Category Archives: Bands
Bands and artists I like.
WORDS “Earwig” Cassette Release Party w/ Guy Blakeslee, KERA, and Jessie Jones. April 19 at Pehrspace!
If you know Guy Blakeslee from his role as helmsman of psych rock howlers the Entrance Band, you might be surprised at the heartfelt, brittle mystery of his solo work, in which he and he alone performs songs of pain and amazement with guitar, drum machines, and little else. This is his last show before a bunch of dates opening for Interpol–catch him while ya can.
KERA is, of course, Kera Armendariz of Kera and The Lesbians. They have been exploding on our scene with in-your-face, fun folk rock. Here KERA goes it alone, giving her opuses room to ring out in your ears. Her voice, which fills up rooms and hearts, is chock full of the sour soul of pre-war blues and jazz, and tonight will likely be accompanied only by an acoustic guitar. (But who knows what tricks she might have up her sleeve?)
WORDS, on the other hand, is anything but acoustic. While there are no drums in this cello-based trio, there are hefty pedals, angry amps, and raw skill in the hands of guitarist Marisa DeMeglio (Wolf Wolf Prize) and virtuoso cellist Aniela Marie Perry, who normally single-handedly hosts nights of classical music when she’s not playing with country rock upstarts Latter-Day Bard. Instrumentally they’re a force in their own right–but when fronted by DM Collins (poet, TV star, and L.A. RECORD ne’er-do-well) they will scare you into forgetting everything you thought you knew about live music. These are WORDS to leave you speechless–but that’s okay, since they will be releasing their new lolipop records cassette EP “Earwig” tonight! And as an added treat, they’ll be accompanied by Stephen Kalinich, the only poet ever produced by Brian Wilson, and the unofficial 8th member of the Beach Boys, who wrote songs for such albums as Friends and 20/20.
Jessie Jones is quiet in her private life, but has one of the most recognizable voices ever to come out of BURGER RECORDS, first with Feeding People, and now with Death Valley Girls. She just got done with one tour with Death Valley Girls, and is about to embark on another, but somehow she’s found the time to pioneer her solo project (featuring some recognizable favorites) with us tonight!
Everybody who’s anybody in Los Angeles has at least one Kim Fowley story, and I’ve got a million of them. Here is the first of my three most memorable. (Art by Elana Pritchard.)
Number 1: “Did you RAPE her?”
About half a dozen years ago, I was on this real strong hating rape tip—a tip I’m still on, and I think everyone should be. I mean, I hate all rape, even the kinds our culture regularly makes fun of for no good reason, like prison rape. “Oops, dropped the soap!” Ha ha. Fuck you, you rape sympathizing asshole.
Confession time: this isn’t just a hypothetical for me. When I was in my late teens, I was sexually assaulted, or, you know, technically raped, by an older guy. Despite what some might say about there not being degrees of rape, I would consider it a light rape—he just fed me full of free drugs until I didn’t know what the hell was going on, and then fucked me, when I had specifically gone over to his place adamant that I didn’t want to touch the guy.
It was only once, but it screwed me up for life. I became a crystal meth addict for about five years of my life, and to this day I still don’t know if I’m straight, or bi, or if I’m scared of sex with men because of what he did, or if I should be straight but am seeking out sex with men as an attempt to burn that trauma out of my system, or what the fuck is going on. (But don’t cry for me, Argentina–I am having a very good time figuring it out!)
And I was an adult, and male—I can’t imagine what it would be like to be a minor, or to be a woman, and have that experience in a culture that celebrates rape and trivializes it and blames the victim for wearing low-cut blouses and too much rouge.
But anyway, regardless of that one time, I am definitely bat shit crazy. And one night, about a half dozen years ago, during my usual “find any excuse at all to stay up all night and be exhausted in the morning and possibly get fired” rages, I finally got around to watching Edgeplay, the movie about the Runaways. It’s a total dish-all, no rumor left un-festered romp through the lives of the then-young women who made up the membership of the Runaways, L.A.’s first semi-punk band and a pioneering all-female band that still influences people today, especially 50 year old dudes in Japan.
Kim Fowley, if you don’t know who that is, was their manager. More than anything, that’s the reason why us hipsters—and yes, WE are the fucking hipsters, not some anonymous “them” out there listening to Mumford and Sons—that’s why we even know who he is. And in that film, Edgeplay, the story of the Runaways, there’s a part where some of the Runaways strongly insinuate that Kim Fowley had sex with them while they were minors.
This really fucking bugged me. It bothered me. It TORTURED me, because Kim Fowley was a pop-cultural icon that I really wanted to respect.
I knew that Kim Fowley was gross, and probably a perv, and had been emotionally abusive even with people I kind of know, e.g. his former assistant. But sex with a minor … that’s rape, right? A minor can’t consent. Legally, that’s certainly rape, and ethically… well, these girls might have been as young as 13. That’s beyond rape. That’s child abuse.
And then one night around 2010 I found myself at the L.A. RECORD Christmas party at Bedrock Studios in Echo Park. It was huge, and full of everything: bands and DJs and pinball machines and a creepy Santa Claus with up to 7 hot girls on his lap all night. I myself was full of ecstasy and little bit of mushrooms and maybe some cocaine and a heaping helping of free alcohol. I was lit up like a Christmas tree, wandering around all the various sound-proofed rooms.
