Friday, June 24, 2016

Anti Christmas Friday Music

Another Friday, another international crisis - the UK votes to leave the European Market. Panic ensues. Or something. I can't pretend to understand all the ramifications of this, but they do seem bad. Bad sign for British politics, as this seems driven by no small amount of racism and nationalism. Bad for the world economy, as it takes London out of the mainstream - a big deal. Probably bad for the United part of the United Kingdom, as Scotland is likely to revisit their own bid for independence, with a big incentive to leave. (Scotland was one of the strongest proponents of staying in the EU, and might look to get in on their own now.) Heck, I've seen some Northern Irish politicians are making noise about leaving the UK for Ireland - might not be a bad plan. Still - all this is what I can glean from stories and comments - may or may not be as bad as all that. But it is harder to be optimistic than usual.

Maybe this can cheer you up - who cares about economics and politics, when the world is starting to boil? Gizmodo tracks the hottest month on record, with May being the 13th month in a row to set a new record.

Maybe not. Okay music.

2. CCR - Long as I Can See The Light
3. Deerhoof - Cast off Crown
4. Tom Verlaine - Rings
5. Jimmy Smith - God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman (who doesn't need some Christmas in June, at more or less the farthest point from Christmas you can get in a year?)
6. Body/Head - Aint
7. Throwing Muses - Say Goodbye
8. The Go! Team - Panther Dash
9. The Beatles - Something
10. Sleater Kinney - Entertain

Video? we do need some Christmas, right?

And we have to do all this in a world without Prince. Life is cruel:

At least I have this to look forward to Monday: don't fret now baby, don't be so tired!

Friday, June 17, 2016

The World, For Good and Bad

Another Friday. The weather has become very pleasant, and stayed there a while. There are soccer tournaments rolling along nicely. Otherwise, though, things are pretty shitty out in the world. Another mass shooting in the USA; a political assassination in the UK, in the middle of a campaign to pull the UK out of the European union. The former has the usual debates going - the standard attempt to maybe make it harder for people to acquire tools specifically designed for killing people has made a bit more progress - a filibuster, that may force the Senate to vote on a gun bill. Profiles in Courage, part 1! it's not just that politicians (deeply in the pockets of the NRA - or, I should say, the part of the NRA that disperses the money, since I think the majority of the NRA itself still supports better gun laws) refuse to pass gun laws - it's that they don't want to vote on guns laws. Vote for gun regulation, and those checks disappear. Vote against them, and the fact that very large majorities of the voting public support them might have some consequences. So - my god: decent people (Democrats) are all excited because they managed to force a vote!

Hey, if it works...

Meanwhile, the right, when it's not reposting their defenses of gun ownership they post every time someone shoots a dozen people or more, is trying to make what hay they can about the fact that the possibly closeted religious zealot homophobe who did the killing in Orlando was Islamic this time, instead of the usual right wing Christian. Cheeto Jesus starts the wanking off, the usual stuff about banning Moslem immigrants (not useful against people born in Queens, as this killer was, but he'll get to rounding up the American born Moslems, etc., sooner or later), and claiming Obama is somehow responsible for the attacks. People called him on this, he whined, picked a fight with the Washington post, doubled down on the original nonsense - etc. Meanwhile, John McCain, woke up from another dream of world war III to second Trump's accusation - oh yeah - Obama is "directly responsible" for the attacks. However, the next day - Profiles in Courage Part 2! - McCain claims he "misspoke" - funny how that works. Get that smear on record, then try to pretend you never did it - bravely done.

Enough of that. I hope it's enough. I worry, though - the racists, homophobes, gun nuts, Jesus nuts (and Mohammed nuts) are a shrinking demographic - but as they get smaller, and less and less able to win anything by any other means, they are probably more likely to resort to violence. They can't win elections (without massive gerrymandering and corruption), so they start shooting. Not just here, but globally. Once more thing to worry about, I guess.

But now? Let's do some video - this week, being Pride month, and because the terrorism/hate crime in Orlando was directed explicitly against gays - some songs from out musicians:

Husker Du - New Day Rising, It's Not Funny Anymore:

The Priest, Breaking the Law:

Buzzcocks - I Believe:

And some Sigur Rus - which might also get us back t the good stuff - Iceland is in the European soccer championships - 10% of the country apparently travelled to France to attend the games - very nice. This is Hoppipolla:

Friday, June 10, 2016

Blue Ocean Water Cannot Stop My Heart and Mind from Burning

For this month's Band of the Month, we're back in the 21st century, and the ubiquitous (it sometimes seems) Jack White - mainly for the White Stripes, but he hasn't really slacked off in his other bands. He has been wonderfully prolific - a dozen or so records, with various bands, along with work with other people. And it's all fine stuff - all distinctly his, but also bringing in the personalities and talents of his collaborators. The White Stripes sound like the Raconteurs - but not exactly; the Dead Weather offers a different twist - a different voice; his solo records bring in some new sounds - in fact, it's the sound that varies the most among them, the instrumentation, sometimes the style. There's continuity across all his work, but he still always seems to be evolving - trying new sounds, new styles - every record is rewarding.

Thinking about this essay, I thought of the ways he is like other favorites of mine. Iv'e had Prince on the mind - and White's record in the past decade or so reminds me of Prince in the 80s (and beyond). It is interesting: they share a work ethic - I'm not sure how many artists are as committed to getting a record out every year as White has been in that time. He can work like Prince - playing all the instruments, playing different instruments in different combos. At the same time, he's involved with other artists - all those collaborations, all his effort to work with other people. He's versatile - he's committed to controlling his art - to building the infrastructure for his creativity... He might not be the musical genius Prince was, especially as a musician - but he is a very interesting musician, and s superb song-writer, who milks rich veins of American songwriting styles. Country, blues, pop, rock, gospel, folk - he plays with them all, very successfully. He is a kind of one man industry.... He has in common with Nick Cave too - who's also put out a wealth of material throughout his career, still going strong; who's also slipped around through a variety of styles, without really abandoning his base skills. And he sometimes reminds me of Cave as a songwriter - the way he writes fiction, stories - characters who aren't necessarily him. The hints of gods and devils lurking in those songs. And a kind of characteristic hardness - he might have the best body of last lines to songs in the business:

"if there's anything good about me, I'm the only one who knows"
"not one single person on god's golden shore is entitled to one single thing; we don't deserve a single damn thing"
"Worse than All Your Dreams Could Ever Make Me"
"I never said I would throw my jacket in the mud for you, but my father gave it to me so maybe I could carry you, then you said you almost dropped me so then I did, and I got mud on my shoes"
"this kind of things must be important because somebody ripped out my page in your telephone book"

All right. He has had a pretty good career, beginning to the present, and still going strong - but I can't deny that he was particularly great at the beginning. When it was them, not him, too - the later stuff, the other projects, are fantastic, but he hasn't really matched the impact of the White Stripes. I heard the first couple records, liked them, though I didn't completely fall for them - then White Blood Cells came out, and that did it. It was very exciting - that stripped down style, the endlessly catchy tunes, the clever words - I liked the poppier garage sound more than their earlier bluesier sound, it felt more open, more adventurous, freer - I was sold. And you can guess from the comments above, I continued to enjoy their music as they got even more expansive - I like bands with wide tastes in music, and was very happy to follow them into their rockier moments, their ballads, the country, the folk, as well as the blues. And though Jack continues to work similar styles since, I don't know if he has ever quite been able to match the direct appeal of the Stripes. Simple, direct rhythms, his straightforward riffs, warped and twisted around - nothing else quite works that well. Meg focused the music, and focused him. They were a truly great band.

All right: let's do the lists. Here, to start, a White Stripes Top Ten:

1. The Same Boy You've Always Known
2. Prickly Thorn, But Sweetly worn
3. I Want to be the Boy
4. As Ugly as I Seem
5. I'm Finding It Harder to be a Gentleman
6. 300 MPH Torrential Outpour Blues
7. Icky Thump
8. Seven Nation Army
9. we're Going to Be Friends
10. The Big Three Killed My Baby

And Then, an other Jack White top 5:

1. These Stones Will Shout - Raconteurs
2. Portland Oregon - with Loretta Lynn
3. So Far from Your Weapon - Dead Weather
4. Top Yourself - Raconteurs
5. Entitlement - Solo

And some video: Start with a classic White Stripes performance of Same Boy You're Always Known:

And later, acoustic and intense, Ugly as I seem, on Charlie Rose:

Here's Jack playing Seven Nation Army, with Jimmy Page and The Edge from the This Might Get Loud documentary. The more I think about that film, the more inspired the choices seem: it's not just that the three guitarists cover three generations, or even that they are three very fine purveyors of The Riff - it's that they are so different. Page, the virtuoso, the session genius, able to play anything, the improvisor, the excessive one; The Edge, the minimalist, the rhythm guitarist, the one relying on his effects almost more than his playing - building riffs out of that; and White - the songwriter - never quite so virtuosic as Page, but willing to solo, make noise, risk excess (though more economical) - but more than that, and more than the other two - making his musicianship always the servant of his songwriting. He is a very good guitarist, but he is a musician and songwriter first - he can shift instruments if it works better, he keeps the pyrotechnics tied to the song. They bounce off one another - each working differently, a fact that sometimes comes through in the movie, but mostly dawns on you later. It's a neat film, and that dynamic is part of it...

And a clip of The Raconteurs:

Here's drummer Jack, with the Dead Weather:

And singing with Loretta Lynn:

And finally some blues - St. James Infirmary - can't find a good performance clip, so here's a Betty Boop cartoon someone matched to the song:

Saturday, June 04, 2016

Muhammed Ali (And Swarbrick)

This year continues to suck - another great figure has died, Muhammed Ali. I probably can't add a lot to what is being said about him - you can find more and better anywhere - Charles Pierce, say - he was a towering figure. Great athlete - almost impossibly charismatic - and hugely important, politically. Athletes in America tend to sometimes leave race and politics alone - but Ali did not. He was Black, he was a Muslim, he was against the Vietnam war, and he didn't hide from any of those things. He made his politics public - he forced us to confront them and everything they meant in the US. He was right about them, too - Vietnam was a distraction from what was wrong in the US (and what might have been getting better in the 60s, if not for Vietnam) - racism and its consequences have always been our fatal flaw, and worst enemy. Ali confronted it - and showed ways to get through it. The more the country listens to people like him, the better off we are.

And of course, he always did it with grace and style. He was a beautiful boxer to watch, fast and light, quick and loose; and he talked like it too. Smart and charismatic and funny. I watched him plenty in the 70s - wins and losses, though by then, he was past his prime, hanging on and coming back and, even then, visibly diminishing his legacy and risking his health. But he made fighting interesting - more than anyone. It's strange to look back - watching him in the 60s - so fast, so commanding, toying with people, beating the shit out of them - it's both beautiful to watch him, and rather horrifying, to think what boxers do to one another. (Mostly Ali doing it to the others, at that point.) Looking at some of the fights - guys going down four, five times, getting up for Ali to smack around some more.... I wish he could have picked a different sport - but he was so good at this one.

All right - that's enough. He talked like he fought - smart and fast and graceful, but hard as a rock - he was the greatest, the Black Superman.

Meanwhile - just a note, that Dave Swarbrick also died this week. Maybe not a transformative figure like Ali, but an integral part of one of my favorite bands. Here he is with Richard Thompson, 2009, playing one of their epic collaborations, Sloth:

Friday, June 03, 2016

June Friday Music and More

Another Friday, another lazy post, but I hope, some good music to think about. Nice holiday week ere, very welcome; even had some flashes of springlike weather in the last few days, though of course they quickly revert to April type weather. I won't complain too much about that - I am no fan of the heat. But it would be nice to get a couple months over 70, you know...

Npt much else to add, so I will leave you to it. It is going to be a busy summer, in a good way, mostly. As a sports fan I am very happy to see my local nine hitting like pros, though I wish they could stop other teams. Last 2 games, the Red Sox have scored 15 runs, and been outscored by 10 runs. Last night they were almost beaten by home runs alone - gave up 7, same as they scored... sad. Sort of. Cause, boy can they hit. And along with this, we're getting closer to the European soccer championships - that is great fun. That will keep me in front of the TV most of this month. Ending just in time for the tour de France, which will end just about in time for the Olympics, which I admit I watch mostly for the soccer tournaments, but still. All this without really mentioning either the NBA or NHL, which are in their finals, and - I used to care a lot about,but have kind of faded from in the past couple years...

And also - Wonders in the Dark is working up to a science fiction poll and countdown - something to look forward to.

And now? some tunes, to tide you over...

1. Prince - Fallinlove2nite
2. Duffy Power - Lawdy Miss Clawdy
3. Buffalo Tom - Gravity
4. Times New Viking - Fuck her Tears
5. Devendra Banhart - Fall
6. Meat Puppets - I am a Machine
7. X-Ray Specs - Oh! Bondage up Yours!
8. Ian Drury - Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick
9. Raconteurs - These Stones Will Shout
10. Merle Haggard - The Bottle Let Me Down

That was a nice set right there. Here's some video - start off the list - Charlie Watts had a birthday this week, so - select a stone, with Charlie Watts:

And - Ian Drury and the Blockheads working the rhythm stick:

And Poly: