camp rock

in which i basically essay on disney, the jonas brothers and their made-for-tv movies. sorry.

you know what i find really weird about camp rock? like, even more than high school musical? seriously, you ever need someone to discuss made-for-tv disney movies with then i'm your girl. anyway i'm going to write a mini essay here so ignore if you don't want my cultural analysis.

anyway. camp rock is a really weird film - this is the synopsis:

"Camp Rock," centers on a teen girl who desperately wants to spend her summer at a prestigious rock camp, but can only attend if she works in the kitchen as one of the cooks. When she's overheard singing - but not seen -- by a teen pop star at the camp, he is completely taken and sets out to find the girl behind the beautiful voice. But first she must confront her fears, step out of the kitchen and into the spotlight.

all the info i'd seen about it said that it was starring the jonas brothers, but it wasn't - it starred a girl whose name i don't know, and joe jonas was the romantic lead cast opposite her. the other two brothers had little more than cameo roles, to be honest. and none of them can act so it's not much of a problem.

anyway, my thing about this film, and the jonas brothers and the whole disney thing at the moment is that, like - they're trying to be smart and keep up with stuff while being really conservative. like, it's the disney channel and they're making films for a young audience, but they're aping adult - or at least older teenage - structures and plots to do this with. they did this with lady and the tramp by making it about dogs. but in camp rock they make it about teens - they're like, 15/16 and 18, which is the sort of age of characters in john hughes films and so on - but have them act way younger. they manage to create this kind of beatlesmania thing but keep it entirely sexless, it's like a weird version for 12 year olds. joe jonas flashes the hand with the purity ring on in the film. but what slays me is that they don't get rid of the tropes that rely on teenagers and famous people being dicks/"bad", immoral etc.

joe jonas's character, shane gray, is introduced to the film as "the bad boy" of american pop music on a television news show that the main character and her mum are watching. what are we told about him? we're told that he stormed out of a rehearsal or something. popstars get known as "bad boys"s for groupies, drugs, sex and stuff like that when it's extreme and indiscreet. if they storm out of a rehearsal they might have a jokey piece about it on ohnotheydidnt but it's definitely not enough to get someone on the television, not enough to get them a rep. he's not mariah.

anyway, so it also has all the tired old teen stuff where the main girl lies about who her mum is to get an in with a popular group. this is just the same plot that's used in every fucking teen/tween/kids flm/book/tv show/song. what's weird about it here is that after she's been with the group for about 5 minutes the audience knows that the leader of their group is unrealistically nasty. there's no mean girls stuff here, no funniness, it's just so lame and unsubtle that you can't believe the main character actually stays friends with her. they've cast someone wholesome and comfortable, you don't think for a second that she feels uncomfortable or insecure. they haven't cast someone who looks or acts vaguely normal, they want to cast someone beautiful (although she has a really weird smile - possibly the most uncomfortable thing about her, it's way too big for her face) but they cast someone who's like a real life version of a disney cartoon. only very young children will ever doubt her ability or character for a second. there's none of the real attempts at angst or doubt that you find in, say, shows like freaks and geeks or john hughes films or even, like, mean girls and ghost world. it's just like... they sort of smile and sing a song and it's going to be fine.

which brings me to the music. music is really, really important in teen films as a general element - i mean, it is to films anyway, they have to have a decent score, but i mean popular music. who doesn't think of the breakfast club and all that angst and insecurity when they hear don't you forget about me? teenagers love pop music as a rule, and in films it's played in their cars, at their parties, as they go on dates, have sex, have fights... you name it. obviously songs are important in musicals too, because, duh. this film attempts to mix the two genres (although replace 'tween' with 'tween', which i actually hate as a term but can only replace with pre-teen which takes longer to type). anyway, it's weird - they've gone for the pop music thing, not showtunes, and none of the songs are instead of diaogue - none of that weird bursting into song suddenly. it's a musical where the music is slotted in with an attempt at realism. they're at "camp rock", so they sing songs and perform routines all the time.

but the songs are all pretty... strange, considering the context. they've all been mixed over and over and produced so that you can tell they're not singing live. there's no way they're singing live. and you KNOW they're not singing live anyway but it seems a weird way for disney to break their shaky attempt at illusion and realism - by strangely produced songs and flawless routines without time for practice. and it also makes the characters that little more like cartoons, their self-assured smiles and never-faltering dances just moving them closer and closer to the strangely-present routines in high school musical, etc. i think it's weird since in this they don't actually SEEM to be aiming for musical fantasy land, but they're not prepared to have their characters falter or stumble at all, really, even when it looks like they do. the horrible mean girl does her last big routine at the "final jam" and does it basically flawlessly, despite her backing singers all quitting, and only breaks down and runs off right at the end when she sees her mum taking a phonecall at the back. and she saw her earlier on, but kept singing - she clearly wasn't actually experiencing any kind of emotion. there was no wobble in her carefully produced vocal. no mis-step in her weird dance with mirrors. it was like a music video, not a film. and for a bad song that wouldn't be worth listening to without the film to frame it. strange.

but mostly i'm weirded out by the haltering, wobbly attempts at romance. i don't think this was really meant as a romcom, more a kind of empowering DON'T LOSE YOURSELF type-thing. but they cast the jonas brothers, and they cast the most attractive and oldest of them, joe, as the male lead and had a subplot where he was searching for an anonymous girl he heard singing in secret on the first night - the ever-smiling heroine, of course, mitchie - and had all this stuff about him "searching for the girl with the voice". he made friends with mitchie without knowing she was the singer. he was mobbed by other girls on the camp. mitchie hears him singing his new "different" stuff (for what it's worth, i think it was meant to be honest and more rocky and less commercially viable, i just heard disney pop on acoustic guitar) and gets to talking to him about people being "real" around each other, and honest, and without ulterior motive. it's a common message in films like this, but i wonder if it actually ever makes any difference; the film is so clearly fake and unreal, like the paper-thin characters, that you're just like get on with it and to the kissing.

there is no kissing. there's no kissing in the first high school musical either, if i remember correctly. maybe in the second, i haven't seen it. but they seemed to be setting up for it - they obviously meant the shane/mitchie stuff to be hesitatingly romantic, when he talked to her about looking for the girl with the voice he teased her and asked if she was jealous - but after their duet, where he sings about about she's "the missing piece i need", they kind of stand there looking at each other and then go away. when they meet after all they do is say that they'll go for a canoe ride together - unless that was meant as some sexual reference (which, hilarious as that would be, i don't think it was) then they really are just going to go for a ride in a canoe. it's weirdly unsatisfying, as a teenage viewer - that's not what they would do, even if they were fairly stringent christians (christianity is never once mentioned in this film, by the way, but the purity rings etc are lurking there) and it's just... strange.

i guess largely it's bad because the acting is ridiculous. and the script is terrible. but i find the whole thing that disney are doing with it really weird - it's never allowed off script for long enough for it to be real or even just funny, properly - there's none of the creme brulee riffing that i found really funny in high school musical. it's not particularly knowing or tongue in cheek. it's sexless and like john hughes in a shitty alternate universe. but mostly i have beef with the way they take high school tropes and teenager worried and fears and give them to people who can't do anything convincing with them to tell kids that aren't there yet that it's great and fine, you and your friends will be mostly happy, talented, beautiful and pure. because they're all so pure. even the "bad boy" of pop music, wh never actually does anything bad except sleep in late. and i find it weird that they're using such old teenagers for it, and that they go along with it - even the purest teenagers can't be this good and talented all the time. surely everyone feels doubt sometimes, and it's not as easily resolved as disney seem to think.



except they didn't. but i love them, and if i was in need of a lifesaver i think i couldn't do much better than marty and the gang.

why do i love the lucksmiths? i honestly have no idea how i even got into them, i vaguely remember liking there is a boy that never goes out and their cover of there is a light that never goes out, but am not sure how that even came about. i remember i was aware that they existed for years before ever hearing them - they come up when you search for the smiths on songmeanings.net, which is still my go-to site for indie lyrics and general emo lolz at the comments to a lot of the songs. if you want people going really overboard about american emo/pop punk, go and read what some people have said about brand new songs. go on, i dare you.

anyway, back to the lucksmiths. i don't know much australian music really - it's bad, but i mainly seem to listen to american/british/swedish/canadian stuff generally. but the lucksmiths are sooo good, i should really check out more from australia and other countries in general. the lucksmiths aren't my favourite band, as much as i can have a favourite band, but they're pretty close - they manage to have a really recognisable sound without being boring or too samey, which is pretty impressive are being around for as long as they have. their songs often have such great melodies and tunes that they make me feel like my heart is about to burst, or something - they're so great at the pop, it's awesome. and then... it's like, they could just be a great guitar pop band but not much more. but the lyrics are amazing.

i think marty writes most of the songs. what marty's great at is the rhyming. now, rhyming in english is fucking hard - way too easy to get stuck in a rut where you use the same predictable, clunky rhymes as everyone else. but he is so good - and often really funny with it. i mentioned in a bit a while back that i liked his rhyming fiction with kitchen, and he's like that in most songs. it's just lovely, whether it's better with weather, consonants with consequences, meant and government... it's just generally good stuff.

i also really love tali's voice. marty sings a song or two, but tali is the singer, and his voice just suits the songs so well. it's really expressive and technically good, i think, although to be honest i have no clue about any of that. and it suits the music. i also love his accent! australian accents are nice, usually, and here it's no different. i also love that he drums and sings at the same time - he makes up for phil collins, okay, he does it well, like it's meant to be done. look up live videos on youtube - it's so great!

and then after all that they're just ridiculously cute and smart and happy and sad. they've got a song for most moods. they sing about fiction and scrabble and summer only they call it 't-shirt weather' and they're never cloying but always pretty honest and sweet. it's good stuff generally.



sufjan stevens - chicago

everyong likes this song, right? it's sufjan, and people love him. and it's one of the best on the album. i found out the other day that until quite recently, chicago was the second biggest city in the USA. it's called 'the second city' still, despite LA having taken it over sometime since the 80s. this song is pretty beautiful though, in pretty much all versions... i'm kind of partial to the acoustic one, but the regular is great of course, and so are the other variations.

his voice just sounds so sweet! and gentle. and the song is great, really great - i love songs that namecheck cities and driving to them, anyway, i'm just a loser like that, so to have them being part of this lovely little song is just... really nice. it's so well-written, and kind of... light and high but really listenable and just pretty awesome. he's a good songwriter and his voice is lovely. sorry this post is so rubbish. but i love this song. it's understated, and that works.


and another

5. neutral milk hotel - two-headed boy pt 2

this is a pretty obvious pick, huh. and also a pretty stupid one. what can i say about neutral milk hotel that other people haven't? okay, i'm going to start with a confession: neutral milk hotel are not my favourite band and this is not my favourite album. it doesn't make me want to cry or join/form/destroy a religious cult. i do not hate it. try as i may, i cannot love it. maybe i have come too late to join the party and i've heard so much about the party and seen so many awesome posters and heard so many awesome rumours about it that all i can taste is the slightly gross punch instead of the amazing times to be had (oh, extended metaphors in the early hours, how i love them. apparently). but i don't know. it's good, certainly - jeff's voice works very well, obviously, and i think the songs are very well-written. it's just, er, not a religious experience for me. maybe i just don't get that involved with music.

anyway i'm not really here to externalise my internal debate about neutral milk hotel because frankly, it's boring. the album is a very fine one and i like all of the songs on it.

this is a 'pt 2', so that makes it sound a bit like it comes second after the other one and so won't be as good. this is not true. it's the best song on the album as far as i'm concerned - it's gorgeous and not too busy, you can hear all the words and the lyrics are just so gorgeous, all your tongue in his teeth and sounding only at night as you sleep. it's one of the ones that has stuff about anne frank in, which a lot on the album do, and he talks about how she's alive in his dreams but she's crying. one of jeff mangum's strengths that's on display in this song is that his lyrics are weird and beautiful and strange but he delivers them in a very direct, emotional way... though he's singing things like she will feed you tomatoes and radio wires he's not being weird about it, he's singing it like it's natural, not like he's being clever and arty. not that there's anything necessarily wrong with that, i wish i was clever and arty, but it means this song never feels lightweight or like an exercise. and few songs contain moments as moving as the moment towards the end of this when he sings god is a place you will wait for the rest of your life and i'm not sure what it is but that just gets me every time. the ending's great, too.

it's the best song on the album. he's drawing it all to an end and the song is so... unfuckwithable. he speeds up and slows down and sounds as if he knows where he's going, he can see it all and he's just letting us know. amazing.

and again

4. none of you will ever see a penny - final fantasy

i'm afraid i can't find a video of this. you can probably download it pretty easily though. or buy it. anyway. BUT THAT IS NOT WHAT I AM HERE TO DISCUSS. final fantasy is one guy and his violin a lot of the time, and it sounds like that for this song. when i first heard owen pallett it was in a youtube video (before i'd really heard of youtube, i was like, oh, what's this website? oh how hilarious things were, in retrospect) and he was covering bloc party. people said it was patrick wolf. they were obviously wrong. anyway, he's actually write different to patrick wolf, or at least patrick wolf as he is now - in this song he relies a lot more on just vocals, not a lot of instruments and other stuff as well. i mean, there's violin and it's beautiful, but it's largely great because of the vocals, which are so gorgeous at the beginning of the song. the only patrick wolf reference point that makes sense for this is the first few seconds of to the lighthouse and that's a good reference point, that's possibly my favourite bit of any song that patrick's done. this song isn't very forceful, it's quite spare, the recording, anyway, and it sounds kind of haunting, a bit like a chant that's being sung. okay maybe that only makes sense to me because it it 00:43, but seriously. this is so lovely and i love his voice in it, it's really catchy without being overproduced or particularly pop, it's just lovely.



I'm posting again! It's all very exciting.


I found out about The Burning Hell through a list of bands playing a Canadian festival earlier this month... I was going through the list and they were the first lot that REALLY grabbed me. Have a listen - Grave Situation is awesome too. Anyway they're very dark, remind me of Nick Cave & Leonard Cohen at the same time. Really funny in places, mind, but quite bleak too. I love the chorus of this song, all the vocals piling on, and then in the verses it's just the man with his half-spoken vocals talking about not owning a lawnmower or any air-conditioning. The lyrics here are just excellent, as they seem to be generally from this guy/band... I don't think they're well known at all, and definitely not outside Canada, but they should be. Listen to this song and everything else they have up there. It's so good.

I also like the while thing where there are loads of instruments and loads of band members but it just works together and makes it sound really atmospheric and enveloping and great without being too much or too distracting. Although they don't really sound much like them this is sort of how I've always wanted the Arcade Fire to make me feel, but with them I've always felt a bit like there's something I'm missing. Here I just love it, I really engage with the songs and it's just so much fun. Try them.



Wonder if anyone noticed I was gone? Anyway I don't really have any excuses for not posting in this for ages, I don't have a job or anything and I've left school, I just guess I haven't felt like it. Today I do.

To ease myself back into this whole blogging thing, I'm going to write up two of my current favourite songs. I will do two more in another post, and so on, until I have a top 10 right now. It will be fun. Here goes...


I found Voluntary Butler Scheme when I was looking at some acts that were doing Latitude. He might have been the only act we went to see that we only discovered because they were doing Latitude, but I'm not sure? Richard can correct me if I'm wrong. Anyway by the time we got to see him doing his thing on the Lake stage I knew the chorus to this song and would have been properly singing along if I hadn't lost my voice. He's really interesting live, too - it is just him, he doesn't have a band, so you see him recording loops and stuff on stage, like he'll tap a beat on his violin into a second microphone and then that beat will repeat through the song. I hadn't seen anyone do that live before, I thought it was awesome.

It's really, really, well, twee - I don't mean that as an insult, hey, I'm the one who still finds "twee as fuck" really amusing and loved The International Tweexcore Underground before I'd heard a note of it - but like, really good. I like this sort of love song - it's really cute, yeah, I mean he does actually sing the line "if you were broccoli I'd turn vegetarian for you", among others, but that's why it's so brilliant. It's sort of why I still love Umbrella so much - he's not just like I LOVE YOU PLEASE DON'T PICK SOMEONE ELSE OVER ME, he's all like here are all the silly things I'd do to be with you, now please don't go for anyone else? Umbrella uses the umbrella instead of "I WILL PROTECT YOU" or whatever, VBS uses tea, coffee and paper planes. Also the chorus is really fucking catchy in a really nice way. I hadn't seen the video before, too, how cute is it?! I love when he laughs at the end.

2. THE LUCKSMITHS - FICTION (link to a cover by salambo31@youtube)

I've linked to a cover because I really like the cover and there's only a live version up by The Lucksmiths and I don't like listening to live versions on youtube much because the quality sucks most of the time. Maybe it's good though. Yesterday I was in the back of the car on a long drive home - we went on a family holiday for a week to just outside Lancaster, which is quite far away from Ipswich - and this song came on and while I've pretty much always loved it, I hadn't realised quite how much. Musically, it's pretty much standard Lucksmiths, and probably lyrically too - but it's just awesome. The lyrics have got to be some of their best, whatever, and it progresses so nicely... he sounds so nostalgic, sort of down and hushed, but can't hide the rhyme of kitchen/fiction and from then on the song is just so well done, so well made. I write poetry and I hardly ever rhyme because it's so hard to do but it's managed perfectly here, not one rhyme makes me go ouch and several make me go I WISH I'D THOUGHT OF THAT. It's so understated. I also sort of want a tattoo of the word fiction now, is that wrong?


hi from the other side

I sort of abandoned this for most of June, sorry. After believing that I didn't need to get stressed about the exams this June, as soon as they started I sort of went to pieces and found that I could barely even listen to music, let alone write about it. It wasn't a very nice couple of weeks, but I'm feeling better now, largely because my exams are essentially over.

An article I wrote went up here, it's about lyrics and poetry. That's at a poetry magazine I'm involved with, but it's more about lyrics than poetry really.

The Guardian, of course, has since decided to publish lyrics of the 'greatest' lyricists ever or something, and they've got a really boring, predictable list of people that everyone basically already knows. Problem is, I was thinking what I'd put in my own list, and it's impossible. Seven? No, you can never only have seven greatest lyricists ever. I mean, a quick list of some bands/singers with lyrics that I like can't really be done, because that's pretty much all the music I listen to. Like, most people wouldn't really consider Kenickie a lyrics band in the same way they'd consider, say, Okkervil River, and maybe they're a bit less about that - but I still like their lyrics a lot, and don't want to dismiss that bit in Come Out 2nite when she sings "we don't have time to be sad / come out tonight you've got to grab it / if you want to have it" or Classy's pretty awesome "WE'RE CLASS WE'VE GOT CLASS". They're good in different ways to like, Okkervil River or The Hold Steady or whatever, but is that a bad thing? I don't think so. But lyrics like theirs will never be published in booklets, and probably shouldn't be. To be honest, I think the whole idea's a pretty stupid one - you need to hear them.

Also, who chose which songs to put in the booklets? Irish Blood, English Heart over, say, pretty much everything else Morrissey's written, except for the other few that were included? For serious?



it's time for another round of the recurring feature that requires less effort than a track-by-track! wahey!


Why did no one tell me that BARR were unmissable until today? I mean, I'd known that they were meant to be good, but evidently I'd never heard that they were so amazing that I had to check them out. BARR are incredible. My favourite at the moment is Summary, the title track of their most recent album, but pretty much everything I've heard has been really good. It's spoken word, really, over music, but it's so great and compelling. There's this amazing bit in Summary where he talks about rules and something about it just hits me full-force.


I think Johnny Foreigner have actually become my second favourite band. My actual favourite band, who I don't go on about as much here for some reason (it's not for lack of general zeal) is Los Campesinos!, but JoFo are drawing in. Er, not that it really matters where I rank bands, but still.


I tried reading some Daphne Du Maurier to BARR today and it wasn't a very good idea. I could read to Fleet Foxes still, though. They're growing on me, I think, but very slowly. At this rate, I might start really rating the album in about a year's time.


Camera Obscura's Let's Get Out Of This Country is a bit of an anthem (in a good way), isn't it? I keep playing it and dreaming of getting out of this country.


I borrowed my Dad's headphones so now at least I can listen to CDs again. Johnny Foreigner and Robyn are good for listening to on ther bus on the way to the library.


On Friday I was sitting on a picnic bench at some nowhere place in the country, CD player and lit magazines in hand. I read all of the latest issue of Succour and then listened to Bikini Kill's In Accordance To Natural Law at an extremely high volume. It was amazing. I love Bikini Kill, although not all of their songs. Carnival's my other favourite by them.


I want to make a mix of songs about buses, and maybe another one about trains. Suggestions? For buses I'm thinking Routemaster by Fear of Flying, The Chinatown Bus by Bishop Allen, On The Bus Mall by The Decemberists... for trains, Lua by Bright Eyes, Train from Kansas City cover by The Shop Assistants, Steaming Train by Talulah Gosh...



because it's gone 1am and i thought, why the hell not, right?

"Surely all the shops are closed by now?"
"No, I'm just, just getting this one thing, wait, I'll call you back, just a minute-"
"You might not be able to get through. Shopping centres are black holes."
"Wait for me outside, it's busy, I've had a long day, my early shift-"
"Ran late, I know, I know. We're on the guestlist for the gig tonight but we don't have to go-"
"I don't have any money and there's no such thing as a free night out."
"Are you hungry now? I could meet you in the foodcourt-"
"We've got our friends in the city, will they feed us?"
"We can seat in cheap plastic seats and watch fights break out-"
"I was tripping over bottles at the club last night-"
"I bet the barstaff see it every night-"
"They all wear misfits t-shirts and big gold rings-"
"Do you want to talk about it?"
"I can't talk about it. You can't talk about it."
"I have enough money for a veggie burger to share, are you-"
"Are you hungry now? Are you hungry now?"
"Am I breaking up? Are you hungry now?"
"Just wait for me outside the shopping centre-"
"I'm biting my lip, it's cold outside, the buses are all leaving and we'll have to get a taxi-"
"My lunchbreak lasted for ever, I was lighting cigarettes just to wait time and I just need to buy one more thing. I will wait for you outside carparks, busy shopping centres, clubs and bars and after free nights out. There's just one thing I need to do. See you in a minute."