Archive for the ‘Wa fuckin Ha’ Category

So, this past week saw new music releases from two of my favorite bands.  Shut up and sit the fuck back down and LISTEN, dammit…

PART THE FIRST:  THANK GOD THERE WAS WHISKEY

First off, is a wonderful one-off by a fair number of the Mekons (billed as Mini-Mekons) teamed up with Robbie Fulks, a caustic and sarcastic punk-country musician from Chicago.  The bunch had toured Scotland a few months back, and recorded an album of re-imagined classics, twisted shanty, and a couple of originals including a version of the Mekons’ “Beaten And Broken”.  (Is it a cover if it is being covered by a significant number of the people who originally performed it?)  They recorded it on the island of Jura, so, without any artifice it is called “Jura”.

“The Mekons are so at one with liquor that with one or two notable-and unsayable- exceptions, no amount ever made them any different”

Needless to say, I find it amazing and wonderful and rollicking and just as out-of-left-field as I’ve come to expect from these folks.

I have been a long-time fan of Robbie Fulks since “Let’s Kill Saturday Night” a perfect distillation of blue-collar desperation and anticipation.

The team up of Robbie and the Mekons was inspired, and sending them to a stormswept corner of the globe inspired them.  The album is a superb side-travel for the band that I consider to be my muse, much as I need one.

I recommend that you watch the Making Of video up top, even for those of you who have little tolerance for my Mekons obsession.  It’s funny and has some good music in the background.  And I ALSO recommend you search out the album on all the typical download sources; I did.  I am also planning on purchasing the large black CD at local record store in the next day or two…

PART THE SECOND:  No Country For Old Hens

Rush also released a CD and DVD of their pretty-much-last tour (and after 40 goddam years, do you blame them?  I mean, the Rolling Wheelchairs are pretty much jokes at this point).  We did not have the opportunity to see them this time short of driving to Chicago, and having seen them for the last three or four tours, we passed.

By all accounts, it was pretty great.  But they always have been, from the time I saw them at the Madison Clamshell in ± 1979.  I always must mention that I took (proto) Wife Sublime to see them on the Moving Pictures tour, and it was pretty much her first ever REAL rock concert, lasers and EVERYTHING, and it damaged her enough that she married me.

R40 was a retrospective look back; on stage they started by playing the most recent stuff, and worked back to the oldest, while the stage was altered to reflect the pertinent eras.  Lovely concept, I have to say as a designer.  On the video, the bumpers were hilarious changes to the cartoon personas.

So tonight I was working, while playing the R40 DVD in the semi-background.  But I first noticed something when they played “Roll The Bones” perhaps one of the most-maligned Rush songs because of the semi-rap portions in the middle.  But this time, they had several guest stars lip-syncing the rap lyrics on the big screen up above, including the Trailer Park Boys and Peter Dinklage.  And suddenly, it seemed that being a Rush fan was no longer a bad thing….

I came to realize that this band, that has changed and evolved and tried new things and struggled and always still been friends and colleagues, has been one of the biggest parts of my life. (YES, bigger than the Mekons, sit down asshole).  I watched them play, and enjoying the 150 minutes they played for their fans.

I know there are many people who shit on Rush.  Never understood it myself, but whatever, you know?  These people give me shit, which doesn’t really bother me because when it comes to art, or Art; what you like is yours and yours alone and justification is not necessary.  Many people say “guilty pleasure” but I have no guilt about my pleasures.

And Rush is one of my greatest pleasures, believe me.  I am so glad I have seen them so many times, and so glad I introduced the young woman who became Wife Sublime to them and then introduced Young Zombie as well.

At the end of the day, they are musicians.  The learned their instruments on the fly, while in high school and playing bars that they were  not old enough to drink in.  They loved music, just as we did, and put that into what they did.  They got better.  They had some success.  They got better.  They challenged themselves to stretch; sometimes it was less than successful, but that’s what happens when you work outside your envelope.

Frankly, that is part of what keeps me working.

OK, I am also a bit of a metalhead, so they are heavy enough to bridge the gap to Genesis.  Sheesh.  Shut UP.

