Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Words’ Category

So, by now many of you have probably seen (or at least seen reference to) this video of Adam Lambert (he of some or other season of American Idol) performing a cover of Metallica’s “Enter Sandman.”  I’m sure with a second’s research I could figure out precisely where and for what purpose this was performed, but I frankly don’t give a shit, and it’s beside the point either way.

The reaction to this video from the heavy metal community, at least as far as I’ve seen, has been, as you might imagine, principally one of outrage, or perhaps even disgust.  How dare this man, this purest expression of everything about ‘pop’ culture that heavy metal purports to despise, attempt to infiltrate and appropriate our beloved canon?  Alert the village elders (Lemmy, Iommi, Steve Harris), man the ramparts, et cetera, et cetera.  All very predictable, and not necessarily wrong.

The offender

Still, I’d like to make a slightly different argument, if you’ll be so kind as to humor me.  Instead of being shocked, or horrified, or just simply saddened by Mr. Lambert’s very glam take on Metallica, I think that the metal community should, if not embrace it, then at least recognize this performance for what I think it is: A more artistically compelling and frankly dangerous statement than the original song.

First, here is the official music video for Metallica’s “Enter Sandman,” from 1991’s self-titled album:

If you’ve made it through the video without collapsing into a fit of seizures, then bravo.  That video is truly a terror to behold (and not in a good way).  I’m not quite sure what compelled the director to think, “Oh, instead of filming the same exact action in real-time, let’s make the whole video a stop-motion thing, that’ll be spoooooooky as shit,” but there you are.

Metallica’s song is, of course, widely acknowledged as a “classic,” if for no other reason than it’s been around for a long time, and most everyone knows it.  Still, the thing is, it seems to have attained that kind of place in our culture where one is more likely to hear it played over the PA at a giant sports stadium, or at a high school assembly, or maybe even while waiting at the checkout counter of your neighborhood Walmart.  It’s safe.

Which is not to say, I should point out, that it was ever really dangerous.  By the time the ‘Black Album’ was released in 1991, Metallica was no more danger to anyone than Neil Diamond or soft pillows.  If anything, Metallica circa 1991 were the safest sort of rock idols, at least in comparison to the intentionally sloppy, calculatingly scruffy attitude inculcated by the ongoing and/or impending grunge revolution.  As opposed to the mopey, “caring-about-anything-is-a-waste-of-time” insouciance of Nirvana or (early) Smashing Pumpkins, the Metallica that toured the ‘Black Album’ was the undiluted expression of the megastar American dreams of every teenager hoping to pull herself up by the (guitar)strap.  “Eat your veggies and work hard, kids, and you, too, can be the biggest hard rock band in the world.  We’ll even let you grow whatever dodgy facial hair you like!”

The offending facial hair

The song itself, “Enter Sandman,” flirts with a menacing veneer, but its serpentine half-thrash comes off more like the boogie vibe they would embrace more explicitly in the much- (and probably rightly-) maligned Load/Re-Load albums.  In the interest of full disclosure, I ought to say that it’s only with age and wisdom that I’ve come to dislike this song (though my mild disdain for “Enter Sandman” cannot even come close to matching my pure fucking spite for the abomination that is “Sad But True.”  Truly, a song that ought to be excised from the annals of rock history, and for which sin its writers deserve far worse penance than making an embarrassingly “let’s-hug-it-out” documentary.)  Nevertheless, I do not think it is a particularly good song, trapped, as is most of the ‘Black Album’, in that wretched netherworld in which thrash is kicking to draw its last few ignominious breaths, but has already made halting, sopping nods toward the meatier ‘grooves’ that would come to typify the execrable folly of so much “metal” throughout the 90s.

Here, then, is Lambert’s live performance of “Enter Sandman.”  The backing track is a reasonable approximation of the original, though it highlights the plodding, infuriatingly middle-of-the-road riffing slightly more than one would wish.  The instrumentation isn’t particularly consequential, though, as the focus is obviously intended to be Lambert’s vocals and physical carriage throughout the song.  Thus:

Clearly, the audience here is loving every minute of this (although I suspect they would love each and every minute our [anti]hero spends out on the stage); they’re completely lapping it up, and there’s something oddly charming about the amateur video quality.  Lambert sings much of the song relatively straight (har, har), indulging in increasingly melismatic flourishes as the verses and choruses pile on in that inescapable logic of pop songcraft.  Lambert is clearly an objectively “better” singer than James Hetfield, although I suppose ardent fans of either man would tell you that that’s not really the point.

