Even if you live in the Pacific Northwest, Boise is still in the middle of fuckin’ nowhere. But the second annual Treefort Music Festival, held a few weeks back, is essentially the greatest reason for a non-fly-fishing-aficionado to ever come to Idaho. Any festival at which Built to Spill plays every night of is worth trekking too though, and I’m slightly ashamed of myself for not heading out there for this one.
On the closing night of the fest, Built to Spill played a set composed entirely of cover songs. It touched on a little bit of everything that Doug Martsch is into: Dinosaur Jr., Metallica, Blue Oyster Cult, Neil Young, Dylan… but most importantly Pavement. Hearing one of your favorite bands play one of your favorite songs by one of your other favorite bands is not something that happens often, and I presume there are a large group of 90′s indie-rock nerds like myself who realize this is one of the greatest things to ever occur in the history of mankind. Pavement has a fairly massive catalog, and while I saw them on both sides of the country during their reunion tour a few years back, “Here” was an illusive cut to catch. So yada, yada, backstory… here’s all I’m saying…
I fuckin’ love Pavement. And I fuckin’ love “Here” – it’s one of my Top 10 songs of all time. And goddamn, do I fuckin’ love Built to Spill. So yeah, this video brought a weird spiraling tear of existential reality to my eye. Too bad it cuts out before the end.
I have become completely enraptured by the new video for “Oblivion” by Grimes. I had never heard Claire Boucher’s earlier work from the past couple years, so this video was my direct stimuli overload intro of everything she represents. The tune starts off with an electronic beat similar to Kraftwerk’s “Autobahn” while Claire stand in a men’s locker room full of towel-clad muscle-junkies. Upon first viewing, I stopped 20 seconds in – just as her voice starts. The beat, the visuals, and her soft-spoken voice just didn’t instinctually feel like a place I wanted to go. I felt uncomfortable, but then I remembered my vow to escape my comfort zones more often, so I reapplied myself to Grimes and now that shit is directly up my alley.
Her gentle lisp-ridden vocals bring to mind a few other acts, but she emits a quiet confidence that immediately rises her up and away from reference points. The video itself is a masterful vision of irony. Grimes rocks headphones and a boom-box so she can sing along to her tune in the midst of a high-school football game and a dirt-bike rally. The raging testosterone circling around her is a direct contrast to the music she’s making, but her comfort in the setting brings an eerie acceptance to the whole situation. I instantly realized where I had seen this trick used before, back in the 90′s on Pavement‘s video for “Major Leagues.”
Pavement actually made two videos for this song – perhaps because they thought the headphone concept wouldn’t work for everybody, they made a more straight forward, cliche 90′s video too. Personally though, this headphone one has always been one of my all-time favorite music videos. Filmed inside an amateur wrestling arena of some sort, the main character sings along while the rest of the crowd is completely oblivious to the fact that even a video is being filmed. For this song’s case, it highlighted the tune’s own pleading emotions of an outsider contemplating stepping up to another level of society. For the Grimes video, there is more of a focus on the periphery interactions of other people – highlighting her notion of being slightly outcast while yet not so isolated.
Anwyay, I think it’s a killer move for a music video, and frankly I think the whole concept should be considered as a regular alternative to the standard video. Couldn’t you picture a new video for Sleigh Bells coming out with Alexis Krauss singing by herself inside of a 100,000 person Nascar race? I could – it’d be fresh. They should do it. I’m telling them to right now… Do it. If anybody says you stole that idea from Grimes, you say fuck it – she stole that shit from Pavement.
Here’s Grimes in “Oblivion”
And here’s “Major Leagues”
And yeah – this kid’s got the right idea!
What’s the last R.E.M. song any of us can remember? “What’s the Frequency Kenneth?’? Well, they’ve released 6 albums since then including one this year! Who knew? But honestly, where is anybody gonna hear new R.E.M. tunes? The alternative radio craze has been done for over a decade, and the band hasn’t been able to write a song catchy enough to be played on their past normal channels anyway. And after making an $80 million-dollar record deal with Warner Brothers, they kinda lost any independent street cred they once had. So honestly though, where would anyone have heard a new tune from this band? Not on mainstream radio, nor on college radio, nor in any grass-roots word-of-mouth hype about the hot new sound. I’m sure they have a fan-base that has remained loyal, but I’m also sure that that base has only diminished over the years.
As tough as it would have been, they should have just quit when they were ahead in 1997, and their drummer, Bill Berry got sick. I mean, hell, when you lose the intrinsic power of the world’s greatest uni-brow, where do you go from there? This quote from Stipe in 1997 seemed like a bad omen: “For me, Mike, and Peter, as R.E.M., are we still R.E.M.? I guess a three-legged dog is still a dog. It just has to learn to run differently.” No man, a 3-legged dog isn’t still a dog – now it’s a dog missing a fucking leg buddy.
So I’m sure 99% of people who know R.E.M.probably thought they quit years ago, thus the levels of loss are probably gonner be a little gentler than say, when the Beatles quit. I’m also sure in a year, most people who hear of this breakup now are gonna feel no change whatsoever in their lives. So goodbye R.E.M., and I while “Orange Crush” was cool, and I actually love “Sweetness Follows,” the first tune I wanted to hear after learning of their retirement was the genius Pavement forgotten track: “Unseen Power of the Picket Fence.” I’m not really sure what that title returns to, but it is a killer title, and the song is a fuckin’ killer, and totally about R.E.M. – most importantly Stephen Malkmus’s adamant claim that Time After Time was his least favorite song. Here it is:
Like most modern obsessors of our amazing present-day world of vast musical diversity and exploration, Stephen Malkmus could probably lead me off a cliff if I weren’t paying attention. Pavement is one of 4 bands to completely change my perspective on music, (GD, Phish, Radiohead) and ever since I first heard Slanted and Enchanted in the late 90′s, Malkmus has only led me to greater personal insight and appreciation for all he creates.
Last year’s Pavement reunion shows were essential to the continuation of humanity as we know it. That huge catalogue of songs was pleading to be performed again, and with no new-reunion tracks it made every show everything everyone hoped it to be. If not, you’re just way too cynical of an asshole. Anyway, despite their essential need for existence, there was one major downfall to the Pavement reunion, and that is that the amazing Janet Weiss has moved on from Malkmus’ solo project to play drums with another band. Homegirl likes to fucking bang the fuck out of those things, and she wasn’t gonna wait for an entire year-long Pavement tour to end before she got to playing again. Jake Morris of The Joggers is on the skins now as Janet does a bunch of shit, including more focus on her Portland-girl-band super-group, Wild Flag. The thing is that when Weiss joined the Jicks, she brought a power-field of energy and inspiration with her. Previous Jicks gigs had come off incredibly flat and non-conjoined, but she dropped in and put the padlocks on all the grooves. So thus, while I’m excited for the new album, Mirror Traffic to arrive on August 23rd, I’m worried about how the band will sound in the subsequent tour to follow. It’s hard to find info on whether Weiss is actually on the album tracks, and I’ve been in half-debate on where she’s at on this new single, “The Senator.” The tune’s great – it’s a little more static and punchy than the past couple Malkmus albums, hearkening back a little more to the looseness of the Pavement days. Listen or download free here:
And once you’ve done that, compare it to this 2009 early version of the song, where Miss Weiss is very notably crushing it. Oh well, we’ll see what happens.
So like most audiophiles of the new millennium, the Pavement reunion tour last year brought tears of joy to my eyes on many occasions. And while band-member Bob Nastonovich is bummed to hear it, I personally think it’s great that Stephen Malkmus has stated he won’t be making any new Pavement albums or songs. When you retired on a good note, it’s best to just come back and play the hits and not tarnish your fans’ love with new crap – I’m looking at you Jane’s Addiction. That being said, I can’t fucking wait for a new Malkmus album. And no, it’s not some sort of weird fanboy hypocrisy to be craving his solo stuff while loathing the idea of new stuff with his old band – that’s just how it is. I am. You are. Whatever. Eat it.
Anywho, last Spring there were rumors circulating that Beck was gonna be producing the new album. I wasn’t sure whether to believe it at the time and mostly forgot about it til a friend mentioned it the other day. Which led me back to the Malkmus and the Jicks website where I noticed this post from October:
0ur future wise–we started recording with beck hansen in the late winter, and plan on getting back into it before the year is over… I dont know when the record will come out or what it will sound like. It is in a protools state of non reality right now.
So yeah, I guess it’s real, and I am for sure elated. The idea of two of my favorite independent producers working with each other, let alone that they both provide a significant soundtrack to my life already – well it’s enough to make me go skipping in the sleet. Easily my most anticipated album of the year, or next two years even. Here’s one of the greatest youtube videos of all time: