Kanye West, Paul Westerberg, and Self Defense

Kanye West Power Lyrics

I’m livin’ in the 21st century
Doin’ something mean to it
Do it better than anybody you ever seen do it
Screams from the haters, got a nice ring to it
I guess every superhero need his theme music

No one man should have all that power
The clock’s tickin’, I just count the hours
Stop trippin’, I’m trippin’ off the power
(21st century schizoid man)

The system broken, the schools closed, the prisons open
We ain’t got nothin’ to lose, ma’f-cka, we rollin’
Huh? Ma’f-cka, we rollin’
With some light-skinned girls and some Kelly Rowlands
In this white man’s world, we the ones chosen
So goodnight, cruel world, I see you in the mornin’
Huh? I see you in the mornin’
This is way too much, I need a moment

No one man should have all that power
The clock’s tickin’, I just count the hours
Stop trippin’, I’m trippin’ off the power
‘Til then, f-ck that, the World’s ours

And then they (Go)
And then they
And then they (Go)
And then they (21st century schizoid man)

F-ck SNL and the whole cast
Tell ‘em Yeezy said they can kiss my whole ass
More specifically, they can kiss my asshole
I’m an asshole? You n-ggas got  jokes
You short-minded n-ggas’ thoughts is Napoleon
My furs is Mongolian, my ice brought the goalies in
Now I embody every characteristic of the egotistic
He know, he so, f-ckin’ gifted
I just needed time alone, with my own thoughts
Got treasures in my mind but couldn’t open up my own vault
My childlike creativity, purity and honesty
Is honestly being prodded by these grown thoughts
Reality is catchin’ up with me
Takin’ my inner child, I’m fighting for it, custody
With these responsibilities that they entrusted me
As I look down at my dia-mond-encrusted piece

N-gga, no one man should have all that power
The clock’s tickin’, I just count the hours
Stop trippin’, I’m trippin’ off the power
‘Til then, f-ck that, the World’s ours

And then they (Go)
And then they
And then they (Go)
And then they
And then they (Go)
And then they (21st century schizoid man)

Colin Powells, Austin Powers
Lost in translation with a whole f-ckin’ nation
They say I was the obamanation (abomination) of Obama’s nation
Well, that’s a pretty bad way to start the conversation
At the end of day, goddammit, I’m killin’ this sh-t
I know damn well y’all feelin’ this sh-t
I don’t need yo’ p-ssy, bitch, I’m on my own d-ck
I ain’t gotta power trip, who you goin’ home with?
How ‘Ye doin’? I’m survivin’
I was drinkin’ earlier, now I’m drivin’
Where the bad bitches, huh? Where ya hidin’?
I got the power, make yo’ life so excitin’ (So excitin’)

Now this would be a beautiful death
Jumpin’ out the window
Lettin’ everything go
Lettin’ everything go

N-now-now this would be a beautiful death
Jumpin’ out the window
Lettin’ everything go
Lettin’ everything go

Now this would be a beautiful death
Jumpin’ out the window
Lettin’ everything go
Lettin’ everything go

You got the power to let power go

 

Paul Westerberg Self Defense Lyrics

Cheekbones and hormones
Your only self-defense
Lying through dinner
And your rock and roll teeth again
You’ve harbored a coward
Fed him full of broth
This nocturnal sadness
Leave you pale as this tablecloth
Careful don’t you spill your dinner
That would be a good defense
Then you wouldn’t have to sit here
On the fence

Cheekbones and hormones
He’s the accidental man
Tell you in a stage whisper
about the boy who cried benefit
As the poet drags the darkness
Within him to the light
It’s only in self-defense
That they drag you out into the night
Careful don’t you spill your dinner
That would be your best defense
Careful what you wish for

An idiot and a genius
Standing up to dine
Breaking manmade laws
Cause I only follow those that are divine
And only when you’re chased
Do you ever run fast
And it’s wrong to commit a suicide
It’s only in self-defense

 

I was listening to Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy today while cleaning and the single Power came on.  The song is one half egotistical boast and one half cry for help.  Notice the lines at the end of the song after some of the more boastful ones earlier in it.  I started thinking about the Paul Westerberg song Self Defense from his Suicaine Gratifaction album.  Westerberg’s song is probably one of the best song’s ever about the self destructive streak in rock n roll music. 

I started thinking about how different works of art can allow you to interpret other works of art.  I was also thinking about how art can open up windows of empathy into other people’s lives. 

When most people think of Kanye West they think of an out of control egoist.  He may or may not be all of the things that people say he is, but I don’t know him.  Most people that are constantly bragging and puffing themselves up and bragging about themselves are hiding some kind of despair or lack of inner self confidence.  They are often overcompensating.  That’s not always the case, but it often is.  As an Eagles fan I remember watching Terrell Owens’s meltdown in front of the camera’s while he played for them.  On one hand he seemed completely wrapped up in his own ego and self confident.  There also seemed to be a tremendous amount of pain under all of that bravado.  

In rap music there is a ton of boasting and bragging, often by young black men.  Sometimes I discount some of this music because of this factor.  It seems excessive.  However, we live in a country where our prison industrial complex is out of control.  Young black men make up a disproportionately large amount of our prison population.  When people go to prison they do not simply pay their debts and return back to normal life.  Prison often follows people for long after if not the rest of their lives.  When people go to prison for nonviolent crimes it often punishes them disproportionately in light of the crimes committed.  Families are destroyed and chances for meaningful employment are often lost. 

We also live in a country where many people admit to crossing the street when they see a certain kind of black mail walking on their side of it.  Growing up under these circumstances, even if you are not directly affected, would be enough to drive anyone insane.  The culture surrounding you alone must be maddening. 

When you hear bragging and boasting in these songs can you not imagine that it is a way to overcompensate for the image that society has thrust upon them?  If no one is going to tell you that you are of worth, maybe you need to tell yourself.  My mom just sent me an email about how when no one would write reviews of Walt Whitman he just wrote reviews of his own work and later quote from those reviews as if someone else had written them.  Is this bragging and boasting not some form of self defense? 

Cursing for Climate Change

As predicted, many on the right are freaking the fuck out over Obama’s new climate regulations.  He wants to cut greenhouse gas emissions at power plants by 30% by the year 2030.  Of course the right is only framing things in terms of lopsided, bogus, outdated economic information.  The news is doing their usual he said/she said bullshit.  I think these new regulations are great news and I want to tell you why by telling you things that will happen if we don’t go forward with these and other regulations.  I am not going to use scientific language like parts per million or what have you.  I am going to curse…a lot!

 

  1. They are going to prevent people from fucking dying.  That’s right, if the worst of climate change happens people are going to die as a result.  Not only are they going to die, but they will die because we were immoral and refused to do anything to help them.  These regulations are a good start in helping people.  How are they going to die?  Climate change will bring bigger storms, lead to droughts in countries that are already impoverished, and create wars over valuable resources like water.  Who says that climate change will create more war?  The fucking Pentagon!
  2. They are going to prevent more people from fucking dying and getting sick.  Another thing that rarely gets included in right wing think tank’s estimations is how much we already pay in terms of asthma and other respiratory disease from power plants.  Even if you are the kind of selfish bastard that doesn’t care about foreigners, poor people, or animals, you probably give a shit about your kids and their friends. 
  3. Animals are going to fucking die.  Climate change is going to increase the extinction rate.  Don’t just say goodbye to polar bears, say goodbye to a whole host of animals you grew up with as part of earth as you knew it! 
  4. The oceans are going to become way more fucking acidic.  They are already on their way.  Coral reefs, fish, and other species are going to disappear.  The only thing left will be fucking jellyfish.  Think of how much life comes out of the ocean.  Think of how much of our food source comes in some way from the ocean.  In the words of Bill Paxton in Aliens, “Game over man!” 
  5. Storms are going to become way more powerful.  We will get hurricanes that make Hurricane Sandy look like a fucking wet dream.  The other day in the news I saw a fire tornado!  When was the last time you saw that shit! 

 

Those are just several of the things that these regulations are trying to prevent.  This is one step out of many that need to be taken.  As Slavoj Zizek says in his brilliant movie The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology, “Why is it easier for us to imagine the end of life as we know it than to make a few small changes to our economic system?”  We need to wake up and realize that not doing anything makes us immoral mutants of the highest fucking order!  When poor people and all of our fellow citizens of the earth, animals, and entire ecosystems are at risk, why are we not doing even more to confront this problem?  It’s because those that are greedy and have something to lose control a large amount of the information we are getting.  It is high fucking time we ditched being classy and laid it out there what is going to happen.  Because what is going to happen if we do nothing is fucking obscene in the truest sense. 

Stephen Colbert More Informative than the News

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/06/02/colbert-news-study-campaign-financing_n_5431713.html

A new study came out that suggests that people learn more from watching Stephen Colbert than they do the real news.  The only thing I have to add to this is:  NO SHIT!  

The Guitar Playing of Alain Whyte

One of my favorite guitar players is Alain Whyte.  He was Morrissey’s guitar player from Your Arsenal through Ringleader of the Tormentors.  He still wrote songs with Morrissey after leaving the touring band, although I do not know yet if he wrote any songs on the new album.  Morrissey pokes some fun at him in his Autobiography, but with Morrissey it is hard to tell if he there is any real animosity or just a sort of backhanded compliments that are the result of his Northern humor. 

