Some Songs Considered #003 – Titus Andronicus, Son Lux, Kurt Cobain, Röyksopp and Robyn
Welcome to Some Songs Considered, a column that recognizes they can’t all be zingers and truly appreciates the ones that are.
Titus Andronicus – “Dimed Out”
by Charles Bramesco
The crappy thing about buying weed is that there’s never as much of it as you think there’ll be. When you’re at that station in life where all you can afford is the occasional loose bag, actually receiving the product is the most disheartening thing; surely, an eighth feels like more than this. There’s got to be more to a quarter. You look at your forlorn little Zip-Loc and think to yourself, “I could’ve sworn that twenty bucks would’ve gotten me more.” But you know that the scale doesn’t lie, and you don’t wanna make a thing of it, so you keep your lip zipped and go home.
Naturally, Patrick Stickles and the rest of New Jersey punk squadron Titus Andronicus seize on this menial little disappointment and turn it into a sweeping metaphor for all of life’s frustrations in “Dimed Out,” the lead single from their epic upcoming LP The Most Lamentable Tragedy. He opens with the proud howl that “I used to like walking with my eyes down,” a transmission from a self-assured future to a past defined by self-doubt. “Dimed Out” is a punk-rock pep talk, an unexpectedly boisterously affirmation from the guys who once chanted “you will always be a loser” like a shithead mantra. Stickles rattles off expressions of frustration so universal they sound like they were jotted in the margins of a marble composition notebook, culminating in a declaration simultaneously bold and stoopid: “Don’t wanna buy an ounce – for me, the right amount is the entire pound.”
That’s the brilliance of “Dimed Out”, beyond the surging guitars that just won’t quit. Stickles has a way of projecting the familiar and banal onto emotions twelve stories high, sussing out the divine agony and ecstasy of dealing with a dickhead boss (he brilliantly juxtaposes the sacred and profane when snarling, “I bow down not to masters, gods, nor managers”) or garden-variety fuckboys (“My challengers are talentless imbeciles” bests any put-down that the rap game has brought 2015 thus far). Just when it sounds like Stickles has reached critical mass of teen angst, like his body might explode if he has to suffer one more day of this petty indignity, he drops the payload: “I don’t listen to parents or priests or principals.” He targets the holy trinity of youthful authority figures and walks away not only unscathed, but plated in steel. He’s a soldier on the front lines of the unending war between keeping it real and selling out (in a grander existential sense, that is, though he does touch on the musical-economic sense as well with a well-placed crack about residuals).
When you’re sixteen and living in a town where nobody gets it, man, you can feel yourself fighting that same war, with your dimebag as the first and only line of defense. And when that shakes out a little short, Stickles and Titus Andronicus have your back. “Dimed Out” has the size and power of a tank. It empowers freedom fighters and leads them to a giggly, red-eyed victory.
Son Lux – “Change Is Everything”
by Bryce Rudow
Ryan Lott, aka Son Lux, has had a career worth reading about. He originally made his bones composing music for commercials, he’s done arrangements for major feature films (e.g. Looper with JGL), he’s performed at Carnegie Hall and held weeklong residencies with dance companies, and he’s worked with everyone from Sufjan to Lorde.
However, all that is worth reading about only after you’ve seen this music video for his new song, “Change Is Everything.” It’s the kind of stop-motion artistry that makes even the coolest stuff on Vine look like crap.
NPR wrote a great article on the making of the video, which you can skip reading by watching this video instead:
“I Love How Kurt Cobain Made Fun of People”
by Julian Kimble
Watching Brett Morgen’s heavily-anticipated Kurt Cobain documentary, Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck, on HBO earlier this week sent me down a rabbit hole of Nirvana music. Montage of Heck didn’t share that much new information about Cobain — yes, he was very talented; yes, he was very angry; yes, he was very sensitive. It’s been lauded, however, because it was able to flesh out the details of his life and humanize him in a new fashion.
One thing that’s always fascinated me about Nirvana in general is how people mindlessly flocked to even their most antagonistic music. Cobain’s sensitivity made him quite observant, so, naturally, he took notice. I’ve always loved “In Bloom” because, with Middle America in his crosshairs, Cobain made a popular song that ridiculed trend whores that the trend whores could sing right along with.
Like “Milk It,” “Lithium,” “Heart-Shaped Box,” and other Nirvana classics, “In Bloom” features sedated verses which crescendo into boisterous choruses. On the hook, Cobain smears the worst kind of “fans”:
He’s the one who likes all our pretty songs
And he likes to sing along
And he likes to shoot his gun
But he knows not what it means
The second video (yeah, there are two), which is set up like a classic variety show, features Kurt, Krist, and Dave dressed up like nice, wholesome boys. Cobain even dons Buddy Holly-esque glasses to complete the look. But the best scenes are the clips of them destroying the set while wearing dresses, long before Young Thug divided Twitter by doing the latter. (Ironically, the second video was released the same year Thugger was born.) Still, the frustration in Cobain’s voice and the distorted scream of his guitar solo translate better during live performances.
Nirvana didn’t make “grunge” or “white music,” they made great music — the kind that transcends all of that categorical bullshit. I love “In Bloom” because it’s always reminded me of people who butcher song lyrics, or sing them proudly, remarkably oblivious to the fact that they’re the target of the artist’s ire. Think yuppie bros at a Dead Prez concert, circa 2000.
Anyway, the fact that I can relate to some insight from Kurt Cobain — a man 20 years my senior who had a vastly different upbringing — is a testament to Nirvana’s reach. It’s why parties populated by people of varying shades of brown lose their minds when perceptive DJs drop one of my least favorite Nirvana songs, “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”
For Kurt Cobain to be YT, that privileged and then to make music that reached the black kids in the hoods of NYC is unreal.
— FLEEKNIK (@Judnikki) May 5, 2015
I’m not from New York, but I agree. That’s why he’s a legend in my eyes.
Röyksopp and Robyn – “The Girl and the Robot”
by Joe Corbett
I saw this performed live at Wolf Trap National Park in Vienna, Virginia. The experience confirmed my suspicion that Röyksopp and Robyn are not from this world and possibly not from this dimension.
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