Categories
The Lacking Organization

Mixtape 125 :: The Buzz

Episode 125: The Buzz

It’s been 45 years since Chrissie Hynde initially hit her stride with the Pretenders, and she hasn’t slowed down for anybody since.

IN THIS EPISODE

Arling + Cameron, Bill Callahan, Blur, Cherry, Chicano Batman, Chico Hamilton, The Clash, Cornershop, David Byrne & St. Vincent, Elliott Smith, Fat White Family, Goldfrapp, Grand Analog, Holy, Isobel Campbell, King Chango, Los Lobos, Marshall Crenshaw, Melkbelly, The Needs , Palm, Pixies, The Pogues, Pretenders, The Rants, Soul Coughing, Tune-Yards, Vampire Weekend, Wisely

For more information and a full playlist with notes, visit the.lacking.org/podcast/2020/0125-the-buzz

Categories
Sound Salvation

2020 on Fire

2020 on Fire

I’ve been working on this playlist for several weeks, as the protests following the death of George Floyd have continued and the battle for social and racial justice rages on, as the Black Lives Matter movement continues to win more and more support, as more and more people have had enough of institutional racism.

Here, then, is something of a soundtrack for this modern age, made up of music old and new, all of which continues to fight the good fight.

“White People for Peace” — Against Me!

Against Me! has been a protest band from the very start, so what better place to start than this track from 2007’s landmark “New Wave” album, a protest song about singing protest songs? The title has never been more relevant, with the number of white people who’ve finally had enough of racism being a driving force as part of the current protest movement.

“Ghost Town” — The Specials

This song was written and released during a different series of riots — 1980 in the UK was rife — but it almost feels more timely now, with COVID-19 making all of our towns even more like ghost towns, and absolutely, “bands don’t play no more.”

“The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” — Gil Scott-Heron

The prescience of Gil Scott-Heron’s seminal song may seem somewhat questionable now. The revolution is being televised… and streamed. But the message is really that revolutions don’t happen from your sofa.

“What’s Going On” — Marvin Gaye

“This is America” — Childish Gambino

Did the current movement start here, with this utterly prescient song and video from Donald Glover? There’s an argument to be made that it did, with this song debuting at No. 1 on the Billboard chart and sweeping the Grammy Awards, it certainly did as much to sharpen focus and draw attention to what’s happening than virtually anything else in pop culture.

“Polaroid Baby” — Bratmobile

“Bang! Bang!” — Le Tigre

One of many songs of this list to reference previous police killings of unarmed black men, this song includes “newcaster” voiceovers directly discussing the killing of Amadou Diallo in New York City in 1999. The countdown to 41 reflects the number of shots fired at Diallo, 19 of which hit him.

“Make America Great Again” — Pussy Riot

Released two weeks before Donald Trump was elected president, this song envisioned what the world would be like under his rule. It’s sadly and eerily accurate.

“White Privilege II” — Macklemore & Ryan Lewis feat. Jamila Woods

Macklemore is never given enough credit for what he says. Listen closely to all 8:45 of this song, in which he analyzes his own privilege, the way other white people react to him and weighs all of that against his own desire for change. This is required listening.

“Hands Up” — Daye Jack feat. Killer Mike

“Fuck tha Police” — N.W.A.

“Fight the Power” — Public Enemy

“Sound of da Police” — KRS-One

Of course, this list would be incomplete without these three seminal hip-hop classics, but I wanted to take a moment to update on some things happening with these artists today.

N.W.A.’s Ice Cube — who has, of course, become a hugely successful actor, artist and entrepreneur — has been advocating for “A Contract with Black America,” a document that represents “a complete paradigm shift in how we run our institutions and operate our country,” which outlines ways to combat racism including education, legislation and police reform. Follow @icecube on Twitter to keep up with the developments.

Public Enemy, meanwhile, recorded an updated version of “Fight the Power” that kicked off the recent BET Awards, with new verses from Nas, Rapsody and Black Thought honoring recent victims George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. Check it out at www.youtube.com/watch?v=sHQolYuO6Ew.

“Baltimore” — Prince

Sometimes it seems as though, much as there is a “Simpsons” reference to fit almost all occasions, that there is likewise a Prince song to pair with virtually any sentiment. Prince wrote this one in response to the 2015 death of Freddie Gray.

