Billy Childish & Accepting Interpol as a Business, Not Art

Up until watching this Soft Focus feature Billy Childish was but a name I had merely heard along the way to this day. The following research that went into further figuring out just who this Childish character is lead me to a realization that I had a better understanding of his work than I previously believed, primarily through his now defunct band with Thee Headcoats. Being band that I had heard mention of some years ago it was the group’s debut album, Headcoats Down!, in particular that served as one of the starting points in terms of my discovery of ’60s styled garage rock. Not that I particularly enjoyed the album above others I heard at the time, nor does it stand out in my memory - but all the same it was a building block.

Much of the reason why I’ve come to appreciating Soft Focus on the level I do is because of the unique conversation that typically develops between the guest and host Ian Svenonius. Having attempted to string together relevant thoughts in the style of an interview myself, I have gained an appreciation for Svenonius’ vast knowledge and his ability to retrospectively delve into his history to find a creative response or suggestion to any given interviewee (without making the interview about himself). And based on such suggestions, a fantastic idea becomes a key ingredient of this interview - that being the thought suggesting rock to be dull and meaningless when it becomes a show rather than an event.

As Childish notes, “rock music is a load of silliness, you don’t feel involved.” He continues by adding that “art should be something that empowers people and you can be involved in.” Funny enough, but the first thing that came to mind was an Interpol show at the State Theater which I was invited to earlier this year. That show was the least enjoyable of any in recent memory, but not entirely because I felt the music to be anti-climatic or drab - but rather because felt like a show rather than a performance, and a lackluster show at that. There was no feeling that the audience was apart of something special that night, plain and simple the band was doing its job by showing up and playing their instruments and the audience was to oblige simply by showing up to watch.

Subsequently, in terms of Child’s suggestion, I may have to suggest that it was Dan Deacon’s show at First Avenue that I may have to actually label as my favorite of the year. It wasn’t so much a show as it was an event - everyone who was willing was able to take part in the show, there were no barriers to entry nor barriers to physically reaching out and patting Deacon on the back. And for his efforts Deacon got a few days off following the show, previously citing exhaustion due to his heavy touring regiment (combined with the ridiculously draining event he hosts at each gig) - a much deserved break I might add. Friends, call it a show, a gig, a concert…that is the best example that I witnessed this year of someone taking their thoughts and expressing them in an honest, humorous manner - it’s art, right? And unfortunately I don’t believe I can say anything close to as adoring of Interpol - they have become a business commodity. “Professional footballers ruin football, professional musicians ruin music,”and with over seventy albums to his credit, I doubt that I will ever even begin to consider Childish one of the sources detrimental to whatever it is that can be considered modern music.

America Has Spoken: And It Wants Diet Cherry Chocolate Dr. Pepper with a Splash of Tay Zonday

When does a novelty act become a superstar? When such a novelty is a key ingredient in a blazing new ad campaign, that’s when. Given that I too would probably take the pay day (rent ain’t cheap boss) I cannot really say anything bad about Mr. Adam Bahner (aka Tay Zonday); but I can say something bad about not only the Pepsi Corporation, but our society in general.

Understanding that it is important, when launching a new product, to have a few areas for the consumer to touch base with (that “Chocolate Rain guy” being one of them, Dr. Pepper’s established brand being the other) it is still a bit unnerving to actually see a product like this being put on the market. The diet part…I get that - some peoples just likes their soda/pop/coke/soft drink to be less sugary tasting, others because of what their diet prohibits. The cherry part? No brainer - who wouldn’t want a soft drink to have that unmistakable flavor of ol’ Granny May’s sugary delight on their tongue as the nectar of the gods quenches your thirst? But…it’s the chocolate part I’m having a hard time with. Don’t get me wrong, I love chocolate…I love the taste of it, and the smell of it can often be stimulating in its own right. But to take a like-tasting chemical, mix it with a few other odd choices and brand it as the next wave of diet liquids ready for consumption? Me thinks that’s asking a bit much. For those of you familiar with Patton Oswalt, you’ll know exactly why this is sitting a little wrong with me.

And I think America has spoken, by provoking one of the nation’s largest corporations to concoct a blend featuring the delicious taste of Dr. Pepper with that of chocolate…and cherries…but not the normal, tasty Dr. Pepper - that oddly bland, tasteless, bubbly Diet Dr. Pepper that the kids seem to love so much. This is the web, and it’s gonna murder your TV…and apparently ruin your taste buds forever in the process (or so one can only imagine after watching this video).

Just When You Thought Hyphy Was Forever, Whitey Crashed The Party And Ruined Everything (Again)

As with most things in American culture, one can gauge how far past a trend is by how white is becomes. That being said, it seemed only a matter of time before hyphy went the way of the crunk - white and tired. Did it peak with Mistah FAB, Ghost Ride The Whip: The Movie, or with some random white kids demonstrating that even with props - white people can’t dance? No - it was when this happened:

“Ghost ridin’ grandma” - the three words that killed hyphy.

On a mostly unrelated note, this mash was introduced to me recently - and while it has absolutely nothing to do with ghost ridin’, whips, or crazy ass street dancing it does have a lot to do with Ghostbusters. And no matter how bunk the title sounds, I suggest you checking it out (if only for the novelty of it if nothing else).

The Top 10 Musical Performances on Late Night TV of 2007

10. Peter, Bjorn & John feat. Victoria Bergsman “Young Folks” from Late Night with Conan O’Brien 01/29/2007

Does anyone remember the embarrassingly unimportant issue of Peter, Bjorn & John using a whistle track during their live performances? ‘Round the turn of the new year, just as the band was breaking the American market, things got a bit out of control on the matter. Idolator got in on the matter wittingly coining it “whistlegate.” Then-Idolator editor Brian Raferty mocked, “clearly, this is just the sort of important, generation-defining debate that will shape the indie-rock community for weeks–if not years–to come.” If only the year produced a dozen more stories half as scandalous as this we wouldn’t have had to spend the past six months continually analyzing Amy Winehouse’s drug addiction.

9. Gogol Bordello “Wonderlust King” from The Late Show with David Letterman 07/31/2007

Gogol Bordello makes an appearance on the list partially due to the group’s inclusion of Frodo Baggins-flame Pamela Racine. The beauty is one of the act’s (hardly) backup singers that bounces about the stage, helping the band induce a level of energy and sincerity that The Late Show had seen for quite some time.

8. Feist feat. members of Mates of State, The National, Grizzly Bear, Broken Social Scene, The New Pornographers amongst others “1234″ from The Late Show with David Letterman 08/27/2007

Before Leslie Feist’s “1234″ hit Saturday Night Live and adorned Apple’s Nano commercial she was making waves all abouts the interwebs with her fantastic album The Reminder. This performance came as a surprise to most who probably were alike in expecting anything but an all-star indie rock line up to serve as supporting cast to the burgeoning star for a national television audience. Whatever the goal - it worked, The Remindercan now be purchased from Target cash register kiosks nationwide.

7. The Arcade Fire “Intervention” & “Keep The Car Running” from Saturday Night Live 02/24/2007

Though not a single-song-performance (the only such entry on the list) Arcade Fire’s only American late night television spot in 2007 came from the Rainn Wilson hosted edition of Saturday Night Live this past February. Was Neon Bible near the album that the pre-release hype made it out to be? Not really, but how many albums released in modern times have had their own 1-800 number? All that aside, these two songs give a beautiful insight for those who were unfortunate enough to have not had the opportunity to see the band live this year. And when was the last time that you saw an “unscripted” guitar smashing on SNL in the show recently? Try never - that’s when.

6. Ted Leo “Me and Mia” from 24 Hours of Human Giant 05/19/2007

While not technically a ‘late night performance’ the twenty four hour marathon hosted by MTV to help garner interest in the channel’s cutting edge sketch com show Human Giant did have a lot of great performances (some of which did actually occur late at night). But amongst Tapes ‘n Tapes, The National and even Mastodon Ted Leo stood Pharmacists-less and gave the crowd one hell of a show…for a while…until his pedals malfunctioned. But that didn’t stop him as he continued singing an off-the-top-of-his-head verse in hopes that someone would reach out and hit said pedal - in the process Leo not only saved the performance but made it the most memorable of the event.

5. Tori Amos “Big Wheel” from The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson 05/17/2007

In regards to that previously mentioned hype that backfired slightly on Neon Bible, well…sometimes it’s such a hype machine that can really get them big wheels in motion (I’m sorry). Back in May, just as her latest release American Doll Posse was hitting the shelves Amos hit the often overlooked Late Late Show to perform the record’s first single. What’s so special about that, you ask? (Not to underscore Amos’ brilliant, sexual, powerful performance…but…) Quentin Tarantino. The man who many people admire, and just as many people cannot stand delivered one of the hype-iest, most energetic (and dead on) introductions that I’ve heard and/or seen in quite some time. And for those of you who are in that “cannot stand the man” bubble, you can fast forward past that part and just read what he said here:

“I love women, and I love music. Whether it’s R&B, Japanese punk or ballads of Mongolian shepherd tribes - you put a lady on the mic and I am there. And I like my ladies with some attitude, that’s why I love Tori Amos. When she was eleven she got kicked out of music school for playing rock and roll. She’s the chanteuse who got the balls to cover Eminem, and she’s here tonight to play ‘Big Wheel’ off her new album American Doll Posse - so put your hands together for the one, the only, Tori Amos.”