But here’s the thing.  While watching this video, I was tearing up.  Because I remembered the shows in the past.  They moved me and you can mock me all you want; it was my emotions and you weren’t there.  And I am, apparently pretty much always cognizant that I may not be here anymore as of ANY DAMN MOMENT.

PART THE THIRD; WHEN THE LEVEE BREAKS

It’s not unusual for me to talk about myself through music.  I trust none of you have missed that.

it’s a weird thing to make Imaginary Digital Friends.  After my Event, I found myself curious as to how that would echo down into the Internarfle tubes….I have realized that there are STILL people who have not been informed of the time my heart tried to secede.  But you know what? they are IRL people.

I use my blog and FB to talk about myself.  I have an internet persona, but it’s not too damn hard to penetrate, as I am sure mikey will attest.   But I am not a fake on either side.  When I write, I try to be honest.

Here is where I think the rubber meets the road:

Honesty. 

When I reflect, my most loved artists are the ones who are honestly expressing themselves.  Painters, musicians, architects, crazed performance artists, rappers.  Be honest.  And when they are, I love it.  Hunter Thompson.  Lester Bangs.  The Lampoon.

Rush.  Mekons.  Both have spent all their their lives expressing themselves honestly.  Am I wrong?

 

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Barenaked Ladies dudes, you should know better than to ask for that kind of hassle.

Yes, so we had cold, and fog, and monsoons, and flooding.  And bicycle hazards.

AND you big amusing musical assholes took it all in stride, making it a comedy riff (Brian Ritchie:  Colin Hay: he’s from Scotland, he don’t give a shit about the cold.  Barenaked Ladies,  they’re from Canada, they don’t give a shit about the cold.  Y’all are MILWAUKEE, we KNOW you don’t give  shit about the cold!”

It was great, and it made me change my mind about the Femmes (I guess they need more damn money) and it is also pretty much the pre-season kickoff for the SummerfestBlog, so go there. Because this damn blog is going music anyway:

IMG_2015

I remember watching Letterman when he was uncomfortable and weird on camera, and his show was uncoordinated and saved by the stunts, like dropping things off the back of the building.  He got better.

 

He got much better, and the weirdness became an affectation.  Weird Pet Tricks became predictable.

But one of his traditions remained, and rightly so:  Darlene Love singing “Baby Come Home For Christmas”  Different every year (so I hear, I stopped watching when the Stewart/Colbert duopoly took over) and always good.  Since Letterman is retiring next year, they pulled out all the fucking stops this year:

 

THAT.  WAS.  AWESOME.

I kept expecting the 12-string guitarist to stop mid-song to tune it.

I hope Colbert finds a similar tradition, perhaps Rush playing every Christmas season, but I have no fear.

But at the end of the day,. Letterman has just convinced me that I will be tuning in for HIS final week, like I did for Colbert’s.

 

We found the treasure but how do we spend it? What use is it to us today? Where I lie the madness swirling all around carried away.
There are angels in the story you can see, you can see. I wonder if you see the same as me?
Lines on maps lines of wire. Hope and pray no-one tries to leave their holes to come and save us. Still in silence wait and die.
And I wonder what visions you will see, you will see. I wonder if you’ll see the same as me.
We named the guns, the manufacturer. The towns and countries they are made deep in the mud historical footprints, the national treasures of their age
And it’s really just a story that’s been sold, that’s been sold. It’s really just a story that’s been sold
I was tempted to believe.
Now I stand here in a daze over famous people’s graves. Brushing petals from the stones. Get away from me you slimy pimp. Well this isn’t what you think. You know you’re guilty as hell. So believe me when I teil you you’re a free soul.

– Mekons, Arthur’s Angels

OK, yeah, shut up.  We all knew this day was coming.  I am a weak man, unable to stick a flounce. Rip me apart in the comments, you know you want to and you know you’re going to.

Ahem.  Anyway.  the reason for this is the things I had to do this week.