To cut right to the heart of my argument, though, make sure you watch Lambert’s vocal histrionics and masturbatory pantomime as the song goes into the solo break about halfway through.  Lambert mimics guitar soloing with his voice for a few phrases, but then – hark! – begins gyrating and loving his microphone in that most intimate of ways.  A 21st century Elvis, high on self-love instead of fried chicken.  Coming out of the solo break, Lambert plants some kisses on one of the musicians before continuing to sing out the rest of the song.

Now, to suggest that many in the heavy metal community will have been turned off by the whole spectacle is not necessarily to imply a pervasive homophobia (though there are likely elements of that for some people).  Instead, I assume that some combination of the pageantry, the preening male sexuality, and the theatrical vocal take on a well-established entry in the pantheon of American heavy metal will result in a generalized disdain.  I also assume that Adam Lambert doesn’t give a damn about heavy metal, or about the heavy metal community, and that perhaps few of his fans do, either.  The issue, then, is all one of context.  See, there’s nothing particularly controversial in Lambert’s performing that song to that audience, because they are clearly primed to enjoy every flourish, every note, every gesture of whatever song he decides to sing.

The reason, then, that I want to suggest that Lambert’s take on Metallica is more artistically vibrant is that it takes the warmed-over half-thrash violence of Metallica’s original, and the blandly predatory intent of Hetfield’s snarling recitation of children’s prayers, and turns what has become meek and safe into something dangerous to heavy metal itself.  Lambert’s writhing performance takes the implicit leering of Hammett’s wah-soaked (duh) solo and makes it explicit.  It’s in your face, as he strokes his microphone like the great digital phallus is always is in every other singer’s hands already.  In grafting a gay, glammy sensibility onto this half-heartedly aggressive music, I suspect that Lambert has transgressed the standards held (however subconsciously) by many in the metal community.

(This is not really the time or place for getting into the role of homosexuality in heavy metal – though it is a fascinating, important topic – but perhaps it will suffice to suggest that none of the more prominent gay men in heavy metal – Rob Halford, of course, but perhaps also more recently Gaahl (ex-) of Gorgoroth – have brought this type of sex performance into their public personae.)

Perhaps before closing I should add that I don’t particularly enjoy listening to Lambert’s version of “Enter Sandman.”  Despite the criticisms I’ve leveled at Metallica’s original version, I think I’d still prefer it to this half-theatrical, half-tepid version.  Nevertheless, it’s at times like this, when popular culture intersects – however briefly, however tangentially – with heavy metal, that both venues stand to learn from the other, or at least for whichever community one prefers to put itself up to a sharp self-assessment.  When something like Adam Lambert’s performance, however dull or insipid the actual musical performance may be, can appear so threatening to heavy metal, a genre and community ostensibly drawn to power, danger, and all the rest, heavy metal ought to take a look at itself, and at the transgressive potential it once thrilled to realize.

Read Full Post »

Nevermore, The Obsidian Conspiracy (2010)
— Reviewed in the style of Ernest Hemingway —

The man looked at the picture and looked away and ordered another drink.

The hotel was loud and there were already a lot of people there.  The man pulled out a chair and sat down at the hotel bar.  He found the barman and ordered a pink gin.  Like the sailors used to drink, he thought.  A band was playing already when he sat down.  Most of the tables in the lounge were full.  Couples talking, lots of men clapping each other on the back.  The man thought he didn’t need any of that.  There would be time for that.

He thought about “This Godless Endeavor.”  He looked out the window.  A train pulled slowly out of the station, and a table of well-dressed young people across the bar from the man talked loudly about skiing.  Five years is a long time, the man thought, and maybe those fond memories were all wrong anyway.

“Turn to the left, turn to the right.”  The man did not listen.  The band played a chorus, almost like it was played from another room.  It played major, dipped minor.  The man thought he heard something.  Then it was gone.  He ordered another drink.  “Is this soliloquy or psychosis, or self-hypnosis?”  The barman must have left the radio tuned to a motivational program.  The man finished his drink, and watched the ice slowly become water in the glass.  He breathed out.

The band at the bar only wanted to play some crowd-pleasers.  The musicians kept pushing the lounge singer out of the way, so he pushed back.  He seemed a little tight, the pusher.  Squinted his eyes to look serious.  Too many damned words, the man thought.  As if each additional syllable made the sloganeering more effective.  The man glanced out the window.  The train was gone, and a listless breeze swept across the plain.

He listened to the band play “The Termination Proclamation.”  He listened, and then remembered her:

“He picked up the two heavy bags and carried them around the station to the other tracks.  He looked up the tracks but could not see the train.  Coming back, he walked through the barroom, where people waiting for the train were drinking.  He drank an Anis at the bar and looked at the people.  They were all waiting reasonably for the train.  He went out through the bead curtain.  She was sitting at the table and smiled at him.

