NO!: WE ARE SCIENTISTS (#107, JUN 22 2006).
For some reason, the house lighting got a little less maniacally dark during the last two sets, but the stage lights for the We Are Scientists set were really dim. As you will see in this clip, it was difficult to make people out on the stage, and the camera couldn't capture much of anything in a tight angle. That was as good an excuse as any to back out of the crowd after this song, since we somehow managed to find ourselves surrounded by the three most annoying people in the theater. A quick look around revealed that, except for these three people immediately adjacent to us, nobody was dancing in such a way that obstructed anyone else's view or caused a lot of solicited jostling. My position on these things tends to be that if everyone else is doing it, fine, but if not, and you do, you're a jerk. We watched the last few songs from the seating area, which turned out to be better anyway, as we could actually see the whole stage and had the benefit of a little more ambient light. The set as a whole was really terrific, and that's what I took away.
(On a side note, it turns out that these guys have a really rich back catalog from their independent days, and while they generally stayed away from it, it was nice to hear this b-side get played late in the show, when the crowd was probably starting to get itchy for their big singles.)
Anonymous Liberal (posting at Glenn Greenwald's blog) has a terrific post about the providence of the title of Ron Suskind's new book, The One Percent Doctrine:
According to Suskind, Cheney's epiphany came after a briefing in which he was told that two Pakistani nuclear scientists had met with Osama Bin Laden. Cheney is then reported to have said: "If there's a one percent chance that Pakistani scientists are helping al Qaeda build or develop a nuclear weapon, we have to treat it as a certainty in terms of our response."
But do the Bush administration's policies really reflect that sort of response? It's been over four years since Cheney made this remark, and in that time, the Bush administration has done almost nothing to increase security at the most likely point of entry for a nuclear device or other WMD, our ports. The percentage of shipping containers that are inspected is still very small. And even less has been done to protect potential domestic targets, like chemical and nuclear plants. Could it be that the "one percent doctrine" gives way when it comes to safety measures that are unpopular with the business lobby?
A.L. does a nice job of digging into this issue, but I think both he and Suskind miss the essential point that they're driving towards: Bush and Cheney are not concerned about any of the foreign policy goals that they constantly espouse -- particularly national security and the spread of democracy. Unfortunately, most reporting and analysis on this subject -- even from liberals -- takes as a starting point just the opposite, that the administration's actions, even the boneheaded ones, are taken up in the service of a sincere pursuit of "freedom" or "security." But in fact, the full context of what the administration has done in the last five and a half years does not bear this out.
First, as A.L. points out, the administration has taken no action to protect America's most truly vulnerable points. Our ports remain as open as they were five years ago, and will soon be controlled in part by Dubai. Security at our chemical and nuclear sites remains abysmal. Cities that have already been shown to be likely targets -- New York and Washington -- are seeing their federal security funds cut, while small town police departments in Wyoming and Alaska rake in thousands to put CCTV on every street corner. Despite the illusion of increased security at airports, investigators were able to easily slip weapons onto planes -- the only thing actually increased by the TSA is passenger frustration. Every move made by the Bush administration to shore up national security was a theatrical one, and closing night was November 2, 2004.
The same is true on the democracy front. The administration's aversion to democratic principles at home is well documented, of course -- from demonization of the courts and the press to their use of signing statements to attempt to legitimize their outright lawlessness, it is clear that the Bush administration does not believe it answers to anyone, let alone the people. But overseas, where they claim that "freedom" is the elixir that will eradicate evil, their deeds have consistently failed to match their words. It was only under pressure from Ayatollah Sistani that they agreed to hold elections in Iraq at all -- the initial plan was to simply install Ahmed Chalabi as king and call it a day. Since Iraq's various election cycles began, they have consistently meddled in the affairs of what they boldly refer to as Iraq's sovereign government. Meanwhile, they continue to support friendly dictatorships such as those in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, while conveniently condemning the democratically elected (as democratically elected as Bush is, at any rate) but generally unfriendly Hugo Chavez.
