Archive for the ‘Rage Against the Machine’ Category


[READ: January 22, 2022] In Beta_

I saw this book at work and was grabbed by the cover (yes, clearly covers do signify something about the book).  I decided to read it before reading much about it.  I didn’t understand the accolades until I read the acknowledgments at the end.  The book was self published through Inkshares, but it then went on to win (or at least do very well in some Nerdist/Inkshares Contest.  Which I guess is a big deal, maybe.

The book is set in a small town in the rural Pacific Northwest in 1993.  The town of Bickleton is boring.  Super boring.  There are like three businesses in town, one is a restaurant and grocery store together.  Everybody seems to work in the mines.  And there’s like a curse on the high school.  No a single person has ever gone to college.

And people aren’t exactly sure why–their grades are good, they just apparently aren’t good enough for even community college.

The main characters are Jay Banksman and his best friend Colin Ramirez.  They are nerdy boys who love video games and probably won’t be going to the prom.

Their school is a strange set up in which Jay and Colin and some of the other brainier kids are in a special classroom set apart from the rest of the school.  I have no idea if this is even remotely realistic, but who knows.  There was A-Court, the largest building which was close to the main parking lot and seemed to house all of the cool and popular people.  C-Court was smaller and shabbier and was where the dumber kids went–the burn outs.

Jay and Colin felt that A-Court was too vanilla and C-Court was too raw.  So they stayed in their trailer area called Tutorial.  Their teacher was Miss Rotchkey.  She had asked to teach these kids as a kind of experiment.  The school principal rolled his eyes at the whole thing but allowed it.  Miss Rotchkey was cool, teaching them existentialism and allowing them to use the school’s computer.  She was convinced that her class would be  the first to go to college.

But then came rejection day.  Everyone in the class was rejected from all of their schools, even their safeties.

Things were pretty much the same every day at school.  Then one day a rumor spread that there were Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle pies in the A-Court vending machine.  And Jay wanted to get one.  So he and Colin snuck down to the A-Court and managed to evade detection from the jocks and the cheerleaders when suddenly there was Jeremy and the Johns.  Jeremy McCracken was the most popular boy in school.  A handsome jock and star of the baseball team.  The Johns were everyone else on the baseball team (I love this little joke that literally everyone else is named John with no last name just initials).

When they see Jay, they crush his pie and punch him in the face.  The principal sends Jay to the guidance officer because, hey sometimes life isn’t fair.

Jay’s only solace is in video games.  He gets a lot of video game and computer magazines and is always looking for new games to try out.  One day he gets a game called The Build.  When he puts t into the school computer, the graphics look like just like Bickleton.  It’s 8-bit graphics, but there he can see the whole town.  Including people walking around.  He mouses to his class room and when he raises his hand, the pixel version of himself raises its hand too.

He can’t believe this.  He tries to tell people about it, but every time he starts to talk about it to someone, they glaze over and seem to forget everything he just said.

Then things start to look up for him.  Liz Knight, the most popular girl in school (who he has known since like first grade when they were actually friendly–the held hands once) breaks up with Jeremy and asks Jay to the prom.

Liz’s best friends (who only like to talk about Beverely Hills 90210) don’t seem to be on board with this–they look down their noses at Jay like everyone else does.  So what gives?  Is it a prank?  It’s hard to know because Liz has been acting really strangely lately (in addition to asking him to prom that is).  Has she has a breakdown?  Or a breakthrough?

The next day Liz and Jay are talking when Jeremy approaches and asks her to go for a ride with him.  She does and Jay is very jealous.  He looks at The Build and sees the red Mazda Miata driving away with a little heart above it.  He clicks around the screen and sees a menu for disasters.  So he clicks on tornado.

And within minutes a tornado appears on the screen.  And in the town–a town  that has never had a tornado in its history.

There’s a lot going on in this story (although it’s a very fast read).  I don’t want to give any kind of spoilers away, but I do like to mention that Jay finds out his avatar’s stats: Strength; Speed;  Hit Points; Intelligence.  And at some point he moves them all up to ten.

