Monday, June 29, 2020

It's Embarrassing to be From a Failed Country

Jarvis Cocker has said that he finds it “embarrassing” to be English after Britain’s decision to leave the EU.

The former Pulp frontman spoke to filmmaker Jeanie Finlay for The Quietus, in which she asked him what he made of being referred to as an “unconventional national treasure.”

“Obviously it’s meant as a compliment,” he said, “but sometimes… well especially when people said it in the last couple of years… I’m talking about Brexit basically.”

“Because I was very vocally against that and still think it’s one of the most pathetic things ever, especially now. There’s freedom of movement in Europe and it’s so sad that we’ve chucked that away. I’m a little bit bothered about people knowing that I’m English because it’s a bit embarrassing at the moment because of this psychotic thing we’re doing. So I don’t know. It’s something that I can’t really have a perspective on.”

It's completely and utterly embarrassing to be from America right now as well, especially since we have the worst government we've ever had. England is suffering under what Boris Johnson has decided to make out of the dregs of English society and call that a government as well. If you're Canadian right now, trust me. You're not ashamed of your country. You're embarrassed for the ones who fell for the lies and the bullshit. 

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Politics and Bruce Springsteen

Is this is as political as Bruce Springsteen has ever gotten?
President Donald Trump is “a threat to our democracy,” according to Bruce Springsteen. In conversation with David Brooks at The Atlantic, The Boss spoke about “existential threats” to America, the successes of the Black Lives Matter movement, police reform, and music for the current moment.
Springsteen was particularly incensed about Trump’s June 1st photo op at Lafayette Square and St. John’s Church. Peaceful, legally-assembled protestors were cleared out of the Square with pepper balls, tear gas, and rubber bullets. At the end of this unconstitutional aggression, Trump held up a Bible, as if a holy book would magically erase footage of state-ordered violence.
“I believe we may have finally reached a presidential tipping point with that Lafayette Square walk,” Springsteen said, adding that it was “so outrageously anti-American, so totally buffoonish and so stupid, and so anti–freedom of speech. And we have a video of it that will live on forever.”
Born in 1949, Springsteen came of age during the civil rights movement of the 1960s. He sees some similarities between that tumultuous era and today. “When the SpaceX rocket was going up and cities were burning,” he said, “I had a 1968 flashback.”
There are many differences between then and now, of course. “There was an unbridled rage in 1968 that isn’t quite there today to the same degree. The level of violence, as bad as it was last week, was noticeably less than in ’68. And the protesters are younger. They’re much more diverse.”
Springsteen has always been someone who is unafraid of commenting on American society through his art and through his regular interactions with the music media.  He's always had an opinion, but I don't remember him being this overt in his preference for a specific candidate and I don't remember him being specific about what he wanted to happen in an election. I might have missed something from years ago, but this is stunning to me.

Good for Springsteen. Good for him as far as speaking out against Trumpism and the sickness that has enveloped the country. I don't know if he will change anyone's mind, but it's a welcome statement.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

The Chicks

This one has me stumped:

A journalist has written an op-ed in which he examines negative racial connotations with Dixie Chicks‘ name, saying it’s “the epitome of white America.”
Jeremy Helligar has asked whether it’s right for the country band, who are set to release their comeback record ‘Gaslighter’ on July 17, to keep using the name – particularly in the current context of the fight for racial justice.

My initial reaction is that there is no better ally for people who are being oppressed than the Dixie Chicks. They risked their careers in order to condemn war, the Bush Administration, and domestic abuse, among many other things. They were pretty relentless in their advocacy of decency and treating women with respect and dignity. They suffered heaps of abuse for not "shutting up and singing."

So, no. They don't need to change their name. In fact, they probably need a wider audience and a fucking Presidential Medal of Freedom for each one of the band members.

Monday, June 15, 2020

Go Away Haim

I never understood and I never cared for Haim and I don't care about anything they do.

