Wednesday, March 25, 2015

What I'm listening to

I have been listening to three very divergent albums lately.

The first is Krieg's Transient. It's a blast of hardcore-infused black metal that has a satisfying heaviness. 

The second is the new Ear Sweatshirt album, I Don't Do Shit, I Don't Go Outside. It's ten songs of depression rap that I am really digging.

The third is the Sound of Music soundtrack. I love this musical, and it gives me so much joy to be able to share it with my daughter. We sing "Do Re Mi" on the way home from preschool, and then dance around the house singing it. I feel very lucky to be able to share all these wonderful things that I grew up with with my daughter. 

To recap, black metal, rap music, and Julie Andrews. Fuck yeah.

Giano Review

I reviewed Giano's new instrumental album this week at RapReviews.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

On being offended

I was out of town last week and away from my computer and actually interacting with real live humans instead of being in front of a screen. It was exhausting. It was very refreshing getting out of my online rut, and taking a step back from the barrage of internet ire that I willfully submerge myself into on a daily basis. I learned that I was happier when I wasn't busy getting angry over stupid shit. I think I might continue that trend.

When I was in high school the group of friends I hung out with started to be a drag. Everything was based on making fun of one another, calling each other faggots, and being self-conscious pricks. I didn't like it so I stopped hanging out with them. It was lonely for a while, but in the end I was happier. And so I think it will go with the internet.


I saw a good post on Renegade Mother about the culture of being offended on the internet.

Here are some quotes:

"You announce that on a website or comment thread (or to a live human being) as if it means something, as if it’s some grand proclamation with relevance and importance, but all you’re really saying is this: 'I don’t know you and you don’t know me, and we’ve had two totally different lives, but your existence is not validating mine, and that makes me sad, and therefore you should stop doing what you’re doing.'"
But simply proclaiming 'You offend me!' is about the most useless, narcissistic, entitled and meaningless statement ever.
Am I so important that the world should bow and shift and change because my inner self is wounded?"

What she said.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

What I'm Digging: Usnea

Usnea are a Portland doom band who make music that is loud, heavy, and slow. The vocals alternate between screeching and growling, and they are unable to write songs under ten minutes long. Their second full-length Random Cosmic Violence came out last year, and I've been listening to it a lot.
I love the low-ends of doom, and how they use space to make their music hit even harder. They are playing in San Francisco soon, but sadly I have a work dinner the same even so I can't go. The problems of being grown up.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

On the Margins

One of the things that stuck out to me from reading Dayal Patterson's excellent Black Metal: Evolution of a Cult was how much of the development of black metal in the early 1990s was driven by the relative mainstream success of death metal a little earlier. Many of those interviews by Patterson noted that they were reacting to death metal, and how trendy and homogenized it had become.

The same thing happened with punk in the same time period. Until 1990, punk was almost the sole property of the underground. You could know you had a kinship with someone just from the fact that they were wearing a punk shirt or had a pin on their jacket. Much of my identity at 14 and 15 was built around the fact that I liked this music, and the squares didn't like it. And then Nirvana blew up and the same jocks and preppies I despised started listening to the music I loved. It was very disorienting.

When Green Day got big in 1994, it drove me to listen to less accessible forms of punk. Part of this was that, in the post Green Day pop-punk explosion, most of the music was terrible and the good parts of the scene were being having the life sucked out of them due to overexposure. Green Day were amazing in part because they were snotty kids singing about girls. They were "our" thing. Then they became everyone's thing, and they were no longer special. Their label started ruthlessly pimping poppy, accessible groups that they thought they could cash in on, and money made the whole thing stupid.

The punk scene didn't handle this gracefully. Bands that signed to major labels were labeled sellouts, and criticized if they charged too much for shows or merch. The irony of a kid who was on his parents' dole criticizing a grown up for trying to make something of a living with their art was lost on everyone. Jello Biafra got beat up at Gilman Street for being a sellout by a punk who was a zygote when Jello was in the Dead Kennedys. Suddenly it wasn't punk to be into Green Day or other pop punk bands. You had to be into more obscure stuff. Stuff that the cheerleaders at your high school would hate.

So punk got more extreme. If the squares are listening to punk rock, the punks are going to listen to hardcore. If the squares start digging some hardcore, then the punks are going to listen to power violence grindcore and other types extreme music. Because the worst thing to happen to someone who has spent their whole life as part of a marginalized group is to suddenly be accepted.

