That thing humans do to see if they’ve made progress, self assessment in public by means of putting things into lists at the end of the year
2012. December. End of year. Blah. Blah. Blah. I’ve been wanting to write a lot more in my life as writing is something I crave to do. The ever flow of creative head vomiting in any form, fiction, criticism, correspondence, opinion. But I find myself coming to the page and the keyboard far less than I used to. It’s not a matter of time, but will(?), comfort(?), desire (?). I’m not actually sure what’s kept me from the extolling upon a public my inner most thoughts ad nauseam. The accolades and recognition have never been enough to boost my ego. But the exercise of any activity is always more important than the end result.
This globloggoglsgsfla was intended for me to talk about the music and musical artists I like. Music is the “thing” that I like most and it continues to be such. In fact, 2012 was the year I spent most of my time on music over everything else. I played in a band, I started DJ’ing at a radio station (fuck I gotta call D-Cat. Yes, I have your CD’s), I booked a couple shows, had strangers stay at my house while they were on tour, took the photos, bought the records I couldn’t afford, traveled out-of-state, stayed up late, immersed myself in a genre I’ve always appreciated but never obsessed about, and generally thought the world was crazy for the shit it continued to purchase and revere as brilliant. Music. Music. MUSIC. Why bother with everything else. In a world of constant let down it seems like there’s always some musician or artist doing something totally new, exciting, dangerous and brilliant. If you don’t think so, stop reading this, grab a shovel, go into your back yard, shared common area, local park or the middle of nowhere, dig a hole, lie in it, stay there.
In the mists of all of this I have lived a year that has been extreme in all senses. It’s been the best and most difficult year of my life. At 35 I think I’m getting better at knowing when being an asshole isn’t serving me and when it’s absolutely necessary to be a pain in someone’s ass. Which has meant that I’ve needed music as a backdrop for my sanity and celebration in even greater measure. Incidentally I found one of the reasons weddings irritate me is because I never, ever like the music selection of the couple. There always seems to be this point in weddings where you are subject to far too many pop hits that are so awful as to be maddening. It made me realize that maybe I don’t hate weddings, love and marriage, but that DJ’s and people with shitty taste in music make me want to cry. I also learned that I just can no longer tolerate people’s taste in music anymore. I can’t take what you people listen to. If I have to be subjected to nostalgic bullshit in public and private then there is no reason I shouldn’t declare an audible war on my friends, loved ones, neighbors and the greater, tone-deaf community at large.
So, this is the point where I do a top 5 favorites of the year. But much like last year, lists and extolling the greatness of bands that the four (? do I have that many) regular readers don’t care about anyway is not something I want to engage in with any terrible excitement. But I am still compelled, like any good music geek dick head who thinks that their opinion is penultimate and should be bowed in front of by the masses. So, here goes. 2012 in review.
White Lung a punk rock group out of Candaduh put out the most dangerous, fucked up, hyper and intense record of the year in their sophomore presentation Sorry. This is no slump issue. They kicked it up a notch. I can’t even begin to describe how insane this quartet is. And I do mean insane. The rhythm section is in such tight lock step as to be mind-boggling. I’ve not heard a drum/bass duo this strong since Eric Axelson and Joe Easly. At the rapid speeds they play at, to accentuate the different elements of the beat and rhythm is amazing. Topped with awesome, crisp high guitars that just slice your face like bats with razor blade rings and vocals that are a combination of shouting and singing, White Lung punches where other bands whimper. Shirt, fast, dirty, tight as fuck.
I turned 35 this year and celebrated the event by seeing Cattle Decapitation here in Albuquerque. They played a pretty interesting set, filled with lots of tunes off their new album Monolith of Inhumanity. The album is the vegan inspired death/grind bands most realized work. It’s rare to see a band of their stature push beyond their back catalog. After ten plus years and five albums most bands just start phoning it in. Cattle Decapitation instead pushed forward, reinventing what a Cattle Decapitation song is and thus who Cattle Decapitation is. Also, their video for “Forced Gender Reassignment” which is not work safe, was pretty much what you should have thought it would be. If your into metal and were in any way shocked by the violence and gore then I question just what the fuck you’ve thought the genre’s main themes were.
It’s also nice when bands from my former stomping ground continue to make music, push the boundaries and move forward. Though I will probably never see them again live, Pig Destroyer has a place in my heart. I bought the deluxe CD version of their newest Book Burner and am not disappointed in the slightest. It’s everything you want from a Pig Destroyer album and then there is Adam Jarvis. When you think a band can’t get any better, put Misery Index’s skin stomper behind the throne and see what happens. I wasn’t expecting Book Burner to exceed my expectations, but it did.
