Beer and Pavement

Attention Whores: Wayne Coyne and BrewDog

Posted in Beer, Intersections, Rock vs. Beer by SM on June 8, 2012

For a little context, watch the following two videos. Beware, however. Both are NSFW. The first due to imagery and the second due to language. Although, they both feature nudity…

From the Flaming Lips, featuring Erykah Badu[1]:

From Brew Dog:

First, let’s address the Flaming Lips/Erykah Badu video.

It seems that Wayne Coyne and the Lips upset Ms. Badu by releasing the the video for their collaboration on “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” before she was able to approve it. What was she so upset about? Well, the video features Badu as well as her sister in a bathtub (at different times, you perverts). In various shots, the tub is filled with water, glitter, what appears to be fake blood, and something white, milky and sticky (you can figure out what it represents). In addition, Badu and her sister’s bodies are on full display[2] including slow-motion shots of their rear ends getting smacked.

FWIW, the video is decidedly NSFW. There’s no debating that.

What is up for contention, however, is whether it counts as art or just a bit of soft porn, intended to shock. The slow, lingering shots of the women’s bodies certainly can be titilating for someone into that kind of thing[3]. Additionally, the various substances clinging to their bodies surely is a fetish for someone. Still, I’d argue the concept and portrayal is beautiful and adds dimensions of motherhood and birthing to the song that I never heard before. While the imagery is no doubt very graphic, it also contains a large amount of artistic merit.

The above was my take before I knew of Badu’s displeasure. Something doesn’t sit well with me when rich (yes, the Lips are moderately rich at this point), white men use sexualized images of women – particularly women of color – for their own gain[4]. Her complaints paint head Lip Wayne Coyne as a master manipulator who exploited the images of Badu and her sister for shock value[5], garnering more attention for his band.

Of course, I also see the other side of it. This video is a case of Wayne being Wayne[6]. When he’s not posting a video of a naked Badu in blood, he’s Tweeting pictures of his naked partner (NSFW), walking out of a giant vagina (you guessed, NSFW), or flashing his own twig and berries in a video (REALLY NSFW or bicyclists). The man is not afraid of using the naked form in his art. So, Badu should have had some idea that Coyne would do something like this. It doesn’t excuse Coyne for not running it by Badu first, but one has to wonder what she expected from a man who is constantly surrounding himself with imagery of naked women[7].

In the end, the Lips apoplogized after Badu and Coyne had some back-and-forth Tweeting. The video was pulled with an edited version due Monday. Coyne apologized. Both parties received a fair amount of attention. Life goes on.

The second video features BrewDog’s attempt at pitching a reality series. Others in craft beer have tried this, but few have produced anything as compelling or aggressive as BrewDog. That said, many simply chalk it up as the Scottish craft brewers looking to create a little publicity with yet another stunt.

For the most part, the show looks like something one would find on almost any cable network. You have engaging subjects in James Watt and Martin Dickie doing crazy things like finding multiple ways to destroy corporate beers[8] or cooking in the nude[9]. They have a travel feature where they visit some of the best brewers in the world. Basically, all the things they normally do have been captured and pieced together in video.

As I suggested above, some grow weary of BrewDog’s never-ending efforts to garner attention for their little brewery, even when it isn’t their fault. They brew beers both ridiculoulsy high in alcohol and low. They package beers in dead animals. And they generally do whatever they can to upset the beer traditions and corporate overlords of the United Kingdom[10].

Personally, I don’t care. Aside from a few early bottles I did not enjoy, BrewDog has consistently wowed me with some fantastic beers. I even find some of the stunts they put on to be entertaining as I’m sure Watt and Dickie intended[11]. Besides, their message isn’t for the converted American craft beer nut. It’s for unitiated[12] of their own homeland.

What these two stories have in common is that they were created by attention whores. I don’t mean this in a derogitory way. The men in question just long for loads of attention. They stir up controversy so as to enter the conversation. In the end, it garners attention for their craft as well which means income.

I’m okay with this. Corporations do silly things all the time to get your business. Why can’t indie-crafters?

The biggest difference between corporations and indie-crafters lies in the resources they have to throw at such controversies. So, corporations can blanket us with one stupid, attention-getting stunt after another without ever really committing to big-time cotnroversy. However, if you’re a craft brewer or indie rocker, you have fewer opportunities to make a splash with far-reaching marketing campaigns. So, you have to get more bang for you buck by drumming up a little controversy. I get that.

What I don’t get is the blatant disregard for their audience and/or fellow collaborators. Why did Coyne have to exploit Badu’s willingness to appease his artistic vision by posting a video she obviously would not have approved? Why does BrewDog spend so much time even addressing their corporate competitors when their beer should speak for itself[13]? I don’t know the answer to this, but this aspect of the attention-grabbing is disappointing.

