Friday, October 26, 2007

Shouting Out Loud at the Bowery

Are my priorities out of whack if I'm more concerned about hearing loss than high cholesterol?

Just got in from seeing Shout Out Louds at Bowery Ballroom. Another wonderful show. I saw them a couple of months ago at Luna Lounge in Williamsburg. It pangs me to say this, but after seeing the same band at both venues during the same tour, I may have to concede that Luna Lounge is a slightly better venue. (But that's only if you assess things in a vacuum, which is a rather pointless exercise. Bowery and its sentimentalities are inseparable.)

I somehow managed to drift, drift and drift some more until I ended up at the very front. So far in front that I conveniently set my jacket on the stage. But, alas, that's not such a great place to be because it's a bit of a sonic dead spot. I'm pretty sure the sound would've been better a few feet back.

I've read several comparisons of Shout Out Louds to The Cure, but that never made any sense to me because the Shouts are much too peppy. But tonight, as they played "Shut Your Eyes," I started to hear "In Between Days." And then it started to feel as if they could launch into "In Between Days" in the middle of any song. So, okay. I understand The Cure references now. But only if we're talking The Cure on Prozac, like on "In Between Days" and "Friday I'm in Love." (The Shouts apparently aren't fond of the comparison, which is understandable. Who wants to be compared to anybody when the aim is to be original? I think they're plenty original. It just so happens that a few of their chords and Adam's achy voice now sometimes make me reminisce about The Cure, which is good thing, really.)

Here's a pretty amusing write-up on the matter from Oh My Rockness:

Shout Out Louds are four lads and one lady that have a similar sound to The Cure, although Shout Out Louds come armed with a brighter perspective on life. Singer Adam Olenius does a spot-on impersonation of Robert Smith at his most happy. And that's really the biggest difference between the two groups (besides, you know, millions and millions of album sales). Shout Out Louds don't reach for that anguished diary drama like The Cure often did.

Instead, this band opts for those fun, catchy cowbells and hyper-melodic choruses (more like "Friday, I'm in Love" maybe). Yee haw! And it's a good thing Olenius doesn't incessantly sing about heartbreak, because Shout Out Louds don't have a whole lot to be sad about these days. I mean, they're on Merge Records after all, and are winning tons of fans left and right as they consistently tour the world. I wouldn't be sad either.

People also like to compare Shout Out Louds to their compatriots, Peter Bjorn and John. But whatever, these guys are The Cure.

Anyhow ... all was great until a severely rhythmless and toneless girl somehow ducked in front of me. Fortunately, she and her slightly less rhythmless and toneless friend left before the encore. And the first song the Shouts played during the encore was the one song I was most looking forward to hearing live: "Hard Rain." (That was the only letdown at the Luna Lounge performance: they didn't play "Hard Rain.")

The set ended with a rambunctious performance of "Very Loud," which was (naturally) very loud. A few of their friends from home came on stage to help make things noisier. One of them wore a nifty t-shirt that had an artsy rendition of the Swedish flag emblazoned across the front. I saw that and got all nostalgic. Wish I could've seen them live in Stockholm.

Oh well. For now, seeing them again next Saturday in Dallas will have to do. Can't wait, especially since my Stockholm cohorts will be with me.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

You're no Friendster of mine.

Someone forwarded an article to me from the NYT. I couldn't tell who it was because I didn't recognize the nondescript e-mail address of the sender. But I did remember that this person had also forwarded an article to me about a month ago. I had started to write a very generic response to the first message ("Thanks. I saw this as well. Not sure which side I agree with. But it's definitely interesting."), but I never sent it because ... well, bad things can happen when you respond blindly. This time, I figured I should try to decipher the identity of this mysterious figure. So I ran a search of the e-mail address on Friendtser. (That's what the kids do these days, no? Oh wait ... I think they're on to Facebook now. I'm such a fogy.) Turns out that this wasn't a mysterious figure at all but a good buddy using a shadowy, unrecognizable e-mail address. (I wonder why he needs one? Freak.)

What's more interesting about this tale of awkward Internet interactions is that, while on Friendster, I noticed that my last serious girlfriend is still listed as a friend of my buddy. This wouldn't have been so troublesome had I not recently discovered on a semi-annual perusal of my account at Friendster that she had de-listed me as a friend.

Why should I care, right? I mean, we really aren't friends anymore. We don't even talk to each other. But rationality rarely plays a prominent role in situations such as this. I was the precipitating force in the break-up. (And I say that not in a righteous manner but as an acknowledgment of my responsibility in the ordeal.) So why am I so troubled that she de-friended me?

