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Music Picks

The Hives' Latest

Can random be contrived?

By Thom Wong 6 Dec 2007 | TheTyee.ca

Thom Wong regularly writes about music for The Tyee.

image atom
We are Borg.

I...
...listen to Arcade Fire.
...watch movies by Wes Anderson.
...read McSweeney's Quarterly Concern.
...wear vintage plaid ties.

When I was in university, I identified my musical taste as eclectic. What this meant at the time was I listened to Radiohead and The Wu-Tang Clan and Neil Diamond, all on the same tape. (Yes, tape.) Then I stopped listening to music for about five years and when I started again, I spent more time than is healthy wondering what things like my taste in music and my penchant for ties said about me as a person.

And then I made the list.

When I went to see The Darjeeling Limited, they showed a series of trailers, as they are wont to do, and each and every one seemed hand-picked for my tastes: quirky pregnant girl with favourite actor as track star; quirky siblings have to place equally quirky father in nursing home; some period drama with people looking pained and unrequited. (The one false note, at least from a marketing perspective: The Kite Runner. That looks terrible.)

And as I looked around, I realized that what I thought were carefully cultivated tastes were actually just a convenient way to market to me, now a captive audience. My "eclecticism" was nothing more than a formula, one embodied in the four statements above. Tell me any one of those statements is true about you, and chances are the other three are, more or less, also true.

To wit -- if you have Kanye West rapping that he wants a Happy Meal while Michel Gondry directs the dancing members of OK Go wearing Band of Outsiders, I'll be the first at McDonald's ready for my free, choke-hazard toy. I don't know if that makes me sad, or ecstatic that the world is suddenly so geared towards me.

What I bought since we last met:

I picked up the first two Andrew Bird albums (when he still had the Bowl of Fire) after reading about them in a comic strip. If you don't have it yet, make sure to add his new album to your Christmas list.

Nickelback has failed as a cover band, by playing without irony and choosing really bad source material. This object lesson wasn't lost on The Hives, whose influences, on their new album, range from Devo ("Giddy Up!") to The Ramones ("Try It Again") to The Hives ("Tick Tick Boom"). Their matching suits don't hurt either.

If I had to live the rest of my life on a desert island with only one album (and this desert island was wired for some serious sound), I'd have to take Radiohead's OK Computer. And if I could take two albums with me it would be OK Computer and maybe something a little mellower, that would take advantage of the island's kick-ass bass response, like Jeff Buckley's Grace. But if I could take a crate of albums, and I also happened to have a nice pair of headphones, like Grado SR60s, then somewhere in that crate would probably be My Bloody Valentine's Loveless. Much as Mudhoney arrived a little too early to become Nirvana, MBV was a few years early and one megalomaniacal front-man short for the Smashing Pumpkins' sweepstake. But one listen to Loveless and you'll never hear Siamese Dream the same way again; "Rocket," in particular, sounds like a Loveless B-side.

Related Tyee stories:

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