Obviously, something is amiss at the TDOA offices. Posts are disappearing! Please stand by and we’ll try and fix the problem.
The Dumbing of America has moved to http://thedumbingofamerica.net
Click the link to read new interviews with folks like Peter Hook!
It’s a big day at TDOA! I’ve just completed our first on-air interview with Living Things at the CBD HD-Radio affiliate in Dallas. By the time you read this, it’ll have streamed line online, but you can listen to the podcast at their website: Indie-Verse.com.
To coincide with the launch of our weekly interview show, I’ve launched a new website with a simpler name: http://thedumbingofamerica.net. In the next few days, you’ll automatically be re-directed to that site when you visit this one. In the meantime, those of you who are internet savvy, can update your rss readers and make the change. I’ll mirror the content on both sites for the next week or so before shutting this one down.
If you were wondering about the lack of new interviews, I hope you’ll understand that the move of the website and launching of the radio show has taken up all of my time. You can look forward to more piping, hot content in the weeks to come. I’ll also post the podcast and a schedule of upcoming interviews in the next few days.
Buckle up! We’re just getting started.
Initially, I resisted this concept of a mid-year top ten. It seemed like a cheap concept for websites with nothing to talk about. But then I started looking at the lists onmy favorite websites and realized that none of the albums I like were getting any attention. Given that this has been the best year for new releases since….the eighties (?!), I felt a need to throw my two cents into the ring. What follows is a list that I’d be proud to publish if this was December 31st. The prospect of six more months of great music, is truly exciting.
1) The Boxer Rebellion: Union- If you loved The Verve and remember when it was still cool to like U2, you ought to be listening to this band. This self-released album topped the U.S. and U.K. ITunes charts the week it debuted. I’d like to think that TBR is our little secret, but I suspect there are a lot of you out there.
2) The Pains of Being Pure At Heart: Self-Titled- As British as The Boxer Rebellion sound, THOBPAH bring a sound that is distinctly super American chunky. Great melodies that merge with an indie sensibility that is far from self-indulgent.
3) Gliss: Devotion/Implosion- Like watching the most beautiful carousel you’ve ever seen, Gliss switch instruments and vocal duties effortlessly and make you swoon every time. How much do I love the re-emergence of the distortion pedal in music? In a year where the great ideas of the 80’s are given new life, Gliss simulatneously seem original yet nostalgic. I hate to throw the JAMC reference around this list too much, but they were a brilliant band and Gliss make me realize what they’d have become with better vocals and less self-indulgence.
4) An Horse: Rearrange Beds- 2-piece from Australia that harkens back to the best of The Spinanes (look it up. you’ll love it.). I interviewed them days after they first arrived in America after this album was released. With an appearance on Letterman and accolades from numerous magazines, we can expect An Horse to be on many year-end lists for many years to come. Deservedly so.
5) White Lies- To Lose My Life: Equal parts The Teardrop Explodes, Joy Division and Interpol. Certainly enough to make Brandon Flowers shut up forever (hopefully…). I had predicted that this would be my album of the year after hearing a few cuts. If I have any complaint, it’s that the second half of the record is a little uneven. Still a tremendous effort, though.
6) Zee Avi- Zee Avi- This one snuck on the list at the last second! I posted her brilliant cover of “First of the Gang” previously and just got a copy of the album this week. Since then, I’ve had it on an endless loop. Prepare to here a voice that will melt you in a second. To compare someone’s voice to Billie Holiday isn’t something I would do on a whim. The album alternates from moody, to playful, to beautiful in a way that seems natural. An amazing debut. Prepare to read about her for the next six months and the rest of your life.
7) East Hundred- Passenger: Erroneously posted in our revised ‘Best of 2008′, this was actually released in January of 2009. Why this band isn’t on a major label is one of this years’ great mysteries. Perfect vocal melodies from Beril Guceri coupled with a band that can write music that isn’t dependent on ‘hooks’, yet sticks in your head. Quite a combination and a recipe for a great album.