There are more positive ways to grab that attention. Sufjan Stevens has made a living off of completing just 4% of a project when he claimed to be working on a 50-state project[14]. Sam Calagione changed liquor laws in Delaware and crossed the Potomac (or was it the Delaware?) with a keg of beer to open his brewery[15]. These stunts hurt non one, garner attention, and generally keep the focus on the product.

Either way, it’s clear that Wayne Coyne and BrewDog need attention. I don’t mind that they need it. I just wish we could get back to the music and beer.

1Sorry. It’s been taken down. You’ll have to bear with my descriptions or use your memory if you were able to catch it.
2FWIW, this is not the first time Badu has been naked in a music video. Check it (NSFW, obviously).
3Let’s be real. I enjoyed it. The women are beautiful and I thought it was tastefully shot and edited.
4How would this debate be different if we were talking about Larry Flynt or Dov Charney or Terry Richardson? Would it be any different?
5Is anything Wayne Coyne does shocking anymore?
6I recognize the irony of using this phrase. It sounds an awful lot like “boys will be boys.” So, I’m already uneasy with this argument. However, it is a layer of the onion that must be peeled.<-I'm way better with this metaphor.
7In part of Badu’s online rant, she mentions that she loves the Lis’ show. If you’ve ever been to a Flaming Lips’ concert in the last 12 or so years, you’re pretty acutely aware of the nudity involved. Also, they’re called The Flaming Lips. What do you think that means? Wayne Coyne ate some habinero peppers one day?
8Waste of money.
10This is pretty easy to do. I enjoy it when beer bloggers from the UK visit the Coalition. They have a different perspective to provide. However, they are a protective lot when it comes to beer tradition.
11Surely, you all realize this. Everytime you bring up BrewDog, they get more attention and then more money. Ditto for Wayne Coyne.
12The message isn’t for you, Real Ale Guy. They don’t want your money. Go back to your pint.
13Stone does this as well, but their arguments are not so mean-spirited. When Greg Koch talks about “fizzy yellow beer”, I get the sense that he is promoting his beer more than shooting down the big boys. BrewDog come off less nuanced.
14However, I suspect he will put out a flurry of 5-10 more state-themed albums at some point. Oregon’s next, I predict.
15I think I have totally butchered this story. Possibly none of it is true.

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On Sadness

Posted in Intersections, Manifesto by SM on January 12, 2012

“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”
― Dr. Seuss

I recently watched the Pitchfork.TV documentary on the making of the Flaming Lips classic LP, The Soft Bulletin. If you haven’t heard the record, you’re missing out. It’s absolutely one of the ten best albums of my life and it may also be one of the saddest. Wayne Coyne has often talked about how sad songs can make us feel better or give us a sense of being part of something larger than ourselves. This is expressed in so many words in the doc and comes through in the Dr. Seuss quote above.

We love sad songs. Our favorite bands record mostly sad songs. There’s a reason bands like The Smiths, Joy Division, Bright Eyes, etc. are so beloved. It’s similar to the fanaticism for Elliott Smith and Nick Drake. These artists know how to speak to our sadness and this comforts us somehow.

Interestingly, we also choose alcohol more than almost any other drug. Alcohol’s a depressant, bringing our sadness to the forefront[1]. Yes, the effects of our drug of choice is mostly intended for us to feel that sadness again.

It should be clarified, however, that just because we choose music and drugs that make us sad that we still appreciate high quality. Sure, there is music and alcohol that appeals to the lowest common denominator. Those are not the people about which I’m talking. No, I prefer to focus on those with discriminating taste. There are no more discriminating enthusiasts alive than those of us who follow indie rock and craft beer. Characteristics such as quality and authenticity are important to us. Yes, these things are somewhat subjective, but one cannot deny the care and skill it takes to create and appreciate such endeavors.

So, why does the indie rocker play that sad record over and over? Why does the beer enthusiast go back to the bar time and time again?

This is what comes up when you search for "sad beer".

I think that we all just want to feel something. As the Dr. Seuss quote suggests, it’s better to have experiences even if it means some sadness is included. To feel something, anything, means that we’re alive. It’s even better when that something is real, something that reminds us we’re not alone.

Celebratory emotions can do that to a point. We can feel joy and camaraderie with our friends and family after a great triumph, but we know whom we can trust when we’re down and out. Our real friends and most trusted family members stick by our sides in the toughest of times. We comfort each other when we reveal a bit of ourselves. Sadness brings us together in a way happiness never can.

And this is why we listen to sad songs and drink beer that fills us up, slows our reflexes, and lets our guards down. This authenticity in feeling sadness helps us to feel alive, almost ironically triumphant. When I listen to The Soft Bulletin, I can relate to the sadness in those songs, but at the same time the dynamics of that music makes me feel said triumphs. If I can survive some of the things I have survived so far, I can do most anything. And that just makes me want to crack open a good beer.

1OK. So, I don’t really think that alcohol’s purpose is to make us sad. However, by slowing things down, we tend to reflect more on our life and inevitably our failures. Or think of those drunken nights when you felt so down due to your state and the embarrassment of having lost control. With alcohol, things slow down and our emotions can often match the rest of our body’s pace. They don’t call them depressants for nothing.

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Top 5 for August 29, 2011

Posted in Top 5 by SM on August 29, 2011

Here we are again. Another week. Another top-5 list.

1. College Kids
I don’t know if they make the list because I’m glad they’ve come back or that I wish they’d all go home. Living in a college town means that the winds of change happen every year in mid-May and mid-August. Students cause overcrowding, dangerous situations on the street, and a lot of unnecessary noise. Conversely, they also bring with them energy, inspiration, and a sense of hope. There’s good and bad. Luckily, they don’t know enough about craft beer to drink it all up. Sadly, they don’t know enough about (good) indie rock to raise demand for such things in retail and entertainment. They are just what they are.

2. College Football
The season begins later this week. I will be happy to actually watch games instead of reading about a new scandal every week, especially for my Buckeyes. This season could be surprisingly great for Ohio State. They have more talent than any team on their schedule, they have been the best program in the nation the past few years statistically, and it’s the first year for a new era. That said, they will likely suffer a few setbacks as replacing your coach and starting quarterback in the same year is just too much, especially with a significantly upgraded schedule. However, if they find a way to grind out a 5-0 start, find an answer under center, and gain a boost from players coming off suspension, it could be a special year.

3.The Flaming Lips + Lightning Bolt, “I’m Working at NASA on Acid”
This track is from the collab the Lips did with Lightning Bolt, one of the most raucous and insane live bands you’ll ever see. The beginning and end do nothing to capture Lightning Bolt’s energey, but the cool, retro aesthetic is nice. In between, there’s a burst of what you’d expect from LB and about 45 seconds of noise with classic Lips imagery. Overall, it’s an entertaining clip.

4. Drink with the Wench Beer Blogger Interviews
The Wench is a pretty well-known beer blogger who is willing to share her sizable audience with struggling beer bloggers like myself. Late last week, she posted my interview. A few questions were left off (totally my fault). As a special treat for you, my dear readers, I have those missing questions here:

#. What is one of the coolest things that happened to you as a result of being a beer blogger? The week after Stone arrived in Missouri, I wrote a post on the event that is a Stone state-wide release. Greg Koch responded to my post as well as all eleven footnotes. He was super cool and gracious.#. What are you top 3 favorite beer blogs/beer websites?
It’s a Fucking Beer! (Great reviews with a potty mouth.), Hot Knives (Vegan hipsters with a penchant for matching brews with cheese and indie rock.), and Make Mine Potato (No reviews just existential ramblings about craft beer and lots and lots of beer porn you want to get with.)

(Plus, there was this mention from Appelation Beer.)

5. One more video…Here’s an unreleased track from Malk, “Independence Street.”

My beer club had a “Members Only” tasting in which we all wore Members Only jackets and drank a shit-ton of fantastic beers. Below is a picture of that lineup and you can always check my Untappd posts for the order of beers sampled.

The beers were from left to right: The Bruery Hottenroth, Hoppin Frog Hoppin to Heaven, Pretty Things St. Botolph’s, The Lost Abbey Devotion, Terrapin Hopsecutioner, Brew Dog Dogma, Boulevard/Deschutes Collaboration #2, Allagash Black, Dogfish Head Hellhound, 08-10 Stone Old Guardian (vertical), Brewer’s Art Green Peppercorn Tripel, The Bruery Mischief, Hoppin Frog Mean Manalishi Double IPA, Nectar Black Xantus , The Lost Abbey Judgement Day, Brooklyn #1, Full Sail Old Boardhead Barleywine 2011, Smuttynose Baltic Porter, Green Flash and Pizza Port Carlsbad Highway 78 Scotch Ale, Weyerbacher Heresy, Pretty Things Baby Tree,  and The Bruery Trade Winds

Not pictured: Boulevard/Deschutes Collaboration #2 (the Deschutes version, aka Conflux 2), Stone Japanese Green Tea IPA, Trappist Westvleteren 12(!), Cascade Sang Royal, and Weyerbacher Double Simcoe

The Flaming Lost

Posted in Intersections, Pop by SM on February 4, 2010

Disclaimer: I only published this post because I was tired of trying to write it in a way that made sense. Do with it as you please. I have thick skin. You could also tell me something that I did right or mostly berate me. Whatever.

