pain (32-24), and Carrie Underwood (30-26 with “Before He Cheats” and 41-39 with “Wasted”). The only big shooters this week come courtesy of Katherine McPhee’s “Over It” (apparently featured on The Hills this week, 49-29), Ciara’s “Like a Boy” (44-31) and Crime Mob’s “Rock Yo Hips” (now officially way bigger than “Knuck if You Buck,” 56-37). And there’s a debut in the top half this week, AC crooner Michael Buble’s “Everything” at #46. Can’t find it on soulseek but don’t have particularly high expectations.

Bunch of new ones in the bottom half this week. American Idol’s season six third-place finalist Elliot Yamin debuts with first single “Wait for You” (does this mean it’s gonna be even bigger than Daughtry? #67), Big & Rich’s surprisingly hip-hop and braggadocio free “Lost in This Moment” (Pazz & Jop voters are gonna be devestated, #72), Joss Stone’s latest soul dreck “Tell Me ‘Bout It” (funkier than the last couple at least, #83), Pink’s surprisingly tame “Who Knew?” (all pop songs sound like “Since U Been Gone” now and this is mostly a good thing, #95) and Emerson Drive’s thoroughly unimpressive “Moments” (four megabytes that I’ll never get back, at least until I delete it, #97).

On the album charts, history has sort of been made as Modest Mouse goes one better than indie rock brethren The Shins and The Arcade Fire and debuts smack on the top of the pop charts with about 127k sold. I haven’t listened to the album yet, as new single “Dashboard” (#5 on the Modern Rock charts this week) was ridiculously disappointing and I still think Good News for People Who Love Bad News was the worst album they made since their debut. Elsewhere on the MR charts, Jared Leto has for better or worse officially left Jordan Catelano behind, as band 30 Seconds to Mars have the #1 single of the week with the fairly respectable “From Yesterday” (helped by the only video ever to be filmed entirely in China or something).

James Murphy misses out on his dream to have an album in the top 40, though, as LCD follow-up effort Sound of Silver lands at #46. So close. Album’s possibly a classic though, more on that later.

Posted in Charts on Fire | Leave a Comment »

OMGWTFLOL: Kal Penn’s Latest Gig

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on March 28, 2007

Life can be pretty strange sometimes.

Apparently Indian-American sensation Kal Penn is sick of the millions of dollars and thousands of teenage groupies he gets for his blockbuster hit comedies, and has decided to turn his attention back to more scholarly pursuits. The star of Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle and National Lampoon’s Van Wilder: The Rise of Taj is going back to school, serving as a visiting professor for two university classes, “Images of Asian Americans in the Media,” and “Contemporary American Teen Films.” Now, a story about this guy:

teaching anyone anything about anything really doesn’t need a punchline, but the story has one anyway–Penn will be teaching these courses at, you guessed it–Penn university.

Now whether Penn’s landing of this gig has any direct correlation to his sharing the unviersity’s name is unknown (and, to be fair, it’s not his real name, which is actually Kalpen Suresh Modi). But you gotta figure it certainly didn’t hurt his chances. And hopefully this could be the start of a trend–I could definitely see other universities taking Penn’s lead on this one (why miss such a good doubly-advantageous promo opportunity anyway?) Some dream examples:

  • Patty Duke teaching Gender Studies and Sexuality at Duke
  • Jim Brown teaching Molecular Physics at Brown (too late for James Brown to teach American History, unfortunately)
  • Wendy O. Williams teaching Deconstructive Art at Williams
  • Elizabeth Berkley teaching Comp Lit at Berkley
  • Robert Smith teaching 19th Century Interprative Dance at Smith

Vertical integration, people.

Posted in OMGWTFLOL | 4 Comments »

New Sensation: The High-Concept Title

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on March 27, 2007

Are you ready for one?

