Craig Finn – God In Chicago

craig_finn_sq.jpgCraig Finn has cut a swath through beer-soaked halls–playing on six-inch risers often never higher than six feet–for the last twenty odd years of his career with the band, The Hold Steady.

Course he’s had his solo work too. Equally impressive to be sure. And no, his music isn’t quite as dour as his photo. At least, not all of it. Shit, there’s a lot to unpack in his lyrics…

I’m not the only lazy music fan who’s been likening his rambling story-telling song lyrics to a modern Raymond Carver weened on Springsteen and Black Flag with a guitar. He’s consistent and reliable and undoubtedly an incredible amount of thought and care in each turn of phrase as evidenced by the narrative film with collaborator, Kris Merc on his latest contribution, “God In Chicago.”

Okay, well, see, it’s a story about a guy and a girl and drug deal/road trip.

But with Finn, it’s always more.

He’s a master of subtext, and his subtext is all in the gut.

Check out the video on The Nowness:

https://www.nowness.com/story/craig-finn-god-in-chicago-kris-merc

Finn is playing with Japandroids this Sat. March 11 at the Music Box in San Diego.

K-Oh! “Knock On Wood” and Kristian’s E.P.

Of the five tracks on MC K-Oh’s Kristian’s E.P., the standout is “Knock On Wood” (posted below). K-Oh deftly moves from verse to verse, mezclando español e Inglés sin problemas, slipping effortlessly among producer Nova’s beats. The subject matter of the EP is confessional, from “Fuck Friends” a track that deals directly with the realities of making music and art to “Therapy,” a song that speaks to the challenges of a strained relationship and being a long-distance father.

Keep an ear out for K-Oh!

Disappears – Halcyon Days (video)

Chicago band, Disappears have been sculpting moody and paranoid sonic compositions, altering the notion of structure on each subsequent release since forming in 2008. On the band’s latest, Irreal, they manage to ratchet up the tension with a minimalism that is calculating and precise. I appreciate their sonic aesthetic even more, now that the band seem to be moving toward the type of music they made on the 2013 12″, Kone. They’re delving into the IN BETWEEN space, creating music in an era where you can easily spend 90 minutes in a isolation chamber. Not to be confused with cold or isolating but fluid and viscous.

Some writer with more time and a better grasp of metaphor likened them to David Lynch.

Sure, Disappears make Lynchian-post kraut rock. Now it’s dark…

Disappears are accessing something unique. Getting farther and farther out. The use of repetition, recursive riffs and motifs paired with Brian Case’s monotone vocal delivery of haiku-like lyrics that often end in ellipses rather than declarative cliche, escape the velocity of rock pastiche.

They’re playing at the Casbah on April 3, 2015. The night after TV On the Radio plays the Observatory in North Park.

Another important distinction, Brian Case has an affinity for Taylor Swift, which I share so he and his band get top marks in my estimation.

Haiku 3/3/15

Twirling in the sun

A noose hung on cottonwood

Blade marks in the bark

– Tajomaru Thiret

It Bares Repeating: “There Is No God” – Mrs Magician

Monday.

It’s Monday again. Groundhog Day life.

A routine that weighs heavy.

Music disrupts that which tends to stagnate our minds.

Looking forward to new tunes from this crew of misanthropes.

Mrs Magician “There Is No God”

Weatherbox “Pagan Baby” – Live at Braund

Summer heat makes the blood run hot.

That’s when you switch from “craft beer” to something in a can that comes in a six or twelve pack, not a bomber or four pack.

Hang up the sultry spring albums and bring out the records that sound great in a car without A/C.

Weatherbox season. Half-pipes and fun-boxes and never-landed kickflip varials. Frustratingly fun, even for my old bones.

Brian Warren. Dudes’ been writing hit songs for years in the criminally overlooked, under-appreciated Weatherbox for years. Lyrics are top notch too.

They’re new record Flies in All Directions was released this year from Triple Crown Records.

Standout tracks:

Pagan Baby

Kick-flips, with a nod to the refrain, “My Body is a Bomb.” Undeniably catchy.

Revolutionary Brain “An Insurgent Text” – Reveiw

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Revolutionary Brain by Harold Jaffe

Harold Jaffe, author of 20 books, including Terror-dot-Gov, Beyond the Techno-Cave and 15 Serial Killers, turns his critical eye to America and global media culture in his latest collection of essays, quasi-essays and “docufictions,” Revolutionary Brain. These 19 texts, written with Jaffe’s confident élan, range stylistically from interview, to reportage, to the use of an extensive list of pornographic keywords in the text, “Revolution Post-Mill.” The result is a book composed and organized much like an album, each text a song to be listened to individually, or within the context of the whole.

Revolutionary Brain interrogates our collective amnesia in relation to our obsession with technology, with all the attendant contradictions. We live in a time where we are increasingly aware of looming environmental catastrophe, yet our awareness of global warming is sublimated by the use of the term as a semantic palliative.  Despite real social progress towards diversity, class inequity is worsening dramatically. The news media profits from diverting attention from crucial news to corporate-sponsored blandishments. Jaffe’s writing addresses these issues, deftly intermingling relevance with irreverence, juxtaposing pain with beauty and conveying serious thought with brevity. These aspects are perhaps best depicted in “Crisis Art.” Jaffe writes that “crisis art” is situational, “hence created rapidly rather than painstakingly revised and refined,” and Revolutionary Brain, though clearly refined, addresses crises while also being “keenly aware of text and context” (Jaffe 25). The prerogative of the activist/socially conscious writer is to reconfigure, interact and integrate information and deliver the result in a text that vibrates, bears witness.  “Crisis artists must swallow the poison in order to reconstitute it. Expel it art…The poison, currently, includes our crazily spinning, electronic-obsessed, war-making culture and its profit-mad institutions; along with the rapidly worsening environmental crisis.” (25)

Though the bulk of this collection includes longer essay-esque pieces, instances of compressed writing also appear as shorter, micro texts like Fear and Pet Girl. Fear is a dialog between two unknown individuals discussing the use of cognac to alleviate fear. The final line is expressive and taut. “After cognac you feel clear. Unafraid. Only then will you permit yourself to be merciful.” ( 45) “Pet Girl” describes a relationship between a submissive and her master who leads her around in public on a silver leash. When questioned about the dynamic, the girl, explains it is her choice and she isn’t harming anyone. A few other interludes appear in the form of actual To-Do lists, these serve as reminders, ostensibly to readers, to embrace pleasure.

Additional fictive exchanges between the author, and an artist or celebrity are used effectively to frame a concept or theme. In Weep the author “interviews” the actor Marlon Brando months prior to the actor’s death, discussing Brando’s propensity to weep. Notably, Brando was one or perhaps the only Caucasian to pay his respects to slain Black Panthers leader, Fred Hampton. He wept openly at the viewing. This segues into a close inspection of weeping as a social act. The author is careful to make the distinction between the tears of the bereaved and those who experience “despair without fear,” and the crocodile tears of televangelists, politicians and billionaires embroiled in scandal.  Finally, the title acts as a mantra and also a challenge:  to weep is to feel.

Truth-Force begins with a repetition of dialog between los pobres (“We, The Poor Ones”) and an unidentified interlocutor aboard a train as they discuss the ultimate fate of a junta torturer captured by revolutionaries.  During the exchange is a coded sentence, “I’ve read the report,” which triggers a yes or no vote by the compañero. Votes tallied will determine whether or not the torturer is to be executed. A detailed account of torture by electrocution experienced by one of the compañeros follows: “You’d expect the electric shock to feel like catching hold of a live wire with your fingers. One might tolerate that. This is a hundred times worse… I didn’t know until inmate compañeros told me afterwards that they wept to hear me tortured. I screamed and wailed, they told me,” and it ends with a wrenching, “pain beyond pain” (69). Just as there are images that can’t be unseen, there are texts that, once read, cannot be forgotten. Revolutionary Brain infiltrates the reader’s mind, resonating long after reading.

Salvation Mountain is a docufictional account of “Dewey Birdsong” and his testament God is Love in the form of a mountain made of adobe, paint and various debris sourced from the Imperial Valley desert in Southern California. Dewey—the fictive incarnation of Leonard Knight, who began building Salvation Mountain nearly thirty years ago—explains that while he may make a hundred mistakes, that with Jesus he can start again with the same enthusiasm. The prose here is spare and beautiful.

The book’s title is inspired by the real world events involving members of the notorious Baader-Meinhof Gang, a group of German anti-imperialist revolutionaries, and the abuse of their corpses by authorities. After the apparent suicides of imprisoned gang members (including the bizarre “self-inflicted” gunshot wound to the neck and four stab wounds to the heart) in May 1976, German authorities extracted their brains for study, with all but Ulrike Meinhof’s having since been “lost.”

In Revolutionary Brain, Harold Jaffe shines light into the gaps in the official discourse so as to find an opening, plant an idea and let it grow, positing that critical dissent never becomes extinct in the mind and passions. This is powerful writing from a mind that refuses to remain silent, that continues to bear witness.

Copies available at Amazon

Does It Explode – Live at Tin Can Alehouse February 22, 2014

The punk rock collective, of which I provide guitar sounds for, Does It Explode, will have their live debut, Saturday Feb. 22 2014 at the Tin Can alehouse. We’ll be playing with our compadres in Flying Hyenas and Deep Sea Thunderbeast.

9pm

$5

21+

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