04
Jun
10

Music Videos: LCD Soundsystem-“Drunk Girls”/Future Islands-“Tin Man”

LCD Soundsystem and Future Islands have a lot in common, despite the indie superstar status of the former and the growing underground cult fame of the latter.  They’re both electro/dance projects with a rough, vaguely punk edge and a distinct and dramatic humanity to them despite the heavily synthetic components of their music.  Both groups have new records out this year; LCD Soundsystem with This Is Happening and Future Islands with In Evening Air.  Today’s post takes a look at the lead singles from both of those albums, in terms of both sound and vision.  While the songs and their accompanying videos couldn’t be more different, they are both interesting barometers of the post-MTV state of the music video.  It’s recommended that you watch these in HD and full screen, if you can.

“Drunk Girls” is a bit of a departure for LCD Soundsystem.  Unusually driving and guitar heavy for that band, the song strongly evokes the Velvet Underground’s “White Light/White Heat” and late 1970s David Bowie.  In the video, directed by Spike Jonze of Being John Malkovich and Where The Wild Things Are fame, LCD Soundsystem mastermind James Murphy, along with two of his touring band mates, attempts to sing “Drunk Girls” into a microphone while being tormented by actors dressed in humorous, all white animal outfits.  The antics of the animals escalate, from caressing and minor annoyance to outright hazing by the video’s end.   The heavy themes of torture and bondage, jocular in this video as they may be, are interesting in that they tend to be recurring in several recent videos from artists both indie and mainstream, something which I’ll revisit in a later post.

The vast majority of video actually consists of one single shot from a handheld camera, at least as far as the viewer can see.  There seems to be too much activity going on here for this to be spontaneous and improvised, and it would take a good number of rehearsals to get the blocking perfect for one, uninterrupted, flawless shot lasting from the beginning of the video to just over the three minute mark.  The way this video is directed is similar to the way groups like Antioch Arrow and Orchid approached their music; the illusion of chaos is created from what is actually extremely orderly and planned.  An important decision made here is to use live audio from the microphone seen in the video in addition to the original recorded song.  This is the quintessence of the post-MTV music video; an acknowledgement that what an audience sees in most music video is not a musical performance, but rather an impressionistic short film set to music aimed at creating that illusion, and throwing that order into confusion by using an element such as live audio for parts of the song.

“Tin Man” clicks along at a similar pace to “Drunk Girls,” and really it would make a great follow up to the LCD Soundsystem track due to its contrast.  Where “Drunk Girls” is all tightly balled, pounding, noisy energy, “Tin Man” glides along in elegiac grandeur and wincing melancholy.  There’s a bit of a musical role-reversal here, too.  In “Drunk Girls,” synthesizers were part of the rhythm section making way for the unbridled guitar noise, while in “Tin Man” the synthesizers take center stage while a distorted bass reinforces the beat.  Where the videos connect visually is in their bright lighting and similar color palettes.  Otherwise, Spike Jonze’s “Drunk Girls” video and Jay Buim’s “Tin Man” clip couldn’t possibly be more different. Buim, whose director’s real can be seen here, is in quite cinematic form here.  A tribute to Future Islands’ North Carolina beach roots, the video is edited strictly to the beat, and every beautifully framed shot is planned precisely with Buim’s pride and skill showing through.  As if that weren’t enough, Buim also makes use of several different types of film stock in addition to the standard HD video.  Specifically, some shots of some of Future Islands’ friends that show up shortly after the 1:15 mark appear to be shot on standard def video, or maybe even VHS, and footage of the Interstate coming into Baltimore are shot in black and white on grainy 16 mm film.  There are some soft focus and slow motion shots, espescially in footage where the band plays live, and they are used to positive effect.

“Tin Man” is less strictly a post-MTV music video than “Drunk Girls,” but it is still in the sense that the video is not a simulation of a musical performance.  In fact, the band barely features in the video at all, it seems to largely assume their point of view. When the band does appear,  Buim frames Future Islands as documentary subjects rather than a cause celebre group of pop performers.  Additionally I can only imagine the time, energy and care that went into creating this gorgeous video.  Both “Drunk Girls” and “Tin Man” are videos  in revolt against the form’s conventions, although in the case of  “Tin Man” that’s not made as explicitly clear.