“The whole mantra of this record is about being fearless and not holding yourself back,” Alana Haim told NME last year. At the time, Haim – completed by her sisters Danielle and Este – had only released two songs from their third album (‘Summer Girl’ and ‘Now I’m In It’) but you could sense from that pair’s disparate stylings and sensitive, unguarded subject matters that the LA band had stuck to that idea.

Some seven months and one coronavirus-induced setback later, ‘Women In Music Pt. III’ is the result of that approach – one that’s brought about Haim’s best album yet. It’s bold and brave, but delivered with such confidence and chill that it doesn’t feel like a risk. It captures everything that the world knows and loves about the LA group – their nods back to classic rock, harmonious vocals, and breezy way of being – but throws in some new, surprising twists.

On the follow-up to 2017’s ‘Something To Tell You’, they regularly push themselves out of their comfort zones, experimenting with glitchy electronics (‘I Know Alone’), slatherings of sax (‘Summer Girl’), and dubby syncopation (‘Another Try’, which feels like a sparkier sibling to Lana Del Rey’s cover of Sublime’s ‘Doin’ Time’). Between all of the new, though, the sisters are still experts at deploying irresistible rock, like the rousing, shout-a-long brilliance of ‘The Steps’.

Plenty of people probably disagree with me but I don't care. The world is not all sunshine and roses and I don't have to like your band. In fact, me being unreasonable from time to time helps me make sense of a world where they're going to market a band with three sisters in it by showing them to everyone in their bras or what purports to be some sort of bra but could be a choice made by a consultant hire by the record label.

I like plenty of bands with women in them and all they do is play music. I don't need to see Sleater-Kinney or anyone else decked out like this and exploited by music bros. The songs are fucking derivative and annoying and I think that's what pisses me off the most. I don't actually care what Haim looks like and neither should you. But, Goddamn, what a bunch of hyped up bullshit. 

This is what it sounds like when the worst poseur gets an idea and turns it into a family band. And yes, I fucking hate Kings of Leon why do you ask?

Sometimes, you just have to have an irrational opinion and this is one of them.

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Tim's Twitter Listening Parties

Tim Burgess of the Charlatans (and a fair number of solo endeavors) has been entertaining the hell out of people by hosting his listening parties online. This has turned into a huge deal, and artists are receiving real-time feedback on things they recorded decades ago.
Tim's Twitter Listening Party, the interactive listening parties for classic albums featuring commentary from the artists who made them, was created by Tim Burgess of The Charlatans and have been going since COVID-19 lockdown took hold in March. The western world is starting to open back up, but the listening parties are still going, almost daily, with events going though June and a few scheduled for July.
New additions since our last post include: Arab Strap's Philophobia (6/14), Stars' Set Yourself on Fire(6/18) The Magic Numbers' self-titled debut (6/19), Gruff Rhys' Pang! (6/21), 808 State's Ex:El (6/24), Kate Nash's Made of Bricks (6/25), ABC's Beauty Stab (6/26), Maximo Park's A Certain Trigger (6/27), The Pogues' Red Roses for Me (6/27), The Waterboys' Fisherman's Blues (6/28), David Bowie's Aladdin Sane (6/28) and Joy Division's Closer (7/18).
What I love about the listening parties is the diversity and the emphasis on eliminating negativity. Burgess is a perfect host with great taste. You don't need anything else.

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Hymie's Vintage Records

Well, this post took long enough to write.

I had planned on visiting a number of record stores in the Minneapolis and St. Paul area. There were several that I used to frequent in the 1980s and 1990s and I wanted to see which ones were still in business.

What I remember as Hymie and Hazen's was on Lake Street in South Minneapolis and that store has morphed into this version, pictured above. It's a fantastic improvement, to be totally honest with you, and I love what the store has become. Adam is the right guy to run the place. I remember the old owners and what it was like to stop in and browse through the stacks back in the good old days. The store is a little more organized now and is friendly in a way that the previous incarnation was a bit "diffident."

A record store has to seize onto something weird in order for it to have the kind of magic that keeps you coming back. I don't know what other retail establishment could do in order to accomplish that. There has to be something in the racks that you find and grab onto and buy immediately. Every great record store that I've been in, I've found something that blew my mind and that was that.