‘Do you feel better?’ he asked.

‘I feel fine,’ she said.  ‘There’s nothing wrong with me.  I feel fine.’”***

How do you ‘abandon someone with scorn’, the man thought?  It’s all damned worthless anyway.  The barman dropped his mixing glass, and set his rag down to clean up the mess.  The lounge singer had recovered his poise, and was singing a slow song.  The man asked the bartender to turn down the radio.  The barman didn’t hear.

Most everyone had left the bar by now.  Empty tables weighed down with half-spilled glasses and uneaten food.  An older woman in evening-wear sat staring at the band.  She seemed to project a sense of feeling the music deeply, deeply.  The band’s set was only forty-five minutes, but they had lost some of their sheet music.  One of the players ran through some fast solos while the band sat back.  Maybe it was a saxophone?  The man was not interested.  The sparse crowd listened.  The man sat at the bar, thinking about lousy conversationalists who always steer a polite topic into ornate, self-serving directions.

The band played an encore, ‘Temptation.’  No one had requested it.  The man put down his drink.  It had soured.  The lounge singer bounced his voice around.  Even the well-dressed woman looked uncomfortable.  The rest of the band would not meet the others’ eyes.

The barman came back and tried to get the man another drink.  The man started to order another gin but then ordered a scotch.  “Say, this is some band,” said the barman.  “Yes, some band,” the man replied.  He balled a napkin in his hand.  “Don’t you like the music?” asked the barman, drying off some glasses with lime peels still stuck on them.  “Yes,” the man said.  He took another drink of the scotch.  It tasted like smoke and honey.  “No,” he added.  “It’s very nice music, but I don’t give a damn.  I just don’t like it at all.”  He paid the barman and pushed back his chair and walked out of the hotel and toward the train station.  He looked back.  The band inside was just finishing and those people still at the tables were still talking and laughing.  Maybe they were talking about snow and ski lifts and hot cider and good times but the man stopped looking back and put up his collar and his shoes echoed loudly on the ground.

There would be plenty of time to catch the next train at the station so the man thought about “This Godless Endeavor” again and shook his head and couldn’t remember what he meant to do.  The man hoped the band found the music they had lost.  He put his hands in his pockets and turned the corner and whistled a song he didn’t like.  He saw another train far in the hills and he closed his eyes and he kept walking and the train off in the distance went behind another hill and was gone.  He kept walking.

—————————-

*** Just in case the jarring contrast from my piss-poor imitation didn’t make it obvious enough, this passage in full quotation is taken directly from Hemingway’s short story “Hills Like White Elephants.”  This quote taken from my copy of The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway, The Finca Vigia Edition, 1987, New York: Simon & Schuster, Inc., p. 214.  Let’s just say, shall we, that the Hemingway story likely shares its subject matter with Nevermore’s “The Termination Proclamation.”  You tell me which source deals with its theme more deftly, yeah?

Read Full Post »

None of these songs are Leonard Cohen covers.
———————————————————-

Man’s Gin, “Nuclear Ambition Part 2” (2010):

I wanna die / In a concrete ocean
I wanna fly / On a neutron bomb
So blow it all down, / Hallelujah!
Hallelujah! / Let it explode
———————————

Blood Revolt, “God’s Executioner, Praise Be” (2010):

Give praise to the war giver / And hallelujah
To the blood letter
Hallelujah to the blood letter

————————————

Malign, “Sinful Fleshspear” (2002/2005):

And again, / We rejoice
For the sufferers
Deep within this sinful void
Hallelujah!
Hallelujah!

————–

“Hallelujah” means, by the way, “Praise the Lord,” or, probably more likely, “Praise Jehovah.”  Catholics prefer the spelling “Alleluia.”  There are extremely close cognates in many other languages, including Arabic.  Whole nations praise with these words.

Attenuating and subverting the traditional impact of this monotheistic utterance through ironic recontextualization is all well and good.  Clearly, the rise of so-called “orthodox black metal” has played the largest role in this.  One wonders if its adherents and avid consumers question the reasons for its resonance.  But I”m not particularly interested in fretful hand-wringing and meditation on the meaning of religious belief in music.

I just like picking these correspondences out, setting them down together, and seeing what they look like.

Looks to me, though, like the real subversion would be an ethics of praise stripped of eschatology or transcendence.  A heavy metal of immanence, which is not, of course, to say that it is an imminent heavy metal.

Read Full Post »

The following item has nothing at all to do with heavy metal.  Instead, it is a (fairly well-mannered, considering my slow-burning rage) complaint email sent to Blockbuster, in regards to the myriad problems I’ve been having lately with their ‘movies by mail’ service.

