Monthly Archives: May 2011

Lo-Fi Friday #5: Smith Westerns transcript

One of my favourite new bands in this sort of milieu (and I do listen to things other than rap music, but it’s just tended to be 10+ years old recently) is Smith Westerns. Their narrative on a meta level is pretty familiar: their first album sounded lo-fi, they decided they didn’t want to be lo-fi any more once they could afford it, and they made a second album that’s much clearer. They still have a lot of tropes of that sort of music and I think it’s fair to put even that second album (Dye It Blonde) on the fringes of lo-fi beside (and slightly closer to the centre than) Surfer Blood. But where the Surfy Bloods reconstitute Generation X-era MTV rock, Smith Westerns funnel T-Rex and even Mott The Hoople through that recognisable disruption of clarity. I sent them these questions for AU, but they weren’t back in time to be used for the piece.

Smith Westerns – Still New

So you have an almost decadent kind of sound at times, but it comes through that dreamy reverb kinda lo-fi filter. Was that a decision you made, to mix those aesthetics?

I don’t think it’s really lo-fi at all. The rest of the band and I feel that Dye It Blonde is very high gloss both in comparison to our debut record and to many records from various other new bands. I think the guitars, back up vocals, and layered synths as well as other instruments make the sound very indulgent and the reverb adds a depth of dreaminess that prevents the songs from sounding too aggressive.

What do you think about being talked about in glam terms because of the guitar riffs or whatever – do you think having the word ‘glam’ written about you might misdirect people a little?

I mean, at this point, I prefer glam used over garage; but both terms I think miss the mark when describing our sound. I think that at certain points in songs some glam influence is revealed but then just as quickly a different influence rears its head. Kinda like the way in the song Only One sounds part Cosmic Dancer [by T-Rex] and part Come As You Are [by Nirvana].

Are you part of a nostalgia movement? You’ve played with people like Girls and even Nobunny who might be considered part of one.

I don’t think I’ve lived life long enough to be nostalgic about anything. The thing I feel most nostalgic about is touring last year with GIRLS and MGMT. Oh, and recording the record. We’ve played with a lot of bands. GIRLS are our really good friends and I respect them on multiple levels and fit musically together on a bunch of different levels but we’re not really nostalgic. We don’t want to be a revivalist band or be labeled as that.

What’s the main difference with coming from Chicago and doing what you do rather than Brooklyn or California or wherever?

I think for us it was the isolation of having no real musical theme coming from Chicago. I think a lot of other cities have a certain aesthetic or sound that kinda permeates all the bands but in Chicago we were left to develop our own thing. Also being underage in Chicago prevented us from mingling with other Chicago bands other than maybe playing an instore or house party together with them.

You’re less young compared to other bands than you were when people started talking about you. Is it a relief that that’s not The Thing to talk about any more?

Yeah, I think that people are starting to get over our age but it’s still brought up in a lot of interviews, reviews, and features. So it really hasn’t disappeared. We’re still younger than most bands we’re compared to or play with but yeah it’s nice not having to hear “they’re good for their age” as much.

What’s something about your music that people don’t notice enough?

I think the layering and the lyrics.

Do you actually still like Oasis, and if so are you Team Noel or Team Liam?

What do you mean? Of course I still like Oasis, never really stopped. I’m still a huge fan and would never pick sides. United we stand, Divided we fall.

What was your favourite Nobunny song to play?

That was a long time ago, back in 2008/2009. Can’t really remember.

When are you coming to play Ireland?

I hope soon, Cameron and I are half Irish actually so all the more incentive.

Them’s The Vagaries five episodes in.

Five episodes into Them’s The Vagaries, the popular podcast I do with Sean McTiernan. Dudes who wrote for the NME before it got shit listen to this podcast, and so should you. It is a podcast about music and pop culture “from two people of no real consequence/significance/importance”.

Subscribe on iTunes and ‘review’ it positively. I don’t use iTunes so I don’t know what that is really, but do it anyway. Sean promises a prize for the best review, which seems like bribery, but we’re all one big family here.

Like the page on Facebook. Going all out with this shit. Sean promises prizes here too, both Yeasayer’s newest album and Stevie Wonder’s Innervisions.

Repost on your blogs/microblogs/social networking profiles!

Also record 2 minute things and send them to seanmctiernan X gmail.com if you want to be in the interlude – advertise your blog or podcast or say something funny, or whatever.

