Bringing Black History Month to a Close

 

These videos are two dramatic takes on how to address issues currently facing Americans.  Chris Rock couldn’t have done a better job addressing the Oscars So White controversy than he did…by being unafraid to talk about it.

Kimya, I have rapidly grown to love you dearly, after only really getting to know you when I first heard the Juno soundtrack. (see that tie-in to movies?  Clever)  When I first heard that you had written a track directly addressing the Black Lives Matter movement, I knew it was going to be something to behold.  Since first hearing the song, I have had the chorus, “Hands up, don’t shoot/I can’t breathe/Black lives matter/no justice, no peace/I know we can overcome because I had a dream/a dream we tore this racist broken system apart at the seams”.

I really don’t think anybody could have put it better.

Artwork from Rihanna’s new album translated from Braille

I’m late to this news, but I only picked up the album on Thursday.  Anyway, Rihanna’s new album, Anti, features braille on the cover and at several points throughout the liner notes.  Being as how my son has special needs and I am the Persons with Disabilities Coordinator at my work, I took an immediate interest in figuring out what the album cover said.  What I found was actually pretty cool.  Three entire poems are translated from braille.

Click here for all translations

The artist’s name is Chloe Mitchell, a poet whose first book of poetry (as far as I can tell) was just released on Friday (2/26).  Apparently, she had previously received a shout out on the Kanye West song “Blame Game”, who copped the line “Lack of visual empathy equates the meaning of L-O-V-E” from one of Chloe’s early poems in 2010 (she was 22 at the time).  She did, however receive credit in the album’s liner notes.

Did anybody think of asking Pink Floyd?

I read an article today about recently discovered documents from the Apollo 10 mission.  As they were circling around on the dark side of the moon, their radios picked up weird sounds/feedback and the origin of the noise could not be located.

I only clicked on the story because it was listed as Apollo Astronauts heard unexplained “music” on Dark Side of the Moon.  I figured that, while they were in space, somebody brought along a copy of the album, played it, and they all commented about some piece of instrumentation on the album.

Turns out, it’s not about Pink Floyd at all, but the aforementioned feedback.

An attempt at explanation is posited in the 2nd half of the video snipped, below.

It Was 20 Years Ago Today…February 1996

Compilation:  Home Alive:  The Art of Self Defense

Home Alive is a charity organization set up to teach people self defense so that they are able to defend themselves against an attack. The foundation was set up after the violent death of punk singer Mia Zappata from The Gits. This benefit compilation came along at the exact moment when I both wanted an dneeded it to exist. I was already devouring all the local music I could find on the radio (which was abundant at this time), but having a 2CD set of artists predominantly from Seattle was instrumental in furthering my trajectory of music nerd-dom.

For brevity, I have selected 10 of the 45 tracks on this compilation to give brief summarys. As such, we start with track three, The Fastbacks singing “Time and Matter”. The Fastbacks were heavyweights of the early Pacific Northwest grunge scene. They featured a female lead singer, Kim Warnick, and were active from 1979 through 2001. I saw the Fastbacks open for PUSA in March 1996 and vividly remember waiting to hear this song.

 

Track seven on the compilation is “Time is Dead” by the band Monster Truck Driver. The track is a fusion of stereotypical grunge with a harder straight edge sound. The effect is sludgy music with harsh vocals. I have been unable to find this song on youtube, but their album, Winner Takes All, is available for listening here: https://play.google.com/store/music/artist/Monster_Truck_Driver?id=Aurnlllqplpf5cgwyc5auba3rfq

Track 10, “She’s My Bitch” by The Supersuckers, was the second song I had ever heard by the band. The Supersuckers had previously struck barely radio-releasable material with the track “Born With A Tail”, so hearing more by them was an eye-opener. The track itself doesn’t fit with the theme of women’s empowerment, and so I’m forced to conclude that the song was marketed as a parody of itself, mocking the machismo of men who treat women as sex objects. The Supersuckers went on to market themselves as Phsychobilly, or country-punk, to some success. Lead Singer Eddie Spaghetti has been battling cancer of late, and because “fuck cancer”, donations can be made to help defer his medical bills here: http://supersuckers.com/eddie/

 

Perhaps the farthest reaching track on the album is Pearl Jam’s cover of “Leaving Here” a track originally written in 1963 by the trio of Holland-Dozier-Holland. The track is a stab at men who abuse their partners. The track itself suggest that women will be leaving town if men don’t change their ways and treat them right. Obvious fodder that fits well in with the Home Alive overarching theme.

