Friday, June 27, 2014

Robyn Hitchcock and the Egyptians Gotta Let This Hen Out Covers

Never mind the fact that this was a mind-blowing live album. Robyn Hitchcock's Gotta Let This Hen Out! was a brilliantly conceived project, from front to back and from side to side. The cover illustration alone is worth the price. The music inside has never gotten old or musty on me. I think I have had this since at least 1987 or so. I remember that it came out with the Fegmania album and I have owned both of those without shame or remorse since being brought into the cult of Robyn Hitchcock.

The lettering style is wonderful as well. Everything about this album has an independent sensibility and if you're looking for a reason why this kind of music was so vital in the 1980s, look no further than this terrific album. In the context of 1986, music was bland, overproduced, over-commercialized, and devoid of any warmth or sentiment. Album covers were done with scissors and glue and garish colors. Now, imagine seeing this in LP format (which I still have). I can't really describe the difference that the album version makes as opposed to the CD format (seen above).

Robyn's artwork glows from the cardboard, luminous and pulsing. The cover image is so unique and surreal that it can't really even be described.

I have numerous releases from the old (and I believe completely and utterly defunct) Midnight Music label. They always did an interesting thing with the graphics and images and text on the things they put out. They had a very distinctive style.

The Weather Prophets Naked as the Day You Were Born Covers

Can fine art sell records?


The Weather Prophets didn't sell many of these, but the cover is nice.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Kristin Hersh A Cleaner Light

This is an excellent example of using abstract images to draw people into a CD cover. Granted, the effectiveness of this strategy is difficult to assess--if the single tanks, do you blame the artwork? If the single sells well, do you put it down to the artist or to the marketing?

In this case, Kristin Hersh was embarking on a solo career in the early 2000s and this single from 4AD used three acoustic b-sides and some fuzzy imagery to move the idea into people's heads that she was on her own and that this was entirely her own affair. I would call that honesty in marketing and even though you probably couldn't find this in your local shop, you can get it online and it's part of the artist's history. That makes it a worthwhile endeavor, no matter what.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Everyone is Perfect in This Failed Agency

Of course they're perfect--why wouldn't they be?

No matter what you call it -- bonuses, incentives, market or performance pay -- the Department of Veterans Affairs gave out a lot to senior managers in recent years despite sometimes deadly waits for health care and other problems faced by American veterans.

A top VA official confirmed to a congressional committee on Friday that 78% of VA senior managers qualified for extra pay or other compensation in fiscal year 2013 by receiving ratings of "outstanding" or "exceeds fully successful," and that all 470 of them got ratings of "fully successful" or better.

Such widespread laudatory performance appraisals occurred shortly before CNN started reporting in November how veterans waited excessive periods for VA health care, with some dying in the process. The VA has acknowledged 23 deaths nationwide due to delayed care.

This has another name--institutionalized mediocrity. No on at the VA should get a bonus for another two years, if at all. Let this drive the people who place money over service from the agency; everyone who rises through merit and competence should be rewarded with a bonus for being part of the solution.

If all 470 of the people at this level in the Department of Veterans Affairs are that good, then the VA should be the most successful agency in the entire government. Or, if not, then it is an agency rife with corruption and incompetence that has gone undiscovered because of flawed leadership.

Fire them all. See if that fixes anything.

I've said it before--this wasn't about being embarrassed because a few old vets were waiting to see specialists. This was widespread fraud, plain and simple, driven by greed. These administrators covered up bad numbers everywhere so they could lavish bonuses on each other.

Fire. All. of. Them.

The Money Never Goes to the Artists

You can be well assured--the streaming services will make money. If they don't, they'll fold quickly. The people who exploit the value of handing out music for free always get paid. Artists, nope.

We've seen this debate a thousand times--in order for a streaming service to make money, they have to deliver content that doesn't cost them anything. Their profits are derived from whatever they can get people to pay, and then they will break that down and pay the artists a pittance to keep it legal.

A handful of artists will see money, but the costs involved in recording and marketing their music will justify the large payouts (think of Daft Punk as the perfect example of this). However, if you're an independent artist and you're just making an album because you've been away for a while, you're going to get screwed by streaming services. They'll pay you fractions of a penny for plays. They'll make money while pretending to give you what you've earned.

It's all a scam, and it will always be a scam. Music for free means everyone but the artist gets paid.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Paul Simon is Too Much of a Badass to Prosecute

None of this is shocking. Paul Simon is a badass. You take him to court, you reap the whirlwind, suckers.

Just the mere fact that they considered charging him is terrifying enough. This man watches the throne, my friends. He controls souls with his fingertips. He makes a phone call and Heaven is heavier with Angels. When words are spoken, bones are crushed and this man dances with the puppet strings, casually calling out the names of those who have wronged him. Real criminals cry themselves to sleep, afraid their name will appear on his lips. Frank Miller is too scared to make anything that has his face in it. That last scene in Scarface? That's a Tuesday night in Paul Simon's house, bitches. He reloads rocket launchers like some people go for a snack.

The thug life. That's Paul Simon's jam.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Get It While You Can

The world may soon be deprived of Thom Yorke's spasmodic jerking, and it's the fault of the greedheads, man.

No one can agree on anything these days, especially when it comes to the pithy royalties paid out to musicians. How many thousandths of a penny will you get, peasant?

The Heritage Foundation is a Hate Group

Awfully nice of the folks at the Heritage Foundation to firmly establish their ties to the most virulently racist and bigoted elements of American society. It would be a shame if the media forgot to start referring to them as a hate group.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Open Carry and Nervous Cops

What you see above is the partial transcript of a confrontation between local law enforcement and a belligerent open carry advocate on a city street in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

The statement "I can threaten you if I want to" is central to the fallacy of gun advocates and open carry fanatics--no, you cannot threaten people. You cannot issue terroristic threats and threaten to shoot people. You simply cannot engage in this behavior.

Now, if you want to march around with your rifle on a sling--and this story goes on to say that the poor old man with the unloaded carbine who decided to engage in a game of suicide by cop (without succeeding) did express a wish for a sling for his weapon. It's a sad day in America when a man can't get his life together and find four feet of canvas belt, but still.

This story centers around two things though. One, there are a lot of people who do not have their shit together. This man's life has a high degree of quality in it if his idea of fun is to walk around with a rifle in public and scare people. That's entirely outside of the realm of responsible gun ownership and enters a zone that warrants examination. How messed up are you if that's your life? What chemical dependency issues inspire such a thing? You're not in a good place when you're threatening the family of a police officer and stumbling around, bumping into things while other people call 911 because you can't find a sling for your weapon.

Two, the police aren't there to die for your rights. How it came to be that they didn't just shoot this man after his first threat is a testament to how cautious they were and how professional they were in terms of handing the situation. They were well within their rights to deliver a beating or worse when the man failed to follow their public safety commands. And yet, because the laws are so messed up, they knew that they had to hold back and do nothing because of the lunacy of open carry laws.

When you say to a cop, "I can threaten you if I want to," you're asking for the successful conclusion of a suicide by cop scenario. We are not done with this insanity. We have not seen the end of this kind of advocacy. Someone somewhere got it into their head that they could shoot cops and walk away unscathed and it didn't come from Obamacare or anything like that.

The Diminishing Value of Being a Glastonbury Headliner

Michael Eavis tries to defend getting Metallica to headline Glastonbury:

Glastonbury festival founder Michael Eavis has said that no band has ever been as keen to play the event as Metallica.

The metal titans are due to perform on the Saturday night (June 28) at the Somerset bash.

"There's no other band in the whole history of the festival that has been so keen to play, they will do the best set of their lives here," said Eavis to BBC 5 Live. "We have been going for so long that people don't expect us to put on a heavy metal band. We had Rage Against The Machine and we have had lots of fairly heavy metal bands in the past but this is not a typical headline."

This is what it looks like when your choice has soured so many people on sticking around for the end of the show. I'm not predicting a failure, per se, but there will be a sizable contingent of Glastonbury Festival fans who are not going to subject themselves to the pounding assault of a Metallica show. This is not a band you watch casually for what might happen--this is a band you see when you want to lose your hearing for several days.

It'll be interesting to see what kind of a set they play. If they play anything that deviates from their normal set, it means they are trying to ease up on the crowd. If they see fans streaming away, it'll raise the defiance of the set and make them want to play louder and harder.

Metallica isn't the wrong choice at all for Glastonbury; they're simply going to drive away people that don't want to be beaten senseless by noise. Others will embrace it and enjoy it. Headlining Glastonbury is now less of a thing because anyone can do it and any genre of music can take that slot. You don't have to rise to a certain level of popular acceptance anymore. If you're big with what you do, you can have your headlining slot and do whatever you want with it.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

There Isn't a Bench Yet

It's way, way too soon to start thinking about 2016, but some people can't get past the whole idea of what a Hillary Clinton candidacy means to the country:

Yes, it looks like Hillary Clinton is running. But what if she doesn’t? Suddenly it’s going to be the Democrats’ turn to panic.

There are not very many Republicans lying awake at night, unable to sleep, trembling with fear at the possibility of President Martin O’Malley.

No, though the Republican Party certainly has its share of troubles heading into the next presidential election, the biggest worries haunting the minds of Republicans hungry to retake 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue are not the specters of the Maryland governor or Vice President Biden or many of the other might-runs out there on the left.

At this stage of the game in 2006, no one in their right mind would have picked Barack Obama to be the next President of the United States. He surged to the top of the polls because of his ability to hold his own against Clinton, Biden, and a host of others and he raised tons of money. He mastered the technology of eight years ago and figured out how to tap small donors and appeal to the bigger ones.

Whoever wins the 2016 nomination will have to collect money by the truckload and inspire people to come and vote. Obama knows that he cannot embrace the potential nominee because of the damage done to him but he cannot abandon his own agenda, even though there isn't a Congress worth working with on anything anymore. 

We haven't seen the full field. We know that the conservative movement will continue to exhibit all the signs of insanity and delusion that we have come to appreciate. I think there is an overwhelming fatigue with all things Clinton and Bush and that will rule the day.

Morrissey Cancels His U.S. Tour

One would hope that living in California would be good for a person's health:

Morrissey has cancelled the remainder of his US tour after being treated in hospital for a respiratory infection.

The former Smiths singer was in the middle of a 30-day tour when he was "rushed" to hospital in Boston on Saturday, according to a statement.

The medical attention "was not enough to shake off the virus, the recovery time for which is too lengthy to meet the final nine shows of the tour".

Morrissey cancelled 22 US concerts last year due to ill health.

His ailments included pneumonia, an ulcer, the throat condition Barrett's oesophagus and anaemia.

A statement on Morrissey's Facebook page said: "It is with great sadness that the remainder of the US Tour has been cancelled.

You buy your Morrissey tickets now with a faint glimmer of hope, I guess. No one will be left holding the bag, but this will definitely affect future sales and that's a shame.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Cast Flying

Cast put out a single called Flying. It has one of the sweetest sounding distorted guitar solos I have heard in a long, long time.

That's it. That's the whole post.

They Threw One of the Bums Out

Eric Cantor may have been asked to leave Congress:

In what was described as a political "earthquake," the No. 2 Republican in the House, Eric Cantor, lost his primary on Tuesday to a college professor and political neophyte.

Cantor conceded the race with 97% of precincts reporting from the Richmond-area district, Cantor trailed Dave Brat 56% to 44%, according to the Virginia Secretary of State's website. Turnout was low.

"Obviously we came up short," Cantor said in his concession speech.

The Tea Party still exists? And this can happen? Oh, my.

A pampered elite just saw the world flash before their eyes. If you were to throw forty or fifty incumbents out of Congress, no matter their party affiliation, it would be a fantastic start. The problem is, the people being thrown out of Congress are being replaced by crazies who have a single issue.

In any event, holy crap. The plebes have spoken.

Cantor could still run, of course, because Joe Lieberman and all that, but the mechanisms that will kick in will be swiftly orchestrated by his number one enemy, Speaker of the House John Boehner, who is probably still hollering his pleasures out the window.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Rik Mayall 1958-2014

British comedian and actor Rik Mayall has died aged 56.

He played the obnoxious, poetry-writing anarchist Rick in The Young Ones alongside his friend Adrian Edmondson. The duo later went on to star in the sitcom Bottom.
A pioneer of the 1980s alternative comedy scene, Mayall also appeared in Blackadder and The New Statesman.

His manager Roger Davidson said: "It is a terrible shock. All we know at this stage is that Rik died at home. 

"He touched many lives, and always for the better." 

Edmondson added: "There were times when Rik and I were writing together when we almost died laughing. 

They were some of the most carefree stupid days I ever had, and I feel privileged to have shared them with him. 

"And now he's died for real. Without me. Selfish bastard."

Armed and Armed Some More

The militarization of the police continues unabated:

During the Obama administration, according to Pentagon data, police departments have received tens of thousands of machine guns; nearly 200,000 ammunition magazines; thousands of pieces of camouflage and night-vision equipment; and hundreds of silencers, armored cars and aircraft.

The equipment has been added to the armories of police departments that already look and act like military units. Police SWAT teams are now deployed tens of thousands of times each year, increasingly for routine jobs.Masked, heavily armed police officers in Louisiana raided a nightclub in 2006 as part of a liquor inspection. In Florida in 2010, officers in SWAT gear and with guns drawn carried out raids on barbershops that mostly led only to charges of “barbering without a license.”

What was high satire thirty years ago with Lt. Hunter getting a tank to use against criminals on Hill Street Blues has become commonplace reality for podunk police departments all across the land. At some point, the police will be as well armed as any military unit. At some point, we will not see police but a de facto military presence everywhere and we're seeing it more and more. There's no rolling back on this--once you give the police military equipment, you have to keep giving it to them because that's what they will train with and that's what they will respond with. 

Guns drawn while carrying out raids on establishments that are barbering without a license? What the hell is that but a complete and utter militarization of the police gone horribly wrong. Policing is about a measured response to crime that serves the needs of the community. Body armor is something I completely understand but tanks and drones and SWAT teams converging on permit violators? Come on.

Camouflage, by the way? Really? I thought you had to announce the presence of law enforcement. I thought that a police officer had to identify themselves. Apparently not if they're wearing military grade camouflage.

They're Not In It For the Money

The Kinks have decided to try and create new material, and the stipulation from Ray and Dave Davies is, they will not tour or play live without new material.

It has become commonplace to watch people sell out. The taboo on using music in ads has disappeared and no one faults a corporate rock band for being corporation-friendly anymore. The Red Hot Chili Peppers can appear at the Super Bowl and play instruments that aren't even plugged in and no one bats an eye. Things are very different now, and I don't know if the Davies brothers can reconcile what the music industry is like now with what they want to do.

Look What Happens When You Ruin the Economy

We have not recovered from the financial crisis of the late 2000s because nobody has any money:

U.S. fertility is not recovering from the financial crisis — and demographers aren’t sure why.

The fertility rate fell to a record low 62.9 births per 1,000 women aged 15-44 in 2013, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.

The total number of births, at 3.96 million, inched up by a mere 4,000 from 2012, the first increase since the financial crisis. But the total fertility rate, or TFR, the average number of children a woman would have during her child-bearing years, fell to just 1.86, the lowest rate in 27 years. TFR is considered the best metric of fertility. A TFR of 2.1 represents a stable population, with children replacing parents as they die off.

Demographers expected the fertility rate to fall during recession, as financially strapped families put off childbearing. But what has surprised some demographers is both the depth of the decline and the fact that fertility has continued to drop even over the course of the country's five years of slow but steady recovery. The rate has fallen steadily each year since 2007, when it stood at 2.1 percent.

Wages have not kept up with this soft "recovery" and we still have far too many people who are unemployed. Couple that with the fact that your average job is rapidly becoming a two year temp-to-hire position paying less than what you made before and you have the recipe for a sharp demographic shift. Women would have more children if this were a more secure economy, and it isn't secure enough right now.

The very same people terrified of a foreign invasion of anchor babies have perpetrated this situation by ruining the economy, confiscating the wealth and assets of the Middle Class, and paying CEOs ridiculous amounts of money. Thomas Piketty scared the crap out of them because he was right--we have far too much inequality in America.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Why Is Anyone Surprised By This?

Frozen on Ice is outselling the Rolling Stones? And that's news?

Why anyone would go see the Rolling Stones play live is beyond me. For the history? The history of what? They're geezers playing creaky old songs the only way they can--barely. For several hundred dollars--for thousands of dollars in most cases--people are being treated to the twilight of the Gods and that's on a good night.

A Train Wreck in South Dakota

Oh, dang:

A candidate who finished fourth in the Republican primary for a U.S. Senate seat in South Dakota was charged on Wednesday with violating campaign election laws, prosecutors said.

Annette Bosworth, 42, a doctor from Sioux Falls, was charged with six counts each of perjury and filing false documents and accused of falsely claiming she was gathering nominating petition signatures in South Dakota when she was really in the Philippines, the South Dakota Attorney General's Office said.

This is the candidate who found out she lost when Megyn Kelly blurted it out to her on live television. Nothing stings like that, nothing. Here we find out that Bosworth was as incompetent at disclosing where she was on legal documents as she was at keeping her business afloat. Funny thing about the Senate--they're only occasionally taking failures.

That deer in the headlights stare didn't help, apparently. Bosworth needs to find a new line of work, and fast. I'm sure that the Koch brothers or the Heritage Foundation would love to hire her as a medical expert.

Politics is the new racket, my friends.That's where the cash is.

John McCain is Flip Flopping and as Senile as Ever

Honestly, how do they allow this man access to microphones and public places? Who on this man's staff allows him the opportunity to embarrass himself by constantly going on television?

At this point in John McCain's career, you would think avoiding television would be the smart move. He's a fool if he runs again and he's finished in American public life. The media now uses him as the de facto voice of the opposition, letting him bluster and give belligerent answers. It's great TV. It's a farce when you think about the importance of governance.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Midnight Oil Blue Sky Mine

This is the cover and the reverse of Midnight Oil's Blue Sky Mine (Food on the Table Mix) single, and, if I had known about this in 1990, I would have bought it and played the hell out of it. I played the album Blue Sky Mine relentlessly, loving the whole thing. To me, they were as good as anyone else and I've been coming back around to their albums, trying to find the gems out there.

Which were plentiful, don't get me wrong. Australia's greatest band, bar none, and the one that mattered. This was the big single of a new decade, closing out the 1980s and following their biggest album, Diesel and Dust. I thought this was every bit as good if not tighter and more focused and positively full of tension.

How did they do it? I have no idea. A Midnight Oil album is unlike anything you will ever hear. No one ever said "oh, they sound just"

Who, exactly?

I still can't come up with an answer.

The Charlatans Can't Even Be Bothered Cover

One of the great mysteries has always been this--how did the Charlatans survive the early 1990s as a band?

Forced to adopt the UK moniker, beset with troubles, barely able to get past their difficult second album after changing out guitarists--how did they do it? How did they survive the whole Manchester scene and become so successful?

Songs like Can't Even Be Bothered did the trick. Being reliable didn't hurt, either. By the time the late 1990s rolled around, they had a string of great singles and records and then they had to figure out how to keep going when keyboardist Rob Collins was killed in an auto accident.

The addition of Mark Collins to the band had a lot to do with it. But, really, it was all about perseverance. In all of Britpop, no one struggled and carried on like The Charlatans. No one survived Madchester, Britpop, and the horrible aughts quite like they did.

The Most Irrelevant Album of the 1980s

No album means less to me than Born in the U.S.A. When it was released, I actually had a chance to meet Max Weinberg in Minneapolis at a book signing before the first show of the massive tour that would follow. I remember that Max was the nicest man you could ever hope to meet. Unfortunately, the album that he played on has remained irrelevant to me ever since.

It's thirty years on and this massive cultural item means about as much to me as a Michael Jackson video or We Are the World. It was big in the Eighties but nothing to me. This was the soundtrack of corporate America. A Huey Lewis and the News record and a John Cougar Mellencamp record could be put alongside this one and I would be completely indifferent to the fire that would consume them all.

Sometimes, the culture burps up mediocrity and everyone embraces it. I'll never figure it out. If you want to know what America was like in those days, look no further:

Husker Du put out albums that were relevant. Bruce Springsteen put out music for people to listen to while they were getting excited about going somewhere in their car.

We're done here.

Gram Parsons Would Like a Word With You, Don Henley

We will be haunted by the 1980s forever.

For Don Henley to accuse someone of "stealing" a song or an idea or a particular way of playing music is like Oliver North questioning whether or not a ransom was paid for a hostage.

Somewhere, Gram Parsons is laughing his ass off at Walden Pond's favorite drummer.

Pessimism Rules in America

This is an interesting look at how pessimistic people have become in the United States. Despite having everything, Americans are still a miserable lot. Despite an extremely high standard of living, it's all going to hell in a handbasket.

I think the transformation of companies into temp agencies is helping this along. When no one has stable work, the country isn't stable at all and very few risks are taken. Fewer people buy new cars and homes, more people hoard and hunker down. This is not conducive to growing an economy.

That, and everything is Obama's fault.

Van Dyke Parks Explains the Modern Music Business

Van Dyke Parks

Whether it's David Lowery or David Byrne, you can't escape the logic of what Van Dyke Parks is saying:

I see in 2014, as Sousa did in 1914, an uneasy standoff between music’s creators and their distributors. A handful of musical conglomerates have gathered to snuff out reasonable artist/composer compensation, and the already apparent result is a centralized homogeneity of music. With, say, Chinese and Indian youths in villages with wifi now paying micro-cents to listen, new markets are admittedly emerging. But even as the music market goes global, the ancillary cost is a troubling conglomeratization of thought, style, and taste.

To cite but one example of this problem: In the vacuum of patronage, there’s an increased rarity of acoustic ensembles available to new artists/composers. It’s as lamentable as the loss of glacial ice. Ensembles are of vestigial interest in this new pop culture. As a result, too many U.S. orchestras, opera, and dance companies are losing their endowments amid a swill of bourgeois bohemian rock ubiquity. As the French say, “Bo Bo.” This vernacular diet of a faux gras American pop-rock hegemony has replaced a vibrantly precious global musical elasticity and variety. We must find a way to get out of that box.

I hate to sound like a curmudgeon. It’s not sexy. Yet, I relate to the skepticism of Sousa, in his cautions about unfair practices in a free market of recorded music. Something’s wrong when the tail wags the dog and the provider dictates content. That’s not freedom of thought. We must discover a means of subsidy by which music and parallel arts may thrive unapologetically. Let us remember: “Freedom of Thought” does not mean “Free Stuff.”

We must fix this ruptured pipeline for the popular arts. It can’t come from a half-hearted, flaccid philanthropy but rather from a nexus of patronage, from both private entrepreneurs and the public sector. We’d better take a real hard look—and soon—at the disproportionate profits of creators and distributors of ideas. Our priority should be in nurturing new ideas and innovative art, and the people who create those ideas and that art must be fairly and legally compensated.

Making everything free was the stupidest idea known to man.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Lars Isn't a Bad Drummer

While I agree that Metallica at Glastonbury is a strange choice--and probably one that will bring in a crowd that will clash with the usual Glasto crowd and cause headaches--I don't agree with the assertion that Lars Ulrich is a terrible drummer.

All of the members of Metallica are accomplished musicians. You may not like individual styles or choices, but you can't escape the fact that these guys can play. I just don't see how their set works in that setting. It works great everywhere else--in the context of their arena and stadium shows, people get what they expect and more. They play their guts out.

I think Mogwai are looking for a little of what Trent Reznor and Pat Carney need--attention and love.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Shut Up And Make Music

Jack White shouldn't have to apologize for having an opinion; he should apologize for wasting people's time. If you're going to go out and trash people, go ahead and settle up. Make it work for you.

But this whole thing about apologizing after the fact while you still hate the guts of the people you have trashed--what's the point in that? He still still hates the Black Keys and he's still pissed that Meg White developed late-onset stage fright. All the apologies in the world won't make the flying speech monkeys of the Internet stop howling at him for being rude.

Own your assholery. What's wrong with that?