Punk’s Legacy?

Punk-27947The conventional wisdom amongst many musicologists, music journalists, and music fans is that Punk Rock was a seachange, a musical and cultural revolt against highly-produced and highly popular Glam Rock, Prog Rock, Disco, and the music of aging 1960s rockers who didn’t heed The Who’s call to die before they got old.

Punk was raw, unpolished, occasionally violent, and yet strangely intimate, a stark contrast to the aloof prettiness and preciousness of its predecessors. And most importantly, Punk endured and spawned many variations, and its attitude and Lo-Fi sensibilities inspired musicians working in other genres to get back to basics, to shed excess, and to speak with courageous abandon.

The Noisey article I tweeted today puts forth the argument that Punk was, musically speaking, not very good, and that it did not ultimately change anything. It’s a flimsy-if-earnest attempt to make a point, spurious in its use of two lazy rhetorical tricks:

  1. The vast majority of the article is phrased in general terms, referring throughout to all Punk music, but with a buried qualification at one point stating that it’s really referring to only the first wave of British Punk.
  2. On the question of whether or not Punk actually changed anything, the article criticized Punk for not having spurred a wider and lasting political revolution, as if Punks ever really claimed that they were out to change the world — as opposed to venting their disdain for the state it was in — and ignoring the fact that the conventional wisdom narrative about the Punk seachange is almost entirely limited to the impact it had, not on politics, but on music, art, fashion, etc.

Anyway, its worth reading for the very fact that it so miserably failed to convince, and rather, ironically, strengthened my belief in Punk’s lasting, powerful legacy.

Death Of Dystopia?

I’m pretty proud of a post I wrote back in May 2013 on the topic of dystopian fiction, and that post will explain the opinion I express in my tweet today.

R.I.P., David Bowie: A Delayed Reaction

david-bowieOk, folks. This post really IS about the death of David Bowie, but I hope you’ll indulge my taking a scenic, time machine route to his obituary.

On a hot Los Angeles, California summer night, July 10, 1989, having just read the New York Times obituary for the famous voice of Bugs Bunny and other Warner Bros. and Hanna-Barbera cartoon characters, I emerged from my room in the 3-bedroom apartment I shared with my two longest-standing friends from back in New Jersey, slowly walked down the hallway, through the living room, and into the dining area, where my friends Mike & Keith were seated, and the following, two-line exchange happened:

Me: I can’t believe Mel Blanc is gone.

Keith: I can’t believe he was here.

Ever since, for over 25 years, whenever someone dies who inspired, influenced, entertained, or was otherwise meaningful to us, either by email or text one of us sends the first line of that dialogue, and it’s a race to see who will first respond with the second line.

And while it may seem strange to crack a joke upon the loss of someone meaningful to us, it was never a reflection of a lack of caring. We’re from New Jersey. It’s how we deal with loss.

So, what does this have to do David Bowie?

Well, of all the people we have eulogized in this manner, Bowie comes the closest to someone who I really can’t believe was ever here, hence my delayed reaction.

Employing another anecdote, recently a Facebook friend posted this:

OK, been a while since I’ve done one of my random musical questions. This time I want to hear something that you think of as just utterly unique and off the beaten track … stuff where you hear it and just think, “What just happened?”

To me, THAT was David Bowie.

I had that reaction the first time I heard Space Oddity, Fame, or Heroes, or the entire The Rise & Fall of Ziggy Stardust & The Spiders From Mars album, and if it wasn’t the entire song, it was specific lyrics:

And these children that you spit on
As they try to change their worlds
Are immune to your consultations
They’re quite aware of what they’re going through

A small Jean Genie snuck off to the city
Strung out on lasers and slash-back blazers
Ate all your razors while pulling the waiters
Talking ’bout Monroe and walking on Snow White
New York’s a go-go, and everything tastes right

You’ve torn your dress, your face is a mess
You can’t get enough, but enough ain’t the test
You’ve got your transmission and your live wire
You got your cue line and a handful of ludes
You wanna be there when they count up the dudes

… or it was his constantly shifting appearance:

Bowie-gif

So yeah, to paraphrase my friend, What the fuck just happened?! This doesn’t sound or look like anything I’ve heard, read, or seen before!

David Bowie was the ultimate artist-musician. I might not have liked everything he did, but I never doubted that he was constantly evolving and striking out for new ground, and his massive success and critical acclaim speak for themselves.

That Bowie accomplished all that while boldly and unapologetically challenging deeply embedded, narrow, and rigid gender identities is nothing short of heroic. He made millions of people feel less alone for not fitting neatly into one of two prevailing and accepted gender stereotypes. An incredible gift.

So, thank you David Bowie, for all of the music and courage. Rest in peace.

 

 

 

Stuff We Don’t Need: Frankensalmon

big-fish-little-fishREALLY disappointing news yesterday.

As I wrote five years ago, in two separate posts (Post 1, Post 2), some mad genetic scientists, seemingly out of some sci-fi B-movie, have been messing around with salmon to produce fish that grow faster on farms.

There’s really nothing more I can think to say about what a travesty this idea is, especially to people here in the Pacific Northwest, so please consider reading my previous posts linked to in the previous paragraph.

The sad news from yesterday, is that the U.S. Food & Drug Administration, the government body that is supposed to keep us safe, has approved the Frankensalmon as fit for human consumption, and they continue to refuse to label this or any other genetically modified food.

And yet, there was some hope hidden in New York Times article:

Within hours of the agency’s decision on Thursday, one consumer advocacy group, the Center for Food Safety, said it and other organizations would file a lawsuit challenging the approval.

Despite the approval, it is likely to be at least two years before any of the salmon reaches supermarkets, and at first it will be in tiny amounts.

It is not clear how well the salmon will sell. Some leading supermarkets have already said, in response to the vocal opposition, that they have no plans to sell it.

So, really, it’s up to us.

As the bumper stickers you see here in Bellingham say:

Friends don’t let friends buy farmed salmon.

Video Fridays: Dead & Company

mayer-weirI haven’t written about one of my favorite bands of all time, the Grateful Dead, in a while, having published my last post on the topic back in July, but today it’s definitely time.

When I heard in August that three of the “core four” remaining members of the Dead — Bob Weir, Billy Kreutzmann, Mickey Hart — were going to do some shows under the name of ‘Dead & Company’, with the ‘company’ consisting of Allman Brothers Band bassist Oteil Burbridge, Jeff Chimenti, from Weir’s band Ratdog, on keyboards, and John Mayer on lead guitar, I was not surprised, but I was skeptical.

Not surprised, because earlier in the year, in February, Bob Weir was a guest on CBS’a The Late Late Show, guest-hosted by John Mayer, and they performed two very nicely done Dead tunes (see below), and during the interview segment Mayer professed his love of the Grateful Dead.

Skeptical for two reasons:

1. While I very much enjoyed Mayer’s work on the two songs I saw him play, and though I don’t believe that any guitar player stepping into Jerry Garcia’s vacant shoes needs to imitate Jerry’s tone and technique, Mayer did not at all emulate Jerry, which is fine when it’s Weir sitting in with Mayer’s band, but it won’t work for most Deadheads when Mayer sits in with the Dead.

2. In the Rolling Stone article announcing the Dead & Company shows, John Mayer said this (my emphasis added in bold):

“They take their time, sometimes too much. This free expressive sort of spirit – I listen and I want to find a mix of that openness. I kind of want to go to that show, if it still existed. But I wish that there were tunes that I was more familiar with. I wish that I could be the singer. I wish I could have harmonies. And I wish that I could make it seven minutes instead of 13 minutes. Now I’ll get the opportunity to kind of try that.”

I read that and thought, “Um, John, you wouldn’t actually dream of messing with one of the quintessentials of the Grateful Dead, would you? Really?! I mean, you do know that taking 13 minutes to play a 7-minute song was pretty much the whole point of the Grateful Dead, right?”

Well, what a difference a few months make!

According to Relix, Mayer has spent the time since then working 4-5 hours a day, learning the songs and rehearsing with the band in what he refers to as ‘Grateful Dead University’. In several articles I’ve read about his preparations, he sounded incredibly sincere and respectful, deeply invested in honoring the Dead’s and Jerry Garcia’s immense legacies.

And, last night was the first Dead & Company show, and right out of the gate they opened with a wonderful 15-minute version of Playing In The Band, one of the tunes that the Dead was most noted for stretching out on, sometimes as long as a half-hour, and Mayer not only nailed Jerry’s tone and technique, without sounding like a simple copycat, but he relaxed into the extended jam and fit in beautifully with the band.

For this week’s Video Fridays installment, then, let’s look at his transformation, first with Mayer being Mayer and decidedly not Jerry on The Late Late Show back in February, followed by Mayer channeling Jerry last night in Albany, New York.

Well done, John, and Happy Weekend, everyone!

Man Buns Revisited

man-bunLast month, I published a post titled To Man Bun, Or Not To Man Bun?, and the title was clearly a rhetorical question, cuz I’d already cut my hair to man-bun-prohibitive shortness.

Now, the Man Bun topic turns from rhetorical to hypothetical, thanks to some awesome Photoshopped images courtesy of DesignCrowd, and via FastCompany.

Hypothesis: What would various world leaders throughout history look like sporting buns for men, and how would this alter our perception of these men?

FastCompany says:

…these images will shake your trust in our safety to its fundamental core.

But I have the exact opposite reaction!

Being able to visualize these guys hanging out in a typical locally owned and operated hipster joint, drinking craft beer and eating artisan pretzels, makes the scary guys less scary to me, and makes the guys I like seem like dudes I could hang with!

Anyway, here are my faves, but be sure to check out the whole gallery.

obama-bun

lincoln-putin-buns

bush-bun

washington-kennedy-johnson-buns

Tweet of the Day: @TheOnion

Because Monday.

The Pros:

Reinert said the values Bisquick sought to embody in the design of the campus are the same that drive the company itself: simplicity, freshness, quality, and fun. To that end, Bisquick added many communal facilities, including a full-size saltwater swimming pool, 10 onsite pancake bars stocked with organic fruits and various flavors of syrup, a Japanese zen garden hand-constructed in Kyoto and reassembled on campus, and a weekly lecture series at the grounds’ 2,000-seat amphitheater featuring speakers such as futurist Michio Kaku, fiction writer Stephenie Meyer, and former British prime minister Tony Blair.

The Cons:

While many in the area have hailed the arrival of Bisquick, some longtime residents—wary of higher rents and the company’s famously insular corporate culture—have expressed skepticism.

“Bisquick is just another one of these Silicon Valley behemoths that moves in and totally changes the community—and not for the better,” said local resident Peter Watson, who noted that the land used for Bisquick’s indoor rock climbing wall used to be open park space that the city sold to help attract the company. “When I moved here in the ’80s, it was all students and families; now, my whole street is nothing but Bisquick millionaires in their electric cars and luxury penthouses.”

“My neighbors and I have complained to the city council, but with Bisquick’s deep pockets, there really isn’t anything we can do,” Watson added. “I guess we just have to put up with it and hope that, sooner or later, this pancake bubble bursts.”

LOL!