Nicole Atkins “Mondo Amore” Review

Nicole Atkins‘ Mondo Amore is the culmination of an immense change in the vocalist’s life; “Got a new band, wrote a new album, got a new apartment, new life, getting a new label, and yeah, basically changing everything,” she explained in an interview last year. Recording some 18 songs with her new band before eventually pairing Mondo Amore down to a trim 10 tracks, the album goes a long way to reflect this sense of chaos. A self-described collection of songs which reflects a myriad of influences and sounds, Mondo Amoreappears to be the result of a renewed freedom to experiment with a variety of different styles. As with any great change however, the immediate question that plagues this new approach is one of doubt: Was the change for the better? If looking only at Atkins’ mammoth presence on the album’s opener, the answer would appear to be “undeniably so.”

Vultures” is haunting to its core. Opening to an eerie echo of strings and a menacing bass line, Atkins’ steamy hum begins to assume control of the song as she begins, “Careful where you walk/Remain in the light/Watch where death resides/Find you from all sides.” As the song’s booming chorus erupts so too does Atkins’ wail, “Take all they can get until you’re dirt and bones”; how such a booming sound resides in such a small frame is beyond me. Unfortunately, one of the key downsides of attempting to build an album on a foundation of variation is its likely tendency to sound inconsistent. After such a brooding contrast between dark and light in the album opener, the band follows with “Cry Cry Cry,” which is little more than pale, jam band funk. Not only does the track not rest comfortably amongst the rest of the album, but it simply doesn’t reflect Atkins’, nor the Black Sea’s, potential.

Thankfully the rest of the variations in mood and tempo throughout the album aren’t all as unfulfilling as “Cry Cry Cry.” The gentle build up in “Hotel Plaster” finds the band take comfort in the slow boil of the song’s pace. Later in the album “War is Hell” contrasts the vocal collaboration between Atkins and My Morning Jacket‘s Jim James with a slow, string-heavy pop ballad; the pair harmonizing “The civil war of us.” “Heavy Boots” and “The Tower” close out the album; the former’s piano-driven base gives way to bursts of booming percussion while the latter purposefully sways, patiently waiting until the stage has been rightfully primed before Atkins’ wails are again unleashed.

Aside from the various moments that stand out on Mondo Amore, it seems as though the band sounds at its most confident during the belly of the album. “You Will Come To Me” yields a driving sound equalled by Atkins’ passionate vocals. The southern twang and lightly distorted vocals of “My Baby Don’t Lie” add a level of playfulness to Mondo Amore, both musically and lyrically, “If she keeps on spreadin’ rumors, well, that bitch is gonna have to die.” “You Were The Devil” carries a dangerous tone reminiscent of a wilder era with Atkins’ throaty hum and a momentous rhythm eventually carrying the song out. What is potentially the finest moment on the album comes amidst those songs however. Slowly building, “This is for Love” introduces itself with an aura of potential; energy swirling as the song builds speed. “I want to talk some new language” Atkins moans before taking off in the album’s chorus, repeating “This is for love” while the band actually takes over as the focal point of the track.

“This is for Love” doesn’t have the power of “Vultures” or the emotional hook of “The Tower” but the song does go a long way in appropriately combining the musical elements that are heard elsewhere throughout Mondo Amore. Perhaps the song embodies the contrast of influence and the band’s collective interests that are felt deeper in album’s more apparent musical shifts. Whatever the case, the song also represents a trend that is heard throughout the better part of the recording: it absorbs all of the emotion built up through this time of change and delivers on Atkins and her new band’s potential to create something beautiful; true, even with “Cry Cry Cry” in the mix.

Cut Copy “Zonoscope” Review

While standing as a definite high point, Cut Copy‘s 2008 breakthrough In Ghost Colours was anything but the pinnacle of an overnight success for the Melbourne-based group. The album peaked on the Australian charts and was lifted to a respectable position on the Billboard 200, fueled in part by singles “Lights & Music” and “Hearts on Fire”; the latter eventually being honored as the seventh best track of the year by Pitchfork. By this time however it had already been over seven years since Cut Copy dropped its first EP: 2001′s I Thought of Numbers. Now nearly a decade after that initial release the band returns with their third full length, Zonoscope.

Mixed by Ben Allen (Deerhunter, Animal Collective, Gnarls Barkley), the hour-long collection shows a willingness to explore a global sound while remaining dedicated to the dance pop that has taken the group this far. Opener “Need You Now” leads the way with nearly a minute and a half of progressive electronics before the track subtly develops into a booming synth-pop piece. “Pharaohs & Pyramids” continues the electronic theme, bubbling with bouncing synth and airy stylized vocals before evolving further; the gap between the past and present sounds eventually narrows as the song builds to its energetic conclusion. Different approaches are then utilized in terms of the group’s electronic blending, “Strange Nostalgia for the Future,” for example, glimmers with sprinkled bursts of sound through its brief two minutes before bleeding seamlessly into the rhythmically heavy “This is All We’ve Got.” While it’s easy to get lost inside of the blissful maze of hazy synths, the track is one of a handful that really go to show how rhythmically strong Zonoscope is.

Early on in the release “Take Me Over” commits heavily to an animated bass line that overtakes a contagious guitar riff as the focal point of the track. From there the group further introduces a variety of instruments in the album’s most rewarding song, “Where I’m Going.” Again though, there’s an interesting tempo at work beneath the bouncing track, allowing the chanted chorus to pop as enthusiastically as it does. “Blink and You’ll Miss a Revolution” continues with the use of a bold bass line, this time offset by an interesting hollow wooden sounding percussion piece that lends the track its own unique sound.

An adventurous use of percussion only goes so far however, and the music does lose its momentum late in recording. Following the bass-heavy “Alisa,” “Hanging Onto Every Heartbeat” comes as close to a full-blown rock song—albeit synth rock—as the album might have while “Corner of the Sky” makes use of a downtempo pace that goes a long way in altering the emotional high that had previously been riding strong throughout Zonoscope. To follow these two distinct sounding tracks the band made a risky decision of closing out the album with the incredibly long “Sun God.” Running 15 minutes in length, the song transitions through a variety of individual stages, opening to the cry of “Please, please, please, please, please won’t you give your love to me,” before eventually reaching its James Murphy moment (lyrically, at least) as the vocals yield “You got to live, you got to die/So what’s the purpose of you and I?” From there, nearly half the track drifts away into instrumental and electronic bliss. It’s quite beautiful, really. Considering the feeling that is left once the album fades out however, one can’t help but add the qualifier: beautiful, yet inconsistent.

Zonoscope is however a complete recording: The album touches on many facets of electro-pop while continually kicking in unique diversions that lend nearly every track an identity of their own. There are just as many opportunities to score successful singles from the release’s strongest tracks (of which there are many to choose from), which will likely help it overshadow its predecessor commercially. And despite failing to find a groove in the late stages of the album, the band fails to sound indecisive throughout the tracks. It’s that very quality that gives Zonoscope the ability to weather the shakiness, and one that will likely help the band further spread their reach across the global musical landscape. Don’t be shocked if the overnight success label is tossed around once again; don’t be hesitant to lend the reminder that it has been a decade in the making, however.

Lykke Li "Untitled" Video

A juxtaposition between beauty and violence, Lykke Li‘s new video for “Untitled” offers many more questions than it does answers. Dawning stilettos, a (faux?) fur and leather jacket and a fashionably revealing top, the Swedish vocalist eventually kneels as she thrusts herself into stabbing the sand that surrounds her. From there she seductively maneuvers a butterfly knife and we hear the sound of waves crashing in the background before an unrecognizable whisper carries the clip away. What does it all mean? I haven’t the slightest.

As it stands, “Untitled” is not being promoted as being included on Lykke Li’s forthcoming album Wounded Rhymes, which is set for a February 28 release. The album’s lead single, “Get Some,” dropped this past October.

Talib Kweli Interview

At the age of 36 Talib Kweli is moving into an interesting stage of his career. In the wake of 2007′s Eardrum he reopened the books on Reflection Eternal with Hi-Tek, hitting the road as part of the Rock the Bells tour before eventually releasing Revolutions per Minute last year. Now once again claiming independence from a major label, he’s just released his fifth solo album, Gutter Rainbows. Aside from his investment in his music, the well established MC has been a frontrunner in terms of adapting to new media innovations; both his personal Twitter and Facebook accounts boast over a quarter million followers/fans, and he’s adamant about building social functions into the website for his Blacksmith Music label. Recently I caught up with Kweli for a brief email interview to discuss this transitional stage of his career, what it’s like to have a quarter million people see his tweets and what he learned from recording his new album, Gutter Rainbows.

Do you feel a renewed sense of energy after spending time working on Reflection Eternal again?

Talib Kweli: Working on Reflection was great but I do feel like I can create my own pace now. Its not a renewed sense though.

You recently worked with Pepsi—how did you approach that opportunity? What do you hope to gain from such a relationship, and are you presently working with any other companies in terms of building a working partnership in the new year?

TK: Dru Ha and Cornerstone presented me with that opportunity. I am not working with anyone per se, but if I can do something creative and help get my music out there, and there’s a company that I’m not at odds with that can help me do that, I’m open.

You recently spoke to Tavis Smiley’s people about the impact of technology and social media has had on how artists promote themselves. Do you have any special or unique approaches to promoting the new album in the coming months?

TK: The guys at 3D have really helped me keep up with the Myspace and Facebook fans. Twitter is a natural medium for me, so I engage fans a lot there. I also have my online community.

What’s it like to have 240,000 followers at your fingertips—knowing that every time you send out a message, you have a quarter million people who are likely going to see it?

TK: Well some of those are bots, haters, or just people who think its cool to follow celebs, so I would guess around 100K are genuine fans. It really helps show-wise and it helped me to get my laptop back after it was stolen, and clear untrue rumors about myself. So it’s very powerful. For some, it’s the only source of information they can find on me.

Do you feel that moving in to this new year there’s a feeling of positivity? Gutter Rainbows would suggest something of taking the negative and making something positive out of it.

TK: I surround myself with positive people so its like that for me all year every year. Yes, it’s the tree that grows in Brooklyn, the rose from the concrete, the beautiful struggle.

