Sunday, September 14, 2014

Melvins, The Star-Spangled Banner

"'Confusing' is the best way to describe it. It's not a diss. It's respectful. It's just a more neutral version of it, I guess."
--Buzz Osborne

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Têtes Noires, The New American Dream

As a rabid devotee to the music of '80s Minneapolis, I'm not sure how it took me so long to acquaint myself with Têtes Noires. Thankfully, writer Jim DeRogatis endorsed them on Sound Opinions, and I've been enjoying Têtes Noires ever since.

"Têtes noires" is French for "black heads," named for the band's hair color, and they released three indie-label studio albums over five years of touring*. Their second album, American Dream*, was recently remixed and reissued as The New American Dream, and I can't get enough of it. Years before anyone was called a riot grrrl, this irreverent sextet was reimagining punk rock (new wave? folk rock? help) with keyboards, violin, non-drum kit percussion, acoustic guitars, hand claps and up to six-part harmonies. The music is often upbeat, sung in cheerful voices locked in skintight harmonies graced by brash, subversive lyrics. 

It's rare to hear authentic punk music that you could put on a mix tape for your parents, which makes The New American Dream more dangerous than your brother's hardcore. Têtes Noires is the kind of band that can charm you into lowering your guard before landing one upside your head ("Recipe for Love," "Pretty Boy,") in a good way. The social commentary is sharp without being preachy, and relevant 30 years on ("Peace, Piece by Piece," "American Dream,") while the musicianship sounds tight but uninhibited. As songs like "True Love," "Moonie" and "Family Ties" earworm their way through me for hours on end while I struggle to catch up to them, I'm reminded of Ralph Ellison's quote about masking in Shadow and Act.

"It is in the American grain. Benjamin Franklin, the practical scientist, skilled statesman and sophisticated lover, allowed the French to mistake him for Rousseau’s Natural Man. Hemingway poses as a non-literary sportsman, Faulkner a farmer; Abe Lincoln allowed himself to be taken for a simple country lawyer—until the chips were down. America is a land of masking jokers. We wear the mask for purposes of aggression as well as for defense, when we are projecting the future and preserving the past. In short, the motives hidden behind the mask are as numerous as the ambiguities the mask conceals."

*Apparently their boisterous shows would sometime include a cover of Motörhead's "We Are the Road Crew". If anyone has a recording of this, please send it to me.
*Released in 1984, the same year as Purple Rain, Zen Arcade and Let It Be. What was in the Minneapolis water?

Friday, September 5, 2014

Joan Rivers' Best Interview

Among all her memorable celebrity interactions, one could lose track of how hip Joan Rivers was to cool bands. From giving Hüsker Dü their closest shot at stardom to getting good interviews out of David Lee Roth (not an easy task, as anyone who ever suffered through his radio show can tell you) to teasing young Beastie Boys to hosting the Osbournes ten years before The Osbournes, the comedy legend endeared herself to headbangers around the world. Best of all, she hosted the most metal moment in television history.

It makes sense that two of the world's most influential comedy acts should meet up, until you realize that this was in 1990, when Oderus Urungus and Beefcake the Mighty were Metal Blade signees on their second album, years away from appearances in Empire Records or on "Beavis and Butt-head." I won't give any of the jokes away, but I'll note that both Gwar and Joan are in top form. How many 50somethings could love this band? I can only think of one.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Back to School

Back to School
  1. Brownsville Station, "Smokin' in the Boys Room"
  2. Van Halen, "Hot for Teacher"
  3. Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, "School Days"
  4. Chuck Berry, "School Days"
  5. The Replacements, "Fuck School"
  6. Nirvana, "School"
  7. Kanye West, "School Spirit" 
  8. Otis Redding, "Stay in School (Radio Spot)
  9. "MC5, "High School"
  10. James Brown, "Don't be a Dropout"
  11. Lulu, "To Sir With Love" 
  12. Rockpile, "Teacher Teacher"
  13. The Smiths, "The Headmaster Ritual"
  14. Fela Kuti, "Teacher Don't Teach Me Nonsense"
  15. Cheech and Chong, "Sister Mary Elephant"
  16. Pink Floyd, "Another Brick In The Wall (Part II)"
  17. The Ramones, "Rock 'n' Roll High School"
  18. Alice Cooper, "School's Out"

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Can't Get Enough of That Wonderful Duff

Can't Get Enough of That Wonderful Duff
  1. Duff McKagan, "Seattle Head"
  2. The Breeders, "Cannonball"
  3. Bobby Womack and Peace, "Across 110th St"
  4. Mariam Makeba, "Pata Pata"
  5. Green Day, "J.A.R. (Jason Andrew Relva)"
  6. Misson of Burma, "Academy Fight Song"
  7. Dr. Octagon, "Earth People"
  8. The Specials, "Ghost Town"
  9. Jesse Rifkin, "Tallulah"
  10. Kendrick Lamar, "Swimming Pools (Drank)"
  11. David Bowie, "Golden Years"
  12. James Brown, "Please, Please, Please"
  13. Tina Turner, "Nutbush City Limits"
  14. ZZ Top, "Pincushion"
  15. Danny Brown, "Radio Song"
  16. Têtes Noires, "True Love"
  17. The Zombies, "Care of Cell 44"
  18. The Cure, "In Between Days"
  19. The Coasters, "Shopping for Clothers"
  20. Glen Campbell, "Wichita Lineman"
  21. Faith No More, "Midnight Cowboy"
  22. Ricky Nelson, "Hello Mary Lou"
For Rachel, somewhere between Seattle and L.A.

Monday, July 14, 2014