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andee's world: April 2008

andee's world

Hello and welcome to my blog. This space will be devoted to opinions, observations, lists, articles and whatever else I feel like posting. Subjects will include music, human nature, politics, life in NYC, etc. If I paste someone else's writing up here, it is because the author said something way better than I ever could. By the way, I don't claim to be a particularly smart guy; I'm just a musician with some opinions. If you disagree with me, that's cool -- but then, you're probably wrong.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Death Metal, Disco and Robot Rock: What I've Been Listening to this Spring

Various Artists Grindcrusher
This charming Whitmann's Sampler of death metal and grindcore features genre kingpins like Napalm Death and Morbid Angel, alongside less-likely inclusions like Naked City and Old Lady Drivers (whose "Colostomy Grab Bag" wins first prize for best songtitle of the bunch -- which is saying alot).

Best band name goes to Lawnmower Deth.

Public Enemy
Fear of a Black Planet
An amazing album by any measuring apparatus, FOABP also represents the golden era of the pre-litigation sampling era, along with the Beasties' Paul's Boutique. Listen closely and you can hear beats swiped from Big Audio Dynamite, the unmistakable cackling of Vincent Price (from "Thriller") and Prince's (sped up) solo flameout from "Let's Go Crazy", among many many many more.

Chris Kowanko
I've been listening to singer-songwriter Kowanko's brilliant, self-titled, Lenny Kaye-produced disc since it came out in 1993. Its single "Grey Crayon" got a lot of play on alternative station WDRE in those days. I thought he sounded a bit like Chrissy Hynde, with a very unique vocal delivery and gorgeous lyrical imagery.

Recently I decided to look him up online and found out that he'd released a little-known follow up called Spell in 2001. I bought a copy and was positively delighted to find the man in fine, undiminished form on the rather delayed sophomore effort.

I also found a very cool Kowanko website and decided to email Chris and tell him how much I loved both records. I also asked what he's up to nowadays. He emailed me back promptly and said he had a new band upstate called Monsterbuck...

Land of Makebelievers
...and offered to send a free copy of their CD if I wanted one. I said "of course" and emailed him my Williamsburg address. He replied by saying that he'd lived right around the corner from me from 1985-1994...meaning that he wrote that first album right here in my 'hood. That is so cool! I live for stuff like this -- finding out that an album I've been listening to for 15 years was written literally a stone's throw away from my apartment. So cool!

I asked him what W-burg was like in those days and his reply was:

The old neighborhood was like it is now, only different proportions of everything and everybody. Now there are hundreds of places to drink and eat and spend money. For the first few years we had to take the train to 1st ave to get a slice. It was pretty creepy at night. Garbage in tidal swirls under the street lamp, long shadows, ratty prostitutes. The days were blaring with salsa music. Gentrification was underway but it was like the quiet munching of termites. Not all that visible. It's so interesting how a new city forms right where another was. Same name, different place.

Poetic, to the last.

Chris sent the Monsterbuck CD, as promised. Between it and the Spell album, I've been wallowing in a wonderfully unexpected Kowanko revival lately. Monsterbuck has a rustic, loose, band vibe (it was recorded mostly live in a barn) but Chris's haunting sensibility is still front and center. What an incredible musician, what a great guy. Unfortunately still a secret to most.

The Kills No Wow
I saw the Kills years ago, opening for the YYY's, and, maybe because I wasn't in a very good mood at the time, they didn't make much of an impression other than "here's another male/female duo with a drum machine." But lately I've been hearing some pretty scorching Kills songs that remind me of all the things I love about rock. Their music is ultra-sexy, all oozing attitude and sensuality slathered over mechanized beats and incredibly grungy lo-fi guitars. This album is pretty hot -- and their new song "URA Fever" is just molten.

Trans Euro Express

Incredibly fresh sounding robot rock considering its late-70s release date. Fuck it, this record sounds new. All electronic music and hip hop owes a debt to Kraftwerk, as you all know.

Various Artists
Disco Not Disco
This is the third volume of the DND compilation series (subtitled Post Punk, Electro & Leftfield Disco Classics), and sadly the first two are impossible to find. Features lost gems by the likes of Material, Delta 5, Quando Quango and loads of bands no one has ever heard of. Great fun and perfect to hula hoop to!

songs on my new stick drive/MP3 player
Here I go again, demolishing my hearing.

Don't worry, I'm keeping the volume down.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Art vs Commerce

"Middle-class America has withering words for its men of feeling, for its young
of experimental intelligence, who do not show immediately that their endeavors
pay off on a cash basis. But if a civilization falls, is it cash the inheritors
find among the ruins? Or is it a statue, a poem, a play, a song?"

Truman Capote, 1946

(thanks Kta)

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Soldier Loses Both Brothers, Then Comes Home to Discontinued Benefits

Click the headline for an example of the American government's current chew-em-up-and-spit-em-out policy towards their own military.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

I'm So Tired of the TMI Ggeneration

The TMI factor has nearly killed rock and roll dead. Too many candid photos, too many sex tapes, too many reality shows, too many tell-all books and painfully personal blogs. There's an art to cultivating mystique. That's right, mystique -- mystery. It's what makes an artist alluring and dangerous. The bands of the 1970s knew how to do it. Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Black Sabbath. No photos on the album cover, or maybe just a real misty, creepy, iconic one that made you wonder if they were even real people.

Music has so much more power when you know less about the performer. Who wants all the mundane, unflattering, humiliating details? A splash of urban legend and innuendo goes a long way; who needs more? I want my Jimmy Pages ensconced at fucking Loch Ness, their libraries stocked with magic spells and their basements littered with the bones of virgins!

I'm so sick of seeing little myspace celebu-tarts promoting their "music careers" with a handful of trite, utterly forgettable, Pro Tools-damaged songs propped up by three hundred photos of themselves in various states of undress. I'm sorry, but if you have that many pictures of yourself on your website, you are instantly disqualified from Being Taken Seriously.

Hey, you! I know you just can't get enough of yourself, but I gotta tell ya -- all the overexposure is making you BORING. We know too much about you and unfortunately knowing too much means knowing how little there actually is to know. Your pathetic live journals and self-administered surveys only illustrate how fascinated you are with yourself -- what makes you think we want to pore over the boring minutia that makes up your life?

I close with the lyrics from one of my favorite songs:

move my feet and touch my sole
bass and drumbeat rock and roll
just play that music
i don't care what key it's in,
where it's come from, where it's been
just play that music

i don't need to see your face
don't need no autographs
i can't play your interviews
can't hear your photographs

you don't need to be profound
in fact don't speak
just play that sound
just play that music
i'll turn on my radio
if you've got a great live show
just play that music

if it's hitting make it stick
do your job, just play music
critics mags and interviews
who cares about bad reviews?

does it have to be so tame
do i have to twist and shout
do we have to play this game
or be down and out?
it don't have to look the same
i keep tryin' to tell 'em
it don't have to all sound lame
i sing the song, you sell 'em

if it's hitting make it stick
do your job, just play music
if you need an ear to lend
i've got the cash to spend

move my feet and touch my sole
bass and drumbeat rock and roll
just play that music

--Big Audio Dynamite, 1988

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Stephen Hawking: It's About Time to Blow this Popsicle Stand

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Give Therapeutic Violence a Chance

one of McCain's foreign policy advisers offers pearls of wisdom on democracy in Iraq:

“If we can’t leave a democracy behind, we should at least leave the corpses of our enemies. The holier-than-thou response to this proposal is predictable: ‘We can’t kill our way out of this situation!’ Well, boo-hoo. Friendly persuasion and billions of dollars haven’t done the job. Give therapeutic violence a chance.”

Buchanan on the Blacks

"First, America has been the best country on earth for black folks. It was here that 600,000 black people, brought from Africa in slave ships, grew into a community of 40 million, were introduced to Christian salvation, and reached the greatest levels of freedom and prosperity blacks have ever known." -- Pat Buchanan

Friday, April 11, 2008

Sony Killed My Ears

On the Christmas of 1996 (the first year I spent in New York), I got a Sony Walkman. I had asked for one. I'd decided that for all the time I spent walking around the city and waiting for subway trains to arrive, I should have an ongoing soundtrack.

It was the yellow "sports" Walkman, remember those? I don't know what made it "sporty" -- was it waterproof? Did it hold up better during raquetball matches? Who knows. It fell off my person many times and never shattered on the sidewalk, so maybe that owed to its rugged sportiness.

I didn't care for the bright yellow, so I painted it with black nail varnish ("I see a Walkman and I want it painted black..."). I clipped it to the waistline of whatever I was wearing and went storming out into the city with the volume maxed, every time I left the apartment. I never left home without that thing for at least seven years.

Ok, I'm exaggerating, it wasn't the same Walkman for all that time. Eventually I wore the first one out and had to replace it. I usually went to a video rental/electronics store on 1st Avenue. I can't estimate how many walkmen (I'm using the lower case now because the machines weren't necessarily Sony) I went through -- oh hell, I'll estimate. Maybe a dozen, or 20.

I made stacks of mix tapes, which still cover a wall of my apartment. They're great time capsules. They always represented whichever albums I was into at the time, plus bits from compilation CDs, scraps gathered randomly from the radio (in the middle of some tape from '98, there's a snippet from the Howard Stern Show's news segment -- about some poor soul whose lower intestine was sucked out of his body in a jacuzzi -- that still makes me clench my teeth when I hear it).

The tapes had weird names and random inserts -- sometimes my own artwork, sometimes magazine clippings. Sometimes the songs were listed on the liner but more often, they were not. To me, it was more fun not knowing what was on the tape. When I pressed play, it was a surprise. When I listen to those tapes now, my favorite bits are all the forgotten songs, the greatest hits of long-ago traded-in discs (think Machines of Loving Grace, No Doubt, Lard, Mighty Mighty Bosstones, the Fugees). So many of those songs belong solely to their respective time periods. Hearing them in context is pretty powerful and highly nostalgic.

Some of the tapes had themes; I'd made tapes of strictly dance music, strictly metal, strictly goth, strictly punk rock. Some were just fall music, some were just spring music. Some were just one band. I've got mix tapes devoted exclusively to Van Halen, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Queen, Big Audio Dynamite, KMFDM, King's X, Gene Loves Jezebel, The Damned, Madonna, Led Zeppelin, piL, Slayer, The Cure, The Cars, Eleven. I've got at least six Motorhead mix tapes and they're all completely different.

I made tapes for cloudy days, tapes for early summer, tapes for Halloween, tapes only to be heard in December. Tapes for my birthday, tapes for road trips, tapes for sleeping. I have three volumes of Social Terrorism, which is all metal and techno mixed together. I have six volumes of Fall Back, which is all music from autumn.

But above all, the mix tapes were made for the walkman. I never left the house without it. The tapes were for subway rides, for my jaunts around the East Village hanging flyers, or en route to clubs, for trips out of town. If you ever saw me between '96 and '03, chances are, I had the 'phones on.

New York is a noisy place. The 'man had to be cranked to be heard. On the streets and especially the subway, if the volume wasn't pushing into the red, you weren't hearing the tunes.

After two years of this, I discovered I had full-on tinnitus. For those who aren't familiar, tinnitus is a chronic condition wherein one's ears ring 24 hours a day. It's not hearing loss per se, just a constant ringing. You notice it especially in quiet rooms. Some folks who suffer from tinnitus keep the television on at night when they go to sleep, to drown out that dreadful sound. It's been said to drive some to suicide. I don't let it bother me that badly but I must say, when I find myself in a really quiet place (like my parents' house in Pennsylvania at bedtime), the loudness of it is pretty scary.

Anyway, after a certain point I decided to end all walkman use. For one thing I got tired of the tape players' heads wearing out, of the earphones going bad, and yes, I got tired of the feeling that I was constantly MAKING THAT RINGING IN MY EARS LOUDER. I figured I should quit while I'm behind, for my ears' sake.

Around 2003 I bought my last walkman. After its motor wore out I threw it into the kitchen garbage can along with the coffee grounds and banana peels -- and put my vast catalogue of mixtapes into dusty retirement.

These days I read books to keep me entertained on subway platforms. I never got into ipods and still don't own one. So, I'm now susceptible to all the idiotic conversation, insults, dumb quips thrown from passing cars and every other type of noise pollution that rents the city air day after day. I'm actually engaged in the real world.

Now I've been off walkmen for five years. My mix tape production ground to a screeching halt at the same time that I stopped using. Oh sure, I still make the occasional mix CD, just to mark the passing of a season, but it's mainly for posterity. No longer are the songs of my todays burned inextricably into experiences of running down cold avenues in Manhattan, or lingering in sweltering train stations, or drifting through canopies of spring buds on Brooklyn side streets, or riding the J train into the lower east side on impeccable and steely autumn afternoons. For me music is now mainly consumed at home. Songs are no longer associated with individual events, just with my kitchen.