It's just always a jolting feeling when things that have always been cease to be. I wonder if this is what Andie felt when Duckie grabbed Iona, kissed her, and exclaimed, "You've been replaced!" (Did I just make a Pretty in Pink reference? Leave me alone. It has a good soundtrack, damn it. Oh, the perils of growing up with three sisters ...)

At the heart of it, I think what's bothering me is that I do wish things were otherwise. I do wish that we were still friends. But I know that, for her sake, we shouldn't (and perhaps can't) be.

Such is life.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

You Go First

Quite the beautiful day for a bike ride. Nice and breezy, but not too windy. Not a cloud in the sky. Upper 70s in late October. Couldn't help but be in a good mood.

After I made it up to the 70s by the Trump buildings, I ventured out onto the pier to sit for a while and stare out at the George Washington Bridge -- my favorite bridge in the city, especially at night. Not sure why, but while sitting there, a strange memory flashed through my mind.

A few months ago, while walking through Grand Central, I saw a kid run across the main concourse and launch into a slide on his belly. I felt as if I were watching a fantasy sequence from a movie. You know, one of those scenes that unfolds in slow motion with music box sounds in the background. And I thought: Wow, how fun would that be?

The times, they are a-changin'

I think it's safe to say that I've undergone a metamorphic change in the past few years. I went through all of high school, college and law school without drinking -- not so much because it was taught as the wrong thing to do but because of a philosophical objection. It's hard enough when I've got all my faculties about me to figure out which experiences are genuinely mine; I didn't want my experiences to be clouded by a foreign influence. Besides, drinking was the cool thing to do, and that made it undesirable by default given my distaste for the mainstream.

All of that is a long-winded setup for this: I just got in from a bike ride, and the first thing I did was reach for a beer in the fridge.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

He's Lost Control

Oh wow. Just saw Control, Anton Corbijn's debut feature film about the unraveling of the life of Ian Curtis -- the woeful lead singer of Joy Division. I haven't written for a while, but after I saw Control, I knew I couldn't go to sleep without writing. It's experiences such as this that make a blog worth keeping.

I've never really been a big Joy Division fan, but I've always known their history by way of obsessing about New Order. So the general subject matter of the movie wasn't foreign to me. And much of the specifics weren't either because I had read three glowing write-ups about the film (here, here and here). Usually, that's a pretty good formula for a letdown. But I was blown away. Far away.

The movie made me feel. It tugged my heartstrings hard every which way. I felt joy. I felt disdain. I felt sympathy. And I felt desolation. I seemingly felt what Ian felt.

The last movie to elicit such a reaction from me was Lost in Translation. It has a certain understated elegance that's bolstered by a sublime synchronization of moods between songs and scenes. And Control shares that convention. Joy Division songs have such a haunting quality that they may as well have been written with the intention of being used as the soundtrack for a movie about Ian's life. When I heard the initial synthesized drone of "Atmosphere" as the closing credits rolled, I felt a sinking feeling within -- a feeling not unlike the sensation of falling experienced while in descent on a roller coaster. A feeling also not unlike that experienced when breaking up. It's as if Joy Division had recorded an elegy for Ian's funeral.

I read that the cast actually performed the music in the concert scenes (in front of audiences of actual Joy Division fans). They sounded quite convincing. Often times, they sounded so good that I'd buy their album if they were to make one. Perhaps it's just that they were performing Joy Division songs with the help of modern production techniques. Maybe that's what the new remastered Joy Division albums will sound like when they're released later this month.

Sam Riley, who played Ian, was particularly impressive in his performance -- both as a musician and as an actor. He rarely had to say anything to communicate a sense of despair. That vacant, forlorn look on his face always said plenty.

Of course, Anton's brilliant direction surely helped. My favorite shot is that of Ian looking at his newborn sitting in her crib. The shot was framed from the perspective of the newborn, such that Ian appears to be behind bars as he looks at his child. That shot mastefully captures the constrictive nature of Ian's existence as he must have seen it.

I do wonder whether I'd have enjoyed the movie as much if I weren't a fan of New Order and, by extension, Joy Division. I suspect that it wouldn't have been as awe-inspiring, but it still would've been engrossing. (Kinda like Lost in Translation. The music elevated the movie from the status of pretty good to that of unforgettable.)

It's not often that a movie makes me feel. And I'm anxious to feel it all again soon.