ISSUE 14  WINTER 2002/2003
page 16 of 27





Dolman on Politics
Bill Clinton, amazingly, is the closest we’ve come to a rock’n’roll president. Not only did he play rock’n’roll sax on the Arsenio Hall Show, in his personal life he played around behind-the-scenes with various groupies. A barely fictionalized Hollywood movie (Primary Colors, which I thought was great!) was based on his life while he was still president, and he was played by John Travolta, an actor that the average joe probably thinks of as having something to do with the 'rock era.' (We know they're wrong, even if he was in Grease. The only other American rock 'n' roll president was John F. Kennedy, of course. Like pretty much every single American president ever, he probably didn't even really listen to music besides whatever was on the bland pop stations, but by presidential standards he was a youthful hunk, and he was elected within a decade of the Haley/Presley explosion. (When it comes to presidents reflecting youth trends, a decade is REALLY FAST. Usually it takes.... well, it usually DOESN'T HAPPEN.) And, of course, JFK and Clinton both had the groupie action in common. No wonder he was killed – he was a veritable archangel straight from Heaven's still brand-new youth wing, an actual signal from the skies (TV and radio waves) that for the un-rock old guard it was End of Days. So they got rid of 'em.
       Not that Kennedy and Clinton were/are any more rock’n’roll than Travolta. They're just the only two presidents to even come close. Clinton's sax showcase was musically lame; he played "Heartbreak Hotel" about as good as the Blues Brothers 2002 (with John Goodman or Jim Belushi as Jake Elwood) would've played it, but sheez, it was a president wearing sunglasses and playing sax, and two million people were surprised and they applauded. Every other president was just too old to do something like that. George W. Bush couldn't do it, but he is another relatively young president. He acts like a cocky high schooler, especially when it comes to international diplomacy, in which he seems to have learned most of techniques from football practice. But that doesn't mean he's rock 'n' roll. Even when he was snorting coke at college beer parties, the most rock ’n’ roll thing playing in the background (besides the occasional Billy Joel tape) was whatever the usual mega-corporate Pop Country station was playing. Brooks & Dunn are to him like Black Flag are to us.

Forget what I said last ish about Hanatarash 3...
It's not one of my favorite noise albums of all time, having finally actually listened to it the first time. I had heard a big chunk, like 10 minutes worth, from a Hanatarash release on WNUR, which I thought was 3, but maybe it wasn't, or the context is just that different. This album is much more "jammy" than I remember -- what I remember sounded like Runzelstirn & Gurglestock, just super-harsh clips/punches/stabs. This (honestly) sounds like Hawkwind, not so different than the current 'commune rock' Boredoms after all. Of course, the next track is a live performance of them terrorizing an audience -- maybe I heard THAT on the radio, but I don't think so, because I didn't drive my car off the road.
      Chris Sienko read my top noise albums of all time and made his own in response, which I call "Top Noise Albums of All Time (By Someone Who Has Actually Listened To A Lot Of Noise)." You might've missed it on the letters page of this ish. Read it instead of this column.

An Admission
You know what, I don't like the Incredible String Band very much. There's literally several hundred amazing bands out there, but ISB might just be a little too amazing. There's always something caterwauling about in their little world, and the songs aaah-ah-ah-ahhhlllll....have that wiiiiiinding winding waaaay.....of changing chords with the vocals floating abouuut.....all without ever actually singing a REAL melody. Just these endlessly winding faux-melodies, while all these endlessly cute little sound-effects and plinky-plonky lutes and lyres trill away. There's so many 'surprising' things going on from the very first seconds of Hangman's Beautiful Daughter that it quickly stops being surprising at all. I've been keeping it in the changer, patiently waiting to see if I like it more, but I still don't. There, I just took it out of the changer.

