Sunday, July 31, 2011


...but I find this video disturbing, especially with the sound off.

The Village from Pedro Sousa | visuals on Vimeo.


I wrote this piece for MSN Music back in March, as part of my trip to SXSW, but they never ran it. (They paid me anyway, which was nice of them.) Since Ximena Sariñana's album comes out on Tuesday, I'm putting it here. Enjoy!

The Latin rock scene has produced some of the most vital, exciting music of the last 20 years. But where the first wave of Mexican and South American bands, like Café Tacuba, Maldita Vecindad, Los Fabulosos Cadillacs and Caifanes insisted on singing in Spanish and thereby establishing the “rock en Español” genre, a new generation of equally impressive Latin acts is writing and performing in English. In some cases, this causes some controversy in their home countries and with older listeners, but in others, it’s seen as a positive sign that cultural barriers are being broken down through the universal language of music. Three such performers appeared at South by Southwest.

Hometown: Mexico City, Mexico
Album: Tre3s (Arts & Crafts)
Check out: “Roni
Mexican indie pop band Chikita Violenta’s songs have strong melodies that are occasionally washed over by waves of sweetened guitar noise. It’s no surprise they worked with Broken Social Scene’s producer, Dave Newfeld, or that they’ve toured the US with Ra Ra Riot and Built To Spill; all of those bands’ anthemic guitar rock can be heard as influences on their sound. The group’s third album, Tre3s, sits comfortably alongside alternative/indie rock from any country.

Indeed, if the average listener heard a Chikita Violenta song without knowing the band’s country of origin, their Mexican-ness would come as a surprise. And this is partly the point. Says guitarist Esteban Suarez, “There’s French bands that sing in English, Swedish bands that sing in English, there’s bands that make up their own language [safe to assume this is a reference to Sigur Rós, not Magma - ed.], and I think we’ve earned our place after 10 years of being a band in Mexico, establishing our scene and sound.”

Vocalist Luis Arce says of their decision to write and perform in English, “Music-wise, it’s a language we feel more comfortable with, even though we’re proudly Mexican and our native tongue is Spanish. But for our music, ever since we started composing and doing our own stuff, it just came naturally. If we ever come across a song and it comes out in Spanish, we’ll do it in Spanish, you know?”

They’ve encountered some resistance from Mexican radio, according to keyboardist Armando Ortigosa. “It’s hard to break their preconceptions about how Mexican bands have to sing in Spanish, because they take it as a sign of disrespect to Mexico.” Fortunately, the fans don’t seem as concerned, and the band feels that their music is succeeding on its own terms—which is all they really want. “With Tre3s, I think we’ve managed to put together all the elements we’ve been looking for for a really long time and say, this is what Chikita Violenta sounds like. For all of us in the band, it’s the first time we’ve listened to a complete album and said that’s what we want to hear. Where we’re going from here, who knows?”

Hometown: Guadalajara, Mexico
Album: Ximena Sariñana (Warner Bros.)
Check out: “Different
Ximena Sariñana started out as a child actress, appearing in several movies and telenovelas. She released her debut CD, Mediocre, in 2008, and sang a Spanish-language duet with Jason Mraz on his song “Lucky” (Colbie Caillat sang the English-language version). She’s also been a frequent collaborator with her offstage boyfriend, guitarist Omar Rodriguez Lopez of the Mars Volta; she can be heard on several of his solo CDs, and has toured with his group.

Sariñana’s second solo CD, a self-titled effort, fits more or less into the female singer-songwriter subgenre, as heard on VH1. The lyrics to songs like “Wrong Miracle” and “Different” are introspective, yet quirky, not unlike the work of artists like Sara Bareilles (with whom Sariñana will be touring in 2011) or Feist, and the arrangements are piano-based with additional elements coming from laptops and other instruments as necessary.

“There was a lot of writing and producing at the same time, where on my first record I wrote the songs for piano and voice and we added stuff on them,” says Sariñana about the creative process behind the disc. “There was a lot of writing for different instruments, and production while writing, and I think that changes the way the songs sound. It’s a bigger, more electronic and more produced sound.

“It’s a harder industry in the US, because it’s more competitive than in Mexico,” she continues. “It’s way harder to make a record. For the first record I wrote 15 songs, for this one I had to write 30. The first record took me a month and a half to record, this one took a year and a half.”

Hometown: Valencia, Spain
Album: Getting Down From The Trees (Nacional)
Check out: “Fireworks
Spanish band Polock (named for painter Jackson Pollock, and yes, the misspelling is deliberate) have just released their first full-length CD, Getting Down From The Trees, following a self-released EP keyboardist Alberto Rodilla describes as the low-budget product of a pure desperation to be heard.

Bands from Spain have it tough; the Latin music market is dominated by acts from Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America, and the country itself is still culturally somewhat conservative, a holdover from Franco’s decades-long rule. But things are looking up; says Rodilla, “It’s not that easy to get into the North American market coming from Spain, because there’s never been bands that have toured the US or England. We’re now beginning to create a movement where bands are getting in, like Delorean or El Guincho, or right now us.”

The band has hints of Television’s arty guitar interplay, mixed with the atmospheric synths of Pink Floyd and Joy Division. Listeners who enjoy Interpol could easily find space for Polock in their iPods. These are the sounds that the bandmembers grew up on, and that’s what influenced their decision to sing in English. “It’s not about the market only,” explains Rodilla. “I mean, it is as well, but if you hear rock music it’s the same in Spain or in the United States, you know. Everybody gets Lou Reed, Television, the Doors, it’s always English music. It’s the language that goes with that kind of style. So we didn’t really think about making it in Spanish.”

Monday, July 25, 2011


Almost any guess as to who this is directed at is likely to be correct.