One last thought-An interesting notion is the fact that the rough, amateurish “Drunk Girls” clip was directed by a critically acclaimed feature film director while the professionally and lovingly crafted “Tin Man” video was directed by someone with just a few assorted short films and documentaries under his belt and what I assume to be far more limited resources.

21
May
10

P.K.14 live at PowerHouse Arena in Brooklyn, NYC, November 2009

If you’ve never heard anything by Beijing art punks PK14, you’re missing out on one of the genre’s best practitioners.  While it is true that they are a group whose influences are laid bare in their music, their influences are diverse and wide ranging.  Listening to their 2005 LP White Paper, one hears everyone from Neu! to R.E.M. to the Nation of Ulysses referenced, often within the same musical measure.   It’s a bit similar to the way Quentin Tarantino makes his films;  paying clear homage to his favorite directors and movies, which can be quite disparate from one another and range from blaxploitation to Hitchcock classics to Japanese Samurai epics, while blending them into a style all his own.

PK14 were borne out of late 1990s Beijing and are considered the elders of a scene that also includes Subs and Carsick Cars, the latter of whom toured with PK14 through the United States this past fall.  Singer Yang Haisong, the only constant member of the group since its 1998 formation, is apparently a respected poet in China.  He sings entirely in Mandarin Chinese in an ecstatic style that combines straight melodic singing and intense sing-speak, recalling Patti Smith and Moss Icon‘s Jon Vance. On record, PK14’s sound is highly produced and layered, but live it’s reduced to its barest elements; Xu Bo’s guitar, which splits the difference between Bernard Sumner-style angular leads, Pete Townshend‘s windmill slams and post-hardcore/noise rock feedback squalls, Shi Xudong’s powerful yet methodical bass playing, and Swedish-born drummer Jonathan Leijonhufvud’s alternating between kraturock pulsing and garage rock bruising.  There’s a greater sense of speed and intensity live, and this makes Haisong’s lyrics, vocals, and performance all the more engaging.  These videos, the first of “Eden” from White Paper and the second of “Some Surprises Happen Too Soon” from 2009’s City Weather Sailing, were shot by Joly MacFie for Punkcast, his long running video blog/website which he has maintained since 1997, long predating YouTube or even broadband internet on a wide scale.  Video of Carsick Cars and Xiao He, who also played that night, are also available on the full entry for that show. These maybe reviewed later in an overview of that particular episode of Punkcast.

The sound quality here is excellent, and is perhaps from a soundboard recording, although neither the amplifiers nor the drums appeared to be miked. The video quality, too, is excellent, and the venue is well lit.  Aiding matters too is the fact that Pk14 is a well practiced band as professional as they are passionate. This is probably some of the best shot live footage I’ve ever seen, at least for free on YouTube.  Not only is it shot on professional quality gear, but cameraman MacFie has a good eye borne out of a good ear.  He knows when to highlight each member of the group when their playing is the strongest and most important to the song, and only pans, tilts or zooms on a beat.  His camera moves are particularly dramatic during key transitional points, perhaps reflecting an intimate knowledge of the song.  The fact that he is able to execute this type of camerawork effectively, espescially on the fly, belies a strong talent for this work, as well a musicianly mindset and years of experience.

The typical shot frames front-man Haisong in the foreground at stage right with guitarist Bo in the background at stage left, occasionally including drummer Leijonhufvud in whatever space is left over at stage right when Haisong moves more towards the center.  Viewers rarely see bassist Xudong except in pans towards stage right, and often it is merely a close up of the body of his bass guitar, although this is appropriate given the intsnsity of his playing, and the centrality of it to PK14’s sound overall.  These shots are the most striking, as are those of Haisong, a tall man dressed post-punk chic with distinctive red horn-rimmed glasses.  He looks like a cross between a rural Chinese farmer and a Fugazi fan waiting in line in Jem Cohen’s Instrument.  One of the more memorable shots of Haisong comes at the 2:20 mark of “Eden,” where MacFie shoots Haisong from a low angle, his head filling the frame during an intense delivery of an intense spoken/shouted poetic passage.