When looking back at Eardrum, that album had some serious names behind it: Madlib, Kanye, Just Blaze, Pete Rock, etc. On Rainbows you worked with some top-tier producers, but some that the average music fan might not know of. Was it a formulated move to not bring in some of the same familiar faces again that you’ve worked with in the past?

TK: I worked with those who were immediately available and passionate on Gutter Rainbows. Eardrum was a longer drawn out process, Gutter Rainbows took two months to finish. 88 Keys got on Gutter Rainbows late because he was used to the Eardrum pace. When he saw how quick I finished the album, he stepped up.

Every day there’s a chance to learn something new about oneself, but did you learn something about yourself through the recording of this album that surprised you?

TK: I learned that I want to be independent from here on out.

Matt and Kim "Cameras" Video

Matt and Kim seem a little too used to the idea of beating the shit out of one another for this to be a one-time occurrence, don’t they? It’s almost like they need the occasional outward showing of destructive violence to balance their typically limitless levels of positivity. And maybe this is a bit presumptuous, but after tirelessly displaying an equal amount of love for the world as they do each other, wouldn’t this seem like a fairly reasonable way to liven things up at home? I’m not attempting to support spouse-on-spouse violence here, but I’m just sayin’ that if they’re able to channel this passion it’d probably make for at least a couple of intense moments of fiery intimacy. Either that, or it’s just a music video with a cool theme. “Cameras” is taken from the duo’s 2010 release, Sidewalks.

Katie Lee (of Braids) Interview

As support for Braids‘ debut release began to gain momentum last year, the group received substantial coverage from a number of key outlets ranging from Canada’s National Post to Stereogum; later mentioned in the latter’s “Most Anticipated Albums Of 2011” and “Best New Bands Of 2010” lists. And if early Native Speaker feedback is any indication, the group is in for what is sure to be their most successful year; Pitchfork‘s Ian Cohen writing, “The quartet’s bracing debut Native Speaker is almost Inception-like in its warping of reality, equally tactile and dissolute, cerebral and surreal and ultimately haunting for its refusal to answer questions the same way twice.” But if there’s one thing that has served as bit of a hindrance early on for the group, it’s simply been the band’s aural proximity to Animal Collective.

A quick scan of online reviews returns a startling number of these comparisons: “Braids can seem like blindly rigorous grad students in Animal Collectivism” (SPIN), “Reminiscent of a quick spin through the past four Animal Collective albums” (The Phoenix), “They have the freewheeling experimental spirit of a New York outfit such as Animal Collective” (The Guardian), and “Braids draws from sources as boldly percussive as Gang Gang Dance and Animal Collective. The latter’s influence is inescapable here” (AV Club) being just a few. I recently caught up with keyboardist and vocalist Katie Lee via email, discussing, amongst other subjects, this constant slew of comparison and whether or not it wears on the band. Later this week Braids will be kicking off a whopping 44 date North American tour which will see the band performing alongside the likes of Baths, Star Slinger, Toro Y Moi and Asobi Seksu. A complete listing of dates is available here.

I lived in Calgary for the first six months of the year last year, and when I first found out about you guys I thought to myself “Dammit! Missed the train on that one.” Raphaelle [Standell-Preston, guitarist] has said that the move away from the Neighborhood Council [the group's name prior to Braids] was because the band had also changed musically, but what was the first spark that eventually spurred the band to relocate east?

Katie Lee: We had just taken a year off from high school to play music and see what would come out of it. By that point, Austin and Taylor had set their eyes on Montreal for university. It wasn’t until part way through the year, from all the support we received from Calgary that we decided to commit ourselves to the music that we were making. Many of our friends at that point were also considering on moving to Montreal and so it was inevitable that we would all end up here sooner or later.

This isn’t to say that you didn’t find success in Calgary—you most certainly did—but Montreal is where it appears that the band really started to take off in terms of getting recognized on a wider scale. In the year or two that followed first moving there were there any significant moments that stand out which helped lead the band in the direction you’ve pursued?

KL: The most significant moment was also the most embarrassing moment for us. This was during our show at Pop Montreal 2009, where we were relocated to another venue because the scheduled one had shut down a week beforehand. We played in a very interesting venue called Sapphir and the sound was definitely a life of its own; meaning, we had no control over how our music was translating over the set of speakers in the room. We were playing blindly to sounds that we didn’t know our instruments could make and I’m pretty sure all of us at some point said “fuck it.” But it wasn’t until after the show and after the festival that we started to get interest to help release the album that we were writing at the time.

Though not the first music released from the band, Native Speaker is the group’s first full-length album. I believe the lead track “Lemonade” dates back to at least 2008, but when was the bulk of the material first written and how does it feel to finally be compiling these songs onto a formal album?

KL: The bulk of the material was written in early to mid 2009. There is a relief to finally have these songs on an album. A relief to finally share the music in a formal setting—also a time to start challenging ourselves into composing music in a different way than how we did with Native Speaker.

Flemish Eye’s press release says Native Speaker “captures a period of innocence and a period of change.” How so, in your opinion?

KL: This was when we were learning how to write collectively and to be able to share amongst each other. This was also a time for growth and change in our personal lives—being straight out of school and having time to seriously think about who we are and how we interact with those around us. That year we took after high school was definitely the hardest and most enlightening year for each of us.

There is a lot of vocal experimentation that is heard through the album—is there a balance between voice and instrument that the band consistently strives for, or does everything sort of come together differently on a song-by-song basis?

KL: I would say the song comes together differently, depending on the mood of the song. Native Speaker was written during a time when we were all trying to find our own voice. There was definitely a lot of experimentations with harmonies and ranges that we never explored previously.

Much of Native Speaker is very thoughtfully orchestrated—three of the album’s seven tracks are around seven minutes in length or longer. One of the first critiques of your live set noted “There was plenty of impressive musicianship and four-part vocal chorals, but little in the way of structure.” How have you been able to develop your live show to translate the delicacy and patience of your recorded songs, and do you feel like you’ve grown as a live act this past year?

KL: Native Speaker was written completely in a live setting, so it’s interesting that it could be perceived that way. The difficult part for us was to bring the live setting into the recorded environment and not the other way around. However, I do believe that we have grown exponentially as a live act in the past couple of months. It wasn’t after the album was finished that we realized that there were plenty of problems with the live set; we were not approaching it in the right manner. To us we want to be able to have a live set without any musical flaws, and having that goals is a real wonderful challenge for us.

Since first reading about you guys last summer, it’s been a rarity to make it through a profile or review without someone comparing you to a band like Animal Collective. Do the comparisons grow old, or do you sort of find them complimentary still? Is there a band that you’re surprised that you haven’t been compared to yet?

KL: At first the comparisons were tiresome, but like any question that has been asked over and over again it is natural to grow impatient with them. We think it’s a huge compliment to be compared to bands or musicians that we had at one point or still look up to. It’s hard to answer that question because when we write music we don’t reach for a specific band to encompass. Though we have been surprised with being compared to bands that we have never listened to or heard about; example being Cocteau Twins—I have yet to listen to them.

What other acts are out there right now that have left an impression on you musically?

KL: Steve Reich, Philip Glass, Debussey, Women, Azeda Booth, Morgan Greenwood, Long Long Long, Aphex Twin, and Talking Heads have influenced us.

Finding Community in Ca$hville: An interview with Mac L

Despite still only being in his early 20s, Malcolm Lockridge has had plenty of time to gauge where he stands amongst Nashville’s hip hop community; where he stands and what he stands for. Growing up in a rough neighborhood has helped guide him toward who he has become, certainly instilling in him the idea that he needed to brand himself to reflect a tougher image (Mac’s stage name has evolved from the harder sounding Mac tha Ripper—which he used as a college DJ—and later Mac tha Knife), but in speaking to Mac he makes no bones about not wanting to promote an image that isn’t indicative of where he’s at in this stage of his life. He recognizes his upbringing as a chapter from his past, but also feels as though it would be unfair to front as though that image was still a reality as he moves on with his life; something many MCs struggle with as they evolve as not only artists, but people. Now having graduated college, Mac explained how the move to change his name once again was motivated to reflect a “more professional” version of himself; but all that assuming the modest stage name of Mac L really does is go to further suggest the MC’s willingness to be upfront about who he his and what he’s about right now.

Earlier this month Mac performed on a bill ringing in the new year at the grand opening of the recently rebranded Epic 9 (formerly Avenue 9). Following a performance by Tasha T—an uneven set that still inspired a solid reaction from the modest crowd—Mac quietly took to the stage and rolled through a half dozen songs. Despite his confident presence however, the already scattered audience appeared to take an unannounced intermission from partying by the stage and slowly cleared out over the course of the MC’s set. Watching the performance, it became immediately clear that the setting wasn’t optimal for Mac’s brand of lyrically focused rap. But he rolled on. Opening with “Music City,” a song unfortunately heavily influenced by crowd interaction, Mac persisted, determined to do shrug off the awkward light show and club goers’ dwindling interest. As the performance went on though, Epic 9′s off stage hype-man perked up and chimed in, eventually barking the clich├ęd “this is real hip hop” chant; in this case however, he wasn’t simply bullshitting to stir things up. In the face of a disinterested audience, now only waiting for the next Waka Flocka track to overtake the dance floor, Mac remained confident and established his voice amongst the chaos.

The MC might not fit in when considering Southern Hip Hop as a brand, but Mac fits like a glove when considering that he’s inspired by a sense of community that the south is largely known for. It’s unfortunate though that the rap scene in Nashville is, at least on the surface, about as divided as his reception at Epic 9 might suggest. This isn’t meant to push the man as some messianic hope to change things in the country-music capital of the world, but Mac has a bigger picture in mind and is excited to see whether or not the city’s scene can grow into a full-fledged movement. Whatever you think of his music, you have to give it up to him for pressing on with such faith and determination despite being in such a minority. Recently Mac and I touched base, discussing this conflict, his upcoming album, Raw Material, and the local artists who he feels are some of Nashville’s finest.

