Music Notes June 2010

June 30, 2010 at 8:24 pm (Uncategorized)

June music notes.

1. Karen Elson – The Ghost that Walks

Apparently when she was a kid, Karen Elson was so skinny and pale that the other kids called her the ghost that walks. Now here’s the former model’s debut album. I’m a firm believer that people shouldn’t be compartmentalized. I.e., if you’re a writer, you can also do other things too. So have no fear in  approaching Karen Elson’s debut. A marvellous moody country folk album packed with great songs. Elson has a memorable voice and the songs really grow through repeated listens. (There,  and I didn’t even mention her husband).

2. TV21 – Snakes and Ladders

Love Orange Juice, Altered Images, Josef K and other post-punk.new wave? Try this.  From the should have been bigger corner of the universe comes this lovely slice of early eighties music. Named for a comic book I read when I was a kid, TV21 are a little like Easterhouse (who came later), but also like a lot of indie pop that came in the first half of the eighties, while being oh so original.  The track listing on the sleeve is mixed up, but don’t let that distract you. Run, don’t walk.

3. Iggy and the Stooges –Raw Power

I bought this on vinyl in 1979, and now I’m urging you to shell out for the deluxe edition. It’s worth it. There’s the legacy edition with the restored Bowie mix (replacing Iggy’s 1997 blast), and a live CD. The deluxe edition has those, a disc of outtakes, a DVD, a book, and some postcards. All very fine.

4. The Velvet Underground – Live at Max’s Kansas City

Double CD version released on Rhino a few years back. The band was down to two original Velvets (Lou and Sterling), and the CD has a so-so sound quality punctuated by Jim Carrol’s comments, but Live at Max’s is still worth having. Not just for the most beautiful version of “I’ll be your Mirror” you’ve ever heard, but so you can imagine what a Velvets show was like. Maybe it’s just for the fans, but it’s worth it.

5. Dave Thompson – Your Pretty Face is Going to Hell

Dave Thompson is the author of many fine books on music, including a great account of TV Smith’s career. Subtitled “the dangerous glitter of David Bowie, Lou Reed and Iggy Pop, this one looks at the aforementioned three in that crucial 70s period, along with side glances at Marc Bolan and Mott the Hoople. The mark of a good biography is its readability, and Thompson writes well. In addition, he’s done his research. Obscure stories, legends and new stuff to me. Worth a read.

6.  George Berger – The Story of Crass

And when you’ve finished reading Dave Thompson’s book, you might hunt down this one, . The story of Crass. I’ve just started it, and will write a full review later, but it’s worth mentioning that the author interviews all of the band, not just Seve and Penny. I was a big Crass fan when I was a teenager, and I retain a certain soft spot for them now. From PM Press.

7. The Stranglers – Live (X-Cert)

The Stranglers were the first band I got into in a big way, and my first real concert. This album was released in 1979 between Black and White and The Raven. Nothing essential, but worth having for Hugh Cornwell’s banter with the audience. 

8. Mojo – Tom Waits’ Edition July 2010 

A little plug for the new issue of Mojo. Guest edited by Tom Waits and containing a great free blues CD. I know a lot of people don’t like Waits, and I’m not a huge fan, but the issue is credible.  

9. Portishead – Follow the Tear

Wow, Portishead continue to go their go way. This one might even be called lively! Watch out for that ending though.  

10. And lastly, spare a moment for Pete Quaife, the bass player for the Kinks who passed away June 26 aged 66.

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A look into the world of Fundamentalism

June 29, 2010 at 10:59 am (Uncategorized)

There’s an episode of Buffy the Vampire slayer in season 2 where Giles and Buffy are prowling round a crypt. Buffy then utters the following line.

“Note to self: Religion. Freaky.”

With that in mind, read this interview with Nate Phelps . Phelps is the son of Fred Phelps, the U.S. evangelist who pickets the funerals of soldiers killed in Iraq, convinced this is God’s judgement for U.S. policy towards gays and lesbians.  

Phelps has abandoned his father’s views and embraced atheism, and, it should be noted, he is also working on a book deal. Nevertheless, I’d want to read the book when if comes out. It’s a little window into this odd little world.

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Re-arranging the Deckchairs

June 28, 2010 at 1:13 pm (Uncategorized)

Leaflet distributed by IP at the June 26, 2010 G-20 demonstarions in Toronto, Canada. A fuller account of the demonstration and the events which accompanied it will appear later.

The meeting of the G-20 summit in Toronto this weekend, and the G-8 in Huntsville earlier this week is ostensibly about how some of the world’s largest economies arrange their affairs. The reality is very different. As we approach the two-year mark for the current world economy crisis, it is clear that the global capitalist class is merely re-arranging the deckchairs on the Titanic.  

What began as a housing or mortgage crisis, became a banking crisis, and has now become a sovereign debt crisis, which has thrown many economies into crisis and threatens to pull down many more.  

Governments and Finance Ministers across the globe have repeatedly announced the beginnings of recoveries, even as they simultaneously preach restraint and austerity. Yet the crisis continues to deepen: The capitalist system is in a deep recession from which its managers have no exit strategy except to mouth tired formulas. At today’s summit, behind the fences and a massive police presence costing upwards of $1 billion, sit the frightened and uncomprehending managers of capital who cannot control their own system.  

Why? The heart of capitalism is the law of value. Things, goods, services are produced, not for their social worth, but for their exchange-value, for the profit they can return.  But the continuance of this system guarantees greater disasters ahead.

For the United States, the fragility of the Euro, and the consequent threat to the political and economic integrity of the EU, the world’s second largest economic bloc, has brought some respite: capital from all over the world seeks refuge in what seems to be the strongest, most stable center of capitalism. Europe certainly wanted to be this center, but it has been unable to do so. Now the EU Central Bank, the German government, and the new British Conservative government are planning to impose the sharpest austerity measures aimed at the European working class, since the end of World War Two. It’s only the beginning. More attacks on wages and pensions will follow, and the working class in North America will not be spared.

For the G-20 and the other managers of capital, there is no other choice: Consumers, workers, companies, governments must spend less to make room for future payments to capital because otherwise, the value of existing capital collapses. However, these austerity measures undercut demand. The overcapacity of the economy increases. The opportunities for productive investment diminish, and this trend pushes the owners of capital towards speculative investment, to the formation of new bubbles of fictitious wealth whose implosions will create new and greater shocks.  

From the perspective of capital the workers must pay, and so attacks on the working class are logical. If workers don’t accept wage-cuts and other austerity measures, “their” economy won’t be competitive, so again, from the logic of capital, it’s entirely reasonable to ask the workers to sacrifice themselves: just as long as you continue to look at the world through the framework of the value form.

And yet, it need not be so. Workers, most spectacularly in the battles in Greece and the wildcat strikes in China, have refused to accept the logic of capital; that they are commodities to be discarded when capital no longer has use for them. Their struggles call into question capitalism, the law of value and the continued commodification of existence. Their struggles raise the question of a way beyond this wretched system that offers nothing but misery for a future.

But to create that alternative, means the rejection of this system, lock and stock. Many of those protesting today seek a return to more “enlightened” policies of capital: of spending on the welfare state, on education, health care and social services. But to argue for these things within a frame work of capital is a dead end. Throughout history, “Socialist” governments and their leftist allies no less than “free market” ones have bowed before the alter of capitalism, carrying out attacks on living standards every bit as vicious as those who work openly in the name of capital. The policies the left proposes today such as massive deficit-spending would not stop capitalism’s crisis, they would merely affect its symptoms. Their framework remains capital, the value form. It is only by rejecting the commodity form, the value system, that a human society can ultimately be constructed. 

The task of revolutionaries is to try to show where the horrific logic of the value form will lead. In this age of a vicious social retrogression, we seek to provide different answers to the questions that are beginning to be asked, to intervene in all the cracks that open up in the body of “capitalist normalcy”; to devote ourselves to the work of that old mole of revolution, and to the possibility of the creation of a genuine human community.

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Insurgent Notes

June 21, 2010 at 11:44 am (Uncategorized)

There’s a new on-line communist  journal called Insurgent Notes.

The first issue has articles by Loren Goldner, John Garvey (ex-Race Traitor,  Henri Simon (Echanges)and others dealing with such topics as China, Greece, communist theory and more.

Looks interesting. Read it here

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NXNE: Iggy et al in Toronto

June 20, 2010 at 10:25 pm (Uncategorized)

Ooh, I remember when the North by North East music festival was a pretty small affair. Not so anymore. NXNE is a big deal. This year, NXNE staged three days of free shows at the downtown Dundas Square culminating with a performance by Iggy and the Stooges.

I had considered going down earlier in the day to catch the Soft Pack, the Waaves and Surfer’s Blood, but in the end I realized only Iggy and the Ravonettes were possible.

The Raveonettes took the stage about 8:00. The friend I went with asked me their demographic, to which I wittily replied (in my mind anyway), imagine the Everly brothers (one of which would be a sister) fronting the Jesus and Mary Chain. Oh, and they’re also from Denmark. 

A blast of dry-ice,  “We are the Raveonettes and this is our music” and away they went.

At the NXNE show, the Everlys took a back seat to the JMC. Lots of feedback, lots of noise (and a stand-up drummer!).  The band played a selection of their hits, and kept us happy for about an hour.

At the beginning of their set, Dundas Square was still pretty roomy, but by the end, things had filled in quite a bit. We beat a coward’s retreat from our vantage point to a bit farther back.  

At 9:30, Iggy hit the stage with “:Raw Power.” there was a lot of hype from the MCs about the Stooges being the greatest rock n roll band ever (“forget the Clash, forget the Rolling Stones”),  and it was a fairly intense experience. 

I could barely see the stage from where I  was, (hence the  quality of the pictures) , but as James Williamson began his solo, I knew we had made the right decision. It was LOUD.

Iggy continued with “Kill City”, “Cock in my Pocket”, “I Got a Right”, “I Wanna Be Your Dog”, “Search and Destroy”, “Gimmie Danger” and many more. The sound was great and Iggy was too. For a 63-year-old man, he certainly didn’t show it: Moving back and forth across the stage, uttering somewhat odd pronouncements (“We are all being crucified for the sake of a dollar” and “Is this a democracy? Is this a fucking democracy?” – not necessarily wrong, but somewhat lacking in context); at one point Iggy invited people up to dance on stage (making a lot of people’s concert experience to be sure) . It was a weird time.

Then it began to get weirder. I was probably 200 feet back from the stage when just in front of me a mosh pit erupted: Frat boy types too young to remember punk let along Iggy in his prime slamming into each other, and anyone else at home. A lot of people my age were there too, and it seemed some of them were going to make this a life time experience too.

It was a great show. And the price was extremely fair. Maybe next year I’ll buy a ticket for NXNE.

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S#$% my daughter says

June 19, 2010 at 6:27 pm (Uncategorized)

With apologies to that other blog/book/movie

Scene: Saturday morning, the living room, the Decemberists’ cover of “I’m Sticking with You” is playing.  

Daughter: Dad, why do you listen to so many weird songs?

Me: It’s a Velvet Underground cover.

Daughter: So?

I guess you never really do look cool to your children. She also drew a bra and various feminine effects on the picture of Iggy Pop on this week’s Now magazine. My wife suggested I take it to tonight’s show. somehow, I think Iggy would be cool with it.

But on a brighter note, my daughter told her teacher that she was afraid I would be arrested at the G-20 protests in Toronto next week. I guess she does love me. 🙂

Her teacher told her not to worry. It doesn’t usually happen. Here’s hoping then.

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Good Economic Article on Meta-Mute

June 17, 2010 at 1:45 am (Uncategorized)

There’s a good article on Meta-Mute, the UK politics and culture site, by Sander of Internationalist Perspective. I’m biased of course, but too much economic writing is dry and abstract. This is a very readable account of the crisis.

Artificial Scarcity in a World of Overproduction: An Escape that Isn’t

and don’t forget Internationalist Perspective’s public meeting Thursday in New York:

WHEN: Thursday, June 17,  7:30pm

WHERE: TRS Professional Suites, Room 6, 44 East 32 St., 11th floor, New York, NY

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Pleasant Distractions (Current and Upcoming)

June 12, 2010 at 10:09 pm (Uncategorized)

I’m not a big football (alright, alright,  soccer) fan, but I do manage to focus on the world cup every four years.

Things started promisingly for England today – a goal in the fourth minute. England played well. I was sure that all they need was a second goal before half-time to seal the match. And there was a four: Unfortunately, it was the USA that scored. A horrible unforced error by the English goalie Robert Green in the 40th minute saw the ball bounce out of his hands and dribble into the net.  

The teams played well, and the final half hour saw some amazing  play. Both deserved to win, but of course I was disappointed England didn’t. Most of the games are on when I’m at work, so I’ll have to see them as replays, but after June 25, I’ll be able to devote myself to the game more fully.

Thankfully, no one has invoked the spirit of 66 yet – none of the players were even born when England beat Germany 4-2, but it’s only a matter of time.  The final is July 11th, the day after my birthday, but only a hopeless dreamer might think England will be playing that day (Still, it would be a nice present). Check out the Fifa site for the schedule.

Also upcoming, before the deadly seriously of the G-20 summit (more on than another time) is the North by North East music festival. Hundreds of visiting bands are playing Toronto over the next ten days or so, but for me the big news is the free concerts at Dundas Square next Thursday, Friday and Saturday. On Saturday the Raveonetteres and Iggy and the Stooges are playing. Very nice.

Oh, and I might also mention, I’ve become very fond of Billy the Exterminator. Maybe that should go under an uncoming guilty pleasures post…

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She and Him in Toronto – A Review

June 10, 2010 at 10:02 pm (Uncategorized)

Nobody likes to start with a complaint, but here goes. For the past few years, it seems to be pretty standard business for bands to allow cameras at shows without any problems. I usually like to take a few shots and then post them on the blog here. Imagine my surprise when I turned at the Sound Academy yesterday for the She & Him show and was told “NO CAMERAS.” I noticed people were surrendering their cameras and being given tags to claim at the end (another half hour of waiting no doubt). Some who tried to sneak them in, had them removed at the frisking stage. Faced with this prospect, I walked back to the car and left the camera in the trunk. As we waited in line, we overheard one of the security people explaining, “It’s not us. It’s the band. It’s She. It’s the fucking movie star. ” Uh huh. (Deschanel also complained during the concert about people taking pictures with cellphones – presumable, the Sound Academy realized the nightmarish logistics of trying to confiscate phones from the 2,000 or so customers)

Opening band the Chapin Sisters went on-stage at about 9:10, and played a thirty minute set. They start as an acapella duo, then became a folkies, and finally a full-fledged band, including Zooey Deschanel on one song. Pleasant enough, but not particularly engaging.

She & Him came out at 10:20, and played a 70 minute selection of songs from their two records as well as a number of covers. I love their sound. Zooey Deschanel has a captivating voice. M Ward plays great Duane Eddyesque guitar. The songs have that classic 50s/60s pop sound complete with slightly cheesy lyrics. How can you not love it? 

Well, for the first half of the set it was easy not to. Not that the show was bad, it just sounded too much like the record. Fine, but when I go to a concert I expect it to sound different from the record. If it sounds the same, why bother? Stick with the record. Maybe it was the venue. This show was originally schedule for the Phoenix, but when it sold out, the show was moved to the Sound Academy. Sometimes bigger is not better. Then with Magic Trick, the band woke up and the show truly did become great. The audience saw it too. They moved and responded more, and we howled for more when the show ended. A short break, and two somewhat odd covers and it was all over.

So, a good show, albeit an uneven one. Now if you could just tell me why you didn’t want us to take pictures…

Set (from Setlist – I can never remember the name of their songs)

  • Black Hole 
  • Thieves 
  • Over It Over again 
  • Me and You
  • Lingering Still
  • Take It Back
  • Home
  • Sentimental Heart
  • Change Is Hard
  • I Thought I Saw Your Face Today
  • Brand New Shoes
  • You Turn Me On, I’m a Radio (Joni Mitchell)
  • You Really Got a Hold On Me (Smokey Robinson)
  • Magic Trick
  • Gonna Get Along Without You Now (Skeeter Davis)
  • In the Sun
  • Don’t Look Back
  • This Is Not A Test
  • Riding In My Car
  • Made For You
  • Why Do You Let Me Stay Here?
  • Sweet Darlin’
  • Encore:

  • Fools Rush In (Ricky Nelson)
  • Roll Over Beethoven
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    Internationalist Perspective Public Meeting in New york

    June 6, 2010 at 8:48 pm (Uncategorized)

    INTERNATIONALIST PERSPECTIVE invites you to an open discussion meeting on

     THE CRISIS OF CAPITALISM AND THE PERSPECTIVE OF A POST-CAPITALIST WORLD

     The crisis keeps escalating, despite all the talk about the nascent recovery. First appearing as a housing or mortgage crisis (the bursting of the credit bubble), it led to a banking crisis, and has now morphed, as we predicted, into a sovereign debt crisis. What this string of disasters exposes is not a crisis of neo-liberalism or any other style of management but a crisis of the value form itself, of the commodification of life. Continuing to produce things for their exchange-value, for the profit they can yield, continuing to base human relations on the wage-labor/capital relation, while destroying all those relations that fall outside of it, guarantees far worse disasters ahead.

     The plunge of the Euro, and the threat to the political/economic integrity of the world’s second largest economic entity (the EU), while themselves expressions of the escalation of the crisis, have brought some respite to American capital: capital from all over the world seeks refuge in what seems to be the strongest, most stable center of capitalism. The anchor. A role Europe envied but could not capture. The envy is understandable, since this position allows the US to increase its debts while keeping interest rates low. It has done so massively in response to its worst economic crisis since the 1930’s, while China has heated up its own economy to compensate for declining export markets and the social danger of economic slowdown. Now the EU Central Bank and the German government are planning to impose the sharpest basket of austerity measures aimed at the working class throughout Europe, since the end of World War Two. It’s only the beginning. More attacks on wages and pensions will follow, and the working class in America will not be spared.

     For the ruling class, there is no other choice. Consumers, workers, companies, governments must spend less to make room for future payments to capital because otherwise, the value of existing capital collapses. But all these austerity measures undercut demand. The overcapacity of the economy increases. Opportunities for productive investment diminish. The trend pushes owners of capital towards speculative investment, to the formation of new bubbles of fictitious wealth whose implosions will create new shocks.

     Governments are inevitably driven to contradictory policies. What they create with one hand, they destroy with the other. Their austerity measures undermine their recovery policies, and the latter, by creating new debt, new claims on future profit, undermine the former. Is there a way  out of this dilemma? Some pin their hopes on the growth of the “green economy” (renewable energy, etc), others believe that information technology can give capital a new lease on life. But, as we will show, neither of these can reverse the downward trend of the creation of surplus value, the ultimate source of profits. The crisis pressures capital even more to replace living with dead (machine) labor in an effort to re-establish its profitability. Reducing living labor reduces the source of profit even though it seems the way out for the capital since it improves its    competitiveness. While overproduction acts as a brake on technological change, it also accelerates the expansion of casualization and “precarious” conditions of labor, and leads to the expulsion of masses of workers from the productive process, thereby further reducing demand.

     The continuous high unemployment combined with the austerity measures by the EU today, and the US tomorrow, amount to a major assault on the standards of living of the working class. Greece is now the first site of such a concerted attack by capital, one being imposed by a “Socialist” government.  It can’t be denied that, if workers don’t accept wage-cuts, the Greek economy can’t be competitive. It can’t be denied that, if workers in China push up their wages, capital will go to where wages are lower. So it’s entirely reasonable to ask of the workers to sacrifice themselves, as long as you look at the world through the framework of the value form.

    By refusing to obey the logic of capital, workers in Greece are refusing to be good commodities. Capitalism is threatening our survival. In struggles that spring from the will to live, the commodification of life may itself be questioned, first implicitly, then overtly. That will open the way to a post-capitalist world, to real communism.

    QUESTIONS WE WANT TO DISCUSS AT THE MEETING:

    –  What are the ways in which capitalism can overcome its crisis?

    –  What can we learn from the struggles in Greece?

    –  Why is there not more working class resistance in the US?

    –  The position of Chinese capital and the struggle of the working class in that country.

    –  What should pro-revolutionaries focus on?

    The discussion meetings of IP are characterized by their open atmosphere, in which everyone gets ample opportunity to explain her/his position.

    WHEN:

    Thursday, June 17

    7:30pm

     

    WHERE:

    TRS Professional Suites

    Room 6

    44 East 32 St., 11th floor

    New York, NY

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