And in one room was a little Burger Records pop-up. Sean Burger (if you don’t know who that is, just check any recent Spin Magazine or L.A. Weekly or the NY Times) was sitting there behind crates and crates of old records, chillin’ like a rock star and letting drunk people blow a small fortune on old copies of Johnny Thunders and Parliament/Funkadelic records.
After I was four sheets to the wind, I found myself becoming one of those people, thumbing through the records, regaling Sean over and over again about the production credits of each one, and the ones I liked, and the ones I hated, pausing every 30 seconds or so to pull out a goodie and say, so everyone could hear, “AHA! I HAVE this one!”
And then I came to the Cherie Currie solo record. Actually, it’s not her, but her and her sister, but it was repackaged all weird and had her in red leather on the cover looking all young and hot. And I paused for a minute, and I held up the album to Sean there, and I said, “I think Kim Fowley raped her. I think Kim Fowley fucking RAPED her.”
And Sean, who is a classic stoner and therefore far more relatively sober than I will ever be, calmly replied, “Well, why don’t you ask him? He’s right there.”
And I turned around, and right there in the hallway, right behind me, was fucking Kim Fowley. He was talking to some young girl, who seemed really impressed with him, and maybe a little charmed, and that made me all the more suspicious and enraged.
And so I took the Cherie Currie album and walked right out the door, right up to Kim Fowley, and I pushed it in his face, interrupting his conversation, and I said, point blank, “Did you RAPE her?”
His response was instantaneous, and unemotional. “I never touched her. Anyway…”
And he went right back on with his conversation with the young lady! I didn’t know what to do. I was deflated.
And the thing was… I instantly believed him. Kim Fowley is many things: a braggart, a hustler, a meanie. But he’s not known for being too dishonest about his proclivities. I don’t really know the man’s soul, but I think if he had done something sexual with the Runaways, he might not have called it “rape” … but he wouldn’t have passed up a chance to say something creepy and self-aggrandizing. Whatever he called it, he would have admitted something.
And it got me thinking, “Am I just wrong about this anyway?” I mean, I hate to say it, but all my rock and roll heroes, e.g. David Bowie, e.g. Angie Bowie, e.g. Chuck Berry, e.g. Mark Lindsay, e.g. every 60s band-member you can think of, even Allen Ginsberg, had probably ridiculous amounts of sex with very young groupies, and I doubt they asked for ID first.
And on the other hand, some of my favorite authors and rock celebrities were underage groupies, people like Cynthia Plaster Caster and Suzy Shaw and Pamela Des Barres and Cameron Crowe, who (aside from Cameron) spent their entire post-adolescences seeking out sex with older men and don’t seem to feel the slightest regret, or need to apologize, for acting on what their classmates could only fantasize about. Would I be demeaning them by saying their fond recollections, their trophies, their seemingly very enthusiastic choices, don’t count? It would have been perfectly legal if they had just married their conquests first, or got legalized permission from mom and dad (e.g. Pele Massa and Ted Nugent). And if I don’t think marriage is needed to legitimize love, why would the lack of marriage de-legitimize teen lust, the kind I would have totally wanted to expend on David Bowie if he’d just visited me my teens (especially in his Labyrinth outfit)?
Yet was I a creeper for even having these thoughts? Were these the same apologetics that we’ve been hearing in regards to Roman Polanski, and Jimmy Page, and Tupac Shakur, and Julian Assange, simply because people liked their work?
Well, after years and years of just talking about it to people at bars, I finally did some thorough research on the Kim Fowley story that had so upset me. And it turns out Kim Fowley did NOT have sex with the Runaways…
But this one time, he did have them all sit in a room together while he had sex with an adult woman in FRONT of them, to show them “how to fuck.” And that is really, really, really, really fucked up. And despite the fact that Joan Jett stayed his life-long friend, and that Cherie Currie let him move in with her during his dying days, and despite the fact that as a teenager, I would have loved to see a live sex show, exposing minors to a sexual act is child abuse, right? There’s just no getting around that. They may have forgiven him, later, and he may have eventually recanted how he treated the Runaways. But there is no excuse for child abuse. Some of the Runaways ended up having real problems later in life, and I’m sure that having the man who was basically their guardian have sex in front of them did NOT help with that.
But I dunno. This all happened in the decadent 70s, which does not excuse it, but does explain it. There are monsters far worse from that era who’ve been roaming around in Thailand and neutral portions of Europe. And the Runaways DID forgive Kim Fowley. And he did apologize. And maybe, in a world where we still make a mockery of the rape and torture of young men in prison, a crime we all know about and do NOTHING to stop even as we laugh at the victims, maybe I can let an old man who just died of bladder cancer off the hook for this horrible, horrible thing he did.
It’s not because he’s famous, or that I like his music, or that I kind of knew him, or that his crimes were so long ago. It’s that, ethically, I think, I THINK, it’s the right thing to do. But I think I’ll be figuring this out for many years to come.
-D. M. Collins
When I’m not cowering in fear of growing old in this gaping void of a universe that gives nothing back except wormholes of unanswerable questions that burrow down into a twisted root of meaninglessness, I also like to appear in music videos! Here’s me as an extra in Maniac‘s amazing new video, “Party City.”