This isn’t meant to incite a shit-talking session or anything like that, rather I’d like to work on building on the positives. In 2009 you wrote a post on your blog that read, “Nashville is notorious for its crab mentality. Nobody wants to work together. There’s alot [sic] of hate in the city. There are too many cliques that call themselves movements, and they stand for nothing. It’s really disturbing.” Do you feel that Nashville has enough talent to develop into a hotspot on the national scene? If so—in relation to the points you made a few years back—what do you think Nashville artists have to do to start heading in that direction?

Mac L: Nashville has more than enough potential. The problem is people are either too afraid or too stuck in their ways. When we start working together and start going outside our comfort zones, I think that’ll start a great change. We also need to start being professional and stop trying to continue the “hood” mentality. Don’t get me wrong. I’m from the hood. I left the hood.

Why do you think MCs in Nashville have come to the point where they are only looking out for themselves like you’re saying? Elsewhere the saying “a rising tide lifts all boats” applies in many cases, and you’ll have whole communities working together to reach their individual goals. What is it here that isn’t working?

ML: That can really be applied to life. I say it is experience (or lack thereof) that makes people want to fly solo. What is also hurting us is that everyone wants to be the star. Everyone wants to be Kobe [or] Michael. No one wants (or knows how) to play their position. This is Ca$hville, and everything comes at a price here.

In that same post you mentioned Classic Williams and Black Noize as key proponents of pushing Nashville as a scene. Two years later, who’s out there working on building bridges, attempting to make change in the city?

ML: On the scene, I see DJs like DJ Legacy and DJ Sir Swift hosting events and CDs that are really good for the city. Moss da Beast and Aphropik are a couple MCs I see also puttin’ on for the city. Behind the scenes, I see Wes (founder of Hip-Hop in the Ville) and Janiro (founder of the Southern Entertainment Awards) putting in work in Nashville. Capo & Latino Saint also have a quarterly event called the Urban Music Challenge, which is a great opportunity for artists.

Your track “Coordinates” revolves around a hook that includes the line, “Because there’s people that want to see you fall off track.” What roadblocks do you see right now getting in the way to achieving the success you’re looking for in the track?

ML: Right now, life is my main roadblock. Not wanting to make excuses, but what’s keeping me from the success I seek is my reliance on others. My lack of necessary resources is really hurting me, but to be realistic, my biggest roadblock is myself. I still doubt myself sometimes. I still have bad habits I need to overcome. I still have things to do.

Prophicy is one of the names you’ve been high on—who are two or three more names in the city that people have to check out right now?

ML: Haha, yeah Prophicy is a beast—as an MC and a producer. But aside from him, as well as others mentioned, people should definitely check out my brother KDV, my dude Likwid and my boy Stix Izza. There’s plenty more, but off [the] top, these guys have chops.

As a young MC, how do you see your voice developing since first dropping your Great American Paper Chase mixtape in 2008?

ML: Well, my voice has always been something I’ve worked on. You’ll definitely be hearing a matured sound; more confident, more serious.

CD: You do have a very confident presence on stage—of the local names hustling right now, who has impressed you as a live performer?

ML: I appreciate it. There are two artists who really stand out to me here in the Ville, the first being Finess Da Boss. Her live band only adds to her skill. I’ve also been impressed by D-Lowe with Blow 4 Blow Entertainment. We’ve actually performed together and D-Lowe has tons of energy. I’ve actually perform with a group named Word Up. Started in Nashville by my boy Dean “Dirty D” Andrews, he got me and a select few others to build up the live music scene in Murfreesboro. This is where I earned my stripes. (Mac followed up with me after the initial interview, adding the following: “In regards to your question about impressive performers, I forgot to mention Quiet Entertainer. Awesome musician.”)

CD: What’s coming up in 2011 for you? New releases?

ML: I have a lot on my plate this year. My big release this year is Raw Material, my follow up to The Great American Paper Chase. I’m also working with a couple new artists, one of ‘em being an R&B singer whose names I won’t reveal yet. I’m also working with a lot of producers including Kev the Sureshot, M. Will the Shogun, Bhon of Audio Ink, Bill Breeze, Johnny Storm, and more. 2011 is gonna be busy. Expect many singles.

Mogwai “Rano Pano” Video

The music video for Mogwai’s “Rano Pano” takes a slightly different approach than the group’s first clip from their forthcoming Sub Pop debut. Where the Antony Crook-directed clip for “How to Be a Werewolf” documented world champion syclist James Bowthorpe as he rode through the Norwegian countryside, the Tom Scholefield-directed video for “Rano Pano” captures a pair of friends’ attempt at getting drunk, watching Weird Science, and transporting themselves to another dimension. So yeah, slightly different.

The Guardian explains that Scholefield approached the video as an “homage to boyhood fantasies”; yup, heavy drinking + too much pizza + ’80s VHS cassettes + hatching plans that seem brilliant in the moment pretty much sums that statement up nicely. Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will will be released February 15.

Best Coast “Crazy For You” Video

The breakdown of what you’re going to see in Best Coast‘s video for “Crazy For You” comes down to two things, really: guitarist and singer Bethany Cosentino’s love for cats (like, she really really really loves cats) combined with the I Can Has Cheezburger meme-apalooza.

But keeping the simplicity of the concept (and the band’s sound) in mind, it’s still pretty hard not to give props to the group considering how well they’ve been able to turn getting high and having fun into an actual model of success. A harmless lo-fi west coast rock band fronted by an adorable early-to-mid-20s female lead ever so casually spreading their name across the country; yup, pretty hard to hate on that. That being said, for whatever it’s worth, in the realm of cats playing the starring role in music videos, “Crazy For You” still takes a backseat to the video for Holy Fuck’s “Red Lights.”

After appearing as the first musical act of 2011 on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon earlier this month, the band will be kicking off a 20 date tour tomorrow which will see them performing throughout the States & Canada alongside the likes of Wavves & No Joy. Also, the band just released a limited edition 7″ split with Nashville‘s JEFF the Brotherhood which is available via Infinity Cat. In case you’re interested in previewing “Sunny Adventure,” Gorilla vs. Bear has the audio from their half of the set.

Social Distortion “Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes” Review

The creation of Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes has been a long and trying process for Social Distortion fans; the album continually being teased since work first began on it in 2006. Even this past year, when things seemed all but locked down, Hard Times was constantly pushed back until finally being given a 2011 release date. Additionally, while not quite reaching Spinal Tap-levels of drummer turnover, the band went from Atom Willard, who left to pursue Angels & Airwaves, to Scott Reeder to current drummer David Hidalgo Jr.; not before actually recording the album with session veteran Josh Freese, however. Add to the mess a label shift—the group finding a new home in the historically punk-friendly Epitaph family—and the details slowly begin to account for the delay. But at the heart of things, as has always been the case with Social D, was Mike Ness and his determination to release the best album that he and his band are capable of. So after five years of waiting, what has Social Distortion actually come up with? Nothing less than an album that is reminiscent of days gone by while still serving as a telling indicator of how distant a storyteller Ness is in 2011 compared to the band’s glory years.

Offering a surprise straight out of the gate, “Road Zombie” opens the album as a crushing instrumental to kick things off. And with its hard driving momentum the track sets precedent for a sharper edge that resonates throughout Hard Times. “Gimme the Sweet and Lowdown,” a song about finding one’s own path through life, sounds a bit more like Social D’s old school jams, while the LP’s lead single “Machine Gun Blues,” also hits the mark—its guitar piece serving as an extension of “Mommy’s Little Monster” a few decades after the fact. By the time the album really hits its stride however, the group’s dark rendition of Hank Williams’ “Alone and Forsaken” is there to drive home the spike in the heart of any remaining doubters questioning Social Distortion’s ability to retain an edginess amidst a sea of slick production. This isn’t to say that the album is a complete musical return to the band of years gone by though, as a number of tracks do seem to further signify the taming of the punks.

“Diamond in the Rough” isn’t particularly outstanding musically, but the track does offer quite a bit of insight into the current state of where Ness is at as a songwriter; the vocalist lyrically portraying a man searching for inner peace while rehashing past battles. Album closer “Still Alive” acts similarly in that it isn’t a driving musical force, but it still lends a glimpse into the heart of the man behind the music. “I can take what life’s got to give/Just need a little time,” bellows Ness before a sentimental piano piece plays the album out. But the touching keys that put the album to rest aren’t alone in showing a now-emotionally available group: the slow moving sounds of “Bakersfield” echo a tender sentiment of wanting to go back to the way things once were with the one you love, and “Far Side of Nowhere”—while maintaining a rhythmically upbeat bounce—focuses on living in the moment and taking each day as it comes.

“Writing on the Wall” offers a glance toward a similarly unexpected tender side of the band as the slow burner goes deep in touching on an unexpected explanation of regret, but the truly surprisingly moments are spread out on the album: split between “California (Hustle and Flow)” and “Can’t Take it With You.” The former accompanies a George Thorogood-sounding classic rock tinge with unexpected sounds of a soulful group of backup singers. “Livin’ in a Hollywood movie dream/And I’m reachin’ for the stars/Life gets hard then it gets good/Like I always knew it would,” reveals Ness before the song cuts into a hard hitting outro. Likewise “Can’t Take it With You” utilizes the same classic backing harmonies while echoing a similar feeling of living for today as “Far Side of Nowhere,” “Work all your life; you’ve become a slave/There ain’t no spendin’ when you’re in the grave.”

Quantity has never been the group’s forte—Hard Times being just the seventh studio album since the group’s 1983 debut—so rather than focus on the question of whether or not it is worth the wait, fans should take a moment to consider whether or not the album successfully shows a band getting better at what it does. In a time when Social Distortion could sit back and relish a patriarchal role amongst the KROQs of the world, the group has dropped an album that further reveals a willingness to creep slowly away from its safe zone. Hard Times shows an interest in working with new vocal harmonies and slower tempos while not forsaking such time-tested hallmarks as genuine storytelling and identifiable lyrics. So was it worth the wait? Who’s to say… But is Hard Times a successful outing for the band of veterans? Undeniably so.

