How Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Turned Into A Religious Mess

Do you remember who Lady Gaga was in 2008? She was not “Mother Monster,” she had eyebrows, her outfits were outlandish, but she could have been someone you knew. Some eccentric fashion-obsessed friend who was into performance art, someone who frequented bars, smoked cigarettes and played piano with her hands and feet. The Lady Gaga of 2011 is not someone you could know. This is a transformed person, someone who was already a vast mutation, now mutated beyond recognition in a very short period of time. Lady Gaga is incapable of true extensive human interaction. She is the most famous person in the world right now, and probably the loneliest. On the other hand, at two billion fans and counting, you can no longer be considered an “outcast” and it is insulting to suggest otherwise.

In the first three years of her career she has put all her cards on the table, all the shock value, stories of a painful childhood, drug abuse, her dropping out of NYU and most importantly, her music and clothing. There is a reason for the word “clothing” going after “music.” If only as much time was put into the recording process as her outfits and set design. Lady Gaga is a sensation, but her latest album, Born This Way, fails in comparison to her previous package, The Fame and its expansion, The Fame Monster. The problem is in the title. Lady Gaga was not famous at all when she wrote and released The Fame. It was a cute title, endearing and tongue-in-cheek. Every song on The Fame was about money, recognition and sex. The later work, The Fame Monster was an obvious foreshadowing into dangerous territory.

In 2009, The Fame Monster, an eight song follow-up that featured club hits like “Bad Romance,” “Alejandro” and “Telephone,” already provided a window into the Haus of Gaga mindset. Lady Gaga was here to make a statement, she was weird, into Hitchcock and Alexander McQueen. She loved gay men. We already knew! The fact is, The Fame Monster was an excellent CD, and everyone knew history was in the making. No one since Britney Spears had even come close to achieving the pop-culture obsession of someone like Madonna or Michael Jackson. The sheer frenzy of it drew out the excitement or in some cases, extreme frustration, in everyone. The media became consumed, the fans became crazed and everyone in the world was waiting with bated breath, anticipating her next album, which had been described as “…Too precious to talk about” by RedOne, her own producer. On the topic of Born This Way, to her fans, Lady Gaga was quoted in saying “I promise you, I’ll never let you down.”

Let me get something straight, for any doubters. I am a Lady Gaga fan, I’m just not a blind fan. She is by no means an idol of mine. I follow her, I listen to her music in my house and car. I saw her in concert last summer. I loved her first two albums, but, here it comes, Born This Way is simply half-assed. Unlike her previous ventures into fun topics and hooks that could land Captain Ahab Moby Dick, or Santiago his giant marlin, Born This Way is drab, lacks creativity and is largely religious. Well, I take it back, it isn’t actually religious at all, but biblical mentions are not few or far between, Jesus in particular. It is my strong feeling that is not wise to alienate one’s fans. Fortunately for Lady Gaga, her fans are so devoted at this point she could truly become a satanist without them blinking an eye. Obviously the Jesus references are part of her schtick, and a not-so-subtle attempt to stir up controversy, especially on the second single “Judas.” The video for “Judas” is possibly her worst yet, a metaphorical ode to a very bad man indeed.

I feel very uncomfortable at all the Jesus references, being an atheist or at least a agnostic, and I can imagine many of her more fair-weather fans might as well. Honestly I’m more uncomfortable at how ridiculous it is in general to write a song called “Government Hooker” or “Black Jesus + Amen Fashion” or even “Electric Chapel” which are all titles on her album. The absolute worst though I must say is the non-religious “Highway Unicorn (Road 2 Love)” which is not a funny joke at all if indeed it is one. Gaga explains to E! News that she is “…Obsessed with religious art” on defending “Judas,” and probably over half her album.

