Monthly Archives: June 2010

Liner Notes: Gimme an F

Country Joe McDonald

In October, 1965, at the Vietnam Day Teach-In at Berkeley, Country Joe McDonald began a habit of opening his concerts with what would grow to be known as the FUCK cheer. “Gimme an ‘F’. Gimme a ‘U’. Gimme a ‘C’. Gimme a ‘K’. What’s that spell? What’s that spell? What’s that spell?” Immediately after the call-and-response gimmick, The Fish (Country Joe’s band) would break into the Vietnam demur “I Feel Like I’m Fixin’ To Die Rag.”

What this was, was protest. The setting was a common one for the late 1960s, a stage full of anti-conformist musicians, hippies smoking pot and dropping acid, dancing and making love, the whole time drawing attention to what they saw as unjust and unqualified government policy. What was perhaps even more brilliant, was the way many of the musicians were able to poke fun at themselves and the ridiculousness of their own counterculture, taking jabs at the extreme far left Hippies, Yippies, and SDS’ers.

Social protest is nothing new, but the recent Toronto G20 riots that saw cars burned, businesses completely destroyed, and over five-hundred arrests took the modern act of demonstration to a much uglier, and as a result, futile level. The only thing people are talking about in the hangover of Canada’s recent G20 Summit are the riots themselves. Nobody knows, nor seems to care, what side the violent attackers stood for or whom they represented, let alone what the leaders of the world’s most powerful nations accomplished.

Alas, there is to be plenty of material written on the subject from all around the world, so I shall do my best to refrain from the mundane opinion sharing on how poorly Ottawa delivered, and omit a verbal lambasting on the deplorable acts of Canada’s largest cowards. Yet being originally from Toronto, and having a general hate-on for protests and the people who participate in them anyhow (even before these cowardice insolents took to the streets of my beloved hometown), I can’t help myself from tying this week’s Liner Notes somehow back to the protest theme.

The Freedom Singers, Newport Folk Festival 1962, (Peter, Paul & Mary, Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, amongst them)

How will I do that? By looking at how we got from bands like The Freedom Singers (founded 1962), who encouraged people to hold hands and resist, without violence, actual injustices against authentic social monstrosities like Civil Rights inequalities and preemptive invasion, to bands like Mudhoney, encouraging uneducated insubordinates to mask themselves, create anarchy with no real effort to produce an alternative, and destroy property on the principal that one is allowed because of chartered freedoms. These are two very distant sides on a strangely similar spectrum.

Lyrically, each side can be represented by two very different songs, decades apart, but both which seek the same message. Song 1: “We Shall Overcome” (1947 – a spin-off from an old gospel piece made famous by Pete Seeger as a campaign piece for the Civil Rights Movement). Song 2: “Killing In The Name” (1992 – the title track from Rage Against the Machine’s debut album and an anthem for a generation to bored to love but with nothing to hate).

Allow me to point out the obvious first. Here are the six phrases repeated in “We Shall Overcome”: We Shall Overcome. We’ll walk hand in hand. We shall be free. We are not afraid. We are not alone. The whole wide world around.

Compare with the repeated phrases in “Killing In The Name”: And now you do what they told you. Now you’re under control. Killing in the name of. Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me.

Two songs discussing the same theme—racism in America—with two very different messages. Where one preaches of hope, unity, and adversity through bleak times, the other elicits rage, antagonism, and vehement anarchy.

What has happened though, is that the act of social protesting has lost its one tactical edge—the unexpected. Every time there is any sort of meeting of international diplomats, major governing bodies, or colossal corporations, local authorities prepare and allow for protesting to take place. Since the late sixties, both the media and the public are caring less and less about “marches” and/or “demonstrations” because, in 2010, the people protesting have become as expected and conventional as the very agent they are wishing to protest against. A thousand people politely cordoned off in a predetermined protester square has no flash and therefore draws no attention. The stakes must be raised, and music is a great vehicle to antagonize the willing.

But at what cost and for what cause?

In the past, one could join a noble cause and feel good about taking to the streets: woman’s suffrage in the early 1900s; labor-struggle and union organization in the 20s and 30s; nuclear war in the 40s; Civil Rights in the 50s and 60s; The Vietnam War in the 70s. Some songwriters (certainly not all) were able to capitalize on the proletariat point of view, and write well thought-out poetic diatribes giving voice to a group waning in a superior government or corporate shadow.

However, the last twenty to thirty years have been a relatively peaceful and progressive period. This is the longest we have gone without a large-scale (meaning many nations involved) war, and with the exception of G.W. Bush’s unlawful and downright vindictive invasion of Iraq, there have been few major causes to protest over the last three decades (I am very aware of the many events warranting “protest” since the 1980s. However, for the sake of brevity, I offer the argument that, in America, there has been very little in terms of catastrophic change as a result of high demand by public demonstration).
During the sixties, especially with song laureates like Bob Dylan and Neil Young, major record labels and marketing firms discovered the value (both psychological and monetary) in the teenage-angst musical formula. There is an innate desire in all of us to challenge authority during the adolescent years of our life. High school kids want music that supports and answers their natural call for rebellion.

The problem with an album like Rage Against the Machine’ 1992 Killing In The Name is that it only incited white suburban middle-class brats to get pissed off at their school principal. While Zack de la Rocha sang of racism in the Southern police squadrons, spoiled teens took the lyrics as inspiration and a call-to-arms to disrespect all and any form of institution or adult-represented establishment.

Unfortunately, for the rest of society, some of these kids have become stunted in their intellectual growth, and instead of passing through the adolescent phase of anti-institutionalism and anti-establishmentism, they have become members of anarchist groups like Canada’s “Black Bloc,” and are continuing to spend their time listening to bands like Rise Against, System Of A Down, or Score Throat while completely missing the point. Most of the time, the writers and bands are quite articulate and compose some brilliant, if somewhat misguiding, lyrics about the current (mis)state of affairs.

Pete Seeger

Sadly, the fans of the bands are rarely ever as versed or intelligent as the musicians themselves, and instead of inspiring people to seek change in this world, what results is a group of misguided idiots dressing up in Halloween ninja costumes who go around trashing urban centers with rocks, bats, and flamethrowers, using any causal chance they get. The Black Bloc has turned Martin Luther King Jr. and intelligent social protest with meaning into the ten year-olds on William Golding’s deserted Pacific Island.

Pete Seeger must be rolling in his grave. How sad.

Link to this article:
– Kory French

Album Review: Ty Segall, “Melted” on Goner Records

San Francisco’s Ty Segall — alum of The Epsilons — has returned with another full length! The album titled Melted runs counter to the main tropes of many of today’s garage rock bands. The songs do not celebrate sloppiness or speed, and the production’s low-fi scuzz  comes across as an aesthetic decision rather than simply the product of limited access to “better” recording equipment, or as a means to add character to otherwise bland songs.

Instead, Melted is a fully realized album, start-to-finish, more in the spirit of the Microphones than Jay Reatard. Ty doesn’t seem as concerned with turning out the perfect riff or chord progression (though there are plenty of those)  as he does with thoughtful production, exploring a range of guitar tones, drum textures, vocal mixes and arrangements to transform simple songs  into intricate, psychedelic garage-punk that draws on influences from the Beatles and T-Rex to the Ramones and Nirvana.

The album creeps to a start with the lethargic strumming of a clean guitar and Segall’s sleepy croon accompanied by a harmony of “oohs.” It’s a kind of “calm before the storm,” because after a few repetitions a squeal of feedback signals the entrance of a deep, sludgy bass line and pounding drums. On the ensuing verses Segall’s vocal shifts to a Jack White snarl and the song concludes with a synth that sounds like a broken European ambulance.

On the second track, “Ceasar,” things change gears: acoustic guitar, muffled bass and lone snare drum that sounds like a knock on the door. During the song’s crescendo Ty’s vocals — think Joey Ramone doing a Marc Bolan impression — disintegrate into digital fuzz and we’re treated to a plunking, Kinks-eque guitar solo.

Another highlight is “Girlfriend” where the guitar’s crunchy reverb and the compressed drum thuds serve as back drop to a catchy double tracked vocal and hand claps a-la 60s Phil Spector.

The album’s sixth song, “Mike D’s Coke,” sounds like a hallucinated Coca-Cola commercial set to a mechanized drum beat. The track opens with an echoing repetition of the lyric “Drink Coca-Cola…Drink Coca-Cola with me,” (basically the only lyric in the song) and ends with a hypnotic guitar line that disappears just as it hits its stride. It is the kind of non-song that borders on the  superfluous, but, in the context of Melted’s other fully realized songs, works as kind of a weird side-show to the main attraction.

According to the Goner Records website this record plays best at maximum volume. However, I encourage the repeat listener to take Melted for a spin on a solid pair of headphones to soak up all its production quirks. Segall’s blend of acoustic and electric guitars, piano, synth, distortion and delicate croons  make Melted a rare treat in a genre that often falls into the trap of a one-size-fits all formula of fast, sloppy fuzz.

RIYL: The Oblivions, Coachwhips, T-Rex

For more on Ty Segall check out his BTR Artist of the Week  profile HERE.

– Thomas Seely

AOTW: Casiokids

Norwegian natives Casiokids create ultra danceable tracks with a childlike expressiveness. Open-ended, playful, wistful, curious, and unpredictable; they bob and weave electronic rhythms glazed with high papery vocals.

The Casiokids have just released a new album which is being distributed by independent label Polyvinyl Records. The disk is a compilation of tracks previously released as singles in 2009. It is the group’s fourth album release and is entitled, Topp Stemming Pa Lokal Bar (loosely translated: “Great Vibe at Local Bar”). Polyvinyl is billing it as the first Norwegian-language pop album ever to hit the United States.

The band assembled in 2005 when five young men came together and drew inspiration from varied sources of musicianship. Influences include; Paul Simon, New Order, and Fela Kuti. That’s right, the eclectic Casiokids even incorporate afro-beat into their unique sound.

The bands music and their intention can be soaked up by youngsters and hipsters alike. The Casiokids play around with conventional perceptions of age-bound genres of music and can easily perform for a Kindergarten class or an adult festival in the same day.

The Norwegian quintet has also made a name for themselves as providers of sound installation and theatrical performance. At a festival in their hometown they created a giant wall of grass through which they played sampled speech of passers-by coupled with city sounds to evoke a human-based nature scene.

The kind of production indicative of the Casiokids style at large which combines urban soundscapes with forest primeval to create tracks that are ultra-modern (if not futuristic) and seemingly innocent.

As the band itself explains, they try and infuse their lyrics with “…humor, surrealism, bombastic simplicity, and existential thought.” If that sounds like a heady mix of inspiration, it is. However, the Casiokids pull together these varied elements to offer up essentially lighthearted, dance-inducing songs.  Many of the tracks included on their new album are imbued with this vibe. Songs like “Fot i Hose” frolic within graphically mapped spaces while maintaining gravity and club-romping appeal. Also, numerous tracks feature a healthy mix of keyboard, guitar, and digitized sampling, all while putting forth darting melodies with definite pop edges.

The group recently debuted a new video for “Finn Bikkjen” (Find Dogs), one of the singles from their new album. The forest locale video follows a young pajama-clad man in search of his dog to a soundtrack of ethereal electro-pop.

This summer the Casiokids have been performing theatrical shows incorporating a blend of shadow puppets, video projections, and animal costumes for festivals throughout Europe. If you get a chance be sure to catch them live and listen to BTR for music from Casiokids!

Casiokids LIVE!!!

July 02 – Roskilde Festival – Roskilde, Denmark
July 03 – Voss – Voss, Norway
July 9 – Festival de la Cite – Lausanne, Switzerland
July 10 – Pohoda Festival – Trencin, Slovakia
July 14 – Festplassen – Bergen, Norway
July 17 – Kjorrefjordfestivalen – Farsund, Norway
July 22 – Vinjerock – Eidsbugarden, Norway
July 31 – Sommerfesten – Giske, Norway
August 6 – Lost Weekend Festival – Askoy, Norway
August 7 – Standon Calling – Standon, United Kingdom
August 8 – OFF Festival – Kastowice, Poland
August 12 – Oyafestivalen – Oslo, Norway

Link to this article:

– Amanda Decker

Setlist: The Truth Is In The Roots (Or Grass); The Green Mountain Bluegrass Hour on BreakThru Radio

Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys

What is Bluegrass?

Well, it’s a hell of a lot more than a lawn from Kentucky, I’ll tell you that.

Bluegrass is a style of music that is steeped in American history. Its harmonies and compositions illustrate, layer after layer, the story of the American song. From the frontier of the West to the recent troubles with the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, in one solid Bluegrass album a listener can learn much of America’s past. It does it all with a sound that is frozen in time—a sound that paralyzes you for a moment, wondering, “Wait a second. Have I heard this before? What is this? It sounds like 1932 Woody Guthrie, but he’s singing about President Obama!” Put best, Bluegrass host DJ Moguls describes it as a musical form “where tradition meets innovation.” Moguls explains, “That’s really what my show is about – tradition and innovation. “The Green Mountain Bluegrass Hour” plays the old staples of the scene but also represents the new generation’s interpretations.”

Perhaps the one constant theme to Bluegrass is its refusal for glamour and sensationalism, instead remaining persistent to the topical everyday workingman theme. The International Bluegrass Music Association describes this exact formula when explaining the history of Bluegrass in America: “[As] settlers began to spread out into the Carolinas, Tennessee, Kentucky and the Virginias, they composed new songs about day-to-day life experiences in the new land. Since most of these people lived in rural areas, the songs reflected life on the farm or in the hills and this type of music was called ‘mountain music’ or ‘country music.’”

From ‘country music’ sprang Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys, first appearing at the Grand Ole’ Opry in 1939. It is a safe argument to make that this was the very beginning of Bluegrass. It wasn’t something that would die quickly either. However curious it may be for a digital-sounding 2010, Bluegrass is making its way into the major metropolises of the U.S. today. “I’m really ecstatic about how bluegrass is thriving in the cities, particularly New York,” DJ Moguls tells me. “I’ve seen some of the best bluegrass, from some of the genres top legends to your common NYC subway picker, right here in Brooklyn.” In support of Moguls’ claim, just this past Wednesday, modern Bluegrass vanguards The Punch Brothers played the Music Hall of Williamsburg to an enjoyable and, ahem, crowded crowd.

BreakThru Radio’s “The Green Mountain Bluegrass Hour” is a great way to become acquainted with the Bluegrass sound for interested music fans foreign to its style, and at the same time expose listeners to some of the more cutting edge Bluegrass styles for the more established Bluegrass enthusiast. Moguls’ setlist covers all ranges: He opens up his show playing contemporary Burlington, Vermont string-quintet Possumhaw, follows up with the Seventies flatpicking guitar solos of Danny Crary, and returns to the modern progressive styles of Chris Thile (leader of the aforementioned Punch Brothers). It is all in there, and the more you listen the more you will become hooked.

In the coming weeks of BreakThru Radio programming, our DJs will be focusing on representing the sounds of The World Cup. No, we will not be playing hours of vuvuzela drone; but we will be representing the tournament’s nations through the bands and songs that come from each country. This poses a question (debate?) on what and who will represent the U.S.? Will it be our Hip-Hop? Indie Rock? Jazz? Blues? Country and Folk?

How about Bluegrass! Listen to DJ Moguls’ “Green Mountain Bluegrass Hour” on Sunday afternoons and try to convince yourself that this is not the sound of pure Americana. You won’t be able to do it. From the soloing fiddles, to the percussive-like slap style on the banjo, to the harmonic lyrics about commonplace perseverance in the face of adversity, Bluegrass is America’s music.

Light-years away from how the rest of the world may view the American dream (you know—the one that is portrayed on Reality T.V. shows like The Hills and Jersey Shore. Or the world of the 21st Century rapper that is sensationalized on MTV. Or the subterranean badass punk that is exposed through globalized Indie Rock culture), Bluegrass lays its roots in American simplicity, honesty, and truth. DJ Moguls sums it up well: “I’m attracted to bluegrass because it is such an honest genre. Don’t get me wrong, I listen to everything from Fela Kuti to Wu Tang, but there’s something sincere about Bluegrass – there’s no flashing lights, just a few sets of strings. Pretty impressive.”

Be sure to check out the latest edition of “The Green Mountain Bluegrass Hour” with DJ Moguls on BreakThru Radio!

Link to this article:

– Kory French

Are Dumb Votes Better Than No Votes? : The Alvin Greene Phenomenon in South Carolina

Something very strange happened at the June 8th primary in South Carolina: an unemployed veteran with no political experience, no funding, no campaign signs, no website, no cellphone, no computer, who did no campaigning, who lives in his father’s basement with $114 to his name, and who is facing felony obscenity charges, beat his opponent (Vic Rawl—a judge and four-time member of the state legislature) with 60% of the vote. This man may become a United States Senator.

His name, as everyone knows by now, is Alvin Greene. Greene leaped to the forefront of public attention in the past three weeks, most notably for highly amusing, widely-circulated video interviews where he has come off as completely unprepared to run for US Senate. (In one, he nervously asks halfway through the interview, “Can we end this?”)

The backlash against the bizarre phenomenon known as Alvin Greene was swift and varied: within 24 hours of his nomination, the Associated Press reportedly asked him to relinquish the nomination that he was facing felony charges on having shown pornography to a college student, and the South Carolina Democratic Party Chair immediately .

Then there were accusations that Greene was elected through voter fraud, and that he was part of a subversive Republican ploy to throw a wrench into the Democratic machine.

Next, a South Carolina legislator questioned whether or not Greene was mentally sound. This came alongside deep suspicion at how Greene, who is unemployed, was able to pay the $10,440 filing fee to enter the primary (a fee that is higher than many other states’ fees). Greene allegedly paid the fee from a personal checking account, but refused to show documentation of the transaction.

Next, Vic Rawl, who actually did a significant amount of campaigning in the state (17,000 miles of driving door-to-door, for example), and who was feeling, understandably, that there might have been something unfair in the primary results, issued a formal protest. This past Thursday, though, the South Carolina Democratic Party’s Executive Committee rejected Rawl’s challenge, saying there wasn’t enough evidence to hold another primary (which would have been a big pain in the ass, anyways).

So what happened? No one really knows, but it looks more and more likely that voter ignorance was to blame. Most of the 100,000 people in South Carolina who voted for Alvin Greene instead of Vic Rawl knew next to nothing about either candidate. Alvin Greene’s name appeared first, had a more melodic sound than “Vic Rawl,” and was more likely to belong to an African American candidate—all of these things may have played a part in the decision-making process of uninformed voters.

This raises the issue of whether it’s appropriate to participate in politics if you don’t follow politics. In a good democracy, we want every citizen to have a say in who our legislators are, but are dumb votes better than no votes? It’s understandable that Rawl challenged the results, but the results had to stand as they were: this was the will of the people.

The lingering question in this whole mess is: What does it mean going forward? On an immediate level, the Alvin Greene phenomenon shows the consequences of uninformed voters in a state with the third highest illiteracy rate in the country. But when Greene faces off against incumbent Sen. Jim DeMint in November, does he stand a chance? Probably not, and polls show that even if Vic Rawl had won the nomination, he wouldn’t have been able to beat DeMint anyways.

But lately it seems, in the current political climate, with increasing voter anger and Tea Party anti-establishment sentiment, that anything could happen.

Let’s hope it doesn’t.

Link to this article:

– Hunter Stuart

Liner Notes: Jonestown V. Wheatus

This week, BreakThru Radio is featuring the very eclectic and imaginable sounds of the San Francisco-born Ty Segall as part of our on-running “Artist Of The Week” segment. To accompany the superb introduction to Segall’s music and personality that was posted by BTR writer Courtney Garcia earlier in the week, I thought it would be pertinent to ponder the motives and livelihood of the non-professional musician. To quote directly from Garcia’s article (which I recommend you read in full), Segall represents the modern musician who “has no lofty expectations of rising to musical stardom… [and who] is relatively happy in his current position, which is a balance of work and music. He spends half his week in an office, and the other half in the studio or on the road.”

Brian Jonestown Massacre

So what is it that makes some musicians content with writing songs and performing for a small group of loy(c)al fans versus those who could care less about music and just want “rock star status,” even if it is only as a one-hit wonder and lasts less than a year? To examine such polarity, I needed to narrow down the massive array of music out there and pick one representative from each group. On the one side, we have Anton Newcombe from Brian Jonestown Massacre, the twenty-year-old cult-followed band from San Fran (oddly the same city Segall is from). On the other side we have Wheatus, Long Island’s 2000 heroes with their MTV-crazed Teenage Dirtbag.

The song “Girlfriend” on Ty Segall’s most recent album release Melted has all the makings of a Brian Jonestown Massacre tune. In fact, the whole album is very Anton Newcombe from start to finish; many different sound qualities and levels, a rotation of instruments, a mosaic of musical expressions and impressions, loads of electronica distortion, and simple harmonies with accompanied punk-like screaming. For Ty’s sake, it should be a massive compliment to be compared to such musical genius as the Brian Jonestown mastermind (and at the same time, for Ty’s sake, let’s hope he doesn’t fall into a similar mental state as the Brian Jonestown eccentric).

What Melted is years away from is Wheatus, the self-titled album released in 2000 by the band of the same name. After the massive pop hit “Teenage Dirtbag” appeared in the film Loser and the television show Dawson’s Creek in 2000, the band rocketed to international fame, reaching top three positions in Australia, the UK, and here in the United States. I can personally remember watching them enter the MTV Video Music Awards in 2001 where they were the biggest hit at the show, crawling away from thousands of teenage, screaming fans. It is fair to say that for a window of time, Wheatus were bona fide rock stars enjoying all the associated stigma and privileges.


So, where do these two bands end up years on down the road? It might go something like this: Imagine sitting in an airport lounge fifteen or twenty years from now, and you bump into Anton Newcombe and take up a conversation. Chances are most of the people out there would be like “Who? Brian Joneswhat? No, I have never heard of you. Are you still playing?”

“What the fuck do you mean ‘am I still playing?’ Of course I am. I’m a musician in a band you dumbfuck,” at which point Anton walks away from you insulted.

However, if the same occurrence were to happen with Wheatus front man Brendan B. Brown, the conversation would be something more along the lines of this:

“Wheatus? I don’t think I know your band.”

“Do you remember the song “Teenage Dirtbag”?”

“Oh! Shit yeah! I remember that song,” and then you begin singing, “I’m just a teenaaaaaaaage dirtbaaaaag baby,” making a complete ass of yourself. “I don’t know anything else by you guys. What are you up to these days?” you ask.

“Ummm, not much. The band folded a few years back and now I’m married, got a few kids and am sellin’ real estate over in London.” (It should be noted that according to their official Web site,, Wheatus is fully together at the time of this article and working on their fifth album “Pop, Songs & Death: Vol. 2 – The Jupiter EP.” As well, they continue to succeed in terms of record sales and ticketing in the UK).

Why do some musicians choose to never give in to the executive labels like Columbia or Warner Bros., instead raving on with the noble battle to write, produce, and play their own music under independent labels like Goner (whom Ty Segall is currently with)? Is it because the music is more important than the money and the fame? Probably. You see the good thing about indie labels like the ones featured on BTR is that they are music families where the musicians are given near-complete autonomy. The goal with independent labels is to create and maintain the type of environment where art reigns supreme in the face of marketability.

Yet, other acts are quick-willing to jump at the signing to a major label the first chance they get. But what they soon learn is that they are entering a domain where musicians and bands are forced to co-write tracks, like “Teenage Dirtbag”, under the guidance of corporate-owned producers and mixers who exist for the pure purpose of selling bubblegum pop to mimic MTV/Facebook cultural fads. Their fifteen-minutes is worth every minute, but its industry-credit suicide.

I just can’t put my finger on what makes musicians like Ty Segall say things like, “My life is awesome. I just hope before I die I do something rewarding, like be a teacher.” While John Mayer says, “It’s almost charity work, what people have done, turning other people on to my music.” How can one musician speak so clearly and humbly while the other can be such a douchebag? It makes me wonder whether or not I fall victim to like the person for who they are and what they represent rather than the music they produce.

Link to this article:

– Kory French

Allison Kilkenny – Unreported: White supremacist bemoans low pay from New York Times

My friend Allen McDuffee has been busting his ass on a new blog called Think Tanked that you should all check out. Today, he posted an interesting little nugget about AEI’s Charles Murray, a white supremacist, but the “socially acceptable” kind that gets to write New York Times op-eds.

In a post titled “Arthur Sulzberger Needs YOU!,” Charles Murray takes his distaste over his payment from the New York Times to the AEI blog.

To all my fellow ink-stained wretches, a heads up. I got my check from the New York Times for an op ed that was published a few weeks ago. It was for $75. Not that anyone has ever paid the mortgage by writing op eds, but $75 for 800 words written for The Greatest Newspaper In the World is… how shall I put this? Weird. Do you suppose the red ink has really gotten that bad?

Yes. It’s true–not good at all. But what’s weird, actually, is posting something for the New York Times complaint department on the AEI blog.

Yeah, the writing world is a real harsh mistress, isn’t she, Charles?

This particular criticism isn’t only odd, as Allen pointed out, but also darkly hilarious. Here we have a white supremacist finally speaking up, not to defend his horrible beliefs, but to complain about his pay from the nation’s supposed shining example of journalistic integrity [insert hysterical laughter here]. At the same time, the media has been trying its damnedest to ignore the frequent and increasing instances of right-wing extremism in this country, a trend that I have reported on at length.

I wrote the following last month:

There has been a surge in right-wing extremism in the U.S., copiously documented by groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center, but which was also predicted by Homeland Security. In fact, the report warned that right-wing extremists, who are “angry at the economy and the election of a black president” might recruit GWOT veterans.

I have been writing about how white domestic terrorism has slipped from the media’s radar, but sadly, it seems like the government is also uninterested by the surge in right wing extremism — possibly because such violence doesn’t fit the helpful war narrative of the “dangerous other” being brown, and from a desert landscape.

There have been a couple recent domestic terrorist attack that have been largely ignored by the media and government:

Robert Joos Jr.

A firearms and explosives expert suspected of involvement with two white supremacist brothers in the sending of a bomb to the office of a municipal diversity officer was sentenced to 6½ years in prison in Missouri on Tuesday.

And then there is the unknown man who bombed a mosque in Florida.

Unlike in the case of Faisal Shahzad, these bombs actually detonated. In a rational world, these stories would probably receive considerably more coverage than the Shahzad incident, but again, Shahzad, a Muslim Pakistani-American, fits the narrative of a “dangerous domestic threat with foreign roots.” Joos and the unknown man don’t fit that character description.

C&L also highlighted this extremely disturbing story that somehow didn’t make it onto the national media’s radar.

It kind of makes you wonder, doesn’t it, why Arizonans — and particularly the Arizona media, not to mention the national media — never picked up on the case of Shawna Forde and her gang of rogue Minutemen, who invaded the home of a Latino family near the border in Arizona and shot them, killing the father and his 9-year-old daughter in cold blood as she pleaded for her life, and wounding the mother — who managed to get her own gun and shoot back, wounding one of the killers.

Even more incredible, really, is that this 911 call from the wounded mother received so little attention at the time, much less that it did not become a focus of Arizonans fretting about violent crime.

You can listen to the 911 call by following the link. All I can say is it’s heartbreaking, and that really doesn’t do it justice. This woman just witnessed the murder of her daughter, and her husband. She was shot by the extremists, managed to fend them off with a handgun, and she’s apologizing to the operator for cursing as she sobs, “Oh my God, I can’t believe they killed my family.”

So here we have all the classic “media friendly” elements of a story: high drama and violence. If such a story went down in the northern suburbs to a white family, there would be armies of network news vans parked across lawns – camped out for days, weeks, months. But this happened in the poor south, to a [spit] Latino family. The media barely touched the story.

Because there has been so little scrutiny of these right-wing extremists, people like Russell Pearce feel comfortable enough now to organize his neo-Nazi pals to patrol the border with weapons.

As I blogged back in May, Ready and fellow neo-Nazi Harry Hughes have been going on illegal alien “patrols” in Pinal County’s Vekol Valley, dressed in camouflage and armed with assault rifles.

“Camouflage or earth tone clothing [is] preferred,” according to the announcement. “Bandanas, balaclavas, or other identity concealing items are permissible and encouraged.”Now Ready has announced a “Border Ops” alert for this Saturday via his profile on the white supremacist New Saxon site, inviting participants to “bring plenty of firearms and ammo.”

Ready’s statement promises that, “This is the Minuteman Project on steroids! THE INVASION STOPS HERE!”

That’ll end well.

Domestic extremism is now so tolerated, and in some cases, actively encouraged by sitting politicians, that neo-Nazis feel like they have carte blanche to parade around, wearing camouflage in the desert, shooting Latinos. Awesome.

The extreme right feels so unthreatened by the sane members of society that the only backlash the media has felt for their shameful one-sided coverage of terrorism — something only brown foreigners do, but doesn’t apply to white guys who fly planes into an IRS building, or blow up US mosques — that the only complaint they’ve received is from another white supremacist.

Murray, whose work has been called “a scabrous piece of racial pornography masquerading as serious scholarship” by Bob Herbert, didn’t have much to say about neo-Nazis gunning down brown people. The man just thinks $75 is chump change. I kind of agree. Some of Murray’s conservative colleagues may disagree with us, though, and accuse him of “shaking down” the Times.

Seriously, Murrs. Calling them out on the AEI blog? What up with that?

PHOTO: The Bell Curve. Some other book I found on Google images by searching “Charles Murray white supremacist”

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– Allison Kilkenny

AOTW: Ty Segall

Ty Segall may seem like an anomaly to the 21st century zeitgeist, but he is actually more an output of its stratosphere. A musician first, he has other pastimes and jobs; he’ll take grunge over glamour, and bears no sense of entitlement; and his music, while novel, borrows from past and present keynotes. He is a grab bag with no predilection for the future other than he knows he will be ordering a draft of Pabst Blue Ribbon when he hits the bar.

“It depends on where I’m going though,” notes Segall. “Sometimes I’ll take a Long Island Ice Tea.”

From the looks of things, he’s going far. At 23, his musical work has already taken him across the U.S. and Canada, and this winter, he will showcase his distinctly indistinct music to crowds of all ages in Europe. He is kind of like Beck: consciously surprising fans, and perhaps even himself, with whatever hodgepodge of sound he creates in the studio, and letting that energy drive him to the next stop. His third album, Melted, was released on Goner Records last week, and succinctly leads the way through a freshly blazed trail in his subconscious.

“I would describe it almost like a photo,” he explains. “Picture Venice Beach with all those dewey, twisty, colored lollipops melting in the sun, covered in sand. Just warped, dirty, skuzzy… That’s what I’m trying to evoke through this music. It’s an older tape/vinyl sound melded with something new.”

Segall’s artistry is without a doubt unusual, described by him as “well thought out weird music.” There are tracks like “Girlfriend,” heavily synthesized and electric from start to finish, and others like “Lovely One,” with simpler guitar strumming and greater emphasis on vocals. He harvests his craft in San Francisco, a city still buzzing with relics of the ’60s psychedelic insurgency and flush of postmodern idealism, which heavily influence his work. He also dabbles into filth pop rhythms of the ’70s and ’80s, merging past musical merits with something more relevant to the times. His tools are basic—drums, bass, guitar, synth—yet his noise is abstract. Along with his band, a batch of indie alt-rockers of a similar mindset, he is like an artifact of the countercultural generation recycled in an era of uber technology. Imagine the Kinks in skinny jeans and hoodies, sipping Red Bulls with iPods connected to their ears.

“We create a pretty basic sound then fudge it with noise and special instruments,” he says. “It’s like little flourishes throughout each song.”

Goner signed Segall after he pitched himself in an email, and their relationship appears to be familial. He feels honored to be with a label that always tries their best to “do the right thing,” and has no lofty expectations of rising to musical stardom. In fact, he is relatively happy in his current position, which is a balance of work and music. He spends half his week in an office, and the other half in the studio or on the road.

“I’m lucky,” he notes. “I’m not banking off just living life as a musician, but I can travel for free which is something I never thought I’d be able to say. Right now, if I could go to Japan for two weeks, bring my girlfriend and my band, I’d totally be okay to stop.”

Though realistically, he would never put down his utensils; he is too great a junkie for such nonsense. His career goal is simply to keep having fun, try out new mechanisms, and continue putting out records. So far, such ambitions are within his scope. His work is satiable to fans across the gamut, from 15 years to 50 years old—an essential component to longevity in music. His personal taste is for music of his friends, other San Francisco bands like Thee Oh Sees, The Hospitals and the Sic Alps. They jam together, hang out, and likely put away endless coolers of PBR in some dirty garage along the winding hills of the city.

“My life is awesome,” he comments. “I just hope before I die I do something rewarding, like be a teacher. I’d like to die thinking I didn’t live a self-centered life, that I gave someone else something they can take with them.”

For those who sit around and write stream of conscious prose on their iPads, Segall has already granted them an inspirational offering. His talent is elevated by his generous spirit and sense of human decency, two rare qualities in the industry. Such beliefs, nonetheless, are likely attributable to his father.

“He told me it is better to be kind than to be right,” adds Segall. “And I live my life by those words.”

Upcoming Tour Dates
June 24  –  Bar Pink Elephant –  San Diego, CA
June 25  –  Spaceland  –  Los Angeles, CA
June 26  –  Howie & Sons  –  Visalia, CA
June 27 –  Bottom Of The Hill – San Francisco, CA
June 28 – Comet Tavern – Seattle, WA
June 30 – Sled Island Festival – Calgary, Alberta, Canada
July 1 – Sled Island Festival – Calgary, Alberta, Canada
July 2 – Media Club – Vancouver, BC, Canada
July 3 – East End – Portland, OR

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– Courtney Garcia

Featured Review: Kooley High, Live at Cine-M-Artspace 17 in New York, NY

Kooley High, North Carolina’s much buzzed about hip hop collective, has relocated to Brooklyn, New York and the new city hype is already building. The group, minus a couple of members, performed this past weekend at Cine-M-Artspace 17 in Manhattan, a small venue in Amber Village meant to showcase indie music, films and art to a crowd of interested onlookers. The aesthetics of the room undoubtedly suited the band, who describe their music and mission as a “grassroots initiative” meant to slowly seep its way into the ears and minds of hip-hop fans everywhere. The stage was modest, flanked by canvas paintings of Biggie Smalls and Jay-Z, along with a wall decked in African mosaic art. It was the quintessential backdrop for a batch of young rap ingénues, who pride themselves on sampling, break-beats, and conscious, clever rhymes.

Kooley High, a band that formed originally on the campus of North Carolina State University, consists of three MCs (Charlie Smarts, Rapsody, Tab One), two producers (Foolery and The Sinopsis) and a DJ (Ill Digitz). Rapsody and Tab One were not in appearance for the show, so Sinopsis filled in as guest MC. On the heels of their sophomore album release, the group performed a set of past favorites opening with the uptempo jam “Well Done,” then merging into slower swoon singles, like, “There You Go,” before previewing their latest work. With subtle hints of Digable Planets and the Fugees, the band came across as a fresh, unrefined and well-assorted collaborative preparing to own the limelight. Their N.C. sentiment also called to mind the sound of another southern rap group, Little Brother, as both artists have collaborated with producer, 9th Wonder.
The show was not without its technical flubs of course; one microphone fell out of synch with the others, so three artists tossed around the remaining two during their set. Additionally, the performance would have been greatly enhanced by the presence of the group’s two star MCs. Regardless, the audience was in vibe with the band, and they made the best of the scene. The crowd nodded their heads and raised their arms to the stylistic scratching of Ill Digitz, and the deep, smooth vocals of Charlie Smarts, who sometimes had an air of Andre3000. Kooley High’s command of the room was professional and impressive, as Charlie used his subtle humor and charisma to maintain attention for the entire set.

“I’m on stage tearing the roof down,” he rapped, as the group threw their right arms into the air in archetypal hip hop intimation. “I’m broke as hell, but I don’t care, I’m still smokin’ Ls.”

Moving to Bushwick with a penny in their pocket and the hope of expanding their network to the next level, they are a posse of hustlers with effervescent allure. Upon entering the club, both Charlie and Sinopsis greeted attendants, offering each a copy of their latest mixtape. Additionally, free CDs were available at the merch table along with lollipop-colored t-shirts, meant to satisfy the ‘lost days of youth’ ethos of the group’s imaginative undertaking.
“Do your dance, do your dance, do your dance,” they rapped, forming a slight soul train and bouncing to the left and right across the stage. It was Crip-walking Kooley High-style, with audience members joining along in the mantra.  “It’s a bonanza, said she want a bonanza, so put your hands up cause mommy is a dancer.”

It was a humble beginning to what appears to be the start of something that will spread quickly into house parties, clubs and local stages around New York. Kooley High has a naïve charm that suits them well, and has already teamed with a host of other young acts in their realm including Wale and J. Cole. If nothing else, their creative spirit blows with the wind of Brooklyn’s predecessors, making the mural of Biggie all the more poignant as centerpiece for their debut.

“Party and Bushwick,” they chanted, raising their Heinekens in toast with the crowd. “Cheers.”

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– Courtney Garcia

Bike Lanes A No-No

Two years ago in an attempt to alleviate traffic congestion and reduce the mass pressure on the city’s public transit system The Department of Transportation and Mayor Bloomberg embarked on an ambitious plan to render New York City more bike friendly. As part of a larger “Sustainable Streets” project the DOT released a strategic multi-faceted plan that sought to triple the number of regular bicyclists on New York streets by 2017. Some of the means to be employed towards this end included the creation of over 200 miles of new bike lanes, and the installation of 5,000 city bike racks by 2011.

Flash-forward to 2010 where we have come to witness the fruition (in part) of this brain-child–along with the heated debates it has sparked. In a scenario few had anticipated these newly drawn bike lanes have become a point of contention between much of the citizenry and DOT, and amongst the populace itself. All around the city there has been a mixing- pot of backlash from residents mingled with appreciation from avid bicyclists.

On Kent Avenue in Williamsburg many  businesses have complained that the new bike lanes are preventing them from legally using their loading docks. Karen Nieves, business services manager for the Greenpoint, Williamsburg Industrial Business Zone, said she is “deeply disappointed in the lack of outreach for this plan.” She thinks it could threaten the very survival of some of the manufacturers, all of whom together employ about 300 people. Commercial storefronts on Grand Street have raised similar concerns saying that the bike lanes are resulting in a loss of revenue as customers (pedestrians and drivers alike) avoid the street due to its newly narrowed structure and dense traffic.

Meanwhile back in Williamsburg perhaps the most interesting of all bike lane related upsets has materialized on Bedford Avenue.  Here the DOT had inserted a new bike lane that runs directly through the most concentrated neighborhood of Orthodox Jews outside of Israel. Thus the problem; nearby Hipster Ville also in Williamsburg has many bicyclists thrusting through the Hasidic territory on a regular basis. Leaving the Hasidic community complaining of school children safety issues and, get this, women riders showing too much skin for the sensitivity of their religious morality. In response to the upset Mayor Bloomberg acquiesced and removed the Bedford Avenue bike lane (just before the last election, …nice). (Why it’s all the sudden the responsibility of the city to mold traffic laws to appease the tenets of a particular religion is a whole other eyebrow- raising issue which for the sake of brevity we won’t explore here.)

The removal of the bike lanes in turn incited a group of angry hipsters to illegally repaint the bike lanes in the cover of darkness. The bike- lane loving vigilantes were caught by a Hasidic neighborhood night- watch man and reported to the NYPD but no charges were brought against them. Phew! Some might wonder over such controversy over a few extra lines drawn in the street?! But when your dealing with a part of public property that effects the livelihood of many and the safety of all the city should have realized there would be a menagerie of reactions in this highly- diverse metropolis.

General resentment by drivers and pedestrians towards bicyclists charges that they won’t slow down, do not respect pedestrians, and will not obey traffic laws, whether or not they are in place. Proponents of the new lanes have responding in full force arguing that the opposite is true and that when bike lanes are in place bicyclists move in a predictable manner, making it easier for drivers to see them and safer for pedestrians to cross streets.

In the eyes of the supporters the benefits of a bike friendly NYC are to be seen in the long term when a large portion of commuters begin cycling to and fro their daily destinations and considerably less cars populate the road. If this fantasy does come to life one day perhaps the anti-bike lane sentiment will die down. But in the interim many New Yorkers are being inconvenienced and annoyed by newly drawn street divisions that favor a small minority who happen to have the support of a like-minded residing mayor.  The attempts by the mayor and DOT to make NYC more European in this aspect have come to be seen by many as an unsavory play on democracy subverted.

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– Amanda Decker