It’s funny how nationalism and the Western genre have become intermingled. I blame John Wayne. After all, most of the best characters in the classic Westerns are outlaws, taking our American notions of justice and liberty into their own hands, following a civil war which had divided the the United States’ national identity down the middle. Sure, at some point we started rooting for the sheriffs and their deputies, but in this day-and-age, I think those times have passed.
We’re once again rooting for the outlaw. Take the 2016 contemporary western, Hell or High Water, for example. The protagonists are two brothers, who’ve been forced to rob banks in order to secure a future for their families. The police officers charged with stopping them aren’t even presented as the antagonists, but rather the film points the moral finger at the banks which have been “legally” robbing people for years.
That’s kind of the cultural shift we’re seeing right now. It’s a time of re-examining the laws that put civil rights and environmental activists under arrest, while “rulemakers” like police, banks, and big business continue to mold those laws to whatever form best fits their interests.read more
Song cycles were once a prominent form of presenting music. A song cycle (or “Liederyklus” in German) is a group of songs with some type of coherence bringing them together. For Tony Bonton and The Mimzees’ “Sheltallica” it is the words of Shel Silverstein. Those words have long resonated with Tommy Boynton, who composed 9 out of 10 songs in the cycle.
Boynton’s musical prowess is evident and expanded upon by an incredible performance from Brendan O’Donnell on viola, but it isn’t really the music that strikes me as much as how they play it. I’ve never seen Tommy more at home than when he plays these songs. They are a part of him, and with a master like Brendan next to him, the confidence of the duo soars. The two weave their way through the mystical yet natural world of Silverstein, playfully changing pace and mood throughout the cycle, but always moving forward through the ebbs and flows.
And that’s it. The playfulness. The youthfulness. The lack of a filter. That is what is important. The ability to play is often lost once adulthood visits us, but Boynton and O’Donnell haven’t lost it. This video, these songs, they are two people doing what they love to do most, while expressing their condition and the condition of others through the words of a true master.read more
Lately, language has been failing me. I have been facing experiences and profundities whose lessons seem too complex to ever be described through something as reductive as words.
After all, human emotional response certainly came before language, and while literature can help us shape our understanding, the basic determination of whether or not a particular experience fits into our worldview occurs before the words we use to explain why.
Music history is also rooted in this preverbal understanding. Rhythm has always had an energizing effect on the listener, while classical techniques elicited emotions from audiences for thousands of years before lyrics were added to direct them.
Considering my own recent experiences into the nonverbal realms buried deep by evolution in the crevices of the brain, I’ve found myself really disconnected from lyric-based music. Hearing the attempts of contemporary musicians to frame otherwise naturally occurring emotions using the same worn-out metaphors of nature’s operation has seemingly run its course on these old, tired ears.read more
Quick Piss “ROCK ‘N’ ROLL IMPOTENCE” OR Goodbye To All That: A Eulogy For Shit That Ain’t Punk (1776-2016)
Like any other cold-blooded, lizard-brained American Hero, when I first got an email about writing about the new album from Des Moines most decorated children’s choir, Quick Piss, I said yes immediately without giving it a second thought. At the time I was chilling down by the library on a breezy afternoon on my first day off of work since 80/35 but, again, because I’m a fucking Patriot, I dropped what I was doing and drove home immediately and cranked that shit loud and proud for all my esteemed Waveland Park neighbors as if it was just second nature.
But as soon as the speakers started blaring I found myself totally disoriented, and not in the way that I usually get disoriented when I’m jammin’ out to these kiddos. I couldn’t figure it out and I was starting to worry that it meant that the album wasn’t “good” but then, by the awful and miraculous grace of God, “666 UPSIDE DOWN CRUCIFIX” came on and it all sort of clicked. I figured it out. The reason I was so disoriented was that the album I was listening to actually sounded like music.read more
“I’ll never break your heart if you never break mine.”
– The Savage Young Taterbugread more
After pulling some love from both Stereogum and The Grey States, Karen Meat & The Computer have now premiered the music video for their upcoming 7″ single, “On The Couch”.
The video (by our own Bruce James Bales of DEFT) features the Karen Meat crew doing, well, pretty much exactly what they do: shooting hoops, hanging out, and killing time. It’s one of those straight-forward videos which doesn’t take itself too seriously and really just gets straight to the childlike simplicity of things before “What are you doing with your life?” was ever a question on anyone’s mind.read more
The Beach Boys 1971 album, Surf’s Up, marked the end of the first wave of surf rock music. The album title itself turns the old surfer phrase on its head, suggesting that the sunshine-drenched surf music of the band’s past was in fact dead.
The notion was further enhanced by the album’s dour cover art. Although the band continued to consistently release albums through the 90’s, they never really returned to the surf guitar style that dominated the band’s musical production throughout their most notorious and chart-topping years.
The release of Surf’s Up was around the same time that popular surf rock acts like The Ventures, The Trashmen, and even the King of Surf Guitar himself, Dick Dale, began to move away from the their traditional surf rock sound toward other genres, while some of the bands died out altogether.read more