But that ringing, that infernal ringing, is the soundtrack to every waking moment, no matter where I am.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Fun Facts About John McCain

1. John McCain voted against establishing a national holiday in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Now he says his position has "evolved," yet he's continued to oppose key civil rights laws.1

2. According to Bloomberg News, McCain is more hawkish than Bush on Iraq, Russia and China. Conservative columnist Pat Buchanan says McCain "will make Cheney look like Gandhi."2

3. His reputation is built on his opposition to torture, but McCain voted against a bill to ban waterboarding, and then applauded President Bush for vetoing that ban.3

4. McCain opposes a woman's right to choose. He said, "I do not support Roe versus Wade. It should be overturned."4

5. The Children's Defense Fund rated McCain as the worst senator in Congress for children. He voted against the children's health care bill last year, then defended Bush's veto of the bill.5

6. He's one of the richest people in a Senate filled with millionaires. The Associated Press reports he and his wife own at least eight homes! Yet McCain says the solution to the housing crisis is for people facing foreclosure to get a "second job" and skip their vacations.6

7. Many of McCain's fellow Republican senators say he's too reckless to be commander in chief. One Republican senator said: "The thought of his being president sends a cold chill down my spine. He's erratic. He's hotheaded. He loses his temper and he worries me."7

8. McCain talks a lot about taking on special interests, but his campaign manager and top advisers are actually lobbyists. The government watchdog group Public Citizen says McCain has 59 lobbyists raising money for his campaign, more than any of the other presidential candidates.8

9. McCain has sought closer ties to the extreme religious right in recent years. The pastor McCain calls his "spiritual guide," Rod Parsley, believes America's founding mission is to destroy Islam, which he calls a "false religion." McCain sought the political support of right-wing preacher John Hagee, who believes Hurricane Katrina was God's punishment for gay rights and called the Catholic Church "the Antichrist" and a "false cult."9

10. He positions himself as pro-environment, but he scored a 0—yes, zero—from the League of Conservation Voters last year.10


1. "The Complicated History of John McCain and MLK Day," ABC News, April 3, 2008

"McCain Facts,", April 4, 2008

2. "McCain More Hawkish Than Bush on Russia, China, Iraq," Bloomberg News, March 12, 2008

"Buchanan: John McCain 'Will Make Cheney Look Like Gandhi,'" ThinkProgress, February 6, 2008

3. "McCain Sides With Bush On Torture Again, Supports Veto Of Anti-Waterboarding Bill," ThinkProgress, February 20, 2008

4. "McCain says Roe v. Wade should be overturned," MSNBC, February 18, 2007

5. "2007 Children's Defense Fund Action Council® Nonpartisan Congressional Scorecard," February 2008

"McCain: Bush right to veto kids health insurance expansion," CNN, October 3, 2007

6. "Beer Executive Could Be Next First Lady," Associated Press, April 3, 2008

"McCain Says Bank Bailout Should End `Systemic Risk,'" Bloomberg News, March 25, 2008

7. "Will McCain's Temper Be a Liability?," Associated Press, February 16, 2008

"Famed McCain temper is tamed," Boston Globe, January 27, 2008

8. "Black Claims McCain's Campaign Is Above Lobbyist Influence: 'I Don't Know What The Criticism Is,'" ThinkProgress, April 2, 2008

"McCain's Lobbyist Friends Rally 'Round Their Man," ABC News, January 29, 2008

9. "McCain's Spiritual Guide: Destroy Islam," Mother Jones Magazine, March 12, 2008

"Will McCain Specifically 'Repudiate' Hagee's Anti-Gay Comments?," ThinkProgress, March 12, 2008

"McCain 'Very Honored' By Support Of Pastor Preaching 'End-Time Confrontation With Iran,'" ThinkProgress, February 28, 2008

10. "John McCain Gets a Zero Rating for His Environmental Record," Sierra Club, February 28, 2008

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Rush On Feminism

"[Y]ou have to understand the mindset of a lot of these feminists and women. They think they're owed this — just like Obama supporters think they're owed this. These women have paid their dues. They've been married two or three times; they've had two or three abortions; they've done everything that feminism asked them to do. They have cut men out of their lives; they have devoted themselves to causes and careers. And this — the candidacy of Hillary Clinton — is the culmination of all of these women's efforts. And if it gets stolen from them [by] a rookie, radical black guy who can't tell the time of day, they are going to be so miffed," - Rush Limbaugh.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Aristocrats Are the New Gentry

click the headline...