Showing posts from March, 2014

Shiftless Kids

Shiftless kids meander momentarily
through air like  scattered haze of glass
The shy night opens up, greying and uninvolved
in juxtaposition to leafless (leaveless) trees
Oh, what are seasons?
Just shifts of time in orderly lives
The weather between the banter,
ceaseless and incessant like people
walking trails on clear, untrammeled days
Oh, what are the reasons?
For this transient massing
of time, of people, of indifference
Shiftless, unmannered kids, playing games
in the park through air of glass
scattered with a haze of days

Rock Criticism, Tired Fanzines, and Desert Island Technology: A Tale of the Author Trapped in a Bathroom with Lester Bangs

The first time I read Lester Bangs' Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung, I hunkered down for the long haul on the floor of the bathroom at my old house and read and read and read. Bangs' manic prose and uncompromising taste enthralled me, sucking me deeper into rock critic fandom. It was definitely the late '90s, and I was in the early, heady stages of compulsive record collecting. I had already worked my way through a large chunk of the Greil Marcus catalog, but I was mostly known for my love of Flipside, MRR, and later Punk Planet, the bigger punk rock fanzines, which I would read front to back in study hall, poring over obscure record reviews and tantalizing columns, not forgetting the letter page.

As I read over his many obsessions that night and into the early hours of dawn, while I should have been preparing for some exam or other, I felt like a kindred soul. Though I never entirely agreed with Bangs, or always understood just where he was coming from, I understo…

Fire Spirit: Jeffrey Lee Pierce and Gun Club

Jeffrey Lee Pierce was a blues man at heart, gifted with all the talent and power of a young Howlin' Wolf. His music borrowed heavily from the delta blues and other American roots music, but he took inspiration from these forms and created something new. Once president of the Blondie fan club, Pierce was a student of many musical disciplines, from reggae to progressive rock, but his commitment to the blues helped Gun Club, the band he formed in the late 1970's and continued with until his untimely death in 1996 at the age of 37, with varying lineups, become a powerhouse that ultimately released a few seminal records.

Early Gun Club was a primal rush, often resembling Nick Cave's more manic output or slower Cramps sides, but its influences ran deeper than either. Pierce was a student of the blues form that followed his own muse and created records that are still far different than most of what is out there. Fire of Love draws primarily from blues with a heaping dose of cou…

Eat your Smeat, Drink a Duff, Then Smoke a Morley: Examining TV Products That Eerily Resemble Real World Ones

As consumers of popular culture, we have often been indoctrinated into the bizarre, yet effective, cult of fake products. Most of us have heard of Duff beer or seen a character asking for a beer or cigarettes and get one easily without thinking about products or personal taste. "Hey, give me a beer?" "Okay sir." No one has to worry about choosing between a Miller Lite or a Craft beer; the world is an easier, less obtrusive place. Devo wouldn't have to advise us about using our freedom of choice if we lived in most versions of TV land. It's more like in Desperado when Steve Buscemi has to accept piss-warm Chango; his response is happy like most television and movie characters when accepting service: "That's my brand. Oh, this is damn good! Say, this is the best beer I've ever had." But what if the choice between fake products rears its funky head?

Some of these products are show, director, or movie specific: Futurama has Slurm made from wo…

Shaking Off The Ring Rust

Ever since I started posting more and more often, expanding my posts to every two days at most, I haven't suffered for writing topics. Lately though, it hasn't been as easy.

The length and coldness of this winter has made it tough to stay on schedule, but I have tried to keep it up, hoping beyond hope that my writing doesn't get too stagnant. I've even stooped to writing about writing,  trying not to get too meta. Here's to the Spring and a chance to shake off the metaphorical writing ring rust.

Do The Reggae With Me: The Real Kids

Although I've listened to The Real Kids self-titled record many times since I discovered them, it always seems refreshingly new to me. From the first notes of their arguably greatest song, "All Kindsa Girls," the Real Kids prove that they were doing something different than their peers. Just like punk bands, they were attempting to simplify rock music, trying to move away from the excesses of the '70s, and look forward to a more visceral, less cerebral, take on guitar music that owed as much to the early days of rock as anything the Ramones or the Sex Pistols were doing at the time.

The focus is on fun and excitement. The Real Kids is pure fun; rocking guitars, harmony vocals, songs about girls, the sound of a bar band on perpetual overload, all mixed together into a satisfying, lurching, sloppy rock 'n' roll ride. The later Flamin' Groovies cover similar territory, but are never as fun as the Kids' take on all things rock.

John Felice's songs l…

Going to Cable

One summer when I was a kid, perhaps 1990 or 1991, my great aunt enrolled me in nature classes in Cable, Wisconsin. They were held once a month and taught youngsters about wildflowers, animals, and respect for the earth. We would ride in her old tan Mercury Lynx into wilderness that seemed larger and more wooded than near my house; the area was hillier and covered with heavier, older trees. The woods seemed to hang over the narrow roads, some on hills that stretched into the distance. On either side of these roads, it seemed like one slight slip of the wheel would send the car plummeting into the ravine. The telephone poles were tall and felt straighter, pointing down into the crumbling earth. It was very green -- the trees were full of leaves and visible soil was clay red.

Cable was about an hour northwest of my hometown in Bayfield County, and the start of the Birkebeiner cross country skiing race. We must have taken highway 13 north to 77 and gone west. I have never returned, but …