The mistake that this administration's opponents have made with it from day one is thinking that Bush, Cheney and the rest are operating in good faith. They are not. Their goals are the accumulation of money and power, now and in the future. To accomplish these goals as thoroughly as possible, they plan to destroy the liberal society through which all Americans have prospered for the last 70 years. Anything else they say is a lie. I know it would much nicer to believe that they're just strategically misguided, but generally want the best for the world. But even the most misguided of administrations would have some clue about what to do when a hurricane wiped one of our most important cities off the map (hint: the answer is not to continue doing photo-ops in Arizona for three days).
This is one of those pleasing but fundamentally flawed narratives that our elite analysts are going to have to find some way to get past, like the idea that Europe's socialized health systems are worse than ours or that Al Gore really did tell a bunch of lies during the 2000 campaign. But unfortunately, it's going to take leadership from the top to make it happen. That means Democrats like Harry Reid and Howard Dean are going to have to not just criticize the administration for failing to protect our ports, but also for why they've failed to protect our ports. It's not just a vague reference to "business interests" -- it's because they don't give a shit.
NO!: THE GOMERS WITH AARON VEENSTRA (BONUS, JUN 20 2006).
It's my birthday today, so I've put the last We Are Scientists clip on hold in order to bring you this potentially embarassing bonus feature. Last week my dad was in town, and we all went to the High Noon Saloon's weekly "Gomeroke" night. Every Tuesday night, this band called the Gomers plays a live karaoke show with a catalog of about 1200 songs. You head up to the stage, tell them your song, they play, you sing. The one hang-up for a person like myself is that their catalog has a steep drop-off after 1990. There are maybe half a dozen songs I'd be comfortable enough with to sing on stage, and most of those don't strike me as very interesting performance songs -- e.g., old Pearl Jam singles.
Owing to Pulp Fiction, "Let's Stay Together" was by far and away the best choice for me to sing. I also brought with me the lyrics to "Black Hole Sun" and "Alison," but those were distant second and third choices. This was the first time we've done Gomeroke, and I think this song went pretty well. Later on in the evening, after quite a number of drinks, I went up to sing "Baba O'Riley" with my dad doing the Pete Townshend bit, and we destroyed it -- as it turns out, I actually don't really know how it goes after the first verse. So, this piece of advice for any would-be Gomerokers: Knowing one verse or the chorus does not mean you know the song. In fact, if you're not sure you know the song, you don't, and you shouldn't try to sing it in front of an audience.
(BTW, this clip isn't in the actual podcast feed, so you'll have to use the download link to get it.)
NO!: WE ARE SCIENTISTS (#106, JUN 22 2006).
What you're not seeing before this clip is the minute and a half of stage banter that went on while the band stopped to tune yet again, apparently because the Miramar's monitors didn't work. This happened several times throughout the show, along with generally muddy mixes the whole time. The theater seems like a nice little room in which to see a rock band, but they're going to have to figure out how a sound system works for music first.
Of the five really good songs on With Love and Squalor, a record which manages to make Interpol fun, "It's a Hit" was the only one I managed to record. Indeed, it was the only one that came in the middle of the set at all. The others comprised the opening and closing pairs of the show. It also is, I think, the only W.A.S. clip in which the theater's severe darkness wasn't that much of a problem.
NO!: WE ARE SCIENTISTS (#105, JUN 22 2006).
After W.A.S. opened their set with a two-song medley of a pair of my favorite songs from With Love and Squalor -- "This Scene Is Dead" and "Inaction" -- everything started to go to hell. The girl standing right in front of me, the only person between me and the stage, who had been talking to somebody throughout the first two songs, suddenly asked if "we" could get up on stage and proceeded immediately to do so. Nobody seemed to want to go along with this, for obvious reasons, but she eventually dragged a couple people up, which meant everybody else had to follow in order to see the fucking show. A couple minutes into the song, security passed through to keep everyone away from the edge, and then to tell everybody to just get back down. This, of course, resulted in a number of things I'd like to be able to cover in the clip, but cannot, owing to my single-camera operation.
A few songs later I noticed that the stage provocateur was gone. I hope she got kicked out.
MOVIN' ON UP.
I just upgraded everything to Movable Type 3.2, so some things (particularly comments) may not work right just at the moment.