If you haven’t already, be sure to watch this, and get your hands on White Paper any way you can.  In fact, watch these in high quality on full screen if you can.  One of the benefits of MacFie’s concert shooting prowess is it gves you the effect of truly being there.

10
May
10

Stay Tuned . . .

I’m bringing EIATP back from the dead. I’m done with school so I should have time now. Be on the lookout . . .

30
Jul
09

Void-“Who Are You?” Live July 1, 1983

Void live, perhaps from this show?

Void live, perhaps from this show?

1980s hardcore was a wild, dangerous scene, and Void were one of its most wild and dangerous bands.  Hailing from the seminal planned community of Columbia, Maryland, mostly known for its large shopping mall, Void were aptly named, and their anarchic style could be considered a violent reaction the manicured Columbia lifestyle.  In contrast to the technical and precise style of hardcore punk played by contemporaries Minor Threat and Bad Brains,  Void played with little regard for anything except energy (although they could be quite catchy, oddly enough), every instrumet flailing in a 100 directions at once, definitely prefiguring San Diego groups like Heroin and Antioch Arrow, although where those bands approached chaos intentionally, almost like a punk version of more adventurous forms of jazz, Void played chaotically because they simply knew no other way.   As if that weren’t enough, Void would play with extended intros, pitch-shifting effects, and even the odd synthesizer in the studio, anyway.  Void were a frenetic, naive, and oddly visionary band, and were really only active for a short time, a decent chunk of which they apparently moved closer to thrash metal.  This video finds them towards the end of their career, with the original lineup still in place.

Void is seen playing “Who Are You?,” the opening cut to their side of Void’s split LP with Faith. “Who are You?” is a harrowing, sorrowful depiction of isolation and nuclear family dysfunction, and one of the most intensely personal songs in early hardcore.  In the performance seen here, there are two cameras, according to the video, both under the control of one Charlie Towne (Mitch Parker is responsable for the sound recording). One is located slightly stage right in the back of the audience, while the other is located directly right of guitarist Bubba Dupree.

In this live performance, the studio trickery of the recorded version is simply not an option, and the band relies on pure passion, grit, and some guitar flash from Dupree, whose guitar is cut for a few seconds right as the song kicks in, though the performance is so ecstatic its barely noticable.  Though the video is edited closely to the music, the filming and editing styles are closer to documentary than music video.  This decision is most likely intentional and due to two factors; the first being a hardcore aversion to MTV and anything that might be thought similar to a music video, and this being 1983, not as much as a proliferation of music video techniques and style (fast editing, odd angles from above and below) in much of musical performance film at that time.  Nonetheless, the cuts come at key points in the music, reflecting that the viewer is at least to feel some connection with the music, as opposed to simply observe it.

One of the  most interesting aspects of this video is that we get more or less a closeup of each band member, albiet these are more intentional and long in duration when they focus on bassist Chris Stover and late drummer Sean Finnegan.  We are offered glimpses into their personality through these shots. The rock-star looking Dupree is seen smiling, smirking and enjoying himself, perhaps with a degree of ironic distance from the intsne proceedings, and while we never see singer John Weiffenbach in any kind of remotely calm moment, his constant motion and wiry movements a testament to his devotion, conviction, and energy to the music.  Finnegan’s close up, coming at the 0:52 mark, is by far the most striking, his muscular body pounding away at the drums while a sneer adorns his face.  Stover, who for some reason is wearing a Ted Nugent t-shirt, appears lost, and somewhat in over his head during his close-up around the 1:27 mark.  The video quality here is adiquate, and the sound quality is listenable and relatively distinct, although the bass sounds weak at points.  It might help to familiarize yourself with the studio version if you find this to be an issue, though it really shouldn’t be.  Ultimately, this recording is an engaging, energetic, and confrontational document of early 1980s hardcore punk.

