Saturday, August 2, 2014

Apparently I have been writing one movie review per year on Netflix. Looking back, I found this pretty amusing.

Your Reviews (3)

Rolling Stones: 1963-1969

The Rolling Stones: 1963-1969: Music in Review

You rated this movie: 1.0
     
If it weren't for the brief glimpses at wonderful, rarely seen vintage footage, this would be worse than useless. I don't mind watching critics offer up their insights and telling stories about the artists (and there are few bands with better, more outrageous stories to be told about them than the Rolling Stones), but these little known critics clearly know almost nothing about the band they're yapping about, offering trite observations like "this song shows that Mick and Keith were becoming more confident as songwriters" or "this song is very dark and morbid, but I like it" OVER AND OVER AGAIN. And I haven't mentioned the numerous facts they get wrong, like saying "The Last Time" features one of those classic Keith Richards riffs and then cutting to some video footage that clearly shows Brian Jones playing the riff. It was like sitting in a bar full of self-important drunks trying to impress you with their knowledge and only showing how pathetically ignorant they are. A real waste of great footage.

You wrote this on Fri Jul 11 05:04:13 GMT 2014
 
Live from Hurrah's New York

Live from Hurrah's New York

You rated this movie: 4.0
     
Worth it for the footage of bands you can't see anywhere else and a nice time capsule of arty New York circa 1980. Now the quibbles: SLOPPY archiving and researching, guys. Even putting aside the Psychedelic Furs no-show, you have some ludicrous stuff like a second Del Byzanteens song being credited to Magazine. Then there's the many mistitled songs like Pylon's "Gravity" being called "You Cannot", The Au Pairs' "Come Again" being called "Do It Again", and a fast instrumental number by the Monochrome Set being mistaken for their debut single "Alphaville". In the final credits, somebody actually got credited for "research," so we know who to blame. Still worth watching.

You wrote this on Thu Aug 08 03:02:13 GMT 2013
 
Wonderwall

Wonderwall

You rated this movie: 2.0
     
About ten minutes into this stinker I started thinking "Where is Mystery Science Theater 3000 when we need them? The George Harrison score is absolutely sublime (and a longtime favorite album for decades), but the movie is mildly amusing psychedelic soft-porn kitsch at best, only not nearly as good as that description makes it sound. The creepy voyeur protagonist is apparently supposed to be funny and/or sympathetic, but is just painful to watch. Pick up the soundtrack, avoid the movie.
You wrote this on Wed Apr 11 03:52:14 GMT 2012

Ear Candle Radio's Top 20 for July 2014

1. The Shaggs - Things I Wonder - Philosophy Of The World
2. Vanessa Paradis - Les Cactus Live - Vanessa Paradis Live
3. The Julie Ruin - Goodnight Goodbye - Run Fast
4. Rob K/MDA - Look in the Mirror - The Purgatory Home Companion
5. Ras Michael & The Sons Of Negus - Needs Understanding - Tribute To The Emperor
6. Peter Tosh - I Am That I Am - Equal Rights
7. The Mountain Goats - Cao Dai Blowout - New Asian Cinema
8. Mighty Ballistics Hi-Power - Franco's Fleet Street - Here Come The Blues
9. The Granite Countertops - Daredevil - Planets Don't Twinkle
10. Paul Revere & the Raiders - Get It On - Midnight Ride
11. The Demilos - Misogyny - Naked Brunch
12. Pete Seeger - Garbage - Pete
13. The Holy Sisters Of The Gaga Dada - Paranoid - Radio Tokyo Tapes Vol. 4 - Women
14. Mammals - Robocop - Demos
15. Bjork - Submarine - Medulla
16. Zap Mama - Africa Sunset - 7
17. Trader Horne - In My Loneliness - Morning Way ...Plus
18. Robert Wyatt - Rivmic Melodies - '68
19. Public Image Limited - The Pardon - This is What you Want...This is What you Get
20. Eric's Trip - Secret For Julie - Love Tara

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Ear Candle Radio's Top 20 for June 2014

