Archive for the ‘Music’ Category.

Goth Inside

Taking just a short break from the depressing insanity that is passing for 2016…

Goth’s not dead (heh). As this WaPo article points out, the music-based Goth subculture continues to endure decades after its appearance in the early 1980s and heyday in the mid-90’s. “Goth seems to stay in people’s souls, even when they grow up and get jobs and have kids and stop dressing quite as outrageously as they once did. It is an outlook, a refuge, a dark corner made friendly by the presence of others.”

Music is a very personal thing. The song that moves you to tears is unlikely to have the same effect on others, and for those who missed the subculture in their youth it’s hard to understand how this song pretty much stops Time for any goth regardless of their age. For many, especially those of us on this side of the Atlantic, it was our first exposure to true Goth, and we were bitten.

Siouxie Sioux, the queen of goth, had a voice that could freeze the blood in your veins and then seconds later melt your gothic heart. Rest assured that when I visit Pompeii soon it will be difficult for me to keep her song “Cities in Dust” out of my mind.

Unless you’ve been exposed to the Cure it’s difficult to understand their enduring popularity. The Cure is touring this summer and continues selling out venues, pulling in young and old alike. Well, if the Mick Jagger can do it at 72, why can’t Robert Smith at 57?

As a goth I grew up with Top 40, album rock, and funk and while I still enjoy the occasional Rush song (or two), and can even appreciate early Michael Jackson and the groundbreaking Grandmaster Flash, the music that flickered like a candle in my darkest moments in my teens and twenties remains my go-to music decades later, when the world is darkest and everything seems pointless. After all Andrew Eldritch, Sisters of Mercy lead singer, understands.

Music captures a moment in a way photographs cannot. A photo may capture a scene, the light on a loved one’s face or a smile in her eyes, but music? Music can capture an entire 3 dimensional world complete with emotions, smells and tastes. To you the following is just some nice ambient sounds, to me it is the sunrise breaking through the fog in the mountains of Northern California after an overnight trip with my new love asleep in the seat beside me as we drive, the woman who walks beside me 25 years later.

The hair is gone, and if you met me in a local Tractor Supply you would think I was just another redneck buying chicken feed. But the music that comes out of my truck with NRA and Hillary For Prison stickers as I leave is more likely to be this than Kenny Chesney:

Yes, everyday is Halloween for some of us and even though we don’t look goth, rest assured that in our young hearts our jackets are black leather, our boots are Doc Martens, our hair is long, black and smells of clove cigarettes, and our faces are just a shade too pale.

Holiday In Islamic State

Sung to the jaunty tune “Holiday In Cambodia” by the Dead Kennedys.

So you’ve been at school
For a year or two
You’ve learned all you need to know
white liberal guilt
Multiethnic quilt
A Safe Space where you need to go.

Write black lives bleed
on your twitter feed
with your three grand Macbook Pro
Claiming that you’re pissed
Cuz the Muslims got dissed
By the Jews in Jericho.

It’s time to taste what you most fear
Hate speech codes won’t help you here
Brace yourself, my dear…

It’s a Holiday in Islamic State
The Caliphate sure looks slick
It’s a Holiday in Islamic State
Don’t forget your selfie stick.

You’re a small minded bitch
You whining cuz your rich
You want everyone to think like you
Demand trigger warnings
for overprotected darlings
While your profs get richer off you.

Well you’ll cry harder
with a knife at your neck
facing Mecca as you pray
Killed by soldiers
on video
two hundred likes as of today.

Now you can go where people coexist
Now you can join the ISIS mailing list.
What you need my son…

Is a Holiday in Islamic State
Where people dress in black
A holiday in Islamic State
Suicide bomb attack!

Ji – had, Ji-had, ji-had….

And it’s a Holiday in Islamic State
Where you’ll kill who you’re told
A holiday in Islamic State
Bomb the Jews in Jericho.
Car bomb
For what it’s worth I found a Karaoke version of this song and tried it out. I swear my dogs rolled on the floor laughing and I blew out my voice for the day. Oh well. Punk’s not dead in my heart.

Oh, and here’s my attempt at American Idiot by Green Day, redone as American Infidel. Guess I’m good for a punk song every 10 years.

Time To Stand Up Against the Morality Police (Once Again)

If there’s any libertarian creed it is this: I don’t know what’s best for you. This statement expresses my honest ignorance that it is impossible for me to understand your situation well enough to offer anything more than advice based on my experiences. Consequently that admission prohibits me from meddling in your affairs, and it is expected that you refrain from meddling in mine.

When I was coming of age in the 1980’s it was the Religious Right as personified in Jerry Falwell and his acolytes in the Moral Majority that claimed to know what is best for me. Today it is the Left that tells me that I should reduce my carbon footprint, lose my guns,  avoid GMO in foods, and in general control every aspect in my life the way the Moral Majority tried and failed to do in Reagan’s America. Back then I was younger and had more hair than money, and while the situation may be reversed today my feelings haven’t changed: whether the Moral Majority or the Regressive/Progressive Left, in the words of the great politically incorrect Sex Pistols frontman Johnny Rotten “f*** off.”

These days are much like the 1980’s with the exception that the music and movies were better then. Both have an atmosphere that I best characterize as humorless. When the few talented comedians left like Amy Schumer are blamed for racist attacks like Dylann Roof’s rampage in Charleston, we’re living in a new Victorian era, and likely one that won’t be subject to endless period pieces on Masterpiece Theater. Amy Schumer’s humor is tepid compared to the greats of the 1980s like Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy and pre-movie career Robin Williams. Schumer obviously tries to avoid upsetting people, sticking to a lot of sexual humor and often regressing to toilet humor as she searches for laughs. But off-color jokes are to humor what alcohol is to wine. You’re never going to have anything remarkable without it. Schumer seems to instinctively know this which is why she occasionally lets slip a joke that upsets our humorless morality police.

In the Washington Post two Leftist heirs to the mantels of Jerry Falwell and Ed Meese of 3 decades ago, Stacey Patton and David J. Leonard write, “What matters is the costs and consequences of these “jokes” to those being objectified. Invoking the “it’s just a joke” defense denies the social, historic and cultural implications of racial humor. It ignores the ways that disparaging jokes provide a safe vehicle to share stereotypes, release inhibitions and spread racism.” These self-appointed officers of the morality police then lay blame on Schumer for Roof’s actions.

Personally I blame his mother for naming him Dylann. It’s spelled like the name a transsexual would take mid-change. Or perhaps I’ll just blame Dylann himself.

Whereas I don’t know what’s best for Ms. Patton and Mr. Leonard, they clearly claim to know what’s best for us. Just as the Moral Majority sought to control what we watched (no porn) and listened to (no naughty lyrics), the Left seeks to control what we say in the magical belief that if we would all stop saying racist things we would stop being racist, as if that’s all we need to do. Schumer’s success at speaking freely offends them, so they attack her. After all, she’s a relatively easy target. Although a woman she is white, straight and better yet, Jewish. I suppose the next step will be to have her justify her sins in some public forum, the way Dee Snider of Twisted Sister was forced to defend rock music in front of Congress in 1985.

But before then we need to begin to stand up for ourselves, and eventually go all-Ferguson on these self-appointed morality cops. But for now the very least I’ll do is spin up the best album of the Punk era, “Never Mind the Bollocks” and tell Stacey Patton and David J. Leonard to just “f*** off.”

Update: At least we can assume the Ed Meese watched the porn he wanted to ban and Tipper Gore listened to the music she wanted taken off the radio. Debra Kessler writing for Interrobang interviewed Ms. Patton, and Patton admitted she has never watched one of Amy Schumer’s shows or seen one of her stand-up routine (worrisome in itself given how popular Schumer has become).  Kessler notes, “Despite seeing the quotes out of context, and without the benefit of knowing anything about Amy’s comedy, she was comfortable making judgements about whether Schumer’s comedy was or wasn’t racist.  She also was comfortable deciding whether Schumer’s audience was or wasn’t racially diverse (she characterizes Amy’s following as predominately white), and she was comfortable to conclude that Schumer’s comedy breeds racism in others.” Schumer even apologized and said she would try harder to be more sensitive.

But there is no pleasing these people when it comes to humor since they are humorless ideologues whose minds have been filled with the very hate they claim to despise. No, Amy Schumer should have simply said, “F*** off.”

Has Putin Declawed Pussy Riot?

