The White Stripes

New music is all well and good, but not much of it can compete with this:

The White Stripes – I Fought Piranhas (YSI)

I literally have nothing else to say on the matter. I mean seriously, have you heard this?

Vodpod videos no longer available.

You have had to deal with ten of these now. They ain’t stopping.

Beirut – Untitled 10 (YSI)

“Other than Jack White, there aren’t really any guitar heroes anymore.”Anna Calvi

The idea of a guitar hero is, by most accounts, an outdated one; something reserved for the pages of Mojo or plastic Xbox peripherals. But reading Anna Calvi’s words and listening to her album, an interesting question is raised – why has today’s popularised indie scene (nebulous I know) left guitar heroics by the wayside?

Of course there’s the old punk argument that it all amounts to onanism, and you won’t see a much better endorsement than StSanders’ wonderfully manipulated concert footage, making every straining posture and self-satisfied gurn look as ridiculous as it truly is. But listen to Calvi’s self-titled debut and that loses some force. Her technical, almost classical, guitar playing weaves in and out, becoming a breathtaking facet of many of her songs, something that will appear, stun you and fade just as quickly. So why are people with skills beyond chugging chords and slow-paced picking moving into genres like metal (and its many component parts) or sticking to a classical background?

Of course, there’s the pressing concern of “cool” – the current indie media favours the lo-fi, the no-fi, the glo-fi which all stick to one central tenet: less is more. Less production, less focus, less (discernible) technical skill. If you’re a green indie band, you want to get noticed and, let’s face it, there aren’t many people who actually want to fly in the face of what’s perceived as the cool thing to do, it’s just peer pressure at its most basic level. There’s also quite probably a question of perceived benefit – someone who has practiced for their entire life to become a technically proficient player is likely to have listened to the kind of music that encourages that (all of my most incredible guitar playing friends are metal fans) and is most likely to want to play in an area that rewards them for their skill, not shuns them.

My question then is this, why has that pattern not been broken yet? In a postmodern world, the contrarian is often the most lauded, and it seems high time that a set of contrarians with above average guitar skills step up to the plate. If indie is most concerned with innovation, breaking the mould and in a lot of a cases, subverting the popularity of the mainstream, surely in a musical era dominated by heartless, singer-fronted dance music on one side and impenetrable, directionless noise on the other there’s a place for an indie guitar hero? I for one would love to see it, and I see Anna Calvi as the prototype for that, a guitar player who knows how to make their skill a part of a whole, rather than the sum of a song’s parts.

But now it’s over to you. This is, obviously, a simplistic piece. It’s not long, I’ve not researched it and it could probably do with having its argument narrowed a little. So tell me what you think – would you welcome a more obviously technical alternative music scene, is this a terrible idea, or have I missed a whole sub-genre of wildly innovative guitar maestros playing witches’-cave or whatever the fuck Pitchfork loves at the moment? Let me know!

The White Stripes – Girl, You Have No Faith In Medicine (YSI)

I read this on Condemned To Rock ‘n Roll and liked their answers so much I thought I’d try it myself.

List 10 musical artists (or bands) you like, in no specific order (do this before reading the questions below). Really, don’t read the questions below until you pick your ten artists!!!

1. Radiohead
2. Muse
3. Andrew Bird
4. The White Stripes
5. We Are Scientists
6. Future of the Left
7. Tom Williams & The Boat
8. Johnny Flynn
9. Yeah Yeah Yeahs
10. Arcade Fire

What was the first song you ever heard by 6?

‘Manchasm’ – I’d heard a lot about how crazy the band were, but never expected to go on Youtube and find a band sounding like an evil B52s with lyrics about a sound engineer and a cat called Colin. I’ve loved them since.

What is your favorite song of 8?

‘The Wrote and the Writ’ – It’s one of the most perfect pairings of beautiful songwriting with poetry I’ve ever heard.

What kind of impact has 1 left on your life?

They changed my entire musical perspective, opening my eyes to things like intelligent rock to rampant experimentalism and a whole heap in between. I can only fault one of their albums (and let’s be honest Pablo Honey doesn’t really count, does it?) and I think they’re the best band in the world, ever.

What is your favorite lyric of 5?

They’re breaking both my hands
They’re breaking both my hands
And telling me to
Take it like a man
And take it like a man
Well fuck that.

There’s something simultaneously very angry and very vulnerable about that, somehow.

How many times have you seen 4 live?

None, although I’ve seen The Raconteurs once so does that count as ½?

What is your favorite song by 7?

‘Wouldn’t Women Be Sweet’. It’s a little different to their other tracks, a bit more of a downbeat folk track with some very odd lyrics and a beautiful lilt to it, it’s wonderful.

Is there any song by 3 that makes you sad?

I haven’t known of his work for long enough yet to have a real emotional connection to any of it, to be honest.

What is your favorite song by 9?

‘Maps’ – isn’t that everyone’s favourite?

When did you first get into 2?

I think I heard about Muse just before Absolution came out (Wikipedia tells me that’s 2003, making me 14) and went out and bought Showbiz and Origin of Symmetry and bloody loved both of them.

How did you get into 3?

Heard about him on Hype Machine, listened to ‘Tenuousness’ and that was that!

What is your favorite song by 4?

‘Girl, You Have No Faith In Medicine’ – Just a raucous slice of guitar brilliance, and so visceral.

How many times have you seen 9 live?

Once, Reading Festival this year. It was brilliant, so brilliant in fact that Thom Yorke did an impromptu mini-cover of ‘Maps’ just before the final song later that night.

What is a good memory concerning 2?

Listening to Origin of Symmetry very loudly with my two best friends when we were all young and impressionable was somewhat wonderful. Seeing them at Wembley Arena wasn’t too bad either.

Is there a song by 8 that makes you sad?

Again, ‘Wrote and the Writ’. The lyrics are purposely slightly obscure, but there seems to be something tragic about the priest figure he mentions.

What is your favorite song by 1?

Frankly, that’s a little impossible to choose. ‘Just’, ’15 Step’, ‘2+2=5’ and ‘Paranoid Android’ all spring to mind, but I already know I’ve missed some.

How did you become a fan of 10?

Shamefully, ‘Funeral’ completely passed me by, and so it took Neon Bible’s amazing reviews to make me take notice, and once I’d heard that there was no going back.

Arcade Fire – Antichrist Television Blues (YSI)
Radiohead – Videotape (YSI) [That’s another favourite…]

It’s amazing just how much you can miss in a year. I try to keep up with musical happenings, I generally know what’s meant to be good and what’s not and yet I’ve still only heard some of the best albums of the year in the last month. The inevitable list post is coming in due course, but for now I just feel like talking about missing music. As a blogger, you’re daily sent updates from all sorts of people asking you to listen to music, or to write about bands’ tours or whatever else. As a music fan, you’re bombarded with news and reviews from blogs, magazines, webzines, friends and the radio. It just seems as though with this tumult of information flying around me, I’ve taken far more of a lazy/relaxed position towards getting what’s supposed to be good simply because I can’t decide. You could say that things like and Spotify should help me in that case, but I really find that quite difficult. Having free access to whole albums, no matter how useful it is, just feels a bit wrong to me. Part of my childish pleasure at getting albums is literally unwrapping them and listening to everything for the first time. That feeling’s gone a bit now, because I’ve usually been allowed to listen to whatever I want before I’ve even bought it. Willpower is not a virtue of mine. A few years ago, I would have bought an album I was told was amazing as soon as I saw it in a shop. Now I add it to a list.

The real question is whether this matters. As a blogger and someone who writes about music for a webzine and a newspaper I suppose I have some sort of obligation to keep track of what’s worthwhile listening, but surely as soon as music becomes an obligation it’s not as much fun anymore? How do you guys approach your musical lives, comment me up and let me know.

The White Stripes – I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself (YSI)

PS. That photo is definitely not of me.