Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Ehud is an ace hoodlum; Waltz with Bashir

Holy shit do Israel's mainstream "liberals" bore me, the ones Israelis can wear on their sleeve to rouse only a grimace in response instead of a call for their head on a spike. David Grossman, novelist who milked many tearducts in my parent's house, but from time to time crawls out of his literary shell to make grandiosely ambivalent statements about war, misleading in their supposedly progressive populism but instead laced with the prescriptive ticks of an old hat Jabotinsky-ite. During the 2006 firebombing of Lebanon, he and Amos Oz, other milker of tearducts and stirrer of souls, released a moratorium on the war in intellectual news alternative Haaretz (read by my war is the answer loving uncle and his bomb factory running brother because the yediot and ma'ariv are too sensational). Though, if you read closely it was less a moratorium than a quip about how to run a war, a horrific tally having already bled the headlines they suggested a point has been sufficiently made and therefore they should try and make peace now. Instead of asking questions about the nature of bomb first policymaking they just quarreled with generals about logistics and the number of IED's. Thank you novelists, go back to stirring souls instead of blowing up their cages.

Well, now he's back to make a poetically strained whiskey face over the overextension of what he felt was another sensible blowout, calling it being "too imprisoned in the familiar ceremony of war," but not condemning that familiarity by contradicting it with a statement that at first it was necessary, to show them what a sleeping giant does when woken up, now the peace making can begin. At that point I'd rather Ehud Barak yelling on fox news with the rationale and composure of a third grader who stabbed his classmate for launching spitballs at him.

What's more disheartening is people are still on the gaza withdrawal "phenom" in which the palestinians somehow proved that, with a small parcel of land given to them without Israeli control (cough cough, all along the watchtower), they weren't able to control themselves as well as we were able to control them. That apparently is lack of democratic skill. Despite the fact the Dov Weisglass, working under Ariel Sharon, called the pullout, in a ha'aretz article "The Big Freeze", a method of putting the peace process in formaldehyde.

"The disengagement plan is the preservative of the sequence principle. It is the bottle of formaldehyde within which you place the president's formula so that it will be preserved for a very lengthy period. The disengagement is actually formaldehyde. It supplies the amount of formaldehyde that's necessary so that there will not be a political process with the Palestinians."

I.e. Israel was still building a security wall that expropriated land, changed the facts on the ground for peace negotiations, and disrupted the hell out of civilian life, all the while building more settlements in the west bank. So, in other words, the pullout was symbolic, and symbolically stupid.

Then came the free elections, in which the palestinians were given the option of democratically choosing a party of their choice, and being suffocated financially for making the wrong free and democratic choice. They made the wrong free and democratic choice and were suffocated financially because the party of the people who weren't recognized as Palestinians until 1993 and subsequently dismissed when 1993 fell apart, decided not to recognize the state that won't recognize them, their constituents paid dearly.

Before the latest alpha male Don Makaveli explosion in Gaza saturday morning two things happened. A total of 13 people died in Sderot since 2001 from rocket attacks and Waltz with Bashir opened in New York. I saw the film friday night and already then it served up a penetrating analysis of how the Israeli government gets away with barbarian acts of cruelty. Cognitive dissonance. Then saturday morning happened.

The film, a documentary about its creator and his involvement in the first invasion of lebanon, is animated. Ari Folman served in the 1982 invasion of Lebanon. He was there for Sabra and Shatila. And he can't remember any of it except for a lucid flashback to a night on a blitzed-out beach on Lebanese shores, nude. He interviews friends and former comrades about their experiences, whether they remember him there with them. More likely than not, they do. The decision to animate the film allows Folman to tap into that dreamlike state of crystalline reverie that renders even the most horrific experiences merely an abstract thought, jumbled up in a cognitive framework that has the present and the imagination going on at the same time. There are scenes of harrowing wartime fuck-ups and the rhythm of soon-to-be shellshocked soldiers following orders that are horrifying except for the ethereal beauty in which they're rendered. And it's that beauty that is intentionally disturbing. The reason these images are beautiful is because they are memory, because they are distanced aesthetes in which everything is just a thought, one that you can't think through clearly or put in the right order to it comes out like an installation, a piece of art.

It becomes clear that the reason behind that is because no one asked questions, they took orders. And this is emblematic of the country at large, reliant on conscription to keep its military state afloat, inevitably having to take up arms whenever a politician decides to not solve an issue diplomatically, a certain amount of denial is required. As excellently illustrated in the Gideon Levy article, "I Punched an Arab in the Face," Liran Feurer, a checkpoint soldier who was following orders, no soldier ever comes home to his parents a criminal, a thief, they always come home a hero, or someone whose done their job. To an extent this is because "in a certain sense, there are already two generations of criminals. The father went through it and now the son is going through it and no one talks about it around the dinner table."

He talks about devolving into a cruel beast, taunting, maiming and essentially dehumanizing Palestinians at the checkpoint as it was passed down by the chain of command as acceptable. By the time he got home and went to art school he was a cold shell, completely removed from the inner turmoil he effectively shut down to do "what had to be done." This holds true for war, and army veterans, of which most Israeli civilians are. Yet, as massacres are revealed, as Ariel Sharon is deposed from his position for involvement in a slaughter of two refugee camps, as intifadas break out and homes are demolished, all these events are percieved as necessary acts of survival and are never connected to the events that came before them. Mostly because the stark and brutal realities of the acts required to carry those events out have been forgotten by the perpetrators, or discarded in a defeatist but justified manner by the hands that did the dirty work.

What happens in the film is the events that he was a part of slowly dawn on him when his friends jog their memories. He begins to see the lack of questions asked in the first place. How everyone just shut down to a series of gossipy whispers, or confused onlookers, waiting for the next word, for the next command from higher up. Meanwhile, a group of Phalangist soldiers bloodlusting on the death of their leader, Bashir Gemayel, got the okay to take their revenge out on two refugee camps while soldiers in tanks with binoculars looked on. Both wondering what was happening and waiting to see what would happen next. Indiscriminate slaughter is what happened next. And this wasn't unprecedented. There was already an uneasy truce between the army and the militias before the event, when the Christian Phalangists would take conspicuous Palestinians, or whoever they deemed fit, to torture chambers and hacked away at their limbs. Walking around with them as if it was nothing, while Ariel Sharon deemed them worthy partners in private meetings.

At some point Ari Folman is reminded of his parents in a concentration camp, of the good nazi who just did his job while indirectly and directly having a hand in the fate of millions of nazi targets. It's here in the film where it becomes clear that when drudging up memories of WWII, being the children of holocaust survivors doesn't offer an excuse but a lack of excuses. It might offer a psychological condition, but a particular one you'd want to avoid allowing control of your life.
Perhaps it'll be twenty years before a documentary like this is made on the war on lebanon of 2006, or the destruction of Gaza today, and by then it'll be too late to ask the right questions, by then it'll be too late to make sense out of something you put out of your mind. By then the families of the dead will already be giving Israel "reasons" to do what they do best, never missing an opportunity to miss an opportunity.

Until then, here's another Gideon Levy article about the bomber pilots, and their tenacity to someone else's word, and their cold rationale for something that will never make sense.
The IAF, bullies of the clear blue skies

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Kill the poor (with kindness?): Out at the movies with the people down the tracks!

So I saw the story of Randy "Ram Jam" today and it ended, obviously, and it leaves you dangling but if you feel dangled like an old broken down piece of meat, that means it got you to care. And the whole act of caring for or about Ram Jam is weird in itself. There's a knee-jerk cynicism in film and life criticism (because the two invariably intersect even while sometimes canceling each other out (because how can someone else's criticism totally relate to what just went through your sensory and mental processors?)) that suggests any time a westerner dabbles in the third world it's a form of privileged, condescending tourism with a smug, self-satisfying orientalist grin. Any transgression of class or GDP barriers places the auteur, or whatever, in a precarious balancing act where the hurdle between the point and its audience is the people paid to decide for the audience whether the hurdle is worth jumping. You find cliched but impassioned movies about stuff getting the short shrift from critics but love from festival auds.

Not just east west, though. Rich/poor, bourgie/proletariat. Darren Aronofsky seems like a rich kid from an Ivy who got his legs in shape making art house cheese platters. I obviously don't know him, but every time I wanted to care for decrepit, desolate, destitute old Ram Jam I wondered how can an Ivy brat suddenly create such a genuine, sympathetic portrait of an old junkie wrestler in a trailer park without having been poor? Or unfairly demonized as white trash? And how could I hold him accountable for it if I was never poor or unfairly demonized as white trash? I mean, this film makes poetry out of what etiquette coaches and professionals in blandly civilized discourse would write off as low class communication problems unless told not to do so by austere cultural critics (I have so many targets floating in my head I wonder if all of them are real?).

What's great about The Wrestler is it doesn't give Ram Jam some kind of skill, like piano playing, to make his white trashiness seem totally undeserved. It makes his being human reason enough to make "white trashiness" seem undeserved. More on that later, as I haven't seen Five Easy Pieces or Fingers or Finding Forrester, but there's always some need for a serious film about the poor to have this artistic crutch that all of a sudden allows the main, disenfranchised subject to finally be welcomed into the pantheon of real human beings. "They thought he was the trash he was hired to take out, until they accidentally discovered his maguffin of an arbitrary artistic skill" because they are maguffins, who gives a shit what this person can do or where they're from? As long as they pass the checklist we were wrong for thinking they were poor and stupid, which obviously they would be if they weren't so brilliant at whatever-whatever.

Basically, Mickey Rourke, who's real life is some kind of noxious, lacerating mouthwash of a rock star turmoil, plays Randy the Ram. An old wrestler revered and respected by youngins and upstarts inside and in close proximity to the ring but nowhere else. Locked out of his trailer by a park manager who thinks he's never good for the rent because he only is when pressed, estranged from his daughter because he was too busy being a wrestler to be a father, and barely connected to a stripper (Marisa Tomei) who herself gets derided for her age by slick bro types with ties and engagement rings out for a night of misogynistic objectifiable partying before they have to cut off their bachelorhood for that one eternal black hole (i'm play-acting).

