Saturday, November 24, 2007

So who really IS Bob Dylan, anyway?

Honestly, I don’t give a shit.

Within my own life experience, Dylan was the music, not the man. (Or, as the makers of the film “I’m Not There” are entailing, a woman in at least one shade of persona.) My memories of Dylan, thanks to an incredibly hip-for-his-age brother eight years my senior and a shared bedroom while we were growing up, are purely spawned from songs with words that may well have built an early critical thinking process in a five year old’s brain. I didn’t pick up on the life or image of Dylan (the type of stuff touched upon in work like the excellent documentary “Don’t Look Back”) until much later, and even then it was all about the songs and the images and statements created with them. Mr. Zimmerman was a teacher who made me want to pick up a guitar and say, “I want to do something like that.”

I recall seeing Ray Davies on TV a while back, and he said something about not wanting to ever meet his heroes because he knows he’d probably be disappointed. Maybe that is close to the excuse zone that is keeping me away from this movie, but perhaps the bigger reason is that I don’t mind learning the truth about the life experiences of notable people in history, but digging into abstract analytical concepts of what really makes the person tick is just a wee bit too much on the obsessive side for my personal taste. Therefore, this movie looks like a skip for me. I’ll just do something along the lines of listening to “Blood On The Tracks” for the umpteenth time if I want a peek at what’s going on in Bob’s head. After all, that’s something coming directly from the source.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Wow. 200 lashes.

Saudi Arabia's really tough on punishing their rape victims.

That wasn't a typo, by the way. Read all about it. Click here, Pilgrim

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Funkadelic- America Eats Its Young (1972)

It's only fitting that the first album that I cracked open and listened to on the first day of 2001 is the last one that I'm writing about this year (Note- this review was originally published on 1/2/2002- MP). If only I knew that a three-decades-old and relatively obscure release by George Clinton's old unit would have so much relevance by the time that autumn arrived. To be specific, what blows my mind nowadays is the newfound significance of America Eats Its Young 's opening trio of songs.

Let me start by saying that this record does not strike me as anything hinting at the later P-Funk projects undertaken by Mr. Clinton. This doesn't have an audible relation to, let's say, Parliament's "Mothership Connection" as much as it gives off strong reminders of the Mothers of Invention, namely smack on the "Overnight Sensation" era.

This was the fourth Funkadelic LP, with some notable lineup changes. Two guys left around the time this one was made due to money disputes and the full-time drummer had an unfortunate experience with substances of a lysergic nature. But, fate brought in a new era with the Collins brothers (Bootsy and Catfish) among others hopping aboard and Clinton taking things into about twenty new directions. Many of the tracks are staying afloat in an ocean of reverb, somehow without drowning. Otherwise, that's where the similarity to the previous Funkadelic work ends. This was a tighter, and yet at the same time, far more experimental sound than before.

But let's go back to what I mentioned earlier: the opening three tunes. When these songs were written, America was still facing the ass end of the Vietnam War and Watergate was still being plotted out. But whoo boy, do these words bite with a whole new set of fangs today.

"You Hit The Nail On The Head" kicks in quite abruptly with a heavy syncopated funk, then after a few minutes breaks down to that type of slower Sly Stoneish groove so popularly bowdlerized (very badly) on TV cop drama soundtracks of the era. The song's title is sung during this break, then blam! We're back in the previous gear with "Just because you win the fight/ Don't make you right/ Just because you give/ Don't make you good". Suddenly Relevant Lyrics, Exhibit One.

Then there's "If You Don't Like The Effects, Don't Produce The Cause." The sentiment expressed by the title, had it been released today, would be newly controversial enough. But it gets even stranger, and ends up bordering on prophecy. Namely, the part that goes "You say you don't like what our country's about/Ain't you deep/ In your semi-first-class seat/ You picket this and you protest that/And eat yourself fat/Ain't you deep/In your semi-first-class seat..." Relevant Exhibit Two.

Back in the time, before continuous tracks on CDs fucked up things, care was taken by many producers and artists to make each side of a record like a mini-set, tying together each side's general flow and/or relevance. I bought a British reissue of the album on vinyl and the first side concludes with "Everybody Is Going To Make It This Time". A sort of gospel exhortation from Rev. Clinton's pulpit, this final track on Side One can be utilized as the Healing Tune of America, 2001. You can stick with your Old Lang Syne at midnight- I think I'll opt for this one. "We've got to learn from the mistakes/ That were made in the past/ We've got to clean so that we can use our minds/ 'Cause in order to get it together/ We've got to get our heads together/ Everybody is going to make it this time". Yup, you guessed it, Relevant Exhibit Three. The defense rests.

