Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Bleed For Me

Punk rock is often about politics, but some bands are more effective than others. On one hand you have TSOL defiantly but sophomorically telling President Reagan that he can “shove it,” while on the other hand you have the astute and universal declarations by the Clash. Some bands are very specific, attacking specific politicians or policies while others tackle entrenched and perennial problems such as poverty, war or racism.

One band that handled very tough and specific issues in their heyday were the Dead Kennedys. While very specific, they were also incredibly astute in their observations and accusations. And, while focusing on the Reagan presidency, one thing has become abundantly clear in the new millenium: many of their songs are just as applicable today regarding the Bush presidency as they were in the eighties regarding Reagan.

As our current president more and more appalls me, I find more and more solace in the lyrics of Jello Biafra.

The following is a sample of lyrics that with a simple alteration of a name or place is as targeted and accurate as they were when they were first penned.

Regarding President Bush:

“Cowboy Ronnie comes to town, Forks out his tongue at human rights”
from “Bleed for Me.” Change “Ronnie” to “Georgie” and you have an instant hit.

“I am Emperor Ronald Reagan, Born again with fascist cravings, Still, you made me president” from “We’ve Got A Bigger Problem Now.” Change the names and the sentiment remains.

Regarding foreign policy:

“They'll shoot you dead, make you a man, Don't you worry, it's for a cause, Feeding global corporations' claws” from “We’ve Got A Bigger Problem Now.” Who is getting rich off of our wars?

“Making money for President Reagan And all the friends of President Reagan” from “We’ve Got A Bigger Problem Now.” Can you say “No-bid contracts”?

“Electrodes on your balls” from “Bleed For Me.” Do we even need to change the lyrics? I guess we should as those housed at Abu Ghraib or Gitmo.

Regarding domestic policy:

“Tell me who's the real patriots, The Archie Bunker slobs waving flags? Or the people with the guts to work for some real change” from “Stars and Stripes of Corruption.” This is the administration that calls freedom of speech and dissent “unpatriotic” and “Unamerican.”

“You don't want abortions, you want battered children, You want to ban the pill as if that solves the problem, Now you wanna force us to pray in school” from “Moral Majority.” Well, that kind of speaks for itself. Intelligent design, anyone? Roberts and Alito?

We could go on like this forever, but I think you get my point. As much as we like to think things have changed, they haven’t.

Another thing that hasn’t changed is the last ten songs my iPod has played:

1. “The Golden Road (Unlimited Devotion)” by the Grateful Dead
2. “Arnold Layne” by Pink Floyd
3. “Can’t Forget” by Yo La Tengo
4. “That’s Not Me” by the Beach Boys
5. “African Night Flight” by David Bowie
6. “Ruby’s Arms” by Tom Waits
7. “Too Bad About Your Girl” by the Donnas
8. “The Sanity Assassin” by Bauhaus
9. “Girl Who Lived On Heaven Hill” by Husker Du
10. “Black Comedy” by Bright Eyes

Monday, December 12, 2005

I Did Get Bored: Bauhaus at the Grove

Thanks to a good friend, my wife and I got a chance to witness the reunited Bauhaus at the Grove in Anaheim on Friday, Dec. 9. This is the second time we had seen the band live, once before at their reunion show at the Hollywood Palladium in 1989.

After never expecting the see these high school heroes, the ’89 show was a revelation, not everthing I had come to expect after many repeated viewings of Archive and Shadows of Light, but pretty close. In fact, I remember many of the theatrical affectations of that performance reference their music videos, such as the dangling light bulbs from "She’s In Parties."

However, 2005 was a different beast. Despite stellar reviews of the Coachella show and the Wiltern shows, the performance witnessed at the Grove left a bit to be desired. And here is the problem: Peter Murphy seemed completely disinterested through the first half of the show. Vocally, he was stunning. In fact, if you could hear a recording of the show, you would be amazed.

But, what you wouldn’t know from the audio portion of the performance was that Murphy spent most of the first half of the set lackadaisically moving about the stage picking lint off of his coat, touching up his comb-over (yes, comb-over) and doing everything short of rolling his eyes to give the distinct impression that he was bored out of his mind.

It must be said at this point that despite Murphy’s short-comings, the rest of the band, Daniel Ash, David J. and Kevin Haskins; were astonishing in their performance. (Maybe this is what a Fleetwood Mac show feels like.) I actually was pining for a Love & Rockets reunion.

The show got off to a promising start with "Burning from the Inside," then went into "In the Flat Field," giving new meaning to the lyric "I do get bored." The band meandered through "Swing the Heartache" and a horrible "Terror Couple Kill Colonel," that suffered miserably from Murphy’s lack of interest.

But just when all seemed bleak (and not in the good goth way), everything turned around with "Hollow Hills." It isn’t that suddenly Murphy exploded the frenetic, convulsive, shoulder-shimmying front man of yore, but the energy increased and the singer and band began performing as if they were on the same stage.

During the second half of the set the band careened through such classsics as "Stigmata Martyr," "In Fear of Fear" "The Passion of Lovers," and "Rose Garden Funeral of Sores." They completed their set with an encore consisting of "Bela Lugosi’s Dead," "Telegram Sam," and "Ziggy Stardust."

Overall, if I had left the show halfway through I would have been sorely disappointed. However, the band redeemed themselves and I left giddily chatting with my wife about how great these songs still sounded after all these years.

And just for good measure, I ordered the DVD reissue of Archive/Shadows of Light so I could walk down memory lane any time I want.

Of course, I am still thinking a Love & Rockets reunion might not be a bad idea.

& lest I forget, here are the last ten songs played on my iPod:

1. "If 6 Was 9" by the Jimi Hendrix Experience
2. "Darling Nikki" by Prince
3. "Tiny Girls" by Iggy Pop
4. "Box of Stars (Part Two)" by Sparklehorse
5. "Fade Into You" by Mazzy Star
6. "The Best of Jill Hives" by Guided By Voices
7. "Do You Know How It Feels" by the Flying Burrito Brothers
8. "Daytime Dilemma" by the Ramones
9. "Sugar Daddy" from the Hedwig & the Angry Inch soundtrack
10. "Cry Baby Cry" by the Beatles

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Obligatory Grammy Rant

Ah, the Grammy’s were announced this morning, an annual celebration of all that is bland, homogeneous and uninteresting. Mariah Carey? John Legend? Gwen Stefani? Is this music really that good to be so lauded? Do people really want glorified elevator music? Something to sit in comfortably in the background? I hate to admit it, but I just don’t get it.

However, that being said, I have no problem with the Alternative Music Album nominees. In fact, I own all five of these releases. Arcade Fire, Beck, Death Cab For Cutie, Franz Ferdinand, and White Stripes all make a nice list of potential winners. I think Arcade Fire should win since, while the other four are good albums, they are not the best albums by these artists. Get Behind Me Satan isn’t as good as White Blood Cells or Elephant. I might be more experimental and the band might have stretched creatively, but they haven’t completely succeeded. Same with Death Cab and Beck. I love both Plans and Guero, but I really loved Transatlanticism and Sea Change. And Franz Ferdinand are in the oh-so-obvious sophomore slump.

But, of course, all five of these releases trump the Album of the Year category. And don’t get me started on Record of the Year. Do people really still listen to Mariah Carey? Why did she come back? I liked her better when she was crazy and not making music. And why pick one of the worst songs on American Idiot? Was "Jesus of Suburbia" too long to command the attention of those who make these decisions? At least they picked the only good song on the new Gorilla’s album. "Feel Good, Inc." should win but probably won’t.

At least the artists nominated for best New Artist allow us to see who will be slipping of the radar shortly. Hey, Ciara, Fall Out Boy, Keane, John Legend, and Sugarland (who the hell is Sugarland? Am I that out of the mainstream?)!!! Remember Evanescence, Hootie & the Blowfish and Milli Vanilli? Yeah, they all thought they were built to last, too.

I love the Metal category. It is a long way from Jethro Tull. None of these bands are safe for network television. I would love to see Alain Jorgensen get up on stage and accept the award for "The Great Satan." Kill for a thrill, indeed.

I’m sure I have plenty of other opinions about the Grammy’s but you either love ‘em or hate ‘em in my experience, so I just don’t bother watching them anymore. Once upon a time it was sort of a job requirement. Now it is just a depressing indictment of the music industry. Why is the industry losing so much money? Illegal downloads? Nah, it probably has more to do with putting out too many crappy albums.

So, with that off my chest, here are my iPod’s nominees for the last ten songs played:

1. "Highwire Days" by the Psychedelic Furs
2. "Hot Freaks" (live) by Guided by Voices
3. "Jesus Christ Pose" by Soundgarden
4. "Step Right Up" by Tom Waits
5. "That’s Not The Issue" by Wilco
6. "The Drive-By" by Ice Cube
7. "Clay Cakes" by Portastatic
8. "Credit in the Straight World" by Hole
9. "Long Time Jerk" by the Clash
10. "Hand of God" by Soundgarden