Friday, September 30, 2005


A fascinating essay by k-punk can be found here. (The drugs thing, though discussed in a very interesting and well-worth-reading manner, is dispensed with in the first few paragraphs.) I disagree with his stance on pornography (he's a Marxist, so that's unsurprising), but the piece is well thought out and definitely better than most of what's being published on the nature of celebrity, particularly the voiceless and thus tabula-rasa-ish kind that fashion models represent. Go read it.

k-punk on Kate Moss

Wednesday, September 28, 2005


Watched lots of the two-part Bob Dylan thing on PBS (didn't watch all of Part 2, as it interfered with Nip/Tuck and, I mean, come on - they were doing plastic surgery on a gorilla!). Subsequently I have decided I should maybe listen to more Bob Dylan. I used to own his Greatest Hits and liked 2-3 songs on it, and I currently have in my possession a burn of the "Albert Hall" concert from 1966, which I like the electric half of. But I need Bringing It All Back Home and Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde On Blonde, I think, and then I'll be all done. So I made an arrangement to receive burns of those three albums from a dude I know, and in return I'm sending him some out jazz, because he doesn't have any and I have, well, a shitload. I decided a nice mix was better than burning whole albums, even though most of the albums I pulled from only contained two sidelong tracks. Anyhow, here's what I sent:

Don Ayler Sextet, "Prophet John" (Holy Ghost)
Archie Shepp, "Black Gipsy" (Black Gipsy)
Grachan Moncur III, "Exploration" (New Africa)
Sunny Murray, "Suns Of Africa (Parts 1 & 2)" (Homage To Africa)
Sonny Sharrock, "Portrait Of Linda In Three Colors, All Black" (Black Woman)

Art Ensemble of Chicago, "Theme De Yoyo" (Les Stances A Sophie)
Alice Coltrane/Rashied Ali, "Battle At Armageddon" (Universal Consciousness)
Pharoah Sanders, "Healing Song" (Live At The East)
Don Cherry, "Eternal Rhythm Part 1" (Eternal Rhythm)
Cecil Taylor, "Conquistador" (Conquistador!)

Joe Henderson, "El Barrio" (Inner Urge)
Frank Wright, "One For John/China (Part 1)" (One For John)
Jimmy Lyons, "Premonitions" (Other Afternoons)
Dave Burrell, "Echo" (Echo)
Pharoah Sanders Ensemble w/Albert Ayler, "Venus/Upper & Lower Egypt" (Holy Ghost)

Tuesday, September 27, 2005


I watched the VH-1 Hip Hop Honors 2005 show last night. Well, I watched most of it. I tuned out when Kanye West was performing, because I just don’t like his music. And I tuned out when Diddy Kong came onstage, because…well, I’ll get to that.

This year, taking a cue from Public Enemy’s blowout last year, they had the artists themselves perform, after some of their biggest hits had been karaoke’d by current performers (which had been the bizarrely compelling gimmick of last year’s show). So we got to see Nelly looking like a Mini-Me version of LL Cool J, in white sweats and a Kangol pulled down over his eyes, doing a serviceable version of “I’m Bad” and an acceptable “Doin’ It,” before the man himself came onstage and tore the walls down with “Mama Said Knock You Out.” (I wish he’d done “Goin’ Back To Cali” or “Big Ole Butt” instead, but oh well.) Funnily enough, he recalled not only his glory days but also his MTV Unplugged performance, because he was once again sporting big caked clots of roll-on in his pit-hair.

Ice-T and Snoop Dogg did okay for the West Coast, though Ice’s flow suffered somewhat from the relentless muting of all references to guns and drugs, all obscenities, and all uses of the N-word. Only when he delivered the first verse of the still-chilling “Colors” did he really morph back into the scarily intense figure I remember from the first Lollapalooza and a solo tour immediately afterward (the one where he did a 45-minute rap set followed by a 45-minute Body Count set).

Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five put on a killin’ show, with Fat Joe filling in for Cowboy, who I guess is dead, because he wasn’t in the interview segments either. Melle Mel is just fucking gigantic now. But the best part about their show was the cameraman’s repeated cutting to LL in the VIP balcony with all the other honorees, on his feet, mouthing every word of each Furious Five MC’s verse. The true spirit of the show was embodied in that moment – a legendary rapper publicly idolizing his own heroes.