Look close, and you’ll also see some notable quotable locals from the L.A. music scene, as well as Alex White of White Mystery! That girl gets around!
P.S. Look even closer, and you’ll see that I have a huge zit on my chin. Now it’s there … FOREVER!
So, the other day I was in an event based around the photography of Amy Darling… or so it was proclaimed. The idea was to pick one of her photos (many of which are of live shows, or music, or people around Los Angeles you might know) and base a piece of writing around that photo.
It was such an exciting premise that, once begun, I could not complete the task. I kept writing and writing, then editing and editing, until it was now past time for the event to begin; I finally was satisfied enough with what was on the page that I left home, went to the Echo Chamber, and got there two minutes before the event was scheduled to end–but the bastards ended three minutes before the end, and I missed my spot entirely. That’s probably for the best–it would take me about 15 minutes easy to read this.
I hope you take the time now. It’s a bit rushed, and maybe a bit abstract and moralistic, but hopefully it feels like controlled dada, and there ain’t nothing more fun than reining in a creative beast and knowing it’s been trained well. By the way, here’s the photo I chose:
As to why this is another piece of fiction from the perspective of a female character… well, I don’t know why I keep making my protagonists women. I don’t think men should speak for women, and it disturbs me more than it probably disturbs you that I’ve been doing so repeatedly in 2014. Maybe part of it is that I have a strong female side, and don’t associate with a lot of the rough-and-tumble of my male author counterparts. And maybe part of it is that I simply like women and want to hear stories about them, even if they’re coming from me.
In this case, though, I can use Amy’s photo as an excuse, because this boogie-ing gal clearly needed a narrative. Here it is.
(Sorry, one final disclaimer: I do NOT know the dancing woman in the photo above, nor do I really know any of the other people in this photo on a personal level. This is a complete, absolute work of fiction. Aside from the fact that I, too, hate traffic, please don’t extrapolate anything about the people depicted in this photo, or Amy Darling, or me, from the narrative below.)
Sleeping Through Work
She almost never dreamed. You have to sleep a long time before the dreams come, and she almost never slept. The drugs took care of that. She hated her tech job so much, testing a stupid website that sold expensive jewelry to women at a slight discount, bought by husbands who got rich by never paying full price for anything, that she had to take a fistful of Vicodin just to get through the day.
Normally Vicodin is a downer. But when you have a crazy, broken brain like hers, it invigorates you, makes you want to stay up all night watching TV series on Netflix and respond to all your old high school friends’ tweets. Every morning, just getting up for work was torture, but to pay for the Vicodin, she had to keep working at the job; and meanwhile, in what still seemed like a temporary, short-term delay of planning for phase II of her awesome life, suddenly she was almost at the end of her twenties. All the grand and important things she had planned to do with her life–or a least, the fact that she had planned for her life to be grand and important—seemed to be this quaint little thought, an artifact to be smirked at and shelved and gawked at for its innocent stupidity. All she seemed to know now was tired mornings, grey smoggy blocks of sky framing the gridlocked plastic and steel in her foreground, commuting to her hell. To her hell.
She’d started to have stupid thoughts. And she knew they were stupid, puerile, childish, Sylvia Plath BULLSHIT, the kind she had given up when she was fourteen years old and had stopped pretending that she got anything out of cutting herself besides the joy of feeling troubled. But now, twice that age, knowing the thoughts were stupid didn’t help. “What’s the point of even being here,” she’d think. It seemed, begrudgingly, logical. “I’m already in hell. Even if the worst is true and the Christians are right, and I wind up in actual hell for leaving here voluntarily, it will simply be a lateral move.”
There was only one thing she did that actually made her feel that life was precious. It was the only thing she seemed to like. And she couldn’t imagine it happening in an afterlife, a place that she believed was more akin to that Talking Heads song about Heaven, a place where nothing ever happens, not even songs by the Talking Heads. She’d kind of lost touch with music as college rolled into real life, when she found herself stumbling into the work force largely in a beer haze that looked cute enough in her tired twenty-two year old eyes to get her invited back for second interviews. Temping turned to a slot at a startup, and beer pong turned to cocaine with friends, then alone, and finally evolved into her current, more stable favorite. It seemed she had matured, in her own way, and her secret was no more shocking than most people’s marital affairs.
But then one day, she’d found herself at an after work drink party, realizing she had absolutely nothing in common with the men around her. And it was mostly men, because somehow, somewhere back during the days and nights of ramen and Tecate, luck and some well-timed moments of clarity had rolled her right into a job in the tech world. It was the most real thing in her life and yet it seemed like a fable, almost as if she was watching herself from the outside, like the character in a short story, the kind where she was not her own author. She was largely alone there, constantly belittled and ridiculed and hit on and ignored and passed by. But she met the challenge head-on, skipping work, turning in half-assed projects, napping in the server room, and rationing out the right lies to the right people so that they were all completely in the dark about how little she was really achieving, which was crucial to being a functioning drug addict. They weren’t there to praise her successes, so why not fail and give herself praise anyway?
But a few years back, she realized that there was something missing from her life that the drugs couldn’t massage away, probably something cultural—but where to go to get reconnected? In the end, it had been her dealer that had turned her onto her first event at the Nomad gallery. He was friends with a performance artist who made giant puppets and costumes out of felt and Velcro, and who would put on plays while people wearing her creations would dance around in character as monsters and animals. And she had gone to this show, and avant-garde shows like it, knowing no one, and not really understanding or enjoying much of the visual art around her.
But the music was something else! God, it wasn’t that she wasn’t picky, it’s that she didn’t know what she had always been picky for until she heard the band that night. What she wasn’t getting out of large arena rock shows by bands like Alt-J and Incubus she could get at places like this. The sound was inconsistent, and the bands made mistakes, but they wanted to be here so much! And they sounded like they found nothing more important than making the instruments in their hands match the sounds playing in their heads.
She quickly realized that the pills that kept her up all night had a good side, too—it was the energy! Her broken, sad brain meant that the downers made her go up, up, up, and she could dance all night. And she never felt nostalgic. There was no wistfulness here, no memory of herself as a young girl listening to young people bands that had now grown old and popular, no “gosh, I’m almost having as much fun as I used to!” There was only the eternal present, and she got caught up with it. Whether there were five people there, or 50, she was always there and always, well… always going out of her mind! She knew she was crazy, despite the fact that she was able to function as a drug addict and con everyone around her. And she was gleeful that this was the one place where her insanity was an asset. Everyone seemed to be feeling the music, but she FELT it. She fucking FELT IT! She is ALIVE and she UNDERSTANDS! And she is IN IT, even more so sometimes than the people playing it.
And she wasn’t a spiritual person, but she’d tried that on in her youth. And she’d read the Tibetan book of the dead. And she had forgotten most of it, but she remembered one little part, a part about how to have dream control. And she remembered that the monks in their waking lives would practice the same things over and over again, the idea being that if you ritualized the process of prayer enough, it would inevitably become the setting of a dream.
She remembered this with acute depression somewhere in her early twenties, when she started dreaming about cocaine. She would often find herself in a hallway, and couldn’t find the jacket that had her cocaine in its pocket. She’d be looking through closets, and hallways, and closets, and hallways, and would try to nudge up against friends and strangers and surreptitiously feel the outsides of their pockets to see if they had her cocaine. Now in her Vicodin lifestyle, she almost never had dreams, though once in a while, a lunch time nap would plunge her into that haunting sensation of something missing, or sad, or scared, like a tropical vacation where her parents were always barging into her cabana right as she hid the drugs, or about going through security at the airport and realizing there was a bottle of Vicodin in her carry on.
Now that she rarely dreamed, there was an added unease to her dreams, a state of half-clarity where the subconscious of her subconscious understood that this was all a dream, and that a real dream meant she probably had slept late. And that happened a lot. Actually it happened THIS day. She had set her radio alarm clock for 8 a.m., but having slept fewer than 6 hours in 3 days, her depleted body had no problems coasting right through its rhythmic nudgings.
And in the dream, she knew she was late for something, but it turned out to be a band at the Sancho gallery, and she wriggled through the crowd and stood in the front like normal just as their set began.
And in the dream, she wasn’t on drugs. There was something a little sad about her sobriety, but something remarkable too, and breezy, like she’d skipped the part where she’d had to rearrange her lifestyle and find a new sense of energy.
And in the dream, she had lots of natural energy. The band on stage was led by an old man in an angel dress complete with felt sewn wings on the back. He was bald, and an angel’s halo hovered over him affixed to his head with a wire that could have been from a coat hanger. He was playing the drums, and singing, and a group of similarly wizened guys and gals were playing along with him on keyboards and guitars, kind of a quirky new wave, perfect for her to dance to.
And in the dream, everyone was smiling, and dancing along with her, and giving her knowing looks, like “Isn’t this wonderful? And aren’t we all in this together?”
And as she danced, she could feel a thinning of the room that seemed a little unusual. And she looked back, and she realized that there were zombies in the room. Slowly but surely the zombies were grabbing the people in the back of the room, snapping down hard on their skulls with their teeth, cracking the skulls open so they could chew on the brains below. They’d take a quick bite of one person, throw the carcass to the floor, and grab the next person in front of them.
The band seemed unperturbed, as did her compatriots around her. It seemed certain that people had noticed the zombies, but they were going to wait until the last possible moment to move, enjoying the music as much as they were. She did see one or two people escape the zombies’ clutches, at least for a few moments of temporary safety. But for the most part, everyone had planned to wait just a little longer than they should have. And suddenly the girl behind her, one of the smiling winkers and acknowledgers who earlier had shared in this musical experience with her, was pulled backwards by a zombie. She could hear the girl shudder, and whimper–feeble, failed attempts at last words–as the zombie peeled back the skin on the crown of her head with his teeth in order to get a good, hard bite on the skull.
And in the dream, she ran through the band, who were still playing, to escape through a door behind them. They turned their heads and looked up at her, and she could see in their eyes that they had been zombies all along. Perhaps the whole thing had been nothing more than a zombie feast?