This allows him to take sweet revenge on the Jeremys and to have access to intelligence and memories that he’s never known before.

The story sounds like an all boys story and it kind of is, but as the story moves along, two women become essential to the story.  There’s Liz of course, and there is also Stevie, a computer nerd who has mad programming skills.

Having the book set in the nineties means that Harvey overloads the book with 90s pop culture.  It goes a bit overboard.  He throws in some good music cues (Beck, My Bloody Valentine) and some bad ones (the bullies drive around playing Kriss Kross’ “Jump” all the time.  I’m also curious, since I didn’t go to school in the 90s, but would they have played Rage Against the Machine at a prom and would the kids have slam danced?  I cannot imagine.

So this was a fun story and one that I read very quickly.

And, if you’re wondering, as I was, about its similarity to other popular culture books and movies, he says in the acknowledgments that he started it about a decade ago and was about a group o seventh graders who found a magic VCR that brought 80’s movie clichés to life.  While he was finishing it up, Ready Player One, The Lego Movie and Free Guy (I don’t know this last one) all came out.  So he changed his tactics a bit.

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I was living in Boston when this song came out.  It was an electrifying shot across the bow of institutional racism–thirty years before that terms was on everyone’s lips.

This song was amazingly catchy and very vulgar.

It had few lyrics, but they were repeated over and over–a chant, a call to action.

Some of those that work forces
Are the same that burn crosses…
Well now you do what they told ya…
Those who died are justified
For wearing the badge
They’re the chosen whites
You justify those that died
By wearing the badge
They’re the chosen whites…

The song begins with a staccato opening, then some thumping bass and drums.  A cow bell and off goes the riff.  It’s as jagged and aggressive as angry as the lyrics.

The bridge is a pounding three note blast as the sections repeat.

Then comes a guitar solo.  One thing I remember distinctly when this album came out was that most of the talk was of Tom Morello’s guitar playing.  The album stated in the liner notes “no samples, keyboards or synthesizers used in the making of this record.”  It was an odd disclaimer, but with the bizarre sounds that Morello made, it was fascinating to wonder how he did it all.

The solo came at the four minute mark and, if radio wanted to play the song, they could fade it right there (that’s still plenty long for the radio).  But if they didn’t, then the chaos began, with crashing drums, and a slow build as Zach de la Rocha started quietly and got louder the simple but effective refrain

Fuck you. I won’t do what you tell me.

A band anda  room full of people chanting that song might just frighten the authorities a bit.

And that’s why in 2020, that song is being played a lot.

[READ: October 15, 2020] “On Defense”

A quote attributed to Dostoyevsky (who evidently never said it) is”

The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.

This quote is in the visitor center of the Manhattan Detention Complex (known as The Tombs). De La Pava says The Tombs is “one of the most hideous places on earth.”

I have really enjoyed Sergio De La Pava’s fiction.  I knew that he was involved in the New York City court system (his novels were too detailed about the system for him not to be).  This essay is a non-fiction account of his time as a public defender (he is still in the system, and is now the legal director of New York County Defender Services).

It seems like the public defender is not always appreciated–he or she stands in the way of putting criminals behind bars.  But De La Pava’s experience (along with many of the accused) shows that he has the really hard but important task of keeping innocent people from unfair punishment. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: November 14, 2017] Rodrigo y Gabriela

My friends Liz and Eleanor came to the Rod y Gab show back in 2014 and we were blown away.  So when I saw they were playing in the Count Basie Theater and that I could get seats in Row G, I snatched seats up for all four of us again.

The last time was just such a phenomenal experience that I knew I’d want to see them again.  And being up so close and really seeing everything they were doing was a really super phenomenal experience.

I don’t know the song titles and we kind of joked that the songs all sound the same (but amazing and strangely unique at the same time) so I didn’t worry too much about what they were playing, I just sat back and enjoyed it. (more…)

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nov3SOUNDTRACK: PRIMUS-Antipop (1999).