The Salt-N-Pepa segment was okay, but only okay, because Salt-N-Pepa were only ever just okay at their top-dollar best.

The segment I tuned in to see was the penultimate one, though, and it made the whole thing worthwhile. Big Daddy Kane’s inclusion in this year’s batch of honorees seemed a little weird to me. Totally, 1000 percent justified, but somehow out of place. The other guys and gals were hitmakers and pioneers, but Kane was a rapper’s rapper, a guy whose verbal skills were astonishing from his first single (“Raw”) to the time he decided to hang it up. The last track I heard from him, “Nuff Respect” on the Juice soundtrack, was as good as anything from Long Live The Kane or It’s A Big Daddy Thing (which is an even better album-as-album). I love Big Daddy Kane, and still play his tracks in my iPod, but I didn’t quite see how he fit in with Salt-N-Pepa, a salute to the movie Boyz N The Hood, and one more motherfucking tribute to Notorious F.A.T., if you see what I mean. Well, when his segment began, it all became clear. Kane was the high point of the show. He was saluted/karaoked by T.I. (who tried to do “Raw,” but failed; his Southern flow was no match for Kane’s late-80s New York relentlessness), Black Thought (who I’ve never liked much, but who did okay) and Common (who did pretty well – I like him now more than I have since Soundbombing 2). But then the man himself came out, and from his first words, the show was over. He did “Warm It Up, Kane” backed by the Roots and with one of his old backup dancers (I think it was Scrap Lover; Scoop Lover might be dead, too) plus one other guy by his side. Not only did he deliver the lyrics like it was 1989 again – and I say this as someone who saw Kane live in ’88, opening for Public Enemy with Stetsasonic and EPMD – he busted out his classic dance moves, too, including the split from which Scrap Lover pulled him up again by the back of his shirt and the climb-up-and-roundhouse-kick move. The crowd went apeshit, as well they should have done. King Asiatic Nobody’s Equal, indeed. It was the best live hip-hop performance I’ve ever seen on television, period.

I tuned out after that, as the show was almost over – all that was left was Diddy Kong’s 10,000th necrophiliac blowjob of Notorious F.A.T., and who the hell needs to watch that? I actually sort of felt sorry for him – he was playing the Chuck Berry role in the legendary/apocryphal anecdote about Jerry Lee Lewis setting the piano on fire. “Follow that, Diddy.” There was no way he could have, even if he wasn’t one of the shittiest, most uncharismatic performers/public figures alive. It was Kane’s night, and as a fan and a viewer, I couldn’t be happier.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005


You know how sometimes listening to one piece of music can provoke new insights into another piece of music? Well, when you've got a review of Brad Mehldau's latest album (a collection of Radiohead, Beatles, Paul Simon and Nick Drake songs, plus two originals) due in less than 24 hours, listening to Cecil Taylor is just unhelpful.

Sunday, September 18, 2005


Jon Caramanica, a smart guy who's contributing an essay to my upcoming Marooned anthology, has a good piece on art-metal in today's New York Times. It's well-sourced and well-written: he ticks off all the names your average metal-ignorant Times reader needs to know (Orthrelm, Aaron Turner/Hydra Head Records, Pelican, Sunn O))), Flying Luttenbachers, Albert Mudrian/Decibel, Justin Broadrick, et al.) without making it overwhelming. It'll fuel a heck of a trip to Amazon for some suburban teen looking for the next big thrill. And that's a good thing. It just feels funny to me, watching all these guys pop their heads out into public, because I've been beating this drum for a couple of years already - I profiled Pelican in The Wire just after Australasia dropped, and I managed to get Weasel Walter into Jazziz in 2002 or 2003 (I forget which) - and I've been sticking reviews that deal with metal as serious music for thinking people into just about every venue that'll have me for, well, quite a while now. (Make no mistake, I'm not begrudging Jon getting into the New York Times before me; I never would have even tried to pitch them a piece like this one.) Anyway, go read the thing, and if you're inspired to do some record shopping afterward, you could do a lot worse than to pick up any/all of the following:

Orthrelm, OV
Sunn O))), The GrimmRobe Demos
Earth, Earth 2 and Legacy Of Dissolution
The Flying Luttenbachers, Systems Emerge From Complete Disorder and The Void
Pelican, Australasia
Isis, Oceanic and Panopticon

Friday, September 16, 2005


Q Magazine is asking readers to vote for the greatest album ever. Previous trophy-holders: OK Computer and Nevermind. So pretty obviously I'm not the target demographic, as much as I love Radiohead. But I gave 'em my Top Five anyway:

1. Miles Davis, On The Corner
2. The Stooges, Fun House (this one might actually place pretty high in the final breakdown)
3. ZZ Top, Tres Hombres
4. Randy Holden, Population II
5. Yes, Tales From Topographic Oceans

Feel like entering your own Top Five? Knock yourself out.


A very long, very great piece on photographer Naomi Petersen and the SST Records scene here, by Joe Carducci of Rock and the Pop Narcotic legend/infamy. Read every word.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005


I haven't seen a display of self-loathing and transference as pathetic as this in quite a while.

Britney Spears had a kid. How about the culture at large gives her a fucking break for five fucking minutes, huh? How about not turning the announcement into a splatter-painting of some pissed-off journalist's bile. Nobody put a gun to this cunt's head and forced her to write about pop culture for a living. I don't like Britney Spears' music, but you know what? She doesn't deserve to have people like Joal Ryan pissing on the birth of her child. Nobody does. Not even the kind of woman who names her kid "Joal." (See how easy it is?)

Thursday, September 08, 2005


Eric Alterman posted the following text-lump on his Altercation site today:

Altercation Book Club

“The Liberal Argument Against Pornography” from PORNIFIED: How Pornography is Transforming Our Lives, Our Relationships and Our Families, by Pamela Paul (published today).

It’s a very simple and very wrong political equation: If you’re liberal, you’ve got to be pro-porn. Being pro-pornography means you’re sex-positive, open-minded and progressive. You care about the First Amendment, women’s rights and sexual freedom. And you most certainly stand against the reactionary voices of the anti-porn movement – repressive, anti-civil libertarian, moralizing hypocrites, all of them.

Nonsense. More specifically, outdated and misguided nonsense.

The drawing of political battle lines over pornography dates back in large part to two conflicting federal reports designed to study and address the issue. In 1968, the United States President’s Commission on Obscenity and Pornography was charged with understanding the effects of pornography “upon the public and particularly minors and its relationship to crime and other anti-social behaviors.” After two years of research, the Commission issued a report that concluded, “In sum, empirical research designed to clarify the question has found no evidence to date that exposure to explicit sexual materials plays a significant role in the causation of delinquent or criminal behavior among youths or adults. The Commission cannot conclude that exposure to erotic materials is a factor in the causation of sex crime or sex delinquency.” [i] Sixteen years later, the Reagan administration commissioned what later came to be known as the Meese Report (for the Attorney General’s Commission on Pornography), which came to the exact opposite conclusion: Pornography, the Meese Report explained, leads to sexual violence, rape, deviation and the destruction of families. Yet while the earlier report exonerating pornography was widely distributed and published by a commercial press, the Meese Report was difficult to track down, unpublished commercially and immediately distorted and vilified in a popular pro-pornography book published by Penthouse and distributed on newsstands everywhere.

As a result of these two contradictory reports, many Americans, especially liberals, came to the conclusion that the first report was accurate while the second was politically motivated hackwork, created to crack down on family values and promulgated by a man who was himself under investigation for corruption. Who was he to talk? While there may well be truth to the political motivation behind the second study, concluding that the results were inaccurate distorts the report’s findings. In truth, the second report contained valuable, nonpartisan data from reliable academicians and social scientists.

