Tag Archives: punk

Scrabble-Rousers #8: Nihilism

12 Jul

What Scrabble-Rousers is: A word is chosen at random by blindly flipping the pages and finger-pointing a word/phrase (in this case “nihilism”) from a book also chosen at random (in this case: the I ♥ Huckabees script written by David O. Russell & Jeff Baena).

"Of course not," Gorgias said. "He never existed."

What does nihilism have to do with music? Nothing.

Bad joke.

It’s impossible to talk about punk, rap, goth, metal and a lot of fringe underground music without discussing nihilistic themes. Whether you truly believe the Sex Pistols were sincere enough to be nihilistic (even though contrived controversy to further commercialism seem contrary to the doctrine) doesn’t matter because they were inevitably associated with it.

Sid Vicious was without a doubt a bad, bad nihilistic man – he brutally beat a man with a bicycle chain, blinded a young woman with the throw of a beer bottle, is a legendary bassist despite having been a bad bass player, may or may not have stabbed his girlfriend to death, and died from heroine procured by his mum. If Sid Vicious wasn’t a nihilist, he was “Something Else”:

Stereolab harped on the very roots of nihilism in their song “Nihilistic Assault Group”, questioning morality’s existence as a real human virtue or a contrived shroud. Or something like that. “Nothing” seems to be lost in translation from the group’s French tongue. Regardless, Stereolab summons its most shoegaze sensibilities on this track.

Nihilist Assault Group by Stereolab.

Rancid actually sang about the lure and temptation of nihilism and the supposed liberation (“release me from moral assumption”), while staving off what seems too obvious a pitfall (“nihilistic feelings are moving/if I try real hard, I’ll see right through them.”). They may look the part of nihilistic scum, but Rancid cares. Maybe this helped kill punk.

Or is it better when two actual nihilists watch the same video and critique it:

Mouse on the Keys, a jazzy leader in the world of abstract musical expressionism, hold court by participating in the ongoing nihilistic debate with “Completed Nihilism.” One could guess what completed nihilism is – a past-tense jab on Nietzsche’s thoughts, or something so meaningless it is only perfect? Don’t know, don’t care, because it is a vague introduction piece to Messiean-like expressionism, particularly “Vingt Regard sur L’enfant – Jesus”:

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Screaming Females reveal Castle Talk details; Woven Bones announce tour dates; Forthcoming Brad Laner LP

29 Jun

Castle Talk due out Sept. 14

In 2010, Screaming Females continued their non-stop touring, including a February tour with Jeff the Brotherhood, two tours with fellow Jersey punk Ted Leo and his band the Pharmacists, a national headlining tour, and a spot on the Village Voice’s annual Siren Fest. The band says that thus far the highlight of 2010 was the sold out Don Giovanni Records showcase in February at Bowery Ballroom, which filled one of New York City’s biggest venues with the energy of a New Brunswick basement show. Like Power Move, Castle Talk was recorded at the Hunt Studio in New Jersey with engineer, Eric Bennet, but with a new approach to writing and recording. The record is out September 14th via Don Giovanni.

Tracklist:

Laura + Marty
I Don’t Mind It
Boss, Normal
A New Kid
Fall Asleep
Wild
Nothing at All
Sheep
Deluxe
Ghost
Sold

WOVEN BONES


06/26 – Chicago, IL Reckless Records Wicker Park In-Store 5pm
06/26 – Chicago, IL Empty Bottle
06/27 – Indianapolis, IN Vollrath Tavern (My Old Kentucky Blog Presents) ^
06/28 – Fort Wayne, IN The Brass Rail
06/29 – Cleveland, OH Now That’s Class
06/30 – Pittsburgh, PA Brillobox
07/01 – Brooklyn, NY Bruar Falls ~
07/02 – New York, NY Pier 17 / South Street Seaport (
07/03 – Baltimore, MD The Ottobar @
07/06 – Athens, GA Caledonia Lounge
07/08 – New Orleans, LA Circle Bar
08/06 – Austin, TX, United States Art Authority /
08/07 – Dallas, TX, The Nightmare +
08/10 – Denver, CO, Hi Dive –
08/11 – Salt Lake City, UT, Kilby Court TBA
08/12 – Boise, ID, Neurolux TBA
08/13 – Portland, OR, Plan B
08/14 – Seattle, WA, Wildrose >
08/15 – Olympia, WA, Northern }
08/17 – Reno, NV, Lincoln Lounge [
08/18 – San Francisco, CA, Bottom of the Hill <
08/19 – Los Angeles, CA, Spaceland
08/20 – San Diego, CA, Casbah
08/22 – Phoenix, AZ, Rhythm Room
08/24 – Albuquerque, NM, Launchpad
08/25 – Lubbock, TX, Bash Riprock’s 