Tristen Interview

I really enjoy discussing the twists and turns that have led people’s lives to where they are now. Whether speaking with someone a few decades older than me or talking to people who are the same age — as is the case with Tristen Gaspadarek — it’s rare to hear an entirely uninteresting account of what’s worked for them during their journey through life. Part of the intrigue there is found in contrasting each individual’s path: for instance, when I was 17 I barely eked out a high school diploma, and while I had completed an apprenticeship as a chef I was fairly aimless in terms of what I wanted for myself. By the same stage in her life, Tristen had already been performing live for three years in her native Chicago and was none too far off from taking the first steps toward pursuing a degree from DePaul University. Without knowing much else about her, it becomes clear quite early on that the lady has had her head on straight for quite some time.

Recently talking to Paste, Tristen explained that her focus of study was aimed at “relational group and organizational theories of communication”; but once she graduated she still found the urge to follow the path of a musician before transplanting herself south to Nashville. Now having crafted her style as a vocalist, guitarist, and songwriter for over a decade, Tristen is on the verge of releasing her debut album, Charlatans at the Garden Gate, via American Myth. Catching up with her via email, I wanted to figure out some of the key moments which have led her to this stage in her life. We discussed her education, religion, and approach to songwriting — all of which support the character which resonates deeply throughout Charlatans‘ 11 tracks.

I read that you graduated from DePaul University. Knowing little about the school other than it being a Catholic university, I was wondering if there was any religious influence which directed your songwriting through those years?

Tristen: I was raised Catholic as most kids on the south side of Chicago, but fortunately do not suffer from any religious influence. I believe in the God with two o’s. With that said, DePaul was a very progressive school and placed no pressure on students have any particular religion or politics.

Your songs on Charlatans seem like they’re coming from a place inside of you that is far away from that sort of environment. Where does a line like “Baby, don’t you want me to bring you those drugs” come from?

“Baby Drugs” is about loving someone that is an addict and the naive perspective that you can fix them or fill the void that causes addiction with love. At the end of the day you are only capable of sustaining a relationship an addict as long as you are capable of enabling their addiction, whether that be burying your head in the sand or getting messed up with them and calling it sport.

Do you find that you’re more comfortable as a storyteller or poet with your songs rather than a solely autobiographical writer?

I’ve never really thought my life was interesting enough to be put into a book. My autobiography would say “She waited tables in the morning and then she went home and wrote a song about it, and recorded for hours. When she was done she went to the local pub to get a beer.” Part of the fun of writing songs is that I get to sing, play, and write music, and it’s more like poetry to me than anything else. I get to say what I think about relevant topics in my world. It’s more of a puzzle that I get to figure out.

Do you write your songs yourself or is there anyone you’ve collaborated with along the way?

I write songs by myself. I’ve tried the “Nashville co-write” thing and it seems like a waste of time to me. I’m mostly a loner in that respect.

As a newcomer to the city I’m still trying to figure out what the Holly House collective is all about. How do they fit into your story since you moved here?

A group of us started playing shows together, hanging out all the time, collaborating musically and we finally decided to call it Holly House. You know the best way to kill something is to name it. Most of the bands now are broken up, estranged, or rearranged.

When the Black Cab Sessions crew was in town recording the scene recently, you were recommended to them as one of the artists in town that who is sort of coming into your own right now. What does it mean to you to regarded as one of the city’s brightest upcoming talents?

Although I am flattered by the attention, it honestly doesn’t mean anything. My day to day includes a few more emails, but nothing has changed. I’m still all locked up in my studio writing songs and traveling around playing shows. It’s the same as it was when no one knew I existed.

Do you ever look around you and see how many great musicians there are in Nashville and feel a little self-conscious, like “what makes me stand out?”

I’ve been pretty lucky in Nashville since great musicians need songs to play. I provide that. I’ve never felt self-conscious about my work mostly because I’ve always been surrounded by those great musicians and felt encouraged and accepted by the community. You get to a certain point in any trade, building houses, writing songs, whatever, and you know exactly what people are doing. I listen to a song or see a live music show and I know how that person wrote it and what they are going for. There is no mystery left for someone like me. I find it hard to be a fan(atic) of anything.

Since moving to the city have you met anyone who you look up to musically or anyone you’ve been a fan of for a long time?

I met Wanda Jackson, queen of rock and roll, last year when she played at the 5 Spot and she autographed a picture for me. She was still awesome after all these years.

When playing live, how much do you switch things up like your setlist?

My setlist changes all the time. I’m always adding my new songs, these are my favorites to play. My band has been through a lot of changes, sometimes with strings, sometimes with keys, sometimes I play solo. The steady forces though are Buddy Hughen on guitar and Jordan Caress on bass.

Do you find that bringing something unique to each show keeps things more interesting for yourself?

Definitely, you have to keep things fresh within the group and you have to always challenge yourself to perfect things. We never, as a group, think that we’ve made it, or that we are done working. We just say, that was a cool show, what should we work on?

Which tracks of yours have you enjoyed most in the live setting?

I enjoy them all. Honestly, my band is such a bunch of hot shots that I really enjoy my time with them singing and playing.

I wanted to get your opinion on something I’m trying to piece together right now on my own. Right now I’ve been working a lot to try and piece together what’s going on in Music City within the rap and hip hop community, but there is a lot of brokenness there right now. The impression that I’m being given is that people are so bent on the idea that working with other people of the same style or whatever could be detrimental, or that because I’m helping you out, doing so somehow puts me back a step or two. But in the rock community I’m left with an entirely different picture: there I’m seeing people like the Nashville’s Dead crew who seem to be about building something bigger here. What’s your perception on that, and how do you see the development of the non-country community shifting in the coming year or two?

I’ve never believed that there is a finite amount of success out there and if one person gets it, you don’t get it. Music simply doesn’t work that way. People all over the world listen to MANY different artists, in different genres, and they will buy a record if they like it. Being competitive with others, only alienates you from learning, growing, and getting better.

I definitely sense a competitive edge in this town, people move here to see where they stand. Usually big fishes from small ponds. I find that competitive people are usually the ones who are the most insecure or frustrated with their own work or success in music. These people find it easier to tear things down, rather than build things up.

I find the most talented people are usually the most open to help and collaborate and are the easiest to work with. You can’t do music all by yourself, because at the end of the day you will have to play shows for people (unless you are Steely Dan or Harry Nilsson) and at the point you have to consider how someone will respond to your work, otherwise who are you talking to?

Dream Cop “Marooned” Video

As if the idea of man-cats (you might prefer “catmen,” but either way they’re at least a solid seven on the WTF-scale) wasn’t enough to creep you out on its own, director Benjamin Brewer went right ahead and brought that cosmic freakout to life with the video for “Marooned” by Tommy Davidson’s Dream Cop project. If there is one lesson to be learned from the video however, it’s to make sure not to bring horrific mutations to a rock & roll-themed Labor Day bash or else things might get a little bit out of control.

If you’re enjoying the track, you can download it for free as one of many on Tough Love’s 2010 Young & Researchsampler over at the label’s Bandcamp page. Otherwise, the track is taken from Dream Cop’s Mango 12″ EP.

For more of Davidson’s stuff, he released another EP entitled Basement Tapes last month, which is also available for streaming at Bandcamp. (International dap goes to I Am No Superman for the video.)

Heavy Cream and the Nashville Scene

It’s damn near impossible for me to discuss the music of Nashville’s Heavy Cream without also feeling some sort of personal connection to the quartet’s music. Wrapping up a six-month stint in Canada, I had already decided that Nashville was going to be the next stop for me when I caught the Turbo Fruits as part of the Sled Island festival last July. (Simply put, the show was bonkers.) I’d been a fan of the group since forever, but I didn’t have a clue of what else was happening musically in their hometown before making the trip south. So when I landed in Music City and began to find my bearings — again, not knowing what I was getting into — it came as a welcomed surprise when I was introduced to Heavy Cream. The comparison I made at the time might have been a little shortsighted, but the similarities between the two groups was one that really excited me, “Musically none too distant from their Trashville brethren the Turbo Fruits," I wrote at the time. "The three to one ratio of females to males in the band means that there’s a hell of a lot more estrogen behind the group’s gritty rock.” Coincidentally, I wasn’t alone in slowly coming to the realization that Nashville has a shit ton of talent to offer that has absolutely nothing to do with the city’s stereotypical sound.

When asked about the surge of publicity that the band and the Nashville garage rock scene received this past summer the group responded via email, “It’s wonderful to get some attention from Nylon and everyone but this isn’t a brand new scene at this point.” Had I only known I would have probably made the move sooner. Slowly I began to realize just how deep the talent pool was. Heavy Cream cites the likes of Cy Barkley, Big Surr, Denney and the Jets, and Those Darlins as a few of their favorites, but still, that only scratches the surface of what the city’s scene has to offer. One of the most alluring aspects of the musical community here isn’t simply the volume of talented acts there are, but the apparent willingness to form a community within the rock scene. This takes many forms, be it cross-promotion, split-releases, or simply kicking back with one another. One thing’s for sure: without it there would be no Heavy Cream.

Working with local PUJOL mainman Daniel Pujol and bassist Wes Traylor, Heavy Cream’s Jessica McFarland was previously the drummer for MEEMAW until the group disbanded in 2009 (they did play a one-off reunion last January though). Continuing in their email, Heavy Cream explained that it was only through hanging out at parties and barbecues (see: community) that momentum began to build. And as things came together Heavy Cream eventually locked down their lineup: Nashville natives Galbierz (23) and Danny Severs (25) assumed rolls on guitar and bass, while the Paris, TN native McFarland (25) picked up vocal duties and Melissa Burnett (who was replaced by 25 year old North Carolina native, Tiffany Minton, late last year) kept things steady on the drum kit.

Having already released a 7” through Infinity Cat with MEEMAW, McFarland’s connection set the wheels in motion for similarly hooking up her new band. When IC co-owner and JEFF the Brotherhood‘s Jake Orrall got wind of what was cooking, he reached out and let the band know that he wanted to release their self-titled debut EP. “There was no way we could have turned it down.”

Releasing the 7” in September of 2009 it would be nearly a year of shows (and parties) and touring (and parties) before the band would release Danny, the group’s first full-length album. “Our first gig was at a dive bar in Nashville called Springwater, which later we would play shows with the Spits, Nobunny, Davlia 666, and a whole list of our favorite other bands. We really played our first super tight shows as a band in may 2009, and decided we wanted to do this full time.”