Alain Whyte never got the credit that he deserved, largely for the unpardonable sin of not being Johnny, even though he wrote at least 81 songs with Morrissey and contributed to some of his best works. 

I loved the guitar team of Boz Boorer and Alain Whyte, but I prefer Alain’s melodic expressive playing to Boz’s more rhythmic approach out of the two.  They were perfect foils for each other.  Although the guitar playing of the two was rooted in pop and rock classicism I actually felt that especially during the 90’s they were one of the few two guitar teams that were pushing the instrument in new directions. 

They took glam, rock, pop, and rockabilly riffs, and blended them into a unique recognizable style.  Under Steve Lillywhite the pair created what to me are the two high-water marks of Morrissey’s career when it comes to guitar playing.  The albums Vauxhall and I and Southpaw Grammar both feature exceptional guitar playing though they are both very different.  Vauxhall and I is very beautiful and gentle while Southpaw Grammar explodes with volume and energy. 

One of the things that is interesting about their playing is that even when they were playing loud they were often including beautiful melodies under the noise.  Vice versa, even when they were playing beautiful gentle parts there was an emotional quality that created tension. 

Much how Paul Westerberg often updated the guitar playing of the Rolling Stones by making it more melodic, I feel that Whyte, and Boorer with him took preexisting rock n roll templates and added a new melodicism to them.  They might have only been painting new landscapes in the margins, but they were still creating their own language. 

Now that Whyte is no longer in Morrissey’s band he often co-writes pop songs with American pop stars.  However, if you like his work his work with Morrissey I would recommend checking out the album Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams.  This album features Whyte’s guitar playing, writing, and singing.  Some of the songs you will recognize as songs that became Morrissey songs. 

If you are unfamiliar with his playing I would recommend checking out both of the above mentioned Morrissey records.  Although I think Vauxhall and I is the pinnacle of Morrissey’s solo career, Southpaw Grammar may interest you more if you are buying a record for purely the guitar playing aspect if you happen to be a rock n roll fan. Both records feature glorious guitar playing that in and of itself has unfortunately been overlooked for too long.   

I Love the Doctor

I read a lot, but recently I had trouble concentrating on reading.  I was being distracted by a good deal of the technology around me.  One of the many reasons that I feel the 60’s were such an intensely creative time is that people had enough technology to create new things, but not enough to be too distracted.  That could be a bullshit pub theory, but I think there is some truth to it.

Anyway, to get my reading concentration back I decided to dive into a book that was fun.  I figured if I could get the rhythm of reading back I could then jump back into more serious works.  I am an absolutely huge Doctor Who fan and I decided to read Doctor Who: A History.  This approach seems to be working.  If you are struggling to get some books going, start with something you know you will enjoy.

I really can’t begin to express how much I enjoy Doctor Who.  I have watched all of the new episodes and am now making my way slowly through the Classic Doctor Who shows on Netflix.  There is really nothing else like it.  The show began in 1963 and is still going strong today, despite it being off the air from ’89 to 2005 other than one TV movie.  Even during those years there were countless radio programs, novels, spin-offs, etc.  At this point, despite however nerdy it sounds, I am a full blown Whovian.  If I said otherwise I would be in denial!

It’s hard to explain why I love this show so much, but I am going to try to get across some of the reasons.  I love that the show has endless boundaries.  Because the Doctor is a time traveling alien the stories can be anything from funny to scary and take place anywhere in time and space.  One week you could be in Victorian England and the next you could be on some imaginative fictional planet.  The show is filled with both goofy humor and serious moral questions.  That limitless potential makes it consistently fresh and exciting.  It also reflects the power of the human imagination to go anywhere and do anything.

The character of the Doctor is one of the best fictional characters ever written.  He is highly intelligent but also often a complete madman.  This slightly mad quality and his inquisitiveness even in the face of danger, make him a highly entertaining character to watch no matter whom is playing him.  The best thing about him is that he often represents brain over brawn.  Although he is constantly surrounded by violence he only uses it as a last resort.  Even on those occasions when he does have to resort to violence there are almost always unintended consequences.

A key to understanding the mythology of Doctor Who is the idea of regeneration.  The Doctor is a Time Lord and instead of dying he regenerates.  What this means is that he takes on a new form with slightly new personality traits, allowing the different actors that have played him to bring something new to the table, but he is always the same character.

One of the things that is interesting in the book is how many things that have now become iconic parts of the show were done for practical reasons or because of mistakes.  The idea of the regeneration was created, much as I assumed it was, to allow for there to be a reason for different actors to play the part.  The Doctor also flies a time machine called the TARDIS.  It looks like a British blue police box and it is much bigger on the inside.  Originally the Doctor’s time machine was meant to blend in with its surroundings.  However, the show was notoriously low budget during the classic run and they realized they didn’t want to build a new TARDIS for every show so they left it as the police box.  One couldn’t imagine the show without it now.

In music people constantly talk about happy accidents.  That is something you do by mistake but ends up being a keeper.  Angus Young’s riff in Thunderstruck was a “happy accident”.  He was messing about in the studio, but now as soon as that riff starts people know what it is instantly as the song is played in countless sporting arenas.  How many things over the years that have become mainstays in our culture have been created without intent?

Who is my favorite Doctor?  In the classic years it is Tom Baker as he brought just the right amount of insanity to the role.  In the new series I started with the 9th Doctor, played by Christopher Eccleston.  I didn’t think anyone could top him, but then I became of fan of David Tennant’s 10th Doctor and after that Matt Smith’s 11th Doctor.  I know I’m not really answering the question, which some of you will deem important, but I really liked all of the actors that played the Doctor on the new series.  If someone would come new to the show I would personally recommend starting with Matt Smith’s Doctor because he has the best beginning episode and the production values are the closest to what modern audiences are used to from a TV show.  But I loved the dark quality that Eccleston brought to the role, and while watching Tennant’s episodes I didn’t think anyone could take over the role from him.  Tennant had some of the best episodes, played the Doctor exceptionally, and had possibly the best companions, but some of the Russell T Davies scripts that took place on present day Earth were a bit silly.

There is so much more I could write about this subject.  If I am coming across like a silly fan, that is because I am.  But I make no apologies, as this series has brought me countless hours of enjoyment.  If you are looking for something that is fun, intelligent, and imaginative, give it a go.  You just mind find yourself spending countless hours aboard the TARDIS.  Dear Lord where does the time go?  At least this time I know.

Our Secret KGB Lust

http://www.salon.com/2014/06/03/the_day_i_left_my_son_in_the_car/

In the above article a woman gets in trouble with the police when she leaves her son in the car for five minutes on a cool day to go into the store.  The police only know about this because someone with a camera phone, who clearly wishes they were in the KGB, informed them.  The best part of the article is when another mother talks about the odds of a child being harmed left in the car for five minutes vs. driving to the store.  People’s threat factors are way off these days.  Also, just watch Mad Men to get an idea how our parents grew up.  As Terry Gilliam says, “kids bounce.”

How many times has some virulent anti-gay figure turned out to be gay?  Is the reason that we claimed to hate totalitarian Communism all those years, and I am referring to the Soviet kind for the moment, because we secretly loved it?  Why do we need a secret police when citizens feel that it is their duty to inform on other citizens for things other than serious crimes?

One of the things that I find most disturbing about modern social interaction is how nothing is private anymore.  It is one thing if someone wants to disclose their own information online, but we now no longer give people the choice most of the time.  From the disgusting world of TMZ to friends checking you into places on facebook without them asking, it is just getting ridiculous.  Are we Big Brother?

If there is a flip side positive to any of this it is when people use their electronic devices to speak truth to power and protect their fellow citizens.  I am thinking especially of when people take videos of police abuse.  If only more people would realize that we’re all in this thing together.

Earth is the Loneliest Planet Single Review

Earth is the Loneliest Planet is Morrissey’s simplest lyric in some time, maybe since Best Friend on the Payroll or Do Your Best and Don’t Worry from Southpaw Grammar.  I am probably missing something but those two jump out.  (I actually like both those songs and especially love Best Friend on the Payroll.  I’ve always found Southpaw to be his most underrated album.  Boz Boorer and Alain Whyte kill it on guitars on that record.  The whole band is great.) The lyrics are basically the title of the song with a couple key phrases to add some light and shade to it.  And for those of you that think he is not living up to his Smith’s heritage all I have to say is Some Girls Are Bigger than Others or Never Had No One Ever.  Morrissey has been writing lyrics this way since he started.  And if the lyrics are simple in terms of the amount of lines that he has written, trust me, as you play the song numerous times different nuances make themselves known. 

The melody is textbook Morrissey; it’s a unique melody that sticks in your craw once you have heard it several times.  What makes this track so outstanding, where it really raises the bar, is the music.  Flamenco guitar, French café sounding accordion, ghostly female backing vocals, and a take the paint off the barn guitar solo are all there together among other things! 

What is really interesting to me now that we have heard three songs from the album is how adventurous and outward looking the production and music is.  Along with the three sets of lyrics, that all seem to look out at the world, the music really has a worldly quality to it without being what you would call world music.  The writing is still very much in the World of Morrissey, but each song has different flourishes that make you think of different cultures.  When Morrissey does what my brother and I call the “victory lap” in his Autobiography, when he talks about all of the success his music has met in all corners of the globe in the last part of his book, it makes me think that he has folded all of these places back into his music.  The fact that has been able to do this while still retaining a very unique musical and lyrical identity is really exciting.  Please let the next month go quickly, I want this record!