July 19, 2011

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Music Criticism’s Not Dead

December 13, 2010

Punk for Posers is a blog dedicated to taking the piss out of music I actually like to listen to.


Because when you can download any album in a few seconds, the vain thoughts of a music critic suddenly seem less important. I’m probably not going to change anyone’s opinion, so I might as well have some fun with what I’m willing to write.

Liking a band is never about just the music. In that spirit, this site is about all that superficial stuff that accompanies the sound. No objectivity, no guitar solos.

First time here? Start with these:

Angels and Airwaves, LOVE

Brand New, Daisy

So hot right now… Young Offenders Institute

Avril Lavigne, Goodbye Lullaby Review

March 14, 2011

From the solitary and almost fairy-like piano opening of ‘Black Star’ it’s apparent that the cocky facade of Avril Lavigne’s last album has melted into something a little more thoughtful. The notes trickle ever so gently and with such magic that it’s difficult not to feel the wave of melancholy build up inside you. It’s so pretty. And so contrived. To be perfectly honest it reminded me of the Christmas Coca Cola adverts.

On Goodbye Lullaby there isn’t a thirsty polar bear in sight, but there is that distinct stench of advertising that often seems to provide the consumable glue between the sincere and the spurious.

After ‘Black Star’ (also the name of her perfume, £14.99) twinkles away into the sky, ‘What the Hell’ proudly appears. On first listen it’s a blatant ode to cuckoldry, like the girl from The Offspring’s ‘Self Esteem’ eventually got her fingers round a pen and wrote a lyrical response in between handjobs and text messages. After a second listen (if you give it one) it can also be seen as a vulnerable and amusing request for acknowledgement in a relationship.

Plus, the video is hi-larious.

In between the scenes of Avril looking hot and emasculating her pathetic admirer, there is some truly amazing product placement with Sony electronics gaining some obvious screen time. As you may be aware, sex sells. The messages are clear:

To boys: buy a Sony Home Entertainment System and Avril will wake up naked in your bed. Judging by the promiscuous lyrics of the song, she probably slept with your friends an hour earlier so best buy the Camera Phone and Vaio Laptop to make sure she showers in between.

To girls: as long as the storyboard of your life looks like it could turn into porn at any moment, guys will buy you clothes.

The flippant approach to sex continues in ‘Smile’, a rather light-hearted song seemingly about getting rohypnoled. Last time I checked, people don’t like being date raped. Then again I’m only young and have a lot to learn about girls:

Last night I blacked out I think
What did you, what did you put in my drink
I remember making out but then
I woke up with a new tattoo
your name was on me and my name was on you
I will do it all over again

So that’s what happened!

‘Smile’ can either be interpreted as a tribute to being emotionally stable and Zen, or as just a witless account of what actually happened with her and Brody Jenner. At least they apparently spelled each other’s names correctly in their respective tattoos. Even though some of the upbeat songs might evoke the ‘Get thee to a nunnery’ response I had to her last album, if you want to appreciate this part of Goodbye Lullaby you have to remember that even though it’s trashy, it’s only in a harmless dress-up kind of way.

These songs are also meant to reassert the context of independence that frames the more emotive songs that take up the majority of the album. This time around, whoever was in charge cleverly placed some small statements of self awareness in there to counter any accusations of acidic whoreishness. ‘Push’ reminded me of the Alanis Morissette influence on Let Go, and ‘Wish You Were Here’ features lyrics like:

There’s a girl
who gives a shit
behind this wall
You’ve just walked through it

A girl who acts all that but is actually just masking her insecurity. Who’d have thunk it?

Although these elements make this a well constructed album, they aren’t enough to give it complete credibility. Maybe it’s because the stripped-down songs are over produced (and under-written), or more likely, because I just don’t care about her divorce. The girl who sung ‘Sk8er Boi’ splitting up with the guy from lesser pop punk band Sum 41 is the stuff of internet parody, not Shakespearean tragedy. The songs are pleasing but where they should be elevated with graceful touches they’re instead bluntly reinforced as slogans (see titles like: ‘Everybody Hurts’, ‘4Real’ etc). There are good intentions here, but the presentation makes it about as evocative as her clothing line.

