Saturday, June 15, 2013

A Freebie or Two

One of the cool things about the Internet is the plethora of free things. Sure, you can illegally get stuff for free, but I don't mean that. That's stealing, on some levels. At the basest, most reductionist level, sure, everything is "free" if you steal. Now, I hope it's obvious that I don't view file sharing quite that simply, but that argument has its merits. Still it's only a tangent to where I'm going. I mean that, as a promotional tool, people will willingly give you a lot of stuff on the Internet.Here's a few freebie things that I've enjoyed over the past week or so:
First, Violitionist. I went there for the Kylesa, and stuck around for some of the others. I especially dug the Locrian, Tombs, and True Widow sessions, but you might not be in as much of a sludge/post metal mood as me.
Now, of course, the engine that runs how they do the freebie downloads is one of my favorite sites: Bandcamp . I cannot tell you how much music I've checked out through bandcamp. Literally hundreds of hours worth. I guess I should mention that before Bandcamp, it was Jamendo for me, but the interface got too sticky for me. Maybe I should check it out again?
For movies, I pay for Netflix and Hulu, but I also really like Crackle. It's run by Sony, so it's not exactly "indie", but since they're giving it away, there's a certain "niche-ness" that feels ok to my sensibilities. For real independent spirit, though, you gotta check out Troma on Youtube. There's also OVguide. I hope I don't need to tell you about Youtube, Vimeo, Dailymotion, or the  Internet Archives, right? 
Now, I still like Paper books, but my wife likes her kindles. So, technically, this isn't my find, but if you're a kindle person, here you go: Free E-books
But the best thing for free on the Internet is jokes. And this post is one. An inside joke. See, this should totally inflate my reader stats. Why? Lots of links, and somehow, some spam bots have been browsing my blog, and artificially quintupling my readership stats So, I want to see if I can break 500 page views on a single post. If you're human, and reading this, you're now in on the joke, too.....

The Pixies

You know, the Pixies are another of those cornerstones for me. I suspect they are for a lot of people.  I'm a bitter, hard, crusty old bastard, so I'm not above criticizing them, even. About half of Bossanova, and a third of  Trompe Le Monde is just filler. That said, when they were on, they were untouchable, and the best band in the world. Bar none. The only ones who came close were The Clash, Husker Du,Thin White Rope, Jawbox, Kyuss, and Jane's Addiction. ( Don't get me wrong, every band has a moment, at least, where they're really good- but very few get even a moment where they're unassailable, where no one could argue against them.) I count myself as very fortunate to have seen them live.  I also know that the same volatility that made them great meant they will sometimes fall apart, and it just sucks. There are moments when one member or another will just separate, maybe due to ego, maybe distraction, maybe some emotional reason, but then, when it happens, they sucked, hard.
So, while it is sad that Kim Deal has decided to leave, I have some small hope that it isn't as final as it seems. It does seem probably, however, that it's all over, this time. So, in a fit of sentimentality, I watched loudQUIETloud and I saw it with new eyes. Charles seems less closed off, more generous. Joey seems more reserved and laid back, and Kim doesn't seem like quite such a diva. David still seems exactly the same to me: just a regular guy with more than regular energy- yes he is processing something heavy for him, but it seems pretty normal and regular to me. So, where did the dynamic go wrong, this time?
I cannot project what thoughts and feelings they might have, but I have a theory. What if it's me? Well, not me, personally, but my relationship with them as a band. Because, while I do recognize that these are people, just like me, there's something that happens when they go onstage, and make music together, and they're not people, they're "The Pixies" . I can see how, if I were inside that, it would both appeal and repulse. Yes, I'd want to be part of this act of genius that is more than me, and more than I could ever be, as a person, but at the same time, the pull would be- what about me? I want to be a person, I want people to react to me as me, and either love me, or hate me based upon that.  I want to pursue the interests that excite me, not necessarily this one thing that I need to be connected to, in order to be great. However, so long as every night, good or bad, there's people there who connect with that thing, probably even more than me, I go back to that thing. I might resent it some nights, and not others, but I can see how it would always push and pull. The bigger problem would be that it's the truth. I, as a person, could do anything, and it will never be that lightning-in-a-bottle genius that The Pixies can be, and people are right to be fans of that, and there will always be more people that are fans of The Pixies than me, it's inevitable. Eventually, the plug will get pulled. Someone will die, or will get sick, or will no longer be able to plug into that genius, and that will prevent the rest from happening, so just like a Kevorkian impulse, I might want to be the one to pull the plug. I might want that final act of self-determination to be mine.
I don't know, but it seems like as plausible a theory as anything else....

Kanye West Yeezus

So, no, I've not burned a copy. Let's get that out of the way. I know it's leaked. I plan on buying it. But, I'd be a nut if I didn't at least hear it, first. Kanye might be a sold out part of the problem, but he's also probably the most experimental mainstream pop star going. Who's his competition? Thom Yorke? Hardly mainstream.   Can you see, say, Madonna putting out a song called "I am a God"? With hard, unyielding power electronics of a type not heard this side of The Eugenics Council ? Seriously this is some harsh, challenging stuff.  But, in these days when Paul Mccartney is recording with the Bloody Beetroots, I guess things are changing.
Do I have problems with his lyrics? Of course, because I don't think you have to be a black man to see the hypocrisy in using derogatory terms for a black man in a song called "New Slaves". But, at least he's playing with ideas, which puts him head and shoulders above his peers. And musically he's on his own level. It's electronics of a type that only the most avante garde have used up until now.
But is it any good? Some bits definitely are. Songs like "On Sight" and "New Slaves"  are catchy in ways I cannot quite process. I know I'm thinking about the songs, yet I cannot quite say I'm humming the melodies. But then, a song like "I'm in it" I know why I like- harsh west coast gangsta meets deep dub? Yes, please. And LP centerpiece "Blood on the leaves" is a power ballad that turns Nina Simone into a rhythmic tool, with a synth line so bombastic you might think you're listening to some mutant remix of some mid-1980's Asia song, with a fairlight obsession.
But then we get to "Send it up". Holy shit. I've got no words. Both the most abrasive and the most catchy track on the LP- it puts Nine Inch Nails out of business, in a minute flat. Sinister, challenging, body rocking, it demands to be played at top volume and yes, it will annoy your neighbours and might just wreck your stereo and drink your beer.
So, I'm not ready to buy it, yet, but I'm pretty sure I will be.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Time Machines and private viewings

One thing that always annoys me is when I'm thumbing through a fashion magazine and I see the model wearing something I like,so I look over to the product list, and the item is identified as "vintage" or "model's own"- meaning, you can't find it. Likewise, I get annoyed when I read some blog and it's all about food that the blogger cooks using ingredients I cannot purchase, or all about live performances that already took place, and they're not touring here. I think you get the idea. So, the last thing I want to do is pass along that frustration, which is the tightrope I walk for this blog. I want to talk about my "singular culture" in Tom Barman's words, but I want to stick with the parts that are accessible to others, easily.  I'm not going to make it seem like work, because this isn't , but I want some usefulness out of it
So, I saw two versions of the same film today. First, I noticed on  my Prime TV subscription on my Roku that they had  "Clockwork Orange County" which is basically a re-working of  Urban Struggle: The battle of the Cuckoo's Nest  with added, more modern footage, so, you'd think that's the better, more accessible version. Not true. Legally, it's harder to see it than the 1981 Urban Struggle, which, if you follow the link, you can see it on Daily Motion, right now. It also has the advantage of being a slightly more pure document- there's no nostalgia trip added on, with a bunch of guys like me, remembering when they were guys like you see in Urban Struggle. There's something artsy about digitally smeared sepia-toned black and white interviews and live performances of Punk Rockers from Los Angeles. Of course, for me, there's the added layer that I used to go to the Cuckoo's Nest, and these are the people I grew up wanting to lead me. But, taking away the "model's own" elements, it's still a worthwhile way to spend 40 minutes. If nothing else, it effectively captures the young, male and alienated milieu that was hardcore Los Angeles. I think they did yet another version that I haven't seen, but, all these things- these nostalgic talking heads are a dime a dozen- what's unique is who they were back then, and Urban Struggle is nothing but that. It's amazing to me- nobody would hear punk kids like me, back then, and it seems they still don't. They'd prefer to hear from those teens and punks now that they're middle aged and recalcitrant - and those same middle aged former punks don't seem to want to hear from their vital, young selves, either. That's what makes a document like Urban Struggle more important-These are messages from subcultures who never got a chance. Now, that there's nothing truly coherent nor articulate to be said is not really the point. When faced with an existential threat, the most important part is simply to be. And make no mistake, to be a punk teenager in 1980 Los Angeles was to be under existential threat.
So, even if it's a bit obscure, there's the line for me- bringing a bit of my "singular culture" into the public view.