This wasantipop the final album that Primus made before going on hiatus (ostensibly breaking up, but they did reunite a few years later).  I have distinct memories of buying this album and listening to it on the way home in the car.  I remember liking the songs but having the very distinct feeling that it didn’t really sound anything like Primus.  And that is still the case.

This album has a whole mess of guest producers and guitarists and critics seem to think that every song feels very different.  But I disagree.  It feels like a very heavy Les Claypool solo project.

About the album Claypool has said: “Antipop was the most difficult record we ever made, because there was a lot of tension between the three of us, and there was some doubt at the label as to whether we knew what the hell we were doing anymore… Primus sort of imploded.”  In the Primus book, Larry says that a few times he wondered why he was even there since there were so many other guitarists.  I noted that even though there were other guitarists, there were no extra bassists or drummers present, which is kind of shitty.

Producers include Fred Durst (!), Jim Martin (from Faith No More), Stewart Copeland (!), Matt Stone (!) and Tom Morello (from Rage Against the Machine) and Tom Waits.

Tom Morello features quite prominently on the disc, producing and playing on 3 tracks.  And on the songs he’s on, I feel like you can’t even hear Larry (if he’s on them at all).  Morello gets co-writing credit on the songs too, and they feel more like Rage songs than Primus songs–they are very heavy and very metal.  “Electric Uncle Sam” is certainly catchy and rocking.  I rather like it although it feels far more Morello than Claypool.  “Mama Didn’t Raise No Fool” also sounds quite Rage like to me.  There’s certainly Primus elements, but it feels very conventional–it’s again very aggressive with no sign or Ler.  “Power Mad” is Morello’s third song. It’s the least interesting song on the disc.

Matt Stone from South Park produced “Natural Joe.”  It feels quite like Primus–a bit heavier, perhaps tahn usual and with that now ever present slap bass.  The “son of a bitch-a” line seems like it might have had a Matt Stone influence.

Fred Durst produced “Lacquer Head” the album’s only single.  It is really catchy.  Durst says it was his idea for Primus to get more heavy (like in the old days) but this is much heavier than anything they had done.  I have to think that the “Keep on sniffing” section was Durst-influenced as it sounds kind of rap-metally.

“Dirty Drowning Man” was produced by Stewart Copeland and features Martina Topley-Bird on backing vocals.  The opening sounds very Primus, but the chorus is very conventional.  Martina barely registers on backing vocals, which is a shame.

Songs credited to just Primus are “The Antipop” which is also quite heavy and strangely catchy given the sentiments.  Perhaps the most unusual track on the disc is the 8 minute “Eclectic Electric” which has three parts.  The first is slow and quieter with a catchy/creepy verse.  Part 2 is much heavier, while Part 3 revisits part 1.  I do rather like it.  James Hetfield plays on it although I can’t tell where.  “Greet the Sacred Cow” has a funk bass part and a real Primus vibe.  It’s a quite a good song.  “The Ballad of Bodacious” seems like a Primus cover band from music to concept.  The final song they did was “The Final Voyage of the Liquid Sky.”  I love the crazy watery bass that opens the song.  The verses also have a real Primus feel.  And those choruses are unreasonably catchy.

The final song was produced by Tom Waits.  It doesn’t sound like Primus at all. Rather, it sounds like a big ol’ sea shanty  A perfect Tom Waits-ian song.  And it’s a really good song too.  You can definitely feel the Primus vibe though, even if it doesn’t really sound like a Primus song exactly.

There’s a bonus track, which is a cover of their song “The Heckler” from Suck on This.  This version is good (although not quite as good as the original version).  But it shows how far removed the new stuff is from their earliest recordings.  This also means that “Jellikit” is the only song from Suck that has not been played on another record.

So while I can see that many fans of Primus would hate this album, fans of heavy rock from the era should certainly check it out.  Les’ voice is heavier, more metal, and the guitars are pretty conventional.  And I still think there are some good songs here.

[READ: January 16, 2015] “The Empties”

This story is set after the end times (which happened in August 2015).  I enjoyed that in the story two characters argue over whether they are living in dystopian or postapocalyptic time.  The one guy argues that “dystopia means an imaginary place where everything’s exactly wrong and what we’re living in is a postapocalyptic prelapsarian kind of thing.”  Our narrator says they are both wrong because those two words pertain to stories and this is real life.