Really, this store is now the equal of any in the country in terms of vintage vinyl. In many ways, their selection dwarfs that of anything here in the Mid-Atlantic region. It's a keeper, it really is.

I think that if you're going to survive in this game, you have to have a cafe or ready access to food and a place for people to sit down and absorb the atmosphere. I know that the trend has been to cram as much product as possible into the smallest possible footprint because of overhead and operating costs, but someone really needs to study the business model for a modern-day record store and help figure this out. Because I had other stores to visit, I couldn't stay as long as I wanted. Now I regret that.

This was going to be the first stop in Minneapolis. I had plans to move on to the Uptown area and I visited Hymie's in the early evening hours of May 26th, 2020.  This photo was taken after I left. The time stamp is just after five PM.

Fast forward through one of the most harrowing afternoons I can remember. You could see crowds beginning to gather. You could see people carrying signs. You could see everything coming together and I don't think I've ever experienced that before.

When I left Hymie's, I headed down Lake Street. You could see the way that the protests were starting to emerge after the death of George Floyd the day before. I could see people beginning to assemble in the area of Lake Street and Hiawatha, another area that I remember from over 30 years ago when I lived in the South Minneapolis area around Cedar Avenue and 36th Street.

You know the rest of the story. The city, and the country exploded in protests and unrest. I missed it by mere hours, and was on the road home to Maryland the next morning.

Some day, I do promise to visit Hymie's and see if I can find a few more treasures. I hope they are still there and I hope to continue the tradition. What happened was far more important than my trip down memory lane. Social change is happening, and the events of May and June 2020 are more important than anything I could have written about here.

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

A Lack of Political Sophistication

At one point, Krist Novoselic struck me as a very thoughtful guy. That was wiped away by his declaration for support of Donald Trump:
Former Nirvana bassist Novoselic expressed vocal support for Trump’s comments on his Facebook page, writing: “Wow!!! I know many of you can’t stand him, however, Trump knocked it out of the park with this speech.
“Social media and television are looping images of societal breakdown. I agree, the president should not be sending troops into states – and he legally might not be able to anyway – nevertheless, his tone in this speech is strong and direct.”
People can believe whatever they want, but this is stunning and stupid at the same time. Has Novoselic been asleep for the last five years? Trump is the most virulent of racists, a wannabe dictator who threw babies in cages, shut down legal immigration to our country, and enacted more inhumane policies than anyone could have imagined.

There are more than a few very thoughtful people who happen to make music. Richard Marx comes to mind, a guy who is very much in touch with people and with what's going on in the world. I just think that anyone praising Trump at this point has not been functioning as a thinking person during his time in office.

I mean, goddamn. Pay attention to the news.

Monday, June 1, 2020

Mistaken Identity

I don't know whether this is a case of someone talking out of their ass or of someone kidding around, but you really shouldn't conflate people with others during a time of national panic and uprising.
The National‘s Aaron Dessner has responded to being mistakingly identified as someone seen encouraging rioting during protests taking place in the US.
On Monday (May 25), George Floyd, a 46-year-old African-American man, was killed in Minneapolis following an altercation with police officers. Floyd died after a white police officer knelt on his neck as he lay on the ground during an arrest.
The incident has since led to thousands of people protesting all across America.
While many musicians and actors, including Janelle MonĂ¡e, John Boyega, and Ice Cube, have led calls for justice following the death, Dessner was accused by some social media users of being someone seen encouraging rioting in Columbus, Ohio.
“Meet @aaron_dessner he’s an Antifa organizer paying people to riot!!” one Twitter user wrote, posting a picture of the alleged culprit and tagging Dessner. “He needs to be arrested NOW!!”
Another user commented on a video depicting the apparent Antifa organiser – and Dessner lookalike – “appearing to pay some kids to riot.”
 This country is really messed up right now, and ruining someone's life over a joke is as 2020 as it gets.