Friday, September 26, 2014

Corey On: The Parquet Courts “Sunbathing Animal”

By: Corey C.

At the end of the summer, I saw the new Parquet Courts LP on the wall at the record store. At that moment it occurred to me that the end of the summer was rapidly approaching, and that moved me emotionally, so I thought that was a good enough reason to buy Sunbathing Animal. Plus I liked the artwork. 

It was released back in June and I mostly ignored it because Parquet Courts had been trapped in the indie rock news cycle for way too long and I was getting sick of them and I listened to the new one on my laptop’s stupid tinny speakers and thought it sounded boring.

I don’t like their last album, Light Up Gold, anymore. I realized its main appeal to me was that it sounded like the poor man’s version of Tyvek’s Nothing Fits and I found whenever I wanted to listen to Light Up Gold I just ended up putting on Nothing Fits and being way more satisfied. Plus, Tyvek should be way more popular than PC. Tyvek should be bigger than U2. 

This newest Parquet Courts LP sounds like the dudes decided to ease off the accelerator a little bit and just let shit come to them. I just turned 27 and this idea makes sense to me. Sunbathing Animal reminds me of when Parquet Courts played in Providence at AS220 in March of 2012, and they stretched out their songs into these gnarly, masterful guitar jams. This was quite unlike much of the recordings and bootlegs I’d heard up to that point in time. The live stuff I’d usually was just mashing through the tunes from Light Up Gold, and sounding mostly like the record.

But that night in Providence they seemed less intense, like they were moving in a less suffocating, more open direction. Andrew Savage and Austin Brown’s dueling guitars reminded me of Television and the third Velvet Underground record. They made me wonder what would’ve happened if Ira Kaplan, Glenn Mercer, and Thurston Moore decided to form a super group. I loved it. 

I should’ve seen this record coming but I’m pretty stubborn and awful when bands start to get too much press. I distrust group-think, and I start questioning my own taste and ideals when weird bands start appearing in Rolling Stone. Plus, I am driven to near-homicidal rage when I read boring, lazy, cliché’d music journalism. Grantland’s Steve Hyden, for example, writes the wackest shit on Earth, and probably wrote something so stupid and obvious about PC that I’m not even bothering looking it up cuz it’ll rile me up.  The tipping point for me was Rob Sheffield’s piece that compared Parquet Courts to Pavement and made a big deal about the 90’s. I’d had enough at that point.

I’m glad I ignored my initial reaction and purchased this record. It’s way better than the new music from White Fence, Ty Segall, and King Tuff. I admire those three dudes, but they haven’t made much progress in terms of sonic exploration over the past forever. We get it guys: Black Sabbath, T. Rex, Syd Barrett, and Big Star were great. Surprisingly, I’ll give Parquet Courts have gotten the upper-hand: they could’ve easily cashed in on their notoriety and made a more polished version of Light Up Gold, and write their gigantorock bid version of “Float On.” But instead, they’ve won out, at least with me. I’ve listen to their newest LP more than any other record from 2014.

Most importantly, we’re all blessed with “Instant Disassembly,” the best tune from Sunbathing Animal. I had a terribly difficult putting my love for this song into context, but at the moment, as I write this, I have the most hyperbolic notion to compare it to The Minutemen’s “History Lesson Part II.” I’m certain some will laugh at this earnestness. I guess I’m turning into a fucking corndog.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

AC/DC Releases Press Release Equivalent Of The First Ramones Album

By: Ben Johnson

I subscribe to the Ultimate Classic Rock e-mail newsletter, mostly for LOL Dinosaur Band goofaroonies. There is no more oddly-placed exclamation point in the universe than the implied one or two or seven clinging for dear life behind the headline “Ace Frehley Announces 2014 Tour Dates.” I like Ultimate Classic Rock because it has LOLs with incidental news content, sure, but it also transparently represents a certain sad area of a certain sad type of press release-only mock-journalism.

This is largely the way we get information, from every source, these days, and I appreciate that Ultimate Classic Rock is obvious enough about it that I can immediately see the story behind the story. I can smell Ace Frehley’s current money problems wafting from my computer screen. It is a bonus that he is Ace Frehley, and I get to imagine specifically Ace Frehley, wearing a track suit, in a kitchen somewhere wincing in reaction to a college tuition bill, then calling up whatever handlers are still dealing with KISS business. To me this could not more clearly be a subtext of the headline “Ace Frehley Announces 2014 Tour Dates,” and if I’m mistaken about all of this, at least I’m having fun.

Not that I have anything against Ace Frehley. I don’t want him to suffer any more that I want any other human being to. It doesn’t matter that he is Ace Frehley. He could just as easily be Steve Perry or Eddie Van Halen. It would be almost just as good. Instead it’s Ace Frehley, which is perfect. It’s the perfect joke, in that Best Show sense, where the gag is always mercilessly exacting specificity.

Today I got an Ultimate Classic Rock email with the subject heading “AC/DC Announce New Album - But Bad News, Too.” And unlike the usual chuckle I have with just the heading alone, “ha ha nice assumption I will consider a new AC/DC album to be good news or even just news,” I clicked on this one, because, okay you got me, I’m curious, and also maybe it’ll be funnier if I figure out what bad news.

Turns out original guitarist Malcolm Young is suffering from some unannounced malady serious enough to keep him out of the band for the rest of his life. He did not even play in the studio during the sessions for this upcoming album, appropriately titled Rock Or Bust. He will not be with the band for the tour they have planned in support of this album. He’s hurting, apparently. I mean, I don’t know. They buried the lede pretty hard on this one. Guy could be dying for all we know.