1. The Delta Rhythm Boys - Take The A Train - Jump & Jive 'Til One O 'Clock - Anthology - Volume 2 (1947-1950)
2. Husker Du - Whatever - Zen Arcade
3. Future Twin - Landslide - Future Twin
4. The Experimental Bunnies - Moonstompin' With Neil And Buzz - Aranka
5. Cream - I'm So Glad - The Very Best Of Cream
6. Bugskull - Concave Life - Phantasies & Senseitions
7. Mudwimin - Goofy The Mouse - Skiz
8. The Art Ensemble of Chicago with Fontella Bass - Theme Amour Universal - Les Stances a Sophie
9. Vague-Leys - Sofa Or A Chair - Sub Pop 5 - Cassette 'Zine
10. Thomas Mapfumo - Tozvireva Kupiko (Who Shall We Share Our Frustrations With?) - The Chimurenga Singles
11. Stella Chiweshe - Musandifungise - Talking Mbira
12. The Spades - We Sell Soul - I Have Always Been Here Before: The Roky Erickson Anthology
13. Holger Czukay - Oh Lord Give Us More Money - Movies
14. Deerhoof - You Can See - The Runners Four
15. Tikis - Big Feet - Son Of Blunderbuss
16. PJ Harvey - My Beautiful Leah - Is This Desire?
17. Pelicanopolis - In the Shaky Grass - Made You This
18. Junior Wells' Chicago Blues Band With Buddy Guy - Chitlin Con Carne - Let's Move - A Heavy Blues Collection
19. Blaims - Can't Sleep - Modoc Records Sampler, Vol. 1
20. Toots & The Maytals - Pee Pee Cluck Cluck - Monkey Man/From The Roots

Monday, June 2, 2014

Ear Candle Radio's Top 20 for May 2014

1. Small Factory - Yeah! - Why Do You Think They Call It Pop?
2. Foday Musa Suso and Pharoah Sanders - Samma - Jali Kunda: Griots of West Africa & Beyond
3. ESG - There Was A Time - A South Bronx Story 2: Collector's Edition Rarities
4. Darlene Love - A Fine, Fine Boy - Phil Spector Back to Mono (1958-1969)
5. The Cramps - Route 66 - Flamejob
6. The Magnetic Fields - I Looked All Over Town - I
7. The Granite Countertops - Daredevil - Planets Don't Twinkle
8. Bugskull - Concave Life - Phantasies & Senseitions
9. The Feminine Complex - I've Been Workin' On You - Livin' Love
10. The Coathangers - Parking Lot - The Coathangers
11. Tsunami - DMFH - A Brilliant Mistake
12. The Jefferson Handkerchief - I'm Allergic To Flowers - Pebbles Vol. 3 - The Acid Gallery
13. Henry's Dress - Winter '94 - Bust 'Em Green
14. The Beach Boys - No-Go Showboat - Little Deuce Coupe / All Summer Long
15. Millie Small - My Boy Lollipop - My boy lollipop
16. The Dub Syndicate - Hi-Fi Gets A Pounding Pt. 3 - Pounding System
17. The Mountain Goats - Letter From Belgium - We Shall All Be Healed
18. The Granite Countertops - Beyond Belief - Planets Don't Twinkle
19. Bogard Brothers - I'm In Love - Flying Rock
20. Zap Mama - Africa Sunset - 7

Sunday, May 11, 2014

The Deep End: Are you a unicorn, or are you just happy to see me?

Don't doubt yourself, babe, even if you can't relax, even if you can't stop shaking. We're on top of the world and we're going down to the underground, so if you've got the urge, come on let's submerge. Afterwards we can steal softly thru snow and come on up to the house. Everything I've told you was true, so are you a unicorn, or are you just happy to see me? Oh please let me come into the storm, because it's quarter to three, and there's no one in the place except you, me, and Etta James.


The Deep End: Time Has Come Today!

The Deep End presents an hour long show dedicated to the concept of TIME. Now is the time, where is the truth? Maybe there's time to wait, but you know how time fades away. Time is tight, but if I could turn back the hands of time, there'd be time enough for rocking when we're old...uh-oh, I'm going to be late for the train.


Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Jonah the Fail: Your New King of Late Night Political Comedy

When the news hit that Stephen Colbert would be taking over for David Letterman as host of The Late Show on CBS and leaving behind the right-wing talk show pundit character he has portrayed for years on The Colbert Report, comedy fans wondered what would happen to the 11:30 slot on Comedy Central. Would Jon Stewart's Daily Show be followed by a sharp new half hour of political satire, or would Comedy Central fall back on the smirky fratboy humor that serves them so well the other 23 hours of the day? Well, fans of topical meta-jokes can relax now, because a worthy replacement for Colbert has been found! Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce to you the comic stylings of Jonah Goldberg.

Like Colbert, Goldberg's genius lies in playing a clueless right-wing pundit named "Jonah Goldberg" who sees himself as a "conservative intellectual" while spouting hilarious parodies of bad writing and worse ideas, usually riddled with stale Star Wars or Simpsons references, mixed with one-liners swiped from old Ronald Reagan speeches. Part of the charm of his character is his goofy combination of laziness, sullen smugness, and word-salad articles where he contradicts his own point, often in the same sentence. Jonah's persona has fooled so many people that he managed to get hired as the editor-in-chief of National Review Online. His brilliant book-length lampoon of viciously muddy thinking, Liberal Fascism, (which hilariously refers to Hitler as "a man of the Left" and defends the weird assertion that liberalism is a form of fascism with the classic quote: ""Liberal fascism differs from classical fascism in many ways. I don't deny this. Indeed, it is central to my point") was actually taken seriously by people like Glenn Beck, who spent many tearful hours on camera in front of a chalkboard trying to make sense of Jonah's obviously sarcastic non-sequiturs about Woodrow Wilson.

Rumors are circulating around Comedy Central that Jonah has been deeply troubled lately that so many Republicans really believe he and his buffoonish character are one and the same. Many of them seem to admire the deliberately ignorant things he says, much like Colbert's character and before that, Archie Bunker of the groundbreaking sitcom All In The Family. Friends claim that he is hoping that, by moving into Colbert's old time slot, he can reach a more media-savvy young audience who get the joke. One makeup artist, who wishes to remain anonymous, quotes Goldberg as crying out in frustration, "My God, these people on the right! Hasn't anyone ever taught them about the old unreliable narrator trope?" while she applied simulated flop-sweat on his brow before the taping of the pilot episode.

Details about the new show are mostly being kept under wraps so far, but we do know that Jonah's first guest will be legendary comedian Andy Kaufman, who, after faking his own death as a joke back in 1984, has spent the last 30 years engaged in an elaborate performance art stunt under the pseudonym "Rick Santorum".

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Ear Candle Radio's Top 20 for April 2014

1. The Detroit Cobras - Oh My Lover - Love Life & Leaving
2. Mudwimin - Cloud Rodeo - Skiz
3. The Experimental Bunnies - Chain Of Lakes - Bunnies On Fire
4. X-tal - Long Dark Night - Everything Crash
5. Ninetynine - Always - Bande Magnetique
6. Helium - Silver Angel - The Dirt Of Luck
7. The Halo Benders - Turn It My Way - The Rebels Not In
8. Curtis Mayfield - Hard Times - There's No Place Like America Today
9. Bob Dylan & The Band - You Gotta Quit Kicking My Dog Around - A Tree With Roots
10. Siouxsie and the Banshees - Swimming Horses - Hyaena
11. Ruby Howl - Doubt - Heaven Hides There Too
12. The Rivingtons - You Are My Sunshine - The Liberty Years
13. Nina Simone - Four Women - Verve Jazz Masters 17: Nina Simone
14. Can - Oh Yeah - Tago Mago
15. The Cannanes - Crawler - Small Batch
16. Bessie Smith - A Good Man Is Hard To Find - Bessie Smith: The Complete Recordings, Vol. 3
17. The Bags - Babylonian Gorgon - All Bagged Up '77-'80
18. Subway Sect - Chain Smoking - We Oppose All Rock And Roll
19. Sandie Shaw - Your Time Is Gonna Come - Nothing Less Than Brilliant: The Best Of Sandie Shaw
20. Robert Wyatt - Rivmic Melodies - '68

Sunday, April 27, 2014

The Deep End: I want my own planet!!!

