Sunday, March 24, 2019

Certain Songs #1490: Pavement – “Range Life” | Medialoper

Album: Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain
Year: 1994

I/they don’t have no function

It’s kinda funny how the most controversial song on Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain was basically a country-rock cruiser, and that the controversy wasn’t surrounding the fact that the music was miles and miles away from the punky fuzzouts they’d done on Slanted and Enchanted, but rather a throwaway punch-up joke that was taken too far seriously by its target.

Which is too bad, because that controversy kinda overshadowed what was perhaps the sharpest set of lyrics on the entire album — which is saying something — that contrast some hoary rock ‘n’ roll tropes with the desire to have some stability in life.

In a weird way, it’s the same kind of compare and contrast that Pete Townshend was writing about on The Who’s “Naked Eye,” where they extoll drugs, sex & fast cars before pulling the wool out with “it don’t really happen that way at all.”

After the glow, the scene, the stage, the set
Talk becomes slow
But there’s one thing I’ll never forget
Hey, you gotta pay your dues
Before you pay the rent

Over the turnstiles and out in the traffic
There’s ways of living
It’s the way I’m living
Right or wrong, it’s all that I can do
And I wouldn’t wanna let you be

Since Stephen Malkmus is more arch than Townshend, it was hard to know exactly which side of the rock ‘n’ roll life vs. range life divide he fell on at the time, because — to me, at least — settling down into a range life seemed like something that I wasn’t ever capable of doing. Nor was it even something I wanted, though I’d already aged past the behavior described in the second verse.

Run from the pigs, the fuzz, the cops, the heat
Pass me your gloves, this crime, it is never complete
Until you snort it up and shoot it down
You’re never gonna feel free

Out on my skateboard, the night is just humming
And the gums smacks are the pulse I’ll follow
If my Walkman fades
But I’ve got absolutely no one
No one but myself to blame

But don’t worry, we’re in no hurry
School’s out, what did you expect?

Weirdly enough, the easy rolling music — featuring ongoing fluttering lead guitar from Malkmus, especially on the solo, as well as some really pretty piano by engineer Mark Venezia throughout — pretty much summed up both the temptations and the distance of the titular range life, especially when maybe you’re not all into the folks with whom you happen to be touring.

Out on tour with the Smashing Pumpkins
Nature kids, I/they don’t have no function
I don’t understand what they mean
And I could really give a fuck

The Stone Temple Pilots, they’re elegant bachelors
They’re foxy to me, are they foxy to you?
I will agree they deserve absolutely nothing
Nothing more than me

Look: even despite the fact that Siamese Dream was still in my heavy rotation at this time, this verse was absolutely fucking hilarious to me in 1994, and a quarter-century later, give or take a couple of tragic deaths as well as my begrudging recent realization that “Interstate Love Song” is really kind of a jam, it still is.

But shockingly, not shockingly, Billy Corgan didn’t agree with me. And apparently had enough clout to get Pavement tossed from the 1994 Lollapalooza tour, which the Pumpkins were headlining only because Kurt Cobain killed himself.
So thanks for that, Billy! That said, it means that there is an alternative universe where I get to see Nirvana & Pavement (plus Breeders, Beasties, Green Day, George Clinton & A Tribe Called Quest) at Lolla instead of the unraveling Smashing Pumpkins.

On the other hand, I might not have been inspired to write one of my favorite pieces I will ever write about that show had the Pumpkins not headlined. That said, that piece perfectly encapsulated everything I felt about music in 1994, as well as why if forced to choose — and why would you do that? — I’d choose Malkmus over Corgan every day of the week, especially since Billy Corgan would never ever leave an extant take that had such an obvious mistake as the “I/they” fuck-up that just made the whole thing funnier and slightly more ambiguous.

California Slackers > Midwestern Hard-Asses is the gist of what I’m saying.

In the end, Malkmus realizes that the range life is still just a dream at this point, and instead, with the piano turning into a pianner, he and Scott Kanneberg steal a Billy Squier riff for the fuck of it and drive “Range Life” home, the damage already done.

In his Rolling Stone retrospective on the 25th anniversary Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain, Rob Sheffield pointed out that, for him, the album effectively ended with “Range Life,” and yeah, me too at the time. That’s because “Range Life” was followed by the meandering “Heaven is a Truck,” Kanneberg’s noisy-for-the-sake-of-noise “Hit the Plane Down” and the closer, “Fillmore Jive” which somehow felt too classic rock for an album that was completely classic rock.