What we do know is that there is a new AC/DC album coming out soon. We know that this Rock Or Bust album offers the only new studio material that rabid AC/DC fans have heard in six long years, and that there will be 11 tracks on it. We know the release date. And we know that the lead single from that album, titled “Play Ball” will synergistically appear ad nauseam on TBS broadcasts of the Major League Baseball playoffs. We know all of these things before we know anything about Malcolm Young’s illness.

Then, after hearing nothing about Malcolm Young’s actual condition, we also learn that the band is planning a 2015 world tour in support of this album, and that Malcolm (and Angus’s) nephew Stevie will be playing guitar on this tour, and actually has already played with the band on the record as well. Other news outlets might have more on the story, but I appreciate Ultimate Classic Rock for giving me the more unvarnished press rerelease version, because this is a masterpiece of press release ookiness. I love it.

The band has a meeting with their publicist, Malcolm decides, for example “just don’t tell them I have lymphoma,” and the publicist is like “you know what, we can use this, do you mind if I take this and run with it?” and the band is like “sure mate, whatever,” because they don’t give a shit because they’re old as balls Australian guys. And now here I am, reading about Malcolm Young’s illness by sifting through a barely filtered press release about the latest live and recorded content rollout from AC/DC™ Incorporated, LLC.

What a great band. AC/DC shows, through sheer uncaring gall, that while they as an artistic entity have been creatively bereft of anything less formulaic than big riffs and scratchy falsetto double entendres for at least 30 years now, there is a certain artistry to the operation of a career rock band as rapacious corporation which they have excelled at. While their actual rock and roll is as stale as old beer, in terms of the world of corporate messaging which they for whatever reason feel a need to inhabit as an ongoing business concern, using the career-ending illness of one of their founding members as a promotional tool is pretty fucking rock and roll.

Maybe around the December 2 release date of Rock Or Bust we’ll find out what Malcolm Young is actually suffering from. Then when the tour starts we can find out he’s actually dead. Or maybe he’s James Browning us, and he’ll make an appearance on the tour, and even skeptics like me will buy a ticket on the “but they might die soon” logic, which they will milk for at least another ten years. I wouldn’t put any of that beneath these guys. In terms of raking in the dough for being AC/DC any damn way they can get their hands on without actually, you know, giving a fuck about writing additional good/necessary songs, these guys are basically GG Allin.

This press release is ruthless. I want to throw up devil horns and bang my head to this press release. Way more than I want to throw up devil horns and bang my head to 98 Rock’s daily 5:00pm airing of “Have A Drink On Me,” which actually just makes me feel queasy and trapped. Is what I’m saying. 

I hope all press releases and, hence, “journalism” in the future can be like this. I want to read in the sanctified New York Times (provided by Boost Mobile) about how drinking an ice cold Coca-Cola is a great way to distract myself from the plummeting Dow Jones Industrial Average, or how the latest figures on the most gigantic worldwide income disparity in human history are sponsored by the Burger King® Chicken Whopper. I'm ready for that. I've been ready for that for a while without knowing it.

AC/DC has it right. This is the way things actually are. They’re getting worse, too. Let’s just embrace it. Let’s write a song called “Play Ball” because some business manager engaged in talks with Ted Turner about a song for the American Baseball (whatever that is) playoffs, and the proceeds from that will be enough to finance the entire recording session for a new album plus the initial overhead for a tour, so it’s basically like free money stacked on top of more money, and all we have to do is write a song called “Play Ball” with lyrics about, I don’t know, playing ball or whatever, we’ll figure that out last. Let’s do this. Let’s both “Play Ball” and actually play fucking ball, and if our guitarist has a serious illness we can benefit from, we use it. No more mister give a shit about anything but money guy.

You’re goddamn right, AC/DC. Fuckin’ A.

Get well soon, or else maybe never, Malcolm Young. Either way, apparently, is good.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

All the Thoughts I Had While Watching 'Beyonce and Jay Z On the Run'

By: Kelly McClure

I don't have cable, but I do have love and dedication ... for Beyonce. If Beyonce does a thing, whether I have much to say about it or not, I feel compelled to write about it. So here are all the thoughts I had, in order, while watching Beyonce and Jay Z on the Run, which aired on HBO but can otherwise be watched HERE. At least for the time being. 

- The anticipation of Beyonce coming out on any sort of stage type situation makes me feel like my breasts will just start shooting out foam.

- I could look at a picture of Beyonce while listening to Salt n Pepa's "Push it" and feel like I was having a heart attack. I'm not sure how I'm going to handle her doing any sort of butt shaking thing to this song. It's only 1:07 in and I already had to pause this because I don't know if I can physically handle it.

- I don't really care about Jay Z at all. They just came out together and I was surprised to see him like, "Oh yeah, he's in this too I guess."

- Beyonce just showed her butt for the first time. When other performers show their butts I feel like "How sad that we live in a society where you have to show your butt." But when Beyonce does it I'm like "Yes, please show your butt." Plus she does it in this supremely dignified way where she's giving our lives a vitamin by allowing us to see her butt a little bit.

- I just got goosebumps looking at Beyonce's butt. That means I got an actual physical response looking at the image of a stranger's butt on a laptop screen. I'm more or less a sex criminal.

- I can't stop making a painful face. I think I'd pay at least $1,000 to smell Beyonce's hair just once. Even if it wasn't attached to her head and was just loose in a paper bag I'd be like "Are you sure this is her hair? Okay, give it to me."

- Sometimes she goes to the front row and head bangs on people. This is one of my favorite parts. If she did that to me I can't predict how I'd react.

- The slow motion parts throughout this aren't needed. It disrupts the butt flow.

- I didn't have many thoughts for a little while and was just passively watching and eating my lunch, then Nicki Minaj came out during "Flawless" to do her remix parts and I got goosebumps again. You guys, her butt really is quite large.

- What if Jay Z performed with his wiener out?

- It's delicate work trying to screen cap butt pictures.

- I wonder if anyone has gotten arrested for masturbating at these shows.

