Wednesday, December 31, 2008



multiplied by this

then divided by this

is, in an approximate, abstract way, what my 2008 was like.

Moving on...

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Sing a Seasonal Song

What does one do in the afternoon once the internet's been disconnected but packing the suitcases can be put off for another couple of hours?

Bash out a (sort of/not really) seasonal cover song to hurl into the online ether at the behest of the yuletide spirit!

Merry Christmas (and a belated Happy Hanukkah) y'all.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Year of the Yawn, Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Guitar

In a year where musos, blogdom, and the chattering classes were preoccupied with the likes of Fleet Foxes, Vivian Girls, Bon Iver, and the Last Shadow Puppets, I'm far from the first person to note how colossally dull 2008 was. I also guarantee that many of those now complaining about the annus stolidus are the same who catapulted the Prozac-'n'-pot mediocrity of Panda Bear's Person Pitch to the top of about several dozen End of Year lists in 2007. Gee, who'da thought lauding a reverb-soaked, well-produced snooze would only encourage more of the same?

But, since it's hypocritical to ramble at length on how the past twelve months were so unremarkable - cut to the chase, and click on the mix titles to download. Commentary below.

Five Songs from '08 Albums I Actually Dug

1. "The Guitar"
(by Young Widows, from Old Wounds)
2. "Night of the Lotus Eaters"
(by Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, from Dig!!! Lazarus, Dig!!!)
3. "Sag Harbour Bridge"
(by Women, from Women)
4. "Rise to Glory"
(by Earth, from Bees Made Honey In the Lion's Skull)
5. "Death Goes to the Winner"
(by Harvey Milk, from Life... the Best Game In Town)

Ten Songs from '08 Albums That Were Decent But Disappointing

1. "Life Is a Movie"
(by GZA, from Pro Tools)
2. "Golden Age"
(by TV On the Radio, from Dear Science,)
3. "Beginner's Falafel"
(by Flying Lotus, from Los Angeles)
4. "Ummer"
(by Zach Hill, from Astrological Straits)
5. "Vox Celeste"
(by Deerhunter, from Microcastle/Weird Era Cont.)
6. "Last Day of Magic"
(by the Kills, from Midnight Boom)
7. "Late Repeat"
(by Charlottefield, from What Are Friends For)
8. "Africa Just Wants to Have Fun"
(by Volcano!, from Paperwork)
9. "En Papier"
(by These New Puritans, from Beat Pyramid)
10. "Immediate Mate"
(by Grails, from Doomsdayer's Holiday)

Fifteen Songs from Albums That I First Heard This Year And Now Thoroughly Enjoy For Various Reasons

1. "Just As the Day Was Dawning"
(by Big Business, from Here Come the Waterworks)
2. "Sedan"
(by Todd, from Purity Pledge)
3. "Now I've Got a Sword"
(by the Muggabears, from Night Choreography)
4. "Spywatchers"
(by Icy Demons, from Miami Ice)
5. "Danse de L'enfant et du Roi des Mouches"
(by Jean-Claude Vannier, from L'enfant Assassin Des Mouches)
6. "Stoned Out of My Mind"
(by Speed, Glue, & Shinki, from Speed, Glue, & Shinki)
7. "I Helped Patrick McGoohan Escape"
(by Teenage Filmstars, from A Day In the Life of Gilbert and George)
8. "Keep Warm, Keep Well"
(by the Advisory Circle, from Other Channels)
9. "Obedience"
(by Jade Warrior, from Last Autumn's Dream)
10. "Knockout"
(by Jean-Pierre Massiera & Bernard Torello, from Turn the Radio On)
11. "Hell Hound"
(by Sir Lord Baltimore, from Kingdom Come)
12. "Soft Sugar"
(by Noxagt, from Noxagt)
13. "Some Kind of Sad"
(by Ringo Deathstarr, from the Ringo Deathstarr EP)
14. "Crooked Head"
(by Fucked Up, from The Chemistry of Common Life)
15. "City of Dreams"
(by David Lynch & John Neff, from Blue Bob)

In terms of what tickles my sonic libido, I'm tipping my hand enough as it is with that first mix. Preferring not to be patronising, I'll leave you to connect the dots between Nick Cave, Earth, and Harvey Milk for yourself.

More worthy of discussion is what exactly is lacking in that second mix. Most of these releases were accomplished if unconvincing mimicry of sounds that perenially occupy my stereo. "Golden Age" is Prince as produced by Soul Coughing, far surpassing everything else on TVOTR's third album. Zach Hill's solo debut sounded like the Mars Volta covering Brainiac without the crisp production of either. Charlottefield is an impressive post-hardcore lyre bird, doing what was done over a decade ago by Bluetip and Cap'n Jazz as they came down from their adolescent charge. Volcano! join Deerhoof and Ponytail on the growing list of bands whose Jehu/QANU-esque contrapuntal guitar batshittery is ruined by cloying vocals - in this case, David Longstreth-style self-indulgence. These New Puritans are the Fall minus the ramshackle grit and lunatic wit.

So on and so forth - notice the pattern emerging. Granted, Christgau is correct when he says, "Kneejerk vanguardism is an important reason so much online record reviewing sucks." Pedantic envelope-pushing leads to those dead-ends, devoid of critical thought or coherent philosophy, where fashionistas cavort in unitards woven of bacon & emu feathers just 'cuz it ain't been done before. But then what's the alternative? Apparently, it's a lazy, defeatist self-appeasement that affords Pitchfork the hypocrisy of lamenting "a(nother) year when many young bands thrifted decades-old material with déjà-vu results" whilst placing Fleet Foxes atop their year-end album roundup.

The greatest problem posed by the nanosecond hype-cycle of online crit isn't bloody-minded trailblazing as an end unto itself. It's the cliquish fractalisation of subcultures so that the context for enjoyment of a given band or music is so narrow that it's damn near inaccessible. What am I talking about? Okay, Deerhunter are a band that I kinda like. I think their production is half-assed, their melodies predictable, and I can almost see Bradford's bullshit hippy swimmy arm movements when I listen to his self-conscious delivery. But the obvious points of reference are all bands that I really dig, so I can't categorically dislike Deerhunter. Ergo I often ask myself what I'm missing about the band that sends so many listeners over the moon. Well, according to Matthew Perpetua...
It helps to have the context of other Deerhunter records, and probably also Atlas Sound and seeing them live, to get the bigger picture of who Bradford Cox is and what he’s doing, and why it’s special and good, especially in the current context of indie rock circa ‘08.
In other words, only completists need apply to the fanclub. What the fuck good does that do anyone not immediately enthralled with their music? A band needn't be popular to be "special and good," but for them to be important, something needs to resonate beyond a certain navel-gazing blogipelago. But evidently, that's a door I'd need four keys to unlock, and I ain't got the time for that.