Here are some of the obvious preachy and over the top references to look out for, all very strong cases for contemplating Lady Gaga’s lazy songwriting abilities…

“I’m beautiful in a way and god makes no mistakes.” (“Born This Way”)

“Jesus is my virtue but Judas is the demon I cling to.” (“Judas”)

“I won’t speak your Jesus Christo.” (“Americano”)

“On the runway, work it, black Jesus.” (“Black Jesus + Amen Fashion”)

“I’ll dance, dance, dance with my hands, hands, hands above my head  like Jesus said.” (“Bloody Mary”)

“Pray for your sins right under the glass disco ball.” (“Electric Chapel”)

…I suggest buying this album in its entirety on Amazon.com for 99 cents if it’s still available, because that is what it’s worth.

BOMB Fest Day 2

Day two of BOMB fest had some let downs and some

*** photographs by Chloe Donaldson

Swung in to catch a little of River City Extension which was great. It was nice to see a cello on stage instead of a violin.  In a couple of way, these guys are almost like an acoustic version of another New Jersey band that played on Saturday, Titus Andronicus. I’m looking forward to see these guys at Bonnaroo.

Dum Dum Girls were supposed to play next but unfortunately, they were unable to attend the BOMB Fest due to a death in the family.  So we caught some of Urban Sun. This eight piece funk rock band was tight but I’m not sure the crowd was totally in to. The lead singer was all over the stage and was throwing some stripped moves around. When the lead singer half removed his shirt, we called it quits and headed to the main stage to see Portugal. The Man.


Continue reading “BOMB Fest Day 2”

Thurston Moore – Demolished Thoughts album review

Sonic Youth frontman Thurston Moore releases “Demolished Thoughts”

52 year old Thurston Moore, former frontman of Sonic Youth and a driving force  behind alternative rock music throughout the 80s and 90s – has released his 4th solo album, Demolished Thoughts. With Beck as the producer on Moore’s first ever acoustic rock album, nothing less than extraordinary should be expected, proving to fans that artists who make lots of noise and freakouts can be sensitive chamber folk as well.

Beck’s mellow tone and incredible mixing skills are absolutely essential on this album. (Beck fans will instantly recognize elements from his 2002 release Sea Change). The 9 tracks on Demolished Thoughts are heavily laced with gorgeous strings (violin, bass, and harp – alongside Moore’s guitar and vocals), paying the most attention to the instrumentals over lyrics. Songwriting is not a strength and neither is the energy level really – its a relaxing album filled with themes on relationships and remorse.

“Benediction” and” Circulation”  are standout tracks, where Moore’s guitar rips into a perfectly orchestrated lullaby. After listening to the entire album, you feel as though you’d just heard one giant ever changing track. What lacks in riot makes up for in enlightenment. Its a refreshingly mature sound, and listening to “Space” send listeners on a little hippie-trippy journey.

Overall this is a fantastic and relaxing summer listen with many hidden depths to be explored.

Memory Tapes – Player Piano album review

Memory Tapes is an alias of one Dayve Hawk, who you may also know from Memory Cassette or Weird Tapes. He has been toying around with all kinds of sound in his previous projects, finally landing on Memory Tapes, often described as the pleasant mix of the two. Dayve Hawk seems like the kind of guy who really doesn’t want to step in the same river twice with his albums, always re-inventing his sound. So, what do we have here?

Imagine you got food poisoning from a strange cookie like Alice in Alice in the Wonderland, and shrunk. But the rabbit hole is now a music box. This is the feeling you get from Memory Tapes’ Player Piano. The first track “Musicbox (in)” and the last track “Musicbox (out)” will supplement this analogy (minus the food poisoning). Both of the tracks are soft and a little surreal, kind of like the whole Player Piano experience.

The vocals are classic Hawk. It sounds like a human voice altered by helium, but instead of helium its some indie-pop gas. Unreal. The overall sound of the album is quite peppy, with unexpected, innovative elements. You can tell Memory Tapes worked his ass off to make an album both creative and fun. “Offers” is perhaps my favorite track to showcase Memory Tapes.  

 “Wait In The Dark” and “Today Is Our Life” are the two singles off the album. “Today Is Our Life” is undoubtedly a ridiculously fun track. Forget reinventing sound on one album. Hawk manages to reinvent sound during a single track. Five minutes long, “Today Is Our Life” starts cold, turns hot, and then playfully fades away.  If that’s what menopause feels like, I want in. “Fell Through Ice” and “Fell Through Ice II” are dampers to all the fun the album is. These tracks are hazy beauties, so how can you be mad at that. “Fell Through Ice” is deliberate and a little bit tense. The song starts with a very mild electronic intro, serving as an antecedent to the return of spontaneity of the album.

While Hawk was quoted saying that this album will sound like “psychedelic girl group music,” I insist it’s more like a psychedelic bunny. Player Piano strives to expand our consciousness in a very soft, squeezable way. As always, Hawk leaves us with a question in mind: what’s next?

The Cars – Move Like This album review

Lately a very happy occurrence is in effect, a slew of 80’s bands are releasing new material, and The Cars are the latest of those bands. Others worth mentioning are Devo and Duran Duran, and even the sometimes lackluster Blondie. The Cars have managed to stay true to their roots without desperation or lack of invitation. There are few people over the age of 21 who don’t know “You Might Think” or “Drive,” and Move Like This offers a whole new batch of favorites.

Though lead singer Ric Ocasek has released solo albums as recently as 2005, this is the first for the band as a whole since 1987. Sadly, it is sans Benjamin Orr, the band’s original bassist who succumbed to pancreatic cancer in 2000. Instead of replacing Orr, which would have been a huge mistake and an ordinary step for most bands, the four remaining members made due with what they had. Keyboardist Greg Hawkes in particular, who attempted to ambidextrously play both bass and keyboards during rehearsals.

The perfect timing of a new Cars CD coincides with the undeniable fact that the majority of popular bands today happen to be creating music that is programmed and fine-tuned on shiny silver laptops, music that is surprisingly similar to that of a two-decade-old past. The big difference is, 80’s bands had it tough, relying on new keyboard technologies that might now seem as primitive as a drummer banging a spoon on an empty margarine container. The Cars have managed to stick with the times, incorporating the new technology into their sound without losing themselves. “Blue Tip,” “Too Late” and “Sad Song” are primary examples, radio-worthy explosions of clapping, synthesizers and tight guitars with Ocasek’s striking talk-to-speech voice at the helm.

“Keep On Knocking” is not unlike a fast-paced “Let The Good Times Roll.” The only real weaknesses are the drastically cheesy album-filler ballads “Soon” and “Take Another Look” which both feel like the poorly written diary entries of a 15 year old girl. Move Like This can afford two rotten eggs in an otherwise delicious organic batch of farm-fresh delicacies.

Friendly Fires – Pala album review

Friendly Fires Lights it Up

Friendly Fires dropped their second release, Pala on May 16th in the UK, making us Yanks wait another week before it was released in the States. It was worth the wait.

After a three year stint of touring since their self-titled debut album, Friendly Fires is out to prove the first go-around was not a fluke. With a solid set of alternative dance cuts that burn up the dance floor (UK’s dance floors are somewhat more flammable that our own…), any fan of Friendly Fires’ first go-around will not be disappointed by the second.

Starting out with vocals reminiscent of the Beach Boys, “Live Those Days Tonight” kicks off the foray into tribal drums, tightly woven synth textures, dripping wet vocals, and vintage tape simulation. The upbeat backing on most cuts belies vocalist Ed MacFarlane’s melancholy lyric choice, even if it is delivered with gusto.

The title track “Pala”, centered squarely in the middle of the album, is the low point both in terms of tempo and appeal. When you hear that the track was inspired by the dry Aldous Huxley novel Island, you have to question the band’s reading material.

The second half of the album finishes strong, however, and even amid the hype around “Show Me Lights” and “Pull Me Back to Earth”, gems like “Chimes” are laying low, waiting to be discovered.