Some of you may remember a graphic that looked somewhat like this:

Untitled

That shows a series of projects I’ve designed, just north of the historic African American district known as Bronzeville, along the commercial corridor of Martin Luther King Jr. Drive.  Four projects, over nearly a decade, comprising over 100 residential units and several thousand square feet of commercial space.  The residential units are built through a public-private partnership using Federal block grant support to provide tax credit financing.  The tenants are not subisidized, but the rents are managed to allow single parent families and blue collar workers to afford good housing.

These projects operate on two fronts; they allow good folks to move into good housing in a struggling neighborhood; and they also fill gaps in a neighborhood that has been damaged by degradation of the building stock and the economic bleeding of good jobs resulting in vacant sites and decrepit housing stock.

The fourth phase of that project was completed earlier in Our Fun Year 2013, and this week was the formal dedication.

I spent part of the early part of the week preparing a few presentation boards and other artwork for the Big Day.  The project consisted of 41 units, 35 new construction, and 6 which were in an existing, near-hopeless building that nonetheless anchored one of the prominent corners of the retail corner.  Some time back I posted this picture of the building as it existed:

Looks like hammered shit, doesn't it?

Looks like hammered shit, doesn’t it?

When I originally posted it, there were a couple of commenters who noticed it was actually two different buildings that had been casually combined in years past, but mainly people wondered why there was any effort to save it at all, it should have just been torn down.  There is some validity to that idea, true; but the developer and the BID wanted to try and save it because from an urban standpoint, it was an important anchor to an important intersection.  So we did.

Yes.

Yes.

King drive elevation

On Friday morning, the Grand Opening was held in the commercial spaces of that building, and it was packed.  Press, and neighborhood, and local activists, and the BID board, and between all of that, the guys who built it and the guy who designed it couldn’t even get seats.  I shook the Mayor’s hand, though.  He gave me a ‘good job, dude’ nod when I was acknowledged and picked up my framed acknowledgement.

The building has a little courtyard we added in the back , and the ceremony included the unveiling and dedication of this bust of Dr. King:

image001site 1 courtyard

These projects have kept me working during the Great Crapfest, although not enough to be able to buy a new car or anything.  But that’s not important.

The important part is that these projects have helped to weave a damaged neighborhood back together, they’ve allowed for people of moderate incomes to live in safety and dignity, and they’ve been models of public-private partnerships that make sense and are effective.

They have challenged my skills in design and cost-control.  and I like to think that I’ve responded; out of the three prior projects, two of them have received Mayor’s design awards.  And at Friday’s ceremony, I saw some of my professors, and some of my competitors, recognizing the importance of these projects.  I talked with the developers, and we discussed the projects to come.

But the most important thing wasn’t the ego-stroking, or the prominence of the guests; it wasn’t the free food or the beautiful day.  The thing is; real people, living lives of dignity and grace, with at least one of their troubles reduced, minimized, removed.  Mothers and fathers and children who are able to concentrate and their lives and their loves and their schoolwork.

You know, the idea of being an architect is ususally imagined to be designing tall buildings, big buildings, or lavish private houses.  But when I got into the depth of it during college, I was intrigued by the ideas of improving the lives of normal people.

And dog help me, for all I whine and complain, that’s what I’ve wound up doing.

 

Oregon Beer Snob reports that the Empire is the third hit when you Goofle the title phrase.  And here I’ve been struggling lately with my impact in the larger world.  Well, now I know that I have changed the internooflizzles for the bassoon.

It makes me want to take up the bassoon.  It can’t be any more horrifying than the noises I make with guitars.  And I bet there are just OODLES of them available cheap on eBay and Craigslist.  Besides, you know how to become first chair in bassoon?  Own a bassoon.  Out of tune Symphonic honking has got to be more lucrative than architecture!

In any case, the number one hit is a page of bassoon jokes.

I mentioned over at Brandos House of Fashion that I intended to do a Friday Musical Spew today, because I am jealous of all the sweet bloggy love he gets when he does his (I KNOW he’s funnier!  SHUT UP) but phone work and oil change and haircut and phone work intervened; however, I figure I can get a little post-office work (see what I done there?  FUNNY, cuz SEQUESTER!) at home and do the Poop Shoot from my iPod (34,000 songs).  The wine is low, but that is OK, because the corner store has big-ass bottles of cheap wine.