She ran out the door and into the yard, but there was no exit there, just endless cement walls and fences, and she kept running around the perimeter with zombies chasing her back and forth, not the kind that ran at top speed like in the new zombie films, but not the lumbering kind, either…. These were calculating, shrewd zombies, able to plan a clever massacre like this and who would not be satisfied unless they succeeded at achieving 100% of their goal of eating everyone in the room, of which she was almost certainly the last.
And as she scrambled to climb up the yard’s lone tree, and contemplated making a broad jump onto a nearby roof, just as the zombies below realized that they, too, could climb trees, she heard the pitter pattering drum machines of light 80s R&B on her alarm clock radio. She realized to her horror that it was now 10:48 and she had slept through a meeting.
And now she was the zombie, she thought to herself, her oversleep making her even more groggy as she went through the ritual of pulling on a dress and some stocking and shoes and hobbling down the stairs to her Subaru so she could jump on the 10 west. She was going to be in deep shit with her bosses, but if it was Brett, he acted more like a father than a mentor: she could always adopt her “oops I’m just a young dumb girl” persona to talk her way out of it. So why was she feeling so lost and worried?
She realized it was the dream—she had been cheated out of her victory. She wanted to be back in that world, where she had been decisive and exciting and bold and talented for a purpose, one she could have succeeded at. She needed a challenge, didn’t she? Maybe the whole reason for her endless cycle of drugs and work and drugs and work, ruining her every waking moment with the fatigue of the cycle’s incompatibility, was to fashion a crisis like the one in the dream. Most people would kill for a job like hers, but there she was every day, self-sabotaging, because it was so fucking easy, and these people were so fucking stupid, and fuck them. And Fuck them! And FUCK THEM! AND FUCK HER! AND WHO GIVES A FLYING FUCK?
She came to a screeching halt behind a brake-happy BMW and screamed a deep, resonant frustrated scream…. raaaah! It was now almost noon. And she realized to herself that there was some kind of spring music festival in Long Beach. It was an all weekend thing, including today even though Friday is a work day and not a holiday, and a bunch of the Burger Records bands were on the bill, but also a gaggle of comedians and Maria Bamford and all kinds of weird cool shit.
And as she drove near the 405, instead of passing it by to continue to her Santa Monica office, she got in the right lane and took the 405 south towards Long Beach. She was going to miss work altogether. And she almost wished she wasn’t going to be able to get out of the situation she was putting herself in. But she knew she would. From years of practicing the deceit of drug addiction, she knew she’d be able to convince her boss that there was some important new disease she’d caught, or another family death, or a pet getting run over in the street.
But she was done making excuses for herself! There was one part of her life that made her feel very awake and alive, and she wasn’t going to ruin it anymore. She wasn’t a fucking drone! She wasn’t a fucking coward in a cubicle, working with technology because that’s what life had thrown her way. She wasn’t a fucking clam to absorb life’s shitty, pissy silt breakfast.
Opening up her glove compartment, she found the bottle of Vicodin that she had procured recently from her friend who worked at a shipping company and who no doubt had simply stolen them and was making 100% profit at 6 dollars a pill to her. This bottle was like $600 just sitting there. And if it was still sealed, it might even be legal if she got pulled over. Probably that happened a lot, that relatives picked up medications for their older relatives? If she didn’t open it, she wasn’t even a criminal.
It had been two weeks since last she’d had to wean herself off these things so that she could get back on and start the cycle again with a less brutal tolerance. Now she was normally up to four Vicodin in the morning, with another 4-5 at night to help her stay up late.
“Who gives a fuck,” she thought as she unscrewed it, punched through the foil with her finger, and then scooped out about 8 pills from under the cotton. She popped them in her mouth, crushed them up a bit with her teeth, and then chugged them down with some of the Monster energy drink from yesterday evening that was still sitting in her drink holder. She cut off a bright red sports car in a very satisfying manner as she sped up her Subaru on her way to the LBC.
I really do want to review your band.
But hear me out. I want to review thousands of bands. And even my close friends comprise up to maybe 40 bands. And at least a few friends became friends with me only with the goal of having me review their band.
I have a lot of music to listen to! And I have a 40 hour per week engineering job, a new warehouse that needs a lot of construction right now, a book that is still unwritten, a monthly lit event that I host, a family that misses me, lovers who need lovin’, and a dog that needs walkin’.
Something’s got to give. And this month, it’s the review I’m not going to write of your album.
And I get it. On your end, you’ve made this gorgeous album, something that you’ve obsessed over for months and have put all your thought and love into. And on my end, I want to give that love back! That doesn’t sound so hard, does it, to return a little love to you when you’ve worked so hard?
But I will inevitably have to skip some albums, skimp on some words, and even abandon some of my obligations. As a lover of music and a rampant optimist, I’m trying to tackle more than is humanly possible, in the dead of night, in the spare margins and cut-out spaces of life when a normal person would probably be watching South Park, or sleeping.
So, yeah, sometimes I fall short.
Sometimes I fall asleep in mid-sentence.
