Summertime Blues, News, and Views: The Danger of Simplicity

I have actually heard precious little holiday music this year. In fact, I believe I have heard Adam Sandler’s “Hannukah Song” more than any Christmas songs. I can’t figure it out for the life of me; I live in a very Catholic town, and we’re mere days from the biggest holiday of the year. When I go shopping, the music is still a healthy mix of pop and holiday tunes. Even when I work out, the Christmas CD isn’t always playing. Although I have exchanged most of my gifts for the year (and am quite enthusiastic with what I have received, as well as the reactions of those for whom I bought presents), it still doesn’t seem like there is less than a week before everything is done and overwith.

What I’m feeling more than anything is the terrible doldrums that accompany the list of new releases around this time of year. Most artists either released a new album around Thanksgiving to capitalize upon increased purchases for the holiday season, or they are holding out until a sufficient time after the new year that people will be willing to open their wallets again. While this has given me a wonderful chance to enjoy what I already have and listen to albums that previously got skipped due to avalanches of releases in general, I desperately miss the rush of acquiring something new and unheard. I suppose I could close my eyes and pretend this PFM disc I have isn’t from the ’70s, since I haven’t heard it before and all. Or maybe I’ll just fine somewhere else to get my kicks for the time being.

Either way, it’s all a lot more difficult now that…

Alice In Musicland

This past week, the lovely Bittorrent source,, shut down. This is primarily due to pressure from the Motion Picture Association of America, as Suprnova hosted torrent files so that those using Bittorrent software could connect to one another and download all sorts of things from each other. Movies, music, games, PC software, and television shows were all amassed on the website for easy point and click consumption. While eDonkey and other similar protocols are still a primary focus of groups like the Recording Industry Association of America, Suprnova’s closing was likely seen as a victory for them as well.

Have I ever used Suprnova? Of course I have. It was too simple to ignore. Given my insanely-sized music collection, my primary use of Suprnova was downloading music videos that only get airplay in Europe. But for most, it was the fastest and easiest way to nab a show that you forgot to Tivo, a way to check out a movie that you really didn’t want to spend a ten-spot to see in the theater, and of course, a handy method of fast mp3 snatching. This ease of use is also what made it a grand target, especially by the MPAA, as films are typically very large files which aren’t easily distributed via other methods.

Those who were around during Napster’s heyday, as well as Audiogalaxy, may fondly remember how simple it was to find whatever it was that one wanted. Search by the name of an artist, a song, a title of any type, and there it was. While each of those protocols were frustrating when trying to find something rare and the only person sharing never learned from Sesame Street how to properly share, they were still the best method for acquiring anything close to mainstream. If you wanted Metallica, it was everywhere, and in spades. Subsequent methods for file sharing became increasingly complex, as to circumvent as many legal worries as possible.

Then came Suprnova. Technically a european site, it was mirrored all over the world and nothing was hosted on its server aside from a tiny little file that only contained information to connect people with the same file on their computers to each other. As far as legality goes, the best way to put it is that while Suprnova did not deal drugs, they would give you a ride to the dealer’s house. Regardless of whatever tactics the law team for the MPAA had in mind, the only real crime is that Suprnova knew they were perpetuating file trading and that it was quite likely illegal activity. Rather than attempt to defend themselves, they simply decided to fold.

Could this have been avoided? Honestly, with the way Suprnova was run, it was only a matter of time until they were targeted. All the user needed to do was install the basic Bittorrent program, easily available via links on the site. After that, what did they need to do? Why, scroll through a list and click on a link. They hosted almost anything, clearly classified and marked. Its simplicity did it in; who on earth could turn away from something so blatantly easy to use? Ever see those AOL commercials with the woman ranting about how she wants built-in virus and popup protection, a babysitter for her child, and someone to tuck her in at night? Suprnova did all that and baked a nice ham.

So what’s left, now that Suprnova is gone? All ye pirates, I refuse to enable you. If you found Suprnova, you can find something else. If you’re smart, you won’t spread the word with whatever you find. Remember, kiddies, this stuff is illegal. Would you post all over your blog that you deal drugs? Would you put a big sign in your front yard declaring that you like to rape and murder women? No? Then for the love of all that is pirated, shut your mouths about where you get your files. Your enthusiasm, your bragging, and your big mouths are why Suprnova is no more. Next time, when you find a good thing, don’t ruin it for everyone else.