NO!: AU REVOIR SIMONE (#104, JUN 22 2006).
Until I saw the We Are Scientists show appear on a calendar, I'd never heard of the Miramar Theatre. As far as I can tell, they've only just started booking bands in there -- it is, in fact, a little black box theater. We got to the show about 20 minutes late, and when we walked in it was into the darkest concert venue I have ever seen. Onstage, the three-piece keyboard-and-drum-machine Brooklynites of Au Revoir Simone were in the middle of their set.
Some of what they did was really good and some was just too thin or underdeveloped, which mirrors the quality of their debut EP. I liked this new song, but it did seem to go on a little too long for what it did. I'd be really interested in seeing them again with a live drummer, since most of what they did with the drum machine could be easily replicated with a simple kit.
I've got three clips coming up from the We Are Scientists set, but none from the Double, who played second. I thought their record, Loose in the Air, was mediocre but inoffensive, but their live set was really ungood. The mix was extremely muddy, and the second "song" they played was a 17-minute atonal noise medley that I think won over few listeners. So, no clips from them.
It took three check-outs from the library, but I finally had enough time to finish Max Barry's Company last week. It's not quite as immediate as either Syrup or Jennifer Government (the latter, especially), but it's a spectacularly subtle satire of modern American business culture that's grounded more in realism than Barry's past books are. I don't want to go too far into the specifics, because there's a major twist about a third of the way into the book that affects a lot of the things I'd like to talk about, but suffice it to say that putting cubicle living under the microscope is only the starting point. Company is as much about the production and sale of knowledge and social status and the choices people make to negotiate the system as it is about the system itself.
Our hosting service switch, which was supposed to take up to two days, took about four hours, which means I frontloaded this week's clips for nothing. So, rather than just let the site sit idle until Monday I figured I'd cover some well-worn ground and talk about my concurrent switch to Gmail.
I haven't switched completely over -- I'm still using my same etchouse.com address -- but I am using the interface to coordinate all my accounts. Our new domain host has a nice e-mail administration interface, which makes it very easy to forward from one account to another, and I discovered that my wisc.edu account has the same thing if you look hard enough. I made the move primarily because it allows me to not have my old mail client, Entourage, running all the time on my underpowered laptop, and I'm already noticing the difference in performance in other applications. I also like having everything in one place and universally accessible. When I put the video clips together, for instance, I'm working on a desktop machine where I didn't previously have access to my mail, calendar or address book. Now I can get all that stuff from here, there or anywhere else. It's also amazing on blocking spam. I've had two slip through so far, whereas on a normal day it would've been about 50 or so before.
There are some downsides, though. One is Google Calendar, which just kind of smells. It works much better under Firefox XP than it does under Safari (where it really doesn't work at all) but it's still pretty featureless compared to Entourage. The address book is similar -- other than name and e-mail address, all the rest of a person's contact info just goes into a plain textbox, rather than into individual database entries. This is the big UI problem with Google's "keep everything" philosophy. While the Google search engine is certainly fine-grained and powerful enough to easily find the things I'm looking for at any given time, that's no reason to supercede my existing skill in putting things where I know I'm going to want them to be later. For example, mail can be "archived" but there's no apparent way to create folders to store things in, or to sort by category. What you get is a big mess of mail with a few simple ways to separate it (inbox vs. archived, "starred" vs. "unstarred") and a big Google search box on top. I have no plans to switch back at this point, and I have the rest of the summer to get used to it before I have to deal with a lot of e-mail again, but I do hope they start to crank up the features a little bit and start thinking about getting it out of beta.
NO!: THE NEW KENTUCKY QUARTER (#103, JUN 15 2006).
I'm not generally a fan of MySpace, but if you like the New Kentucky Quarter, I highly recommend you check out their page. This song (and two others) are available for download, and this one in particular is why I wanted to see them play. It's the title track from their new EP and is quickly becoming one of my favorite songs of 2006. After their set we waited in the drizzle to buy it (it's pretty good, but none of the other songs are as good as this one) and because they couldn't find their cashbox, we got it for $5 instead of $8. This was especially lucky since the one big beer we bought cost $6.
