Archive for June, 2009

Death, Life and Thrash.

Posted in music with tags , , , on June 27, 2009 by Tanner

Michael Jackson’s dead. I remain unmoved. I grew up with his music. My parents would play “Thriller” on their hi-fi and I would stare at a lounging Michael Jackson, pre-moleman transformation, on the LP cover as the music bounced behind me. I didn’t really like the music then. I like it more now. I can appreciate it. I can understand the craft and talent behind it. But I still can’t listen to it for fun. I don’t know if it’s because of the history behind it– the whiff of nostalgia that it carries– or if I simply don’t like it much. Maybe both.

I have to give him one for upping the ante on Howard Hughes-like weirdness. We always need a few people out there at the height of celebrity that seem to collapse in front of our very eyes, as though they understand the futility of trying to be real in such unreal circumstances. I often wonder if celebrity causes pychosis, especially when one reaches a certain apex of celebrity. It’s as the world cease it’s own realness, and one becomes an image, and thus becomes product. Not to sink into some Debord-inspired rant on the means of production and what have you, but I’ve wondered what it means that people such as this should exist. What need does the celebrity fufilll? It’s not a need for the image of success, because, certainly we can divorce the notion of success and celebrity easily. The two are not obviously synonomous. They can exist together but very often function entirely apart. To be a celebrity one must divorce any notion of oneself, and exist in another realm, one not ordained by oneself, but by others. I can assume that this easy enough to handle if temporary, but in the case of Jackson, I have to wonder if it did work towards some sort of odd rupture in the self, where at some point in his life there was a brutal disruption between himself and the rest of the world, between reality and ego. Eh. Probably not worth going down this road, as much to save myself from sounding like a pompous prick as anything else.

I’m listening to a really great split from Capitalist Casualties and Hellnation:

I remember seeing both play in 1998 or so in some shitty basement of an anarcho-info center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. It was either put on by some dudes from Profane Existence or by people related to them in some way; as in typical fashion of the time, I remember them being too cool to come down and watch the bands play and generally acting like elitist pricks to the hordes of 17 year olds kids who came to get crushed by thrash mayhem. It was a great show, as much for the oddness of the singer of CC looking very similar to my cousin, Jed, than anything. Neither bands previous material would be something I would recommend to the unaccustomed or unenthused. They always struck me as bands for the fans of the genre more than for the dabblers. Unlike bands like Dropdead or Tragedy, they don’t transcend boundries, they don’t win converts from the indie rock sphere or convince your 12 year old brothers/sisters to get into punk rock. They exist as brutal, fast-core monsters, all killer/no filler thrashers with little to concede to the feint-hearted. In that sense, they’re the epitome of hardcore, in at least what “hardcore” used to signify (the hardcore for the hardcore), or as Henry Rollins said pejoratively on some shitty “history of punk” documentary (and I paraphraze), “hardcore is for those amped up guys you saw in 7-11 parking lots banging their heads in their cars, oblivious to the world.” He was insinuating (like most out of touch and usually older blowhards of the early days) that punk stopped being real when they lost interest. Maybe so. But this isn’t meathead hardcore or new metal. This is anti-social, pissed off hardcore, more in league with nihilistic greats like No Trend and Seige than the jock-hardcore or Sceamo kids that pepper the social sphere like unpopped zits.

There’s an added maturity to the brutality. They still work that fine balancing act of the precise and unhinged, but now have added some strange off-kilter popish hooks to their game, which don’t come off as bids for the Warped tour as much as just smack of better song writing. (Gasp) The songs actually resemble songs now, rather than just insane meta-commentaries on thrash and grind. That’s a good thing. Hellnation, as always, edges out Capitalist Casualties on this one, mostly because their songs are just a little more frayed, out of control and tinny. Hellnation sounds like your worst day, your most harried onslaught at work, your most out of control moment… and the drummer sings, er, more appropriately, screams. Yes, the drummer… it’s an endurance act over a constant hyperspeed drum thrash (he can pull it off live too). And it’s awe-inspiring. This is no real slight to CC, as they still can hold their own with the pixie stick thrash, in fact adding some complexities to the guitar lines now and then, at points the guitars have a circuitous nature, like a slowed down Discordance Axis. Very nice. And the vocals still sound pissed. CC have never played second fiddle in the pure anger category. You know how so much hardcore punk can sound forced and played out? I stopped going to most hardcore shows for that reason: I kept getting tired of 20 year old kids screaming at me. I kept wondering why they just didn’t see a therapist about their girl friends, or if they were so sure nuclear missiles would come crashing down on us, couldn’t they just go stand outside with a sign or something? But Capitalist Casualties and Hellnation are both pushing their mid 30s or so, and when they sing they sound like they mean it. They meant it in 1998, and they mean it now. It’s a seething rage. It’s transparently real. And it’s refreshing.