Granted, this band isn’t for everyone. It is well known that the underground/alternative dance scene is much more well developed overseas than here, and the popularity in Europe hasn’t quite made the transition to full-on raging fan following in the US. There is a distinct sound of the band and the genre at large which may not appeal to the average ‘radio is fine’ crowd. If you want to try out their live show, it’s not too late Left Coast – their US tour wraps in LA June 10th.

Dale Earnhardt Jr Jr – It’s A Corporate World album review

Stripping out of logo embedded race-car suits, It’s A Corporate Worlddoesn’t necessarily mean ‘business’. In fact, much like a double alias the name Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. serves as measure against the music it stands for. Leaving behind the intensity of the NASCAR noise and gaudy label branding, a light gush of electro pop rides through on cruise control.

The album begins with the gentle eye-rubber “Morning Thought”which assumes the implied wake-up into a slow, happy-go-lucky kind of day. The rest of the album follows in the same light, moving through waves of on-beat sonic synths. It’s curves are smooth, the melodies are charming.

The catchiness of some tracks seems to waiver on songs like“When I open my eyes”, where a delicate piano rhythm is dosed with one too many off elements. Same goes for the track “Vocal Chords”with its plenty of harmonized vocal lines. The catchy hooks loose slack by the irks of extraneous production, like a compound of one too many sugary sounds that can’t be swallowed whole.

A cutesy nature runs through the whole album even while some dark ness in songs like “Skeleton” and “The Fisherman”, with lyrical references to the underworld, flutter despite. Colorful melodies are stacked to create a world where fears are lulled and dreams are cuddled instead.

What started out as a recording, sound writing project has turned the duo into yet another basement bred, indie-pop production. The complexity of the album may come off strong, perhaps too strong, but its intention are light. In similar contrast the album’s message against the rise of modern corporations and business chain society, albeit a bold topic, is approached with a tongue-in-cheek mildness. Their quirky character jabs coupled with their gentle sounds mix to form a debut that shows sweet potential.

Hail Mary Mallon – Are You Gonna Eat That? album review

Supergroups come and go, and side projects are now commonplace. Hip hop is not immune – Dr. Dre would never have become the self-contained superpower he is today if NWA had never split. More recently, the Hail Mary Mallon trio – Aesop Rock, Rob Sonic, and DJ Big Wiz – have released “Are You Gonna Eat That?”, a collaboration that is slick, but not overproduced. In other words, a welcome entry in today’s commercial scene.

While today’s rap has been touting the virtue of clubs, chains and Cristal (with a Lil Jon/Wayne cameo to keep the younger listeners happy), Hail Mary Mallon keeps it gangster by remaining with the old-school on all fronts. The guys have a laid-back style of delivery, as if it’s a hot day and there just happens to be a beat behind the rhymes. They certainly have the talent to bust the lyrics quick (check the chorus of “Garfield”, and pretty much all of “Table Talk” as evidence), but Hail Mary Mallon are in no hurry. Breakdance Beach certainly sounds like the 80s – pop ‘n’ lock is definitely on your mind with that beat, and the “Go! Go! Go!” will make you wish you were old enough to actually remember breakdancing. If you really want to enjoy cruising in the sun this summer, do it to “Mailbox Baseball”, and marvel as your personal cool factor notches up.

In a world where hip hop has taken a turn for the worst, it’s refreshing to hear a group of talented individuals remaining true to the ideals they hold. “Are You Gonna Eat That?” could have succeeded 20 or 30 years ago just as easily as it can today. The beats are classic retro (but not kitsch), the messages and stories are equally as relevant. Hail Mary Mallon, as odd as it sounds, have rebranded the pioneering parts of hip hop and avoided the “bling, guns, ho’s” stereotype that has blighted their peers in the 21st century.