NO!: THE NEW KENTUCKY QUARTER (#102, JUN 15 2006).
The New Kentucky Quarter were opening for Milwaukee's Decibully, who are one of those indie pop bands that's always kind of on my radar but hasn't ever broken through into my heavy rotation. Unfortunately for them and us, the sporadic sprinkle during TNKQ's set got persistent toward the end, so we took off after buying their new EP. I figure since Decibully's from Milwaukee -- which I didn't know until TNKQ's singer mentioned it -- there'll probably be ample opportunity to see them in the future.
NO!: THE NEW KENTUCKY QUARTER (#101, JUN 15 2006).
It's kind of amazing, but I think last Thursday's set by the New Kentucky Quarter was the first show I'd seen on the Terrace in two years. The last time I remember being there for any kind of event at all was for the freezing-ass Michael Moore rally late in the 2004 election season. How I missed out on all of 2005 I don't know, but this show was the first of several Terrace shows I'm looking forward to this summer.
I'd never seen local openers the New Kentucky Quarter before, but I'd read up and them and checked out their downloads, which I found pretty impressive. They're being written up in some places as alt. country-ish, but I think that has to do with their name as much as anything else. Their sound is more in line with sweet-souled guitar rock of early Coldplay or late Soul Asylum, only balanced with female harmonies and less weighed down by chiming lead guitars. This tune -- not yet released on a record -- is a solid opener, but it took them a couple songs to really hit their stride, partly due a number of ongoing problems with the mix.
THIS POST CAN'T BE DESCRIBED.
I try to avoid posts about random things that happen to annoy me, but I've simply gotten to critical mass with descriptions of indie bands that go out of their way to not describe the bands. To wit, this blurb about Spain Colored Orange:
Grant me this disclaimer: no review (written or oral) can adequately describe the explosion of energy and passion on the latest EP by Spain Colored Orange. Hopelessly Incapable of Standing in the Way is a phenomenal collection of magnetic, multi-instrumental, majestically mashed-up Latin jazz, bar pop, and psychedelic bedroom balladry. Over its 33 minutes, the EP stimulates the feet, fingers, and feelings of listeners with remarkable shifts in style and tone that never sound overdone.
Or this, about Trace Bundy:
Trace Bundy is an innovative instrumental acoustic guitar player who lives and performs in Boulder, CO. He has been playing for over 15 years, and has developed an amazing and complex style. He is constantly coming up with new innovative ways to stretch the limits of the acoustic guitar. You must watch him play to understand what this means. "
That doesn't really describe it very well.
How about Time in Malta?
How the fuck can Time In Malta create all these things at once? I asked myself. And I know the reviewer credo. Try to throw out something to explain what the hell it is we are listening to. It happens all the time, as bands baffle our musical experiences, and leave us awkward for words. So upon hearing the variety of descriptive summations with regard to ‘Construct and Demolish’, I was sure that it was the personal tastes of individual reviewers attempting to shape the band to fit a personal comfort zone. By no means could this band baffle the literary press with some deeply personal connection to the music. Well, did I fucking choke on that idea. Slap another layer in that mistake sandwich I’ve been whipping up for a while now. Because in the most abstract of ways, the reviewing forefathers were all correct. Time In Malta are perfection in musical bridging that defies the ability for straight classification.
Dude, no. It sounds like somebody or something, even if it doesn't sound exactly like anything else. Figure it out or don't write about it, fools.
NO!: JILL SOBULE (#100, JUN 9 2006).
I think the best thing about Jill's set is how comfortable and congenial she was with the audience. She's been around and been successful for a while now, and can't have been thrilled with the relatively small crowd that showed up for this 7:00 show, but she was awesome about talking to people and telling stories and riffing off people's reactions. This song, another part of her new repertoire, is about a recent unnamed tourmate whom she had long been a fan of but who turned out to be a big jerk; a bit of back and forth with someone in the audience prompted her to briefly claim the subject was Jo Anne Worley.
(And hey, 100 of these already. Neat!)
NO!: JILL SOBULE (#99, JUN 9 2006).
Jill has been cranking out a lot of new material lately, using the web as a kind of sounding board for a slew of politically oriented songs. Most notably, she's been occasionally posting songs to the Huffington Post and has just released (with Kay Hanley and Michelle Lewis, performing as the Broadband) a pro-net neutrality song called "God Save the Internet." One of those HuffPo songs, "Under the Disco Ball," is heard in this two-part clip. It's a song about a conservative mother realizing her son has fallen under the spell of the evil homosexual agenda -- it's also the shortest song of Jill's set, which is why it's in this two-fer. After finishing, Jill briefly sang the shortest song she ever wrote: "Ritalin kid/Ritalin kid/Hey, look at that squirrel."
Later on in the set, she played a block of even newer songs that she didn't quite remember all the lyrics to, and had somebody come up to the stage to hold her laptop so she could read them. She wrote the one heard here when she learned that some conference organizers wanted her to introduce Al Gore's global warming presentation... in two hours. The song came out pretty fully formed, all things considered, and the video of that introductory performance can be found at her website.
NO!: JILL SOBULE (#98, JUN 9 2006).
I kind of didn't expect Jill Sobule to put on such a rollicking, funny show, especially without a band to play off of or much of a crowd in front of her. With maybe 70 people at the High Noon, she spent about half her set vamping on new material. By my count she played three songs from her last studio album, Underdog Victorious, one each from Pink Pearl and Happy Town, and four from her hit self-titled album, two of which were requests. This was one of those that was in her planned set list -- a quirky piece of cabaret pop about a waitress who dreams of being in the French resistance. Her studio material mostly translated pretty well to the solo acoustic environment, but as the next couple clips will show, it was the off the wall, politically oriented new stuff that really got the crowd going.
THOSE FAT CATS IN WASHINGTON.
For the last little while, many Democrats have hoped to avoid the dirty aspects of politics which the Republican Party has mastered, assuming that the fact that most people agree with Democratic positions on a wide range of issues is enough. This, however, hinges on something which Kevin Drum points out doesn't exist:
I'm probably late to the party on this (no pun intended), but when did it become standard practice to write stories about legislation without even taking a single sentence to provide the vote count and the party breakdown?
For the record, the net neutrality amendment failed 269-152. Republicans voted against it 211-11 and Democrats voted in favor 140-58. But anyone reading the LAT article would have no idea who to blame or praise for this outcome. It was just "Congress."
If we're just going to run on "the issues," we need the media to get that information out to the voters. And if the media have shown us anything in the last five years, it's that they're deathly afraid of "influencing elections." They aren't interested in telling people what party supports what position. If we want to play the politics of contrast, we have to put the contrast out there, and that means slamming Republicans for their positions as well as promoting our own.
NO!: TAPES 'N TAPES (#97, JUN 1 2006).
I've been in Madison for four years, but I almost never see people I know -- except at rock shows. The last few shows, in particular, I've been noticing many of the same people doing the same things night in and night out, and then bumping into people I know. It's like there's this regular background cast and another handful of main characters that I must see at each show. Many of them have been assigned roles in my head, which makes me wonder how many people see me at any given show and think, "Hey, there's that video guy again." At the Tapes 'n Tapes show, we ran into somebody Emily knew on the way in and saw people we knew throughout the show. The next day, somebody from the j-school asked me on the bus if she'd seen me at the show. What's really interesting is seeing The Scene coalesce around particular shows (at a guess I'd say this is the first such big get-together since Metric), then kind of disperse to separate sub-scenes for a little while until the buzz gets big enough again. Looking at what's on the calendar now, that's probably August.
NO!: TAPES 'N TAPES (#96, JUN 1 2006).
I don't record many instrumentals, for the simple reason that rock instrumentals are pretty hard to find these days. This track isn't strictly an instrumental but it's pretty damn close -- there is only a minimal vocal part and it doesn't have what you might call lyrics. Also, this is one of several Tapes 'n Tapes songs to feature their keyboard player blowing on a baritone, which is itself pretty out of the ordinary at a rock show.
NO!: TAPES 'N TAPES (#95, JUN 1 2006).
