Well, well, well… Christian Fitness outdid itself – thrice!
“This Taco Is Not Correct” is quite simply, not right. Possibly a few bricks shy of a full load, and definitely not paddling with both oars in the water. Christian Fitness is coming straight at you with a rusty butcher knife in one hand and a roll of duct tape in the other whilst seeking direction from Miss Manners on the proper etiquette for killing. Yet, as is always true of this band, the insanity is only insane if you don’t believe in the message. They call out dark truths, whistling into mad corners others choose to run past. If band lyrics could walk, you’d avoid eye contact and hastily cross the street when coming up on Christian Fitness.
Fuck it, why not all of them. Who am I, a critic? Decide for yourself as the influences are all over the place, and yet lovingly adopted as its own. But do take care to create an ambience for listening in your favorite (un)safe space, splay yourself across the floor (preferably a surface that carries vibration well), get into or take something that gives you comfort and pain simultaneously. Ready yourself for a feedback distortion baseline harmonic lyrical heaven.
It seems that this evil-dark-side/emotional-lover-side of Falco passes unfettered through his deeply held demons and angels manifested as Christian Fitness prior to filing the final papers with Future of the Left. Ridiculously complicated arrangements of melodic feedback, canonical instrumentation coupled with layers upon filthy layers of percussion, and peepshow lyrics brazenly showcase the cracks of humanity. It’s a circus freakshow with Falco as the ringleader, top hat and all. And if the tremors aren’t enough, the bassline will surely kill you, thus making Christian Fitness the best band to blast the scene since Mclusky or Future of the Left. Either way, take comfort in knowing that your favorite band wants you dead.
“Read the uncomfortable dynamic between hunter and hunted. I don’t know if there is a difference, personally. On your own side of the earth, mine is unknown, and here, conversely, you are a mystery. I respect that. But I must destroy it.” – excerpted from “happiness is not for amateurs”
“If your best friend handed you his dick and asked you to fillet and cook it…. Would you comply, without a second thought, without a lot of money on it?” – excerpted from “more skin for the skin-eaters”
I stumbled upon Public Image Ltd.’s 2015 release,What the World Needs Now…, with high recommendations.
I found this album to be difficult, uncomfortable, confrontational, emotional and very revealing. For an album that was termed to appear as not caring, it seems to care quite a lot. And while the fuck off attitude of John Lydon may be what is expected, there’s a lot more happening underneath – well beyond the first four tracks.
The poetry of John Lydon is paired down, no nonsense, insightful, hilariously maddening and also quite tender. A fistful of truth inside a hailstorm of experience devoid of false hopes and external prophets. Lydon himself being a prophet inside his own realm, while simultaneously being the anti-prophet to everyone else. I assume he’d say “Lydon prophet? He’s fucking bollocks!” -OZ
A reaction to society, truths and religion, Kurt Vonnegut wrote, “Well, when it became evident that no governmental or economic reform was going to make the people much less miserable, the religion became the one real instrument of hope. Truth was the enemy of the people, because the truth was so terrible, so Bokonon made it his business to provide the people with better and better lies.” John Lydon is no Bokonon.
So what happens when posed with the ‘religion’ of musician worship in the form of musicians as prophets and deliverance? Well, you get what the world needs now. And it is another fuck off. And I’m inclined to say it’s one of the more enlightening sentiments I’ve heard in a song in awhile. As I read through a few reviews prior to writing this one, I found them lacking any of the edge that PiL brings to the table in What The World Needs Now…. I wondered why this could be so overlooked.
Rather than immediately get into a nasty discussion, let’s just read a couple reviews. Yes, let’s.
“What the World Needs Now… is the sound of a band not really caring too hard about their current stature. Luckily for the listener, the pros outweigh the cons.” –PopMatters
Hahaahahaha. Well, yes. The pros definitely outweigh the cons. How rather nice of PiL to care enough to not care about their stature.
Another review excerpt from one of my favorite publications, Pitchfork.
“Other mid-tempo tunes on What the World Needs Now… don’t fare as well. The line between compelling repetition and tedious wheel-grinding is pretty thin for this group, and though Lydon always battles valiantly to breath [sic] life into flatter songs, he can’t save them all. Things never quite fall apart completely, though it does become tough to find a heartbeat inside the fuel-deprived ‘Big Blue Sky‘. It doesn’t help that the tune’s disengaging loops and arena-rock choruses last for over eight minutes. […] Those kinds of struggles come during What the World Needs Now…‘s second half, which makes the album feel a bit like a five-mile race run by a sprinter.” -Pitchfork
Well, that sure is a mouthful. Key phrases to consider: “arena-rock” and “flatter songs.” (I remain uniformed, however, of John Lydon and the band’s running prowess. Maybe if they trained longer or worked Saturdays? Just a thought…) Either way, I figured Pitchfork was on to something, as I must have missed the mark on so many of my opinions. I fashioned a letter.
If there’s one thing I am sick of, it’s John Lydon belting out a fucking flatter tune to appease the arena rock masses. I assume you also know he is a huge butter whore, which also explains A LOT. I heard he got PAID actual money for doing those commercials. Thankfully, you, Pitchfork, have revealed his equally butter-flavored sellout album for what it is. Delicious on popcorn? Sure. But have we music aficionados been reduced to this…
Or even this…?
(Even the flippant remark that he does not support butter farmers because it was their career choice. Does this Pistol have no shame?)
I for one am sick of reviewing this shit, despite the fact that my irrelevancy in the realm of things is far greater than the apparently irrelevant discussion of relevancy within music. Surely this shameless Butter Whore must realize his own irrelevance? Did the Sex Pistols wonder at their own relevancy over tea and crumpets? One may never know. What I do know is this. I call on you, Pitchfork, to join me in boycotting musicians! Let us no longer waste our thoughts on these pedestrian endeavors, forcing us to meander the musical dregs only to degrade ourselves with such creative slag! As soon as you put down your tablets, we’ll do the same!
God save the fucking margarine – all the best!
Relevancy. Does it have a place?
So I can’t help but wonder, in all of the criticisms and phraseology of review writing, if the words “still relevant” are a requirement for any artist over the age of 40. A pat on the head for still being alive and making music. Moreover, I wondered if anyone had that same audacity when questioning the relevancy of a band like the Rolling Stones, all well over 40, and still making the same record. I sought. I got my answer. That answer is “NO.”
A 2015 Pitchfork music review granted a rating of 10 out of 10 for the reissue of the Rolling Stones’ Sticky Fingers,
the original release being 1971, in case you may have forgotten. If you had forgotten, it may possibly be because you weren’t born yet or because it was 44 years ago. But now, thanks to Pitchfork, you CAN remember. And also thanks to Pitchfork, if you want to know what’s relevant today, better travel back to 1971, when real rock ruled the world. Yesssss. That t’IS corrrrect-ah! [in John Lydon trilled pronunciation]
I continued to look through these apparently “once relevant” artists.
Beware Patti Smith fans! I found that Patti is also sadly irrelevant. 🙁 🙁 That’s TWO sad faces for Patti. I bet the Dalai Lama would have rethought his appearance at her show at Glastonbury had he bothered to read Pitchfork prior to wasting his own holiness on such an irrelevant artist. Oh well, you may be able to transcend the inter-connectivity of causation, but you can’t always transcend the wrong entourage. Better luck next time.
Anyway, Patti has not gotten a review over 6 stars from Pitchfork in years, except for the re-release of Horses, originally released 1975. She managed to pull down a 9.3 stars out of 10. (Sorry Patti, still not as good as the Sticky Fingers re-release. Maybe there’s something you could learn from them if you just go back and really study the album. Or maybe rock only ruled the world in 1971. It’s likely one of the philosophical questions for the ages.)
Genius truly never met a better sidekick. And by genius I do mean Stuart Berman of Pitchfork. All I have to say is, “You know what Stuart. I like you. You’re not like the other people, here, in the trailer park.”