Which is not to encourage anyone to ignore the rest. I'm surprised that "Loose Booty" hasn't been stolen, I mean sampled, more often than it has. (EPMD are the only ones I know of who've used it.) "Miss Lucifer's Love" is cool enough to listen to despite the fact that "She just wants to satisfy" is repeated (literally) almost three dozen times. However, as experimentation is bound to have its consequences, some of the moments are kind of uncomfortable, to put it mildly. I like the instrumental "A Joyful Process" but some may dismiss it nowadays as a "Sanford and Son" soundtrack reject. "We Hurt Too" isn't so bad lyrically but the pseudo- Hey Love compilation arrangement tends to add a cheesy aftertaste to the atmosphere of the song. And the album's closer, "Wake Up", is a strong composition yet in retrospect it gave me nasty recollections of other forms of music that fucked up that type of songwriting. Namely, bullshit that you hear from traveling road show productions of "Godspell" and "Up With People" and the like.

But despite America Eats Its Young's debatable flaws, it grew on me once I got past my obsession with Side One. "Philmore" is pure Stax meets Zappa. "Pussy" makes me wish that I were dropping LSD again. And if you listen really, really carefully to the intro to "Pussy", you can make out four notes that Lenny Kravitz stole, subsequently selling millions of records and achieving phat airplay. Then for some reason it breaks into a porno soundtrack. But hey, this was the carefree '70's after all.

Overall, this is an album worth adding to the collection of anyone out there who claims to have a functional knowledge of the history of funk's greatest moments. That is, if you can find a store that has it. It's a damn shame if you ask me. If such forgettable diddlysquat like Journey and the "Grease" soundtrack can generate enough interest for re-issue, Hell, Funkadelic's early catalogue deserves a serious big-money promo from one of the multinational music monoliths out there. But of course, no one should hold his or her breath. Plus, this album's cover, with Lady Liberty chawing on babies and a re-done Great Seal replete with eagle's talons gripping a syringe and a malnourished child, isn't exactly the most PC statement nowadays. But then again, the ugly segments of truths never are.

(Note: This review was written in the good old days before Amazon had any good records for sale. Now I betcha the farm you can pick one up there. No, I don't have an affiliate account and I'm not trying to trick you.) Click here, Pilgrim

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Hey Fed. Fuck you.

No, not you, K-Fed. Go back to trying to collect your fees for being Britney’s sperm bank and move along. Nothing for you to see here.

I’m talking about the corporate apologists known as Bernanke and Co. Hey, Uncle Ben, thanks for lowering the interest rate one MORE time in order to cover up the fact that Big Biz is, as usual, fucking up due to greedy pillaging of the working class.

The lower rung of the economic ladder can simply fuck off, eh, Federal Reserve? Who cares if inflation might force working poor parents into deciding whether their kids would miss milk or bread more this week? Who gives a shit if the dollar is fast becoming the new peso at today’s current exchange rates against other countries? (And by the way, lately, it’s been buying less pesos too.)

We need to kiss the high holy ass of the sacred cow of business! At all costs! No matter that there are 57 million Americans who are one paycheck, medical bill or disaster away from falling under the poverty line- fuck all those people, right? God-DAMN-it, you need to dump the Countrywide stock in order to buy Apple, and you need those lending rates to stay DOWN! Plus, you don’t see most of these folks unless they’re filling your coffee cup or mowing your lawn, and then they go away and you don’t have to deal with them. Besides, none of YOUR relatives or friends ever does that kind of low-level work, unless of course you want to teach Biff and Muffy a lesson about self-sufficiency for a couple of months before they go off to their Ivy League educations, and usually those are jobs attained through, well, friends and relatives, right?

On a bad day, I would propose that this would be a good time to instigate rioting in the streets, but of course, most of these assholes responsible live in the ‘burbs and well-guarded gated communities, so the only people hurt would be the ones who are already getting dogged over. A more realistic tactic would be to do whatever it takes to stop going out and buying so much crap if you’re willing to join in on the fight against corporate vampires, but for too many folks affected adversely by the Fed and Big Business’ mutual circle jerk, such cost-cutting actions are already being done involuntarily, so it would be a moot proposal.