so here’s a gripe that would be ringing in my ears if I hadn’t just played drums for half an hour without earplugs; why do we require constant reassurance of greatness from creators of great things. Let me explain: One of the best writers I can think of, off the top of my head, is J.M Coetzee. He’s treats words like they’re seeds to sprout, and I almost always love reading his books. Now, his last few books have sucked, one so totally disastrous that it provoked laughter. But I would never stop saying that he is a great writer. He could write crappy books for the rest of his life and he’d still be a great writer. Even if he had only written 1 great page in an otherwise crappy book in an otherwise undistinguished career, he’d still be a great writer in my mind.
I mean, of course, I get why we react so vicously when people who are capable of greatness don’t produce it, whenver Iggy Pop releases a new album or when Dustin Hoffman politely smiles his way through another romantic comedy. We react like the parents of children who know our kids can get A’s on their math tests, but for some reason, they get c+’s. It offends us because we’ve seen them do better. But I don’t think slip-ups can change the original label of greatness, they may tarnish it or add addendums to it, but the original artist still has value, for, at one point, creating something great.
This is all a longwinded way of telling you to give The (International) Noise Conspiracy their due, at least for 6 track. The band has lot to make fun of; matching outfits, tired Marxist sloganeering, an album called “Armed Love,” having one of their biggest singles have the absolutely unforgivably bad title “capitalism stole my virginity,” and, um, also the fact that they haven’t written a good song in 8 years (full disclosure: I haven’t heard all of their new album, The Cross of My Calling, but what I heard didn’t make me want to listen onward).
STILL, in 2002, the band released an ep like a helicopter drops bowling balls on a traffic stopped freeway. The “Bigger Cages, Longer Chains” EP is political, loud, raucous and so totally well done i get all giddy-teenager when i listen to it. These guys mean business. The title track starts off like a 70s talkshow, all horns and punctuation and flashy suits. But the impact comes from those words, each like is like a yardstick of ice being chucked at your ears, and what those words say. Man, I don’t even agree with the politics of this song, but they way Dennis Lyxzen sings them, I want to believe. The song is about not settling for incremental change; its chorus mockingly cheers on those who look for “bigger cages, longer chains” as opposed to bigger social change. Right now, the work I do, prisoner’s rights activism, is based entirely around such incremental change, but Lyxzen here, he makes me want to take a jackhammer to prison walls. It is everything that a political song should be, commanding, loud, snarky, and just the littlest bit mean spirited towards those who disagree with it.
And “When Words Are Not Working,” the album’s last track, is equally brilliant, exploring the politics of language. It rallies against the same kind of mediocrity as “Bigger Cages, Longer Chains,” but here the politics are personal and literary. While the song thows its thickest poison against our use of language (“what do you know about boredom, baby? It’s just another word stolen out of a dictionary”) it carries just as much rancor towards the language itself: “words and structures put us into bleeding. There is nothing that doesn’t seem corrupt.” It’s a song about creativity in the face of overwhelming colonialism, when our language has conquered too much and is now a bloated king, unable to move, smile, or even breath right; all it can do is belch and turn over. This song stabs right at it. It’s raging in the dark, and it’s raging within the system it seeks to destroy. All the same, you can’t deny that it’s raging.
Anni Rossi’s new album Rockwell teeters. It’s an egg teetering on the point of a sharpened pencil. It’s a word left teetering on our spit covered larynx at the end of the evening. It teeters. The interesting and arresting thing about her Viola playing is how often it sounds like she’s messing up, hiting wrong notes momentarily, and how well these “mistakes” blend into and increase the fragility and lighter-flame-thin tension that these songs posses. Her lyrics are unusual, in a good way, but she sings them as though they will break your heart.
And, you’ve got to hand it Al Green. I mean, you’ve got to hand it to him for a lot of reasons, but dude took a song about holding hands and made it sounds like a whole lot more than hand holding.
And, one more. Looks like everyone’s favorite garbage pail punks, Tyvek (or is that Tijvek? Make up your mind, guys) have an album coming out real soon (um, maybe right now) on Siltbreeze records. In highschool did you ever have any house parties when your family was out of town? Ever wake up real early from those parties to gather up beer bottles and cigarette butts and all the other signs of that party so your parents wouldn’t find out? Ever pat yourself on the back for doing such a good job cleaning up, then go mow the lawn, and roll right over a patch of vomit which then splatters all over your legs? That, That’s Tyvek. In a good way, of course.