Category Archives: Music

Louis C.K. is the Radiohead of Comedy.

Okay, bear with me for a bit with this one. I know you’re saying, ‘Louis C.K. and Radiohead are nothing alike, what the hell are you talking about?’ Well, if you’d shut up for a second and let me explain, I’ll tell you what they have in common.  (Besides people who’ve never been in Cliff Claven’s kitchen.)

CAREERS:

Radiohead has arguably been the best band in the world for many moons now, and some sunsets, hurricanes, and late night awkward love-making sessions.

But people forget that they perfected their art over time. Although Radiohead was popular with Pablo Honey and the Bends, it wasn’t until their third album, OK Computer, that they reached the ‘holy shit, these guys must be aliens from the Planet of Melancholy Rock and although they’re depressing the shit out of me, I really like it’ realm of music-making and heart-tugging.

In the last few years, and especially since his totally original, totally amazing FX show Louie, Louis C.K. has been considered the top comedian in the game.

He’s climbed the mountain of jokes and stabbed his funny flag into the frozen carcasses of comedians who were mean to their Sherpas, so said Sherpas said, Let them die of a lack of audience laughter,’ and so they did, just abandoned them in the cold, and then Louis stabbed his funny flag into them. But it took him a couple of years (or, like, twenty) to get to the mountaintop.

I know, it’s a pretty tenuous connection. They both improved over time. Many artists share that similarity. Like, all of them. Anyway, I had to start somewhere.

Let’s just keep going…

SOULS:

Yes. Louis C.K. and Radiohead have the same soul. They share it, like a Brotherhood of Traveling Pants sort of thing.

It’s just when Louis is wearing it, it looks completely different then when Radiohead puts it on. But it’s the same pair of soul-pants.

If you’ll allow me…

From Creep

You float like a feather
In a beautiful world
I wish I was special
You’re so fucking special
But I’m a creep, I’m a weirdo
What the hell am I doing here?
I don’t belong here.

Now take those last two lines: What the hell am I doing here?
I don’t belong here. Now picture Louis C.K. saying those two sentences. Picture his voice. His mannerisms. That look of confusion and disbelief he adopts when delivering a joke.

If you think about it, (but not too hard) it’s pretty much the punchline of 50% of his material. How awkward and out-of-place having a body in this crazy modern world feels. It’s confusing fucking shit being alive. Having desires. Emotions. All that. That’s the essence of Radiohead’s lyrics and Louis C.K’s humor.

The ending of the very first episode of Louie.

For those of you who don’t know how to use a link, Louie is on a date with a younger girl. It’s not going well. She’s not picking up anything he’s putting down — as we used to say in the 90’s. (I’m old)

They’re sitting out by the river and he finally snaps and tells her that he’s just not good on dates, but he’s a good father and that counts for something.  “Why am I trying to impress you? Why don’t you tell me about your goddamn life and try to impress me? Why aren’t you nervous to be with me?”

Louie then goes in for an uncoordinated, clumsy, cringe-inducing, super-caucasoidal (yes, I made that word up) attempt for a kiss only for the young girl to bolt suddenly for a helicopter that is waiting on the banks of the river, with its blades going, ready to lift the poor damsel away from the hideous monster that is Louie.

Of course, Louie (the character and comedian) is not a monster, but that’s how  he sees and portrays himself. For our laughter and enjoyment, of course. Thank you for that — for the record, Louis, if you’re wondering (I know you’re not), I bought your 5$ standup special on the Internet. I also paid $5 Internet bucks to Radiohead for In Rainbows. But that all comes later…

Dissatisfaction. Unease. Eternal Questioning. Modern Malaise. White Guilt. Loneliness. Nervousness. Despair. Vulnerability. Unleashed and Leashed Anger. Longing. Frustration. Confusion.

Louis C.K. and Radiohead specialize in the same themes, but in very different ways. Think about it (just slightly). Thom Yorke’s lyrics are an impressionistic collage of angst. Louie is a series of disconnected/sometimes connected vignettes about a neurotic divorcee who just can’t seem to find any comfort.