Russian Punk band Pussy Riot has released it’s first English song, “I Can’t Breathe,” inspired by the death of illegal cigarette vendor Eric Garner in a chokehold courtesy of New York’s finest. So two years after the bandmembers spent time in Russian jail with Putin on the cover of this week’s Economist headlined “Putin’s War On The West”, less than a year after Putin’s annexing The Crimea and likely within weeks of his pulling an Anschluss in east Ukraine, as well as his covert support of pro-Russian separatists throughout Eastern Europe, Pussy Riot has come out with a song critical of NYPD for choking a citizen to death.

The Daily Beast makes a critical note of the group, “It certainly says something that the group, with all that is going on in Russia and the Ukraine at the moment, feels the need to make their voices heard on an issue that’s confined to our shores.” Huffington Post is kinder, writing “The video, shot in Russia, shows (Pussy Riot members) Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina wearing Russian riot police uniforms and being buried alive. ‘We were realizing that Russia is burying itself alive in terms of the rest of the world. Committing suicide. Daily,’ Pussy Riot told BuzzFeed News.”

But the fact remains the video is in English and it is about an event that happened within the United States. Americans will likely miss the subtexts within the song that Pussy Riot claims attack Putin’s regime, and the Kremlin will likely see the video as targeted at the US  not Russia due to its subject and language.

So has Putin declawed Pussy Riot? It seems likely.

Writing in a Neo-Victorian Age

Elizabeth Nolan Brown writes for Reason on the return of Victorian-age sensibilities in modern life, “(I)t’s taken the form of fighting to shield delicate sensibilities from “offensive” ideas, limit the parameters of free expression, and return women to the realm of dainty dolls needing special protection.” The assault on freedom is particularly acute to those of us who came of age in the 1970’s and 1980’s when the attacks came primarily from the conservatives and right-wing, although one shouldn’t forget that Tipper Gore, wife to then senator Al Gore and co-f0under of the PMRC, lead the charge against rock music lyrics making censorship a bi-partisan effort. Today’s attacks however come primarily from the Left and appear under the guise of “rational for banning/criminalizing hate speech is that it’s so emotionally traumatizing it serves, even in the absence of any incitement or physical consequence, as a form of violence, and this trumps free speech concerns.”

As a professional writer (not here) self-censorship comes with the job. Self-censorship for a writer is not necessarily a bad thing. It’s an editing tool that can help a writer get his or her point across. But I find myself censoring myself more these days outside of the professional realm to avoid trouble. In fact I just did it in the previous sentences, replacing a short and visceral reaction to living in a neo-Victorian prison with more palatable fare. Worse, I did it without thinking and a careful review of my writing here confirms that even though I argue against such censorship, I capitulate to it more than I should have to as a free-born human being living in a free society under legal protection.

Fuck that. It’s one thing to have to self-censor on the job, it’s another thing completely to do so on an online journal. Nevertheless fighting against self-censorship has consequences, and a writer must decide whether the exercising of  expression is worth it. Unfortunately today those penalties become increasingly harsh as Culture continues its crawl towards authoritarianism making the choices more difficult and painful.

Here’s a reminder of simpler times from Burke Breathed’s classic comic Bloom County.

We Don’t Need This Fascist Groove Thang

Compare and contrast the following videos. In my opinion Laibach does the Euro-fascist thing much better than the Putinites.

To A Friend Who Is No More

But who was so much more…



See you on the other side, Laura, where we’re all 16 again.

Devo Guitarist Bob Casale Dead at 61

It’s Saturday night and an 11 year old boy lays in front of the TV watching late night television. His father had passed away the previous winter and his mother is downstairs, sorting things out for her small home-based business. His small runty white cat lays beside him, flicking her tail as she watches him laugh and guffaw at skits performed by John Belushi, Dan Akroyd and Jane Curtain. He starts to get sleepy but keeps on watching. Things had been tough since his dad died, and were going to get tougher in the coming years. But in a few seconds it would not matter.

5 men in yellow hazmat suits take the stage. His little mind blown would be blown and 2 minutes 48 seconds later things would never be the same for that young boy.


Destination North Carolina

In my mind I’m goin to carolina
Cant you see the sunshine
Cant you just feel the moonshine
Maybe just like a friend of mine
It hit me from behind
Yes I’m goin to carolina in my mind. – James Taylor


I imagine sitting next to a roaring fire in a cabin somewhere in a cold and beautiful place listening to Neil Young’s Harvest.

Rolling Stone: Size Doesn’t Matter

I regularly start the morning here in the Philadelphia area with the Preston & Steve show on WMMR. Today they mentioned the fact that Rolling Stone magazine was resizing. Evidently single copies sales of the magazine have been declining as of late, and publisher Jann Wenner believes it is partly due to the magazine’s large format.

The jocks at Preston & Steve may know the real problem for the magazines decline. Preston Elliot mentioned that he let his subscription lapse because the magazine’s politics became “too intense,” specifically citing the mags anti-war cartoons. Casey, another member of the morning crew, noted that the magazine tended to give 5 stars to every Bob Dillon release and implied that the magazine was out of touch with contemporary music. He also wondered how much impact the Internet had on the magazine.

I stopped reading Rolling Stone years ago after Greider became repetitive and PJ O’Rourke started publishing elsewhere. The magazine never reflected my musical tastes which tended towards the underground-side of things. At the time the J Geils Band was gracing its cover I was listening to Bauhaus and Skinny Puppy – two bands that I doubt were ever mentioned in the pages of that magazine let alone profiled.

I’d love to see the magazine’s demographics since I’d bet the average age of Rolling Stone’s readership is deep in Geritol territory. Even when I was in the targeted demographic the magazine seemed to cater more to the ‘60s Generation than to my own, which may be why Spin magazine did so well (at least initially).  More recently Maxim and similar magazines have done well with the young, covering lifestyle and music topics with edgy yet profitable aplomb. I notice that Maxim has twice the circulation as Rolling Stone does, and is thriving on – and off – the Internet.

However Preston Elliot’s comment about the politics of the magazine is dead on given its worship of Barack Obama, a point made all the more apparent in this photo of Wenner taken from the IHT story.

Jann Wenner & Barack Obama Resized Covers
Jann Wenner Seeks Relevance

I’ve discussed Wenner’s efforts on Obama’s behalf here and even suggested the next cover in his Obamassiah series:

The Obamassiah

Perhaps I’ve gotten Wenner’s support of Obama wrong. Maybe he isn’t using his music magazine to push his personal political views; maybe Wenner is hoping that Obama supporters will see Rolling Stone as hip and relevant – just like the candidate himself.

The unfortunate truth is that nothing lasts forever. Rolling Stone’s best years ended in 1976 as its demographic shifted into building careers and families away from creating socialist utopias fueled by pot smoke and Hendrix. Changing its size and having Obama grace even more covers will not make the magazine any more relevant. Like the aging hippies who read it generations ago, it’s time has passed. Like Rolling Stone’s readers have, Wenner needs to move on.

Control – The Life, Death and Legacy of Ian Curtis

Watched the movie Control. This movie is based on the book by Deborah Curtis “Touching From a Distance,” about her life with Joy Division frontman Ian Curtis.

Control Movie Poster

The fact that I’m writing about this movie says a few things: first that I’m pretty out of touch since the movie was released at Cannes in 2007;  second that at my age I still listen to and like Joy Division. I’m not embarrassed by either of these facts.

For those who don’t know Joy Division was a band that became quite successful in the UK in the late 1970s. On the eve of their 1980 tour in the US Curtis hung himself in the kitchen of his flat. After his death the band later reformed and became New Order which went on to achieve a level of fame and success that no doubt would have troubled Curtis. Nonetheless Joy Division became a prominent band in modern rock, influencing contemporaries like U2 and The Cure (Robert Smith dedicated “Primary” to Curtis) as well as later bands like Nine Inch Nails (who covered Joy Division’s “Dead Souls”) and The Killers, who covered the Joy Division song “Shadowplay.”

Control the movie will appeal to Joy Division, New Order fans – but I doubt it will work for anyone unfamiliar with the music or Ian Curtis’s persona. The movie is shot in black & white which fits the subject well, as anyone familiar with the music will attest. The cinematography is excellent, but I think the movie would have benefited from tighter editing. At least 20 mins of the 2 hour 3 minute long movie could have hit the editing room floor thereby preventing a few dragged out scenes that the movie could have done without.

Where this music truly shined was the acting; Sam Riley channels Ian Curtis in a way that I haven’t seen since Val Kilmer played Jim Morrison (an influence of Curtis’s by the way) in the 1991 Oliver Stone film. The rest of Joy Division – Peter Hook, Bernard Sumner, and Stephen Morris – played by Joe Anderson, James Anthony Pearson, and Harry Treadaway – are played so convincingly that it’s hard for all but the most die-hard Joy Division fans to realize that the four actors playing Joy Division actually played and sang the Joy Division songs in the movie. While I missed Joy Division due to age and geography, I have seen video of the band, and Riley’s portrayal of Curtis is spot on. The spastic dancing, the hiding behind the microphone, the soul-penetrating icy stares – all done perfectly by Riley. Add the fact that the band does not lip synch any of their songs almost sent me to my collection once or twice to compare the songs in the movie to the songs on CD.

Ian Curtis may not be as well known as James Dean, Jim Morrison and more recently Heath Ledger, but his death at the age of 23 just before his band was on the brink of success in the United States has created a similar legacy to those stars who were cut down before their prime. The movie accurately portrays him as an enigmatic figure who viewed his talent as a burden, one that ultimately consumed him.

As someone deep into middle age I recognize such talent as a siren song and know that Talent and its attendant Muses comes in other, less lethal, varieties. Better for Curtis to have lived a quiet life with his wife and daughter in the English countryside like Sting than to have ended his brief life prematurely.  Would Joy Division have made it in the USA had Curtis lived? Would the band have changed modern music as much as it has already if Curtis had lived? No one knows for sure, but I wish that Ian Curtis would have at least tried.

The Cure in Philadelphia 05-10-08

We saw The Cure last night- and weren’t the oldest geezers at the show (nor for that matter was Robert Smith). The band played for just shy of 3 hours, mostly old classics with a sprinkle of new songs. Opening band was 65daysofstatic – an instrumental band from Sheffield whose sound reminded me of Jesus & Mary Chain with hints of old New Order/Joy Division. The Wife is a huge Cure fan and she wasn’t disappointed. I tend to like everything up through Disintegration and neither was I.

The new stuff is still recognizable as Cure but it’s completely devoid of the old dark undertones/angst. Guess the Paxil works – or Robert just isn’t as depressed as he used to be. Either way the new stuff isn’t half bad; mediocre Cure beats most bands’ best stuff any time.

Our ears are still ringing; it’s the first live show we’ve seen in over 16 years, and I’d forgotten how loud rock music can be. We got home close to midnight after picking up the Kid from the Mother-in-law. 20 Years ago I used to go to clubs that didn’t even open until that time. Amazing how Life changes you, or you change to fit Life – or both.

Here’s the current lineup and a shot of the band from Wikipedia. Robert and Simon looked pretty much like this, while Porl looked like Elton John ca 1977,  wearing a mesh top, vinyl pants and red high-heeled platform shoes.

The Cure in Singapore Aug 1, 2007 - Source: Wikipedia

House Music

I’m a big fan of House Music having lived in Chicago in the mid 1980s and listened to 102.7 FM WBMX. On Saturday night the station played non-stop house music, and for a teenager from the suburbs making his first forays into the club scene it was exactly what I was looking for. House blended disco and funk with elements of new wave, punk and industrial – all genres I liked – and added a strong kick drum on each beat.

The music was distinctly American thanks to the blending of funk, separating it from the European techno and trance genres that were evolving separately at the time.

Wikipedia has an excellent history on the genre here.

I made a few recordings of BMX’s Saturday Night Dance Party in 1985/86 and have ripped them to digital. I hope to add them here soon and will host them until I get slapped by a lawyer threatening me with an IP violation lawsuit.

UPDATE: Here’s one
BMX Saturday Night Dance Party, Feb 13, 1987

Imogen Heap – Musical – and Technological – Genius

This has to be one of the most remarkable performances I’ve ever witnessed by a musician.

For the lazy, Imogen Heap is performing live in a radio studio. She begins her performance with some a cappella which she instantly records and plays back. She then layers her voice over the track again, records it, and plays it back instantly again. As she’s playing back herself singing, she then claps in accompaniment, which she then records and layers with her singing.

Throughout the entire performance she uses the recording and playing back of various elements from the same performance to create a deeply textured sound impeccably woven “on the fly” – all from elements that did not exist in any form before she took the stage.

My musical tastes are rather eclectic and range from Abba, through Skinny Puppy to Buckwheat Zydeco. However I can appreciate talent and artistry in anything – and Ms. Heap has both in spades.

Her performance reminds me most of Thomas Dolby and Tom Ellard. However she does with her voice what Dolby and Ellard do with samples and instruments.

So if you are still lazy, click and watch the video above. I guarantee you that you’ll have never seen anything quite like it.