Music From The Streets (Summer Update)
Right now there’s a tribal drum jam going on a block away. It’s been going on for about an hour. I hear a lot of Latino music and parties from my window, but this is the first time I’ve heard an extended tribal drum jam. I actually just got back from walking outside to see where it was coming from and who was doing it. It actually sounds pretty, gasp, I thought it must be some of the new demographic in the neighborhood, the white people, some of whom (like me!) are on the artsy side (although a lot of them are pretty much your classic young urban professionals – that’s what 'yuppie' stands for in case you forgot). Well, I got outside and walked a block, following my ears, and came upon a hall that is connected to St. Sylvester Catholic Church, a nice big house of worship with a lovely steeple, a place I’ve actually attended service at two or three times in the 16 months I’ve been in Chicago. (One of the few was a special afternoon prayer vigil on September 12, 2001 -- I'm sort of an opportunist like that.) I’ve been in the connected hall, too, once, for a church rummage sale. That same room was where the drum jam was coming from. The front door was open, but I could only see one person from peeking in, and he wasn’t playing drums. I felt like too much of a stranger to just walk in, but I did go around to a side door that was propped open halfway. From there I couldn’t see much more, and was even more conscious of looking like I was snooping, but I did catch a glimpse of an arm or a leg of the drummers themselves. They looked young, like 14 or 15 years old young, and I don’t think they were white kids. (There really are no 14 or 15 year old white kids in my neighborhood. None whatsoever. All the white people are in their 20s and 30s, aren’t from the neighborhood whatsoever, and don’t have any kids, except perhaps for some babies, who will almost certainly move out of the neighborhood along with their parents before they start going to school, to be replaced by more young urban professionals who haven't had kids yet.)

Cold Breakfast Cereal
It's a long-running zine tradition to feature writing about cold breakfast cereal. A column that was in Cometbus years ago comes to mind, along with a great piece on cereal mixing in the most recent issue of Badaboom Gramophone. As a zine editor who has loved cold breakfast cereal since I was four years old, it seemed only natural that I should contribute some cereal musings of my own to this fine tradition.
      What I have to say is brief, but, I feel, very important. Today, I wanted to talk about Raisin Bran, and the simple fact that I have a distinct preference for Kellogg's Raisin Bran over Post's. Both are sweet and filling enough, but Kellogg's flakes are better (flakier, actually), and most importantly, the raisins are distinctly softer.

A Little Rock Music Analysis
The 1980s were such a paltry time for the gold and platinum side of youth music and rock and roll. By gold and platinum side, I mean the only music I was able to get from TV and radio on a farm (post office box: Randolph, Iowa) from 1974-1988. (I wasn't hip, and I didn't have any hip older siblings.) The best rock music available PERIOD for an absolute FM radio baby as myself was, in the 70s, this big sparkly mush where big dumb electric guitar rock met big sensitive electric guitar folk rock. As Joe S. Harrington points out two or three times in Sonic Cool, all of the bands had one-word names: Firefall, Ambrosia, America, Aerosmith, Journey, Boston, Styx, Rush, Foreigner, Kansas, Chicago, and REO Speedwagon, who didn't have a one-word name, but sure sounded like they did. (I guess "R.E.O.!" counts.) The Eagles should count too. Fleetwood Mac and Steely Dan both had two-word names, and oddly enough, they're the only ones who had truly had an original folk and/or rock angle that still holds up today. (The Dan for the obvious cerebral/lush reasons, and the Mac for that Buckingham/
Nicks glow, nicely tinted by Christine McVie's deep burgundy vibe). I used to have what seemed like 9 Styx albums, everything from the glory years when Tommy Shaw joined and they hit the Big String: Crystal Ball! Grand Illusion! Pieces Of Eight! Cornerstone! Paradise Fucking Theater! These albums built such a surge of audience love, we even stuck with 'em when they put out "Mr. Roboto" as the leadoff single for a 'science fiction concept album called Kilroy Was Here! Of cousre, we're all embarrassed about it now, as we are for liking any Styx ever. (Sure enough, right now my favorite three Styx songs are "Lorelei," "Light Up," and "Suite Madame Blue" (especially for the ending where they sing "America!!!") and all these are from Equinox, the last album before Shaw joined.
      The point is that now the only one-word-name 70s rock bands I like are from Europe: Foghat, Queen, Motorhead, and UFO. There was some sort of blandness quota you had to fill if you were American and had a one-word name. Obviously in Europe this wasn't an issue....until the 80s, when bands across the drink started picking up on the one-word-name blandness too, like Asia, Europe, and of course, U2 (who at least gave the commercial kids some semblance of a VU trance in there if you can appreciate it underneath all the messianic din).
      Keep in mind, the only radio stations I could pick up on the farm were UTTERLY COMMERCIAL. Synth-pop was the only thing that stood out from bland guitar rock. Not surprisingly, most of the bands had two-or-more-word names, like Human League, Thompson Twins, Gary Numan (ha, ha), and Flock of Seagulls, with Duran Duran being sort of like the Beatles, and Depeche Mode being the the actual dark side of the genre, the punk/Stones/heroin side, if you can believe that. I had to settle for these synth-pop bands because, for unknown reasons, none of the stations ever played Kraftwerk, or, for obvious reasons, Suicide. (But come on, an adventurous DJ could've snuck on "Ghost Rider" or "Cheree"!) There were a couple underground hits that bubbled up, like that "White Horse" song by Laid Back, but the best synth-pop out of the whole FM radio scene was, of course, by Michael Jackson and Prince.

Some Rock Lyrics I'm Thinking About These Days
"An' now people just get uglier/An' I have no sense of time," from Dylan's "Stuck Inside of Mobile," as quoted by guy at WHPK party. From Berlin, Lou Reed: "Men of good fortune/
often cause empires to fall/while men of poor beginnings/
often can't do anything at all."

Dude Wrote This About Ginger Baker:

"I'm So Glad," by contrast, had a lyrical, almost melodic quality, like a veiled orchestral accompaniment to the bass and guitar — he kept a beat, but his drumming also played the kind of role that a harpsichord continuo played in Baroque music. (Bruce Eder, All Music Guide)

A Brief Guide To Sonic Youth Songs Sung By Lee Ranaldo (Some Songs May Be Missing)
“Lee Is Free”: Solo guitar instrumental, not sung, but included for obvious reasons. Turned out to be an anomaly. “In The Kingdom #19”: Classic, of course. You think you've heard all the 'dream-like' noir speed-raps you can handle for one lifetime, but Lee makes it new, especially with those weird cries of “WAAAYYYYY” or whatever, and of course vibologist Moore throws a firecracker at him in the middle of it. I can't take the way he says "Smoke, flames...all right" anymore, though. “Pipeline/Kill Time”: I've listened to "Pipeline" dozens of times, and I like it, but I really can't remember it. It's the wah guitar overload on "Kill Time" that I really can remember; one of SY's best guitar moments. Daydream Nation songs: “Hey Joni” and "Eric's Trip" and "Rain King." This is where Lee came into his own as a songwriter with a rather startling 'epic' style. All three of these songs are kind of interchangeable for me, but they're really bold and interchangeable in a good way. All kinds of memorable bits, like that one where he starts listing different years, and of course when he says "fucking the future," and "jack-knifed inside of a dream," and the opening of "Eric's Trip," where he really does sound like a guy trying to calm himself while on acid: "I can't see anything at all, all I see is me/that's clear enough and that's whats important, to see me/my eyes can focus/my brain is talking/looks pretty good to me/my head's on straight, my girlfriend's beautiful/looks pretty good to me."
“Mote”: Could be Lee's greatest song. The most fully realized example of his 'sci-fi wind-machine blowing on myself' style of epic rock songwriting. I used to listen to the long drag-in-the-mud noise coda on headphones, and a friend once said it sounded like "war." The Faint recently covered this one -- good version, but they didn't do the war coda. “Wish Fulfillment”: Also possibly the single greatest Lee song, from the vastly underrated Dirty. “Saucer-like”: Kind of a laid-back British invasion melody, one of his sweetest, that still makes time for a trippy spoken-word-through-a-distortion-pedal bridge where Lee goes off about “urban canyons” and how something is “grooved like a record” and “skipping down the bottom ledge.” “Skip Tracer”: “This she did in public! For us to see!” sets the tone. “Very I’m-in-a-band” is a tough putdown. “The poetic truths of high school journal keepers" is also somewhat of a putdown, but one that acknowledges that what is being put down is not without its own truths. “Karen Koltrane”: More of an instrumental showcase, with a couple impressionistic verses here and there with a lot of extended guitar ping-ponging in between that gets really kind of nutty and danceable. “Hoarfrost”: This ballad knocks me out every time. It just keeps cycling around and around and it's haunting. “NYC Ghosts & Flowers”: When he says “Do any of you freaks here remember Lenny?” is a stunning moment, and his weary, conversational tone is heavy throughout. "Karen Revisited": Another really wistful British Invasion type melody. Of course it knocks me out the way he sings, "Too busy getting high...."

Birds of a Feather
Neil Young, in 1975, "satisfied with a fish on the line," and Bob Dylan, in 1970, decides "catch rainbow trout, that must be what it's all about."

The Best Song I’ve Heard In 30 Days
”Time's Up” by the Buzzcocks.

Other Songs I've Heard In 30 Days
"Satan Dub" Lee Perry. Perry's least satanic dub ever, by far... almost everything he did during the 70s was just dripping with luridity compared to the hermetically sealed crispness of this 1990 piece.
"Go Away Girl", "Surfin' With The Shah" The Urinals. That book We Got The Neutron Bomb is pretty entertaining and inspiring, but it does have its own holes big enough to intentionally O.D. through -- namely, the Urinals go completely unmentioned. They existed in L.A. from 1978-1980, or at least that's when a series of independent singles including these two songs appeared on the market, now collected on the Blastitude Visible Jukebox. These two titles are especially standing out from the jukebox shuffle. Also "I'm White And Middle Class" where the chorus is one line, sung once: "Shove it up your ass!"
"Snappin' & Trappin'" Outkast featuring Killer Mike & J-Sweet. That beat. Harshest video-game beat yet, and funky as hell. Prince was the innovator for that sort of thing, running detuned drum machines through guitar pedals and shit, but the beat on "Snappin' & Trappin'" is just plain hardcore. Lyrics get pretty ruff -- this is the song with that quite odd moment where Big Boi sounds like he might be admonishing his guest Killer Mike for his freaked-evil sex rhymes: "Killer Mike gonna calm down, things gonna get a little crazy, ol' girl might yell rape G." Killer Mike is frickin' terrifying, but that beat. Then, Boi signs off with some deep psychedelic shit: "Like a swarm of locusts, no hocus-pocus/You wanna approach us, buzzards and vultures/We two of the dopest mic controllers/Stack big bank, honey folders/Even wit rollers, I'm trying to told ya/Even loving, lavish, ladies, leaving, landmarks/Of Lemon-lime, lip gloss on your lavender lappets/Leaping lizards, keep me slizzard, my mind's expanding/Readily rappin' and snappin', snappin' and trappin'/That's just what's happening."
       "Hey Hey, My My (Into The Black)" Neil Young & Devo. Goes on for like 7 more minutes of the Horse jamming on the riff, with Neil Young and Devo playing ridiculous guitar/
electronics noise solos. Spudboy's vocal performance is quite soulful.
"We're Not Gonna Take It" Twisted Sister. I literally haven't listened to this since I was 14 years old. I forgot what a great pop radio anthem it was! One giant pop hook after another! Much better than The Offspring!
"Ahh! The Name Is Bootsy Baby!" Bootsy's Rubber Band. Speaking of NWA borrowing from older songs, all they did with this one was change "Bootsy" to "Eazy" and they had "We Want Eazy," which was a hit record like 14 years after this hit record (album on which it was the opening number/title track went gold). The fuzz bass version of "Auld Lang Syne" on the outro is pretty much shattering.
"One Of Us Most Know (Sooner Or Later)" Bob Dylan. Okay, now how am I supposed to not just like bawl like a baby every time I hear heaven-rock of this magnitude? The reason it's heaven-rock is that sound, that combination of organs and guitars or whatever that makes Blonde On Blonde just keen like it does, but the lyrics are relationship rock, of the highest order. Dylan maintains his standoffish pose while still insisting on all three choruses, "I really did try to get close to you," which is one of the nicer things he's ever said to anyone in one of his relationship rock songs. (Notwithstanding "Buckets of Rain," a veritable shower of compliments, and only a few of them backhanded!) He's up to a more characteristic standoffishness in the verse, with lines like, "You just happened to be there, that's all," but then again he's still showing that he cares, because why else would he have remembered and composed such amazing scenes of live-action relationship reportage sprinkled throughout: "When I saw you say "goodbye" to your friends and smile/I thought that it was well understood/That you'd be comin' back in a little while/I didn't know that you were sayin' "goodbye" for good," and in the next verse, "...You said you knew me and I believed you did/When you whispered in my ear/And asked me if I was leavin' with you or her/I didn't realize just what I did hear/I didn't realize how young you were..." and of course in the last verse, "And then you told me later, as I apologized
/That you were just kiddin' me, you weren't really from the farm," the word "farm" sounding at first like it might be another of Dylan's trademark non sequitirs/funny words, but even that is just more relationship reportage, because he's talking about when he found out that his real life friend Ramblin' Jack Elliott wasn't really a cowboy but the son of a Brooklyn medical practitioner.

The Glam Page: A Couple Weird Music/Culture Zines With Tons Of Writing: yalestar.
and Here's a guy trying to annotate the Beastie Boys' lyrics: not a bad start but he's got tons of work ahead of him: odin.
Indie Guilt:
Everybody's been checking out The Smoking Gun but if you haven't please do. They document the tragedy of celebrity all too well: