Where music & dance fall face first into the internet.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

NEGATIVE REINFORCEMENT:

An Unfair And One-Sided Review
by Sammy Kablam

SpinTunes #3 Round 2

Alright! Spintunes 3, Round 2 is up! And, unfortunate as it may be, I've not yet contracted AIDS via sex or drug use with contaminated sources; I'm sure many of you are disappointed. But, the show must go on, and indeed it does, with the four of this rounds five shadow entries!

Glen Raphael - Billion Metal Dollars
This is unnecessarily deep. I am completely at a loss. How is it you can write such an incredible song for a shadow, but miss the mark so impressively in round 1? Really, this frustrates me, because I would have voted for this to move you into round 3. There is something wrong in the universe when this song is a shadow and Happi's offering is an official entry.

Doom Skittle w/Luke Brekke - Going Undercover
Well, it's better than "Cannibal" and whatever the fuck doom Skittle's first entry was called. But the vocals are difficult to make out, both due to volume and confidence, and the last chorus just feels like padding. If the choruses weren't so long, or had different lyrics thrown in to keep them fresh, it'd be different. But it doesn't. So it sucks.

Noah McLaughlin - Fear Drive
All I hear is a bunch of guitar noise trying to drown out a Commander Cody impression. The instrumentation doesn't sound in tune with itself, or even orchestrated. And the vocals seem to be in their own little pocket dimension, unaware that the music exists.

Menage' a Tune - The Furries Are Heading Back to Pittsburgh
It would be awesome if the vocals and the piano would line up. It's like neither part knows if the other is leading. I'd comment on something else, but...there basically is nothing else.

Not exactly bursting with excitement, the shadow section is now complete, and we move on to the main event!

The Offhand Band - Program Aids Food Stamp Users
I hate reading articles, especially in newspapers, because of things where they quote someone's words, and then end it with something like "Johnson said". It's completely unnatural and looks unprofessional and ill thought out. But the fact that you employed that one otherwise annoying tactic, really worked in your favor. The feeling of the song BEING a news article was there by that element, alone. But this seriously sounds like elevator music. For all the effort put into it, it's still incredibly boring and simply doesn't keep my interest at all.

Gold Lion - Message For Vivian
This thing really picks up at the first chorus, in a great way. And then it falls completely fucking dead with that magnificently empty solo/breakdown. And that only leads to a repeat of the chorus, causing my faith in the song to stagger, and then the next verse is musically the same as the first, with nothing addition to attempt reviving the energy. It's a grand improvement over round one, but the catchiness of the chorus leaves me wishing the whole thing was more engaging than staring at the sun.

Edric Haleen - What About Love?
Once again, Edric braves the possibility of intentional misinterpretation and takes a bold stance with his entry. Though I do appreciate the song's message and the ferocity with which it comes, I really hate the fact that it sounds similar to "Lose Yourself" because Eminem is so overrated, I'm surprised he hasn't burts from years of having smoke pumped into his colon. Because of this, I can enjoy the sentiment, but not so much the song. (Still, it ranks above that Isaac douchebag.)

Jutze - Re: Your Oil
I am outright positive that a bunch of people will be calling this "hilarious", because when it comes to Jutze, people always do. And I almost never get why. I also don't get the jarring gear grind into the lyrically redundant refrains. I can understand a fake-out from the intro to the first verse, or a change-up for a bridge. But the verses are musically powerful, and the total kill switch into the refrain just confuses me. This song is practically begging me to look at it's by-design inconsistency, and just not care from the very first chorus. Well, I can oblige, song: I will gladly not care about you.

Dr. Lindyke - Prayer For Peace
I have a knee jerk reaction to Israel, because everything I hear about it only serves to piss me off. Couple the fact that I don't give a fuck about Israel with the fact that this song is slow and soft -- almost a lullaby-style lament -- and I'm just annoyed and bored.

Governing Dynamics - Cameras, Streetlights, And Things Worth Fighting For
First of all, the title ends on a preposition. Tisk, tisk. Secondly, the first chord alerts everyone this is a Governing Dynamics song. And whereas that's not inherently a bad thing, this time around, it's not great, either. What I said about The Pood in round one, I say now about Governing Dynamics: I ordered a Coke, and you gave me Diet Mt. Dew. Yes, I can drink it, but I expected something better.

Pat and Gweebol - The Story Is Mine: Confession Of An Undocumented Immigrant
There's arguably not too much to this one, given the leng and repetition of the chorus compared to the verses. However, I'd say it's clearly the most upbeat of all the entries, and thus one of the most enjoyable. WHY WON'T YOU LET ME INSULT YOU?!

Alexa Polasky - Infidelity
Fourteen seconds of nothing is great way to start things off. Anyway... Once again, your lyrics completely blow my mind and defy the nature of realistic conversation. In stanza one, you flat out say "I haven't loved you for years," and in stanza two, you tell this person to stay calm, and then say "Once I explain, you'll see exactly what I mean". Well, maybe I'm just a wiz with puzzles, but I'm pretty sure he got the message. You even call him "dear". My god, this is the second patronizing song you've given us. You then go on to tell this person they're a dope for not being hip to the common knowledge that marriage vows don't mean anything, and that this lover should have expected this behavior -- since day one, apparently.

And don't try to tell me the concept of the song is sarcasm or cynicism. The thing starts with the singer saying she tried to maintain her love for this person and didn't have it in her. that's an attempt at humanizing the character and garnering sympathy. Which indicates the singer truly believes that everyone on earth is a slut with no respect for keeping your word -- the only alternative being the singer is using that theory to justify her actions, and to make herself believe she is perfectly defensible for her adultery. Neither of which are endearing angles.

And it sounds like a uke, so fuck it, anyway.

Matt Walton - Take Your Placards Down To London
I can appreciate what you were going for, here. But the refrains that seem like they should sound built up have nothing but background vocals. And those vocals sound about as enthusiastic as Gregorian chants. It's just...not interesting.

Godz Poodlz - Independence And Freedom for All
I really don't think the heavy distortion was the right idea. But I found this way more enjoyable than your round 1, so I've not got much more to say.

Chris Cogott - Welcome To Kabul
Guess what. Chris wins.

Inverse T. Clown - Something In The Air
Yes, we're all well aware that you can do a half-assed Nine Inch Nails impersonation. We've heard you do it, and we've heard you do it better. Next time you write a new song, maybe try a new approach to go with it. Oh, and that bridge solo -- and "solo" is a generous term -- was really basic and weak. Overall, I'd say stop trying to lazily emulate professionals, and either put real effort into developing your own style, or just give up completely.

Caleb Hines - Too Soon To Say Goodbye
I'm fairly certain this is the most complex orchestration I've heard from Caleb. And I know he says his lyrics always need work, but this time, I'd say they're about perfect. Way to kill my momentum, Caleb.

Matt and Donna - A Tight Spot
I can't really say this is BAD, but it's definitely a step down from Round 1.

Wait What - Bunny Please Don't Go
As many people were telling me about The Offhand Band sounding like The Beatles in round 1, just as many people have pointed out how very "Thriller" this song is. The difference is that this time, I'm completely familiar with the song getting the blatant rip-off treatment, meaning I can make fun of it. Like, I can point out that even your lyric pattern in the verses matches the lyric pattern of the Jackson hit.

However, getting past the glaring rip, your lyrics are juvenile in the worst sense; not that they're a comical juxtaposition of adult themes with ironic middle-school perspective, but that there IS no juxtaposition. It's just trying so VERY hard to be cute and witty, and half the shit doesn't make any fucking sense. It especially kills me that this story is actually excellent source material for a song, and you managed to suck the life out of it like an entertainment vampire. The "Twilight" kind.

Ross Durand - The American Way
This is a very well done examination of certain ludicrous hypocrisies in our country's "morals". It also manages to be entertaining and amusing while making a legitimate point, instead of getting overly political and bashing the listener over the head with an agenda. It's a simple request for reason, and I very much appreciate that.

Steve Durand - When Frankie And Johnny Get Married
This is a wonderful homage to so many things. I'm only 3rd generation American on my dad's side, and the Polish in my upbringing appreciates this immensely. There is absolutely no insult joke I can muster for this entry.

Happi - Double The Fetish
As the question was presented to me a day or so after the Listening Party, I nearly YouTube'd the phrase "Australian Rap", to see if it's a real thing. But I stopped myself, because if I found out that real rap exists there, I'll be pretty damn irritated that this was the first example of it to reach me.

I guess the argument can be made that, yes, this is obviously a "real" rap song, because he used the phrase "fuck off and die" ad nauseum, and that's about as rap as it gets. That is to say, abrasive and immature. But even I'm not that cynical. Besides, even ignoring that horrendous overuse of ineffective vulgarity, the refrain is so bad, I nearly ground my teeth to the gum. I especially love the line "These peepin' toms, they don't belong," almost as if there are people one might genuinely EXPECT to find jerking off in a tank of human waste -- just not this PARTICULAR guy.

I will say, though, you certainly chose the perfect topic for your style.

Charlie McCarron - The Mountains Will Not Yield
This isn't my cup of tea, that's for certain. But that's not a strike against it, by any stretch. It's oddly pretty, for a song about meeting one's icy doom, and the ending feels like a real climax without going overboard. Well done, I suppose.

Alex Carpenter - The Last Launch
While I find the line "If we endeavor to continue our discovery" to be notably brilliant, I'm just not pulled into the song on the whole. The music sounds a little samey, and that may be due to the sudden difference from the full-band sound of your Round 1 entry and this being just you and your guitar. At any rate, the song's not bad; it just doesn't grab me.

As the readers may have noticed, I skipped over both a shadow and an official entry, as the rest of these are in the order of the album on Bandcamp. That is because I wanted to give these two offerings some special attention. Had this been a video review, they would each get their own special edition videos; as I was, unfortunately, unable to produce this just yet, they'll have to settle for extended bits here. So, as tradition dictates, let's hit the Shadow first:

Young Muscle Stroker - One Doller Robber
O.k., so last round, instead of doing this, I tried to convince myself that you and your song were a brilliant in-joke. However, you've submitted a shadow entry, seemingly in an effort to dash my fragile dreams that you weren't fucking serious. So, since you apparently ARE serious, but refuse to ACT like it, let's put a few things in perspective.

You are about as "hardcore rap" as Shania Twain is "southern rock". The biggest difference being Shania, at the arguable least, understood what makes her chosen genre work. For example, she knew how to sound country. You sound like Kermit the Frog, without the cool, trying to parody Snoop Dogg. It's completely contradictory to the concept of being taken seriously. How is it conducive to being a successful, respected rapper to sound like a redneck caricature? If you were pulling a gimmick, like Larry the Cable Guy, then I'd understand -- and it might even work. (Enough morons made Larry a millionaire, I'm sure you'd find fans in a similar route.) But, if you're not going the funny road -- which you've yet to indicate you are -- your current voice is simply a gigantic hindrance and rips away any believability from your product.

Now let's talk about the song, itself. You start with a news break, which isn't a bad idea. Nobody else did it, but that doesn't mean anything except that you were the only guy who found a way to make it work. So good job, there. But there's a specific sound during the intro. And the regular beat kicks in at the start of the first verse. But then, when the second verse starts, it's not the verse beat. It's a return of the intro sounds. Why? There's no call for it. It comes across like the music looped, and you just didn't bother to adjust it and cut out the incorrect beat. That means it sounds lazy and incompetent, because either you somehow weren't aware that the intro music showed up in verse two (even though verse two has, obviously, no intro or need for said music), or you just couldn't be bothered to fix it. I'm less likely to believe you (or anyone at all) would be too lazy to fix any known problems with a shadow; shadows are more work than someone needs to do, because they're no longer in the contest, so why write the out-of-contest song at all, if it doesn't meet your standards?

Next, your rap has giant gaps of quietude where you couldn't manage to utilize real rhythm with your lyrics and settled for pathetic (and hopefully embarrassing) results. Moments like "so here...read this note" have thundering silences. Why is there a void in those lyrics? Why was it so hard for a rapper to mold the English language to fill the silence there? And before that, your second fucking line is a mess. "Call Rihanna so she can put me under her umbrella" is almost completely garbled in the first half, and then that's followed by another line with a horribly awkward silent gap in the middle. Basically, a third of your lines are rushed to fit in too many syllables, and a third of your lines have too few syllables, resulting in confusing bits of nothing in the middle of your thought. You're the single clumsiest lyricist I think I've ever heard. Granted, I may have heard worse, but you're a rapper, which means 80% of the focus of every single song you put out will be the lyrics and the delivery thereof. And with your rhymes which, more often than not, are incredibly lazy (consider that total crap "job/sob" rhyme last round) and your complete misunderstanding -- or at least unabashed misuse -- of rhythm, you beat out Happi as the worst rapper I've ever had the torment of sitting thru. And I've heard half of a Dave Leigh rap.

So, to bring us up to speed, your voice is unfit for the genre, you don't seem to have a mastery of your own loop editing, your rhymes are generally lazy, and your lyrics are laid out as smoothly as the surface of Uranus. (Editor's note: The surface of Uranus is covered in jagged spires and cavernous declivities.) I now have one last element about your apparent "style", and that is that you make no fucking sense at all. As evidence, I point to your incredibly stupid refrain:

bank teller - gimme one dollar
can't afford healthcare no thanks to obama
bank teller - gimme one dollar
i'm a wait for the cops don't want no drama

Well, what the fuck does that mean? I understand that the guy demanded a dollar. But "can't afford healthcare no thanks to obama"? Naturally, I assume this is supposed to be a shot at our current President. It's not -- but I'm assuming it's supposed to be. See, usually when people say "No thanks to him," they're annoyed that the indicated party refused to assist in whatever task was just completed. For example:

Travis: "Were you able to get that Negative Reinforcement review done without beating your skull in with a 30 pound thesaurus?"

Sammy: "In fact, I was -- no thanks to Strokes Muscly Young'ns."

See? It implies that what I desire was achieved, even though you tried to prevent it. With that in mind, the line says he CAN'T afford healthcare. Do you see, now, why this line is completely fucking retarded? It suggests that this man was TRYING to not afford healthcare, and that President Obama tried to MAKE him afford. Now, whereas it's true that the President's goal, early on, was to make healthcare reasonably affordable for everyone in the country, and also true that a lot of people were against that for reasons that never quite made sense, it is NOT accurate to believe that there were people actively trying to NOT afford healthcare. Especially people who WANT healthcare. I dare say, most people who want healthcare would rather LIKE to afford it SO THEY CAN GET IT.

Maybe if you'd gone something more like, "Can't afford healthcare, so I out-planned Obama," then at least your anti-Obama statement would be followable. But even if you had made the refrain make sense, most of your second verse is complete nonsense.

see my bearded mug - on gaston county lockup
robbed the bank for a dollar - do i rock or what
i kick a lot of but - in jail seein' doctors
one dollar robber - "what a shocker"

...what? Why does it rock that he robbed the bank? You're advocating robbery? Or you're saying it's cool that he had to resort to a desperate act to sustain his very life? What's so upbeat about this situation? And he kicks a lot of butt?? What the fuck does that even reference?? In fact, what in that STANZA makes any sense? From line to line, where is there any fucking cohesion??

in this test i'm the proctor in this class i'm a teacher
in this platoon i'm a sargeant in this church i'm a preacher
in this torrent i'm a seeder not a leecher
in this football game i'm on the field you're in the bleachers

Is this supposed to be gloating? He sees himself as some sort of paragon now? This man of desperation is now a braggard because he's both broke AND in prison? Excellent focal point. TOTALLY sends the right message. And, as if you couldn't miss the point of the topic any more, you pull one the single most tasteless things I've seen:

i'm brave enough to rob a bank for a buck
more bang for the buck in my hangy down nuts

I'm actually glad this is a written review, because I'm not sure the last few remnants of purity in my soul could survive saying that acidic bullshit out loud. That basically sums up the general incompetence and lack of art in your productions. This is a pit of musical sorrow that utterly urinates on a man's collapsing life by turning it into a selfish and ignorant political vehicle that can't even make the author's own vapid point, and brushing the reality of the story aside to make room for mention of testicles. Well fucking done.

Jon Eric - North Dakota
Just so Mr. Eric's not too concerned after reading the previous rant, his entry was not kept for an extended look due to being a monumental inferno of cosmic diarrhea. His entry is a 9-minute work, in 5 sections, so I concluded it only right to give each section it's own going-over. With that, we begin:

I. Five Years

The rhymes in this are incredibly sharp. For as much power as you're putting into your vocals, I really wish there were harmonies in place.

II. Fargo

The very brief refrain is pretty effective here. It's a catchy little hook, and it also leads into the third section very well. I also really like the background vocals. They help out the atmosphere quite a bit.

III. Panic

Here's the issue I have with this section: It's performed well, both musically and vocally, and the lyrics are just fine. But the lyrics and the music don't seem to be a team. The idea of panicking about another flood situation is entirely plausible and sympathetic. But the music feels more like the singer would be in shock, trying to absorb the fact that he's in the nightmare a second time. It just doesn't feel, musically, like the guy is panicking. Especially with that little breakdown session -- a spot that actually makes it feel more like realization settling in thru a state of shock.

IV. Rain

In Song Fu 6, there was a challenge to write a song about rain. In the songs, somewhere, there had to be a musical representation of rainfall. Here, I think you did a better job at that than many of those entrants; it genuinely feels like it's raining during this section.

V. Dry Land

This ending is amazingly bittersweet. Even with the protagonist being rescued from his immediate plight (which is something the listener wants, at this point), the greater problem is still at hand. It's a bit of an emotional whiplash, but in a positive way.

Overall, I'm certain this is the best thing I've ever heard from you, and not just because of the length. In fact, I'm sure the length will turn a fair bit of listeners away. But fuck them. For all the times I've told you "It's not bad, but it's still not great," there can no longer be any argument that you haven't made impressive works, this being Exhibit A. On the downside, of course, if you produce anything lesser in the future, I'm going to bitch that it's not this good. You've been warned.

Well! That's Round 2 of SpinTunes 3, thoroughly put in its place. Hopefully, everybody understands, by now, that my opinion is the only one around here with any weight or merit. Once we get that in our heads, we'll see some real improvements -- maybe by Round 3! Until then, though, I've got to run out and see if I can find some AIDS.

See you next round!

S. Kablam.

(Normally people seem to put the disclaimers at the bottom, but this should probably go up top...and in bold. Sammy's reviews do not reflect that of Spintown's, and have no influence over the contest whatsoever. The over the top reviews in Sammy's "NEGATIVE REINFORCEMENT" series aren't meant to be 'constructive', and you should read the sub title. If you think he's picking on you...just read the reviews he wrote for the others...he can be an equal opportunity ass. - Spin)

3 comments:

  1. Wonderful as always sir. I wish I had gotten my shadow in on time for no other reason than NR.

    -Ethan

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks! If there are any other topics you can't stand to hear, please let me know so I can make producing songs based on them a priority. It seems to have worked in my favor here.

    ReplyDelete