Sunday, July 17, 2011


I'll see your Bob Ross and raise you this Turkish guy.


I don't like this song very much. It's catchy; it's sticking in my head. But this kind of shimmery pop doesn't work as a soundtrack to any life experiences I'd enjoy having, and as a lifelong wearer of headphones, that's the primary way I judge music's worth. But I've always been fascinated by Jonestown; I've read a couple of books about Jim Jones, and have considered writing a novel with a Jones-like character at its center. So the video fascinates me, too. It's got a seriously creepy, haunting power, and/but the fact that a major label (Sony) released it says something—about the amorality of corporations or the history-destroying power of irony, I'm not sure which. (Hundreds of people killed in a coerced mass suicide—what an awesome backdrop for our video!) Could Slayer or Cannibal Corpse have gotten away with exploiting tragedy in this way? I don't think so. But when you're a conventionally pretty white girl (and/or white boy) making indie pop, there are no aesthetic or moral boundaries, I guess. Must be nice.
Anyway, here's the video.

Go Outside, by Cults from Boing Boing on Vimeo.

Thursday, July 14, 2011


Do you feel like it's been too long since you were driven into a red-eyed, slavering homicidal rage?

Here, watch this:

You're welcome.

Saturday, July 09, 2011


I haven't had time to really delve into her most recent album, Soldier of Love, but it's not like she's gonna make a bad one, right? And I missed the tour when it came through, but I saw her in '93 and she was fantastic.

Friday, July 01, 2011


First up, remember how I mentioned I wrote a novel, Hard Lessons? Well, it's available now through multiple outlets, including,, and You could also go straight to the publisher's website, where you can read a short piece I wrote about New Jersey in popular culture and how I hope Hard Lessons will expose a different side of my home state. The book is only 99 cents, a price I think makes it an ideal beach read for the holiday weekend. Check it out, and let me know what you think. Thanks!

Now, on to the other stuff. Here are two things I did for MSN Music:

The first was an installment of their recurring Fight Club series, on the pros and cons of music festivals. I took the "anti" side.

The second was an interview with Weird Al Yankovic. This is the second time I've spoken to him, and it went as well as the first. A blast. I may post the full-length version here soon.

Next, two reviews for Alternative Press:

Take It Or Leave It—A Tribute To The Queens Of Noise: The Runaways (MainMan)
There are several problems with this two-disc tribute to the Runaways. The biggest is that it starts off almost too strong—the first disc opens with the Donnas’ version of “Queens Of Noise,” followed by Shonen Knife’s take on “Black Leather.” Those are followed by a bunch of substandard versions of the half-decent glam-punk songs that padded out the Runaways’ four-album discography. While some are pretty good (Delirium Tremens’ speed-crazed take on “Wasted,” Cali Giraffes’ “You’re Too Possessive” and particularly Tara Elliott & The Red Velvets’ steamy, blues-rock strut through “You Drive Me Wild”), others are just not.

The two biggest disappointments are the Dandy Warhols’ sludgy, zoned-out version of the Runaways’ signature song, “Cherry Bomb,” and the electro-fied duet of “Dead End Justice” by Kathleen Hanna and Peaches, two of the most annoying performers in the history of Western culture. Another puzzling thing about the compilation is that some bands have chosen to cover songs which were already covers: The Runaways recorded versions of the Velvet Underground’s “Rock N’ Roll” and the Troggs’ “Wild Thing,” both of which are redone here. Ultimately, these weak tracks (and the pointless inclusion of snippets of the band members, radio DJs and other musicians of the era talking about them) undermines the whole exercise, making Take It Or Leave It a slog when it should be a blast. (Buy it from the Amazon MP3 store)

Weatherhead (Hydra Head)
This Seattle-based trio fronted by Ben Verellen, formerly of sludgy rumblers Harkonen, can get heavy when they feel like it, but just as often, if not more so, they drift into more psychedelic, shoegazey spaces. Verellen is supported by bassist Dana James and drummer Hozoji Matheson-Margullis, each of whom also sing. In fact, the two women sing more than he does, and not just because he mostly barks and roars. James’ voice has a cool detachment that recalls Kim Gordon’s vocals on Sonic Youth’s “Shadow Of A Doubt,” and the women’s sometimes woozy, sometimes edgy harmonies are crucial to the band’s expansive, dreamy sound. When James and Verellen harmonize, on the other hand, it can be like the second coming of John Doe and Exene Cervenka of X. Ultimately, Weatherhead (the second Helms Alee full-length, following 2008’s Night Terror) sits comfortably somewhere in the neighborhood of Kylesa, Totimoshi, recent Melvins and even (maybe most of all) Baroness. There are riffs and vocal melodies on this album that could have been cribbed straight from Blue Record. This is one of the best heavy alternative rock albums of the year, combining ’90s throb with ’70s stoner riffs and thick coatings of fuzz, swirling it all into something that’s recognizably of a specific subgenre (see the work of all the bands cited above) and yet unique and heartfelt. Highly recommended. (Buy it from Amazon)

And finally, 10 All Music Guide reviews:

Dekapitator, We Will Destroy...You Will Obey! (Amazon link)
Farmers By Nature, Out of This World's Distortions (Amazon link)
Stefon Harris/Christian Scott/David Sánchez, Ninety Miles (Amazon link)
La Vida Boheme, Nuestra (Amazon link)
Joe Morris/Agusti Fernández, Ambrosia (Amazon link)
NYJAZZ Initiative, Mad About Thad (Amazon link)
OvO, Cor Cordium
Devin Townsend Project, Deconstruction (Amazon link)
Devin Townsend Project, Ghost (Amazon link)
Vitruvius, Vitruvius (Amazon link)

Enjoy the holiday weekend.