“(We Don’t Need This) Fascist Groove Thang” — Heaven 17

“Youth Against Fascism” — Sonic Youth

“American Idiot” — Green Day

As the current president edges the country closer to a fascist state than ever before, it’s noteworthy to consider that musicians have been predicting and agitating against this slide to the right for decades, from Heaven 17 at the dawn of the Reagan era and Sonic Youth at the tail end of the George H. W. Bush presidency to Green Day’s brilliant concept album taking on the George W. Bush administration.

“Clampdown” — The Clash

The only band I allowed two songs on this list, and honestly, I could have included a half-dozen others. Once known as “the only band that matters,” the Clash made a career of fighting for social justice in song. Dating to 1979’s seminal “London Calling” album — one of the very best albums ever made — this is yet another song that sounds eerily prescient today, so much so that Beto O’Rourke used it in his aborted presidential campaign.

“I Wanna Riot” — Rancid

“Don’t Pray on Me” — Bad Religion

“American Crisis” — Bob Mould

The newest song on this list, the great Bob Mould has been speaking out through music for decades, and he’s continuing in 2020. “I never thought I’d see this bullshit again/To come of age in the ’80s was bad enough/We were marginalized and demonized/I watched a lot of my generation die/Welcome back to American crisis,” he opens before continuing to rail against “evangelical ISIS” and “a fucked-up USA.” He’s tired, but unbowed.

“The Only Good Fascist is a Very Dead Fascist” — Propagandhi

“Nazi Punks Fuck Off” — Dead Kennedys

“If the Kids Are United” — Sham 69

An uplifting message? Yes, because overall, wheat’s being fought for is an uplifting goal, and it’s important that those who are doing the fighting remember to stand together as one and to never be divided.

“Know Your Rights” — The Clash

“All You Fascists” — Billy Bragg & Wilco

From the vaunted “Mermaid Avenue” sessions, this is a song that goes some distance to illustrating how far back these issues go. The song was recorded for 2000’s “Mermaid Avenue Vol. 2,” but the genesis of the project was a book of unused lyrics by the legendary folk singer Woody Guthrie — writer of, among other things, “This Land is Your Land” — that were unearthed by his daughter and handed to British folk singer Billy Bragg, who brought the great American band Wilco in on the project. Guthrie wrote these lyrics in 1942, while the U.S. was fighting fascism in World War II.

“Riot Van” — Arctic Monkeys

“Freedom” — Beyonce feat. Kendrick Lamar

I wanted to end things on an uplifting vibe, and this gospel-tinged rave by Beyonce fits the bill. “I break chains all by myself/Won’t let my freedom rot in hell/Hey! I’ma keep running/’Cause a winner don’t quit on themselves,” she sings, and that’s a message we can all do with. Keep up the fight.

Categories
Music Reviews

Jah Wobble

Jah Wobble

A Very British Coup

Cadiz Music

Even the devil has sold his soul…

In a week that saw the spineless, corrupt US Senate conclude their sham “trial” of impeached President Trump and the UK tossing aside their neighbors with Brexit, it’s fitting that this rousing protest anthem gets released in America. A Very British Coup finds Jah Wobble with his former PiL bandmates – drummer Richard Dudanski and guitarist Keith Levene along with vocals from The Pop Group’s Mark Stewart with their take on Brexit (although it’s never actually mentioned in the song).

Produced by Youth (Martin Glover), the track reminds you of the glory days – early Clash and PiL’s Second Edition era, with Wobble’s elastic bass percolating in and out of the mix, playing off Levene’s spiky stabs of guitar. This American release features four versions of the song – including “Dogma”, a radio edit, and “Youth Dub”, found only on this CD.

Brexit and the impeachment of Trump share a common theme, namely, that the “powers that be” rule by lies – or as Stewart yelps, What they didn’t want us to know/Down in the sewers, and they go to great lengths to avoid speaking about it. In the US the Senators rejected evidence and witnesses to rush to a forgone conclusion, smirking all the while. In Britain the underlying push to exit the EU was vile nativism and xenophobia, dressed up in purely economic terms, with buses painted with cheery exclamations of all the money that Brexit would return to Britain. It was, of course, like Trump’s defense, a complete and utter lie, mouthed by timid, fearful demagogues.

Perhaps this call to arms will help to stiffen the spines of American voters, who, in November, will vote on the future of our great American experiment. Do we confirm the virtues of what makes America singular and exceptional, or do we give up and let the bastards in expensive suits sell our dreams for their year-end bonuses. Hyperbole? Maybe. Think back three years and tell me I’m exaggerating.

