music

One Does Not Simply Hate The Red Hot Chili Peppers

 

I just saw a Freshly Pressed post from a few days ago about hating the RHCP, which does not stand for the Republican House Caucus on some word that starts with P.

I watched The Halftime Show fully realizing the Chili Peppers weren’t necessary.  Bruno Mars and his band are more than talented enough, so I’m not sure why the Peppers were there other than to remind you what kind of shape you won’t be in at 50.  But from “Under The Bridge” on, I’ve been a fan.  And “Give It Away” is about getting off of drugs.  And Anthony Kiedis and Flea were in Back to the Future.  And hey is that Frusciante (no)?  And the drummer is Will Ferrell.  What I’m saying is, what’s not to like?

Here’s something for you.  “Californication” is only 8 years younger than “Under The Bridge,”  but 1999 is still 15 years ago.  I know, right?  And “By The Way,” which is a lot like “Otherside,” is only a few years younger than that.  “Otherside” is basically their “Everlong,” even if it isn’t even half as good (because “Everlong.”)   “Around the World” is a great song.  “Scar Tissue” is everything the summer of ’99 was that wasn’t Rob Thomas and Carlos Santana.  For that alone, we should be thankful.  And hey, I liked that song, but enough was enough already, innit?

Even though we didn’t need them, because Bruno Mars was already reminding us of how awesome James Brown was, don’t pretend them showing up and doing what they do wasn’t pretty great.  Did I need half the stuff I ate last night?  Nahbsolutely.  Did I need to see Cliff Clavin and Hulk Hogan in the same space and time not called 1987?  (Yes).  Was it cool to see Kiedis and Flea being Kiedis and Flea?  Was the moon landing faked?  (Yes, and “that’s not the point.”)

Kanye West is Not the First Postmodern Rapper

In the build up to Tuesday’s release of his new album, some critics are calling Kanye West the first postmodern rapper.

No.

Postmodernity is rap’s DNA: self-referential, sonic decoupage, even self-conscious. You can’t watch or listen to “The Message” without feeling this in your bones.  That the Old School was also sincere is a bonus.

Modernity bred racism and slavery.  Rap deconstructs (Bad Boy videos of the late 90s, focused so thoroughly on image, not withstanding).  I haven’t even said Busta, Missy, or Beasties, yet.

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The Best Hymn You’ll Hear Today

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I know I shouldn’t say this because I’m part of the project and all, but what John Hardt put together on the songs from a broken liturgy album is really, really good.

Listen to “All Creatures” and tell me I’m wrong.

I don’t mean to be provocative.  I’m just really proud of what John and the rest of the team did on this track and on this EP.  The weakest thing on the album is probably my spoken-word track (I don’t think I like the way my voice sounds), but you should buy songs 2 – 6, or the whole thing for a dollar more.  It will support working musicians like John and help him to do more of this kind of thing.  He’s also in the process of cutting a new John Hardt solo EP with backup from a wrecking crew with stupid good chops.  I’ve heard the songs live and they’re beautiful.

 

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Behold the Hurricane (and other Brathwaite and Brian Fallon jams)

You know all about those strange synergies of the internet.  Today, I was listening to The Horrible Crowes.  Like a lot.

kamau-brathwaiteFor some reason that only makes sense the to the tubes and wires, quite a few folks found their way here today by searching for Kamau Brathwaite’s visceral insight about Caribbean syntax : “the hurricane does not roar in pentameters.”

Billy Corgan, Everyone

Billy Corgan

Billy Corgan (Photo credit: bfick)

This post only exists because someone came to the blog searching for “billy corgan + noel gallagher,” which got me thinking.

This article is a year old, but Billy Corgan has never stopped being Billy Corgan, and I say, good for him.  I don’t necessarily even agree about Soundgarden or Pavement or whatever, but the point is that here’s a man who just can’t seem to help himself.  There is something beautiful in that.

Now, look.  I’m not saying we shouldn’t work through things and mature and get better.  But here’s a guy having a very public fight with consensus.  I don’t know if he’s a mess.  I don’t know if the impulse that produces paeans to sincerity in the public square, so refreshing in that space, manifest in other, destructive ways in Corgan’s personal life.  I can’t assume.  If so, I take back some of what I’m saying.  Then again, if this is the release that keeps other things together, march on, Billy. March.

Four paragraphs down in this link, enjoy Noel Gallagher get at the quintessence of the problem with the music industry today, followed by Billy.  Says Noel:

“The consumer [says] ‘Where’s my free music on the internet? Is this a free download?’ Fuck off! It cost me a quarter of a million pounds to make it, you’re not getting it for nothing. I want my quarter of a million back, thank you very much. That’s why we’re rock stars.

“That’s why tours are becoming so long,” explained Gallagher. “By the time I finish this tour it’ll be a year and four months. Records don’t get any cheaper to make, they get more expensive to make. I say this as an independent artist. I’m on my own record label. It isn’t backed by anybody else. I pay for it all. Everything.”

English: Noel Gallagher performing in Belfast,...

English: Noel Gallagher performing in Belfast, 2005 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Gallagher says the result has been for music to be made by committee and focus groups. “But as I understand it the consumer didn’t want Jimi Hendrix, but they got him – and it changed the world … Fuck the customer. He doesn’t know what he wants. You fucking give it to him and he likes it.”

That’s a brimful of Asha right there.

Rockstars and Whetstones and SSRIs: Steven Hyden and a Bunch of Other Stuff

Steven Hyden puts out some really good stuff.  The fact that I can’t type the word “intervention” without hearing Win Butler tells you two things:  1) like Butler and Hyden, I’m a man of a certain age, and 2) (perhaps) like both of them, I have struggled with my share of obsession.  (I also work for a church, but my family is fine.  Bonus points for a Billy Joel reference within an Arcade Fire reference).

Hyden is working on a pretty ambitious Winners’ History of Rock and Roll at Grantland.  The first piece I read was about Metallica, and it’s so good I need to email it to my best friend because, well, yeah.  Painstakingly thorough in its fidelity to mission, History is not meticulous in the typical sense: it’s a grand, narrative survey and a primer in postmodern historiography.  But Hyden weaves and he weaves and weaves, expertly.

I can’t speak for him, but I know I spent a good deal of my twenties obsessing about the long-term ramifications of my pop-culture pantheon.  And still do, of course.  Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds is a really great record.  But what kind of obsessive compulsive Oasis fan would I be if I’d never stayed up all night watching Gallagher’s hilarious interviews on YouTube and wishing, still wishing, they’d released The Masterplan instead of Be Here Now?  Not a very good one.

Rock needs its obsessives, and Hyden’s a great one.  So are so many of the artists he profiles.  If good art borrows and great art steals, you can’t be Led Zeppelin without aping the bluesmen or, apparently, Spirit, and you can’t write Defiantly Maybe without a whole lotta, er, love.

Butler, Hyden, and I are young for GenXers.  We’ve learned the postmodern notes of professional curation, appreciation, executed by big cultural brothers like Rob from High Fidelity and Lloyd Dobbler, our cool 80s teen cousin.  We don’t obsess because they did, but because we’re obsessive.  But they paved the way for this kind of writing, for this way of being in public and in popular culture.  In 2013, we’re all kind of tired of clever so we’ve gone academic.  Tarantino nods are now dissertations.  More intelligent memes replace cliched, received language.

On a long enough timeline, obsession is burden.  On a short one, too, but you don’t really notice.  You don’t amass 400 issues of Rolling Stone all at once, but, now, here they are.  You can’t just throw them away.

For a long time, it meant a lot to me that the 90s meant something.  It hurt that great bands fizzled and died, that brilliant shows were cancelled, that I’d turn twenty without the great rock revival Gibby Haynes promised was coming with Beck.  But after Odelay, irony stopped being fun.  Letterman won’t even wink, now.  I had to move on.  We’d reached the end, hadn’t we, of what Hyden calls Elitist Taste?  We were in on the joke, but it stopped being funny.  Be Here Now was amazing for how little it cared and how big, too big, it sounded, but it didn’t sound too big then.  It sounded like filling a hole with Code Hero swagger, the logical end of the first two brilliant discs.  This is what you do when you conquer the world, when you’ve done so rejecting rejection, writing Live Forever as a dis track hurled contra I Hate Myself and Want to Die.

In college, I found new things to obsess over.  Relationships.  MP3s.  The platonic ideals of The Phaedrus and classic rock.  The fundamental paradox at the center of Descartes’ Enlightenment project and the center of me.  My future, my grades. Change, all that change, the farmland banding my home, Lehigh County, plowed over and under for strip malls and suburbs.  The efficacy of Christ and his cross.

I got stuck.  Eventually, I realized I wasn’t just existentially advanced or overly sensitive.  I realized that God made me in a lean time, 1980; in an echo of the energy crisis, he’d held back serotonin.  I supplement, now, and think with less hurt about what’s been lost.  Forever, I feared this.  No pain and no edge.  But there’s always pain and there’s always edge, and there’s the blunt edges of the tools we pick up to make meaning:

“In going where you have to go, and doing what you have to do, and seeing what you have to see, you dull and blunt the instrument you write with. But I would rather have it bent and dulled and know I had to put it on the grindstone again and hammer it into shape and put a whetstone to it, and know that I had something to write about, than to have it bright and shining and nothing to say, or smooth and well oiled in the closet, but unused.”  (Ernest Hemingway, Preface to The First Forty-Nine Stories).

As long as I fretted, only, the instrument stayed shiny and smooth.  It was an engine always oiled, never stopping, some perpetual emotion machine gorged for want of the chemical breaks.  Do SSRIs blunt it?  Maybe.  But they buy me enough margin to push to the next thought and the thought beyond that, to construct some kind of perspective, peace.  In this margin I find productivity, too.  An output for the inputs I continue to plug in and share.

“There’s depression,” Leonard Cohen said, “and depression.”

“What I mean by depression in my own case is that depression isn’t just the blues. It’s not just like I have a hangover in the weekend … the girl didn’t show up or something like that. It isn’t that. It’s not really depression, it’s a kind of mental violence which stops you from functioning properly from one moment to the next. You lose something somewhere and suddenly you’re gripped by a kind of angst of the heart and of the spirit…”  (from a French interview, trans. Nick Halliwell).

Something happens somewhere.  Mental violence. You get stuck.  There are triggers, short and long, but you focus on the short ones.  “If I hadn’t heard that song, if I hadn’t walked that way today,” and miss the bigger picture: you live in world of uncontrolled stimuli and your off-switch is broken.  Fix it. Fix it safely, fix it wisely, fix it with the help of a professional.  I always thought the fix would dull me in a bad way, but it’s actually made me more precise.  It’s helped me, immeasurably, learn to speak and say.

I love treatises like Hyden’s for obvious reasons.  I’m not suggesting he has OCD or general anxiety or trouble letting go, but, like the postmodern obsessive compulsive I am in my soul and my biochemistry, respectively, I’ve felt free to use his work as a grindstone and whetstone, hammering out what I need to say to you about letting go but not forgetting, being refreshed and strengthened by the good things from our past instead of being washed away and drowned out by their loss.  Thank you, Steven.

Found Poetry from Comment Spam

“This is a little something for you. I’m in a hurry! He can’t take a joke. Could I have those two tickets, please? This is only the first half. He was married to a friend of mine.He was married to a friend of mine. Do me a favor? Feel better? There is a chair below the window.”

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Coffee and the Kindgom of God: Steam Roller

Last week at CoffeeWorks, I happened upon a sign for New Harvest’s Steam Roller Blend.   When I hear “steam roller,” the first thing I think of is Elvis.  When I see the word PROVIDENCE on the front of a steam roller, the first thing I think of is kingdom of God imagery.  In the local context, I think of everything getting literally or figuratively steam rolled by the powers that be, and then of how we’re called to faith in God’s own righteous work, and to partnership in it. The kingdom of God is here, the kingdom of God will come.  God’s justice will come for the poor and the oppressed.  All those sitting in high places will be leveled.  All who are weary and weak will see the face of God. We’re called to get in on that action.

If you’re wondering, the coffee was good, too.

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A new piece by Steven Hyden sets out to say I won’t love the new Killers record, but convinces me I will.

A new piece by Steven Hyden sets out to say I won’t love the new Killers record, but convinces me I will.  I like the Imagine Dragons set-up of the Battle Born review, but by the time I got to the Grizzly Bear portion, I’d forgotten that half the piece was supposed to be about them.

Related: Hyden on Billy Corgan and Noel Gallagher.