Somehow I’ve wound up being a person who stays up until 5 a.m. playing cassettes in a little boombox, worrying about whether I know enough about grindcore or 90s hip-hop or early R.E.M. to review the music I’ve been given. I feel blessed to have such a gaggle of talented people all around me, but sometimes I have to find words to describe with candor the mistakes I find with their work, which often outnumber the good things (and often at an inverse ratio to how much I like the person personally; a lot of assholes have made great music, and vice versa, and though it’s not true, sometimes it seems that really sweet people cannot make strong work, and how do you tell a wonderful person that their work is weak?). I do this far more nights a month than I’d like to admit, often at the expense of seeing actual live music, the thing I love more than almost anything. Sleep in any form longer than five hours is a blessing. Relationships are strained. And I haven’t cooked a lengthy, delicious, stress-reducing stew or roasted vegetable medley in what feels like a decade.
And yet the albums keep coming, so many that even the good ones become forgettable when the next batch comes in. It’s gotten to the point where I often don’t remember whether I reviewed something or merely listened to it. Once, last year, I even reviewed the same album twice in subsequent issues of L.A. RECORD. And it was a good friend’s album. And one of the two reviews had actually been a full-length essay.
So I promise, if I don’t give your album the love you think it deserves, it’s not because I’m being flippant or callous or thoughtless or a promise-breaker. It’s because I just can’t. I’m full! I’m over-saturated! I’m confused, I’m in love, I’m manic, I’m scribbling endlessly like a rat trying to coax more cheese out of the world with his wits. And even just clicking on another link and downloading another track is beyond my capabilities at this moment.
Have some courtesy.
Have some sympathy.
Maybe next time, you’ll catch me at a good moment when I have a breather and am free to talk and laugh and listen. So keep sending stuff to me, and feel free to remind me once in a while what’s up.
And, hey, maybe smile at me!
But not too sweetly.
Read it here.
-D. M. Collins
This one was a pleasure. Please read.
-D. M. Collins
In 2008, Voxhaul Broadcast called me a “tard” and told me to “suck their dick.” Five years later, they still have no soul.
So, I watch The Walking Dead every week. I know it’s a guilty pleasure, but not every show can be Mad Men. And hey, I’m an ADD-crazed fool constantly drawn to distraction material, which explains how I’ve sat through every season of Sons of Anarchy, Breaking Bad, Dexter, and Battlestar Galactica that can be viewed on Netflix. And I wish I was talking about the 70s Battlestar, but I’m not—I’m talking about Dean Stockwell as a cyborg who fucked his own mother, herself a cyborg with amnesia played by Nan Vernon’s sister who thought she was a human and was saving her husband’s life (okay, the new series is not without its charms) … meanwhile years are going by, and I’ve yet to publish my first book.
Anyway, I’ve been in Austin for SXSW for the past ten days or so, and I just got back to L.A., and tonight I was catching up with my Walking Dead episodes. During a commercial break in the most recent one, there was a brief promo for the Talking Dead panel show, hosted by Chris Hardwick, that follows each new episode of The Walking Dead. In the blurb, Hardwick casually mentioned that one of his guests tonight was Voxhaul Broadcast, and they would be performing their song from the Walking Dead soundtrack.
“Voxhaul Broadcast?” I thought. Voxhaul Broadcast … Voxhaul Broadcast… hmm, why do I know the name Voxhaul Broadcast?
Oh, that’s right…
Yep, Voxhaul Broadcast, the band on Talking Dead last Sunday, once called me a “tard” and told me to suck their dicks.
To explain why an indie rock band with a name like “Voxhaul Broadcast” would feel justified in attacking me with poor grammar and vaguely homophobic insults, let’s rewind back to 2008. At the time I was freelance writing for Losanjealous.com, a fairly strong competitor of LAist. My first assignment was to review an Earlimart show. Voxhaul Broadcast was also on the bill, and while I devoted very few words to them (because it was a review about Earlimart), I did manage to say that Voxhaul Broadcast “kept serving up tunes like indie iceberg lettuce, with no flavor to distinguish one from the next.”
And that was it. Admittedly, I was critical of the band. But as anyone who has read my work knows, I am very skeptical of any music that sounds “indie” as a genre unto itself. You know what I’m talking about: music that has Chris Martin-esque falsetto male vocals, or that has guitar seemingly ripped from U2 via a flavorless Blonde Redhead, paired with a bassist who just plays “dum-dum-dum-dum-dum-dum-dum-dum” quarter-notes all damn song along the chords’ roots. I’m talking about pleasant rock music that won’t interrupt your conversation, with a live drummer who plays muted disco beats even though the music isn’t meant to be danced to, except maybe on the grass of some indie-rock festival while you’re shirtless and wearing a crown of glow sticks. I’m talking about music that takes rock’s gleefully ugly 13-year-old unconscious id, pretends it’s a well-thought-out romantic strategy, and champions it with soaring anthems, not as an anti-hero in a leather jacket, but as a beautiful stoic angel whose every vague dig against the establishment is to be taken as a poignant critique on society.
And I think that’s what struck such a chord with the Voxhaul Broadcast guys. It wasn’t that I said I couldn’t remember their songs, but that I said they were “indie.”
