Tuesday, December 25, 2007

I Am the Gift!

Just 'cuz I'm such a nice guy (and I'm not making a living off it anyway), I'm offering everyone the yuletide treat of my brand-spankin'-new album, available in high-res MP3 format for absolootely free RIGHT FRIGGIN' HERE from now until New Year's.

You can also grab a couple o' sample MP3s from this other page, in case you're weary of committing to the whole kit-'n'-caboodle.

Happy ChrismaChanuKwanzakkah, people of earth!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Happy Birthday, Uncle Frank

It's impossible for me to explain in full the impact Frank Zappa's had on my life. The simplest example I can give is that I date my musical taste "pre-" and "post-Frank." It was through his ideas & sounds that I first encountered Stravinsky, Varese, Boulez, musique concrete, bebop, Captain Beefheart, Tom Waits, Dadaism, the Velvet Underground, what "the clap" was, the Establishment Clause, "secular humanism," CNN's Crossfire, polyrhythmic improvisation, xenochrony, the PMRC, and (most fundamentally) the notion that humour did belong in music, but required a little more sophistication than Weird Al would have you believe.

All this from an impulse purchase using money for my 12th birthday. Who'd have thought a mild curiosity about a novelty record called "Don't Eat the Yellow Snow" could blast open such broad horizons.

Funnily enough, my parents were happy that Zappa was one of the ushers for my mental & cultural maturation (and not just 'cuz my Dad loves the guitar solo on "Willie the Pimp"). Sure, they've said, it means I make music too obtuse & experimental to ever be a rich rock star, but what a relief it was to have a son obsessed with a musician who didn't do drugs - and still made weirder music than anyone else.
"Information is not knowledge. Knowledge is not wisdom. Wisdom is not truth. Truth is not beauty. Beauty is not love. Love is not music. Music is THE BEST."~FZ

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Finally the Punk Rockers Are Reading Lacan

"The Real makes me sweaty, GEEAAAAAAAGH!!"

Might it seem like too much to ask complex themes of a band named Pissed Jeans? Maybe so, but then it also seemed like a tall order to expect of the Flaming Lips either longevity or symphonic singalongs back when they were dreadlocked ne’er-do-wells stealing onstage stunts from the Butthole Surfers. So let’s believe in the seemingly impossible, and maybe there’ll be a pleasant surprise or two.

As not-so-subtly alluded to in a recent post, Pissed Jeans are atop my current CD rotation. I came for the vintage pigfucker antagonism, but I’m staying for the ontologically-exploratory subject matter. I shit you not. Over the course of Hope For Men’s frenzied forty-some minutes, Pissed Jeans situate themselves in several different realities and find that none of them fit. They could be (very possibly by accident) the only active punk band searching for the Real in song.

Pissed Jeans start inside the imaginary and withdraw by steps towards objectivity. This is done with a meticulousness that belies their belligerence, in a trifecta of song that forms the centerpiece of Hope For Men. In the delightfully gonzo single “I’ve Still Got You (Ice Cream),” singer Matt Korvette grounds himself in the subjective bliss of, duh, eating ice cream. “Sometimes life is less than a dream,” he bellows, as though struggling for breath under the oppressive mundanity of daily routine. Employed as a claims adjuster (no shit, read the press release), Korvette has played by consensus reality’s rules and found it wanting. The only tonic for his existential angst can be found in the saccharine, numbing escape of his frozen treat: “The taste that all my troubles fall behind, a sweet bowl of sugar to ease my mind.” Though he acknowledges that he “shouldn’t need it,” that his ontological prison is of his own design, Korvette concedes with animal lust, “I gotta have it!” A considerably less sordid psychological crutch than, say, heroin, but a crutch nonetheless.

Discontented with the imaginary, Korvette sets about de-/reconstructing it to his liking. In “Scrapbooking,” he lays out his vision for a more perfect reality: “I’ll make every page different, but all pleasing to my eye.” The dubby piano dirge is laced with a refrain of self-hypnosis, “just looking at pictures,” pictures of Korvette’s past (“This one is old, from years ago…”) which form the architecture of his conscious. This, of course, echoes Roland Barthes' ruminations on photographs as lost time made tangible: forever frozen out of reach, somewhere between the Real and our personal reality. It's impossible to "recapture" anything from a photograph; rather, they remind us of what we missed (or is missing). But being memories on paper, photos can be cut, cropped, retouched, and arranged to suit our preferred vision of the past, and Korvette knows this. With total self-awareness that he “can rearrange [his] memories,” Korvette delights in uncannily restructuring his life: “Put the heads on different bodies,” he moans with depraved enjoyment.

Having become the designer of his own truth, Korvette returns his attention to the banality of normal life and sees it for what it is: a “Fantasy World.” Riding a monster truck riff for four minutes, Korvette’s gravel-gargling howl shreds through the shallow, illusory pleasures which most of the western world is content to call life. “I’m right here in my fantasy world… Sitting near piles of clothes, drinking a soda with a slice of pizza… Watching video tapes and cable television… I laugh at my own jokes in my fantasy world!” All of this could easily be read as a piss-take of some yokel’s pathetically stunted imagination (“LOL! This song’s about a total lamewad!”), but it’s precisely the mundanity of the fantasy that gives Korvette’s bark its bite. This isn’t just his fantasy world, this is our fantasy world – a blueprint bought from and sold back to us with Pepsodent smiles by advertisers, MTV, sitcoms, Hollywood, and FM radio. This is the debris and bullshit we’ve made the bedrock of our existence, tunnel vision and junk food, more stale than day-old Domino’s. This is our reality. It’s all we aspire to, and it’s all we get. The worst part: the longer the shadows cast by our picket-fence fantasy become (globalisation, extraordinary rendition, fundamentalism, Starbucks), the harder we close our eyes in the hope we won’t wake up from our American Dream.

No wonder Korvette sounds so pissed.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

God(less), What an Awful Racket

A frigid mid-November night in a Hamburg hostel with an empty wallet doesn’t offer many options in terms of entertainment. Either you try to chat up the Ukrainian cutie working the front desk, or, like me, you’re content channel-surfing on the tiny 8” TV chained to the wall above your bed. Luckily, a cultural news magazine had a segment about the somehow-still-nascent-yet-spreading Noise scene. There were a number of new faces (mostly Frenchmen with horrid haircuts) in addition to the usual cast of “marquee” Noise acts like Hair Police, Magic Is Kuntmaster, and Whitehouse. A larff though it was to see such sonic miscreants on prime-time TV, one thing Whitehouse mayor domo William Bennett said stuck out. I’m paraphrasing from memory:
“The way the audience reacts – they seem to be drawing things out of the music that we weren’t aware of. It says more about them than it does about us.”
So that’s where I was.

Meanwhile, I’d recently revisited Ian Svenonius’ brilliant book of screwball sociologly, The Psychic Soviet. Quite probably my favourite essay, “Rock and Rolligion,” deals literally with the parallels between major faiths and popular music. It’s not simply that each is an intricate (if often illogical) weave of rituals & values; the analogy is so immaculate that you can match Christian sects to respective rock subgenres. For starters, those greasy-pompadour’d rockabilly throwbacks are the Amish: history stopped at a certain point. Arena rock, with its emphasis on pomp & circumstance, is Roman Catholicism, while indie rock, with its semi-ascetic, guilt-driven work ethic, is 7th Day Adventism. The schismatic birth of Punk was equivalent to the Protestant reformation, and touring is doing missionary work. Similarly, hip-hop is Islam, with all of its competing constituent sects.

So that’s where my head was.

Now, the thing about Noise is that its tech-heavy cacophony is sufficiently abstract that, if you enjoy such sounds, you could feasibly be so entertained by traffic, wind, industrial plants, passing trains, the hiss of an untuned radio or TV. Some ham onstage with a table full of modded electronics is superfluous: raw sound becomes its own Art. There needn’t be a conscious creator pulling the strings. So a thought occurred to me…

Noise is the Atheism of Rock ‘n’ Rolligion.

Atheism is a rejection of many things – heirarchy, superstition – but foremost, it’s a rejection of a dogmatic interpretation of reality. Sense, perception, and experience can be judged subjectively, on their own merits without heeding an arbitrary set of criteria. Life can be glumly mechanical or viscerally poetic; a stoic procession according to scientific rationale, or an absurdly serendipitous success of a chemical cocktail. To squeeze the last sap from an overtapped cliché, beauty – or indeed its absence – is in the eye of the beholder.

All of which can also be said of Noise. Once the need for a conscious creator is rejected, then so too are tautological claims of truth or beauty. Dogmatic adherence to heirarchy & ceremony becomes delusional bufoonery. Sensory experience requires no mystical context to be enjoyed – so get to enjoyin’ it, ‘cuz what you see is all you’re gonna get.

Of course, some of the rituals and behaviours of the faithful are adopted by the faithless, but this is out of pragmatic deference to what is “socially acceptable.” A Noise concert, for example, would be like an Atheist celebrating Christmas: a decent excuse to get dressed up and congregate with those nearest & dearest to you (though this is sometimes more a chore than a pleasure).

This isn’t to say that there is no merit in the words or works of the faithful. There was a lot of wisdom in what both Jesus and Anton Newcombe have said, though I don’t necessarily agree with all of it, nor would I want to pattern my life precisely after theirs. Similarly, I appreciate the majestic contruction & meticulous design of both the National Cathedral and Pet Sounds, but neither betrays any more universal truth or higher aesthetic pleasure than, say, the spectrum-spanning eyefuck of Shibuya crossing or the whisper of falling snow.

But if nothing else, one parallel is unequivocal: Noise is as baffling to pop fans as Atheism is to the faithful. Always smacked with the same, stodgy old dismissal: What “art?” What “beliefs?” Isn’t the point that they don’t have any? Well, as the man said… if you have to ask, you’ll never know.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Bill Hicks

Happy Birthday.

Twin Peaks: Buy the Box Set With Me

She died for your sins... er, entertainment

During my interval of homelessness in Berlin, several acquaintances were kind enough to lend me their couches. Far be it from me to look a gift horse in the mouth (beggars can’t be etc.), but one of them had an ulterior motive: access to the second season of Twin Peaks I’d inexplicably decided to keep in my backpack. She’d only recently seen the first season, and had never seen Fire Walk With Me. Given the chance to watch the show without someone who had no idea who killed Laura Palmer, I was more than happy to proselytize. Good times.

Anyhoo, recently my wife was in touch with said acquaintance, who spent the better part of the conversation bragging about her recent purchase of the Twin Peaks “Gold Edition” dual-season boxset. O! the extras, she gushed. What a treat for true devotees…

For some reason, this bugged the shit out of me. But why? Shouldn’t I be pleased with any purchase that would put more money in the koffers of my favourite filmmaker? Or was I in fact the kind of commodity-fetishizing whore I spend most of my life lambasting?

Well… probably not. One of the benefits of moving between countries constantly is that it puts a premium on how material a person you can be. Moving’s expensive, stuff is heavy*, and if you’ve got internet access, there’s very little in terms of entertainment or media that can’t be had. After all, isn’t the defining feature of the so-called Information Age that the most valuable commodity is no longer material, but… information?

This is certainly why everyone seems to be an expert on everything these days. One-time cultural curios of specialized interest – Balkan brass, Zizek, Chan Wook-Park – make overnight entries into the lexicon thanks to the likes of Wikipedia, IMDB, YouTube, and viral blogging memes. As my wife once said, “There are no more questions, thanks to the Internet.” But as our cultural Darwinian drive has shifted from ovens & autos to MP3s and hit counts, so to has the superficiality. A great many rely on brand-name clout without caring about the particular criteria for quality. You know the type: they bought Ray-Bans in high school, insisted on attending an elite uni (be it MIT or RISD), and now name-check Takeshi Miike films or the new Justice album, without once wondering why (or even if) such things are impressive or important.

So perhaps my fit over the Twin Peaks box stems from a detail I’ve so far omitted: during one of those introductory, interest-exchanging conversations, the acquaintance launched the boomerang question of what movies I watched. Upon the mention of his name, she swooned, “Oh, I loooooooove David Lynch!” Yet at the time, she’d only seen Mulholland Drive. Dandy. I once spent 10 hours in the Auckland airport, but that doesn’t mean I know shit about New Zealand. She was a tourist, a squatter, and this rankled every proprietary bone in me.

How to guard against this kind of toe-dipping intrusion on my turf? Well, it would probably behoove me to acknowledge that ideas & information aren’t property and I can stop with the territorial pissings. But if something – an experience or work of art – becomes more common, what’s frustrating is not that it decreases in value (by what standards, anyway?) but that it increases in banality, mundanity, the Who-Gives-a-Fuck Factor. And that is a fate most ignaminious.

*For commodity fetishism at its worst, ask musicians about their gear. Yeesh.

Friday, December 14, 2007

The Great Deutscheland Swindle

Okay, so another month has whizzed by sans post, for which I apologize. I thought that maybe, just maybe, finally nailing down accomodations and signing up immediately for the internet would have meant I could get back to sharing my various incohate ramblings with y'all. Well, turns out it ain't that simple. But if the last four months have taught me anything, it's that nothing is as easy or simple as it should be in Germany.

The single greatest fallacy about this country is that Germans are efficient. Total, complete, and utter bullshit. I'm convinced that the myth took off sometime decades ago when one person misheard the word "officious." But don't take my word for it - just check out the Hamburg public transportation layout, or ask any foreigner about trying to get their tax ID so they could, y'know, get paid. Hell, try getting through any checkout line at the grocery store in under ten minutes.

The point is: I'm back online, and I've got a two-month backlog of material, so prepare for the floodgates to open. Red skies in the morning...

Monday, November 12, 2007


The horror... the HORROR!!

Please forgive the gaping silence of this blog for the past month or so, because if it wasn't enough I was totally undomiciled and dragging my unshaven self between bus stations and pleather-upholstered couches... my e-mail accounts (yes, BOTH) were hacked by some petty, Stassi-wannabe fucksticks, effectively curbing my communicative capacity and locking me out of here.

But fear not, I've got a few thoughts I scrawled down to post here (in the near future, when I'm not using some extortively-priced hostel hub) so we can get the conversational ball a-bouncin' again... Hope you haven't missed me too much, eh?

Friday, October 19, 2007

Ad nauseum...


Far too much has already been said about Mr. Frere-Jones' J'accuse! against indie's possible race-oriented self-archipelagation, but there was one comment made here I just couldn't ignore.
Or the drummers of Bloc Party, Franz Ferdinand or the Arctic Monkeys, all of whom have plenty of swing? Indie rhythm sections have rarely been so interesting.

Uh... dude? Franz Ferdinand? The Arctic Monkeys? Swingin'?! Christ, such an abuse of the word makes me doubt you even know what swing is. (For the record, THIS is swing.) Ossified disco stomps do not a groove make. Or did you just completely miss this conversation?

And while we're gushingly compiling lists of Most-Mindfucking Indie Rhythm Sections Ever, sure we can start with current acts like the Mars Volta or Psychic Paramount, but why not go back to the Dismemberment Plan, the Jesus Lizard, Fugazi, the Butthole Surfers, the Birthday Party... blah blah blah indeed.