8) Crocodiles- Summer of Hate: Fresh off their network debut on Carson Daly’s televsion show, this is a band with unbelievable potential. Their resemblence to Psychocandy/ Mary Chain-style is eerie. When they release their ‘Darklands’ expect them to be huge.
9) Jason Lytle- Yours Truly The Commuter: Yes, it’s the singer from Grandaddy. Yes, it’s as good as anything Grandaddy did. Anything other questions?
10) Gomez- A New Tide: I’ve intentionally posted this video which just shows the album cover, while the opening track plays. Perhaps the best “pop” song I’ve heard in years. Close your eyes and let this soak into your eardrums.
So I was reading through the ‘Guide To Being One Of The Cool Bloggers’ (You can download it on Pitchfork, but you have to answer a 20-question quiz on Kraut-rock before you can access it. I used my Julian Cope book to cheat.) and it says that I have to do a “Best of the first half of 2009”. Seriously? Are the cool kids that desperate for content? I started reading through the lists a few sites have already published and noticed a disturbing trend: They were listing albums released in 2008. Sorry everyone, but Ida Maria was released in July of 2008 and I don’t want to hear the “it wasn’t released in the U.S. until 2009 argument. Radiohead’s ‘In Rainbows’ was released online in 2007 and was properly put on the 2007 “Best of” lists. NOBODY, put but it on their 2008 list.
Instead, I make a different proposition. Why not put out a revised ‘Best of 2008’? I’m the first to admit that sometimes I miss an album release. With so many bands self-releasing albums and with the internet creating a larger number of accessible bands, it’s hard to catch everything. So I’m going to take this opportunity to reflect back on 2008 and list my revised top 10.
Here’s the list I published on January 1 of this year.
1) The Duke Spirit- Neptune (Both of their albums have been my number 1 for their respective year. Clearly, the most under-rated band on the planet)
2) The Virgins- Self-Titled (Still a good pop record, but fading fast in my memory)
3) Darker My Love- 2 (Despite mailing it in when they were interviewed by me, this album still packs a wallop.)
4) Steve Malkmus- Real Emotional Trash (As with many Pavement records, it continues to grow on me. Such a great songwriter.)
5 thru 10 were occupied by albums that I still like, but have quickly faded from my frequently played list: The Kooks (Konk), The Late Greats (Life Without Balloons), The Pigeon Detectives (Emergency), Fujiya & Miyagi (Lightbulbs), We Are Scientists (Brain Thrust Mastery), The Bronx (3)
So, with apologies to those I originally forgot, here’s the revised Best Albums of 2008…with a little perspective:
I’m efforting to post some videos that haven’t been shown here before. With bands like TDS, it’s hard because we’ve written them up so many times. But I’m pretty proud of these brand spankin new videos.
1) The Duke Spirit- Neptune
2) The Black Box Revelation- Set Your Head On Fire
3) The Black Keys- Attack and Release
4) Ida Maria- Fortress ‘Round My Heart
5) Darker My Love- 2
6) Jaydiohead- Jaydiohead: What? I can’t put a mashup album on my list? Well, this is the best mashup I’ve ever heard and deserves to be on this list.
7) Steve Malkmus- Real Emotional Trash
8) Division of Laura Lee- Violence Is Timeless
9) The Pigeon Detectives- Emergency
10) The Virgins- The Virgins
What do you think? What albums did you miss the first time around in 2008, that you’re loving now?
I’m trying to move this website from our humble little WordPress.com home to our shiny, new WordPress.org mansion. I”ve googled, I’ve followed the instructions, I’ve watched youtube videos and yet….I’m stymied. Certain things would help: not being ADD, not being in a constant state of exhaustion, a governmental decree adding an extra six hours to each day. Since none of these things seem likely, I’m making a plea to my readers. If you now how to do it or can direct me to a nice step-by-step instruction list, I’d be forever indebted. It’s impacting my ability to schedule interviews, participate in interviews, edit completed interviews…..In other words, I suck and I need you help.
Post something in the comments. I’ll add your picture in the masthead or send you a copy of the new Cheap Trick album or….something.
For those of you joining us from England for the first time, I have some important news for you from here in the States. Remember that MTV thing we foisted on you a few decades ago? Yeah, we don’t really do that video on the tv thing anymore. I understand it’s pretty big over there now. Oops. Sorry. Um, and ya know how excited you were when My Bloody Valentine re-formed? Well….we have dozens of MBV and Jesus and Mary Chain-a-like bands here now. Hope you don’t mind, but we lifted that from you.
Here’s the thing: I love the spate of “I love my distortion pedal” bands that have popped up in the States. And I don’t really miss videos. But…there’s this thing going on in England that all of us in the States need to know about. Um…they’re having fun over there. Lots of it. While we’re busy gazing at our shoes, they’re dancing, getting drunk and having a grand ‘ole time. England’s LR Rockets is a great example of a band, who make videos (lots of them!), have fun and aren’t ashamed of it.
I love hearing a great song from a new band. In fact, I can make mix cd’s of one-hit wonder bands all day long and be perfectly happy. Tell me that this new band has a bunch of good songs and I’m ecstatic. We previously highlighted LR Rockets’ song “Cameron Is Connected”. Once we explored the bands’ other songs, we found a band who can weave three or more great hooks within a single song. There is no greater manic pop thrill than to listen to a band like LR Rockets who’s energy, enthusiasm and ability to craft a song breathes some fresh air into our perfectly comfortable darklands.
I try to challenge you here at TDOA: I hope that you can listen to The Bronx and Band of Horses back to back without complaining. LR Rockets are quite different than anything we’ve got going here in the U.S. right now. The fellows from LR Rockets (LP, LEBOMB, JUDGE, FACE & SYMS) took some time to tutor us on the ways of the next British Invasion. Time to open your brains again, kiddies.
TDOA: We’ve talked with older British bands about the fickle nature of the British music press. How do you approach the media and try to promote the band, knowing that they can turn on you in a heartbeat?
LP: Firstly I think we are a bit more confident and positive than to think about a backlash. How could anyone turn on us? Come on really! Our approach is make music we love, get it in the right people’s hands by any means possible, work hard and enjoy making and playing music. The rest is then out of your control. I think the biggest thing is do not get hung up on the success side, enjoy it and be the best band you can be and fuck everyone else. If they like you then great, if they don’t, do you really care? We don’t (but we might chop your hands off if you do slag us off).
TDOA: Radiohead and The Boxer Rebellion have used different methods, but essentially shown that you can self-release your own music and be sucessful. Does this influence how you approached the major labels or how you plan the future of the band?
LP: Self-releasing has had a massive influence over us and many bands in the UK. Majors are not signing bands and few labels take risks on people so you need to be successful to get a deal. So how the hell do you do that without a label or backing? Well you save all your hard earned cash and you do it yourself. Nice of the majors (and even the indie’s too some degree) to do that to us, right? Yes (god I’m asking my own questions, when I should be answering yours here, sorry), they have in backward way, as you can now actually do it yourself with the way the rest of the industry works and if it’s successful keep doing it yourself and not giving any of your money to the greedy ‘unit’ men and women. The labels have made a rod for their own back’s. More and more bands are going to be self releasing. We see it around us all the time now. We self released ‘Dance it Away’ EP back in Jan 09 and it was the most successful releases we have had to date. You do the math’s (yes we say math’s over here, how terribly english!).
TDOA: I hesitate to call you music “pop” because it has a negative connotation here. But your music has a more radio friendly feel than the My Bloody Valentine/Jesus & Mary Chain revival that we here alot in the U.S.. Do you think about the commercial appeal of your music while writing?
