Our favorite things this week include "Audio Ammunition," Twitter's coverage of Arcade Fire, and Lady's "Lady."
[Updated} This is Video Clash: At Slate.com, Chris Wade slagged "Audio Ammunition," a series of short, behind-the-scenes videos made by Google Play to coincide with the release of The Clash's Sound System box set. He rightly observes that it is far, far short of a proper history of the band, and that "[f]or musicians whose legend revolves around rebellion and visceral excitement, Audio Ammunition is packing all blanks."
It's not The Clash documentary we'd like, but it's more telling than Wade allows. We find out that Topper Headon was a better drummer than we likely realized. We see Mick Jones now could pass for a middle-aged banker. When they talk about "punk" in conjunction with Sandinista, it's a reminder that the word once defined an attitude as much as a sound.
Still, in the Strummer interviews in particular and the series in general, you get a strong sense of a band that was working it all out on the fly. They didn't take time off, moving at a ferocious pace from album to album, which made it hard for them to get the sort of perspective that might have produced a slimmer Sandinista and better songs on Combat Rock (by their admission). But that immersion in the moment led them to take meaningful chances by trusting their audience, even when the audience had shown that it wasn't as progressive as they were. Many punks were not as enamored as they were with rap, but they released "The Magnificent Seven" and "Radio Clash" anyway. They followed the two-album London Calling with the three-disc Sandinista, prompting fears of Emerson, Lake & Palmer-like bourgeois indulgence.
These videos don't depict young radicals. They show us the people they grew up to be - a reminder that there was nothing obviously remarkable about them beyond intense commitment. (Alex Rawls)
The New Media: One of the many blessings of the Internet age is the marriage of two seemingly unrelated groups: journalists and fanatics. In a time when the most well-known news outlets are suspect, the Internet has put the power in the hands of anyone with a computer to be a news outlet. A lot of times, that works better than traditional media. My favorite manifestation of this is @ArcadeFiretube, a Twitter account that has become the vital source on information about the indie all-star's newest, most hyped record. As an Arcade Fire fan, this Twitter account (apparently run by one person and boasting 18,000 followers) is now part of my daily music blog checks. It breaks news hours, sometimes days, before more popular music news outlets and functions as a fan club. As someone who currently studies journalism, it's a bit disconcerting that a Twitter account can boast the same resources and inside tips as the big timers, but as a fan, it's just fun to watch. (Brian Sibile)
Lost Lost Soul?: The self-titled album by Lady seems to have fallen between the cracks this year, but no recent release stops whatever I'm doing when it comes up on my iPod like it does. Charles Bradley deservedly gets a lot of love from the cratedigger soul fans, but the artists known to their mailman as Nicole Wray and Terri Walker deserve more attention than they have received. The album's detractors consider it too familiar from top to bottom, with lyrics and tropes as familiar the album's early '70s sound. For me, that's not a disqualifier; they're no less contemporary than Bradley, Lee Fields, or Sharon Jones and The Dap-Kings. Admittedly, I usually hear it when it comes up in a shuffle, when each track sounds like a long-forgotten soul tune that I get to rediscover. Pitchfork complained about Lady's sweetness, but when I've listened to the album as a whole, that sunny quality develops some richness and contour as a defense mechanism, as a refusal to be defeated. Attached to songs as immediate as these, that attitude sounds far less self-helpy in performance than it does in this description. (Alex Rawls)
Updtaed Oct. 17, 1:04 p.m.
The new DJ Spinna remix of Lady's "Good Lovin'" was added after the story was initially posted.