Regardless of the motivations behind and differing conclusions of each of these two major reports, it’s hard to argue with the fact that both reports are outdated. The first report was generated back when Playboy didn’t include full frontal nudity and before most hardcore magazines had even been launched. Penetration shots were rare. Hustler, for example, wasn’t created until four years after the first Commission issued its final report. Not only was the magazine world relatively tame at the time of the 1970 report, but both it and the Meese Report were drawn before cable television, the VCR and especially the Internet took pornography to a whole new level. Further, the 1970 report’s goals were narrow – trying to forge a link between pornography and sexual violence – without exploring the vast area of influence that stops short of violence. There was no effort to study or document other negative effects of pornography on men, women or children, an area that the Meese report took up to a greater, though still not complete, extent.

In the wake of the two reports and their distortion in the popular media, pornography became a politically progressive cause, a convenient tool in the culture wars. Pornographers successfully fomented a bogus fight between Victorian prudishness and modern sexual freedom that has been taken up by everyone from libertarians to Web-heads to feminists to liberal Democrats – and the battle lines haven’t budged for decades. Not surprisingly, given such politicization of the issue, one’s point of view on pornography often lines up with one’s political philosophy. While people identifying themselves as Republicans or Democrats show little difference in their opinions about pornography, those who self-identify as liberal are more likely to support pornography than those who consider themselves conservative. For example, liberals are more likely than conservatives to believe that pornography improves peoples’ sex lives and less likely to believe that pornography changes men’s expectations of how women should behave. In a new Harris poll, 54 percent of conservatives say pornography harms relationships between men and women and 39 percent see pornography as cheating, compared with 30 percent and 15 percent respectively of liberals. And when it comes to measures to control pornography, conservatives are more likely to advocate reforms: 45 percent of conservatives believe that government should regulate Internet pornography so that kids cannot access X-rated Web sites, compared with 32 percent of liberals who champion such measures.

Were pornography actually so sexually liberating, there would be little outré or taboo about it all. Hypocrisy and guilt still dominate sexuality in many ways, and pornography isn’t the cure for Puritanism or the sign of its defeat – it’s an emblem of its ongoing power to isolate and stigmatize sexuality. A truly liberated society would be one in which there were no need to “rebel” via commercialized images of sex. Moreover, pornography is hardly revolutionary. Indeed, pornography may be the ultimate capitalist enterprise: low costs, large profit margins; a cheap labor force, readily available abroad if the home supply ever fails to satisfy; a broad-based market with easily identifiable target niches; multiple channels of distribution. Pornography is big business, and it’s out to protect its interests in the face of what it sees as excessive governmental and societal interference. The industry even has its own lobbying arm, whose head, a former defense industry lobbyist told 60 Minutes, “Corporations are in business to make money. This is an extremely large business and it’s a great opportunity for profit for it…When you explain to [legislators] the size and the scope of the business, they realize, as all politicians do, that it’s votes and money that we’re talking about.” [ii] Pornographers distort pornography into an issue of progressivism and civil liberties precisely because they have millions of dollars of profit on the line. The industry--which in the face of a receptive audience likes to position itself as just another all-American enterprise trying to earn an honest dollar despite government interference, excessive regulation and taxation--isn’t different from any other large corporation, be it Halliburton or GlaxoSmithKline. The idea of progressives lining up to defend a notoriously corrupt and abusive industry would seem implausible.

But there’s more to the pro-porn “rebellion.” The latest wave of pornography crusaders is not only railing against moralizing on the part of the government and organized religion, the argument that dominated the family values-obsessed Eighties. Today, pornography advocates are also and perhaps equally rebelling against what it views as the excesses of liberalism and feminism of the early 1990s, in particular, the extremes of political correctness. Defending pornography seems to be a way for people who think of themselves as progressive, liberal and open-minded to revolt against the close-minded, PC police of university campuses and corporate human resources guidelines. Denouncing pornography is akin to what they derisively refer to as “sexual correctness.”