With Orrall again working as producer, the band took to the studio in January of last year and nailed down a whirlwind recording session to lock down their new tracks, “The whole thing was done in 24 hours, but it felt like two weeks.” More shows led to more touring (alongside the likes of JEFF and Natural Child), and eventually the band was opening for the likes of the Israeli madmen of Monotonix. Released in August, Danny immediately received some glowing reviews, MOKB latched onto the album’s “fast, short, exuberant bursts of garage rock” while RCRD LBL explained, “Ripping through their set with the ferociousness of a mountain lion, their primal beats, catchy riffs and bewitching drones leave you wondering when Joey Ramone and Suzie Quattro had a love child.”

Recently announcing a week’s worth of supporting dates, backing Ty Segall all the way from Montreal to Austin, the group will land in SXSW in March for at least one show (as with the SXSW bonanza in years gone by however, don’t be surprised if one show leads to a dozen). And despite Danny only having been out a few months, the band has already set their sights on its follow-up. “We still plan to finish writing and recording our next record in 2011,” continued the group in their email. “We’re writing our second full length as well as releasing a seven inch in the spring.” Maybe by the time summer rolls around there’ll be another lost soul who lands in the city just in time to pick up whatever the band is putting down. In the meantime, I can’t wait to see what 2011 has in store for the band and the scene they’re repping.

Wanda Jackson feat. Jack White “Thunder on the Mountain” Video

Today marks the release of Wanda Jackson’s new video from The Party Ain’t Over, the Queen of Rockabilly’s first new album since 2006′s I Remember Elvis. Produced by Jack White and released via his Third Man Records imprint, the album boasts a wide range of contributing artists including Karen Elson, the Dead Weather’s Jack Lawrence, the Raconteurs’ Patrick Keeler, Ashley Monroe and Patti Smith’s son Jackson Smith. The duo, White and Jackson, first came together to record a rendition of Amy Winehouse’s “You Know I’m No Good” in 2009; a track which Jackson recently performed on Jools Holland’s annual BBC Hootenanny. The set of new recordings is rounded out with another 10 tracks including a rendition of Bob Dylan’s “Thunder on the Mountain,” which saw its accompanying music video released today over at AOL. “Jack wanted me to do a Bob song,” Jackson explained to Spinner. “They’re longstanding friends and Bob suggested ‘Thunder on the Mountain.’” Whatever the scenario: it works.

Jackson will be taking to the stage at Third Man Records in Nashville tonight for a performance alongside White and the Third Man House Band, before kicking off a brief tour which will see the legend take the stages of the Late Show with David Letterman (Jan. 20) and Conan (Jan. 25) with her all-star band in support. Full tour dates are available here.

Dirty Vegas “Electric Love” Video

Written and directed by James Gooding comes the new music video for “Electric Love” by Dirty Vegas; the title track from the group’s first album since 2004′s train wreck of an album, One. Starring Jena Malone (Donnie Darko, Into the Wild), the short story vaguely follows a twisted theme of obsession and the twists and turns which push the lead role to the brink of sexual eccentricity.

The English house trio might best be remembered for their 2001 single “Days Go By,” which topped Billboard’s Hot Dance Play chart in 2002 while peaking at the #14 spot on the Hot 100 chart. Those who remember the song will probably also remember how broadly licensed it was during its peak in popularity; the Mitsubishi Eclipse commercial which used the track was so omnipresent that it served as great fodder for a hilarious spoof on Chappelle’s Show.

Om Records explains that the video will be the first of two which follow a narrative featuring Malone; each helping to serve as a bit of a primer to her role in the highly anticipated film Sucker Punch which will drop in March. While a firm release date for the album has yet to be set, the original track is available as a free download via Om’s website and a number of remixes can be streamed here.

John Lennon "Life is What Happens" Review

John Borack’s John Lennon: Life is What Happensis an anthology for the internet age, vividly accenting the well documented story of Lennon’s legendary life with snippets, quotes, photos, memorabilia pictures, and personal memories. While covering the man’s entire life, the book largely focuses on Lennon’s career with the Beatles and as a solo musician, while briefly touching on his childhood and early musical pursuits. This isn’t to project any sense of an incomplete narrative on Borack’s part however, as his emphasis on Lennon’s recording career is clearly the focal point of the collection for a reason.

A longtime Lennon fan, Borack prefaces the book with a personal introduction explaining his relationship with the one-time Beatle. “Close enough to be family” is how he expresses his emotional attachment with the artist, and it is this sense of endearment that shines throughout the author’s narrative. The upside of this is found in how enjoyable the read is—the book genuinely unfolds as a largely cheerful account of Lennon’s life—but there’s a downside to be considered as well. With the exception of calling Some Time in New York City, Lennon’s poorly received 1972 collaboration with Yoko Ono, a “failure,” Borack’s glowing adoration for the legend leaves little room for a sincerely neutral perspective. Then again, if you’re purchasing a 250 page coffee table book focusing on the life of John Lennon, it’s probably fairly unlikely that you’re approaching it as a source for critical insight into the man’s life.

The most compelling aspect to the book isn’t found in the largely familiar story however, but in the remarkable photographs and pictures of memorabilia which are scattered across nearly every page of the book. From rare artifacts from the Beatles’ early days to intimate portraits of Lennon late in his life, the ability to watch the man grow and transform throughout his life lends another dimension to the sequence of events that would otherwise be lost.

For the completest looking for an in depth historical analysis of the life and legend of John Lennon, Life is What Happens will likely only go so far in satisfying an appetite for thoroughness. However, the book does well to encompass the story of the man’s life, pictorially detailing his ascent while also offering commentary on the essential moments which made up his life. If you’re an old fan in need of a refresher course on who John Lennon was, or a young listener looking to explore the life of one of rock ‘n’ roll’s most revered icons, Life is What Happensis most certainly for you.

John Lennon: Life is What Happens (256 pages) is available via Krause Publications.

Trail of Dead “Weight of the Sun”

Recorded at El Paso, Texas’ Sonic Ranch, the seventh studio album from Austin’s …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead will be released early next month via the band’s own Richter Scale Records imprint. Unlike the group’s last outing, 2009′s The Century of Self, Tao of the Dead finds the band trimming the edges a bit in returning to a focused four-piece, rather than the six-man lineup which was used to record the band’s previous two releases. SPIN revealed the details of the album’s format in an interview late last year,

“Trail of Dead stripped down to a four-piece and recorded the album this past summer at El Paso, TX’s Sonic Ranch with Chris ‘Frenchie’ Smith (behind their 1998 debut) and Chris Coady (Beach House, Yeah Yeah Yeahs). The LP is split into two parts, Part I and II, each recorded in a different tuning (Part I is in D, while II is in F). Part I is divided into 11 tracks or chapters, which play together play one long song, while Part II is an epic, 16-minute-long track with six movements, that’s produced by Coady. This format is an homage to frontman Conrad Keely’s childhood influences.”

Following “Summer Of All Dead Souls” which was sent out as an early feeler last year, RCRD LBL released the second track from the album earlier this week when the site dropped “Weight of the Sun.” The propulsive song teeters back and forth between Keely’s patient vocals and a hard-driving chorus which goes a long way in turning back the clock a bit. Tao of the Dead will be released February 8 and will be followed by a European tour with Rival Schools and a series of American dates with Surfer Blood leading into the summer.

Little Viking

The past year was somewhat of a breakthrough for rock acts in Nashville; national publications were all too eager to fast-track editorials focusing on a “the scene” and its breakout stars, and many took to the road to make the most of their momentum. But that’s only true to a certain extent; the swath of bands who received the bulk of the love were largely garage-punks or country-tinged singer/songwriters, not necessarily groups who are as fascinated by celestial objects as they are feedback-happy ’90s rockers. Such is life, and Little Viking received no love this time around from the SPINs or the Nylons. If the features were even just a little less niche specific or a tad more wide-reaching, there’s no reason why Little Viking couldn’t be presented amongst the city’s burgeoning wave of up & coming talent.

“We’ve been together in various forms for about two years,” explained the band’s Mikey Owen via an email recently. And through that time the group has seen its share of transformation, transitioning Little Viking’s members to where they are now. Performing solo as Mikey Owen Out to Sea, the vocalist eventually hooked up with Mike Frazier in forming Leach. “Leach inherited some Out To Sea material” noted Owen, cheekily commenting on the turning point for his previous act, “I don’t really do that anymore. It turns out people go to shows to have a good time, so it just wasn’t going to work.”

Citing bands like ’90s alt-heads Hum equally alongside astronomer Carl Sagan as influences, Little Viking craft their sound directly from their influences, a rather informal yet unique process that Owen attributes to “random bouts of psychedelia and surrealism.” When asked about where the band’s common interest in stars comes from, Owen added, “Mostly psychoactive drugs, Dr. Sagan’s Cosmos, and the endless quest to bring unity to the laws of the very big and the laws of the very small. Girls like stars and stuff.”

Late last year the group released Howling at the Earth as a limited edition cassette and download via Jeffery Drag Records, a local imprint whose motto reads, “Tapes n vinyl. For the kids.” Right now Little Viking is demoing new material which is being planned for a 7″ JDR release sometime early this year. In the meantime however, don’t expect the band to take it easy. “Kevin, Mike, and I are all in a band called Bad Cop,” explained Owen. “Justin has a good post-rock project called Small Gods. Kevin and I are in a future-music band called Doctor. We’re all busy.”

In the meantime until their new release drops, Howling at the Earth is still being offered as a free download from the band’s Bandcamp page.

Kanye West & Jay-Z "H.A.M."

Kanye West and Jay-Z just took to their Watch the Throne Facebook page to drop the album’s lead single (“H.A.M.”) as a free download. As of this writing around 35,000 people have “liked” the track after being online for just a couple of hours, which is only to say that Watch the Throne is probably going to sell like gangbusters when it’s released whether or not it remotely reflects people’s individual expectations of either of the MCs. (Not that it wasn’t going to sell well before the Facebook page became indicative of its popularity; just sayin’…) The key purpose of raising the issue of expectation is to simply warn those who are still riding the high from West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy: the transition into “H.A.M.” isn’t an easy one.