I didn’t know that Floridian native Will Thomas was one of my favorite song writers, but I’m pretty much stoked that Grabass Charlestons put out the most excellent, semi thematic album Dale and the Careeners. It’s all kinds of jangly pop punk and awesome rock. The clean guitar tones, sounds like some high-end Fender amps to me, are fantastic. The compliment of Thomas and long time guitarist PJ Fancher is perfect. No one’s over doing it. It’s punk rock to sooth the aged punk kid. It’s so much better than the shit most of the kids are putting out.
When Kingdom dropped in my lap this year, I fondly remembered why I love Ireland’s Heathers as much as I do. The vocal harmonies of the Macnamara sisters still melts hearts as they step out of being a folkish duo and into the realm of pop song makers. The punks might take offense to the studio slickness but I love the addition of piano, drums, electronica and the other influences these ladies have. They proved that they don’t know just how to write a song but how to craft one. The bigger sounds and songs only made me fall in love with them more than I already did. They’re making waves in Europe and in Ireland but the ripple has only, barely hit the United States. I keep trying to tell you people, but I guess it doesn’t help them that one of their biggest fans is a grumpy, old, combative 35-year-old white boy. Talk about lacking authenticity and sway. Sorry ladies.
There were other great albums too. El-P finally got around to dropping his excellent Cancer for Cure. He picked up much where he left off five years ago and made another fantastic, futuristic and angry record. He is the master of his craft and people should give him more props. Weakerthans front man John K. Samson released a great solo album early on this year that I just love to death. Provincial isn’t totally new to everyone, but if you love the Weakerthans, and how can you not, then you should pick this one up. Napalm Death fucked up lives with Utilitarian pretty much showing the world that they still deserve respect for being the forefathers of Grind. The album had a saxophone track in it and it worked. WTF?
I really wanted to, but never found time, to immerse myself in the new albums by The XX and Sigur Ros. I spent so much of my time learning about metal in such a deeper way that I lost them in the shuffle. Also, it’s really sunny here and neither of those albums fit the mood for sunshine. Boots Riley made the best song of the year with “Parent’s Cocaine”. The track comes from The Coup’s latest album Sorry to Bother You which is worth checking out in full. Also, the reissue world was beautiful to us from our friends at Dischord records. They dropped Faith, Lungfish and Void on us, updating sounds, scouring tapes and letting us hear new songs by these always great, never forgotten bands. If this business model works, I hope they keep it up. I’d love to hear some more.
So, on this cold, overcast(ish) Saturday morning, sleep deprived and sinus sick, that’s my 2012 music in review. We lost some good people this year that made music. We lost some people this year that were close to us. We saw love conquer all and ignorance and hate squander so much. But for me anyway, music kept me going. 2013 is an ominus feeling year. The trials and tribulations of this writer don’t seem quite over. There are hurdles to jump and barriers to cross or break. Music, among many other things, is gonna help get me through. Peace.
It’s the end of 2012 and I have been thinking about my year-end list. I hope to actually have time to write something meaningful about the records I loved this year. I was even kind of hoping to start that tonight but I read that Das Racist broke up and I’m kind of not psyched about it. There isn’t a great deal of information as to the behind the scenes of it all, but it sounds less that amicable. But what makes me sad about all of this truly is how much hope I had for this band. Now, the light of hope seems pretty dim.
Look, the world is not a safe and wonderful place. The country I live in, America, is racist as fuck in this really unhealthy, crazy way. I am scared of Golden Dawn opening offices in New York and trying to expand. I am frightened by the casual use of racist, homophobic, hateful language that the young people I encounter seem so at ease with. Education, community, everything is gone to shit. Religion is nothing but morally bankrupt people spouting about higher moral values. Politicians, as little as they ever did, are more spitting rhetorical bullshit and stealing money or shouting the loudest then actually engaging in any kind of discourse that might be helpful. Every one has an opinion and yet no one wants to listen to any one else. The world is in a state of utter chaos and Das Racist gave me hope.
Heems, Kool A.D. and their hype man Dapwell were smarter than most bands. Not in the way that the Clash was smart, and the Clash were smart in a very working class, bash you over the head and kill you with style kind of way. There hasn’t been a band like the Clash since the Clash, but Das Racist, they gave me hope. They spoke to something higher, but they were articulate, educated and confrontational. They didn’t allow their audience to be complacent or stupid. Even when they were just joking around, there was a certain kind of bilious metaphor that hung around every word. If you were so self conscious that you couldn’t take and apply their critique and realize that self-evaluation could be fun, then I guess they failed at penetrating the cloud of idiocy that seems to be occupying American minds these days.