Tapes 'n Tapes are the new buzz band of the moment -- tickets to the San Fran and NYC shows and going for upwards of $75 on eBay -- and they were originally scheduled to play the Journey last Thursday. I've had a good time when I've gone to the Journey (and I certainly hope that their eviction drama has faded) but there was no way it was going to hold this show. It got switched to the Annex a couple weeks ago, and I believe it sold out anyway.
Do they live up to the hype? Well, I guess they do as much as most such bands, which is to say, kind of. They're not doing anything groundbreaking, but they have an entertaining show (complete with occasional baritone playing) and I was surprised at how many of their songs I remembered, since I haven't listened to their self-released debut, The Loon, that many times. They're certainly worth seeing if you can get a face-value ticket.
In the 2004 election cycle, I donated a total of $27 to Howard Dean and John Kerry. Both candidates would later get my vote in the primary and general elections, respectively. So far this year, I've given a total of $100 to three candidates outside my home districts and the DNC. I certainly don't think I'm necessarily representative of the Democratic polity in general, but I if the presence of candidates like Francine Busby, Ned Lamont and Jon Tester in the primary season is having a generally positive impact on fundraising, given the Dem leadership's continued efforts to shoot themselves in the feet.
There's been talk that Rahm Emmanuel -- chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the guy whose job it is to win back the House -- should replace Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi if the party fails to take the House back in November. On the one hand, this is actually a good sign -- it means that conventional wisdom is starting to turn towards a change of control in Congress. On the other hand, the idea of promoting another Beltway insider who's failed at his primary goal is just sickening to me. If the Democrats don't win back the House in November, Pelosi and Emmanuel should both resign. They've been presented with the best electoral environment in decades -- better than the Republicans had in 1994 -- and their weak-willed inability to stake out positions on the left is going to put at least part of that opportunity to waste.
Candidates like Busby, Lamont and Tester are not just supremely viable candidates, they should be seen as part of a vanguard of new progressivism. Instead, they languish with strong support coming only from the grassroots. The Democratic leadership can't even commit themselves to supporting Lamont if he wins his primary against Joe Lieberman -- they've hedged on whether Lieberman would get support if he ran as an independent.
Busby is in a special election for California's 50th district (the one where Randy "Duke" Cunningham had to resign because he was convicted of all sorts of corruption) and Tester is in the Senate primary in Montana; both elections are today. For Busby a win means that she goes to Congress but has to run again in November; for Tester, it means he faces the unpopular (and -- shock -- extremely corrupt) Max Burns in the general election. Both will continue to need support, as will Lamont, whose primary is on August 8. I'm going to continue sending money their way when I can -- both to provide support and to send a message to the leadership of the Democratic Party that what the mass of us want is candidates who will speak out against the war, against corporate giveaways, against cronyism, against incompetent opposition, and for oversight, fiscal responsibility, tolerance, civil liberties and the Constitution of the United States.
NO!: COLD WAR KIDS (#94, JUNE 1 2006).
Tapes 'n Tapes are the latest hipster buzz band to come rolling through Madison -- so buzzy are they, in fact, that their show had to be moved from the Journey to the Annex to accommodate ticket demand. The band with the lucky task of opening for them on their current tour is Cold War Kids, a sort of Modest Mouse soundalike from LA. They got a great reaction from Ryan over at Muzzle of Bees, and I think I would've felt the way if they'd only played a handful of songs. Their first three or four were really energetic, wild and great -- punctuated most notably by their guitar player also using a maraca to bash a cymbal that had been set on top of a wooden crate -- but the stuff after that started to sound a little samey. It might be that I'm just getting of that early Modest Mouse/Wolf Parade sound, but I came away just thinking they were good after a great start.
NO!: ZOLOF THE ROCK & ROLL DESTROYER (#93, MAY 25 2006).
The crowd seemed a little small at this show -- we met the owner of the Journey at last night's Tapes 'n Tapes show and he said he was surprised how few people turned out for what should have been a packed event. Those who did come seemed to be diehards, though. The crowd was wild from the beginning of the set, and even seemed genuinely into the obscure encore, "Ode to Madonna," from the band's self-titled debut. Here's hoping it was enough to get them to come back when more likely attendees are in town.