All posts by Derek Phillips

The Day After

From the National Affairs Desk:

It’s the day after and where are the good people? We should be cleaning up balloons and confetti and gobbling Excedrin like candies to relieve jubilant hangovers, but we’re waiting. We’re waiting to see if predominantly black voters can save us from the hypocrisy and greed of predominantly white voters. More pointedly, white male voters. It turns out that America is still sick from its original sin and I am not sure if there even is a cure.

Despite what is looking more and more like a win for Biden-Harris, It shouldn’t have ever been in question. That is, if we’re really that Shining City on the Hill. Exit polls are bearing out what the early polls showed re: Trump’s base of support. White males support Trump in large numbers, this despite an economy tanked by Trump’s bungling of a national health crisis, scattered civil unrest brought on by systematic police brutality, and four years of continued ugliness. Somewhere upwards of 60% of white American males looked at the mess Trump has created the last four years and decided they’d like more.

Florida Demo Breakdown
Trump actually gained among white males vs. his performance in 2016.

There was a lot of hope this week that Florida (and Texas!) would be bellwethers of America’s disgust with Trumpism. Serious people who sniff out the political winds really thought we’d see an acceleration of the purpling of these states–not driven by demographics, but by decency! White males instead created bulwarks and stopped the march in its place. While there are some real questions to ask about Biden’s under-performing among Hispanic/Latinos, the fact of the matter is that white males like Donald Trump and the congressional Republicans who enable Trumpism. 

Posts like this are usually met with a chorus of “not all Trump supporters are racist!” I guess. But one thing is as clear today as it was in 2016: Trump supporters are not as disgusted by racism and race-baiting as good people should be. That’s been true for generations in America and it’s true today. 

As I wrote yesterday, every election is an inflection point. It’s our opportunity to right the ship and put us on the path to achieving that “more perfect union.” That very idea is at the core of American Exceptionalism. As a patriot, I love America but have to admit I hate Americans. There is nothing exceptional about people facing permanent and inevitable demographic changes clinging to the scraps they have while the 1% clears the table. That’s begging and it’s demeaning. And I guess that breeds cruelty, but it’s maddening to see the ire misdirected year after year. We have a lot to clean up still and I’m just not sure we’re up to the job.

Election 2020: Revenge of the Turtle and the Used Car Salesman

From The National Affairs Desk:

Well, this is it, folks. Election Day 2020 is upon us and while it’s certainly not the end of the Trump nightmare–we have at least until January 21 for him to blow up the whole shithouse–it is the beginning of the end…one way or another. The big question before us these next few days and weeks is what exactly is coming to an end?

Will voters take back control of their government and toss out a serial liar and fraud, or will we enter a period of accelerated disintegration? What does The End look like?

Before we get to the end, I’m not even sure when it started. Was it Bush v. Gore some 20 years ago when the United States Supreme Court stepped in to stop a recount that Al Gore was winning to hand the election to a dim-witted son of a President? Was it before that when right-wing radio rose up to scream in the faces of delivery guys and salesmen stuck in rush hour traffic and mourning the loss of the Shining City on a Hill first promised, then condemned with the election of a Clinton

Or was it in an earlier, darker time when the whisper of a “silent majority” who valued law & order over justice was waiting in the wings standing back and standing by for the order to attack? And attack they did, with billy clubs, tear gas, mandatory minimums and a gerrymandering scheme to make LBJ blush. 

Who knows? All elections are an inflection point and this year is no different, except it’s not governing philosophies that are at odds, but the entire concept of a free and fair election. Will this be the end of four years of rampant grift, fraud and cruelty or the end of American-style republican (small “R”) democracy? Will the whole experiment blow up in our faces as an abject failure? The next few weeks will tell us.

And it’s not like we didn’t warn you.

This year is another clear test of character, represented on either side by everything that’s at stake. In one corner we have a flawed, but capable and decent man who has adjusted his messaging (and more importantly, his policy) to recognize the changing times we’re in. Joe Biden has been in the game a long time, which means he not only knows how to win but he knows how to govern. He knows politics is about compromise–not giving up what you believe in, but listening to others and finding the space to move closer.

