Katy Perry, Kelly Clarkson or….

Kelly Clarkson has a new album out called All I Ever Wanted. On it is a song written by “I Kissed a Girl” Kate Perry called “I Do Not Hook Up.” Included here is a version by Kate Perry and Clarkson’s for those who care to compare. While I think, like any good artists in mega-world music, Clarkson owns the track. It’s a good, catchy song, but like Cash did in his twilight years with Rubin, Clarkson take ownership.

Listening to Perry’s version though, I’d like to hear Scandinavian bombshell Ida Maria belt this tune out. Perry’s version hinges on the rough edges which makes rock and roll awesome and is not really a part of Clarkson’s lexicon. Ida Maria has both the talent and the balls to do this track justice.

It’s a great track. Good break down, funny use of flanger in Clarkson’s version. See for yourself.

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A Reunion I can get behind

It is bloody important to relive your past. This most recent Wednesday, plagued with a sinus infection and beyond exhausted, I was able, for a short hour, to relive my past. Thanks in no small part to the reunited Frodus (with Liam Wilson from Dillinger Escape Plan playing the part of bassist) I felt that energy of being young once again. Surrounded by familiar faces, some of which I hadn’t seen since Frodus disbanded in 1999.

Crammed into Murky Coffee House with a bunch of other thirtysomethings mulling about, the giddiness I felt was shared by everyone else in the room. The trio struck out into classic songs from Conglomerate International and the crowed began to sway. Somehow the eruption of bodies did not incur until the band announced their rendition of Devo’s “Explosions”. As if on queue the rusted bones and muscles of the older kids did as they were directed. From then on it was a sea of thrashing bodies, body surfers and microphone sharing. By the time the show wound down with “Feel Good Song of the Year” I felt the ten years since I last thrashed about with this Fairfax trio melt away from my body and my soul. The rehersal room version of “Cha-Chi” ended the night, people bouncing all over the place and sore and bruised. I was sweating from all parts of my body. The smile on my face radiated from my body.

Since this show I have been in a confused daze. I am not sure if it’s the sinus infection, pseudophedrine intake, the sleepless nights, the general anxiety. In those moments I felt found again, reborn. It was something akin to a religious experience almost. I don’t believe in a “higher power” kind of thing. Music has always been sufficient enough for me, and this show was proof of that. But somehow I feel left behind again. The time I spent over the last decade seems a little less vibrant. Somehow, I can trace the last spiritual moment I had like this to that day in December of 1999. Somehow after that night, things were never quite as vibrant, never quite as loud and powerful.

“We like new places until they’re over-run. We do like music – loud bang from the big spudgun”

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William Elliot Whitmore – Animals in the Dark

William Elliot Whitmore
Animals in the Dark

Last night I had the pleasant surprise of catching up with my good old friend, William Elliot Whitmore. By a stroke of divine grace, the universe smiled on me for an evening and I got a call from my friend Laura Jane Hamilton who had read a blurb in the Washington Post that he was playing an called me. She didn’t remember his name by the time we actually talked so I had no idea who I was seeing until we were half way there. Anyway, I met William about three years ago when he opened for Murder By Death. He gave me some beer and we talked about where he grew up, which is Lee County, Iowa. My man grew up on a true to earth farm, the kind city dwellers like myself have no real concept of and have only romanticized through our dumb imaginations. The truth of the matter is, Whitmore is a living, breathing piece of Middle America. He looks and sounds like he comes from a place that has wide open fields of golden corn and dusty roads. He was born to play the music he plays and there is nothing else he could be doing.

He has also recently released a new album called Animals in the Dark. I have to admit I haven’t kept up with his music as much as I should have. Since last time he has released one other album and moved to Epitaph imprint Anti Records, home of such luminaries as Tom Waits and Bob Mould. But there couldn’t be a better home for Mr. Whitmore, for though he is young by comparison, his songs and voice have a wisdom to match these heroes.

And true to form he approaches song in a very nontraditional way, utilizing traditional, Americana instruments. He kicks of the album with a stomper called “Mutiny” which features his dirty howl backed only by slapping drums. Though he may take his cues from the mighty Waits now that he has a bit more of a budget to play with, it is only in approach that they share similarities. Waits can be found rummaging around in the dark of city streets or creepy abandon homes. Whitmore is more interested this time around in the human experience and sharing a common bond. His natural use of banjo and guitars conveys a historical familiarity that is instantly engaging and familiar.

Though he is by now means a thrasher of a musician, his kind and steady approach to his instruments suit him the best. A familiar song “Johnny Law,” reproaching the ever increasing and suspicious police state finds Whitmore coasting around the acoustic with a copper slide against the steel strings. “Old Devil” is another typical Whitmore song, but the slow, deep thudding of a kick drum adds to the tension as Whitmore slowly increases tempo and tension.

Sometimes thought he added instrumentation takes away from the power. “There’s Hope For You” was a gentle, beautiful tome, executed with Whitmores graceful insight. But the recorded version finds him accompanied by organs and a full band and for such a delicate song, it takes away from the power, rather then add. His front porch power is transformed into a hymn, which, fitting though his voice may be, does not do this song justice. The song eventually ascends into an E-Street like presentation, ripe with saxophones and dirty guitars. A fine performance, but so not necessary, in this blogger’s opinion. A stark and dark and simple approach, dropping the guitar and drums even might have made this version the center of the album. Whitmore’s power are in his words and voice. His songs and gentle in craft and his talent carries them. He doesn’t always require the added flavors to make his songs taste good.

Aside from all these petty personal preferences, Animals in the Dark is a fantastic album, one that I am glad I was whimsically allowed to catch up with. In these high paced, technological times where we are spread across the globe and engaged with each other in such impersonal ways, Whitmore reminds us of the human condition. We are organic animals. Our beauty, he reminds us, comes from our culture and experiences both shared and unique. It is the coming together of people that makes us what we are. In this day and age there is no better voice to deliver that message to us then William Elliot Whitmore.

photo courtesy of Anti Records. By Chris Strong.

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Shocking News: I Don’t Like Jack Whites New Band

It seems that lovely Jack White, hero to many for reasons still inexplicable to me, is at it again with another band that sounds pretty much exactly like his first band, The White Stripes. Might I introduce you to The Dead Weather. It seems our boy Jack can’t get enough of slow, jangly garage rock music. Now he has to drag Allison Mosshart from my beloved Discount into this mess. Which is the reason I am writing about this, because Allison Mosshart has strayed so far from the lovely lovely pop punk roots that I just have to beg now. Ms. Mosshart, in the wake of the mighty conglomerate known as Frodus reuniting, I ask for one more show as Discount and to leave this bad bad bad music to rest. Your penetrating, dark and skillful poetics deserve to be heightened by engaging, energetic and enthusiastic musicians. Not Jack White and his band of awkward barr chords.

For people who are into jangly guitars, the link is available above. The dude with the glasses from Raconteurs is also in the band as well as some goof from Queens of the Stoneage. Indie Rock weirdos are stocked. We’re still scratching our heads over this one.

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Thursday – Friends in the Armed Forces

Instead of that fake ass bullshit patriotism the National Guard and Kid Rock would have you believe is true, try this song by Thursday from their new album, Common Existence, “Friends in the Armed Forces”. We can support human life everywhere and still be proud of who we are and what our culture is about.

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Faith is Blind Deaf and Dumb

The other day I went to see Watchmen on the grand silver screen. The epic cluster fuck of a film was a hard one to sit through, but in the end I felt, well worth it. Despite numerous shots of Dr. Manhattan’s radiating blue penis which deserves another post all together, and awkward sex scenes between Nite Owl II and Silk Specter II (really Alan Moore?) the movie did have an interesting premise. The Watchmen wonders, loudly and clearly if the sacrifice of some is worth it for the thin security and prosperity of the majority. We also find a trans-dimensional, universally connected “superhero” that is an atheist in Dr. Manhattan. Radiating blue penis and all. These two pseudo spiritual questions fall on the world at a time when we are plagued by unending wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine and the real threat of greater wars with Pakistan, India and Iran loom. Least we forget the violence that is occurring at our borders amongst drug lords, in the heart of Columbia funded by American tax dollars and we have an abject amount of killing of animals occurring every minute to sustain an untamed and unintelligent hunger.

In the mist of all this, your self proclaimed Atheist friends here at Franconia Station World Industries in the Philosophy department have been inhaling as much of the On Faith columns as possible. Understanding perspective is what we do here. And it is in fact an op-ed piece by Anthony Stevens-Aroyo that inspired me to make a last minute decision to see Watchmen. In this piece of opinion Aroyo states first that Watchmen should sound the alarms for Catholics everywhere as the funeral pyres of Atheism are being lit. Comic Books, Aroyo states, are replacing religion as these spandex clad superheros can offer more in wow and dazzle then the church and religious texts can. In the old days it seems, the glorious imagination of the first religions and their fantastic stories were enough to captivate and trap the minds of the flocks. Today, this type of fanfare has been replaced by our comic book style tales of larger than life, and thus God like superheros doing the unimaginable and kicking as while doing so.

Aroyo also states blankly “People are moving away from Atheism.” He says this the day before Trinity College, A Catholic institution, released the results of a study showing that membership in established churches are falling and that the growth of people who claim “no religion” has increased. IT would be irresponsible for me to claim that this means the Atheist society of the world is growing by leaps and bounds as Brad Hirscfield points out in his own op-ed piece. It does seem however to ring true Aroyo’s statements of concern for the Catholic church. Suspect and spooky in it’s practices in the Vatican, the righteous protectors of Christ have been plagued with scandal for decades now. Never mind they hoard the wealth the accumulate from their congregation in a wicked compound at the heart of Italy. The Catholic church needs a PR make over in a bad bad way. No doubt the pulpit is rising from it’s knees and rejecting it.

The complicit language and practice so often taught to us in religion is driving many people away from churches. We in America are not stoked on being told what to do. We don’t like orders and we don’t like our relationships defined by others. This is certainly true in our spiritual relationships. And so we are redefining spirituality. For some of us, this means outing ourselves as Atheists. For others it means joining Universalist Unitarian Churches so that the community that Churches, Mosques and Temples provide is maintained. We also live in fear of what we define as “Islamic Terrorism” (a term this Atheist finds disgusting I might add) which no doubt is driving Muslims into hiding or possibly even away from their churches. I have not read anything on such trends, but I wouldn’t be surprised if many Muslims were trying to suppress their faith. Which, though I don’t agree with it, is sad to me. Expression of self is hard enough without persecution or the threat of violence from anyone for any reason.

Thus I have a bone to pick with Aroyo who says that Atheists have room in this world as long as they don’t impose their “belief” on the rest of the world. This is of course a dangerous thing for any Catholic to ask as they have imposed violence through action and ignorance on the world for 2,000 years now. First and foremost, the word belief only applies to religious thought. I don’t “believe” in anything. There are things I know and there are things that I don’t know. We can’t apply words that are ascribed to one facet of the world to another. Using the world belief in the context of Atheism is like using baseball terminology to describe love. It doesn’t work and shows a complete lack of intelligence and understanding about the world. Watchmen does not suppose their is no gods, it certainly believes in masters however. The question of doubt however remains. An honest, human and crucial human emotion. This is where we self check our notions and actions. It’s unfortunate that the character who has doubt (contrasted with Rorschach who deals in absolutes) is also non-human and leaves the earth for good.

I don’t share Aroyo’s view that the sleek Hollywood superheros will replace religion. They are filled with the stories of lone rangers, fighting a solitary fight, outcast and dejected from a world. There is nothing deeply meaningful in the end about these figures. Spirituality is about so much more than just the fantastic power of God and it’s wrath and might as the Catholic religion likes to portray. There are terms like redemption, salvation and grace that are so often used when talking about religion and spirituality. Watchmen certainly did not provide any of that. It did have some awesome fighting scenes though.

Teen Dream

Over the last few years of my life, I’ve been having this reoccurring panic attack about getting older. It wasn’t helped out too much by seeing Jeffrey Lewis and Kimya Dawson for some reason. Standing in a room full of teenage kids, listening to two overgrown kids in their thirties play music and sing playful if sometimes somber songs, made me freak out a little bit, much the way I do pretty much on a weekly basis. It comes as no shock to anyone I am sure that I don’t seem to have a handle too much on this whole adult thing. And that’s kind of what this post is about. Hopefully without getting too graphic or personal. I don’t like getting too personal, though that seems to be the point of this whole writing thing.

I was reminded, a lot recently, of a person I knew when I was younger. Through many weird, reoccurring instances where this boy (now he’s a man I suppose) popped up on the world wide web and in a chance encounter with my mother. I was triggered back, as I usually am when I run into these things in the universe. I dug out some old tapes, some old tapes I find very embarrassing and made them into some digital files so I could send them to another friend (which I haven’t done yet). It made me really really sad. The tapes captured us playing music and we were really really not that good. But I still remember how good it felt and that’s a piece of my life that has been missing for a long long time. I could never really find that piece again. And that bothers the fuck out of me.

So today, as I write this (not when I post this, I future post this stuff) I read a blog post from a friend of mine who lives in California. He is a childhood friend of mine that I had the pleasure of reuniting with a few years ago. I read today that he and his wife are having a baby. A lot of people I remotely keep track of on this internet thing have babies. Many of them are people I probably know more intimately and closely and deeply then this dude. But something about this baby hit me. Now, here in this moment, on this day I feel truly like the cycle is continuing. It probably has to do with the fact that I’ve known this person since I was three years old and even though I moved from California when I was twelve and have seen him only twice in the twenty years since I left the left coast, I see this life cycle now in full. I have this very strong desire to go out and visit him when this child comes and if I can ever reach back up and pull my self back on my horse of this fucking merry go round maybe I will.

So much of this is fueled by anxiety and depression. These feelings that seem so unfamiliar and yet are so prevalent in my daily existence. There is a veil around my life it seems, covering me, coveting me in this state of arrest. I still wear hoodies, the tattoo’s are crawling quickly down my arms, I still believe in the power of punk rock, no matter how much it lets me down. I try to spend as much of time doing the things I have always done, listening to music, writing, day dreaming. Sometimes I feel childish, my interest never really grew, I never really developed as an artist. Or maybe I have and I just don’t have the ability to see it through the veil. Now, it’s just circular thoughts about gender binary, human dominion, passivity vs. violence, and trying to rectify the external with what is really going on internally.

Lately it’s all too overbearing. I spend a lot of time watching TV, daydreaming in front of my computer or looking at statistics of my music listening. I consume too much in terms of bands and songs. I spit out first impression reviews and call it writing. I’ve neglected my novel for over 60 days now. On the other hand, the new Propaghandi album is amazing and Turboslut has released the most important side of vinyl this decade. I’m going to Baltimore this week and despite what is probably really stupid planning on my part I am excited to get my new tattoo’s this weekend on my forearm. Tattoo’s that will effectively seal my fate as a person never to be taken seriously by any one, especially those who hold domain over employment opportunities I may or may not require. I’ll be sure to post pictures and updates.

So here is another whoa is me bullshit post. But this is where we have to go in order to free ourselves and find that voice. I want to make things that make sense to me, that live up to the standards I have. I’m not sure I am setting them high enough. Or maybe I have set them too high (but judging from my obvious lack of grammatical talent and an inability to spell even the easiest words, I doubt it). I don’t really know how to gage such things. I don’t think any level of “sucksess” would ever be satisfying. Any moments of glory I have ever had have fallen short and just driven me to go at it harder. Until I got knocked off the horse recently. But we’ve already talked about that.

Here is to you then dear reader. A chance at reflection and to find some common ground. I’m not aiming at bummersville with this one. I know I seem so over dramatic on this interweb thing. At least that’s how the persona appears to me. Honestly, the new Propaghandi album, Supporting Caste, is playing as I write this and it’s fucking amazing. Life can’t be all that unfortunate. After all they have a song about being vegan and chopping up vegetarians and eating them. Best Canadian Band EVER!

Peace be with you.

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