Movie Friday: Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos

Public Enemy was the very first rap group I ever heard (aside from Hammer, but even at age 6 I wasn’t particularly a fan). My own internal conversation about race was between me, my father, a nearly-monochromatic mountain town, and Messers D, Flav, and Griff. In light of the theme of ‘othering’ and black Americans’ experiences with the ‘justice’ system, I felt this song was appropriate (language obviously NSFW):

Lyrics below the fold [Read more…]

Movie Friday: Even Handed Odds

Some of you may know that I play in a band called CROWN. What you may not know is that I don’t play in a band called CROWN anymore. We changed our name back in April to Even Handed Odds, reflecting not only a change in our lineup (we added a drummer), but the fact that there are a million things out there called “Crown”, which made us really tough to find on the internet. Since the name change, we played our first show as a 5-piece at The Backstage Lounge, a restaurant/live music venue on Vancouver’s beautiful Granville Island.

We shot this video at the gig:

Anyway, more shameless self-promotion.

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Movie Friday: Bonus self-promotion

So this week I “rediscovered” the joys of performing at open mic nights. Back in my grad school days, solo open mic performance was one of my favourite leisure activities. Since moving to Vancouver, it has been a much more rare occasion to see me perform without the aid of my band-mates (even before Even Handed Odds formed, Stu and I used to hold down open mics as a duo). In an effort to boost the band, however, I went to a open mic this past Monday and was once again bitten by the bug. While I definitely prefer to play music with other people, there really is something about being up on that stage by yourself.

Anyway, this Wednesday I picked up my guitar and tromped to a local spot that does open mic. I had a buddy there, who filmed this song for me:

I was a little rusty – I’ll probably take a run at this again sometime. Once again, apologies for the sound quality. Here’s the original if you’ve been trapped under a rock for the past 15 or so years and haven’t heard it. Also, one of the greatest music videos of all time:

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Movie Friday: Clint Eastwood

So last week I mentioned that my band does a cover of ‘Clint Eastwood’ by the Gorillaz. The cool thing about this song is that it features the rhyming of Del tha Funkee Homosapien, so covering it gives me a chance to rap, and provides the audience with something you don’t often see at a pub night. I said I’d get a recording for ya, so here it is:

I wish I could do something about the sound, but the microphone on my mobile doesn’t handle noise too well. If anyone knows a ‘fix’ for that I’d greatly appreciate it. If you’d like to contrast my performance with the original, here it is:

The self-aggrandizement continues!

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“I don’t even CALL it rap music…”

I’ve been a hip-hop head since I was a little kid. I’m not sure what possessed my father to buy me my first album – Public Enemy’s Apocalypse ’91… the Enemy Strikes Black simply because I asked for it. I was 8 years old, and it took years of education for me to understand even half of the subject matter. Questionable parenting aside, I’ve always loved hip-hop. It wasn’t until my early 20s that I ‘rediscovered’ my love for the genre – an adolescence spent among friends who were almost exclusively rock fans limited my options a bit. As I’ve said elsewhere, I didn’t grow up surrounded by black folks, but listening to hip-hop was a way for me to connect to that part of my cultural heritage. Even though I didn’t fully ‘get’ all of the topics, I was able to glean an appreciation for issues that did not filter into the mainstream of discussion.

Now don’t get me wrong – there is a lot of awful hip-hop music out there. Even some of the stuff that gets lauded as ‘genius’ (I’m thinking specifically here of Dr. Dre’s “The Chronic” – I’ve tried liking this album; it sucks) is pretty bad. Some of this can be chalked up to personal taste – I’ve never found anything worthwhile in the materialistic top 40 stuff for the same reason I don’t bother listening to dance music – I find it repetitive and entirely disposable. Much of it can be chalked up to talent – a lot of so-called emcees should stay the fuck out of the booth until they learn to rhyme. There’s an aspect of exploitative marketing at work – since young white men are the largest consumers of hip-hop, labels prefer rappers that appeal to that demographic at the expense of better, more meaningful music.

Hip-hop is no better and no worse than other forms of music – there is a lot of really great stuff out there if you know where to look, but the majority of the market is schlock designed to turn a profit. Such is the consequence of for-profit art. No big deal, right? Well… maybe not exactly: [Read more…]

Movie Friday: Fuck Shit Stack

Don’t ask why, but the FTB backchannel was briefly full of My Little Pony conversation. I don’t understand the craze, but that’s okay because it seems like everyone else does.

If the show were more like this, maybe I’d watch:

WARNING: TOTALLY NSFW LANGUAGE! Also, you will laugh really loud, so make sure you’re in a place where you can explain yourself if need be.

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Movie Friday: Laughing With

So for whatever reason, my musical selection is skewed strongly male. It probably has more than a little to do with the fact that I primarily listen to rock and hip-hop, both of which genres have strong macho bias. But whatever the reason, there are very few female singers who I really like to listen to. I’m a big fan of the Cardigans, Lauryn Hill (obviously), I was a big fan of Poe’s debut album (long before her name was a synonym for an internet troll), I thought Tragic Kingdom was pretty good… other than that though, women don’t feature large on my iTunes.