So why have I listened to it so much?

Partly because I’m a guy and my genetics force me to enjoy songs about her acting slutty, even if I know they’re dumb. But also because objectively, it’s not a bad album. It comes across as more factitious than authentic but you can blame a music industry seeking safe profits for that. Whether this strips it of its creative merit is up for debate. My example is that even though the Coke ads were about selling you a product, they’re remembered for how the song ‘Holidays are Coming’ independently made people feel. Even though advertising can sometimes be art, this album is proof that it doesn’t work the other way round.

Nonetheless, like sugary drinks, I’ll enjoy this album as a guilty pleasure. It would serve me right if my next glass is spiked and I wake up with ‘Avrul’ tattooed on my ass.


Album: Rammstein, Liebe ist für alle da

January 28, 2011

Even though my Grandparents would probably not have approved, I consider myself a Rammstein fan.

So many people dismiss this band because all they hear are GCSE German lyrics and imagery that looks like an S&M club from the future emptied into the Nuremberg rally. What they’re actually missing is a cartoonish sense of the profane and a truly grotesque theatrical and sonic spectacle.

Liebe… is reminiscent of the band’s earlier material which was built around industrial riffs rather than the gore soaked fairy tale aesthetic they adopted with the last few albums. Although the sense of twisted whimsy served perfectly to make their audience feel uncomfortable, once again the grinding riffs and occasionally operatic details do equally well, with the entire album united by a perverse sense of dark humour.

Things are delightfully fucked up, in the darkest wittiest way possible: ‘Frühling in Paris’ is a beautiful acoustic song about French prostitutes which references Edif Piaf, while ‘Pussy’, a song about sex tourism, gave the world its first ever fully pornographic music video. This song in particular highlights how clever Rammstein actually are, intentionally rhyming German vocabulary clichés to disorientate their English speaking audience into becoming culpable in their satire.

Then there’s ‘Ich Tu Dir weh’, which features lyrics like:

Wünsch dir was ich sag nicht nein
Und führ dir Nagetiere ein

For the more linguistically gifted among you, this will translate as ‘make a wish, I won’t say no. And I’ll insert the rodents into you.’

People often ask me why I chose to take French and Spanish at school, not German. This is why.

Grade: B

Click here for the ‘Pussy’ video (NSFW)

So hot right now… Avril Lavigne, ‘What the Hell’

January 26, 2011

Long before the days of Hayley Williams, I had a serious crush on Avril Lavigne. Then she got married to Deryck Whibley from Sum 41, released a crappy album and I lost interest.

Thankfully, to welcome in 2011, Avril has divorced her husband, become totally slutty and triumphantly returned to win my affection once again.

Kind of.

Her new song ‘What The Hell’ premiered on New Year’s Eve and you can now watch the video on YouTube. The song sounds like Lindsay Lohan’s inner monologue set to the music of a Katy Perry track. Perfect to compete in the Ke$ha market.

Check out the lyrics:

You say that I’m messing with your head
All ’cause I was making out with your friends
Love hurts whether it’s right or wrong
I can’t stop ’cause I’m having too much fun


All my life I’ve been good but now, I’m thinking what the Hell

For all the ex husbands and ex boyfriends out there who are still bitter that they took such a big bite of the apple, hearing this on the radio might sting a little. Even though the members of Sum 41 are probably Google searching ‘merits of female circumcision’ round about now, I actually fully support this song and its flawless succubus logic.

Initially it’s a shame that Avril is still recounting dramatised promiscuity like a teenager, but the video is cheeky enough that it’s clearly meant to be bit of fun about doing your own thing, rather than a call to arms for cuckoldry and whorishness.

Plus, if I’d just escaped from a dysfunctional marriage at age 26 and I had a shit-ton of money and fame, I’d be doing a lot worse. Post-marriage Avril feels the need to let her hair down and drunkenly make out with members of the opposite sex, while if that was my reality, you probably wouldn’t even be able to see the orgy for the mushroom cloud of blow. Feminism works.