Band vs. Band

A peek at my random playlist says that today, we will pit Megadeth vs. Metallica.

Obviously, Metallica are the legends, and Megadeth is the afterthought. If you don’t believe that for some reason, you can even ask Dave Mustaine; he’ll tell you the exact same thing. In fact, it’s that mentality that lends a crucial scene to the Metallica documentary Some Kind of Monster. Mustaine screwed up and got the boot; Metallica went on to become legends, and ever since, Mustaine feels stuck with the stigma of being nothing more than someone who threw away the greatest opportunity he had.

But aside from …And Justice For All, Megadeth took far more risks stylistically and branched out musically further than Metallica dared (up until the Bob Rock interference, anyway). Megadeth’s Rust In Peace is widely regarded as quite a masterwork in technical prowess. Mustaine’s lyrics were also much more culturally relevant, ranting about political issues and other subjects reaching much farther than simple gloom and angst. If only drugs weren’t trashing their ability to perform and consistently tearing apart Megadeth’s lineup, they might have had a lot more in them.

Megadeth’s commercial peak was Countdown to Extinction, which hit the airwaves after Metallica exploded with their self-titled disc known as the Black Album. Metallica’s venture into the generic pop-rock realm was clearly a departure from their prior works; meanwhile, Megadeth changed little aside from some production help when they ran full sail into the cash pile. While one will never argue that Metallica willingly gave up their artistic integrity, Megadeth didn’t do so until after the fact, pressured for a follow-up that would sail them parallel to Metallica’s career. Thus, Youthanasia began to reek of commercialism, and the band only spiraled after that point. It was fairly obvious and blatant to the longtime fan, but nothing near Metallica’s decent into pure mainstream blandness with Load and subsequent efforts.

With 2003, Metallica was in shambles. Megadeth was all but dead (and so was Mustaine’s arm after damaging a critical nerve in a terrible, horrific accident… when he fell asleep on it for too long). Metallica regrouped, attempted to recapture their roots, and crapped out St. Anger. The production was awful, the lyrics were ungodly horrible, and quite simply, it wasn’t good. Megadeth was truly no more, but Mustaine healed enough to recruit a few other guys (including ex-guitarist Chris Poland) to release The System Has Failed in 2004. How did it turn out? Well, if nothing else, it sounds just like the olden Megadeth days. One thing cannot be mistaken about Mustaine: he’s a very angry man and is well inspired by his venom.

Today, we have Metallica: whining, sniveling, overgrown children who whimpered about losing sales thanks to online file sharing, never mind the money pit in which they swim daily like Scrooge McDuck. We also have Megadeth, who is basically Dave Mustaine: still bitchy and bitter about his past, capable of releasing a great record when he’s motivated, but bitchy and bitter just the same. Metallica failed miserably at recapturing their heyday and spent aeons working on one of the most unlistenable albums in recent history. Megadeth, while releasing a fantastic album, was once again overlooked, and the whining continues.

Whatever. We don’t need to pit them against each other. We don’t need to make comparisons. We simply need these grown men to grow up and stop crying. Both are legends for very different reasons in very different styles. Both screwed up, and both are floundering in an attempt to go back to a time long since gone. For crying out loud, guys, can you please attempt to be respectable metal heroes? You’re embarrassing yourselves and you’re embarrassing your fans. Thank you very kindly in advance.

File Under

The topic recently came up in conversation, so the exploration of the day is Noise.

Classify “noise” under avant-garde. It’s honestly not all that difficult to spot. When your speakers sound like they are seconds from melting; when there are no recognizable melodies, harmonies, or even rhythms; when vocals rarely follow any set pattern and often exist merely to fill space; when you simply can’t figure out why anyone would buy an album of this stuff, you know you have stumbled over a decent noise band.

Japan remains a primary hotbed of noise, with Aube, The Boredoms and Merzbow being bands that many folks with a fleeting knowledge of avant-garde music find the most recognizable. Of course, “recognizable” is used rather loosely, as the further one dips into noise, the less different the artists become. After all, how many ways are there to combine sounds that would fall into a style of any kind?

