Archive for the ‘David Rabe’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: MATTHEW CAWS-“When History Comes” (2020).

Recently Rough Trade released an online album Talk – Action = Zero, Vol. 2.  It was a collection of songs with the intent of giving money to get out the vote organizations like Spread The Vote.  There were some 90 songs on it.  One of them was from Matthew Caws from Nada Surf.

On the most recent Nada Surf album, the song “So Much Love,” featured a lengthy spoken sort of rambling section.  Caws’ voice works quite well for that fast spoken section and when I saw them play it live, he was able to recite (or read, he had the lyric sheet in front of him) the whole thing while still playing which was pretty cool.

So this new song follows in that model.  The song is a simple riff that repeats.  And the lyrics are probably not spontaneous, but are pretty close.  There’s also a chorus.  It’s really catchy, just like all Nada Surf songs tend to be.

My contribution is a protest song; a get out the vote song. Will any Republicans hear this song outside of my liberal music bubble?  I don’t know.  I want them to.  Maybe there is a way.

What should a protest song say?

I protest the dismantling of the Postal Service which right now means the dismantling of democracy.

I protest the denial and protection of systemic racism.

I protest the dismantling of regulations that protect public land.

I protest the dismantling of the trust between a country and its media.

Am I naive enough to think that naively expressing these things can change anyone’s mind?  YES

I’m naive and a dreamer but also ambitious.  I believe in people.  I believe in change.

I’ll say this I vote Democrat but I don’t hate republicans.  I just hate this administration.

When history comes and sticks out its thumb / asking you for a ride / I hope that you see how fast it can be / it goes by in the blink of an eye.
We’re stuck in this boat / it’s barely afloat / we’re watching the water rise / History’s ill / it needs some good will / and we’re so tired of the lies

We’re all canaries in the coal mine.  We have to say what we see.  We’re all the band on the Titanic.  Don’t stop when the ship goes down.

Let’s be cheerleaders for postal workers.   Cheerleaders for voters for braving the long lines of the maskless.

We implore that you nurture your inner artist.  That you make something for yourself so that you have fulfillment.  So that you don’t seek satisfaction in the hot flame of mockery, the perversity of trolling, the thrill of baiting and phishing.

I believe that we’re all made out of love and good things.  We just get sick

When history comes and sticks out its thumb / asking you for a ride / I hope that you see how fast it can be / it goes by in the blink of an eye.
We’re stuck in this boat / it’s barely afloat / we’re watching the water rise / History’s ill / it needs some good will / and we’re so tired of the lies
Come out of your shell / the country’s unwell / we really need you to fight.

[instrumental break]

I’m an atheist and I had a friend in college who was Christian.  He belonged to a Christian group, I can’t remember which one but he wore a lapel pin with his name on it.  Anyway, really lovely guy.  We were both in film class and we’d get together once in a while to study.

Then one day we were saying goodby before winter break in front of the library.  The sky was dramatic, a whirlwind of leaves was nearby.  He gave me the hard sell. He said, “think about it… eternal life.”  It was moving.  I knew he wanted the best for me and in that spirit I’d like to say to you:

Imagine that the left don’t want to destroy America, because we don’t.  We just want it to be more fair. We want it to live up to its promise and that’s because we love it so much.  Don’t be afraid, we;re all right.  I’ll tell you what’s fake news… it’s that we’re bad people.   We’re not.   [It’s] that we want trump to fail.

I didn’t want him to fail. I wanted him to do great.  He didn’t.  But I wanted him to.

He makes me feel bad.  He makes other people feel bad too.  That doesn’t set a good example.  Sometimes it just comes down to that: don’t make people feel bad. And for every decision think about how it affects poor people the most.  Think about how it affects children.

You know…

Alright go register go vote.

So simply stated.  so true.  What a great song.  I hope people outside his bubble hear it.

[READ: October 21, 2020] “Suffocation Theory”

This story started out rather strange and I thought it was going to coalesce into something enjoyable.  But it never really did.

Out of the blue Amanda told the narrator they were moving.  He liked their apartment just fine and don’t want to move, but she told him the movers were already outside.

He watches a lot of news and everything is terrible.  Killings with guns, bombs and cars.  He is amazed that people have the irresistible idea “that killing a bunch of strangers would solve whatever problem they thought they couldn’t solve any other way.”

The new place is terrible.  It feels like a giant warehouse with rooms and lots of empty space. The bathroom doesn’t have a shower.  The neighborhood is terrible.  They also have a roommate.

The roommate is a jerk.  He jokingly points a gun at the narrator. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ANDY GILL-January 1, 1956 – 1 February 1, 2020.

I wasn’t a huge fan of Gang of Four, but I really liked what I knew.  I probably should have been a bigger fan–I certainly should have listened to more records than Entertainment (1979) and Mall (1991).  I also probably should have seen them when they were touring around here last February.


Andy Gill was a fascinating musician.  His guitar playing style was angular and distinctive and very influential.  His songwriting was also quite unusual.  As he explained, “Instead of guitar solos, we had anti-solos, where you just stopped playing, left a hole,”

Gang of Four was definitely punk, but they also had a kind of danceable quality (and not just slam dancing) that sucked people in before hitting them with their power.

But mostly, they were known for their charged lyrics.  Like “At Home He’s a Tourist”

At home he feels like a tourist
He fills his head with culture
He gives himself an ulcer

or 5.45

How can I sit and eat my tea
With all that blood flowing from the television
At a quarter to six, I watch the news
Eating, eating all my food
As I sit watching the red spot
In the egg which looks like
All the blood you don’t see on the television.

But there was always room for a catchy love song, too.