25
Jul
09

Double Dagger-“Vivre Sans Temps Mort” Music Video

Double Dagger

Double Dagger

Given this blog’s name among other things, a Double Dagger post was inevitably coming.  One of my all-time favorite bands, their set last night at the Ottobar (my 9th or 10th time seeing them) was more than enough motivation to put something about them up.  You can expect a lot of them on EIATP in the future too, as not only am I a huge fan, but Double Dagger also has a pretty significant web video presence.

Consisting of bassist Bruce Willen, singer Nolen Strals and drummer Denny Bowen, Double Dagger play in a style that blends the danceabilitiy, minimalism and pop sensibilities of early 21st century post-punk with the volume, sincerity and emotional intensity of 1990s post-hardcore.  They’re one of a number of bands, including among many Health, the Death Set, Mika Miko and Ponytail , who took cues from things like the first few Liars , Black Eyes or even Yeah Yeah Yeahs releases, but play that style in a more technical, ambitious, and developed way.  Much like Death From Above 1979 or Lighning Bolt, Double Dagger eschews guitar in favor a single, very powerful bass.

“Vivre Sans Temps Mort” is a track from Double Dagger’s latest LP, MORE. It’s a slower, more reflective track from the group, and evinces how much the simple components of their sound can express together.  This music video. directed by Cat Solen, who has done work with CSS, Bright Eyes, and Death Cab for Cutie, is Double Dagger’s first foray into the medium.  There is also another Double Dagger video in the works which incorporated some live footage, my guess it’s either for “No Allies” or “The Lie/The Truth.”

The video makes use of several different techniques to create the illusion of time moving too fast, in keeping with the lyrical theme of private reflection contrasted with the passage of time.  Among these techniques are fast motion shots, repeated, blurry shots of streetscapes filmed in a car speeding through Baltimore, and shots with what appear to be key frames cut out, to create the illusion of stop motion animation.  The last of these three tends to be the most dominant, and is most effective in shots of wind blowing through trees, something both familiar and fluid turned alien and staccato here.   It’s not out of the question that Solen might have accomplished this by simply somehow manipulating the shutter speed, though the video seems to bright for that.  In fact, bright colors seem to be important here, the hot colors like orange, red and green contrasted against blue recalling MORE‘s cover art.

Double Daggers MORE (2009)

Double Dagger's MORE (2009)

The video stays extremely close to the music in terms of its editing, and one of its highlights is Solen’s split-second cuts from the main narrative, an asian boy building a diarama with model cars, to later scenes in the video to coincide with a cymbal hit.  The shot beginning at the 1:25 mark, in which the video’s “protagonist” opens cabinets each time the bass guitar is strummed, is also an example of Solen’s editing prowess and musical ear.  The more fluid pacing and conculding anamation as the song ends and the boy’s completed diarama is reveales reflects pleasantly the song’s musical climax.  It’s a well done video to accompany a great song.

21
Jul
09

The Yeah Yeah Yeahs-“Snakesweat” short film

Click Here to view the Yeah Yeah Yeahs in "Snakesweat" on Pitchfork.tv

Click Here to view the Yeah Yeah Yeahs in "Snakesweat" on Pitchfork.tv

Well this is interesting.  “Snakesweat” is a short film starring Karen O, Nick Zinner and Brian Chase of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs as the Black Widow, the Scientist, and the Philosopher respectively.  Filmed in the Texas desert with director Bareny Clay, who also directed their “Zero” video, which may be covered on EIATP at a later date.  Portions of the short film have previously been released as viral, web-only promos for It’s Blitz!, their latest LP released in March.