Even the devil has sold his soul…

www.youtube.com/watch?v=VWebH2xEli0

Categories
Music Reviews

The Hip Priests

The Hip Priests

Stand for Nothing

Speedwax /Ghost Highway

When your frustration levels rise to 11. When you just want to scream because the world is so fucked up you can’t stand it anymore, that’s when a down and dirty punk rock band is just what the doctor ordered. The Hip Priests are an English band who blend the don’t give a fuck attitude of old school punk with the bad boy posturing of neo-rockabilly. Stands for Nothing is their latest recording and it’s a blistering blast of balls to the walls snotty attitude and rock riffage.

The album opens with the nihilistic anthem, “Welcome to Shit Island.” It doesn’t really matter what they have to say. They dive head first into a maelstrom of squalling guitars and shouted vocals that provide the cathartic primal scream of classic punk rock. “Make Way For The Losers” is a screed for the left out and also ran’s of modern society. They scream, you don’t give a fuck about us, but we’re still here. The Hip Priests are channeling the ire and frustration of those left behind by a changing economy. Will these people become a “Social Hand Grenade”? Will the fucked over band together to demand something better? Will they blame someone else for their misfortune? Or will they just crawl into a hole and accept being the “Rock and Roll Leper” and leave it all up to someone else. Who knows? At least we can go down to the pub and scream and sweat until we’re spent with snotty punks like the Hip Priests.

thehippriests.bigcartel.com

Categories
Music Reviews

Chip & Tony Kinman

Chip & Tony Kinman

Sounds Like Music

Omnivore Recordings

Growing up in Georgia during the late ’70s, early ’80s didn’t exactly offer much in the way of culture. College football and southern rock were the norms. I couldn’t stand the oversized influence of football, and while I saw my fair share of boogie rock shows, by the time I graduated from high school in 1980, my listening was either the Stones, or punk. The Clash and The Ramones had (thankfully) cured me of my Molly Hatchet listening, but still, entire genres lay before me. One evening in the mid-’80s I was at the house of a guy who worked in a record store, and his living room was wall-to-wall LPs and tapes. He was in the habit of tossing me cassettes with the notion of expanding my musical knowledge. That night his gifts changed my life, in a way. He gave me Thelonious Monk’s 1968’s Underground, Stevie Ray Vaughn and Double Trouble’s first, Texas Flood and the debut record from a band from Austin, Rank and File.

Now I was somewhat familiar with jazz – although Monk blew my little Georgia mind – and I was quick to get into SRV’s wailing, but Sundown from Rank and File, well, that was country. But it was on Slash Records, home to punk acts! But it was twangy, and as the opener “Amanda Ruth” played, followed by “(Glad I’m) Not in Love”, I was hooked. It was an entirely new vista for me, one I subsequently embraced. To this day Sundown is one of my favorite records, due in large part to the songwriting and heavenly voices of the Kinman brothers, Chip and Tony.

Now at the time I had no idea of The Dils, their first notable band, but I was entranced by the brothers, who, along with roots superstar in waiting Alejandro Escovedo formed R&F. So when I got notice of this collection from Omnivore, Sounds Like Music, I was thrilled. Little did I realize how chameleon-like Chip and Tony were, musically. The Dils (who’s “Folks Say Go” shows up here) were straight-up Cali punk, but I had no idea about their other pursuits, Blackbird and Cowboy Nation.

Blackbird has the most cuts on this collection, and you really can’t get further away from their previous sound. Formed after R&F broke up, Blackbird sounds a lot like Eno’s rock albums, very electronic and post-punk (with a nifty version of Tom Waits “Jersey Girl”, sounding a bit like early Suicide), and it’s arresting in its eeriness. Cowboy Nation returned, somewhat, to the country sound of Rank & File, and throughout all 22 cuts on this collection, it’s the harmonies of Chip and Tony that grab you. An alternate version of “Lucky Day” from Sundown is included, and the sound of those two voices, well, it melts my heart. Sadly, Tony died in 2018, but thankfully the music he and Chip made is, by virtue of this record, and Chip reuniting The Dils, remains accessible. Chip and Tony Kinman were incredibly influential in a wide variety of styles, from punk to country, and suffered the slings and arrows that befalls pioneers. So pick up this collection and change your life.

www.omnivorerecordings.com

Categories
Music Reviews

The Waterboys

The Waterboys

Where The Action Is

Cooking Vinyl

Mike Scott and The Waterboys first unleashed their “big music” in 1983 with their self-titled debut, and now, thirteen albums later, Where The Action Is shows Scott’s boundless enthusiasm for life, love, and rock and roll. The opening title cut updates the Robert Parker 1960s hit (with a bit of the great Lord Buckley in a voiceover) in driving fashion. “London Mick” is Scott’s tip of the hat to the Clash guitarist Mick Jones. Generally rock singers going on about other rock singers have a bit of “fanboy” about them, but Scott is so damned rev’d up, the song succeeds where others could fail.

Scott is joined as always by the maniac fiddler Steve Wickham, along with Paul Brown on keyboards, Aongus Ralston on bass and drummer Ralph Salmins, but as he says, “Mike Scott is the Waterboys, and the Waterboys are Mike Scott”, with Wickham being one of the few left from the glory days of Fisherman’s Blues and This is the Sea.

Scott has been known for his literary references – 2011’s album An Appointment with Mr. Yeats cast the Irish poet to song – and the newest record continues this with “Then She Made The Lasses O”, which is Robert Burns verse set to a subtle beat, and “Piper at the Gates of Dawn” from Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows, which concludes the album in a reflective, subtle mood. The “big music” is alive and well on Where the Action Is and Mike Scott and the Waterboys show no signs of slowing down. Good on ya sir. Keep it up.

www.mikescottwaterboys.com

Categories
Music Reviews

Ian McFarland

Ian McFarland

Go Lucky

It’s Not Records

Ian McFarland is a gifted, eclectic singer/songwriter from Los Angeles, California. His songs are strikingly personal, yet easy to relate to and incredibly inventive. This electrifying new EP brimming with ’90s alt-rock and indie touches was self-recorded (for the most part) with the help of Ryan Melone, who also engineered and played drums.

Together, they formed the backbone of a stunning collection of sound, blurring the lines between modern rock, post-grunge, and many other influences. On songs such as “Maps Back,” McFarland begins with a bass line reminiscent of Nirvana’s most cheerful moments, while the melodies are definitely in the ballpark of bands such as Mac DeMarco and Hoops, only to mention a few.

On the title track, Ian explores a more down-to-earth sound inspired by classic rock and garage. This song tips the hat off to acts such as the Kinks or the Clash, giving McFarland the chance to combine sharp lyrics with hook-filled melodies and intriguing song arrangements that will definitely stand the test of time.

ianmcfarland.bandcamp.com/album/go-lucky

Categories
Music Reviews

Willie Nile

Willie Nile

Children of Paradise

River House

Sometimes a song can change your day. Sometimes, you hear exactly the right song at exactly the right moment. I was having a bad day. I had been running into a series of slights and frustrations that really had me fuming. You know, the kind of day when you want to punch the wall. I got into my car and put the new Willie Nile CD in the car stereo and glowered at the traffic jam around me. I wasn’t really paying attention until I heard Willie shouting at me, “DON’T LET THE FUCKERS KILL YOUR BUZZ!” That’s good advice that I needed to hear at exactly that moment.

Children of Paradise is full of songs that could serve as a shock to the system. Nile is a poet of the streets reporting on the things that happen on the other side of town and setting the stories to a primal garage rock beat. Willie sings anthems of the street. The first song on the record – “Seeds Of A Revolution” – is a gut punch reminder that immigrants are people seeking a better life. “Children of Paradise” is an ode to people who are living down slope from that shining city on the hill, hoping and dreaming to make it out of the valley of the shadow.

Nile is an angry man. He is angry about injustice. He is angry about the way were fucking up the environment and he’s pissed that we treat each other so badly. He’s mad at the ugliness and a whole lot of this album is a call to defy the forces that would rather have you obsessing over Stormy Daniel’s cleavage that corruption and lies. He shouts it out signing, “I defy you! I D-E-F-Y you!”

I hope these songs reach, if not a lot of people, then the right people. I hope other folks hear one of these songs at exactly the right time to click over their mood. I hope someone hears “Earth Blues” at exactly the right moment to change their opinion on climate change. I hope an ambivalent suburbanite hears “Seeds of the Revolution” at exactly the right moment to help see the bullshit in the build a wall ideology. Or… I hope someone hears “Rock and Roll Sister” at exactly the right moment that they need a party anthem. Whatever you do, “Don’t let the fuckers turn you into suckers! Don’t let the fuckers kill your buzz!”

www.willienile.com

Categories
Music Reviews

Drivin’ N Cryin’

Drivin’ N Cryin’

Too Late To Turn Back Now!