What I like about Radiohead, and what I noticed in Louie, is the ability for these artists to make a statement without words, by operating in empty space. The slight nervous ticks and silence that Louie often employs instead of dialogue. Just his looks and letting the awkwardness of a situation play out. Aaron Sorkin he is not. Sometimes a look is more than enough. And Radiohead has the ability to let the music speak when Thom Yorke isn’t. Kid A was a beautiful, fairly minimalist album.  Sometimes saying nothing is saying a lot.

And when it comes to love, they both come up empty.

Louie is constantly encountering situations where lonely people are emotionally intruding upon his personal space, or else he’s chasing women and they’re rejecting him. Either way, Louie never does find love. His universe just doesn’t allow it.

In the two-part episode ‘Louie’s Girlfriend,’ the first episode he’s in a bookstore and falls for a stunning, helpful young worker whom agrees to a date after a brazenly honest speech by Louie.

In the second episode we come to learn she’s a possible alcoholic/mental case who’s possibly pathological/suicidal.

It’s like the opposite of Yin and Yang — where nothing ever works out.

Shit and Slop.

But it’s not any sunnier on Radiohead’s island either. (Ah! That’s another one. They both live on islands. England and Manhattan… Okay, I know. I know. That’s stretching it. )

But think about it, name me a Radiohead song you would put on at a party.

Right. None. Unless it’s a heroin party.

Both Radiohead and Louie are total bummers. Entertaining bummers, but still brilliantly morbid and depressing.

For the life of me, I tried to recall one Radiohead love song and came up short. In fact, I googled RADIOHEAD LOVE SONG (in caps like that because I like to scream at the little hamster that works the Google wheel) to see what comes up and this was one of the top offerings: a good song, but certainly not one I’d play to get laid…

All I need from In Rainbows.

I am a moth
Who just wants to share your light
I’m just an insect
Trying to get out of the night

I only stick with you
Because there are no others

You are all I need.
I’m in the middle of your picture
Lying in the leaves

It’s all wrong
It’s all right
It’s all wrong

Blue Ball City with that one…

My point, however wandering, is that their creative leanings lean the same way, except their different crafts allow them to express the same things in vastly different ways. The frustration and loneliness of the modern world. Not connecting with the culture, other people. Being lost. Hopeless. Struggling with being human and afraid all the time.

And that’s pretty cool. Well, not all that sad stuff, but that you can see how a band and a comedian can ride the same train of thought, but on remarkably different tracks.

And that brings me to my last point.

INTERNET DISTRIBUTION:

Radiohead did it first. In 2007 they put their album In Rainbows on the Internet and said, ‘Pay us what you want. We don’t give a shit. We’re rich.’ (I’m paraphrasing) And guess what? They made plenty of money.

Like I said before, I paid five bucks for it. When you think about it, five bucks is the perfect price for an album… and a Subway 12-inch.

Then last year Louis C.K. filmed a standup special that he sold over the Internet for the magic price of five dolla’ also, and he, too, made plenty of cash.

They’re both sincere artists who care more about their art than the lucre. And completely respect their audience. And are trying to use their success to make their industries better. And have never been in my kitchen.

They do this by opening their souls and finding all the awkward, difficult parts and pulling them out for us to laugh at or be moved by. Both tender and crude.

Shit and Slop.

 

So yeah, if you look at Radiohead and you look at Louis C.K. and you look back at Radiohead, and you do this quickly a few times, back and forth, back and forth, and you squint a little bit, sniff some glue, stand on your head, and really use your imagination, you can see how Louis C.K is the Radiohead of Comedy.

I think so, at least.

Slow Club: “It Doesn’t Have To Be Beautiful”

My new favorite video…

Slow Club: “It Doesn’t Have To Be Beautiful”

The camera starts on a photo of a bleak European city and dips down to a close-up of two young twenty-something pop stars in everyday clothes from the north of England. Rebecca Taylor and Charles Watson of Slow Club. She starts to bang on the drum without looking at it as the camera’s distance increases, never keeping a perfectly centered shot. They sing in unison, complimenting each other like a young couple in love, but sharing lead singer duties like a couple that knows how to make a relationship work and is experienced at getting along.

