Dedicated to classics and hits.

Monday, April 26, 2010

SHOW REVIEW: Blank Dogs, Crocodiles & Cosmetics @ Casbah San Diego

April 24th, 20110
@ The Casbah, San Diego, CA.

      Historians of science have a good model for how ideas spread in human populations.  First, new scientific  ideas are advanced by individuals.  These individuals attain notoriety for these new ideas.  Ideas become accepted for reasons far beyond the actual truth value/merit of the idea itself.  Also, individuals who first describe a new idea are not always the one who become associated with the diffusion of that idea.

     The success of any scientific idea is inevitably linked to the success of individuals who espouse that idea.  However, the success of an individual in the arena of scientific progress doesn't mean that person is a "genius."  It could mean that they are well connected, or that they are a persuasive debater or that they are particularly charismatic. Scientific ideas are transmitted person to person.   So it's entirely possible that a successful scientist could be totally wrong AND be successful at transmitting that information to people who then re-transmit it, etc.  Scientific knowledge progresses when a given individual successfully convinces a large enough network that his ideas are correct, and contrasting, preceding ideas are wrong- that's what he called a "paradigm shift" and it's probably something close to what the 'tipping point' is, even though I don't read Malcolm Gladwell.

      This approach was applied by Thomas Collins to the area of philosophy in his epic "The Sociology of Philosophy."  Taking into account that there is no absolute "right" and "wrong" in the arena of philosophy (unlike science).  He was none the less able to chart the path of philosophy by applying the method pioneered by Kuhn in the area of science.

     I would posit that the same analysis can be made for any situation where there is a market, intellectual, commercial or otherwise for a specific idea, product, etc.  In science, it manifests itself in adopting a new "paradigm."  In philosophy, it manifests itself in shifting popularity of various contrasting philosophical schools. And in markets for music, it manifests itself in sales and more unquantifiable measures such as "influence."

     An example of what I am talking about in the world of popular music is best expressed by the oft repeated  chestnut that, "Everyone who saw the Velvet Underground went on to create their own band."  The chestnut is inevitably put forward to justify the merit of another band (not the Velvet Underground) on the basis of something other then sales (because the Velvet Underground didn't sell records.)  This statement tries to take advantage of a bastardized version of the reasoning I described above, but it's a false statement, because the Velvet Underground certainly were a band that was on a major label, drew significant media attention, etc.  They may not have been a dominant commercial Top 40 pop act circa the mid 1960s, but they weren't laboring in obscurity.
     The Velvet Underground fallacy is simply the most recognizable of whole galaxy of critical errors made by people seeking to relevant popular music acts to some sort of intellectual significance.  It starts with Lester Bangs, continues with Malcolm McLaren and Greil Marcus, and it never stops.   Attempts by critics of art to philosophize are naturally limited by their underlying ignorance of the actual ideas expressed in philosophy, because those ideas are complicated, and most pop music critics are stupid and lazy (Why you writing about pop music instead of getting that phd, bro?)
  This was not the first Blank Dogs show in San Diego, but it was the second.  Crocodiles have recorded their second lp and assembled a five piece touring band with an eye to preaching  the gospel world wide.  Blank Dogs is, of course, Mike Sniper, who also runs Captured Tracks, whose first release was also the first Dum Dum Girls record (?- Hozac 45 release date? someone help me here?)  Sniper also collaborates with Dee Dee in Mayfair Set.  He's also involved in a similar relationship with the guy from Gary War.  He also lives in Brooklyn and is the single most identifiable beneficiary of whatever "lo fi" means.

       The first band was Cosmetics from Vancouver, CAN.  I think Vancouver is a thriving cultural center, and I'm waiting for a band to break out of the garage/indie scene up there, but I'm not sure Cosmetics are going to be it.  They have a 7" out on Captured Tracks.  Although they appear as a three piece, with a drummer and a female singer,  the artistic creator of the group appears to be the bassist/synth player.  I can't seem to find his name, but it seems to me that he has a promising future if he keeps writing songs and seeking talented collaborators.   Cosmetics have a synth-y, female singer-y vibe.  The songs only really took off on those where the bassist/synth player really worked his bass.  The second or third last song played before the end of the set was a real stand out, and I would urge them to open with that track.  With a 7" on Captured Tracks, they will no doubt draw attention on upcoming dates, and I'm interested to see how other audiences receive their music and live performance.

       Blank Dogs played as a three piece- no drums.  Mike Sniper performed with a hoodie over his head.  I think that is standard.  The Casbah was crowded and attentive.  Sniper was able to show off his songs in a live setting, and as a Blank Dogs listener, it was cool to hear them played at the Casbah.  Blank Dogs has been so prolific that I would wager few in the audience are familiar with his entire output, but hopefully this show will spur people to purchase physical media.  Not to mention the fact that Captured Tracks is the standard bearer for the new indies.  I look forward to seeing Sniper in whatever acts he chooses to tour with (Mayfair Set?) for many years to come.  For the live show, people want to come here identifiable songs- and Blank Dogs has plenty of them, but the output has been so prolific it's hard for listeners to focus.

    The atmosphere was electric for Crocodiles.  They are now playing as a five piece, with Alianna and Robin joining pre-existing members Marco, Brandon and Chuck. I can honestly say it was as excited a crowd as I've ever seen at a Casbah event.  Judging on the reactions of the audience, the Crocodiles blew the doors off the Casbah.  A lot of photo taking, video taking, excited clapping, enthusiastic responses, etc.  They played some new material- so new that I noticed videographers NOT TAPING hahahahahahaha.  You blew it!  And if you did happen to catch one of the new tracks- don't put that shit on line unless you talk to the artist FIRST.


May 14/15 - Great Escape Festival - Brighton, UK
May 17 - Stag's Head - London, UK
May 18 - Hare and Hounds - Birmingham, UK *
May 19 - The Harley - Sheffield, UK *
May 20 - Arts Centre - Norwich, UK *
May 21 - Sound City - Liverpool, UK #
May 22 - Stag and Dagger - Glasgow, UK %
May 23 - Deaf Institute - Manchester, UK *
May 25 - Heaven - London, UK *
May 27 - Primavera Sound Festival - Barcelona, Spain
May 31 - Pure Groove Records In Store - London, UK
June 1 - White Heat @ Madame Jo Jo's - London, UK

* = w/ A Place To Bury Strangers
# = w/ Titus Andronicus
% = w/ a super cool surprise band 


Anonymous said...

Wow! Were we at the same show? I though the crowd became increasingly disinterested in 'Blank Dogs' as their set went on and it became clear they only had one tune (and that was a Cabaret Voltaire one).
Crocs just about delivered, considering it was their first show as a 5-piece it was good, and the new tunes slotted in well, but I'd hardly say the crowd were seriously up for it. Two people next to me were on their cell phones texting the whole time. Come to think of it, perhaps they were texting each other!

catdirt said...

um i was standing stage right, looking at the people around me and those standing directly in front of the stage. where were you standing? also- try not to be such a dick. talking shit on blank dogs isn't going to get you any respect over here.

Anonymous said...

One comment on your blog in about a year and you call the poster a dick!
Nice work.

catdirt said...

Honestly, I'd rather have people not read this blog then leave comments like that. The fuck do I care? People hide behind the anonymity of the internet and music bloggers put up with it because they are a bunch of bitches. Not me.

Anonymous said...

I'm struggling to work out how my comment could have upset you so much. For the record, I rather liked 'Blank Dogs' as I grew up with the sound of young Sheffield in the late 70s early 80s. I have even purchased a couple of thier EPs since the show. I was merely pointing out that at least half of the people who started out watching them, did not stick around ('attentive' I think was your word) but rather went outside for a smoke before they had finished. Their loss I'd say.


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