I can’t remember exactly how I came across it, but I was doing some Wikipedia browsing the other day when I came across an entry for an intriguing-looking upcoming 2007 release. I think I found it because I was looking at Topher Grace’s page (whose real name is apparently Christopher, and he just dropped the Chris part–I never would’ve guessed), and saw that he was going to be in the movie. It stars him as William Cox (bold because this becomes key later), and the only plot description thusfar given is that he meets the girl of his dreams, but has to fend off advances from her ex-boyfriend (played by Sean William Scott) who wants to get back with her. Relatively nothing plot–even sounds a little like Win a Date With Tad Hamilton–but you haven’t heard the real sell yet. The title of this movie is going to be–wait for it–


That’s right, Coxblocker. This isn’t the working title or anything, this is what they are actually planning on calling the movie. And given the plot, the not-exactly-box-office-dynamite appeal of the stars, and the direction courtesy of Sorority Boys and Employee of the Month scribe Greg Coolidge, it looks like MTV films are really banking on that title being enough of a draw. Thus giving birth to (or at least cementing) a new phenomenon in crass, commercial filmmaking: The High-Concept Title.

Now, the idea of the High Concept Film is one that’s been around for a few decades now. In case you’re not familiar with the term, the High Concept Film essentially means the exact opposite of what it should mean, unless you’re using the term “high” with the non-traditional meaning–basically, it refers to a movie whose entirety could be summed up in one sentence. Famous examples include Speed (“bomb on bus”), Home Alone (“kid defends house from burglars”) and Phone Booth (“Moralistic sniper pins asshole to titular location”), among many others. The plot, characters, themes and direction are all as simple and basic as humanly possible, all in servitude of the greater good of the High Concept.

Though the term wasn’t invented until the 70s, the idea of the high-concept film has been around for about as long as film (King Kong = “ape runs amok in New York,” Bringing Up Baby = “straight guy’s life disrupted by wacky chick,” etc.) But now we’ve got something new–now movies aren’t just being sold on the strength of their one-sentence concept, they’re being sold on the strength of their (one-word!) titles.

The advent of this phenomenon could easily be seen as descending from the great sensation-that-almost was, Snakes on a Plane. SOAP was something of a transition film between the High-Concept Film and the High-Concept Title–the film was easily describable in one sentence, but it marked one of the first times (and the most widely discussed time) that that one-sentence summary was actually used for the film’s title. Even Freddy vs. Jason and The Bad News Bears Go to Japan seemed shrouded in metaphor by comparison.

Now it’s possible (though unlikely) that Coxblocker could have gotten filmed even without that title, but think of it this way–what the hell are the odds that MTV had the film–plot, characters, director and all–in motion, and then, in a moment of unspeakable clarity, decided to name it Coxblocker? Could the film industry ever actually be that serendipitious? I gotta remain skeptical on this one.

So what’s next? Pitch me your high-concept titles here before Hollywood gets to ’em. Save the film industry from itself, one undercooked idea at a time.

Posted in New Sensation | 3 Comments »

Mixed Emotions: Say Anything’s “Wow, I Can Get Sexual Too”

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on March 25, 2007

Even The Good Dr. occasionally has trouble making up his mind

A friend of mine gave me a copy of Say Anything’s …Is a Real Boy about four years ago for me to review for Stylus if I liked it, even though I was pretty sure (from the name and my then current anti-emo inclinations) I would hate it, which of course I did. In retrospect, I’d probably still hate it if I heard it today, but I probably should give it props for predicting the success of Fall Out Boy and Panic! At the Disco in its sprawling, overwrought nature and self-loathing but narcissistic lyrics. In any event, despite my friend’s assurances that they were gonna be big, I was fairly convinced that they were too ridiculous to ever get seriously popular.

I was sort of right. VH1 tried pimping their awful “Alive With the Glory of Love” for a while, but it peaked at a scant #28 on the Modern Rock chart.I appeared vindicated, however, I recently caught the video for their new single “Wow, I Can Get Sexual Too” and now I’m thinking of changing my tune. The song’s almost as overwrought as Is a Real Boy, and if at all possible, it’s even more ridiculous, but like their emo brothers in arms Fall Out Boy and The Academy Is, Say Anything have taken the sure path to mainstream success–disco.