Above and Beyond Circumstance

Yeah, so I may not technically have a "residence" or "employment" or "money" or "hope" right now... but none of that can reduce my guileless enthusiasm for my New Favourite Band! Woooooooooo!

Yeah, I know Qui has the real David Yow, but sorry - the guitar player splits the difference between Greg Ginn-blitzkrieg and Duane Denison-machinist precision and ends up just sounding kind of, uh, turgid.

A Non-Sequitorial P.S.
So one last sweep of my trusted online news sources (see blogroll at right) this afternoon revealed unanimous above-the-fold headlines about Benazir Bhutto returning to Pakistan. I went for a walk, had a snack, took some photos, came back, and already the shit has hit the fan. Ah, news in realtime! Don't get too comfy!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Yes, You're Right, But...

You're not worthy! You're not worthy!

Ben Myers gets his knickers in a twist about the State of the Art over at the Guardian. And as anyone who's dared indulge me in conversation about music knows, I certainly sympathize... but not completely.

Let's start with Myers' claim that he "can scientifically conclude that 2007 has been a stinker for rock music." What, as opposed to every other year? Ever since I was first aware of music that wasn't just what my friends listened to, I've ended each year asking myself if this wasn't some new nadir of audial abomination. (I'd especially hasten to caution Myers about getting misty-eyed over nineteen-fuckin'-ninety-seven.)

But mostly, Myers is just looking in all the wrong places. Of all the "indie" acts he references, none are actually on an independent label - and if there's anything that should be clear in the dawning post-In Rainbows period, it's that you can only fuck around when you haven't got Big Money behind you. Asking Razorlight or The Enemy to be daring or different is like asking KFC to present its "food" with a li'l dignity - not gonna happen, period.

And as long as we're discussing derivative acts, Myers had better be damned careful pining for the '01 hypecrest-surfing Strokes, 'cuz they certainly didn't bite anyone, did they? In tracing the roots of blame for this shallow gene-pool of an incestuous (self-loving?) genre, if Myers starts with the View, hops back to the Libertines... I'm pretty sure he'd find Casablancas & Co. are Patient Zero. Okay? Okay.

When Myers finally gets on to listing contemporary acts he does enjoy, it's not particularly revelatory either. Les Savy Fav are unlikely to pack any surprises they didn't six or seven years ago (back when no one cared, naturally), and the fact that the Gossip are fronted by a fat chick doesn't make their music any better. As for the Dillinger Escape Plan: lightning struck eigth years ago; good luck getting it again.

Now, if it seems like I'm advocating everyone rush over to Aquarius Records and become a psych-noise-experimental Geek's Geek... well, yes, maybe I am. Fuck pop.

But seriously, folks, the trope that drew the heaviest sigh from me was that ol' chestnut that "cultural Armageddon is due. I await the band with the balls to instigate it." Yes, indeed, revolution, woo-hoo, power to the peo-YAAAAWWWWNNN, what's for fuckin' dinner? From Pete "I'm just happy to be here" Holmstrom to Preston of The Ordinary Boys (a dead-giveaway of a band name if ever there was), I can't count the number of times I've heard people espouse "rock 'n' revolution" rhetoric while insisting that it can be achieved within the paradigm of Pop Culture and the MSM. Great thinking, lads! Do you call it a "bank robbery" when you make a withdrawal from an ATM as well?

Besides, if another blog post from today's Guardian is to be believed, there are bigger fish to fry than how reductive Britrock's current crop may be.

Thursday, October 11, 2007


"Oy! Fuck off, you lot! This is my Deutscheland!"

And just when I was finally starting to feel settled in, along parades the peanut gallery. Bloody hell.

I've never been much for mass movements (except perhaps for Bill Hicks' proposed People Who Hate People Party, which I'm sorry never got off the ground). There's something that constricts my throat when I see how many of my friends & former classmates migrated to the same section of Brooklyn; similarly, I feel relieved at having left Baltimore before the city became pop-culturaly name-drop-able - and not just 'cuz the the music sucks.

So to know that I've landed in the buzz-king burg for the Western culutral elite (or at least the luxury classes) awakens my inner isolationist. It gives me no thrill to know that Willem Dafoe kicks back at the cafe next to my local grocer. Rather, I feel cramped by carpetbaggers. (Can't say "squatters" 'cuz Berlin's already rife with the real deal.)

This is not to hate on the city - far from it. It's a fascinating place of many faces. But it rings false to hear the New York Times rhapsodise about Berlin's similarity to "New York City in the 1980s... Rents are cheap, graffiti is everywhere and the air crackles with a creativity that comes only from a city in transition." If memory serves, tags were treated as a plague in pre-Giuliani New York. The great innovators of that era (which is now being historicized and fetishized) were largely ignored and derided at the time. And "cheap" rent is relative: artists from the Big Apple may be swarming to the German capital, but if you're an "artist" who could actually afford to live in contemporary NYC, then of course your coffers are full enough to make rent in Berlin - or Baltimore, Prague, Turin, even Toronto.

The simile also ignores that Berlin is subject to the same modern rubbish as any other "world-class city." Subway fare is triple the minimum fare in Tokyo. Starbucks, H&M, McDonald's, and BMW dealers pepper the polis like overpriced confetti. The commercial hubs arouse little beyond concrete & plastic big-box deja-vu. "Old World" it ain't.

Again, I'm not trying to diminish the exquisite experiences Berlin does offer. But in trying to capture whatever uncanny élan entranced the great resident artists of bygone times, all I find are whiffs of history, yellowed snapshots of a city that no longer exists. The melodrama & nightclub decadence of the Brecht's 1930s Berlin; the drug-addled alienation of an "inland island" on which Bowie & Pop exiled themselves; the post-industrial, politically-charged slow-motion riot of the '80s as distilled in song by Nick Cave & Blixa Bargeld - none of this is present. In the right light, at the right time, my mind adrift just enough, I can feel the breath of of this past on my neck. But I can't hold onto it.

So let Brangelina buy that epicurean condo in Mitte, and Jude Law can hit all the cafés he wants. The hype about Berlin becoming "nothing less than the 'new Paris'" is still bullshit, because it hardly bodes well for a city when its ghosts make more compelling company than its occupants.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

And you don't stop...

More pics, more songs, 'cuz I'm prolific like that.

All I want is to be loved! Wah!

Friday, October 05, 2007

Things To Do in Berlin When in Bed

Lately, I've been working on a few white-knuckle frustration-inducing projects: (1) composing using a deck of cards, (2) trying to turn tin into platinum on some film sound post-production, and (3) getting a full night's sleep. So far, I've had the least success with the latter.

An early attempt to remedy the problem was constructing a mix of miasmatic ambient music, the logic being that if my ears were being distracted, my eyes could abdicate in their sensory duty. Not a bad theory, but it didn't completely work: though I'd downshift into Beta waves by "Repeater", I'd snap awake as soon as I became aware of the sonic void left in the wake of "Blood Swamp." Bugger.

A more successful remedy involved letting various movies play on loop in the background, though I don't like what it says about my social skills that I find it easier to pass out while other people are talking. This didn't last long, though, since it keeps Th' Wife awake.

So while I soldier on into the depths of insomnambulist purgatory, at least y'all can enjoy the mix I put together. Prepare to get mellow...

Space For Rent

1. The Desert Fathers - "Agnus Dei" (00:00)
2. Azusa Plane - "The Miracle of the Octave" (01:54)
3. Spacemen 3 - "Repeater" Live (10:52)
4. Heldon - "Les Soucoupes Volantes Verte" (16:14)
5. The Brian Jonestown Massacre - "Records" (18:32)
6. Sonic Youth - "Loop Cat" (20:12)
7. Boards of Canada - "Ataronchronon" (25:42)
8. Brian Eno - "In Dark Trees" (26:43)
9. Dalek - "Abscence" (29:05)
10. The Giraffes - "Headphone Sunset" (30:34)
11. SunnO))) & Boris - "Blood Swamp" (37:37)

As always, if the link to this mix (or a past one) goes dead before you've had a chance to download it, just drop a comment and I'll hook you up.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

A bandwagon worth jumping on...

"Fuck the Tarot, mate, let's use this website to guide us..."

Hell, all the cool kids are doing it, why can't I?

Here's what the Random Paragraph Generator spat out upon input of the proper nouns "Fipp" and "Eno":

When will Eno encounter the trumpet? The steel negotiates Fripp. Eno charts the advised parameter under the mechanism. Fripp retracts the countryside throughout a practised cheek. A tactless earth labels Fripp next to the wren. Fripp purchases the surface. Eno trails the appeal. Fripp bites whatever routed leader near the convict grace. Eno pieces the turnround against the vote. How can each charter encourage Fripp? Eno shifts. Fripp expires next to the frequent headache. The friendly hangover reasons into Fripp. Fripp volunteers Eno beneath a steel. Eno smokes!

And he did! Will the wonders of technology ever cease?

Friday, September 14, 2007

Radio Silence

Gotta sign off here for a bit, folks. I got roped into a 12-day-straight sound gig - and a "gig" it is in the most perjorative sense a la basement house-party hardcore shows: I'm getting paid in food. (And experience, I know - whatever.) But hey, the truth is that I spend all my time hunched over hardware, behind headphones, drinking too much coffee and generally ignoring the outside world anyway.

So in the meantime, allow me to leave you with a little entertainment: new tunes and new sights. Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Modern Lovers

My kinda love story

Awright, let's cut to the chase: I'm a cynical, internalizing, unempathetic, antitheistic bastard. I roll my eyes at poetry, refuse to write love songs, and have occassionally treated weddings as a kind of funeral. I am as unromantic as it gets. Seriously, ask my wife.

But I would never argue that romanticism is dead.

If anything, it is the most alive & well it's been in at least a decade. Hollywood is starting the tackle the emotional toll & realities of war with what I'd consider a modicum of sincerity. Meanwhile, three of the most successful & acclaimed indie flicks of the decade have been romances. Hip-hop has found room for earnest, confessional MCs - and Christ, don't even get me started on indie rock.

There's also been steady influxes of youthful idealists into certain ascendent bourgeois-boho enclaves over the course of the decade. Five years ago, it was (and, albeit to a lesser extent, still is) Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Over the past year, thanks to the new crop of snotty art-rockers exploding out of ATL, the southern city has become a new magnet for students, artists, wannabes, also-rans, and cases of arrested development. As SixFootSubwoofer pointed out, "Kids have a romantic attachment to places where creativity seems to trump logic and formula."

Where I disagree with SFSW is on the notion that "romanticism fails utterly because it can be marketed and created, its potential energy turned into dollars." Strictly speaking, this is true - but it's far from a failure exclusive to romanticism. For all those of us who can shudderingly recall, "It's like punk rock... but it's a car," it's clear that rebellion, cynicism, party-time extroversion, icy isolationism - ALL these things can be marketed and created. But again, much like romanticism, all these ideas & attitudes can be used on a personal level to combat commercial opportunism & predatory capitalism. "Every tool is a weapon if you hold it right."

It's been a confusing couple of decades for romantics, though. After the thoroughly unsensual & materialist Reagan era, romanticism enjoyed a short-lived heyday, thanks to the heart-on-sleeve hysteria of Kurt Cobain and his acolytes. But combining personal pain with ironic distance proved too confusing for the public, and pop culture split into two opposing camps: the mainstream that confused the romantic with the histrionic (see: Korn, Limp Bizkit, and emo), and an underground that refused to admit it cared about anything (see: anyone who ever owned a Pavement record).

And then (you knew this was coming) 9/11 happened. The shift in paradigm there was that the snake ate its tail: people were pushed so far towards the extremes of their respective ends of the spectrum that they popped out on the other side. The amateur primal-scream culture crossed into straight aggro territory, and vomitted up such new spokesmen as Toby Keith and 50 "Bush is a Gangsta" Cent. Meanwhile, as the underground attempted to discuss the event in an honest, objective way, irony had to make way for earnestness, elevating such previously marginalized figures as Elliott Smith to near-sainthood and making basket cases like Bright Eyes homeowners.

Personally, I have little use for either extreme. Appealing to people's anger can be as dangerous as appealing to their sentimentality can be placating & appeasing. Histrionics are by definition false, and emotions as irrational phenomena cannot justify themselves. (Can you tell I'm not a big fan of identity politics?) I'm a staunch believer in civil disobedience as the perfect balance of the rational & the compassionate; on the other hand, the insulin shock of so much melancholic instrospection in rock & indie-pop (I've no use for capitalised Pop) has driven me to become oddly macho in my musical taste.

But smack me if I ever say romanticism never did anything for anyone, because how else could I possibly explain the singularly brilliant ouevre of Tom Waits? Seriously.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Above the Racket

Noise. I could say this is my business, yet the word frustrates me to no end. I've grown to loathe it much the same way that many loathe loaded terms like "emo" or "Baltimore Club." As with those other terms, I suppose "noise" began to grate on me when it became no longer a vague signifier of certain sonic qualities, but an ornately-embroidered banner flown with ersatz pride by various squabbling constituents. Because, in the end, what the fuck does "noise" mean?

We'll start by setting aside technical definitions; we'll also ignore the age-old use of the word as a glib dismissal by anyone not hip to the sound. In this case, probably the first person to reclaim the word from such nebulous definitional (ab)use was Lester Bangs. His 1981 essay "A Reasonable Guide to Horrible Noise" built the theoretical road on which so many still drive. His choice exemplars of "horrible noise" - Yoko Ono, Teenage Jesus & the Jerks, Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music - employ most, if not all, of the hallmark sounds still used today by (or to categorize) "noise" musicians: atonal siren caterwauling, contra-technical primitivism, harmonic contrarianism, and of course head-exploding feedback.

Once the Bastille of "Musicianship" had been stormed by post-punk and no-wave, critics struggled to define or contextualize the expansion of the sonic pallette. Some thread linked the likes of Texan degenerates the Butthole Surfers, snarling antagonists Big Black, and the more obliquely ambitious Sonic Youth; similarly, how could the assaultive tank-tread thunder of Swans, Ministry, and Einsturzende Neubauten be lumped together? Well, Robert Christgau tried calling the former "pigfucker rock" (which didn't exactly catch on), and eventually the "Industrial" label was slapped on the latter (and sticks to this day). But it was still a good decade after Bangs' piece before consensus held that "noise" could be applied to music without condescension or scorn.

Since then, the use of the word has evolved. Initially, "noise rock" was the rubric under which particularly obnoxious punk descendents (e.g. the Jesus Lizard, the Melvins, and later Lightning Bolt) were tossed. Eventually, it grew to include more onstensibly "artful" rock abstractionists like SY and My Bloody Valentine. Then, somewhere in the late '90s, the "rock" was dropped and a capitalised Noise emerged. Of course, Merzbow wasn't born in a vacuum: this music was with such precedents as Xenakis, Varese, Ligeti, Zappa, and Zorn. But all these composers flew other flags - serialist, modernist, minimalist, "skronk" (to use another horrid Christgauism). Hell, even guitar-abuse godfather Glenn Branca qualified himself as "classical." What had changed was that the pretense of noise as a means to and end had been dropped; noise had became an end unto itself.

And from there, my relationship with the term goes south. Typically, Noise music falls into one of two basic schools - audially eviscerating maximalism (a la Wolf Eyes), or porcelain-delicate minimalism (e.g. Richard Chartier) - and I can't bloody stand either of 'em.