It has been two years since E.T. (End Times).  Very few people still bother to charge anything on the extant towers.  And most of the weak died in the first winter.  Our survivors are in Vermont which has brutal winters but also have wood burning stoves which she imagines many city folk do not have.

Our narrator has been writing in a journal that she received B.E.T. (Before End Times) and then one day she decides to go to the library (the only building still with a lock) to see if she can use the type writer to write a history of their lives since E.T. began.   The “librarian” is heavily armed and is frisking everyone who leaves–books are valuable commodity.  She says they don’t have any paper but that she is welcome to use the reverse side of her own novel (Shroud of the Hills by Matilda Barnstone copyright 2003) which she sent out to many places but never got a response. (more…)

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[WATCHED October-November 2012] Metal Evolution

metal evolutionVH1 aired this series last year and I was intrigued by it but figured I had no time to watch an 11 hour series on the history of heavy metal.  Of course, this being VH1, they have since re-aired the series on an almost continual loop.  So, if you’re interested, you can always catch it.

This series was created by Sam Dunn, the documentary filmmaker who made the movie Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey.  I had heard good things about the movie, but never saw it.  After watching the series, I’m definitely interested in the movie.  Dunn is a keener–A Canadian heavy metal fan who is really into his subject.  He knows his stuff and he knows what he likes (heavy metal) and what he doesn’t like (glam metal, nu metal).

The sheer number of people he interviews is impressive (as are the number of locations he travels to).  Part of me says “wow, I can’t believe he was able to interview X,” and then I remember, “X is really old and is nowhere near the level of fame that he once had.”  Given that, the few hold-outs seem surprising–did they not want to have anything to do with VH1?  Are they embarrassed at how uncool they are now?  Just watch the show guys, you can’t be as low as some.

The only mild criticism I have is that the show relies a lot on the same talking heads over and over.  Scott Ian from Anthrax, whom I love, is in every episode.  Indeed, he may be a paid VH1 spokesman at this point.  There are a few other dudes who show up a little more than they warrant, but hey, you use what you got, right?

What is impressive is the volume of music he includes with the show.  I assume that he couldn’t  get the rights to any studio recordings because every clip is live.  This is good for fans in that we get to see some cool unfamiliar live footage, but some of it is current live footage which often doesn’t compare to the heyday.  Having said that, there’s a lot of live footage from the early 80s–of bands that I never saw live anywhere.  And that’s pretty awesome.

With an 11-part documentary there’s the possibility of exhaustion and overkill, but Dunn is an excellent craftsman  he jumps around from old to new, talks about how the history impacts the current and, because of his own interests, he makes it personal rather than just informative. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKMOLOTOV-¿Dónde Jugarán las Niñas? (1998).

Molotov was the last Rock en Español band that I really bothered to check out.  They were probably most notorious for the cover of the album.  Interestingly, the cover is actually a four sided cover which you can flip to three other far less sexist scenes, so yes, that was pretty much a sales gimmick.  And it certainly attracted attention (and a law suit!).  So they reissued the title with the far less offensive, but very different cover below.

My Spanish is poor at best, but this album is a mix of Spanish and English.  And, of course, I know some bad Spanish words, so I get a sense of what this album is about. But here’s the thing–it rocks really hard and has some really great elements of the metal/rap/funk hybrid genre, regardless of whether you know what they’re talking about (although don’t go singing “Chinga Tu Madre” around the office, capiche?).

The opening song  “Que no te haga bobo Jacobo” has a very Rage Against the Machine vibe–heavy guitars and sound effects with militant rapped lyrics.  The riff is great and the vocals are smoother than Rage’s Zach–“Tito” Fuentes has great flow.  There’s also some good funky bass in the middle section.  “Molotov Cocktail Party” is a mix of English and Spanish, a pretty straightforward rap, not unlike Kid Rock.

“Voto Latino” has a more alt rock vibe in the guitars, although the vocals are pretty straightforward rap style.  The song title means Latino Vote, so perhaps there’s a politics context to it.  And “Gimme Tha Power” is a political song, too.  A rap (in Spanish) over some nice acoustic guitars.

There definitely isn’t in “Chinga Tu Madre” which has more of those cool guitar effects and group chanting, although it’ probably not worth investigating the lyrics much more.  But the chorus is catchy as anything.  “Matata Tete” and “Mas Vale Cholo” return to that Rage Against the Machine style, with vocals that are a bit more cookie monster-y (I’m not sure who sings lead on which songs, actually) although “Mas Vale Cholo” has some fun with the vocal delivery.  And there’s a spirit of early Red Hot Chili Peppers at work, too.

“Use It or Lose It” is rapped in mostly English.  It has a very cool acoutsic-feeling chorus (and a quote of the line, “what cha gonna do rap is not afraid of you.”).  “Puto” is presumably an anti-gay song (I suppose I should find that out before I say so).  “Porque No Te Haces Para Alla?…Al Mas Alla!” has a fun chorus and cool guitar effects once again.  “Cerdo” has a cool 70s vibe, with funky bass and scratchy guitars–it’s got a sexy feel, although the title means “pig,” so who knows.

The final track also rocks very well.  According to Wikipedia, the translated title of “Quitate Que Ma’sturbas (Perro Arrabalera)” is “Stay Away Because You Masturbate (Suburban Bitch)” which seems weird .  But maybe they had nothing better to write about.  Sometimes ignorance of a subject is not a bad thing.

¿Dónde Jugarán las Niñas? is not the classiest album around, but it’s got some really interesting sonics.  And I’m led to believe their later albums are even better.

[READ: Week of April 9] Gravity’s Rainbow 3.16-3.24

Last week ended with sex and this week opens with the way I felt–like a voyeur who can’t look away.  The exhausting orgy was exhausting to read about as well.  And I’m starting to wonder if Pynchon is making a point about sex rather than just enjoying writing about it.

This week’s read also brings back two characters from way way ago.  Well, one from not too long ago, but another from what seems like an eternity.  I assumed we’d see Pirate Prentice again, but I assumed that it wouldn’t be until Section 4. So that was a nice treat, even if it’s a less than happy return for him. (more…)

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Despite the pedigree of this band: Rage Against the Machine + Chris Cornell, I wasn’t all that interested in the band when they came out.  I was over Rage and was bored by Cornell’s solo stuff.  But then recently, someone donated a copy of this album to th elibrary, so I thought I’d see what all of the fuss was about (nine years ago).

There are times when this album is really superb.  The Rage guys get an amazingly full sound out of their instruments (the choruses of “Show Me How to Live” are so full).  And when it works, and Cornell’s amazing voice is in full force, this seems like a genius pairing.

But there’s a lot that feels kind of clunky here (and there’s some really bad choices of guitar solo work by Tom Morello–the weird noises that compriose he solo of “What You Are”–in Rage the noises were weird but exciting and inflammatory, these are just kind of dull.  Worse yet, is the, well, stupid solo in “Like a Stone”–boring and ponderous at the same time).  Although he redeems himself somewhat with the cool solo on the otherwise dull “Intuition”.

The biggest surpise comes in “Like a Stone” which is insanely catchy and mellow–something one assumed Rage didn’t know how to do).  Lyrically the song is pretty stupid (as are most of the songs), but the combination of melody and Cornell’s great vocal lines really raise this song high–shame about the solo).  Also, a song like “Shadow of the Sun” seems to highlight Cornell’s more mellow moments (and shows that the Rage guys can actually play that slow), and they all seem to be in synch.

And there are several songs that rock really hard, sounding at times like Rage and at time like Soundgarden, but working on all cylinders together.  “Cochise” and “Set It Off” are simply great riff rock songs.

But ten or so years later, and twenty years since Badmotorfinger (my favorite Soundgarden album), it’s nice to hear Cornell rocking again.  Although man, the record is too long!

