Party Like It’s 1979

Marvel at these images of Swedish dance bands for the names, for the typography, and, most of all, for the fashion. From now on, when something is awesome, I will exclaim, “This is the Schytts.”

“Stayin’ Alive” May Save Your Life

You can stop making fun of me for enjoying disco. Turns out disco saves lives, you jerks.

The American Heart Association calls for chest compressions to be given at a rate of 100 per minute in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). “Stayin’ Alive” almost perfectly matches that, with 103 beats per minute. […]

In a small study headed by Dr. David Matlock of the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Peoria, listening to “Stayin’ Alive” helped 15 doctors and medical students to perform chest compressions on dummies at the proper speed.

Good thing the Bee Gees didn’t go with one of the earlier suggested titles, like “Buried Alive” or “Saturday Night” (according to VH1 Pop-up Video). Not that it would’ve affected the beat, but I think it would’ve been creepier to hum while doing mouth-to-mouth.

I now want to see research on how awesome Dead or Alive’s “You Spin Me Right Round” is. It doesn’t relieve vertigo or anything, but come on, that song is awesome.

We are going to rock and roll all night. And every day.

Alright, I’m now pretty sure Harmonix has a bug planted in my car. A couple weeks ago, Gen, Jason and I were having a lengthy conversation about what we’d like to see in *Rock Band 2*. As more and more details become public, it sounds like they basically [took every suggestion we made in that discussion and incorporated it into the game]( Here are the bullet points:

* Make Downloadable Content backwards compatible. Harmonix has said that all your existing DLC will be compatible with *Rock Band 2* (I’m not sure, but that also suggests that anything you buy in *Rock Band 2* will be compatible with *Rock Band*). No need to buy “More than a Feeling” twice. Phew.

* Battle of the Bands: Gen suggested a battle of the bands mode where you could assemble your own band and compete against other bands online. It seems Harmonix will hold regular battle of the band contests, though they don’t spell out how it works.

* Online World Tour: finally, thank god. This was the single biggest missing feature from *Rock Band*, so it ought to be at the top of the list. Online quickplay was fun, but lacked much of the charm of world tour mode. They’ve also tweaked the mechanics of world tour to allow you to switch instruments and kick players out of your band, which have been sorely needed.

* Import original *Rock Band* catalog: okay, so this isn’t confirmed, but it’s been rumored in a couple of different places. It would be great if you could somehow play the original songs in *Rock Band 2*. Some have suggested it will all be available as free DLC, while others say that there may be a way to transfer it from your disc to your hard drive. Either way: that would be killer.

Of course, that’s not all that *Rock Band 2* is going to offer. They’ve also redesigned the guitar (*hot*) and drums, added mini-campaigns, a drum trainer program, and 80 new tracks, all of which are master recordings. This has quickly become *my* number one anticipated game of the year.


Now comes the tricky part: with redesigned drums and guitar, do I just buy the game, or do I buy an entirely new bundle? I’m still in need of a separate guitar, and the new drums are *wireless* in addition to being quieter and sturdier—how can I resist? And if I’m going to buy drums, game, and a new guitar, then it should be cheaper to just buy the new bundle.

Short Music Review: Popped! Music Festival

First, let me say that if they have this festival in the future, don’t go. They lied about the student discount, so it cost over thirty bucks to get in. They didn’t tell me until it was too late to get my money back that there’s no re-entry, which is kind of cruel for an event that goes for nine hours and offers only tiny, burned hamburgers, small handfuls of bland fries, and equally unimpressive chicken tenders or hot dogs at more-expensive-than-the-ballpark prices. Plus, events that charge an arm and a leg for entry AND food shouldn’t be so pimped out with advertisers and promo people. It was just all wrong. Don’t go.

As for the music itself: Gogol Bordello was appropriately crazy. The matching dancing/screaming girls were a nice touch. Vampire Weekend was fun enough, but their reception and appearance both made me uncomfortable. Last time I checked, this was an obscure hipster band, but today, they turned out to be preppies surrounded by throngs of adoring college girls screaming, “I love you!” Also, I think I might be old enough to be the lead singer’s father. Overall, I would have just said to nuke the whole festival were it not for the saving grace of Mates of State. I would happily pay money again to see a couple that cute (with a toddler that cute) play charming music for us all. It brought a smile to my crooked lips.

Which came first: the chicken or Iron Man?

Joshua Glenn, writing at the Boston Globe, tries to solve the age-old dilemma: was Black Sabbath’s classic heavy metal song “Iron Man” inspired by the Marvel superhero of the same name? The conclusion is a qualified “yes,” though it suggests that Ted Hughes’s book The Iron Man, upon which the 1999 animated film, The Iron Giant was based. Glenn’s piece is worth a read, however, if for no other reason than to watch the opening theme song to the 1960s Iron Man cartoon. I’ll be walking around the rest of the day, humming “Tony Stark makes you feel/he’s a cool exec with a heart of steel.”

Short Music Review: Mega Ran

For me, nerdcore hip-hop has been a pretty hit-or-miss affair, leaning pretty heavily toward the misses. At least, that was the case before I started reading Hipster, Please! and listening to the associated Radio Free Hipster podcasts. One of the first gems I discovered through this was Mega Ran, a concept album telling the story of Megaman and geek culture itself using game samples. If that weren’t fun and impressive enough, now Random, the artist behind the album, gets to brag that he won’t be getting sued—Capcom turned out to be happy to license it (which again I learn from Z.). Head on over to the CDbaby page and check out some sample tracks.

5 Songs I want in Rock Band

My biggest problem with Rock Band is that it’s almost too much fun. As a result, I’ve started seeing those little rhythm targets in my sleep, and mentally calculating my drum fills on every song that comes onto my iPod. But it’s not enough; I want to play along to all of my favorite songs. And, if nothing else, the world of downloadble content makes it possible that some of these songs could be added in the future.

So, in no particular order:

“All Along the Watchtower” – Jimi Hendrix

A) it’s a classic with a kicking drum line, lyrics by Bob Dylan, and Hendrix on guitar. There is no B.

“I’m Shipping Up to Boston” – Dropkick Murphys

Okay it’s a little short, the lyrics are pretty limited, and you’d probably need some extra instruments for the full effect, but man is that an adrenaline-pumping song.

“A Certain Romance” – Arctic Monkeys

For the opening drum and guitar riffs alone, this song would be worth rocking out to. Barring this, perhaps “Fluorescent Adolescent.”

“The Bleeding Heart Show” – The New Pornographers

There’s already one track by The New Pornographers on the disc; why not add a second one? I can’t help but play air drums when I’m listening to this song anyway. Plus, it’s catchier than the common cold.

“The Beginning of the End” – Guster

Guster’s probably my favorite band, and I’d love to see something from them on the song list. “The Beginning of the End” is an easy song to rock out to, but “The New Underground” would be acceptable, as would their cover of Talking Heads’s “(Nothing But) Flowers.”

Obviously I could go on, with songs from other favorite bands like Jimmy Eat World and Motion City Soundtrack, but the point here is really that I want to be able to play along with any arbitrary song I choose. Harmonix has already come up with a system somewhat like this for their iPod-based game, Phase. I’m sure adapting it to Rock Band would be a non-trival task (that’s programmer-speak for “not gonna happen unless there’s some serious money”), and I can see why they wouldn’t want to do it, unless there was a way of making some cash on it, but I still hope that some day, some day, my music library and I will meet in a virtual rock concert that will shake the house to its foundations (advance apologies to my downstairs neighbor).

Solidarity, baby

It’s been about two weeks since television and feature film writers went on strike, and I’ve been wanting to write something about it since day one. Though I’m not a member of the Writers’ Guild, I do make my living by working with words, and I’m one hundred percent behind the strike: this is what unions are for. And the recent announcement that writers and studios would be resuming formal contract talks on the 26th gives me hope that a resolution is near at hand.

You know, there’s no better illustration of the problems with the Hollywood studio system than this: one of the major reasons that the studios have agreed to resume talks with striking writers is that they’ve now had to suspend production on a film. And not just any film, but Angels and Demons, the forthcoming sequel to The Da Vinci Code, based on Dan Brown’s bestselling novel.

Read More…

Not Snobby, Just Bored

I really love the new “Music Snob” t-shirt on Threadless. It’s just a black shirt with labels featuring a bunch of weird hybrid genres, some of which I would love to listen to, including: “Industrial Soul,” “Children’s Hardcore,” “Speed Funk,” “Acid Classical,” “Dixieland Techno,” and especially “Gangsta Lounge.” At least one genre on the shirt, “Instrumental Hip Hop,” does actually exist (and I listen to it relatively frequently).

When asked what kind of music I like, I have occasionally answered with flippant things such as, “Side projects by bands you’ve never heard of.” This actually got me in trouble at least once, when I answered something along those lines with someone who is way more of a music snob than I (no offense, Caralyn).

I don’t really think I’m a music snob, though. I just crave novelty in music the way I—and most people, I think—crave novelty in other media. Sure, rereading a book is a bit more involved than listening to a song repeatedly, but I still feel like some music stands up to repeated consumption better than other music, and most pop music doesn’t do it for me. (Instrumental hip hop, incidentally, does. It makes really good background music for writing.)

So remember, next time you hear that indie kid complain that he “liked their old stuff better,” don’t feel bitter toward him, but pity him: For he is doomed with a taste for novelty so acute that his thirst for song will forever remain unquenched.

Magic Realism is Making a Comeback

I went to concerts for the last couple nights in a row, and I learned some very interesting things I want to share with you.

You can take a melody everyone knows and make it more danceable by putting a louder beat behind it and shouting over it in Portuguese. Thanks to Bonde Do Role for teaching me this.

If the bar is selling $1 PBR cans, don’t buy yourself a bottle of Corona. Maybe the extra $4 (plus tip) covered the really big lime they gave me.

When dancing, if you can convince yourself that smashing into the people next to you is part of the fun for both you and them, you will actually have more fun. Thanks to the people next to me for teaching me this. Sorry to Caralyn for that strategy leading to a sprained wrist and several bruises.

Make sure you’re looking at the right band’s page on MySpace. And bands: have more friends than “Tom” if you want to look like your MySpace page belongs to a band and not just a geek with a clever handle. I was all excited to see Datarock last night because I saw a poster advertising the show and noting their MySpace page, which took me to awesome songs. I was planning on leaving if the Presets sounded anything like what I thought was their MySpace page, but which turned out to be a band called Preset, which is not my cup of tea. I left the Presets’ page because my Flash blocker hid their music interface from me at first, and their only friend was Tom, so I figured they were probably not a headlining band. As a result, I also continued to call them “Preset” for the rest of the day, even as my very patient friends kept using the right name. Also, I should note that both bands were great.

Somewhat forgotten literary genres can be modified to make funny phrases. Thanks to Mario for claiming that his new philosophy is “magical nihilism,” even if he still working out what the heck that means. If the whole philosophizing thing doesn’t work out, anyway, that would be a pretty good name for an album.