Looks like it is kinda a parenthetical kind of day.  Oddly, I don’t have a parenthetical for this paragraph. (Stop LOOKING at me like that, Lucy!)  OK, I guess I had one.

So, here goes the first Friday Musical Spew and IMS Poop Shoot in quite some time.  It’ll be fun!  YES IT WILL.  Fire up the bassoons!

1.  The Story of Nothing, the Mekons; New York.  From the (originally cassette-only) live release “New York” that gave me inspiration for a custom license plate.  Is there a better start for a music list at the Empire of the Bassoon?  Really, though, the Mekons are kind of inspirational. They are a post-punk anarcho-collective of artists and curmudgeons, who live spread around the world but still find a way to get together and record music against all odds, indeed against widespread apathy.  There was a time when punk music threatened the world; now it makes for Carnival cruise lines music.  Well, the mekons never let that stop them.  They know what they do won’t change a damn thing; they do it because not to do it hurts worse.  And still; all else being equal, several of them became American citizens, because…well, I’m not sure really.

2.  Star Me Kitten, William S. Burroughs; X-Files Soundtrack.  Drug addict and writer Billy B, doing spoken word over the music tracks from the REM song.  From the X-Files soundtrack from so long ago, that my office was in a different building and I though I might be able to change the world for the better.

Seriously, when this album came out, I had two small spaces in an old rehab factory, connected by a spiral stair.  My son used to come down all the time, and do some climbing up the stair. He was so tiny!  I had employees, one of which was pregnant and later sometimes brought her son in because child care is a bitch.  I offered health care!  Times were different indeed.  Now, I rattle around my office, poking at various computers and staring out the window in between doing billable services, and wondering where my life went.

3.  Well Thought Out Twinkles, Silversun Pickups; Carnavas.  When I had employees, I tried to be progressive and liberal and a good employer.  But when I was forced to lay off the staff due to lack of cash flow, I found one of my employees made a claim against me for unused vacation time.  Even though I didn’t offer compensation for unused vacation or personal time.  Heck, I was  super-flexible on office scheduling, knowing that everybody has shit to do.  When I responded to the claim by pointing out that I had never represented that unused time was anything other than unused, and not carried over year-to-year,  and beyond that, this employee, had, when the times were analyzed, not met the relatively low threshold of what I considered to be a full time employee over time; the employee responded with a Letter of Butthurt about how I was representing them as a bad person.  even though I had the documentation and records to prove everything I said, and was already taking the unemployment tax hit for everyone I had laid off.  Dunno where the advice was coming from for their claim, but it was crappy, and somehow that was my fault too.  What the fuck, as an architect, I am used to being a sin-eater.

4. 17 on the Wayside, Noise By Numbers; Yeah, Whatever. Where the fuck did this come from?  I like it though.  Yeah, Whatever indeed.

5.  Help Save The Youth Of America, Billy Bragg; Live At The Barbicon.  Punk music was going to change the world, right?  And just like folk music before, was subsumed by the commercial wave and music-industry weasels.  Now, Half of the Clash are dead, and the Youth of America are  the unemployed middle aged waiting around to die. Billy, Washington is not going to burn except in the fevered dreams of Teabaggers and Secessionists, and much as I love you, you still are touring with a beat up old Fender playing for the same 500 people in every town.

6. Lately, Soul Asylum; Silver Lining.  One of my favorite bands, since I saw them play a 300 person club on the Hang Time tour.  Got heroically drunk with Snag at First Avenue when they played with The Figgs opening.  Original guitarist Dan Murphy quit last year, because making a living in a punk band is for losers and nihilists.  This is from the last album, which is pretty good and kind of polished, but maybe it would be a bit freeing if Dave Pirner just did solo albums from here on out.  After a while, of course, they could do a reunion (except for the fact that half of them are dead also) and make some decent money for a change.  The Mekons willingly admit that they have never broken up, so they can never get on the Big Punk Band Cynical Reunion Circuit gravy train (in clubs that provide chairs and tables for their aging decrepit fans), playing the ‘hits’ or at least the songs that someone recognizes.  Good song though.