What's weird is how both Rourke and Tomei both fall into their roles like alternate universe versions of themselves. Tomei plays a character who pushes her body for commission, and it's like she's putting a nail in the coffin of the image she's cultivated baring herself in almost every outing of hers i've ever seen. Every moment her body palefaces into motherhood and camel's back you get the meta-heavy heaves of her realizing this is what her life has come to. Rourke on the other hand is lumpen, misshapen scar tissue pumped full of fake cartilege and drugs, his barely beating heart being pummeled by every bad decision he's made in his life at once, and right now. He wants to feel something other than the visceral pleasure and adrenaline rush of ringside pain but his own life keeps on showing up at every shed tear.

The only real asshole in the movie is the grocery store manager, played by Todd Barry, turning his laconic lackadasia into lacerating manageria (it's a disease). Wrestling, which i've always considered a joke, some testosterone fueled melodrama that plays like soaps for fucktards, is totally given it's due here. The wrestlers, in amiable, humorous, and conciliatory manner ask each other how they want the fights to play out. They hug and joke with each other in a totally non-jockish, humbling way. It's almost insane artifice that you have to wonder if it's trumping reality more than capturing it. But it's so sweet! They do it for the crowds, and for the rent, and for each other, because they have this community, too. And when they die a little, it dies a little (a totally devastating scene later on where Ram Jam, post-op, is at some community center convention with barely any show ups, noticing all these other old wrestlers with some kind of disability from their end's gravity approaching like thunder).

Another movie that totally got me was Ballast, made by Lance Hammer, whose blaxploitaiton-baiting name totally threw me off guard when I found out he was white. There was another chasm, another transgressive exploration of another socio-economic status, this one compounded by race! A young white filmmaker making a soulful, sympathetic, and no-bullshit non-condescending portrait of life for broken black family in the mississippi delta. It made my dad throw up, but not because of it's realness, it was all over the shoulder shots that let you lean on the characters a bit, leer and hang out with them while their turmoil figured itself out.

Armond White called it a white and middle class dream dressed up like an exploration of poor blacks. He could be right, but the movie never settles, it's always uneasy, up until its final shot. What's impressive about it is that while it was made by a white filmmaker, is obviously under a white filmmaker's gaze, it was workshopped with the actors. Non-professionals hired based on being who they were, black and Delta poor. I can hear auctioneering! and coercion! being yelled from deconstructionist protests in the back, but really how else can a young white filmmaker get someone from another socially constructed race to represent themselves on camera without being a purposely defeatist occidentalist and giving up?

"It really wasn’t about bringing something out; it was about preventing them from putting something out there that wasn’t them. So my singular goal in the direction of actors, was to have the actors behave as they are at all times…I wanted them. This is straight out of Robert Bresson – you cast people for them. It’s not acting. I don’t want them to act."

The film starts off with two suicides, one successful, one attempted. The attempted suicide is later confronted by his own gun by a kid run afoul of local crack dealers while his mother works a dead end convenience store job. There's long silences, little to no dialogue, and loads and loads of atmosphere and emotion. To suggest it's impressionistic for the sake of artsy exuberance is to miss the point. Apparently: "I ended up in the Delta and was just blown away. I can’t describe the sensation, because it lives in a world that is beyond verbal articulation – and that’s precisely the thing, I wanted to try to convey that, and I knew writing a novel or poetry wouldn’t capture that feeling… I was determined to make a film that somehow captured the presence of this place. It dealt specifically with sorrow, and it dealt specifically with a patient endurance in the face of suffering, and the dignity of this endurance just moved me tremendously."

Ballast, too, doesn't saddle its protagonists with some lame-brained artistic trick to turn for the genteels, it just hangs out with them. Follows them, lets you in on them as far as you can go without being them, or hearing their innermost thoughts. They're heavily guarded, all you've got are binoculars, no x-ray specs. Come down for a day, say a word or two, or pass on through a gas station with nothing but a thank you. It's all good, they'll still be there, maybe.

At the same time it doesn't contextualize them in a torrential stream of abstract polemics about institutions. Impassioned speeches are fine and all, but these characters, as fake-actual real people, have emotions too. Have other affairs. The destitution and structural racism might hang in the air, but it doesn't manifest itself every time black skin encounters white. What's revolutionary about the film and it's character's actions is they somewhat bypass institutional action, the hierarchic, dependency-inducing service industry of charity and social work.

In passing it's mentioned how schools are nothing but concrete shams meants to hold kids for 12 years before dumping them back onto the streets with nothing but reflexive self-loathing and obedience. It's not mentioned explicitly in the terms put to use by John Taylor Gatto's Against School but a decision is made to homeschool the kid instead. It's kind of a decentralization of uplift and recovery, in which each interpersonal reliance, mutual aid, is given the preferential treatment instead of another "economically down on my knees, time to commit unlawful transgression." Which is fine and all, but not everyone's a crack dealer.

