Wednesday, November 28, 2007


Daft Punk, "Alive 2007". Daft Punk decided to release "Live 2007" on its own as an audio recording, sans DVD. They claim that hours and hours of "in the moment" youtube clips capture the craziness, excitement, and overload of the visual cortex better than any DVD ever could. I suppose there's something honourable about being satisfied by the DIY approach to concert archiving, and of course, the finest DVD can't recreate the feeling of "actually being there" for reasons that are obvious to anyone who has ever attended a concert. I'm not saying that standing in a crush of human flesh at a concert and trying to peer over the shoulders of the stoned assholes who just butted in front of you and trying to avoid any and all contact with a sweaty dancing guy whose flailing arms are coming precipitously close to your face is always a better experience than sitting at home with a DVD in front of an inferior set of speakers. They are *different* experiences.

If any band's tour deserves preservation on a DVD, I would think it would be Daft Punk's. A DVD won't capture everything, but whatever it does contain should appear in brighter colours and more pristine sounds than the average person's memory will allow. For sheer variety, there's always youtube, for the best quality, there's a DVD. This is obvious, right? It should be obvious as long as people continue to pay for their favourite movies instead of taping them off of TV or being content with videotaped versions. As far as visual quality goes, Daft Punk's live show was one of the most astonishing assault on the eyes of any major tour in recent memory.

I became quickly addicted to live Daft Punk youtube clips in the wake of their massively successful coming-out party at Coachella 2006, and worked hard to track down a good-sounding audio recording of the complete show. But in hearing the audio alone, I found much of the magic had vanished. The breathless "Close Encounters"/"Robot Rock" anticipation in the intro, the roar of physical energy from the crowd as "One More Time" kicked in, the seizure-inducing light-show beatdown during "Human After All" -- all of it, gone. The audio by itself is a bit of a bore. It explains why the same people who found "Human After All" (the album) boring and monotonous started lining up to praise those same songs when they were presented as part of the live show. Hearing "Live 2007" only makes me want to head to youtube to check out the *real* show. And if the real show -- even by the band's own admittance -- is best enjoyed as a series of one-to-four minute clips as recorded on somebody's cell phone, then why does "Live 2007" even exist?

Jah Cure, "True Reflections ... A New Beginning". I suppose one can claim that R. Kelly is the American Jah Cure. A presumably career-ending child pornography charge did virtually nothing to derail R. Kelly's career either creatively or commercially. If anything, his notoriety combined with the increased quality (and quantity!) of his musical output has made him more successful than ever, even with his constant and ongoing legal troubles. Jah Cure's folk hero status in Jamaica increased while he served eight years in prison for rape, robbery, and gun possession, partly thanks to three well-received albums that were all released while he was behind bars.

In complete opposition to the thug persona that casual observers might apply to them, both men are softies on record. R. Kelly croons about the pleasures of sex, love, sex, and sex. Jah Cure pleads for peace and justice with an aching, soulful, fragile voice that weakens the knees. Both have always claimed innocence from the legal charges leveled against them.

The music on "True Reflections ...", which was released mere days after his release from prison this summer, brings Jah Cure closer to R. Kelly both in style and spirit. It's "Jah Cure -- the Love Album", and it's gentility showcases his voice more prominently than anything he's done previously. For a man who usually has weighty issues on his mind (the struggles in his personal life and the social justice issues that have always troubled him) Jah Cure, to me, always seems like a man who is very much at peace with himself and with the world. He doesn't spit vinegar and black ink, rather, he uses his soul-bearing honesty to plead for improvement in the world around him, not unlike a preacher. That said, "True Reflections" certainly sounds like the work of a person who has had a burden lifted from his shoulders, at least in comparison to his earlier work. However, it's not always for the best. Much of the album comes off as flaccid and mushy compared to the edgier beats and sharper vocals of his previous album, "Freedom Blues". He's aiming for a smoother style that edges closer to American R&B than Jamaican reggae, and it's not hard to imagine a handful of "True Reflections" tracks sounding at home on American urban radio playlists. Jah Cure is an enormously gifted vocalist, to the extent that there's really no such thing as a bad Jah Cure record, but I was hoping for something with a bit more bite.

Animal Collective, "Chores". Not their mis-step, but mine. I finally "get" this song after two years of scratching my head whenever I heard it during live recordings and on "Strawberry Jam". The turning point came courtesy of the versions Panda Bear played during his solo shows this year, where he skips Part One: Crazy Yelling and Part Three: Ambient Noodling/Segue Into Next Track on the Set List and churns out the entire song in the style of Part Two: Gauze-y Haze Held In Endlessly Suspended Fog. It's easy to get distracted by all the yelping and cymbal smashing that Animal Collective are so fond of, and miss out on the blissful moments like these. That's probably why I kept overlooking "Flesh Canoe" from "Feels", until finally coming around thanks, again, to some fantastic live versions.

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