Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Joe Strummer

Last night, I went to the Oriental Theater to watch Julien Temple’s documentary of Joe Strummer, subtitled The Future is Unwritten (, which was running as part of the Milwaukee International Film Fest. I found it interesting, but not outstanding.

It opens with a collage of images relating to Strummer’s early life—pictures of him and his mom and dad, which were interspersed with footage from Turkey and Britain, commentary from unnamed older folks who knew Strummer way back when, and snippets from newsreels, added to show why Strummer thought the way he did. We learn that Strummer’s brother, David, I believe, postered his room with Nazi propaganda and committed suicide at an early age. We also learn that Strummer was a hippy before he was a punk. It was amusing to see footage of him with long hair, but unsurprising to hear that he turned his back on all his hippy friends when he went punk. Anyone he associated with, at least in the early days, had to dress and act the part of a punk or they were ostracized.

The film traced Strummer’s life in its entirety. It showed how out of sorts and depressed he felt after the band broke up, and showed a strange side to him in his later years, when he’s walking down the street and enthusiastically describing the value of techno music. I admire that he always cared about the state of the world, and didn’t know that The Clash once reunited to play a benefit for British firefighters, and were able to raise $2 million quid for them. More people and bands should follow Strummer’s lead, and I believe that is partly why Temple filmed the movie the way he did, but, sadly, most folks are too caught up in materialism these days, and the system is becoming more like an insanely corrupt police state by the day, so he may be on of the last rock stars to take on the establishment so forcefully.

I don’t name myself as a diehard Clash fan, so a lot of the information presented in the film was new to me. I went to the movie to learn more, and I did, but it would have been helpful to know each interviewee’s name. I recognized many faces—Steve Buscemi, Bono, Matt Dillion, Anthony Kiedis and Flea from the Chili Peppers, Courtney Love, who starred in Straight to Hell with Strummer, and David Lee Roth, who pontificated that bands like The Clash need to understand they shouldn’t take life so seriously. However, since Temple chose not to include tag lines when new faces appeared, watching it was a tad confusing and frustrating at times. The names were listed at the end of the film, but that was hardly helpful. Nonetheless, it was a nostalgic look back at someone who has influenced and excited countless music fans, so I recommend seeing it.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Nick Lowe Live, and others, too.

All Songs Considered, which is linked on the right hand side of "Flealess" links, has a series of live shows posted on their site, and occassionally delivered as podcasts. I just listend to Nick Lowe, and it was fucking great.

Arum, there's a Black Angels concert, too.

They've also got concerts from the likes of John Vanderslice, Richard Thompson, and Bjork. Here's the full list of the Concert Series.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

The Hermeneutics of Juxtaposition, A Case Study

Two albums that have totally captivated me of late are Grinderman's "Grinderman" and Mavis Staples's "We'll Never Turn Back."

There really couldn't be two more different records. Mavis Staples is a polished jewel of a record, deeply groovy grooves with Ry Cooder's guitar and production laying the foundation, the Freedom Singers doing these transcendant BVs and Mavis Staples on top of it all, channelling something powerful. Listening to this record is truly a special experience, almost religious. Somehow through the music and through her voice, Mavis makes you feel like she is singing just to you, just for you. She's a shaman bringing something holy from the 'other world' to make you better when you didn't even know you were ill. This record makes me want to dance, and to cry, to protest, and to praise.

Grinderman is raw and rude, dripping with the dirty sex of middle-aged men thinking lascivious thoughts about your 16-year old daughter. Nick Cave leads this raucous orgy of distortion into the filthy depths of your darkest secret feelings and pulls them into the sunlight where they ride shotgun in a '68 Dodge Charger speeding down the highway with you behind the wheel, crazed and dangerous, your whole body throbbing with the maxed out volume on your stero blasting Grinderman.

Driving home the other night I wanted to hear "99 1/2" from the Mavis record, and when it was done, something clicked in me, and I immediately put on "Go Tell The Women" by Grinderman. I think it was the little single note guitar hook featured in each song that led me to the connection, but the more I listen to these songs together, the more they seem made to be played together. The yin and the yang, or, two sides of the same coin. Have a listen and pick your own cliche.

Mavis Staples, "99 1/2"

Grinderman, "Go Tell The Women"

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

It's got a good beat and you can dance...err... workout to it!

Now that I'm into my daily workouts at the gym, my standard iTunes play list is getting a little old and repetitive. Any suggestions on some good music that keeps a good, consistent tempo?

Nine Inch Nails has been a staple in my workout... any other ideas?

Galaxie 500 was kick ass at at delivering covers to the people

About Lydon, I never liked the Sex Pistols, but I loved PIL.

Galaxie 500 does a wonderful cover of Submission, though, on a Peel Sessions release. Also of a song called Moonshot, but I don't remember who that's by.

now listening to Black Postcards by Luna, which propelled him to write this

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Black Angels

Every once in a while there's a band I encounter that I like so much I was in them. Black Angels goes there for me. They came up in discussion in May at my birthday party, and I tried out the Passover release, which, remarkably, our public library has.

It's When the Levee Breaks meets VU, and I love it. I guess when I was young and liked what I thought of as goth music, this was the kind of darkness I sought.

There isn't much on the disc that hasn't been done before, but it's all done well. Wide fuzztones, driving rhythms, pounding basslines, haunting organ. This is what I want to listen to when I'm driving. This is what I want to listen to when I'm working. This is what I want to listen to when I'm doing the dishes. This is what I want to listen to when I play videogames.

Standout tracks? All of them. Err... one or two? Black Grease and Better Off Alone.

I wish every Wednesday I was going to practice and playing this set.

now listening to Unsatisfied by the Replacements


Listen to BLACK GREASE by the Black Angels

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Mr. Lydon

It's funny to me seeing Mr. Lydon on his high horse. While I do perceive one album that he made, over his 15 or so year career as a musician, as genuinely disquieting and subversive (The Flowers of Romance, if you're keeping score), I don't see this album alone (nor even Metal Box, which is lovely if remarkably humble and unconfrontational) as qualifying John Lydon for judging other people's subversiveness or insight.

If swearing on English TV qualifies him for such platitudes, then we might need to give similar credence to the cast of Saturday Night Live once upon a time (or maybe Janet Jackson for her wardrobe malfunction).

Among my favorite albums this year, and probably the one that has impressed me the most, Machinefabriek Weleer is every bit as subversive as The Flowers of Romance, maybe moreso (time will tell). It's disquieting, uncomfortable, and incredibly in your face. Everything that I want a great album to be.

Yer pretty good with words

Stuck Between Stations, the Hold Steady fan video, in clay figures and stop action.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

I agree, John Lydon

In an interview with the LA Daily News that was reprinted in the Milwaukee Urinal, Mr. Lydon made the following comments:

Q.What's the state of songwriting these days?

A. It's horrible. Music is just another career choice for young people. They're not using any of their life experiences.

Q.Why is that?

A. It's all lost in a malaise of video games and mummy and daddy buying everything for you. The result is you get alleged pop stars preening about how much wealth they've got. It's this smug cynicism. People just sit on their lazy computerized (behinds), complaining about everything and saying, "I want, I want."

He is right. I fall into this unproductive, depressing trap, too. Sometimes I think I need to have media free days, but being online is a necessity for work and communication. It sucks that most mainstream (and indie?!) musicians don't send an IN YOUR FACE message. Perhaps some lesser known bands do. I just haven't been moved by a band's message in eons. We were even discussing this topic in my class last night. Students argued that big record labels do not want to promote rabble rousing, which seems to go hand in hand with Bush's ideology. SQUELCH ALL DISSENT! Like Lydon's, their observation rings true, because major telecommunication companies went along with his illegal wiretapping program. Big Brother indeed.

Anyhow....I am sure if I search harder, when time allows, I will unearth a new band to rock my world. In the meantime, any suggestions!?

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Sliding on a Galcier

I'm listening to Erdem Helvacioglu Altered Realities from last year. On first listen, I'm underwhelmed. He plays guitar through lots of digital processing. Not so much edited like Christopher Willits, but played with lots of high frequency overtones added on top through processing. His playing is abstract and new age-y, and the overtone processing is mostly one-dimensional. It sounds nice, but neither the compositions nor the sounds seem to have a lot of movement. I'd heard good things and was hoping for better.