It’s bizarre that 2007 is shaping up like this, but emo bands are going disco left and right. For whatever reason, these guys are doing away with their music’s punk roots and embracing their inner hi-hat. Not to say that “Wow, i Can Get Sexual Too” sounds like The Village People or anything, but it does sound a whole lot like Phoenix, which is weird enough to begin with–in fact I can’t really listen to the sleek groove of “Sexual” without being reminded of “Long Distance Call.” It’s definitely a good thing, but a decidedly disarming one.

Say Anything definitely do not take Phoenix’s lead when it comes to lyrics, though–the song seems almost pandering to its core audience, doing everything but namechecking MySpace (“And for eternity I lay in bed / in my boxers, half stoned / with the pillow under my head / I’d be chatting on the interweb”). And the song’s chorus consists of the kind of despicable lyric that makes so many people hate emoers with a passion–“I called her on the phone and she touched herself / she touched herself / she touched herself.” I’m amazed that MTV deems it playable, but I guess if Panic! At the Disco is possible than just about anything is.

Still, that groove. It’s a bold pop move in a year already full of ’em, and it’s one extremely emphasized in the song’s equally star-reaching video, which is equal parts “Drop it Like It’s Hot,” “Rock Your Body” and “I Write Sins Not Tragedies.” It’s surreal to see a genre once so associated with introspection and shyness become so extroverted all of a sudden, these videos have more in common now with Limp Bizkit and Blink-182 then Dashboard Confessional or Taking Back Sunday. Henry Winkler even makes an appearance for no particular reason, giving viewers the pleasure of seeing The Fonz lip synch “she touched herself” repeatedly. Strange times for certain.

It’s one of those songs that’s unbelievably frustrating, because as soon as you decide that you definitely like it, a cringe-worthy lyric comes around to make you second guess yourself, and every time you decide that it’s actually not that great, you get sucked back into the groove and think maybe it’s not so bad after all. I’m still not sure exactly where I stand, but I’m pretty sure that my initial prediction will eventually be proven wrong–I really can’t see any way that this song won’t get utterly massive.

Posted in Mixed Emotions | 6 Comments »

It’s All About Me: I’m Back, Baby

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on March 24, 2007

The Good Dr. does not exactly lead the glamorous life–however, every once in a while, something happens to him that is worth telling people besides his parents about.

So I have returned, meaning that the competition for the 2007 VH1 WSOPC has finished, and my place in it, for better or worse, has been finalized. Once again, I am strictly forbidden from telling you the details, and unfortunately, this time i gotta keep the results on the dl as well, so none of that here. I think I can make some generalized statements, though.

  • I’m content with how my team and I performed. At the very least, I’m not going to be calling up VH1 daily shouting “DO-OVER!!!!”
  • Aside from all the repetitive VH1 prep stuff (the makeup, the interviews, the photos, etc), it was a whole lot of fun. Even the repetitive stuff was kind of cool in a way.
  • The caliber of team seemed MUCH tougher this year than last year’s batch. And I don’t think this is personal bias speaking, since it seems like just about every round had at least one tiebreaker, and that the teams went way deeper with the tiebreakers than they did on last year’s show.
  • VH1 definitely kicked it up a notch with the trivia this year. Not harder, necessarily, but definitely more interesting–whereas last year 90% of the categories were like “80s TV” or “Action Movies,” this year they had categories that were much more specific, much more creative, and much more fun (and I’m really upset that I didn’t get to play some of them). So even if you don’t give a damn how I did on it, you should watch the World Series anyway, ‘coz it’ll be awesome.
  • TV shows take a lot of people to produce. I watched the show last year and it looked extremely lo-fi–you got a bunch of people in an auditorium basically just talking to each other, how tricky could that be? And that’s basically all it still was, except we must’ve met at least 50 VH1 people working on it in the process. It was sort of eye-opening.
  • The generation gap between my team and the great majority of the teams there was utterly ridiculous. We got along well with a number of them, but while me and my team were just continually talking pop culture, it seemed like all the other teams were talking about their mortgages, jobs, spouses and even families–I couldn’t believe how many people there had kids, or high-powered jobs, or hot wives. I can’t imagine how they have all that stuff and continue to kick ass at pop culture trivia, but kick ass almost all of them most certainly did. Impressive stuff, even if it left our team a little alienated at parts.
  • No matter how it’s structured, really, and no matter how you do at it, good pop culture trivia is always intoxicating. Getting to do it on TV is just a bonus.

