More often than not, in today’s world of mainstream indie rock, what is “vintage” and “oh-so-cool” consists of grabbing a Bruce Springsten guitar riff, throwing some synthesizers into the melting pot and cleverly calling it “retro-rock music” (cough, cough The Killers) — but then there are The Black Keys.
Right smack in between the non-holiday that is Fall Break and Thanksgiving came a glorious Saturday of Big Red Debauchery known as Homecoming — a momentous excuse for alums to rip off their corporate cloaks and retreat into the shell of their former selves, when everything was oh-so-college and awesomely fratastic. However, while most of Ithaca was (intoxicatingly) enjoying the spirit of Cornell’s legacy, downstate in New York City, another legacy had officially crumbled over the weekend due to skyrocketing Manhattan rent: CBGB’s.
I’ll admit it. 2004 would have been a lot better year had it not been for six little words: “Are You Gonna Be My Girl.” But luckily, there was a glimmer of hope at the end of the tunnel. After thousands of hours of airplay, dozens of stereotypical long drives down stereotypical beach highways and countless appearances on the same party mix as “Somebody Told Me,” it looked like the world was finally starting to forget about the shaggy boys from Down Under.
It’s almost that time for the Cornell administration’s biggest deception of the calendar year, that gloriously coveted long weekend known as “fall break” — or, should I say, “A great opportunity to procrastinate in one’s indigenous environment and consequently, fall further behind in school work.” All things aside, it’s safe to conclude that fall break is the perfect way to transplant the debaucherous, 3-hours-of-sleep-a-weekend mentality of the Cornellian socialite to some far off exotic place like Scranton, Pa.
In the flurry of new music that has arrived on the scene in the past weeks, there appeared a disc that brought me back to my good ole pop-punk roots: Sugarcult. Yes, the fratastic foursome from Santa Barbara is back and thankfully, they have veered away from the sappy-pop sound of 2004’s Palm Trees and Power Lines. On Lights Out, the band explores a darker lyrical side and serves it up with a healthy dose of thrashing guitars and head-bobbing drum beats.
With a series of releases under a multitude of pseudonyms, Jimmy LaValle has always tried to create atmospheric music that is neither static nor stationary but rather, dynamic and floating. On Into the Blue Again, the latest record under LaValle’s most recently formed group The Album Leaf, the three-piece accomplishes this goal in a manner that their French cousins, Air, could only dream of. Bits and pieces of sound emerge from the ether of keyboards, pianos, drums, synths and violins, and blend together perfectly in an ethereal nebula of resonance. Instead of relying the electronic multi-tracking, LaValle insists on an entirely acoustic ensemble.
Every week, I diligently prepare myself for my bi-weekly attempt to ramble about some sort of semblance of American/ Cornellian culture. This week, it suddenly occurred to me how inane our fragile conception of What Is Hip has become. Case in point: A beleaguered and pleading attempt by four of Slope Radio’s finest and most professional, DJ Woods, DJ AZ, Joey and, well, this very uncritically acclaimed guest DJ, to give away two tickets to The Strokes. (Read, two hours of crowd surfing, pushing people and rocking out with a drug-induced and internationally infamous Julian Casablancas). How long did it take to give away these hallowed tickets, you ask? The entire two hours of airtime on Friday evening.
Every so often, the quintessential dilemma “what’s worse for you, ‘X’ or ‘Y’” emerges, and usually ends in a vociferous debate between the pot and cigarette smoking camps. Yet, last Thursday, as I attempted to relinquish the weight of the week in front of the television screen, it suddenly hit me that there existed something far more poisonous to humanity than the occasional hit of weed, casual puff of cigarette or friendly fix of heroin (wait . . . scratch that last part): the VMAs. Like most people, I don’t particularly have high hopes for such low points in American pop culture; after all, it can’t get more inane than awards shows. Yet the VMAs struck a nerve, mostly because it attempted to elicit laughs in a manner that seriously compromised any sense of wittiness/ intelligence that any viewer might have possessed (even the I-called-in-and-voted-50-times-for-Taylor-Hicks girl from Idaho who watches these things professionally). Case in point, the sketch comedy shtick at the start of the show, when Justin Timberlake steps out of a shower, runs into a moonman-clad Jack Black who then proceeds to strip down into an Elvis costume, burst out in song and introduce Montel Williams (how the hell is this funny, and don’t you tell me, “you had to just be there, bro”).
Congratulations. You have successfully made it back to our beloved ’Nell, where learning is (for the most part) paramount, where a night’s success is measured in the number of milliliter-sized plastic-cup-shots taken at Johnny O’s and where studying hungover in a Red Bull/ Aderall induced haze is as routine as breathing. Yet as enchanting as it has been to get reacquainted with some of Cornell’s finer traditions, I cannot help but feel a longing for the long, drawn out days of June and July, when all that mattered was rolling out of bed just in time to catch World Cup highlights.