Notes From The Flip Side: 05.29.2005
"A gay, cross-dressing black giant waking up every day and living in West Virginia is more of a hero than Spider-Man, Lenny Bruce and Gandhi combined."
I am not prone to being that asshole who claims that the only good band in a genre is this group or that other artist; generally speaking, comments like that indicate ignorance. I'm more likely to say "I really like X," and, when someone says, "Dude, Y is so much better," I'll generally check out Y to give it a chance. I freely admit my ignorance about music; no, I haven't heard The Screaming Orgasms, The Bloody Stools, The Raving Fucktards, The Whimpering Sweater Vests or whatever band du jour happens to be the rage at any given moment. Honestly - most times - I could care less because most bands are just following another trend and trying to cash in, regardless of what they tell themselves so they can go to sleep at night. I'll check them out anyway, but don't expect me to like it and don't be disappointed if I ask you what the fuck you were thinking.
Likewise, a band very well may have done that 10 or 20 years ago; I veer between wanting to hear something utterly new and acknowledging that it's unlikely (which means I criticize derivative music) and settling for things which are vaguely familiar, but well done. I realize this is, in some ways, a contradiction and I apologize for it - criticism is intensely personal and anyone who claims that it's objective is either lying to you or themselves or both; I am inconsistent and fallible and I admit that as well but it doesn't stop me from despising the latest trend of, at this moment, emo metal bands.
I'm sorry if you're confused by this, if you don't understand why - purely for example - I can't be bothered to care about a band like Atreyu when I claim to like both punk and hardcore. If I'm apologizing to you, I suggest that we merely have different definitions and understandings of the genre; I won't say that you're wrong or that I'm right, merely that my perspective is based on a hair over two decades of this stuff now and I probably have heard it all before but that I still look for something new (to me, at least) and exciting (again, to me - while I hope that you get off on the same stuff I do, I don't expect it) and that there's a fair bit of stuff which simply doesn't do it for me emotionally or intellectually. (And frankly, bands like Atreyu, nice people though they may be - and I don't know because I've never met or talked with them - tend to bore the shit out of me.)
After all, I can appreciate that Paris Texas album as a fan while other albums may require only an intellectual or may demand a blended response which engages both the emotions and the intellect - in other words, the record works for me as a fan and as a music snob; I have to think about it while I'm jumping around playing air guitar.
And all of this, really, is just a goddamned long precursor to gibbering senselessly about the new Some Girls EP, which is simply fucking brilliant. Now look - I loved American Nightmare / Give Up The Ghost. I love The Bars. I've been loving Some Girls since I finally found the first two EPs at Krazyfest back in 2003, although I had no reason to think I wouldn't. Seeing them though ... well, that's what really hammered the point home. I won't make a fuss about pedigree - suffice it to say that I got into Some Girls because Wes is in it; Wes is an awesome guy, an incredible writer (lyrics, journalism, creative works - across the board, the guy is ridiculously talented) and I've liked everything else he's done - you could just as easily have found your way into Some Girls through being a fan of another band. The show was just fucking amazing - 20 minutes seemed like forever. I think everyone was exhausted by the time they were done. I had no idea what I had captured - merely that it was intense and that the entire band was so active that I had to use a fast shutter speed and flash to have a chance of getting anything in focus.
Most of the pictures weren't.
But that is, in a way, reflecting the essence of Some Girls - the songs tend to be short, staccato blasts of grinding noise. They alter consciousness because there are times when it sounds less like music and more like assault; these songs are scathing and scabrous, frequently bitter and often bilious. This is not a band that plays three pleasing chords and structures them in such a way as to write a catchy ditty - this is a lot more like a boot in the ribs and I mean that in the best possible way. The songs don't merely challenge listeners - hell, that's too easy these days because any asshole with a guitar and a yen for sadism can make some skronky noise (and quite a few of them have); while I haven't yet completely figured out what (in my opinion) separates The Great Redneck Hope, Das Oath, Necronomitron, Lightning Bolt and a handful of other bands from the masses, what I know is that Some Girls' music isn't racket for the sake of clamor - to crib from and modify Gertrude Stein, there's too much here here.
Yes, it's spastic. Yes, it constantly seems like it's on the verge of self-immolation, but what good is music if it doesn't seem like it's always halfway to falling apart? Would we have loved The Replacements half as much if they were merely competent instead of alternating between sheer brilliance and fuck-ups that made people cringe and turn away? It's not that Some Girls fucks up, it's just that music is far more interesting when it's teetering on the edge of chaos ... which is the only explanation I have for why anyone still cares about G.G. Allin because his music was fairly generic (if offensive, which is a different sort of generic these days - shocking just ain't what it used to be). The challenge with Some Girls is that they play so fucking fast (the new EP clocks in at a hair over six minutes for seven songs) that it's difficult to puzzle through the music - it's complex, but dizzyingly more so because it disappears in a blur of notes. Think of it like a Charlie Parker solo - no one understood Bird at the time (except other forward-thinking musicians) because he crammed literally three times as many notes (and probably at least that many ideas and themes) into his songs, especially in his solos. Similarly, Some Girls seems to have the same sort of blast furnace musical complexity wired into these 50-second boot parties.
But then there are the lyrical ideas to contend with and decipher - Wes has a knack for using near-rhymes and alliteration to develop images ("I'm sipping cold and slow while careful to keep my legs closed. / The sun's not solid gold but no one knows. / The doors are deadlocked but the whores aren't wedlocked. / A wish list of marital bliss in an answerless Los Angeles.") that have more in common with prose or poetry than hardcore punk; while the last few years have really been a high water mark for interesting musical and lyrical conceits in hardcore, there are still vastly more songs about who broke hardcore (A: you, anyone who broke edge, you, bands that signed to major labels, you, bands that toured on Ozzfest, you, anyone who stabbed someone in the back, you, anyone who turned away, you, anyone who broke edge while doing anything on this list and you) than there are songs which require any level of thought. Recently, some bands operating within hardcore seem to be transforming a genre which once merely required reaction (typically in the form of dancing or singing along) by adding elements which demand a little more gray matter interaction, which incorporate lyrical ("Yea, well, fate is fucking romantic if you can get off on failure.") and musical subtleties and ideas which seem to extend hardcore's possibilities. There's humor here, bitter though it may be, and wit - neither is especially common in more modern forms of punk. Wry sarcasm has been sacrificed on the altar of point-blank expression; while leaving little room for interpretation and speaking clearly can be good things, isn't it nice to have something to puzzle over at the end of the day?
After all, the albums I tend to love most (and the ones most of my friends seem to love) are the ones which require just a little more engagement, that don't depart like completing a transaction at a drive-through. I tend to appreciate albums which fester like an untreated sore; I respect records that I have to keep returning to and listening to again because there's something nagging there, like the skin of a peanut stuck in my throat and stubbornly refusing to come loose no matter how much I cough or spit or drink.
And finally, before you give me shit and argue that Rohrshach or Born Against or Men's Recovery Project or The Locust or Napalm Death or whoever was doing this stuff a few years ago and pre-dated Some Girls, I will note - for the record - that I don't give a fuck. Yes, those bands rock. Some Girls also rocks. I could care less about who did it first - in this case, I care about who does it well and, frankly, "The DNA Will Have Its Say" (all six minutes of it) is just as satisfying to me as "The Rebel Sound Of Shit And Failure" or "Scum."
And with all that said, here are some pictures that really seem to say it all.
Today Is A Gift, That's Why They Call It The Present
Maybe Eleanor Roosevelt said that; all I know is I heard Paddy say it to Chad after a Dillinger Four show in L.A. right before I left San Diego and that every other attempt I've made to find out where that came from has pointed to someone who is unknown. Maybe that makes it even more of a gift; we don't know who gave it to us and perhaps it's all the more precious because of that anonymity.
I made it through the first operation; it wasn't successful. When my ENT saw how much scar tissue existed, he simply stopped. We're going back in on June 13. He's installing a stent; we're hoping he can remove the cyst then. If not, we're down to one option remaining before we go in through the skull - ain't that a kick in the head? I'm going to head out and try to enjoy the day before the storm gets here - it's shaping up to be a long night.
Off The Top Of My Head ...
- Dear Hydrahead - Dudes, your music rocks, but it's been over two months since I found out that my Jesu disc skipped, a month and a half since I sent it in for a replacement copy and at least that long since I've heard from a living person at the office. I realize that I'm just another asshole with a Web site, but I'd really like to have my replacement copy before, say, fall? Thanks bunches! xoxoxoxoxoxo Puckett
- How in the fuck did I get more than 13,000 page views in one day? No new content was added. It wasn't an update day. There was no earthly reason for the traffic to spike that much. I'm wondering if perhaps it was just robot day and a few search engines happened to crawl my site. However, as of May 19, I had more than 71,000 page views. I was used to averaging 45,000 to 60,000 - what the hell happened?
- Fort Culture. The media industry and affiliated corporations have coopted our music, our culture, our ethics and any other identifiable shards of rebellion that they can find, repackaged them and are selling them back to us at a tidy profit. Isn't it about time that we called that theft what it is? Isn't it about time that we put all of them up against a wall and take back what was ours in the first place?
- Twenty percent of the Amazon rainforest is gone. I wonder if we've allowed the cure for AIDS or cancer to go with it, or if that might somehow be in the remaining 80%. After all, 70% of the plants that have anti-carcinogenic properties are species that exist in rainforests and other plants yield treatments for multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease and Hodgkin's disease, among others. Maybe we should stop, like, setting it on fire and shit?
- I recently stumbled across Patton Oswalt's blog (click Spew) while looking for, of all things, the Run For Your Fucking Life discography CD. I'm not sure how searching for a CD by a San Diego hardcore band leads me to a stand-up comic's site, but then again, I'm still not entirely sure how you can search for Brianna Banks (or is it Briana? Consistent spelling doesn't seem to be valued in the world of hardcore porn ...) and cigarette smoking and wind up on my site. I hope all those folks looking for nude pictures of Brianna Banks erotically smoking cigarettes aren't disappointed to wind up on a site with hardly any pictures and lots of musings about search engine vagaries and whimsy. With that, I fucking retire. I used whimsy in a sentence; time to hang up my hat.
- Hang up my hat? Not so much.
John Coltrane. Charles Mingus. The O'Jays. The Hold Steady. Red Sparowes. Ryan Adams. The Mountain Goats. Candi Staton. The Evens. Pelican. Some Girls.
"The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou," "Lemony Snicket's A Series Of Unfortunate Events," "Tombstone," "Collateral," "Eulogy," "Eurotrip," "Garden State," "Friday Night Lights," "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence," "Without A Paddle"
James Frey, "A Million Little Pieces"
Paul Avrich, "Anarchist Portraits"; Bertrand Russell, "Why I Am Not A Christian"; Umberto Eco, "Island Of The Day Before"; Alan Lomax, "The Land Where The Blues Began"; Peter Guralnick, "Lost Highway" and "Sweet Soul Music"; Steven Heller, "Graphic Design History" (edited with Georgette Ballance); Gunnar Swanson, ed., "Graphic Design And Reading"; Daniel Guerin, "No Gods No Masters"