A few tracks of note for me
Double Trouble. Well now, anyone who has been in a long-term relationship knows this is actually a love song as well as an acknowledgement that your significant other may one day kill you in your sleep, and that’s okay because it’s worth the risk. For after all, “Domestus is domestic bliss-ssssssssssss.”
Know Now. I still laugh through the entire thing. Anyone who has ever been alive in this world should be laughing their asses off at this song. If they aren’t laughing, fuck them. Feel free to let them know, “Know what I know now so now you can go!” Clearly they do not appreciate the inappropriate hilarity of having the life sucked out of them, repeatedly, by a trusted someone. Likely, they may be your personal “Know Now” so tread heavily as you deliver the message to this special someone.
Life Time. Deep introspect of loose ends. Unrequited sentiments and love, not romantic love, but the need to redeem and place meaning. The late night tossing and turning. Therapy in offices and that same self-medicating therapy inside of bars and initiating alleyway fights. The leering sneering past mocking you until the moment you can finally stare it in the face, absent blame, now with acceptance. Especially when hiding and running has long lost is romanticism and meaning. Maybe not even forgiveness but a reckoning. Knocking the pedestal and finding your way out of the pit.
So is the poetry of Mr. Lydon: “We have a broad scale to travel. Just let it trickle in the mind. Just to know it, hear it, and hold it. Oh! Even seems unkind. It takes a whole life time, being sorry to you. It takes a whole life time, for what happened to me. It weren’t like nothing happened, but something happened, alright?! But it weren’t all right, and still, it’s not, not proper to me! It takes a whole life time, being sorry to you. It takes a whole life time, for what happened to me. We lost and found. We found another other in each other. And it’s loss and love and anger and the rage and the coincidences. In the sentence until the pages of sense, picture the puzzle. It takes a whole life time being sorry to you. It takes a whole life time for what happened to me. Picture the puzzle.”
Not Satisfied. This track reminds me of an entire life rant inside my own head that I attempted to verbalize to the intended, someone I loved or hated desperately, possibly both, and came out the other side enraged that I didn’t do my love-hate justice. All the while my object of intense affection is completely indifferent to my screams. The stabbing repetition: “I’m not satisfied! Not in my head. Not satisfied. …Not!”
The whole of experience rolling around a bass driven maze grinding along a vertigo guitar riffing the rusty corridors. I imagine a boxing ring floor littered with teeth and blood and one guy who keeps getting up and up, no matter how bad he’s beaten. The crowds screaming to him to stay down until everyone realizes it’s a death match. All fist punching to the choral “I’m not satisfied! Not!” What a great fucking track. Lydon’s desperate pleading vocals, “Why can’t I remember your name? Ain’t that your name?! Not satisfied?!” I suspect this song has to do with Lydon’s childhood meningitis struggle. Possibly a stark reminder that true terror is being locked inside your mind without hope of being understood and absent meaningful human connection.
Despite the many reviews opining on the state of Lydon’s musical relevance, there is no mention of the lyrical revelations throughout.
An unraveling of roots running deep and the imperfect process of getting to the core of why it matters. The process of taking on the world with the final mania being the battle within ourselves to wrestle some meaning out of this fog – often too late to share it with the ones we most want to. Corny? Played? Overdone? There are centuries worth of plays and novels and music addressing this simple idea: Why and the world. But still, it isn’t old. It is the stuff we’re made of, after all.
Introspect and thoughtful consideration. So states Mr. Lydon, “What the world needs now is another fuck off.” And we do need this. But not for the obviousness of the sentiment, but for missing what’s in between. What we missed and what we continue to miss in the world. What we continue to dismiss and lazily declare as irrelevant, whether music or refugee children being kicked down by adults whilst trying to run for safety. Human trafficking. Running from death. So when you consider that type of reality, music seems like a pile of dogshit next to what truly matters. Then again – music has saved many lives and it has been a universal conduit for change. Music, done well, it’s a dangerous beautiful thing.
What the World Needs Now… seems a challenge to us to finally give a shit in the form of fuck off, having been so tired of trying to convince people otherwise for so long. “Not global villages, but one globe.” It’s a pathetic easy time to gloss over someone’s anger or forget about the billions sharing the same experience as we. If you happen to be a sarcastic asshole at times, people seem to think that’s all you are. But I hold true to my opinion that socially awkward sarcastic assholes are often most sickened by societal ills. And they often show their disgust and need to protect the exploited in the form of fuck off anger fits. So it’s not a love song or even if it is a love song, it may not come in the expected form (aka, Double Trouble).
The band’s name is after all Public Image Ltd., so what else would you expect other than a mockery of public image, especially its own?
As I pass the reviews and the cynicism and the questions posed about relevancy, I wonder at the state of our viewpoints on creation in general. Why the artistry for musicianship – angry street punk or silver spoon violinist – why does anyone create? Why make statements about relevancy when the statement itself isn’t even relevant? Whom of these reviewers could define relevancy and why they are even writing about it? I know I can’t.
What is relevant? A better question posed to artists themselves as opposed to critics. Until then, fuck off.
After many initial listens and then a step back to no more listening for a few weeks, Yeezus became more like someone I knew. I found myself thinking about the album in terms of a person. Music popping into my head almost like a reminder, a whisper, a moment that when remembering deserves time in the details, so you push it back until you can give it what it needs to be relived.
And so my house uninterrupted, I go for another listen, end to end, at the beginning again with On Sight through Bound 2.
I find myself inside gangster grips, staggering standoffs, 120 MPH on Lower Wacker Chicago, deep binge hazes, street-corner propositions, courtside United Center next to Jordan, forever flying statues – that rising statute to our own societal adoration of excess, afternoon Ritz Carlton fuck suites euphoria, courtroom armies, slave market sales, taboo excess, speeding weeks, lynching black families swinging tongue swollen above the smiling white. Then briny dreams, woeful gods, prisons speaking freedom, forlorn masts on seas of anger, regret, beat-downs, bipolar depraved obsession, ultimate betrayals and love’s abandonment.
But even a dark horse can stealth his way into a new life – if he holds himself up long enough to take a new look around and decide to take hold of it all for himself.
Memories. Quietly orchestrate the slideshow collective while the individual memories of moments, recollection, take their turn at the stage. I found myself sobbing at “Hold My Liquor” hitting me much harder than the first few times around. Desperate and searching, if ever a soul needed shelter, early morning fights, I love you I hate you, toxicity, love destroyed, broken people strangled by their own ineptitude and longing.
Can you forgive Yeezus? I wonder. We’re ushered through the birth of a mass consumed star, self-made inside a reality pop culture.
I immediately thought of south side Chicago gangland poverty basketball stardom. Whatever it is, it’s the propulsion of anger and capitalism that creates Yeezus; intelligent, gifted, driven, dream-focused, damaged, longing, consummate voyager.
Yet despite this human struggle, I couldn’t stop the thought throughout, “Can anyone forgive Yeezus?” And I wonder about this work as a whole – memory and forgiveness – two of the most opposing forces in life and yet necessarily conjoined in the human experience.
Which explains my first listens, I had so many character creations flashing through my mind from film, music, and literary reference:
Brett Easton Ellis (American Psycho and Less Than Zero),
every Paul Thomas Anderson film (especially, Punch Drunk Love and Magnolia);
Terrence Malick’s film, Tree of Life;
Lou Reed’s Berlin;
Lou Reed & Metallica’s Lulu;
Sandra Cisneros (especially, House on Mango Street);
Zora Neale Hurston;
William Faulkner (for the disjointed writing style);
A Clockwork Orange;
Public Enemy’s Fear of a Black Planet;
Rage Against The Machine’s Evil Empire;
Beethoven No. 9 (for the electrical catharsis and repetitious themes to the finale IV).
[That’s was it for 2013. I walked away from writing it.]
This album is so precise that it’s difficult to disassemble. Much like Picasso’s approach to cubism, there is the breakdown of the subject into its parts, then torn apart and reassembled. Yeezusbrings an auditory cubist approach to the sound… sampling a creation against the surreal backdrop of Chicago glitz and Gary Indiana streets, where things get done – one way or another.
