Music

Rock & Roll

The subject of my sermon today will be Motörhead, and, as may be deduced from my title, herein I will also be concerned with the topic of genre. When Motörhead began putting out records, there was often a bit of confusion as to whether they should be shelved as punk or heavy metal, but the …

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Love You Too Much

Hope the rising black smoke carries me far away and I never come back to this town again The gnostic priests of Capital, who wish to see in everything only their imperfect, evil God, can nail down the torrential force of romantic love within their flat cosmology by referring it to the nuclear family, which …

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I’m Very Happy for You, and I’ma Let You “Runaway,” but…

reflections on Kanye West, fame, marketing, and modern racism This world is full of niche markets, of areas both physical and social that exist alongside each other, with little to no overlap. People go their whole lives in their own trajectory (or trajectories), never knowing, much less reflecting on, that a very different experience is …

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GaGa, Bowie, Hitler

The mythology is all wrong. Prometheus did not bring fire to the humans. This is what happened. Prometheus stole fire from the old, conservative gods and ate it. With this fire in his belly, he descended to the human world, jumped onto a stage, and told them, “I have brought you fire!” None of them grew warm because of the fire inside the rebel god—they only though they did.

Negation + Electro = Negatetro

Un-ideological Insurrection in Romain Gavras’ and Justice’s “Stress.”

A few months ago, amidst all the hype and talk about politico-hipster M.I.A.’s new music video “Born Free” directed by Romain Gavras making news, I stumbled upon some of the French director’s earlier work. While I’ve been a fan (whatever) of the French electro duo, Justice, for some time now, I hadn’t come across their video for their song “Stress” and was pleasantly surprised to see the depth that Romain Gavras brought to the project. His video for M.I.A., aside from being an example of remarkable cinematography, is extremely vapid in that its projected “political” polemics are explicit and operate entirely along the surface. The ginger-haired “othering” lends itself to a certain passive recognition of how such ethno-cultural differentiation is/can be supported by state-sanctioned violence. It requires nothing of the viewer except a passive acceptance that this IS (emphatic and totalizing agreement) how difference is codified and supported. Such inherently simplistic visual conventions and politicized contrivance makes the viewer tune out after the first twenty seconds or so, when shock is merely replaced with redundancy. Everything after the initial recognition that conventional ethno-cultural “othering” has been flipped upside down simply becomes superfluous and eventually beats the viewer over the head with brutal repetition of clichéd images. This pedanticism is strange, because what Gavras gets wrong with M.I.A.’s “Born Free” (2010) he had already mastered brilliantly with Justice’s “Stress” (2008).

Climbing to the Sun on a Cobweb Made of Tinker Toys

One way or another, I guess I’ve spent the past two years of my life trying to figure out what Cloud Cult is.

On the face of it, this appears to be a simple question with fairly predictable answers: Cloud Cult is an experimental rock group from Minneapolis, the brainchild of front man Craig Minowa, with ten studio albums and somewhere in the range of eight musicians. With Light Chasers – their latest polished effort – having been made available for Internet download in late June and set to hit stores in mid September, one might reasonably expect the focus of this review to be on that particular work. The truth, however, is that even though I have listened to the album in its entirety close to 40 times by now, I do not consider myself to have digested it sufficiently to give any other reaction aside from, “Wow”. More importantly, for me this band really cannot be reviewed simply in terms of individual albums, and deserves to be considered for the unprecedented and truly unique experience that it brings to the table – beyond most people’s ordinary interpretations of what music is.

[Perhaps I should mention that the first time I ever listened to Cloud Cult, I was balls-deep in five hits of some rather magnificent LSD.]

We want it all – a review of Fever Ray

This will never end, ’cause I want more
More, give me more, give me more

Media saturation makes simple things hard. Not simple things like digging a ditch, or putting on boots, but things like understanding what our neighbors are doing & thinking. What is happening outside of our own head. The information that I need to understand what is happening outside of my day-to-day experience is edited by active agents. Agents with motivations that are layered: selfish, paid for, and built over time and generations. Social and geological. I don’t stand a chance.

Counter-culture, perfected in the late 60’s, has been our only protection from this frontal assault and, naturally, has become the agent of co-option. Most of us have passed through counter-culture and it has passed through us. Counter culture shaped me into a usable form against the people who raised me and into the shape of the new kind of consumer.

The Earl Brothers: An Appreciation

“You’ve got to keep the bluegrass music pure.” Thus spake Bill Monroe, or words to that effect. It was late in his career when he said this, no doubt; late enough that bluegrass was already considered a more or less distinct genre of music, and Monroe had become known as its “father”; late enough that he’d finished fiddling with electric guitars and pianos on some of his recordings, so that the style had become codified as string band music played by guitar, bass, banjo, fiddle, and Monroe’s instrument, mandolin (although some bands would include dobro, an instrument Monroe hated, but which became more or less the semi-official sixth bluegrass instrument thanks mostly to Flatt and Scruggs, whom Monroe for a long time also hated). The message was clear: bluegrass was, and is, a fundamentally conservative style of music. Unlike Jazz, where innovation is often privileged, bluegrass is a genre that must be maintained as it is, and innovation is often tantamount to corruption. Never mind the aforementioned guitars and pianos (and, once, even seagulls); even though most of the first generation of bluegrass musicians even recorded with drums once in a while, today they are banned from the stage of most bluegrass festivals. Not just frowned on—literally banned.