Lebomb: We certainly don’t consider the commercial appeal when writing, however an LR Rockets song is not complete without at least two or three killer melodies. Our philosophy is to try and write more hooks in one song than your average band can get into an entire EP. It’s all about enjoying what we play and wanting to sing and dance along to our own shit really. In that sense, if making it popular with ourselves, qualifies as pop and in turn makes it commercially viable, then roll on the huge fan-base that will come and dance and sing along with us!!
TDOA: “Alternative/New Wave” or whatever you want to call it has been going for over 30 years now. From Oasis to Nirvana, it’s been proven that good music will generate revenue for labels and radio. Why do you think radio still refuses to take great music like yours and put it in heavy rotation?
Face: Because we’re the Devil!!! Radio is dominated by pop, squeaky clean crap that constantly gets churned out by majors and some 50-something suit heads the labels. And what does he like to look at? Young girls and boys…the old perv. He probably reckons his kids shouldn’t be influenced by five hardened lads who have something to say and are making music for a real reason. Plus the most powerful suits are those in the US and God help us they have a ‘hard on’ for R&B for some despicable reason.
TDOA: The bands here in America rarely have videos, but the British bands all seems to have several. In fact, there really isn’t much of a forum for videos in the U.S. anymore, as MTV is more focused on bad reality shows. How do bands like yourselves afford to make videos? Am I correct that there seems to be a greater focus on videos there?
Judge: Really! Well, you have a lot more cable channels then us with a lot more music channels. Music vids I believe are as popular in the states today as they were back in the 80s. Though the music video for british bands is a big hit for there finances. It is a promo tool that is known not to make (if any) great return. BUT, as we love making videos and will continue to do so as there are many mediums in which people can view these. We don’t see it as being an obstacle just a load of fun. In every song we make we always speak about ideas regarding visuals weather it be narrative or performance based. If we had more wonga then we would do a vid for all our songs!
TDOA: I’ve read a little bit about the reaction to ‘Death of the UK’. I know you guys have said you’re not deeply political, but at least you’ve made an attempt! Why do you think we don’t see much in the way of musical political protest music? It’s not like we live in a time where the economy is great and the world is at peace…
Lebomb: We’re not deeply political, true…as it’s not our way to wear our bleeding hearts on our sleeves. We don’t belive in cramming an agenda down anybodies ear-holes, but that doesn’t mean we’re afraid to cross swords with the occasional topical issue. I think in England there’s a general resistance to taking the Billy Bragg route of protest song, as it lacks that artistic edge you get from distancing yourself from a subject matter and coming back at it with either wit or cynicism. As a nation we often think we’re far too cool to admit we believe in something and I think it’s a symptom of that…perhaps that’s a shame.
LR Rockets- Death of the UK
TDOA: What does the band enjoy more, making videos or playing live/touring?
Syms: As much as the band enjoy the creative process of making a video that conveys the subject matter of our singles, we prefer to be playing gigs, touring around and meeting the locals. Expressing a song, with the amount of energy that we can produce at a live show, is one of the most exhillarating experiences for us and once we start to feed off the crowds reaction performances get bigger and better.
TDOA: Any plans to tour America in the next year?
Judge: Would never say never! Things just keep happening all the time for us and we have achieved a lot that is remarkable in the way that you wouldn’t of dreamt it. I feel quite confident with the way things are going we shall be crossing the pond next year!
TDOA: What music are you listening to these days?
LR: Fight Like Apes, Datarock, Dan Black, Ming Ming and the Ching Chings, My Tiger My Timing, Swound, The Chapman Family, The Fall, Devo, Depeche Mode, Stopstarts, Liars.
TDOA: If there was one band you could banish from the planet, who would it be?
Face: That’s easy! Snow Patrol, they represent everything that is bad about British music and have somehow tapped into the brain dead parts of the rest of the world too. Supermarket indie music…I get embarrassed when I hear a Snow Patrol song. In fact, if it’s easier you could just banish me so I don’t have to hear them anymore.