Notes From The Flip Side: 06.19.2005
"There are negative thoughts here, and they cannot but strike an uncouth note in a world of positive thinking."
John Kenneth Galbraith
New Scars For Old Wounds.
Every so often, I ramble on about records and how mindbendingly awesome they are and how little we deserve them in our lives; I'm in the process of doing that about Some Girls' "The DNA Will Have Its Say," but I woke up this morning and resumed listening to the new Lucero album, "Nobody's Darlings" and it's simply fucking brilliant.
Sure, maybe it sounds like Southern-fried rock, but it's everything that was ever awesome about the genre with none of the winking, self-referential and self-aware claptrap that seems to accompany records along those lines that come out these days (and Philip and I had a chat last night about Patterson Hood and the Drive-By Truckers which - good though "Southern Rock Opera" was - sucker-punched that very issue). See, it's just too damned easy for a band to get an extra guitarist or two, write songs about criminally underage girls who lean against dilapidated fences and smoke cigarettes while looking an awful lot like they're a lot less innocent than they're supposed to be, wear mesh John Deere caps and affect the trappings of the genre. Much like punk, the signs are too obvious and too easily coopted. The primary difference seems to be that punk, in some respects, carries a measure of status so more people are willing to adopt those signs than are willing to affect the image of people from rural America; thus, record companies haven't really figured out a way to commodify alt-country (or whatever you want to call it) yet because it requires a perceived step down in the class hierarchy which, apparently, makes it tough to construct the alt-country equivalent of a boy band (and besides, we all know that Ben Nichols is a fucking poster boy anyway ... or are girls no longer suckers for bad boys with broken hearts who play guitar like pick-up truck angels and smoke too many cigarettes on their way to another town for another show?). Go figure. Who ever knew that punk rock would effectively be a higher class than anything?
At any rate, I'm not sure that any band ever recorded better soundtracks for drunken nights of resignation that never seem to end. It's not so much that these songs are bitter as they are frequently hopeless; the songs seem to approach life recognizing that it doesn't matter if you see light at the end of the tunnel because it's an express freight train that won't even stop when it knocks you out of your shoes. These aren't the anthems for the winners; these are the elegies for the people who watched someone leave, the people who fucked up over and over again, the people who poured gasoline on their lives and tossed a match at it just to watch it all burn. These are the refrains to sing at the end of another wasted day as we realize we're squandering every last good moment in our lives but simply can't be bothered to care.
And yet even with all that, there's a sort of liberation that rises from those ashes; with nothing left to lose, the voices in these songs are left to explore something else. When the weight of history is no longer a shackle, it is once again possible to be whatever you want.
Yeah. It's really that good. It's better than anything I can describe. It's a better record than I think I deserve this year. If you don't already own it, you should really fix that. Right now.
You Can Still Rock In The Vatican, Oh Yeah, All Right!
Pope Benedict XVI, music critic:
"Rock music seeks release through liberation from the personality and its responsibility ... [it is] among the anarchic ideas of freedom which today  predominate more openly in the West than in the East. But that is precisely why rock music is so completely antithetical to the Christian concept of redemption and freedom, indeed its exact opposite. Hence music of this type must be excluded from the Church on principle, and not merely for aesthetic reasons, or because of restorative crankiness or historical inflexibility. Rock music seeks release through liberation from the personality and its responsibility ... [it is] among the anarchic ideas of freedom which today  predominate more openly in the West than in the East. But that is precisely why rock music is so completely antithetical to the Christian concept of redemption and freedom, indeed its exact opposite. Hence music of this type must be excluded from the Church on principle, and not merely for aesthetic reasons, or because of restorative crankiness or historical inflexibility."
I've found a few links for it, most of which point to this Asia Times article.
Copping Out, 4:39 A.M.
I wish I could think of something more meaningful to write at the moment, but I've spent the last week sleeping a lot and trying to recover from my second operation in under a month. This one seems to have fixed the problem; that doesn't mean that bouncing back is any easier. I want to get out of bed and out of this chair. I want to get back on my feet and back to work. I want the doc to clear me for travel so I can head back to San Diego for a weekend of baseball and burritos. I want to stop getting well and actually be well. I want a lot of things right now, none of which are actually things. It's good to want, especially when what I want is good health and to see old friends again.
The Running List Of Shit That Kills This Year
- The Hold Steady's "Separation Sunday"
- Some Girls' "The DNA Will Have Its Say"
- Crooked Fingers' "Dignity And Shame"
- Red Sparowes' "At The Soundless Dawn"
- Jesu's "Jesu" (Hydrahead, seriously, where the hell is that replacement?)
- M83's "Before The Dawn Heals Us"
- Lucero's "Nobody's Darlings"
- The Kleptones' "A Night At The Hip Hopera" (yeah, so what if it came out last year and I only just now heard it? It's still fucking incredible. You'll have to search for that one on the Web and try to download it - it was never released and apparently the vile forces of orthodoxy are trying to crush this plunderphonic rebellion of awesomeness.)
And that's just what I've heard so far. I'm not including reissues (Willie Hightower, Gang Of Four, Candi Staton, Converge, etc.), haven't listened to everything in my box of tricks (and I owe Razorcake about a billion reviews as well) and I don't know what all else is coming down the pike this year. Maybe it won't be so bad after all.
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
- John Conyers wants some answers from the President about the Downing Street Memo. Can you blame him?
- Q: Why is it that interacting with culture so frequently seems to end in lawsuits? A: Lawyers tend not to have senses of humor, hence why they never understand the punchline, "A good start."
- I stumbled across a fascinating article from Spiegel about the rise of Neo-Nazism in Germany. Oppressively conservative parents seem to raise black bloc anarchists. Apparently, the converse is also true, but this article also discusses some of the motivatons behind it.
- Arts & Letters Daily. I stumbled across Arts & Letters Daily through Living On Less, a journal I read daily. ALD is a great news aggregator of interesting tidbits from around the world and is apparently put together by The Chronicle Of Higher Education.
- If I want to understand class in America, I'm not going to turn to The Grey Lady for a critical analysis of the factors which influence it. Instead, I will turn to Jim Goad, Paul Fussell, C. Wright Mills or John Kenneth Galbraith, to name just a few.
- The Hype Machine rolls up MP3s posted in blogs over the course of a day into an easy to play list for iTunes, Winamp or ... dare I say it ... download.
- Human Events Online recently listed their choices for the 10 Most Harmful Books Of The 19th And 20th Centuries. I think I need to own every book on the honorable mention list (and any opponent of my dear friend John Stuart Mill's "On Liberty" is definitely an opponent of mine). Given what this list looks like, I'm surprised that "Common Sense" didn't make it.
- I love A Softer World.
"Blackball," "Samurai Jack: Season 2," "Storytelling," "Strictly Ballroom," "I'll Sleep When I'm Dead," "Coffee And Cigarettes," "Big Trouble," "School Of Rock," "Starsky & Hutch," "The Bad News Bears," "Zoolander"
Alan Moore and José Villarrubia, "The Mirror Of Love"
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"