Yet it’s hard to find anything more retrograde, repressive, or closed-minded than the sexual clichés peddled by pornographers. Rather than a mark of escape from the past, the dominant morality of pornography reeks of Puritan and Victorian prudery; it creates a world populated by virgins and whores, by women who are used and then shamed for being sexually voracious. Their degradation is deserved, according to the prim sexual vision of the pornographer. Even when the woman isn’t overtly degraded, she is deemed lesser than the man watching her by dint of being paid to please him sexually in a public forum. Even when pornography is made specifically “for” women, as in the case of “indie” magazines like Sweet Action, the model often replicates that experience, unthinkingly substituting men’s bodies for women’s. In pornography, sexuality accompanies or provokes disgust and hatred – something to be done quickly and just as quickly, disposed of. In the world of pornography, sex is generally dirty, cheap, and in the end, not much fun. Surely it is this pornified version of sexuality that deserves denigration, mockery and rebellion. Surely any good liberal could in all good conscience, exercise his right to free speech and condemn porn for what it really is.

I sent the following reply:

Eric -

I haven't read Pamela Paul’s book, but as someone who's made his living at least partly from porn for the last half-dozen years, I must speak up. (I’m not surprised to see a Lieberman Democrat like you loaning her your soapbox, of course.)

There is nothing currently available online or otherwise that is any worse than that which has always been available to those who sought it. From cave paintings to de Sade, the human imagination has always run to graphic depictions of human sexuality, and frequently in its most perverse forms. This is just The Way We Are, and the flipside is the ever-present sanctimonious denial: no one I know has those thoughts, no one I know likes this sick stuff. Well, that “sick stuff” sells awfully well, and as long as it’s been available, it always has. As the comedian says, it's a four-billion-dollar industry - that's not one guy with two hundred million DVDs in his basement. Three big canards need to go by the wayside right now. The first is that being “pro-porn” is more about political statements than raw consumerism, because anybody in the industry will tell you that porn sells best in the reddest of states. Those Bible-thumpin’, Bush-lovin’ exurbanites and hicks out in David Brooks’s beloved country are the biggest porn freaks of all. The second is this scare tactic crap about horrifying obscenity being “a click away” at all times. I spend most of the day online, and I have NEVER encountered a porn site without wanting to do so. All the stories anti-porn crusaders are telling about little kids stumbling on bestiality images while searching for pictures of fluffy bunnies to print out for Mommy are as dishonest as the meth hype Jack Shafer’s been debunking over at Slate. And the third is, as I mentioned before, the idea that things were better before. At the same time Hugh Hefner was mythologizing himself as a daring pioneer, black-and-white stag movies were rolling in men’s clubs across the country – as they had been since the advent of cinema. Every time a new medium (print, photography, film, whatever) has been invented, people have used it to make porn. That is The Way We Are. Deal with it.

You don’t like porn? Fine, don’t watch it. But don’t try to tell me that the porn industry’s evil minions are kicking in helpless Americans’ front doors and taping their innocent little children’s eyes open like A Clockwork Orange. I know all the good and bad things about the business, and if anti-porn crusaders spent half the time investigating the rest of corporate America that they do worrying about what other people jack off to, the world would be a lot better place. Ms. Paul’s book will likely spark much conversation, replete with tongue-clucking and sad shakes of the head over the moral depravity overrunning our fair land, but it’s a bunch of crap, rooted in false assumptions, bad methodology (she interviewed 100 people, 80 of whom were young straight men? Wow, what’d that take her, a week?), and nostalgia for an Age of Innocence that never existed.


Two Mormons just came to my door. There's a temple a block and a half from my house, but this rarely happens. They smiled when I opened the door (in this neighborhood, an Anglo face is a rarity), and the shorter, grinnier one said, "Hi, we're here spreading a message about Jesus Christ, would you like to hear it." I smiled back and said, "I review heavy metal records and porn DVDs for a living. You do not want to talk to me about Jesus. Have a good day."


A joke.

And speaking of things that are more pathetic and infuriating than amusing or entertaining, Black Dice have a new album out.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005


Go buy the new Jaguares album. Seriously. They're the only male Latin-rock artists doing anything interesting right now (all the real innovators, or captivating performers, are women these days - Bebe, Natalia Lafourcade, Julieta Venegas, Andrea Echeverri, even Juana Molina I guess). Arty power-rock, with plenty of unexpected guitar brilliance (not all of it courtesy of Adrian Belew). It'll kick yer ass.