- I always thought she said "My winter lungs" at some point during "Ghost/Haunted," but she says "My haunted lungs," which makes much more sense considering "Haunted" is part of the song's name. I'm glad I didn't get "My winter lungs" tattooed on my body like I've thought of doing, but actually, it would have ended up okay because that's a lyric in The Innocence Mission's "The Lakes of Canada," which Sufjan Stevens covered. I'm mixing up my feverish crushes.

- Does it mean I love Beyonce less if I kinda think this is so long?

- This has taken a great portion of my day. I might not be able to go to the gym now.

- Oh god. And I have to go to the store still too. I want to get sandwich stuff and pumpkin beer.

- I have to finish this. I can't have done all this for nothing.

- I didn't have as many thoughts as I thought I would other than "Butt."

- Maybe I started this too late in the day. I feel sleepy. I think I could have paid better attention if I had started this in the morning.

- Jay Z's lips look like something.

- Alright. I have to be done with this. It's 3PM and I haven't even showered yet.

- We should have gotten tickets for this.


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Open Letter to 3D Movie Technology

By: Christopher Forsley

3D Movie Technology,

Stop turning all the good movie theaters with high-def screens, custom surround sound, and comfortable stadium seating into brothels.  By pimping out every movie showing in the good theaters, you're pushing out every quality film that refuses to turn 3D tricks.  Some will find spots in shit movie theaters with screens covered in the cum of its cracked-out clientele and alien-like sound that only NASA's best can interpret, and seats so creaky every film comes off as a Birds of Paradise sequel.  The rest will go straight to YouTube where a few hundred viewers will skip to the sex-scenes and comment with links to free toaster-ovens.

Even if a quality film makes it into a good movie theater without prostituting itself by adapting your 3D technology, it will still get fucked multiple times in multiple ways.  You and all your 3D whoring movies will ensure that it only has early showtimes, that it's out of theaters before the holiday weekend, and that it gets isolated to the janitors closet.  The aesthetically inclined audience, after packing into their seats like sardines, will share with each other the dirty mop odor that smells worse than their fishy selves and then drown, despite being fish, in the surround-sound splashing through the vents from the 3D whale in the theater next-door.

I know you recently adapted the Great American novel with the great Leonardo DiCaprio as the great Jay Gatsby and aren't concerned with letters from the likes of me, a mere viewer craving the good old days when I could watch a movie on the big screen without having to avoid 3D protrusions like a contestant on American Gladiators avoids Nerf balls, but you're not fooling anyone.  We remember when you, 3D Movie Technology, were working the slums of Disneyland hustling that Captain EO movie to little brats on vacation just like its star, Michael Jackson, used to hustle little brats into his bed when they were on vacation at Neverland Ranch.  And, if you don't learn to respect quality films, back to those slums you'll go to project that dancing space cadet to a bunch of churro stuffed Mickey Mouse faces for all eternity.

By respect I don't mean raping them with your 3D gimmickry and hoping they enjoy it.  The only movies that enjoy being raped by you, 3D Movie Technology, are the ones with such weak writing, acting, and directing that they can't get any attention -- from film-critics or movie-goers -- without you defiling them.  But the likes of Nightmare Before Christmas, Titanic, and Jurassic Park don't enjoy you turning them into 3D thrill-rides.  They're quality films.  Instead of raping them with your technology, you should have respected them by taking them to dinner, turning off your phone, and listening to what they had to say.  Every quality film has something to say.

Scarface is a quality film and it says, through the numb mouth of Tony Montana, that "In this country, you gotta make the money first.  Then when you get the money, you get the power.  Then when you get the power, then you get the women."  It's true that you, 3D Movie Technology, made the money with the record-breaking Avatar which gave you the power to rape Tolkien's solid little creation, The Hobbit, and now you're getting the women, all naked and horny, in the soon to be released Karmasutra 3D.  But Scarface also says, through its depiction of the rise and fall of Tony Montana, not to get fucking greedy.

And, by charging patrons extra to see your 3D whores, you are getting fucking greedy.  It can't cost more to make one of your oversized video games than it costs to make a quality film.  You just pay some nerds to sit in their pajamas and tinker with their computers, whereas to make a quality film everything from locations to stuntmen have to be paid for.  Movies using you, 3D Technology, don't even need professional actors because, even when they aren't pixilated holograms, they just stand in front of a blue screen and read lines off a monitor, which even the most expressionless of Alzheimer's victims can do.

So why the high ticket price?  Since it isn't needed to cover production costs, it must be needed to cover your outstanding advertising budget.  You wouldn't get anyone to see your 3D movies without carefully planned brainwashing campaigns.  Maybe the extra ticket price is actually a part of the brainwashing and meant to project an illusion of exclusivity -- kind of like Tickle Me Elmo in 1996.  But the only sense of exclusivity I get at your movies where real-life Tickle Me Elmos run laughing and shaking up and down the aisles trying to catch 3D bubbles or bats is what I'd get at an insane asylum for adolescent schizophrenic speed-freaks.

I wouldn't bitch about the extra cost of your tickets if the 3D glasses looked like Tony Montana's glasses and I could keep them, but they look like The Terminator's glasses and I can't keep them.  Even if you didn't take the 3D glasses back, only an 80s born Hipster would want them, and if you, 3D Movie Technology, are trying to cater to Hipsters, I got news for you: they go to movies you've never heard of, not your bubblegum thrill-rides.  Only adolescent schizophrenic speed-freaks go to your movies, and although I'm sure they love wearing The Terminator glasses, their chaperons do not.

Who do you think brings them to see your movies?  It's their loving grandparents.  Only a grandparent has enough free time and expendable cash to waste on a 3D movie.  If you were smart, you'd try to make these blue hairs happy.  But you are greedy, not smart. You refuse to sell them gin & tonics and you designed The Terminator glasses with no regard to their bad eyesight.  They can't wear their eye glasses and The Terminator glasses together.  They have to choose between them, between watching a blurry 3D movie or a 3D movie blurry.

If, 3D Movie Technology, you want to survive in this business and don't want to go out like Tony Montana, then you need to make some changes.  You need to start serving gin & tonics for the blue hairs, start pimping-out Wes Anderson movies for the Hipsters, but you also, for me, need to start utilizing your 3D technology differently.  I go to the movies to relax.  If I wanted to puke from motion sickness and fear for my life, I'd go to the County Fair and ride one of those spinning contraptions with loose screws.  And instead of having bombs blow up in my face, how about boobies bounce in front of it?

Ignore my requests if you want, but keep trying to get "the world. . . and everything in it" and what happened to Tony Montana will happen to you.  Maybe you won't snort a mountain of cocaine and then have a shotgun blast launch you off a balcony and into a fountain, but you will get sued out of all your money.  You'll get sued when a steroid-fueled husband, after swatting at 3D flies, finds his wife dead next to him.  You'll get sued when a stoner, after a 3D bowl of Cheerios is pored, chokes to death on his own saliva.  And you'll get sued when a child, after watching a 3D superhero movie, tries to stop a moving car.

Illustration by Cameron Forsley

Monday, September 15, 2014

Four Decent Albums and The Best Non-Band In The History of Rock

By: Ben Johnson

The current best rock band in America does not exist at the moment, and it’s driving me up a wall.

You may have caught a whiff of press about the most recent Ty Segall album, Manipulator, a sprawling double LP of the most finely-tuned material Segall has ever released. It is okay. He recorded almost all of the instruments, and while the songs come out fine, there’s a “show you how I decorated my bedroom” quality to the album as a result of the lack of creative tension. “This is my favorite way that drums can sound, this is my idea of what a bass guitar should sound like, oh, and before I forget, this is how I’m overdubbing my vocals now.” You go “cool, cool,” and then you go sit somewhere. A couple of Halloweens ago he had a bubbling cauldron and weird jungle wallpaper going on in there and it was the awesomest bedroom you’d ever seen, and since then you’ve dropped everything every time he invites you to come hang out and see what he’s done. Only problem is now you’re pushing 30 and all of a sudden you gotta make actual decisions about whether or not to miss your niece’s birthday party just to go check out this guy’s bedroom for the ninth time in six years. Last time it was “hippy” themed. Now it’s “legitimate recording industry professional.” How excited are you supposed to be?

I’ve liked some of his other previous stuff more than this one, but I don’t hold that against Ty Segall. I respect him as an artist. I know he has to try things. I believe he will grow and evolve as a creative entity as a result of the experience that Manipulator represents. Blah blah blah. Googy goo.

This has nothing to do with Ty Segall himself, but to be perfectly honest, Ty Segall: Unfolding Potential Rock And Roll Genius is turning into one of my least favorite spectator sports. He was supposed to bring rock and roll back. We were supposed to be hearing Ty Segall songs on Goddamn Regular-Ass American Radio by now. Instead, regardless of the impossibility of that absurd expectation, he’s still doing some Ty Segall permutation of Ty Segall things, just sitting there, continuing to figure Ty Segall out, just with more time and space and knowledge behind him this time, and nope, Manipulator is not the one. It will not be on the radio. It will make one appearance on the Conan show, and people like me will talk about it for roughly as long as it takes to talk about something like this.

Manipulator is not a The Strokes Is This It? Album that every 24 year old in every bar in America is going to talk about incessantly while trying with every ounce of effort to aesthetically approximate in an ultimately successful attempt to then go home and fuck each other. Maybe that’s patently undoable now. Maybe I’m too old and monogamous and sober to know it if/when it happens. Maybe it’s just not the one. I don’t know and I’m getting close to not caring about any of this shit, because I’m getting tired of the idea that I better watch Ty Segall to find out about the “future of rock,” because he’s still our guy.

All of this is, and has been, tremendously unfair to Ty Segall. I am being unfair to Ty Segall. I know that. I don’t know why that makes me feel guilty, but it does. I think just because he seems nice, and because it is totally not his fault that no other rock and roll, other than whatever barely this side of Kid Rock near rap dabble Jack White pukes up or the heavyhanded Blues Hammer goofage of Black Keys or the AOR balladeer heel turn of Kings of Leon or etc. etc., is presently being manufactured for mass consumption. And none of this matters. Ty Segall is taking care of Ty Segall. He seems like he’s doing a good job of it. That’s good. I hope he keeps doing that, and keeps rocking, and keeps redecorating his bedroom. I’m down for all of it. Maybe just not the “bedrooms that are going to change the face of America” cover story hype anymore.

And so in the meantime here’s Manipulator. A decent album.

Of course it’s not just Ty Segall out there. Every single time Ty is put through the ringer of another round of album-supporting press, there’s also the “you’re friends with those dudes” question. Always it turns out that, yes, Ty Segall is friends with those dudes. What dudes? The dudes who put out the following also decent albums.

I still haven’t heard the new White Fence album, For The Recently Found Innocent. I loved, and continue to actively love 2011’s Is Growing Faith. So much so that I ate a little into the rent money to run go get it when Tim “White Fence” Presley’s collaboration with Ty Segall, Hair, came out at roughly the same time as the two Family Perfume albums. I was rewarded by another interesting spinoff miniseries in the Ty Segall: Unfolding Potential Rock And Roll Genius Show with a couple good tunes on it, and two albums of miasmatic drugginess that sounded like if the crazily layered conclusion section of The United States Of America just went on forever, for two whole albums worth, and never managed to find or reference any actual songs. I just now saw that he put out another one, Cyclops Reap, last year on Castleface. I didn’t get to that one either. Shit. Whatever. I’m glad Tim Presley is making music, I’m not always going to be, and in fact I will no longer be offered any assurances that I ever again might be, glad to actually listen to it.

