Shot Of Rhythm

[ Saturday, September 25, 2004 ]



-Far and away the most coherent statement of Gen-X-and-Y frustration, alienation and discomfort that has ever been presented.
-An affirmation of the fact that rock and roll is still worth a damn.
-An affirmation that the alterna-rock movement was somehow worth a damn.
-Almost incredible proof that the band that gained their first fame through a song about masturbation and an album titled after a euphemism for shit has become the standard-bearer for what throat-ripping, fist-raising rock music can and should be.
-The smartest rock record made in many years.
-A series of instant-classic rock and roll songs, with huge hooks and themes that are, at once, universal and achingly personal.
-The context for one of the sharpest and smartest anti-Bush songs yet written, "Holiday," that really is like a new Clash song.
-Endlessly entertaining, listenable time after time after time after time, with its wealth of musical and lyrical riches only deepening with each spin.
-A manifesto for the kind of people I know from back home, suburbanite kids who are pissed off, don't know why, don't think they deserve it, and don't know what to do about it.
-A genuine bullshit killer.
-A series of quotable lyrics (my faves, right now: "Welcome to a new kind of tension, all across the alienation," "In the land of make believe that don't believe in me," "I don't care if you don't care" and "She's holding onto my heart like a hand grenade.")
-The New Testament, following in the wake of, most obviously, The Who and The Clash, but also, in real ways, The Kinks and Bruce Springsteen.
-My favorite record of the year, unseating the previous champion Kanye West.
-Rock and roll, motherfuckers.

On the box right now: For the ten-thousandth time, Green Day, AMERICAN IDIOT.


Dove With Claws [8:05 PM]

[ Tuesday, September 21, 2004 ]


My guitar wants to kill your bullshit

Green Day's new album, AMERICAN IDIOT, is a really impressive piece of work. I've always been somewhat of a fan (bought DOOKIE in 1995, when it became the album of eighth grade, liked some of their other stuff quite a bit), but not enough to purchase the new album. Luckily, a sympathetic soul burned me a copy, and it is a MONSTER of a rock and roll record. As you may have read, it's a "punk opera," which is a horribly imprecise label for what is really a series of interconnected - though by no means similar - songs and half-songs, in the vein of The Who's "A Quick One (While He's Away)" or, cliche alert, the over-praised TOMMY. Musically, lyrically, and thematically, it's by far the most advanced thing they've ever done, and maybe as high and grand in its scope as any rock record of the past few years.

The first single, also called "American Idiot," is also rock and roll at its mightiest, aiming for that guitar-smashing, Townshend-windmilling, fist-pumping sledgehammer of emotion that The Who, The Clash, Springsteen and others (just a few others, now that I think about it) specialize in. It's a great slice of American music, and it's worth the price of admission alone.

On the box right now: Green Day, AMERICAN IDIOT


Dove With Claws [7:59 PM]

[ Monday, September 20, 2004 ]


Crowd control

There are a bunch of incredible moments in WATTSTAX, the 1973 documentary showcasing the Stax Records' show at the L.A. Coliseum to benefit the Watts Community Festival (and, by extension, showcasing a certain state of black America in the early-1970s, when the promises of the Freedom Movement and the bloom of Black Power had not yet been fully strangled). Great concert footage (The Bar-Kays are, almost literally it seems, out of this world), poignant clips of Watts citizens discussing their lives (with detail dark and funny), gut-bustingly hilarious shots of truth from Richard Pryor, all that stuff. But there's one moment that sticks out in my mind, both because of the socio-political statement it makes and because - as a musician - I'm absolutely amazed at its seeming impracticality.

Rufus Thomas, a true Memphis legend who was at perhaps the height of his popularity thanks to a string of early-70s funk hits, was revving up the crowd, inviting them (100,000 strong) to spill onto the football field and dance the Funky Chicken with him. At this beckoning, the concertgoers don't let Mr. Thomas down. The field, which had been kept free of spectators until this moment, fills up with folks, dancing and showing off. At the end of the song, Thomas gets word - audible on the film - that the audience has to get off the field. If the grass is damaged, Stax Records will be stuck with a huge insurance premium. (Stax Records never had the kind of money to support such an expense, least of all at a gigantic benefit show.)

So, faced with a celebration of 100,000 people, Rufus Thomas undertakes the daunting task of talking the crowd back to the stands. Showing how brilliant he really was, he does the old entertainer's trick of playing to the audience while simultaneously imploring them. Repeatedly, in the wise growl of a man who started in vaudeville, Thomas shouts "Power to the folks, let's go to the stands!" And it works. Even though he has to deal with a couple loony stragglers, whom he dispatches in hilarious fashion, Thomas gets a gigantic, rocking sea of people back to the place he urged them to leave in the first place. It's a testament to Thomas' impressive command of the stage, his understanding of what those folks wanted (and needed) to hear, and it's also an important reminder that black audiences - like white ones - usually don't want to cause that much trouble. To say otherwise is just a bunch of jive.

Oh, I should point out one other fact that makes what Rufus Thomas did all the more impressive: the 55-year-old Thomas was, at the time, wearing a pink suit, with shorts and a shirt opened to the navel. Bling bling, motherfuckers.

On the box right now: The Staple Singers, SOUL FOLK IN ACTION.


Dove With Claws [9:19 PM]