Sometimes it's hard for Americans to believe, but there is in fact a whole world outside of the United States. No, I'm not just talking about Alaska and Hawaii. There are whole other countries out there, and not just ones that are either a) our cute friends (England, Japan) or b) our bitter enemies (North Korea, Iran). They have their own arts and everything!
So with that said, it might come as a shock (but really shouldn't) to learn that newly crowned superstar and YouTube sensation Psy has released a whole five albums preceding his latest, Psy6, which contains the megahit "Gangnam Style."
Immediately you might say, "They can't possibly be good. I've never heard of them!" Well, you would be wrong, sir. Actually, Psy has had many hits in his home country of South Korea, and many of them are just as fun and catchy as "Gangnam Style."
"Father": What may surprise some about this one is that it's a rock song and that it's a serious one, dedicated to fathers. It's odd to hear Psy being serious and sentimental, but the song is actually very cool nonetheless and features a heartwarming animated video of a father's life.
"Korea": This song was written specifically to support South Korea in its endeavors at the London Olympics this year and features Psy taking on a different style: a sports anthem. Surprisingly enough, his take on arena rock is just as catchy and enjoyable as his take on dance music and hip-hop. This video sees Psy and tons of other people in costumes varying from Olympic teams to monsters that look like they're straight out of Where the Wild Things Are marching and dancing through South Korea.
"Right Now": A hit from Psy's previous album, "Right Now" is an uptempo mix of dance, rock and hip-hop and shows Psy apparently having had it with working in an office and being stuck in a traffic jam, so he starts a dance party in the streets. Then some skater kids have a breakdancing competition for some reason.
"Champion": Sampling Harold Faltermeyer's "Axel F," this song's video shows Psy embroiled in some kind of breakdancing competition (which seems to be a recurring theme) that is taking place inside of a video game. Yeah, it doesn't make much sense, but it's entertaining. Of course, Psy is the winner and the titular champion. Per the YouTube comments, this song might be more famous for the confusion over the Korean phrase "ni ga," which means "you are" as in "you are the champion."
"Sae (Bird)": Psy's original breakout hit in his home country from all the way back in 2000, this ridiculously catchy bit of funky hip-hop sounds something like an updated version of the American new jack swing movement. It samples Bananarama's "Venus" and is dedicated to "Party Lady." The video shows a thinner, younger Psy stealing kisses and cigarettes from, presumably, "party ladies" up in the club.
Houston's Island of Misfit Bands Briefly Resurfaces
While the hallowed ground of Fitzgerald's has remained steadfast, becoming a seemingly permanent fixture in Houston's indie, punk and metal communities, other clubs have receded into the dustbin of history. Fortunately, the fecund eras of two — the Axiom and the Island — are being celebrated during November.
As the elder juggernaut of local lore, The Island is the one identified as the birthplace of Bayou City punk. From 1978 to 83 — and under the names Paradise Island, Rock Island and, finally, simply, The Island — the former Mexican restaurant near Main and Richmond (not far from the present-day Continental Club complex, itself nicknamed "The Island") witnessed the first wave of free-for-all punk diversity before the genre splintered and hardened into molds.
Hence, on any given night, politics-savvy Really Red and kitsch-poppers The Judy's vibrated the walls of the dark, dank club, or Austin bands like the Big Boys and The Inserts invaded briefly, or touring icons like UK Subs, the Cramps and Black Flag thrilled faithful local fans with their incendiary brand of rock and roll dissent.
Like many first-wave punk clubs, Paradise Island still had one foot in an earlier era.
"It still had the cheesy palm trees covering the columns and the decor of a tropical Mexican dive," tells veteran Don Price. "We played opening night for Phil Hicks, the owner/manager. At that point, Jon Saxon and I were still playing mostly covers in a band called Crash Street Kids.
"It was a mish-mash of Rolling Stones, Grateful Dead, Mott the Hoople (from whom we lifted the name) and a spare Hendrix tune thrown in here and there," he continues. "We were just starting to write originals and had one or two per set."
The overall setup remained do-it-yourself.
"Bands had to provide their own PA, and I think the lights were a row of track lights like you would see on a patio," recalls Price.