The focal point of the track is how strikingly dissimilar Lex Luger’s production is to the bulk of the beats that the MCs have been flowing over in recent memory. Luger himself has called it “aggressive and hard,” but it only sounds that much more confrontational when based beneath the duo’s snarling lyrical style. Aside from the hard-snapping beat accentuated by an operatic backing and trickling piano, Kanye & Jay’s refrain of “I’m about to go H.A.M., hard as a mother fucker, let these niggas know who I am” has already ruffled some feathers; not because of its distance from Fantasy‘s mood or tone, but because of its likeness to a track from another MC who went H.A.M. in 2009. Earlier tonight The Smoking Section commented, “And I feel like somebody owes Pill and Atlanta residuals” and Rap Radar pointed out the similarity to Pill’s “Trap Goin’ H.A.M.” Plain and simple: that similarity is most certainly there.

Regardless of whether or not there might be some style biting going on and whether or not Jay and Kanye are coming hard as mother fuckers with the track, “H.A.M.” still retains an odd structure and utilizes a jagged sound before rolling through a minute and a half outro that is simply too ambitious for its own good. Watch the Throne is likely going to give “H.A.M.” the context which it sorely needs, but in the meantime the track is merely a fascinating outlier that shows a curious direction which very few were likely predicting.

Josh Grier (of Tapes ‘n Tapes) Interview

Nearly three years after releasing the band’s last album, 2008′s Walk it Off (XL Recordings), Tapes ‘n Tapes have returned with Outside. Dropping the 12 track album on their own Ibid Records imprint, Outside retains a distinctive Tapes ‘n Tapes flavor while also exhibiting a bit of musical maturity along the way. Speaking to lead vocalist and guitarist Josh Grier via email recently, he touched on this growth, expressing his focus to develop a new sense of patience within his music as he gets older. Through our conversation he also touched on the band’s decision to return to self-releasing their music, Tapes ‘n Tapes’ disinterest in releasing EPs, and the group’s consensus on working in side-projects. Outside is available in stores everywhere today, and thanks to Minneapolis’ Aesthetic Apparatus, a limited run of screen prints are being offered as a free gift to those who purchase the album from this list of shops.

It’s been a little over a year since you played that trio of shows in the Twin Cities at clubs which sort of fall outside the norm (I guess that’s how I’d describe them). What was at the heart of wanting to play the smaller (or in the case of the Music Box, the unique) venues and what is the one thing you really took away from that experience?

Josh Grier: The idea of doing a “tour of the twin cities” was something we had talked about for a years. There are so many venues in town that we love to play at, we thought it would be fun to hop around town one weekend and play a few smaller shows. There’s also a rhythm that we always find after playing shows for a few days in a row. We never seem to be at home (in MSP) when that happens, so we wanted to change that. Being able to have that tour experience, while remaining at home in the Twin Cities, was awesome.

We hadn’t ever played an all-acoustic set, so when we decided that would be part of the “tour” we wanted to find a unique venue for the show. The Music Box was just starting to host concerts (after only hosting plays for years), so we had never played there. When we checked it out, it had a great vibe, and amazing acoustics, so it seemed perfect for the acoustic show.

It wasn’t long before those shows that you debuted the backyard performance of “SWM” on While it’s slowly closing in on three years since Walk It Off was released, how many of the songs on Outside were recently written? How many go back as far as 2009 or before?

JG: Some go way back and some are more recent. I’d say it’s about 50-50. We write a lot when we are on tour, and a few of the songs on Outside were written on the tours supporting Walk It Off. Then we took some time off to relax and live a normal life for a bit. The rest of the songs were written more recently and then we recorded in March (2010).

Has the band ever really considered dropping back and releasing an EP in place of a full-length album? It has to be a bit of an odd experience, releasing “new” material that is anything but new to you. Or at least I’d imagine it to be.

JG: There have been times when we’ve talked about doing another EP, but we haven’t ever seriously considered it. I think we would all just rather take a little extra time and put out an LP. If we have collection of 6-8 songs that we want to release, we might as well take a little more time and get 10-12 songs for a full album. It’s really just a personal preference.

The lag time between writing/recording songs and releasing them does get a little long sometimes. Unless you have enough resources to allow for a super quick turnaround time on your releases, it’s just part of the record making process.

Speaking of EPs, this is the first album to be released on your Ibid Records—the first since your 2004 debut EP. Did your contract end with XL, did you try to shop the record around, or right from the beginning did you know that you wanted to self-release the new album?

JG: We did initially release The Loon on ibid Records, as well, before XL licensed it from us. Our contract ended with XL because we had fulfilled our commitment. We had a pretty good idea that we were going to release the record on our own from the start. We talked to a few people before we finalized that decision just to see what our options were, but we didn’t do much “shopping around.” Really, the only reason for us to work with a label was for distribution, but we were able to get great distribution on our own.

Is “Outside” a remark on being outside, sort of on your own, once again?

JG: Yeah, that was part of it. There’s also some themes of wanderlust, so it seemed to fit the vibe of a lot of what was going on throughout the record.

Something that I hear throughout the album is that it sounds like the band is becoming increasingly patient. “Badaboom” unravels slowly, which increases the feeling of emotion that resonates when the track lets loose. What sort of growth do you feel you see in the band since the last album?

JG: That’s good to hear, because I am trying. I’m a pretty impatient person, so I think that affects how I write songs, and how I listen to music, in general. Hopefully, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve chilled out a little. I’ve realized that sometimes it’s not a bad thing to let an idea build for a few minutes over the course of the song.

I still hear a lot of the sort of bubbling energy that was felt with The Loon; “Freak Out” is probably my favorite example of that. When did you write that song and what is it about the track that led the band to release it as the first single?

JG: I think we started working on “Freak Out” in late 2009. It went through a couple of incarnations before it became the song that is on the record. Honestly, picking singles is a weird process. It just seemed like the most logical choice to be the first single. Also, a lot of our friends that listened to the record very early on liked that song best. It’s hard to argue with your friends.

The tour you have coming up is really substantial (30+ dates!)… I know it’s always one step at a time, but has there been any thought as to what the band might be involved in come festival season?

JG: We would love play in some festivals this summer. We’ll see what works out.

This is kind of an oddball, but I was just thinking about Vicious Vicious and Halloween, Alaska and I was curious if you had considered working on music aside form Tapes ‘n Tapes? In the past the band has seemed pretty open to pursuing other projects—has there ever been any sort of discussion around this?

JG: We definitely are all free to work on other projects outside of Tapes ‘n Tapes. Some of the other guys in the band do. I’m totally open to it, and probably have fake bands started with about 15 other people in Minneapolis, but I can’t seem to find the time to make it happen. I’m not working my full time job anymore, so maybe I can start Galatic Spatula or Beyond Jazz sometime in the near future.

Love in October “Love in October II” EP

The last real musical memory of Love in October that comes to mind was a coffee shop number they put to video for CB in 2008; just harmless, fun, acoustic rock. Shortly after that, brothers Erik and Kent Widman announced that they would be shifting the band’s base of operations, swapping the icy tundra of Minneapolis for the equally icy tundra of Chicago (winter in the Midwest is rough no matter where you go). Now they’re back with a few new songs, and on first listen of the Love in October II EP (which is actually their third EP) it appears as though the duo’s music is genuinely shifting toward a sound referenced in their press release: “spacious, uncontrolled, and naturally colored”… well, at least spacious and uncontrolled; I have no fucking idea what a naturally colored sound is.

The band recommends “Paper Heart” and “Desperate” from the release, but unlike the former’s even flowing pace and the latter’s sporadic moments of violent sounding outbursts, my money’s on EP-opener “Do You Love Me.” Tiffany Almy’s guest vocals add a sugary layer of contrast to the sharp edges of the track’s guitar piece. The one time Sexy Champions drummer quietly carries the song, repeatedly asking “Do you love me?” as the track abruptly comes to an end after a mere 2:20.

The entire EP will be available as a free download from Love in October’s Bandcamp page until February 8, when Love in October II is officially released.

Britney Spears “Hold It Against Me”

While the release of Britney Spears‘ as-yet-untitled seventh studio album is still tentatively two months out, the now-29 year old singer has just dropped what’s expected to be the first single from the project: “Hold It Against Me.” Produced by Lukasz “Dr. Luke” Gottwald, who was behind a trio of songs from Spears’ 2008 album, Circus, the track is exactly as advertised: “grimier.” Yes, grimier. Explaining the upcoming album to Billboard recently, Gottwald (who is also the co-executive producer of the project) revealed his intentions with the album, “I want to do what we’ve done that works, but I also want to make sure that it sounds a little different.” “I want to get more harder, in some ways” he continued, “and maybe a little more deep into electronic, and grimier.”

Not to perpetuate the never-ending comparison between Spears and Christina Aguilera, but if “Hold It Against Me” is an honest example of what’s to come, I can easily see it landing as a commercial (if not critical) success relative to the latter’s swing-and-miss Bionic which dropped last year. Lyrically “Hold It Against Me” is full of overly romanticized wordplay, but it’s still refreshing compared to Spears’ last tasteless attempt at a single (“3“) which capped off her 2009 greatest hits album, The Singles Collection. In a pop landscape which is currently being ruled by the likes of Rihanna and Nicki Minaj, this drive towards modern electronic might be enough to help put Britney back on top of the charts. Or maybe, it’s too little too late… We’ll likely find out which of those options will prove true in the coming months.

I Was There When...

This is far from the only reason I wish myself a long and prosperous life… but… I really hope that I live long enough to see the day when a generation of comedy fans look back on Doug Stanhope in the years after his death, thinking the same shit their parents thought about a guy like Bill Hicks in retrospect after they missed that boat. Not because I think Hicks wasn’t great, and not because I want to be that guy who’s like “Maaaan, I was there when…” But only to call them on their shit like people should be doing now with neo-Hicksians who are remotely of-age.

Sure, I know the Internet wasn’t all the rage in 1991 and Bill Hicks wasn’t as easily accessed as a click on YouTube or a keyword search on The Pirate Bay, but if you were remotely interested in the ideas he was toying with on stage, you probably would have found out about him simply through discovering your own basic interests. Like… Unless they were a complete hermits, people who really got into Pearl Jam back then would’ve probably at least been aware of TAD’s existence… simple chain of discovery fueled by personal interest. But if they were that much shut off that they had no clue, they probably didn’t have any idea who Pearl Jam was to begin with. Same with Hicks’ subject matter.

