Tuesday, August 11, 2009

500 Days of Summer and 10 years of Indie

500 Days of Summer

Over the past few years there has grown a subtle to some and overt to others, blurring of the lines between the mainstream and the world ‘under the radar’ or ‘left of the dial.’ Being Independent used to mean more than simply not having a major label or film house backing your project, it meant that everything about the work you were involved in was uniquely different, often challenging, conceptually reaching and more times than not difficult for the mainstream to swallow. Somewhere between the Arcade Fire and Little Miss Sunshine the world or indie became mainstream and we lost a part of the heart and sincerity that it once possessed. There are pros and cons to argue endlessly for the success of many bands, films and the like, but where these standalones once spoke of a beacon of freshness, they have now entered a world of cookie-cutting, over the shoulder looking, big budget houses.

500 Days of Summer is the prime example.

It’s not to say that Summer is a bad movie, it’s actually quite entertaining and enjoyable, it just lacks soul. There’s no depth to the main character Summer in the same way there’s no depth to the story as a whole, which plays out more of a blatant attempt to reach a mass, yet trendy sector. It’s overt in effort and lacking in sincerity. I found myself numerous times wondering when the story would take an interesting turn, when we would see something beyond eye candy and a reason to plug the soundtrack and rarely found much to hold to. The story is cute if nothing else. To me it just seems like (and I know this is ironic) a pop culture blog turned into a romantic comedy.

I’m sure we were due one, but I had hoped it would have taken itself a little more seriously and looked to design a more powerful ending over gimmicks throughout. Zooey is the postergirl for the mainstream hipster movement and she’s every bit of that in the film. Cliché, cute, but lacking. The film alludes to a deeper side, a romance of spirit and soul, a mystery and charm beyond. Sadly, that’s all it does. It uses voice over to emphasis moments that left alone would drag and feel void of emotion. They have to inform us when Summer is being something other than just static.

This, is sadly what the mainstream is doing to the indie movement as a whole. They are taking the bands, the icons, the films, the clothing etc. and cashing in on it. Which is smart, because it’s gonna sell and good because these artists deserve a buck, but still worrisome as it doesn’t appear that it will bode well for the future.

Things are pure up until the moment they are corrupted. Folks will tell you grunge was amazing until your mom heard about it and then Cobain killed himself. Disco was great until it became a marketing punchline more than a cultural experience and then folks just starting dancing to a different tune.

I see the likes of 500 Days of Summer as not so much a celebration of indie in the mainstream, but rather as a bitter reality that it’s days are numbered.

To be frank, I’m kinda excited about it.

As of late, I find myself quite bored with the same ol scenesters and the lack of originality that being pushed. Already the tides are turning and there is a post-indie movement. The sounds, smells and sights have yet to be pinpointed, but it’s there.

I’ll do my best to enjoy to the final days, but with the passing of 09 and the ending of a decade I feel a wind of change to the air. Gone are the days of 80’s pop, 70’s hippies and soon gone are the days of commercial bands like Nickelback and soulless country and autotune rap, but with it will go the freshness of indie rock. What comes next?

Your guess is as good as mine.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

More from the NBA/Music blogger. This time he takes on Country music and for the most part I have to whole heartidly agree with his impressions of modern country music and how bands such as Wilco, MMJ, DBT and the sorts embody more of what country is born to be; from the heart and of the head. I even love how he's not afraid to call some of the what the National does 'country' because it certainly is. In fact a lot of what falls under a broader 'indie' tag is nothing more than what country grew into when those artists intent on music and not pop success created a back to basics but evlolved sound.
See what he has to say: http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/thelife/news/story?id=4375278

I'll get back to my work later, just enjoy finding a blogger I can relate to, despite our vast differences in lifestyle we share a commonality in musical taste and perspective on life.

NBA player blogs (rants) about Indie Rock on ESPN.com

Paul Shirley, pro basketball player for 13 years, unleashes on modern pop music, praising the likes of Passion Pit and scathing the inane awfulness of the Black Eyed Peas. Aside from it being far too predictable and annoying for the average LTME reader, we did feel it worth sharing simply because it reminds us that we are not alone in or dislike of all things wrong with pop and wish the best for the 'real' music makers, even if we don't all play in the NBA. I'd like to take this rant a step further and attack most of the shows on TV (I watched a few minutes of More to Love, the fat people dating show; need I say more?), but no one wants to read that.

ESPN ARTICLE: Put Some More Thought Into Your Pop

On the positive side of all this anger and resentment comes a much needed reminder for me to cover more pop culture topics and even more importantly that FOOTBALL season is almost here.

Thanks for stoppin' by.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Losing Control

On a cloudy, hung over Sunday I decided to delve deep within my inner morose world and viewed the 2007 Anton Corbijn film Control, the story of the rise of post-punk icons Joy Division. Admittedly, I am not a seasoned veteran in the world of Joy Division, but have long been a fan of their predecessors and of course the bands that followed directly and indirectly with their sound and style.

The film itself lives up to the British press praise. However, it does make one feel void and eerily removed. The film grows an anxiety with its viewers that often make relaxing and enjoying it difficult. Perhaps the genius is that Joy Division's music delivers the same. Shot entirely in black and white, the film is as much about the cinematography as the acting. If anything, ironically, it’s the storytelling that lacks in this. There are several shots that I paused and watched again, just brilliant scenes. The acting is superb as well, all new to me, but as is rare in rock films, undoubtedly believable at all times. Where I find myself getting lost was in the focus of lead singer/songwriter Ian Curtis and his troubled marriage.

Ultimately his failure to come to terms with a marriage he could never emotionally or physically commit to coupled with growing anxiety about musical expectations and playing live added with his boozing and pill popping to cope with his frantic fits of epilepsy, lead to his self inflicted death at the young age of 23. Sadly, where many artists die in their prime and rob us of a continued glory, Curtis passed well before we saw the height of what he was capable of becoming.

The film tracks the early days of Curtis spinning albums from Bowie and the essential meeting outside of a Sex Pistols show where he commits to becoming the front man to a band with no prior musical experience beyond his ability to write and love of music (maybe there's hope for me yet!). Soon Joy Division would force their way into the scene dominated by the punk movement and the likes of the Buzzcocks, a constantly referenced rival throughout the film.

Joy Division would pummel their way throughout England, filling the airwaves with dark, stammering tunes of angst, confusion and utter frustration. The film bounces from Curtis's affair, his mental and medical troubles, his solitude and creativity extremely well, by the end, presenting them as a complication much as one entity.

On the eve of departure for their first stint of US shows, Curtis would hang himself in his own kitchen, found by his wife whom he had disgraced and abused for years. As you can well see, Joy Division is not just a clever name for this band.

Well worth the watch for fans of rock docs as well as fans of black and white film.