Sasquatch Festival Day Four – The Final Day – Monday May 30th, 2011 – Quincy, WA at The Gorge

Day Four: The Preview – The Wrap Up

The last day of the festival and it appears it won’t be without a bang. It’s also arguably the day we’re most excited about. Rodrigo Y Gabriela on the mainstage as well as Chromeo, though just so you’re aware Dave – the camera woman was my girlfriend that you were hitting on! I’m not bitter though, I’ve just held resentment for eight months or so and have been plotting out my own electro-pop funk outfit inspired by Roger Troutman. Nevertheless, I digress. Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings will also grace the mainstage, and I cannot wait. Her soulful sound and signature image with a full band performing behind her (the Dap Kings of course) will be quite the sight.

The Bigfoot stage is also not without it’s highlights. Noah and the Whale, the guys behind the fantastic “5 Years Time” will grace the stage at 2pm followed by Vancouver’s own Black Mountain, Stornoway plus Mackelmore and Ryan Lewis.

The Yeti stage also can’t be forgotten as rapidly emerging Foster The People perform have a set, as well as Best Coast and White Denim.

And you know by now what The Banana Shack is about – comedy with Scott Aukerman, Paul F. Tompkins, Skrillex and Major Lazer.

Quite the note to end everything on.

Monday May 30th

Performing at Sasquatch’s Mainstage:
Wilco
The Decemberists
Old 97s
Rodrigo y Gabriela
Chromeo
Guided by Voices
Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings
Young the Giant

Performing at Sasquatch’s Bigfoot stage:
Deerhunter
!!!
Surfer Blood
Macklemore and Ryan Lewis
Stornoway
Noah and the Whale
Black Mountain
Twin Shadow

Performing at Sasquatch’s Yeti Stage:
Best Coast
Foster the People
White Denim
Jaill
The Young Evils
White Arrows

Performing at Sasquatch’s Banana Shack:
MSTKRFT
Skillrex
Bonobo – DJ Set

Thurston Moore – Demolished Thoughts album review

To pigeonhole an artist like Thurston Moore would be to tragically overlook his seemingly endless list of releases, collaborators and projects. Produced by Beck Hansen, Moore’s most recent release, Demolished Thoughts, is a true testament to his daunting musical genius: This is an album presented with the unyielding confidence and finesse of a true veteran mastermind.   The tone is mellower than I expected – even more so than 2007 release, Trees Outside the Academy – dwelling mostly in the melancholy reservation that so wholly inhabits Hansen’s own Sea Change (2002).

Production on this album is both flawless and absolutely vital.  Though Moore has enormous potential, he still writes within relative creative proximity to his days with Sonic Youth and with this record’s stripped-down acoustic instrumentation, his songs run a high risk of feeling incomplete or unfulfilled.  This is a challenge effortlessly overcome with beautifully simple violin (Samara Lubelski) and harp (Mary Lattimore) lines in conjunction with patient and tasteful drums, bass and acoustic guitars. The emanating soundscapes seem to hold as much potency as the lyrics themselves; a democracy clearly illustrated by lengthy instrumental sections, most notably on “Blood Never Lies” and “Mina Loy”.

Tracks such as “Circulation” are rife with tension and elegance that play off each other endlessly to rare and exquisite effect while more effortless songs like “Benediction” provide comforting gratification through satisfying composition.   Beck’s production is admirable in that it allows the stronger titles such as “In Silver Rain With A Paper Key” and “January” – songs that can clearly stand on their own – the freedom to exist without becoming weighted down or overly complicated.  Simultaneously, some of the albums weaker tracks, such as “Illuminine” and “Orchard Street” both benefit enormously and rely heavily on Hansen’s creative contributions.

It’s hard to imagine this record – these songs – in any other incarnation. Composition and disposition work together impeccably to construct a sincerely unique experience, far removed from anything I’ve ever heard.  Demolished Thoughts is quite possibly the most fantastical release in his enduring career and is, without a doubt, a record worthy of study and admiration.