Part Two, in which I watch Fingers and Five Easy Pieces and ruminate on movies that need hotel lobby tricks to care about their protagonists, to come whenever I get the ability to write clearly.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Happy-go-lucky, Higher Education and Hyphy Hyphy Hyphy
I barely cracked a millimeter in Infinite Jest but I did read David Foster Wallace's Commencement Speech at Kenyon University. Watching Happy-Go-Lucky at a film festival today that's all I could think about. Addressing a pantheon of liberal arts students about to break out of abstract sociological deconstructions into the harsh and concrete reality of what they already transcended mentally, Wallace attempts to prepare them to lift the banal rock of proverbs and platitudes to find the wondrous ant colonies sustaining themselves underneath.
He warns of a certain unconscious mode of thinking that's only critical in the sense that it exists for purposes of survival. Working a dreary white collar job, an upper echelon quadrant afforded by one's degree, won't mesh well with getting home and having to do even more menial work like grocery shopping. Getting stuck on the highway in bumper to bumper traffic can lead to automatic rants about the environmental damage of oil and the generational damage its going to cause. Being stuck with Lynchian blandness in a checkout line, confronted with quarreling families, assumptions are made about the way they carry themselves:
"But most days, if you're aware enough to give yourself a choice, you can choose to look differently at this fat, dead-eyed, over-made-up lady who just screamed at her kid in the checkout line. Maybe she's not usually like this. Maybe she's been up three straight nights holding the hand of a husband who is dying of bone cancer. Or maybe this very lady is the low-wage clerk at the motor vehicle department, who just yesterday helped your spouse resolve a horrific, infuriating, red-tape problem through some small act of bureaucratic kindness. Of course, none of this is likely, but it's also not impossible. It just depends what you what to consider. If you're automatically sure that you know what reality is, and you are operating on your default setting, then you, like me, probably won't consider possibilities that aren't annoying and miserable. But if you really learn how to pay attention, then you will know there are other options."
As a fiction writer, that makes sense, but he also graduated summa cum laude for a thesis in modal logic. One doesn't qualify the other, but what he's getting at is not that you can possibly exploit these situations with your notepad with a booker prize on the horizon, but that merely because you've liberated your consciousness to a new mode of thinking doesn't mean you can't slip into the dreary drugde of an automaton, what is important is that your critical thinking is used to remind you of not just your reality but that of your surroundings and I won't sum up the rest for fear of my turning this into some deepak chopra nonsense about the spirit and whatnot, but the point is that the liberating part of the liberal arts education should teach one to be alert and insightful not just on "issues" and "constructs" but on life.
Considering Wallace's recent suicide, this bit is sadly ironic, but not delegitimized in any way by his ultimate action.
"Think of the old cliché about quote the mind being an excellent servant but a terrible master. This, like many clichés, so lame and unexciting on the surface, actually expresses a great and terrible truth. It is not the least bit coincidental that adults who commit suicide with firearms almost always shoot themselves in: the head. They shoot the terrible master. And the truth is that most of these suicides are actually dead long before they pull the trigger. And I submit that this is what the real, no bullshit value of your liberal arts education is supposed to be about: how to keep from going through your comfortable, prosperous, respectable adult life dead, unconscious, a slave to your head and to your natural default setting of being uniquely, completely, imperially alone day in and day out."
And that's what I was thinking about while watching Happy-Go-Lucky, Mike Leigh's new movie about a frustratingly optimistic schoolteacher facing tons of societal woe without her features sagging like an outdated cosmetic job!
Sally Hawkins plays Poppy, who at 30 is the oldest of three siblings, but as Aaliyah circa 94 could testify, your birth certificate don't mean squat (p.s. I just looked at the lyrics for that song, 1994 was crazy!). Of course here there's no cougar manifestation or taboo transgressions that figure into her character, unless you count Poppy's inability to wallow in stalwart regard of everything that's wrong and wear her downcast conscientiousness on her sleeve. Instead she weaves the habitual Brit colloquialism that turns every phrase into a question considerate of the other person's opinion on it, even though she doesn't really need to ask because her every response subtly suggests (without her subtly suggesting) that she knows exactly what the other person is talking about. She's a kindergarten teacher and her wardrobe is halfway between the Vice Do's section and the LSD-toting 1st grade teacher in Billy Madison. Her personality supports it, too.
The way Hawkins plays it Poppy is the kind of halfway ditzy, pallishly goofy, but irrepressibly bouyant person that would make any Chomsky & Kafka reading paranoiac want to pull her out of her shell and tell her how things are and that her lifestyle is tantamount to ignorant, and therefore inadvertent, nihilism. What's great about the arc of the story is that she doesn't have a wake-up call, the film isn't her learning all the ills of the world, with head above water moments in which she decides to become a social worker or open a newspaper because she already did and is responding to the world as she knows how. Everything that happens to or around her merely confirms what she already knows.
There's a stark contrast made between her and her driving instructor who, despite having abandoned the school system (because it "didn't agree" with him) and the oppressive societal structures that keep him at bay (layed out hilariously between tense and terse bits of instruction as a series of increasingly outlandish and disconnected conspiracy theories), is virulently upset with black street culture to the point of becoming a paranoid racist. Poppy on the other hand doesn't have a black friend to fill her racial sensibility quota, but she gets on well with her predominantly black students and with another teacher who so happens to be...and doesn't drop into self-righteous and ultimately futile rant every time she has to think about what will probably happen to her predominantly black students once they move on up the educational system.
Instead, with a sherry in hand, she lays it out quite adequately without ever losing a smile, and not a spiteful smile, but one in which she knows the limitations of her abilities but isn't particularly concerned with what barriers she has to transgress! When her driving instructor tells her to lock the car doors when a black kid on a bicycle passes in front she responds in a dumbfounded "are you serious?" tone of mock indignance but doesn't lose her shit and storm out on him, instead laughing on to the next stop. She doesn't wear an anti-racism patch on her arm like the Clash but has an internal clockwork that would suggest she doesn't need one.
She doesn't come at it from some false hippie spiritualism, there's no rewards system or framework which will patly fill out a self help book, she just kind of exudes and this lends itself to the film's amiably shambolic structure. Unlike Amelie or one of the twee life-affirming bubbles of quirk sundance seems to pump out mechanically every year, her wondrous infectiousness merely plays out of her every gesture, the way she fits into conversations or the ways in which others react to her. There's no artificial CGI scape of London with Poppy popping in for a voice-over filled with easily digestible whimsy pointing out the cracks in other people she finds amusing, you pick it up as she goes along, no externalized signifiers.
If there is any wake up call it's merely a slight corrective to the extent in which her good natured internalizing of external conflict, much the way trees spit out CO2 as oxygen, actually lends itself to other people. The only thing I can compare it to is the Prez's story arc in season 4 of the Wire and the way his good-intentioned dealings with Dukie eventually prove unfruitful. Happy-go-lucky doesn't provide an easy fatalist defeatism to its various outcomes, though, it just goofily pals on.
I've not seen Mike Leigh's previous films, one concerning a leading figure fighting for abortion rights while sticking it out doing dangerous backyard work, and another in which David Thewlis apparently makes everyone feel gross. Reacting to critics who claim the movie is just Sunny D chemical sugars in the face of a Bhopal disaster he insists:
"If anyone wants to say that Happy-Go-Lucky is devoid of social comment, that's stupid, as it has plenty to say about how we live, that is the way we teach, the way we learn, the way we have relationships, the way we interact with people, the way people accumulate ideas and don't know what to do with them, surviving and dealing with problems. It's rooted in social issues, and in that sense, it's political if you like. But it's not tract, it's not a piece of propaganda. A film can only be interesting if it's rooted in reality in some way, things can only be funny if they're rooted in reality, and they can only be tragic if they're rooted in reality. It's overall a bright, energetic positive experience and I hope it makes you feel it's worth living. But within it are darknesses and sadnesses of various kinds, which are there for Poppy to react to, deal with, feel about and care about. As such it's hopefully a complex film that has its comic and celebratory side."
I also thought about Hyphy, the Bay Area rap juggernaut that announces itself like a bio-dome of self-sustaining gas and plant culture. E-40 and a gaggle of others have basically taken all of rap's supposedly regressive and embarassing aspects and turned into categorical emblems of nobility. Spinning lexicons whose rapidity would make Shakespeare blush they wear their stupidity on their sleeve, blow their aesthete out their speakers, and rove like the fearsome packs they're made out to be. What's great is their connection to the conscious sphere. For all the getting dumb, putting your stunna shades on, and general defiance of selfish ass-saving logic (by Dawkins' definition) by ghost riding the whip, they're intrinsically linked with acts like the Coup. While in promotion and content there's no direct connection, they kind of complete each other. Perhaps I should phrase it with Boots on the diplomatic end but it would only undercut keak and the rest of the gang.
In rap it's generally frowned upon to indulge in excesses if they're not cut along a strict moral grounding, IED's of explosive righteousness about your position in relation to the radio or mainstream conception. For all of the lyrical populism I can't really understand the lack of embrace for what pops out of a large portion of the population's speakers. To an extent there is a corporate commodification of what was once a communal property, but it's too easy to systematically dismiss something more than tangentially linked to its golden age on the streets. There are producers and writers who come in and do behind the scenes work to prop up artistic merit on the face of the album cover, that doesn't necessarily delegitimize the work that's being pumped out. Hollywood in the 30's and 40's was filled with supposed stoolies and toadies rung in to do a fix-up job and cut a studio picture for a paycheck. That doesn't necessarily mean everything they churned out was thinly spread butter. Some, like Preston Sturges, cut their reputation fitting in wildly variegated romps with personal stamps in between their bouts for creative control. Some, like Seijun Suzuki, transformed their contractual obligations into abstract art exhibits meditating on alienation, repression and violence while endlessly playing with convention.
It's too easy to conflate the artists whose product is being hawked and the industry that's hawking the product. There's the sociological, overarching framework which can be analyzed, but if you consistently lob the individuals working within it then the result is almost tantamount to the statistical outputs of opportunity costs in low-intensity conflicts. So, take the time to get dumb, put your stunna shades on, because the world being dark already doesn't necessitate you remind it of itself on a regular basis!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Peedi Crakk's Sweet Dreams (Jay-Z) and G-Side's Speed of Sound + Slow Motion Soundz

Peedi Crakk - Sweet Dreams (Jay-Z)

This has to be one of the most endearing manifestations of a rap beef ever. Peedi has a few tracks out in which he freestyles discontent over Jay beats, but this one hits harder by being genuinely touching. The video plays like an abandoned projector reeling from memorial fragments of a bygone era. It's funny because Jay Z and Peedi obviously grew up in different hoods but their mutual mining of street weaved nostalgia leads them to the same school of hard knocks. Peedi, with kids in tow, bikes towards the camera with a graffiti typeset bounced on by a sing-a-long ball. Apparently Jay had set up one-on-ones to discuss the future of daf jam/roc a fella and instead sent over an A 'n' R rep to Philly to shitcan Peedi, Beans AND Freeway. Thus, the kids in tow is less a "remember these streets you abandoned via private jet," but "the entire region you took under your wing and then dropped from the nest." Peedi claims his new Amalgam Digital distribution set up for a Night in the Life is ideal, so maybe they'll have an awkward encounter at an airport lounge some day soon. Does anyone know where the guitar comes from, i've been searching through Queen songs for the last hour and can't find it!

G-Side - Speed of Sound (produced by Block Beataz)
This is, like, the most perfect aural realization of some euphoric physical dissociation from the material world. Head nesting in the clouds, these rappers enunciate every syllable slowly, the beat subtly resting beneath them, in complete contradiction of their flow charts and the supposed titular trajectory. Nothing about their flow suggests they're breaking any barriers, but quite possibly they've broken one and now they're simulating floating in the aether. NASA's lost contact, they've made contact, through a handball richochet with alien satellites our ear canals are picking up on transmuted static. My tear ducts cry India when this comes on.

G-Side- on everything
Wow, okay, aside from Stop Tha Violence, which is either harsh sarcasm or has nothing to do with its title, pretty much every song hits like speed of sound. Apparently G-Side is Stephen Harris aka ST 2 Lettaz and David Williams aka Yung Clova whose backstories go beyond those of hood figgas or drug dealers caught up in the game with a story to unload over some fresh beats. Their stories have that institutional neglect the Wire's naturalist plot mechanics strived for demystifying. By the time they met at the Boys and Girls Club in Athens, Alabama, one had been through foster care and straight up homelessness while the other got stuck with drug abuse in the family unit. So yeah, I'm white and my only point of reference is Dookie and Michael, but apparently their mission statement is to hit up the wishbones of their listeners with empathetic dustbins, sweeping up everyone's miserable past in a semantically sweetened street sweep.

Paper Route Records
“I ain’t going to lie, sometimes I hate the fuck out of Huntsville,” Money Addict says. “Any time you dig a hole and you stuck in some shit, you just want to breathe and be somewhere else.” - from the profile in The Fader.
Okay, here lies pretty much the most emotionally vulnerable - scratch that, hard front pulverizing sound factory I've been on a tour of recently. I mention the aural aspect because it completely transforms the words from spiteful slugs and bitch dumping in a song like Soul Glo into a window seat take off reflection. Which is weird, because while all their music seems to suggest transcending place, the crew apparently have no interest in leaving their spot in Alabama, spending their days myspacing, chess playing and breaking studio walls down like they're setting off in the NASA space shuttles grounded in a nearby park.
The Urb article makes note of the screw connection, but this is kind of like if screw left the vocals alone, creating a genuinely disorienting disconnect between the words and their propulsive engine. Instead of feeling down though that rift between the two is this unusually pleasurable zone of free-floating moonshine. Despite it's assurance that I should sit back and relax I'm so excited right now I might need to call NASA to calm me down.

(click to enlarge!)

Further reading -

Monday, October 13, 2008

My President & Rich Folk

Young Jeezy - My President

Unfortunately Jeezy calls himself out on and of this one before it even starts showcasing any lyrical depth. There's been a strain of political semi-awakenings in the rap community in the wake of Obama's presidential nomination. Or, not necessarily political awakenings but the entrance of rappers into the conventional framework of what constitutes political consciousness. Will. I. Am with the Yes We Can theme song, Big Boi and Mary J. Blige's collaboration for an Obama themed song. This unfortunately makes a distinction between rap's previous examination of politics as an external force entirely neglectful of their immediate surroundings. Or at least the immediate surroundings of their fictional manifestations, the throwbacks to their alleged (and most likely historically true) lives on the streets. For me these were far more important than an endorsement of any particular candidate as hood politics were emblematic of the general disillusionment with the political system that rampant police corruption and funding cutbacks caused in the inner cities. I would love to see young rappers just write about going to an impoverished school, basically confirming the quotes in Jonathan Kozol books.
Here though we have Jeezy making what seems to be an obvious endorsement of Obama. Instead what we find is an examination of the economic and social factors that would lead a member of the underclass' reliance on the voting process to solve their problems. First he offers a series of polemics in which the current situation under the present administration is painted as fraudulent, deaths over crude oil, voter manipulation and so on. But some lines are laced in there that are just inquisitive of the political process in general
"Just Cuz You Got An Opinion Does That Make You A Politician?"
"I Say And I Quote 'We Need A Miracle'
And I Say A Miracle Cuz This Shit Is Hysterical"
But my favorite part comes in the beginning of the second verse, in which the long tradition of focusing on street level react quotes as opposed to abstract thematic concerns comes into play. With a seemingly overblown response undercut with a sly sense of humor Jeezy raps from the perspective of someone between the choice of drug dealing and I guess voting, which is an unfortunately false dichotomy but it stresses the desperation that would cause someone to buy into Obama's hope for change slogans instead of endorsing them wholesale.
"I Said I Woke Up This Morning Headache THIS BIG!
Pay All These Damn Bills Feed All These Damn Kids
Buy All These School Shoes Buy All These School Clothes
For Some Strange Reason My Son Addicted To Polos "
The song is almost subversive in that regard, suggesting the political process is really just a last resort and not necessarily the first thing required to improve upon the immediate problem OR the long run. I have no idea if the lambo and the rims being blue is something about an alignment with democrats and specifically blue-blood democrats.
What's great is the Nas verse continues that concern, and instead of stressing that voting for Obama will change that situation he holds up the historically cynical negation of the voting process as a means for change in the inner cities/poorer districts. Not only that, but this won't be any exception.
When Thousands Of People Is Riled Up To See You
That Can Arouse Ya Ego You Got Mouths To Feed So
Gotta Stay True To Who You Are And Where You Came From
Cuz At The Top Will Be The Same Place You Hang From

Instead of giving a mandate via song and verse this is an ultimatum, a binding contractual agreement, now that an endorsement has been commodified by an album called the recession, you can't just go around stoking people's hopes via skin color and rhetorical strategies. Unfortunately this still stresses reliance on the system to fix itself so it can serve the community while maintaining that hierarchical imbalance that created the need for welfare. At the same time though it's still cynical of the process as a whole. This song is great because it totally sees through the slogans and understands why someone would come to see a vote as something greater than it is, not because it actually is, but because they feel like they've got nothing else. It comes to the point where Obama is just as viable as Bill Ayers.

Plies - Rich Folk/A Hundred Years
I was on my way back from the dentist when I heard Rich Folk on satellite radio and it reaffirmed my belief that Plies is one of the most endearingly honest sounding rappers no matter what he's talking about. A while back I had caught the hundred years video of Plies testifying in a courthouse looking like he was on the verge of tears as shiny as his mouth. One, it was the best usage of puss ass cracka I had ever heard, turning into a chorus suggesting such serious emotion that it obviously came from being personally affected by puss ass crackaness. In the courthouse a black person is sentenced to an irrational sentence, life taken away by an uncaring judge. My confidence in Plies was shaken when I read that his bodyguards shot up some audience members after a brawl broke out because his mic was cut for Lil Boosie to cut in on his overtime.

Sometimes though, you have to separate the art from the artist, and sometimes that emotional instability (which seems to have come from a poor choice in protection) actually strengthens a song's statement. Seriously, the facial expressions put on display here are the stuff of verite acting methodology, video recordings in a bomb shelter with last word expectant improbability.
Rich Folk on the other hand is basically my president's politics without a solution, especially not a political one. Unfortunately the song espouses the kind of individuating libertarian impulse of abandoning a community's groupthink to pursue riches. But the problems with this aren't really the individual choice, not everyone can afford to bring up the community with them. When white people tout Oprah and Cosby and various black business leaders as examples of success their brethren should follow they completely bypass an understanding of the factors that allowed for individual advancement as opposed to community transformation. There's the COINTELPRO's sabotage of every effort for community organizers to create self-sustaining healthcare, education and food distribution within ghettoes for fear of a disruption in the food chain, as well as spending cuts that followed in the wake of that perpetuating impoverishment in poor areas. Basically, it's when a statement like one that Plies makes here is used in a derogatory context that it becomes dishonest.
But why does one deal? To pay bills. While rappers talk about riches and how the game saved their life, or that of their fictional counterpart in the first person, they neglect to discuss the chain of command. Footsoldiers don't get the same respect, there's still a disparity in the distribution of wealth. In creating an unlawful hierarchy out of being disenfranchised by the lawful one, the drug business maintains disparities in wealth. They can afford cookouts at the local church, but it's still a service industry that places their organization in control.
So, here is this song where Plies plays someone vying for a better life. Not wanting to rely on drug dealing to pay the bills, knowing that being on the grind actually involves grinding, and grinding isn't always an alchemic process. It's also not just a matter of personal growth but posterity for future generations. This might not be just in response to people so embedded in the game that they despise you for making attempts at joining the bourgeoise negro elite that consistently looks down upon its less successful brethren (in accumulation of wealth and assimilation into the white capitalist power structure), this could also be in response to conventional rap wisdom of how it's necessary to survive. So yeah, it kind of denigrates others making decisions that don't have upward mobility written all over them, but it comes from being mired in those decisions on a daily basis.
"Fuck hood rich, I wana be rich for real, I don't want no gun I want a million fuckin dollar
bills, be in mind it's brand new and sit it on da edge, walk into my sons room, and you can't
tell if it's mine or his, I want my son to be the first one with a wheel, I want to send my son
to college and pay it up for four years, let the streets be mad and tell em he anit real, the
motherfuckers hate you when good is how you live, cus nine days broke is wat da streets call
real, the same mother fuckers who can't pay there fuckin bills, take it from me bein broke,
that ain't trill, it feels even better bein worth a couple mill"

Saturday, August 2, 2008

"Irony is for b*tches, I'm down for Byrony, fools!"

Long before Journey's Don't Stop Believing became a posthumous cultural touchstone widely embraced without apologies, trumping VH1's snarky and false nostalgia with an appreciation that the song's genuine emotional resonance couldn't have been achieved without the grandiose pomposity of Steve Perry's high notes, there always had to be some kind of Foucault level deconstruction of one's emotional responses before someone could just stop fronting and say they like a song, with some petty stab at preserving dignity with the punch line of it being a guilty pleasure. Rappers on the other hand seem to have been entirely out of the loop on other people's musical hangups, and in their record bin scouring seem to have digested pop culture wholesale with no regard to a song's perceived connotations.
For all of rap's macho posturing, and self-concious sexual identity crises, rap has embraced some of the flat out gayest (by arbitrary cultural associations, because who in 50 years will know why the hetero male guard deemed them as legitimate acid tests for possible dwellers in the invisible closet, what a strange concept that will be in a few hundred years, no?) songs and made them worthy of any street aficionado. When an album's beats fail or a rapper goes in a direction to his audience's dislike, it's considered an artistic failure, and a creative deficiency that demerits that rapper's good will. But in some senses it is absolutely liberating that a rapper doesn't hold to the same standards of legitimacy and doesn't have to say some shit like "it's so bad it's good" in order to get down with Spandau Ballet. While in some instances there might have seemed to be a friction between rappers and r and b singers that was revealed to be nonsense, as even the most hetero, testosterone pumped caricatures let smooth croons grace their supposedly graceless tunes.
Here are some of my favorites.

Method Man featuring Blue Rasberry - Release Yo' Delf.
Please watch: Actual video, embedding disabled by request of universal music group. Songstress front and center, then Meth owns it.
As pop culture history would tell it, this song is a gay torch carrier. As Method Man would tell it, it is both a bona fide hood anthem and a salute to anyone able to navigate the treacherous international waters of the record industry. The lyrics are I will survive, sculpted with a little street vernacular those three words are as straightforward as they can be.

Z-Ro - Continue 2 Roll (ft. Tanya Herron)

Yes! Another context in which I can laud Z-Ro for being so painfully earnest that his usage of a spandau ballet song as a triumphant glare in the face of morally dispiriting adversity is as touching as he intended it to be, and nowhere near as schmaltzy as it sounds like it could be. He makes keen societal observations about the hypocrisy of the media's racially charged representation of rap culture, the onslaught of crime and violence and the crumbling of any kind of sustainable, benevolent infrastructure, and is generally depressed as hell about all of it. It works, and you can bet he didn't think twice about whether the sklar brothers would think it was funny because I Love The 80's made fun of it.

Crime Mob - What is Love

A possible cry for help after sleepless nights playing hopscotch in debauched night club orifices (gender neutral), the song was turned into a novelty joke scoring the failed endeavors of the brothers butabi on an SNL sketch about obnoxious club patrons who don't know when to accept a rejection on the dance floor, or anywhere else for that matter. Crime Mob completely avoided the song's essentially cheese whiz associations and took it for what it immediately sounds like. A serious contemplation on the query put forth in the song's title. When asked about taking the song's sad impressions at face value by Status Ain't Hood, Crime Mob went into flat out braggadocio and said that if you don't like something, they'll flip it 'til you love it.

Cam'ron - Girls

Sampling a carefree bubblegum self-indulgent girlie-girl anthem Cam was going for one of two things. The first, Cam measured and acknowledged a genuinely good pop song when he heard one, and realized it would make a great foundation for a song. Two, he measured twice and realized the song's a post-feminist ideation of anti-intellectual girlie-girlism and would make an excellent self-defeating casemaker for Cam'ron's justification of womanizing, essentially boiling down to "Girls are all whores". Either way, dude sampled Cyndi Lauper into a chauvinist anthem.

