Category Archives: Vishal Trivedi

Results: Commercials

Rich Bunnell

The Brave Little Toaster Soundtrack – Cutting Edge

The retail realm is a harsh mistress to the products it peddles, with one-time technological marvels subject to sudden replacement whenever the Next Big Awesome Thing hits store shelves. That reality forms the core of the 1987 animated film The Brave Little Toaster, in which five old-timey appliances set out into a world that, they soon discover, long ago decided it was no longer in need of its services. Who needs a clunky upright vacuum cleaner when you can just pick up a DustBuster? The hell is the use of an electric blanket when you’ve got central heating? Why toaster, when toaster oven?

The film’s musical numbers repeatedly underline this bleak reality, ranging from a B-movie vamp crooned by pawn-shop Frankensteins to a Don Henley-esque plea for help sung by junked cars on their way to being crushed into cubes. Toward the film’s end, our heroes encounter their technological successors, who employ the language and aesthetic of commercials to rap to them about how much more suited for the modern world the next generation truly is. The comforting part is, beyond all of the endless references to the “edge,” to a 21st-century audience, the phrase “I’m micro-solid state, and that’s no static!” is fifty times more dated than a toaster could ever fear to be.

C. Shaw

Modest Mouse – Gravity Rides Everything

To my mind, the appearance of this song in a Honda Odyssey commercial early in this decade was really the beginning of a massive movement within advertising to recruit indie (meaning “cheap”) song licensing for their commercials. The benefit to this gamble is obvious: they come cheap, and if a band makes it big, the car company or whoever can claim some of the credit for breaking out the artist and use this as a recruiting tool for future song rights. And if the band doesn’t make it big, who cares, no one will remember that ad in a month anyway.

From a music perspective, this is not quite so positive – thenceforth comes the indie backlash. For Modest Mouse after 2002, it went:

1. Be an awesome band with a devoted cult following
2. Have your song in a Honda commercial
3. Appear on the OC
4. Release a new album (Good News for People Who Love Bad News) to chart success (!)
5. Get modest (pun intended) reviews, and be seen as rich asshole sellouts
6. Release another album (We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank); collaborate with other NPR-whore sellouts (James Mercer of The Shins); get kind of bad reviews but sell lots of copies
7. And now you’re basically Metallica. Good luck getting a positive review in Pitchfork ever again.

This all misses the point – the song and the album it came from are incredible. In particular, Gravity Rides Everything sounds like nothing else in the Modest Mouse catalogue. The singing is reserved – it almost sounds laid back, as much as Isaac Brock’s wacky lisp and general craziness can possibly resemble relaxation. But when the sliding atmospheric merges with the acoustic foreground, it really sounds like everything will “fall right into place,” as the optomistic lyrics suggest.

Of course on the surface, it seems ridiculous to begrudge an artist a few dollars for an ad placement, and I used to argue about this with people all the time. But after “This is Our Country,” I would like to, ahem, begrudge the shit out of John Cougar Mellencamp. With a hammer and sickle. It’s just too bad that the indie backlash had to hit such a great band.

Vishal Trivedi

Regina Spektor – Music Box

If you’re an Iron Clef reader, you probably know that I don’t mind watching an artfully done commercial. But I admit that I had decidedly mixed feelings when I first recognized the strains of Modest Mouse’s “Gravity Rides Everything” in a commercial for the Nissan Quest minivan… Auctioning off your song for a TV commercial is pretty much the apotheosis of sellout behavior. Do you really want your bitchin’ tune to be forever associated with some product or brand you have absolutely no relation to and care nothing about? On the other hand, I understand the motivation. If you’re lucky enough that your art can pay the bills, why not let it? It’s not like Modest Mouse wrote the song with Nissan in mind. And even if they had, writing a good jingle is an art form in and of itself. Who hasn’t had a cleverly annoying jingle stuck in your head at one point or another? [I’d link you one of Vonage’s pernicious “Woo-hoo, woo-hoo-hoo” ads, but I think just this mere mention might be sufficient to ruin your afternoon] But I like Nissan all right and it wasn’t a bad commercial so it didn’t really bug me. Still, I was somewhat more disappointed to hear one of my favorite bands, Hum, get chosen as the soundtrack for a Cadillac commercial. Come on, I wanted to implore the band, Cadillac is for old people. And besides, the ad kinda sucks. I suppose this is something we’re going to have to get used to though, as people of our generation begin to grow up and inflict their tastes and aesthetics upon the marketing world. Already I’ve heard Lush, Minus the Bear, and Explosions in the Sky play as outro music for NPR programming. I guess I’d rather hear Hum abused than have to listen to the bloody Eagles or Rolling Stones everywhere I turn. Is it hypocritical to say that it only bothers me when the actual ad or product doesn’t live up to the song? Maybe.

However, this one totally does:

Yes, I believe they’re wearing items from the JC Penney catalog.

This vote is for sale.

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This Week’s Results: Robots

Vishal Trivedi

Looper – My Robot

Robots are scary.

At least, that’s what the purveyors of sci-fi and pop culture would have us believe. Fantasy doomsayers from Arthur C. Clarke to Matt Groening have given us dystopic visions of an era in which artificial intelligences, sometimes in concert with extraterrestrials, have conspired to undermine (or mock, in the case of Bender) that unique soulfulness which makes humanity so special. Some portrayals of robots in pop culture are affectionate and charming, some are quite funny; some are insipid. Some are complete bastardizations of otherwise good robot literature.

In all this hubbub and fascination with robots, however, an important point gets lost: we haven’t actually been able to make a really cool, functional, humanoid-type robot yet. Seriously, this is the best we’ve got to show for our efforts so far. I’ve seen ASIMO in person; he’s not that impressive. Now of course at some level I too think that the idea of robots is cool. You can’t deny that the immense potential of robots ignites the imagination, but I’m not going to be truly excited about them until we have a robot that can actually do something veritably awesome. Playing chess well when you can literally extrapolate every possible move just isn’t that impressive. I want to see a robot do something unexpected, like bust out a freestyle rap or write a compelling novel that isn’t just cutting and pasting from stuff that humans have written. I want some robotic inspiration. I’m looking for more than computational power; give me some robotic intelligence.

So with that in mind, here’s a song which fairly encapsulates the sense of hope with which we regard robots, but also acknowledges the lack of real progress that robots have made to date, because as of now, they’re actually pretty useless.

Megan Costello

Rivers Cuomo – Blast Off

We’re still not sure when exactly the robots replaced weezer front man Rivers Cuomo with one of their kind. Was it immediately after Pinkerton was released or just before The Green Album? All we do know is that the Rivers who wrote Pinkerton is gone.
But somehow Rivers got something past his robot captors and reminded us why weezer was once good. The recent collection of Rivers Cuomo solo recordings gives the world (and not just the hardcore weezer fans who haunted message boards for mp3s) a peek at his lost opus Songs from the Black Hole. This opus was to be a rock opera taking place in outer space. Rivers experiments with harmonies, voice effets, and concepts unexplored in prior song writing efforts.
Most epic of the rock opera which gave birth to much of Pinkerton is the opening number, Blast Off. Blast Off is a 4 part conversation between 3 sailors on a ship blasting off to outer space and their robot navigator. Each character is sung by Rivers, who expresses their fears and hopes for their mission. Its all pretty clear except for the robot ‘mechanoid’ character that Rivers sings through a vocoder. It wasn’t until I read the lyrics that I could actually figure out what the robot was saying. Rivers’ robot captors must have gotten a hold of the master tape of the song before they reached the public, just to make sure he didn’t let anything slip out about where they have him.
In the end, it doesn’t really matter. For better or worse, whether you can understand it or not, nothing says robot like a vocoder.
Thank you Rivers for sneaking this past your robot guards. Now please come home and rectify the mistakes your robot captors have been releasing for the past 7 years.