I’m not quite sure what to make of this.  I’m not sure of their intentions here. Is this to be taken seriously or tounge-in-cheek?  My guess is it’s somewhere in the middle.  Similarly, “Snakesweat” seems to bounce among the media of short film, music video, and television commercial.  It has at least a loose plot and characters which largely appear to be exaggerated versions of the band members, and it’s a bit self-indulgent and self-eggrandizing.  Portions of it were indeed used as at least a type of audio visual advertisement, though that doesn’t necessarily render it not worthy of consideration.  As for “Snakesweat” as  a music video, the soundtrack that accompanies it does seem to be an important part of the film,   which consists of  narration in a stange foreign accent which melds with a strange, off kilter groove in a manner recalling The Velvet Underground‘s “The Gift” and Lungfish‘s “Creation Story” (Really, the whole thing has Lungfish guitarist Asa Osborne written all over it, the “Snakesweat” music not only recalling some Lungfish but also Osborne’s solo project, Zomes).  As for the peice on the whole, it must be at least a little tounge-in-cheek, as I’m pretty sure no major label (or indie label, for that matter), would allow and support an artist of theirs in releasing an experimental short film made in the Texas desert in which the band members are earnestly referred to as the Black Widow, The Scientist, and the Philosopher.  If it isn’t at least a little ironic, then NYC art punk has its very own “Stonehenge,” but I’d like to think the Yeah Yeah Yeahs are more aware of their actions than that.  Nonetheless, “Snakesweat” fun and mildly creative.  It’s not exactly earth shattering, and comes across as a bit of a publicitiy stunt, but not a bad way to waste seven minutes.

18
Jul
09

Inaugural Post/Universal Order of Armageddon Live c. 1993

All right kids, let’s get this show on the road. For those of you who haven’t read the about section, Everybody Is a Taken Picture is a blog wherein I find live footage, music videos and other visual material online pertaining to music I enjoy and write about said footage.  Odds are most of it’s going to be in a post-punk/post-hardcore/”post-punk revival” vein, but really anything’s liable to go up here.  We’re starting today with a live set by Universal Order of Armageddon recorded sometime around 1993.  As EIATP is named after a line from a Double Dagger song, we should probably be starting with something by them, but as they are not only one of my favorite bands, but also a group with a large internet video presence, we’ll be seeing more than enough of them in the future (Then again, can one really have more than enough of that band?).

Click here to view YouTube Playlist

Click here to view YouTube Playlist

[Video Uploaded by YouTube user threepennie]

Part 1:

1) “Visible Distance”

2) “Entire Vast Situation”

Part 2:

3) “Flux”

4) “Painfully Obvious”

Part 3:

[Speech]

5) “Switch is Down”

Part 4:

6) “Switch is Down (con’t)”

Universal Order of Armageddon were a post-hardcore group from Pasadena, MD, a suburb just south of Baltimore. UOA is famous for, among other things, including ex-Moss Icon guitarist and future member of  the Convocation Tonie Joy, along with singer Colin Seven, bassist Scott Malat and drummer Brooks Headley.  In contrast the extended song lengths and atypical song structures of Moss Icon, UOA typically plays hard, fast, loud, and to the point, though they are no less artful, inventive or moving.  Joy and Headlely also played briefly as Born Against‘s rhythm section.

As far as VHS ported video of underground 1990s bands goes, this is remarkably pretty clear.  One can hear just about everything distinctly, and whoever shot this footage had a great angle on the band from stage left.   The venue’s one of the more interesting DIY spaces one sees.  I can’t tell if it’s a youth center or an art gallery.  Is that some video art project  or The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air playing on the big screen TV inexplicably placed above the band?  The audience is very of its time; a group of lightly headbanging but otherwise stone still Gen-Xers.  Every now and then, one can see headlights passing past the window directly across the “stage” from the band, unintentionally giving the video a nice eerie touch.

Universal Order of Armamgoeddon is in top form here, ripping through some of their best songs definitely in keeping with Brooks Headley’s description of the band’s shows as “turning on a vacuum cleaner for ten minutes” as quoted in the group’s Wikipedia article.  There’s an even greater intensity here than on record, as evinced most clearley by the performance of “Painfully Obvious” seen here, which includes the wiry Tonie Joy jumping from on top of his Marshall cabinet and Colin Seven continuing to wail the lyric “My own set of gears and rods” even after the song has concluded.  Other highlights  inlcude a change in the drum part during the intro of “Entire Vast Situation,” exchanging the hardcore grind found on record with stuttering, almost dub-like pattern, and Colin Seven’s speech about visiting the home of Los Crudos singer Martin Sorrondeguy.  A great set, though one wonders how UOA approached their slower, more complex songs like “Stepping Softly Into,” “(No) Longer Stranger,” and “Desperate Motion” live.

Buy Universal Order of Armageddon discography from Kill Rock Stars webstore.