Beanie Sigel - Wanted

Was it hair metal's most enduringly awful sons? Because it's definitely not the hard rock wikipedia claims it to be. Bon Jovi, coif in tow, stool down low, acoustic guitar for show, inevitably as empty as a midnight laser show, grabbing for archetypal glory by way of a western cliche. Beanie Sigel, though, takes the song's theme, and uses Jovi's wail to maximum effect, their siren like grip a stimulus for his near panic attack, as he fretfully recounts the down side of being an outlaw, on the run from the cops. Once the initial joke wears off, and before Cam'ron blazes in nuts first, this is a fairly intense song.

Billy Squire's The Big Beat in Jay-Z's 99 Problems and Dizzee Rascal's Fix Up, Look Sharp

(This was so much fun to shout during Rascal's set)
Okay, and a bunch of other songs reaching back past Big Daddy Kane but I'm more familiar and comfortable with these two, and only somewhat surprised by its overall popularity. That two hard rappers would reach back to what signaled the rise in arena sized softies, crying pelvises known as def leppard, poison, air supply and various other fashion accessorizing boutique stylists with a penchant for leather is further proof that rappers don't need something hard in order to cultivate a suitably unfuckwithable image. Seemingly, both Jay and Dizzee recognized the cock in the rock and ran with it. One using it as a backdrop for a defiantly reactionary song about racial profiling, and the other, to, well, fix up and look sharp. I'll be honest, though, this original song is pretty badass. It's also instantly recognizable in it's sampled form and therefore posting videos of its newer contexts is unnecessary.

Kanye West - Good Morning
Though he samples Steely Dan on the next track and daft punk on the third, there's something precarious about the usage of elton john in light of Kanye's public discussion and disavowal of homophobia, and both preceding and subsequent epithets targeted at him because apparently all rappers have gaydar. This probably has nothing to do with the above and has more to do with this being a good song, but still, I'll throw some political context to heat things up.
Original song- Elton John: "Somebody Saved My Life Tonight"

Bonus: Though it's only mimicked in the way his name is announced, you know that Method Man and the Wu totally sat through this song and thought they could make that sound tight as fuck.
Guess which song this ended up in.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Dark Knight: Bummer, or, No Country for Old Self-Righteous Billionaires

I'm not sure at what point it was, somewhere around the first ten minutes of the film I pretty much guessed I wasn't going to like it much. Perhaps it was the entrance of the Joker into a co-op style mob meeting, where the black gang works on id and lobs middle school ideations of mob talk at the fool who robbed their bank. As the movie progresses the Joker becomes less of a character and more of a Camus cliffnote (and by note I mean one) on the absurd. How does law and order act in a world where law and order have to be created, but don't necessarily exist?

And here is where the film's central thesis, if there was any, kind of bugged me. Instead of the Joker being a product of his environment (which isn't quite necessary but kind of becomes so due to the strictures placed by the film's allegorical intentions), the environment becomes a product of him, nothing more than an abstract cipher with the potential to unleash every force of good's inner evil out of a sense of pragmatism and ticking bomb philosophizing. And there it was, the downfall of society and government at the Joker's hands weren't examples of an inherent flaw in the system, or the institutions meant to keep it in order, but said institutions' inability to deal with an anomaly that their previously benevolent structuring was now unable to harness.

If I heard right The Joker believes that all mankind are inherently evil, that there is no order, that man creates a false sense of morality to cover up its dirty underpinnings, and instead of everyone being a rough gem they're really pieces of coal that need to be thrown back into the mines. In that I think I'm giving the film too much credit, because they do to anarchy the same thing corporations with a finger on punk's pulse line have, or the government with a fear of its loss of power over the public faith did, mainly strip the idea of a society with no established institutions of order and turn it into a nightmarish floodgate for chaos at every turn. So then anarchy is chaos that happens when the good guys have lost their ability to take care of you.

This is the same problem I had with the film No Country For Old Men's central thesis, that there's a "rising tide" of new kinds of violence, unexplainable by the present's conception of the human clockwork. Society being undone by a new kind of sickness for which no precedent existed. I say the film because it left out many of the book's thematic underpinnings, mainly that Chigur's sociopathy was a powderkeg that reminded the sheriff and Llewelyn of the point in their lives that they realized it was a meaningless mass of sadistic chaos, respectively, world war II and vietnam. Acts of unbridled brutality that stripped them of their comrades and left them walking ghosts without an explanation as to their existence. The book might have kept to the point that violence was becoming less understandable anomalies, seemingly alien inventions of torture. I disagree with it there, too, because it was governments that introduced the guillotine, it was governments that introduced the iron maiden, mutilation of the flesh in unrecognizably bizarre ways is nothing that rapidly developed only in recent times, it has historical precedence.

But at least the book understood that historical precedence. The film's nihilism was undeserved, it just launched a cipher on a bunch of seemingly good characters and watched them crumble in baffled exhaust, remaining essentially good, but powerless in the face of amoral chaos. The film left out the thematic backgrounds of the characters, and Llewelyn's conflict with identity, which would have better explained their loss of humanity, something that was lost before Chigur. The Sheriff didn't believe a law existed, was dumbstruck as to his own position. Chigur was just a reminder of that. In the movie he's just a pat plot device.

And despite Heath Ledger's showstopping, clamorous performance as a psychopath able to coldly rationalize his lack of rationality, that's all he is, "a new breed of villain." At first I thought the film was a showcase of libertarian realism, close to Frank Miller's threads of Randian jingoism, that the job of the state is best left in the hands of well armed capitalists, but as the film progresses Harvey Dent becomes a mantle of the law's ability to curb all of society's unwanted elements, and restore order to what was once good, as if Gotham, unlike the rest of the united states, wasn't built on exploitation and slave labor.

Yeah, it's a comic book movie, but it makes explicit parallels between Gotham law's fight against The Joker and post 9/11 America's fight against terrorism. "If we cave in to the Joker's demands, then terrorism wins." Much of the police force is demoralized, placed in compromising situations that require they make realpolitik decisions, perhaps Sophie's Choices, in order to make it to the next round of sadism. Lucius Fox, Bruce Wayne's one man military defense contractor, is forced to wiretap on Gotham's 30 million people with phone lines so that Batman can catch his Bin Laden figure, The Joker. Lucius warns he'll resign, but he's willing to break the law just this once, to catch this uncompromisingly and inexplicably evil brand of villain.

There is no explanation for the Joker. Before slicing victim's faces into smiling scars resembling his own, he gives fabricated explanations as to the reason for his, either an alcoholic father or loss of human spirit in the face of tragedy befalling his wife, possibly poking fun at the audience's need for an explanation of the character's motives. But if that's the case the film might as well poke fun at itself, as it's first film spent two hours setting up the motives for Batman. And stripping the Joker of any psychological explanation as an example of nihilism or unexplainable phenomena is a poor excuse for plot development.

As a result the allusion is flawed because the film only picks up after 9/11, as if there was no historical precedent for the waves of terrorism in the supposedly civilized parts of the world. As if the United States and various other European countries didn't build themselves on the exploitation and expropriation of peoples they felt were inherently inferior, because of some racist genetic hogwash. That 9/11 wasn't a response to decades of pillaging other people's natural resources, destroying liberal governments because they got in the way of private business interests essentially paving the way for opportunistic fundamentalists with an equally fervent opposition to godless communism.

In that way the film ends up being somewhat of a rationalization of all the fucked up things run through congress in the light of the war on terror, a humanizing portrait of all those who were compelled to do such things by a new, unprecedented, unmitigated evil. If they decided to be P.C. and make Harvey Dent black the film could have doubled as an ad for Obama. The government having been bought off by corrupt private elements, Dent was going to make a sweep that would change that. Though if they did do that, then his convoluted story arc in which he himself is eventually dehumanized by the joker and his political idealism reduced to a parable about the dangers of revenge (hello Batman parallelism!), people might not vote for Obama because his hope would be revealed to be an empty slogan by a comic book film with faux-philosophical pretenses? I don't know, either way, the film was discomfiting and disappointing in that regard.

Sure, there was a sequence in which the prisoners are revealed to be as equally humane as the bloodthirsty civilians on the opposite ferry when they both have a chance to detonate the other for their own safety, but the foil for the act came when one of the civilians wasn't able to get his hands dirty, probably because he was used to batman doing it for him. That both boats came to the point of possible detonation means the overwhelming choice was to blow up the other boat. Either way, it was only for Batman to be able to point out that human good triumphs over sociopathic evil, and not everyone is a freak, an unmanageable anomaly like the Joker.

Side note, I just read The Killing Joke for the first time, and Christopher Nolan claims that was his inspiration for the character's portrayal in the film, handing Ledger the one-off as preparation for his role. It was written by Alan Moore and his assessment of it years after publication is unusually apt when comparing it to the film's version, saying it was "clumsy, misjudged and [devoid of] real human importance." That, "at the end of the day, Watchmen was something to do with power, V for Vendetta was about fascism and anarchy, The Killing Joke was just about Batman and the Joker - and Batman and the Joker are not really symbols of anything that are real, in the real world, they're just two comic book characters."
Either Nolan didn't pick up on that or thought Alan Moore was an uppity old coot. In light of that quote, though, "why so serious?"

