Musings on music delivered when I dig myself out.

There are few musicians that I've had the pleasure of talking to that can hold a conversation as well as one Drew Daniel. One half of IDM twiddlers Matmos and the sole evil genius behind the Soft Pink Truth, Daniel talked about hardcore punk rock and yummy noises with me like we were just two dudes at the local gay bar. Despite the alluring prospect of simply shooting the shit with a genuinely nice guy, I stuck to my guns and fired out some interview questions about the Soft Pink Truth's new record Do You Want New Wave Or Do You Want the Soft Pink Truth? and the upbringing that inspired it.

Interviewed December 17th, 2004

[Originally for]

Codebreaker: How's your holiday season going?
Drew Daniel: Well, it's been crammed with stuff. I'm giving at Stanford tomorrow on the Merchant of Venice, so there's been a lot of preparation for that on the academic front. Musically, there's a blizzard of possible shows for Matmos and Soft Pink Truth and it's kind of about find a way to make it graceful and make us not lose our day jobs. There's some cool stuff coming; I'm gonna play the Terms Media Festival in Berlin and at Mutech at Montreal and Sonar at Barcelona with the Soft Pink Truth. Matmos is doing quite a lot too. We're going to play that ATP fest, the one that Slint is curating and the Queen Elizabeth Hall, yadda yadda. So there's a lot going on.

CB: So you're going to be rather jetset for a while.
DD: Yeah, it's weird; we kind of thought now that Martin was going back to work at the Art Institute and I was just trying to write the dissertation, we weren't going to get caught up in the Bjork tour monster. Everything would get, well, frankly dull. [laughs] But it doesn't seem to have worked out that way.

CB: What are fans of the Soft Pink Truth like, especially with the new record coming out?
DD: The one's that I met tend to be sort of fashiony, gay boys with asymmetrical haircuts that are very, very thin; or, kind of cool, shouty girls. I just had a bra thrown at me the lost Soft Pink Truth show, which I thought was awesome. I think the risk with something so faggy is that it becomes... like a gay male thing, which I certainly didn't want. I like it better when clubs and parties are mixed up gender-wise. It seems like the ladies like the Soft Pink Truth too -- the feeling is mutual. I don't know; I think it's divided between people that maybe are the sort of IDM, nerd, Matmos contingent that have distain for dance music but dabble because of the Matmos connection, I think that's one set of people. The other set are people that have no interest in Matmos but just want to get down. I'm glad that the Soft Pink Truth can work for two pretty different and maybe mutually not-comprehending sets of people.

Continue reading the interview with Drew Daniel by clicking here.

01. LCD Soundsystem "Yeah" (Crass & Pretentious versions)
[Easily the dance single of the year. James Murphy out does himself again, commanding hipsters to put their lofty ideals and camera-phones where their mouths and asses are. Featuring the catchiest clavinet line you'll hear all year, bombastic percussion breaks from the white Congo (uh, Brooklyn?), and splatters of acid squelches, "Yeah" covers more ground in one nine minute song than most dance punk songs did all year. The "Pretentious" flip side is an eleven minute long wet dream for aspiring human jukebox DJs such as myself with its extra racous drums and more consistent flow. If the next sermon from Father Murphy carries the same ass-shakin' weight, dancing disciples will crowd every dance floor.]

02. Annie "Chewing Gum"
[Right now Madonna and her Kabbalah creeps are probably plotting to either kill or set up a hot kiss with Annie. Richard X's brilliant electro bop beat is the perfect landscape for Annie's sly angel character to bounce and shake. Her carefree and sugar-filled lyrics are so cute and fitting for her silky voice. You would have to hate fun to hate this song -- that's all there is to it.]

03. Britney Spears "Toxic"
[This was the year that Britney went down the shitter... and coincidentally the year of her greatest single. Dodging between sinister strings and riding high on waves of surf guitar and burping up Redbull along with the bursting baseline, Spears makes a fantastic white trash secret agent. A single that "rockist" white kids could like without ruining their cred and probably the last decent single she'll put out before she pops out a bunch of babies.]

04. Franz Ferdinand "Take Me Out"
[A little hot, a little nerdy, a little fey, a little gay: Franz Ferdinand had it all covered. This monster disco stomp was the single that everyone could feel indie dancing to. Few bands that have been as hyped by the intercontinental press circuit and have lived up to it, let alone put out a smash single. Franz Ferdinand sniped pop music and unless pop music fights back, we've got some new leaders of the pack.]

05. Snoop Dogg featuring Pharrell "Drop It Like It's Hot"
[What even needs to be said for this song? No one else could get away with a beat this off the wall OR rapping as poorly than The Neptunes and Snoop. Just another checkpoint in The Neptunes' career and the capstone of Snoop's. That is, unless he comes back as a cyborg; imagine the beat you could make sampling that shit!]

06. M.I.A. "Galang"
[If you build a crunked out, shredded up dancehall, they will come. If you build a crunked out, shredded up dancehall, they will come.]

07. Kanye West "All Falls Down"
[Though many extoll the virtues of "Jesus Walks" (and there are many) and call it West's best, I'm gonna have to disagree. The live instrumentation of "All Falls Down" is modest and funky, and provides the most fitting venue for West's self conscious confessional. He may be an ego maniac, but this track knocks him out of the clouds long enough to toss down some sweet verses while Syleena Johnson belts out a sweeter hook. The humble shall inherit the Earth, even if they're just joshing.]

08. Leslie Feist "Mushaboom"
[It wasn't hard to see swirling beauty of "Mushaboom" even in its fetal stage. Starting out grainy and punctuated by traffic, the track oozed bitter passion. Emerging from its cocoon, it recalls the changing of the seasons, smiling childhood, and a warm cup of coco to curl up with. Breath-taking.]

09. Gwen Stefani "What You Waiting For"
[For a pop song, this took a while to worm its way into my brain before I let it unleash its neon colored arrows and speedlines. "Take a chance you stupid ho" indeed.]

10. Ratatat "Seventeen Years"
[Thank god being in Dashboard Confessional didn't rob guitar dude, Mike Stroud of his creativity. Holding us off until Daft Punk releases something genius.] is doing their year-end round up, which includes a list of the top 10 interviews from 2004. Two of mine are included, so check that out.

Click here to peep that shit.

Content is going to be a bit slim here on Codebreaker for the next few weeks. Between final projects, final tests, and a hot boy that's leaving for Germany in a week, I don't know when I'm going to have time to write anything worthwhile. Not to mention that there aren't many good new singles bouncing around, or at least ones that haven't been covered to high heaven.

Anyways, Codebreaker will be back approximately around the 16th. Email me if you're bored.

Gwen Stefani -- Love. Angel. Music. Baby.
Interscope; 2004

It's hard to write about the very talented Gwen Stefani without mentioning her likewise talented band, No Doubt. The group, which has morphed from ska-punk to reggae-tinged dance music, has been Stefani's vehicle to the bright lights and flashbulbs of stardom. But then you wonder: if Stefani were to jump ship to do her own thing, would she fare as well? Love. Angel. Music. Baby., her first solo album, provides the answer.

Perhaps calling L.A.M.B. a solo effort would be misleading. Stefani -- while clearly a skilled and creative musician of her own right -- made the wise decision to recruit a cavalcade of all-star producers to help her turn raw ideas into reality. With a brain trust varied in style and personality (including Dr. Dre, N'Sync producer Dallas Austin, The Neptunes, and the near-ubiquitous Linda Perry), Stefani was able to make tunes that span a number of genres, some with greater success than others.

Interestingly enough, it's the first half of L.A.M.B. that shows the most promise and finds Stefani at the top of her game vocally. Gwen rocks a J-pop beat laid down by Perry on album opener "What You Waiting For" for an energetic combo peppy enough to get the most slothful listener sweating a bit. "Bubble Pop Electric," the first of Stefani's collaborations with Andre 3000, is a tingly electro pop tune with roots in 50s doowop -- a true standout. Dr. Dre drops one of his better non-hip hop beats on "Rich Girl," with Eve dropping by in an attempt to rekindle the fire she and Gwen had on "Blow Ya Mind"; Stefani's portion fares far better. And "Hollaback Girl," the brassy Neptunes track helps Gwen pull off adorably silly lines like "This shit is bananas / B-A-N-A-N-A-S!"

The album's middle tracks are lukewarm in comparison to their hot hot predecessors. Despite the Isley Brothers sample, "Luxurious" sounds too much like G-funk for Gwen to appropriately helm the tune. The bumping production on "Harajuku Girls" is overshadowed by Stefani's fetish for said ladies, making it a tad too weird for me to enjoy without feeling a little put off.

But it's in the second half of L.A.M.B. that the record loses a significant amount of steam. New wave songs, "Crash" and "The Real Thing" sound like old Kylie Minogue and New Order throwaways, respectively. "Serious" is just as corny but with twice the needless innuendo. They're all fun tunes, but they lack original melodies that can stand up next to the rest of Stefani's work. The album closes with "Long Way to Go," a yawn-worthy lecture about tolerance for interracial couples. A+ for effort, Gwen, but you picked the wrong venue, the wrong time and the wrong spokesperson.

Love. Angel. Music. Baby. is rather revealing as Gwen Stefani's first venture into the world of being a solo artist. Take her out of the comfort zone that her boys in No Doubt provide and her output is a bit spotty (the reverse would probably be true as well). However, Stefani was able to capitalize on her time with some of her collaborators and the results were glorious (I'm dancing to "Bubble Pop Electric" right now, you just can't see me). If Gwen continues to push her boundaries as an artist her audience could be in for a real treat. In the meantime, we'll have to settle for this album's first five tracks and some oh-so-cute L.A.M.B. couture. Ooh, that track jacket is sooo you!

I Got Love For

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