(x years later…)

“Maaaan, Stanhope was the shit. He was talking the truth back when everybody was just blah blah blah blah blah.” Well, yeah he was. But where was your praise for the man when he was kickin back Miller Lights on stage at the Santa Barbara Improv? You had YouTube, you had every means to search for an infinite amount of information on an infinite amount of topics written in every language from eleventeen different perspectives… Oh, right, you were kickin’ it with your homies talking about how some other dead dude was further ahead of the curve than everybody else when he was alive.”

"Bob Marley and the Golden Age of Reggae" Review

“There have been any number of biographies of Bob Marley and histories of Reggae,” opens Jeff Walker, roughly half way into Bob Marley and the Golden Age of Reggae. But make no mistake, there haven’t been many to offer as much visual insight into Marley and the early Reggae community as this. First and foremost the 160 page collection is a time capsule, collecting the works of photographer Kim Gottlieb-Walker which were shot in the mid-’70s. Some of which, as Walker explains later in his statement, are being published for the first time with this collection.

Cameron Crowe introduces the book with a glowing take on the work that follows, “Kim’s talent in slipping past the trappings of an artist’s stardom were instantly obvious,” he writes. (His entire introduction can be read online courtesy of Rolling Stone.) And within the first few pages, his suggestion becomes glaringly apparent. Gottlieb-Walker was the first outsider to photograph Marley during one of her and her husband Jeff’s many cultural explorations to Jamaica. Jeff, an upstart music journalist turned PR head for Island, does well to complement the pictures with an effortless overview of the era. But as the title suggests the focus isn’t solely on Marley, but a wide-reaching range of artists who were just hitting their groove during that period of time. Focusing heavily on the illusive Bunny Wailer and a “gentle and thoughtful” Peter Tosh, the book also intimately captures a slew of artists who are now associated with building the foundation for the genre: Toots and the Maytals, Jacob Miller and Inner Circle, Third World… the list goes on.

Gottlieb-Walker went on to become a production photographer for John Carpenter, later working as a still-photographer for film and television production ranging from Halloween to Escape From New York to Cheersto Star Trek: The Next Generation. Her husband does well to explain her tireless approach to the medium, noting how there was rarely a moment when the camera was not at eye level waiting to capture the world around her. Explains Marley archivist Roger Steffens, “Her philosophy is ‘decisive moment’ photography. ‘Moments,’ she explains, ‘that are a true reflection of the subject.’”

In brief, Bob Marley and the Golden Age of Reggae is a written and visual soundtrack to an era unlike any other. The photos are second to none in capturing the private moments of a man who has taken on the following of a god since his death in 1981. In the absence of actually hearing the music, it’s the next best thing in terms of gaining an idea of what the scene was all about. As Walker notes in his conclusion, Reggae still lives on as healthy as ever, “But the vast array of talent, personalities and great music that defined the brief period covered in this book has never been even remotely equaled.” And that era might never be better documented than it is here.

Bob Marley and the Golden Age of Reggae 1957-1976: The Photographs of Kim Gottlieb-Walker is available via Titan Books.

Gareth Liddiard “The Radicalisation Of D” (Influenza)

While the band has only had scattered success in the States, the Drones have quietly become one of the most highly regarded Australian bands of the past decade. As explained by Pitchfork‘s Joe Colly, “The band has released consistently strong albums since its 2000 inception and garnered high praise from their countrymen up against Aussie faves Wolfmother and the Go-Betweens, they won the inaugural Australian Music Prize for their 2005 record Wait Long by the River and the Bodies of Your Enemies Will Float By—but still are mostly unknown to European and American listeners.” Last January the band won the award for “Best Live Act” at the inaugural Australian Rolling Stone Awards, both Tiny Mix Tapes and The Guardian gave the band’s last studio album (Havilah) a near-perfect score, yet little momentum has still built for the group internationally. Taking a step back from the group for the time being, frontman Gareth Liddiard will be releasing his solo debut later this month entitled Strange Tourist. Recorded in the deep country outside of Yass, New South Wales, the album presents itself as a balance between personal reflection and the storytelling which the songwriter has thoroughly refined throughout the years. One such track, “The Radicalisation of D,” is explained by ATP Recordings as “one of his richest and most controversial songs,” and comes initially inspired by the Australian David Hicks‘ incarceration in the Guantanamo Bay detention camp in 2001. In this edition of Influenza, Liddiard draws largely upon personal memories as well as Australian cultural hallmarks to craft the story which develops throughout the 16 minute epic. Painstakingly offering a description to each lyric in the track, Liddiard weaves an uncomfortable story that touches on many of the often unseen conflicts within the Australian society. Strange Tourist will be released January 17 (UK) & January 25 (US) via ATP Recordings.

I’m going to explain this tune to people from northern America because that’s where this website is from. I’m just gonna point out some cultural things they might not be aware of.

D is an allusion to Australian Guantanamo bay inmate David Hicks. Though this isn’t actually about him. It’s about anyone who gets radicalized and how they do it before they set foot in any training camp or cult compound or what have you. and how, although we see them as a bit nutty, they kinda have a point too.

There are a million perspectives out there and there is nothing you can do except try to understand them. That’s (almost) a crime these days.

“A young boy busts his dad’s Hills Hoist, using it as a swing”

A hills hoist is an Australian built washing line. These hoists seem to resonate with a lot of Australians because they were usually the only thing in a suburban back yard. And you could use them as a merry go round. Unfortunately, if you had no friends or siblings to counterbalance your weight they broke.

“Kills a magpie in the backyard with a homemade ging”

A ging is an Australian sling shot made with a Y shaped bit of wood or metal and jelly rubber. You know what I mean.

“Steals chlorine from the neighbor’s swimming pool/Puts it in a coffee jar and pours brake fluid in”

You can make a stinky kinda napalm like this. It’s the same sort of thing as napalm but more explosive, especially in well sealed containers. But you need to be fast cause once you mix it you have about 20 seconds before you lose a hand and half your face. Good, old fashioned fun.

“Makes a pipe bomb using match heads, and it fizzles when he runs/Tries again using the powder from the shells of his old man’s shotgun/It hisses like a feral cat he’s seen, slithers like the snake he killed/Leaves a scorch mark on the pavement/And he’s badly beaten for it

Finds a Playboy on the way to school/Tries remembering his Mum/Throws rocks at a girl he likes, and he’s sent home before lunch/Finds a King Kong doll beneath a bush/Probably some rich kid’s/But it roars ants when he shakes it/So he drops it in a bin”

That happened to me once. The ants came out of it’s mouth and I couldn’t comprehend it, I was so young.

“Later on dinner time comes/He puts tinned beans on white Tip Top”

Tip Top was a white bread popular with the kiddies.

“Halves it with his fingers,/Shares it with the dog/Jumps a cyclone fence to the sound”

Cyclone fencing is chain link fencing. Popular in Australia because of cyclones. A cyclone is a hurricane with huge, angry balls.

“Of his old man fucking through the evening/Finds a severed kangaroo hind leg just laying in a clearing/There’s a tendon or a tapeworm that retracts after a kick/Finds a new stink nearly makes him puke when he pokes it with a stick”

This happened to me except it was a kangaroos front leg or arm. I still remember the smell. And I remember a bubble bursting somewhere in my head. We secretly kept it in a garbage bag like someone would hide part of a crashed UFO in their shed.

“Meets a friend near there/They go to see his house just down the road/The sister lets them in then goes back upstairs in a bathrobe/He sees a Phillishave full of hair clippings in a bathroom near a bra/They find some car keys, go outside and search a V8 car/And there’s a Beta tape in a paper bag hid under a seat/Hit play on the VCR machine and start to hear flute music/Now there’s two girls on a farm somewhere, playing with a labrador which rolls onto its back like it has been through this before/And it’s the last time D hears flute music/The last time he thinks about girls/He sneaks home about 10 o’clock/Gets inside using the dog door”

A friend of mine had a sick older brother who showed us animal porn while we were all 14 and stoned. “Animal Farm” I think it was called. Left wing animal porn then. The music was all flute and when me and the son of a bikie took refuge in the kitchen (stoned) the music followed us in and put us off our munchies.

“Channel 7 gets the scoop again/There’s a man gone crazy/He stole an APC from the army base and closed down half the city/D’s been expelled from school and he’s quite happy/Staying in bed, he keeps track of all the updates/Surfing networks instead/This tank arrives at police HQ about 8am/It makes pancakes out of 5 or 6 patrol cars and then runs out of diesel near a Castrol service station/And there’s a standoff, then he’s teargassed and not heard of again”

This happened in Perth in the early 1990s. As angry as this guy was he still used signals when he turned corners. That’s what they say anyway. [Video] You’ll see someone in the comments section points out that an APC is not a tank. No shit, fuckface.

“D’s father dies of cancer the next Christmas day/He’s so hopped up on the morphine that he can’t get straight/He says “be proud of me my boy, well I am finally off the fags since they caught me upstairs smoking on the helipad”/They cut the tumor off his liver but he died without it/Seems like no one gets to choose what they can’t live without/It don’t matter about money when there ain’t no way around/You are living in a nightmare and you can’t bribe your way out”

I met an ex-convict in a hospital I was working in. He would have been in his fifties. He had terminal cancer and he’d bum smokes off me. Eventually he gave up simply because sneaking up onto the roof near the helipad was too great an effort once his condition began to deteriorate. He thought it was hilarious how after all he’d been through in his life he’d only now become an opiate addict. He wasn’t adverse to the idea of dying and in the end, as rough as he was, he did it with grace.

“D finds a one room flat that overlooks an underpass/He works part time as a laborer and it’s OK, though it’s hard/Then some black kid steals his concession card”

A concession card gets you discounts on shit while your on welfare.

