Wednesday, February 28, 2007

"We all want our time in hell..."

first off, let me thank one "Rrrrrrobbbbb" (approximately) for the insight into the "Return of the Fly" lyrics. please check the comments section on the last post for an illumination of the mysterious "You guinea pig" and "Human hands and feet" lines.

and second off (can you say that?), gracias to "Wire" scribe Alan Cummings for getting in touch re: the apparently mythical Graves/Abe row. Alan says he got that anecdote direct from drummer Sabu Toyozumi, who purportedly witnessed some of the concerts in question. curiouser and curiouser indeed. despite this whole testimonial quibble, i'm deeply indebted to Alan's research for turning me on to the Shinjuku improv scene.


third off, i'm really tired. but that won't stop me from babbling a bit before bed. Samhain's been on my mind and in my heart all day. actually since i was a teenager. after all that Misfits talk, i flipped on Samhain's "November-Coming-Fire" at work and was restruck by how gorgeous and eerie it was.

for whatever reason, Samhain never really found the acclaim that either the Misfits or Danzig did. it's widely considered Glenn Danzig's sorta interim band (much like Ian MacKaye's pre-Fugazi, post-Minor Threat project, Embrace), and that's understandable. some of the material is pointlessly experimental and/or just sorta unmemorable. but IMHO, Samhain stuff has aged a whole lot better than a lot of Danzig material, which can be stiflingly hammy (though that doesn't stop me from throwing on "Evil Thing" every few weeks), and it is deserving of your serious peepers.

Samhain is all about a gothy, humid atmosphere. my CD-ripping program classifies it as "horror punk," but that's only half the story. at it's best, it's slow, anguished and sensual, with soaring mournful melodies that really show off Glenn's continually evolving pipes. "November" is the sleeper classic by this sleeper classic of a band, and i thought i'd lay a couple choice tracks from that disc on you as a late-night keepsake. this is some super-odd shit, i tell you. just like in the Misfits, the musicianship is pretty rudimentary (listen to drummer London May struggle with the kicked-in part of "To Walk the Night"), but one-name guitarist Damien has got a sick, fuzzy guitar tone that's perfect for the Samhain vibe. by the way, if you're wondering what the hell a Samhain (it's pronounced "Sahwain," tho Glenn never seemed to abide by that) is, check it out. in the meantime, light the candles and dig these:

Samhain - To Walk the Night

Samhain - Mother of Mercy

Monday, February 26, 2007

Mythbusted // Blog metal // Tao of Glenn

here's to myth explosion... the good prof Drew LeDrew just wrote to let me know that my anecdote below about Kaoru Abe pissing off Milford Graves, paraphrased from the "Wire" article i cited, is apparently completely unfounded. he had posted a similar tidbit on "Destination Out" and none other than Graves himself posted this comment:

" 'During an engagement with Milford Graves in 1977, Kaoru so enraged Graves that he demanded Abe be dropped from the tour.'

This is not TRUE. I never said anything like this. This is historically incorrect.


go here for the whole post.


well, this is sort of hilarious: underground black metal dude Xasthur has a blog. black metal is funny. i've never really gotten into it. it continues to strike me as something that's cooler to like than to listen to. i love extreme shit as much as anyone but the monotony of black metal and this whole idea of "shitty production equals cultness" is really lame to me. people fetishize free jazz in the same way, i guess. anyway, yeah... Xasthur has a blog.


Glenn Danzig is a poet. did you know this?

i've been fascinated with him since i was about 15. in high school, several friends and i had a contest to see who could construct the largest Danzig wall, i.e., a wall filled with posters, clippings and other memorabilia related to the man and his various projects. i had, among like 7000 other things, an autographed ticket stub and a pick thrown to me from onstage by Danzig guitarist John Christ. i was in the front row, singing along to every word; Christ spotted me and tossed me a pick in the middle of the set. righteous.

anyway, so yeah, Glenn is a poet. i believe this with all my heart. have you ever actually read and pondered Misfits lyrics? you have no idea.

it's been a longstanding concern at Stay Fucked central. we're all about it. the other day Joe kicked off another Misfits phase--it don't take much, believe me--by recounting a humorous moment from "Evilive," when Glenn says to the crowd, "We gotta tune up--we pound these fuckin' guitars like fuckin' jackhammers. What do you think, we're lightweights?" whoa.

and we were watching a Samhain video the other day--yes, i own a Samhain video--and before "Unholy Passion," Glenn goes, "This song is about fuckin'."

there you have it.

anyway, but the lyrics. where to start? there are the obvious gems, i.e., the "Hack the heads off little girls and put 'em on my wall" refrain from "Skulls" or the section in the JFK-assasination paean "Bullet" when he addresses Jackie O. thusly:

My cum be your life source
And the only way to get it
Is to suck or fuck
Or be poor and devoid
And masturbate me, masturbate me
Then slurp it from your palm
Like a dry desert soaking up rain
Soaking up sun

so there's that. as for the more obscure stuff, Stay Fucked used to cover "Hybrid Moments," and in researching the composition, one line in particular became immortal: "When do creatures rape your face? / Hybrids opened up the door."

"Horror Hotel" is another favorite. Glenn makes constant reference to being "down the hall with my vampire girlfriend." in "Devils Whorehouse," he implores you to "Come alive in the house that screams." in "Angelfuck" he laments, "Little Angelfuck / I see you going down on a fireplug." any idea what this means? i think i read an interpretation where someone thought it was "firebug," i.e., "arsonist."

another poignant moment is "Some Kinda Hate": "There's some kinda love / And there's some kinda hate / The maggots in the iron lung / Won't copulate." the amazing thing about lines like this is that in context, they sounds as logical and straightforward as the blues. you're like, "yeah, those damn maggots; they just won't frickin' copulate!"

and who could forget "Return of the Fly." this song is pretty straightforward; Glenn just basically rattles off the names of the actors in said film:

Return of the fly
Return of the fly
With Vincent Price
Yeah, return of the fly

Helene Delambre, Helene Delambre
Francois, Francois

Return of the fly
You guinea pig
Human hands and feet
Yeah, you guinea pig

Helene Delambre, Helene Delambre
Francois, Francois

Cecile, Cecile
Cecile, Cecile

The return of the fly
With Vincent Price
You guinea pig
Yeah, return of the fly

Return of the fly
With Vincent Price
You guinea pig
Yeah, return of the fly

but what about that "human hands and feet" part? "You guinea pig?" this is some weird shit. occasionally he goes on that free-association tip.

the surreal technophobic rant "TV Casualty" is another staple. it begins with the couplet, "There are paint smears on everything I own / The vapor rub is lying on a table of filth." and then later we have this spooky string of images: "Jaguars at the cemetery / Cadillacs grazing at your grave / Zeniths grazing at your grave / Sonys grazing at your grave."

"Theme for a Jackal"? that's a crazy-ass song. the lyrics are one thing, but musically it's fucking incredible. it's like this awesome jivey piano boogie thing. i take it for granted that people know every word to every Misfits song b/c most of my friends do, but have people actually heard that song? it's a total motherfucker.

btw, all lyrics quoted here are taken directly from this godsend document, a text file of the official lyric sheet that came w/ the Misfits box set. it's all freakin' verified, in other words.

here are a few mp3s. i'd recommend moseying over to that document and reading along (you can just do a text search on the page for the song you want to find). you won't be disappointed. aside from the humor value, the Misfits fucking destroy musically. i have said time and again that their songbook--solely the work of Glenn--rivals that of Lennon and McCartney for sheer concentrated melodic brilliance. i really can't think of another band that has as many good songs; it's just like hit after fucking hit. for one thing, no other punk band even comes close. i had a soft spot for Bad Religion back in the day, but nah. hail Misifts. i love Samhain too, but that's a really different story.


The Misfits - Theme for a Jackal
[listen for "Dead daughter in the river / Entrance gained by her liver / Play, theme for a jackal play...." and for the fucked-up piano solo obvi.]

The Misfits - Hybrid Moments

The Misfits - Horror Hotel

The Misfits - TV Casualty

The Misfits - In the Doorway
[no one knows this one. not on "Collection" or any of the other easy-to-find albums. only on "Static Age." it's so. fucking. good. spooky and gorgeous. Danzig at his most emotional and elliptical.]

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Turning Japanese

i've talked before on here about how much i love the untimeliness of the blogosphere. i'm always obsessing over the work of one artist or another and those folk are sometimes contemporary but just as often not. if i happen to be on an Albert Ayler (RIP) kick in a given week, he is just as pertinent to me NOW as if i had been checking him out during his lifetime. have been happening upon a number of blogs lately that seem to operate according to a similar notion and i like that a lot.

the avant-garde-jazz mp3 blog is an awesome creature. enthusiasts of this music know that there's tons of it. you could spend your whole life unearthing awesome out-of-print gems, but you probably wouldn't want to and that's why blogs such as Destination Out and Church Number 9 are so rad.

the former offers a few representative tracks from whatever record is being discussed, from rare Lester Bowie shit to Clifford Thornton, John Zorn and much more. there's also a fair amount of commentary to get you started and some relevant quotes and/or links. Church Number 9 (named after a Frank Wright record) on the other hand is an unabashed mp3 repository, offering whole records in that labyrinthine WinRAR format with very little accompanying commentary.

with my self-devised listening schedule being so very booked up all the freakin' time, i can never keep up with what's on offer at those sites, but i find that they plant seeds. i'll hear about an artist or record from them and then months later find that i'm ready to begin exploring. recently Church Number 9 awakened a longstanding yet dormant interest in Japanese free jazz with an offering from attack-jazz saxist Kaoru Abe.

a long-ass time ago, i read about Abe and his cohort and occasional nemesis, guitarist Masayuki Takayanagi--two of the biggest names in Japanese free jazz--in an awesome "Wire" article by Alan Cummings called "Once Upon a Time In Shinjuku" (it's in issue 261 if anyone is, like me, dorky enough to retain archives of the mag). basically the piece is an incredible chronicle of extremes. Takayanagi was a straight-ahead jazz guitarist who got into some crazy free playing in the '60s. by the '70s he was into full-on noise, experimenting with howling waves of feedback and relentless full-bore attack music.

some interesting facts about Takayanagi that i learned from the article: 1) he had basically two modes of improv: mass projection and gradual projection, the former being loud and dense as fuck and the latter being more spacious. 2) he used to alienate his friends and collaborators by vilifying them in the press and insulting them on concert posters. 3) his ground rules for improvising, according to his drummer, Yoshisaburo Toyozumi, were "Play fortissimo [i.e., really fucking loud], never repeat the same phrase and don't listen to what anyone else is doing." whoa.

so apparently he was sort of the king of this sort of thing in Japan until the young gunslinger Kaoru Abe came along. he was a sort of bad-boy alto saxist who quickly became notorious for his extremity. he freaked everyone out, including American drummer Milford Graves, who refused to continue a Japanese tour until he had the guarantee that Abe would be dropped from the roster (apparently Abe had been taunting and goading Graves during the first concert). so this promoter Aquirax Aida knew that at some point Abe would have to battle Takayanagi and their first concert turned into this totally legendary event: a four-hour head-to-head marathon of ear-splitting mania.

Church Number 9 does have a pretty-cool duo between Abe and a bassist at the link above, but i've had more luck on Soulseek. if anyone has a contraband source such as this, i suggest you mine it for Japanese free jazz. there's not that much Takayanagi to be found there, but what is there is fucking sick.

the one i've been digging all weekend is entitled "Mass Hysterism: In Another Situation." this is simply a howling vortex of total fucking meltdown noise. the drummer, Hiroshi Yamazaki, just sets up this turbulent choppy free pattern and then Takayanagi and another guitarist, Akira Iijima, freakin' go for it in a very serious way for like forty minutes. it's some of the most withering music i've ever heard. the guitars sound like every instrument and sound source ever, all at one time--you'll think you're hearing voices, saxes, wind, sleet, rain, what have you. it's just an elemental and incredibly rich din.

it makes me think about the extremity of Japanese art in general. think of Keiji Haino, the silver-haired mystic and Fushitsusha leader notorious for his ruthless guitar-and-voice riots, and Eye from the Boredoms, who once apparently literally bulldozed a venue wall during a performance, or all these extreme-psych bands like High Rise and Kousokuya or the ultracomplexity of Ruins. it just seems like that culture breeds really really extreme shit...

this "Mass Hysterism" record slays in a much more vicious way than anything i've heard by Wolf Eyes or anyone like that--to boot it's from nineteen eighty frickin three. it has a lot more in common with the balls-out duets of Chris Corsano and Paul Flaherty than any older free jazz, but there's really no jazz to speak of left in this music. it's a howling whirlpool of noise. a lot of that is chalk-uppable to shitty recording quality, but the playing itself is just extremely nihilistic yet vigorous.

the Abe/Takayanagi duo i unearthed, called "Mass Projection," is pretty damn badass, but not IMHO as good as "Mass Hysterism." for one, the sax just isn't capable of the kind of sustained plague-of-infernal-wind vibe that Takayanagi's guitar can conjure. but it is kind of awesomely harrowing to hear Abe try to keep up with the electronic firestorm; you can almost hear him building toward the acute stomach rupture that claimed his life.

anyway, i'm super glad i'm onto this stuff. there's something about a traditionalist, such as Coltrane or Derek Bailey or John Fahey, who starts from a place of solid generic virtuosity and then explodes into the stratosphere. it's a constantly alluring trope b/c so few virtuosos are brave enough to really apply that technique to innovation. Takayanagi is one of those--he gives noise a really really good name. acquire some of this brain-floss posthaste. in the meantime, here's a weird but thorough Takayanagi discography and an mp3 of part one of "MH":

"Mass Hysterism: In Another Situation," part 1

Masayuki Takayanagi New Direction Unit
Masayuki Takayanagi: guitar
Akira Iijima: electric guitar
Hiroshi Yamazaki: drums, percussion

recorded 8/14/83

and here is fairly freaky but intermittently gorgeous viddy of Kaoru Abe eviscerating "Autumn Leaves" (cf. Sonny Sharrock: "I've been trying to find a way for the terror and the beauty to live together in one song..."):

[ps--isn't it crazy how every region has its own free jazz vibe? American stuff, like Ayler, is connected real heavily to elemental blues and gospel, just super emotional and heartrending; British stuff, like early Spontaneous Music Ensemble, is as extreme, but totally controlled and pointillistic; German stuff, like Brotzmann, is gruff, cacophonous, gritty and relentless; Dutch stuff, like Bennink and Mengelberg, is whimsical and pastiche-oriented; and here we have the Japanese stuff, which is just ends-of-the-earth material--real endurance-test-ish. interesante]

[pps--this dude over at the Ongaku blog definitely has the 411 on extreme Japanese shit. he talks about Takayanagi and Hanatarash (Eye's old band) and sundry other cool stuff. check out this video of Hanatarash (not linked from Ongaku, but he gave me the idea to check on YouTube for them]: ... there are a few others available on YouTube too...]

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Ralph's world // Steeling myself

after an epic series of mutual flakeouts, Laal and i finally saw "An Unreasonable Man" at IFC on Monday. this is the Ralph Nader doc, which has unfortunately closed by the time you are reading this. too bad, b/c it was really fucking good.

Ralph Nader is a fascinating guy, obviously. we all know him as our friendly neighborhood spoiler, or so many would have you believe, in recent elections. but this guy's public advocacy career is intense. seatbelts, airbags, warning labels on prescription drugs, lead vests in x-ray rooms, etc., etc. one guy in the film says that if only Nader's name were emblazoned on all these items, people would have a much harder time slagging on him for his recent presidential runs.

the movie is straightforward and talking-head-based, but Nader's story is too fascinating for it to matter. there's some really great early-career shit, i.e., the story of how Nader was harrassed by General Motors. apparently after he published his auto-industry expose, "Unsafe at Any Speed," GM wanted to discredit him so bad that they sent prostitutes to approach him in supermarkets. he resisted these advances and apparently every other one; the movie makes the claim that Nader has never had a romantic relationship.

for the first 2/3 of the film, Nader is lionized by pretty much everyone who comes onscreen, but then shit gets ugly and much harder-hitting. as everyone knows, the 2000 election lost him a ton of friends and allies. but there's unbelievable footage of the various folks who turned against him after Bush was elected. one of the most intense cases is Michael Moore, who's shown speaking at a 2000 campaign rally saying how despicable it is to settle for the lesser of two evils when there's an idealist like Nader on the ballot. in 2004 he's singing a very different tune. same goes for Susan Sarandon and Bill Maher, not to mention a coalition of former Nader's Raiders, his whistle-blowing pals from the early days.

it's really intense to watch all this betrayal and then to think about how you might have acted similarly. i don't agree with all the people who call him megalomaniacal, but i'll admit that i'm still somewhat afraid to actually check "Nader" on the ballot. i saw him speak in 2000 and was deeply moved but i was swayed by my peers' argument that a vote for him was a vote for Bush. i think even more highly of him now, but i'm not sure i'd vote for him. it's a real tough call that's been endlessly debated by folks a lot more politically aware than me.

Nader's a real hardline guy. there's one section where he's coming down on the idea of personal loyalty, saying that no one should let "mawkish sentimentality" get in the way of political ideals. he can sound extreme, but watching the movie, you can't help wondering how amazing it would be if someone like him could get elected. i'm curious whether anyone will step into his no-compromise shoes or if the small but impressive foothold he's gained will just slip once he's gone.

anyway, it's a really, really powerful movie. there's just no one else like this guy.


in lighter matters, i've just finished "Toxic Bachelors," my first Danielle Steel novel. Laal, Joe, one Sloane O. and myself decided to do a book club thingie, which has since disintegrated, but the men of Stay Fucked persevered and finished the damn thing. obviously it was selected as a joke, but i have to say i sort of loved it.

it's basically about the taming of these three playboy dudes, following them as they all meet their soulmates within one pivotal year (yeah, right). it's formulaic as hell, and hilariously wooden, but i gotta admit that i cried in certain spots. basically there's this psychotherapy sort of message running throughout, i.e., everyone has baggage that makes them afraid to commit and they have to confront that shit head on before they can really have a meaningful relationship.

to use a Nader term, it's mawkish shit, but hey, in my experience, it's pretty much the fucking truth. maybe Danielle Steel writes books like this to assure women that men are really very transparent and their problems reducible and manageable. but i think men basically *are* like this, i.e., governed by baggage. or maybe that's just me.

anyway, i'll shut the fork up now. but i liked the book. even if i hid the cover behind my bag every time i read it on the subway. you should see the pic on the back: it's Steel leaning out of a red VW bug, wearing some ludicrous hat and fur. pretty garish shit.

just to give you a taste, one of the main characters is named ... Gray Hawk. maybe i'll dig up some quotes for the next post.


Ayler continues to be it. liking the spooky sparseness of "Witches and Devils" a gorgeous session from '64.

saw "eXistenZ" and that totally ruled. Cronenberg is a master of splat humor combined with body horror and weird postmodern psychological conundrum. it's textbook sci-fi, but with the absurdity frontloaded and directly addressed. Jude Law is hilarious as a dorky P.R. dude. see this one. anyone seen "Videodrome"? i hear great things.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Viggo trip

well, i decided to come right back and recap Cronenberg's "A History of Violence," which started over Winter Break--yeah, i'm still calling it that--but only finished today.

it's kind of a "Straw Dogs" scenario, or so it seems. Viggo Mortensen is Tom Stall, the proprietor of a small-town diner; he and his (hot) wife and nice kids live on a farm in Indiana. but wouldn't ya know it, things get all effed when some cold-blooded killers stop in for a bite and Tom has to waste them in self-defense.

the set-up to this movie--bout the first 45 minutes or so--it's absolutely frickin' riveting. just like in "Beetlejuice" or a million other movies where marital bliss gets shattered, Cronenberg shows you in somewhat excruciating detail how much Viggo and his wife love each other. it's not an elaborate exposition, but it does the trick; you're invested in these people's lives and when the violence comes, it stings pretty bad. the initial mayhem at the diner is gruesome and frighteningly efficient, but even more intense is the psychological torture that begins when scary mobster Ed Harris shows up afterward and starts accusing Viggo of having double-crossed him a while back in Philly. Viggo denies it, but there's fishy shit going on.

Ed Harris is just killer in this part--he's macho and crass and ruthless and just super mean and driven. there's this really palpable sense of menace when he enters the diner; you feel Viggo's world crumbling. like in Cormac McCarthy's "No Country for Old Men," there's this sense of an amoral and almost demonic modern evil descending on an innocent backwoods environment.

the tension builds expertly until about halfway through when more data comes to light and things come off the rails a bit. yes, William Hurt does appear as a greasy mobster and utter the word "broheim" on several occasions--that was the first point Joe brought up when he recommended the movie to me--but there's a sort of dull fizzle toward the end that dampened things for me.

see it for the exposition though. Viggo is an interesting actor. he's got this intriguing woodenness in this movie that almost reminds of an even more poker-faced Luke Wilson--just that kind of drawly, dewy-eyed, ultra-reserved thing, but really charming too. i remember him being similarly effective in this deeply freaky and awesome little-seen small-town surrealistic horrors-of-childhood flick "The Reflecting Skin" that i discovered back in high school. in "History," you trust him a lot, as a husband and father and community pillar, and that's key to what Cronenberg is doing here. it's one of those put-some-nice-folks-in-a-bottle-and-shake-them-up-to-see-how-they-react type of movies, or at least it seems so at first. glad i caught it.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

I proposed // His name was Albert

in the words of the immortal Jim Anchower, i know that it has been a spell since last i rapped at ya. this is partly b/c i took on a sort of unique extracurricular project. don't want to get too particular and jinx anything, but here is a taste. (can anyone guess which submission might have issued from DFSBP?) just wanna thank my friend Jesse for alerting me to the opportunity!


i'm listening to Albert Ayler shred his reed right now and just as it was exclusively Andrew Hill for the past few weeks, it's now all about Cleveland Heights' finest.

free jazz sax testifying has become a really commonplace thing. it's hard to imagine that there was a time when squealing and honking sounded totally unexpected and true and necessary. hearing Ayler immediately takes you back to that time. he was driven to find his own sound. it's a scary, wavering, fluttering tirade, suffused with love. with Ayler, it all issued from those gorgeous "national anthem of mankind" fanfares (that description i think came from Don Cherry). he moved on from there with utter gravity, and with a good band, such as bassist Gary Peacock and drummer Sunny Murray, it sounds like an exorcism.

there's a lot of Ayler out there. that box set is a biggie, but there's tons of other stuff that might work better as an introduction. aside from "Spiritual Unity" (sorta the signature work), "Prophecy" is a great live trio date w/ the same rhythm section of Peacock and Murray and "The Copenhagen Tapes" is that band plus Don Cherry on trumpet. that last one sounds absolutely scary and true.

"Spirits Rejoice" is another classic. it's a larger band, so it's really got that celebration vibe happening. Sunny Murray has his wraith-ish moaning thing going on, and the band is really "tight," which really means "on board w/ the concept" more than polished. brother Don on trumpet, Charles Tyler on alto, Peacock and Henry Grimes on basses, Murray on drums and Albert on tenor. this is long, but it's a great track and a pretty good intro to Ayler:

Albert Ayler - Spirits Rejoice

and check out this great interview excerpt where Ayler's conversing w/ his drummer; he tells him to "knock the drums over tonight because i'm going to be vibratin' that whole plastic ceiling off." unbelievable peace and positivity radiating from this dude and a real revelation to hear him speak after you've heard him wail.

got some beer and Chubby Hubby in me, so that's all for now. will try to pop back up sooner than not.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Tolkin of affection // Emo's voice cracks

have been lax re: checking up on friends' sites. Ted Reichman has posted some great stuff of late, including a heavy reading of Von Trier's "Dogville" and add'l commentary on Van Morrison and "4% Pantomime," including a lyrical unpacking of the latter courtesy of none other than Levon frickin' Helm.

perhaps even more vital though is this here meditation on Altman, which Ted graciously pointed me toward, from Michael Tolkin who wrote both the novel on which "The Player" was based and the screenplay of said film. it's a musing on the inscrutability of Altman's methods--as evidenced during the production of "The Player"--viewed through the lens of the director and screenwriter's mutual pot use.

this Tolkin fellow really has a word-way, as evidenced by these excerpts. discussing his own quitting of pot, he says, " was the ’80s, the parentheses of aerobics between the cocaine years and the advent of the age of caffeine." damn, son, "parentheses of aerobics?" or would that be "parentheses of yogging?"

also i love when he says, "After smoking a little pot with [Altman]—and other than one morning in the office he didn’t smoke during the day—some of his methods made sense, *****and if it was pot sense, the sense is not invalid*****." emphasis mine, of course; that's stoner philosophizing of the highest order--right up there (i.e., literally: look up top) with Ty Webb.


the other thing that needs to be discussed/owned up to immediately is my eminent enjoyment of emo. no, not the emo that everyone likes to say they like, i.e., Rites of Spring or something, but pretty mainstream, My So Called Life-type emo.

gotta paint a quick portrait for you of teenage resentment. my best childhood/teenage/present-day friends played in this phenomenal punk band called the Crackbabies. they were arguably the heaviest, tightest and catchiest band in the Kansas City underground for a moment there in the early to mid '90s. i'm biased of course, b/c all members were/are some of my oldest, dearest bros. but they severely kicked ass.

right from the start they played a bunch of their shows w/ this band Kingpin, who as i recall took an immediate backseat to the Babies' virtuosity, i.e., they'd open for them and not the other way around. i remember Kingpin breaking up and those guys dropping off the scene for a bit. then they resurfaced, opening for the Crackbabies at a club called the Daily Grind and playing under a new name, which was (drumroll) the Get-Up Kids.

so they got famous over the next few years, yadda yadda. people get really weird and dumb when people they know/knew get famous; they inevitably want some stake in the fame, even if that's a negative one. like of course, i remember telling a lot of people in college, "Oh yeah, the Get-Up Kids--big deal. my friends the Crackbabies used to blow them off the stage." and of course all you get is a bunch of blank stares, and as i later realized, rightly so. that shit is just sour grapes. the truth is that it's really cool that they succeeded and they deserved it. were the Crackbabies a better band, IMHO? fuck yeah, but who cares; the Get-Up Kids were the ones who stuck it out and strove for and achieved fame and they deserve credit for that.

anyway, i know that's kind of a muddled point, but how many times have you heard someone say, "Oh, i knew x celebrity in college--he was such a dick," or "x celebrity was such a loser back then," etc. etc. i guess i understand the deal. everyone desires and craves fame in some respect, and if the closest they ever got to it was going to high school with someone who later became famous, they'll milk that for all it's worth.

aaaaaaanyway, what the hell am i talking about? the point is that i later got over my totally unfounded Get-Up Kids resentment and came to like them quite a bit. yeah, they're cheesy and sappy and all that, but they do that punk-rock puppy love thing so goddamn well, especially on the song "Action and Action" (from "Something to Write Home About," that record with the robots on the cover). this is a gorgeous song and it gets me jumping around every time. here is the awesome video:

there are many sociologically interesting things about this band's presentation and the general milieu of this video. one thing that interests me greatly is the use of humor. the video has a lot of stuff that reminds me of what Weezer did a bit earlier; it's like this cheeky, yet squeaky-clean skit-type humor, complete w/ subtitles and a totally silly plot involving the girl downstairs getting annoyed about the noise the Kids are making.

but have you noticed that there's absolutely NOTHING funny about the song itself? it's totally serious and sad and grandiose: "You taught me how to play the fool / Every mistake that I made, I couldn't have made without you." it occurs to me that if the presentation didn't swing the other way and get kind of goofy, no one would've tolerated this sappiness for a minute, at least not all the teenybopper punks that ate it up. it's like the Get-Up Kids are suggesting that they have a sense of humor, even though it's completely absent from the product itself, i.e., the music.

another thing that's great is how handily this video encapsulates emo fashion. check out the singer's textbook pompadour and the bassist's dorky glasses and ironic '70s KISS long-sleever. i'm not sure i can actually make one out, but you know there are at least three chain wallets being rocked up in that piece. this was quite a while ago, 'round '99, so i'm wondering how well established this whole look was by that time. now, and even a few years ago, you could easily throw together one of these ensembles without leaving the ground floor of Urban Outfitters, but maybe it was the Kids who really did it. Weezer was probably the watershed moment, but these guys fed the fire no doubt.

don't mean to slag on or condescend them. ok, maybe i do a little. but i honestly think this song is gorgeous and i play it pretty much everyday.

another song that's become a regular part of my musical regimen is "Alive with the Glory of Love" by "Say Anything." if you think about the Get-Up Kids as the classical model for poppy emo, Say Anything would be the postmodern version of the style. there's still that cloying but charming diaristic gush, that suburban-white-kid-railing-against-the-suburbs vibe (hey, was Rush's "Subdivisions" the first emo song?!?) and the super-sugary hooks, but there's also this new jaded-ness, this ambivalence about fitting into that model.

Max Bemis is Say Anything's main dude, and he's pretty keen on deromanticizing cliches of teen romance. he's a stoner, a pervert, a Web junkie and he's got no problem admitting it: on "Wow, I Can Get Sexual Too," he sings, "...for an eternity, I'd lay in bed / In my boxers, half-stoned, with a pillow under my head...." and "When she described her underwear / I forgot all the rules my rabbit taught me in the old shul." there's this total ambivalence about representing the paragon of chaste prepubescence embodied in that Get-Up Kids video.

but he seems to have the same sort of fan following that the Kids did--the young guys and gals are wild about him. i guess Weezer took some darker turns and people stuck with them, but this strikes me as a real development for the genre. the Get-Up Kids not only dressed like, but purported in their lyrics to be as chivalrous and squeaky-clean as Buddy Holly (a figure referenced by Weezer, interestingly); Bemis knows he not that guy.

so "Alive with the Glory of Love" is my fave "Say Anything song. it's a somewhat ludicrous emo fanfare, with all these crazy genre nods. it's completely over-the-top and somewhat absurd, but also really heartfelt. at the beginning, Bemis sings, "When I watch you, wanna do you, right where you're standing. / Right on the foyer, on this dark day, right in plain view." (it's amazing to see/hear a whole roomful of teenagers singing along to that, as you can here: ) but then he moves onto these emo cliches like "I won't let them take you, no no." i have no idea what the song's really about, but i like the ambivalence of the message. plus it's unbelievably catchy. this guy's a real talent. the album "...Is a Real Boy" doesn't contain anything else halfway near as fun as this song, but it ain't bad.

here's sampler of texts mentioned in this piece:

Say Anything - Alive with the Glory of Love
Say Anything - Wow, I Can Get Sexual Too (plays when you visit the Say Anything site)
Get-Up Kids - Action and Action
Crackbabies [reprazent!] - Iconoclast

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Lo' and behold

by way of intro'ing an entry on Caveh Zahedi's excellent documentary, "I Am a Sex Addict," i will cop to an addiction of my own: my name is Hank, and i am a Leonard Lopate addict.

when i first heard Lopate's show--during countless hours of WNYC mainlining while wrapping jewelry as part of a temp job at David Yurman from which i was eventually fired due to checking my email on a computer i was not authorized to use--i had no idea what he looked like, but i imagined a bearded, doe-eyed, avuncular face that, as it turns out, was very similar to the man's actual countenance. sometimes the face don't match the radio voice--do a Google image search for Brian Lehrer and you'll see what i mean--but in this case it was a perfect fit.

anyway, so i grew to love his casual, unpretentious manner. there's something dilettante-ish about a dude who can just sort of chat casually about ANY topic--i'd love to see how he's prepped for each show--but he does a good job of bridging the gulf between the layfolk and the smarties he has as guests. also, i love his mannerisms. he's always doing this sort of good-natured, dialectical disagreeing thing that comes off like, "hey, i'm just doing a really friendly devil's advocate thing in the name of Good Conversation"; like he'll say, "but Egyptian food is really all about the spices, isn't it?" like "i'm sorta just throwin' some esoteric knowledge out there" or whatnot.

and i'm obsessed with the way he says ""--he goes "wnyc dahhhtorg," just kinda drifts on that "dot" for a while. and when he's doing the sponsor announcements, he sounds so kind and dutiful. he's just sort of ultrapleasant in a way that few people are.

aaaaanyway, so at work--my current job, not the aforementioned temp position--we have this network thing and we can all dip into each others' iTunes folders. and this one dude Jeff, who's a designer, has--in addition to the complete Ween and Zeppelin catalogs...fuck yeah--this insane trove of Lopate links that i've been digging into of late.

for one, do not miss out on this edition, wherein LL chills with his film-critic brother, Phillip, who recently put together the well-received anthology, "American Film Critics." the two have this playful, subtly competitive banter going; near the beginning, Phil chides Lenny, as he calls him, for fretting over the distinctions between the words "movie," "film" and "cinema." Phil is smart as all get out, but sounds like he's got mashed potatoes in his mouth and speaks in this really thick NYC accent that's really fun to listen to.

moving on to the ostensible reason i'm telling you all this, yesterday i checked out an episode featuring an interview w/ Caveh Zahedi, this Iranian-American documentarian who did a film last year called "I Am a Sex Addict." i had heard about the flick and was intrigued, but Zahedi's bold, matter-of-fact and offhandedly megalomaniacal bearing on Lopate's show really got my attention. at one point he claims that "I Am..." represents the establishment of an entirely new genre, somewhere between documentary and fiction.

not sure that's the case, but it's a novel concept. the film consists of Zahedi looking into the camera and narrating the past decade or so of his life, which is basically the story of his struggle with sex addiction. he includes re-enactments of various events and relationships and, uh, encounters, in which he plays himself and actors play the other characters.

i guess the film's greatest strength to me was this simultaneous light/heavy thing. Zahedi's really charming and also--i can't think of any other way to say this--really funny looking. he kind of reminds me of Nick Zinner from Yeah Yeah Yeahs: just rail thin with this shortish but unruly black hair and really acute hipster fashion sense. he's also really effeminate, which makes for an odd juxtaposition when he's talking about his compulsive visits to prostitutes. so there's this goofiness to him.

but on the other hand, as Lopate points out in his interview, a lot of film makes you want to be like, "dammit, dude, just stop that!" in a pretty serious way. i could easily see how someone would get fed up watching as his incessant philandering--not to mention his tone-deaf honesty-at-all-costs policy--destroys relationship after relationship. but the thing is that he's really charming, which gives you an idea why so many beautiful women put up with him. admitting his flaws so openly almost has the effect of robbing you of the ability to judge him.

anyway, it's a really solipsistic style, just obsessively diaristic, in a way that reminded me of Ross McElwee, who's made some of my very, very favorite films, let alone documentaries, i.e., "Sherman's March" and its various spin-offs. "Sherman's March" is, like "I Am a Sex Addict," a self-portrait of a dude who's in some ways, a total heel, or at the very least, terminally fixated on women in a somewhat unhealthy way. but like Woody Allen and countless other schlemiel types throughout history have done, he romanticizes his neurosis, makes it cute, cuddly, even sexy.

so Zahedi is definitely in this lineage. there are some really hilarious scenes--like the re-enactment of the time his first wife gave him three blow jobs in succession--and against all odds, things get pretty poignant toward the end. Zahedi even shares an audio recording of the first time he spoke at Sex Addicts Anonymous.

you can probably tell from the description whether this would be the kind of thing you're into. if you can't tell, listen to the damn Lopate interview. Zahedi aside, it's kind of hilarious to hear Lenny talking about sex addiction in the first place.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

"Don't Forget Yr Goat Leggings..." // Hail Hill

a striking new development in the Shapero annals... you remember how that one article mentioned "Wild Animus" promotional stunts involving animal costumery? (a book-industry dude told of this encounter with Shapero acolytes: "I was at the Book Expo America in Chicago and heard of these people dressed as sheep or something who jumped in a fountain.") well, courtesy of another assist from Laal--she gave me a lot of shit for calling her a "friend" last time, so here goes nothin': i will happily refer to her as my girlfriend henceforth--we now have actual audiovisual documentation of this phenomenon:

a whole bunch of folks took footage at the "Seattle Hempfest '06" and one lucky soul caught the Wild Animus promo team in action. the video depicts a shirtless young man, painted white, and cavorting around making ram-like body movements, leading around a pack of black-clad women, who are doing some kind of mating dance in formation behind him. you can see them all handing out the Shapero CD, exactly like the one i have, to unsuspecting Hempfestgoers. it's weird to see this all happening in broad daylight.

the truly unbelievable moment comes at 1:10, when one of the women comes up to the camera--you can see that she's wearing this billy-goat beard thingie--and actually *sniffs* at it. one wonders if this was extemporaneous or if her animal mimicry was coached. anyway, she then throws back her head and lets out this high-pitched howl, which the others answer in chorus. it's extremely fucking surreal.


DFSBP eternally hails jazz pianist/composer Andrew Hill. have been in intermittent thrall to this man's work since i impulse-bought his 1964 masterpiece "Point of Departure" in Kansas City like seven or eight years ago. (i recognized all the other names on the date but his, and figured he must be a pretty heavy cat to have Dolphy, Henderson, Williams, etc. playing alongside him.) anyway, am in one of those phases now--Hill is all i'm listening to.

i adore the recent music: "Time Lines," an awesome disc from last year, led me back to "Dusk," the much-lauded "comeback" release from 1999. that's a killer session, for sure. as you can hear on some of his lesser early Blue Notes, Hill sometimes let his larger groups get the best of him; his compositional voice can be almost evanescent. but "Dusk" is just packed with written material. it's not just about head-solos-head; the arranged stuff is interwoven w/ the improv and it's revealed slowly. many of the tracks shift direction entirely, so that each solo has a different setting. "Ball Square" starts off with this skittery, darting piano solo and eventually makes its way to the compositional core--this grinding, gospelish breakdown--only at the end. Hill picked up this scene-changing M.O. w/ the mighty "Spectrum"--a sort of multiflavor "Super Fun Pak" of themes--from "Point of Departure." he's only gotten better at that stuff since. so that led me to "A Beautiful Day," the big band recording from 2002 that followed. it can be diffuse, but at its best--like the gorgeous "Bellezza"--it's like "Dusk" as interpreted by an orchestra.

of course, with Hill, all roads lead to the classic Blue Notes from the mid-'60s. the real titans are "Point of Departure," "Andrew!!!" and prolly "Judgment," but they're all fascinating. i think "Dialogue," an Andrew Hill date disguised as a Bobby Hutcherson date from '65, is weaker than everyone else claims, but that's worth hearing too. they're all worth hearing, dammit: the two-bass piano trio "Smokestack," the dark, brooding, African-percussion-abetted and frankly fucking scary "Compulsion," the whimsical and quirky post-Monk postbop of "Black Fire," etc. and then there's just a ton more: some of the lesser ones--"Dance of Death," "Grass Roots"--can seem kind of slight and too straight ahead, but his writing was never less than rigorous even when it was kind of unmemorable, as it sometimes is on those dates. even the boring discs usually have one of those gorgeous, mournful, haunting floating-time ballads that Hill excelled, and still excels, at: check "Love Nocturne" from "Dance of Death," or "Erato" from "Pax" (a so-so quintet session w/ Joe Henderson and Freddie Hubbard that's been released under like eight different names); those stand alongside "Black Monday" from "Andrew!!!" (my absolute fave Hill piece), "Limbo" from "Compulsion" and "Dedication" from "Point of Departure" as examples of the man's singular mastery of the slow, floating, chilling, mournful, just plain fucking intense and heavy mode (he's all about this on the latest, "Time Lines," which features two exemplary free-time ballads: "Malachi" and "Whitsuntide.") it's not coincidental that a few of my other favorite jazz compositions--Grachan Moncur's "Evolution" and Booker Little's "Moods in Free Time" and "Man of Words--partake of this vibe.

been digging the vault-clearing Mosaic Select set too, which fills in some gaps during the Blue Note years. this stuff is generally lesser, but the last two sessions, with Sam Rivers and Robin Kenyatta, really have my ear. unwieldy, but undeniably Hill in so many spots. the dude's pen just never slacked; he never didn't sound like himself or watered down the pervasive quirks of his music. and his solos have always killed: floating, halting, ruminative, dreamy, spacey, just wonderfully peculiar but in an unself-conscous way. he's only gotten better at this btw; he's only become more himself in a sense. his playing is sparser yet more poignant these days. he's not capable of choosing a cliched note; he doesn't play jazz, he plays himself.

anyway, just get onboard with this guy if you're not. he's such a personality; so uncompromising, but in such a quiet, subtle way. this is not John Coltrane or Cecil Taylor or Albert Ayler or Sun Ra, but is in some way a truer kind of avant-garde. it's not about iconoclasm, but about straightforward individuality. he's not ashamed to make pretty music, but when it is pretty or palatable or memorable or attractive, it is so on its own peculiar terms. Andrew Hill: true jazz original who transcends the form and is simply a total musician that i'll easily add to my pantheon with John Fahey and really only a few others. he might be the deepest musician i can think of.

here's "Black Monday" from "Andrew" (1964). this piece kills me every time. it sounds like rain, sighing, autumn, murk, bruises, melancholy, turmoil, reflection, etc. killer solos from Bobby Hutcherson on vibes and John Gilmore on tenor; they understand this music as few have. this is deep, uncategorizable stuff. free jazz is what the rockers like--Andrew Hill isn't going to come to you that way. it speaks on its own quietly devastating terms.

(anyone have the new Hill solo set from Mosaic Select? some unreleased sessions from, i believe, the '70s. Hill solo is phenomenal in small doses, but can be hard to comprehend in large ones. he's so free that he can almost float away without the anchor of at least a rhythm section. i love "Verona Rag" and other solo Hill i've heard, but that stuff is a really challenging listen that demands constant focus.)