I don’t watch a lot of TV (or a lot of TV with a purpose). I watch some comedic programs1 and certain sporting events2, but I really don’t have a regular TV schedule I follow, except for Lost. I just watch Lost.

Last night was season premier night for my (only) favorite show. I’ve waited since the end of season five3 for the final season to commence. Why? I dunno. It could be the viral marketing4 or complex characters or multi-layered narratives or…it’s just a good show. Lost broke out of the box5 of the typical TV show by transcending time and space6, reality and science fiction7, and basic bad guy/good guy dichotomies8 like no other show has ever done before.

I was thinking about Lost‘s trajectory over the past five seasons and it sort of reminded me of the Flaming Lips’ last six albums9. The first season of Lost, much like 1993’s Transmissions from the Satellite Heart10, starts off fresh, big, and different. Both the album and show explore fledgling love triangles, abductions, and questions of faith. It’s really the beginning for both the TV show and the band11.

Both the second season and the Lips’s Clouds Taste Metallic take much darker turns than their predecessors. Evils are revealed alongside sad realities. Ships are set sail, destroyed, and abandoned. One could even make a case that both follow-ups closely resemble the tenor and tone of Empire Strikes Back, but that would be too nerdy. In the end, the black guy is sent away and all hope is lost12.

The series of Lip’s albums and Lost take strange turns but go a long way in preparing their fans for what’s to come. Scientists race for cures and try to solve the unknowns of their surroundings. Waiting for heroes and unveiling the mysteries of science thematically carry these works. The Soft Bulletin13 and Lost‘s third season were breaking points for each. The Lip’s album topped many year-end lists and is generally considered their breakthrough effort. The castaways of Lost were finally within reach of the outside world as their narrative was about to take a rather severe turn in the seasons to come.

Much is expanded upon in both the Lips’ and Lost‘s narratives. Their follow-ups to their breakthroughs extended themes and aesthetic. Season five was as much a disappointment as At War with the Mystics. And the jury is still out on Embryonic and the still-fresh season six of Lost14.

Throughout the Lips’ discography they’ve covered topics ranging from the existential to the downright comical, mirroring Lost as if existing in a parallel universe15

Anyway, we watched the season premier of Lost and like every time I buy a new Flaming Lips’ record, I feel…well…a little lost. But that kind of lost a is a happy lost. A lost in which reality is suspended. A flash of light blinds for a moment and I’m transported somewhere else. The best music and even the best of TV do that for the consumer. It’s better than any drug. That’s why we keep going back. That’s why I can’t wait for Tuesdays and  for nine months to pass between seasons of my favorite TV show.

1The Office, Thirty Rock, and Stewart/Cobert are the only comedic shows worth watching. End of discussion…unless of course you want to debate my point in the comments, but I don’t think you will.
2I primarily watch Ohio State football and basketball. I know it doesn’t fit with the blog, but that’s who I am.
3That was like nine months ago. I like that each season is 15-17 straight weeks of new episodes, but the trade-off is to wait those nine months between a season-ending cliffhanger and the big reveal at the start of the next season.
4Of course, besides some videos and chat boards, I’m talking about all the spoilers out there. When a season was moving a bit too slowly, I just checked some spoilers to wet my appetite.
5The idiot box, so to speak.
6Usually this element of a show loses me, but because it was slipped in subtly, after they already had audience buy-in, I’m rolling with it. Now, if I could just figure out what to do with the alternate reality/side-backs.
7Although a science fiction is the genre, Lost is more than that as it dances in and around reality.
8I have always loved that the characters are never good or bad. They just are. There’s a ton of layers to every character, giving the drama more depth than any other show on TV.
9 I realize these are not the Lips’ first six albums. This is just where my awareness of the Lips began. Also, I did not include Zaireeka because I don’t have that much time, patience, or CD players to make it work.
10Again, this is where my Lips fandom began.
11The Flaming Lips as we know them today.
12Pun intended and it is strange that Eko (among other characters of color) and the Lips’ Ronald Jones are no longer in the picture.
13Easily one of my favorite albums of all-time and certainly my favorite Lips’ effort.
14OK. I’m just getting lazy here.
15Way too late spoiler alert. Although, I think I already mentioned the parallel universe thing. Oh well. This post is slowly falling apart.