Stay

Eternity dreamed
And then we awoke
In some beautiful cosmic joke
With a hole in our hearts
But with hearts all the same
Yearning to hear a lover’s name

Oh, I know you’ll go
We all leave alone
But with you here today
Tomorrow fades away

Stay, while you can
You make it all seem part of some plan

We found fruit in the trees
Fish in the streams
We ran through the Garden unaware
We mapped out the stars
Named Venus and Mars
We found patterns when there were no patterns there

Oh, I know you’ll go
We all leave alone
But with you here today
Tomorrow fades away

Stay, while you can
You make it all seem part of some plan

They say you came from my rib
But that’s just a fib
I could never create anything so beautiful
You took the apple from the tree
I hope your conscience is free
Cause I’d do it again and again and again and again

Stay, while you can
You make it all seem part of some plan

Lyrics to a song I wrote that my band, The Savage Poor, were working on today.  We’ll be at the Rattle Inn in Austin, Texas this week at 10pm.

Blood Orange and Cultural Appropriation

I enjoy pop music that has a subversive quality to it, especially when there is still an accessible melodicism to it.  The music that Blood Orange makes reminds me of the melodic genre bending soul of someone like Prince, but with the cold beauty of modern indie acts like Chromatics.

There is no doubt that there are a lot of homoerotic undertones in shots in this video.  I was reading with  Dev Hynes, the man behind Blood Orange, and he said this in an Interview article:

I find New York, early 80s gay culture so amazing—the ball culture, what they created, how they expressed themselves. I admire them endlessly for their bravery. I can’t even imagine how difficult it was to be young, black, and gay 30 years ago. When I was younger growing up in Essex—a small town in England—I dressed pretty weird, and a lot of my friends were gay, so I essentially grew up as a gay kid even though I was straight. I had all the abuse—was spat on daily, called a fag, was pushed around. The whole aesthetic of Blood Orange is basically a celebration of gay culture. I want to celebrate people who I feel represent freedom, for example Octavia St. Laurent, who I’ve done a little tribute to on the Myspace.

There are lots of talks in the media about culture appropriation concerning different artists.  As long as an artist admits who they are taking, and politically stands up for those that they are taking from, I think it is not only OK to take things from different cultures, but essential to art.  They only way that new genres are created is when two (or more) things are combined that were never combined before. Also, it can expose elements of different cultures to people that may not have been accepting to them otherwise.  There is no doubt, for instance, that the Rolling Stones helped lead people back to many black blues artists.  Morrissey steals lines from different writers, while putting them in a new context, and through him I have discovered and read those artists.

There are only three times when this becomes problematic:  When an artist steals without adding anything new (This would be, if not plagiarism, than unimaginative art.), when an artist steals without credit (straights up plagiarism), when an artist steals something from a culture without supporting that culture politically (hypocrisy).

The Savage Poor

The Savage Poor - Logo

The Savage Poor

I have a new band.  We’re three shows in.  We have an album under way.  Up above is a link to our brand new website.  It’s all new and exciting and only time will tell where it goes from here.  Since late last year I’ve spent a lot of time on music.  There’s some demos streaming at the new website.  The band is more rocking, more beautiful, and more everything than the home demos.  I’ve spent so much time getting this band going that my writing here has declined in the last few months.  Hopefully I’ll be able to find a balance soon.  Next show in Austin is at the Rattle Inn on July 7th at 10pm.  Come see what it’s all about.

The Pure Expression of the Cocteau Twins

There is nothing harder in pop songwriting than coming up with a great lyric.  It’s true, lyrics aren’t everything.  Great singers paired with the right melody can allow one to overlook an average lyric.  But nothing lasts longer in my stereo than a song with lyrics that are complex enough to allow the song to be reinterpreted over time.  I don’t necessarily mean complex like Dylan, although he obviously has written an unbelievable amount of great lyrics.  Something like Stand By Me is quite simple, but has a certain Biblical depth to it that seems bottomless.

But sometimes it is great to get away from lyrics and into pop songs that sound like pure expression.  No one does this better than the Cocteau Twins.  Not only is Robin Guthrie an exceptional guitar player, whose echoey sound can be seen as a precursor to many 90’s acts like My Bloody Valentine, but singer Elizabeth Fraser has one of the most expressive voices of all time.  The songs are drenched in reverb and delay, making it hard to tell at times if she is using words at all or singing in her own made up language.  (I think she does both, but which she is doing is often hard to tell.)  I’ve written about them before, but diving back into their music has made me think that they don’t get the amount of attention they deserve.  Although they share certain sonic characteristics with their peers, they are definitely unique.

There really isn’t better music to dream to, whether that is at night while falling asleep or on a long walk while daydreaming.  It’s like stepping into a strange sonic fairytale or a beautiful renaissance tapestry made out of sound.  Whether it is a clear and starry night or a rainy day trapped indoors, the music seems to fit.  Yet all of this is almost pointless.  It’s pure emotion captured in sound, and really defies easy description due to this.