“And beats him ’round the head/Next time D sees an army surplus store he steals a bayonet/Then one day the bus to work, knocks down the kid that held him up/He dies laying in the street,/The driver don’t make too much fuss/He smokes a ciggie with the cops/The ambulance is running late and something inside, D finds all this very, very strange”

Where I grew up, a black guy, young or old, who wasn’t doing well could have fallen down an open drain and no one would have ever wondered “What happened to so and so?” That always blew my mind and I never felt like anyone else thought quite the same. That’s one of the reasons I left.

“Soon after that the work dries up and D starts drinking hard/Starts drinking cheap cask wine with old black fellas living in the park/One has a tattoo of a swastika made with a candle/Soap and spoons”

When I was 18/19 I’d do my laundry in the city in Perth. These hilarious old black dudes got used to me being around and soon realized I was the perfect way to buy booze. No one would sell alcohol to them. The first time this happened I was dispatched with $5 to buy a box of “goon.” That’s wine in a plastic bladder in a four liter box. On my return I was offered a drink. I said yes please. One of the old boys said “grab a cup” pointing to a trash can. They were nice enough to let me wash it out using some of their precious white wine. The same old guy actually did have a swastika tattoo on his forearm. It was pretty crude but I was very impressed. He’d passed out drunk at a party where they had a tattoo gun and he’d been vandalized by his mates. The stuff above and below about the ink, missions, petrol, teeth and knuckles is all true. I got drunk with him a number of times. He was excellent value.

“Says he’s half caste and that full bloods prefer”

Half caste isn’t a nice term. Here’s what Wikipedia says: “In Australia the term is thoroughly offensive, and was used in the past to describe Indigenous people of mixed racial parentage. The term ‘Aboriginal’ or ‘Indigenous’ in the Australian context no longer requires that a person described by such a term has a minimum proportion of Indigenous heritage. Terms such as ‘half-caste’ or ‘part-Aboriginal’ are no longer used.”

“Petrol over goon”

Young aboriginals living rough often turn to sniffing petrol (gas or whatever you call it). They don’t get old.

“Says he was brought up on a mission”

It was policy for black kids to be taken from their parents for about 100 years in Australia. The practice petered out in the 1970s I think. in Australia this is a big deal. It’s a big deal for the indigenous people for obvious reasons and a big deal for the whites too. European Australians have a hard time liking being Australian for a bunch of different reasons, but I think a big one is the fact that if you want to accept and feel good about what you actually are (a white Australian, like me) your going to have to own this kind of shit. People would rather not think about it and pretend they’re English or American. White Australia would never admit this but it hates itself.

“Then became a Viet Vet/Ain’t got a single tooth to chew/So D gives him his bayonet/He has white scars between his knuckles, or what’s left of them and says/”See I’m white too, I just cannot drink inside the way you like to”/”Five years later D meets Werner at a rifle range/Werner’s granddad was SS, so now he goes by the nickname Werner the Jew Burner and young D become so tight”

My step brother was a hydraulics engineer for the RAAF at Richmond Air Base in New South Wales when I was about 19-22. He lived with a guy called Werner Jew Burner whose grandfather was actually SS. He wasn’t a neo nazi but he wasn’t Ghandi either. Someone stole his car (a Holden commodore, naturally… it’s a low rent Ferrari) and dumped it a while later. The cops dusted for prints thinking it was actually used in some sort of criminal activity. Being cops, they just left this beautiful new car covered in their dust, finger prints at all.

Werner thought he knew who’d nicked his car and one night at a bar frequented by air-force types(engineers, not pilots… this joint was rough) he bumped into him. Werner rendered him unconscious, dragged him into the carpark, then checked his prints against those on the vehicle. He had the wrong guy. Whenever I went out with these guys there was violence. Never a dull moment.

The Werner in this tune has nothing in common with the real Werner except in name and lineage.

“They start going bush in his Landcruiser”

A Landcruiser is a Toyota 4WD that you can’t get in the States. 70′s series Landcruisers shit all over anything a North American would consider a 4WD. Sorry.

They make them so they don’t break down cause if they do, in the outback or the Sahara, THE CUSTOMER DIES. And that’s not good business. If the classic US 4WD is an elephant, the Landcruiser is a camel. I say that because it’s true and because I own and love one. And because elephants are more full of shit.

“Living on roos they shoot spotlighting/They get a years lease on a duplex”

My dad lived in a duplex when I was young. Bill Callahan from Smog mentioned duplexes in a song and I thought that was really cool. so I ripped him off.

“Werner finds D some work as an unlicensed forklift driver in a fish market for cash/He’s got pictures of Adolf Hitler, antique copies of Mein Kampf, but D thinks Hitler’s obsolete/And Werner’s practice too relaxed/But Werner finished high school and then studied engineering/D never did finish school and Werner breaks the news that evening/The RAAF say they accept his application to be trained to work on Hercules’ 2000 miles away”

A Hercules is a big military supply plane. I don’t know what you use in the States. Hercules are known to those who ride in them as a “chunder-bus” because they don’t have the auto-pilot thing that smooths out the flight. Military personnel and nurses and teachers don’t get paid enough.

“He leaves tomorrow for NSW and throws a party/Late that night they get to drinking and they’re talking/Then they argue then they fight/D comes to bleeding in his bedroom begging Werner not to go/But Werner’s full weight’s on his back now and he’s face down in a pillow/D wakes up late next afternoon, but Werner is long gone/D goes to find his .22 but there ain’t no shells at all/He finds 5 Valiums in a Winfield pack”

Winfields are cigarettes.

“In a duffel bag in the hall/Then sits in front of the TV screen, washes it all down with a bottle”

D is watching TV now. It’s late at night in Australia on the 11th Sept. 2001. About 7am EDT.

“Cliff has a beautiful wife”

Cliff Huxtable… why is it called the Cosby Show when they were the Huxtables?

“He’s insured for his life/It is autumn here in Brooklyn, in obstetrics, labour pain/And though his roots here are in slavery Cliff is dressed himself by slaves”

The cornerstones of western civilization aren’t so civilized when you think about it. sweatshops, abattoirs, indentured slavery, government sanctioned mass murder, etc. The third world seems to need to exist in a nightmare state to support our removal from it. It’s a Newtonian thing. “To every action there is always opposed an equal reaction: or the mutual actions of two bodies upon each other are always equal, and directed to contrary parts.” And for better or for worse there is only one way out of slavery.

“Credits rise like you’re collapsing, so bewilderingly fast/Seems the Cosbys of the world all go to bed 11 sharp/The rest of you have a choice of late night news/And more commercials/Yeah Just Do It, have a break, yes life is good/Because you’re worthless/Maybe she was born with it, and maybe you were too/Seems that one way or the other, there is nothing you can do”

All the advertising slogans we know and love, except when they exclude us.

“‘Cause you can only go as far as denying/You haven’t come anywhere/Forget Charles Darwin’s namesake is surrounded with black hair”

Australians certainly do. Australia’s southern half is very white. It has problems being anything else. Charles Darwin’s namesake is the city of Darwin in the far north. Being closer to the rest of the world has made it more relaxed about different people.

“You are depressed now but need only take this pill/To ban despair/If East Timor can’t be middle class it can’t really be there”

Australians patted themselves on the back when they sent peace keeping troops into East Timor in 1999 to assist them with their move into independence from Indonesia. a move to independence that was already happening anyway. This is after ignoring the Indonesian invasion for 20 something years prior. We treat our neighbors the same way as the UK treats us: as a lower class. Except it’s magnified.

“You are driving the Jeep Cherokee/Burning Arabs for fuel but you are driving the New Cherokee/And that’s good enough for you”

Try not to think about it.

“You are living among Taxpayers”

A lot of people in Australia think that because they pay taxes they know everything and should be in charge. It’s probably the same in the US.

“Who welcome brown folks with a moat/Conducting policy with the one free hand while the other’s round their throats”

Ooooh yeah. We get refugees coming from places like Pakistan, Iraq, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka in these crappy little boats. And fair enough. If my family was gonna get killed I’d fucking do the same, who wouldn’t? But the Australian government has managed to make everyone believe they are a menace: 5 billion sand nigger terrorists coming to blow up your BBQ,, when in reality a supermodel could board one of these vessels and single handedly punch out all souls present without breaking a sweat.

The things we do here to refugees, to people who come here desperate for our help, would appall you. Put it this way: we stop short of the hessian bag on the head thing.

“You are living in a land besieged by what the world might think or know/But with its head so deep in Turkish sand/This can’t really be so”

Australians are always thinking that the world is thinking something about them. It’s a weird guilt thing and a pathological need to appear like we’re cool too. Also, Australians aren’t big on history. “Neither are we,” I hear you say! You have no idea. The average American is a fucking Great Historian compared to the average Australian. Anyway, the Howard government rectified this by teaching a generation of meatheads about a messy little campaign in WW1 now known as Gallipoli. Gallipoli was on the beach in Turkey. To cut a long story short: Australians have an inferiority complex (most colonies do, yours excepted cause you booted the UK out). Because of that we need to be liked and be in competition with the UK and the US. That means taking a bullet for the cause, whatever that cause happens to be this week. Gallipoli was that bullet… lots of them. So now we can get drunk and exchange war stories and compare scars with our big mates (UK, US) in the boy’s club. Only with Gallipoli will we feel worthy. Sad and weird.

“You are living in a nightmare/Let them Balkanize the East/No one says a word these days, they turn the other cheek”

Except Julian Assange. Musicians are turning some serious cheek these days. Pretty pathetic for a bunch of people who see themselves as outside of the norm. And pretty weird considering musicians have been talking, in a very direct fashion, about what’s going on for about 10,000 years, at least. But this is indicative of a wider trend in the western world. I’m no expert on sociology or politics but I know that when people start thinking of themselves and their interests only, the people in power take advantage of that. And the results, as shown so often in the past and so recently, usually include someone turning some stranger in a strange land’s children into mince meat for no good reason. I wish someone would explain how that is good in a simple fashion.

“You are living in a nightmare/You can’t trust a ceasefire bid/And any wall they build around Gaza will be begging for a lid”

You wait… the lid is next.

“You are living in a nightmare/You can’t bribe a want of doubt/You are living in a nightmare/You can’t bribe your way out of/But now we interrupt this broadcast to bring you breaking news, there is a building in Manhattan, and it’s burning”