There is one female artist, however, that grabbed me from the moment I first heard her voice in a duet with Ben Folds – Regina Spektor:

(Please forgive the intro and the Spanish lyrics – the official video has embedding disabled)

She has a lot of amazing songs, and a lot of amazing videos, but this one got stuck in my head the other day. The lyrics are incredibly enigmatic, and they strike me as something of a Rorschach Test – the level of subjectivity lends itself to multiple interpretations. Ms Spektor apparently refuses to tell people what they ‘really’ mean, leaving it up to interpretation.

To me, it seems like she’s talking about the concept of ‘God’ as opposed to expressing an actual belief. Everyone takes the idea very seriously when the chips are down, but you’ve got to remember the lighter, more hilarious side of the idea that there’s a supernatural being handing out rewards and punishments. She also singles out its most fervent believers for a bit of ridicule – basically, it’s not something to be taken seriously. It’s a joke that we can laugh with.

Then again, the top-rated comment says something completely different:

Basically, if your plane is crashing, God doesn’t seem like a joke. You can spend your whole life not believing in a higher power and even ridiculing it, but if you’re moments from death and you know it, I think everyone would wonder.

Ah yes, the old ‘atheists in foxholes’ nonsense. Glad to see that some things never die. Wait, did I say ‘glad’? I mean ‘exasperated’.

Anyway, leave your interpretations in the comments! Lyrics below the fold.

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[Read more…]

Movie Friday: In the Flesh

Since we talked about Republicans and their famous political strategy of demonizing minorities to gain the votes of the ignorant and bigoted, I’ve had this little ditty buzzing around my head:

Now I hope it is quite clear to everyone reading this that I do not consider the Republican party a violent white supremacist fascist group. They are not there yet, and I doubt they ever will be. As long as there can be free press and media in the United States, there will be enough people who can see through the darkest parts of the GOP (irony intentional in the word ‘darkest’, of course).

However, the threat of fascism to the USA will undoubtedly come from that party. For all their hysteria about “socialism” and fetishization of “small government”, it is the Republican party that has been committing the greatest crimes against democracy over the past decade, and who have been wielding government as a cudgel against those who don’t qualify as “real” Americans.

Anyway, I will try to find some happy things to write about next week.

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Movie Friday: No One’s Gonna Love You…

So I’ve been having this stupid fight all week in various places, and facing the same ridiculous accusation at each turn. My objection to Cee-Lo Green’s adaptation of John Lennon’s Imagine is absolutely not me saying that nobody should ever change songs. That’s stupid. Artists are supposed to put their own spin on musical expression – it’s the whole point. There is, however, an ethos among musicians that has a lot to do with artistic integrity. If you are going to use someone else’s artistic creation, you have to either remain faithful to the original in terms of intent, or find a radical new way of presenting the same material.

To wit, Cee-Lo does an absolutely outstanding cover of a tune by Band of Horses:

This is one of my favourite covers of all time, which is saying a lot because I listen to a lot of music. Some say it’s better than the original – I think that’s a tough call to make (unless the original is no good – every cover of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah is better than the original because Cohen, genius that he is, can’t sing for beans). Regardless of which one is better, this cover does not take liberties with lyrics, does not invert the intended expression, doesn’t fuck with the song. Cee-lo fucked with Imagine. In a conversation on Reddit I likened what he did to re-writing Bohemian Rhapsody to give it a happy ending, or adding a verse about how totally acceptable it is to be white to James Brown’s anthemic Say It Loud (I’m Black and Proud). While the intention may be noble, it violates the creator’s expression and is inherently disrespectful, regardless of intent.

Now it is entirely permissible to violate any and all of those things if it is the service of repurposing the work of art to give an entirely new message. One of the most brilliant examples I can think of in recent history is when Alanis Morissette did a cover of My Humps by the Black Eyed Peas: [Read more…]

A ghost of Christmas past

It’s Boxing Day here in Canada, which is a statutory holiday, and absolute MADNESS in the stores. The legend goes that Boxing Day got its start as the day when gifts go back in their boxes and get returned to the store for stuff you actually wanted. In the spirit of returning stuff, here is a golden oldie from my very first blog that I started back in 2004 with a buddy of mine from Greece. In this edition, I take the piss out of Christmas music.

A Porocrom look at Christmas Music

It’s that time of year again… when there’s a crisp chill in the air, and a spring in your step. Where the only force stronger than the love that unites all of mankind is the force urging shoppers to trample each other in order to save 50 cents on a dented DVD player. It’s that magical time of year that we tell children to follow in the example of the baby Jesus and DEMAND another fucking Furby doll from parents too kid-whipped to stop and think what long-term damage mindless commercialism could do to their progeny.

It’s the one time of year that the voices in your head telling you to pull out an AK and spray death all over your local mall are drowned out by the sickening pablum of

Christmas Music

In true Porocrom style, I’m here to take a closer look at the songs that warm our hearts as we empty our pockets. Maybe some of the insanity that accompanies this season can be explained by the drivel that we play ad nauseam year in and out.

[Read more…]