But aside from general noise bands, many artists have taken the fine art of noise and crafted it into something still avant-garde, yet much more pleasing to the ears. Outfits like :zoviet*france:, Melt Banana, OOIOO, and the Mars Volta have taken noise and integrated it with everything from punk to industrial to psychedelica to create a more balanced (and marketable) palette. Still, the roots remain in a movement to create sound that is nearly unlistenable, and it’s inspired more than most take the time to fairly recognize.

My Opinion Matters

After thrashing Dave Matthews last week, I would like to take the time to heap praise upon Kidneythieves.

Here’s the fun part: there are actually two bands named Kidneythieves; both released albums before the duo of Free Dominguez and Bruce M. Somers were able to take hold of the name once and for all. So if you find yourself listening to some generic rock with male vocals, you’re not picking up what I’m putting down.

The Kidneythieves of which I speak are an industrial rock, somewhat goth-ish duo in the vein of Stabbing Westward or the darker side of Garbage. Ms. Dominguez’s vocals aren’t in the Amy Lee range, but they’re vicious enough to get the point across. Distinctly sultry, very angry, and playing to the fetish crowd, song titles range from “S M (A Love Song)” from their debut album Trickster to “Spank” on their followup, Zerospace. Taking that particular schtick aside, many of their songs (particularly on the latter album) show incredible depth of songwriting, strength in strong melodies, and simply a gorgeous mesh between feminine vocals and a rough, hard-edged backing track.

Is there anything deep here? Not in the least. There are no pleas to save starving children in foreign countries and they even performed a song for The Bride of Chucky‘s soundtrack. It’s simply good, dark, evil beauty. And they do one hell of a cover of Patsy Cline’s “Crazy,” too.

The Rad Ones

Oh, the holiday season, how they suck away so many of our lovely writers for bigger and more important things. Still, that doesn’t mean you should be missing the Daily Pulse. Matthew Michael nearly wasn’t able to write his, but managed to come through just for the lovely IP readers (and allowed me to not have to cover for him). As well, Alex Lucard keeps crafting up fascinating pieces about weird stuff that I know nothing about, especially when it comes to cooking. Widro, Daniels, Eric Szulczewski… honestly, there’s no reason not to miss reading them every day (unless, of course, they are the ones who miss a day).

I have been meeting more and more MLB fans lately, and with that, I must say that I have actually been following a lot of IP’s Sports Zone watching trades and whatnot. Somehow, I’m finding room in my brain to squeeze in names and teams and stats. If only I could forget the birthdays of the New Kids On the Block, I would have that much more space. At least a little visual contribution in the form of figures help me keep it all just a bit straighter.

And although he needs no hits from little ol’ me, it’s nice to see Joshua Grutman back in rare form. He’s Prince to my Carmen Electra, although it appears I may be easily replaced. Dammit. Don’t forget about me, okay? Don’t let me marry Dave Navarro.


I burned a number of mix CDs for the holidays this year and tossed all of the songs into one giant playlist. Here’s a taste of what I put myself through while writing this column for your joy and amusement:

Hanzel und Gretyl “And We Shall Purify”
Megadeth “Back In the Day”
Self “So Low”
Foreigner “Say You Will”
Type O Negative “Bad Moon Rising (Live)”
Ektomorf “I Know Them”
John Lennon “(Just Like) Starting Over”
Bleak House “Rainbow Warrior”
Chroma Key “Blanket”
Jermaine Stewart “We Don’t Have To Take Our Clothes Off”
ABC “Look of Love”
Slayer “Temptation”
In Flames “Evil In a Closet”
Phil Collins “Take Me Home”
This Mortal Coil “You And Your Sister”
mcchris “DQ Blizzard”
The Gathering “When the Sun Hits”
Billy Joel “You’re Only Human (Second Wind)”

Hopefully, that list confuses everyone as much as it does me.

But now it’s time to run and destroy this playlist, as I’m fiending for some Beastie Boys; my thirst must be quenched or the universe will pay.

Looking down the barrel of a gun,