Friday, September 30, 2005

Higher than the heavens

BLIND WILLIE JOHNSON "Sweeter as the Years Go By"

Freelance monies I expected to arrive did not, but this week has been pretty groovy regardless: productive and fun, and stuff. Too many rad bands on tour all at once, it seems. Hard to choose which shows to go to to on single nights, and which evenings to sacrifice to fun and which to work. Last night I caught some of Acid Mothers Temple's set though unfortunately missed Portland's awesome and very good-looking Plants, especially since they played as a seven-piece big band with members of Nice Nice and the Evolutionary Jass Band. Tomorrow night Calvin Johnson DJs at my favorite sandwich shop on the Earth, while Saturday it's all about Four Tet and Jamie Lidell(!), then Monday I hop between Doughty and Dungen. Best show I've seen in awhile was Whip at the aforementioned sandwich joint last weekend, which I didn't want to mention since I DJ'ed and I'm not into making this a self-promo type thing you know? I mean, I get emo and self-centered here enough already. (That said, I was mostly AWESOME and RULING that night, and in case you ever wondered, the last tune on side A of Don Cherry's Eternal Now mixes perfectly with MBV's Isn't Anything while Stockhausen's Kontakte goes beautifully with a little Bongo Joe. People who play one song at a time are mostly pussies, don't you think? Or professionals...)

I just wrote a column for eMusic that oughta run in about six weeks about Blind Willie Johnson. They have the two excellent Yazoo comp.s that turned me on to his music and contain all thirty known recorded sides by this itinerant singer on their site -- believe me, you need them if you don't have them already. The more deeply I fall in love with sanctified blues/ bluesy and raw streetcorner type gospel in general, and Blind Willie Johnson in particular, the more I forget that it was a bit of a struggle at first to get into this stuff. I mean, I'll concede the dude sounds like a frog here on this song, for instance. But then I guess a lot of the music I like the most was "difficult" at first. I remember in seventh grade how dreadful the first Velvets album sounded but I kept listening to it, regardless...

Most folks peg the gospel blues as an historical anomaly, but for me it’s a genre in and of itself that remains to this day (which I believe I've already said in this blog at least once thus far) so many thanks to CaseQuarter for helping us see some of the ways this fabulous sound does remain. A lot of my favorite gospel blues artists –Sister Mamie Forehead, Reverend E.W. Clayborn, Arizona Dranes, etc.— are admittedly pretty one-dimensional, but that doesn't bother me much. B.W. Johnson, however, has a diverse little set of songs, so that helps him to be more appealing to the neophyters and the neo-lovers-not-a-phyters alike (grooooaaaan).

If you read just one article about Blind Willie, make it Michael Corcoran's piece from two years ago. It's pretty awesome. I love the casual ways Corcoran corrects the historical record when he undertakes this type of dirt-digging reportage. God bless that motherfucker.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Rude boys don't cry -- don't cry!

TIGER TRAP "Supreme Nothing"
MOBY GRAPE "Murder in my Heart for the Judge"

Because I know none of us can wait to spend the rest of our lives gazing into his handsome little neocon, civil rights-hating face as we learn, say, of how turning the states of Alabama, New Mexico and Pennsylvia into moated internment camps was indeed not unconstitutional given the eternal state of pre-war that we're in. Or whatever. Sorry for getting all "science fiction" on you. Did you notice how cute he is?

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Strike another match

THE CHOCOLATE WATCHBAND "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue"

I rather liked the Dylan folkrockumentary that aired the last two nights on PBS. I imagine the 'sphere is bloguflectin' on the thing left and right, but I don't know for sure -- I only read maybe five blogs these days, and four of them are 'political,' you dig?

The hours of interview footage Dylan gave his manager were pretty amazing even if they didn’t reveal much aside from Dylan essentially throwing his hands in the air to say “I’m not anythingggg! -- I’m just inscrutable and shit!” Scorcese knows how to make a good music movie, despite how irresponsibly and impossibly dreadful his bloated old dudes look at this blues music TV series for PBS was.