I can’t even begin to count how many times I’ve burst into tears listening to this album. And not at the same track either. It changes. It’s heartbreaking. Maybe that’s part of the reason it took me so long to write this. I kept putting it back and walking away. (Thankfully, I don’t get paid for this; two years is a bit of a miss.) Like our website says, we do it for ourselves and for new perspectives.
On Sight. The only song where – for reasons unknown – Kayne breaks the Yeezus character opener. He laughs at his own line “…but I got her back in and put my dick in her mouth.” The tone set, the creation comes to life with electronic beats and electricity scatter-rays jumpstarting the heartbeat of Yeezus. Images of Dr. Frankenstein awakening the beast. “How much do I not give a fuck? Lemme show ya right now for you give it up.” Our answer. “Oh, he’ll give us what we need. It may not be what we want.” Who is awakening whom? And so begins our dark journey into Yeezus and the embodiment of our own gluttonous impulses with the repeated line, “Right now. I need. I need, right now.”
Black Skinhead. This musically brilliant mix delivers us to basketball courtside. Crowds screaming in the Romans. The Colosseum. United Center. Shot. Running cross court. Dunk. Air. The Bulls at peak. Running the court – running the rails – running the scene. Borne from it all, from us all. So for much as you hate Yeezus, you can’t separate the hate from the state of things. Race relations. Envy of the dollar – the get mines and get nots. Hedonistic entourages. Hypocrisy and biracial hang-ups still lynching in 2015. Seriously now… 2015. We should be jailing ourselves for still doing this dance.
I Am a God. This one is actually funny. The gods we make, the gods we are, the gods we eventually berate for not loving us back and prostrating before us. Get pissed if you want – hahaha.
Hold My Liquor. On the search for a reason, Yeezus takes us close to bottom. It’s got everything we love to witness and feel good about; take the show Intervention. You’d think the shock of this album or even Kanye’s seemingly endless media storm would have no effect on anyone. Flip through any programming and the reality shows are endless. Staged or not – what’s the point anymore. We’ve truly outdone ourselves.
I’m In It. Yes, we are. This is probably one of the most controversial tracks for its misogynist, racist, offensive, base behavior. The choral, “that’s all them can do…” we continue our journey. Quite a culmination in the search for a meaning, it seems Kanye himself – not Yeezus – is giving us a choice to decide what the bottom is and what the salvation is. Either way it’s all a freefall for the next couple tracks. The lighter stringed instruments and airy ethereal choral against the industrial backdrop feels like salvation. As many of us have done, the sex, drugs, and cash of right now can make any circumstance appear as a win. “Star fucker” flying the heights of an oxygen huff. The mountain conquered with “Papa Willy on a Zeitgeist.” You could almost end this entire album with any track that follows: Blood On the Leaves. Guilt Trip. Send It Up.
Nope. Kanye is determined to give us hope. Wait and see.
Blood On the Leaves. We’re slammed into this wall after I’m In It. No breaks. This Billie Holiday sampling gives chills.
One of the few reviews I read said, “Only Kanye West would take an American masterpiece about a lynching and use it to back a song about what a drag it is to have to attend basketball games with a girl you knocked up sitting across the court. And it’s hard to imagine anyone else making it this urgent. The dick sure has some balls.” [Rolling Stone]
Rolling Stone – a bit more and a big miss. I never really experienced this track or Yeezus as a literal account; it’s allegorical. Taken as what it was likely meant to be, an allegorical perspective of fame, societal excess and fame worship, Blood On the Leaves is the outcome of our modern day lynching – victims of corporations and cash poor lifestyles – all foreshadowed in New Slaves. Blood On the Leaves starts out simply, much like the original. Then the darkness. And the rage. And the memories. And the innocence. And the anguish. And the denial. And the betrayal. And the media. And the lawyers. And the money. And an entire family decimated. View it on news at 11.
“Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze. Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.”
Send It Up. This is rock bottom – finally. Monotone gangster deadeye. “Reliving the past? [mocking laugh] Yuh lost!” Some of the best lyrics in the entire album are found here. But much like the opening track, On Sight, we hear the heartbeat theme return. Yeezus on the ending side of things atop a pile of cash.
“Memories don’t live like people do. They always ‘member you. Whether tings are good or bad, it’s just the memories that you have.” That’s about all you need in the way of text for this one.
Bound 2 is almost hilarious when it hits. The lyrics are breezy and playful, almost stupid, and intentionally so; Yeezus is stupid in love. And so we finally get to relish the true soulful connection of R&B days soaring with the likes of Marvin Gaye. “I’m tired. You tired. Jesus wept.”
Here are a few tracks that ran through my head at Bound 2:
What’s Goin On – Marvin Gaye
Oooh Child – Five Stairsteps
A Change Is Gonna Come – Sam Cooke
September – Earth Wind & Fire
Stretchin Out – Bootsy Collins
An aside: Ever see the movie A Clockwork Orange? Probably. Great Stanley Kubric adaptation of the novel by Anthony Burgess. There is a final chapter in the novel that did not make the movie. The one chapter changes the entire message of the novel. It’s actually quite redemptive. I immediately thought of A Clockwork Orange after my first listens. The movie for the brilliant electronica adaptations of Beethoven by Wendy Carlos (formerly Walter Carlos) and its stunning visuals. The novel for its societal commentary and the unfortunate loss of the final chapter. I experienced Bound 2 as the dropped chapter of A Clockwork Orange.
So I guess we all hate Kanye for Yeezus.
For all the bullshit that is Kanye of late seems. That’s what we’re doing now, right?
But I wonder, if it isn’t all an act, a social experiment, much like Andy Kaufman.
Is Yeezus or “Ye” our Tony Clifton of sorts? How much crap will we put up with as related to what we have deemed important. How pissed off can we be at one person for giving us exactly what we want? This review, for example. Who cares? I guess I do, but I doubt anyone else will. Like Lulu, I kept thinking about this album and so I had to write something.
I understand wanting to hate Kanye West. It’s the same reason everyone ever wanted to hate an in-your-face black dude.
Add to that intelligent AND outspoken AND creative AND self-assured and you’re pretty much fucked.
It’s the same thing across the board. If you’re unashamed of being gay, female, Asian, Mexican, Cuban, Indian, Native – anything at all and on and on. The unashamed carry the anger and rage for us all – their heartbreak is secondary and necessarily hidden. A heavy burden indeed, at the least you’ll probably be misunderstood to the point that you act like an asshole just to deliver what people expect of you. At the worst, you may lose your life. Malcom X, Martin Luther King, 80s AIDS fights, Gandhi, Chavez, Guevara, Suffragists, Mandela, Stonewall riots … whatever it may be.
Fighting for what you believe in rarely ends well. But a good fight does inspire.
It lends out courage to those who have submitted, fires ire at the kiln of repetition, provides much needed salve on the backs of the oppressed, befriends even the grotesque, and whispers sacred inspirationals to the downtrodden where the crossroads meet. The funny part is that we often hate right now, what we will eventually come to love, over time.
Maybe Kanye is an asshole. I have no idea really,
I try to avoid most everything about him in the news and I kind of don’t care. I know most news reporting is skewed and rarely objective, so why care about the “Ye” machine. In an age of reality shows, any antic is possible and I assume nothing is genuine. But I believe Yeesuz, the album and the character it is about, is very genuine. Likely the most insightful glimpse into Kanye West’s psyche. I imagine Yeezus is someone who shaped him… a culmination of everyone he never wanted to be. It seems he took Yeezus and gave him a god. A raison d’etre. I’m not saying what that is – I don’t know what god is for Kanye. It seems love is god and Yeezus is finally provided a deliverance of sorts on Bound 2.
The next release from Kanye West? I have hopes it’s the true salvation of Yeezus, a “Part 2” that takes us into self-redemption, the Yeezus saved by love and renewed by self-discovery apart from the hyenas of societal hypocrisy. An empowered Yeezus.
“So just grab somebody. No leavin this party with nobody to love.”
andrew falkous has blown our minds. falco side project, falco noise, falco genius. i might put on a suit.
christian fitness silently spawned on bandcamp in 2014 as a side project to future of the left (fotl).
i realize it’s 2015, but hey, we never promised timeliness. we did promise music recommendations. behind on the first release, i am scared of everything that isn’t me, but ahead on the upcoming 2nd release (below). i’m early for something – complainers.
christian fitness. future of the left. mclusky.
i must make mention of all three as mr. falkous has been a force throughout. as always, do not expect a rehashing of the latter two, seems more a melding of the influences of one man on himself. a self-directed inspiration from the basement of his house and the assistance of many, including cats.
if you’re a charles bukowski fan, christian fitness is up there for the sheer commentary of the human condition as well as their shared prolific creation. writers and musicians…. they never get a break. they’re ridiculously under appreciated. and falkous is one of those artists.
besides being himself, and therefore his own influence,
i wanted to toss in some unexpected music that passed through my head as i listened: brief interpol (debut) echoings, nightfreak and the sons of becker, the birthday party, bauhaus, the jesus and mary chain. some bouncy 60s throwback harmonics. interesting indeed. throughout it all, the signature bass, canons, machine gun drumming, and equilibrium disruption guitar tread the landscape. there are a lot of layers going on in this album; reminiscent of future of the left’s notes on achieving orbit (a truly fantastic track).
choose a track? nope – i won’t.
a lengthier post may follow, but for now, i wanted you to hear it. revel in this creation. anticipate the next.
My initial listen came after I had been directed to read Falco’s response to a recent Pitchfork review of Future of the Left’s “The Plot Against Common Sense.” [Read full review]
After reading Pitchfork, listening to The Plot Against Common Sense, reading Falco’s letter and then back to reading Pitchfork…. Oh what to do but write a letter. Following which comes my own review of sorts.
Letter of Concerns & Accolades
Jesus H Christ, these lines made me laugh for about 10 minutes.
“It must indeed be tough to attempt to write from the perspective of the anti-corporate outsider when you are, apart from the mastering engineer (Sean, who did a really good job) probably (*2) the first person involved in the whole process of making and releasing the album to get paid because of its existence. Following your lead, I’m going to let that one ‘sink in’…. However, if it is truly amongst the worst songs of the year then I am a giant bat and Pitchfork a cave into which I will shit golden effigies of your face. Sorry – too much ginger beer.”
First – never be sorry for too much ginger beer.
Second – I echo your fans reactions to your FOTL blog post. Many thanks to you for taking time to write an intelligent retort to Cohen’s lazy ass, self-righteous review. The fuckloads (term embraced!) of sarcasm needed to fully brush a landscape befitting the corporate-critic-gone-artist-wannabe-turned-to-self-loathing-dipshittery was well played. Your letter inspired me to post my own opinion on Future of the Left’s latest endeavor, The Plot Against Common Sense.
Upon my first read of Señor Cohen’s “album review” I was confused…Had I inadvertently time travelled back to a Mclusky release? I just knew there was a Future of the Left album that needed reviewing somewhere, but somehow I couldn’t get to the cum shot because Mclusky was still in the way of The Plot Against Common Sense. Oddly enough, Ian doesn’t seem to have read or respected even his own critic Pitchfork brethren Jason Crock [read here, if you wish] who asked that the ex-Mclusky references stop when reviewing Future of the Left. Hmmm. Well, I’m sure Ian’s busy and didn’t get a chance to read that one. Just as I suspect he was busy and didn’t really get a chance to actually listen to The Plot Against Common Sense before penning a review. Again… a busy man.
Anyway, I found myself needing some clarification on many points in the Señor IanFork review, especially the corporate slickness comment. I was confused. Unless slick corporations now travel globally in vans and have to ask their customers if they can sleep on their couches to save money for travel and continue their product, then I’m not sure how corporate even arrives in the same sentence with Future of the Left, or any independent band for that matter.
The other part of the review that confused me was how Señor IanFork could have actually listened to the album, yet still manage to craft such an uninformed informed opinion of the album. Of course this leads to the overall relevance of the review, you know, in a sum total sense. I’ve met 5 year olds on sugar highs who displayed less disjoined thinking. I’d blame it on too much ginger beer for Señor IanFork, but his staggering lack of creativity is a dead giveaway that no mood enhancers were involved. Pity.
To top it off, the fact that Notes on Achieving Orbit was not even mentioned except as a mere joke song makes me want to slap Señor IanFork as much as when I read his ridiculous Lulu review.
I think this whole riff between Future of the Left and Pitchfork started because The Plot Against Common Sense kicked off with a track that knocked a love of tote bags. That got me thinking… I bet Señor IanFork owns a Ramones tote bag, and a trust fund, and tye-dye shirts, and a few polymers (hopefully connecting his DNA to the bottom of the ocean), and a cappuccino maker, and a DVD re-release of Howard The Duck, and has a signed copy of Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, and really truly felt connected to the Drummonds because he would have been okay with having a black kid brother despite being a rich suburban white girl, just like on Diff’rent Strokes.
Just a thought.
Many Listens Later – My Re-Review
Holy emperor penguins, buy this album. Hang out with it. Buy it dinner and treat it right. Use the internet to spin some happy press their way and spread the word for none too many come along that actually suffer the bullshit ranks and still put our music that mater and that we love to wait for. History… oh….Let’s not go the way of wanker whiners who talk about the good old days of music when it’s happening right here. In the words of The Libertines “There were no good old days, these are the good old days.” Let’s try to keep Future of the Left around by papering the universe with FOTL music via links, emails, Facebook, Twitter, the posting at shlappity-shlappity.com, your grandma’s house – who gives a shit where… just promo them if you love them and help them sell fuckloads. We need Future of the Left, not because they’re necessary or any other musical pontification of relativity horseshit. We need them because they are fucking great.
Rather than focus on the witless diatribe of a critic getting (bad) religion, let’s take a listen on the fact that there’s really no one like Future of the Left out there. I could hang myself in the short 20 minute car trip to the store because of the “alternative art” passing as music on the radio. You know the score. You live in the world. It’s very depressing that opinions, art, thoughtfulness and a sense of humor can’t seem to tread water let alone thrive on the satellite waves.
Someone has to keep music honest.
I cannot think of a better advocate for honesty than Future of the Left. I can say I have been a follower of Future of the Left to the pre-dawn lands of the Mclusky era. And no, I won’t make this commentary for the resurrection of Mclusky. If I were Future of the Left, I’d hate that constant comparison as much as a failed marriage. Fuck it already. Enough said. The point of reference is that they’ve been around for awhile, so the idea that dicking about, mincing words as art, is not really their point. They are in music to be in it because it’s in them. My guess is that they couldn’t get around it even if they wanted to extract it from their souls. So here we are.
As I listen the first few times, I wish I had lyrics for this pre-release. I can’t hear everything and I know there’s so much more beyond the eye popping blistery musical numbers. Future of the Left is a band of words, poetry, political satire (I am reminded of Jonathon Swift’s A Modest Proposal), dark comedy, literary allusions and foreign lands that beget the first synapse, the catalyst mid-ocean that breaks shore with deafening consequences. Falco, under any iteration, is a poet. Much like comedians who get pigeonholed into one formula, I get the feeling Falco’s lyrical writing is dismissed as clever, without the necessary deeper substance of emotion lurking beyond the veil of burning cynicism. Do not underestimate.
During the course of writing this review,
I was reminded of a previous review that said Future of the Left was not political and should be. I disagreed totally at the time and still do. It didn’t take too many search terms to google where the brains of that operation were headquartered. None other than the insightful genius of Ian Cohen at Pitchfork, reviewing Polymers Are Forever. The entire review kicked off with this statement, “Despite their name, Future of the Left aren’t caught up in politics, but it would be nice if they were.” [Read the review here] If prevailing opinion is anywhere close to Cohen, I’d say Future of the Left is being severely dismissed.
Future of the Left is a band that actually cares. I am serious. You don’t get this angry about something you don’t care about. Music, politics, the state of independent thought, emperor [penguins], oh they’re mixed up in there … all inside a tightly wound socioeconomic ball of scathing smoldering beauty. And that beauty is aptly titled The Plot Against Common Sense. Lapsed Catholics off Travels With Myself and Another seems to be a glimpse into the morphology of Future of the Left’s direction. And what a fucking brilliant direction it is.
SHEENA IS A T-SHIRT SALESMAN. The kickoff. “Artistic artistic artistic radio, artistic license…This song is dedicated to the merchandise manufacturers who made it possible, for their hard work, talent, application and the love of tote bags.”
What else to say?
FAILED OLYMPIC BID. It’s one thing to sing words against music, which is impressive. It’s another to fit the feelings and visions that music can conjure to become the message of the words.
For example, lyrics begin, “I’ve got a place for the American base. Right in the middle of Rotherham Steelmills [read more if you want]. Imagine the boost for the local economy. Like anybody cares about the north of England.” Falco’s vocals monotone, matter-of-fact mantra, while the music marching along in an assembly line industrialism. Monopolies and aftermaths musically represented to replicate the message. “A failed Olympic bid leaves some kids so upset they can’t forget.” This very conceptual and complicated arrangement of musical imagery enveloped with the lyrical commentary is a theme that Future of the Left carries through the entire album.
CAMP CAPPUCCINO. This one is what you’ve come to expect from Future of the Left. Bass shaking rails rubberballing the walls shutterfly guitar notes, sarcastic play on words, screams, drumming on the ceiling, lighting up the sky with firefly guitar notes against the darkness. It’s all slam.
POLYMERS ARE FOREVER. The thing I really find myself running through my head all day long are songs like this one. And it’s what seems to have become the musical signature Future of the Left… musical repetition, rounds and canons lyrically or purely instrumentally.
ROBOCOP 4 – FUCK OFF ROBOCOP. I can safely say I don’t feel sorry for Dreamworks or Touchstone pictures, which is why I laughed by the time I hit Robocop 4 – Fuck Off Robocop. The momentum has built and we’re nearing a G-force designed to break barriers. A release that seems to build to the truly big bang of this album Notes On Achieving Orbit. Get ready.
A GUIDE TO MEN. A Guide to Men is my second favorite track on the entire album, running a hairline second to Notes On Achieving Orbit. I really didn’t want to get hung up on dumbasses, but I must cite once again Cohen’s introspective opinion of the musical construct of The Plot Against Common Sense.
“Little has changed musically for the always-contradictory Future of the Left. The constituent parts are primitively composed but played with vice-tight musicianship, while the blindingly bright, major-key synth riffs still come off as abrasive as anything produced by an atonal noise band. In terms of tempo and texture, The Plot hangs a little bit more loosely than the trim Travels With Myself and Another….” – Cohen
Cohen = Fail.
In my opinion, it doesn’t get more tonal and compositionally deliberate than A Guide To Men. The synchronization of instrumental placement and delivery coupled with lyrical message is really quite complex.
The simple start to this song lays a keyboard foundation, blipping technology, high data, blinking lights, talking computers. I admit I thought of War Games. Yet another musical line is cast, a simple bass round riff. Falco speaks, “This is a song about total war.” The snare drum shoots off deliberate gun shots simultaneously, casting its own. Concurrently, the next line is thrown, more keyboards with a disturbing minor key B-horror creepiness to it.
By the time we get to the second chorus, the musical lines cross into what feels very goosestep. I envision B/W film, Nazis, goosesteps, tanks, dictators and their beloved balconies. “Civilized is as civilized does and civilized people walk among us, given the option. Holy emperors. Holy… emperor penguins.
Lyrics and music work artfully together and translate into scenes from an Aldous Huxley novel (or unpublished John Stossel books – you choose!) warning the loss of our humanity in the face of a civilization that doesn’t “go gray” playing with “enemies of fantasy”. Can you imagine a civilized orgy? Yikes. I’d rather go for the euthanasia, given the option (unfortunately, it will probably still be considered ‘uncivilized’). The mechanics of the song is an infectious build that I can’t get out of my head. A Guide To Men translates into a compelling and unsentimental journey of our developing civilization. “This is a song about common sense, folded backwards into itself.”
Digress: Emperor penguins might be better leaders as they seem to care more about the welfare of the group than any leader I’ve seen in my lifetime.
NOTES ON ACHIEVING ORBIT. It’s not hard to remember back to the first time I heard this track released in early 2011 on official.fm. I was disappointed that it didn’t make it to the Polymers Are Forever EP, but patiently awaited the official. The funny thing is that every time I hear Notes On Achieving Orbit, I have the same reaction. It starts with a vibratory deep bass, giant bands of sound bouncing and tripping the air waves. Falkous delivering the swaggering lines like, “Where were you when Pele cured cancer? Did you watch on the stand or sit on your hands as the realization dawned. Of course, we don’t know if he ever really got involved with a test tube [?], the science of hearts.”
Notes On Achieving Orbit seems a culmination of the entire album in overall message and feel. Our collective love of, and obsession with, sameness, youth/sex, icons, drudgery, violence, monopolies, sports funding over medical funding, our Orwellian herding of ourselves and assistance in our own slaughter. The sad concept that we are always rejecting ourselves, our own identity, or perhaps that we have no identity at all. Apropos on the heels of 99 and NATO.
The chorals, they goes without reigns, without restraints, without need for walls. Just let it happen. I envision an entire amphitheater, crowds bouncing and pounding fists to the ‘shalalalalalalala’ chorus. Let’s hope Future of the Left has the pleasure of playing to a fuckloads amphitheater with the entire audience strapping in for space flight. Notes On Achieving Orbit … If you ever go, don’t forget to bring your Future of the Left for the ignition sequence.
I still get goose bumps and tears 2/3 of the way through Notes On Achieving Orbit right around, “Then any old shit is the new Nirvana. The terrible seconds turn to days and still I cannot show my face. […] Fold the space into my hands and bow to gravity’s demands. Notes on achieving orbit.”
I’m reminded of Catcher in the Rye when nearing the end. I hope we can find our redemption in artists, opinions and uniqueness.
“Among other things, you’ll find that you’re not the first person who was ever confused and frightened and even sickened by human behavior. You’re by no means alone on that score, you’ll be excited and stimulated to know. Many, many men have been just as troubled morally and spiritually as you are right now. Happily, some of them kept records of their troubles. You’ll learn from them — if you want to. Just as someday, if you have something to offer, someone will learn something from you. It’s a beautiful reciprocal arrangement. And it isn’t education. It’s history. It’s poetry.” –J.D. Salinger, Catcher In The Rye
WELL, THERE YOU HAVE IT
Another fucking slick corporate masterpiece pounded out by a heartless non-artist band fronting as an underappreciated, under-budgeted, part-time-job loving, underground band that deserves to break the scene.
(They deserve to break it in two or three pieces, beat it senseless, stomp on it for good measure and then piss on it after a long drink binge).
Unfortunately Future of the Left has not reached their break and they are not fronting artists. They are a great band with actual morals, vision and sympathy for the human condition enough to be disgusted by what they see happening.
And that, my friends, is the problem which only need be explained by listening to Future of the Left’s own 12th track, A Guide To Men. “History is written by the man who stays acquainted with thug who has the biggest sword.” Sadly, musical history is no different. Clear Channel…Pitchfork…NME…. As to Ian Cohen’s reviewer obsession with Mclusky as a benchmark for Future of the Left, I leave you with a quote from mcluskyism’s track Provincial Song, “Rock n roll’s just a ring on your finger.”
I wondered if this review would sound like a complete dick suck for Future of the Left. Then I reconsidered as I considered the current reviews by critics. Fuck it… It’s the 21st century and I celebrate my right to suck whoever’s dick I feel deserves it… Thank you, Future of the Left, for having the sack to produce another album. Consider this your happy ending….
I have approached this work in so many ways that I admittedly have several starts and endings. Four months and several listens after my first acquisition of Lulu. I almost can’t imagine what the first listen was like. So I saved my first response listen writing and put them against each other. many thanks to readers for indulging me). So here we go – and get a cocktail or something to tide you over.
First few listens review
Lulu. My assumption is that you could replace the word “Lulu” with “Berlin” (or “SMiLE”) and it would be the same damn review that was regurgitated from 25 years ago.
I read reviews after I was through Lulu. I didn’t want to hear what anyone has to say and
I knew there would be some haters, but this?
“….Fans of both artists responded with confusion, if not outright despair. But while this partnership may seem random, the two actually have a lot in common. Both abuse electric guitars; both like to wear black and be photographed by Anton Corbijn; both have indulged in lifestyles that threatened to become death-styles; both have a habit of alienating their fans by taking ill-advised stylistic detours and, by extension, both are considered by many to be class-A assholes.”
Really? Because I assume the usual “fan” mail received by most critics reads pretty much like preceding quote (except that critics abuse pens and keyboards and independent thought). I wonder if anyone bothered to read up on Lulu itself, as a project. Or possibly on Expressionism… When I first listened to Lulu’s Brandenburg Gate it made me think of the movie “M” by Fritz Lang. It was a pretty fucked up and dark movie for the time, you’ve probably seen it, centering a serial killer in Germany. I knew nothing of Lulu until I looked around a bit. I can say within the first 5 minutes Lou Reed hits about every Expressionist film out there… Yet these moron critics keep talking about Lou Reed’s inability to write and sing. Has anyone read or watched anything … ever?
Says another reviewer,
“The guitar riffs and solos are messy and not very well thought out. There are no epic Metallica riffs in this album at all. There are no “face melting” guitar solos anywhere to be heard, and no musical merit whatsoever…. It has been said that this album is experimental, so I feel it is safe to say that this album was a failure and nothing of this sort should ever be tried again.”
HAHAHAHAHA! I actually liked reading that one. I am glad that this reviewer is in touch with experimental art… his assessment that “nothing of the sort should be tried again” has saved us from the disaster of nonlinear thinking.
Holy shit, the music is supposed to be unsettling because Lulu the character is unsettling. I suppose if you tried to set angst, S&M, pain, murderous flailing, disposable souls and broken humans into caricatures, threw it all inside a back alley circus of the absurd noir, all gilded by virtue of its relation to upper crust decadence… I’d assume you’d come close to Lulu’s entrance.
Oh well, once a goddamn critic always a critic.
Here’s my crack at a mainstream Lulu review. Oh spirit of the critics, I summon thee!
“Couldn’t Lou and Metallica have made a nice PowerPoint with a few ‘face melters’ as the baseline track instead? I mean, where the hell is the radio clip in this deal anyway? How the fuck is a person supposed to listen to this heap of shit without actually having to listen to it in its entirety? Fuck thinking about stuff — last time I remember thinking during Metallica was when I couldn’t decide between the 7-11 nachos or hot dogs and then I got a nosebleed when I swilled my Cherry Slurpee and accidentally jammed my nose into the straw while headbanging in the parking lot. You see how well that worked out for me then, so why start now? Kind of annoying you know…. Iced Honey is the closest radio track, but it still doesn’t sound anything like Metallica’s junior album Ride the Lightning.
And Lou Reed… I never got that guy anyway. What’s the big deal? He can’t sing and he just rants on and on like some crazed old man version of Kathryn Hepburn. I mean that’s what he’s done since like 1960, right? That one album with the banana on the cover that he did — it was okay but overrated as he’s been ever since. That album gets as much play as I do… and believe me that’s not saying much. Lulu…. just fuck it. Don’t buy it cuz it’s like poetry and some bad singing and some bad background vocals by Hetfield (not sure why I am claiming that his vocals suck on this album as opposed to any other previous ones, considering the fact that he’s always had the same vocals… but I digress) and the drums are okay — but never really much of anything that you’d turn on the strobe light for, I never felt the need to air-drum once during the entire CD…and by “entire” I mean 20 seconds of each track.
To top it off, there are some stringed instruments backing them… Christ didn’t Metallica hear us when we told them back in the mid 90s to NEVER use an orchestral collaboration? They did that shit once and we, the critics, told them it should be stopped…forEVER … then the fans finally got it and riots ensued. Right Metallica… We TOLD you not to get fancy and you did…again.
So fuck your little project Lulu. And screw you, Lou Reed. Didn’t stop you from producing high-faluting bullshit since your asshole predecessor Andy Warhol made a GD mint off of painting soup cans. Still sucks and it always will.”
Things we all know:
Lou Reed is a millionaire and a rock legend. Metallica is of the same path and I’m sure their respective bank accounts reflect this. I am not usually so pissed off on behalf of millionaires. I say these things preceding my commentary on Lulu because (1) it actually means something to not immediately dismiss an artist merely because the art appears inaccessible; (2) the world is full of shit art that does really well in the earnings and rating department; (3) earnings and ratings as a measure of true worth are as meaningful as a politicians promises, so why consider them part of the artistic venture; (3) opinions and assholes, okay we’ve heard it before, so this asshole just wants her shot; and mainly (4) Lulu is truly worth a thoughtful review…. Not just a bash or based solely on dreaded deadlines. Take a third fourth fifth listen on this album before making a judgment. Lulu will unfurl its layers as the character it portrays.
My three-months-later review
Not convinced yet…. Why care? You don’t have to. But sometimes art – music, paintings, photography, films, writing – just needs an open heart. Not necessarily a bleeding heart, but a heart that is open to the idea that artistic expression sometimes exists just to kick our asses and make us uncomfortable. On occasion religion and people we love do this too, so what’s the shock in regard to art? In the case of Lulu, love does not mimic the norm or accepted path. And, for me, that is the draw and essence of the character that is Lulu. Unfortunately, artistic interpretation is not an easily digested item at times… I’m not sure it is supposed to be. It should be experienced and considered before it’s judged, not unlike people. And like people, some art is rough around the edges on a first run. Let art happen and you might find yourself changed – just a little, just a slight. That’s okay, that’s part of the challenge.
My rant up to now… Lulu is worthy of a few chances. She’s not going to save the world lollipops and rain gumdrops under a standing ovation, but she might make you appreciate few well-placed cuts.
Brandenburg Gate. What a lyrical masterpiece. It does everything a theatrical stage entrance should: sets the scene, remarks on the characters, defines the mood, and declares a protagonist. All against a butterfly’s acoustic guitar … Visions of a girl lazing in the moonlight of a summer eve dreaming about who she is to become, her thoughts…. “I would cut my legs and tits off when I think of Boris Karloff and Kinski in the dark of the moon. Makes me dream of Nosferatu trapped on the isle of Dr Moreau. Oh, wouldn’t it be lovely?” Piecing her creation together, lilting pauses, until the heavy melodious danger of Metallica bursts into to the room. A budding sociopath? A discarded soul unable to grasp the mundane ‘normalcy’ of the rest of the world. All this substance in less than 4 minutes.
“I’m just a small town girl, giving life a whirl.” Oh Lulu, not for long.
The View. “I am a chorus of the voices that gather up the magnets set before me. I attract you and repel you, a science of the heart and blood and meaning….There is no time for guilt, second-guessing based on feeling. I am the truth, the beauty that causes you to cross your sacred boundaries.”
I can’t decide whether this piece is about Lulu or generations of development/societies innate hypocrisy. Either way, it’s more than just ‘I am the table!’ I keep reading reviews that talk about Lou Reed’s lyrics and poetry as mere shock value. That’s not the case. This is an introduction and development of the main character… it’s who she is. If it’s shocking then that’s Lulu… not Lou Reed.
The obsession people have with the lyrics…. I don’t know what to say except that I found them well executed, doing their job, succinctly describing Lulu’s evolution. Lou Reed’s delivery is exceptional … the pauses and feeling required to riff along with the speeding musical interludes created by Metallica. Not an easy thing to achieve. As usual though, I have heard people claim they could sing better than Lou. Feel free to try. Then again, I have also heard claims from people that they could paint pictures with their asshole that look better than VanGogh’s art. I suspect these claimants have never tried either and, if they have, quietly slinked away knowing they were wrong. “I want to see your suicide, I want to see you give it up.”
Pumping Blood.The real heaviness of this work appears. Metallica lends a great riff to the whole revealing… the birth of Lulu. This is a true revelation of who Lulu is and how she becomes… and then becomes again. Her growth into what she finally quite perfectly and beautifully sang in the beginning. This is not such a stretch. At times the Lulu poetry reminds me of how some (not all) prostitutes have felt regarding love and affection and relationships, depending on how the prostitution went for them. Pain, love, barter, unconditional, sex and love as an act of devotion, not all experience translates into happytown. Pumping Blood is reminiscent of Patti Smith’s beauty, Horses. I also had thoughts of Lou Reed’s own Berlin, Caroline Says II. To finalize the repetition, “In the end, it was an ordinary heart. Jack, I beseech you!” Yes, this seems to me a love story, conquering, and discovery.
Mistress Dread. All the way speeding orgasmic. She is completely present and that’s part of her allure. The love developing between these two is so manic and methamphetamine in its devotion it’s a scary experience for them. It’s love – but in the case of these, blood and pain is the way to unconditional acceptance. “You are my Goliath and I am Mistress Dread.”
Iced Honey. This appears the anthem (of sorts) of the overall work. Love her for who she is. Speaking directly, she asks us to understand who she is and, once you do, you must accept your own fate at her hands. Otherwise, you have nothing to complain about. This is her challenge to all who cross her path, and many have failed in their assumptions of Lulu.
If you make others feel like jam poured on a piece of charbroiled lamb. If it’s all mixed up and your cannot shout and your oxygen starts to run out. If your final gasp of has the recipe wrong and instead of hello you say ‘so long’ if your energy starts to leak out and people wonder what you’re all about— a heartbreaker with an unattached heart – the story of love gives them all start. And me? I’ve always been this way. Not by choice, just this way. I hit with my honey pot in a jar.”
“See if the ice will melt for you.” It’s not just a challenge, but almost a scientific experiment. Can you actually melt her heart despite trying to melt her own? The themes of hearts and ordinary ones run rampant. Oh, but how many have literally lost their lives at this challenge.
In that respect, within our anthem of Lulu, the most honest parts of her turn even darker still with Cheat On Me. A turning point of darkness within – more emotions and revelations that remind me of a person who is involved in self-evaluation, faced with inevitable revelations, unavoidable with age and experience. You can only run so far.
Dragon.“Because waiting for you – thinking of you – is another way of dying.” Holy crap, it doesn’t get more breakdown than this. I don’t care what kind of breakdown it is, but this is an almost lunatic raving… The parts that I believe deal with the assassination of Lulu by the infamous Jack the Ripper. Jack has been referenced plenty throughout, but now he is finally making an appearance.
“The liquid exchange of our hearts. Are we both dead now?! … Your heart on your sleeve. A red star on your sleeve. An idiot’s idiocy.” This is a venture into darkness that is so uncomfortable and frightening, it’s something you run from in dark alleys, schizophrenic rants, abusive late night fathers inside their daughters, sarcastic echoes of self-loathing, massacres, genocide, masochistic failings or ‘a table you can rest your fucking feet on when you’re able’. So to all of the “I am the table!” haters, it’s not just Hetfield ranting like a lunatic – Might all that I am the table biz been a bit of foreshadowing to what Lulu is in self-assessment and to her true partner, Jack the Ripper? “The one who rejects you is the winner.”
Jack, the one most equipped to inflict harm, blood, and the ability to dissect a heart… maybe the only one who can prove to Lulu that she has a heart by actually removing it from her and showing her. Possibly Jack is her counterpart or her antagonist. He seems necessary in that he is the only one who can provide her deliverance through blood (or love).
Dragon is almost too much to bear emotionally in lyrics and musical heaviness.
Thank someone for Junior Dad. Like so many Lou Reed endings, the music is transformative. People morphing larger understandings of their world experience, and the journey was well ridden. Otherwise, there is nothing to receive. Lou Reed is asking us, the audience, to hang in there too… I don’t say this is a happy ending, but it surely seems to allow for understanding, one that allows the strange pain-filled world we’ve traversed so haplessly, to bear fruitful meaning.
“Burning on my forehead, the brain that once was listening, now, shoots out its tiresome message: ‘Scalding, my dead father has the motor and he’s driving toward an island of dead soldiers.’ Sunny. A monkey then to monkey. I will teach you meanness, fear and blindness. No social redeeming kindness or – oh – state of grace. The greatest disappointment…. Age withered him and changed him into Junior Dad.” Meeting your maker, redemption and happy reunions are relative. In the case of Lulu it seems the man who brought her to her beginnings, Bradenburg Gate.
Don’t bother getting to Lulu by skipping tracks,
or lazily blowing over these pieces as backgrounds. Live through this. But don’t expect the payoff if you can’t make the journey.
If Lou and Metallica don’t take this on the road as the stage play it’s meant to be, it will be a tragedy. Unfortunately, I feel Europe will get the best of this show, as the U.S. is frightfully averse to anything that tips the social norm, and might be written off as a loss. I truly hope I am wrong.
Lulu is one of the most interesting things I’ve heard in awhile and it does well to conjure many images, extremely dark and also strangely touching. Many kudos and much respect to Metallica for taking this musical trip. It’s hard to keep up in timing freeform when words and emotions are the only direction makers for the overall project. I hope this collaboration becomes an opener for other bands to make some bold choices. I am still convinced that, like Berlin, Lulu will be revisited and recognized for the musical brilliance and artistic shamelessness it breeds.
Thank you to all who bothered to read this entire commentary. And by now, you may be quite loaded, if you drank the whole time. (I warned you to get some cocktails.)
Addendum to Post: Lou Reed Likes!
After sending my link to Lou Reed in on FB (in 2012), along with a request to please play Lulu in Chicago…. I got a like. Funny to login and see Lou Reed’s name in my notifications history. Love it; thank you, Lou!
Most music reviews, as “professional” music critics write them, use a litany of familiar musical references so that the critic can save time, avoid thought and still receive a full paycheck. It’s a great gig if you never have to look in a mirror or leave the house. It’s a great gig if you never die. The gods and goddesses are pissed; they are waiting because, yes, it is a sin to saunter past inspired musical creation and ignore its presence in exchange for false securities. As An Untitled Musical Project (AUMP) simply stated, “Being on the dole isn’t rock n roll.”
we don’t do music reviews. We do infrequent musical essays when a “product” demands our attention.
It’s true, we will never be able to compete with Pitchfork; writing meaningless shitty drivel has become a unique artform perfected by those reviewers on the dole. We’re not looking to upset the precarious balance between corporate-sponsored critics and the thoughtless paycheck-driven rants that seem to have become the very definition of the music industry. We write about what we like in hopes that music that deserves attention won’t be dismissed because it’s not “easy”.
And yet, here we are. The best album of the year is…. It’s a ridiculous exercise. It’s more absurd since the internet has made music so accessible. Tens of thousands of releases via labels, websites, YouTube; who can possibly choose one release and call it “the best”? Despite our protest, we’ll give it a shot, if only for fear that a great band will be completely forgotten.
As the four (or is it three) major labels have eliminated A&R departments and concentrated on marketing a handful of “proven” sellers, new bands and musicians have never been in a better place for calling their own shots. For 99.9% of artists, the chase to sign with a “major” is not only unimportant, it is undesirable.
Established artists are even less in need of corporate labels and, clearly, labels have little influence on music icons, like Lou Reed. Critics matter even less, except for the fact that they still hold music publications hostage with their opinions, some less daring than others. Examples, you say? I’ll indulge…. Lou Reed and Metallica united for a project called Lulu. Metallica fans sent death threats to Lou because of the project. Now that’s when you know Lou’s project was some serious fuckin’ art. A vast majority of critics recommended no one even buy Lulu, one going so far as to say, “It has been said that this album is experimental, so I feel it is safe to say that this album was a failure and nothing of this sort should ever be tried again.”