7. Good Night Sleep Tight, Kevn Kinney; MacDougal Blues Local boy from Milwaukee, he went to high school with one of my good friends.  While here, he was in the Prosecutors and started the first incarnation  of Drivin ‘n’ Cryin, and he wrote one of my favorite songs, “Scarred But Smarter”.  I am so, so scarred but am not sure I can claim to be smarter.

On the other stump, Rachel Maddow called out FuckNose Scalia as a troll on TDS last night, and she is right on target.  He LIKES saying horrible things, because it’s about him.  He gives not one shit about actual jurisprudence, or legislating, or the Constitution, but if he gets to kick some wimmins or hippies or poors or blahs, it makes his thing wiggle.  He’s a bigger troll than I am on a thndr thread.

[interlude.  running out for wine, toilet paper, and pizza]

8.  Entertain Me, The Psychedelic Furs; Should God Forget.  There was a time when teh Furs were rocking like fuck.  That time was 1981.  After that, things got wonky at best.  But this is off an obvious effort to catch their former spark, that mostly fell flat.  Sometimes, you can catch lightning in a jar.  But the second time, you just get electrocuted.

9.  After Hours, Velvet Underground; Live MCMXCIII.  Obviously, they got good drugs from Warhol. This is a kind of lame song from a good, tough live set.   Having said that, Mo Tucker is rock as fuck.

10.  Call That Living, The Angels; Skin And Bone.  True story.  Younger Zombie Brother was always into more metal and such than I was, hard as that may be to believe.  But while I was tangenting into punk and new wave, he was moving into his teens and working on rebellion, and he was all Kiss-AC/DC and such.  And somehow, he triggered in the Angels album Face to Face (renamed for America as Angel City).  It was a point of congruence for us, and wow, the song Take A Long Line was SO good.  Later, Dark Room was released, and it was even better.

In recent days, The Angels have gotten back together to some extent, and while the are mining the same vein, and it’s pretty good, they have yet to hit on all cylinders like they were during those days.  Fuck it anyway, but they are still pretty damn good.

11.  Headline News, Weird Al Yankovic; Permanent Record. More True Story.  When YZ was an infant, when I was getting up with him in the night, I had this four-disc set queued up on the multi-disc player so while I was getting him back to sleep, we would be listening to Al’s best.  It explains, or at least demonstrates, so much, doesn’t it?  In any case, a couple of years ago Wife Sublime and YZ got the 3rd row tix for Al at the Riverside, while I went to Turner Hall to see Trampled By Turtles.  I loved TBT, but the opening band was so awful I was glad WS was not there.

12. Harry Worth, Elvis Costello; Momofuku.  Last week, Brando posted a couple of videos, one of which was the Police.  I did not post a comment, because, hey, SQUIRREL! But if I had, I would have said that at one point I loved the Police with a large, sickening obscene love.  But they have not aged well for me, I think mainly because they keep playing the same damn songs.

When Elvis toured on this album, he opened for the Police reunion tour.  And he was nothing less than great, with a stripped down set that kicked ass.  And while the Police were good, Elvis was the one that rocked the fuck; and since then, who has continued to record and release and tour? None of the Cynical Old Guy Tours for Declan.

12. Bell-rung-man, WATT; hyphenated-man.  I need say nothing about the big bass man, but all you need to know can be learned by watching the video We Jam Econo.  Go.  Do it.

13. I Know Their Name, Men Without Hats; Folk Of The 80s, Part III.  Heh.  Trolling my own Musical Poop Shoot!  Moar True Story, because it is a Night for Truth.  When i was in college, mistakenly thinking that working to become an architect was a viable future, the Future Wife Sublime was in college somewhere else.  And yeah, long-distance romances don’t work, except when they do.  So, although most weekends she would come this direction (because Milwaukee is more Fun) some weekends I would go the other direction, and when I did, i would prepare by taking new vinyl I had obtained, putting it on cassettes for the drive.