New West Records

Eponymously released in 1997, Too Late To Turn Back Now! has been released on vinyl for the first time, and it documents a period of change from the Atlanta-based rockers. As leader Kevn Kinney relates, this era “…is who I am. Gone are the major labels. Gone are the tour buses.” So instead of big studios (and big bills) Drivin’ N Cryin’ – at this point a trio with Kinney on vocals and guitars, Jeff Sullivan on drums and bassist Tim Nielsen – encamped in a hot, small studio in Atlanta’s hip mecca of Little Five Points with Clash producer and video artist Kosmo Vinyl, intending to record a single. One thing led to another, and soon, they had an album’s worth of material.

And good stuff too. Opening with “Keepin’ It Close To My Heart”, Kinney’s endearing knack of creating arena-rock folk songs triumphs, and the record’s 12 tracks are full of punky energy (“Paid in Full”, Let Lenny B”), Byrdish odes (“Everything’s Gonna Be Alright”) and a faithful rip thru John Denver’s “Leaving On A Jet Plane”, and like most of Kinney’s best material you’d be at a loss to pinpoint the year.

While not reaching the heights of earlier work such as Mystery Road or Fly Me Courageous, Too Late To Turn Back Now! deserved a better fate than some forgotten shelf in a used CD store, and now with a new title and cover art (by Kosmo Vinyl), and a great-sounding vinyl edition, it joins Drivin’ N Cryin’s solid discography, further illustrating how this little band from Atlanta has survived and persevered all these years – with great songs, catchy hooks and a lot of heart. Long may Drivin’ N Cryin’ reign!

www.newwestrecords.com, www.drivinncryin.com

Categories
Screen Reviews

D. O. A.: A Right of Passage

D. O. A.: A Right of Passage

directed by Lech Kowalski

starring Sex Pistols

In 1978 Punk was “A Thing” but its longevity remained unclear. This non-official doc follows the Sex Pistols around London and on to their ill-fated American tour shot in glorious VHS. Punk was a firehose of anger ruled by short songs and unbridled frustration about the moribund British economy. This amazing feat came from an unemployable bunch of drug addicts who could barely play their instruments; but they had publicity genius Malcolm McLaren plugging them. He knew the critical issue of publicity: Notoriety outweighs talent 100 to 1. Lo-fi and low budget, punk got amazing traction and the movement is still here today, now tamed and exploited by modern record labels. And as for Sid, Neil Young summed it up best: It’s better to burn out than fade away.

Down in the special feature “Dead On Arrival: The Punk Documentary That Never Was” someone moans “Why didn’t Warner make their own film and do it right?” But they didn’t; and that gives this admittedly rough doc its soul. Punk hadn’t caught the attention of the record industry, and they had no idea what to do with a troupe of ill behaved, marginal musicians who were changing the world. While the pistols are the center of attention, we get early performances by Billy Idol, Iggy Pop, the Clash, X-ray Specs, and a flock of other early burrs under the saddle of the industry. They changed the world, or at least the world of pop music.

Highlights? They’re everywhere. Iggy Pop’s backing vocalist pulls an Oscar Meyer wiener out of his pants. Nancy tries to keep Sid awake for an interview as he nods out. The fans in Tulsa, Oklahoma are ready to kill after being ripped off for their ticket money. The tour bus doesn’t look street legal. None of the songs are synced up. The film drips with scratches and artifacts, the women are repulsive, the men are rude, and the whole film is a wonderful slap in the face of slick pop culture. People spit. They share drug kits. Their pants are torn and the whole shebang look like homeless people parodying rock and roll. The promoter from Tulsa is a total redneck; he tried to cancel the show before the Pistols play, but folds after a bluff about suing him seems real enough. My favorite moment come from a wonderfully uptight British boffin explaining how the punks weren’t important because they didn’t play to his rules and properly complain to the Queen about the economy.

We end on a sad note with the Nancy and Sid interviewed in a dumpy hotel in New York. (The Chelsea, as I recall.) She’s bitchy and he’s nodding out and that’s as punk as you can get. Helpful subtitles let you know what the lyrics say, and there’s not narration other than quotes from people on screen. You can make your own conclusions, but the result is now fixed: starting a punk band carries the same risk as starting a hipster coffee house: You may make it, or you may fail, but no one questions WHY you’re doing it. If you were a gleam in daddy’s eye back in 1978, here’s what you missed, and what he almost experienced. Go make your own revolution, this one is his.

mvdb2b.com