 

The last track I’m going to talk about on disc 1 of Home Alive is “Broken Dreams” by a band called North American Bison. The band was fronted by Rob Ropkins, a fixture in Seattle punk rock. He currently is the lead singer of Pinned Red. The song itself is fast paced guitar work and shouted lyrics, which gives the effect of immediacy.

 

Disc two starts off with “Confusion” by Seattle Alternative stalwarts The Presidents of the United States of America. The non-album track was first released exclusively on Home Alive, but was re-released in 2004 as part of the deluxe edition of their debut album.

 

Mia Zapata, lead singer of The Gits and the reason this charity and this album exists, brings her brash directness to the track “Social Love” about how men objectify women while women are supposed to pretend not to notice. Below is the original full band’s heart-wrenching version, especially when taken into account that she was brutally raped and murdered in 1993. The Gits performed with replacement singer Rachel Flotard for the first time in over 20 years at a benefit concert in December 2015.

 

Three tracks later, Evil Stig, the band The Gits as fronted live by Joan Jett and Kathleen Hanna. Evil Stig | Gits Live (get it?). The band released an album in 1995 which also featured this song, “Guilt Within Your Head”. Also posted is the same song, as performed by The Gits at their last show with Mia Zapata on June 27, 1993, just 10 days before her death.

 

 

I’ve always found Soundgarden’s contribution, the awkwardly titled “Kyle Petty (Son of Richard)” to be a curious track. The reference is to two Nascar drivers, but the song seems to be about a father who hates everybody and raised his kids in the same style. As obscure as that seems, I think it’s more probably than the fact that Chris Cornell is a racing fan…

 

A couple of tracks later, we find the band Dancing French Liberals of 48 features all the surviving members of The Gits. Their contribution, the track “Spit in Your Eye”, is three minutes of power pop, but sadly not available on Youtube. Here is a sample of the track from Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0013S2VLY?ie=UTF8&*Version*=1&*entries*=0

The next-to-last track on the compilation has become one of my all-time favorite tracks. It is a live version of the track “Solidarity” by the hard-punk band Tchkung! Tchkung are best remembered for starting a riot at Bumbershoot 1994. That makes their inclusion in a live track a mere 18 months later an inspiring inclusion. Tchkung were an anarcho-punk band who created their own instruments. The track itself is a blistering repudiation of the constructions of society.

 

This album was a highlight of the burgeoning Seattle music scene of the mid-1990s. Twenty years later, there is a campaign to get this album released on vinyl for the 20th anniversary. I would love to see and behold such a beast, but unless it happens for Record Store Day (oh please, oh please), I don’t see it happening. Not featured in my review is a live version of Nirvana’s “Radio Friendly Unit Shifter”, a track which I have long thought should be a single (think about it, a single making fun of singles). If a re-release of this album were done properly, perhaps that could be the radio/promotional single. Oh the possibilities.

 

In 2010, Home Alive ceased being a non-profit charity and converted to being a volunteer organization. They still offer free self defense classes to victims of abuse.

Harper Lee: 1926 – 2016

 

Stand up America, Harper Lee has passed.

I’m well aware this is only tangentially tied to music, but I feel the need to say it anyway.  When I first read To Kill a Mockingbird, I was astounded at the richness of the characters, the ease of the storytelling, and the dignity of a poor widower raising two young children in the segregated south.

The description of Atticus staying up all night at the jail after the trial was riveting storytelling.  Even though Go Set a Watchman was published recently, it is a rare feat to have somebody write one novel that changes the thinking of an entire population.

Harper Lee’s great novel did just that.  We all owe her a debt of gratitude.

From the Vaults: Son Volt – “Drown”

This is probably the biggest band about whom I’ve written a “From the Vaults”, but I just picked up the deluxe edition of their debut album, Trace, and realized why I remembered the album in the first place.

First, some background info on Son Volt.  Illinois act Uncle Tupelo were an alt-country act from before the genre even really existed.  They broke up in 1994 due to an icy relationship between their two main songwriters, Jay Farrar and Jeff Tweedy.  Tweedy went on to form Wilco, leaving Jay Farrar to form Son Volt.

Trace was released in September 1995 and even before the release of the album, Farrar had realized he was recording/releasing some of the best music in his career.  I remembered the album cover from my early teenage years (I was 16 in late 1995), but really didn’t remember which tracks I would have heard from the album.

Enter “Drown”.  When this song came on, I immediately recalled how catchy the chorus was.  The reason I probably couldn’t remember this song throughout the years was because it had the same title as a Smashing Pumpkins track, so if it was on a cassette (I recorded many volumes of 90 minute tapes from off the radio, trying not to record the same song twice), I may not have made the distinction between the two tracks while upgrading to mp3 in the late 90s.

Anyway, I am very glad I took an interest in sifting my way through this album.  It reminds me of the better parts of Drive By Truckers and of course I already know and love Wilco and was familiar with Uncle Tupelo…

Beck, Grohl, Novoselic & Smear cover Bowie

While I’m sure this was meant to be a tribute to David Bowie, the surviving members of Nirvana performing at an exclusive performance (i.e. not for fans) strikes me as an insult.

Don’t get me wrong, Dave Grohl should not perform Nirvana songs with Foo Fighters, something he has spent over 20 years not doing, but if they are going to perform together, it should be in a setting where people can see them.  Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction and St. Victus afterparty show from a couple years ago were perfect…

Book 8

I’ve read scripts before, things like 12 Angry Men or Shakespeare, but I’ll almost certainly be owning the finalized version of Harry Potter an the Cursed Child.

I’m not expecting the further adventures of Harry Potter, but the wizard world created within the original seven novels is incredibly complex and inventive.  JK Rowling hasn’t been able to completely leave the world behind, giving snippets of information about several aspects of the world throughout the last decade or so.

 

The more you know…

As a frequent lurker, sometimes poster at livenirvana.com, I know that most of the other people on that message board know more about the band than I do, but I had never even heard of this performance before a couple of days ago.

It’s Nirvana playing around with one of the famous songs from the opera Carmen…

Yeah, I didn’t know it either…

Five funny love songs

I’ve had this idea for a while, but it was unexpectedly difficult to find other lists of funny songs about love.  As a result, the songs I have been able to come up with may not exude “Valentine’s Day” sentiment, but I had fun with the list.

Because, why not.  After all, it’s kind of where i got the idea for the list in the first place.

Sure, it’s a comedic song about how bad somebody feels when their significant other goes away, but being a comedy song, you don’t expect a straight conclusion, do you?

Maybe not so much “funny” as “put on by the Muppets”, but I did say I was having fun with this list.

The list of things contained within this song are supposed to be impossibilities, which is exactly the intent of the song, but I’m pretty sure this one still counts.  Not so much any more, but as a kid, I used to love watching and following baseball.  We didn’t have local television, so my choices for teams I could follow were Atlanta Braves (TBS), or the Chicago Cubs/White Sox (WGN).  I picked the Cubs because I thought it was cool they couldn’t play night games at home because they refused to put flood lights in Wrigley Field.  I also thought it was cool they allowed the buildings surrounding the stadiums to profit share their seats.  I haven’t watched a baseball game since the Cubs almost made it to the World Series several years ago, but if they ever go, I’d be one of those fans right back on that bandwagon.

Probably the best actual song about falling in love I’ve got on this list.  Mostly funny when you know the characters singing and dancing.