4. The White Stripes “Effect & Cause” from Late Night with Conan O’Brien 06/18/2007

After destroying the show with “Icky Thump” The White Stripes did something that would serve well as a kick-off for the many ‘hands-on’ performances the duo gave as they toured across Canada and its territories by playing in and amongst Conan’s audience. This is great for two reasons: firstly because it’s just such a great track, secondly because much of the audience looks oh-so not into it. Oh how I wish I was there.

3. Justice “D.A.N.C.E.” from Jimmy Kimmel Live 10/09/2007

Technically, one might not call this a music performance as the music playing is all-prerecorded and isn’t really tweaked live for the television audience…but my friends, a performance it is. Count ‘em - five of the most outrageous celebrity look-a-likes playing the role of band as Justice’s fantastic “D.A.N.C.E.” plays overhead. Prince, Rod Stewart, Rick James Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson all swarm the stage playing their respective rolls…but if you’re looking for the lads in the group…be sure to pay close attention as the track begins on the side stage. As Kimmel himself notes prior to the performance - “this is gonna be weird.”

2. Kanye West “Champion/Everything I Am” from Saturday Night Live 09/29/2007

Is Kanye cocky? Absolutely. Does Kanye deserve some of the criticism he gets? No doubt. Have I drank the Kool-Aid? Maybe…but whether or not any of that is relevant Kanye’s two songs performed on SNL this past September proved him a ballsy performer. Meshing “Champion” with the follow-up track “Everything I Am” Kanye found himself a little behind the ball as he struggled to get his lines out in time. Just as he started losing it however, Kanye got into what I like to call “America doesn’t care about Kanye” mode (where he works his best) and eventually freestyled a third of his performance on live television, “I just messed up on my rap, live TV like damn.” While it’s not the best performance, per say, he not only kept clearheaded enough to not only pull shots at 50 Cent, but he ended by lyrically playing it off like he had planned it all along.

1. Feist “I Feel It All” from Jimmy Kimmel Live 05/15/2007

Well before crashing the stage of The Late Show with an army of indie rock elite, Leslie Feist and her band played Jimmy Kimmel Live…from a city bus. The concept behind it is about as brilliant as the toned down, campire feel the band gives the song. And just think, had the bus driver not been as attentive to the road, had the bus driver taken a few extra glances at the performance…there would be no iPod ad, no SNLperformance, no Late Show set and no Mad TV parody…God bless you Erskins!

At Home With Dave Hill Part 2

In this, the second in two parts of Super Deluxe’s tour through Dave Hill’s NYC apartment, Dave reveals his admiration of big fat hairy gay men, shows off his guitar signed by Dio and explains why he’s never giving back a copy of Cheerleader Massacre that his friend borrowed him some time ago.

Secondly there is this video, horrifically cut from the outtakes of the two part video series. Hill himself describes it as “incredible” and “unbearable,” “despite hating watching myself on camera in general, even I couldn’t look away.”

Pierre Henry: “Futurama” Inspiration, Violent Femmes Collaborator & Remix Fawn

Bouncing about the internets lately has been a fascinating YouTube video highlighting Pierre Henry’s 1967 track “Psyché Rock” and its immediate influence on the theme song to the animated series Futurama. As for the similarities - glaringly obvious; but who is Pierre Henry? Oh, just “the first formally educated musician to devote his energies to the electronic medium.” (All Music)

Henry ultimately helped found a moment amongst the electronic music community called musique concrète, a style that relied on environmental sounds to help shape its form. But that was going on back in the 1940s and ’50s, long before Frank Zappa introduced such pieces into his performances during the late ’60s. Oddly enough though, it was right about that time when Henry released the track that would later inspire a theme for a cartoon series on the unwavering Fox network, entertaining millions in the process.

What I find most interesting about Henry’s history, other than his vast influence on modern pop music, is how he shifted his focus as his career evolved. Essentially he attempted to go full circle, much of which would later go into revisiting his early inspirations, seemingly in an attempt to find the meaning behind his own passions in the process. On top of all that, around the age of eighty he collaborated with Wisconsin’s Violent Femmes for a track recorded in 1998, later to be released on the band’s Freak Magnet album in 2000.

This recording came shortly after the release of Métamorphose - Messe Pour Le Temps Présent, a collection of remixes put out in 1997 featuring the blazing remix of “Psyché Rock” by Fatboy Slim. The song ultimately serves as a direct link between the original and the Futurama theme, and if nothing else comes something 100% more listenable than the Femmes collaboration. While not entirely easy on the ears, it again proves Henry’s willingness to create something irregular and drive to imagine music that has never been heard before.

