Wednesday, April 29, 2009

When Life Throws Me Lemons, Dan Deacon Makes Lemonade

I have been bemoaning the fact lately that, as I get older, I am running out of bands and artists to see who I haven't already seen before. And, yet, the dark clouds parted today with the news on pitchfork that three acts of which I have seen before on separate occassions - Dan Deacon, No Age, and Deerhunter - will share the same stage all at once while alternating songs on a dream tour that will come together this summer. I'm pretty sure they will make a stop in Austin(dates have yet to be announced), but where in the hell they will fit all these folks on one stage is beyond me. Regardless, this is the tour I'm most anticipating this year. Hopefully, this sort of creative touring experiment will spread and open up a whole new world of concert enjoyment for me.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Black Nasty

I have been desperately searching craigslist for a reasonably priced ticket to Spoon's sold out show at the Scoot Inn this Tuesday, not because I have to see Spoon, though Spoon is an amazing band but, rather, to see the opening act - a guy who is reserved, intellectual, artsy, and the most vulgar rapper in the universe - Black Nasty.

The dichotomy of personality that is Black Nasty is what makes his music so compelling in the first place and, yes, he has the skills to boot. His latest album - Shark Tank - is guested by indie music heavyweights such as Bonnie 'Prince' Billy, Jana Hunter, Ariel Pink, as well as his sister - Pink Nasty. If there was ever an artist that needed a Parental Guidance Advisory sticker on his albums, it's Black Nasty, but to dismiss him as a moronic, white-boy rapper completely misses the point. We seem to welcome vulgarity with comedians, but condemn it otherwise. And we wouldn't even bat an eye if Black Nasty were a character in a movie, yet somehow this character, figuratively and literally speaking, who is rapping about things he doesn't take seriously is abhorrent?

Who's right and who's wrong and who should be the ultimate judge when it comes to free speech? I don't have the answers to that, but I am against censorship and I must say that I am fascinated by the fact that Black Nasty is pushing those boundaries while not taking himself seriously from his home base in the politically correct town of Austin, Texas.
P.S. I scored tickets!(4/20/2009)

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Lilly Allen - The Fear

I can't say that I have listened to a whole lot of Lilly Allen's music, but I accidentally stumbled across her song - The Fear - this morning and I absolutely love it. The original version is more upbeat, but I like this accoustic version better.

Sunday, April 12, 2009


One of the main issues I had with the Bush administration was its use of torture as well as the dismantling of the rule of law in its fight against terror. This is the behavior of third world dictatorships and when we lower ourselves to those standards of behavior, it threatens our existance as a civilized nation.

I voted for Barak Obama because he seemed to be equally appalled at the direction the country was heading towards in its fight against terror. In the first month of his presidency, he ordered the closure of the Guantanamo Bay prison camp as well as ordering a review of military trials for terror suspects and a ban on harsh interrogation methods. He said that the United States would continue to fight terror, but maintain "our values and our ideals."

On June 12, 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the denial of habeas corpus rights to Guantanamo detainees was unconstitutional and that all Guantanamo detainees have the right to a full hearing in which they can contest the accusations against them. I fully agree. The U.S. government having the power to abduct anyone from around the world and label them terrorists before dumping them in American prisons without due process is a very dangerous precedent to set. And, yet, the Obama administration - that same administration that was appalled by Guantanamo - on Friday, according to the New York Times, declared that it would APPEAL a district court ruling that granted some military prisoners in Afghanistan the right to file lawsuits seeking their release. The decision signaled that the administration was not backing down in its effort to maintain the power to imprison terrorism suspects for extended periods without judicial oversight.

Before Obama became President, he had this to say about the same ruling which he is fighting against:

"Today's Supreme Court decision ensures that we can protect our nation and bring terrorists to justice, while also protecting our core values. The Court's decision is a rejection of the Bush Administration's attempt to create a legal black hole at Guantanamo - yet another failed policy supported by John McCain. This is an important step toward reestablishing our credibility as a nation committed to the rule of law, and rejecting a false choice between fighting terrorism and respecting habeas corpus. Our courts have employed habeas corpus with rigor and fairness for more than two centuries, and we must continue to do so as we defend the freedom that violent extremists seek to destroy."

To say that I feel as though I've been duped is an understatement. The person I voted for is not only "ginned up" on spending money, but he's also a hypocrite who is set on defending the worst policies of the Bush administration.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

St. Kurt

Fifteen years ago this month, a musical icon died - not just any icon mind you - but an individual who would have a profound affect on my initiation into a vast world of music that I had otherwise never heard of.

I know it's hard to fathom now, but there was a time not so long ago when the internet - an entity that can make or break bands and artists before their album even hits the shelves - did not exist. In the pre-internet era, finding out about music that was outside of the mainstream was done through word of mouth or through the publication of "zines" - small, independently produced publications by mostly unpaid, nonprofessional writers who did it for the sheer love of music much like bloggers do today. Well, for someone like me coming from a small town in Louisiana, that "word of mouth" would never come as I knew absolutely no one who was into music that was outside of what you heard on the radio or MTV. Zines in my town were nonexistant, as well. And then a little low-budget video entered the pop cultural lexicon that would change the landscape of music and still resonates to this day.

The video for "Smells Like Teen Spirit", which debuted on MTV in 1991, was a musical jolt that signaled the end of excessive and cheesy rock star pomposity and ushered in, for better or worse, the indie/alternative format that exists today. Yes, Rome was burning and it was being torched by a sensitive, unassuming, emotionally unstable kid by the name of Kurt Cobain. I related to this guy and clung to his every word with the naive notion that his was a unique experience; completely clueless to the fact that there was a whole subculture of Cobains that came before him that thrived unceremoniously in an underground movement known as "punk" which had finally bubbled over into the mainstream with the release of Nirvana's Nevermind.

Even though "mainstream" is a term that makes me cringe as I've gotten older, there's no denying that Nirvana's mainstream success was directly responsible for leading me, as well as countless others, towards a path of music that was less than mainstream. Rather than bask in the glory of fame that so many musicians would kill for, Cobain instead used it as a platform to introduce bands and artists who could barely sell records to the millions upon millions who were buying his records.

When I read an article about Cobain being nervous at a gig because his idol - Iggy Pop - was in attendance, I thought, "Iggy who?" I wanted to know more and when I purchased The Stooges' Fun House, it absolutely blew me away. I'd never heard the brilliant country-punk beauty of the Meat Puppets either until Cobain brought them(the Kirkwood brothers) on stage during the MTV Unplugged sessions and covered their songs, much to the disgust of MTV bigwigs who were hoping for Eddie Vedder or some other bankable star at that time. And that guitarist during the In Utero tour? He was none other than Pat Smear from the legendary L.A. punk band - the Germs. The producer of In Utero was a legend by the name of Steve Albini who I soon discovered was the frontman for the amazing and confrontational 80's band - Big Black. And god only knows how the fortunes of Daniel Johnston - the mentally ill, lo-fi cult musician - would have turned out had Kurt Cobain not worn a Daniel Johnston t-shirt in public on numerous occassions. Obscure albums that were previously out of print were now put back on record store shelves based on Cobain's praise alone.

Kurt Cobain was my introduction to punk music and I wanted to learn more and what I discovered was much more than I bargained for. It's not enough to know who the Ramones or the Sex Pistols or any other punk bands are for that matter but, rather, the ideology that made punk such a powerful force to begin with - that ideas and creativity aren't exclusive to those who are technically or artistically gifted. There are no rules to art - anyone can create. The punk movement inspired thousands of kids with no talent to pick up guitars and start bands and many of those kids created some of the most amazing music we have today. Passion, not skill, fueled the punk movement and, without it, we probably wouldn't be uttering the name Kurt Cobain today.

And yet, the antithesis of punk - corporate, mainstream success - was exactly what Nirvana had become much to the chagrin of Cobain who in his suicide note stated: "All the warnings from the punk rock 101 courses over the years, since my first introduction to the, shall we say, ethics involved in independence and the embracement of your community has proven to be very true. I haven't felt the excitement of listening to as well as creating music along with reading and writing for too many years now."

Kurt Cobain has nothing to be ashamed of. Nobody in their right mind could have predicted the success that Nevermind would become and though his music will be his most enduring legacy, his crowning achievement, in my opinion, is the fact that this megastar unselfishly championed lesser known acts and helped spread the "punk gospel" to the ignorant masses - ignorant masses, I might add, that included myself.