All of this musical highbrow debate got a fire into us at BustedatOZ.com. We decided to write our own review because, well, fuck them. We made it clear that Lulu will, in time, make the critics and rock establishment look as ridiculous for their condemnation as they did when they heaped the same uninformed scorn and disdain on Lou Reed’s “Berlin.” Lulu is a painful, beautiful and disconcerting project that reconfirms a simple fact: Lou Reed is among a small handful of truly literate musicians in rock n roll.
Future of the Left (FOTL) released “The Plot Against Common Sense,” also condemned by the likes of strategists at Pitchfork. This is the other 2012 release for which BustedatOZ.com provided a musical essay (and we appreciate the unwashed corporate Philistines at Pitchfork for making it so much fun).
Falco has written some of the best lyrics in his 12-year career and FOTL continue to expand musically, especially in concert with the addition of a fourth band member. Falco’s brilliance is not about rock clichés, preaching to a choir or even trying to change your point of view. Falco simply and powerfully provides his observations and opinions in an incredibly literate and satirical manner. I doubt that he gives a rat’s ass as to whether he is changing anyone’s mind about anything. Like Lou, Falco’s music and lyrics demand thought. What an insignificant price to pay for the gift of art.
So there is music, art and something called ‘edge’. My friend, Liz Bjorkland, was one of Chicago’s original punk musicians going back to the time that OZ (1980s) was just starting and Naked Raygun and The Effigies were in their infancy. Liz, and her husband, Steve Bjorkland, continue to be among the most vital of Chicago’s original punk musicians (their current project is High Value Target). I believe that music is “better” now than it was in the late 1970s/early 1980s. Certainly, the musicianship is better. Liz agrees to a limited extent. Her point is valid and almost convincing to me. As I suggest new bands to her, she often tells me that they are musically accomplished but they lack an edge. There was an edge to most punk bands when the scene exploded in the 1970s. That edge is not nearly as pervasive among new bands and it hasn’t been for years. What happened?
I agree that bands with a real edge are hard to find, even though there is an abundance of good musicians and releases. Lulu and Future of the Left’s “The Plot Against Common Sense” easily stand out as the best releases in 2012 because they are lyrically and musically brilliant…. definitely an edge.
It would be easy for BustedatOZ.com to name either release the “best” of 2012, despite the ridiculousness of the effort. Fuck easy.
Our choice for best release of 2012 is The Taxpayers: God, Forgive These Bastards Songs From The Forgotten Life Of Henry Turner.
I am reluctant to use the word “beauty” to describe this release because it is an uncomfortable, sometimes painful, borderline tragic and beautiful experience. It is a little like listening to Lulu or like watching Punch-Drunk Love. It’s our own discomfort that results in us embracing somebody else’s life and journey as if it were our own. If we are anything more than a detached observer of life, we all know a Henry Turner. The Taxpayers make sure that we know him even better. The Taxpayers have made him universal, immortal and part of us.
The Taxpayers are not prisoners of musical genres or conventions.
The band uses music to drive the lyrics. How best to deliver the story? Few bands have the diverse musical talent to pull this off as masterfully as The Taxpayers. Few bands hear music quite like The Taxpayers. They have incorporated nearly a century of musical styles and influences into their musicianship. That would be impressive enough. But, instead of merely incorporating a huge range of musical influences, The Taxpayers have reinvented, pureed and served up the music of generations into something boldly unique, challenging and, yes, edgy. This album refuses to allow for complacency no matter how often you listen to it.
After repeated listening, one of the album’s lasting impacts is the unexpected. Bombast and subtlety are balanced delicately and awkwardly throughout this album. I imagine that might also describe the life of Henry Turner.
Henry Turner. Was he simply a misfit? Some of us are. Was his life one of misfortune beyond his control or missed opportunities that he chose to ignore? Was he an asshole or was assholism his defense? None of that is important. Henry Turner was a person and his dignity as a person is revealed in the course of these songs.
The next time you are walking down the street and encounter your Henry Turner, don’t look away. Make eye contact. Ask how his day is going and engage in conversation. You may discover that you will have a story to tell about your Henry Turner as remarkable as the story that The Taxpayers have created on God, Forgive These Bastards Songs From The Forgotten Life Of Henry Turner.
I was about half-way through listening to God, Forgive These Bastards Songs From The Forgotten Life Of Henry Turner when I grabbed a pen and paper and started making a list of musical influences I was hearing on this album. I’ve never been inclined to do that in decades of listening to music. When I reached the half-way mark of this album for the second time, I had already sent an uncontrollable boy, overly-excited e-mail to Becky (our music essayist extraordinaire) about my audio-induced cum shot that convinced me that I had discovered the cure for blue balls.
Becky’s response: Who doesn’t The Taxpayers pull from? It’s hard to listen to songs and say well I hear this and that or they sound like so-and-so from circa blah blah blah. The brilliance of The Taxpayers is that they sound so familiar but yet they are, well, themselves. As ridiculous as that sounds, it’s difficult to find that in a band and even more impossible to pull off in one ‘sound’. For example, a single track contains about 10 influences, either all at once or in succession but nothing of a rip off on any of them. That said, it’s not an artsy trip though some reference hell… It just is and it fucking works. Bizarre? I’d say so. And if you love punk in all its spirit, for all it represents – holy shit – you found the right band.
BustedatOZ.com is committed to music that matters. We believe new artists that are creating challenging and quality work deserve those of us that appreciate art to pay attention, spend time listening and thinking about the work, and then make a real effort to support the artist.
The Taxpayers releases are available for download and are available in formats other than MP3. The fact that the band makes available downloads in no-loss formats is another example of their respect for their fans.
Buy The Taxpayers
You can buyGod, Forgive These Bastards Songs From The Forgotten Life Of Henry Turner and previous The Taxpayers’ release here. We encourage you to buy everything being offered and you won’t be sorry. The Taxpayers have made it very affordable and offered a number of download formats. Please pay a fair price for these downloads because touring is expensive and paying more than the minimum will help get this vital band back on the road.
We considered there might be some backlash to the opinion of critics herein. Possibly something along the lines of “easy to critique a critic, it’s not your paycheck on the line….” Correct. It is not our paycheck on the line. But it is your paycheck. It is your responsibility. It is your writing that holds a certain power. When so many newer artists are creating some of the best music of our lives and are deserving of our attention, is it necessary to write another review about U2, McCartney or any other musician signed to a major label and devoid of anything interesting to say since 1980? We believe that art criticism should include, in a big way, brilliant artists that are not receiving the recognition and exposure that they have earned. Writing a review about the next Rolling Stones release is meaningless; it will still sell exactly what the last 10 Rolling Stones’ releases have sold and not a single person will be inclined to buy or not buy it based on a critic’s review. Why not use the power of your publication to encourage your readers to discover new or underappreciated artists?
And now for something that makes us most hate music critics, the never-ending, space-filling references to musical influences.
Here is a list of influences that Becky and I compiled during our very first time listening to God, Forgive These Bastards Songs From The Forgotten Life Of Henry Turner, the best album of 2012.
The Plot To Blow Up The Eiffel Tower
West Side Story (the musical)
They Might Be Giants
The Mountain Goats
Bob Dylan (pre-1976)
A Salavation Army Band (that doesn’t mind a drink or six)
Squirrel Nut Zippers
This musical essay is dedicated to a much missed musical pioneer…Willy DeVille. Willy’s music reflected street life in a way that sets a bar for urban musicians, no matter what the genre. His music also celebrated and honored the history of R&B, jazz, blues, New Orleans and rock n roll. Willy became on overnight punk hero with one song, “Cadillac Walk.” There is not a punk alive that does not know that song. Willy was also a pioneer with free sharing of his music and there are many live shows available that were all recorded with his permission and shared with his encouragement. I was blessed to see Willy in concert a few times and I have amassed a large collection of his concerts on both video and CD. His studio albums establish him as one of the finest arrangers of music of our generation. Without hesitation, I believe that Willy would have loved The Taxpayers God, Forgive These Bastards Songs From The Forgotten Life Of Henry Turner. The Taxpayers share Willy’s commitment to sharing the charms, contradictions and struggle of street life and they share his belief that great music deserves even better arrangements.