[READ: June 1, 2011] Five Dials Number 8

For Issue Number 8, Five Dials went to Paris.  And so the whole issue is given over to French concerns and ideas.  For a magazine that didn’t need a change of pace, it’s a delightful change of pace.  The feel of the magazine is different, and there’s an air of vacation about it (which is not to suggest that it is slacking off in any way), and it feels really vibrant.

I don’t know a lot about France in general.  I mean, I’ve been there, and I keep up with things, but I am not a Francophile by any means. So a lot of this stuff was simply new to me, which is always fun.  What I especially liked about the issue was that they were not afraid to show some of France’s uglier sides as well–it’s not just a tourism booster.

It even starts out differently than the other issues. (more…)

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newyorker jun1SOUNDTRACK: ART BRUT-Art Brut vs. Satan (2009).

art brutI’ve mentioned Art Brut before. I enjoy their talky/punk style. This, their new album, is produced by Frank Black of Pixies fame.  I can’t honestly say that I see a real difference in production values, but I don’t usually notice things like that.

What I did notice is that Art Brut are branching out a little bit from just having  Eddie Argos dramatically reciting his lyrics. On “What a Rush” there’s a group chorus of “Parents, please lock up your daughters.”  And on “Summer Job” there’s a “woah ho o oh” singalong bit from a different band member as well as a sung chorus.  But aside from that they are still the same Art Brut.

The focus of Argos’ rants this time seems to be very music-centered.  “Slap Dash for No Cash” describes the kind of recording style he likes (and which was presumably used on this disc).  Meanwhile, “The Replacements” is all about his shock at only just now discovering this awesome band (and his further shock that they are almost old enough to be his parents). And, of course, there’s the ever present concern of an indie band disliking and being disliked by the mainstream: “How am I supposed to sleep at night when no one likes the music we write? The record buying public, we hate them: This is Art Brut vs. Satan”

Argos’ lyrics also return inevitably to love and sex and drinking (not necessarily in that order) with “Alcoholics Unanimous” and “Mysterious Bruises.”

There’s also a song that absolutely must be used in a future episode of The Big Bang Theory (are you listening Chuck Lorre?): “DC Comics and Chocolate Milkshake.”  Can you not see the perfect setup: the song is playing in the background, and as the woman that Leonard falls for leaves the comic book shop, the soundtrack breaks to the line: “I’m in love with a girl in my comic shop.  She’s a girl who likes comics. She probably gets that a lot.”

Many of their songs are funny, but to me they don’t come across as a joke band.  And despite Argos’ great delivery and witty lyrics, it’s the music that really sells the album.  You don’t notice at at first, but it’s what makes these songs more than just novelties.  The guitar solos and opening riffs are really memorable, and when the songs start, the punk guitar blasts are really catchy.

My one gripe is that on some songs, Argos repeats the same line.  A LOT.  So on “Mysterious Bruises,” a song I like, by then end I don’t want to hear him say that he’s had one Zirtec and two Advil again and again.  And that is the one pitfall that Art Brut can stumble into once in a while.  For most bands, a chorus that is sung many times can be catchy and fun to sing along to.  Art Brut’s spoken lyrics are fun to hear, and might be fun to shout along with in a concert, but hearing him repeat himself can be tedious when there’s no melody (I find this true of Rage Against the Machine as well, as Zach de la Rocha is the king of repetition.  The king of repetition.  The king of repetition.) Fortunately Argos doesn’t do it all that often.  And the album stands up to multiple listens.

[READ: May 27, 2009] “Love Affair with Secondaries”

This story, set in Moscow, concerns a man, his wife, and his mistress.  The man, Piotr, recently had some tests done to see if he inherited a familial cancer.  With this hanging over his head, he tries to prove to himself how alive he is by sleeping with his mistress Agnieszka.

The affair is conducted in his own house, because his wife Basia is out until late most evenings. One day Basia comes home while Agnieszka is still in the house.  As Agnieszka flees the house, Basia hits her with a blunt instrument; Basia later claims that she now has a tumor.  Piotr, wracked with guilt for cheating and for this presumed cancer doesn’t know what to do. (more…)

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