Dethklok: The All But Unanswered Interview

Given the opportunity to hype the real Dethklok’s performance in Minneapolis by interviewing the fictional band seemed a perfect opportunity to revisit the Adult Swim series Metalocalypse, of which I had only seen once and wasn’t entirely amused by. Upon catching up with the show a second time I found its humor entirely sobering as it not only jaggedly pokes fun at death metal and the business of mainstream music, but does so without leaving an overbearing satyrical aftertaste.

A few days after my questions were submitted The Onion’s AV Club posted a similar interview with Comedians of Comedy member Brian Posehn leading the interview with Metalocalypse creator/writer Brendon Small. The lengthy dialogue offered a great look into the show’s focus and executed a ton of solid humor in the process:

“Brian Posehn: You make billions a year. What do you spend it on?

Nathan Explosion: That’s the question. What do you do? What do you get? Because you have to. You gotta buy stuff. We all want to get the iPhone, but we’re all locked into our plans for the next five or six years, so we got screwed. So no lie, we can buy ‘em, but we can’t use ‘em. Or we’ll still have to pay for our regular phone bill, so that’s kinda brutal. When you make a certain amount of money, you gotta put it somewhere. Sometimes it’s a good tax write-off if you just lose a bunch of money, so I’ll invest in, uh, meat infested with mad-cow disease. They made a recall of like 300,000 pounds of beef this week, then I called my stockbroker and I said, “Buy!” Just get it out of your pocket. Put it somewhere.”

See - funny, right? But as time passed hope of an entertaining interview wained and eventually crashed as I was given, at best, some seriously weak sauce in terms of a response. Not to fault anyone here, but one reply honestly included the words “Great answer huh?” With that, I present - Dethklok: The All But Unanswered Interview.

Straight up - is the band “borrowing” the idea of playing live behind a screen of the animated Dethklok on its upcoming tour from Gorillaz, or is it improving on the idea…much like Venom improved on Black Sabbath’s take on “metal”?

(Response: no response)

Earlier this year, Dimmu Borgir released In Sorte Diaboli which peaked at number one on the Norwegian album charts, making it both the first Norwegian death metal album to take the number one spot on the Norwegian charts, but on any album chart in the world. I mean, selling almost a hundred thousand copies of The Dethalbum is pretty metal and all, but is it metaler than what Dimmu Borgir did?

(Response: no response)

The band is set to perform on the Adult Swim tour with …And You Know Us By The Trail of Dead. How does it feel to play harder music than Trail of Dead, but have a name that’s totally pussier?

(Response: NOTE- The fictional characters cannot answer the above questions.)

What’s Dethklok mean anyways?

(Response: William Murderface: It menas yer gonna die…doodily ding dong tick tock!)

Fiscally speaking, Dethklok has quite the legend surrounding it. Are the rumors fact or fiction: Dethklok has the 12th largest economy in the world?

(Response: Nathan Explosion: Ask the guy in the suit and tie.)
(Response: Skwisgaar Skwigelf: Hey dat rhymes.)

Fact or fiction: The members of Dethklok have murdered more people with the sheer intensity of their music than Mayhem, Burzum, pretty much every Swedish death metal band ever and the Beasts of Satan combined?

(Response: Fiction…Great answer huh?)

Fact of fiction: A young, impressionistic Nathan Explosion once caught a glimpse of Type O Negative lead singer Peter Steele’s Playgirl spread when he was growing up and has since had plastic surgery to resemble him?

(Response: Fiction.)

Fact or fiction: The song “Birthday Dethday” is actually about neither birthdays, nor dethdays…but is rather a metaphor for the terrible tragedies in Darfur?

(Repsonse: Fiction.)

Who would win a drinking contest between Nathan Explosion and Andre The Giant?

(Response: Andre would.)

A bodyslam contest?

(Response: Also Andre.)

Skwisgaar Skwigelf’s hands are rumored to be insured for ten billion dollars? Have you ever thought of breaking them, collecting the insurance money and buying an island?

(Response: No…That would be stupid…They are worth billions.)

What would owning an invisible guitar mean to your career?

(Response: It would be the same except I would have an invisible guitar.)

Dethklok’s drummer, Pickles, was born in Wisconsin. How does that make you feel?

(Response: Fine.)

Do you really think it’s wise to be playing a series of shows on college capuses nation wide? I’m not necessarily sure that America is ready for Dethklok, let alone some of its most weak spirited, pussified, non-metal loving citizens.

(Response: In answering your statement-question…Uh…Yea I guess.)

If you could, sum up your career thus far in 3 words.

(Response: Straight up.)

[In my error I did make the mistake of asking reality-based questions with the first few stabs at getting the interview rolling…my bad.]

“Chuck Norris Approved” - Mike Huckabee May Very Well Be The New Presidential Front Runner

I need not hear anything of the man’s political agenda, his historic voting record or personal ins and outs - based on his appearance on The Colbert Report and this video alone I have decided to make a stand and officially (momentarily) back Mike Huckabee as Republican Presidential candidate. Sit on it Brownback!

UPDATE: Not that you needed another reason to take a stand for Huckabee, but the “Nature Boy” Ric Flair has now come out in support of the former Arkansas governor. Possibly the greatest Flair quote ever? “Space Mountain may be the oldest ride in the park, but it still has the longest line!” So obviously you can trust his political judgment.

UPDATE #2 - Still not convinced Huckabee is the man for you? A brilliant editorial at AlterNet explains various reasons as to why the Huckster may be your guy in ‘08 (or not). Pros? Huckabee hasn’t necessarily been lenient on immigration, but rather he has acted as an immigrant sympathizer (not a bad thing, but with such a historical stance not really a group I’d send Chuck Norris after). Cons? A questionable history of ethics in his administration and plans for an oddball reconstruction of the current system of taxation. Also, following his days as a Baptist minister he has had various situations of questionable stances backing the religious right including that of pro-life in spite of rape. So, if Chuck Norris, Ric Flair & right wing Christianity are your bag - Huck is the man for you…if you think that “a governor’s intervention that year (1996) to block the state from paying $419 for a retarded 15-year-old girl’s abortion, her pregnancy stemming from being raped by her stepfather on a camping trip” might be a bad thing…Huck might not be your boy.

Mad TV: Ever So Topical Feist/iPod Parody

Dropping topical comedy like there’s no tomorrow, Mad TV delivers a skit using a poorly executed parody of a half year old music video thematically mocking old “new” technology. The skit isn’t necessarily “funny” per say but with a very slim exception one cannot expect too much from the show. Mad TV is still on the air - who knew?

Little Michael Jackson & Me” Episode 2

Almost a year after I saw the first episode of “Little Michael Jackson & Me” during its debut in the basement of the UCB Theater Dave Hill returns with the second episode in the triumphant, critically acclaimed, future Television and Video Hall of Fame “Shorts” category nominee entitled, “Game! Set! Match!” Pitting the overwhelming tennis prowess of one Dave Hill against the smooth talking enchantment that is Little Michael Jackson, the episode asks something that up until now men have only dreamed of knowing: when faced off between one another in a broken bottle fight between a full sized man and an adorable little person, who…would…win?

Also, as seen on the internet, Dave Hill takes Super Deluxe on a trip through his cozie NYC apartment…part one.

Detour Magazine Interview

“Releasing something unprecedented in the hip-hop game, a forty-five minute mix themed towards…runners…, releasing one of the genre’s most anticipated releases the year, None Shall Pass, and delivering a full-fledged tour with the likes of The Octopus Project and Rob Sonic in tow isn’t something that the normal MC just shakes out of his sleeve.” There’s Chris DeLine from Culture Bully on Aesop Rock’s 2007, just one of the subjects he manages to crash the boards on daily. Maybe you’re trying to identify the other member’s of Feist’s huge band on her recent Saturday Night Live appearance, or maybe you’re looking for interviews with rockers and Internet luminaries — Culture Bully has your back. And it’s all delivered with the charm and good humor for which North America’s heartland is famous. Here’s DeLine and the Culture Bully Meet & Greet, straight outta the Twin Cities.

Where are you based in real life?

Over the course of my life I’ve lived in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, Andover, Minnesota, and Storm Lake, Iowa. I presently reside in Eden Prairie, Minnesota. Having lived on the prairie though, I must say I’m a little disappointed with my suburb’s false advertising.

How did the site get its start? Its name?

Culture Bully got its start while I was in college with my intentions ultimately based loosely around Stereogum, though in reality it was just a place where I dumped random thoughts, pictures of my friends and myself, and third rate drunken poetry. There was music too, somewhere in there. I think I deleted some five or six hundred posts when I moved from my blogspot address and made the conscious decision to actually focus on music based jibba-jabba (which I still have yet to do).

The name comes from a comment I made about a friend of mine. He (who shall remain nameless) continually marked on other people for their lack of taste in the finer arts (movies, pretty much; well, literature too). One day I called him a culture bully, and so it began.

Does the nature of what you do make you hate the phone/human contact?

Hell no. Actually the blog has become a fantastic avenue for meeting new people (in real life even!). Without it, I wouldn’t have the majority of my current batch of friends here in the Twin Cities, nor would I have been able to meet some fantastic people all over the country.

List your must-checks every morning (read: what’s in your RSS feed)…

I’ve actually grown into checking a lot of local stuff first thing in the morning before work (feeds are key). Pretty much everything on my links page under Minnesota, I’m checking that first. Everything else if I have time to kill.