Back to our regularly scheduled programming tomorrow.


Posted in It's All About Me | 7 Comments »

Blog Hiatus: 03-19-07 – 03-23-07

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on March 19, 2007

So this week is already off to a dynamite start–I’ve gotten a combined six hours of sleep the last two nights, and I’ve been up since 2:45 this morning with a day of classes and activities ahead of me. It’s only gonna get worse from here, as it gets closer to Thursday and I cease the ability to maintain coherent thought process out of nerves and outright hysteria. I don’t really see myself dying by Saturday, but I’m not quite sure how I’ll manage to get there alive either. It’ll be a tossup.

In any event, I’m afraid I have to break my post-a-day streak (63 days strong) this week, and in fact I probably won’t be posting here again until at least this Friday. This may seem an egregious violation of Rule #1, but luckily I had the foresight to work in a caveat for “the event that I should be somewhere without a computer for more than a day,” which will almost certainly be from this Tuesday onwards as I am sequestered in the Radison Martinique (I might have internet access, but probably not for extended enough time periods to post up to my standard level of quality). And frankly, even if I did find the time and opportunity to post, my mind is clearly elsewhere–I don’t want to be posting about the top ten Canadians most poised for a Nelly Furtado-type comeback when really all I’m thinking about is trying to get the last 15 winners of the Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Emmy straight in my head.

Regardless, I feel like for the goals and core principles of Intensities in Ten Suburbs, this is probably the single most acceptable excuse for an extended blog hiatus humanly possible. I hope you understand his, dear readers, and don’t forget about me quite so quickly now. I’ll be back soon enough, with a much-expanded pop culture arsenal to unleash on you all. Wish me luck.


Posted in Blog Hiatus | 5 Comments »

Commercial Break: Those Intrusive V-Cast Ads

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on March 18, 2007

There are two types of TV ads currenlty pissing me off more than any other–the kind of irritation that must be expressed whenever I encounter them, regardless of how uninteresting my complaining is to whoever I’m watching with. One are those ads where people reprimand an unseen receiver for being lazy and ineffectual and it turns out to be a broom or a vacuum or something (I know I’m not alone in this one, but how anyone deemed this concept tv-ready is profoundly disturbing). The other are those ridiculous fucking V-Cast commercials.

You know the ones–some random stranger approaches the camera, claiming (or at least purporting) to be friends with whoever the camera’s perspective is supposed to be represent, and gives the camera headphones so it can listen to the song currently blowing their mind on their V-Cast phone. After a few seconds of rocking out, so the camera sees how into the music they are, they get interrupted and are forced to take back their headphones and leave, merely tantalizing the camera with a taste of the greater pleasures that lie ahead with ownership of the mp3-playing phone.

Several things about these commercials upset me. The first is that I don’t believe for a second that the person behind the camera has a clue who this random person is that’s giving them his headphones for some reason, and since when is it acceptable to assault strangers with your mediocre taste in pop music? Speaking of which, why are these people so excited about the possibility of being able to spread the word of these pop songs they are evidently enamored with–have they not heard of commercial radio? Besides, raido fan or no, who the hell gets so excited at the prospect of sharing Fergie and Justin Timberlake songs with others?

But the worst thing about these commercials are the few seconds in between the forcing of the headphones and the inevitable awkward interruption, where the person demonstrates their love for these songs by rocking out on their own while the camera listens. These people clearly have no idea how to physically respond to music, so you get some chick swaying awkwardly to (Keith Urban, was it? Some country singer) in a coffee shop and some extremely tense-looking guy stiflfy twitching to Fall Out Boy iin a gym–if these people are really trying to convince you of the awesomeness of the songs on their V-Cast, I’m cetainly not convinced. And I doubt camera guy is either.

We don’t need this. We’re going to hear these songs quite enough already without random dudes forcing us to listen to seven-second snippets of them on their headphones.

Posted in Commercial Break | 4 Comments »

100 Years, 100 Songs: #97. The Deftones – “Be Quiet and Drive (Far Away)”

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on March 17, 2007

“I don’t care where / just far”

The Deftones are an alternative metal band in just about every meaning of the term. They’re alternative in the literal sense, because they’re the kind of metal band that non-metal fans still often deem acceptable. That’s largely because they’re also alternative in the alt-rock sense–The Deftones seem to see themselves more in the lineage of 80s college rock and dream pop than 80s metal, which is why you’re way more liable to see them cover The Cocteau Twins or The Cure than Iron Maiden or Megadeth.

And they’re alternative in the sense they sound like pretty much no other metal band that’s ever existed. When nu-metal exploded in the late 90s, many were quick to brand The Deftones as the godfathers–or at least, the unsung heroes–of the genre, and aesthetically maybe it made a little sense. They had the quiet/loud thing pushed to the extremes on the verses and choruses, lead singer Chino Moreno sure shouted a lot, and the lyrics seemed at least vaguely troubled and angsty. But ideologically, The Deftones couldn’t be much further apart from the nu-metal scene at the turn of the millenium–because at the end of the day, The Deftones were maybe the only band of the bunch that were actually concerned with sounding pretty.

Be Quiet and Drive (Far Away)” is a very, very pretty metal song. Probably not the Deftones’ prettiest, but still lovelier than 99.9% of other metal. And it’s not pretty in the way that symphonic metal or Metallica’s S+M are supposed to be, but in the far more haunting, shoegaze assault-inspired manner, influenced by groups not even on the great majority of metal bands’ radars. And in that manner, they actually were fairly influential on the nu-metal scene, but in a way that’s not immediately obvious–they helped inspire the ethereal, dreamlike quality that wavers over a lot of the best nu-metal singles–early efforts by StainD, Linkin Park and even a couple of the better Limp Bizkit singles, which had an extremely unsettling calm over parts of the song, which often turned out to be much more memorable than the trademark loud, shouty parts.

But despite the niceness, The Deftones were still a metal band, and “Be Quiet and Drive” is one of the best metal songs of the 90s. Unlike a number of the best-known Deftones songs, which save most of the song’s energy and volume for the chorus, “Be Quiet and Drive” more or less hits you right at the outset–after a short, high-pitched guitar intro, the song rips into action, a gorgeous, heavenly produced two-chord guitar pattern which is almost explicitly Shieldsian (Kevin Shields of My Bloody Valentine for you non-shoegaze fanatics) in its tone and its hypnotic effect. Moreno moans unintelligibly over the verses, and I doubt I’ll ever understand what he’s saying, but that’s all right, because the song can be summarized in one word: “FAR!!!!”

The Deftones are great song titlers. The art of song titling is an extremely underrated one, but with a really effective title, you set the tone for the entire song, and with the hugely evocative title of “Be Quiet and Drive (Far Away),” lyrics are almost an after thought, because you already know exactly what the song’s about, even if the hugely energetic, emotional and urgent guitar riff wasn’t enough of a clue. But because it’s still a metal song, and none of the best metal songs leave an opportunity for great catharsis unchecked, Moreno gives the vocal performance of a lifetime on the repeated chorus to end the song: “Idon’tcarewherejustFAAARRR!!!! Awaaaayyyy….”

It’s beautiful, all right. But the beauty of the song is inextricably tied to the song’s metalness, which is why the acoustic version is almost as almost as pretty and just as haunting (in fact, it’s often attributed to Radiohead in filesharing programs) but not nearly as memorable. It’s territory that surprisingly few bands have ever tried to inhabit, possibly because they know they could probably never do it as well as The Deftones do here.

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