Friday, April 23, 2021

A post that mentions Malcom McLaren


It was April 8, 2010 when Malcom McLaren  passed away, the man commonly credited  by quick study journalists and water cooler culturati with creating  punk rock, in the form of The Sex Pistols. Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols , their  1971 album ,  was an  especially revulsive  revolt against the tired blood of album-oriented-rock , an especially sharp weapon that spearheaded, many assert, the war against the decadence that made rock and roll into a glitzed up cash machine for  corporations . But grand as they were, and visionary though he was, I thought they and their like were redundant to rock and roll's evolution. Rather than make something new, they reiterated old noise and pre-owned attitudes. I grew up in Detroit in the late Sixties, where the local bands included The MC5, Iggy and the Stooges and The Amboy Dukes, not-give-fuck punks who kicked out the jams a good decade before the Brits made what was punk rock into a design fetish. It's not that I  thought the Sex Pistols weren't called for, as the pretentiousness of the musicians and the gullibility of the audience had choked off the life force that made rock and roll exciting and worth caring about. Some of it might be laid at the feet of rock criticisms, since the advanced discussions of Dylan's relationship to Chuck Berry's everyman existentialist demanded a musical technique and lyrical concept just as daunting. This is the danger when folk art is discovered: it stands to become something distorted, disfigured and bereft of vitality. I was lucky , I guess, in that I was a fan of the MC5 and Iggy and the Stooges long before the Sex Pistols caught the punk wave. 

They and bands like Blue Cheer and Black Sabbath were a grounding principal--rock and roll is beautiful because it's energetic, awkward, and stupid, but profoundly so. There are "concept albums" I admire and still like, if not listen to, but I won't name them here. I am pleased, though, that the idea of the Album being a literary object has been dropped in a deep grave and had dirt thrown over it's  remains. What we can thank the late McClaren for is reminding us that rock and roll is a loser's game, the noise of the empty stomach made worse by broken promises where ever a good person woke up with full knowledge of the truth of their lives under the campaign  banners and cheers for a loving God. Since I'm making a cursory mention of Chuck Berry in connection with the Sex Pistols, it's worth mentioning here that Greil Marcus, the grayest and gravest presence on the pop/rock/culture-vulturing punditry hierarchy, has a nice stretch of descriptive prose in his mystical history of rock and roll and rebellion Lipstick Traces about the Sex Pistols rehearsing Berry's "Johnny B. Goode." It seems they never get it right for all the angry and frustrated attempts the  Pistols have at the song, but Marcus does a bit of his magic and  describes the energy in the room as he imagined it, making the increasing verve, the theoretical channeling of frustration and spite into inspiration and useful energy seem  believable. This is a Marcus specialty, creating more mythology from details culled from far  fetched sources. That's why I continue to read the man.

EMERSON LAKE AND PALMER: making the ugly wonderful

 Over all, the whole phenomena of ELP was a fever that took too long to run its course, but for all their mechanical onanism, they did at times amuse me or impress me to an extent. Tarkus, their  1971  studio album, was such an extreme example of unplayable , undanceable, unlistenable, jig-sawing time signatures that I wound up respecting it as something wherein we have a band that accomplished exactly what they set out to do, produce a loud, grinding, smoke and spark belching bit of unlovable Avant Gard music. I would assert that if a college music department had their resident experimental music ensemble take up this album as a proposed project in search of some grant money, it would come pouring it.

That is say that it's very unloveability fits right in with much more contemporary noise makers at the edges of listenability. Also, these fellows had the the chutzpah to take Copeland's sacrosanct "Hoe Down" and turn it into a keyboard dominated speed metal blitz. I loved th

Thursday, April 1, 2021


Simeon Flick is a San Diego guitarist and multi-instrumentalist extraordinaire who comes to the world with his ninth studio album, Gung Ho Hum, a heady and sometimes overcrowded release of relentless eclecticism. There is a generous portion for whatever one’s tastes happen to be it seems, with the atmospheric tone poem of the opening track “Singularity,” with its quizzical syncopated rap vocal through the scorching hard-rock blistering of “Bad Lot” (rhythm and blues funk joined with power chords and a fine and nasty guitar solo) not to mention the high-strung Hendrixisms that tattoo “Oh Please” or the shape-shifting state of “Careful What You Wish For,” where metal guitaristics give way quickly but smoothly to soulful harmonies over an accelerated dance floor groove. 

Variety is the name of the game of Flick’s stock in trade, but there is more, much more here than simply trying to please the fickle listener’s ear. At its best moments—which are many—Gung Ho Hum is a frothy blend  of elements; transitions between styles are smooth, congruent despite their seeming musical disparity among the sounds he displays. It’s worth noting that the songs wide-ranging material was entirely written, performed, produced, and mixed by Flick, with some horn assist from Matthew Stewart). The one-man-band tradition in pop music has been a phenomenon that has rarely impressed me—for all the praise that stalwarts like Paul McCartney or Stevie Winwood have gained for being able to multitrack different instruments (usually guitar-bass-keyboard-vocal-sometimes drums combinations), the music seemed half-baked, rather gutless. 

Flick is in the upper echelons of the one-man-banders, whose sparse ranks include Todd Rundgren (1973’s A Wizard, A True Star) or latter-day Yes guitarist Trevor Rabin on his first solo release (1978’s Trevor Rabin). As with these artists and albums, Gung Ho Hum maintains a solid live-band feeling; the engineering and sound mix achieve a blended unity. There is a grainy element to this inspired selected olio that keeps the energy high, the vocals buoyant, the flash and fire alluring. Flick keeps it moving, keeps it tight, keeps it grooving.