Favorite blog/website besides your own…

My favorite blog besides my own is probably that of a hilarious guy that I’ve been fortunate enough to have met (see question 3), Dave Hill of A Caveman in a Spaceship. A recent post is about Notorious B.I.G., Down, Morrissey, The Comedians of Comedy and Dale’s Pale Ale. Oh, and with quotes like “If the Comedians of Comedy come to your town, I encourage you to go see the fuck out of that shit like a motherfucker,” I need not say more. The flip side of that would have to be another site I check every day called Zen Habits. I am ever a creature of inconsistency.

As far as music blogs go, I’d probably say Marathonpacks, Idolator or Stereogum on any given Friday.

Favorite record of all time…

Hard to say. Doubt I have one, really. That being said, I know for a fact that I can turn on the likes of The Misfits’ Walk Among Us or Social Distortion’s Live At The Roxy at any given time and be pretty satisfied. Not my favorites, but not bad either.

Favorite movie of all time…

Fubar. If you’ve seen it, you’ll know why. I hate to judge people before I get to know them, but if you’ve seen it and don’t know why, consider yourself judged.

Favorite TV show of all time…

I don’t have cable, so it’s tough to really identify what’s good right now. I do check out a few things online here and there though, some of which are The Office, Rescue Me, 30 Rock, Trailer Park Boys reruns & (oh how I miss you sweet cable, as I’m not watching it, but missing it dearly) The Colbert Report.

Actor/actress/blogger you’d most like to hump…

Is Perez single?

Your guiltiest pleasure. The thing no one would believe you watch, read, or listen to…

There’s probably very little that could be said about me that my friends wouldn’t react to with, “I can see that….” My guilty pleasure is all that Jackass/Viva La Bam stuff, though. Love watching it sober just about as much as I love watching it drunk.

[This article was originally published by Detour Magazine.]

Neil Young's "Ordinary People" and the Beauty of Coincidence

A conclusion that I’ve drawn recently is that I am honestly thankful for coincidence. Whether it be stumbling across a book you’ve been searching for in a thrift store or passing by an old friend out of the blue, coincidence can often be a blessing. A few weeks back I found myself challenged by depression, eventually finding myself deep in a discussion with my father that wove its way in and out of the flaws of socialism, the challenges of a corporate mentality, and ultimately my struggles with thoughts of a sustainable future. It was a tough week.

But as chance had it I happened to come across a CD that day, one I was very much looking forward to: Neil Young’s Chrome Dreams II — an album that serves itself up as a sequel to the unrealized Chrome Dreams about three decades too late. Nonetheless I was drawn to it as I have been equally drawn to Neil's last handful of albums. But as coincidence would have it, I found myself curiously interested in listening to the adventurous 18 minute “Ordinary People” for a second time that first time through, before I had even made my way through the remainder of the album’s other nine songs.

And a few days later, after about two more hours of time devoted to the track I received an email, of the type that had become lackluster in my every day — a forwarded “must read”-type, this time from my father. While I typically neglect to do much more than scan these sorts of emails (always on the look out for the next great “hang in there, fella” cat pic!) I found myself reading away as if it were a daily ritual. And for whatever reason this email shed light on something that had previously been on the tip of my thoughts for a number of days without me even realizing it: Neil Young’s “Ordinary People” isn’t just a story about a people beaten down yet struggling to survive, but rather the equivalent of a modern day parable about strength, will, and the necessity of “takin’ it one day at a time.” Coincidence is a beautiful thing.

The track, originally meant for release on Young’s 1988 This Note’s For You finds itself as the only track on II to feature the collective Blue Note Horns in turn with a makeshift band of historical Young collaborators. In doing so, the track succeeds where 2002′s Are You Passionate (sort of) failed, with its abstract collection of misguided Crazy Horse/Booker T. & the MGs contributions. Even for its length, its rolling verse after verse of visually inspiring description, “Ordinary People” seems a shortened version of what the track could have been if only it weren’t for the burden of the rest of the album. Rob Mitchum describes the track overtly, concluding that, “Obviously, a song with a runtime that impressive necessitates the use of terms like ‘sprawling’ and ‘epic,’ and it is pretty impressive, its twenty verses providing a stack of snapshots of life for drug dealers, assembly line workers, and the homeless between zealous horn and guitar solos.” To push the thought once more – as coincidence may have it, the track (despite its occasionally unfashionable references) and its subsequent themes not only found me at a time of confusion, but offered itself as guidance in much a similar way to that chance email I happened to read.
A holy man was having a conversation with the Lord one day and said, ‘Lord, I would like to know what Heaven and Hell are like.’ The Lord led the holy man to two doors. He opened one of the doors and the holy man looked in. In the middle of the room was a large round table. In the middle of the table was a large pot of stew, which smelled delicious and made the holy man’s mouth water. The people sitting around the table were thin and sickly. They appeared to be famished. They were holding spoons with very long handles that were strapped to their arms and each found it possible to reach into the pot of stew and take a spoonful. But because the handle was longer than their arms, they could not get the spoons back into their mouths. 
The holy man shuddered at the sight of their misery and suffering. The Lord said, ‘You have seen Hell.’ They went to the next room and opened the door. It was exactly the same as the first one. There was the large round table with the large pot of stew which made the holy man’s mouth water. The people were equipped with the same long-handled spoons, but here the people were well nourished and plump, laughing and talking. The holy man said, ‘I don’t understand.’ ‘It is simple,’ said the Lord. ‘It requires but one skill. You see they have learned to feed each other, while the greedy think only of themselves.
Now, for a moment, remove the story from the context of holy men, God, or whatever else may affect your willingness to consider what it has to say; simply think of this: by helping one another we shall all be rewarded. Easy enough. And after reading the email my father sent me I found a bit of pleasure in its simple message, though it was more than a little preachy in its delivery, and it went against our previous discussion on the evils of socialism… but all the same it offered guidance.

Neil Young has never been unnecessarily cryptic in his message, whether it be a story faulting globalization, his take on the country’s political climate, or the evils of drug abuse — historically he has been fairly up front about what it is he is singing about. “Ordinary People” reveals itself in much the same manner, and as it turns each new layer back I still find it amusing — the coincidence between his (sometimes cynical) “fightin’ for the people” message of the song and that of the email parable.

Neil Young “Ordinary People” Lyrics:
Two out of work models and a fashion slave try to dance away the Michelob night. The bartender poured himself another drink, while two drunks were watchin’ the fight. The champ went down, then he got up again, and then he went out like a light. Fightin’ for the people. But his timing wasn’t right, the high rolling people. Takin’ limos in the neon light. The Las Vegas people, they came to see a Las Vegas fight. Fightin’ for the people. 
There’s a man in the window with a big cigar, says everything’s for sale. Yeah, the house and the boat and the railroad car, the owner’s gotta go to jail. He acquired these things from a life of crime, now he’s selling them to make bail. He was rippin’ off the people. Sellin’ guns to the underground, livin’ off the people. Skimmin’ the top when there’s no one around, tryin’ to help the people. Lose their ass for a piece of ground, the patch of ground people. 
He was dealing antiques in a hardware store but he sure had a lot to hide. He had a back room full of the guns of war and a ton of ammunition besides. Well, he walked with a cane, kept a bolt on the door with five pit bulls inside. Just a warning to the people. In case they try and break in at night, protection for the people. Selling safety in the darkest night, tryin’ to help the people. Get the drugs to the street all right, tryin’ to help the people. 
Well, it’s hard to say where a man goes wrong, might be here and it might be there. What starts out weak might get too strong, if you can’t tell foul from fair. But it’s hard to judge from an angry throng of hands stretched into the air. The vigilante people. Takin’ law into their own hands, conscientious people. Crackin’ down on the drug lord and his bands, government people. Confiscatin’ all the dealers’ land, the patch of ground people. 
And then a new Rolls-Royce, a company car they went racin’ down the street. Each one was tryin’ to make it to the gate before employees manned the fleet. The trucks full of products for the modern home were set to roll out into the street of ordinary people. Tryin’ to make their way to work, the downtown people, some are saints and some are jerks (that’s me). Everyday people, stopping for a drink on their way to work. Alcoholic people – yeah yeah, takin’ it one day at a time. 
Down on the assembly line, they keep puttin’ the same things out. The people today, they just ain’t buyin’, nobody can figure it out. They try like hell to build a quality end, they’re workin’ hard without a doubt. Ordinary people. But the dollar’s what it’s all about, Lee Iacocca people. But the customers are walking out, the nose to the stone people. Yeah, they look but they just don’t buy. The patch of ground people. 
In a dusty town the clock struck high noon, two men stood face to face. One wore black and one wore white, but of fear there wasn’t a trace. A hundred years later two hot rods drag through the very same place. And a half a million people moved in to pick up the pace, a factory full of people. Makin’ parts to go to outer space, a train load of people. They were aimin’ for another place, out of town people. 
Down at the factory, they’re puttin’ new windows in. The vandals made a mess of things and the homeless just walked right in. Well, they worked here once, and they live here now, but they might work here again. The ordinary people. They’re just livin’ in a dream, hard workin’ people. Just don’t know what it means to give up, people. Just like they used to be, patch of ground people. 
Out on the railroad track, they’re cleanin’ ol’ number nine. They’re scrubbin’ the boiler down, she really is lookin’ fine. Times’ll be different soon, they’re gonna bring her back on line. Ordinary people. They’re gonna bring the good things back, hard working people. Put the business back on track, every day people. I got faith in the regular kind, patch of ground people – yeah, yeah.

It’s not so much that “Ordinary People” strictly depicts a world where people survive by offering others their spoon, of sorts, but rather it offers an outlook suggesting there can be betterment if only one is given a positive outlook and a sense of humanity in the face of our every day obstacles.

When it comes down to it, I identify with those people, those "patch of ground people" in Young’s song. Those ordinary people who have searched for relief through substance, or those who are trying to find fulfillment in a mentally cluttered environment — with those people I can identify. But with the song, like my father’s email, the undertones (or overtones, for that matter) didn’t matter as much as the key conclusions drawn in the process. As I ultimately question myself and my daily conclusions, which often lead me to a pessimistic view, I believe Young, like my father, would suggest our world a place worth living in. Right now and most certainly in the future. Is a world where you feel you have to struggle just to survive each day worth living in? Without diverting from my point any further, I think Young would say "yes," as knowing that you’ve struggled through yesterday and survived can grant one the mental capacity to not only approach another, but make that day count. And if some good can come of that, you are the better for it – and coincidentally, so am I.

Like I said, coincidence is a beautiful thing.

“What an Unbelievably Huge Hack!” Michael Showalter Talks Bill Murray, ‘The Life Aquatic’ and Why He’ll Never Work with Wes Anderson

A guest post by comedian, actor, writer, cat fancier and blue collar beat poet Michael Showalter.

Hey Chris, I saw your blog about how me and Wes are similar. Strange as it is I’ve never seen Life Aquatic but now I think I might have to Netflix it. Of course I’m a huge admirer of his so any comparisons I take as a compliment. I know that he credits me as the main inspiration for most of his work. He’s begged me to play the lead in all but one of his films and so far I have turned them all down because I refuse to work with a hack like Bill Murray. I will only work with good comedians who’ve proven themselves. Besides being from Second City, an original SNL cast member, the star of no less than five of the best comedies ever, an accomplished dramatic actor, and a complete non-sellout, what has he ever done? Fucking hack! I mean, what has that guy ever done?! Meatballs? Stripes? Scrooged? Groundhog’s Day? Ghostbusters? Lost In Translation? The Razor’s Edge? Broken Flowers? Rushmore? Caddyshack? What an unbelievably huge hack!!!!!! Wes should know better than work with such lightweights. If he wants me he’ll have to aim higher with his casting (Gene Hackman? Angelica Huston? I can’t work with two-bits like that.) In any event, I thoroughly enjoyed your “essay”. Thanks. Hey at least you didn’t compare me to Ed Burns.

View the post in which Michael is replying to here: “On Why Michael Showalter’s ‘Erotica’ is Pretty Much The Musical Equivalent to Wes Anderson’s The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou…Only Better”

This post is just one of many in Michael’s week long blog tour. Included in his posts already are Stereogum’s exclusive tour kick off, The Apiary’s “Truth About Hecklers,” as well as posts on Jew School, My Old Kentucky Blog, Brooklyn Vegan, Pop Watch, Best Week Ever and Deadspin!

Michael’s new release, Sandwiches & Cats, is available through J-Dub Records and can be purchased from the likes of iTunes among many other virtual retail outlets (and it’s in your old timey retail stores too, grandpa!).

Mike O’Connell: The Complete Jimmy Kimmel Sessions

Originally scanning through the outrageously popular Runaway Box videos hosted by (amongst other things) HBO correspondent Dave Hill I was crudely introduced to one Mike O’Connell. The interview didn’t so much surround his stand up as much as it did his hugely successful (600k YouTube views) online video for “What’s It Gonna Be.” And while the interview fails to reflect or capitalize on the popularity of the insanely successful Busta Rhymes/Janet Jackson hit in the late 1990s (of the same name), it does have one thing in common with the platinum selling single: tits (as in it is). Check it out here: linkage.

As for O’Connell’s stand up; why, my, friends, it is: brilliant.

Over the course of the past few years O’Connell has dawned various forms of garb and adorned the stage of Jimmy Kimmel’s late night television show, appropriately titled, Jimmy Kimmel Live. Immediately shocking the crowd with his insane energy, a slightly abnormal view of the world & what all good comedians should have: the ability to play the guitar; his spots slowly digress from songs and jokes about Asian babies into whole set about alcoholism. And who doesn’t love a drunk? Amirite?

While he purveys a slanted view of typical stand-up jokes it should be noted the O’Connell by no means performs dark humor, it’s more like a distant shade of a noir-ish grey. A greyishness that takes the audience on a hypnotic adventure that touches on primate-hating whores to premature babies born to no mother in filthy showers; all the while the television craving crowd, awaiting said television styled cravings, fades further and further into an ever confused, unlaughing sack of rags.

It should be noted, that in addition to all I’ve described above, these Kimmel spots implore some of the finest uses of censorship that this, or any other America, has ever seen.

“Here’s to blacking out before you cry yourself to sleep.” Indeed Mike, indeed.