^ = w/ We Are Hex
~ = w/ Beach Fossils
( = w/ YellowFever
@ = w/ Reading Rainbow
/ = w/ Residual Echoes and Happy Birthday
+ = w/ Bipolar Express and Nervous Curtains
– = w/ Woodsman
> = w/ Idle Times
} = w/ Christmas
[ = w/ The Madanna Bangers and The Humans
< = w/ The Splinters and Sandwitches

BRAD LANER

Underground shoegaze king Brad Laner will release Natural Selections on Aug. 24. If you are familiar with Laner all you need know of the new material are these words from him: “I would like to hereby apologize to anybody who wishes to see my stuff played live. I would too actually, but only if I got to watch from a safe distance.” This is because of the heavy electronic-infused production. Here’s the track Crawl Back In from the upcoming LP:

Brad Laner
Natural Selections
(Hometapes)
Street Date: Aug. 24, 2010

Eyes Close
Throat
Lancaster
Crawl Back In
Magnolia Doubles
Brain
Why Did I Do It
Dirty Bugs
Vicky
Runner
Little Death

Interview: Chic-A-Go-Go’s Jake Austen

8 Jun

The history behind public-access television is almost as interesting as the content it has spawned. Public-access television was created in the late 1960s as a First Amendment response to the dregs and slants of commercial broadcasting in order to cater to true social needs (The Public Broadcasting System, or PBS, is not public-access as it is funded by public and private entities). One of those needs is education and entertainment for children. Who knew something as awesome as this would evolve:

Chic-A-Go-Go is the brainchild of Jake Austen and Jacqueline Stewart, a couple whose love for Soul Train and Kiddie-A-Go-Go led to the creation of their hit public-access show. Chic-A-Go-Go is billed as “Chicago’s dance show for kids of all ages,” features adolescent puppet rats (Li’l Ratso is the coolest!) interviewing some of the best artists in music. Previous guests include Lemmy, Fugazi, Pere Ubu, Built to Spill, Sonic Youth, Patti Smith, Spoon, The Slits, and the list goes on forever.

Patti Smith being grilled by Ratso

Each episode includes a dance segment while that day’s guest lip-syncs to his or her song. Jake Austen delivers the goods and tells us about the show’s inception, trekking for weird music in Chicago, why we need to let our “freak flags fly,” which legendary musicians were too afraid to talk to a puppet rat, and gives a brief history lesson on black musicians in punk rock.

Q: Talk a little bit about your musical background since your show resonates with adults just as much as children because of your guests.

Jake Austen: I have collected records since I was a little kid, always going for cheap thrift store stuff and always taking chances on unusual stuff based on cover art or odd names, so I always had a wide variety of (often un)popular music in my wheelhouse. I went to  a high school where people mostly listened to black radio music so I listened to that, and when oldies radio started in Chicago in the 80s I listened to that non-stop trying to learn all the old songs (Wax Trax Records, famous for industrial and weirdo stuff, actually carried old pop 45s at the store and I used to take long bus rides to the North Side to get stuff there). So basically, genuinely liking almost everything makes me a good deejay for a show where we play everything for everybody.

Q: Your wife, Jacqueline Stewart, is a highly regarded film scholar. Explain how the two of you came to create Chic-A-Go-Go.

JA: We were always big fans of dance shows, and always wanted to work on cable access (Jacqueline is a film scholar, specializing in the low budget d.i.y. films by early 20th century black filmmakers, and I think the spirit of cable access relates to her work in her mind). After meeting a couple, the Mulqueens, who did a local children’s dance show in Chicago in the 60s called Kiddie-a-Go-Go we realized this was something for us to pursue.

Q: Given that kids are likely being exposed to indie, punk and non-mainstream
music for the first time, what effect do you think the music has on the children?
JA: I think children respond to rhythm and noise and good music pretty naturally, and even if they think it’s weird, lots of stuff is weird to them, so inherently most kids are cool with any kind of music if you create an open, safe, festive environment. What may have more effect on them is seeing the artists lip sync, especially when they are “deviant” (gender bending, odd dressing, lots of body art, extremely eccentric) because they see how comfortable and fun it is to be around “weirdos.” We hope this makes a good impression, and most kids and parents return, often letting their own freak flag fly (as far as attire) on their sophomore trip, so it seems like it’s working.

Shonen Knife making the kids boogie.

Q: Chic-A-Go-Go is a show for kids and kids will dance to pretty much anything. Is that why there is so much freedom in choosing the artists you do?

JA: It’s not total freedom – it has to be dance music. It’s just that we (and kids) consider almost anything dance music.

Q: Do guests come on expecting the show to be a sort of tongue-in-cheek format, only to find out that the sincerity is 100%? Or is it that they are just as down for the cause?
JA: Most of our guests are are familiar with the show, or if not they realize right off that kids and our kid-like adult dancers are not keen on irony (despite the sarcastic tone of dialogue on shows like Hannah Montana and iCarly…but I think that’s faux attitude rather than actual irony).
Q: Guests don’t always seem as comfortable talking to a puppet as they probably imagined. Were there some instances in which a guest was extremely awkward or completely frustrated?
JA: Both Vanilla Ice and Lemmy refused to speak with the puppet, but agreed to get on camera and explain why they felt that way (Lemmy’s bleeped advice for kids: “don’t talk to fucking puppets”). The Streets only got through a few seconds of his interview before getting so freaked out he had to quit. Later a journalist told us he had the next interview and it had to be cancelled because the rapper was so rattled. Speaking of white Brit rhymesayers, Lady Sovereign bailed as soon as she saw the puppet. Some acts, a 90s garage boogie act called Quadrajets comes to mind, can’t fathom that they are supposed to look at the puppet and just look down at the puppeteer.
Q: The guests have been just as notable as the concept. How are you able to pull in such amazing talent?
JA: Many bands ask to play the show because they like it, but any bands that we approach seem to be inclined to say yes because they never get to do things for kids and they never get to work with puppets. And when we can get classic or hot, current acts into the studio they are often excited to lip sync. Who gets to that these days?
Q: You have a music zine called Roctober in which you did a four-part series on blacks in punk? Outside of the fact that it was extremely interesting (I had no idea that Neneh Cherry was in the Slits at one point), why was that important for you?
JA: In the magazine it was a one-part series, online it’s broken down into four pages. The writer whose idea it was is a black rock fan who (like many of the musicians covered) was always suprised he had to explain himself or feel like an outsider when enjoying music created by African AMericans. Showing the lengthy legacy of black punk rockers addresses this.
Q: Who in that group of black punk pioneers do you think has been criminally overlooked?
JA: ONO is beginning to get some acclaim now that they play several times a month in Chicago, but they are true artists and iconoclasts, and no one is weirder or more soulful than they.

ONO

Q: You have a Roctober Hall of Fame, which honors artists wholeheartedly dedicated to entertainment. Wouldn’t you include Chic- A-Go-Go in the Roctober HoF?

JA: It’s more for artists, but Chic-A-Go-Go belongs in the Chicago cable-access dance show hall of fame!

Q: What is your favorite moment to date on Chic-A-Go-Go?
JA: One time a group of actual Hassidic Jewish teens came into the studioand just let loose, mixing traditional Jewish dances with club moves. We didn’t know they were coming and thought it might be a joke (hipsters in costumes, doing schtick) but we soon realized that a great many Hassidic Jewish teens are from…Brooklyn. Meaning they are actually hipsters despite their Orthodox beliefs, and this group had seen the show on video and made a point of coming to the studio during a visit to Chicago.
Q: What was Jacqueline’s favorite moment?
JA: We had one episode where we did all blues music and we had a big group of black adolescents in the studio and they were really into it, totally grooving. It’s often said that black kids of the 2nd or 3rd hip hop generation (or whatever it is now) reject this music, and seeing proof that such belief is fallacy really moved her.

Screaming Females: Anachronistic Rock

26 May

It’s nearly impossible to listen to something new without hearing something old – for better or worse, for creative familiarity or recycled garbage. Listen to Screaming Females and one hears everything familiar at once: Chuck Berry guitar, Delta 5 bitchiness, shoegaze fuzz, hardcore hostility, jazzy walking bass, no wave experimentation.

Screaming Females, coming out with their fourth LP Castle Talk on Don Giovanni Records in September, recall generations of sounds without sounding like any band in particular. The band comes from Brunswick, New Jersey and evolved by working the slum-spirited basement circuit, an underground lifestyle of unpromoted, all-age shows in basements.

Screaming Females: Marissa Paternoster, left, Jarrett Dougherty, center, King Mike, right

Marissa Paternoster sings lead and plays a mean guitar. Paternoster’s adorable appearance – no more than 5’1″, a Ringo/Mick moptop, usually wearing a colorful outdated suit dress that belongs to a rotting corpse – is beguiling. She pulls you in only to break your face with bloodcurdling shrieks and silvery metal solos. King Mike rides a bass like a Funk brother, while Jarrett sets the parameters for everything with his perfectly steady rhythms.

Starving Dog by Screaming Females:

Electric Pilgrim by Screaming Females:

Mothership by Screaming Females

Tour Dates:

06/01 – Seattle, WA – The Funhouse
06/02 – Portland, OR – Backspace
06/03 – San Francisco, CA – Thee Parkside
06/04 – San Francisco, CA – Hemlock Tavern
06/05 – Los Angeles, CA – Spaceland
06/07 – La Jolla, CA – Che Cafe
06/08 – Phoenix, AZ – The Trunk Space
06/10 – Austin, TX – Emo’s (Indoors)
06/11 – Little Rock, AR – Arkansas Community Arts
06/12 – Nashville, TN – Rocketown (early show)
06/12 – Nashville, TN – The End (late show)
06/13 – Athens, GA – The Secret Squirrel
06/14 – Chapel Hill, NC – Local 506
06/18 – Milford, CT – Daniel Street Club *
06/19 – Portland, ME – SPACE Gallery*
06/20 – South Burlington, VT – Higher Ground*
06/21 – Quebec City, QC – Le Cercle*
06/22 – Montreal, QC – Il Motore*
06/24 – Ottawa, ON – Zaphod Beeblebrox*
06/26 – Toronto, ON – Lee’s Palace*
06/27 – Buffalo, NY – Mohawk Place*

* = w/ Ted Leo and the Pharmacists

Scrabble-Rousers #4: Hypocrisy

18 May

Hypocrisy and its bedmates – pretenders, fakes and phonies – have always been a source of consideration for artists. Just as in Eldridge Cleaver’s Soul on Ice where today’s word comes from, musicians have taken aim at social and political hypocrisy as far back as Ludvig van Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3. In 1804, Beethoven titled his third symphony “Bonaparte” in honor of Napoleon, who then held the title of First Consul. Beethoven cast Napoleon in the same light as great Roman leaders because of their staunch opposition to tyranny and dictatorships. However, Napoleon announced himself “Emperor of the French” which so deeply angered Beethoven that he renamed his third symphony “Sinfonia eroica, composta per festeggiare il sovvenire d’un grand’uomo” (“Heroic symphony, composed to celebrate the memory of a great man.)”

Here is a great Dutch site streaming No. 3 in its entirety.

Folk music is a genre almost exclusive to exposing the hypocrisies of war and oppression. Peter Seeger and Phil Ochs wrote and sang with a purpose and summoned a reckoning.

John Cage just before he went deaf.

Some artists, like composer John Cage, even adapt their sociopolitical ideals to create innovative new forms of music. Cage, of the “purposeful purposelessness” school, was hugely influenced by anarchic writers and created a compositional process based on chance resembling these beliefs.

Rap pioneer Gil Scott-Heron, inspired by watching the moon landing in 1969, called out society for its racial and social inequalities with “Whitey on the Moon.” “Was all the money I made last year/For whitey on the moon?”

The Dead Kennedys and Jello Biafra were masters of finding the hypocrisy in just about everything and releasing it in their famous scathing sarcasm.

Jello Biafra exposes hypocrisy in his own madeup name.

“Holiday in Cambodia” is a perfect example, setting side by side a typical Reagan-era yuppy youth to a Pol Pot-era slave worker to display the West’s blindness and indifference.

This is endless subject and it would be great to hear from others, so please post your thoughts and songs related to “hypocrisy.”

Here are a few noteworthy literal associations of hypocrisy:

“Circle of Hypocrisy” by Napalm Death

“Hypocrite” by The Heptones

“Hypocrite” by Antibalas