Retired Naval officer Jonathan Gaffney gets it.

In the other corner we have Donald Trump. A compulsive liar and cheat who is considered a joke by everyone who actually knows him and his brand of “business.” The saddest part of this whole thing is that he’s duped a good 40% of this country into thinking he’s anything more than a clown with bad intent. He’s not even a good conman, yet here we are. We’ve been talked into a lemon, will we now double-down on the extended warranty?

We opened the National Affairs Desk in 2006 with a short piece on how straight shootin’ George W. Bush couldn’t hit the truth if it was the side of a barn. It seems quaint now, but the Valerie Plame story was heating up the charts back then. It was a real scandal (no, really) when the White House played fast and loose with classified information and the identity of covert officers whose husbands had the gall to submit intelligence that undermined the main argument for a war of choice. 

“Ah, but that’s just how hardball is played!” you might say. But it’s not baseball we’re playing here, gang. It is a much more lethal game played by sharp-teethed reptiles like Mitch McConnell who will rip your fingers off like a snapping turtle. Yes, a Snapping Turtle.

One defining chapter was when Cocaine Mitch blocked the hearing for Merrick Garland, holding an open court seat for almost a year hoping his bet on the worst person in America winning the 2016 election would pay off. He hit the trifecta and handed the court to Donald Fucking Trump to shape for a generation. That turtle bites.

Hunter S. Thompson flashes victory signs
Hunter S. Thompson was an outlaw but not a crook…and certainly not a used car salesman.

So, this is it. This is when we’ll find out if “America [is] just a nation of two hundred million used car salesmen with all the money we need to buy guns and no qualms about killing anybody else in the world who tries to make us uncomfortable.” Hunter S. Thompson thought so, but he was one for hyperbole employed with dramatic flare. The question remains: how uncomfortable are you, really? Are you the salesman or the mark? Today’s vote will tell the world once and for all. 

 

The True Story of The Stooges at Goose Lake Tapes

Today marks the release of The Stooges Live at Goose Lake 1970, a release so unlikely it kinda boggles the mind. Not only are there very few live recordings of The Stooges, but this particular recording of this particular performance is so drenched in legend that to even suggest there was a clean documentation of it sounds like a tall tale. 

I’ve been very lucky to be friends with and play in a bunch of bands with Joshua Rogers. We met in the early 90s and quickly established a musical kinship that took us through dalliances with glam, mod, garage rock, Americana and beyond. Early on we dubbed him “Gadget,” not just for his love of technology but for his impeccable timing as a drummer. It’s almost as if he were designed to be a drummer–programmed, as such.

If you knew Joshua well in those days you also knew his dad in some way. Jim Cassily loved Josh’s musical projects and loved facilitating them however he could. In addition to being a king storyteller, Jim was an inventor with a specific interest in how rhythm has residual benefits relating to motor skills, balance and lots of other stuff I don’t understand. The Interactive Metronome became a key piece of his technological legacy, something Joshua knew well as his dad would have him clap along with a metronome as part of his learning the drums.

And the stories he would tell…Our early bands spent time recording with Josh’s dad and that meant hours of exposure to the various tales he would weave throughout the process of setting up for a recording session. I was a natural skeptic in my youth and basically considered “adults” to be full of shit. Especially Boomers who took any opportunity to tell us how much better everything was in their day, so I was probably more dismissive to his storytelling than I had any right to be.

“Dad was such a legendary bullshitter that it was hard to sort of keep the stories straight,” Josh joked in a recent call where we caught up on this crazy adventure. 

As a kid it was sometimes hard for Josh to discern fact from his dad’s colorful fiction. “Friends laughed at me because I told them he was a member of the Oak Ridge Boys.” This bit of fantasy was likely the result of Josh’s conflating some joke Jim may have told him about having sung with the Oak Ridge Boys and the fact that he could sing in the same register to hit the most famous part of their most famous hit, “Elvira.” When you’re a kid sometimes you miss the nuances of a joke. 

There were also brushes with fame that would sometimes get jumbled up in the telling or retelling. “I thought he had dated Janis Joplin, but mom says no. He–like everyone else–thought she was scuzzy. He did work with her though, but I’m not sure to what capacity. And he did date Debbie Harry.”

Wait, what? 

“Mom jokes that he chose her over Debbie Harry. That’s what he would tell her.”

“Eventually, I started to take dad’s stories with a big hunk of salt.”

The original Goose Lake recordings, stored in a vodka box.

The Stooges’ performance at Goose Lake was pure rock and roll myth. It was the last show with the original line-up. Bassist Dave Alexander was summarily fired from the band by Iggy immediately after leaving the stage because he was so stoned or scared or whatever that he couldn’t play. At least, that’s how the story went.

But at what point does a story become history? Sometimes it’s just when it’s been told enough times by enough people and sometimes it’s when there’s some corroborating evidence. Such is the tale of how a box of tapes in a farmhouse basement in Michigan made its way to Nashville, via Chicago.

Continue reading The True Story of The Stooges at Goose Lake Tapes

New Son Volt video: The 99

Video: Son Volt – “The 99”

Son Volt - The 99 - Full Length Official Video

From Union, out now.

I don’t spend a lot of time on negativity anymore, and that includes writing negative reviews. I mean, really…we’re surrounded by a shitstorm of Trumpist negativity and we are a music site of, by and  for fans. So it pains me to write this:

This new Son Volt video is laughably bad. Jay and crew playing in front of a green screen while stock footage of the Great Depression is the No Depression version of phoning it in. And seriously, we can’t have that. This is a crucial time in the history of this country and we need Jay’s voice. It’s important. No half-measures, man. I am onboard with the sentiment, but you must try harder!

Son Volt: web, twitter, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

New Sharon Van Etten video: No One’s Easy To Love

Video: Sharon Van Etten – “No One’s Easy To Love”

Sharon Van Etten - No One's Easy To Love

Directed by Katherine Dieckmann. From Remind Me Tomorrow, out now on Jagjaguwar.

I don’t know where she is or where she’s going, but Sharon Van Etten is a boss. How do I know? She walks with great authority. And you can’t be a boss without some authority. New single, “No One’s Easy To Love” is a clear statement of authority in relationships. Not that Sharon has all the answers--that’s not what authority or expertise imply. It’s that she has the experience and insight to speak to the complications that make up our closest connections.

I mean, the title itself is an authoritative statement. No one is easy to love. Humans have faults and flaws and they’re unique to each of us, which means they can be baffling to others. I have a very annoying habit of identifying and highlighting vocal inflections and regional accents. For example, many of my in-laws pronounce words that start with “un” as a prefix as “on.” They say things like “ONusual” or “ONcomfortable.” I notice it every single time. How annoying of me. I am not easy to love. And neither are you. The boss said so.

Sharon Van Etten: web, twitter, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

New Purple Mountains video: Darkness and Cold

Video: Purple Mountains – “Darkness and Cold”

Purple Mountains "Darkness and Cold" (Official Music Video)

From Purple Mountains, due July 12 on Drag City.

Somewhere deep within the GLONO archives are boxes and boxes of VHS tapes. Throughout much of our teens and all of our 20s, Jake had a video camera and for long periods during those years, he seemed to video everything. Sometimes it was events in our lives, like graduations or birthday parties. Sometimes it was us being creative by making music videos of ourselves singing to The Charlatans. Sometimes--and this was a LOT of the time--it was just us sitting around his mom’s house or driving our friend Pat’s convertible (called The Soft Machine, natch) around our home town. Once, we climbed the fence surrounding an abandoned drive-in movie theater and Jake climbed to the very top of the giant outdoor screen. We did this a lot. We were bored in the midwest and a little infatuated with ourselves. It was cool and unique. It was before we all had a camera in our pockets. It was before selfie culture.

I think David Berman also has a bunch of these boxes in his basement. I think this video might be from one of the boxes way in the back. The tape holding the top closed is getting brittle and has pulled up a little from the surface of the two flaps holding the box closed. I wonder if he ever makes stop-action videos with his old Star Wars figures? We should compare notes.

Purple Mountains: web, twitter, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

New Ty Segall video: Taste

Video: Ty Segall – “Taste”

Ty Segall "Taste" (Official Music Video)

Directed by Joshua Erkman. From First Taste, due August 2 on Drag City.

Ty Segall wants your shit and he is willing to murder you for it. We live in a sick society and are being programmed on a daily basis to feed our sickness. Never one for subtlety, Ty Segall goes on a real-life, one-man Grand Theft Auto joyride of destruction to accumulate as much bling as he can so he can take home the big prize. “What’s the big prize,” you say? More shit.

He can’t help it, we can’t help it. We’ve literally elected a golden calf to lead our country with game-show rules. Virtual-reality is higher definition than reality-reality. We’re starving while drowning in bits and bites.

UP, UP, DOWN, DOWN, LEFT, RIGHT, LEFT, RIGHT, B, A, START.

Ty Segall: web, twitter, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

New Willie Nelson video: Come On Time

Video: Willie Nelson – “Come On Time”

Willie Nelson - Come On Time (Official Video)

From Ride Me Back Home, due June 21 on on Sony.

Ok, it’s been a little negative around here lately. Weird times create good art, but it can take a psychic toll on us all. But there are lots of things out there we can be thankful for. That Willie Nelson is alive, well and still cranking out good jams is about as much as we can ask for these days, so let’s take a moment to recognize an actual living American Treasure.

“Come On Time” is a simple country-blues shuffle with standard structure and metre. In lesser hands, that might be the end of my comments on this song, but when you put an American Master on the job, you get something more. You get something much more than the sum of its parts.

That said, I am not at all comfortable with Willie Nelson smack-talking death. Do not tempt the darkness, Willie! At 86 years old, things are getting dicey and the last thing we need right now is another void in what actually makes American great. Stay safe, Willie.

Willie Nelson: web, twitter, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

New Kyle Craft video: Broken Mirror Pose

Video: Kyle Craft – “Broken Mirror Pose”

Kyle Craft - Broken Mirror Pose [OFFICIAL VIDEO]

From Showboat Honey, due July 12 on Sub Pop.

I’m not sure what it is about this video that has me all in a bunch, but GOT DAMN if this song isn’t stuck in my head for days on end. Maybe it’s the balance of danger and fun the song elicits? I mean, it has a pretty ominous rhythm part juxtaposed with one of the most sing-song-y choruses of the summer jam season.

Balance, it seems, is a point of order for Craft as his bio says, “This is basically an album centered around bad luck and good fortune hitting at the same time,” Craft explains “Then, out of nowhere, I find love. Everything went to shit except that. I guess that’s how life works.”

The idea of bad luck and good fortune is particularly interesting to me as my closest friends and I just went through a year of a father dying. My friend’s dad, Bill, played a pivotal role in our lives, but one that was as gentle and “hands-off” as you can possibly imagine. He was a quiet presence, but a profound one in our lives. And as he was going through the process of dying, he had a constant refrain: “It is what it is.” He had the bad luck of getting brain cancer, but the good fortune of 75 years of great health and living life to the fullest. That’s a pretty good end result, really.

So this song kinda mystifies me. There are strange qualities that are hard to describe, and it’s driving me crazy. Maybe I should stop trying to figure it out and just accept it for what it is? Maybe I should just let it be? Maybe, after all, it just is what it is?

Kyle Craft: web, twitter, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

New Rubinoos video: Do You Remember

Video: The Rubinoos – “Do You Remember”

The Rubinoos - "Do You Remember" (Official Music Video)

From From Home, due August 23 on Yep Roc.

There’s a long history of bands paying homage to each other. The Animals made a minor cottage industry out of it with “The Story of Bo Diddley” and “Monterrey,” but it’s nice to see the kids continuing a tradition. “Do You Remember” has not-so-subtle nods to Jon Spencer Blues Explosion and explicit call-outs to “the bands in the plaza/playing at noon.” It’s important to remember the good times, and the bands that provided your own private soundtrack to those good times. The Rubinoos implore you to not forget. Not ever.

And who says you can’t make a video on the cheap? Well, probably nobody anymore now that we all have a capable video camera in our pockets, but The Rubinoos cut away all the fat to focus on the fun: A pal dancing her ass off in front of a curtain in what looks like your parents’ foyer. That’s a good time.

The Rubinoos: web, twitter, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.