Media Jeweler is an LA-based post-punk band. Their album The Sublime Sculpture of Being Alive is out August 13, 2021 via Fire Talk.
Media Jeweler began life, more or less, as an instrumental group. Words popped up here and there, as framing devices, or rhythmic elements, or hints at theming. Media Jeweler was a band as a machine, each musical element a cog in the wheel, rock instrumentation distilled to its core. Nothing on top of anything else — horizontal in structure — hierarchy removed from rock ’n roll. But, as they are wont to do, the rules started to bend.
Can you feel it, see it, hear it today?
If you can’t, then it doesn’t matter anyway
Karaoke has always been in the periphery — after the gig, after practice, or at somebody’s birthday, a going-away party. Maybe just a day off in Osaka. A different type of performance, a different flavor of vulnerability, a different spotlight on a different piece of your heart. An alternate wellspring to the American Dream — everyone can be a star if they put their name on the list.
Taking the stage, the karaoke star becomes a vessel for artists living and dead as their words scroll by to the beat of the ghost orchestra. Choruses echo through the karaoke bar, ingrained in the public consciousness. To whom do these songs belong?
I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain:
Scaramouch, Scaramouch, will you do the Fandango?
Despite continuing improvements in communication technology, the microphone remains our primary conduit for public self-expression, a handheld monolith that allows one to be heard by many. Before we could hear each other’s thoughts like ticker tape in our pockets, we gave people who had something to say microphones and we listened to their anointed words.
Doesn’t everyone have something to say into a microphone? Doesn’t everyone deserve a chance under a spotlight?
Blame it all on my roots:
I showed up in boots
I wanna be the only one you come for
I want to be your brother and your sister too
Karaoke is the democratization of the microphone, a liminal space between play and performance, personal and private, id and superego. The karaoke stage — often an unmarked but understood partition of the communal floor space — is a place of near total freedom. You can shed your emotional exoskeleton or build it up thicker; often, both at once. Karaoke is almost always a transmogrifying act: do you really know someone unless you have seen them furrow their brow leaning into the high notes?
Like the castle in it’s corner
In a medieval game
I’m blue, da ba dee da ba daa
When you’re handed the microphone and the Sunfly beast appears mid-belt, you’re at the implausible crossroads of power and vulnerability. It’s agency on display in a way that makes sense only contextually in the high-decibel haze. When we sign up to sing, we are signing a contract quietly enforcing mutual respect and humanistic understanding. After the last bar, we applaud human spirit and the simple power of participation. The karaoke stage prioritizes the purity of play to a degree absent from most other leisure activities and performance spaces. It’s an open portal into temporary unbeing where anyone can be anyone for three and a half minutes — no strings attached. It’s Andy Warhol’s 15 minutes but infinitely reprisable, communal, and accessible.
Da ba dee da ba daa, da ba dee da ba daa
Fundamental elements of Western music, major and minor chords, are often explained as one sounding happy, and the other sad. We describe music in emotional terms. We turn towards music for feeling, and we turn towards poetry to understand feeling. More or less. In fact, it seems that, for most, poetry is the main appeal of music. It’s incredibly rare that an instrumental track will break through and find a place on the pop charts. Music is the perfect vehicle for poetry, it provides an emotional backdrop to set the tone and shape how the words are received. The goal of lyric-based music is to connect on an emotional level with its audience. Theoretically, karaoke represents the ultimate achievement of this goal. Each slip of paper proffered to the KJ contains the title of a song, that the person submitting it has such a strong connection to, that they wish to perform it, and embody its meaning and melody for a room full of friends and strangers to witness.
Oh yeah, life goes on long after the thrill of living’s gone
For our previous release, 1-800-SUCCEED, we put up a karaoke version of one of the few worded numbers, partly out of love for karaoke, and partly for the absurdity of the idea that anyone would ever choose to perform such a brooding, sparse song from a wholly unpopular project. What higher achievement is there for a songwriter, than for someone scanning the hundreds of laminated, beer soaked pages barely contained in a 2-inch 3-ring binder, to stop their finger on your song — not Elton John’s—but your song, and scrawl its title beside their name to be added to the queue?
Down by the river on a Friday night
A pyramid of cans in the pale moonlight
They told me I was going to lose the fight
Leave behind my wuthering, wuthering
Perhaps when we die we are transported to the front of a long line of all the dead artists and celebrities whose songs we have desecrated during the karaoke process. As we walk down the line of ghosts, they take turns slapping the shit out of each karaoke offender one by one with a wet velvet glove, until our faces are raw and we are penitent and smiling.