Voxhaul Broadcast didn’t want to be an indie rock band, or so they claimed at the time. Their MySpace page listed their influences as James Brown, Al Green, and Donovan; they wanted to be a soul band with heart. But having a record (or more likely, an MP3) in your collection doesn’t mean your band follows in that tradition. Though they conned a few other blogs into quoting their press release verbatim, the concept that this band was a “soul” band or even soul-infused was just sheer fantasy: I’d challenge them or anyone to show me what part of those rhythms, guitar licks, or lyrics sounds sounded even remotely like “Funky President” or “Love and Happiness,” much less “Catch the Wind” or “Sunshine Superman.” Any claims to soul you might actually locate in Voxhaul Broadcast’s music were (when they remembered to include them) straight from Vampire Weekend, or the Strokes, or any of the other of the umpteen mostly-male bands with guitarists who play on the upstroke with their distortion turned off. It’s not even funky—it’s just that singer David Dennis’ voice has a little more growl than Thom Yorke, and sometimes their songs are a little more lively than Death Cab for Cutie.
And that’s why I compared them to iceberg lettuce and then quickly moved on, with no intention of fucking with their shit. But these guys went completely ballistic, posting comments on Losanjealous about me and then going on this website to accuse me of lying and taking their quotes “out of context,” as though there’s any way to take “suck my dick” out of context. Or that it was somehow “false reporting” to critique them as a talentless drivel band trying desperately to jump the train headed for Sell Out Station.
Anyway, I guess this blog’s Voxhaul Broadcast article stayed in the top of Google’s search for a while, because I kept seeing comments on the thread way after I’d moved on with my own life. Finally, after maybe a couple years, the comments stopped and I put Voxhaul Broadcast’s boorish insults and bland music out of mind. In hindsight, I think I heard about them from time to time appearing on bills with much better bands, e.g. on shows that L.A. RECORD would list. But I hadn’t seen Voxhaul Broadcast live since, and I was surprised to hear their name on Talking Dead.
Funny thing is, though, that Voxhaul Broadcast’s story arc has proven them to be the indie-ist of indie sellouts, exactly as I’d described back in 2008. They did continue to play not-soul music. They did try and succeed in embracing Nic Harcourt, and they did scam their way onto the soundtracks of terribly treacle-y films, e.g. The Vow and the Nicolas Sparks vehicle The Lucky One, and the slightly more fun 90210 (what, not good enough for Gossip Girl?). Funny, their website doesn’t really mention their ties to such wonderful, soulful cinematography. Some bands would find a bunch of humor in getting a gig on movies they don’t particularly like, but you get the vibe that Voxhaul Broadcast are worried too much about their image to boast about their appearances, and too worried about pissing off potential date-film directors by openly mocking them.
That said, performing a song on The Walking Dead is something of a coup for these fellas, and honestly, I was watching hoping that it would be good. A lot of bands start off being kind of generic and grow into a wonderful sound of their own, and maturity can improve lyric writing a great deal. I have critiqued a lot of bands who either took my words to heart and changed, or completely dissed me by making the most awesome album ever, gleefully proving me irrelevant through sheer talent, and I’m okay with being wrong if I get some good music out of it. Some bands even became my friends after I criticized them in print, because really, until you start going to my blog and calling me a “tard” liar, I don’t hate you and you don’t hate me—it’s nothing personal, just a critique of music that also at times steps out of your personality and says things you wouldn’t say to someone’s face in polite society.
But change and maturity were not to be had: this performance by Voxhaul Broadcast of “In the Wilderness” is somehow even worse than the weird nu metal Ray Charles blues of Jamie N. Commons from the week before. “In the Wilderness” has just a few strummed acoustic chords, plus a slight little flourish that would almost be good if it wasn’t lifted piecemeal from Kirk Hammett.
And the lyrics—oh man, the very first thing ol’ David sings is that he “Stood at the edge of the valley/looked at the ground below.” He knows that valleys are the low part and that the mountains are the high part, right? It’s hard to see much below you in a valley.
Watch the clip, and listen to the lyrics of this thing, if you can stomach them. He goes on to talk about how there’s a “wolf inside my heart” for some girl, which would be hard to fit in there since she’s already “the wilderness inside me” that may or may not have fueled a fire that “cold desperation” may or may not have let go out—it was a jumble of mixed metaphors, the kind Holland-Dozier-Holland would never have strung together. I haven’t even gotten to the earthquake or how he can’t run forever because he’s hungry and he eats weird metaphorical animals. And if all this talk of “hunger” or “wolves” is making you think it’s a Duran Duran song, well, even a third-bit copy of Duran Duran would at least provide the faint glimmer of nostalgia to get you through.
Look, guys, Voxhaul Broadcast, you were jerks to me once, pretty big jerks, to a little guy who only wanted to write articles about music (most of which you’ve never heard of, but that’s okay). Being a masochist, I would have loved to see you kick my ass a little. But sad to say, in the past five years you haven’t done anything to prove you’re not still talentless, unimaginative hacks barely hanging onto your Nicolas Sparks soundtrack gigs because you’re halfway cute and have a good agent. For a second, a mere split-second, I almost thought you done good with this Walking Dead appearance. But you’re still indie iceberg lettuce, mere filler between zombie attacks and Channing Tatum’s abs.
In the future, if you’re going to put some music in a horror franchise, at least pay heed to your indie rock forefathers and get yourself into a goofy video.
P.S. Oh, and hey guys? For the record, I like sucking dick. I’m still sucking dick. Just not yours.
Valentine’s Day is coming up, and love is all around us. Some of my friends, including a couple former lovers, have even gotten engaged in the last few weeks. Though I’ve been living happily for a couple years now as some kind of quasi-poly-loner-bachelor type, this season always makes me question what it is I’m looking for when it comes to romance. And I think I can boil it all down to a punk song I first heard when I was about 14 years old.
Of the hundreds of thousands of songs that have influenced what I like about music, probably more than half are about dating and relationships, anything from “Feel Like Makin’ Love” to “Be My Wife.” Many of those use “love” as a mere canvas, a quick subject matter to scream about or lay dance beats over or solo across; others of them, more direct, have spoken to me about love and lust with crystal clear realism, like Aphrodite whispering into my ear while rubbing my buttocks with a Mosrite fuzz pedal.
But those songs are about being in a dating situation, or falling out of one; few songs have inspired what qualities I look for in people I want to date. Especially in my youth, when I was on a limited budget and you couldn’t hear whole discographies for nothin’ on the internet, this song by the Rezillos was the tune that made me realize, hey, this is what I want, and I should go out and look for it, much like “He’s a Rebel” or “You’re So Square (Baby I Don’t Care)” might have spoken to some buckeyed youth in the golden age of teen pop:
I guess you could say this one really molded me, mwah ha hah!
Though the Rezillos were only about 15% – 22% female at any given time, and she didn’t sing lead on this one, this song is perhaps the most joyously egalitarian, matter-of-fact-ly feminist, and casually somewhat-sex-positive song about male-on-female attraction I think I’ve ever known. It’s all about getting turned on because your girlfriend makes art! She actually creates something meaningful out of her life instead of, I dunno, hanging out on the arm of a male artist, playing the groupie role that many female music fans probably felt was their only entry to rock in the pre-punk era. Okay, I know, it’s still a silly song about romance and lusting after a girl, but c’mon, it’s awesome, and so refreshing after thousands and thousands of songs about women that could be any woman, as if love’s context didn’t matter. This was the first song I may have ever heard, outside of maybe “Lovely Rita, Meter Maid” that celebrated a woman for her occupation!
God, you just have to love punk rock, warts and all. Note that the male character in the song is neither jealous nor tries to boast about his own similar creative endeavors–he’s very content to praise his gal’s talents for their own sake. Compared to more serious punk bands of their time, the Rezillos were considered high camp. But the teenaged me detected no irony in how the narrator places his baby’s sculpting skills far above her “pouting lips” or “curvy hips.” He even brags to the world on how “she killa dilla,” goddam it! What does that even mean? He’s so egalitarian that by the end of the song, he can barely talk.
I discovered this tune on one of Rhino Records’ amazing, truly influential D.I.Y. compilations: The Modern World – UK Punk II. Before this series came out, even just hearing pre-hardcore punk that wasn’t the Clash, Ramones, or Sex Pistols was exceedingly difficult in a burg like Tulsa, Oklahoma; I’d read about these bands for years in books at the library without knowing what they sounded like, and this was my first time to hear them all in one place. I vividly recall finding this tape for sale, used, in a counter display case at Mohawk Music–this was probably in 1993, just when my late-onset puberty was in full swing. I got pretty much the whole series and played them all the time, mostly on a Fisher-Price tape recorder that I kept in my Ram Charger, since it didn’t have a tape deck. Every band, every song in this series was mind-blowing. Though X-Ray Spex might have inspired my own self-direction more, and the Adverts’ “One Chord Wonders” inspired how I wanted to play music, “Good Sculptures” taught me real qualities to look for in someone else when trying to complement my life.
And it’s informed who I have dated ever since; my life is far richer because of it. Thank you, Rezillos, and Rhino Records, for helping make me this way. That’s not bragging, nor am I even saying I have overall good mate choice: I’ve dated people, short and long term, who weren’t right for me, who were too innocent for me, or too clever, who left their clothes all over the living room, who took lots of my money, who tried to hurt themselves, who saw the mean and stupid parts of me and just thought they’d be mean and stupid back rather than tell me (or leave). I’ve dated people who stayed with me for far too long because they had no idea how to quietly back away from my own rudeness and immaturity. And this is true: I’ve been socked in the head by nearly every girl I’ve seriously dated.
But hey, man, at least I got the art! I got inspiration, and I got to enjoy a birds-eye view of so many creative processes. I can think back with such joy, and completely undeserved pride, on the albums my lovers have recorded, or the books they wrote, stores they opened, photos they took, planet they saved, ribald performances they titillated with, audiences they made chuckle, essays they published, DJ nights they rocked, urban fruit trees they harvested, shows they organized, videos they edited, kink they celebrated, wigs they wore … even just karaoke songs they were bold enough to pull off! Even at my most miserable and least desirable in a dating capacity, I’ve kept my eyes focused on the creative ones. And it’s never let me down, at least not on the level of my… soul, for lack of a better word. And as for one night stands? Well, at least I think I’ve done pretty good about not fucking anyone who doesn’t have books.
So yes, yes, thank you Rezillos. And thank you, you talented ladies and gents from my past. Ayy-ai-addy, addy-oh! If you ever wondered what I ever saw in you, it’s all because you does good sculptures. Yeah.
Keep doing ’em.
-D. M. Collins
P.S. You know who else seems to have been inspired by this song? Opus from Bloom County!