Das Racist was hip-hop. They represented the ideals that I have come to learn hip-hop was born out of. It was revolution music. It was protest music. It was a war cry and it was party music too. Recently Boots Riley, hip-hops cheerleader of the revolutionary party had worked with the group. A kind of validation that maybe the rest of the world wasn’t interested in, but it certainly had an impact on me. The stamp of approval given by other true heads like EL-P only solidified Das Racist as not just jesters of the hip-hop world, but as a mirror that wasn’t so easy to look into. They were a power house, speaking in code sometimes and others slapping you in the face with your own bullshit.
For me, this was the moment that solidified it. From their Shut Up, Dude mixtape, the surprising download that catapulted them into the minds of hipsters from Brooklyn to Hollywood, “Ek Shaneesh” and its low budget video was not the hit I might imagine it, but there is something celebratory in our differences that most media, most bands, most music doesn’t always give us. Not in America anyway. There was a sound and style that wasn’t just American made. It felt smarter than that. It knew the world was bigger and brighter and more full even than what New York City has to offer. Instead we get MIA re-imaging revolution rock and her message getting buried in the oppression of her gender, odd behavior and for me, poor artistic choices. The art of stealing and the plagiarism of borrowing for me were weighed out in “Ek Shaneesh” existing in a low fi, underground kind of ease and “Paper Planes” getting added to the trailer of pot celebrating Pineapple Express. I only hope that the Strummer family made enough off of that licensing to plant more trees in St. Joe’s name.
In the wake of a misunderstood and understated “full length album” (whatever that means in hip-hop anymore) Relax we are left with the beginning of two new solo careers where the some of the parts does not quite equal the whole. First of all, Dapwell seems to be left in the cold. Or not. I don’t know anything about the personal relationships that may have kept them together, but Dapwell was an ambassador, not a rapper. And I’ve been listening to the solo mix tapes today. They aren’t bad, but they remind me that Das Racist was one of those bands that was strongest when they blended their brilliance together. The mix up of colors and hues were more out of the world than imaginable. So apart, they are trying to grow in new directions, each adopting other up and coming rappers and producers. Heems gives us a stand out track produced by LE1F called “Deepak Chopra”. Kool A.D. mublecore raps us into a calm state with his new video called “Manny Pacquio”, but what a song these would be together. The some of the parts does not equal the whole.
Hip Hop needs to real mainstream heroes. In a year when we lost Adam Yauch and Jay Z and Kanye West still rule we need Das Racist. When Missy Elliot is still lying low and homophobic bullshit like Tyler the Creator still exists in the headlines, we need Das Racist. Some one has to slap us in the face with our same, stale old bullshit.Sure I am going to have to be content with the wacky, smart trio being splintered in two and not reaching its potential. I’m going to have to love these solo mix tapes. I’m going to have to try not to choose one over the other and realize that they have goals as individuals. But this is just another reminder that people can’t seem to get over their own bullshit to maintain the greatness they create as a unit. A lesson that in my life this year is a bit harder to swallow.
Das Racist, rest in peace. May the phoenix of Heems, Kool A.D. and Dapwell soar high from your ashes, outshining all you accomplished together. I still hold on to hope that maybe you can change lives and educate minds. All while throwing out some of the most left field jams hip-hop has ever heard.
This little drawing is cut from a larger comic by Jim Kettner and Eric Weiss on aging in a punk rock community.I posted it recently on my fakebook feed as a testament to an over all failing arch of men in punk rock. I was hoping some of the punk rock dads I knew would have something to say, but I am pretty sure my anti-corporate, anti-political binary, anti-kid, sometimes grossly offensive behavior as of late has earned me a good blocking in my larger circle of “friends”. And those that did see it probably thought I was calling them a sell out. Which I was, but I am not sure they knew to what magnitude or why.
Last night, my partner and I went to the local reading for Don’t Leave Your Friends Behind: Concrete Ways to Support Families in Social Justice Movements and Communities (you can find it at PM Press) out in the middle of nowhere Albuquerque. Quite simply I went because Jessica Mills, Author of My Mother Wears Combat Boots was reading and she is something of a local hero to me. She’s the kind of person I know I should be more like, but can’t seem to muster the positive, good feelings towards human kind that often prevents me from giving a shit whether my species lives or dies. Lately, I have really hated you fuckers. From your simpleton discussion of politics and underdeveloped notions of what governments are to the racism, sexism and violence towards each other and the fact that my band broke up because the bass player and I couldn’t get along despite coming from a similar, community/anarcho learned background. So, yeah, just being in a room with Madam Mills was probably going to lift my spirits a bit.
I never considered families. Which, you would think I would have a more positive outlook on families. I come from a very loving nuclear family. My parents are great people. We disagree on a lot of things, but they are well-informed, hard-working, smart, articulate people. In a lot of ways I am the exact opposite, or sometimes I feel like I am. But I love my parents deeply, no matter even the fundamental differences we have in our ideas. I respect them as adults and people. I have an extended family whom I love but am not totally connected to. I grew up sort of isolated form the larger family. While they were mostly on the east coast, I grew up on the west coast in my formative years and by the time we joined them in Virginia, my independence as a child was set in. We still saw them less than once a year. So, family is a concept that I have to create in a larger context to understand.
I grew up in punk rock and I realize while the majority of the straight young boys were starting bands, circle pits and yelling at each other, the women and gender-queer peoples were reading, writing and organizing. That’s pretty clear from this book I purchased last night. Jessica Mills and co-editor China Martens are PUNKER THAN I WILL EVER BE, having experienced the music, the culture and the politics long before I did, in formative towns and continue to live by those standards even today. Dialog was not part of a lot of my growing up. Even the well-intentioned political folk kids, or science bless him Mark Anderson weren’t so much talking to me, but at me. I picked up what I could from info tables and the occasional radical zine or book fair and tried to formulate some type of understanding of the world outside a capitalist, two-party, nuclear family, middle class view. The family aspect of this never seemed to come to light.
After the reading, I went home, upset. I was upset at myself, but I couldn’t totally pinpoint why. I opened Don’t Leave Your Friends Behind and looked for some male guidance. Not surprisingly, Rad Dad author and editor Thomas Moniz had a piece from the early days of the zine. I also read Mustafa Shukur’s piece On Fear and Commitments. Then I slouched over to my single bookshelf to find beneath the rubble my copy of the Rad Dad anthology (also on PM Press) I had purchased when I had the pleasure of reading with Thomas last year. I read the interview conducted with Jeff Chang, author of Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop. Then I started thinking about the parents of my generation.
Some of you, many of you whose children I have not met, I love how you are parenting and I think you will be good parents. I have friends from different ethnic, racial, financial backgrounds raising kids in all kinds of weird places like Florida, Utah and the Pacific Northwest. Some live in superburbs, others in cities and some in the country. Some home school, some use public schools, but of the parents I think of, that I admire (or have seen in action) though they are doing it differently they are doing it “right” in the eyes of a crumudgeony, 35-year-old man whose interactions with kids are limited.
Then, I think of the punk rock dads I have seen. The one’s who buy or even make the punk rock onesies for their kids. The one’s who used to scream about revolution and destruction (some who still do that for a living) who are now safe and secure in the same middle class bubble that we were trying to deconstruct. There is nothing un-punk about being a dad. In fact, being a healthy, engaged, intelligent and compassionate parent in a day and age where we’re supposed to hand over young people’s minds to video games, the internet and failing public schools and corrupt authority figures is about the most punk rock thing you can do. Putting them in a micro-mini version of your own middle class wardrobe covered in the brands of bands now gone is just fucking stupid. Especially since most of those so-called revolutionary bands failed. Especially since most punk rock dads grew up and sold out. Yeah, you. I am talking to you.
It’s not just the punk rock dads that sold out who bother me. I don’t like kids. I don’t like interacting with them, or dealing with them. Even when I watch over them, I’d just assume let them get away with murder rather than argue with them because at the end of the day I hand them back to mommy and daddy and they can deal with the bullshit. But part of why I hate interacting with and being around kids is so often they are a reflection of their parents and their parents are fucking assholes. Far too often, mom and dad are swept up in their own stupid bullshit to properly give the guidance, attention, nurturing and structure that kids need. Instead we get ego maniac terrors who don’t respect other people, who assume rather than ask, who do without consequence and then lie and cry when they are called out by an adult. And I am the kind of asshole that will yell at your kid and then yell at you if that kid does something so egregious and fucked up and disrespectful to either myself or those around it. Which happens more often than I care recall.
But, I don’t want to loath the sight of children. I remember being one and it was awesome. And honestly, I’d rather nurture the freeform, outlandish, beautiful creativity and imagination that children have. I want to foster that shit before they get old and jaded and give up, like so many parents or even worse adults who don’t have kids that despise them. I think the power and energy of youth is something that we need to figure out how to harness and grow so we can get out of this bullshit world we live in.
There are many children in my life when I stop to think about it. My partner has a niece and nephew whose lives and home we interact with and enter on a regular basis. I like to play with the kids, often I am the one dueling out epic battles or losing at Mario Cart while the other adults talk about whatever boring shit adults talk about. I don’t play the role of the adult often, but I try to maintain respect and peace when kids do the shit that kids do. I realize I’ve never considered my roll and place as an adult among kids. But these times I spend with them should be positive and constructive without being authoritative. There are the kids in my neighborhood and I often grumble as objects of various sizes at various velocities come flying towards my house and car. I don’t interact with them at all. I don’t yell at them telling them to get off my lawn (okay, one time a friend of mine was staying with us and his car was in the drive way and we saw a kid come up next to his car and inspect it and we hit the panic button and that little bastard took of crying at the sounds of the alarm, it was funny as shit and I don’t feel bad about it at all) or to be careful, but I feel like I should engage them in a respectful way, share my concerns and try to find a solution (like teaching them how to catch, they suck at catching) that allows them self empowerment but soothes my anxiety about a soccer ball crashing through my car window.
Further, I need to make myself available to families who have children. My home has always been open to nephews and nieces of partners and always will be. I’ve always encouraged parents to bring kids to shows in safe spaces, to ensure that kids are included. But there is probably more I can do. I am just not sure how, what my comfort levels are and what is appropriate. But in this struggle we all live in just to sustain ourselves in a world that is not sustainable, I have to be aware of families with children and how important they are and that there struggles are different from mine.I am super thankful that there are guidebooks for people like me who may one day have children of my own that were written by people who are somewhat similar to me. I am glad I have friends who have forged this path, often without these books or radical communities to help them so that I don’t make as many mistakes. I am thankful to have a partner who has patience with me, understands that self progression is a process and not an easy one and has more compassion in her pinky then I have had in my 35 years of existence. I am so thankful to have heroes that are patient and tolerant and insightful enough to know that even an asshole like me can come around. They are the one’s the recognize that both sides of the problem posed in the comic. Being parenting is punk and it is something men need to talk about with each other. Putting yr kid in your stupid uniform is not punk and is the same kind of failure most children suffer when they inherit religions, sporting teams, and shitty beliefs from their parents.
I don’t know how this will change me, to what degree my actions, attitudes and ideas will grow. But there is a stirring, a fire, a boiling and a building inside this angry little mind of mine. It’s time to embrace it and see what’s next.
I’m In a bad mood and I don’t feel like doing a god damn thing today except listen to a shit load of music. I downloaded a bunch of new stuff recently so I am going to listen to shit and review it as it comes, again. If you don’t like the process, the reviews or the manner in which I do things, kindly, go fuck yourself. I don’t fucking care.
Music is the Enemy
Self Released (free)
I love watching this local quartet (quintet? I don’t know if they have five members still) thrash faces. Music is the Enemy is one of those bands that has it going on. They rock hard, sometimes just thrashing about in chaos, sometimes delivering pummeling riffs ripe with dirty execution. It doesn’t hurt that the band drenched it’s persona in a bit of Nation Of Ulysses worship. Some might find it childish and cliché, but I think it serves a purpose and a point here in the small city in the middle of a desert surrounded by nothing and so isolated in culture creation. It’s clear that Music is the Enemy wants back as much as they give, singing “Nothing in this city ever changes and every dead artist is a poor man’s vindication” on “I’m Danny Tanner Material”. The thing is, despite the cynicism, they deserve the praise and glory. But the bottom line is this is some great punk music, filled to the top with vitriol, piss and gasoline. This five song EP is enough to sustain, but not quite satisfy my need for more stomping. Especially since it’s a step up from their debut full length. It packs a punch while still having that homemade feel, but rather than being owned by drums and vocals the bass and guitar finally get their push in the mix. They lose nothing and gain everything. Not only that, but the riffs herein are fantastic. Karie Morgan is just as much fun to listen to as she is to watch stamp and stomp all over the place. Her rock and roll inspired shredding turns this into a driving ruckus. They’re bringing it all down, singing “This is Hell/But We’re Still Dancing” but having a good time destroying everything.
The Mountain Goats
I’m not gonna lie, I like John Darnielle more as a public figure and as an interview subject then I do as a musician. It’s not that the Mountain Goats (his musical moniker) don’t make great tunes that I find rather pleasant, but the music mostly just songs the same to me. After the last two albums, All Eternals Dark and The Life of the World To Come, I couldn’t really distinguish what I was listening to. After one listen of Transcendental Youth I think I’m back on board. At least I am with this album. You know, John’s just a great artist to be interested in, even if he isn’t hitting home runs with every album. But this album packs a bit of that great punch that Heretic Pride did. It’s like a twin album or a really close companion. It’s not subdued and subtle, instead it’s full and rich and even has moments of grandeur, like the big horns on “Cry for Judas”. It also feels like they take some rhythmic risks that pay off. I love the groove in “Counterfeit Florida Plates”. It’s got this Paul Simon on Graceland feel to it. It’s so good it’s probably gonna be in like ten shitty indie rom com movies starring Joseph Gordon Levitt and Zoeey Deschanel or who ever we get to replace them next year. Further, there feels like a bigger use of electric organ, keyboard and piano throughout. Really, these choices just make the album sound fuller and gives them energy. I honestly don’t have much memory of the last two, but Transcendental Youth will be filling up the halls of my home for a while.
Dreamers Asleep at the Wheel
Self Released (Free)
I’m pretty sure that indie pop is making a big come back. What with all this Swearin’ and Big Eyes and like nine hundred bands that Mikey Erg is probably in, pop punk with that indie swing is the shit. This is a late summer album that’s gonna help bring you into fall. It’s catchy, but light and soft. It’s total cuddle music. Michael Cantor has about the sweetest voice that just drips with syrupy love and sad dog eyes. It’s a dreamy kind of awesome rock.The slinky Fender guitar solo on “Teenage Hate” comes at you like some of the best rippers Superchunk ever throw at us. In fact, this is another one of those great bands that really understood the awesome power of the ‘Chunk. Over all, Dreamers Asleep at the Wheel is filled with great song writing, not wasting time and getting you right into. Recorded by Joe Mitra who is the sleeper engineer. I just wish there was a bit more Jen Twigg on this (she did a really great zine or something in a zine that I can’t find or totally recall, if someone wants to jog my memory). But other than that, this is pop perfection. It’s too bad this band is in two cities (Chicago and Philadelphia) and made of kids going to school. Hopefully the public catches on and they can get an opening slot on a good tour next summer cuz people need to hear this. I’m sure Swearin’ will be huge by then, they should hook these DC ex-pats up!
The Blank Fight
House Band Feud (Reissue)
Silver Sproket Records
So the Blank Fight was a superhero band that has now been launched into mythical proportions. Including zinesters Cindy Crabb and Aaron Cometbus along with future This Bike is a Pipe Bomber Rymodee, all three would go on to different projects and bands that would gain much more acclaim in the DIY punk world. And so this album, released in various formats with various songs gets itself a proper vinyl release. It’s chock full of anthems and dirty rockers knocking people in the faces. This album would serve as a bench mark for a shit ton of Florida bands, The Tim Version doing the best with this sound. Some of Rymoedee’s future is present here, and his style as a guitar player and song writer becomes more defined. We even get a little harmonica on “Old Trick” which has a very Avail style riff. That makes total sense since Avail was kinda like the common language when this band was around. House Band Feud is slightly dated in sound and style, but the updated treatment makes it quite an awesome treat. It’s a history lesson and a great reminder, plus seriously, Cindy Crabb and Aaron Cometbus are like zine heroes playing music together. If that doesn’t get you excited then you should re-evaluate being friends with me.
Arguments with Dreams
Self Released (Free)
If Busdriver isn’t your favorite, motor mouth MC on this odd planet then you clearly aren’t paying attention to hip-hop. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing this guy on a big stage where he felt like an alien and on the floor of a DIY space where he seemed more like a professor schooling a group of college kids. Both times his rapid fire vocals which are more like an instrument then a lecture. And so, here he is once again giving his fans some crazy space shit and he brought along Das Racist to get weird on a track with him. Busdriver he’s one of those dudes that pretty much every other rapper things is amazing but somehow the kids don’t seem to get him. Maybe it’s because he’s a bit political and abstract at the same time. Like the best of Picasso, fucked up faces, wide spreads of colors, rich in content but hard to handle, Busdriver gets it done on Arguments With Dreams. The cover says it all, this dude is running on some kinda rocket fuel that’s so crazy he’s gotta wear a dog on his t-shirt.
When I listen to grindcore I don’t even know why I bother to talk to people who don’t. I don’t even know why I bother writing about it on a blog that like only a few people read and no one cares about. When I listen to grind core I don’t know why anyone talks to me or tries to relate with me or any of that shit because Grind is fucking brutal and smashes faces in and I just don’t think the rest of the world really understands how FUCKED UP everything is like a good grindcore record. Everyone is psyched for the new Pig Destroyer, but I have been eagerly awaiting this new Noisear album with just as much ferocity and blood lust. Turbulent Resurgence does not disappoint with its 23 tracks in under twenty minutes, it does what grind is supposed to do, beat in your brain until it slides down the back of your rotten skull and slides down into your neck, past your spinal column and out your stupid ass. Why am I even bothering with this review. You don’t care that Noisear took a turn away from the tech-grind and went super heavy. You don’t care that the vocals are more vicious and perfectly sit just underneath the pulverizing riffs. You don’t care that the drums are fast and furious but sound more natural and ass kicking while still being totally weird and all over the place. You don’t even care that there are a lot of great brutal metal albums out this year worthy of your attention but that Noisear belongs in rotation among Cattle Decapitation, High on Fire and Municipal Waste. I don’t even know why I bother with you.
Well, that’s all I feel like doing for now. Got some other albums I haven’t even heard yet that I am gonna play here in a minute. I honestly hope that today, I insulted you. If you read this in the future, I am sorry for any bad, mean things I said that hurt your feelings. If you read this today on 10/4/12 and don’t go listen to some awesome music, especially Noisear, then I hope you have a rotten day and fuck off and cry. Shit head.
Confession time. I wasn’t always a Lungfish fan. The story goes as such, a friend of mine was selling CD’s she wasn’t into and part of that stack included Indivisible by Lungfish. I asked if I could take it home and listen to it and if I was into it, she said I could have it for a few bucks. I went home, dropped the disc into my player and sat back confused at the weird “art” music that was being made. I managed to listen to all of it, annoyed at the number of instrumentals and backwards interludes and decided that it wasn’t for me. I returned the disc, none to politely, remarking that this “art rock bullshit” was what was wrong with music in the mid to late 90’s.
The only thing that was wrong was my filter. I saw Lungfish open up for Fugazi a few years later and was still off put but curious. Sometime after the release of Artificial Horizon was I turned in to Lungfish. I became obsessive. I desperately searched the bins of the used record stores I went to in search of their albums.
I don’t remember the chronology of when I re-discovered Indivisible. It was not one of the albums referred to me (most people seem to think Sound in Time is their masterpiece in my experience) by the many people I obsessively talked to about this band. But at one point I did stumble upon this album and remembered the dark, depressive, artless cover. It sat in my hands like a cold stone, shifting my comfort. I would have to confront this album, my past judgements against what I had built. I was afraid everything would come unwound and my new devotion would be for not.
Chronology is also a problem with these reissues. On the one hand, some of my favorites have already hit the shelves in my home. But its hard to go back and contextualize these superior presentations with the CD’s I have from the past. And as Indivisible can easily be seen as a the mid-point in the Lungfish output, it’s difficult to feel honestly without referencing other records (something I have tried to avoid since Dischord began this project).
As it stands, Indivisible is my personal favorite Lungfish album, it’s weirdness intact even amongst a most esoteric band. The album is cold and seemingly lifeless. It has musical tones not unlike Joy Division, but it’s also when Dan Higgs starts losing grasp with the reality the rest of us know. Yet it’s not the space and time re-con mission that Artificial Horizons would be or the mind origami give in Unanimous Hour. Instead, Indivisible was kind of subdued.
This album always was subtle, a collection of Lungfish ballads, if ever Lungfish were to write a ballad (they did, a few times actually, they are quite beautiful). But there was almost something old world about this album. Though it hits at all the points a Lungfish album should, it sounded and felt like it was made in another time. There was nothing contemporary about Indivisible. It doesn’t sound like anything anyone was doing at the time.
It remains, to my ears one of the most repetitious albums to date. Filled with lots soundscapes (“e=fu” and “William Fuld” named after the Baltimore native who launched the Oujia board into a household name) these atmospheric breaks make the other tracks stand out more. Anchored by “Tick Tock” and song reminiscent of Joy Division’s “Digital”, where in the concept of time leaves us and we are left frustrated, Lungfish created something wholly new and different. But fuck if that song also doesn’t have a groove, the verse and chorus only separated by Mitch Feldstein’s change in the beat. But rather than follow this up with something powerful and rocking Lungfish fall into another odd instrumental jam “Cut To Fit The Mouth”, where a layer of toy Casio piano sits harshly over a quite little jam. The album is quite frantic, manic-depressive maybe, like Wish by The Cure, but in Lungfish’s unique pallet.
Of all there albums, Indivisible is probably the Baltimore quartet’s most inconsistent. Never finding that groove and layered with way out sound escapades, Indivisible is not an easy listen, despite a band that is pulling back. Here we find Lungfish experimenting. After establishing their own sound, Indivisible finds the band stepping back and playing around. Much of what they would produce would weaves its way quietly into their songs later on. The white noise, the piano plunks, the use of space in different ways. Indivisible took context and twisted it, making it a turning point in an unpredictable career.
Talking Songs For Walking
Sitting down this morning, no coffee, cobwebs in my eyes, a pit in my stomach and too much already on my mind, listening to Lungfish’s second album, Talking Songs For Walking, I am truly hearing it for the first time. This was back when Lungfish was raw and still sort of resembled a basic band. In fact as “Kissing” rings out as I write this, I see just how pedestrian of a band Lungfish was in their infancy. Yes, the beginnings of their own style were emerging, but it was still soaked so thoroughly in that DC energy, reminiscent of the mighty Rites of Spring, the gritty Ignition and the pummeling of early Fugazi. The repetition or hypnosis doesn’t feel so pronounced here in their infancy (though it’s certainly there).
What is great about these reissues of all these Lungfish albums is that we get to reconsider them. During their height I was a Compact Disc addict. I rarely bought vinyl and it hasn’t been until recently that I have succumbed to the mp3 hoarding nature prevalent among us nerds and assholes. My interaction with Talking Songs for Walking was on CD and thus also included their debut Necklace of Heads in one, very long package. The distinction between the two were not always easy to find. But now as Dischord remasters these great albums, I am compelled to take the time and sit here with Talking Songs for Walking.
A true rock record, the spit and sour of punk rock rests firmly in the veins of this band. John Chriest, the original bassist is most pronounced here, driving the songs into sonic fury where soon the band would step back into a more hypnotic groove. But here, the band is typical in giving just ten songs, but they shave a good ten minutes off the running time. It is only now I realize how economical Talking Songs for Walking was. Confined and compressed by speed, the band delivers a true rock record, made in their own recipe.
As Lungfish is presented here with more urgency, the same riff patterns from our man Asa Osbourne that normally sooth and calm the beast suddenly become more feet shuffling and fist pounding. Here, Lungfish is more of a war cry then a meditative om. It isn’t until we reach the lovely “Put Your Hand In My Hand” that the band slows down to the laid back groove they would become known for. And yet somehow, Asa lets the main riff rule space, somehow showing a complex dynamic. This song also has one of the most dynamic bridges that Lungfish has ever written. In fact, all over this album moments of great change can be found, making this a rather unique entry into the known Lungfish canon.
We also get a young Dan Higgs, more poetic with his words, not quite embracing the bombastic military bark he would become known for. At this point he was more beat poet than psychic head trip, telling odd ball stories. I am immersed for the first time in the song “Descender”, delivered in a slacker cool that Higgs seemed to embody but never project later on. The weirdness is there, but the crazy hadn’t quite emerged. It’s an interesting contrast, a band known for being relatively laid back (in theory, not always in practice) and a front man being “out there”, Talking Songs For Walking gives us a rather subdued Higgs. Of course, what the remaster does is give us a better presentation of some of the accompanying vocal work, hinting at the bark and yell we would later find.
Unfortunately, the remaster process isn’t all kind. The deficiencies in the recording, obviously caught in the trends of the day unfortunately resonate more. The bass is muted and the drums sound far too treated, an insult to Chriest and drummer Mitch Feldstein, but unfortunately this was par for the course back then. More labor intensive and possibly even unattainable, a treatment of the original masters, stripping down the added effects and giving the bass it’s proper due might make for a powerful re-imagining. This is the first time a remaster does very little to bring forward the nuances and instead shows the deficiencies more.
To this guy though, that doesn’t matter. I am happy to have a second look at my favorite band once again (this was also remastered in conjunction with Indivisible, this writers favorite Lungfish album which we will write about very soon) especially the earlier part of the catalog I have not spent as much time with. It’s nice to find a Lungfish that was once interested in kicking faces in with some foot stomping rock instead of tearing them off with hypnotic, esoteric leanings. As Dischord continues this project, and hopefully unleashes more from the vaults like A.C.R 1999, us fans and devoted “dum dums” can find more nuance. For me, it reminds me to listen to music. To pay more attention and consume less. I can assure you for weeks, maybe months I will be entrenched in Lungfish.