All of their music is not the same.  They did start out very early on almost like a goth band before quickly finding their feet.  There were some later records that were less impressionistic.  But for the most part they were who they were.

Strangely enough singer Elizabeth Fraser has only released a couple songs since the demise of the band.  It’s almost like she was channeling the spirit and then woke up one day and realized her time had passed.  As a starting point I really love their collection Stars and Topsoil which covers their 1982-1990 period.  Many of their albums are worth owning, but fans debate as to which ones.  (Though Treasure seems to be loved by almost all.)  As far as getting your feet wet I think this not only demonstrates what made them unique, but is also highly accessible.

When Morrissey Ruined Bill Cosby’s Tonight Show

When Morrissey Ruined Bill Cosby’s Appearance On the Tonight Show

A great read on many levels, and definitely so if you are a Morrissey fan.  Just reading about Cosby, Johnny Carson, and Ed McMahon bewildered by an audience they weren’t expecting has its own charms.

However, another part of the article deals with Morrissey’s highly successful tour during almost complete neglect by MTV and radio:

Two weeks prior to his scheduled Tonight Show appearance, Morrissey touched down in the United States to embark on the six-week leg of a worldwide tour to promote his third solo release, Kill Uncle, after having just wrapped up a successful 11-show run of Europe. The Kill Uncle Tour kicked off in California, where there were six dates lined up: San Diego, Costa Mesa, Inglewood, Santa Barbara, Berkeley, and Sacramento. The shows sold out fast. The entire tour sold out fast, but the West Coast stretch sold out faster. Much of Morrissey’s popularity in the area could be attributed to heavy rotation from the area’s influential radio station, KROQ, one of the few outlets to lend support. 20,000 tickets to the show at the San Diego Sports Arena went in a flash, gone in less than an hour, faster than any predecessor, including Madonna and Michael Jackson. Tickets for The Forum in Inglewood went even quicker18,000 in just 15 minutes.

Aside from the Tonight Show appearance and KROQ airplay, Morrissey was almost never played on MTV, and not at all during normal hours, and barely played on mainstream radio. (Despite selling out venues faster than the biggest pop stars of the day.)  There may be reasons for this that are specific to Morrissey, but I must wonder about the bigger picture.  (Morrissey is a highly subversive artist that has always threatened many mainstream forces.)  After the 1996 Telecommunications Act corporations, such as Clear Channel at the time, consolidated their control of radio playlists.  One can remember songs such as John Lennon’s Imagine being banned after September 11th on radio stations owned by Clear Channel, now known as iHeartMedia Inc.

So here are the questions:  What large forces shaped musical culture before that act?  How is music of today shaped by forces outside of consumer demand?  One thing that is a no-brainer is that people, unless one is an obsessive seeking things out, can only like what they are exposed to.  Why is it that so many pieces of pop music today sound so similar and are so often completely devoid of any substance or ideas?   Aside from substance and ideas, which have been lacking at other times during popular music, why is pop music that is readily available for the general public delivered by performers lacking strong personalities?

Questions, as always, questions…

My New Band, The Savage Poor, at the Saxon Pub Tomorrow Night

Savage Poor Saxon

My new band The Savage Poor will be playing the Saxon Pub tomorrow night, June 5th, in Austin, Texas at 10pm.  The band consists of myself, my brother Ben Brown, drummer Alex Moralez, and bassist Roger Wuthrich.  This is without question a rock n roll band, but like the Clash rock n roll is more the attitude in which we approach a stylistically diverse set of songs.

Sunday night is a tough sell, but feeling good on Monday morning is overrated.  Join us and take joy in the fact that you will be able to freak out your coworkers Monday morning when you look like you have been to space and back.

We will not “just shut up and sing”.  We will make you think and question all while shaking your hips.  So many forget, but rock n roll is meant to be a subversive cultural force.  It just happens it is one that you can party, celebrate, and sweat during as you have your mind expanded.

Listen to our latest single and B-side here to get two of the many shades of our color palette:

Everyday American Thoughts – New Single Release

Lou Reed’s ‘New Sensations’

An album that never ceases to raise my spirits is Lou Reed’s New Sensations.  Reed faired much better than most 60’s artists in the 80’s. The Blue Mask, Legendary Hearts, Live in Italy, and New York are all extremely well regarded records.  Only Mistrial falls flat due to extremely dated production.  I personally think New Sensations belongs with his other gems from the decade, but it’s a different kind of work than the others.  While the other records are stripped down fairs, highlighting a four piece rock band with limited overdubs, New Sensations utilizes pop production, some of it of its time.  However, instead of marring the record, the more commercial production only seems to play a perfect foil for Lou’s literary and often darkly funny lyrics here.  Sometimes they heighten the absurdity that Reed is commenting on, and sometimes they simply help bring the melodies of Reed’s lyrics to life.  On the song Turn to Me, Reed sings:

When your teeth are ground down to the bone
and there’s nothing between your legs
And some friend died of something
that you can’t pronounce, ah
Remember, I’m the one who loves you
hey baby, you can always give me a call
Turn to me, turn to me
Turn to me

The over the top gospel backing vocals make that song seems as if it is being delivered by a late night TV preacher, preying on the desperation and insecurities of those all too alone at night.  Reed never lets the song lose its rock n roll power, but the extra element helps to create a theater of the mind.

………………………………….

One of my favorite songs on the album is the song Doin’ the Things That We Want To.  In it Reed pays tribute to other artists, specifically Martin Scorsese and Sam Shepard, that try to infuse their work with deep meaning.  Reed created music that had literary ambition, that was cinematic in scope.  He was aiming for the moon when so many other songwriters just aim for spring break.  If only more would try to follow in his footsteps, perhaps our culture wouldn’t feel so empty…

There’s not much you hear on the radio today
(Doin’ the things that we want to)
But you could still see a movie or a play
(Doin’ the things that we want to)
Here’s to Travis Bickle and here’s Johnny Boy
(Doin’ the things that we want to)
Growing up in the mean streets of New York
(Doin’ the things that we want to)
I wrote this song ’cause I’d like to shake your hand
(Doin’ the things that we want to)
In a way you guys are the best friends I ever had
(Doin’ the things that we want to)

Anohni “Drone Bomb Me”

The new album Helplessness by Anohni, formerly Antony of Antony and the Johnsons, has caught my attention.  It is an album of glistening, beautiful, disturbing protest songs.  I don’t know the album enough to give it a proper review.  However, I have heard the song Drone Bomb Me several times.  (The video starring Naomi Campbell is worth tracking down.)  The narrator of the song is a girl from Afghanistan whose family has been killed by a drone, and who now begs for a drone to grant her a similar fate.  I have a super high threshold for artistic things that a lot of people won’t go near.  This song even made me uncomfortable for a brief moment.  But that is exactly why it’s a brilliant piece of political music, even if I haven’t decided what to make of it in a larger sense.  In an era of repetition and cliche, there is something new and interesting going on here.

Dirty Blvd. Book Review

Dirty Blvd. Book

Aidan Levy’s Lou Reed biography, Dirty Blvd. (The Life and Music of Lou Reed), was fantastic.  It was a a great career overview that examined everything from his work with the Velvets to his lesser known solo albums.  It was well written, a few steps above the usual rock book, and should interest anyone that is even the slightest Lou fan, or anyone that is interested in late 20th century pop culture.

Most rock biographies make the following mistakes:

  1.  They make the childhood part excruciatingly boring:  Levy  not only makes Reed’s childhood interesting, but makes us understand how it influenced him later in life.
  2. They talk down to their readers: I’ve read a lot of rock biographies that seem like they were written with junior high kids in mind.  Especially for someone that was so literary, it just wouldn’t do for Reed’s work.  Levy writes a book worthy of his subject.  If anything there are occasional moments where the language could be slightly less pretentious, though it is not nearly as bad as some reviews make it out to be.
  3. They focus only on the most popular works of an artist:  Therefore all the books end up covering the same information.  Levy touches upon all of Reed’s work, even lesser known solo albums like Growing Up in Public.  You get a true sense of the arc of Reed’s career from this book.  A studio album had to be important to an artist at the time they were working on it, or it would have never seen the light of day.  Most writers focus on what they think people want to hear, not what people need to hear.  Growing Up in Public, for instance, lyrically pointed in the direction that Reed would go in with greater musical success on The Blue Mask and Legendary Hearts.  It was the last of Reed’s albums to feature his 70’s band.  He had already started growing as a lyricist, but it wasn’t until he streamlined his band, hiring Robert Quine and Fernando Saunders, that his music came to reflect the gritty realism of his lyrics.

Reed was one of the most important artists of the 20th century and this book is a great look at his life.  You can’t go wrong here.  I could say more, but there is no need to.  Go get this book if you find yourself even momentarily interested in its subject.

 

Drone Bomb Me

Drone Bomb Me by the singer Anohni.  I like the political by way of the club.  For some reason it is more uncomfortable dressed up in these clothes.  It’s more emotionally striking.

I like art that makes me feel uncomfortable.  It’s rare that it I find anything that does, but when I do, I run towards it.  If my first impulse is to turn it off or turn it down, I try to do the opposite.  I don’t do this because I am trying to prove some point.  I may end up disliking whatever it is.  But I realize that if I feel that strongly about something, it is hitting me on a very deep emotional level, and that is rare and worth investigating.