Wednesday, December 27, 2006

2006 – the year in lists

2006 was a monumental year for me in a lot of ways. There were weddings, births, engagements, organ transplants, friends moving far away, new friendships made, and just in general feeling like things were getting better. People started to think that maybe bush was kind of a dick, that maybe the Iraq war wasn’t so hot, and that maybe this global warming thing was for reals.

Anyways, here are some lists, to add to all the other year-end lists.

Top trends of ought six-

1. CD going the way of the LP – Ringtones and downloads put a huge chunk in record sales this year. If you don’t believe me, ask all of the artists whose records failed to hit gold or platinum, or ask Tower records.

2. I joined the 21st century. I found an ipod, and discovered the joy of downloads and podcasts.

Predictions for the Future
1. By 2010, every B and C list actor still living will have been on a reality tv show. By 2020, every reality TV show contestant will have been on another reality show with other washed-up former reality show contestants. By 2050, the last ten adults in America who have not been on a reality tv show will be on a reality tv show about how they’ve never been on a reality tv show. We will watch it, all the while commenting on how pathetic the whole reality tv thing is.
2. 2007 will see the first Gay rapper. Believe that.
3. Grindcore will go mainstream. Extreme Noise Terror will have a surprise crossover hit, ala’ “Crazy”.
4. Neither Chinese Democracy nor Detox will be released.

Most eagerly anticipated yet disappointing releases of 2006:

1. Lupe fiasco: Food and Liquor – I was really excited on this based on the “Push, Kick” single, and his appearance on Kanye West’s “Touch the sky”. Then the record came out and I realized, oh yeah, I don’t like this kind of music!” so I never bought it.
2. …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead – whatever their new one is called. After the mediocrity of their last album, I decided to take a pass. I respect that they are trying to branch out beyond their epic emo, but it just isn’t that interesting.
3. Mars Volta – Amputechture –See above. I’m starting to think that Pitchfork is right in detesting them…
4. Jay-Z – Kingdom Come. Considering that all of his releases since retirement have been utter bullshit, it’s no surprise that this is an exercise in blandness. I think I own all the young hova I’ll ever need.
5. Sufjan Stevens – who put out an odds and sods compilation and a five disc Christmas cd. Quit fucking around, and get back to your next State record. Might I suggest Califormia?
6. DJ Shadow – The Outsider – In which he creates a record that is almost impossible to listen to in it’s entirety.
7. Stones Throw – Chrome Children Comp – So much hype, even a tour in support of it, and it’s basically a thirteen dollar label sampler. Neat.

Records of the year:
1. Ghostface Killah. Fishscale – The ghost proves that he still has it, coming out with one fo the most inventive, quality releases of the year. And I’m pretty sure that come this time next year, I’ll still be listening to it.
2. Spank Rock: Yoyoyoyoyo. Fun, clever, and blessed with wicked beats. Supposedly put on a hell of a live show.;
3. TI – King – This was the only hip-hop record to go platinum this year, and although it’s not my favorite record ever, it’s still worth a spin.
4. Madlib – Tha Beat Konducta – God bless madlib. He brings genuine talent to hip-hop – the chops of a jazz musician and a record collection to make you drool.
5. Special Herbs Box Set – MF DOOM/Metalfingers – Proving that there is more to DOOM that wacky rhymes. Also makes better background/chill out music than Madlib’s disc.
6. The Clipse – Hell Hath No Fury. - I just got this yesterday, so I haven’t had a chance to really listen to it, but I’m pretty sure it’s awesome.
7. Four Tet – Remixes and Remixed. One disc of their reworking of other artists’ stuff, and one disc of other artists’ reworking of their stuff. Aphex Twin, Radiohead, Madvillain…how can you go wrong?
8. Sufjan Stevens – illinoise. Ok, so it came out last year, but it’s still a really good album..

So that's all i got. Hope your 2006 was good, and here's hoping that 2007 is even better.

Friday, December 22, 2006

The Duchess

I often listen to the local urban radio station when I'm cooking dinner, and one song getting heavy rotation is Fergie's "Fergaliscious". If you haven't heard the song, go to her myspace page and check it out. It's an amazing song in so many ways. For one thing, it blatlantly rips off so many other songs and artists. The intro is equal parts Supersonic and "We like the cars that go boom". The chorus sounds exactly like Peaches' rap on "AA/XX". Her whole album/career is ripped off from Gwen Stefani, right down to the buff abs. Fergie should be paying gwen royalties, for real.

Exhibit a:

Fergalicious (Fergalicious)
But I ain't promiscuous.
And if you was suspicious,
All that shit is fictitious.
I blow kisses (mmmwwahhh)

My body stay vicious
I be up in the gym just working on my fitness

There are two other awesome aspects to this song. One is Stacy Ferguson's adoption of the "ghetto/gangsta" diction. "I be up in the gym?" wha? Honey, you are white, white, white. Own it, love it, live. Don't get all justin timberlake and assume that making r & b automatically makes you an honorary african american.

Second, the whole song is about how hot she is. That's just tacky and unsexy. Yes, she's got a pretty slammin' bod, and she's certainly not the ugliest person on god's green earth, but singing a whole song about how sexy she is? One just doesn't do such things.

Still, whatever, it works. Like all of the black eyed peas stuff, it is genetically engineered to be catchy, and it works. I'm sure if I was in europe, I'd think the track was pretty dope.

Now I'm gonna go listen to someone with actual talent and integrity.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

“Controversial Hategrind since 1988”

“I love to hate/I hate your love/and I can’t feel affection for people like you!”

That, my friends, is the chorus of the first song on the Cripple Bastards first proper album, 1992’s “Your Lies In Check”. It also sums up the bands mantra and modus operandi. Look on the Cripple Bastard’s website and you will see the word “hate” and “Violence” all over the place ( They ain’t lying either. Listening to the Cripple Bastards is somewhat akin to having someone hit you over the head repeatedly with a hammer/and or vomiting glass and bile. There music is fast and ferocious, with machine-gun drumming, and Guilio’s alternating scream/growl, which in practice sounds kind of like “grrrrr grrrr YAAAR YAAAR grr grr YAAR SUFFER!!!”

A lot of the tracks on “Your Lies” are basically unintelligible, but it comes with lyrics/interpretations, so you get something out of it. Basically, they hate people, ex-girlfriends, feminism, war, the government, religion, society, and militant vegans. This is summed up even more explicitly in their second release “Misantropo a senso unico” (One-way misanthrope).

What I like about CB is the fact that they are so extreme, so completely beyond your normal everyday experience. I first started listening to grindcore and hardcore in the late 90’s, when I was broke working a shit job in Pacific Heights, watching everyone around me get rich and stupid and not being able to relate to it at all. Bands like the cripple bastards were the perfect salve, a wave of ugly negativity to drown everything out.

There is also an abstract beauty to their songs. They are so short, so crazy, so non-song like that they become enjoyable just for their abstractness. Anyone can write a pretty ditty with a sweet harmony: Not everyone can write a ten second song where you basically just growl. That takes talent and ART.

When I moved to italy to study in 2000, I ended up being friends with some of the local punk kids, and they invited me to see the cripple bastards play with brazilian hardcore band Ratos de Parao in Milan. The venue was this big open air thing in the middle of a neighborhood, which was a bit chilly as it was November. The cripple bastards came on and played for about 90 minutes, which is impressive as all of their songs are about twenty seconds long. They were incredibly tight, and the lead singer kept bashing his head with the microphone and covering his mouth with his arm ala bela lugosi’s stand in in Plan 9 from Outer space. By the end of the evening he was all bloody. It was pretty freaking awesome. The crowd was full of punkabestie, the Italian word for crusty punks, who all had the same dreads, the same dog on the same rope leash, and were all passed out in their own vomit on the same cheap wine.

We also got stopped by the cops on the way home, which was fucking scary – we were outside of pavia, it was three am, no one was around, we weren’t doing anything illegal…the cops just checked my friend mila’s drivers license and let us go home. What made it so scary was realizing how much power they had at that moment, and how little power we had. There was no one around, no witnesses, and they were the law. What could we have done if they had decided to fuck with us? I could only imagine what it’s like being a young Hispanic or black guy driving on a lonely road at night and seeing those lights flashing behind you.

I don’t necessarily recommend the cripple bastards, unless you like loud, crazy music. I don’t listen to them that much anymore, which is a good thing for my mental health I think. Still, when I’m feeling pissed off at the world and need a good boost of negative energy, I just put them on and rock out to the bad vibes.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Racism is Wiggity-wack, yo.

I was on the bus a few months back talking to some young, upwordly mobile gentleman, and the subject of racism in Eastern Europe came up. He said something to the effect of "it's weird that that goes on there, since we don't really have racism here." And this when there was a young black girl standing right next to us. The fact that he didn't think there was racism in America (or at least San Francisco) goes to show the problems with race we have in this country. SF is the most liberalist, pat-yourself-on-the-back-for-your-tolerance-enest city in the US. Most of the poor people in the city are either black or hispanic, and they all live in areas separated from the wealthier friscans. The areas they live in are known as the sketchy neighborhoods (mission, tenderloin, western addition, bayview/hunter's point), and white people only go there when they feel like being edgy or a little naughy. In fact, the guy on the bus later said that he didn't go to the mission because it was too edgy.

I'm not going to go off on a self-hating rant on white liberals. I certainly don't prefer the more conservative take on race issues, which is basically "let's build a wall to keep the messicans out, and why can't the blacks all just get jobs/ Gee, wouldn't it be great if it were the 1950s again and non-whites knew their place?" However, i think the whole colorblind/post racism perspective that we sometimes congragulate ourselves with having is utter bullshit. There are still tons of racial issues in the US, and all the good intentions in the world won't make that go away. Hurricane Katrina was a perfect example of the problems of race in the US, and how closely tied they are to class. Yahoo News' calling blacks looters and whites "foragers" illustrates the unspoken assumptions and prejudices so many Americans have, namely that most blacks are criminals, and certainly aren't "like us".

The other thing America does that doesn't serve us well is shut down most discussions on race. We sing the song of multiculturalism, and you aren't given much room to voice any concerns or issues in an honest, open way. People can't say "whoa, my neighborhood has gone from being predominately white to predominately asian/hispanic/indian/whatever in the past ten years, and it makes me feel kind of uncomfortable and weird". If you say that, you get labled a racist, so instead you either pretend that it's the best thing ever that you can't relate to you new neighbors, or you end up feeling like your racism is justified.

And here is a fact for all of you non-white folks out there - even though they don't say so in public, most whites are secretely a little racist, and they talk shit when they are amongst their own. It comes out more in less direct criticisms about how the increased asian populations are ruining grading curves, or how the increased hispanic population is causing gang problems, or how the influx of african-american culture in the media is rotting the morals of our children. I can't help but feel like if there could be a more open and honest forum for people to voice their concerns and prejudices, we'd be able to deal with them better as a society. As it stands now, we tend to bury things and let them fester.

For my part, i just try and acknowledge when i'm being bigoted or prejudice or a dickhead, figure out where it's coming from, and try and find a way to deal with it, at least in my head. The truth of the matter is that all cultures adn races have their aspects that suck, and all have their aspects that are good. "tolerance" also has taken on a new meaning for me in recent years. I used to think of being tolerant as being accepting and embracing. Now i think of it as admitting that i'm not into certain beliefs, but acknowledging their right to exist. Agreeing to disagree, as it were.

And some of my best friends are black/jewish/hispanic.


Sunday, December 10, 2006

We Jam Econo

I watched We Jam Econo last night, which is the recent documentary on the minutemen. The minutemen have always been one of my favorite bands, not so much musically but in terms of their ideology and what they did. They were three not-so-hot, working class guys from pedro who made jangly, jazzy, punky music that tackled politics in a way that was vague enough to not be didactic. Their songs were short, sometimes with only two lines of lyrics, and they referenced a lot of things without explicitly saying them.

One of the highlights for me was seeing them play "Corono", aka the Jackaass theme song. It starts off in it's jangly, mexi-rockabilly way, with D. Boon dancing like a large spazz, and then he starts singing "The people will survive/in their environment../the injustice of our greed/ ...There on the beach/i could see it in her eyes/ all i had was a corona/ five cent deposit."

gives me chills every time.

The film is a great tribute to a band who deserve one. Go see it and be inspired. I came away feeling more strongly than ever that music can be both art and a better way of living.


Friday, December 08, 2006

So Long, Clamor

Going Under

I got an email the other day that Clamor Magazine was going to stop publishing. Clamor is a leftist activist zine that has been around since the WTO Riots. It was started by two ex-Maximum Rock n’ Roll writers, who decided to move from the Yay Area to Ohio, and start a magazine that focused on actually doing what punks talked about, rather than just bitching about the system and buying records.

I’ve been writing for them for a couple years, doing music reviews. My relationship with them started when I looked up “indie” “Zine” “submisssiions” in Google, and their site came up. They would send me stuff, I’d write grammatically incorrect reviews, and get to see my name in print. In my two years working with them, I heard some pretty good albums (the rakes, ponies in surf, gravestone,, comet gain, the ios) some forgettable indie rock, and some absolutely wretched mall punk and street rap. It was fun while it lasted, but they seem to have been in financial difficulties for a while now, so it’s not surprising that they are folding. Disappointing, but not surprising. I hope that Jason Kuzcma and Jen Angel both keep their energy going, and move on to new projects. Maybe an e-zine?

It’s ironic that I wrote for clamor, since my politics have gotten more conservative than theirs in recent years. By conservative I mean closer to the center left than far left. I’m just not a radical at heart. Although I do fantasize about my fascist environmental regime that I’ll set up. It would rule.

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