On the maximalist side, one thing counterintuitive to the violent imagery & hardcore histrionics of Wolf Eyes, Nurse With Wound, Hair Police, AIDS Wolf, etc. is that the music is suicidally dull. Once your body physically adjusts to the sensory extremes, it becomes lulling, a numb buzz - static in both senses of the word. You hear that gut-rumbling squall? That's all you're gonna get, so do expect any surprises or sudden hairpin turns. Buddyhead.com's review of Wolf Eyes' breakthrough, Burned Mind, summed up the genre rather succinctly: "Bleep, scream, static, hiss, scream, bleep, static. This sucks."

The improvisational nature of the music also presents a problem. This may sound like a cue to start looking for the glass house in which I'm standing, but here's the truth: if all my bandmates and I wanted was to rape ear canals, it certainly would have required far less discipline, mutual creative respect, and rapport with our instruments than we employed. We could have shat out an album a week to be distributed via CD-R to the kinds of sport-collectors who covet eachother's Sunburned Hand of the Man bootlegs. But we didn't. Instead, we tried to play god on a small level, creating swirling form & balance where there was once void. Ergo, I can't sit through a set of hysterical, square-waving monotony without condemning the creative laziness on the part of the performers.

Meanwhile, noise minimalists are guilty of a different flavour of laziness. To make "music" that is an "exploration of the space between sounds and silence" is, to me, an abdication of the responsibility of a musician. I once saw Richard Chartier perform in Baltimore, and joked with a friend that his fundamental act of creation was prompting whatever billowed up in the minds of his audience to fill the vacuity of the music. Now, I'm a big fan of such "minimalist" composers as Steve Reich, Terry Riley, and Meredith Monk, but there the term was used with regard to the limited harmonic range of the work. These artists employed the transcendental potential of entrancing repetition, rather than relying on listening as the essential creative behaviour. I dislike much minimalist visual art for the same reason: as soon as the title of a piece becomes a necessary indicator of intent or meaning on the part of the creator, then you've failed in your role as an artist.

This isn't to say I'm against such music exisiting in the first place. Often, deliberate challenges to the status quo and conventional taste are necessary to push beyond whatever boundaries are currently in place. But very often, by virtue of their direct conflict within immediate circumstances, such challenges are too reliant on context to withstand the test of time. Brian Eno once put it far more elegantly:

Duchamp's urinal, the famous piece, I'm sure was a very important work of art in 1914, and it is now not: this is my opinion. It has only a historical position in the chain of how things came into being. It doesn't live now. In the same way as some distant ancestral species undoubtedly was part of the story of how we got here, but it isn't alive now. Neanderthal Man is gone. That doesn't mean we say he didn't play any part; but it does mean we say it is not a present reality for us.

For me, noise has always worked best as a signifier, a symptom of: the gritty existentialism of the Velvet Underground, the ice-cold indifference of the Jesus & Mary Chain, the drug-induced technicolour miasma of My Bloody Valentine, the sensory overload & fury of early Boredoms, the multiculti hyperreality of Acid Mothers Temple. These and other artists employ noise as a tool, a means of psychic transport to a greater destination. To deploy noise for its own sake is the equivalent of an artist nailing his pallette to the canvas - not entirely unlike Duchamp's urinal, and equally meritous of being pissed on.

Don't Do As I Say!

Zizek said knock you OUT!

Though the Great I Cite Flame-War of '07 has burned itself down to glowing embers, I'm going to colonise the conversation by continuing here an exchange started with the mysterious-yet-engaging Six Foot Subwoofer (a.k.a. Hectoring Bore, a.k.a. Sincere Heckler - you know his steez!).

When we last spoke, SFSW was inquiring as to why I "take such stock in nonviolent disobedience and have such little faith in doing 'good works.'" Indeed, on the surface it would seem strange to praise & strive for one and not the other, but there are two distinct reasons why I value the former but not necessarily the latter.

The first is with regard to motive. My antitheism leads me to immediately distrust anyone claiming to do "good" in the name of "faith." Too often when a helping hand is extended, the other is clutching some evangelical tract, some recruitment scheme - a classic Bait-'n'-Switch. But even when the sales pitch isn't made, it's not an act of altruism but a matter of scoring points on some celestial tally. As Dominic put it so well recently, "this is simply a form of deferred gratification, a storing up of riches elsewhere that one will later enjoy at one’s (infinite) leisure... all one is really doing is making a metaphysically shrewd investment."

Also, in this global media-saturated environment, the corrupt motive of "good P.R." is a constant factor to consider. After all, one man's media blitz is another's opportunism.

The second, and more crucial reason I put civil disobedience above "good works" is the purity of negative definition. Now, as a Canadian, defining something by a negative is something I'm inherently adept at & comfortable with:

Q: What is a Canadian?
A: Well, it bloody well isn't an American!

But consider this: good works can be tainted by ulterior motives, unintended consequences, compromise, "the lesser of two evils," or the elevation of intention above result. (Remember with what the road to hell is paved.) Civil disobedience, on the other hand, is muddled by none of the factors because it is defined by what it does not do. Rather than leave a wake swirling with "Why?"s, civil disobedience succinctly answers the question "Why not?" by opening a vacuum in which we can clearly see one action that is missing. There is no room for rationalisation, appeasement, evasion, obfuscation, or half-assing in a void. As a wrinkled green Muppet once said, as simply as possible: "Do or do not. There is no 'try.'"

Also at the last juncture in our conversation, there was a question as to whether romanticism has a place in the revolution. I personally feel that it doesn't, even though I understand why SFSW would think romanticism is unfairly maligned by smug postmodernists. However, by definition, romanticism has little to do with the truth - and, in fact, even runs counter to it. This is not to cast myself as a staunch materialist, 'cuz I ain't. But romanticism is the same false path to the Real that religion is to a sense of purpose or morality.

Let's not limit ourselves to florid, purple fantasy as the only frame for our dreams. Even as rabid a materialist as Bakunin said, "By reaching for the impossible, man discovers the possible."

Next: Make an art noise here!

Friday, September 07, 2007

I've never felt better in my life...

I literally just got back from seeing the mighty Fall. I'm fuckin' exhausted, so details to follow. For now, suffice it to say they played this:

...and this:

...and I'm bloody floating right now.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

A Self-PR P.S., FYI 2

I just posted a new batch o' Berlin photos here for yr viewing pleasure. Any feedback is welcome & appreciated.

Monday, September 03, 2007

End Hits: It was 20 years ago today...

From the 10th anniversary show

This makes me a lousy so-called devotee, but until I read this superb reminiscence at Chunklet, I forgot that today marks the 20th anniversary of the first-ever Fugazi performance.

In no way does my personal claim on the band come close to that of so many other people, but the sappy truth is that their music changed my life. I had always treated music in a very left-brained, mathematical fashion - more as a craft than an art. It wasn't until I sat slack-jawed, rewinding and rewatching footage of this performance of "Glue Man", that I realized the ferocity, the feral thrust of music was its true intangible magnetism.

Though I've often cursed my late arrival on this planet for having kept me from seeing so many musicians I love, I almost feel spared a greater pain for barely having gotten to see Fugazi. The little of them I saw live put teeth in the oft-repeated claim that the records can't touch the Real thing. Had I gotten to see them dozens of times, being limited to the albums as a sensory experience would be like being surrounded by only shitty photos of a loved one for the rest of my days.

No one's really willing to accept that it's over; I know I can't. I had to remind my wife just the other day that the last time we saw them (at Fort Reno, natch) was, in fact, their last American concert ever. This damn near put her into hysterics. And it's a shame that one last wish will (probably) never be granted.

But we're all better off for them having been here in the first place. Brendan, Joe, Ian, Guy - thank you.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

We've got a full-scale revolution going on...

"Everybody's got something to hide 'cept for me and my monkey... oh, sorry, Joel."

This year has seen a number of pathetic albums by aging iconoclasts. (See: The Fall's Reformation Post TLC, the Stooges' Weirdness, the Beasties' The Mix-Up, etc.) One by one, falling victim to Sick Boy's Grand Unifying Theory ("So we all get old and then we can't hack it anymore...") - but wait! What's that on the horizon? Why, it's a new Brian Jonestown Massacre record! And just what does it sound like, pray tell...?

Well, take a look for yourself.

Anton threw up rough mixes of the newly-tracked album before the recording heads have even cooled - bless his social-revolutionist heart! Though the mixes are indeed a bit burlap on the ears, dare I say this could be the furthest out along the spiral arms Newcombe & Co. have wandered. From the seasick stomp of "Golden Frost" (the video for which is linked above) to the time-warping Kevin-Shields-Vs.-El-P march of "Who Cares Why", not to mention the Expo 70-ish aural bog of "Black Hole Symphony" (imagine a slightly cuddlier SunnO))))... Newcombe is certainly tipping his hand by titling the record My Bloody Underground, but it's a damn hard hand to beat.

An ocean upholstered in people...

There are so many adjectives running through my head looking at this, I can barely pick which aesthetic instinct to follow. And I thought the wave pool at West Ed got full during the winter.

(Hat tip to the awesome Tokyo Mango.)

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Here's your chance, god!

I was 9 years old at the time...

Okay, god - I know I don't believe in you and all, but if:

a) this is true and
b) I can see it with my own two ocular organs

...then we can begin negociations for my soul. (Note to other Higher Beings: MBV or best offer wins!)

Monday, August 27, 2007

I Am a Donut!

Even avoiding the obvious, a rather intimidating people...

Well, after four long months of straight flux, here I am in Berlin. To celebrate the occassion, and get everyone in a Deutsche uber alles kinda mood (in a good way, people - jeez...) I thought we should indulge in some o' the finer musical contributions made in recent deacdes by this stalwart nation. (Remember, it's only 18 years old in its current manifestation!) I've chosen to focus on - surprise - the rock idiom, otherwise I'd just upload the complete works of Strauss, Stockhausen, etc. And sorry, kids, but I can't fuckin' stand techno, so no anthems from the Love Parade, no remixes by Alec Empire, not even any of Holger Czukay's recent work.

"チョト マテ," you cry. "Some of these cats ain't even German! What gives?!" Well, let's establish everyone's Deutsche bona fides, shall we...

~Kraftwerk: 'nuff said.
~Einsturzende Neubauten: could you ask for a more perfect embodiment of the stereotype of Germans as angry, obtuse destructobots with souls the shade of slate?
~CAN: best German band ever, despite the fact they came from Cologne. I almost wanted to upload Tago Mago and call it a day.
~Tom Waits: this song was taken from his music for the theatrical production Alice, originally produced (in collaboration with director Robert Wilson) in Hamburg, back in '92.
~The Fall: Aside from being an early acolyte of experimental German rock (at least before Johnny Rotten started name-dropping Can), Mark E. Smith spiced his shambolic rants with more German (Wermacht! Gestalt! Gotterdamerung!) than any other post-punk polemicist.
~Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds: Cave and his former band, the Birthday Party, were so integral to the underground music scene of '80s Berlin that director Wim Wenders made the Bad Seeds his municipal musical representatives in the climactic scene of Der Himmel Uber Belin (a.k.a. Wings of Desire).
~Wall of VooDoo: Stan Ridgway's use of drum machines and sprechesang was hugely influenced by Kraftwerk. Other than that, I'll admit these cats have more to do with Mexico than Germany.
~Primal Scream: Krautrock has remained a perennial influence on this motley gaggle of Brits, especially Can. A sample from their "Hallelujah" provides the rhythmic backbone to his standout from 1997's Vanishing Point.
~David Bowie & Brian Eno: Probably the most famous expat artist to have resided in Berlin, the "landlocked island," Bowie was so inspired by the city's simmering friction & disquieting history that he produced three of his most significant albums there. This song, recorded during the same sessions as the genius Low album, is just about my favourite thing that either he or Eno have produced.
~Kurt Weill & Bertol Brecht: I mean, come on. This is classic.
~Iggy Pop: Though overshadowed by Bowie's Berlin trilogy, I think The Idiot is a watermark achievement for both musicians. (Bowie co-wrote & produced the record when the two of them decided to hit Berlin - then the heroin capital of Europe - to get clean.) Bowie knicked all of Eno's best tricks for some truly icy, uneasy production, whilst Iggy mined some of the deepest pits of spiritual depletion ever committed to tape. In brief: some epic shit, yo.

Just click on the title to get the mix:

Ze Germans Are Coming!

1. Kraftwerk - "Ruckzack" (00:00)
2. Einsturzende Neubauten - "Zum Tier Machen" (07:45)
3. CAN - "Another Night" (10:50)
4. Tom Waits - "Kommienezuspadt" (16:20)
5. The Fall - "Faust Banana" (19:26)
6. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds - "Saint Huck" (24:28)
7. Wall of VooDoo - "Factory" (31:46)
8. Primal Scream - "Kowalski" (37:19)
9. David Bowie & Brian Eno - "All Saints" (43:05)
10. Kurt Weill & Bertol Brecht - "Moritat und Schlußchoral" (46:35)
11. Iggy Pop - "Mass Production" (49:55)

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Artists Only

While I'm around, I should take a minute to plug the phenomenal photographic instincts of Ed, neighbour of my parents and friend to humanity. He's got this incredible photoblog, which features (among other things) one of the only portraits of me I actually like.

A Self-PR P.S., FYI...

New songs are up. Listen, enjoy, download, distribute as you please.

Monday, August 06, 2007


This is how we rock!

Whilst I prepare myself for the next phase of my voyage, let me offer you a glimpse into that nebulous realm of Hobby Time. Since the beginning of the year, I've been participating in a monthly SongFight with a few acquaintances & friends from around Le Globe. Straightforward: every month, a theme is picked, and everyone writes & records accordingly. It's not a competition, per se, since there's no ostensible winner; rather, we just get to enjoy the fruits of our friends' percolating grey matter.

If I may reveal my personal bias - Alex' work always floors me, her voice being one of the most beautiful instruments I've laid ears on, and Charles V is a master of JAMC-esque narcopop.

Saturday, June 23, 2007


The finale of possibly the greatest live show I've ever attended...

Okay, having survived the PRoC, I felt it valuable to pause and reflect on some of the marvelous music produced by Nippon, my adopted domicile of the past few years. Lord only knows I've spent hundreds of hours talking (and only slightly less time writing) about Japanese music, but I still got so big jet rag right now, so I'll spare the speech for later. In the meantime, here are some of the most enjoyable and/or inventive acts I listened to during my tenure in Tokyo. A few notes on the mix (click on the title to download) follow the tracklist. Osusume!


1. Ging Nang Boyz - "Nipponjin" (00:00)
2. Number Girl - "Transparent Girl" (01:31)
3. bloodthirsty butchers - "Sanzan" (04:47)
4. Toddle - "Hesitate To See" (09:16)
5. Oshiri Penpens - "Ah! Hell" (12:57)
6. Afrirampo - "Afrirampo" (15:53)
7. 小杉太一郎 - "Big Boss? Keri-O-Tsukero" (19:00)
8. Friction - "Cool Fool" (21:20)
9. Mainliner - "Imaginative Plain" (25:24)
10. ACIDEater - "Shadows" (29:41)
11. Ground Zero - "Movie - 1" (31:46)
12. Kaji Meiko - "Bet On Tomorrow" (37:23)
13. Aburadako - "Greenback" (39:01)
14. Who The Bitch - "Tomorrow's Not Later" (43:45)
15. Mo'some Tonebender - "Come" (45:37)
16. INU - "305" (49:06)
17. Acid Mother's Temple - "What Do I Want To Know (Like Heavenly Kisses Pt2)" (52:21)

::The common link between (in chronological order) Number Girl, bloodthirsty butchers, and Toddle is guitarist Hisako Tabuchi, a diminuative elvin lass who can rip the shit out of a Jaguar.

::Oshiri Penpens somehow managed to land a label and recently released their first studio LP. Get on this bandwagon to Interzone now. And check out this clip of their Tower Records in-store; it's more fun than the last show you saw, guaranteed.

::Rek, bassist and bandleader of long-lived postpunkers Friction, earned his cred in the New York No-Wave scene, playing with the likes of Teenage Jesus & the Jerks.

::Mainliner, led by High Rise mayor domo Nanjo Asahito, features the six-string pyrotechnics of Acid Mother superior Kawabata Makoto. The only record I've heard that's mastered louder is the Psychic Paramount's Gamelan Into the Pink Supernatural.

::ACIDEater is the garage side-project of J-noizenik Masonna. They are far, far superior live.

::A song by Meiko Kaji, my personal favourite Enka songstress, scored the death scene of Lucy Liu/Oren Ishii in the first Kill Bill movie.

::INU's frontman, Machida, went on to a scattershot solo career that ran the gambit from brilliantly art-damaged electropunk, to ersatz sub-Blues Brothers pub rock. Through it all, he never really learned how to sing.

::Acid Mother's Temple save all their best material for Western audiences; they know on which side their bread is buttered. Every time I saw them in Japan, no matter which configuration, they completely half-assed it. As a result, I can't take them as seriously as people who think that the Japanese are inherently weirder than Occidentals.

...And should you have any queries regarding the above artists, lemme know. I'll see what I can do to help you out.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Into the Wild Blue Yonder!

"I told you getting into China would be easy!"

Well, it's gonna be a while before (a) I'm around a computer, and (b) I have a semi-permanent domicile, so I thought I'd leave a little parting gift in the meantime. Since none of you will be along for the the sights, sounds, exotic food, monsoons, cheap liquor, lack of showers, luggage-born backpain, or swampfoot, here's a little MP3 mix which approximates our intended route over the next two months. Wish us luck, and take care of yrselves in the meantime...

How I'll Spend My Summer Vacation

1. The Fall - "Leave the Capital" (00:00)
2. Siouxsie & the Banshees - "Hong Kong Garden" (04:10)
3. Brian Eno - "China My China" (07:00)
4. Oxes - "Chyna, Chyna, Chyna" (11:42)
5. Rapeman - "Hated Chinee" (16:19)
6. XTC - "Millions" (18:19)
7. Amon Tobin - "Marine Machines" (23:36)
8. The Birthday Party - "Swampland" (29:14)
9. Martin Denny - "Jungle Madness" (32:42)
10. Slim & Slam - "Chinatown, My Chinatown" (36:10)
11. Broken Social Scene - "Pacific Theme" (38:44)
12. Brian Jonestown Massacre - "Evergreen" (44:27)
13. Sloan - "Money City Maniacs" (47:43)
14. The Dandy Warhols - "Minnesoter" (51:34)
15. The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion - "Greyhound" (54:35)
16. The Constantines - "National Hum" (58:38)
17. Soul Coughing - "I Miss the Girl" (01:01:27)
18. Sonic Youth - "Expressway To Yr. Skull (Madonna, Sean, & Me)" (01:05:29)

Thursday, April 19, 2007

A propos of nothing...

This is still the funniest thing I've ever seen on TV. God bless KITH.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

No. 1 With a Bullet

Last night, whilst discussing the VA Tech shooting on the phone with a friend, I ad-libbed a joke. I must confess a certain malaise about the media attention and histrionics over the incident, because this is far from news in other parts of the world, though I know that it's well too early to be making jokes about some sick bastard massacreing 32 innocent people. But I also know that eventually others will be making the following joke, and so I want to go on record here as the first:

So this is officially The largest mass-shooting in modern American history. More than the ex-Marine in the clocktower back in '66; more than the guy who drove his pickup into the Killeen cafeteria back in '91. And it was by one guy with two handguns. A search of his dormroom found no additional weapons, artillery, ammo, bombs, or other such devices - nothing. One guy, two handguns. Eric Harris & Dylan Klebold, the two shitsticks responsible for the Columbine massacre, had between them two shotguns, a rifle, a semi-automatic, duffel bags full of explosives, and months of painstaking fantasizing and preparation. And they didn't kill half as many people as Cho Seung-Hui.

Just another example of Asians outdoing the white kids in American educational institutions.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

And a Felicitous Easter to You As Well!

Mel's best drinking buddy

Happy Easter everyone! I'll spare you the polemics for now, 'cuz I'm too busy eating chocolate. If you wanna talk, drop a comment and I'll get back to you. Otherwise, enjoy the tunes!

Jesus: Unnailed

1. C. Keating - "And Their Leader Was Named Phillip" (00:00)
2. UFOMammut - "God" (00:52)
3. Laddio Bolocko - "Call Me Jesus" (06:55)
4. Johnny Cash - "The Man Comes Around" (08:48)
5. The Birthday Party - "Big Jesus Trash Can" (13:09)
6. The Billy Nayer Show - "Rabbits & Bears" (16:09)
7. The Melvins - "HOGLEG" (17:52)
8. The Velvet Underground - "Waiting For The Man" (21:12)
9. The Dandy Warhols - "Hard-On For Jesus" (25:39)
10. Rufus Wainwright - "Gay Messiah" (30:15)
11. Spacemen 3 - "Walking With Jesus (Live)" (33:25)
12. Stone Roses - "I Am the Ressurection" (37:26)
13. Husker Du - "Newest Industry" (42:13)
14. Nino Rota - "The Baptism" from The Godfather (45:33)
15. Glenn Branca - "The Ascension" (47:16)
16. The Brian Jonestown Massacre - "Their Satanic Majesties' Second Request" (01:00:22)

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Yes, But

Okay, I'm not going to lie: this song digs its nails into your brain like Bill O'Reilly beating down a Mexican. I recall seeing one of Battles' earliest gigs, at the Ipecac Records Geekshow four years ago. Opening that night at Irving Plaza, Battles were clearly a more beat-oriented descendent of Don Caballero's post-Frippian rock fractalism. They had all the right pieces of a sumbitch of a puzzle - they just hadn't quite figured out how to put them together yet. They splayed themselves on the altar of Potential Energy that night.

...And four years later, here they ride a Mongol horde of a geometric bounce straight into the pleasure centers of the brain.

Yet, whilst everyone loses it over their impending debut full-length, I can't help but think that this music had a clear antecedent: the lamentedly late, unbelievably great Laddio Bolocko. They're not identical, granted: Battles deliver their music with machinist immaculacy, while there's an feral musk to Laddio Bolocko that lends them a certain kind of menace. But the carpet-bombing rhythms, lacerating fretwork, and transcendental devotion to repetition do bear a striking resemblence, wouldn't you agree?

Well, take a listen for yourself...

Laddio Bolocko - "Goat Lips" (from The Strange Warmings of)

Whaddaya think?

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Saying "Fuck It" Without Giving Up

You tell 'em, Hank!

Well, about six weeks ago, I finally, finally, finally put the finishing touches on a project that has consumed much of my time over the past year. The relief I felt was so great that the weight removed from my shoulders felt almost physical. Huzzah! At long last, I could drink things other than coffee, watch & talk to people who weren't on my laptop screen, and if I chose to sit at a computer, I could do something other than edit fucking sound effects all day.

Seriously, folks. You have no idea how many times it takes to listen to a fart sound effect until all the funny has melted right out of it.

As February turned out to be kind of unpleasant outdoors, I found myself... still in front of the computer, but at least now of my own volition. Following my vocational curiosities, I began trolling various blogs, mostly about the intersection of politics & art. (A number of these sites are linked to the right - well worth perusing.) Now, what better way to regain my sense of self than engage in some spirited conversation with my fellow human beings, eh?

It wasn't anywhere near as encouraging as I'd hoped. By now, anyone reading this will know how generally unsociable & contemptful one can feel towards his fellow man following many hours of keyboard-bound gruntwork. I'd foolishly thought that by turning to the Internet, of all places, I'd be able to rekindle some sense of kinship & investment in our species. Fat fucking chance.

Instead, I was met with a feedback loop of self-congratulatory myopia that generally left me convinced, in all my time shackled to my laptop, I'd missed sweet fuck all. Allow me to illustrate the kind of conversations I had during my sojourn into e-debate. For example, the average political exchange was limited to something akin to...

Netizen: I think White!
Me: I think a dark shade of grey!
Netizen: Stop thinking so Black!
Me: Uh... No, I said grey. I'm not Black.
Netizen: Neither is Barack Obama!
Me: What?!

And so forth. People are perennially bloody-minded in real life, so to think you can meaningfully challenge their opinions online is worse than tilting at windmills: it's skeet-shooting with marshmallows.

What really drove me back offline was a certain exchange regarding the "Ecclesiastical Nihilism" of SunnO))) on the normally-excellent K-Punk blog. (Seriously, Mark's musings on the Fall are bloody brilliant.) Instead of trying to recount that ugly epistemological pile-up directly, let's indulge in a little metaphorical dramatization...

(Seb walks into a record store and finds a bunch of guys in the metal section having a circle-jerk)

Seb: Woah! Uh...
Guy #1: No, don't worry! Just us guys, nothin' weird. We're just getting a little carried away with these nude photos of Hillary Duff. I mean, come on, dude, isn't that just so smokin' hot?
Seb: But that's... isn't that just Duff's face glued on top of Sherilyn Fenn's body?
Everyone: Who?
Seb: Sherilyn Fenn, y'know, she was the hot, rich chick off Twin Peaks. Aren't those the shots she did that one time for Hustler magazine or something?

(The glued face of Hillary Duff peels off and falls to the floor, revealing Fenn's Pepsodent smile & brunette bob hairdo)

Seb: Yeah, see? That's her.
Guy #1: Well... I still think Hillary Duff's hotter.
Guy #2; Ah HA! Foolish n00b! Fenn never posed for Hustler - those are from her Playboy spread!
Seb: Well, okay, fine, Playboy, whatever, but the point is that I was rig-
Guy #3: OOOOOOOH god, I'm gonna bust! Hillary, why are you soooo HOT?!
Seb: What the hell is wrong with you people?

Actually, that last line would more accurately be attributed to my comrade, Jonny, who wrote the "enraged e-mail" which Mark mentions to chastise the pretension of all those involved in the conversation. And "pretenstion" is precisely the right word: as Jonny would say to me later, "these guys talk as though they precisely know everything they're talking about when you just proved that they don't."

(Jonny, an avid Black Metalhead, called out Dominic's ersatz obsession with Xasthur as a further mark of toe-dipper tourism, "because anyone into Californian black metal knows to go straight to Leviathan!" I'll have to take Jonny's word on that.)

And please don't think that I chose the masturbation metaphor arbitrarily. It's quite impossible to talk about music online without everything collapsing into a cockfight, usually replete with ad hominem insults. As someone put it so succinctly: Arguing on the internet is like running in the Special Olympics... Even if you win, you're still retarded.

So yeah, how terribly depressing. The truth of the matter is (as you've noticed) I'm not exactly a committed online presence anyway. But I'd be lying if I said I'd resolved to walk away from any kind of online exchange; after all, open communication is by far superior to the alternative. What I intend to do with this space, then, is remove any pretense of "Blog-ness" - no more apologies of a lack of posts, no commitment to communicative constancy, no more afternoons flushed into writing self-indulgent diatribes that will slip into online oblivion quicker than you can say "Sanjaya Malakar." No, instead, this shall be an intermittent webcast, subject to personal whim & technological circumstance. But I can promise you this: I have excellent taste.

The first of such webcasts would therefore have been last month's Fight Songs MP3 mix, in honour of the fourth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq. For the second, I offer you the following...

Yr. a Space Cowboy

1. Scratch Acid - "Skin Drips" (00:00)
2. The Billy Nayer Show - "Ceres Walk (03:02)
3. Link Wray - "The Swag" (05:05)
4. Slim Whitman - "I'm Casting My Lasso Towards the Sky" (07:22)
5. Henry Mancini - "Midnight Cowboy" (10:05)
6. Pavement - "Stare" (12:06)
7. The Dandy Warhols - "Orange" (14:54)
8. The Cramps - "I Can't Stand It" (20:31)
9. Big Lazy - "Skinless Boneless" (23:09)
10. Gordon Downie - "Mystery" (25:42)
11. Captain Beefheart - "I'm Gonna Booglarize You Baby" (29:15)
12. Big Black - "The Power of Independent Trucking" (33:45)
13. Tom Waits - "Gun Street Girl" (35:12)
14. The Tragically Hip - "Titanic Terrarium" (39:49)
15. Earth - "An Inquest Concerning Teeth" (44:16)
16. Lungfish - "Infinite Daybreak" (49:23)

Over the course of my many frosty February evening strolls around Tokyo, I for some reason found myself listening to very, well, Western music. This isn't to be confused with Country & Western, but something more gruff, lean, macho, all clashing metal and thundering wood - Cowboy rock. Perhaps it was the beginning of my psychic disentanglement from Japan; perhaps the cold sting in the air made me pine for the austere vacuity of my native prairie landscape in wintertime. (I've always likened Alberta in the winter to staring at a sheet of grey paper with a line drawn across the middle.) Either way, I'm still unable to kick my aversion to folk music, so there's almost no acoustic music in earshot; rather, everything is wrapped in spring reverb and spun through tremolo, those antiquated sounds that were overused in the first generation of monster & alien B-movies.

Ergo... Space Cowboy music. In short, get ready of a set of tunes that'd be at home on the jukebox in either the Double-R Diner or the Ceres Crossroads.

By the way, should you want any of the MP3 mixes after the link has expired, just drop me a line in the current comments box. Happy listening.

Monday, April 02, 2007


I seriously doubt I could conjure up a worse, less-flattering publicity still if I fucking tried.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Happy 4th Anniversary!

Note the date on the cartoon: 3/6/04 Some of us saw this coming...

There's no way I can address this more eloquently than other people have (and do), nor can I get beyond a certian apoplexy that erases sympathy for damn near every party except the civilians of Iraq. So rather than bore & insult y'all, I offer below a more abstract approach to conversation. Use it as an excuse for some sober introspection on your personal occupation of this world.

Fight Songs - Happy Four Years!

1. Kill Them All (The Brainbombs)
2. Repeater (Fugazi)
3. The Fall of Saigon (Peel Session; This Heat)
4. Trench Warfare (Czukay-Wobble-Liebezeit)
5. Life During Wartime (The Talking Heads)
6. Living Through Another Cuba (XTC)
7. Exterminator (Primal Scream)
8. Arms Control Poseur (The Fall)
9. Total War (Kelly Deal 6000)
10. War (Celebration)
11. Der Kanonensong (Kurt Weill)
12. Zombie (Fela Kuti & Africa 70)
13. Terrible Things (Beauty Pill)