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

p4k afterthoughts: Sunday

Okay, the tail end of the previous evening involved opening the door at Schuba's and being warned by an older man who didn't work there to NOT. GO. OUTSIDE. Well, slightly less dramatic, would have went well with a flashlight underneath his chin, but still certainly ominous. We made it to the car, but I couldn't understand why I felt compelled to shower after basically being showered and laundered. Perhaps it was the image on the blue line earlier in the evening of two of the mud people from the day before who resented their parents for not making them woodstock '94 babies, locked in pre-coital passion, with breasts and limbs straight out of a mud bath and a hankering for a UTI. I turned around and focused on the screaming baby and a conversation in Russian and reminisced about the War and Peace that I wouldn't read.
Any ways, that day was going to be my day. If there were twenty bands I was going to see ten. Had been looking forward to Mahjongg's co-opted polyrhythms, secret police wiretap burbles and high school principal, counselor ready announcements but they were forced to wait until church got out. Times delayed I worried I'd miss the dirty projectors and when Times New Viking let it rip 'cross the ports while Mahjongg were still testing bongos I ran over and caught a spot. I had seen High Places the night before in order to be able to see The Dirty Projectors, something I divulged to both of them before probably never speaking to either again. Times New Viking sounded kind of great live, something their paper cup with a string telephone recording obviously doesn't do justice. I know, I know, that's the intend, find the pop gems buried underneath. I grew up on gbv, i'm over it.
Any ways, The Dirty Projectors. Sure, the notes on record sound like someone climbing a xylophone but until you see their multiple scale perpendiculars being performed on stage, the fullness of its orchestral framework doesn't really sink in. It was beautiful. They mostly stuck to Rise Above which gets better with every listen (i've actually only heard the entire thing once).
It's wierd that Black Flag broke up because Ginn kept on changing their style up and Rollins wanted everyone to catch up by just doing the same thing they did last time, because the dirty projectors' rise above rumination is exactly what I imagine the acid trips Ginn forced him to take sounded like in his head. I can imagine him in the corner of his room, or on the front porch dissociating himself from company and friends, crooning falsettos of Ginn's words, trying to reconstruct his life via the only thing he's got going. I tried playing it for my little brother, who can only think of doing standard covers of all the damaged tracks, but he hasn't been to house shows where everytime you show up someone is doing a bogus rise above cover, completely missing the point and wallowing in the past. I asked the band and they said that they get maybe a little hate mail for messing with a punk masterpiece, but they generally just laugh about it, which is the appropriate response, because honestly, the dirty projectors are far more punk rock than some upstart punk band wearing that strict, fascistic chug on their sleeves. Don't conform, play that shit like a xylophone!
So, thankfully it was still early in the day, I could maneuver through a somewhat spread out crowd to get a good glimpse of Boris. I really wanted to see them shred and pummel. Their drummer was dressed like a Michael Jackson impersonator and had a pink drum set with a gong behind him. Wata was obviously cool and detached like she was born with her fingers in shred position and is merely doing us a favor by taking some time on mortal soil to lodge a few tricks. I was ready to get elbowed in the teeth again. There was a "hey, remember me?" when I tried to pass and I thought for a moment I might be able to patch up the circumventing misunderstanding before !!! but it turns out the person was referring to the extortionist with the muscle t shirt before vampire weekend. After the obligatory "oh yeah!" I jumped in to the flailing arms the vertigo afflicted crowd members merely had my chin pushed up once or twice. I did this on an empty stomach and without water, and was hoping I would possibly near-faint so I could get one wihout having to lose my spot for les savy fav. Michio Kurihara was there so I thought they'd let up with a few Rainbow songs but it was straight riffage from top to bottom.
After almost resting on a few stranger's shoulders I made it to the front, where there was still another hour and 10 minutes before those who rock the party rocked the body. The Dirty Projectors kind sounded like the defense some might use for Apples in Stereo's Pete and Pete worthy glimmery pop sheen. I'm not a music theory major and can't gleam notes by ear (or by eye, for that matter) but those sounded like fairly standard pop rock songs. Which can be fun, but I was bracing myself for a whole different kind of beast.
"Check. Mic 1 Check. Mic 2 Check. Check. Check. Check mix." Tim Harrington is pretty much the best rock star going right now. Unconstrained by his body type, a cherubic cupid hitting a midlife crisis of more to love, not enough to give to, he indulges in all your fantasies and inhibitions in a way you'd be too embarrassed to pull off without apologies for having been drunk or not prepared enough for halloween. There's no irony in his stage presence, there is just honest, unbridled frivolity. If there was any deconstruction in his performance, it was his crafty destruction of american apparel's fashion sense. First running out in a yellow tracksuit with green tassles under the arms he eventually revealed red lame leggings, cut off on one leg so part of his sack, snug and loved by red boy briefs, could hang out in a one nut, some glory bawd. Now, like the hold steady, i'm not systematically familiar with Les Savy Fav's lyrics, but memories of the songs meanings helped ground their set's mythic proportions in Olympian dalliances with mortal flaw. It was beautiful, and scary. After running the gamut from pirate, caped crusader and sherlock Holmes, doing round robins on the crowd by half circling the railing, one of the first times I noticed joyful chills running up and around my skin, he covered himself in brown mud. At this point my awestruck admiration turned into fear as the show made it's way into g.g. allin territory. I couldn't get woodstock 94's explanation of the mud people's muck as soil mixed with running portapotty fluids, and when he started giving high fives to the crowed I planned on darting in any direction that would have kept my OCD from rapidly devolving into fits of unclean hysteria.
Even still, I couldn't help but smile. He smeared war paint on his band member's faces calling Union Park an ancient Indian burial ground that also, in his rambling, improvised historia, doubled as a youth initiation ritual into manhood. As the drummer lifted his shirt up for a belly smear Harrington explained that the youngest were rubbed there for their transition. There was one moment that was both heartbreaking and uplifting, it was Harrington, changing costumes in the back kind of sat there like a kid with a train set and muttered something about "why can't we buy this park? Why can't every day be like this?" And it was great, because the band brought their families, and made their family life like this. A testament to the idea that growing up doesn't have to mean getting old like an age home.

Les Savy Fav performing We'll Make A Lover Out Of You (I didn't even realize he crowd surfed in a garbage can and played Oscar The Grouch)

My day kind of trailed off after that. I don't know why Evan McGarvey didn't suggest, hey, why don't you choose Trae and Z-Ro's ABN instead of rehashing every white person's standard hip hop fallback, a wu-tang associate? Maybe I would have enjoyed it more if I didn't get there late and watched from next to the sound tent, but the sound was distant and from what I could tell nothing different than any other wu-tang show, which, if you haven't been to one, go, because it's a blast. But it's the same blast. Here's the ODB tribute, Ooh Baby I like it Raw. Here's everyone's favorite Wu-Tang line "wu tang clan ain't nothin' to fuck with" and then here's a few solo songs. Maybe they should have had RZA show up and fuck with the sound. From where I was standing, Raekwon looked like Rick Ross' gold medallion of himself, with a body attached. They did another "one for the real hip hop heads out there" again making a silly distinction between their true to new york coke rap tales of drug dealing and non true to new york coke rap tales of drug dealing. That soulja boy Ice-T diss is hilarious.
Before making my last rounds in the record fair and picking up Marty Friedman's Megadeth solo project for my little brother, and that last Xiu Xiu album for myself, I caught five minutes of spiritualized, perhaps the most perfect five minutes of the festival. When they let the notes ring out, slowly following each other in a languorous haze, they filled out the festival grounds beautifully, black backup singers doing the soul thing for a white frontman not uncomfortable at all, but mollifying. When the chug picked up, the sound went flat, and I bounced, making my through the burning man contingent and taking the train to a homely couch.

Holy S#&%! The exact five minutes I caught of spiritualized! (It's all coming back to me, I can see the sun setting over the steeple!)

I missed cut copy, who I had initially hated, but then heard while boozing it up at the patio of the vagabond and fell in love with. I didn't see as much as I probably could have, and would like to space out my performances so I don't have to catch up on so many in one weekend, but what I did get to experience was awesome. Especially the vegan barbeque wings from the chicago diner, oh lord. HEAVEN (for animals?).

Related posts:
P4k afterthoughts: Friday
P4k afterthoughts: Saturday

Monday, July 21, 2008

p4k afterthoughts: Saturday

Awesome weather. Apparently Fleet Foxes and No Age weren't the only atmospherics carried over from Sub Pop's 20th Anniversary Festival.
After rekindling my intellectual insecurity by dashing any hopes of reading the $5.50 copy of war and peace I bought from the Myopic Bookstore (thanks stilted translation and grammatically careless public domain!) my host offered me a raincoat. Initially hoping that, along with Rick Ross styled shades some stranger left at my house, it would help me look the part of the "im only here for the Rascal" a-hole, I was dismayed that it instead made me look like the unabomber if he intended to use his publicity to push a career in rap as the ultimate outlaw, but couldn't get past the whole dweeb aspect.
It was nice to be able to rely on public transportation in chicago, mainly because the train system in miami is a non-existent development failure. Apparently intended as a sprawling syndicate of interconnecting railways it ended up being one line across US1 that inconveniently passes by the airport and curves off into the middle of nowhere.
Not knowing much about Titus Andronicus except for their penchant to just fucking tell you already, gosh, I hopped over to the B stage to strike my globally cultured world (weary) pose. Boban i Marko Markovic Orkestar were setting up and I was willing to use my cognitive dissonance to strike out Kusturica's Milosevic associations and remember the fun parts of his movies, mainly the bombastic and triumphant score that carried his scoundrels from one scandalous feat of irreverence to another. It's a shame his view of a united Yugoslavia comes under the banner of a Machiavellian realism. Either way, that Balkan Brass was mighty uplifting, none of that melancholic warble Beirut grounded his eastern-european impressionism with (not that I'm opposed). I haven't been to temple in forever, but if services were entirely made up of that rendition of Hava Negila, I'd bring the manischevitz.
For some reason their set left me in the mood to soak up some blood visions. Perhaps it was the end of Titus Andronicus blaring over the port-a-potty's that convinced me it was time to tussle. The end of their set reminded me of the birthday in my last year in high school where my Conor Oberst obsessed friend made me go see Bright Eyes on their I'm Wide Awake It's Morning and all it took was an anti-bush screed to convince me their sobbing and whined out country bamboozle was actually pretty rockin' underneath the Olympia Theater's garishly fake starry night. They kind of sound like someone who has something really important to tell you right when your favorite band is playing, and they're emotionally vulnerable at the moment so if you don't listen to them they could do something crazy that you might regret, which is either unfair or a sign that they really respect your opinion and can't wait for it.
I hopped over to Jay Reatard where King Kahn was out in a hawaiian shirt, carrying a cup of what looked like smoking dry ice, letting his gut hang out while he propped up his bud through his sunglasses. I never really got into King Kahn and the shrines but that guy looks like a lot of fun. Jay Reatard on the other hand was all business. Totally wronged by who knows what, whatever joy, or mock wistful fright to be found Blood Visions was replaced by harried shouts on beat. The bass player more than made up for his anti-charisma and filled in the facial gestures. Meanwhile, King Khan totally goofed from the side of the stage, apparently starting something he carried over to the aftershow later that night, mainly letting the crowd know that Jay Reatard gave him a blowjob before the show and that he's totally happy. Now, unlike Public Enemy, I could actually justify people flailing into each other here and took my unabomber outfit right into the middle of the fairly mild mayhem taking place in front of the stage. I haven't been that ecstatic about being elbowed in the teeth in, like, ever. I was more dismayed when Jay Reatard finished his set with a middle finger. It was silly and lame. Interesting vocal choices though, he sang half the songs in a screeching falsetto.
I spent most of Caribou waiting for my hosts to arrive and it turned out to be great background music. On record the music kind of streams into oblivion and that shimmery psychedelia ain't really my thang. Some vaguely trip hoppish cover of Here Comes the Sun was put through the motions when the clouds started clearing up, and as background music I wasn't at all annoyed but at some point Dan Snaith got off the keyboard and joined in a whirlwind dueling drums session that brought back fond memories of that black eyes show I caught before they broke up. I couldn't tell but either Snaith or the guitarist set off a noise loop that ran atop it and I became convinced that drum solos should never be dolo.
This morning should bring on embarrassing footage of me attempting to disprove the main thesis of Where Da G's by being extremely enthusiastic and limbically loose throughout Dizzee Rascal's set. I was beat though by a girl who pushed up beside me and knew all the lyrics. Again, I have no idea how people do this, but my retention for rap lyrics, or any lyrics for that matter, is almost non-existent. It's helpful because it's consistently refreshing when listening to it at home, but live, when the only thing you hear is bass and Dizzee's chirping it would be nice to fill in the blanks. Your parent's record collection got dissed when Dizzee came out and summed up Fleet Foxes as that fuck shit he was there to get rid of. Not that Alex Turner is the antithesis of fuck shit, Fleet Foxes harmonizing is kind of pleasant but ephemeral in the same way that nostalgia for classic rock passes when you turn on big 105.9 and a sports announcer is cramming useless factoids about The Eagles down your throat.
Even without knowing the lyrics, I almost lost my voice in unrestrained giddiness shouting out various dirtee stank associated buzzwords throughout the set, or merely spout gibberish that could be construed as enthusiastic. Old school dance moves, neon pink and green dj headphones, an unnecessarily self-censored version of Pussy'ole which was still fun because yelling "blood! don't make get old school!" is a blast, Tom Breihan's soundless visage seemingly cackling with unlimited benefits from the VIP section, and a genuine interest in getting the crowd to stand up tall made it one of the best sets of the weekend, or ever.

Dizzee Rascal performing Sirens (strangely, sound is clearer on this video than it was at the show)

Now, I don't think Vampire Weekend should be held accountable for being influenced by an afropop that they genuinely seem to enjoy. I do think they should be held accountable for being unnecessarily affected about the ordeal. From what I've garnered out of the few listens of their album that I was able to make it through (actually I haven't made it through, stopped somewhere round track nine) their lyrics are more about class disparities that ivy league campuses pretend to be insulated from but aren't because there's always a kid there on scholarship. Unless why would you lie about how much coal you have is from the perspective of a rich kid calling out a poor poor kid trying to fit in with a made up status. I honestly could care less because the barbershop quartet vocal affectations stop my enjoyment dead cold. From someone who paid attention I was told the crowd was twice as large for Vampire Weekend as it was for Public Enemy. They were flabbergasted because Vampire Weekend had no S1W's. I'd say that maybe if Public Enemy were white kids with a taste for hip hop they could broach the color line, to white ears. But I'm glad to say that aside from Eminem, rap has still not been expropriated by anyone other than its founding race. Not that i'm not for the globalization of hip hop. Palestinian rappers DAM are an excellent example of how it can transcend borders, but generally in the united states, when the white kids get on the mic they've got to consult their dystopian sci-fi jargon because they can't imagine how shitty it already is two miles over.
Anyways, I'd like to see XL take a random sampling of bands and launch them to national superstardom overnight with the help of pitchfork and see what kind of response they get. If kids can't listen to Phil Collins unironically, how can they identify with this? I'm also pretty sure the bigger the band the more assholes present in the crowd. I actually had an interest in hearing M79, as it reminds me of the rushmore soundtrack and is kind of catchy. Unfortunately I had to deal with tall, gel spiked bro with a muscle t-shirt and designer shades who obviously cared more about running a dialogue about what I'd be willing to offer in order to get in front of him. He wasn't sure I even liked the band and I almost admitted I didn't. They were less grating live, the instruments sounded perfect (conspiracy?), but if there's anything more painful than the vocals it's Ezra Koenig's facial expressions. Brocappella sincerity, arched eyebrows, mary poppins singing to a bird. Either way I wasn't bummed about it, it was jaunty and kind of fun. Not a convert or anything, but if that's what the kids want...then please, Koenig, go to Africa and bring back some golden polyrhythms! The kids, they just skip over the Ghana Soundz with the 8.8! You be their 8.8!
Then the afternoon took a turn for the worse as I made the worst mistake I made during the festival and, in a psychosomatic need for water, left the !!! stage before that turned into the dance party of the century. On record I can't stand Nic's vocals, but waiting for the hold steady, he looked like Nick Swardson as Jessica Biels' gay brother in I Now Pronounce You Chuck And Larry, basically, awesome. It was kind of what I wanted at that moment and in anticipating what the Hold Steady's set would bring, kind of wished I went back and made friends with that one person who made the sarcastic comment about how to exit when I stepped in front of him trying circumvent the lawn people to his left. Instead I called him out on his snark and he told me "Fuck You!" and I got my water. Not exactly refreshing. I may go next year to see if every saturday at 6 some kind of asshole moment happens. Last year I brought my little brother to Mastodon. Him being an avowed metal fanatic for some reason disavowed mastodon as more of the same old same old. I wanted him to sit on the railing with me, because last year the sound tent people didn't mind as much some patrons hopping up the rails to catch a glimpse over the crowd. If they wanted the discomfort that brought their glutes, then so be it! Any ways, two guy guys/bro dudes had gotten there first. Not to sit on it or anything, just to kind of stand next to it. Now, there was totally enough room for me. But because I hadn't staked out their the extra five minutes they probably took, I could not ask them to kindly move half a foot so my little bro could sit next to me. Instead, cutting my somewhat passionate speech about his ability to move a little bit to his left he told me I could keep on talking but it didn't matter because he wasn't going to move. Killed the mood. Same with this saturday's convo.
Anyways, yeah, The Hold Steady. If you're not drunk and don't wear their lyrics on your sleeves don't bother trying to have any emotional investment. I don't know how kids adapt a band's lyrics about girls with pill problems as a rallying cry, but actually chips ahoy is a pretty great song about wasted potential and reliance on external enhancements for what's already there. Still, the words really meant something to everyone right around me and as much as I tried to feign enjoyment I wasn't drunk enough and it wasn't bar enough, so I left to wander aimlessly in search of the hosts. I ended up walking through Atlas Sound's crowd, having missed the other jam of the evening, Extra Golden. Atlas Sound really fit into the background well, and my initial lack of success turned into hazy reverie reminiscent of the non-annoying scenes in labyrinth. Festival people can be wierd, lotus positions with gyrating shoulders with really sincere closed eyes and whatnot. Fest wasn't too far from burning man yet.
At that point I wasn't able to muster up any excitement for no age, who sounded exactly like they did on record, except on record I didn't have the option of being elbowed in the teeth. At this point in the day I wouldn't have minded just putting them in a glass of water by the sink and calling it a night. I didn't try to maneuver with the crowd folk for animal collective because there was an abe vigoda, high places show, but their performance of the symphonic communication sequence from close encounters of the third kind kind of won me over on the way out and made me regret not sticking around a little bit longer to see how they make their songs entirely unintelligible even to their most devoted fans.
The rest of the night was a series of social faux-pas as my host actually turned out to be friends with High Places and I had no idea what they looked like and as a result, once their set won me over I totally geeked out and asked a bazillion questions about vinyl availability and touring schedules and personal info and so on. I'll cut right to it because I want to go to sleep but the hazy ethereal quality they drown the drums in on record (at least from the sound of their myspace) is nothing like the chinese drum circle they drop on you live. I'd imagine the perfect setting for a performance by them would be cross between a chinese restaurant in a bamboo forest and the temple of doom, though for maximum enjoyment the latter part would have to be without the enslaved children and the live heart stealing. What would make it the temple of doom then? LAVA. I haven't had a chance to fully digest them but the way her words drift into the drum patterns and wind chimes is like a post-grad wistfully watching over her family while her younger siblings grow up without her and life moves on, and she could say hi but this curse is rustling her surroundings while a disorienting loss of familiarity pulls her front yard from under her and all you hear is "you know why, don't you?" and images of her climbing trees with her sister and saying grace at the dinner table and idyllic rural memories turn into reveries on a pillow in a hostel somewhere in East Asia. I swear, I wanted to cry.
Instead it rained and we had to rush to the car, but i'll be spinning the 7" and 10 song cd I bought in search of those moments for a while, I hope.