But now, I can see the charms of all three songs, especially “Fillmore Jive,” with its desperate need for sleep and even more desperate guitar solo, and looking back on it, I think that they also presaged what Pavement was going to do next, the still difficult Wowee Zowee. But we’ll dance with that one tomorrow.

“Range Life”

“Range Life” official video

“Range Life” live in the Netherlands, 1999

“Range Live” live at Roskilde, 2010

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An Insult to the Heart: Lobbyists Organize Big Tech Rallies in Europe | MUSIC • TECHNOLOGY • POLICY

The ghost of Edward Bernays walks the streets of the ancient capitals of Europe.  As the man who wrote the book on propaganda (literally) Bernays made a chilling observation:

The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. …We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of.

In a post-Cambridge Analytica world, the battle for humanity will be fought over the equivocation of “freedom”—the basic human freedom of expression will be coopted by the corporate freedom from regulation to profit from surveillance by machines.  It is the ad-man’s old challenge–make you think something that will kill you is actually good for you.

joecamel

Descendant of Bernays’ “Torches of Freedom” Campaign

In turning the machines loose on the humans who are their product, corporations will use tools that Bernays foreshadowed–but these “men we have never heard of”.  Who wins this battle is up for grabs right now and nowhere are we seeing this struggle for humanity more clearly rendered than in Europe in the battle over Article 13.

In almost every act of our daily lives, whether in the sphere of politics or business, in our social conduct or our ethical thinking, we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons…who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the wires which control the public mind.

Bernays described Google some 70 years before its time.

google-android-3-gingerbread

The offspring of Joe Camel proudly displayed at the Googleplex

We should understand that the “value gap” that sparked this extraordinary lobbying effort by American multinational corporations to bring Europe to heel was symptomatic of a more fundamental sickness.  That commercial symptom could, and perhaps should, be more readily understood as a “values gap”–the perverse voyeurism of the surveillance capitalists to commoditize all that touched their networks and use artists to lure the humans whose data could be scraped, whose behavior could be monitored and eventually manipulated for even greater profit.

I’d suggest that is why this struggle in Europe resonates so deeply with artists around the world.  It’s not just the commercial insult.  It’s not the metaphorical Room 101 app where the winning answer is 2+2=5.

It is an insult to humanity.  It is an insult to the heart.

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This Week In Music Commentary | hypebot

6a00d83451b36c69e201bb09aae429970d-100wiThis week, commentators from inside the industry shared their take on how Facebook could be the future of social music, why Spotify's new town hall charm offensive on songwriters will likely fall flat, where we stand with the PledgeMusic crisis, and more.

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ISPs: We’re Definitely Not the Internet Police, Until We Decide We Should Be | TorrentFreak

Saturday, March 23, 2019

The Motley Crue Movie | Lefsetz Letter


It’s stupid, but you can’t turn it off.

There’s a backlash against this flick. From people who weren’t there the first time and wouldn’t be there if this era ever came back, even though it can’t.

You see the Sunset Strip was populated by castoffs, those not wanted, those who didn’t fit in, not Ivy League graduates. It was a different era, your parents didn’t bribe colleges to get you in, they expected you to leave the house after high school and stay gone. What you did…

Was your business.

It’s hard to describe the power of rock and roll. It’s something you feel, oftentimes in your genitalia. It’s a power, it’s a strength. With the guitars blazing and the singer screaming and the beat pounding so loud you can feel it in you bones you feel like…

The rest of the world doesn’t matter, that you can conquer all. For that very moment you feel content and happy, in a world where that’s oftentimes not the case.

That’s right, the critics don’t have a sense of humor. Of course it didn’t go down the way it does in the flick. But that’s one of the reasons you became a rock star, for the girls, for the sex. You can either be rich or famous, take your pick, otherwise you’re gonna have a hard time getting laid.

And the women attracted to wealth and fame are willing.

That’s what we can’t discuss. Not women wrongly accusing abusers, but women who want to partake.

Groupies.

Originally it was famous people, they even wrote a book about them, Frank Zappa even concocted a band of them, Pamela Des Barres built a whole career on her behavior.

