Monday, April 28, 2008

Omnibustin' Loose!

One of my buddies has dubbed me the Transfer Addict, thanks to my constant self-flaggelation with jetlag. And he may be right: what better hallmark of addiction is there beyond the knowledge that something is physically killing you (not to mention the planet), yet your life would be cast to the wind were it not draped around such a frame? I'm off to the land of fine cheese & whine; I'm sure I'll greeted heartily upon my arrival. But before I vanish, I wanted to leave a handful of worthwhile distractions and a few soapbox digressions so boredom is not an issue.

1. Speaking of addicts, I've waxed prosaic about the aesthetic tendencies of habitual drug-users before. I've also spent hours enthusiastically endorsing total legalisation as the only humane (and sustainable) drug policy. I don't particularly feel the need to explain myself, if only for fear of being a bore. Yes, yes, yes, drugs can be incredibly scary (see: Before and After) but they've also led to some incredible creative achievements (see: Before and After).

Yet I keep coming back because some drugs are so cloaked in shadow & mystique that otherwise progressive people recoil towards illogical, Old Testament extremes, such as prohibition and punishment for transgressors. The way most people discuss heroin is like listening to a Chinese person talk about Japan. Never mind that often junkies can hide their habit for great lengths of time and no one notices anything amiss. There remains the conventional wisdom that heroin is the devil, but cocaine is just dandy - and this cart of horseshit is reinforced by the likes of career waster Nikki Sixx in his new book, The Heroin Diaries. Yes, Sixx is purportedly literate. Mercifully, John Dolan refuses to let this humourless confession by "a classic L.A. white-trash cokehead" go without reproach. Dolan is not arguing in favour of picking up the needle, but rather attempting to disillusion people who believe that cocaine is a "safe", socially acceptable drug whereas heroin is not. Though the full article is well worth a read, here are a few highlights:
...Why is this called The Heroin Diaries? Because Nikki's publisher realized cocaine is too sleazy and too 1970s to interest anybody. Heroin, which only entered the middle-class California druggie's repertoire in the 1980s, still retains some of its exotic, forbidden appeal.

...If you've spent any time in L.A. you've probably met guys like this. For them, cocaine is simply part of a normal healthy diet, whereas heroin is just plain evil. Odd, because among intelligent druggies opiates get a lot of respect, while coke is simply despised. For serious drug people there are two ways to go: up with some variety of speed, or down with some kind of opiate. Coke is scorned as a short-acting verbal emetic, a silly drug for moneyed trash.

...This book reads like Hunter Thompson rewritten by Nigel Tufnel. Every rock cliché you ever heard can be found in its pages, even "Welcome to my nightmare." But Nikki and the friends interviewed for their recollections of his crisis are hopeless at depicting the nightmare, taking refuge in stale adjectives like "dark" and "pain." Tommy Lee explains that drugs "led us to this really dark fucking place," then, realizing he's onto a good adjectival thing, amplifies his remarks, stating that said place was, in fact, "dark as fuck."

...The elements of the story are simple: the hero has to dive deep into sin. This part of the story is always bragging disguised as confession: "My sins are bigger and gaudier than your sins." The gaudier and noisier the sin, the better. Nikki has done his best to check this item off the list, God knows. The sinner must then crash and burn, hitting bottom. Nikki fulfills this requirement on page 384. ...Before he can even turn blue properly, Nikki is visited by Grace -- Grace the religious epiphany, not the groupie of the same name. His unintentionally hilarious reaction to the fact that he's been literally, physically saved is, "Maybe there is a God." Many an observer would have come to the opposite conclusion: Cobain kills himself and Nikki lives? There is no god. Nikki survives simply because he's famous; he's surrounded by adoring, masochistic women, one of whom revives him. Without the fame and fortune, not only would he have died but his "pain" would interest no one at all. Suffering served up without these condiments is available all around you; just look into the cars stopped beside you at the next red light. But how many bestsellers do you see about the suffering of, say, a single mom working at Wal-Mart in Houston with chronic back pain and a broken air conditioner? That's true suffering. That's Hell on earth. But nobody wants to know about it. Nikki's suffering, by contrast, has spent a long time on Amazon's top thousand sellers.

...The only really radical, interesting thing a rock star could say would be what people dread hearing: "Ha ha, I'm famous and you're nobody! I drink your adulation like blood! You send me all your love and money and I give you nothing! And I'm the happiest man in the world!" If Mark David Chapman's lawyer had made that argument the thesis of his defense: "My client killed Dracula! You should be giving him a medal!" we might have the beginning of an interesting discussion about celebrity as a new form of extortion, of oppression. Instead we get Spinal Tap's cover of "Amazing Grace."
Aside from lancing Sixx' self-indulgent three-act, Dolan makes time for the succint & sage argument against prohibition: that it makes quality control of street drugs impossible, and turns every step of a junkie's journey - from purchase, to content, to ingestion - a potentially fatal gamble. How puritanically passive-aggressive and morally repugnant.

2. Okay. Foals. Let's talk about 'em, 'cuz everyone else is. I understand the appeal: they're armed with an earworm and they make a hell of a Q And Not U cover band. A perfectly clinical amalgam of everything that was cutting-edge in New Yawk about six years ago. (For once, the Forkers got it right.) But enough with all the "math rock" misnomering already! Disco strut plus angle-saxon funk stutter does not a polyrhythm make, morons. Did all of England (or at least the NME) miss Discipline and Don Cab?

3. Ah, Crystal Castles. Steal and get P3NED. What I personally am most incredulous about is that people aren't tired of this shit already. Even that mid-song blast of bitcrunched feedback (I don't think anyone even realizes that's a Melvins sample anymore) seems to cop to creative exhaustion: "Yeah, we could write a bridge, or just break it down, but... fuck it, I just wanna dance!"

4. *Ahem* Thank you for your time & attention.

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