In case you missed it over the weekend, January 5 marked a significant date for Atlanta music history. It was the 35th anniversary of the Sex Pistols' American debut at the Great Southeast Music Hall. The venue, formerly located in Lindbergh Plaza, is long gone now. There was a K-Mart right near there for years; now it's all part of a mixed use living-shopping monstrosity ... I guess Johnny Rotten may have been onto something with the whole "no future" mantra after all.
Anyway, check out CL's Music Editor Murray M. Silver Jr.'s nod to the show (published Jan. 7, 1978), and breathe in the rich irony of his tough critical stance: " ...whether or not there is any merit to the movement is debatable ..."
In the opening salvo of his Jan. 16, 1978 review for Village Voice, self-anointed "Dean of American Rock Critics" Robert Christgau opined: "If the Sex Pistols believe that by skipping punksymp sanctuaries like New York, Boston, Los Angeles, and Detroit on their first American tour they'll get to confront the true Amerika head-on, then I hope they take their debut to heart, because they opened in a shopping center."
Sounds like Atlanta to me ...
Whenever Bruce Springsteen returns to vogue it usually means one of two things: Either America's working class is feeling really patriotic, or the patriotic are feeling totally outclassed. I'd venture to say it's the latter this time around (though I doubt Bruce and the E Street Band will have a hard time packing out Philips Arena in Atlanta this Sunday, March 18, despite the $69-$99 price tag — which is really a steal considering most ticketed Philips concerts easily break the $100 mark).
But isn't it kind of ironic to watch footage of Springsteen playing last Saturday to a sea of Caucasians at the Apollo Theater, considering the gentrification that's overrun Harlem in the past decade? In a way it seems symbolic of the same socioeconomic themes his new album Wrecking Ball rails against. When Springsteen sings the anthemic, Celtic banger "Death To My Hometown" — "The greedy thieves that came around/And ate the flesh of everything they’ve found" — it's as if he's evoking the very sentiment often shared by longtime residents of the black cultural mecca who were displaced by Harlem's escalating cost of living.
Unintentional, I'm sure. But still, it reeks of the same sort of shortsighted rhetoric that the Occupy movement has held dear, even when displacing homeless in city parks to protest the powers-that-be. Perhaps such subtle hypocrisies are unavoidable when a 1 percenter like Springsteen attempts to empathize with the 99, as Armond White suggests in his thoughtful review of Wrecking Ball:
No one in Atlanta’s emerging, early ’90s hip-hop scene was stranger than K.I.N. Formed at Morehouse College, their shows featured a shirtless, dreadlocked guy who clutched an axe and stood motionless in the middle of the stage, and a white, would-be Klansman who smacked the group’s black members with a whip. Something of a cross between Public Enemy and Fishbone, K.I.N. was a rap early bird, and its alums are still influential.
The group was founded in 1990 by rapper Andre Henderson, who went by E=MC2. Originally paired with three other collaborators, he broke off after meeting producer Christopher Davis, a card-carrying Nation of Islam member who called himself Christopher X but quickly abandoned his bow tie for a mohawk and combat boots. K.I.N. also included beatmaker Sol Messiah, a backup dancer named Saul Williams, and King Esseen, whose sole duty was to hold the axe.
Their sound was punk mixed with hip-hop of the politically-driven, East Coast variety, but their message wasn’t always entirely clear. Sol Messiah says he has no idea what the title of their popular song “90,000 Days and Nights” refers to, and found their moniker — which stood for “Knowledge In the Name of the ancestors” a bit confusing. “We were like, ‘That’s a lot of letters. Where is the ancestors part?” he remembers with a laugh.
The day after we sat on the couch watching four hours worth of Whitney Houston's funeral coverage on CNN, my wife burst into the bedroom and blurted out a confession. She'd just indulged in an old episode of "Being Bobby Brown," and she felt dirty, guilty, complicit.
Watching grainy YouTube footage on a laptop can have that effect on you, especially when the show in question is largely responsible for defaming the once-pristine image of America’s sweetheart.
In the week and a half since she’s passed, Whitney Houston's been dissected and re-examined up one side and down the other by media types eager to absolve themselves of any guilt over her celebrity-induced death yet equally anxious to capitalize on the conjecture surrounding it. I’ve been reluctant to add my own two cents to the public discourse for fear of sounding too sentimental or overly cynical. But coming to terms with her legacy hasn’t been nearly as daunting as the attempt to reconcile the polarized responses from those quick to canonize her for her successes on one hand and cannibalize her for her failures on the other.
The resulting fervor guarantees that she will be remembered for generations to come, good or bad. But how we choose to remember our cultural heroes, fatalistic flaws and all, says a helluva lot more about us than it does them.
Will she always be the pure, pop ingenue who literally beamed with admiration and self-love in the 1986 video for "The Greatest Love of All"? Or, was that icon forever eclipsed by the barely functioning addict in a dysfunctional marriage that made "Being Bobby Brown" must-see reality TV in 2005?
When I interviewed Quincy Jones that same year for another publication, he practically balked when the show came up. “What do you think about it?” he threw the question back at me. I almost hated to tell him I was an undercover fan.
I've avoided listening to Liturgy for the past few years, mostly because people seemed more concerned with the boring arguments about authenticity and intellectual posturing surrounding Liturgy than the music. (Frankly, inauthentic posturing is the basis of the most important popular music of the past fifty years, from Bob Dylan to R Kelly. Please stop arguing about it.) After reading William Bowers' sublime account of the Diplo, Sleigh Bells, and Liturgy tour in Florida, I finally got around to checking out Liturgy's full length from last year, Aesthethica.
According to Pitchfork, "Aesthethica is inventive, alive, and shrieking with more ideas than many bands explore over an entire career," which is true aside from the fact that post-hardcore bands were exploring more or less those same musical ideas about a decade ago. Liturgy's main contribution seems to be taking the sound of a band like Jerome's Dream and putting it into an intellectualized black metal context, a clever spin that's earned them quite a few listeners. The much-praised distillation of influences ranging from minimalist composers to late 80's metal is certainly there on Aesthethica, but it is a distillation that belongs to a previous generation of musicians. I'm surprised that more critics haven't pointed out that connection. In any case, the above record by Jerome's Dream was released in 2000 and sounds more or less like a demo tape for Aesthethica. You might dig it.
This year turned out to be a good one for soul music. We saw an ass-load of new releases from familiar faces, brand-new folks and artists we haven't seen in a hot minute. But, for me, 10 albums stood out as the cream of the crop in 2011.
Signs of Life, Dionne Farris: You never know how much you a miss an artist until that artist drops off the map. That’s how I felt listening to Dionne Farris’ latest project — which is arguably the best CD of her career. Though she’s been, for all intents and purposes, off the scene for years, on Signs of Life Farris doesn’t skip a beat in her quest to evade being pigeonholed — and to push the envelope on what can be done with soul (or pop or whatever) music. Plus, these are just some pretty-ass songs.
The Love Album, Kim Burrell: Kim Burrell is known in church circles as a straight-up gospel music singer. But for The Love Album, she dips her toes deeper in the secular music market … and in the process creates a collection of songs that combine tales of romantic love with spirituality. Now, before you roll your eyes and think, “this ain’t my thing,” be warned that The Love Album is filled with such beautifully melodic tunes — songs driven by Burrell’s effortlessly acrobatic vocals — even Satanists would dig it.
The Story, King: The all-female trio King came out of nowhere with this three-song EP, but they brought a breath of fresh air in tow. The Story is built on the foundation of complex harmonies and subtle lyrics — instead of a bombastic soul music cartoon.
Back when we were brainstorming for the Music Issue, one of the artist-to-artist mashups we dreamed up was an interview between Janelle Monae and Andre 3000.
Seemed like a no-brainer considering their shared musical eccentricities (not to mention they both managed to find a creative partner in Big Boi).
The full 20-minute, commercial-free episode is posted on the Liberator Magazine blog. Be careful of the audio on that bad boy (hint hint: her initial meeting with Sean Combs is mentioned near the end), there's even an ear-piercing "emergency broadcasting" interruption around the 1:46 minute mark.
Besides performing "Sincerely, Jane," "Dreams Are Forever" and "Tightrope," Monae talks about how she got fired from Office Depot for using the work computer to hustle her CDs. Funny, I use my work computer to hustle CDs, too. Ms. Monae's The ArchAndroid is certainly one of the year's best.
They Might Be Giants has spent the better part of 25 years crafting such peppy, compact little pop songs that it seems redundant to segregate their tunes recorded specifically for children from the rest of their songbook. Nevertheless, they've cultivated a dedicated following over the past decade for the kid stuff, and their Variety Playhouse gig March 5-6 features both a Friday night show for ages 14 and up and a family show at 2 p.m. Saturday. In compiling this list (which loosely goes in chronological order), I decided to include tunes with educational value that weren't on their children's recordings. I also avoided deceptively upbeat tunes like their classic "Particle Man," which starts like a riff on the old "Spider-man" song but works in TMBG's sardonic streak with lines like "Is a depressed, or is he a mess? Does he feel totally worthless?"
1. "Istanbul (Not Constantinople)," (Flood). They Might Be Giants incessantly catchy cover of The Four Lads' nonsensical novelty song from 1953 became one of the bands' biggest hits. This musical geographic footnote also helped introduce TMBG to young listeners when "Tiny Toon Adventures" animated a cartoon version of the song (that is, incidentally, a zillion times better than the song's official music video, although Craig Ferguson's lip-sync is pretty fun). "Tiny Toons'" "Particle Man" isn't bad, either.
Aren't those AK-47s aka "Choppers" on his tee-shirt in the photo?
When I hear that lyric it makes me think that he’s projecting…
Good question Chad. It took awhile. I concede defeat, but I'm pretty sure Carmella and…
The correct answer is Logan. Tickets go to Sophie Dillard! Please drop me a line…