And then it was a zillion girls in every burg the band came through. They lined up. They wanted to touch the fame, when there was no Instagram and no influencers and very few people were famous and your chances of meeting someone…

Furthermore, you got a story, which you could treasure or laugh about for the rest of your life.

Of course this doesn’t excuse the abusive behavior, notoriously of the English bands, but that was then and this was now, before smartphone cameras, when there was no proof and everything was underground.

That was part of the appeal. If you were on TV, you were bigger than life. And it wasn’t only rock stars, it was also those who surrounded them. The original MTV VJs, most notably Martha Quinn… You just wanted to get closer.

We knew the label presidents. And the A&R guys. And Tom Zutaut is portrayed as goofy, but the truth is the A&R guys were the links to the labels, and without one, you just couldn’t make it.

And Doc McGhee looks like your father. But the truth is he dealt dope to fuel his business.

There was a whole economy built around rock and roll. And if it worked…you were as rich as anybody in America, with much more freedom. You existed outside the system, yet owned it. That’s why everybody wants to be a “rock star.”

Now if you weren’t around back then, and most people who’ll view this movie weren’t, you’ll peer in on a past age that was not so exciting to live through but looks positively glorious from this distance. We had to leave the house, there was nothing to do and no way to meet people at home. So we’d go out to hear bands, even crappy bands, to be part of the scene, to interact.

And we all interacted. The educated and the dropouts. We were all there together, hooked by the music. There was no VIP unless you truly were one, you couldn’t buy your way in. So you’d peer behind the rope and see rock stars and executives and say to yourself…I’m gonna be there one day.

There was that desire. And it’s so hard to make it, and so hard to stay in it.

You practiced. You formed bands. The bands broke up and you formed new bands. You laughed, you fought, you got drunk and did drugs. And got laid.

The women would buy you meals, support you, they wanted in just that bad. Judge ’em all you want, but that’s the way it was, ask any band that started out living in one room eating ramen.

And when you made it, you were certifiably BIG! Everybody in the demo knew you, because everybody was watching MTV, even those not in the demo. You were royalty.

And Tommy Lee married Heather Locklear and then Pamela Anderson. They wanted to be closer to the sound, to the scene. And Valerie Bertinelli married Eddie Van Halen. And oftentimes the famous women pursued the men.

And nobody was talking, still nobody is talking, it’s the code of the road.

Jeff Bezos has a rendezvous with Patrick Whitesell’s wife… Metallica went on an endless tour and the band members came home and all got divorced. This was not traditional business. It was every night another arena, an endless grind, of endless boredom, no wonder the musicians did drugs and trashed hotel rooms to cope.

But the critics were never there. They’re like the uptight neighbors pooh-poohing the music. And the car salesmen. The BMW salesman wouldn’t give Steve Lukather the time of day, until he came back with cash.

Believe me, Wall Street didn’t revere the rockers like they do the techies, they were outcasts.

And then the whole thing flipped. The executives thought they were the stars, Napster killed sales and the internet flattened the scene, so there was no mystery and nobody was that big.

Which is why the younger generation is going to be intrigued by this flick, they not only want to know how it was, they envy it and want to re-enact it.

That’s right “The Dirt” will be influential. Never underestimate the power of rock.

And it plays more like “Wayne’s World” than drama. None of the characters are believable, the language is hokey, but the story remains.

And it’s on Netflix. Remember when “Eddie and the Cruisers” failed in theatres and then soared on HBO? Same deal here. It’s just a click away, just a click away.

Hell, I watched it, the hype got to me.

But you can’t get me out to the theatre, no way. And when those movies hit the flat screen it’s too late, the culture is on to something else, and it’s impossible to stay current, never mind catch up.

So if you’re an insider, it’s a must-see, just to see how the truth in your mind was depicted, the old days.

And if you’re a newbie… Sure, rappers shoot each other, get in trouble with the law, but rockers were more about getting drunk and getting laid and the truth is it can never be the way it was because of the aforementioned cameras, everyone’s got one in their smartphone.

And #MeToo. Rock is politically incorrect. Almost all of it. Could Jimi Hendrix even record a song called “Foxey Lady”?

I doubt it.

And my favorite Aerosmith song is “Lord of the Thighs.”

Nope, we’ve got to nix that one too.

But it didn’t used to be that way.

And “The Dirt” gets it right.

SUCKAS!

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The U.S. Remains Top Traffic Source For Pirate Sites, Research Shows | TorrentFreak

Certain Songs #1489: Pavement – “Gold Soundz” | Medialoper

Album: Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain
Year: 1994

So drunk in the August sun

I’ve never owned Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain on vinyl, but how much fun would it have been to be able to turn the record and have a second to recover from the frenzy of “Unfair” before the gorgeous opening of “Gold Soundz” kicks in. Instead, on the CD, it’s weirdly jarring, like if you had one of those multi-disc carousel changers and it somehow started playing a totally different CD.

And so, the guitars jingle and jangle and even jongle as Malkmus sings as prettily as he possibly can.

Go back to those gold soundz
And keep my advent to your self
Because it’s nothing I don’t like
Is it a crisis or a boring change?
When it’s central, so essential
It has a nice ring when you laugh
At the low life opinions
And they’re coming to the chorus now

Like so many of the songs on Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain, “Gold Soundz” is cryptically meta to the point of dizziness: “is this a crisis or a boring change?” sums up the songwriting process on multiple levels. Of course a boring chord change isn’t really a crisis, but it sure can feel like one in the moment, so it probably is.

And that’s topped by announcing the chorus, which is barely even a chorus, except in context, because “Gold Soundz” was yet another almost unbearably lovely song — shit, Pitchfork picked it as the greatest song of the 1990s — it doesn’t really have a traditional chorus, depending on Stephen Malkmus repeating a syllable to carry the weight of the whole thing.

I keep my address to yourself cause we need secrets
We need secret cret-cret-cret-crets back right now

After having laid off during the entire first verse, drummer Steve West crashes in at the beginning of the — OK fine — chorus, rolling on his snare while Malkmus repeats “cret” over and over again. After the second time around, after Malkmus sings “cret” what feels like a couple of dozen times, West drops out again, picking back up for the guitar solo, placing nice little double backbeats throughout.

And how about that guitar solo? There isn’t any noise whatsoever on “Gold Soundz” and the place where you might expect some kind of rave-around like on “Cut Your Hair” or “Unfair,” they instead double down on the pretty. So Stephen Malkmus plays the the gold soundz he wants us to go back to, while Scott Kanneberg circles around him, adding counterpoint without distracting. They would have never gotten away with this had they made an entire record like this, but coming after the raging “Unfair” and just before the jazz — or “jazz,” really — of “5-4 = Unity,” the guitar solo in “Gold Soundz” is a tonic, a balm, a cold beer in the hot August sun, and sets up the final verse perfectly.

So drunk in the August sun
And you’re the kind of girl I like
Because you’re empty and I’m empty
And you can never quarantine the past
Did you remember in December
That I won’t need you when I’m gone
And if I go there, I won’t stay there
Because I’m sitting here too long
I’ve been sitting here too long
And I’ve been wasted
Advocating that word for the last word
Last words come up all you’ve got to waste

There was always a lot made about Stephen Malkmus’s diffident bordering on smug stage manner, but too me that always just seemed the the reaction of a super smart guy who loved super dumb music, but could never fully embrace losing himself in that music, so he kept just enough distance so you could think he thought he was better than you.

Obviously, anybody who could write a phrase like “you can never quarantine the past” sure as shit wasn’t empty, but that didn’t mean that the sure as shit didn’t have the same kind of self-doubt that the rest of us did, especially hanging out in the depths of the summer with someone you know ain’t good for you; or vice-versa.

And to me, it was just insane that any record could have songs as utterly weird, smart, rocking and completely unique to each other and the rest of the planet as “Cut Your Hair,” “Unfair” and “Gold Soundz” so I listened to Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain constantly during that transitional spring and summer of 1994 ostensibly to figure out why, but mostly because I found it so beautiful.

“Gold Soundz”

Gold Soundz official video

“Gold Soundz” live in Frankfort, 1994

“Gold Soundz” live in London, 1999

“Gold Soundz” l1ve in Roskilde, 2010

The Certain Songs Database
A filterable, searchable & sortable somewhat up to date database with links to every “Certain Song” post I’ve ever written.

Check it out!

Certain Songs Spotify playlist
(It’s recommended that you listen to this on Spotify as their embed only has 200 songs.)

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