So For The Recently Found Innocent is probably another decent album. I would imagine.

Jon Dwyer and his Thee Oh Sees came out with an album this year too. It’s calllllled…. (Googles) Drop. Guess what? The cover is brightly colored. I have not listened to it, nor do I care to. I already own TEN Thee Oh Sees albums, two singles collections, one EP, one split EP, and two split singles. The “O” section of my record collection is as big and as heavy as my “C” section thanks to Dwyer, our International Pied Piper of Limited Edition Goofball Novelty Vinyl. I love Thee Oh Sees, but I am not buying another Thee Oh Sees Album ever again, I don’t care what color the damn thing is or how much it sounds like the first song from The Outsiders CQ.

But if you’re not familiar with their work, absolutely, go pick up Drop. It’s sure to be a decent album full of albumy decentness.

And Mikal Cronin’s most recent album came out last year on Merge. I didn’t hear it. MCII. Missed it. I saw on Twitter that he and his band recently played some farewell shows. I’m not sure why. He’s farewelling something, probably. Probably San Francisco, as has tended to be the case with these people recently. Maybe Cronin is farewelling his own band, which seems strange. I don’t know or care what the fuck he’s doing, truth be told, and I’m a Cronin fan from the Charlie and the Moonhearts days. In fact, I refuse to find out what Cronin is farewelling, and will take the consequences of appearing insensitive if the first commenter here notifies me that he or a member of his inner circle has been diagnosed with some tragic disease. It’s not that I’m trying to be willfully insensitive to these people as human beings, I’m just getting really fucking tired with the narratives attached to them. It’s always just around the corner with all these people. Rock music is going to be “saved” soon, and it’s these guys who are going to do it. That’s been the story for at least six years now, and I fell for it back then, and I’m tired of it.

Mikal Cronin MCII is very likely a decent album. You may have noticed that I haven't been doing a lot of close listening to any of the most recent albums by these guys. This was a conscious decision. After breathlessly falling for the whole emergence myth for years and years with these people's creative output, I decided to try an experiment. Test a theory. Theory: deciding not to listen to any of these guys' albums will not ruin your life. Theory confirmed. It's a theorem now. The albums are all good and decent, but these dudes put out decent albums like you and I take shits. With alarming urgency and frequency, often in the back of a Taco Bell/KFC we didn’t even just eat at.

Of course what they’ve already done, all of these guys, and what they’re currently still doing, probably, is still pretty great, and they are of course different as people and as creative entities than the narratives ascribed to them by external sources. Such as me right now, even.

But here’s the thing: these guys are all friends. They’re all great. They’ve all “failed” to “save” rock music (which is probably fine and not in need of saving) as individual rock entities for the past six or seven or twenty or thousand years. These guys all know and like each other. They all live in the same town now. They’re all rock music friends.

They are not a band.

I was talking about this with my friend Griffen, and he noted correctly that all these dudes are probably sitting on a couch together right now as we speak, not being a band. They are as fucking infuriatingly close to being a band as four musicians can be without being a band. Their lack of existence as a band is killing me. Every interview and write up and review I read where they’re like “oh yeah, we’re friends” is like a burbling outbreak of acid reflux in my soul. I hate these fucking people for not just being in a band already.

Instead of these guys in a band we get four people doing more or less exactly whatever they feel like doing, and nobody has to defend their whims to a roomful of equal, warring creative entities, and nobody has to get in dumb ridiculous arguments over shit like whether or not to use reverb on the tamborine, and the resulting music is fine and good and decent but not worth fighting for. Say what you will about Jack White, and I'm in the "not a genius, in fact actually a dipshit" camp myself, but at least that dude figured out that he needed to keep himself in Meg White's orbit to have any chance at writing a good song. These California Dudes of recent vintage don't seem to have figured out the creative possibilities of compromise, or self-imposed limitations. This is probably what Carl Wilson was inferring when he said, and I agree with this SO MUCH, that these guys need an Eno.

As it stands now, these guys are NOT EVEN IN A BAND. It’s like if Paul McCartney came over to John Lenon’s house in 1962 and they collaborated on a song together, and Lenon was like “let’s be in a band” and McCartney was like “no thanks, I’m trying to get Wings off the ground. I have a new one called 'Jet' that I’m really happy with." And all of us in the whole rest of the world got to hear Band On The Run but there is no such thing as Revolver. It’s a fucking crime of selfishness, is what it is.

Of course Beatles analogies are a stretch. That's the stretch of all stretches, really. But a cursory backwards glance in my head of possible supergroups unformed by people who were friends anyway can't come up with one better than these guys. Who's better? CAN/Neu!/Cluster/Etc.? Supergroups in their own right already. StoogeC5? The Stooges, conceptually, do not permit improvement. The Replacements and Hüsker Dü hated each other. Early 90's Chicago already had a supergroup called the Jesus Lizard, plus extra auxiliary turds like Billy Corgan and Nash Kato and Steve Albini and Liz Phair and whoever else who could not possibly add up to anything better than Jesus Lizard. 60's Laurel Canyon Los Angeles? No thank you. No way any of those damn hippies knew how to play drums. Maybe if there was such a thing as Elephant One instead of six. That's closest. These unbanded California Kids are like if the also nonexistant Elephant One played more of a straightforward rock. They are not in a band, but the band they are not in is the best nonband in the history of rock nonbands. 

We're sitting here talking about the latest Ty Segall album like "hey, how about it? Is it the one?" and there's a GREAT band out there not being a band instead of being a band, and not making an album instead of making an album, and I think it's stupid.

Or else it’s just people living their lives, and what I really need to be doing is calming down and forgetting about it and listening to Tyvek, actual balls-having Midwesterners who pretty much mop the floor with all these Californians anyway. Yeah, actually, that’s better. That’s just exactly great.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Such a Wide Variety of Things Can Happen to You

By: Kelly McClure

Such a wide variety of things can happen to you. I'm not gonna list them, there are far too many. I recently read Ronnie Spector's autobiography and in it she described two things that I think about, one after the other, just about every day. One of the things that happened to her is that she got a cheese sandwich thrown at her head by Phil Spector during an argument over who knows what, probably leaving the house. Another thing that happened to her is that she had her first baby in the actual toilet. As in, she pushed out her first born child into the toilet, and then left it there because she thought it was dead and was too afraid to look and make sure. Her husband eventually fished it out, in case you were wondering. I'm guessing it's alive out there somewhere, having a wide variety of things happen to it as well. 

One thing that I recently discovered is happening to me is that my hair is falling out. From a combination of stress and grief, is what the internet and my doctor tell me. This is a circumstance that people joke about, being so sad or stressed that your hair falls out. It is now my circumstance, and very much a thing that's happening to me. I've had a wide variety of things happen to me. I guess maybe too many. And now I have no hair in this one spot to prove it. 

There is a name for this thing that's happening to me, and it's THIS, but that barely even matters. What does matter is that I have stuffed so many unwanted memories and emotions into my mental crawlspace that it's all coming to a boil, without my consent, and making itself known on the side of my head. There is something very not okay, feelings wise, about your body doing stuff that you have no say in. It creates this fear that is impossible to comprehend, because it is proof that anything can happen at any time, to you, and around you, and there is literally nothing you can do about it. You can try to do things about it, you can try to do things in general. You will succeed sometimes, in doing something, but you're not really doing anything at all. All the action, all the real action, takes place behind the scenes. And that's fucking terrifying.

I was not going to ever write about this thing that's happening to me. Prior to doing so, only three people knew it was happening and those people were myself, my fiancé, and my doctor. I wasn't going to write about it, and I was very much going to try to ignore it because having the world at large know that stress and sadness were making my hair fall out is an obvious admission of weakness.  I have spent my whole life's backstory rejecting personal weakness. Through breeding and circumstance, my life clicked it's way onto a steady moving track that worked ceaseless away from weakness, a literal interpretation of emotion, inner monologue of any sort, and the responsibility of failure. If there was a name or a slogan painted in shiny gold letters on the side of this train it would be: EVERYTHING IS FINE, NO MATTER WHAT. I have in 37 years been taught, or taught myself to handle things much like swallowing a pill. Snatch it up, make it small, and suck it down. The trouble with this is that the things I've been sucking down don't stay small, they expand through time, and ping pang around my guts like bullets. Or for a better descriptor, like steam. A collection of bullets and or steam has been building inside of me, and I'm only ever reminded of it subconsciously, or when there's an ouch or a hiss.

So yeah, my hair is falling out. I can reach back there and touch it any time and know that it's real. It's funny, but then also the least funny thing ever. It's weakness you can see, like making a face when you're about to fall and being all "OHHHHWHWHWHW!" It's right there. I'm weak. I don't like it. But also it's like a membership card, laminated and taped to your head, that you can flash when anyone gives you shit. Not in way where you're like "help me, I'm bald," but in a way like "I will REALLY never take any of anybody's bullshit because I have taken so much other bullshit that it's making my hair fall out. So back it up."

Thank God I have the hair of 55 sheepdogs and you can't see that I am clearly dying and going bald at the same time without shoving your hand in my hair. But it's in there, and I know. The internet and my doctor say it will probably grow back. They also say it might not. Another thing they've said is that it could grow back white, which I kind of think would be cool and maybe make me look like a super hero who has something wrong with them. Which, in my mind, is what I am. And I'm STILL not gonna allow myself to think otherwise. Maybe my leg will fall off next!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

19 Things To Be Upset About and 21 Opinions on Ray Rice

By: Ben Johnson

Here's a partial list of reasons why the Ray Rice Saga is upsetting.

1.             (Most important) That Ray Rice, an incredibly physically strong professional athlete man, struck Janay Palmer, an unarmed woman not physically strong enough in comparison to represent any actual imminent threat to Rice’s safety, hard enough to knock her unconscious.

2.     That a video of Ray Rice dragging Palmer’s unconscious body out of an elevator showed an apparent lack of tenderness and respect for her and her body in the immediate aftermath of his having struck her.

3.     That Ray Rice and Janay Palmer were engaged at the time, and had a daughter together, indicating that regardless of the inherent wrongness of any man striking any woman and dragging her unconscious body, Rice had also implicitly and explicitly agreed, by asking for her hand in marriage and by fathering a child with her, to act with an especial deference to Palmer’s humanity and safety in particular.

4.     That, a day after Rice’s indictment for Aggravated Assault, Rice and Palmer were married, which though a choice made by two adults, may strike some as incongruous given Rice’s actions.

5.     That the State of New Jersey, while charging Ray Rice with Aggravated Assault regardless of Janay Rice’s expressed wishes not to prosecute, offered Rice a plea deal which would allow him to avoid jail time with probation and mandatory anger management counseling, which will still be valid pending his application to a pretrial intervention program for first-time offenders. If he is accepted into and successfully completes this program, his record will be expunged. This may strike some as being too lenient.

6.     That the now-married Ray Rice and Janay Palmer appeared together in a press conference in which Palmer apologized for her involvement in the incident, which was blameless and involuntary on her part, as she was the victim of an assault committed against her by Ray Rice.

7.     That neither during this press conference, nor subsequent to it, did Ray Rice openly admit to or claim sole responsibility for his actions. He apologized to his business partners, employers, and fans, but did not take advantage of the opportunity to apologize, publicly, to his wife. He did thank and praise both his specific counselors and the counseling process in general for support recently received, but did not stress the urgency of the counseling process or mention future counseling plans.

8.     That sound legal advice is likely the reason why Ray Rice has not openly admitted to or claimed sole responsibility for his actions, indicating a legal system which on an institutional level incentivizes secrecy or at least a lack of forthrightness on the part of domestic violence offenders.

9.     That as a result of his conduct the NFL suspended Ray Rice for the first two games of the season, half the length of the suspension usually given to offenders of the league’s substance abuse policy, indicating an internal NFL priority system more tolerant of violent crime against women than on nonviolent drug-related infractions.

10.  That some self-styled commentators on social media, and, more shockingly, professional pundits on television networks affiliated via partnership with the NFL, posited on possible justifications of Ray Rice’s actions which suggested Janay Palmer may bear some responsibility for having been struck in the head.

11.  That the NFL admitted to missteps and revised its policy on domestic violence only after it was exposed to over two months of public scorn.

12.  That a second video of Ray Rice actually striking Janay Palmer, leaked to TMZ, shows that Rice did in fact punch Palmer in the face, and not in response to any action on her part which could reasonably be construed as a threat to his safety.

13.  That the NFL and Ravens waited until after the widespread release of this video to release Rice from his player contract and suspend him from the NFL indefinitely.

14.  That rumors and accounts of this second video had been in circulation for months prior to its leaking, and that both the NFL and the Baltimore Ravens, both organizations with incalculable resources, say that they had not seen this video until after its release on TMZ.

15.  That both the NFL and the Ravens continue to insist they had not seen this second video of Ray Rice striking Janay Palmer, even though an anonymous law enforcement official stepped forward to contradict that claim in a report released by the Associated Press, a 168 year old journalistic organization with presumably rigorous standards of verification.

16.  That the NFL is now launching an “independent” investigation of its actions, to be headed up by a former FBI investigator and overseen by two NFL team owners.

17.  That NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, who has overseen the NFL’s response to both this situation and the preceding cover-up of concussion science, as well as several other insensitive missteps such as siding with Washington owner Dan Snyder over the continued use of the nickname “Redskins,” still has a job he will reportedly “never” relinquish.

18.          Whatever happens next regarding this will happen in a legal and economic environment which has revealed itself repeatedly throughout this process to be more concerned with protecting vested interests, avoiding individual culpability for moral decision-making processes, and making grand-gesture changes to policy only in reaction to public relations crises than it is with doing whatever is necessary to protect or serve the victims of an all too common crime. Everybody involved in this incident, except for Janay Palmer, from Ray Rice, to his employers in the NFL and with the Baltimore Ravens, to the media which has covered this story, self most probably included, has done much more harm than good when faced with a tremendous opportunity to address an important and complicated issue responsibly.

19.          That, highlighting the systematic misogyny in dealing with this case, most of the high-profile actors within it are men, and all of the business interests directly involved are controlled by men. I'm a man too. We spout our damn mouths off too often, and sometimes we punch women, and those are interrelated decisions we can by dint of our gender feel entitled to make, and that is patently unfair.

Here’s a partial list of what I believe about this subject:

1.             That Ray Rice bears sole responsibility for intentionally punching an unarmed woman who did not pose an immediate threat to his or anybody else’s safety, which is absolutely morally indefensible, and especially so in this case given that A. she was his fiancé and the mother of his child, and B. he has the physical bearing of a professional athlete, and hit her with sufficient force to knock her unconscious. No words or actions of Janay Palmer, nor any ingested amount of consciousness-altering substances such as alcohol, offer any excuse whatsoever for Ray Rice’s decision to punch Janay Palmer.

2.             That neither Janay Palmer nor any other woman should be held responsible for Ray Rice’s, or any other man’s, decision to employ violence against her. That is a decision, and it was Ray Rice’s decision which happened internally within Ray Rice’s brain and was acted upon physically by Ray Rice’s arm and fist, and that decision did not involve or consult Janay Palmer. It was a violation of her basic right as a human not to be physically assaulted.

3.             That while the issue of whether or not it is morally wrong for a man to punch or otherwise use force against an unarmed woman who does not pose an immediate threat to his or anybody else’s safety, and the issue of who bears the responsibility for such a decision are both simple, the issue of how we as a society should best understand, prevent, process, and punish domestic violence is complicated.

4.             That Ray Rice is not a monster. Ray Rice is a human being who did something absolutely morally indefensible which nonetheless human beings, all male human beings, are capable of doing. As such, he is also solely responsible for the continued care and maintenance of Ray Rice and must therefore take and maintain all actions necessary to ensure that he does not hit any woman ever again.

5.             That, as Janay Palmer did not have a choice over whether or not to be punched, it should not be up to me or anybody but Janay Palmer and those she chooses to consult to tell Janay Palmer how best to address the situation. While I, like everybody, am entitled to my opinions, one of those opinions is that Janay Palmer, like all people, has the agency to make her own decisions regarding whether or not to marry, separate from, support, or condemn Ray Rice, and to say or do whatever she feels a need to say or do on the matter at any given time. Further, I do not think her decisions on the matter should in any way lessen her standing in the public eye as a strong, capable woman, as any questioning of the validity of her choices based on any conceptual value system external to Janay Palmer herself constitutes a willful denial of her ability to choose what’s best for her, and does so in a manner akin to the original offense in kind but certainly not magnitude. But: this is not to say that Janay Palmer should be granted more agency than otherwise in her ability to make decisions, and that some decisions, such as regards the present status of Ray Rice’s legal fate, about how the crime of aggravated assault is enforced and punished in the State of New Jersey, are necessarily going to remain out of her hands.

6.             That battered person syndrome, preventable domestic homicide, and the serial and/or severe and/or expertly manipulative abusers who are the sole cause of each are all very real phenomena representing recognizable patterns within the spectrum of domestic abuse. BUT, each case of domestic violence involves different people in unique circumstances, and therefore blanket conceptual approaches to addressing domestic violence will in at least some cases further incentivize and empower the feelings of secrecy, shame, and isolation which are domestic violence’s milieu, which is as real a danger as certain offenders falling through the cracks of policy platforms with too much designed elasticity. As such, there is as much sense in the existence of amnesty programs for certain first-time offenders as there is in creating much harsher penalties for repeat offenders or especially violent offenders, and many of the state’s laws and on-the-books enforcement mechanisms are as close to correct now as they are likely going to be. I believe that New Jersey’s legal system is handling the Ray Rice case in an exemplary fashion.

7.             That alcohol use and abuse poses a larger influence on our consciousness and societal framework than it is credited with, and that while alcohol abuse cannot cause domestic violence, it can contribute to the sort of distorted mindset which domestic violence is enabled by.

8.             That, perhaps more complicated as is the case with alcohol being no excuse for Ray Rice’s behavior, erratic and aggressive behavior are symptoms of CTE, the degenerative neurological disorder associated with repeated blows to the head which several professional and amateur football players are known to have suffered from. I obviously do not know if Ray Rice suffers from CTE, nor do I know much about CTE’s affect on a person’s psyche, or how to care for or manage a person who suffers from CTE, or even if CTE has any connection whatsoever to domestic violence other than my own perceptions typifying domestic violence as “erratic and aggressive behavior,” a listed symptom of the disorder. Hopefully medical science will know more about this disorder in the near future. Also, to the unknown and perhaps unknowable extent that Ray Rice's actions may be related to CTE symptoms, and to the extent that NFL is culpable for a work environment which would contribute to such CTE, the NFL would be that amount complicit in Ray Rice's actions.

9.             That Ray Rice is genuinely contrite about his actions, and that Janay Palmer is justified in supporting him, but that due to their particular circumstances and personalities, neither of them are as articulate or as prepared or as insightful about this complex issue as may be ideal given the enormity of the attention focused on their case and the pervasiveness of domestic violence. This is totally forgivable. They are not, nor should we expect them to be, professional advocates.

10.          That domestic violence is an act of cowardice, and to expect an above average amount of both courage and conviction from an abuser is unrealistic. Nevertheless, I think that Ray Rice should have publicly admitted to what he did, demanded full responsibility for his actions, and accepted the consequences. If by not doing so he has been responding to Janay Palmer’s wishes on the matter, which should for a time supersede his own sense of right and wrong, I respect him for making the decision not to admit to the commission of a crime on that basis and that basis alone.

11.          That the scorn heaped upon Ray Rice does not help Ray Rice in his task of working on Ray Rice, nor does it help Janay Palmer, nearly so much as it soothingly helps the scorners distance themselves from Ray Rice and his actions.

12.          That the actions of the powers that be within the NFL and within the Baltimore Ravens are not Ray Rice’s fault, and that he very probably did not lie to them about his actions. And that even if he did, the high profile nature of his actions would necessitate a full and thorough investigation rather than blind trust in Ray Rice’s word.

13.          That the sheer obviousness of all the well-moneyed parties with a vested interest in minimizing, covering up, and transparently spinning Ray Rice’s commission of domestic violence is at least as sickening as the act itself.

14.          I do not believe that the NFL and/or the Baltimore Ravens would not have made all possible inquiries into the nature of Ray Rice’s actions, including viewing all available video surveillance footage, and I am therefore also unwilling to accept that the initial two game suspension penalty was not informed by a viewing of that video. Several journalists had seen that video and/or made mention of having seen it or hearing accounts of it as early as May. I refuse to believe that the NFL and Baltimore Ravens had fewer resources or less interest in the truth than these journalists, or TMZ.

15.          I am willing to accept that neither the Baltimore Ravens nor the NFL could admit to having seen these videos without also admitting to interfering with an ongoing investigation, but I cannot accept the pragmatic necessity of lying about it.

16.          That commentators on any of the television networks who have business partnerships with the NFL are not trustworthy sources of information regarding an act of wrongdoing on the part of the NFL.

17.          That both the NFL and the Baltimore Ravens have been tone deaf, reactionary, and transparently manipulative through every single step of the timeline of this story’s development, and they continue to be so to this day. I believe they are doing so in a spiraling attempt to protect their brand name and interests, and I believe that stems from an initial but fully informed decision to protect their brand name and interests by continually suppressing and spinning and downplaying the significance of what Ray Rice did.

18.          That even if I am wrong about this, even if the NFL really did not see the tapes or manipulate the media or downplay the situation, their actions bespeak a lumbering institutionalized misogyny that is disturbingly ineffectual at acting morally. And if I am correct in my belief that the NFL willfully covered up their knowledge and overtly manipulated media sources and lied about timelines, then that lumbering institutionalized misogyny is even more disturbingly ineffectual at acting with calculated immorality.

19.          That institutionalized, de facto corruption is inherent in any billion-plus dollar business in 2014, and that the wielders of decision making power behind such organizations are inherently untrustworthy, and that among countless others like him, Roger Goodell, and a likely high percentage of his staff, should not be trusted to run so powerful and so high profile an organization.

20.          That I enjoy football, my favorite sport to watch and follow, a lot less because of all this, and while that is unfortunate because it decreases the overall amount of joy I experience in my life, the NFL’s handling of this situation is further evidence to me that maybe I shouldn’t have been enjoying it so much in the first place.

21.          That I am glad Ray Rice is not playing football right now, and that I hope he focuses hard on the task ahead of him, and I hope that he and Janay Palmer can live their lives in a way that is healthy, productive, and provides adequate support to their daughter.

And that’s all I got.