I ended my own recap of '07 with the following quote, which at the time was sort of lumped in without proper context. But if *ahem* "underground" music culture continues along its current course, this may become an annual epitaph upon the preceding 12 months:
I asked my friend James Marshall if he thought the current dismal state of music was likely to improve. “No,” he said. “It’s got to get worse, because everybody’s into their own thing and doesn’t wanna know. Pretty soon every band will have no more than three fans, and nobody will have even any friends. Then after that you’ll start resenting the other guy because he likes the same thing you like: it’s your turf! How dare he encroach? So then people will start killing each other for appropriating each other’s musical tastes and thus infringing on the neighbor’s hipness space. How can you be smug about being the only person in the world cool enough to appreciate some piece of New Wave shit, or a blues band or arcane jazz artist for that matter, if you find out somebody else likes it? Don’t dare tell ‘em! Don’t even tell your wife or girlfriend! Keep it safe inside your Walkman!”

~Lester Bangs, from "Bad Taste Is Timeless"
Happy holidays, everyone. Take care.

Thursday, December 11, 2008


Upon further reflection... during a recession, a gesture far more revolutionary, defiant, and indeed practical than burning legal tender would be to print/draw/construct bills of original design without prescribed value. Blank cheques, born of an artist's hand, that can be denominated in exchange, labour, or user value as the transaction demands. A bank built on the corner of artistic endeavor and financial flexibility.

Bit of a strange one last night. Had a dream I was visiting my sister's new house, which looked uncannily like an abandoned psych ward where I worked on a film shoot last year. I was grateful to come in from the snow outside, and even more pleased to see some familiar faces from Halifax - among whom, unaccountably, were at least two members of the Black Lips. The room was festooned in typical retro-mod bobo claptrap - plastic lamps, puke orange rugs, and such. There were also various vintage instruments hung about the walls, familiar in their form & function but disfigured like inanimate victims of Chernobyl. I pulled down what appeared to be a 3/4-scale Fender Jaguar hand-crafted by a drunk with a glass eye; the whammy bar was in an odd position that required the instrument to be played more like a dan bau zither, but it produced the crystalline, swooning drones of a lap-steel.

A voice in back of my head complimented the unrecognisable version of "Candle" I was bashing out (Thurston's part). I turned to see a gaggle of women pacing somnambulantly around the fridge. In appearance and garb, they all looked evenly split between the kind of Brazilian club furniture Lenny Kravitz might marry for a weekend and the girl in high school whose romantic overtures I totally botched translating.

I blinked hard, was back on the couch, and saw Frank Pembleton staring back from the TV, my own stress reflected in his stony expression: that suitcase ain't gonna pack itself, you lazy bastard. Coffee first, Frank. We're not barbarians around here, after all.

Non-Sequitorial Postscript: When satire doesn't go far enough...

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Autobahn Kriegeren

Via the always-awesome WFMU blog...

The creative geography employed by the editor is fantastically random. The largest geographic jump created by a single cut is, I guesstimate, just over 3km. Perhaps charting the chase on a municipal map will reveal some secret pattern or message - a constellation perhaps?

What I honestly find so intriguing about various filmic depictions of Hamburg from decades past is how rough the city looks - a bona fide blue-collar shithole with enough character to power the Tom Waits songbook. It's got stubble, grit, and spittle on its chin that makes the Baltimore of The Wire look clean-cut. Who'd have imagined then that, less than a generation later, it would be such a reserved, starched platter of bourgeois predictability?

Ludd Gang

Description of a performance by (a) a pig-in-lipstick has-been pimping themselves of the state fair circuit, or (b) a big fish in the little pond where the chief currency is cred from chin-strokers & dudes in Japanese hand-silkscreened Ts?
He was literally lip-synching to his own voice. Beyond inspired.
Perhaps just incredibly hackneyed scene-blogging with emphasis on the wrong details? At any rate, that the former phrase appears in direct contradiction to the second is why my engagements with members of the "creative class" are infrequent & often hostile.

(Tangentially via Ms. Hopper - and yes, unless the burning of money is part of an anti-Keynesian satirical portrayal of Big Gov't by survivalists who listen to Of Montreal, the gesture is nullified by a recession.)

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Explaining Us to Each Other, Part 1-A

Yesterday, ads without products did such a marvelous bit of bicultural translation that I'm jacking it to expand and franchise. I'll be skipping the first contrast (about the availability of alcohol at family Christmas festivals) because the English shindigs are knock-offs of the spirit-soaked German Weihnachtsmarkt, and the Japanese don't really have Christmas festivals - y'know, what with the whole not-being-a-Christian-nation thing. I'll compensate by adding a new comparative criterion at the end. Allons-y!

1. Canadians are baffled and intimidated by these:

Germans are baffled and intimidated by these:

Everyone except the Japanese is baffled and intimidated by these:

2. On a crowded subway train at rush hour in Toronto, person B steps on person A’s toe or bumps person A thoughtlessly with his heavy computer bag. Person A casually remarks, "Geez, ya think with all the fuckin' fare they're havin' us pay, the TTC could buy some bigger trains, eh?" Person B replies with a familiar grin and chuckles, "Yah, you said it, buddy," because - by social mandate - Canadians are too polite to get into shouting matches on the subway. That's what Americans do.

On a crowded subway train at rush hour in Hamburg, person B steps on person A’s toe or bumps person A thoughtlessly with his heavy computer bag. Person A does nothing but glance icily at person B because - by social mandate - to publicly display any more emotion than an Easter Island head is a sign of human weakness and, thus, defeat.

On a crowded subway train at rush hour in Tokyo, person B steps on person A’s toe or bumps person A thoughtlessly with his heavy computer bag. Person A says nothing, though his ribcage is likely being compressed to the size of a soup can, because - by social mandate - the nail that sticks out is hammered down. In fact, person A feels meagerly grateful that he wasn't additionally kicked in the shins or elbowed in the gut. Meanwhile, the faint musk of gin & guilt is wafting up from under person B's collar.

3. In any ER across Canada, a young man enters with two of his front teeth missing - a consequence of the questionable tradition of combining cheap alcohol, ice skates, and adrenaline-charged men armed with sticks.

In any ER across Germany, a young man enters with tear-gas poisoning and a smattering of bruises - a consequence of the questionable tradition of combining cheap alcohol, riot cops, and inflammatory rhetoric with a theoretical basis flimsier than a B-52 built from balsa wood.

In any ER across Japan, a young man enters with second-degree burns and singed hair - a consequence of the questionable tradition of combining cheap alcohol and rocket-propelled explosives.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Operation Humble Kanye

Don't do it for me in my absence, America; don't even do it for Stephen. Do it because feigning ignorance is the worst comeback imaginable, and because this half-talented caitiff's rush-job release is little more than Rick James' romantic sociopathy dressed in a Value Village knock-off of Kid A's tundral production. We're talking about a guy exhibiting the same specious symptoms as one of the most famous fictional psychos of our culture, fer chrissakes.

Update (Dec. 5): Boo-yah!

Monday, December 01, 2008

Took You to Make Me Realize

Hey, remember this guy? Of course - at least, this is how we'd prefer to remember him. This uncharacteristically placid candid was snapped back when Axl was my age. That was twenty years ago.

More recently, when the titular first single from Chinese Democracy hit the air, it was swiftly ripped and uploaded for all to hear. Appetite For Destruction was the first cassette I ever bought, so of course I gave it a listen. The tune opened with the hiss of that same cavernous reverb that swells at the beginning of Historical Military Epics For Dummies movie trailers. Slithering in the background was that pterodactyl-call throat-clearing effect that Axl famously bellowed over the intro to "Welcome To the Jungle" - a recollection Rose undoubtedly is counting on his listeners making. After the yawn of another several seconds of ebow drones, the first power chord hit - that metallic teeth-gnash of fleshless guitar recorded direct-to-DAW, toasted by SansAmp then reheated by Guitar Rig. You know it: that digindustrial distortion perfected fifteen years ago by Trent Reznor on the Broken EP.

That was fifty seconds I could have spent refilling my coffee cup. I sighed and closed the audio stream, and haven't listened to a minute more of Chinese Democracy.

Though I was pretty certain I already knew what the rest of the album would sound like, all my suspicions were confirmed by a friend last week. "It's pretty bizarre to hear someone just lose their mind via ProTools," he said. "I mean, it's a Nine Inch Nails record. Just not a very good one."

It's long been part of the G'n'R folklore that Axl's fixation on the post-Ministry industrial sound (by way of 120 Minutes) irreparably split band consensus on their 1990s direction. By almost all accounts, Rose had become smitten with the little-known electro-hysteric act that opened a European leg of the Use Your Illusion tour and never looked back. Rose probably saw more than a little of himself in the up-and-coming Reznor: a pasty, brooding frontman fighting an intermittent heroin addiction, prone to onstage tantrums at shows that occasionally descended into violence, screaming songs of distinctly male adolescent angst that exuded enough sass to get girls to the gigs. Axl also probably knew that, having been the hood ornament on the ugly transitional moment sandwiched between the Reagan & Clinton eras, Guns 'N' Roses would not enjoy the same predominance in the dawning decade.

Chinese Democracy's stylistic nods to NIN (not to mention poaching a member or two) are oft-remarked-upon enough as to be unavoidable, which casts the whole album in a very odd, unseemly light. This ersatz fourteen-track parade float to ProTools is a desperate attempt by Axl Rose to surpass younger, harder, faster rivals who first reared their heads fifteen years ago. The album was only ever deemed done (enough to release, at least) once Rose had stared so deeply into his own megalomania that the project became its own hypotextual simulacrum, Synecdoche, New York-style. Of course, as such & without the barest hint of objectivity, Axl was in no position to guage if the album was any good, let alone whether he'd surmounted The Downward Spiral. That it took him this long to decide that he had guarantees that he hasn't.

Surely it hasn't escaped Axl that the Elvis engraved upon our cultural memories is not the young, hip, dangerously sexy Elvis, but the bloated caricature bedecked in gold lamé, an asphyxiating bullfrog lamely executing karate kicks with a rock of coke in each nostril. That should have been warning enough for Axl to enjoy the mystique that compounded with each additional year of silent seclusion. But it's too late to leave well-enough alone now. He could have been the Syd Barrett of the LA jet(trash)set. Instead...

Non-sequitorial postscript: And you didn't even have to wait 17 years for it.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

...And Justification For All

So y'know how I got all, "Yeah, I do music a bunch," a couple of posts ago? I wasn't kidding.

This is the lead track from a new EP called Yeah, Well, Coué's Dead - digital release this coming Monday, December 1st, courtesy of the good folks with golden ears over at SVC Records. 'Cuz the fourth-quarter clusterfuck of rush releases wasn't crowded enough already. That's right, I'm taking on Beyoncé, Axl, and Kanye! That ain't a windmill, Sancho, that's my awaiting throne of rock supremacy. ¡Andale!

So that brings 2008's total to two full-lengths and one EP - so I've yet to match either Frank or Anton's maximum annual output, but still, markedly more productive than the usual one-LP-every-2.5-years cycle.

Gosh, look at me, patting my own back... arrogant bastard, eh? Yeah, well, three releases within eight months and exactly what laurels on which to rest? Just enjoy the damn tunes! I wouldn't share 'em if they weren't worth hearing. I'm not a complete asshole, after all.

Now They Tell Me

Are they fucking kidding me? The motherfucking Jesus Lizard - one of about two bands I never saw that my wife can needle me about having seen - are reforming four months after I leave this goddamned continent? And Sleep? Fucking hell, I'd like to know why this couldn't have happened within the past sixteen months. It's already been five years since the Pixies made reunions de rigeur for defunct Gen-X bands. Maybe being in Chicago and seeing "Yes We Can" plastered across very available surface for the past eleven months inspired them to bite the bullet.

Obviously, they're doing this exclusively to piss me off.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not

I apologize that activity here has been slowing down more than the global economy. I'm actually racing in top gear towards an event horizon of fair significance, so real world responsibilities & preparations take precedence over any self-important pontificating around these parts.

I've also been feeling a li'l conflicted, funny, in a funk about the purpose this site serves. Recently, when I was trying to explain why I enjoyed something that would normally skirt the edges of my interest, a friend interrupted, "You know why you like it? 'Cuz you're a blogger." As though this meant something. As though this were some official title or legitimate vocation. Of course, it can be: Markos Moulitsas, Ariana Huffington, Ezra Klein, these are people whose primary allocation of time and source of income is blogging. But me? I'm not a fuckin' blogger.