I found the stock imagery of !THE! !SIXTIES! used throughout rather grating, but maybe it's necessary for anyone who's been in a coma for fifty years and just turned on their television set, or for the glazed-over fifteen year olds forced to watch this thing in class by their hippie English teacher trying to "connect" with them. Ginsberg was in his over-effusive mode but with such conviction and eloquence it was pretty amazing. Hard to believe fucking Pete Seeger, God rest his soul, still seemed mad that Dylan plugged in his goddamn guitar; being so short-sighted at the time is one thing but he looked like his neck was gonna pop retelling it thirty-plus years later, poor guy! It just is weird how so few people ever 'got' Dylan, always projecting onto him what they wanted him to be or, to be fair, what he had been just a few months prior.

And while it was rad how many people were tracked down for the thing, they all pretty much toed the line for what you'd expect they'd say. I found it interesting that Ramblin' Jack and Richard Farina never existed, that Fred Neil got so glossed over he seems to barely have existed (yeah he was an asshole but still…), and speaking of assholes it was a relief Robbie Robertson was nowhere to be seen, but why not talk to, say, Garth? And speaking of bearded genius types, the importance of Harry Smith's Anthology of American Folk Music was not even alluded to that I noticed, except as one of the records we can presume Dylan stole from his Minneapolis pal? Granted, even in three and a half hours that span about six years, there are gonna be omissions. And when a documentary like this is coming out of a particular artist's camp, who one assumes have a great deal of control of the film, you have to expect such stuff -- so it was really rad when you consider that...

The weirdest omission to me, though, was of the made-for-TV film Eat the Document, even though footage from and shot for that movie are one of the great archival highlights of the thing. That footage, shot throughout a tour of England in '66 with the brilliant Hawks backing Dylan (you know the mythology, and about the "Judas!" followed by the "I don't believe you" followed by "You're a liar!" followed by "Like a Rolling Stone" which Charlie Rose said is the greatest rock song ever, and if you do not know about this, I believe that Greil Marcus has written three books about those twenty seconds) by D.A. Pennebaker a year after Don't Look Back had been filmed, is one of the main things holding the film together, the way it’s used repeatedly throughout. How come they never acknowledged what project all that material was originally from? Dylan helped edit it for ABC... Ahhh, I fear I've slipped into amateur trainspotter Dylanology! Lord help me.

It was never shown on TV 'cause it was "too experimental," but it's a really amazing document, excuse the unintended pun. Apparently there is an excellent DVD bootleg floating around. (If you find one, please burn me a copy, would you?) Eat the Document is sort of Dylan's Cocksucker Blues; in fact I once had a little TV party about 18 years ago in the kitchen of my row house in Queens where I showed both of them back to back, with the Bud Dwyer tape and Minor Threat's last concert ever thrown in for good measure (hey, it was the '80s, plus, I guess we all had 5 hours to spare).

Speaking of those two movies together, I wonder if part of the reason it's only screened offically approx. three times since it was made almost forty years ago is that Dylan is clearly out of his goddamn skull on some heavy medication? He's soooooo skinny and out of it at points, even in the PBS movie. There're heavy-lidded moments (when he's singing Hank with Cash, for instance) and what look to me to be fiending moments (when he's saying how much he needs to go home and does not want to go to Italy). That one oft-booted "extra scene" from Eat the Document where Dylan is "tired," and gets in the limo after puking and he's in the back there with John Lennon and they're trying to talk to each other for at least twenty minutes? It's so obvious (to me) that Dylan is high on heroin there and Lennon is tripping his ass off. And we all know what the "motorcycle accident" was; hell, I had a half-dozen of those myself before I finally got clean.

Of course, I am totally speaking out my ass here, and quite possibly doing that "projecting" stuff I just judged Dylan's boomer fans for. As this is not a classic rock gossip site but a ye olde mp3 blogge, I shall shut my yap, now. Ohh, and I trust you are having an enjoyable WOCLAP -- War on (Consensual, Legal, Adult) Pornography day?

If that bums you out, or any of the other small-ish ways that the first ammendment and most amendments (except the second one) don't really exist anymore, there's always YACHT ROCK #4 -- I can't believe these things keep getting better. Wow. Just, wow.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Baby good? Junk is nooooooo.

HOLY MODAL ROUNDERS "Sugar in the Gourd"
MOFUNGO "Don't Shoot That Junk Into Your Arm Again, Please"

Note: the following "denial rant" was written by me in early 1992 or so, and first published in the Portlable Lower East Side in their special Chemical City issue in 1993, then again in the Grove Press book Low Rent: Best of the Portable Lower East Side in 1995.


“Junk is no good baby.”
—Brion Gysin

I cannot conceive of a life without junk food, without the rush of getting high, of getting off, of feeling light, of feeling lighter, of the chocolate melting in my mouth and not in my hands, of a weekend that doesn’t end with a good nod, of a day where my blood sugar level does not soar through the roof. I do horrible things to my body under the pretense of pleasure. My teeth are plaque-damaged from years of sugar abuse, my stomach a massive monument to Milky Way bars. I’m trying to figure out a lot of shit, like: what is junk, and why do I like it so much?

The junk gets in you and it never leaves. Picturing the insides of my body, along with the usual red meat and gristle and nerve bundles, I imagine an invisible system: a capillary-like complex of plasticky tubing that pulses nonstop, sending a foamy, cream-colored insulation-like liquid to every cell. (Since I was a kid and saw biological textbooks with their cross-sections of human anatomy, this is how I’ve conceived of my soul.) I’ve daydreamed that, if I were to kill myself, I’d slice very deeply into my wrist, but no blood would come out. Instead, white foam would issue forth from the bursted soul tubing, very much like a can of Reddi-Whip being turned upside down and emptied. As I slip away into the warm bathtub water, I bend over and put my tongue to the creaminess. Its taste is the same as the cernter of a Twinkie.

I was birthed through the mouth of instant gratification. I grew up, sort of, with Sesame Street and Oscar M-a-y-e-r and if I need it I need it now and it better have lots of red dye number two. What is the taste of postmodernity? A glass of Tang, or a bottle of Coke? Does Coke really take the paint off a car hood? Did the astronauts really drink this gross fucking orange-flavored sugary shit up on the moon? Well, I didn’t mean for this to be a pop-culture quiz. The point is that if desire is not brightly packaged I am not interested in it. I crave processed sugar molded into strange little shapes, covered in brightly-colored bite-sized artificial flavorings, wrapped up in plastic and aluminum foil. I have great trust in prepackaged, individually wrapped junk food; I guess it was one of the first things that really made me feel good.

Sugar has flavor, but it has no taste. It has calories, but no vitamins or minerals.

When you overdose, your blood pulses so fast you seem to trigger a second heart. When the sugar heart is pumping inside you, the blood squirts underneath your skin miles per hour faster than ever, and you’re rocking back and forth in your sneakers, looking up at the cumulus clouds. There’s a smile on your lips, the double-scoop chocolate ice cream cone is slowly melting its way out of the base of the cone onto your arm. You try to enjoy it as slowly as possible without having it leak all over you, but even an expert can fail at this task. Your lips, chin, mouth and hands are stained a shit-brown color. You run to the street and you think that the world really does spin around.

Should the body be a reservoir for junk? You have to abhor the idea of the body to be a serious devotee of junk food. Though it is through this weird meat contraption that I find quick solace, the heart-heavy pulses of relief and release, I am repulsed by the reality of flesh, of fat, of my ugliness. This conception of the body strikes me as very Catholic and regressive and in the end only good for medieval saints who can fly up to God after years of brutally pummeling themselves. But there’s a little of the saint in every junkfoodie; we’re all persecuted in this fatist society and we all secretly want to leave this body behind.

“My mom threw me out ‘til I get some pants that fit/
She just can’t approve of my strange kinda width.”
—David Thomas, Pere Ubu

At some point in the last few years, I stopped being chubby. I became fat. And I can’t say it’s like I didn’t notice or something ‘cause I notice every new stretch mark, every extension of the little fat roll on the back of my neck. But I don’t stop eating processed sugars. If I’m addicted to anything, it’s instant gratification itself; hence, I never seem to, never want to put two and two together and make myself aware of what the end results of my actions are. I just wanna get off now.

“Sugar is culture.”
—Sen. Jesse Helms

Civilizations that thrive on excess—like, say, ours—are inherently self-destructive. That sentence probably didn’t blow your mind. But what differentiates the time we live in from any other is the type of awareness we have regarding our demise. True, there’s been some fucker standing in the corner shouting, “The end is nigh!” since man learned the missionary position and thus became sentient (see Quest for Fire if you don’t know what I’m talking about.) I’m not discussing any biblical end-of-the-world shit here, because that presupposes somebody or thing will do the offing for us. I’m talking about how it’s the end of the world as we know it and I’m doing it and I feel fine. We all know the excitement of participating in the destruction of something infinitely huger than ourselves. We are David to our own Goliath. This is more than a projection of our own mortality on the rest of the world, it is a built-in desire that only the greatest men and women are able to sublimate: the desire to rip yourself apart and shred up everything that’s around you.

The only way to self-destruct is slowly. The culturally acceptable pathways to self-immolation are always the slowest ones. The chemical things, legal and illegal, natural and unnatural, that get packaged up and sold to us as pleasure-inducing, these things are all poisons. It’s not my intention to get moralistic about this because I have known the myriad pleasures of slow self-destruction all my life. It is a great part of the thrill of getting off on chemicals.

I think too much about offing myself. Almost every morning I lie in bed and imagine my body being annihilated all at once. I hear the skin rip, see the red blood and the white fat and the brown guts as I elaborately draw and quarter myself. But then I get up and take a long hot shower, and I’m okay again. Where does all this self-hatred come from? It’s the flipside of total immersion in instant gratification…

It’s important to remember that junk food has nothing to do with food itself. It frequently bears no resemblance to the original, nourishing variety. You eat junk food to get off. Junk food is many kids’ first dope experience, first religious experience, perhaps even first orgasmic experience.

“Sugar, aw honey honey/
You are my candy girl/
And you got me wanting you.”
—The Archies

I suppose I should mention my great, uh, interest in porn from an early age. Porn is to sex what junk food is to food: a hyper-inflated, prepackaged simulation of the original. It gives it to ya ALL (the orgasm, the rush) AT ONCE. It often forgoes the nourishment, but again, that’s part of its appeal. The crucial difference is that porn is potentially far more damaging to the soul, if not the body, than junk food. Porn and junk food both breed similar, voyeur-in-your-own-body feelings with regard to corporeal existence.

Where we can tie the junkfoodies together with the junkies is through their relationship to their bodies. There’s a shared view that the body exists just to get you off right now, which is combined with the knowledge of the horrendous consequences of the action as well as the actual drug/ sugar rush—and the eventual crash which often leads to the search for more.

I lived with this guy who was totally unhappy. He was in his mid-twenties and living off his parents and doing dope all the time, snorting it. I watched incredulously as he metamorphosed into this scary zombie creature from outer space. He never worked, the heroin made his balls itch all the time, and his junkie ghost girlfriend and he would just hurt each other, constantly. Break windows, sleep with each other’s friends, quarrel over who hogged more of the bag. I stopped snorting heroin pretty much altogether while this guy lived with me, but after he moved out, I started doing it again. Duh. I don’t need to drive around with the carcass of the victim of an auto accident in the passenger seat to stop myself from going too fast on a slick road, but apparently I did find it necessary to see the carcass of a living heroin victim to keep myself from heroin.

The junk gets inside you and it never leaves. A study written up in some Tuesday’s Science Times found that “untreated” (no formaldehyde) corpses of Westerners decompose markedly more slowly than those from India, where Hostess products are a tad less common. When Americans kick, we’re already pickled from all those preservatives we’ve consumed.

So how do you wash the junk out of your head? How do you cut it out without cutting out the desire part altogether? My head is this little green pond full of wriggling need-monsters. I want to fucking soar like Silver Surfer right over the orange buses and kids on their bikes on my way to school; I want to brutally murder everybody on the subway; I want some clothes that fit; I want to fuck that girl in the bodega down the street, up her ass if possible; I want my ninth grade Spanish teacher to seduce me that time she drove me home in her car; I want my dick to grow four more inches; I want everybody to like me; I want Winona Ryder to beg for it’ I want a Guggenheim grant to fall out of the sky, hit me on the head, and make me dizzy.

Maybe I’ll stop doing junk food this week. But these new Milky Way Darks have been really satisfying me lately and if I can just scrape together another four bucks I’ll have enough cash for a wicked speedball, which will carry me blissfully till tomorrow.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Where the roses never fade


Lined-out hymnody really floats my boat when I'm in the mood for it. It's so spooky and slow and rad, like a group of old stoners sitting down to start up some sacred harp singing but they get lost and never divvy up into different parts, you know?

A Folkways blurb relating to the awesome second volume of lined-out hymnody from Southern Kentucky informs us that "the oldest English-language religious music in oral tradition in North America, the lined-out, congregational hymnody of the Old Regular Baptists is heard in the heart of the coal-mining country of the Southern Appalachian Mountains. In this rare, beautiful, and heartfelt music lie the roots of the high, lonesome mountain sound of elaborate melodic turns and graces."

This track is from the budget-priced Smithsonian disc Classic Southern Gospel, one of those rare entry-level samplers with enough slight obscurities (the Poplin Family's version of "River of Jordan" is aces! -- gotta hear more by them) to satisfy the snob and the newcomer. Remember, the newcomer is the most important person in any record store... (OHH I'm so glad I crack myself up with my AA humor! Get me some more coffee wil you?)

Thursday, September 22, 2005

...And things I ain't seen yet


Been listening to the Bobby Charles LP he made with the Band for Bearsville in 1971 a lot lately, the one I've posted about before. The one that Andy Cabic told me about like a year ago for which I am very grateful. This song in particular has been a favorite lately; such timely lyrics! I want to write an article somehwere about Charles focusing on this album but where? YETI I guess. I can actually say with real authority that the infamous and ancient YETI 3 will see the light of day very shortly, an issue to trail it in March '06.

I'd not believe me about that either, but it's true. Work continues on Rugburn and the MBV book will be finished in three weeks! Then I'm going to nap for a week.

The best news is that LUC SANTE's manuscript arrived yesterday, the collection we're doing of his selected magazine/newspaper writings, late Spring '06 release on YETI books. Luc's MS is so fucking good, of course!!! Twenty-two chapters. Luc is one of the best living essayists (not that that is all he does, of course) and a super swell dude, to boot. (What is the origin of the phrase "to boot," by the way? Someone point me to an awesome etymology site, please.)

In two weeks I'll even be sharing some swank, small and cheap office space with my new business partner, so it's all really exciting. I now have two rooms plus storage and my own half-bath in the house I rent. Then there's my use whenever I want it of a huge metal sculpture studio. And soon, the office share which is also 24/7. I pay very little (like $615/ mo.) for all of that -- this being of course AFTER rents in Portland have increased quite a bit in the last decade. That's half to two-thirds what similar space would cost in Seattle, and at least a quarter what it would in NYC. Have I ever mentioned that I totally love Portland?

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

And hell is deeper than the sea...

TEXAS GLADDEN "The Devil's Questions"

You can read about the great Virginia-based ballad singer Texas Gladden here. This song is from one of the Alan Lomax Portrait series discs. I know that Lomax's reputation is not of the highest sort these days and while I wish he'd done more to help black scholars and to remunerate the folks he worked with, it's always real easy to judge folks from one era with the cultural values of your own.

If you read my last chicken little post you might think I was losing my mind, but that is of course a rather moot point. Now, it's easy easy for me to see where I think that other people are acting selfishly and in some harmful way or another, I guess in the way that one thief can easily recognize another or that a junkie can always find another junkie no matter which dead stinking rock in the universe you may deposit him or her.

And this is going to sound ridonkulously facile, naive, hippie dippie and worse, Jack Handey-ish -- but for me I've found that the main thing is that if I do not act out of love, out of as pure and total a form of love as I can muster, as much as is fucking possible for me to, then I'm no good to the world. This doesn't wipe away my concerns that the apocalypse is upon us because the polar ice is going away and a zillion other things you can read about anywhere (on the Internet anyway). And simply being less flakey and better in touch with all my peeps would go a long ways to making things better, too. But when I'm in touch with that simple idea and believe in this love stuff, and act from it even a little bit, things just go so totally well it's crazy.

Of course, I fight against it alla time, and get wrapped up in self-loathing and watching too many Elliott Gould movies instead of doing work or I get lost in fear and eating too much Nutella instead of taking a walk out and about when it's nice like it was earlier today or I get weirdly stuck inside of helping somebody else with their problems (because other people's problems are always so easy to figure out and stuff -- but why don't they just listen to me what makes them so goddamn stubborn!) and etc.

Adam Forkner aka White Rainbow's fully tripped-out installation was the highlight of this year's Time Based Arts Festival, a swell 10-day dance/ theatre/ music/ whatever festival that I was sick for much of last week so I missed Antony and Mirah's last performance for a year and rad butoh dudes and some other stuff.

Thankfully I visited Adam's space twice. I keep thinking about it since then. I think I want a Forkner zome installed in my basement soon as I get mildly rich: full instant access to trips w/o chemicals. You can get a decent sense of it from Steve States Rights' rad Quicktime movie here, and allow me to quote myself from the W. Week: He's transformed a former office space in the Corberry Press into a mind-blowing, lo-high-tech meditation zone. Inside the all-white, soft, loungey space, Forkner crouches in the corner performing blissed-out, four-channel electro-acoustic drones, while the video projections (especially those by E*Rock) are overpowering and mostly brilliant. This is modern psychedelic art that approaches the same level as Yayoi Kusama's reflection pool piece at last year's Whitney Biennial or the spirited and spiritual kitsch of the Assume Vivid Astro Focus collective.

I am not sure if I love the new Constantines record though I definitely dig it a lot; everything people seem to like about the egregiously awful Hold Steady I find happening here instead, with this also-Canadian band. In a pinch, if forced to choose between working class heroes I'd always take Lynott over Springsteen; could that have something to do with it?Anyway.

I can't wait to hear American Primitive Vol. 2, holy fuck. Its imminent release is great news (I have fallen off of many promo lists in the last year or two so I'm a bit behind in some kinds of news.)

Speaking of slightly old stuff, we all know that UBUWEB IS BACK AND NEW AND IMPROVED ANDS SHIT RIGHT?! Hallelujah. Also, has everyone read Alec's big-ass thought piece on the "new" visionary folksters yet?

Monday, September 19, 2005

If they ever change the weather, it would be a shame

CARDINAL "Singing to the Sunshine"

OK, so I guess it's too late baby, now, it's too late (thanks to Daily Kos for the link)? Not next decade, not next generation, but it appears that we've "screwed the pooch," already? Time to buy Nova Scotian real estate, I guess -- the parts that won't be under water, anyway? Get ready for even more floods and famine and weird diseases? Wait, that sounds almost... Biblical. Hmmm.

Cardinal was a band that made one fabulous smart little self-titled album of decadent pop music eleven years ago. It is amongst the best work by either of its participants, Eric Matthews and Richard Davies, and would be the finest by either of them were i tnot for the early recordings of the Moles. The thing was reissued this year, but my version's from the original on Flydaddy (which I only mention 'cause it was remastered, okay).

Sun Ra remains the one musician I'm lucky to have seen more than any other, as I believe I've already written here. I saw Sun Ra with the Arkestra twice in high school, but what happened is later, as a little NYU boy, I lived near the Bottom Line nightclub. And in the '80s the group did a series of residencies there, and my awesome uncle David took me to most of 'em (what a guy!) and the ones he didn't, I took myself to.

I post the song "Mu" off the excellent 1967 LP Atlantis because I was searching for another song or two to fit a "theme of global warming." Seriously. I hate to admit that since it's so cheesey but so are mp3 blogs that attempt to address "issues" with "stolen songs," if we are to be remotely realistic about life (or, my life, anyway).

I started to listen to this beautiful little vamp over and over again ("Mu") and then I was meditating on civilaztions that come and go whether they're real or not. And to think about if indeed mankind is a virus that the Earth is doing its best to get rid of, or if there's just something innately self-destructive/ implosive to humans in general -- not that the two half-baked and well-trodden ideas are in any way exclusive, of course.

Sometimes I wish I could write like those smart people, you know like Josh from Hermenaut, because what smart people do is to take crazy mixed-up shit and help you make sense of it, help you feel like you understand what the real problems are, whereas it seems my literary faculties are only good for rendering some of the confusion and craziness I feel, passing it on like a late summer head cold. And lately mixed-up confusion and rage's all I feel when I'm not distracting myself with being in love or watching some great movie or writing about Kevin Shields and his very mighty guitar that reverberates through your consciousness like some incredibly ineffective metaphor!!!

Like, OK, I sit here and I read that the British finally out Uber Papa Bush as the great bad Nazi collaborator we all know he was, and the LA Weekly tells us to not expect the curtain to fall open again anytime soon when it comes to the media actually having a human response to our occupying government's inability to give a single fuck for its non-corporate or apocalypse-culture friends. And the polar ice sheet has already melted too much, buy sunscreen at Costco. And Dubya lets loose with even more crazy barely-coded rapture alert code orange bullshit every time he talks about the storm, or anything.

You know, it's almost as if his cronies have engineered everything in the past five years to actually bring about this apocalypse they're all so enraptured with
-- hah, get it, enraptured?! But of course this is not possible. We saw Damian the Omen Part Two and the bad guy died at the end of that movie, right? The German press, and others, think this current mess is the end of the Bush regime. I admire their ability to see the end of this current empire, or this version of it anyway, and to be so optimistic. I could really use some fucking optimism, and not tomorrow.

I apologize for my very ham-fisted commentary here. Perhaps the only thing worse than when music writers try to be political hacks is when they start rock bands. So, I'll go do that instead.

PS: I'm sure you've heard this here Katrina response song already but I definitely felt these lyrics tonight: "It's enough to make you holler out/Like where the fuck is Sir Bono and his famous friends now?/Don't get it twisted, man, I dig U2/But if you ain't about the ghetto, than fuck you too/Who cares about rock and roll when babies can't eat food?"

Sunday, September 11, 2005

You left me for one hundred dollars...


Just got word that Clarence Brown passed away yesterday; apparently he was in ill health already, but it sounds like the shock of having to evacuate Baton Rouge and move to Texas because of the hurricane was too much.

I like the way the AP obit ends, so matter of factly: Brown recorded with Eric Clapton, Ry Cooder, Bonnie Raitt and others, but he took a dim view of most musicians -- and blues guitarists in particular. He called B.B. King one-dimensional. He dismissed his famous Texas blues contemporaries Albert Collins and Johnny Copeland as clones of T-Bone Walker, whom many consider the father of modern Texas blues. ''All those guys always tried to sound like T-Bone,'' Brown said. Survivors include three daughters and a son.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

All that I ask is that for peace you fight today you fight today


You probably already know that this song is an adaptation of a poem by Turkish poet Nazim Hikmet. Pete Seeger and the Byrds did their own versions of it; the Misunderstood's is, naturally, the best, seeing as how brutally great a band they were. The song's been on my mind since the fiftieth anniversary of Hiroshima was all in the news recently, sort of. Truthfully, it's one of the strongest anti-war anthems I can think of, especially the way it navigates graphic and gruesome lyrics to end with "all that I ask is that for peace you fight today you fight today" -- a site more profound and enthusiasm-enducing than "Sunday Bloody Sunday." To me, anyway. How does one fight for peace, exactly? I've been thinking that a lot these last four years, and I wish I could say I was closer to an answer. Fuck!

Thursday, September 08, 2005

A chicken plucker plucks chickens...

PELL MELL "Estacada"
THE BATS "Up To The Sky"
DION MCGREGOR "Thought for the Day"

Ahhh, "Estacada"! Such a rad floating down the blacktop late at night windows down kinda tune. One of everyone's favorite Pell Mell tracks, I know, but it's out of print so this one's for the kids. It's taken from the righteous 1988 SST album The Bumper Crop, a collection of early '80s material from their more guitar-heavy phase. When I first heard Slint, and I was lucky to encounter some Louisville folks who taped me Tweez before it came out, I thought Slint sounded like Pell Mell meets "the Albini aesthetic." Today of course, Slint just sounds like a hundred bands from 1992, while Pell Mell still sounds really fresh and eerily similar to the background music on various MTV, HBO and NPR shows.

I know we're living in the precopalypse and this government is hateful and bent on installing the corpocracy as soon as they're done wiping their asses with the Bill of Rights and Constitution and all of that, but shit goddamn, isn't it an almost-wonderful world in spite of that when someone drops a new record by the Bats (!) off in your mailbox and then says yeah, go ahead and post an MP3 of it on your site before the album comes out two weeks from now? Thanks, Magic Marker; I sincerely hope anyone cares about lovely swirly, melancholically blissed-out indie-pop from New Zealand like this any more, 'cause I have heard somewhere that the rock and roll music is dead and stuff. Or is it simply that it's entered the status of vernacular music? Either way. Pretty amazing this band's had one line-up in twenty-two years and is still together. Only other NZ groups you can say that about are the Clean and Tall Dwarfs, right?

Dion McGregor was an infamous personality in the 1960s; the cat narrated his own dreams, you see. Really. The original LPs and books of this material are well worth seeking out and feature wonderful Edward Gorey covers, like this one. More about him at a later date.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Strolling the beach at midnight

OLD SOUTH QUARTETTE "Oysters And Wine At 2 AM"

Listening to the excellent Document CD Earliest Negro Vocal Quartets 1894-1928, I realized I'd never paid much attention to this group of singers from Richmond, VA, aside from their restrained and strange, banjo-driven take on "What He's Done For Me." Not sure if I like this song (taken from a disc recorded in Long Island City in 1928) or hate it. I've certainly never heard anything quite like it before.

Turns out the group was originally led by a white druggist named Polk Milller(1840-1913), original source of the banjo element in the group. Mark Twain loved 'em; here's an article from the Victrola and 78 Journal about 'em. More about 'em here. He did not perform in blackface and appeared to show real affection for his bandmates, but some of this shit is definitely dodgy.

Anywhere you go

SWANEE QUINTET "Take the Lord With You"

Pete from UP! Records turned me on to this group a few years ago. This song is from a budget-priced compilation of Nashboro sides from the '50s and '60s. It's on MCA so naturally there is no information at all, but it's cheap as hell and well worth owning.

That place of note and fame

SHIRLEY COLLINS "The Bonny Irish Boy"

Still reeling from events in the Gulf but I feel that everything is being said much more eloquently elsewhere. With news of the murderous incompetence that greeted the storm's aftermath unfolding by the minute, I almost feel bad that things seem to be going well for me right now. My health seems better today; I'm in a productive phase as to work which is a very welcome change; this publishing venture feels very good indeed and things appear to be really coming together; and my heart remains light and happy thanks to this girl I'm hanging with every weekend (she lives two hours away, in Eugene, OR which is sort of a National Preserve of Hippies in the worst and occasionally best possible ways).

This song--one of a thousand tunes from the Anglo-Celt tradition that tell tales of rakish dudes who break hearts, what's with those dudes?--is from Shirley Collins' first album, Sweet England. Co-produced by her "then-partner" Alan Lomax with Peter Kennedy in 1959, the album was critically thrashed when it was released according to AMG. And it's not that hard to see why. Her maudlin approach on these recordings is bound to make the listener uncomfortable. The vocals are in some weird netherworld between naive and learned, 'twixt "real" folk and folk-revival folk. Same goes for her banjo accompaniment, which is a touch rudimentary. I kind of love this album a lot but can never listen to much at one time.

PS: Congrats to Antony!!!

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Close that door

R.L. BURNSIDE "Poor Black Mattie"
R.L. BURNSIDE "I Believe"

I'm hearing that R.L. Burnside passed away this morning in a hotel room in Memphis. The Fat Possum website confirms it. Shitpissfuck. These songs are R.L.'s earliest known recordings; his style's not in absolute full effect but I love the intimacy and stripped-down quality going on with these "field" recordings. The record they're from is called Mississippi Hill Country Blues; it's highly recommended.

It's getting to be where I don't want to look at the news anymore, but I can't stop. Thinking good thoughts for everyone in the Gulf, donating dough to Red Cross (soooooooo easy via Amazon, who already have your credit card, my friend!) but of course things seem to be worse every day and it's freaking me the fuck out. Check out Interdictor if you've not already: dude blogging from downtown New Orleans -- I especially appreciated this post.