Here's one I cooked up the week before!

On the latest Deep End, first we take San Francisco, then we take our own planet. Can we come over tonight? We wanna love you some more. This is a message to persons unknown. We're not safe. And we don't need no more trouble.

The Deep End - Show 3.10 - April 16, 2014 by Thedeepend on Mixcloud

The Deep End: What keeps you going?

Last Wednesday's Deep End was put together rather quickly, what with the huge amount of video editing on my plate. But it was great fun nonetheless, rambling from Detroit garage-punk soul covers to inspirational songs for the young generation by the Heptones, with stops in between for boisterous bilingual indie girls, walls of Tall Dwarfs, and a devastating oldie from Fleetwood Mac where Peter Green confronts his spiritual crisis head on and jumps into the void. (Or as Davis Jones put it, "that was epic and sad.") The whole range of human emotion is represented in this hour. What keeps you going? Great radio, great radio.

The Deep End - Show 3.11 - April 23, 2014 by Thedeepend on Mixcloud

Saturday, April 26, 2014

The Granite Countertops: Stop Breaking Everything

We have made a bunch of new videos for songs on the new album by the Granite Countertops, PLANETS DON'T TWINKLE. Here is the opening track, a fusion of punk and drum-and-bass, with lyrics about the insane destructive streak of our conservative brethren. An ode to the ironic feeling of having grown up on anarchist ideals, and seeing them perverted and co-opted by the far right in the 21st century. As the song says, "Chaos is not the thrill it used to be!"

The Granite Countertops: Beyond Belief

The story of a sweet young Catholic girl learning some hard lessons about life, family, and secular humanism.

The Granite Countertops: Love Is A Verb

A song about how most love songs are crap, but love itself is awesome.

Friday, April 25, 2014

The Granite Countertops: Soft Shoulder

We made a video for our remake of the old Content Providers song.

Friday, April 11, 2014

The Deep End: Dance, dance, dance, dance, dance to the radio!

The Wipers and the Neo Boys kick off our latest edition of The Deep End. We dig repetition, we dance dance dance dance dance to the radio, so come on down to personnel, give us ten thousand pounds, sing this all together and see what happens.

The Deep End - Show 3.9 - April 9, 2014 by Thedeepend on Mixcloud

Friday, April 4, 2014

The Deep End: To the rescue

In this edition of The Deep End, the Monks and the Granite Countertops air some grievances, the Maytones and the Mighty Diamonds give us a dose of some reggae reality, Laurie Anderson walks the dog, Thomas Mapfumo tells the story of his life and struggle, and Laverne Baker calls on the superhuman powers of Jim Dandy.

The Deep End - Show 3.8 - April 4, 2014 by Thedeepend on Mixcloud

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

A side of Jon Stewart we never knew

Now it all makes sense!

Ear Candle Radio's Top 20 for March 2014

It's always a pleasure to check back in on Ear Candle Radio. Over the next couple weeks, we'll be overhauling the playlist and adding loads of new tracks! Our rent at Live 365 is due in August, and we're looking for change under the sofa cushions to keep this station going, so if you love what we do, don't forget to click our Paypal button and send us a little something to keep the music playing.

Keep listening, dear friends! Our tenth anniversary as a station is coming this October! That's a lot of rocking, and we don't wanna stop yet!

1. Shorty Long - Night Fo' Last - Essential Collection
2. Tara Key - No Reason Now - Ear and Echo
3. The Granite Countertops - Atlas Wept - Crashing Into The Future
4. Dr. Spaceman - Well, Why Not? - Zwanzig Kilometer Stau
5. Cibo Matto - Blue Train - Stereo Type A
6. She - Outta Reach - Wants A Piece Of You
7. Jah Wobble & Keith Levene - Within You Without You - Yin & Yang
8. Roni Size & Reprazent - Ballet Dance - New Forms
9. Shan-I Benjamen - Look After Your Structure - Holding Up Half The Sky: Women In Reggae/Roots Daughters
10. Impact All-Stars - Last Of The Jestering - Forward The Bass: Dub From Randy's, 1972-1975
11. Ed's Redeeming Qualities - Another Song In Celebration Of Chickens - Big Grapefruit Clean-Up Job
12. Spring Heel Jack - Double Edge Dub - Macro Dub Infection, Volume 1
13. The Mothers Of Invention - Ian Underwood Whips It Out (Live On Stage In Copenhagen) - Uncle Meat
14. Julie Ruin - Breakout A-Town - Julie Ruin
15. Husker Du - Somewhere - Zen Arcade
16. Chastity Belt - Seattle Party - Seattle Party (single)
17. Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band - We Are Normal - The Doughnut In Granny's Greenhouse
18. X-tal - Long Dark Night - Everything Crash
19. The Subtonix - Vertigo - Tarantism
20. The Small Faces - Afterglow (Of Your Love) - Ogden's Nut Gone Flake

Monday, March 31, 2014

KK Barrett Changed My Life

(Another cross-post with the KSFS blog. Hope ya like it.)

Say what you like about Spike Jonze's movies; one thing you can expect when you step into his world is uncanny production design. Last year's Her is no exception, and it earned longtime Jonze collaborator K. K. Barrett his first-ever Oscar nomination. Barrett has been doing production design for Jonze for a long time, even before Being John Malkovich, when he was still known mainly as a music video director. But I never actually noticed until my wife and I stuck around to watch the credits roll at the end of Her. A familiar name popped up, and I thought, "K. K. Barrett...where have I heard that name before?"

Come join me now as we turn back the hands of time. It's early 1978, I'm underage, and the people I carpooled with to see Patti Smith at Winterland have dragged me to the Mabuhay Gardens on Broadway. Miraculously, I avoid being carded and slink into the early San Francisco punk mecca like the wide-eyed Santa Cruz hippie kid I am, where I am confronted with this:



Check out the baby-faced blond kid on the drums. Yes, that was K. K. Barrett, powering the astounding Screamers, LA's first real punk band. Four guys, not a guitar in sight, yet they had a ferocious intensity that no ordinary rock and roll band could match. I was floored. I didn't fully understand what I was seeing and hearing, but I knew that this was the future, this was what was needed, and this was where music had to go to matter anymore. A week later, I was back home, watching a fast-rising new band called Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers. Previously, I'd been excited about this show; Petty had a fresh new sound that echoed the spirit of rock and roll from back when it still meant something. Now...I shrugged my shoulders and thought, "ehhh, they're OK I guess." I had just seen a revolution, and I was feeling the wind with a brand new skin. The Screamers had just raised the bar for weirdness, and I would never be quite the same.

The Screamers had a good run, doing things their own way. They never released a record because they were holding out for video as the next artform and thought that merely putting out vinyl was too much of a compromise. (Now, of course, their recorded output has been lovingly compiled for old and new fans.) Singer Tomata DuPlenty passed away from AIDS in 2000. Synth player and main songwriter Tommy Gear has vanished into his private life. Electric pianist Paul Roessler is still a well-regarded and very active LA musician. And K. K. Barrett is creating the visual environments for some of the trippiest movies that mainstream Hollywood has to offer these days. But even if none of them had ever been heard from again, they were responsible for one misfit kid's epiphany in a seedy little North Beach bar he had no business hanging out in. Bless 'em, one and all.

Lush Is The New Lo-Fi

(Just submitted this to the KSFS blog. A little bit of history for the young'uns.)

In his book How Music Works, David Byrne puts forth the theory that new forms of music develop, not merely through inspiration, but as a direct result of the architecture of the buildings where they're performed and the limits of the technology used to record them. When I think of music this way, the last 25 years of indie-rock make loads of sense.