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I could do a lot of things if I had the money.

Posted in Uncategorized on June 20, 2009 by Tanner

I can hear ciadas buzzing in the warm dusk. The water pump whirs every 10 seconds. The random horn blurts in the oncoming darkness. Hanoi trundels by in a typical steadfast, stubborn pace, anything but precise but vital and alive. It makes me think about what Hanoi sounded like 20 years ago: the utter absense of horns, of machine sound– just the whir of bicycle wheels, the hawking of hawkers, the night murmers, the arguments won and lost. But the Vietnamese I have found are not a quiet people. They yell and scream, laugh and shout with the best of them, and at all the right times. Why walk over to someone when you can scream at them across the road? Why do something quietly when life demands your presence if not in body than in sound? Whether it be pounding something out in a bizarre, arcane fashion at 6 am in an attempt at fixing your own electrical wiring; or cranking your television to a sound-distorting level so you can hear it’s shadow down the street while you are drinking green tea and gossiping with friends. I don’t know. Maybe the noise is something more… an assuagement, a familiar, familial part of life here– you make noise so people know you’re there, so you’re not alone.

These nostalgias for times past, as though the past has a validity not found in our present age. It’s neither more or less real ultimately. I think people, including myself at times, assume more pastoral, less developed societies are invariably more authentic or real than the cellphone-ridden, mtv watching, American Idol obssessed, facebook-blogging, gas guzzling SUV driving cultures we come from, and when we find out that places like India, Vietnam, Kenya want all that too, it becomes a disappointment, as though the squalor, the human misery, the filth and disease are a product of authenticity. Isn’t what so many of these post-modern philosophers (stemming all the way back from Kant) are so interested in, this search for authenticity? This search for the real that is lacking from our lives to a point that we have become pathalogical, cut off from each other and ourselves. And of course this REAL cannot be found where there is such a bold and fundamental lack of authenticity in our western culture, right? How can one find oneself in the thick morass of this media over-driven, commodity-based society where we’re all screaming for SOME HONEST TO GOD REAL AND TRUE HUMAN CONNECTION! We’re all gasping for a little fresh breath of the REAL… So what if that fresh breath comes with the biting cack and cough of petrol exhaust, and the stink of human feces mixing in the river that runs languidly outside our traveler’s hostel (festooned with satelite dishes, awash in hash and Bob Marley)? Because you’ve found a real society, finally. A place you can be you. And you can only be yourself somewhere else, a somewhere else which can only be found where the people can’t get penicilin or condoms or antiseptic and indoor plumbing is a Xanadu-like fantasy, a place where people wear funny hats and think quaint things that are SO DIFFERENT than our stodgy one dimenisonal dogmas and faiths. In fact, you can dress up like a native for a while on your vacation from yourself. You can adopt a few of their customs even, but not the nasty ones where you might have kill an animal or beat your wife into submission, but the cute ones, the dot on the forehead or the sarong while you bathe. Yeah, those! It’s funny, you can actually feel more and live more boldly here, shucking the previous stodgy YOU like a moldy corn husk! Behold the world is yours, and you could just get to it if these fucking kids would just stop asking for your money. And wait, did I just see a monk with a cellphone? And do they have the internet here? They do?! JESUS! And is that a western style hospital over there? God, it’s gotten so touristy lately. I can’t even find a homestay without an internet connection! Why can’t I just be free to be me?! Where has the real gotten to?

The fans buzz beside me. I hear some karaoke in the background, a warble, the atonal pinch of Vietnamese folk song. I’m alive. I’m real. I’m here. I’m digging my ipod in the haze of motorbike exhaust. But I’m not alone. Hanoi still flows on before me. Outward and above, alive as the cicadas that burst in their shells, as though in constant renewal. Rebirth.

my ugly mug