Monday, May 31, 2010

The Terrorist State of Israel

The flotilla of ships carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza that is being talked about in the above video didn't make it to its intended destination because the Israeli Navy attacked the ships this morning killing 19 people.* We're not talking about nineteen combatants in war or terrorists - the Israeli military killed nineteen humanitarian aid workers in international waters, no less. World condemnation of Israel has been swift. Of course, President Obama's response has been predictably cautious. Yet when it comes to the defense of Israel, Obama is anything but cautious as he successfully lobbied Congress recently to give Israel 205 million dollars to build a missile defense system. We're not talking about a poor country here. Israel is a developed nation - let them build their own fucking defense system. Meanwhile, Obama can't issue one word in support of humanitarian aid for Palestinians who are desperately poor??? What a fucking joke this administration is.
*Right now, the death toll is at 10. I've seen various figures on the casualties. Nineteen, however, is not a definitive number yet.

Friday, May 28, 2010

M.I.A. vs. Hirschberg

A recent, not so flattering New York Times Magazine cover story about M.I.A. written by Lynn Hirschberg has infuriated M.I.A. so much that she tweeted "917.834.3158 CALL ME IF YOU WANNA TALK TO ME ABOUT THE N Y T TRUTH ISSUE, ill b taking calls all day bitches." It turns out that the cell number actually belonged to Hirschberg who herself is now infuriated over M.I.A. giving it out. "It's a fairly unethical thing to do," Hirschberg said.

What I find to be slightly unethical is schmoozing up to someone you are interviewing with the hidden agenda of tearing them down. Point in case:

Unity holds no allure for Maya — she thrives on conflict, real or imagined. “I kind of want to be an outsider,” she said, eating a truffle-flavored French fry.

That sentence alone leaves me with doubts regarding Hirschberg's intentions and integrity as a reporter. Regardless, it is valid to ask of someone, who considers herself an outsider and anti-establishment, why exactly she married into the establishment(she married Ben Bronfman, son of the Warner Music Group chief executive and Seagram’s heir Edgar Bronfman Jr.) and now lives in Beverly Hills, but Hirschberg never debates the issues she has with M.I.A., instead preferring to deceptively ensnare her in a hypocritical web of perceived lies that she can publish without challenge. M.I.A. also claimed that her father was a revolutionary for the Tamil Tigers which the article seems to dismiss as fabricated. If this information about her father is indeed fabricated, that would be pretty damning to her credibility but, again, Hirschberg never takes M.I.A. to task on this issue. That, to me, is suspicious and I would say, in regards to this article, give M.I.A. the benefit of the doubt first and let her tell her side of the story before you spout that she's a poser.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Janelle Monae

The current soul universe, for me, has revolved around two individuals - Lauryn Hill(despite her lengthy absence) and Erykah Badu. That said, it wasn't enough for me to pull the trigger on a $107 ticket to see Badu live in Houston at the Verizon Wireless Theater on June 13.

That, however, changed upon hearing Janelle Monae's fantastic new album The ArchAndroid(Monae is opening for Badu in Houston). The ArchAndroid isn't a soul album so much as it is a stew of many different genres and influences that never sounds forced.

One hundred and seven dollars is still quite a chunk to pay to those greedy bastards at Ticketmaster, but after listening to The ArchAndroid, that pill is a lot easier to swallow now.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Shelby Lynne

I can't imagine a better, more intimate setting to hear music in Austin than St. David's Episcopal Church. The Cactus Cafe is a close second, but the high wooden ceilings, dim lighting, acoustics, as well as the view of downtown from behind the small stage all make for a great listening experience at the downtown church.

Tonight's main attraction was the soulful, country-blues of Shelby Lynne and she didn't disappoint. Like her younger sister, Allison Moorer, Lynne rarely gets the recognition she deserves because she doesn't fit a particular niche, but she can write the blues with the best of them because she's lived it. Her father was an abusive alcoholic who eventually killed her mother before turning the gun on himself when Shelby was growing up in Alabama. "You can't write a real record and fake it," Lynne said tonight between songs. "I couldn't fake it if I tried. I've lived this." She certainly has and she conveys it well.

Her latest album Tears, Lies, and Alibis was released last month and though it's her 11th album, it's the first one on her own label, EVERSO records.

Sunday, May 16, 2010


"Art used to embody something meaningful enough to be relevant beyond the time in which it was made, but collectors today are attracted to art that 'holds a mirror to our times' and are too impatient to hang on to the work long enough to see if it contains any 'timeless' rewards. Experts say that the art that sells most easily at auction has a 'kind of immediate appeal' or 'wow factor.'
-Sarah Thornton(Seven Days In The Art World)

The most mysterious and well-known artist of our times, Banksy, has directed a splendid documentary or mocumentary, of which I'll place my bets on the latter.

Exit Through The Gift Shop begins as a documentary about street artists that has been filmed throughout the years by enthusiast Thierry Guetta. Guetta eventually becomes so involved that he decides to become a sort of amateur street artist himself. It all goes to his head and he decides to show his work to the public, but first he convinces his street art pals to hype the show which they "grudgingly" agree to. Thus the fix(or buzz) is in. Suddenly, Guetta's work is on the cover of LA Weekly and his art is selling for millions. A prank has been pulled on the unsuspecting art collectors, dealers, hipsters, and whatnot.

As this unfolds, Banksy and others are degrading this guy as a terrible artist and Guetta plays the part perfectly of the buffoon whose "genius" has all gone to his head. Many in the crowd at the movie theater(especially the obnoxious idiots next to me) are appalled at Guetta's work. Banksy has thus pulled off his second prank, albeit a subtle one, and proves that he is far more than just hype - Banksy is truly one of the most relevant artists of our time. Excellent movie!

Friday, May 14, 2010


M.I.A.'s third album is slated to be released on July 13 and the first and only single from the album that I have heard so far is a track entitled "Born Free." While it is nowhere close to being one of my favorite M.I.A. songs, the track has been stuck in my head for days as the result of her sampling a song entitled "Ghost Rider" from one of the truly great, yet completely misunderstood, albums in the history of music - Suicide's self-titled masterpiece which was released in 1977.

New York City in the 1970's was on the verge of bankruptcy and was viewed by the world as the epicenter of crime and social disorder. The 1981 film Escape From New York, written in the mid-70s by its director, John Carpenter, is an apocalyptic tale in which New York City is converted into a maximum security prison. It was very symbolic of the chaotic concrete jungle that New York City was descending into and it is within this context that Suicide's confrontational, self-titled album should be heard.

Formed in 1971, Suicide consisted of vocalist Alan Vega along with Martin Rev, who created the unique Suicide sound with synthesizers and drum machines. Though they had been playing for many years, their first studio album Suicide wouldn't be released until 1977. It's not that hard to imagine, upon listening to it, the reasoning behind the reluctance to put this album out. It is the soundtrack to the hellhole that New York City was at the time. It's a stressful album. It's the schizophrenic homeless guy that you're desperately trying to avoid eye contact with. It's that gut feeling that you may not make it home once you get off at your bus stop. Suicide is not for the faint of heart.

To this day, when I put that record on, it gets an immediate reaction(usually negative) from people who are otherwise unfamiliar with the band which, I imagine, is exactly what Vega and Rev were shooting for. This band genuinely frightened or angered people when they took to the stage. "We started getting booed as soon as we came onstage. Just from the way we looked they started giving us hell already," recalled Vega who would often brandish a six-foot motorcycle chain while on stage. New York City was a very uncomfortable place at that time and Suicide reflected Vega and Rev's dystopian view.

The other reaction from those hearing Suicide for the first time is the utter disbelief at the time period in which this record was made. They were playing these songs nearly forty years ago and yet it sounds incredibly modern.

Regardless of M.I.A.'s use of this song, Suicide will never be mainstream, but Suicide was never meant to be mainstream. Originality is often the bane of mainstream acceptance and, luckily, there are a handful of artists like Suicide who refuse to play by the rules.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Ian Curtis

Having only two studio albums under your belt is hardly enough to justify a band as being one of the greatest ever, but not every band is as powerful as Manchester, England's Joy Division. May 18 will mark the 30th anniversary of the death of it's lead singer, Ian Curtis, who hung himself on the eve of the band's first ever tour of the United States. Where musical success would seem like a dream for most, to Curtis it quickly descended into a nightmare.

Married at 19 and working as a civil servant to help the disabled secure employment, Curtis would form Joy Division at the age of 21 with fellow members: Bernard Sumner, Peter Hook, and Stephen Morris. A year later, in January of 1979, as Curtis graced the cover of New Musical Express magazine, he was simultaneously diagnosed with epilepsy. Five months later would see the release of their debut album - Unknown Pleasures - which was declared an "opaque manifesto" and "one of the best debut LPs of the year" by Melody Maker.

As the buzz on Joy Division reached a fever, so did Curtis' grand mal epileptic seizures while performing on stage. The medication given to treat his epilepsy created wild mood swings. The timing couldn't have been crueler. It is even rumored that some people went to Joy Division concerts to see the "freak show" which seems, to me, to be the subject of his song "Atrocity Exhibition":

Asylums with doors open wide
Where people had paid to see inside
For entertainment they watch his body twist
Behind his eyes he says, I still exist

This is the way, step inside
This is the way, step inside
This is the way, step inside
This is the way, step inside

In arenas he kills for a prize
Wins a minute to add to his life
But the sickness is drowned by cries for more
Pray to God, make it quick, watch him fall

The seizures during performances would leave him in tears. At one particular show, Joy Division used a stand-in for Curtis as his deteriorating health made it impossible for him to perform. It ended in a riot. Along with a crumbling marriage, the fear of his health overshadowing his music must have been more than he could handle. It's hard to imagine that someone who wrote as though he had lived a hundred lifetimes was actually only 23-years-old when he committed suicide.

Two months after his death saw the release of Joy Division's final album - Closer - which New Musical Express hailed as 1980's album of the year. Besides the brilliant music that Ian Curtis left behind lies the fact that all of this madness and creativity existed in such an incredibly short time span and yet its impact is, undoubtedly, eternal.