To celebrate the 40th anniversary of the release of Joy Division’s unimpeachable debut, Unknown Pleasures, the band has commissioned a visual campaign whereby a new video will accompany each track- all with different directors. The latest addition is the reimagining of “Insight” directed by Makato Nagahisa, best known for this year’s We Are Little Zombies.
Creating a visual companion to music that fans have internalized for decades is no small task. Anton Corbijn carried a similar burden in 1988 when he directed the post-humous video for “Atmosphere” to coincide with the release of Substance. Corbijn didn’t stray far from the band’s gloomy image, whereas these latest videos seem to play fast and loose with visual poetic license.
Madonna’s roll-out for her new album, Madame X, has not been without controversy but not the usual brand. Faced with a relentless barrage of ageist condescension for daring to turn 60, much less continue to make music, Madonna has unsurprisingly struggled to connect with any of her new singles. So, it’s not without a pinch of cynicism that she has released an elaborate storyline video for her latest single, “God Control,” protesting gun violence. Piggybacking woke activism is not exactly a tactic without questionable baggage. Is Madonna genuinely concerned about mass shootings in America? Is she exploiting the tragedy at the Pulse nightclub for her own promotional gain? Probably a little from Column A and a little from Column B. But the gratuitousness of her “message” can’t help but be met with a raised eyebrow. The video itself is beautifully filmed by Jonas Akerlund, and the song is kind of a Daft Punk-ian banger, mixing vocoder disco with impressively catchy faux symphonic strings. The rapping breakaways, however, are undeniably cringeworthy.
A few months ago Sirius XMU played a song by an English band called Black Midi. I was driving when I heard it and completely dumbfounded: It was noisy, anti-melodic, primal and tight- not the type of stuff you hear on the radio in 2019- even on the “indie” radio stations. Several friends have sent me messages in the last few days asking if I’d heard this band yet. Barely. But now I’ve watched the band’s performance filmed at a hostel in Iceland that was aired live on KEXP back in November of last year. In an age when electronic music drives the trends, it’s almost jarring to see a new band this young channeling no-wave, math rock, English post-punk, and Don Caballero-esque compositional chaos. I’m not entirely sure what to make of it yet, but I know I’m intrigued.
Mr. Costello returned last fall from his brief cancer scare with his finest record in 15 years. Look Now! is a tour de force journey through the man’s kaleidoscopic musical songbook. The Burt Bacharach-isms mesh effortlessly with the storied yet always acerbic lyrics. As one of the finest backing bands in the business, The Imposters (who are the Attractions minus Bruce Thomas) are incredibly gifted musicians and confidently take risks amidst often complex arrangements. “Mr. & Mrs. Hush” is a standout on a stellar long-player. The band is on tour this summer with Blondie before embarking on a larger tour this fall.
Well, this discovery made my day. Jawbreaker has released a video for “Boxcar” from its close to perfect pop-punk song cycle, 24-Hour Revenge Therapy, a mere 20 years too late. Drummer Adam Pfahler evidently found a bunch of Super 8 footage circa 1992, and thus we have a video for “Boxcar.” I suppose it’s not without its benefits considering the band just reissued 24-Hour Revenge Therapy on Pfahler’s own Blackball records.
At this point I don’t think you can call it luck that TV on the Radio has ridden a decade long wave of overwhelmingly adoring press. Must be doing something right. I’ve never been much more than a cursory admirer, following the band’s trajectory only loosely. I saw TVOTR open for Bauhaus and Nine Inch Nails in 2006, and I’ve got a few of their records. But I’ve yet to be blown away, despite all the accolades. I cringe at the concept of bands being “overrated” because it seems paradoxical to say so. I may be coming around, though. When I first heard “Happy Idiot” it instantly clicked with its unabashed new wave hooks, which is a first for any song by TVOTR and me. Seeds came out Tuesday, and I’ve had a hard time not keeping it on repeat.
Even though his de facto method of transmission with Dinosaur Jr. is at ear-splitting volume, J Mascis proves his chops are not merely a byproduct of noise with an acoustic performance for NPR. Mascis runs through a medley of songs off his latest solo record for Sub Pop, the unsurprisingly solid Tied to a Star, as well as the Dinosaur Jr. classic “Little Furry Things.” [via Spin]