Monday, December 05, 2005
glisten: the ark
The Ark - 'This Piece of Poetry Is Meant To Do Harm'
Two points to be made at the outset:
First, I'm not a fan of glam. Freddie Mercury is a mystery to me, Elton John is generally a turnoff and I spent a month trying Bowie with limited results. True, I do loves me my Hedwig, by and large I have a general aversion to draggish attitude-rock; unless it stands up and slaps me around, I'll take vanilla, thanks.
Secondly: I have a slutty penchant for discovering and falling in love with a band's sound, listening to them nonstop for weeks and then trumpeting them as the greatest band in history. This generally leads to burnout, happy memories and a somewhat more measured assessment of the artist's place in my personal hierarchy, but when you're top of my pops, yer my fave of all time.
That said, meet my new favorite band of all time: Swedish glam-rockers The Ark.
I was lucky enough to get a copy of the album about six hours before I saw them at Mercury Lounge and was instantly hooked. One of the things I like best about them is the effort they take to really CRAFT a song to have an instant efferct on the listener; there's a gorgeous balance between the wacked out metal moments and the quiet, ballad-y breaks. The songs are engineered to push your buttons and they succeed. Better than that, there's a refreshing lack of irony; despite the thick drizzle of glammy-cheese heartily drizzled over every hip-twitch and rock-yowl, there's never any "wink-wink-aren't-we-hip" self reference. It ain't Po-Mo and that's a blessing.
At the gig, I was completely won over. I jumped around like a dork and headbanged like I was back in high school. Frontman Ola Salo, the band's Adam-Ant lookalike and mega-charismatic frontman, is amazingly fun to watch strut and fret on the stage; at one point he straddled a front row fan's shoulders while singing their 2000 Swedish hit 'Let Your Body Decide' and piggyback-rode into the center of the crowd, still headbanging and commanding call and response on the chorus. His onstage patter was sharp, self-important and delightully fun; we were invited to sing the national anthem of The Ark, given a primer to the manic-depressive nature of the Swedes ("half the year it is totally dark and half the year it is very bright, so we are all completely crazy") and told not to expect an encore "except maybe if you all scream very, very loud." Friend-Of-The-Hut Elisabeth Vincentelli (who deserves credit for turning me onto The Ark in the first place) recalled a great representative moment from a prior concert: during one of the band's trademark bridges/Ola solos, Salo's singing climbed higher and higher until his voice cracked and the hall fell silent. Without missing a beat, Ola deadpanned to the crowd, "I've run out of notes" then cued the band and jumped right back in.
The sheer chutzpah of The Ark is most evident in their penchant for lifting sounds from other bands; 'Armed Forces'-era Elvis Costello fingerprints are visable all over 'Trust Is a Shareware' and a guitar line from The Flaming Groovies 'Slow Death' is cannibalized for 'Clamour for Glamour.' In an especially ballsy move, they swipe the bassline from 'My Sharona' note for note and use it as the hook for the new wavish 'Girl You're Gonna Get 'Em (Real Soon).' On the face of it, this sort of indiscriminate borrowing of themes and beats smacks ugly, but in practice it's somehow endearing and redeemed by the fact that the band tends to IMPROVE on the source material. It's more hip hop sampling than rocknroll plagiarism.
I had a helluva time picking out just one cut off of State of the Ark and it feels like a bit of a copout to post the album's first track, as if I just didn't bother to listen to the rest. Suffice it to say, that's not the case; rather, 'Piece of Poetry' is such a spectacular representative earworm that it simply cannot be overlooked. 'Poetry' sets the tone for the rest of the album with its baldly T.Rex derivative hook, relentlessly catchy rhythm and singalong lyrics. If this don't get you, you likely won't be moved by the rest of the album, but if it DOES, then I'd strongly recommend checking out the equally excellent aforementioned 'Rock City Wankers' (an attack on junkies and critics that features a "Try some manners, fuckface" chorus) and the unstoppable anthems 'One Of Us Is Gonna Die Young,' and 'Deliver Us From Free Will.'
The Ark's third album will see an American release in (hopefully) early 2006, but if you really need it now (and you do), you can buy 'State of the Ark' from Amazon, at import price, now.
A brief first listen to the band's earlier albums suggests that 'State' is a real leap forward in quality, though 'We Are The Ark' and 'In Lust We Trust' have some immediate moments.
Visit The Ark's official site on the web, where you can stream the whole album and watch the video for 'One Of Us Is Gonna Die Young'.
Skim The Ark's PR Bio.
Learn a bit more about Swedish music from this very subjective survey, then download more Scandinavian tunes from audioblog/recordlabel 'It's a Trap!'
Read this brief but fairly dead-on take (though I believe Ola actually identifies as bisexual rather than gay) on The Ark from 'Bring Back Sincerity.'
Explore TV Ark UK, "the television museum."
Inside the Ark are treasures beyond your wildest aspirations.
Jazze Pha and Cee-Lo have linked up to release their debut collaboration Happy Hour, which features collaborations with artists Nate Dogg and Mannie Fresh.
Or as we like to say back in Nantucket, "awwwwww DAMN, it's ON."
Unsure what to get that special someone for Christmas? How about a flayed cat? Or a book bound in human skin? And when the Xbox360 is sold out, nothing says love quite like a good trepanning.
It's 'STRICH, BITCH.
My lover/my enemy ILX to the rescue again with this amazing collection of Videos of Non-Britney People Lip-Syncing to Britney Songs which rapidly metamorphoses into something even MORE disturbing.
I'm not saying that this demented cat goofing on Suddenly Seymour should be the new Gary Brolsma or anything... but a dollar and a dream will get you there.
"You have the power to change your life."
The funniest thing to me about this already-wildfire-spreading Schwarzenegger in Rio video isn't so much Arnie's love for "watching the mulattas shake it" or his bizarre joy in teaching his tour guide to fellate a carrot stick as it is that my BOSS sent this to me. NSFW, indeed.
Please do not shake the baby.
Fetish Fronts for Strange Folk: "My review of Dr. Ted Rothstein's cosmetic braces"
mmmmmm... delicious HAND.
No idea where I found this, but these paintings by The Royal Art Lodge collective are a joy to behold.
Frere-Jones quips: 'I hope to use the ejaculation "Christ on a plastic dolphin!" in the New Yorker soon.'
And then there's this...
blah blah blah
Big influx of newbies since the San Francisco Chronicle article came out; welcome. No, the site's not dead; it's just resting. I've been busy.
And I'm okay. Ecstatic even, just really into the new job as PR flunky. Loads of fun and I see tons of good music. All of which I should write more about. So I will. Wednesday should show the return of Miccio and a wicked track from Guinea, courtesy Sekouba Bambino Bembeya Diabate.
Say THAT three times fast.