During the first bridge Rebecca gets up and leaves to the other room, shutting off the lights along the way. The camera spins around to find Charles in a dressed-up white shirt and strapping on a different guitar. He mugs to the camera for a few lyrics. She comes back in a hot black number with a butterfly-like design bedazzled on her chest and a white tutu. The camera stays with her moving through the warehouse until we’re in the recording studio. She sits on the sound board and throws a Vegas Showgirl style headdress on. He puts on a  bow tie and they return to the larger room, singing, ‘It doesn’t always have to be beautiful, unless it’s beautiful!’

They’re now fancied-up and back at their instruments, singing their love-ravaged hearts out. My favorite part is the next bridge, where they’re in front of the dark partition moved into place by the crew and confetti floats down in front of them. After Rebecca sings “It’s awful, it’s gruesome, it’s something, it’s cruel. Forever you will ask God if this happened to you,” she spins and blows glitter into the camera. Her eyelashes are so long and lovely and her face so becoming and angelic it would take the heart of 15 curmudgeons not to be charmed by her.

Charles then shoves the walls away, giving my future wife time to grab a top hat for their exit. They charge towards the camera, down a narrow hallway, laughing and sharing a bottle of champagne, spilling it everywhere. She slides under a metal railing and suddenly they end up in the street, joining two dozen revelers swinging their arms up and down to the music. They make everybody shake their booties like life is nothing but one big dance-off — despite all the lost of love. And isn’t it?

As the song draws to a close, they break free from the group and follow the jib down the English street, a strange, neo-modern building on the left-hand side of the screen, and finish on another close-up, their faces full of mirth and innocence as the picture fades…

It’s hard not to love this band and especially this song and video. They’re young, precious, and full of pop-sensitivity. She is beautiful. The track is catchy. The vibe is love-damaged — any Pisces can relate to it. The director uses a jib to dip around the room like a dizzy hummingbird as they change outfits, locations, and instruments, only using two edits that I can spot. It features dreary British architecture, and at the end an impromptu party in the street. And did I mention she’s beautiful?

The words:
“She said the sleepers on tracks have woken up
It’s the end of the line I guess our luck is up
It was fun while it lasted cause nothing ever does
Love has lost its meaning and it was wasted on us

In the electrical storm you were running wild
You had a death wish you were a child
I came to bearing a lightning bolt
If you came back as the deep sea,
I would come back as the salt

It’s like your head is stuck in a tightening vise
Your ears are deaf to your friends’ advice
Because you know that your heart will never be full
It doesn’t always have to be beautiful
Unless it’s beautiful

Okay leave now leave now if you just can’t stay
Because there’s nothing worse than somebody pretending away
The years of their youth they will never get back
So I’ll go home and practice the traits you said I lacked

Like listening to the thunder of your heart
And how with every other beat we grew further apart
Love is always going to be hard to you both
Never thinking that you’ll ever love anyone else as much

But it’s ugly, it’s ugly now yeah I know
But you never give things enough time to grow
It’s like driving through a carnival
It doesn’t always have to be beautiful
Unless its beautiful

Baby I know it’s over
Tell me (please) wait ‘til you’re sober
Now we know it’s true
The waiting never quite felt like waiting
When the waiting was with you
Baby I know it’s over
Tell me (please) wait ‘til you’re sober
Now we know it’s true
The waiting never quite felt like waiting
When the waiting was with you

So let me tell you tell you a thing or two
About how to survive when there is a me and a you
It’s awful, it’s gruesome, it’s something, it’s cruel
Forever you will ask God if this happened to you

‘Cause I’m always thinking, thinking about where you are
Who you’re with and if your mind is far
From what we do when we’re alone
Love is too much for me and now the wall needs to grow

So when your head stuck in a tightening vise
Your ears are deaf to your friends’ advice
Because you know that your heart will never be full
It doesn’t always have to be beautiful
Unless its beautiful

Baby I know it’s over
Tell me (please) wait ‘til you’re sober
Now we know it’s true
The waiting never quite felt like waiting
When the waiting was with you
Baby I know it’s over
Tell me (please) wait ‘til you’re sober
Now we know it’s true
The waiting never quite felt like waiting
When the waiting was with you”

RIP Jay Reatard: It Ain’t Gonna Save Me Either

RIP Jay Reatard…

]

New Sunset Rubdown Song

New song by my favorite band, Sunset Rubdown. Anything these guys do is golden. Being a diehard SR fan I had to give them a little love on artofstarving… and because I’m completely bored at work — so enjoy.

Coming To At Dawn:

I’m a huge fan of their lyrics so here they are — let’s sing along together. 

obliterate the memory of coming to at dawn
knowing only that the night was someplace that you had gone
and the amber waves on the showboat of laughter
and you cannot change the way you slid down railings in the lobby
and then again down the gangway shortly after 

obliterate the memory of coming to at dawn
knowing only that the night has gone
obliterate the grass stains from the cloth
you were only in the grassy fields to pick a hollyhock
you want to stick it to the stem again
by fusing up the atoms and then believe that it will live again
just from the power of your refusing to believe it cannot happen

obliterate the memory of coming to at dawn
knowing only that the night has gone
obliterate the memory of coming to at dawn
knowing only that the night has gone

obliterate the cherry and the wild berry juices
that you trailed along the hallways of the whorehouse that you used
as a store room for your fox furs and the harvest from the orchard
full of hollyhocks and cherry trees and other flowery images
of course you wanted everything cold
but when you opened up the door everything got old
i said of course you wanted everything cold
but when you opened up the door all the flower petals folded

obliterate your speech so you cannot ask forgiveness
for hanging with the vampires when there was no one to witness
the submission of the skin upon your neck
all they wanted was a dance you gave your peace of mind instead
there is a tower with a winding set of stairs
you will descend into the absolute light
into the absoluteness of light
and come aware
and become aware 

Little Birds

The sidewalk unfolds in front of me like a long, hot, charred dream — one you wake from sweaty and nervous, the birds chirping so loudly you grab a little hammer and bash their little brains in. Every step I take is another realization of all the mistakes I’ve made, smeared down in the asphalt like a piece of chewed-up Trident gum. I wanted to be Charles Dickens but I’m more like Charles Manson. The smokers stand outside on the patio watching me and my midnight, somnolent grazing. The bite-sized birds run in fear. I feed on their little hearts. The smokers shake their heads when I shake my fists.

One hundred degrees at midnight but I’m dressed in a jacket to prevent the flapping wings in my chest from breaking through. Can you hear me breathing when I’m kneeling before the pew and the priest’s hand warms my crown? Pieces of straw form a nest where my heart used to be. Can you see me dancing in the middle of the street where the cars form a conga line on my back?

The sky above and Earth below traps me in the middle.
Every word I ever spoke spirals and becomes a riddle.

The sidewalk turns vertical and I slide down to the abyss that sits at the bottom of this city. Every abuse and excess is contained here and I search for you knowing the day you cracked the shell was the day that the sky turned various colors of Easter eggs. There are scented candles burning here. Rotten butter. Gasoline. Durian. Everywhere I walk I’m faced with mirrors and in every mirror there is a smaller and smaller version of myself. Eventually I’m only a stone’s height. Behind that last mirror is a towering bird and I look up in time to see its giant beak coming down on me. Peck. Peck. Peck. Blood. Concussion. Blood.

Peck.

I wake up in my bed sweaty and nervous. The day breaks outside like an American-made car approaching 200,000 miles. The alarm clock turns on and a generic radio song fills the room like ether. A tune you’d recognize even in the next life. I reach over and touch the emptiness of this one. My cold satin coffin bed knows nothing else. Outside on the bough of a pink flowering dogwood tree a little bird lifts its legs up and down like a child needing to pee. It looks at me with its little yellow eyes peering through my soul.

Jesus, is that you?

___________________________________

Inspired by the song LITTLE BIRDS by Neutral Milk Hotel

Little Birds

Coachella… 10 Years Later

This year was my third Coachella attendance. I went to the first one ever in 1999, when people worried it would turn into a repeat of the disastrous Woodstock concert the summer before, when Limp Bizket incited a riot somehow. I remember seeing the desert stars, the mountain backdrop behind the stage, the sun, the wafting smell of patchouli, the polo field grass; I remember wasting a few hours in the beer garden, camping out by a reservoir in 110 degree heat, and how awesome that show was! Ten years later, ten years older, and it’s just not the same. There wasn’t much of anything memorable this year except my feeling that Coachella might be too much of an institution to be interesting anymore.

I got there a little late for my favorite band, Okkervil River’s set. Wil Sheff seemed disturbingly frantic onstage and although it was great hearing some of my favorite songs live, it was uncomfortable watching him flail about and fall down and have the lackadaisical desert crowd chew on their hands while he gave it all the grit he had.

For Real:

I want to know this time
if you’re really finally mine. I need to know that you’re not lying,
and so I want to see you tried.
And I don’t want to hear you say it shouldn’t really be this way,
because I like this way just fine.

The lineup wasn’t that solid this year, but that’s okay, I’ll just go and enjoy the scene I thought. But then what’s a scene without a soul? Was it just the music this year? Or have we as a generation — this place in time, 2009, with the economy deflating and with nothing to rail against left in office, the cultural sinkhole this country has become — misplaced our soul?

Sure, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs were great! Karen O has a great stage presence with her Mick Jagger strut and beaming countenance, yet my soul was unmoved. Not like the year The Pixies and then Radiohead captivated me for three straight hours and I nearly lost my mind in the music. Or Beck coming out dancing to his Midnight Vulture era white boy funk while the stars spun kaleidoscopic overhead. Maybe it’s not the concertgoers at large that are too blame. Maybe it’s just this concertgoer?

A lot has happened to me and the world since those less-than-heady days of 1999, including but not limited to: graduating college, George Bush, romances, the death of romances, Tsunamis, Katrina, my career, wars, Barack Obama, and on and on… yet Coachella feels, disappointingly, unchanged. Two outdoor stages, three tents, a bunch of abstract sculptures. Kids taking drugs. Parents taking babies. Women in bikini. Men in straw hats and torn t-shirts. The constant parade of humanity up and down the polo field reminded me that we’re all connected, we’re all the same, in this small world of flesh and pain, and damn that’s annoying!

I bought new shoes for the occasion and they sure don’t look new anymore. All beer-spilt and mud-crusted. What was I thinking? I would have been better off wearing old rags. Speaking of which, while I was taking a break sitting under a tent in the shade, a disheveled lady — missing teeth, actual dirt stuck to her cheek, armpit-stained t-shirt — asked me if I had spare money for her to get something to eat. This was not some druggie having a bad trip. This was a real-live homeless chick! Inside Coachella! How the f did she get in? I contemplated giving her ten bucks just to find out. That’s besides the point, but at the same time is my point exactly, what happened to Coachella?

I’m 33 years old and a shinning example of a man too loose at his hinges to ever make a proper door. So don’t walk through me!

I’m 33 years and 60 days old and a perfect blueprint of a man without a rudder. So don’t try steering me to your paradise beaches and sea-shelled coves.

After watching Flavor of Love for two seasons it was hard to go and rock out to Public Enemy. I left before hearing one beat. I have to wonder how much power they’re fighting these days? Is that fair of me? To judge a band by the exploits of their flamboyant hypeman? Probably not…

I left before hearing one forlorn lyric from Robert Smith. The sun had barely set behind the mountains and I was already heading for the car, of which I had forgotten the location and whereabouts, making the exit evermore painful. I put another Coachella behind me in the dust without much fanfare or even looking back.

The night air was kinetic with strobe lights and buzzing gnats and the dusty road swirled around me and I couldn’t shake the feeling that this was the end of an era. The spectacle felt so unspectacular. A hullabaloo without much balooing.

Will I ever return to Coachella? Maybe. If they book my favorite bands next time, and if the situation calls for it. Ah, who the hell am I kidding? It’s Coachella, I’ll probably be back, but I’m not going to buy new shoes next time.

One more Okkervil River lyric for the road…

A girl In Port:

Let fall your soft and swaying skirt
Let fall your shoes, let fall your shirt
I’m not the lady-killing sort
enough to hurt a girl in port

Neko Case’s New Song…

If you don’t know Neko Case by now you really have been missing out. Instead of rubbing your face in it though, I’ll just let you catch up with her new song: People Got A Lotta Nerve.

People Got A Lotta Nerve – Neko Case

And in addition to sharing the blessing which is the cool, velvety voice of Miss Case, each blog posting of this song helps raise money for poor, disadvantaged puppies and kitties through the Best Friends Animals Society charity. So it’s a two-fer, you can’t go wrong here.

Hope you enjoy it, dear artofstarvers… get your listen on!