Related posts:
P4k afterthoughts: Friday
P4k afterthoughts: Sunday

P4k afterthoughts: Friday

So I cashed in and went to the pitchfork festival this past weekend.
First off, I'd like to thank Owen Ashworth and Holly Rotman for making this possible by opening up their couch to me and making Chi city feel like a place I can call Chi city without sounding like a white kid that listens to Kanye. Oh, wait, that's impossible because I'm a white kid that listens to Kanye! But still, hearts warmer than the weather.
SHOWTIME - already accepting that there were relatively few token rap acts, and that I could look forward to skipping Spoon and taking advantage of lackluster options to skip around on scheduling conflicts, I was pretty much ready for thunderdome.
I arrived late and unfortunately missed Mission of Burma. The entire Don't Look Back curricula requires a band foregoes making a live mixtape for its audience and sets the odd stricture of having them perform an entire album that you may or may not skip around when listening to on your own. I guess it's the emergency action directive from the save the album campaign. From what I read about their history I assumed that it was the spontaneous nature of their improvised setlists that allowed for their shows to be either chaotically awesome or novelty trainwrecks that either way would have been transfixing, otherwise they'd be forced out of their element. I used this excuse to comfort myself when I saw Barlow and Co. were setting up while I was walking in.
In middle school my neighbor burned "bakesale" for me and I developed an abstract concept of relationships as burying your head in your lover's bosom in order to bestill their beating heart, possibly yours too (wasn't double suicide so superficially poetic back then? Ugh. Kids need more Myth of Sisyphus (I did, it's sadly gone unread by me). If you're going to piss off the world, stick around to gauge its reaction, no? Pissing off yourself does no one good, though I haven't ever been in a situation that was unbearable and inescapable, so I'm not one to talk. Though I think I'll always be morbidly fascinated and stuck in awestruck reverence when it comes to self-immolation). So yeah, bakesale. It was awkward, and this is probably made up because I was into it more for the lingering traces of light in his melancholic delivery. Music was all about moods back then. But reading about Barlow's awkward virginal sexual history, and how it made him odd man out in Dinosaur J, taking homophobic potshots from J Mascis and adding disturbing psychosexual undercurrents to sucking on the cookie monster's eyeball in J's face as revenge strategy, until he pulled the band from its Mascis Comes Alive! trappings to play a Gnostic God's underling with two tape decks and in doing so falling in love with a college DJ at age 20, gave me some comfort during high school. Kind of like reading about Fugazi cooped up in a motel room and becoming friends for life by revealing their deepest, darkest secrets to each other. I didn't envy it as much as appreciated that bonds like that could be created, and sure, would have liked to sit in and tell them everything. I was in odd confessional mode in high school, not realizing how awkward that can make some friendships. But aren't friendships better than psychologists because with friends your not paying them 100 dollars to measure your sanity but giving them morsels of your heart so you can know that everyone is a little fucked up? Lou Barlow's lyrics seemed to stem from not being able to let out like that.
Any ways, I had never heard Bubble and Scrape, but it pretty much sounded like a Sebadoh album. I was in the port-a-potty when they started, which is where I can imagine the songs were either written or meant to be heard, or a real john, slumped up against a sink hung over from too much drama. For a few moments I thought, hey, this is what Sebadoh used to make me feel, tonight's going to be all right! And then I got bored and darted for the record fair. Numero Group was there, reliable as usual, taking 55 dollars for a selection worth over 80. Waiting for public enemy I met a photographer who thought it was worth a free download (I later tell myself that the packaging and the liner notes are worth it. Did not get into the ethics of downloading, because I totally have half the bands from the coming weekend on my mp3 player illegally). Found out the vegan Soul Veg cart in Tallahassee, run by Hebraic Africans raising money for a pilgrimage to Israel, was also a Chicago staple and are directly related to the Soul Messengers from Dimona. From the liner notes ",,,Dimona, Israel. It's an arid and rocky landscape: perfect for secret nuclear facilities, ideal for raising goats, and according to track twelve, the spiritual capital of the world." Way to bring on the apocalypse. So looking forward to this.
A great moment was catching Lou Barlow reacting to the Bomb Squad cutting into his solo acoustic encore on the Jumbotron. It looked like a kind of a shrugged acceptance. "If my music isn't sad enough..."
Yeah, bomb squad, I would have loved an hour DJ set from them. I can safely say that was the best usage of the soundsystem all weekend, as, intending to move the crowd they forced the crowd to move by shaking the ground. The Shocklee claims of still bringing us something new rang false considering Public Enemy's decline and forever waning status outside of Robert Christgau's head as politically or even sonically relevant, but that really didn't matter because their dubstep/dancehall blitzkrieg brought ear-shattering body rocking nonetheless. Before the Shocklee exit, "we made the public enemy sound, we won't be on stage, but don't you forget!"
I hadn't been keeping tabs on public enemy so Terminator X1's absence took me by surprise. Also Chuck D's loyalty to Professor Griff, outfitted for the new rap era, and apparently at a loss for words on his own contributions to the old one. More later. S1W's in ROTC formation marched Chuck D out, who, reliant on the power of his words, was done up in a basketball Jersey (perhaps a reference to He Got Game, the last time a music contribution of theirs made any waves?). I haven't heard the album in forever, and always favored Malcolm X over Farrakhan. Finding out their politics were informed by his was a somewhat harsh blow to my understanding of them as progressive. At least the follow for now line gave room for growth. Except when it came to Professor Griff, who locked himself up in black muslim conspiracy theories. And Flava Flav, too, really, who locked himself up in his own exploited image.
I was willing to give them the benefit of the doubt, their relevance at that point in time can't be stressed, I honestly can't think of another rap group that seemed to have the ability to affect politics radically, as opposed to now where a celebrity endorsement for Obama and a spot at the Democratic National Convention is the epitome of high-powered celebrity activism.
Though I wasn't expecting them to come out and say something in support of a gay, atheist communist like Angela Davis I was still a little glum over their Obama endorsement.
Anyways, show sounded awesome, Chuck D ran out and did his thing like it was embedded in his system and if he didn't periodically release it he would explode. As per usual, I couldn't decipher any lyrics in a rap show, all I could follow was the cadence. Of course, it seems the point of rap shows is to know every word before going so you can sing along. My retention is shit though, so I went back to moods, and the mood read blown away.
Various contingents of the mostly white audience reacted as if they grew up on public enemy via the Anthrax collabo on Tony Hawk and thought it was appropriate to mosh. Just because they collaborated with Scott Ian doesn't mean you have to get caught in a mosh, kids! A man of east-asian ancestry brought his two year old to the show, outfitted with ear plugs, a tiennamen square reference could probably be written off as an example of orientalism, but if he doesn't go opposite pop's route like alex p. keaton, who knows what power will come through the barrel of his gun (or guns like popeyes, but the guns of his mind, wishful thinking, right Gelderloo?)! Almost made me wish my first concert wasn't U2 in a baseball stadium in elementary school. But I used to really like the batman forever soundtrack when I was 10, so in retrospect that worked out really well!
So Flava Flav clocked in one song late and played that loveably goofy foil to Chuck D's fiery rage, decked out in clock and green medallion advertising his new sitcom about a wild street-savvy black guy crashing a bourgeois negroes upscale seclusion from his brethren. I was surprised Flava Flav actually rapped, he carried a whole song by himself while Chuck D went all Parents Just Don't Understand behind him. He asked Professor Griff to join in and then called him out for not remembering a word of his own venerable institution.
Best part:
Flava Flav - Hey, check out my new show Under One Roof every wednesday at something something on TBS.
Crowd - Boo!
Flava Flav - What? Don't boo me! All y'all booin', what, what, what are you, ghosts? You know who you boo, your spouse, you call your spouse boo. You should be proud of a brotha!
Now I'm not one to talk about one man's actions setting an entire race 15 years back, because that's usually a misconception of how a race should be presented in white eyes, calling for some kind of fascistic united but homogenized front as opposed to allowing for said race to express all expressions of the human psyche. But his reality tv shtick probably did a lot to aid in the undoing of Public Enemy's image as a consciously political group. Unless they decided to become a dada parody of the worst aspects of capitalism's instant gratification in the form of exploitative self-glorification. Chuck D kept dissent to Flava Flav's image to a minimum, but I remember him leaving Flava Flav at the altar when it came to the friar's club roast.
Chuck D asked all the REAL hip hop heads to make some noise, making another silly old guard distinction between their music and what's on the radio. If only they knew that this white audience might have heard NPR's eloquent deconstruction of MIMS' This is Why I'm Hot. If only they knew this audience loved listening to radio rap when recontextualized by a white nerd with a keyboard who threw their parents record collection as a backbeat! If only they made more songs with Buffalo Springfield as the backbeat! (Oh, whiteness, how self-aware you can be while remaining entirely ignorant at the same time! Don't worry, i'm totally including myself in that)
The saddest part came right before I left midway through the album. Chuck D made a claim that thanks to the audience's reception of their album as the rap Sgt. Pepper, the world realized that rap was here to stay. I got my nostalgia kicks in, and cashed out after the only possible damage they might have caused was to pitchfork's relation to the city's noise ordnance.
Looking in the DIY record tent it seemed that not only was rap not there to stay, but neither was Public Enemy, themselves underrepresented in a festival they were co-headlining. When the token rap act doesn't have a token prop, then a token ain't worth nothing more than flop. Jazz, having lost its cutting edge unless it frees itself into atonality, was widely present in the used record bins. I fear that rap itself will suffer the same fate, forty years after it caused a stir it would be relegated to elevator music until something new came along with a widely polarizing effect. Accepted only when it's a tourist trap on bourbon street. Old blokes doing renditions of Soulja Slim and the Hot Boys for white folks with a new sense of intolerable non-p.c. kicks. Hand grenades will still be their drink of choice.

Related posts:
P4k afterthoughts: Saturday
P4k afterthoughts: Sunday