When I saw my first Gay Shame poster in the late 1990s, I recognized some of the same motivators of the radicalization of punk in Gay Shame. Gay Shame was (and still is, I think) a reaction to the homogenization and mainstreamization of queer culture. They were pissed that corporations were sponsoring Gay Pride, they were pissed that the defacto queer culture was white and wealthy and "safe," and they wanted to make being gay dangerous again. Or in their words:

We will not be satisfied with a commercialized gay identity that denies the intrinsic links between queer struggle and challenging power. We seek nothing less than a new queer activism that foregrounds race, class, gender and sexuality, to counter the self-serving “values” of gay consumerism and the increasingly hypocritical left. We are dedicated to fighting the rabid assimilationist monster with a devastating mobilization of queer brilliance.

I see this tendency among some members of marginalized groups to radicalize as they become more accepted by the mainstream over and over again. I think there are a few reasons for this:

  1. As some part of a group gets accepted by the mainstream, there is a tendency to push for further acceptance of other aspects or parts of the group.
  2. The process of mainstream acceptance leaves the group feeling misinterpreted, or leaves out members of the group who don’t conform to the version the mainstream has accepted.
  3. People’s identities are so defined by being marginalized that being accepted is a threat to their concept of who they are, and they have to push harder to continue to be on the fringe.

I understand this push towards radicalization and resistance in the face of mainstream acceptance/co-option. I think it is often good and necessary. However, there is an element of self-marginilization and us vs. them that I find troubling, and a tendency to continuously move goal posts that I find exhausting. Whenever I hear from the more radical elements of a marginalized culture criticizing either the more centrist elements or how the mainstream has accepted them, I think of a nineteen year old punk kid saying "Green Day are sellouts."

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Sicko Mobb Review

I reviewed Sicko Mobb's 2014 mixtape Super Saiyan Vol 1 this week at RapReviews.

One of the things I've always loved about hip-hop is the way it gives kids who society has completely written off an outlet for expression and (hopefully) financial success. Sicko Mobb are a prime example of this.

Sunday, March 01, 2015

Chief Keef, SZA, and Mike Will Made It Reviews

I reviewed Chief Keef's latest mixtape for RapReviews this week.

Policing the Policers

I wrote a long post that I deleted because it was dumb and ranty. The main issue and something I've been struggling with, philosophically: occasions where progressives act just as self-righteous, one-sided, and shitty as the right-wingers they claim to hate. I don't mean this in a "reverse racism*" or "Liberals are intolerant of intolerance!!!" kind of way. I mean it in a "two wrongs don't make a right" and a "being a dick to dicks still makes you a dick" kind of way. 

It's the way the same shitty "Us vs. them" mentality is used by the oppressed on the oppressors. (Brad Warner at Hardcore Zen had a good post on this in the wake of the Ferguson protests. To quote him:" It’s “us” who understand white privilege and know all about subtle racism, against “them” who say racism is a thing of the past and tell others they “don’t see race.” We write insulting Facebook status updates and articles chastising those who don’t share our more enlightened views. Instead of appealing to the people who need to hear this stuff the most, it alienates them, drives them away, makes them defensive and angry." My response was: "I’m not going to deny that there is deep seated racism and classism in the U.S., and that the legacy of that racism manifests itself in many ways in our society. However, what is the end game? How do we move forward? What I hear from the more radicalized people of color is just another version of what the more racist white people are saying: this isn’t your land, you people don’t belong here, you people are all the same and all responsible for the actions of anyone with your skin color, and everything you do is inherently suspect and deserving of derision. On the other end you have white liberals trying to outdo themselves by showing how PC they are by calling everyone who isn’t as enlightened as they are racists. It never gets beyond “us vs. them” tribal thinking, defining oneself by what one is not. If “us vs. them” thinking is what got us into this mess, than more “us vs. them” thinking isn’t going to get us out of it."

The elitist focus on language, and maintaing a constantly changing script of correct ways to talk about people, and shaming those who are using an outdated script, as if you can't express racist ideas using politically correct terms. (The Left's focus on language as the driver of action makes me nuts. I'm not saying we shouldn't adjust language and remove racist or outdated language from our lexicon, but the assumption that using the wrong term to describe someone automatically makes you racist is wrongheaded. My anecdotal proof of this is that in the twenty-odd years since politically correct language became such a focus for progressives, racism hasn't gone away. Politically correct language hasn't stopped a rollback of voting rights for people of color, it hasn't prevented the explosion of the prison industrial complex, it hasn't ended racism. It has just made us talk about it in coded language.)

I get upset about this stuff because I  can't bear to  even read or any of the conservative rags, and yet when I go to progressive blogs I see some of the same bullshit in different ideological wrapping. Real progress means changing the way we think about and behave towards one another, not just being an asshole back to the assholes.

*My thought on reverse racism is this: if normal ol' racism is a busted sewage pipe that is flooding the street with shit, reverse racism is a weakness in a pipe further up the line that is starting to show signs of strains and has a very slow leak of fresh water. People crying "reverse racism" are essentially saying, "Forget about the shit spewing out into the street, what are we going to do about this leaky pipe?" 

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