Monday, October 29, 2018

Nardwuar vs Blur

This was already posted in the most recent MTVZ, but we had to re-post here again. Why was every musician from the '90s such a fucking piece of shit? "Well, it was the '90s" is the typical response. That's just how musicians with radio hits acted in those days. (Ironically, bands are way too nice in 2018. We need to find a happy medium. Cooler heads prevail.)

There was already a first Nardwuar vs Blur interview back in 1996, so it's not like the members of Blur weren't already familiar with the way Nardwuar conducts himself. So why in the world would Dave Rowntree want to be such a blatant piece of shit to him? Who the fuck steals Nardwuar's hat? Even fucking Wu-Tang and Odd Future didn't steal Nardwuar's hat. WHO DOES THAT???

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Van Halen's "Me Wise Magic" Turns 22

First was the Roth era; then Van Hagar. Their still ongoing third era is not as easy to quickly define, and it started with VH's reunion apperance at the 1996 VMAs. Since this moment, the story of Van Halen felt no longer fun or cool, but full of anger and complexity. If "Humans Being" was the swan song of the Hagar era, it might be as fair to call "Me Wise Magic" the long overdue swan song of the '77-'84 Roth era. But we hear it as the song that musically launched the frustrating current era, released to radio 22 years ago today on October 22, 1996.

Apparently both of the Roth-reunion songs from late '96 were pushed to active rock radio, but we only remember "Me Wise Magic." It charted at #1 for 6 weeks. We had all but forgotten about it until around Fall 2014. We're not even sure what jogged our memory, but we haven't stopped coming back to it ever since.

"Me Wise Magic" is the sound of Eddie, Alex and Michael distancing themselves from the initial Roth era and planning to kick off an all new, more mature, more musically complex "'90s Roth" era. Eddie is proceeding with caution. "How much longer will it take until he annoys the shit out of me again?" They wanted to tame him, but Diamond Dave cannot be contained.

Infinite timelines. They had already called off any reunion prospects by the time this song was released. "Me Wise Magic" definitely feels like it shouldn't exist, or that we just happen to live in the version of Earth where this really happened.

Despite the circumstances, they sound oddly unified with not a lot of push and pull. A very musically dense and expensive-sounding rock single with genuine hooks, it approaches "labored" without actually sounding that way. Are they having fun? Probably not. But two decades later, it became fun to listen to anyway.

Dave opts to really "go for it" with the classic "Roth screams," but his "low" vocals in the verses are the true Roth highlight. Plus, the first lyric "I know what you're thiknin'" feels lifted from Fred Gwynne in Pet Semetary.

Much of the appeal is definitely contextual, but also largely accidental. "Me Wise Magic" grows bigger than they were able to control and gloriously implodes before our eyes. It wouldn't be right to call it "outsider," but Van Halen built a huge, alluringly unnatural mini-monster.

Monday, October 22, 2018

The Earthbound / Aphex Twin Connection

June 2017: We recieved an email from Walmart telling us that an item on our wishlist was finally available for pre-order. That item was the SNES Classic Mini.

September 2017: We were among the thousands who received yet another email from Walmart telling us they were cancelling all pre-orders because they accidentally announced too early or something.

We had never owned a SNES. By 1993, our family wasn't rich enough to splurge on every Nintendo consul, and so we continued playing regular-ass borrowed or used NES games throughout the mid-90s, eventually graduating from NES straight to N64 around 1998.

Obviously the SNES Classic Mini was intended as a nostalgia purchase for us, but we're the odd types who get nostlagic for content we missed the first time around.

June 2018: Our 2nd attempt at a purchase finally arrives. Our first instinct was to search around for games that felt unfamiliar.

We had never heard about Earthbound, and so we blindly started playing out of curiousity. After 2-3 hours, it seemed like a cute little adventure-based RPG with kids exploring around their neighborhood. Its warped, innocent universe felt so alluring, enhanced by an unusual soundtrack. We immediately fell in love with it and wanted to continue revisiting, but we weren't exactly sure why.

Some internet digging ensued a few hours later. It seems like lots of other people also accidentally stumbled upon Earthbound or revisited it over the past year since it was probably the SNES Classic package's most coveted rarity (with cartridges in the original packaging regularly sold on eBay for upwards of $800).

The game took 5 years to create, and it includes what might have been that era's record holder for the largest amount of coding to fit onto a single Nintendo cartridge.

Finally released a year behind schedule in summer 1995 (only a year before N64 arrived) with a $69.99 price tag, Earthbound had an oddly off-putting TV ad campaign that failed to generate initial excitement. Nintendo did not earn a profit from Earthbound, but the game built a strong enough cult following in subsequent years to make the cut for the "Classic Mini" canon. Ness, the game's chief protagonist, is one of the few who later were in every version of Smash Brothers.

After this discovery, we made the mistake of watching the Angry Videogame Nerd's ultra-spoily Earthbound review. We kinda forgot that AVN existed and hadn't watched much of his reviews since 2009ish. We're guessing it popped up because it was coincidentally posted only a few weeks prior. Approaching 40 minutes, his Earthbound review is 2 or 3 times longer than his other videos and has surprisingly large production value. (It states in the description that the review had been in production from October 2017 until April 2018.)

We did not check out the review to have the game spoiled for us. Rather, we were hoping to casually check out a few hints of what might happen later in the game since we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. We did not expect AVN's video to be one of the most engaging game reviews we've ever seen, more or less consuming our attention by the 5 minute mark. So we kept watching as he explained basically every unexpected plot twist. The experience of quickly absorbing that much left-field content honestly made us feeling like we might have been dreaming. This couldn't really be what happens in this cute little RPG for children, could it?

Should we even get into it? *SPOILER WARNING??* Heavy drug references (with intent to sell), crazy religious cults, time travel via suicide pact, fighting a boss after travelling through a woman's uterus. There's more, but these premises stand out the most. *END OF SPOILER??*

So now we've been on tour for the past 2 months. When we last left off (late August), we were (probably) about 40% of the way through the game. It feels like an eternity ago. Time has been standing still out here.

In true masochistic fashion, we also decided to spend three months' paycheck out of pocket on the cost for an unrelated Masters class that will eventually complete the MLIS program's remaining requirements. The process of writing a research paper while traveling around the world needs the type of focus that requires sensory exclusion, pushing out the clutter, removing oneself from the Twitter clickbait relays. We don't have time for news-feed outrage or celeb gossip right now. Without earbuds and stoner metal, we would have stabbed our eyeballs weeks ago. We finally got to revisit Les Rallizes Denudes for the first time in years. That new Bongripper album works wonders for productivity.

October 2018: On a Sunday afternoon, we eventually made our way to listening through Aphex Twin's Selected Ambient Works: Volume 2 for the first time ever. We consider Aphex Twin to be the most helpful "study music" we've ever heard. Upon first listen, something felt familiar.

We couldn't help noticing SAWv2 was released 6 months before Earthbound in Japan and 15 months before it came to the states.

Earthbound had effectively prepped us for SAWv2. The untitled track on Disc 1 Track 7 (they're all untitled, although fans refer to this one as "Curtains") could have easily been played as Ness traveled through underground tunnels. In an alternate timeline, Disc 2 Track 10 (titled "#22" on Spotify but also known as "Tassels") might have built tension as Ness approaches some bosses later in the game.

Despite our suspicions, a simple Google search does not reveal any crossover between Aphex Twin and Earthbound.

With that speculation aside, "#23" (also creepily known as "White Blur 2") struck us as especially eerie. It begins with a loop that could have accompanied one of Ness's trips through any given underground lair in his extended neighborhood. Otherwise, we picture an outsider's adult perspective of 3rd or 4th graders playing on the swings at recess.

A child's laugh loops ad nauseam. It expressively translates in any language, resembling the reaction a young person would have to an older person's (possibly back-handed or creepy) compliment. Sounding innocent at first, it starts to sound more and more like a nervous reaction as the loop continues (occasionally pitchshifted). This isn't a LOL at a hilarious joke, but a natural subconscious attempt at deflection. The darkness seems to grow as the song progresses, building in intensity only slightly and removing layers just as frequently as they're added. Like Earthbound, the atmosphere surrounds and consumes. This generates a weightiness that may not be realized until physically looking down at the CD player's display and realizing that this is an 11 minute song - one of RDJ's most unheralded epics.

MTVZ (Summer 2018)

And we're back!!!

We just wanted to make sure everyone who checks out the TMK blog is aware that TWO new editions of MTVZ were posted this past summer. That should be enough to keep everyone up to date with a generous fill of MTVZ. A new fresh edition will be arriving in late November or early December.

Here is the most recent MTVZ from September...

And here is an earlier one from July...