The rediscovery of the band Death earlier in the year has proven something of a revelation. Years before Bad Brains, years anyone was using the word "punk" to describe to a mass musical movement, three black kids from Detroit were rocking manic, aggro tunes that made the Buzzcocks sound like Tiny Tim. Despite never really finding a widespread audience, their music and very existence has forced a few to tweak their conceptions of punk's apparently lily-white roots.
Nobody can deny that Pearl Jam are a truly impressive rock band. Vedder and company have been playing music together for almost two decades. And despite spending most of it as one of the biggest music acts in the world, they’ve managed to steer far from the ravenous black hole of pop mediocrity that often sucks in such artists.
"Solidarity is not a matter of sentiment but of fact, cold and impassive as the granite foundations of a skyscraper. If the basic elements, identity of interest, clarity of vision, honesty of intent, and oneness of purpose, or any of these is lacking, all sentimental pleas for solidarity, and all other efforts to achieve it will be barren of results." -Eugene Victor Debs
It was about March, and I was standing in a dingy, mold-infested basement in South Chicago trying to stop my allergies from acting up. A few large-ish speakers were crammed into one side of the room while kids set up drum sets and tuned their guitars. I was waiting for a local hardcore band to take the "stage." Everything was in short supply here except the beer and fliers for upcoming punk shows. Even the lighting was little more than floodlights bought from the local Home Depot duct-taped to the rafters.
For the past two months, news within the music world has been dominated by two initials: MJ. The world watched as Michael Jackson was rushed to a hospital in LA and was reported to be "not breathing." It recoiled in shock when it was reported that the King of Pop was dead. It cried during his memorial service. And now, it is picking its collective jaw up off the floor as Jackson's death is being labeled a homicide.
By now the debate around healthcare reform in this country has reached a cacophony. There are the usual suspects: the wheeling and dealing on Capitol Hill, the polished spin of the pundits, but with the added fun of the Palin-clones invading town hall meetings (how much is big pharma really paying these people?), there seems to be one segment of people whose critical voice has been totally lost.
It's difficult to not suffer from Woodstock overload at this point. The past weeks have seen endless attempts to cash in on the fortieth anniversary of "three days of peace and music." Rhino records has released a six-disc collection of the festival's highlights (yet another one). Specials galore has descended upon cable and public television. And we're all being reminded that at the end of the month, director Ang Lee will be applying his own treatment to the hippie-fest with his own Taking Woodstock.
It's already apparent that Baatin's legacy is bound to share the same path as J Dilla's: an artist who radically pushed the boundaries of his art, whose due only comes after it's too late. Indeed, it's more than just mere coincidence that the two started out in the same group.
There is a lot of sound and fury over the upcoming stage version of American Idiot. Unfortunately, it signifies nothing. The recent announcement that Berkeley Repertory had at long last assembled the creative team for the opener of their '09/'10 season with the world premiere of the trio's iconic American Idiot has produced a variety of reactions, from open hostility to unrestrained excitement.
Me? I just think it raises some questions about whether Green Day is headed for the dustbin of history.
By now we've all heard ad nauseam that President Obama is a "fan" of hip-hop. He has Jay-Z on his iPod, he loved its "entrepreneurial spirit," and, is still famously being referred to as "the first hip-hop president."
But if anything can be taken from Obama's recent address to the NAACP, it's that his understanding of hip-hop is, shall we say, a bit different from most people's. Rehashing the tired rhetoric from his post-nomination campaign, he claimed that there were now "no excuses" for blacks not pulling themselves up by their bootstraps.
No matter what you thought of Vibe magazine--whether you found their coverage insightful or passe, tantalizing or unbearably boring--there is one thing all sides can agree on: as the American economy continues to flounder, Vibe's June 30th demise won't be the last in the world of music press.
WARNING: the following sentence may cause you to vomit a little bit in your mouth.
Creed have reunited and are releasing a new album.
When these four "good Christian lads" rocketed to the top in the late '90s, it was because there was damn little happening in rock 'n' roll. Grunge, which had shaken the very foundations of popular music earlier in the decade, had receded. Rock returned remarkably fast to a plain, unassuming status quo.
The last 15 years of Michael Jackson's life are almost enough to obscure the true greatness of this artist. During that time, we saw the handsome, charming pop star go through myriad plastic surgeries that made him look more like a latter-day Peter Pan. We saw the trappings of unprecedented fame manifested in beyond bizarre behavior--the kind for which "eccentric" seems a mild term.
As the evening continued (and the alcohol flowed), my conversation with Son of Nun drifted into even deeper territory. To SON, one of the underground's most socially active rappers, the correlation between art and politics is never static. It is ever shifting, morphing, presenting new challenges to artists who wish to make a difference beyond the strictures of "the music world."
Call it a hazard of the profession. I’ve interviewed many artists in all different genres, and while all have been more than willing to open up about their music, cracking into their opinions about all the myriad issues that surround us—politics, culture, race, sex, even the human condition itself—has proven something of a challenge. The way music is presented nowadays, it’s no wonder that so many musicians and artists would rather play it close to the vest. The iron wall that has been drawn between the creator and the reporter is a tough one to breach.