ARCHIVES

Episode 5: The Curse Of The Mummy’s Tomb – Macho Man, Kreayshawn, violent films, how to recommend stuff to people, pogs, etc.

Episode 4: Say Cheese And Die! – RZA’s movie, professional wrestling, idiots dancing to Shellac, De La Soul, Animal Collective, etc.

Episode 3: Monster Blood – Odd Future (the week Goblin came out and thus the last time all conversation centred around Tyler), the Prince Disagreement, The Beatles, Westwood, drops on rap mixtapes, etc.

Episode 2: Stay Out Of The Basement – covers of rap songs both good (jazz trio Odd Future) and bad (steampunk), Obama burning Trump, the freemasons, etc.

Episode 1: Welcome To The Dead House – Earl Sweatshirt being found, Nardwuar being great, the Led Zeppelin Disagreement, etc.

Hip Hop Monday #9: Too fucking ignorant to do some research.

Tyler, the Creator – Goblin

I suppose we’d better do something to mark the occasion, right? Let’s read some Tyler casually.

So Goblin starts with an almost seven-minute-long, partly spoken word track that takes the form of a dialogue between Tyler, the Creator and his therapist, who we’ve already encountered on Bastard. The last track on Bastard, Inglorious, ends with the line “D-lo where’s the trigger, I’ll let this bullet play hero”. It’s ambiguous, but, presuming we can play God and pick which parts of Tyler’s lyrics are ‘play’ and which are canon narrative, we can take it that the Last Time On Odd Future 30 second round-up before Goblin starts features Tyler shooting someone, or himself. Enter therapist.

You wouldn’t do that Tyler, kill yourself, or anyone. You don’t even have the balls to begin with. What you need is… me. I just want to talk to you. It’s been a while since your last session. So…tell me what’s been going

So it didn’t happen. But also, what’s this? The therapist that was once the platonic ideal of a school-prescribed therapist for Tyler to bounce off has become awfully familiar. He still wants some confessions though. Tyler obviously obliges, as it’s his album and he needs to start rapping sometime. Square brackets for the therapist.

I’m not a fucking role model
[I know this]
I’m a 19 year old fucking emotional coaster with pipe dreams

Tyler noticed what you noticed from those 10,000 thinkpieces. People give a shit what he says, and it’s weird.

So Kanye tweeted telling people he’s bumping all of my shit
These motherfuckers think I’m supposed to live up to something?
Shit, I’m still jacking off and proceeding my life careless
And getting more pussy cos I tell bitches I’m Wood Harris (as you should)
LA to Paris, I’m getting these weird stares, from skate parks and airports It’s all in the air, it’s weird

Oh great, a rap album about being famous. Wait, hold on, that’s what every rap album is about (excluding ones about how weird it is that there’s a pyramid with an eye on the dollar bill). Wood Harris played Avon Barksdale in edgy, underground cop procedural The Wire. They do look similar. There is no sexual violence in it, so you can probably watch it without having to commit to writing an essay-length thinkpiece about whether or not David Simon is a threat to mankind.

Yonkers dropped and left their craniums mind-fucked.

It did. Nearly 8.5 million views on YouTube, plus OF went from something for skater kids and nerdy rap bloggers to something for the front cover of the Irish Times and 40% of all Tumblr bandwidth indefinitely. Intergalactic punk rock hip hop. Also, Goblin is the first song on the album, Yonkers is next. So you’ve just been meta-mindfucked.

Now competition missing like that nigga my mom fucked.
He still hasn’t called me yet
[It’s not your fault]
That’s a whole fucking different argument
Shit, I got over it

Inglorious, that last track on Bastard, is entirely, confessionally and almost hammily about succeeding without a father. These lines are part of the framework for Goblin – he’s not Bastard Tyler any more.

And a couple bucks in my pocket
So now I could go buy a couple Hot Pockets
So grandma can stop cooking those nasty ass collard greens

Tyler is making enough money to buy microwaveable meat-and-cheese pasties instead of eating the vegetables his granny cooks, which is a pretty “children who’s fucked up in they mental” way to frame the by now near-formal ‘I give my ma money’ stuff.

Pressures on me like this top hat
Bastard intro, how the fuck I’m gonna top that?

Bastard, from Bastard, is also an eponymous intro and a dialogue between Tyler and his therapist. It’s piano – actual piano played by Tyler, not samples – and him talking. It introduces not only Bastard as a concept album (“Fuck a deal, I just want my father’s email/So I can tell him how much I fucking hate him in detail”) but also, as the first song on the first actual Tyler album, introduces Tyler, the Creator as a persona, with the pretty deadly and (calling it) NOW LEGENDARY opening line “This is what the devil plays before he goes to sleep.” Oh, by the way, the therapist introduces himself as Dr. TC. Which is important.

Okay you guys caught me
I’m not a fucking rapist, or a serial killer, I lied
[You know, you just wanted attention]
I tried too hard huh?
[no]

Wait, what?!

Made a couple thou and I just don’t know what to buy yet
Supreme shit is free and I don’t drink so fuck a wine set
Nigga fuck a mindset, my brain is an obscenity
I’m fucked in the head, I lost my mind with my virginity

Tyler’s mental, he mightn’t have made that clear yet.

Oh, that’s a triple 3-6, isn’t he a devil worshipper?
Cos I’m too fucking ignorant to do some research

The “do some research” line is something Tyler tends to resort to when people in interviews trying to find roundabout ways to ask him if he is pro-rape and anti-gay. If the Drone interview isn’t enough for you in that regard, I wish I could find a non-condescending way of suggesting that there are loads of other rap groups or even non-rap musical outfits that you might enjoy spending your time with. It is fully your right to be uncomfortable with the lyrical content if you want to be, but you’re unlikely to convert me at this point.

I’m the star of the a group, so no one else gets the respect they deserve cos of you

No-one even told Mike G where Earl was before the Complex story even though they knew. Proportional to effort (sup Taco) he is the most slept-on member. But yeah it must be weird to get way more famous than your friends and have your own Adult Swim serial killer/rapist fantasies projected onto their weed raps. I wonder if Domo Genesis has ever had an interviewer ask him if he’s horrorcore?

[Bastard was good though]
What you think I recorded for?
To have a bunch of critics call my shit a bunch of horrorcore?
Like I didn’t make Parade or Inglorious cos I’m too fuckin’ scared to tell my friends the way I really fucking feel?

Bastard was good. On Red Flame, Lil B says that if you don’t have Blue Flame, “get that to understand this”. He’s full of shit because there is absolutely no reason why you would need to have Blue Flame to understand Red Flame other than getting that the joke songs are jokes, but if you’re trying to unpack Goblin at any intellectual level at all you’re going to want to have listened to some previous album tracks so you realise there’s more to Tyler than Wolf Haley saying disgusting shit.

Of course they only listen to lyrics about me pissing off
In the tombs of Lara Croft
I’m getting pissed off

“Go ahead admit it faggot, this shit is tighter than butt rape/That involve ballpark franks and silver duct tape.” Understandable, maybe, that people talk about the weirder shit more than the more normal stuff, even if both are good.

Messageboards are on my dick, I need a pissing waiver
Lemme bust one in they mouth, i know they feel the flavor

Get off his dick, he needs to piss, dude.

Can’t they just be happy for me, like, a kid with nothing living out his dreams
Why they gotta fucking hate?

“Lebron ain’t make it to the NBA from hating/He made it from dedication, ambition and motivation.” Meek Mill. Take fucking note, hatin’ ass cowards. Although fuck the concept of ‘haters’ as a shield against criticism. Sorry Ty.

I don’t even skate anymore, I’m too fucking busy
I can barely kick flip now

When Tyler refers to people ‘from Odd Future’ who are very clearly never anywhere near the studio, he’s talking about the skaters. Here’s some of them plus Tyler at the Berrics doing tricks. Takes him most of the video to do anything, but he does eventually do a not particularly steezy switch 50-50 right at the end, so keep watching.

[Why’s that? No free time?]
The fuck you mean I’m not talented?
You see the shit I’ve been doing?
[I have. You’re a great person.]
I mean I’m not that good of a rapper but, on the whole I’m pretty… cool, right?

This is spoken word. Shakespeare tells the truth when he rhymes, Tyler tells the truth when he doesn’t. Or maybe. Well, no. But it sounds more self-doubty when he does it like this.

People excited think this shit is so tight
Getting co-signs from rappers i dont even like

POSSIBLE P DIDDY DISS???????

What the fuck you want me to do?
Start to gobble his Mike
Start Jackson em off, till his cap blasting off
Fuck that

Sleek Michael Jackson reference.

These niggas aint fuckin with me
Cos I dont listen to the Immortal Tech of the nique
And all this underground bullshit that’s never gone peak
On the Billboard Top 20 and Jam of the Week

Immortal Technique is a dusty loop New York conscious rapper that of the type that tends to take themselves and social issues very seriously and do third person rappers about unnamed male protagonists who get tired of life on the streets, and call themselves things like Immortal Technique. Real Hip Hop, is what Dead Prez would call it, I think. And it won’t stop until we get the po-po off the block.

I’d rather listen to Badu and Pusha the T
and Waka Flocka Flame instead of that real hip hop that’s full of the shit

Tyler lists three dissimilar artists he enjoys more than Real Hip Hop. Pusha T, who rapped over Neptunes beats with the Clipse and now carries Kanye’s pussy and religion, is an obvious influence and part of his much-tweeted ‘top five’. Erykah Badu is the sexiest shit ever, and Waka Flocka Flame is the least sexy shit and possibly the least conscious rap ever to exist.

But they wanna critique
Everything that we, Wolf Gang, has ever released
But they don’t get it
[They don’t. It’s not made for them.]
Cos it’s not made for them
The nigga that’s in the mirror rapping, it’s made for him
But they do not have the mindset that is same as him
I’m not weird, you’re just a faggot, shame on him

It’s nice to get a picture of what the artist considers the Ideal Reader. A lame dude rapping in the mirror, not critics or anyone who likes Immortal Technique. Obviously releasing music, especially if its stated ambition is to reach the Billboard Top 20, entails people other than the person in your mind listening to it, but knowing who you’re supposed to be when you put in headphones is another part of the text, and kind of fun.

[It is, but Tyler, you’re going to have to cut down on that faggot word, that’s very… that’s a bad…]

Bad word.

I’m not homophobic

Wait what?!

[I don’t think you are but…]
Faggot

Oh man therapist you took the bait so hard there.

[Right, well, since the last time, you’ve…]
What the fuck is a good performance?
I get on stage and have as much fun as I can
[You seem like you do. Your Twitter posts are just… I mean it’s really random. And it’s AD…]
Who doesn’t have ADD?

So Odd Future still do most (if not all, I haven’t been to any and youtubing every single one would be too much effort) of their shows with the vocals still on the backing track and they sacrifice quality in terms of eyes-closed-in-a-vacuum live show for stage-diving and gang chants. Tyler watched Kanye at Coachella and got momentarily introspective about how he’s not doing a proper concert, but resolved not to care. And he’s got ADD! If we can’t agree on anything else, I think we, and everyone who has ever written an article of note on Odd Future, can agree that Tyler has ADD.

Well… I don’t.

Some day in the future when Odd Future’s on the Leaving Cert course people are going to give due respect to the depth of the persona Tyler has created. People I’ve talked to about it are divided on whether or not stuff outside the albums count as ‘text’ when it comes to figuring out what the fuck is going on with Tyler, but I think it does. The Twitter, the skit videos, certain interviews, everything. It’s not just that he’s playing a character in specific songs, which has been one of the defenses for the rape-references – and he does play characters in specific songs – but the whole thing is a meta-character too. The only Tyler interview from before Odd Future became a thing is the piece on the performance school for teenagers who don’t succeed in normal schools where the teachers say he is on another level and the next Andre 3000. I can’t find it right now, but it does exist. The character, as I see it, is fluid – he slips in and out, or is ‘in character’ varying amounts at various times – but very little of what OF does isn’t calculated by Tyler in at least a general vibe sort of way.

I wish Thebe was here.

So it’s pronounced Thuh-bay. Also FREE EARL THAT’S THE FUCKING SHIT AND IF YOU DISAGREE SUCK A COUPLE PIMPLE COVERED DICKS.

Therapy’s been saying that niggas getting offended
They don’t wanna fuck with me cos i do not fuck with religion
But see that’s my decision
You fuckers don’t have to listen and hear
Put this middle finger in your ear
[I’d rather not.]

You might like JUSTIN BIEBER.
Ba-booo.

Someone gets blamed
Cos some white kid [white?] had aimed his AK47 at 47 kids
And I don’t wanna see my name mentioned
[I don’t think anyone’s gonna mention… I don’t think anyone takes you serious enough to believe you.]

But they totally do, which is weird. Arguably not seriously enough to shoot up a school, but definitely seriously enough to get Marilyn Manson’d. Saying the Columbine shooters seemed like cool guys on Twitter on the anniversary of the Columbine shootings will presumably not help when they’re looking for someone to blame for the next one. Also having different songs on both of your albums with the chorus “Kill people, burn shit, fuck school” is going to lead to some awkward dock-time and might need Blind Boy Boat Club brought in to explain the difference between denotative and connotative language to an even broader audience.

College wasnt working
And I wasn’t working
So I sat at home jerking off until my dick was hurting
But I was determined to be great
So this classes can wait
Cos those 4 days i went, I wasn’t learnin shit
Now I’m living dreams I’ve wanted since 8th
And I can afford to get my mother something on her birthday
[You’ve explained to me that you were in school but… I mean… I…]

The college thing’s vexed. He used to claim he was in film school, followed by claiming he used to be in film school, followed by claiming he was never in film school and just said that so he seemed more impressive. The early articles used to say things like “film school dropout Tyler”, but obviously that’s given way to just “Tyler” as that became enough. Also, in more uninteresting biography, Tyler apparently used to work for Fed-Ex but lost his job for some reason. Dedicated his life to masturbation and becoming a great artist, in what must be inspirational to bold dole soldiers the country over.

They claim the shit I say is just wrong
Like nobody has those really dark thoughts when alone
I’m just a teenager, who admits he’s suicide prone
My life is doing pretty good
So that date postponed for now

This is the flip of the aggressive Tyler-as-a-character angle I’ve been pushing as regards interpreting his stuff. Angsty teenager shit for angsty teenagers is definitely an aspect of it, but maybe I overlook that a little because it’s not what appeals to me about the music. There’s definitely some cheerleading for the disaffected youth on Goblin the album (especially Radicals which basically outright says ‘you JUST MIGHT be one of us too!’). But beware believing anything.

But wow, life’s a cute bitch full of oestrogen
And when she gives you lemons, nigga, throw em at pedestrians
[So what are you saying? Take advantage? You’ve been doing pretty good.]

That’s just some cool shit.

I still live in my grandma’s house
Sell out a fucking show in London just to end up on couches
I hate my fucking life, but when I make that announcement
My hero calls my phone, just to put that in doubt then

The perennial difficulty inherent in hating your life when you have a fucking amazing life. The hero on the phone, at a guess? Pharrell.

And then I am confused if I want in or just out
My friends really think I’m playing when I say I need counselling
I sit in grandmother’s living room and just pout and shout loud inside
Sometimes i just wanna die
[No you don’t]

Alea iacta est.

Odd Future came from the bottom and It’s gonna take a couple armed armies tryna stop em
All you fucking lames don’t have to like me
The devil doesn’t wear Prada, I’m clearly in a fucking white tee.

And there we have it. Anti-hero/anti-christ.

There was no real overarching point to this other than to maybe show absolute beginners that there’s more to Tyler than rape jokes and to do something long-form to commemorate the release of the album I’ve been most looking forward to since Radiohead released Hail To The Thief and I brought my discman up to HMV Blanchardstown so I could listen to it straight away. Goblin is great. There’s awkward moments, but it’s a step up from Bastard and it’s a step up to the plate.

6.48 of the intro track, you’re thinking “that kind of clarifies a lot”. And then Yonkers.

Tyler, the Creator – Yonkers

Mixtape Autobiography #2: Staring At A Ceiling

Click it, it's a gif.

 

Mixtape #2: Staring At A Ceiling
((The Lion King – Circle Of Life//Animal Collective – My Girls//Weezer – Undone (The Sweater Song)//Primal Scream – Velocity Girl//Life Without Buildings – Daylighting//Talula Gosh – Talula Gosh//Wavves – When Will You Come//Architecture In Helsinki – The Cemetery//Galaxie 500 – Blue Thunder//Desperadow – Back Seat Glory//James – Laid))
Download

This is a recent one, memory-wise. You may have read of the historic forthcoming Irish visit of Elizabeth II, constitutional monarch of the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica, Barbados, the Bahamas, Grenada, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Belize, Antigua and Barbuda and Saint Kitts and Nevis, head of the Commonwealth and Supreme Governor of the Church of England.

She will be visiting the War Memorial Gardens in Islandbridge. I’ve only been there once, but it was a memorable experience which I will not outline fully so that I don’t incriminate myself. I stared at water, and stuff like that. This mixtape was, in playlist form, made as part of my general compulsion for making snapshot mixtapes, so I thought I might as well make an mp3 of it and use it for this.

Shouts out to Desperadow for the title quote.