In the 80s and 90s, cheap 4-track cassette recorders and a D.I.Y. aesthetic led to the inventive, fuzzy lo-fi sounds of bands like New Zealand's Tall Dwarfs, who used primitive overdubbing, crazy tape loops and inspired songcraft to create crude-yet-subtle music a four-piece punk rock band couldn't quite pull off:



One of my favorite artists in the lo-fi home recording scene was Baltimore's Linda Smith, whose recordings were like miniature paintings full of detail, melody, and quiet wit. (Nowadays, Linda has mostly retired from music and actually DOES create miniature paintings!)




John Darnielle's earliest Mountain Goats recordings took the idea of instant creation and accessibility even further as he bashed out freshly-written songs on a cassette boombox to capture the inspiration instantly, as it happened. Darnielle's work was infectiously spontaneous, and his natural gift for songwriting was oddly complemented by the imperfect sound, like a field recording from a mythological past:



But in the 21st century, with digital recording more accessible than ever and tape harder to come by, the old lo-fi sound no longer carries the feeling of "I have this idea and I have to get it down RIGHT NOW!" When sounds are reproduced with mathematical accuracy and the electronic tones that once required synthesizers can now be done on your own computer with a piece of plug-in software, the fuzzy sounds of the 80s and 90s sound like an affectation. The urge to reinvent the Velvet Underground for the 2000th time has not exactly gone away, but now, people in their own home studios also have the option of imagining they're Brian Wilson falling down the rabbit hole of Smile and landing in the middle of a disco with Philip Glass. Case in point: another artist from Baltimore who had a bit of a breakthrough not long ago:



In the end, what we create is not only a result of, but is directly altered by the tools available to us. It's hard to believe now that a clear, widescreen sound used to come off as "selling out" to underground ears. Now, instead of drowning in cruddy-sounding recordings that could be either works of genius hidden in atmospheric murk or just mediocrities posing in grubby clothes, we're confronted by new artists grappling with the urge to cover everything in reverb and use 100 tracks when four would do. What hasn't changed, though, is that a unique musical vision will emerge with each new set of tools that comes along. Right now, this is hitting the spot for me:

Saturday, March 29, 2014

The Deep End: It's Raining

We're a bit under the weather here at the Deep End, so what is there to do but play with it? We find ourselves gifted with an extra hour of blank canvas due to spring break at SFSU, and we've filled it with rain songs, sun songs, and much, much more. Let's bundle up, shut the windows, and enjoy the roar.

The Deep End: We are gonna make it through this year

More KSFS podcasts! Here is last week's. We roam from vintage keyboard-driven punk to sizzling garage classics to deep and weird dub grooves to tragic folk ballads to progressive political baby-makin' music. Your sonic guide J Neo Marvin takes you on another trip through the Everests and Marianas Trenches of sound and emotion, shows you that you're everywhere, and gets you home for tea.


New video: Rainy Night In Florida

From our upcoming documentary on the Granite Countertops' album, Planets Don't Twinkle. The song is not over yet.

Friday, March 14, 2014

The Deep End: Super Duper Rescue Heads!

I've got an electric guitar and half a bottle of warm beer. I've got some funny ideas about what sounds good.


Sunday, March 9, 2014

The Deep End: Making plans on sure things that aren't.

And with this one, you are fully caught up. Join us for the next Deep End this coming Wednesday at 9 PM Pacific time on KSFS!


The Deep End: The Eagle Never Hunts The Fly!

I don't know how I missed hearing Pearls Before Swine's hilarious Dylan parody before, but now that it is part of my life, I must make it a part of yours as well.


The Deep End: This is the story of Johnny Spud

More than a touch of Neil Young in our second show of 2014, and a shout-out to the Global Neil Young Professional Society. Also, check out the Roger McGuinn PSA I found. I'm going to find it hard not to play this on every single show.


The Deep End: There ain't no kings at the Insect Lounge!

Yes, I have been back on KSFS for a while now, as I hit the home stretch in my return to higher education. And what a ride it has been. But let's catch up with some podcasts. Nothing like a little bit of Love to kick off a new semester. What is happening and how have you been?



Saturday, March 1, 2014

Ear Candle Radio's Top 20 for February 2014

1. Pulp - Joyriders - His'n'Hers
2. Grant Hart - Is the Sky the Limit - The Argument
3. Steve Mackay - The Prisoner (featuring Iggy Pop) - Sometimes Like This I Talk
4. David Bowie - Always Crashing In The Same Car - Low
5. Paul Revere & The Raiders - Louie, Go Home - Midnight Ride
6. The Julie Ruin - Lookout - Run Fast
7. Patrick Simpson and Family - When The Vote Catches On - Voting Songs
8. Ovarian Trolley - Microscope - Ciao Meow
9. Ken Nordine - Gold - Colors
10. The Mountain Goats - Commandante - Devil in the Shortwave 7"
11. The Dirtbombs - Strings Of Life - Party Store
12. Chastity Belt - Seattle Party - Seattle Party (single)
13. The Trade Winds - Mind Excursion - Excursions
14. Naahant - Uhh...Yeah - (nei-haent) EP
15. Swell - Forget About Jesus - 41
16. Lou Reed - Cremation - Magic And Loss
17. The Julie Ruin - Cookie Road - Run Fast
18. The Mothers Of Invention - Ian Underwood Whips It Out (Live On Stage In Copenhagen) - Uncle Meat
19. Thee Outside - Empty Mind - Deaf Disco
20. Kristin Hersh - When The Levee Breaks - Strings

Thanks for your feedback and keep listening, dear ones.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Blow Down This House Of Cards



During the long wait between Seasons 1 and 2 of House Of Cards on Netflix, I was inspired to watch the entire seven-year run of The West Wing, which I had never seen before. Watching the two shows back to back gives you an interesting perspective on how differently the same political system can be portrayed in fiction.

First, The West Wing. I had caught a few more recent Aaron Sorkin shows in various classes here at SF State; BECA professors love Sorkin, probably because both Studio 60 and The Newsroom do such a thorough job of showing the inner workings of television production. There are certain tics in every Sorkin show, though, that both charm and annoy me: cynical/neurotic/idealistic heroes with an endless supply of wit riding from crisis to crisis; Very Special Episodes pointing the finger at Big Important Controversies; and the inevitable Epic Rant That Hits The Nail On The Head, Shames All The Right People And Convinces Everyone.

What made West Wing work most of the time was a) Sorkin’s shtick seemed a lot fresher at the turn of the century (the mostly great ensemble cast didn’t hurt either) and b) the historical context was palpable. It must have been a tonic during the Bush-Cheney era to tune in to Martin Sheen’s goofy-yet-righteous President Bartlet or Alan Alda as a decent, avuncular ideal of reasonable Republican opposition. The message was “all of us are good (and sexy, and funny) people at heart, working hard to do the right thing for our country. The news may drive you to despair, but this system will work if you put power in the hands of honest, responsible people.” The tone helped you overlook some of that alternate-universe government’s more questionable acts (a rather creepy “education reform” bill and a constant series of military interventions in every corner of the globe are two that come to mind) and root for the heroes. It was as effective as it was corny.

House Of Cards turns that whole world upside down. With few exceptions, these are vile people. I don’t just mean our protagonists, the scheming Machiavellian Underwoods. Washington DC is a world of predators, jockeying for power, gaming the system, and cultivating their images for a gullible press and public. The characters scheme, con, and shift alliances like the nihilistic aristocrats they are. Star/producer Kevin Spacey loves to break the fourth wall and mug for the camera with sly asides for our benefit, the most of telling of which is, “democracy is sooooo overrated”, delivered in a honey-sweet Southern drawl. Spacey’s deadpan scenery-chewing is entertaining as hell, and the show, with its convoluted royal intrigues, is a thrill to immerse yourself in. But unlike other great recent TV antiheroes like Walter White or Don Draper, you never get a sense of inner conflict or twisted humanity; Frank Underwood rarely comes across as anything more than a hyper-intelligent shark.

What is House Of Cards’ version of American civics? Spacey loves to boast in interviews about how his character, unlike real-life politicians, knows how to “get things done.” But what does Frank Underwood accomplish? So far, his two major legislative achievements in the show are yet another dodgy “education reform” bill in Season 1 (both shows present an alternate-universe America where teachers’ unions have as much power as the oil industry, and it takes a truly bold politician to defy their formidable might) and this season’s “entitlement reform” bill. Frank is a “center-right” Democrat who makes Joe Lieberman look like Elizabeth Warren in comparison, and that crashing sound you hear is the Overton Window hurtling off a cliff. If West Wing was a mirror of earnest progressive idealism growing in the midst of a neoconservative decade, House Of Cards is the apathetic reaction to five years of thwarted hope and change. At its worst, it tells us, “Stop caring about politics; they’re all equally corrupt!”

Oddly, the show is at its most perceptive when it comes to feminist issues. Claire Underwood, like her husband, is a monster in many ways, none of which have anything to do with why she becomes a target of national hatred. Why does Claire receive death threats? Because she went public about having an abortion, campaigns actively against rape in the military, and is accused of having an extramarital affair. The fact that these, not any of the truly awful acts we watch her commit, are what make her a target speaks volumes about the misogyny that pervades our politics. Other women who lack Claire’s cold expediency fare less well, like the traumatized rape survivor she enrolls in her cause, then abandons when it’s politically convenient. One character who may be more than a victim in the end is Rachel, the ex-prostitute who spends the entire season under virtual house arrest because she knows too much, until she takes control of her destiny with a shocking, decisive act in the final episode. I really hope she turns out not to be another mere speedbump in the Underwoods’ unstoppable path, but the player who finally knocks down the house of cards that has been meticulously assembled for the first two seasons. We shall see.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Downtown SF street performers

Cool audio verite recording of downtown buskers from the BECA 510 class. This was done by Mikhail Alexander, Bryan Castaneda, and Temba Kamara, and it's one of my personal favorites. You are there! Nice interview at the end.


Live At The Hemlock, 4/21/13

I'm managing the KSFS Media Mixcloud site this year. Here's a show I taped last year for the Live Music Recording class (BECA 510). Much more to come.


Saturday, February 1, 2014

Ear Candle Radio's Top 20 for January 2014

Our listeners seem to be on a Zappa-back-when-he-was-good binge. Every time I sneak an old Mothers track into the playlist, it pops up on the charts. Elsewhere, we get a spacy smoocher from George Faith, a soulful garage stomp from Can (we saw Malcolm Mooney perform this live last year), Sandie Shaw's answer song to "Run For Your Life", David Bowie channeling Scott Walker on his new album, and much much more. This is the time, and this is the record of the time. Keep listening, luvvies!

1. George Faith - So Fine - To Be A Lover
2. Can - Connection - Unlimited Edition
3. Sandie Shaw - Run - The EP Collection
4. The Mothers Of Invention - Directly From My Heart To You - Weasels Ripped My Flesh
5. David Bowie - Heat - The Next Day
6. Burning Spear - Vision - The Fittest of The Fittest
7. Laurie Anderson - From The Air - Big Science
8. Naahant - Uhh...Yeah - (nei-haent) EP
9. The Mothers Of Invention - The Dog Breath Variations - Uncle Meat
10. Fuxa - Electric Sound Of Summer - Electric Sound of Summer
11. Walt Kelly And Others - Go-Go Pogo - Songs Of The Pogo
12. Sun City Girls - The Vinegar Stroke - Torch of the Mystics
13. The Dave Clark Five - Any Way You Want It - The History of the Dave Clark Five
14. Sound Dimension - Congo Rock - Studio One Roots
15. PJ Harvey - You Came Through - Uh Huh Her
16. The Persuasions - I Could Love You If You Let Me - Right Around the Corner
17. The Mothers Of Invention - Who Needs The Peace Corps (Instrumental) - The Lumpy Money Project/Object [Disc 3]
18. The Ophelias - Mr. Rabbit - SF Unscene
19. The Dub Syndicate - Hi-Fi Gets A Pounding Pt. 3 - Pounding System
20. The Spades - We Sell Soul - I Have Always Been Here Before: The Roky Erickson Anthology

Friday, January 24, 2014

Planets Don't Twinkle: Sneak Preview

The new Granite Countertops album will up and running and available to buy in about a month. In the meantime, feast your tender ears on what we've been up to.