September 28, 2011


         Trying to buy tickets to Radiohead's two-night stay at the Roseland Ballroom in New York City is like being one of billions of sperm trying to penetrate the Egg of Life.
         At precisely 10:00 a.m. last Monday, when tickets officially went on sale to the general public, I refreshed and waited patiently with my green plastic credit card. For fifteen minutes I watched a rotating circle as the site searched for an available ticket and my heart pounded as unevenly as the drumbeat for “15 Step.”
         The band has been storming the concrete beaches of New York City this week. First they opened the new season of “Saturday Night Live” performing “Lotus Flower” from The King of Limbs and the unreleased “Staircase.” Then they expanded “The Colbert Report” to a full hour, participated in a very bashful interview and played six songs. Tonight and tomorrow night they’ll play to a packed house at the Roseland Ballroom and I, unfortunately, will not be there, but instead will be drinking cheap rot-gut wine and closing my eyes tight as their full discography plays as loud as the buttons will allow.
         Tickets disappeared about as fast as factual information on global warming leaves Michelle Bachmann’s head. And with good reason. In today’s market of cheap melodic thrills and faltering musicianship, Thom Yorke, Ed O’Brien, Jonny Greenwood, Colin Greenwood and Phil Selway are the most important act around.
         They continuously push themselves as artists, never falling back on what worked. Starting out as a loud British rock-and-roll band, they’ve evolved into a socially conscientious, progressive musical entity that defies any real labeling. They could’ve made different versions of OK Computer at least three times before venturing into the electronic death-zone of Kid A and Amnesiac, both released over ten years ago. But they’re after more than marketability and dollars, which is something most bands today can’t say. They exist for their own merit and for the challenge of making music that transcends what’s already been popular.
         By putting 2007’s In Rainbows online for the price of the consumer’s choosing, they took a big chance. But since then other artists, Nine Inch Nails, Smashing Pumpkins, Wilco, Kanye West and countless others, have followed suit. They recognized the death of the record industry and took action into their own hands. For this, their fans will forever feel a kinship towards them.
         In February this year Radiohead entered the Internet and spooked us all again by announcing the release of The King of Limbs, their eighth album. I for one had my reservations about where the album would go and when I first heard it, I admit, I felt a little lost. The 9-song collection is a swamp of loops and echoes and was at first difficult to find moments of connectivity (except for “Lotus Flower,” which claimed itself an instant classic). Since then, however, it has flourished and been injected into my bloodstream. (“Little By Little” is my favorite.) The fact that they pull off the complicated rhythms and loops live is a testament to how god-damn good this band is. They make the Beatles look like Hansen.
         I hope those selling tickets online for a thousand dollar profit soon enter the jaws of hell and choke. I hope thatchu choke.
         WINE REFILL

September 27, 2011


The crash and the wave
for wood paneling and faith
ambulance sirens have replaced
in the morning dew church bells
and all is laid to waste. Pillars
of structures deemed functionally
obsolete the megaphone don't
switch on anymore but the
throats still yell from the floor
George Washington crying in
the gutter green tears like mint
julep a forty dollar dish I
can't afford any more than
what I can afford, 99c fries,
soap, a bus ticket and the
sunlight, somewhere, on the
afternoon of a lifetime
uprooted in chaos.
Slowly we unravel our
hands reaching from the
gravel to the sky that turns
to space is much too far to
travel and there are lengths
to go, despair to share and
a thought process to keep
ignited against the blare of
misinformation that stabs
(they don't care) the chords
along our necks have
amassed much wear
and tear.

September 14, 2011

TEN YEARS GONE: September 11, 2011

Through the blocks around Ground Zero, September 11, 2011

“Then as it was, then again it will be / And though the course may change sometimes / Rivers always reach the sea” – Robert Plant, from “Ten Years Gone”


     Pushing South on Church Street toward the 9/11 memorial in New York City ten years to the morning of America’s most horrific moment brought one of many scenes of cringing confrontation. A young woman clearly torn emotionally made sharp dashes through the crowd toward the railing that lined the sidewalks.
     “Show some fucking respect!” she shouted over policemen, across the street, at a large mob of 9/11 truthers. They held colorful signs depicting possible government involvement in the attacks. The woman tried to walk away, tried to keep her cool and push their messages from her head, but she kept slinging back fiercely to the barricade, almost toppling over. Each screeching curse she shot out was met with unforgiving chants of “No Justice! No Peace!” and “9/11 was an inside job!”
     In the aftermath of 9/11, in New York City, Washington D.C., and Shanksville, Pennsylvania, were heaps and piles of debris with haunting questions rising above, flowing and swirling with the air currents above the whole country, and the rest of the world. Now, ten years gone, the debris has been carted off and disposed of, but the questions still remain. The events of that day turned Hollywood hijackings into historical realities and in the utter confusion Americans found comfort in the stronghold of each other’s arms, a shield from the unprovoked fear, but on September 12, 2001 the erosion had only just begun.
     The mood on the morning of the tenth anniversary was dour. Nearly all eyes were thrown to the sidewalk walking through the mass. A “credible, but unconfirmed” threat days before kept the streets sparse and eerily silent for the largest metropolis in the world. On every block a pair of police officers stood, grim-faced and eyes scanning. More walked through the crowds, as did packs of Marines in their light-green get-ups. Gates were placed along the sidewalks, and if anyone lingered for too long to try and get a glimpse of the ceremonies two blocks away, they were ushered along
by an officer with an expression almost begging for no argument.
     The persistent 9/11 truthers bemoaned the usual conspiracies of World Trade Center 7 and the supposed explosions from within the towers that were prematurely reported on that morning, but never given credence afterwards. They held out pamphlets and constructed poster-board presentations for the public to scan, making full use of their First Amendment right to ask questions and seek real answers.
     It was a disheartening sight. Vendors sold exclusive memorial t-shirts for twenty dollars. Journalists scribbled notes and conducted interviews. Boom mics hovered above television reporters getting the scoop for the afternoon and nightly news. The cackle of protestors mixed with the hours-long loudspeaker death recall. There was no complete consensus on how to behave, no full commitment to understanding.
     An old man with thick black-rimmed glasses, a Harry Carey smile and pants pulled up to his mid-stomach, held up a picture of Osama bin Laden that celebrated and thanked President Obama for the erasure of his existence. The man was very quiet and unalarming, but even he was hassled by a hot conspiracy theorist who flipped open a book and pointed to supposed facts regarding bin Laden’s lack of association with the attacks. The old man was patient, though a little taken aback, and finally muttered, “Tell this crowd that.” The man attempted to rally the passing folk, turned and shouted, “Osama bin Laden was not responsible for 9/11! Wake the fuck up people!” But there was no response, only a confused silence.
     New Yorkers have an intense ability to stand defiant in the wake of disasters because, well, the world is always watching them first, but yet, with 9/11 there is an inability to move on. A young man walking his bike through the crowd-sludge was overheard saying, “It’s over,” with a tone teetering on disgust. A much older white man with cornrows responded bluntly and with full conviction, “It’s never over.”
     This sentiment could be heard in the quivering voices of family members as they listed alphabetically the names of the deceased. Only family members were allowed entry into the opening of the memorial and able to participate in the accompanying ritual of name-reading. After ten years, one has to wonder, will this dragged-out, televised grieving stop, or at least minimize? Six bells rang for moments of silence in remembrance according to the exact timeframe of terror and death: four for when each flight crashed and two for when the North and South towers collapsed. How does one fully get over tragedy when it’s mimicked and recited again and again?
     The ceremonies began with current New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg reflecting on the lives lived under the umbrella of catastrophe. Former President George W. Bush, President Barak Obama, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani all played a part and read a few words. Paul Simon and James Taylor provided the comfort of song and all around the city were events and special commemorations. The somber tone was dreadfully evident early on, but as time pulled past noon, the lively, wide-eyed New York City started to shine through again. It was a strong relieving sigh.
     Construction cranes now poke out constantly from the most famous city skyline. Where the towers once stood are now waterfalls of reflection in a design by Michael Arad. The water fills in the square dents those skyscraper beasts first made when construction began in the late Sixties. The names of the fallen are etched into the surrounding steel so that generations of families and tourists will know who it was that suffered. In all its unfinished glory stands One World Trade Center, which when completed, will rise 1,776 feet high and reclaim the title of tallest building in the United States like a giant middle finger to those who spend their entire lives triggering hate for this country.
     Ten years ago nineteen members from Al-Qaeda, with bin Laden’s prodding, took a chunk from the bottom of our structural national confidence, knocking us to the same level of countries that have risen and fallen many times before. The reality that came into view once the smoke cleared was that we may not always be at the top. We can no longer assume that just by simply being America, or American, we are the best. What September 11 did was remind us that we have to work for that title. It no longer just is. The terrorists succeeded in injecting a frothing fear into the country, a distrust of one another – but that will dissipate in time. What they didn’t expect was the shattering of complacency to aid the energy to fight, to stand up from the rubble of corruption and be heard.
     America is rife with contradictions, unfairness, and a sometimes incessant ringing in the ear canals. But it also has what other countries lack and that’s the platform to peacefully protest, to challenge authority, to ask questions. As we deal with each new problem of the 21st century (of the - gasp! – post 9/11 world) it’s important to remember those ideals, handed down to us by the Signers of the Declaration. All closed-door policies, idiocy, and secrets aside, we can still band together and make our points loudly, by cell-phone, through internet, by shouting, with hands held in human chains. America is always ours for the taking should we amass enough vigor to take it.

September 05, 2011

Tweedy & co. get those juices flowing

With mud on their palms, Wilco climb up the slide for 'The Whole Love'
         This just in: Wilco have stepped off their plateau and scaled up another mountain. One of the most progressive and hypnotically evolved rock bands of this early 21st century chime in with another notch on their belt of creativity with, The Whole Love. On September 27, the band will release their new album on their own infant label, dBpm. It streamed for free on their website,, over the weekend, giving the world the chance to experience new music all at once, just like old times. The revolving image of a vinyl record made it seem that much more real.
         After phoning it in for 2009's Wilco (The Album), lead singer/songwriter Jeff Tweedy, guitarist Nels Cline, drummer Glenn Kotche, bassist John Stirratt and multi-instrumentalists Pat Sansone and Mikael Jorgensen come surging ahead, out front where they belong. And what a fresh breath of air it is!

         The album dives deep into the jumbled rhythms and vibrations of opener, "Art of Almost," swims to the bottom, then comes up gasping for air and almost blacks out. Instantly, it could be considered a Wilco classic, following in the footsteps of “At Least That’s What You Said,” off of A Ghost is Born and “Bull Black Nova” from Wilco (The Album).

         At their own Solid Sound Festival in North Adams, Massachusetts this year Wilco only previewed one new song, the first official single, “I Might.” Without the torrential rain that obscured their set it reveals itself as a jaunty pop song with whirling carnival organ and some sweet backing vocals. It’s shocking why they didn’t try more of the new material out at the festival. Possibly they needed more time to rehearse, because these songs are loaded with waves of sound and imploding structures.

         The title is accurate because it fills the speakers up to their edges. Rarely are there moments of empty space. The first quiet song is "Black Moon," and it finds Tweedy lovelorn and sappy. It gets a lift from Cline's graceful slide guitar and expands and recedes with thick orchestral strings before fading off into the moonlight. Next comes the blasting, "Born Alone," sounding like the musical adaptation of fourth of July fireworks. It beats into the brain with ecstatic glee, but pins the listener with the conflicting line, "I was born to die alone," and the celebration becomes distorted.

         Lyrically, The Whole Love is filled with the usual melodramatic, but clever and quirky, lines by Tweedy. He teeters between self-mockery and heart juice spillage. On the swanky "Capitol City," he's stuck in a corner unsure of what to do with himself. "I wish you were here, or, I wish I were there with you," he laments. The song could be the soundtrack to a brisk walk through the most postcard-ready city summer scene. It's not hard to imagine Tweedy kicking his feet before him in a Jiminy Cricket shuffle down the avenue as animated sky-blue birds flutter around his mop.

         Maybe all those annoying, undeserved “dad-rock” labels did something to Tweedy and he saw the decline of boring his band was falling into. At Solid Sound Festival they did a simple walk through the hits without much enthusiasm and it was difficult to see where they would fly to next. On The Whole Love, though, it’s clear their musicality is still relevant. They are still striving to push themselves beyond their limits and the results here are stunning as ever.

Key Tracks: “Born Alone,” “I Might,” “Art of Almost”

September 01, 2011


         Mr. President, my cherished Mr. President, I have stuck by you like cement to the sidewalk, spoken back to co-workers labeling you foolishly as a socialist, even signed your 50th birthday e-card, but, Mr. President, I now have to ask, Where is your backbone?? Did it spill out of Martha's Vineyard down the gargling throat of Irene the tease? Has it been chopped and spliced by the chefs of congressional deceit? Is it folded up in Mrs. President's handbag? For the first time since your historical election I'm thinking against you and I don't like it.
         House Speaker John Boehner, the thorn in this country’s political side, has jumped from out of the shark tank again. Baffled at President Obama’s announcement that his speech on job creation would come on the same date as the next Republican debate, Boehner asked him to reschedule. The House Speaker asked the President to move a speech concerning the one and only issue on every voter, congressman, and candidate’s mind so as not to interfere with a conversation between a group of knuckleheads trying to become the next president?! And without much skirmish or fight, the President bowed down and changed his plans?! Why is the President kneeling down so swiftly to Boehner and the Republicans? Tell me it’s a programming issue! Tell me it’s a calculated silent attack I’m too dumb to get!
         Possibly Obama is thinking that after the Republicans fidget around their ideas of how to get Americans working again, he can then get on the media outlets and roast them with his concrete details. If he were to speak just before the debates then maybe the fear is that his talking points would be swallowed in headlines of ‘Bachmann vs. Romney!’ ‘Perry vs. Huntsman!’ ‘Gingrich vs. A Scented Candle!’. Sorta reasonable, I guess. All I know is the time to fight fire with fire is long overdue. Washington is as toxic as Fukushima right now and the President is simply throwing a couple of slushies on to cool it down. Why hasn't his presidential boot thumped into the dirt yet? He should be hollering from the mountaintops, “THIS IS THE PLAN MOTHER FUCKERS, GET BEHIND ME OR GET MURDERED!” (Metaphorically, of course).
         The Republicans have shown they are fearless -- stupid, but fearless -- in the face of their higher authority. As batshit and disconnected as their ideals might be, they do go after them full throttle. It pains me to say it, but there are shreds of respect drifting somewhere in that statement. They are playing a cruel game where a compromise is equal to losing. Mr. President, I know that’s not the game you came to play in Washington, but you’ve got to stop letting their bullshit rhetoric rain down on you like pigeon shit and pump up the volume. Make “Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor mandatory listening every morning in the White House. Tattoo a tear on your eye socket. Anything! Stop cowering and attack them with your swords! Please don’t let rich white man ethics continue to brutalize this country!