Aaron Azlant

Para One – Dudun-Dun

Perhaps, when the robots finally do overpower us, they will use advanced weaponry to force us into a life of endless, back-breaking servitude. Or, perhaps they will appear to us instead as beautiful French models clad in lingerie and subdue us gently with e-z-break pillows. Either way, if they are soundtracked with Para One, heir apparent to the Ed Banger throne, I won’t complain. But I will prefer the models.

Dingoes ate your baby? Well cry me a river! Now you can…

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Results: San Francisco

Jef Doon


MC Lars – White Kids Aren’t Hyphy

When we hear the name San Francisco, we immediately conjure vivid images of the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, Fisherman’s Wharf, fog rolling in from the Pacific Ocean, earthquakes, cable cars, gays, and the hyphy movement.

“San Francisco” represents much more than just a city in California. It’s a state of mind. We all want to escape to a place where seagulls roam freely and sea lions laze all day. We all want to eat delicious Chinese food and watch the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park. We all want to be just a short drive from Oakland, Berkeley, San Jose, and Santa Cruz. We all want to be able to walk down the street wearing buttless chaps in the middle of the day (well, some people might). And at the end of the day, we all want to get stupid and ghost ride the whip.

In “White Kids Aren’t Hyphy,” MC Lars captures the sentiment that everyone has inside them: we all long for and want to be a part of the city by the bay.

Vishal Trivedi

José González – Heartbeats

There are moments of immediate certainty where you just KNOW that you are meeting a true love for the first time and you can embrace it without hesitation… these occasions are rare and precious. I have been fortunate to experience it twice in my lifetime, and the first was when I moved near San Francisco. The city’s physical charms are readily apparent, with its famed hills and vistas, but what really makes the place so romantic is the sense of intimacy and acceptance that it seems to radiate, something quite unique for a major city. SF will take you as you are. It wants you as you are, no matter where you’re from or what you look like or what you might think. SF will love you back.

This song is by a Swedish band, covered here by another Swede of Argentinean descent. And the video I am about to show you is actually an advert for a fancy TV set. What does all this have to do with San Francisco, you might ask? If you haven’t watched it before, see for yourself:

High Quality .mov

Although the video doesn’t highlight any of the iconic San Francisco landmarks (aside from a hazy shot of Coit Tower), anyone who has been to SF should easily be able to identify it as the setting. Nowhere else looks like this, feels like this. Here, the balls bounce both in chaos and in harmony.

And oh yes, the song itself… As I alluded earlier, the original is a quirky techno-pop number by The Knife. This one is a sweet, intimate cover by José González; both versions are appropriate. I can (and tend to) listen to it over and over again without ever getting sick of it. The lyrics describe… what else? The bloom of an instant love.

Sohrob Kazerounian

Joanna Newsom – The Book of Right-On

Given my particularly indecisive nature, I had a considerable amount of difficulty deciding on a ‘winner’ for this weeks topic (San Fran). Do I choose one of the many songs written about San Francisco, or should I choose an artist who was born out of (and helped shape) the burgeoning music scene that blew up the scene in the mid-late 60’s?

In lieu of either of these options, I have decided on Joanna Newsom (“The Book of Right-On” from her album The Milk-Eyed Mender). I chose Newsom, who I first came across while on vacation with a couple of good friends. Afraid that we would be lost and utterly incapable of finding our way home, my friend handed me his music player, blasting Newsom’s screechy and child-like voice. Playful lyrics like “I killed my dinner with karate / Kick ’em in the face, taste the body” will warm you up, as will the more beautiful and soul-tickling lyrics peppered throughout the rest of the album.

What, then, does Joanna Newsom actually have to do with San Francisco you ask? Well, her cousin is the mayor, and she grew up in nearby Nevada City.

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