Wars are warring, floods are flooding; assholes (read: me) need distractions (read: shlocky television shows).

——————————————

Blockbuster,

So, what’s up?  In general, the Blockbuster by Mail service is excellent, but lately, I’ve been having all kinds of trouble with my account, and with my rental queue in particular.  One of the most recent bits of confusion, as you can see from what’s currently rented out to me, is that instead of sending me the second disc in the unbroken-up television series I was watching (X-Files), you instead sent me the first disc of the next television series in my queue (It’s Always Sunny…).  Now, if maybe either of those were especially hot titles, I could understand shipping them out of order based on availability, but EVERY SINGLE DISC of both series has been listed as ‘Available’ the entire time.  Nor is this the first time this has happened with my queue, where I will have lined up all my desired titles in a nice, neat single file line, only to find them thrown into discord and disarray by being shipped all out of order, even though your humble website continues to display the items in my queue in my desired order.

So, whatever; mistakes happen.  I get it.  But then, after sending back the first disc of X-Files, and being relieved to see that you deigned to send me the second disc of X-Files, what should happen?  Well, I receive the disc, and notice two (2) significant problems:

1) Instead of being disc two of the third season of X-Files, the disc contained within is disc five (5!) of the second (!) season of X-Files.  Odd, no?

2) Problem #2: That disc is not only incredibly wrong, but it is quite literally split in two, with a complete fracture running all the way from the center to the edge of the disc.

So, just prior to writing this email, I’ve used your online problem reporting system to report the complaint about the X-Files disc (though, to note, when several things are wrong, it might be nice to be able to report them both), and have (some) faith that I will be sent a non-smashed copy of the correct disc.  Still, this level of “whoops!” combined with the serious problems with keeping the queue in order over the past few months does not inspire great confidence in your system.

I would really prefer to be able to keep many things in my queue at once and have them shipped in the order in which I have placed them.  If the alternative is to only keep one thing in there so that your distribution center is forced to send me the right disc, then so be it, but you should probably discontinue all the pestering, nagging website/email reminders to add more things to my queue.

It’s a rough business these days, running a viable media/entertainment thing, what with, well, the Internet and all.  I’ve been quite pleased with the Blockbuster service in general, but lately, as you can see from this voluminous message, things have been rather abysmal.  Here’s to hoping they are just temporary kinks to be worked out.

To whomever may be reading this, whether human or a computer algorithm that’s been well-trained to separate the SERIOUSLY miffed from the casually annoyed: I know it’s not your fault.  But seriously: What’s up?

Cheers,
[Spinal Tapdance]

——————————————-

If anyone cares, will keep apprised of the situation.  Am particularly interested to see how Blockbuster’s customer service robot has been trained to respond.  Will see if it has been programmed with Asimov’s robotics commandments.

Good night, and good luck.

Read Full Post »

Shocking, I know, but heavy metal is not my only love.  In fact, I love many other things – unicorns, rainbows, all the usual suspects.  Also: mixing up cocktails.  Not, of course, in the sense of actually being PAID for the work; this is purely a non-remunerative hobby.  Still, it got me thinking.

In the canon of heavy metal substance abuse references, cocktails are assuredly a dismally distant last.  We’re all used to the bulletbelts and beer mentality, and sure, there’s a fair bit of banging on about whiskey, and yeah, seems to me like My Dying Bride has probably penned a song or two along the lines of “Woe is me and pestilence on the earth / My red wine is spilt, and my black cat fled to Perth” or some such thing.  Y’all ain’t never heard Abbath start off a song by dedicating it to Blashyrkh’s Mighty Dirty Martini, is my basic point.

For your consideration, then, I offer the following Heavy Metal Cocktails.  Most of these are slight variations on classic cocktail recipes, with obvious name changes and ingredient additions here and there.  I have tried to list one for each of several of heavy metal’s primary subgenres.  So, the next time you’re all lagered out, and can’t tell your ass from your ales from your ankles, why not try banging your head whilst imbibing a slightly classier product?
———————————

Classic Heavy Metal: “The True Old School Old Fashioned”
– The Old Fashioned is basically like the crusty old guy in the tattered “Number of the Beast” t-shirt who watches the entire show with one foot on the bar rail, and can be heard to vaguely mutter the word “whippersnappers” every now and again.  A truly classic cocktail, this would make the perfect accompaniment to your daily rite of Angel Witch and “Lightning to the Nations”, or even a trawl back to Thin Lizzy’s “Jailbreak.”