And I feel like a beetle on its back
And there’s no way for me to get up
Love’ll get you like a case of anthrax
And that’s something I don’t want to catch

I often say that I have been going to as many shows as I can before the bands I want to see break up or die.  I should have taken my own advice.

[READ: February 1, 2020] “Things We Worried About When I was Ten”

This story is indeed things that Dan worried about.  It even starts as if the title were not a title, but the first line:

High on the list was trying not to have the older boys decide to de-pants you and then run your pants up the flagpole.

That’s a pretty valid concern.

They mostly did this to Freddy Boyd–nobody knew why.

Generally you wanted to not meet anyone’s eyes. Especially if the boys were pushing and spitting on Devin Sleverding. One time Devin fought back with a stick and accidentally hit Dan in the face.  The older boys took some pity on Dan at that moment.

But the more important thing was that he would never have to box Sharon Weber again.  Dan’s father brought him to the Weber’s house where he was supposed to box Ron Weber–the boy who was a year older than Dan.  But Ron wasn’t home, so Ron’s dad suggested Dan box his daughter Sharon.   She was just as tall as Dan but a year younger.  He did not want to fight her.  He couldn’t hit her face–she needed to be pretty.  Couldn’t hit her stomach because that was where her baby machinery was.  And you couldn’t hit in the breasts.  So he stood there getting pummeled until his disgusted father pulled him away. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: AMERICAN FOOTBALL-Tiny Desk Concert #865 (July 8, 2019).

It’s common, at least for me, to dislike a band because of their name.  Sometimes I get over it and sometimes I have no reason to get over it.

I thought the name American Football was really dumb, so I never listened to the band (because I don’t like football).  I also didn’t know they’d broken up or that they’d reunited.

But here they are with a Tiny Desk Concert.

Twenty years after a self-titled debut that featured one heartbroken mixtape-worthy song after another, American Football is writing some of the best music of its career right now. Once an emo trio from Central Illinois, American Football brought its expanded band to the Tiny Desk, including a vibraphonist, backing singer and, yes, six children from a D.C. choir.

They play three songs from LP3, as it’s colloquially known, (they have put out 2 self-titled records in the last three years).  For an indie rock band, they get a really long Tiny Desk, as well.  None of this under ten minute stuff for American Football, this set stretches to 18 minutes because each song runs about 6 minutes.

The first third of which is taken up with the first song “Every Wave To Ever Rise.”  It’s a slow, expansive song with singer Matt Kinsella singing gently.  But to me the most exciting thing about the song is Cory Bracken on vibraphone.  He makes some awesome echoing vibes sounds that sound otherworldly.  And at three minutes, he takes out a violin bow and bows ones of the keys.  So cool.

I really enjoy the music of the songs.  The guitar melody that Kinsella plays around two minutes is fantastic, but I find the song a little dull.  There’s a really nice guitar solo at the end while Steve Holmes plays a pretty picked melody.

Maybe I’d just prefer this song as an instrumental.

The blurb says that “these spacious songs act as revelatory meditations on what it means to grow older in love and relationships, with lovers and family.”  I wonder if that means they sound different on record–faster maybe?

“Uncomfortably Numb” references Pink Floyd not only in the title, but also in the way the chorus also includes an “ahhhhh” before the line “I have become uncomfortably numb.”  Although the song sounds nothing like the Pink Floyd song.

Indeed, it opens with drummer Steve Lamos playing a slow trumpet piece–for two minutes.  After a short pause the song starts with harmonics from guitarist Steve Holmes.  Pure Bathing Culture’s Sarah Versprille takes a verse on the song (and sing backing vocals on the other songs).

I enjoy the wordplay in this song for sure.

I blamed my father in my youth
Now as a father, I blame the booze

I used to struggle in my youth
Now I’m used to struggling for two

Versprille’s backing vocals add a lot to the song and it’s interesting to have her sing a verse–it changes the dynamic of the song.  (And those vibes are excellent of course).

It’s the final track, “Heir Apparent” that features the children.

For “Heir Apparent,” we reached out to members of the Children’s Chorus of Washington to sing the coda’s quiet mantra. When the 12-to-14-year olds asked frontman Mike Kinsella what the song meant, in order to capture the right emotion, he told them, in so many words, that it was a sad song, but that he’d like them to wear paper crowns while singing it. Just a touch of Kinsella irony, as he grinned ear-to-ear and they sang, “Heir apparent to the throne / The king of all alone.”

The Chorus inlcudes: Mallory Valmon, Amelia Lashway, Jenna Loescher-Clark, Marika Clark, Taylor Bowen-Longino and William Ekrem.

The song opens with some echoing guitars as Kinsella sings.  There’s some gorgeous vibraphone playing and Mike Garzon plays a melodica.  I really like the high bass line from Nate Kinsella. in the middle of the song.  In fact, once again, the music in the song is really terrific.

With about two minutes left, the kids walk out, dressed in red with crowns on.  The sound beautiful and it’s a very nice ending to the song.

The songs remind me a bit of Weakerthans, which means I should like them more than I do.  Maybe I just need to spend more time with them and I can learn to like them despite their name.

[READ: July 2, 2019] “Uncle Jim Called”

A week ago Thursday, Glenn’s Uncle Jim called him.  He sounded familiar but Glenn didn’t recognize him immediately.  When Uncle Jim said who he was, Glenn was confused because “I thought Uncle Jim was dead.”

This whole story is trippy and weird but amazingly, despite its length, it manages to makes this fairly simple premise work.

Uncle Jim was with his brother Hank (also dead).  They were calling Glenn to ask for Glenn’s mother (their sister) Margie.  Margie was also dead, he thought.

Glenn is uncertain about nearly everything.  He shouts “She’d dead!  You’re all dead!”

Their reply: “So?” (more…)

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