In absence of a bra, I’m burning my GAP briefs with cartoon snails on right as I type this.

Albums of 2010: No.2, Jimmy Eat World, Invented

January 23, 2011

One of my most highly anticipated albums of the year, Invented blends the dark undertones of Futures with the scope of Chase This Light, whilst Mark Trombino’s production continues the melancholy sensuality of the ‘Stay on My Side Tonight’ EP. As expected, there are sultry pop songs as well as lyrics that touch you so intimately that you should probably be over the age of consent to listen to them.

One thing that sadly discouraged fans from Invented was the fact that Jim Adkins wrote most of the album from a fabricated female perspective. Thankfully, this viewpoint actually makes the deeper and harsher sentiments even more realistic as the fictional element detracts from any notion of melodrama. It also gives the album a sexiness that no other band could manage, as well as making sharp guitar riffs and disconcerting use of profanity that little bit more sinister. The title presumably refers to the invention of the female narrative, but also to the inward fictionalisation of love and passion idealistically projected on to other people or manipulated almost artistically within fragile memories. JEW have always been emotionally breathtaking, but this is another level.

Try the heartbroken sarcasm of the lyrics to ‘Cut’:

If it’s your name in lights
And if the time is yours,
You’d be on your back
You’d be on the floor
It’s the kind of night that I’d always hoped
And he’s the kind of guy worth waiting for

There’s always some baggage you’ve got to check
I’m trying
Hope that you’d understand
I’m sorry, boy
I’m not cut for this no more

Invented is cinematic, poignant and elegant. But if this is what it’s like to be a girl, I think I need the soft blanket and the tub of Ben and Jerry’s immediately.

Grade: A

Albums of 2010, No. 3: My Chemical Romance – Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys

January 20, 2011

Oh no I di’unt.

Yes that’s right. The only band I ever swore I despised has not only made it onto this list, but they actually had a good shot at being number one. Even though it seems I have come out the emo closet 5 years too late, I will not apologise for thinking this album is cool.

Musically this one couldn’t be further from The Black Parade’s excruciating high school emo version of classic rock. It knows when to tread gently (‘Summertime’), when to blow things out of proportion (‘SING’), when to strip it down (‘Party Poison’), when to be smart (‘S/C/A/R/E/C/R/O/W’) and when to be stupid (‘Na Na Na’). However, once again the music is completely defined by the aesthetic.

Thankfully the theatrics have also been reinvented, with the band’s former effeminate child out trick or treating look that accompanied the last album firmly in the bin. Instead we have a concept something akin to the Sex Pistols imagined by Alan Moore, where a futuristic Wild West is full of muscle cars, laser guns and trendy haircuts while ‘punk’ is cartoon onomatopoeia for being punched in the ear.

With the album interspersed with grindhouse pirate radio broadcasts, the link between the sound and the image is executed flawlessly, making the entire album as kitsch as a Jeff Koons bunny and as deathly stylistic as a Tarantino film. It’s astute in the same way because you can’t tell whether it’s mocking our aesthetically over stimulated society or if’s just a by-product of it.

See ‘Na Na Na’:

Oh, Let me tell you ’bout the sad man
Shut up and let me see your jazz hands
Remember when you were a madman
Thought you was Batman
And hit the party with a gas can
Kiss me you animal

You run the company
Fuck like a Kennedy
I think we’d rather be
Burning your information

The neon lights and sardonic comic violence actually provide a very clever artistic commentary. Intentionally embracing artificiality and fully embodying it beyond the point of satire is a bigger fuck you to vapid culture than anything that could be achieved by sulking about it. If ever an album was truly aligned with what I’m trying to get at with the title of this blog, it’s this one.

Danger Days is like punk rock for a Lady Gaga generation

Grade: A

Albums of 2010: No.4, Bad Relgion, The Dissent of Man

January 17, 2011

Bad Religion’s 15th album may have been initially underwhelming, but it is also quite possibly the best way that they could spend their 30th year as a band. Revisiting the dark folk style of Recipe for Hate, it’s their most subtle and dignified album as well as their most reflective philosophically.

My only criticism of the album as a whole is that with the experimentation in some of Brett’s songs, he either sounds like he’s trying too hard or not hard enough. He’s a suburban dad now, so that’s an accusation he’ll have to get used to. Single ‘The Devil in Stitches’ is the closest BR will get to a genuine love song, although personally I preferred it when Brett and Gina were slapping each other around back in the ‘Infected’ days.

And therein lies the punker’s dilemma: How do you write a ferocious punk album when you’re content with your life and generally not pissed off at the world? If there’s a theme to The Dissent of Man, this is it. The result is an album that muses about concepts socially, scientifically and theologically bigger than our petty squabbles. Although at first it seems like Bad Religion have lost their biggest strength, they have in fact finally transcended it.

Check out some of the lyrics to the final track ‘I Won’t Say Anything’, which dissects various critical interpretations of humanity and captures the sardonic pathos of our ambiguous existence in a way that is just a little bit awe inspiring. Bonus points for identifying the references:

Riding to the cemetery in a righteous limousine
I plied the grim proprietor with milk and tangerines
And I said “so you’re short, but are you brutish and mean?”
Then he screamed.

That’s when he said:
“Hey, I can’t deny it.

But I won’t say anything unless you ask it right”

Grade: A -

Albums of 2010: No.5, Pendulum, Immersion

January 13, 2011

Although not my favourite album of the year, I probably listened to this one the most. After a stunning debut (Hold Your Colour) but a crappy sophomore effort (In Silico) I was a little nervous about hearing Immersion. Pendulum have a live show that can rival Muse or Green Day – a true wall of sound – but sadly their new popularity mostly attracts a BBC Radio 1 Big Weekend audience whose only goal is to face said wall of sound, and shout at it. After 6 months of trying to avoid writing this review, I will start by saying that this album perfectly reflects where Pendulum are at the moment.

It certainly does feature some of their most powerful tracks yet. ‘Witchcraft’ is a delicate plea turned into a rave, and in the band’s tradition of naming tracks after threatening animals, ‘The Vulture’ appears and bites just like ‘Tarantula’ back in 2005. My personal favourite song of the year is ‘The Island’, an epic tune split over two parts which transitions Deadmau5 style house into Bloody Beetroots-esque electronica, morphing the perfect 2010 summer sunset into a 2004 winter tsunami.

Sadly, the album’s major weakness is that all the elements that originally defined the impact of Pendulum’s style have been exaggerated to such proportions that it’s almost formulaic. A lot of the time, Immersion is also a reminder that Rob Swire was previously able to master subtle nuances right alongside the bombast, with many songs here simply talking a big game but then entirely failing to kick off. For example, ‘Salt in the Wounds’ really does show that those ‘Slam’ riffs are starting to get tired.

Immersion is a massive success that sees the band reach the peak of their sound, but it also sees them turn this genre-transcending eclecticism and immaculately produced heaviness into their niche. As well as being awesome, Immersion sadly marks the band’s commercial transformation into making party music for the lowest common denominator.

Still, the album is addictively tactile and I listened to the shit out of it. Pendulum are unique because at their best they are the only mainstream band at the moment who can summon the evocative soul of rock music in an electronic way that can really only be appreciated physically. The experience is what lifts this above being a pretty hit and miss collection of songs.

I guess the clue was in the title, which presumably refers to the oceanic weight of the album’s impact, not its artistic depth. I think the Finding Nemo meets skinny-dipping students on MDMA cover art testifies to that.

Grade: A-

So hot right now… The Young Offenders Institute

December 19, 2010

Don’t tell anyone, but if you’re in an indie band and want a surefire formula for success, here are your two ingredients:

1)      Write superfluously pretentious music


2)      Be common as shit

Yes, middle class cardigan-wearing music critics do have a penchant for intellectualising arbitrary lyrics and feeble guitar tone, but they also love nothing more than a few good Northern lads unintentionally tackling artistic transcendence.

If you’re like me and feel that the popular indie scene since 2004 has felt a bit like Billy Elliot the musical, then you might not approve of the following band.

I found Young Offenders Institute on a ‘one to watch’ list back in 2007. Stylistically they’re a cross between the Arctic Monkeys and store-brand lager, blended with a little bit of rap and injected with lots of chav-punk. They’re poorer and more Northern than any other band I can think of, but despite the fact that they probably stole all their instruments, they’re also quite awesome.

Due to the regional accent it’s a bit hard to make out the lyrics, but here are some of my best translations and analysis:

It’s kinda hard growing up on the estate

Drinking alcohol, getting mashed, staying up late

Well put, lad.

We all need something to score

Got no future anymore

Well I don’t know about all that, perhaps another 8 years at community college would help?

I think I like them because there is absolutely no way to make their music sound pretentious. To me they’re like a spoof of everything I think is wrong with popular indie. I mean, one song even starts with ‘let’s foot-king do it!’ Add this to the fact that they’re actually really foot-king good at it and we have a thumbs up from me.

So it’s a shame that they broke up almost immediately after I read about them. At least I assume they did because their MySpace has been inactive ever since. I won’t deny that there is a slight chance they are behind bars at the moment.

If they’re reading this (ha, reading) then I would like to suggest that this is the perfect time to make a heroic musical come-back. Partly because I want to hear some new songs, but also for their own financial gains. I mean, it would surely be useful for them to make some money from having a successful band, especially as the new Tory government is going to cut off their housing benefit.

Listen to ‘Let Me Out’:

So hot right now… The Bloodhound Gang, ‘Altogether Ooky’

December 16, 2010

I read things like Shakespeare and 1890s poetry for fun, yet the longest piece of verse I can actually recite from memory comes from a book called Rude Rhymes that I found in a shop when I was nine. Truth is, I enjoy any well crafted sentence, even if it is puerile.

You should also note at this point that I haven’t updated this site for ages and I’ve been listening to nothing but the Bloodhound Gang for the past few days. That combination means you should check out this song:

‘Altogether Ooky’ is a newly recorded track, taken from the recent Show Us Your Hits album. Which, much to my amusement, was only released in Germany. Amazing.

And this song is everything that’s awesome about the band that no one outside of the Fatherland seems to appreciate. There’s an impossibly infectious melody, scarily well crafted dumb lyrics and an undercurrent of reflective melancholy. Win!

It’s a pretty usual broke-up-with-some-crazy-girl type of song, but what Jimmy Pop lacks in maturity he makes up for in acute comic detail:

Why would I wanna stay friends
Rather get raped by clowns again

I’m gonna come to your house on a back of a horse with a bunch of villagers carrying torches

Most of whom dislike monsters like you girl

The band’s last album Hefty Fine showed that the band were well aware that they had exhausted their potential for shock value and therefore reached a career zenith. It was great in places because they absolutely wallowed in this fact and embraced more articulate ways of being rude. The result was an odd chimera of pensive self-awareness and juvenile sniggering.

Check out the lyrics to ‘I’m the least you could do’:

I don’t care if getting under someone that’s beneath you fits the m.o. of conundrum

As you reckoned this was just a fancy word for ‘rubbers’

I’m the least you could do
If only life were as easy as you

Or how about these lyrics from another song on the Hits album:

Fuckings cool, but Jimmy’s the romantic type.
Loitering on cliffs, thinking about stuff like,
Screwing you on the beach at night.

It’s all really stupid and immature, but sometimes that’s how adults act in relationships. Great lyrics don’t have to feature grand sentiments, they just have to capture the reality of a moment for the listener. Humour is a good way to do that. ‘Screwing You on the Beach at Night’ is charged with more substance than any Cold Patrol or Snowplay song.

Most of the Bloodhound Gang’s regular albums also consist of tired jokes, but ‘Altogether Ooky’ and Show Us Your Hits prove that when they are at their best there’s a rare sensibility and taste for wordplay underneath all the band’s toilet humour. It’s available to download, so you don’t have to go all the way to Germania to buy it.

Then you can become a fan just like me, or the legions of blonde haired teenage boys farting in their lederhosen.

Listen to ‘Altogether Ooky’ below:

Buy it (itunes)


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