Ingredients:
– 1 1/2 oz. rye whiskey (Most types of whiskey will really suffice for a good Old Fashioned, but rye is the true old schooler’s choice.  Go with bourbon if no rye’s on hand, but for sure stay away from Scotch for this one.)
– Some smallish amount of sugar
– Angostura bitters
– Orange slice
– Maraschino cherries (probably no more than two)
– Club soda

Directions:
They don’t call ’em Old Fashioned glasses for nothing, though you may also know them as lowballs (har har – fuck off).  Put the sugar in the bottom of a dry Old Fashioned glass, and shake a few dashes of Angostura bitters on it.  Add in the orange slice and cherries, and muddle them with the sugar and bitters to taste.  Muddle the fruit more for a sweeter drink, though the classic preparation probably only bruises the fruit, releasing mostly oils rather than actual juice.  Fill the glass to the top with ice, and pour the whiskey over it.  I prefer to give the drink a brisk stir at this point, and then to top with just a splash of club soda.  Now, listen: They’re playing your Manilla Road request.

Death Metal: “Tequila Smashed Face”
– This is basically just a classic margarita recipe that’s been fucked with.  It’ll still taste mostly like a margarita, too, until you get down to the bloody dregs.  I couldn’t think of a spirit that screamed DEATH FUCKING METAL at me, so I just decided to take a classic recipe, put it in the wrong glass, and add a few visual cues that ought to remind you of the blood and guts so favored by the genre’s miscreant progenitors.

Ingredients:
– 1 1/2 oz. tequila (probably of the more aged variety – a reposado or añejo – to give you a bit richer flavor against the tartness of the other ingredients)
– 3/4 oz. Cointreau (any other sort of triple sec will do in a pinch, but Cointreau is the smoothest, far and away best option)
– Juice of half a lime (do up a full lime if you like, but you’d probably want to toss in a bit of sugar or simple syrup if you go that route)
– Fresh blueberries (5-10, depending on size; enough to cover the bottom layer of a highball glass)
– Dash of grenadine

Directions:
Drop the fresh blueberries into the bottom of a dry highball glass.  Muddle them gently; enough so the skins split anda bit of juice extrudes, but not so much that they completely lose definition.  Combine the tequila, Cointreau, and lime juice in a cocktail shaker filled 2/3 full with ice.  Fill the highball glass to the brim with fresh ice, then strain the cocktail shaker over it.  Pour in a small dash of grenadine over the top, which should quickly filter through and mix with the muddled blueberries to give the drink the appearance of gruesome viscera.  Well, gruesome and delicious viscera, that is.  Careful not to spill your drink as you holler along to Morbid Angel.

Black Metal: “The Ragnarok Gimlet”
– The gimlet is another classic drink, and probably a somewhat odd choice to represent black metal.  All I’m really doing here, though, is playing on our popular representation of black metal as obsessed with the freezing cold of Scandinavian winters and sounding like the fuzzed-out maelstrom of a bestial blizzard.  The key to really feeling the icy creep of evil in this drink is taking it VERY easy on the lime, and shaking the holy living fuck out of it to ensure MAXIMUM CHILL (which sounds like a long lost Steven Seagal flick, now that I think of it).

Ingredients:
– 1 1/2 oz. gin (make it 2 oz. if you want to really taste the grimness)
– A very sparing dash of Rose’s Sweetened Lime Juice

Directions:
Classically, the gimlet is served shaken and straight-up, but here I’m having you shake it but then serve it in an ice-filled lowball, so as best to simulate an icicle of black dread.  Fill a cocktail shaker 1/2 full with ice, then pour in the gin and splash of sweetened lime.  Then shake it like a soul possessed with the raw fury of Bathory, trapped in the midst of The Howling Wind’s Into the Cryosphere (or, better yet, Sleep Research Facility’s Deep Frieze).  Shake it until your arm is just about to bust out of its socket.  Then, strain it over a lowball filled with fresh ice.  Consume quickly.  And seriously.  Please do not smile.

Grindcore: “Multinational Corporations Brought You This Swedish Mule”
– This one is just a Moscow Mule, adapted by adding a Swedish liqueur so as to pay homage to Nasum and all the other greats of Swedish grindcore.  Made with the right kind of ingredients, this little fucker packs quite a kick, and when you add in one of the apocryphal stories about this drink’s genesis as a way for organized crime to sneakily serve alcohol during Prohibition in the States, this should at least hint at some of the political furor that so animates grindcore’s most hallowed practitioners.

Ingredients:
– 1 oz. vodka (though an extra tip of the bottle won’t hurt any)
– 1/2 oz. Rose’s Sweetened Lime Juice (you can use fresh-squeezed lime instead, but I prefer Rose’s, so long as you don’t use too much)
– 6-8 oz. ginger beer (NOTE: It is absolutely crucial for the success of this drink that you are using a ginger beer rather than a ginger ale.  Or, if you’re using something called ginger ale, be sure that it’s brewed in the older fashion, where it actually has the bite and spice of real ginger.  That Canada Dry bullshit ain’t going to cut it here.)
– Splash (or up to 1/2 oz.) Cherry Heering (Cherry Heering is a Swedish liqueur, or really more like a cherry brandy.  Go with Heering, though, rather than some cheaper knock-off cherry brandy, which will more likely than not remind you of childhood cough syrups.)

Directions:
Fill a highball glass with ice.  Pour the vodka and lime juice over the ice, and fill the glass almost the rest of the way full with the ginger beer.  Give things a little stir, and then pour a small bit of the Cherry Heering over the top.  The cherry flavor should be subtle enough so as not to overpower the fierce kick of ginger (redolent of Napalm Death and Terrorizer’s pioneering use of the blastbeat, say), but should give the drink that nice sheen of blood-soaked lore, just like the daily work of government and corporations is to wring out their dollars to squeeze out the blood of the poor and innocent.  Et cetera.

Doom: “Summer In Siberia”
I wanted to keep things fairly simple for this.  Doom has its roots in the UK (as does all heavy metal, obviously), so another option for a doom metal drink is a Black Velvet (half Guinness Draught, half champagne).  Still, some of the gloomiest, most stretched-out dooooooom has lately come from Scandinavia, and Finland in particular, the landscape of which, in my mind at least, is of a piece with the vast snow-sodden expanses of Russia, with its stoic tundra pockmarked with rusted machinery and towering industrial factories.  Realities so blunt require a drink unvarnished with niceties and distractions.  The lemon is there as merely a gesture; a poor substitute for the blighted sun, perhaps never to return.

Ingredients:
– Vodka.  In some amount.  More than 2 oz. might be pushing it, but hell, this is DOOOOOOM.
– A squeeze of fresh lemon

Directions:
This is another one that I think ought to be as cold as possible.  If you’re averse to having the cloudy appearance that shards of cracked ice will give to the drink as I’m presenting it here, then feel free to stir the drink in the cocktail shaker rather than shake it.  If you stir it, though, stir it many times, and quickly.  Otherwise: Fill a cocktail shaker 1/2 full of ice.  Pour in the vodka, and shake the shit out of it.  Strain the chilled vodka into a lowball glass filled with fresh ice.  Give a freshly cut lemon a little squeeze over the top of the glass, and give it a stir.  Now, sit and wait for the slow, inevitable crush of the tectonic plates.  Mother Russia demands solicitude and obedience.

Sludge: “The Bayou Filth Hound”
– The American South is known for its whiskeys, whether it be Tennessee’s Jack Daniels or the fuck tons of bourbons from Kentucky.  That same climate has, as you know, produced a bearded slew of sludging bruisers in recent years; look to the Savannah, Georgia scene if you require proof (mildly-veiled Deathspell Omega reference, hey-o).  This concoction is one of my very favorite variations on the classic Old Fashioned recipe (obviously with many liberties taken), and adds the mint in homage to the signature drink of the Kentucky Derby, the mint julep.  Plus, this preparation of the drink produces a viscous, swampy-looking thing that sits in your glass, daring you to drink its poison promise down.  Muddy like the backwaters of Louisiana, this one.

Ingredients:
– 1 1/2 or 2 oz. of good Kentucky bourbon (Maker’s Mark tends to be my go-to because of its wide availability, but any fine bourbon, especially of the spicier variety, will do quite nicely)
– Brown sugar (anywhere from a pinch to a few spoonfuls, depending on your preference)
– Angostura bitters (anywhere from one dash to half a dozen)
– Half a lime
– Two Maraschino cherries
– Four or five fresh mint leaves
– Club soda

Directions:
Just like the Old Fashioned above, you’ll be building this drink in a lowball glass.  Put the brown sugar in the bottom of the empty glass (hella existential).  Personally, I like a bit more brown sugar than you might imagine.  At least a good spoonful, I’d say.  Then, to counteract the potential over-sweetness, I like to give several hefty dashes of Angostura bitters over the sugar.  Cut the lime half into quarters, and muddle them with the Maraschino cherries in the sugar and bitters.  Feel free to muddle with vigor here, as we’re trying to go for the opaque, swampy look with this drink.  After you’ve released most of the juices from the fruit, toss in the mint leaves, and muddle just a little more, but now more gently, so that you keep the leaves intact, but bruised.  Now fill the glass with ice and pour in the bourbon.  At this point, give the drink a good stirring, and then top it off with a bit of club soda.  Finally, hold the glass up to your eyes and gaze into its murky depths.  Un-receded flood waters.  Alligators glide with stealth through the swamp.  A man plucks a banjo on a wooden porch, but cannot be heard over the noise of your favorite Eyehategod record.  Pull this drink in between your teeth.  Feel the thickness, and taste, in its chill, the oppressive heat of America.  Your America.  My America.  Our sadness.
———————————

Cheers!

The viscera are somewhat difficult to make out in this shot of the Tequila Smashed Face

Read Full Post »

Indulge me, folks (or don’t), but my brain, it is on a Jag.

So, I must have totally missed the boat, because all of a sudden it seems like our entirely electronic universe has become ghettoized into those things which are Safe For Work and Not Safe For Work.  Seems like probably the whole reason to invent the term was, just so we could have ourselves a nice time with all o’ these, not quite acronyms, but abbrevs: SFW, NSFW, etc.  Never mind that err’time I see ‘NSFW’ spelled out, I think I’m about to encounter some particularly risque news item out of New South Wales.

This is pretty moot for me, since I work from home most of the time, and if every now and then my web browser shows me a rhinoceros mounting another rhinoceros, or a Photoshopped image of Oprah just cussing up a goddamn storm (“Please welcome Nancy Motherfucking PeLOOOOOSI”), or my favorite William Shatner Erotic Fiction site, well, that’s my own business, innit?

Still, I think if we want to really find the culprit, we’ll have to reach a bit further back.  Say, to good ol’ Woodrow Wilson, or He Of The Fourteen Points.  You see, Woody has this ambition to start up a, not quite a Covenant, but what I suppose you could call a League Of Nations.  And this League, as it were – along with that nasty little war which preceded it (hint: folks used to call it Great) – was going to make our world Safe For Democracy.  Which presumes, of course, that the world was, at the time, Not Safe For Democracy.

Dude was, for the most part, SFW, and only pretty SFD

Two options, then: Either a) we quit with this silly SFW/NSFW classification, and instead start judging your favorite websites as to whether they Are or Are NOT Safe For Democracy (SFD/NSFD)*; or b) we sit around and wait for the inevitable failure of our very own League Of Nations to reveal the underlying bankruptcy of NSFW.  Y’know, like if Janet Jackson’s boob just up and lays itself out on computer screens all over the country, and the arbiters of Work Safety do NOT A DAMNED THING.

This nonsensical post brought to you by: too much iced coffee this morning, not quite enough sleep, and the psychedelic genius of the Harvestman/U.S. Christmas/Minsk 3-way covers album Hawkwind Triad (out this year on Neurot Recordings).

*Maybe it seems like WikiLeaks is in the back of my mind here, but I promise you it is not.  Serendipity, etc.

Read Full Post »

The first time I encountered Lester Bangs’ writing was in college, when a musicology professor assigned a shit-kicking little essay called “James Taylor Marked for Death,” which, while threatening grave bodily harm to said folk musician, is primarily a paean to the rock and roll atavism of The Troggs (yes, they of “Wild Thing”).  I don’t really have anything intellectually notable to say here, I just wanted to highlight for you the brilliance of this man’s writing, and suggest that you go out and learn yourself just how thoroughly it is possible to experience music.

Here’s a particularly inspired passage from the above-mentioned essay, which is not what I intended originally to quote for you, but, things being what they are… :

“I could listen to Chicago or Santana anytime… I don’t think anybody as crass and commercial as they are could possibly be the Enemy.  My spleen is reserved for Elton John, James Taylor, all the glory boys of I-Rock.  I call it I-Rock, even though I just made up the name, because most of it is so relentlessly, involutedly egocentric that you finally actually stop hating the punk and just want to take the poor bastard out and get him a drink, and then kick his ass, preferably off a high cliff into the nearest ocean.

Matter of fact, if I ever get down to Carolina I’m gonna try to figure out a way to off James Taylor.  Hate to come on like a Nazi, but if I hear one more Jesus-walking-the-boys-and-girls-down-a-Carolina-path-while-the-dilemma-of-existence-crashes-like-a-slab-of-hod-on-J.T.’s-shoulders song, I will drop everything (I got nothin’ to do here in California but drink beer and watch TV anyway) and hop the first Greyhound to Carolina for the signal satisfaction of breaking off a bottle of Ripple (he deserves no better, and I wish I could think of worse, but they’re all local bands) and twisting it into James Taylor’s guts until he expires in a spasm of adenoidal poesy.

EXTRA! TRAGEDY STRIKES ROCK! SUPERSTAR GORED BY DERANGED ROCK CRITIC!! “We made it,” gasped Lester Bangs as he was led by police from the bloody scene.  “We won.”               — Rolling Stone

But fantasies and jokes – none of that is really any good.  If they just don’t seem to be playing your song much right now, well, stop feeling sorry for yourself, scout the terrain and see if we can figure out where to go next.  Because there’s always gonna be something around in the tradition.  But fuck the tradition, I want the Party!” (Bangs 1987, ed. Greil Marcus, pp. 71-72)
——————————

Mighty entertaining stuff, right?  Well anyway, what I really wanted to direct your attention to was the following inspired burst of writing, from a 1971 essay entitled “Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung: A Tale of These Times.”  Reading this passage really struck a chord with me, and perhaps it might resonate with you as well:

“…nothing more nor less than a record, a rock ‘n’ roll album…could ever pulverize my lobes and turn my floor to wormwood.  I knew, ’cause I had a brief though quite similar spell of disorientation once over the Question Mark and the Mysterians album!  I was at a friend’s house, and I was high on Romilar and he on Colt 45, and I said: ‘Yeah, I bought the Question Mark and the Mysterians album today,’ and suddenly the equilibrium was seeping from my head like water from the ears after a sea plunge, a desultory vortex started swirling round my skull and gradually spun faster though I couldn’t tell if it was a breeze just outside or something right between the flesh and bone.  I saw my life before my eyes, and that is no shit – I mean not that I saw some zipping montage from birth to that queasy instant of existential vertigo, but that I saw myself walking in and out of countless record stores, forking over vast fortunes in an endless chain of cash-register clicks and dings at $3.38 and $3.39 and $3.49 and all the other fixed rates I knew by heart being if never on the track team unquestionably an All-American Competitive Shopper, I saw litter bins piled high with bags that stores all seal records in so you won’t get nabbed for lifting as you trot out the door.  I saw myself on a thousand occasions walking toward my car with a brisk and purposeful step, turning the key in the ignition and varooming off high as a hotrodder in anticipation of the revelations waiting in thirty-five or forty minutes of blasting sound soon as I got home, the eternal promise that this time the guitars will jell like TNT and set off galvanic sizzles in your brain ‘KABLOOIE!!!’ and this time at least at last blow your fucking lid sky-high.  Brains gleaming on the ceiling, sticking like putty stalactites, while yer berserk body runs around and slams outside hollering subhuman gibberish, jigging in erratic circles and careening split-up syllables insistently like a geek with a bad case of the superstar syndrome.

But that’s only the fantasy.   The real vision, the real freaking flash, was just like the reality, only looped to replay without end.  The real story is rushing home to hear the apocalypse erupt, falling through the front door and slashing open the plastic sealing ‘for your protection’, taking the record out – ah, lookit them grooves, all jet black without a smudge yet, shiny and new and so fucking pristine, then the color of the label, does it glow with auras that’ll make subtle comment on the sounds coming out, or is it just a flat utilitarian monchromatic surface, like a schoolhouse wall…?  And finally you get to put the record on the turntable, it spins in limbo a perfect second, followed by the moment of truth, needle into groove, and finally sound.

What then occurs is so often anticlimactic that it drives a rational man to the depths of despair.  Bah!  The whole musical world is packed with simpletons and charlatans, with few a genius or looney tune joker in between…

I realize that this sounds rather pathological – although I never thought so until laying it out here – and this Freudian overtones are child’s play, I guess.  But what I don’t understand is what it all signifies.  Don’t get the idea that my buying of and listening to records per se has always been marked by such frenzy and disorientation, or even any particular degree of obsession and compulsion.  It’s just that music has been a fluctuating fanaticism with me ever since – well, ever since I first heard “The Storm” from the William Tell Overture on a TV cartoon about first grade… and hearing for the first time things like John Coltrane and Charlie Mingus’s The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady and the Stones and feedback and Trout Mask Replica.  All these were milestones, each one fried my brain a little further, especially the experience of the first few listenings to a record so total, so mind-twisting, that you authentically can say you’ll never be quite the same again… They’re events you remember all your life… And the whole purpose of the absurd, mechanically persistent involvement with recorded music is the pursuit of that priceless moment.  So it’s not exactly that records might unhinge the mind, but rather that if anything is going to drive you up the wall it might as well be a record.  Because the best music is strong and guides and cleanses and is life itself” (Bangs 1987, ed. Greil Marcus, pp. 11-13).
———–

Anyway, if you ask me, that’s some pretty white-hot writing, and it’s pretty much exactly the kind of thing I was thinking about recently when I wrote this post.  It seems to me that although Bangs never uses the word ‘nostalgia’, his phrase “the pursuit of that priceless moment” is a way of getting at the same sort of thing.

The anthology of Bangs’ writing from which these quotes are drawn is available here, and surely loads of other places.  Good music writing, I think, can approximate (if not quite surpass) the experience of good music, and music writing rarely gets better than this, so check it out.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »