How Music Functions?

I was reading this yesterday. My man David Dunlap Jr. said, in speaking about Q-Tip’s new album The Rennissance says “I’m also sure I’m not the only one who wants a rapper to relate to my old-guy concerns about my kids, my wife, the economy, and the state of the union.” As a dude that could have a wife, kids, concerns about the economy and the state of the union I really started to wonder about how music functions in our lives. I don’t have a wife and kids and actually the older I get, the less I relate to that lifestyle choice. The older I get the weirder the music I listen to seems to become. Rather then trying to find something that is comforting and conforming to me, I want shit that drives me crazy.

Yesterday I bought a CD by this band called Turisas. They make Viking Metal. No shit. If you have seen the movie Role Models, there is a kid in the film that plays in some fantasy roll playing group with vikings and centaurs and shit like that. Those dudes would be into this band. And while I find it largely comical, this band challenges a lot of my own conventions. For one, it’s Finnish dudes dressed up in Viking regal. I have to some how negotiate within the context of my being that I now own a CD made up of dudes that dress like Vikings. I mean Vikings are bad ass, it’s part of my heritage. But really, it’s pretty odd to see grown men act this way. Metal does this a lot. It takes it self seriously to, which makes me wonder. This brings me to the second part. I am 31 and I still like Metal. Heavy Metal is seriously the most arrested development style music ever. I mean not all of it, there are bands like Neurosis and Isis (to name a few) that are a bit more realistic. But seriously, Mastodon, my favorite metal band are four dudes that smoke weed a lot and write epic albums about whales, horses and crystal skulls on mythical mountains. But I love the shit out of metal. I’ve been getting into it more and more and more as I get older. I don’t take all of it as seriously, but Mastodon is amazing.

When I grow up, and I hope that I don’t, not any more then I already have, I hope I still want something new. I like music I can’t neccisarily relate to. I want to be challenged by new and expanding ideas. I mean there is comfort in knowing there is a world of people going through the same shit as you are. Off With Their Heads did that for me this year. At the same time though, two 17 year old ladies showed me a new world this year. When I think of music, I think a lot about Dalek. There isn’t a band in the world like Dalek in my eyes. Sure they can be classified as Hip Hop, but the noise they make feels like it comes from another planet. That’s what I want out of music.

I’m listening to Brian Posehn right now. It’s bad ass dude. I want to be like him when I grow up. I had more of a point to this post when I started it. I wanted to argue a point. I just sorta drifted away into some other land though. It happens from time to time. I’ll probably be checking out for 2008. I’m supposed to be working on a book over my vacation. So I hope people are bad ass in the Solctice celbration and new years revelry. 2009 promises me Dalek, John Frusciante, Mastodon, Matt and Kim and a new Kelly Clarkson album. We will be discussing her new single that gets released on 1-5-09. I’ll buy it. We shall see what the diva does. Until then, keep yr unit on you. Much love.

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Persepolis

Persepolis
Marjane Satrapi
Pantheon

Government is evil. Just purely terrible and useless. The mandating of our lives by an arbitrary set of rules that often defies logic is maddening. Take for instance American’s ability to add more government on top of the civil and federal government they already have in the practice of Home Owner’s Associations. Suddenly you are beholden to these bizarre laws that you must follow at the behest of some company. The interest of the community are safe guarded by dues that are paid quarterly. And if you do not uphold their weird rules, they have the power to levy fines against you. It is quite simply, madness.

When I am brought into Marjane Satrapi’s Iran, I am reminded of the cruelty of ideologies. We act murderously to each other on levels that are irrational to human existence, that the inner conflict and inner turmoil we face is maddening. Satrapi delves deep into this madness in her fantastic graphic novel Persepolis. Torn by a love and devotion to her family and country and the need to be a free human spirit, this is the classic modern story. The autobiographical world in which she exists in here, is dark adnd bleak and black. Her art is work is stark and offers no contrast against the inner anxiety that has a great deal going on.

In the first collection we walk around Satrapi’s childhood and find a fervently passionate child in love with the world and at the same time frightened by it. Satrapi has a string of experiences filled with home invasions, bombings and the death of loved ones in which she must navigate through and understand. As she grows older, the martyrdom of her family that has suffered death under tyranny becomes a driving force for Satrapi’s own independence. But at the same time the strict laws that are enforced more and more as the narrative moves causes conflict and doubt.

As the war progresses and the regime presses down more on the people Satrapi is sent to Europe to study. In her early teens she is now separated from her family and her home and while she is now more free to be herself and explore the world, she is still handicapped by her experiences. The beautiful and sad tale shows her developing from a young girl into a young woman, and the passion to fight continues. Her experiences unfolds into a confrontation with her landlord, accusing her of stealing so Satrapi, feeling dejected by her foreign home, leaves. She spends her time on the street and does not reemerge for several months. It is here she decides she will try to return to the only place she has known as home, Iran.

The finally push of the story Satrapi is trying to adjust to a war torn Iran. She feels more and more like a foreigner in her own home, the rebellious acts being carried out by her peers strange and odd to her. The government has also enacted new moral codes and the stress and pressure of these rules becomes the obsession of self definition. Again Satrapi is forced to choose a love for her country, her family and her culture, or the need for self identity, expression, sexuality and in a sense a real existence.

Persepolis is a story of the human spirit. We find an individual trying desperately to find an identity in a world that wants to enforce their own upon her. We find, in desperation decisions are made from panic and fear, and that the balancing act between fight and flight is precarious. Satrapi shows us the anxiety that we all face, no matter the culture, no mater the government in which we held up by. We are surrounded by people who define us in their vision of the world, extrapolating their prejudices and using these as a guide and compass. We must provail however. Instead we must rally ourselves and find out who we truly are, despite the rules.

Bettie Page, Feminism and Me

I am not a great feminist. In fact many people would not only state that as obvious, they would also maintain that I am not a feminist at all. And certainly a look at the many definitions of the word would make that a plausible argument. But that doesn’t mean that feminism isn’t important to me and that working to be a more well rounded respectful human being is important to me (contrary to the mounds of evidence that speak in volumes against such notions).

We could, but we won’t, talk long and hard about my education in feminism. Needless to say I consider my education being made up of a lot of life lessons in experience. Such as a conversation I had this weekend. I was out at a bar with a friend of mine. She’s fairly new in town and she stated that she didn’t go out much. I asked her why, and she said she didn’t like to go out alone, to explore this city without friends. And rather matter of factly she said that life had reinforced for her that as a woman, it wasn’t safe for her to go out, that she should be careful and that the world was dangerous. She said in essence that a lifetime of that type of thinking can cripple a person. Which isn’t surprising, but it sure as hell made me sad. Like an idiot I asked her what we could do about it. Which is to say, what can I do about it? I mean how do you tell a person that the world is not as scary and threatening when that is what they have believed their whole life? You can’t exactly go out with them, to let them know the world is not this overbearing threatening place. The worst part is, she’s not the first woman who has shared similar feelings on life. What underlies these feelings of fear of course is that men are predators. There is a significant truth to that. Masculinity is a strange, often violent bird. And surely it’s a fear of being attacked that perpetuates some of the fear and uneasiness women feel in our culture. Again, how can I attempt to illustrate that these are exceptions and not neccisarily the rule? Especially when it clearly doesn’t seem that way. For all I know the world really is that fucking scary. the state of oblivious is not all that unfamiliar to me after all.

Bettie Page has past away. And this for me is very sad. Like many a young men and women, Bettie Page spoke to me. Surely she was very beautiful. Surely she had an essence of grand sexuality portrayed through her work. And she will remain in history as a very interesting charachter in history.

For me I think I came across Bettie Page in college. I was immediately transfixed on her amazing smile that was always present in her work. And while I am aware of the taboo nature of a lot of her work as it emerged, there was an innocence of humanity present. In her passing I read an appreciation that stated she normalized the abnormal expressions of sexuality. I was really appauled by this because there is nothing abnormal present in any of the work I have seen. Again, it’s a question of context, but I exist in the world of extreme and violent depictions of women in regular media, let alone the subversive world of pornography. It’s hard to have hindsight in certain situations. But I digress here. I find Bettie Page very empowering, even when she is bound or gaged. I think sub/dom play speaks volumes to ideas about stress in, and control over our lives. If sexual espressions emerge in this manner, and they are safe and concentual, I think sub/dom play serve a very important function in our society and are hardly abnormal. Which isn’t to say I get it or understand these manifestations completely, but I recognize they are neccessary for some people.

Of course bondage, especially images of women bound and tourtued by anyone speaks deeply to a social psychology that is disturbing. Weather a person understands how pain can be a pleasurable release it doesn’t negate that we are creating all these depictions of the torture of women as a means of sexual titilation. This shit is dangerous in the wrong hands. It could be argued that it is damaging even in the right hands. This of course includes people who don’t understand concepts of control and role play and just enjoy seeing women being torutured, but it also reinforces this idea that women are some how weak. This should not be confused for any condemnation of anyone that willingly participates in this art, either as actor/actress or director/artisan. However, I can certainly undrstand how someone with a certain point of view could see something like this and be horrified to reinforce negative views on secuality, propegating men as predator, propegating a sense of inferiority in women who don’t express themselves in more traditional masculine ways. Domination is a heavy world to navigate., even if you do feel well equiped to handle such things.

So I live with these conflicts daily. And as a self proclaimed feminist I acknoledge that there are a great deal of contradictions in my life. But I am a strong beliver in the duality of our humanness. We do have to negotiate our sexuality and our roles within that against a greater amount of problems in the the world, in our societies and in our heads. This is a daunting and overwhelming task, which I think for a lot of people just crushes their willingness to struggle and they relent one way or another towards some radical direction.

It will probably do me some good in my life to read more about the history and philosophies of different feminists. I am some times very overwhelmed and saddned when I do dealve into this world and at thirty, it’s something I have probably avioded for a little too long since my days of college. I think though now, I have enough grounding that it won’t be so debilitating. I wish to contribute to a world where everyone feels as free as I do, to explore, to adventure and just wonder aimlessly around the landscapes they find themselves in. We live in a mostly beautiful, mostly amazing world. We just happen to do a devestating amount of really terrible fucking things to each other. And while I have to negotiate my actions against my beleifs, I feel much greater ability to defend the contradictions then I used to. I also have a lot more confidence in taking responsibility for my inherit fuckedupedness and recognize the responsibilities and the roles that I have inherited or accepted.

I welcome comments and criticsim to this. These are ideas, and they have the power to be shaped and nurtured, but I can’t both produce the seeds and tend to the fields myself. Please feel free to leave your mark on this one.

Much love to all.

Franconia Stations Top Five Songs of 2008

Welcome to the annual Top Five Dope Ass Songs That I listened to like I was on Ritalin. All of these bands that put out albums put out awesome albums, and in some cases they put out albums that were my first introduction to them. These were the tracks though that I just went ga-ga over. So if these aren’t in yr party mix, I might not be getting down, but if you come to my house I will dance with you while we listen to this junk!

1. Dancing Choose – TV On The Radio (From Dear Science – Interscope Records)

This song is no fucking joke. It actually kinda reminds me of listening to The Dismemberment Plan which I really hope my home town boys see as a big ups to them. This song just bumps and rocks and trips and hips and pops in all the right ways. Tunde Adebimpe totally flows on his rocket fire rap verses. The horns blare out and just give the song a sick punch. And when my man Kyp Malone throws down that sick falsetto on you, it just tickles. This is the song that got me into this band hard core and if you aren’t twitching out to it, yr missing out.

2. Good Ole Fashion Nightmare – Matt and Kim (internet download single)

“Good Ole Fashion Nightmare” is so good that I can’t even listen to Matt and Kim’s self titled debut album anymore. They graduate in all sense of the word. The sounds are more abundant, the lyrics are more meaningful, the songs are even more catchy which just seems impossible for this happy go lucky duo. But it’s true. This is the kinda song that sticks in your head. One you hum in your cubicle or on your walk to the car. Their new album is highly anticipated for the ’09 but this song rocked my 2008.

3. Stay Positive – The Hold Steady (From Stay Positive – Vagrant Records)

This bands been around for a while and I never really jumped on the band wagon until I heard this track. First of all Franz Nicolay is pretty fucking awesome and the fact that he plays piano in this band and is such a presence on this track is really fantastic. Plus our dude Craig Finn drops science on punk rock history and rock and roll scenes. But he’s both delicate and eloquent. Not to mention it’s a good fist pumping song. I can imagine this chorus being blared out at sporting events in the future. Bit ups to the Hold Steady.

4. Call to the Comptrollers Office – Bridge and Tunnel (From East/West – No Idea Records)

This song is just ridiculous. It has everything that rules about melodic post punk by dudes with beards. And what’s more their are ladies in this band which makes the dynamic of this genre of music all the more better. Bridge and Tunnel stand out in a sea of a lot of really great bands, many on No Idea. They write songs differently in ways that are truly unique. This song is informed by a scene, but it also exceeds it. I really liked this whole album a lot, but this song to me was the pinnacle and I really wanted more of it. The breakdowns, the gang vocals, the shimmering guitars during the transition, the laid back drumming. This is the future of punk rock.

5. Pajammin – Good Luck (From Into Lake Griffy – Self Released)

Elements of funkyness, friendly guitars and playful drums. “Pajammin” is a great song. It eases you in at the beginning, kinda giving you a bit of smile. Ginger Alford sings so softly, sweetly. Then they pick it up a little bit. It’s still building, the anticipation is great. Finally they hit you with the dance groove breakdown and Matty Pop Chart takes over with the anthem. His noodle guitar part brings it all down. This song is a fucking party. A shimmering awesome party.

Vast Aire – Dueces Wild – LAST REVIEW OF THE YEAR

Vast Aire
Deuces Wild
One Records

Dude would probably give me some shit for what I am about to say, considering that Vast Aire, one third of the awesome Cannibal Ox, is not longer dropping albums on Def Jux. However, the fingerprints of EL-P are very much a part of his most recent album Deuces Wild. It goes two ways though, this I see now, a year after EL-P dropped I’ll Sleep When Your Dead. It’s unmistakable to me now, just how much influence The Cold Vein truly had on these two giant rappers, who are some of the undisputed kings of New York rap.

Vast Aire however, has arrived in a major way. Now, more than ever he lives up to his name. His voice on this album is HUGE and takes over throughout 13 songs. He overpowers and overshadows his guests, muffles the beats and music and for 47 minutes dominates the air in the room. And it’s not just studio trickery or over zealous mastering, though the production is phenomenal. Vast Aire just explodes into the microphone and puts every essence of his large being into his rhymes.

Right out of the gate he makes me long even harder for a new Cannibal Ox CD. His ode to J-Dilla, “You Know (You Like It)” feels so much like EL-P manned the helms. It’s intro is spaced out and wacky and Vast drops a half whisper (for him) into the mic before he flows madly over the giant reverb beat. The track is the only on the set produced by Le Parasite, and it’s a shame because it’s such a stand out song, that even though this album is strong, I would love to see what else this pair could do. Of course Vast kicks it out lyrically jacking out, “Come on dude/I perfected rap/You aint did shit/you perfected crap/It’s like we graduated and you left back,” as if he was battle rapping anyone who ever picked up a mic.

There are so many great lines too, which one just expects from such an offbeat and eccentric artist. Vast Aire loves language, he’s not just witty. He’s out to have fun, to say things that catch you off guard. My favorite line comes in the song “The Crush,” which is a topic that Vast has playfully touched in the past quite frequently. But when he drops, “Pink cookies in a plastic bag getting crushed by the Empire STATE” I mean I lose that shit. On “Shu (The God of Aire)” he kills the best chorus in hip hop to date letting you know that he, “used to out do cats like you in my lunch period, they conversed with a burning bush about a period.” This song, sitting at the end of the album is sorely misplaced at 12 of 13, being perhaps one of the strongest songs Vast has dropped to date.

Vast Aire is larger then Hip Hop. He’s Hip Hop in the truest sense of the genre, making language into art, making art into language and twisting things back and forth and all over the place. While I greatly appreciated Look Mom…No Hands as the work of an artist breaking out of the mold imposed by the public, I am psyched to see Vast working with producers that reach back into that bag a little bit. I can’t help but think that this album is the foreshadow of another Cannibal Ox album, which is not to say that this isn’t strictly Vast Aire. But I can see Deuces Wild being both influenced by Vast’s past and the work of an artist continuing to move forward, getting bigger while everyone else steps back.

The Year in Hardcore

Hey kids, lets wrap up 2008. It was an interesting year for me in terms of music buying. I bought a lot of new bands that I had never heard. Some of them I read about, some I just checked out on the internet. With that, I got into a lot of new hardcore bands that I hadn’t heard about.

Boston, Massachusetts brought me Blacklisted this year. I read an awesome interview with their singer Jamie on punknews.org (my home for a lot of my hardcore recommendations) and had to check out the band. Their new album Heavier than Heaven, Lonelier than God was a big huge surprise for me. The album lives up to it’s title without a doubt and really got me car moshing. It also really blew a lot of other albums out of the water and (spoiler alert) is secured in my top five.

Dan Yemin is a hero of mine and his band Paint it Black are no exception to the rule. This year they attempted to turn hardcore on it’s head, and while perhaps not changing the genre completely New Lexicon did manage to surprise me. It was not just the added soundscapes of Dalek’s Octopus, but also the great song writing. Yemin handed over the reins to his highly talented band and created a fantastic record, which too got me car moshing and raising fists.

Another punknews recommendation was Trash Talk. This Sacramento, California sludgy thrash band made much in the way of waves inciting crowds to violence and being generally regarded as a love em or hate em kind of band. The self titled album was recorded by none other than sludge master Steve Albini (Shellac, Nirvana Producer) and it was worth the coin. The bass is just sickly and the drums are retarded heavy and trashy. This band is dangerous.

The great No Idea had a slew of awesome punk releases and Ventura, California’s Glass and Ashes was no exception. The name pretty much speaks for itself. Punch holes in all the speaker cabinets and make the singer eat a bunch of cigarette butts and you pretty much get a really awesome band. They bring what you expect from a No Idea band, which as far as I am concerned any more is a seal of approval. Another self titled set that just makes me want to kick people into trash cans and yell a lot in public.

I also just downloaded a band called Eating Glass. The album art was intriging and low and behold it was on iTunes for a mear four dollars. 11 minutes of horrifying mind melding awesomeness. A little less sludgey than Trash Talk but just as hectic and messy. I can’t wait to tear it up more.

Alright, well that’s it for this week. I think by next weekend I will start my top five albums for the year. It is quite a surprise for me. My number one for most of the year was unseated, and only barely and for reasons that I find rather telling and interesting about myself. Also despite some highly anticipated albums by some favorites the list contains four new bands that I hadn’t heard about before this year. That was actually pretty exciting to. New music is awesome. So yea, thrash forth is awesomeness. Hardcore pretty much made for some good times in the Twothousandandhate!