Well, what I would do is put on side one to record, then go to class, then rewind and do the second side.  Then listen on the drive.

Also, what you need to know is I had a linear tracking turntable at the time, so start/stop and such was all push button, and the buttons were outside the dust cover (all terms relating to an ancient technology).  Also, I had two cats.  Do you see where this is going?  Do you?

So I was recording this album, and was kind of looking forward to listening to it (shut up.  I have a problem, it’s been established.  Also, these guys were Canadian folk-punks, like a syrup-fueled Violent Femmes.  Who knew?).  So I was driving through the Wisconsin night, grooving to annoying Canadian folk-punk, when the cat walked over the stop button, and the album just quit, leaving the rest of the tape blank.  Fucking cat.

14. Worse To Live, Matthew Sweet; In Reverse.    Ouch.  Well played, iPod.

15.  Rio, Duran Duran; Rio (of course, like you don’t have it in YOUR collection too).  This was a fricking great album, so great that nearly every aspect of it: videos, cover, lyrics, music, the band; have become cliches.  But my clearest memory of Duran Duran was from the prior album, when my roommate and I were in a video bar (shut UP, we had those too) and the long-soft-core version of “Girls On Film” came on (heh).  Our gast was flabbered.

Bonus 16 (I could do this all night, do you have some where to be?).  Donner Lake, Wonderlick; Wonderlick.  Years after Too Much Joy tragically broke up, a couple of them got back together to make some music, and this wonderful power-pop gem cropped up.  You could do much. much worse than to look it up.  Heck, while you’re at it just fill out your library with the TMJ back catalog.  As Too Much Joy, they got thrown in jail for doing 2 Live Crew in Broward County, toured with the Mekons, and gave a shout out to Milwaukee punk-metal band Die Kreuzen in their liner notes.  when they re-released their first recording “Green Eggs and Crack” (they’re funny, but not subtle) with a couple of new songs,  Tim Quirk said in the notes :

..it’s hard to trot out all this embryonic stuff out again without showing you what it was supposed to look like when it grew up.  The second reason is kind of amorphous, but probably more accurate: these three songs were written shortly after our relationship with a major label had been….well, severed is a good word for it.  That is, the last three songs were written and recorded under the same conditions as the rest: by a band with very little money and no real idea what it was recording FOR.  “Secret Handshake” is very specifically about missing the money and still getting a boner from playing.

I keep doing what I do because I still get a boner doing it.  Watching a building erupt from a the tip of a magic marker into three dimensions is a tremendous high.  Just like the boner I get writing these stupid blog posts.  Nobody may read them or comment or anything, but they still get thrown out of the nest, even if only to flutter and fall to the ground, splatter and get eaten by the neighbor’s cat.

OK, I need to work on my control of similes.

Hey, did I just put two number twelves in that list?  I think I did.  What the hell, write to the central office I am sure they will give you a refund.

The Kids Are Alright

Posted: February 28, 2013 in Wa fuckin Ha

EDIT:

Moar Kids are Moar Alright.  h/t Friend of the Empire Chuckles.

I Bet On Sky

Posted: November 3, 2012 in Fridge Note, Wa fuckin Ha

Vegging on the couch this afternoon when a couple of canvassers made me get up and answer the door.  They liked our door, by the way; we had the glass panel replaced with reeded glass some time back and I admit it looks awesome.
But here; check out the flyer they dropped:

I have a lot of disagreements with some Democrats and they rarely approach my stand on most issues.  But claiming there are no differences between them and the Republicans is demonstrably false.  Further, I don’t agree that they have gotten more reactionary over the years.

I cast my first Presidential Vote for a white guy.  My governor votes have always been for white guys.  Mayor ditto.

But look at the slate of top tier votes I get to cast on Tuesday.  A black guy, a lesbian, and a black woman.

Progress may be hard, halting, not as fast as one might like; but progress still.

Title Lonk: