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 InhumanityThe 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.

Das Racist: 2008 to 2012

https://i2.wp.com/deathandtaxesmag.wpengine.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/Screen-Shot-2012-12-03-at-9.28.09-AM.pngIt’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.