Friday, August 29, 2008

Like A Dog That's Been Beat Too Much.

I often wonder where the preoccupation people have with Metal comes from, especially in the context of its irony-driven resurgence. Irony, as exhibited by the hipsters at Section 8, tends to be motivated mostly by nostalgia. When you’re ten years old, you wear totally dorky clothes. Then, when you’re in your teenage years and desperate to fit in, you strive to wear the trendiest (and I use that term very precisely) clothes you can find and/or afford. But then, when you hit your mid twenties, you look back on the clothes you wore when you were ten with a fondness that eventually becomes a fashion statement. You’re proud of your dorky jumper, because, lets face it, you liked yourself a lot more when you were ten, and are pretty keen to get that kind of self-love back into your life.

Actually, that leads me to another observation. We only really start to view our preteen years through this rosy glow once we’re out in the workforce. I guess it’s only after drudging our way to work at 9am every weekday morning for three or four years that the appeal of laying around listening to Ride The Lightning over and over again like we did when we were twelve really becomes apparent. Before those three or four years I guess we just thought we were bored. Which, you know, we were.

This ironic / hilarious appreciation of Metal bothers me for another reason, however. It’s essentially dishonest. When you’re twelve and listening to Metallica’s black album for the first time you’re not thinking about how ridiculous the lyrics or the homoerotic poses are. No, when you’re walking around listening to Unforgiven on your crappy walkman for the fifteenth time in a row, you’re not down with that kind of analysis in the slightest. No, there’s no irony here, just empathy. At this point, you’re just stoked that there is someone else in the world who seems to get it. Who seems to be as fucked up as you, as bummed out as you, as keen to yell and scream at the world as you are. When you’re a teenager the thing you’re craving more than anything is the impression that you’re not in this all on your own – a true cliché – and if you can’t find that camaraderie in your immediate surroundings, well, you’re going to look for it anywhere you can find it. Metal, with its community of fucked up folks, offers only open arms. And when you’re a teenager, you don’t ever consider this sense of belonging ridiculous or hilarious.

I remember reading a while back about that movie Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey, and about how Metalheads across the world felt kinda like this – that Metal offered them a community they otherwise lacked. I quite enjoyed that notion, because it’s similar to punk, which I actually grew up with. I like the idea that I can travel halfway across the world and have a passionate conversation with someone who doesn’t speak the same language as me about the first couple of Dead Kennedys records, and fuck, if kids can do the same about which Iron Maiden lineup was the best, well, that can only be a good thing. We have so many things around us that separate us, keep us apart, that anything that brings us together should be considered first and foremost a good thing. Even Metal.

Before I began this diatribe about Metal I thought I’d just scrawl “Fuck Metal, punk’s not dead!” on the back of an old phone bill and scan it into the blog. But this week has been a pretty fucked up week, and I dunno, I guess being obnoxious isn’t holding the same appeal right now. I’m depending on my own music to get me through, and figure it doesn’t really matter what music you run to for shelter. I’m not usually this understanding. But I guess you already know that.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Why Is America Willing To Maintain Order, No Matter What The Cost?

Ice Cube's Amerikkka's Most Wanted is an amazing album, a bona fide hip hop classic, full of intricate wordplay (from an impressive cast of rappers) and raging beats from the bomb squad, but still, the bit I love the most is right at the start, at the end of his electric chair skit, when he says, "Yeah, yeah, I got some last words. Fuck all y'all." That "Fuck all y'all" gets me every time.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

When You're Living Your Life, That's The Price You Pay.

Some bad news. Rick Pilmore, former lead singer of Stawell's only ever grind band, HAW, just passed away. The classifieds in the Stawell Times News are all from his football friends, and don't really acknowledge that in the last few years of highschool he moved away from them a bit and started getting into punk. Sure, that also meant he started smoking a lot of pot, but that's not really the point. He was changing, and even in his death we should acknowledge that. I'm no great believer in any kind of afterlife, but fuck, Rick Pilmore, wherever you are now, I hope they're playing Minor Threat.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

If I Were President.

As my thumbs will apparently tell you, I'm really freaking good at both coming up with plans and figuring out how to implement them, but not so great at putting them into action. Knowing this about myself at the beginning of this year I declared 2008 "The Year of the Follow Through". And I have been following through on a bunch of different things - learning some more French, beginning Tai Chi, eating less sugar. But I've been particularly slack when it comes to something I used to do a lot as a teenager: organizing events. My lack of follow through in this regard is closely linked to tendency to dream big - without even having organized a single bike race I was talking about pulling together an entire festival, for example. I don't really know how to deal with this (or even exactly what I'm trying to say), but I've started by putting on this. I know it has little to nothing to do with music, but that doesn't really matter all that much. You should come along anyways. It will be a totally good time.

Saturday, August 16, 2008


A Former Talk Show Host.

Paul Simon's Graceland in a nutshell: cheesy as all fuck, racially insensitive and, well, often insufferably 80s (anyone who disagrees should revisit the Call Me Al filmclip, starring Chevy Chase), but at the same time insidiously infectious. Listening to it immediately after listening to The Promise Ring's Nothing Feels Good, which I've written about previously here, I realised that somehow Graceland has, despite shifting its influences to an entirely different nation with each song, achieved a constant tone, that elusive quality that seperates the great albums from the perfect. How Paul Simon has managed this has little to nothing to do with the world music 101 qualities of the record, but more to do with the sense of melancholy that has permeated all of his best work. He's one of those artists for whom unhappiness is beneficial, which sucks for him but works out pretty well for the rest of us.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Two Years Ago, A Friend Of Mine

I stayed in Boston with my friend Emilie Soisson for about three weeks. Emilie was really into hip hop, but only owned two records: A Tribe Called Quest Low End Theory and The Roots Things Fall Apart. Her copy of Low End Theory was scratched beyond repair, so I pretty much just listened to The Roots. I'd wake up in the morning, long after Emilie and her housemates had gone to work, hide my bedding behind the couch, then put The Roots on. This was my first real entrance into the world of hip hop. I wonder, now that I finally own both records, what would have happened if The Roots had've been scratched and all I had to listen to was Tribe. I think I would have put it on, decided that hip hop hadn't really done much since US3 threw down some rhymes to Herbie Hancock's Cantaloupe Island, and given up altogether. This isn't to say it's a bad record - quite the contrary is true - but it certainly speaks for a very particular time and place. But Things Fall Apart, in all its Grammy-winning glory, took me by the hand and showed me that hip hop has potential. While the tone is the same all the way through (a rarity on hip hop records, including later efforts by The Roots, plagued as they tend to be by multiple producers and special guest stars), the songs are constantly shifting, hard to pin down. They - like the best country music - show a clear line between the past, the present and the future. So much about the record reminded me of the jazz I'd been obsessed with at the time, and I was hooked.

I'm still learning. Punk, having been with me since I was fourteen or fifteen, comes easily. My friends are, for the most part, other punks, and so I'm constantly being put on to this or that band or zine or website. Hip hop I've had to search out for myself, grasping at whatever straws pop culture offers, reading liner notes for shout-outs to similar bands, researching bands mentioned in offhand comments at dinner parties. It's strange to be interested in something so different, to see a strand come from a long way away and eventually be intertwined into my own history, until Ice Cube is the soundtrack to my anger and Lauryn Hill is the voice that sings me to sleep.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Do You Have The Time.

I bought a big pile of new records from JB Hi-Fi the other day, and consequently have a lot to write about, but don't really have much time (or my own computer) at present. So my commentary, for the time being, is limited to this: Green Day's Dookie fucking rules it so hard it hurts like teen angst. Except these days, instead of listening to it while I sit in my bedroom writing in my journal by candlelight, I listen to it while I sit on our new dining room table, eating chocolate chip cookies and drinking a glass of sweet so natural, periodically jumping up to skank and two-step around the living room.