As trite a folksy dictum it is that a man ought to be known for what he is, not what he thinks he is, it's pure egotism that leads a person to define themselves primarily by something other than what they spend most of their time doing. Without exception, every "writer" or "photographer" I met within the gaijin community in Tokyo paid their rent as a language teacher. Another acquaintance, who defines herself as a "self-employed visual artist," spends 8 hours a day, 5 days a week teaching disinterested teens how to make clay busts of their own puberty-despoilt faces. This is as delusional as any gas pump monkey who'd call themselves a "musician" because they play bass in a Black Sabbath cover band.

I'm not saying it's an exquisite thrill to define yourself by your work. True, there are those whose work is actually a pleasure, to whom I doff my hat & offer my envy. Were we all so beautifully fortunate, we wouldn't need antonyms like "play" or "fun."

However, to define a person lump-sum by whatever they devote the most time to is insufficient, as demonstrated by studying two odd species within the worker genus. What of those who spend less than half their waking life working and still bring home the bacon? Odds are you're either a pillage-via-paperwork "little Eichmann" & a right prick, or the most together motherfucker on the planet.

How about those who similarly spend the minority of their time actively employed, and yet their meager means & material wealth reflect this lack of remunerated labour? You know, those often referred to as dossers, derelicts, slackers, scumbags, bums, layabouts, losers, and welfare queens? Identifying them by their vocation (or, rather, lack thereof) necessarily labels them nobodies, mere gristle sizzling in sacrifice upon the altar of capitalism. It's dehumanising, unfair, and inaccurate besides.

Is it a matter of the import of one's activities? Then by what measure does one job matter over another? I, happily, spend most of my time instrument in hand and earmuffed by headphones during a mixdown, so it would seem fair to title myself a musician & audio engineer - but is it really, given that it's brought me as much renown as if I'd been mopping floors at Seven-Eleven? And what precisely is less noble about custodial work in a convenience store than writing stoner rock songs slagging off Australians?

But perhaps that's wandering too far afield from the topic of blogging. What makes blogging a unique medium is the power of the audience to dictate its form without the classic incentive of cash to bait the content provider(s). Obviously, commercial blogs exist, but whereas independent musicians or filmmakers can remain steadfastly oblivious to the whims of their public, a blog's content - or at the very least its tone - can be steered as much by the readers as the writer.

It's a double-blind date in which a blogger & their audience engage. As much as the blogger can shield, edit, or affect their online persona, the readers can remain even more anonymous or obscure; after all, they're not the ones in the spotlight. Further, a blogger is never as in control of their public image as they imagine: what if they're weaker on the page than in conversation? What if they make a bold statement on a subject one of their readers happens to know much more about? What if a merrily ironic aside, easily understood by the blogger's close acquaintances, is misread as an ill-informed opinion, a solid-as-Swiss-cheese straw man, or mordant anomie? It's always too late to take anything back once both the blogger & the reader have realized whether they're sitting across the table from Prince Charming or Ted Bundy.

So maybe blogging is less a blind date or fireside chat, than a blindfolded waltz across a fog-blanketed minefield. Sometimes it works out. The best blogs, with informed & lively exchanges between writer & reader, have the intellectual tone of salons or symposiums. The worst are a Stygian mire of thundering idiocy and petty hatred, all windmilling fists and flying spittle - a fate that can befall any of the better blogs too, should the tone of the comments thread deteriorate too severely.

Me? Well, I often feel like some bloviator glued to his favourite barstool, drawling on to no one in particular, who is occasionally dragged into "Yer so fulla shit"/"No, yer fulla of shit" ping-pong matches by some crank seated at the other end of the bar. (Hi, Andrew Stevens!) This is a useful forum for fleshing out half-formed ideas, talking myself towards a better understanding of my own views. But it's a bit discouraging, and reveals a lot about the going rate of online communication, when I (unintentionally, I'll add) kick-started the most thorough back-and-forth in the recent history of this blog by saying Republicans could "eat a bowl of dicks."

A statement by which I still stand, by the way. But when that is the jump-off, the landing won't be pretty.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

There Oughta Be a Law

This is what happens when you let a man who dresses like an extra from TRON design footwear.

And this is what happens when you let that same man comment on the so-called "right" to privacy.
I'd hate to be the guy who tells him that, in fact, that is the legal standard in America: an appearance in a public forum provides de facto consent to documentation of a person's public image. That's why it's called the public image. Should a paparazzo "DRIVE RECKLESSLY ON FREEWAYS, JUMP OVER FENCES AND INVADE PRIVACY ALL IN AN EFFORT TO GET THAT 'MONEY SHOT'," well, Mr. West, there are already plenty of laws against reckless driving, breaking & entering, trespassing, and the like. Press charges, dude.

Ah, but there's no visible signage to inform people where or when they've exposed themselves to prying lenses! Because that's precisely what we need: more public signposts, placards, marks, emblems, and instructions that treat us like infantile numbskulls. Y'know, the same weak-minded entreaty to have our behavior policed by some legislative supernanny that labels paper-towel dispensers with warnings that "MISUSE OF PRODUCT MAY RESULT IN SERIOUS INJURY OR DEATH."

Some people call it a tragedy when, say, some dude dies in a motorcycle mishap because he was sending a text message with his feet up on the handlebars. I call it evolution.

Needless to say I won't be attending Kanye's Nov. 28th concert at Colorline Arena here in Hamburg. There's only "SO MANY POSITIVE UPLIFTING MESSAGES" shellacked in auto-tune I can stomach.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Duh-Duh-Duh-Deutsche Unit!

Dear Jessica,

Yes, Peter Fox is what passes for domestic hip-hop here in DE (not, however unlikely this may be, to be confused with Delaware). The pisser is that Fox is as good as it gets, and easily has the most musically sophisticated production. Here's the most popular *ahem* hip-hop group in Germany, Fettes Brot (Fatty Bread), from Hamburg:

And you thought anyone who still thought "Whoop! (There It Is)" is the bollocks was now confined to sharing a padded cell in a Miami psych ward with Luther Campbell. At least, contextually it renders the fact the Bloodhound Gang still have a career in this country a little less flabbergasting. But I don't give a shit if Thom Yorke rates 'em, Modeselektor are persona non grata on my stereo just for producing this tune.

Meanwhile, here's Berlin's godfather of gangsta, Bushido:

Ignore the fact that he nicked the backing synth pads from Madonna's "Power of Goodbye". And finally, here's Sido, who I've heard is supposed to be Germany's answer to both ODB and Jay-Z, but you tell me how that works. Actually, just tell me what the hell this guy's on about in the first place. Here's your RDA of WTF:

Of course, here I am slagging off Deutsche hip-hop when I'm about to move back to Japan. Bless the Japanese, man, 'cuz they can outdo anyone at garage-rock hissy-fits or brain-burning psych-noise, but they can not fucking do hip-hop:

So there's the second big backslap of the week, my Yankee comrade: y'all elected a liberal-leaning black intellectual, plus you're still the only nation on the planet that does hip-hop properly.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

A Trey Parker Understatement

What better way to cap off a historic & reaffirming week than bitching about frivolous tripe?

Quick show of hands while you're still in the voting mood, people: who here would've ever thought that "Spielberg & Lucas gang-raping Indiana Jones" could qualify as a malefic piss-take not taken far enough? Well, then which of these bastard Frankenstein monsters do you find to be the greatest violation?

Or, dare I inquire, is there some fresh filmic horror I've not yet heard of, waiting to bust aneurysms in film-lovers' brains everywhere?

Ah well. At least this gave me a good solid chuckle. (Via the AV Club's Friday Buzzkills.)

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Chilling So Hard My Ass Almost Froze Off

Man, I am gonna sleep like a baby on a morphine drip tonight...

Were the alternative results a fact, I'd simply have pointed you all ibidem to the master of bilious visual parody, Tim Krieder. Thank fucking god I don't have to do that.

Of course, what with all the discussion about "accelerationism" raging around a certain blogipelago, the question begs to be asked: wither all the McCain endorsements? Yesterday would've stood as the ultimate test of accelerationists' integrity. After all, if we're serious about running this crazy neoliberal corporate-militarist train right off its blood-slicked rails, isn't a McCain/Palin administration the shortest distance between here and oblivion? Or is that too Bakuninist a version of Give 'Em Enough Rope, one that invites a degree of violence we don't wish to see exacted on innocent civilians? Or is it that we un-Amerikaneren don't want to risk getting nuked on principle by putting Palin - better suited to Twin Peaks than DC - within reach of kick-starting a fission-feuled Rapture?

Last night, it crept into the pre-dawn hours here in Hamburg as the tallies began to trickle in. I called a dear friend at whose house I attended an election party four years ago - at which we all drank ourselves through the shellshock with an endless supply of Cuba libres. (The specific choice of drink, much like voting in the '04 election, was a defiant yet ultimately empty gesture that left us feeling gutted & raw the following morning.) This time, though my friend was in considerably better spirits, her celebratory mood was owed chiefly to the modest relief that the next four years won't be as totally shit as they could have been.

I'm not, nor have I ever been, under the illusion that, at long last, all the problems will be solved. Obama is several supersized strides to the right of where my ideal elected representative would be; nah, scratch that - my ideal political rep would probably refuse even to consider joining as compromised & cynical an enterprise as a late-stage capitalist democracy. In fact, given the genuinely weird array of soft-scabby Culture War-wounds that have been ripped back open in the last couple of months, I'm feeling bold enough to wager the Balkanization of America will come in my lifetime - a prediction seconded by the friend I phoned last night.

"I don't expect miracles, especially not from a politician," she said. "He's a charismatic guy with a good head on his shoulders and a hell of a learning curve; he's campaigning and talking to people better now than he was even three months ago. A messiah? Gimme a break. But he is a catalyst for all the ugly shit that's been festering within this country for the past three hundred years. Basically, he's the guy I think can best talk America through whatever tragic and difficult, but necessary schism is coming in the near future."

Three cheers for Barack Obama, divorce-counselor-elect!

Update (about 12 hours later): Y'know what? Fuck it. I'm happy. I'm fucking ecstatic. I am THRILLED that, thanks to the choice made by the American electorate, I can stave off point-of-no-return misanthropy for at least another few years. When was the last time the US told the rest of the globe that it actually gave a shit and kinda meant it? Have I revised my expectations for the coming Obama/Biden administration? Nope. My ideological differences persist, and blah blah blah... I don't care right now. As long as air strikes aren't launched against Tehran between now and January 20 (which *sigh* remains a distinct possibility), at the very least civilization will collapse at an organic rate of decay, as opposed to with all the grace & austerity of a shotgun blast to the face.

And to all those who actually cast their vote for the Republican ticket... suck it, losers! You had six years of unmitigated control in Washington, every one of Leo Strauss' oligarchical wet dreams came true, and what did all that get you? Small gov't? Fiscal responsibility? An end to "nation-building"? Growing wages? Financial security? Transparent domestic policy? The overturn of Roe V Wade? Federal protection of the sanctity of marriage? The capture of Osama bin Laden? Victory in the wars on terror, drugs, and poverty? The restoration of honour & dignity to the White House?

In the immortal words of Ice-T: y'all can eat a bowl of dicks. Good night and get fucked.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Many of you have accepted the situation of your imprisonment and will die here like rotten cabbages...

I'm going to be otherwise detained between now and next week, but rather than leave this blog as blank as a blink, I wanted to just share a few words of discouragement about an event over which I have no tangible control and probably won't have another chance to comment on before it comes to pass. *Ahem*

Anyone who votes for McCain & Palin has decided that the accessibly ideal leaders of the global power-locus nation are a hypocritical crank & rent-boy to Wall Street whose greatest claim to fame is dropping napalm on men, women, and children; and a psychotic millenarian separatist with a double-digit IQ who couldn't successfully manage a Gap store if her life fucking depended on it.

Anyone who votes for McCain & Palin is an irredeemably selfish & myopic cunt who, by all standards, will have proven themselves unfit to participate responsibly in a legitimate democracy (not that America is such a thing).

Anyone who votes for McCain & Palin is a poster-child for forced sterilization who ought to be ineligible for a driver's license or passport, and is a psychic sponsor of a budding sociopath strapping on a suicide bomb.

America, if you vote for (or if SCOTUS installs) McCain & Palin, the next time anything bad happens to your damned county, the extent of international sympathy will make Stockhausen's reaction to 9/11 look as syrupy-sweet as a Hallmark card.

For those of us powerless to prevent this potential disaster, we can always turn to Patrick McGoohan for comfort - that is, if this 40-year-old TV episode weren't so depressingly prescient.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Modern Militarism

This one's for you, Owen!

(All moving images public domain, courtesy of populuxe, the automakers of America, and US military hegemony past & present.)

Amid all the claptrap about xenoeconomics & accelerationism (I'm catching up, but househusbandry takes precedence over blogging), K-Punk blithely tossed off a response to Splintering Bone Ash's indictment of hauntology that was as helpful & illuminating as a do-it-yourself lobotomy:
...a terminus, perhaps temporarily, has been reached - "that there is nothing else, (at this moment in time at least) that nothing else is possible". Much as I with [sic] it weren't the case, it isn't possible to bring back modernism by force of will alone.
Boo to that. What a bunch of lazy bollocks. If someone's idea of cultural progress is "to bring back modernism," that speaks more to their own limited sense of aesthetic possibility than a real dead-end. Yes, I know he doesn't mean "modernism" strictly as the historicised aesthetic philosophy with a midcentury heyday, but the very reliance on the term speaks of a self-satisfied defeatism, or at least a languid incuriosity. Anyway, if I recall my adolescence with any accuracy, isn't having burned back through modernism already what got us onto this nostalgic hamster wheel in the first place? Or are we waiting until a new -ism has been codified before we stop complaining and get off our fat asses to join in the artistic adventure?

I've long been convinced that *ahem* structurally efficient art - minimalism, noise, ambient, hauntology, post-whatever - sponges up such critical adulation because it's a palimpsest upon which the higher-minded members of audience can graffiti their own assumptions. This is why SunnO))) have been readily embraced by the art world: their black-matte fogginess is tastefully obtuse set-dressing, allowing plenty of elbow-room for an individual's imaginative ramblings without betraying the truth that they're actually just two dudes who wanna fuckin' rawk. The problem therein is that, when left such generous margins to fill in with our own fantasies, the art becomes a feedback loop that merely reaffirms what (we think) we already know; it reflects only what we show it, without refraction, transformation, or challenge. And, shit, before you know it, you'll be so far up your own mollycoddled ass you'll be lauding the "milky, watercolour diffuseness" of Coldplay - isn't that right, Mark?

If knowing nothing about art while attempting to create is like the old monkeys-at-a-typewriter axiom, then allowing cultural parameters to be defined by people who aren't artists themselves is like asking a 40-year-old virgin addicted to internet porn about sex.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

NO Music, NO Life...

Sure, we're kinda crap at distribution, what with four albums (and counting) collecting dust, and we may be temporarily splintered across continents, but we're TCB on the A/V front.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Post-Millenium Tension

Here's what I don't quite understand about blogging: how does anyone get around to writing anything whilst wading in this swamp of digital distractions? (And I mean writing, not this blockquoted, hyperlinked juggling of other people's words as a substitute for content generation.) By now, I should have been done this post three days ago, nevermind folding the laundry and scoring a trailer. But how the hell am I supposed to ignore Onion-worthy headlines like "People run for lives as flames explode around them"? Or this Ed Wood-worthy non-sequitor that was so gloriously awkward, I actually rented the movie to see how bad that shit was? I mean, even the really good flotsam in this horizonless sea of 0s and 1s is keeping me from some real-world responsibility.

In a similar spirit, though it's a little late for thanks by now, big up to Carl for pointing everyone in the direction of this fine (though apparently abandoned) blog. Right off the bat, I was taken by the incisive stance Alex adopts whilst pissing on graves:
Hauntology's ghostly audio is seen as form of good postmodernism, as set against the bad PoMo of a rampaging retroism. Beached as it seems we are at the end of (cultural) history, it is certainly a seductive argument... link[ed] to a mood of melancholic defeatism in Western left wing politics.
This is an idea I've stewed in until my hands got pruney and my hair stank of chlorine, but never really got around to writing about. I'm grateful someone finally put it publicly with such immediacy.

As many savory sounds have been channeled via this necrocultural seance (I especially like the notion of "ghost genres"), the obvious term that no one has so far applied to hauntological music is Dead End. The overarching message seems to be, "Give up. Sounds are neither created nor destroyed, they simply change form. Everything's already been done - probably by Eno*." This hasn't sat well with everyone: almost two years have already passed since this suicide of the imagination and insistence on being bored was ruefully dubbed "Transcendental Miserablism" over at Hyperstition. But if the Fukuyaman "End of History" proved patently false in the political realm, why can it not be an equally invalid prognosis for culture?

Where hauntology is as bankrupt as any other stripe of post-modernism is: can a creative philosophy be called such when it lacks the essential act of creation? There's obviously a creative aspect to reconstitution, translation, and deconstruction, but nothing that crackles with the shock of the new. As I've touched on before, part of the blame has to do with the available tools: the focus has shifted from hardware - between the instrument and the amplifier - to software; consequently, sounds are less created now than they are reformatted, simulated, and sampled. Sounds that are not born of air technically do not exist - they are undead, bastard vibrations exiled from their essential medium. This orphaned, unphysical quality is essential to most hauntological music, (re)constructed as it is from ashy samples & decayed soundwaves**, but it also requires hauntological music to be trapped in some bereaved fantasy of "utopias that never were***, or which are now unreachable, a retreat into childhood/youth, just as trapped in the endless re-iterative mechanistics of the postmodern as the lowest form of retroism." In this regard, hauntology is less a meditation on one's own scars than some sadomasochistic chimera about the fresh, stinking-meat wound that produced someone else's scars.

Am I selling short the opportunities offered by music software? I don't think so. Once the novelty of time-stretching and pitch-correcting wore off, the digital domain didn't actually epxand the sonic palette by much. Random-access, nondestructive editing is undeniably convenient, but how much further can nanosecond splicing be pushed beyond "Windowlicker"? (Don't answer that.) In fact, I'd be hard pressed to think of an unheard-of sound produced since the digitally-elongated bellow at the heart of "Come To Daddy".

I wonder if the pervasive pre-millenium tension of the previous decade hasn't led to a serious case of apocalyptic blue-balls. Amid the growing din of millenarian fundamentalists, technophobic survivalists, numerological fruitcakes, and rubbernecking cynics, it was impossible not to anticipate - with some degree of excitement - the systemic aneurysm & subsequent pandemonium of Y2K. It possibly came as a greater shock that nothing happened. The lights stayed on, nothing exploded, and computers only crashed if they were running Windows 98 (and so was par for the course). Since then, people have been desperate to declare every new disaster as the Day the World Changed Forever. Granted, the mere seven years of the new century have already accrued an impressive catalogue of catastrophes: September 11, the Iraq War, Katrina, and the current economic meltdown. But as of yet, very little has fundamentally changed about the way the world works. Hell, Bill Hicks could rise from the grave and (much to his apopleptic chagrin, I imagine) do a verbatim rehash of his early-'90s routines. Could it be that we're all just a bit... disappointed?

(*) - I'm a bit surprised that no one's cited the "Eno mix" of Massive Attack's "Protection" as an obvious precursor to Burial's diffuse, stray-transmission aesthetic.

(**) - Some artists who've been lumped under the hauntology banner, like SunnO))), are a little ill-suited to the "genre," given that they actually originate sounds by tangible means. In this regard, they're better suited to the "post-" (i.e. reductio ad absurdum minimalist deconstruction) prefix.

(***) - Need we be reminded that Burial himself is "too young to have ever gone to a warehouse rave."

Non-sequitorial postscript: Oh, Marnie... Marnie, Marnie, Marnie, I hear you, I dig what you're saying, I can relate, and you're a motherfucker of a guitar player, but... goddamit, just stop singing in that fuckin' cat-in-heat bleat and we can hang, okay? Please?

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Something Has Gone Horribly Wrong

I'm DJ'ing a wedding today.

Don't quite know how it happened, but at least the happy couple have uncommonly good taste in music, so I can't get away with any jive bullshit. Chuck Brown, Archie Bell, and Slim Gaillard for all! Anyway, that's my excuse (well, that and getting distracted by those 9/11 fruitloops) for not having been too bloggy this week. I've got a couple o' things on the boil for next week, so hang tight.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Is This Not Ideology At Its Purest?

I gotta stop doing this: taking the bait on someone else's blog by responding to someone far over my political horizon, hijacking the comments thread and generally being a bloviating bore. But man, did I blow it this time - I raised the hackles of a 9/11 Truth evangelist. Yeah, one of these guys. And now my keyboard is paying for it in exponential wear 'n' tear.

I've never thought the narrative offered by the US government was entirely satisfactory; I'll even hazard there was actionable intelligence about the terrorist plot that was deliberately neglected by the Machiavellian vampires in PNAC. (Condi could probably back up such a claim.) But every alternate telling of the event - including though not limited to controlled demolition, squibs, stand-down orders, missiles, remote-controlled drones, and, of course, the Jews did it - is equally pockmarked by inconsistency, pseudoscience, and circumstantial evidence. Not that this dulls the fervor of the 9/11 Truth crowd, no sir! The great irony of the "Truthers" is that, as much cross-examination to which they subject the official account, they never betray the slightest doubt about their own conclusions. The last time I saw someone so brassbound of his own convictions, it was, uh... that retarded cowboy fellow who's been running the country for the past eight years.

I can't discuss the 9/11 Truth movement without hearing Slavoj Žižek's de facto motto ringing in my ears: Is that not ideology at its purest? The 9/11 Truth weltanschaaung is a meticulously fantastic, all-encompassing construction to which exceptions or contradictions only prove the rule, which in turn denies the exceptions or contradictions as being such. It's as impregnable and self-affirming as any other ideology, from Adorno's miserablist Marxism to Catholicism to Scientology. In short, it's fucking impossible to entrust with even a modicum of self-skepticism.

So why am I giving more airtime to this armchair-CSI lunacy? Well, I originally intended to use this space to continue the demagogic ping-pong match without co-opting any more of Jodi Dean's comment thread. But I'll save my breath and instead refer you to the article that kicked off this whole melee: the Biblically-long debate between Matt Taibbi and David Ray Griffin hosted by Alternet. Grab a cup of coffee, 'cuz it's over thirty pages long (though the fur doesn't really start flying until Part II). Almost any argument that was made at Dean's blog (or could be made here) is covered somewhere within the article, so give at least a little of your time.

I'll admit my bias out of the gate: Taibbi is one of the most thorough and viciously funny journalists on the beat, though his increasingly frenzied, nouveau-gonzo style reveals (as Tim Krieder noted) "a man whom coverage of national politics has driven to the brink of utter and irredeemable loathing of mankind." But I also have to give Griffin his due: he presented himself as diplomatic, patient, and attentive, ditching histrionics for investigative scrutiny. This is in stark contrast to the usual spittle-hail and witch-hunt hysterics through which Truthers deliver their arguments. Perhaps the 9/11 Truth community might make more headway if their massaged their PR a bit. The hectoring tone, juvenile monitions to "wake the fuck up!", and smug sighing over having to thanklessly point out "the blindingly obvious" aren't exactly endearing.

The mistake Truthers make is like confusing Bush with Batman: the forensic microscopy and fanciful dot-connecting ignores the complete picture. The day the WTC was destroyed, that very afternoon, I was already more terrified about what Bush's response would be. I'll borrow some words from Žižek to avoid sounding monstrously callous:
The U.S. just got the taste of what goes on around the world on a daily basis, from Sarajevo to Grozny, from Rwanda and Congo to Sierra Leone. If one adds to the situation in New York snipers and gang rapes, one gets an idea about what Sarajevo was a decade ago.
The attacks were like punching a gorilla in the nose: an irrationally bold gesture of defiance that would temporarily stun the beast, but then set its blood to boil. Run to the hills, motherfuckers.

Bringing this back to my initial point on Jodi Dean's blog, it's not as though any of the various 9/11 conspiracy theories need be proven true to indict the Bush (and Blair) administrations for their heinous offenses. The whole of the American & British cabinets could be dragged into the Hague right now and receive the same charge dispensed at the Nuremberg Trials: planning, initiating and waging wars of aggression and other crimes against peace. This is without considering the plethora of other disgusting transgressions that are sufficiently well-documented that I needn't recount them all here.

The question might become one of priorities: do we want BushCo. punished for being the amoral, imperialist hegemons they are, or do we want to bicker endlessly over incomplete and corrupt evidence? From a legal standpoint, a 9/11 Truth prosecution of the Bush Administration is unfeasible: in the Taibbi/Griffin article, Griffin's courtroom analogy posits himself as a defense attorney, who needs only establish the shadow of a doubt, which the official 9/11 narrative is certainly not beyond. But then neither is the 9/11 Truth version of the event.

Dismayingly, I suspect the real question at the root of this interminably dull argument is: what do we care about more, 2751 dead in New York City, or (as of today) 4180 Americans, 314 other coalition members, and an estimated 1,273,378 Iraqis? Do we care more about our fellow middle-class Starbucks customers, or a bunch of gun-toting pseudo-barbarians fighting over a beige wasteland? Are we more disturbed by a traumatic schism in our quotidian Western comfort, which we must fill with whatever fragmented fantasy we can possibly cobble together from material scraps, or by an ongoing, slow-burning slaughter of colossal scale that nonetheless is out of our empathic view?

I don't particularly want the answer to those questions - but then, that's probably exactly what a 9/11 Truther would've said about me anyway.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Burning Down the House

Well, it's like three in the morning here, so I ain't got time to comment on this right now, but it's worth bringing to your attention expediently so we can all have a nice little chat about 3rd-degree burns on nether* regions in the near future.

By the way, did you notice that Osaka police are calling this a suicide attempt? Talk about going out in a blaze of glory. Surely any effort to off yourself that includes your pants around your ankles is just one o' them Cries For Help. Of course, considering the circumstances, yeah, this guy obviously had nothing going for him.

Anyway, this is a good excuse to post a li'l video hat-tip to Jodi Dean, but foregoing my original selection of "Life During Wartime", this seems like a more a propos selection...

(*) - Did I mention I'm going to Amsterdam this weekend? It's gonna be a hot time... in the ol' town too-nite...


Could someone please explain to me what exactly Robert Christgau enjoys about music? And how the fuck did this joyless hackademic secure his tenure as The Dean? Can we just guillotine him, mount his head on a handsome teak slab above a plaque that says "B+ Means Never Having To Say You're Sorry," and be done with it?

(H/T to Anthony via Marc)

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Lightning In a Bubble

I, like every other self-respecting music nerd, spent last week devouring reviews of the ATP NY festival, if only to reaffirm the consensus that Kevin Shields is the supreme conjurer of megadecibel dark winds. (Survey says: hells yeah!) By most accounts, the rest of the line-up also acquit themselves admirably - though having Bob Mould (playing old Hüsker Dü songs), Trail of Dead, Dino Jr., and Mogwai on the same night seems redundant.

I'm in the enviable position of having seen almost all the bands on the bill of which I'm particularly fond. (Om and Harmonia, I'll hunt you down one day.) One band my 20-yr-old self would've drawn blood to see was Lightning Bolt, but in the years since I've actually passed up every chance I've had. It wasn't the numbing homogeneity their music betrays over several albums, nor was it part of some larger aesthetic shift in my listening habits. So why couldn't I be arsed to see one of the hot-shit live acts of the new millenium? It has something to do with Amy Phillips' impression of LB's Saturday night ATP set:
As usual, Lightning Bolt set up on the floor rather than the stage. As usual, it was only the most aggressive people who got to actually see Lightning Bolt. I've been to a handful of Lightning Bolt shows, and I've never been able to see more than the tops of Brian Chippendale's and Brian Gibson's heads. This time was no different. I think I counted maybe three girls inside the inner circle of normally wimpy dudes getting their slamdance douchebag on. Lightning Bolt's set was the one time during the entire weekend that ATP NY didn't feel like a happy, inclusive community.
Let's repeat those last seven words for emphasis: didn't feel like a happy, inclusive community. But isn't the point of their in-audience positioning to pulverise the fourth wall, to dynamite the pedestal upon which performers loom over their audience? Yes, but it also serves to construct an entirely different kind of barrier.

Despite its proclaimed rejections of heirarchy & social barriers, hipsterism is a cultural economy wherein exclusivity is the only currency. Now that post-modernism has melted the distinction between High and Low Art, and that the Information Age has made the very notion of obscurity obsolete, there aren't stylistic criteria which cleanly cleave Hip from Square. Power electribalists Fuck Buttons idolise Leonard Cohen and Li'l Wayne's favourite musical act is Nirvana, and if there's some aesthetic standard to be gleaned from that, you're a finer taxonomist than I. No, hipsters function more like shambolic Freemasons: membership seems predicated upon a Gordian knot of social vagueries, when in fact it's a paranoid mafioso clique linked by vouchsafed familiarity and mutually benefical services rendered. Besides endorsement from a reputable member, a prospective inductee must also complete the studied self-integration process described by Dr. L. Ron Bumquist in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas:
If he figures out what is "happening," he can rise one notch - and become Hip. Then if he can convince himself to approve of what is "happening," then he becomes Groovy. And after that, he can actually raise himself to the rank of Cool. He can become one of those... cool guys.
And what is the key to being able to decode, accept, and successfully navigate such arcane, unrooted etiquette? Proximity. If you're not literally in, then you are doomed to being out. Which is exactly what happens at a Lightning Bolt show, a veritable diorama of hipster social structure.

The on-the-floor set-up is a bold rebuff of the "straight world," the hipster mission statement physically manifest: any two square meters of pavement is a performance space! Refuse the plastic idolatry of the stage! No guest-list gladhanding or AmEx Black card privilege will land you in the front row, because floor plans be damned! We are all part of the same sweaty embrace! But what is populist in its pretense is exclusive in its practice. The full thrall of sound & sight is enjoyed by only the elect few - that is, the scene players already aware of the ritual's conformation who jockey the most aggressively for position. Physically walled off by the corona of the crowd, those at a distance are left to piece together some sad shred of enjoyment from whatever sonic & visual scraps escape the ecstatic nucleus. Is it supposed to sound so muddy? What was churning within that sea of heads? What am I missing? These can only be answered with that most segregative of rejoinders: "If you have to ask, you'll never know." And you'll never know because you're not allowed.

There are other ways of hacking the stale environment of the stage without bisecting (and thus stratifying) the audience the way Lightning Bolt does. The champions of performance-environment deconstruction were (are?) Baltimore rawk situationists Oxes. Though they mounted their onstage wood crates ironically to exaggerate the distance between them and the audience ("when hardcore bands had been playing on the floor, staying low"), this actually made it easier for everyone in the venue to see the band, creating a reverse panopticon that the barstool-warmers & short people at the back undoubtedly appreciated. Also, their wireless guitar rigs allowed them to invade the audience, pinballing about the room, hurdling the soundboard, mounting audience members, and swiping cigarettes. This preemptive & improvised "audience participation" was far more intuitive & honest than, say, Tim Harrington's practiced prop-comedy schtick.

Hip-hop also offers different ways of approaching the stage. Though regional snobbery can quickly become grating, an MC's focus on their local social reality necessarily means their music is in rooted in their community. For all of hip-hop's narcissistic self-aggrandizement, the music only rings true if it's reflective of some collective experience. That's why it's never just a solo artist onstage: as corny a carnival barker as a hype-man can be, he's there because the star MC and his friends are there to convey their message together. When was the last time a member of the Wu-Tang Clan appeared alone? Like they said, "We gonna swarm!"

Similarly, the best battle-rapping can't rely on a vast vocabulary alone. The victor is most often whoever can appeal the most effectively to the audience, converting the crowd from objective spectators to a united front in the war of words. That the MC is onstage becomes irrelevant, because the audience is right there with them: they got his back.

Even certain arena tours attempt to create a more communal vibe when artists perform in the round, which (partially) eliminates the ostracisation felt by those audience members at the back of the arena. Such a circular setup is more inclusive than the rectangular yawn of every outdoor festival, which invariably feels less like a collective fête than (in the words of Jarvis Cocker) "just 20,000 people standing in a field." Funny how you can lop off the last two zeros of that number and experience the exact same sentiment against the back wall of a Lightning Bolt gig.