Friday, December 23, 2011

A few Thoughts on Crossover

So, it's almost Christmas, thus my thoughts naturally turn to Metal. Yeah, right.
Actually, I've been reading "This Ain't the Summer of love" by Steve Waksman, and while it's not the worst bit of music criticism disguised as cultural anthropology I've ever read, it is merely that- this is just his way of writing about some bands he likes, and he managed to get it into book form because he got some grants from a few universities. His point is that Metal and Punk are connected, and while he's not wrong, he misses a whole lot; not the least of which goes something like this: His title is from a Blue Oyster Cult song. In the late 1970's, Blue Oyster Cult collaborated with Patti Smith, and their in-house producer, Sandy Pearlman, also produced the Clash's 2nd LP. The song in question "This ain't the Summer of love' shares a riff with Mudhoney's "Swallow my Pride", and a big song for BOC, "Godzilla" was very similar to a few Nirvana riffs, including "Smells Like Teen Spirit"... That's off the top of my head- I could get deeper, easily, but I don't think Waksman could, seeing as he's just a recovering "Hessian' ( Los Angeles punk rock slang for Metal head)
Anyway, enough about the book because it's just my jumping off point. Punk and Metal clearly are closely related, but mostly because they're both hard rock, and roughly contemporary. However, I'm a pretty big fan of punk, and really not such a big fan of Metal. That's more what I want to discuss.
See, I know I've mentioned metal on this blog, and on previous blogs and even in printed articles, and so, it might seem like I'm some kind of metal head, but I'm not and the reasons are many. I'm not a big believer in Virtuosos. I'm not impressed by speed picking, hammer ons and the like. I know plenty of music theory, and I can play well enough that I've passed for professional, but I just don't care for the whole notion that sheer technical prowess is musically more worthy. Shredding just doesn't mean much to me. Likewise, I don't give a rats ass about Frodo or the Devil. Fantasy and occult lyrics mean less than nothing to me. I don't like long hair, bullet belts, or black leather, either. Spandex is best left to strippers and pro-wrestlers. On top of all that, there inevitably is something... vaguely trashy about metal, in an unappealling way. What I mean is, ummm, well, let's do this by way of a story. Most socialists struggle a bit with the dichotomy between wanting to do what's best for "the masses" and the short-comings of those same 'masses". I had a friend who resolved this dichotomy by dividing up the Proletariat between the proles and the "lumpen Proletariat". I disagree, respectfully, but I can see what he meant. That's the kind of problem I've got with Metal- it always seems to lead to ignorant hickoid trash, of the least amusing kind- racists, close minded bigots, sexist pigs, etc. Do I have to bring up Zakk Wylde, or were you already there with me? I can deal with Cat Scratch Fever, but do I have to take Ted Nugent, too? See what I'm getting at?
So, almost reflexively, the only Metal I like shares some kind of 'crossover" with Punk. I can deal with the aforementioned Blue Oyster Cult in that their music fits in, at least in enough ways, with the detroit "Proto punk' style. I'm ok with Tru$T, and, very early Iron Maiden, because DiAnno was a bit of a punk, and hell, Jimmy Pursey even got thrown into the mix (East Enders, all). Likewise, bands like Kylesa and Torche have roots in Southern Crust punk, and it shows enough that I like them.
And what do I have to say about Motorhead? Isn't it obvious that they're as much a Punk band as a Metal band?
If you are a big Metal head, I know we share some musical tastes, but there are some points of divergence, and I'm bringing up that divergence because Waksman reminded me-
ultimately, the reason why I'm not real keen on Metal comes down to this- the divide isn't academic. When someone throws a punch at you, either for liking a band he doesn't, or for not liking a band he does, or, horrors, for both, it tends to turn you off to everything that clown likes. Well, I had more than a few punches thrown at me from Metal heads. Everything beyond that is just icing on the cake of hate. If Waksman missed anything important, it's that- there were plenty of real, not verbal fights between punks and Metal heads in the 80's. I haven't forgotten that, so I still have a bit of a grudge against Metal as a genre....

Sunday, December 18, 2011

I don't Do "Best Of" Lists

However, I've not put anything new under your nose in awhile. Why that is would be a combination of three factors; 1. I'm too busy working two jobs, and taking care of a household, and buying stuff for other people. 2. Really, music-wise, book-wise, and Film-wise, there hasn't been anything in the past month or so that really spoke to me. Now, TV, on the other hand- Boardwalk Empire is AMAZING! you must watch it at your earliest convenience. The acting? Michael Shannon, and Michael Pitt were just ungodly good. Steve Buscemi actually isn't playing Steve Buscemi. This is something harder, and more menacing. I like it. Gretchen Mol has finally redeemed herself from that horrible Bettie page movie, and is playing a vicious psycho who reminds me of my ex-wife ( and how's that for playing the villian?) and Kelly Macdonald finally, finally, Finally pays off that promised she showed in Trainspotting. The production? Hell, this is the most beautiful depiction of the prohibition era since prohibition. Just absolutely gorgeous. It blows away stuff like the Coen Brothers' attempts (Millers Crossing, and O, Brother) and yes, the Godfather flicks.The story is very loosely based upon the real-life Enoch Johnson, and, yes, some of the fun is in the docu-drama aspect, but there has been enough variation on real life that I'm rivetted to my seat- and nothing hammered in those rivets more than the season finale. I won't give you any spoilers, but I will say that the real-life counterpart to a major character was very much alive into the 1970's- so the point is that there are no rules- the story will play out, and what a story it is. Basically, it imagines a noirish world in which all are corrupt, and the only real nobility is if your corruption serves the greater good. In terms of plot, it centers around the efforts of Enoch 'Nucky" Thompson to run Atlantic City at the time when it was the Vice Capital of the USA. Beyond that, you can google it. But, hey, I'm getting distracted.... I'm just meaning to say the Boardwalk Empire has been the sole new pop culture thing to really catch me since the beginning of december.
So, since I don't do best of lists, since that would imply that I've not only got taste, but that my tastes are worth emulating, I'm just giving you a list of the 15 musical releases I've listened to the most this year. All are truly spectacular, and I think all are worth your time. Of course there's no hierarchy, and, of course, I listened to other stuff, but I just dumped itunes, and I happened to notice what had been most played, and these were the 2011 releases:
Gang of Four- Content
Ringo Deathstarr- Colour Trip
The Pains of Being Pure at Heart- Belong
The United Sons of Toil-When the Revolution comes, Everything will be Beautiful
Pandoras. Box- Monomeet
Wire- Red Barked Tree
Ritual-Paper Skin
Red Fang- Murder the Mountains
Cute Lepers- Adventure Time
dEUS- Keep you Close
Kasabian- Velociraptor!
Wild-Flag-Wild Flag
Lydia Loveless- Indestructible Machine
Wilco- the Whole Love
Coliseum-Parasites (ep)
Most of them should be available at Amazon, and Bandcamp. There's your christmas list if you don't already have them.