Normally lyric videos are pretty lame, but this one is great. It has a story!
And how about the song? It’s been almost six months since we found out Sleater-Kinney was back in the studio and being produced by St. Vincent, and “Hurry On Home” was the worth the wait. It’s everything you could have hoped for in a collaboration like that.
And that’s not the only development in S-K news. Filthy Friends, Corin Tucker’s supergroup with Peter Buck and Scott McCaughey, has a new video as well. “Break Me” is a jangle pop classic with Tucker’s super dry vocals right up front in the mix. It’s fascinating (for nerds like me) to compare the way different collaborators bring out different elements in the sound.
Lollapalooza is a funny event. There’s a lot of history around it, culturally and personally. I attended the first year’s Lollapalooza 15 years ago with a car load of my college pals, and I’m proud to say I’m still in touch with all of that original posse. We’re spread out across the globe now, but thanks to the internet we know who’s living where, who’s changing careers, buying houses, all that. Lollapalooza was a crazy idea back then, a strange celebration of (some of) the music we liked and the politics we were thinking about. Or something… Anyway, it felt like our thing in all its early-90s, pre-internet, slacker glory.
I went the next year, too, this time with my girlfriend. The highlight of the second Lollapalooza, for me, was Ice Cube. Although I remember being annoyed by the abbreviated versions of songs and all the “wave your hands in the air” crap (which was a huge hip-hop cliche even way back then!), it was still exciting to see my favorite rapper in person. My girlfriend was excited about Lush and the Jesus and Mary Chain. The headliner that year was the Red Hot Chili Peppers, a band I didn’t care for even though Anthony Keidis is from my hometown. We both agreed they put on a good show, though, with the fire shooting out of their helmets and all.
Fast-forward fourteen years. That girlfriend is now my wife. And Lollapalooza no longer feels like our generation’s thing anymore. It’s not just that we’ve got about a decade on the age of the average attendee. There were plenty other people our age (and older, believe it or not), but there was a different vibe. Maybe it’s all the shirtless dudes. Maybe it’s the crass corporate branding on every possible surface. Who knows? It was still fun, and there were lots of great bands, and it’s cool that it takes place in my city so I can just take the El home at night. But is Lollapalooza any different than Coachella or Bonnaroo now? Does it have its own personality? Or is it just another victim of our cultural homogenization?
One other circumstance that might have affected my attitude, even when compared to last year, is that my wife is currently expecting our first child, a boy, and that seems to make you look at everything a little differently. And while I don’t necessarily want to be one of those dads who’s always deliberately pushing his own unfulfilled dreams onto his kid regardless of the kid’s interests, I’ve got to admit that since the cochlear structures of the fetal ear have developed, he’s already been exposed to several cool shows: Tom Jones and Etta James at Ravinia, the Mountain Goats, Art Brut, Mission of Burma, and Yo La Tengo at Pitchfork. The baby seemed to be pretty chill at those previous shows, but he expressed some strong opinions at Lollapalooza. For example, he hates the Dresden Dolls. And even though he let us know he didn’t appreciate Lady Sovereign’s warm-up deejay, he did enjoy Blackalicious quite a bit, particularly his freestyle.
What follows will be my take on sets I caught at Lollapalooza this year as well as the reaction expressed by another music fan in utero as measured by number of kicks…
I was somewhere around Indio, in the apex of the desert, when Tommy Lee kicked in. As I walked through the manicured grass, happily eating corn on the cob, the thin and dust-caked Motley Crue drummer ran up to me, weaving his arms and torso in a spastic model of the Axl Rose snake dance. I continued gnawing on the corn, and flicked my eyes upward in annoyance. He chuckled and regrouped with his bleached-blonde entourage to continue down the field, toward the throbbing bass of Daft Punk.
Even without the icky hair-metal run-ins, this year’s Coachella Festival still would have been the strangest one yet. The cultural oasis of the Colorado Desert (held May 29-30) featured a predictably strong lineup of eclectic indie artists but, pivotally, an additional interest in capturing the mainstream crowd. From Kanye West’s shining ego on Saturday to Madonna’s short-and-skanky dance tent appearance Sunday, the indie snob’s once-safe haven was taken over by squealing strangers – and two sold-out days later, it’s hard to tell whether Coachella will continue down the beaten pop path.
Whatever. For the most part, Coachella still retained its joyous communal atmosphere, a kaleidoscopic place where alternative art reigns and nobody knows your name. (And there are celebrities under every rock.) For me, it was The End: the final fling before graduation, the last irresponsible trip with my best friends. But it was also the beginning, as I discovered thanks to some artists, some new opportunities, and a chance meeting with my very own Yoda, though taller and with some ketchup in his beard.
As Sleater-Kinney has matured from riot-punk youth rebellion to being the shock troops for intelligent Pacific Northwest punk rock music, the larger media cognoscenti (i.e., geeks like Rolling Stone) have recognized not only their talent, but also the fact that they’re women. Including the band in its “Women Who Rock” article of a few months ago probably had a few RS editors patting themselves on their backs. Yay! I’m so hip! When in fact, the move reeked of concession – Sure, we’ll give you S-K. As long as Ashanti and Shakira do the covershoot in their undies. Evidently PJ Harvey, Bjork, Kelly Hogan, and Chan Marshall’s schedules were filled to the brim. But really ever since 2000’s All Hands on the Bad One, Sleater-Kinney has been on a collision course with this kind of widespread attention. And, ever true to their ideals, guitarists/vocalists Corin Tucker and Carrie Brownstein and drummer Janet Weiss haven’t let acclaim damage their agenda as a group confronting emotional, cultural, and political issues inside 3-minute blasts of punk rock.
A friend of mine, knowing my interest in both music and academia, forwarded an announcement of a Midwestern conference titled “Chicks Rock: Women in the Face of Rock and Roll.” My first thought was: oh boy, how obsolete can you get? Is there anything left to say about women’s strong and exciting contributions to rock? I’d say they’ve made their place, they’re in the rock world and there’s nothing remarkable about that anymore. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist (or an academic) to see that Patti Smith is as powerful and compelling a rock figure as any male you could name. Or that Madonna and Bjork cut their swathes in the pop world with as much talent and charisma as Elvis P. or Michael Jackson. Now, the Donnas are a fun (if retro) punk/pop band and Sleater-Kinney is one of the best contemporary rock bands in the world. Is there a difference in what these rock musicians/bands do and what male rock bands/musicians do?
The Chinese lunar calendar declares 2003 will be the year of the goat. While this definitely portends danger for many musicians who are currently heroes or heroines in hearts of millions (Kelly Rowland should be very worried), let’s take a moment to look back on what the same calendar called the year of the black horse, 2002. Some musical highlights are described below. In the meantime, let’s all look forward to “American Idol 2”, “Joe Millionaire”, “Star Search: Live!”, “The Bachelorette”, and “Celebrity Mole: Hawaii”, which curiously features no actual celebrities. (Aside to Stephen Baldwin – It’s true. You’re not really a celebrity. Get a real job and leave us alone.)
I did a bad thing on Wednesday night. I was in a bar, some random joint in a part of Chicago that I’m not too familiar with. I was there at the behest of a few recent acquaintances; we had gone out to drink and bullshit. What we didn’t know was this bar was going to have live music that night. We found out when the band began to set up.