Category Archives: backlash

On Shepard Fairey

(Image from photos I took of Shepard Fairey’s visit to the Boston Phoenix offices)

In this week’s New Yorker, Peter Schjeldahl comments on the storm of recent Shepard Fairey news, with some interesting points-of-view.

Fairey’s fight with the AP over whether the Obama photo he used for his famous “Hope” poster is downright stolen or covered by fair use laws, Schjeldahl says, is a “predictable legal snarl”:

“The general issue is an old story of our litigious republic. Appropriative artists, including David Salle, Jeff Koons, and Richard Prince, have been sued at intervals since Campbell’s soup went after Warhol, in 1962 (but then thought better of it). As an art maven, I’m for granting artists blanket liberty to play with any existing image…. and I’m bored by the kerfuffle’s rote recurrence, with its all but scripted lines for plaintiff and defendant alike.”

Fairey cites Warhol as one of his primary artistic influences – no surprise there – and it’s interesting that nearly 50 years after audiences struggled to consider images of soup cans as art, we’re still having trouble with the concept of blatant, purposely apparent borrowdness as a medium.

“Fairey’s stylistic borrowings from Russian Revolutionary, Soviet, and W.P.A. propaganda are often remarked upon,” Schjeldahl writes. “But borrowedness itself—studied anachronism—is his mode of seduction.”

Schjeldahl only makes a brief-yet-poignant mention of Fairey’s arrest, implying that the incident is only worth a few words – can you hear that, commenters? – because the pro- versus anti-graffiti/street art argument has probably been around longer than Fairey himself. Street artsists exhibit their work in galleries often, and many have been arrested. Fairey just did it on a grander scale (at the ICA), and at a moment when the public (in Boston and elsewhere) happened to have all eyes on him.

“Boston’s I.C.A. has condoned a citywide smattering of street art by Fairey, as an extension of the show. That makes sense. So does the decision of the Boston police to arrest him for it, on his way to the show’s opening.”

Perhaps, much like Warhol did for pop artists, Fairey – as America’s best-known street artist at the moment (besides Banksy, whose anonymity lends him a separate and unique set of issues) – is creating a whole new set of inevitables for street artists making a foray into the museum and gallery world. Or maybe it’s just history repeating itself.

Panic! reviewed

Thoughts while listening to Panic at the Disco: Pretty. Odd. (Out yesterday! On Fueled By Ramen.)

Oh great. A shitty pop band decided to make a shitty album that sounds like (gasp!) a shitty version of the Beatles (or a vague grasp on the pop hooks of the Beatles – there are no references to “Tomorrow Never Knows”-type experimental weirdness here). John Lennon’s angry ghost will soon descend upon us.

Lyric: “I know it’s sad that I never gave a damn about the weather, and it never gave a damn about me.” The emo kids have run out of things to whine about, all they have left is the weather.

Funny: Brenden Urie’s voice can’t handle happy melodies, like on “That Green Gentleman.” He sounds… misplaced. Divided between laughing and crying. And like he doesn’t know how to not be moaning about something.

“I Have Friends in Funny Places.” Panic at the Disco has traveled back to 1920. And they still sound crappy. And oddly misplaced on this otherwise 60’s rip-off album.

Ah, there it is. “Northern Downpour.” A nice downtrodden ballad. Don’t try to stray from it, guys, it’s what you know.

Thought: at least Beatle-fying things appears to mean keeping the songs short. A few are under 2 minutes. It still feels like I’ve been listening to this album forever.

“When the Day Met Night” was written after listening to “I Am the Walrus.” And the verses are vaguely enjoyable. The chorus is glaringly sparkly and jingly, though; it might make listeners motion sick. “(“In the middle of summer!!! It was golden in the sky!!!”) It seems written for one of those movies parodying a 1970’s sitcom.

“The Piano Knows Something I Don’t Know” was written after listening to “Strawberry Fields.” The bells make me think of Christmas morning in the Grinch movie.

“Folkin’ Around.” Um, dude, what’s up with cramming these random songs in the cracks of this heaping mess of Beatles-wannabe tracks? I guess this is supposed to be vaguely country (not folk, you song naming geniuses, you), and it sounds like Urie accidentally stumbled into the Cantab one night, and a few regulars became so incensed that he would invade our collective ears with this crappy album, that they made him go on stage and sing a country-ish song. Then he quickly fled to the welcoming arms of Faneuil Hall!

Thought: what’s the tour for this going to be like? Teamed up with the Cirque du Soleil: Love crew?

Verdict: Well, file that under “never listening again.” Who knew the Beatles could be mangled so?

Non-crappy music listening for you: UNGDOMSKULEN.

Ashlee Simpson and AOL screw everyone over.

Via OTD:

Too carefree for sound quality?

In an attempt to keep up with the freeloading download-obsessed music fans of today, Universal has “leaked” Ashlee Simpson’s newest single, “Outta My Head,” off her a- yet unnamed third studio album, which will come out sometime in March. “Outta My Head’s” official iTunes release is December 11; and apparently Universal thought they’d drum up some buzz (and hopefully erase that whole SNL thing from everyone’s memory) by “leaking” the song on AOL. We use quotes around “leaked” for two reasons. First, is it really leaking if the label goes ahead and gives the song to a major website? The second, most maddening reason is that, on a sound quality level, the song sounds kind of like someone was recording it in a basement with one of those handheld crappy digital recorders we use for interviews at Phoenix HQ. Or maybe it was our mom’s old Sony boom box, with the Cocktail soundtrack still in the tape deck. The volume inexplicably rises and falls, and the vocals sound fuzzy and crackly, and not in the experimental, Grizzly Bear-type way. We got about halfway through before we wanted to yank our sound-enhancing headphones off and throw them across the room. What. The. Fuck. We’re gonna go ahead and guess that it’s not that AOL and Universal couldn’t scrounge up the dough for a decent mastering of this track; rather, it seems the thinking here is that fans will endure the crappy version until December 11, then race to iTunes for the “high quality” version. This faulty logic exemplifies major label thinking as a whole, but beyond that, it’s an insult to the fans. Ok, maybe it’s not so far off from Radiohead’s grand, apparently not planned plan, but at least Radiohead gave us a steady volume level, minus any unintentional crackling, on the first version of In Rainbows. When will the major labels get it?

LISTEN: (If you can endure it) Ashlee Simpson, “Outta My Head”

ALSO, I got to talk to Ted Leo recently, and it was awesome. Check it out here.

UPDATE: The sound quality now seems slightly better. Maybe AOL tweaked it a bit and I should get off of my jump to conclusions mat?

Radiohead fans (or semi-fans, or fans before all the In Rainbows ballyhoo) unite

There we were, just sitting around the office on a rainy Monday, debating the In Rainbows controversy (here’s the backstory… also here, and here), and arguing over whether London is 5 hours or 6 hours ahead, when it dawned on us – why not organize a kick-ass Radiohead listening party tomorrow, to coincide with the official Radiohead-sanctioned leak day and time? A few e-mails later, and it was all set up – Great Scott, tomorrow night, 7 pm sharp. Come listen and have a PBR or two – but don’t bring any Chatty Cathys. Or Thom Yorke haters. Read more about it here or here.

That whole Shriiimp thing

Photo courtesy of

A few things I’d like to point out, in light of some recent comments disapproving of this piece. First, the misspelling of “Juxtapoz” was a miscommunication between myself and my editor, and for that I’m sorry. I’m not sorry, however, for reporting the story to the best of my abilities. I am not a publicist, and I was not writing a press release to hype up Shriiimp. One of the ground rules for journalism is that a story should never be one-sided; a variety of points-of-view are always necessary. I interviewed a plethora of sources for this story, from a large group of Shriiimp-involved people, to art experts, graf experts, artists, and other people with strong opinions about the site. I reported back a variety of opinions, both for and against Shriiimp’s concept – i.e., those who take it quite seriously as art, those who find it to be misogynistic, and those who think it shouldn’t be taken so seriously.

I have no problem with people posting comments on the story. No journalistic career is free of personal criticism, not even for Deborah Solomon. If anything, I’m glad that it was something that got people talking. It’s a good thing when people are talking about art, or journalism about art, and obviously the anonymity of the Phoenix’s commenting system allows people who would never have the courage to e-mail or call me personally, and express their opinion to make biting and immature comments, with no risk of exposing who they are, or having to elaborate their opinions further. Having someone refer to my writing as “insanely horrible,” and a “steaming pile of shit” is not exactly pleasant but, as a co-worker put it to me today, “internet backlash is the first sign you’ve made it.”