It’s been two weeks since I sat in my garage office and cut an episode of the Idelic Hour. Between a short trip to NYC and Thanksgiving week off, I had a lot to think about as I sat between the “1′s and 2′s” up here in the now-crispy cold canyon.
The two major influences of this week’s playlist: a couple of hours spent with old friends at WFMU’s record fair and this month’s delightful 20th anniversary issue of Mojo magazine.
First off, thank you, Phil Alexander, and congratulations to Mojo for inspiring and entertaining record freaks for these last 20 years. If there is one concept that Mojo consistently plays up and hits home, it’s what I call “the obscure gem.” The term “gem” goes back to the ancient Greeks and begins with the distinction of being precious. As record collectors, our instincts make the more obscure and harder-to-find records closer to our hearts.
This weekend, Tipitina’s is hosting a two-night jam session featuring the acclaimed guitarist and many of his special musical friends. There are two-night passes available for a discounted price.
Anders has been riding a serious wave for months now. His new album, Peace, on Alligator Records, is getting rave reviews. He recently recorded a video piece for Yamaha guitars. But most significantly, his national profile has grown considerably due to his work with Grateful Dead bassist Phil Lesh’s ever-evolving band lineup.
I have heard nothing but stellar reports from friends who have seen the shows, which also feature North Mississippi Allstars guitarist Luther Dickinson.
With hip-hop music being at times a vehicle for opening one’s conscious mind to the world through music, one of its biggest and most notable users is none other than Lupe Fiasco.
The rapper from Chicago, IL first developed an interest in the genre after initially not being a fan of its vulgarity and misogyny. With his career starting in the late nineties, he is largely considered a pioneer of the conscious hip-hop movement, along with the likes of Common, Mos Def, and Talib Kweli. With his 2006 studio effort Lupe Fiasco’s Food & Liquor bringing him greater exposure, the man took on subjects such as absent parents, war, religion, prostitution, and terrorism in his bars.
Despite his distaste for misogyny and vulgarity in hip-hop, Lupe Fiasco is strongly opposed to censorship in music. “If we’re going to (censor things) that are offensive, then were going to have to blind and deafen everyone. Come on, man. Let’s focus on education and literacy and poverty,” he told the Chicago Tribune.
There is a famous story concerning the cynic philosopher Diogenes of Sinope. Invited into a rich man’s home, Diogenes was asked by his host to please not spit on the floor. Whereupon Diogenes spit in the man’s face, saying, “In a rich man’s house, there is no place to spit but his face.”
I think about that story when I listen to Anal Cunt, the defunct grindcore band that became infamous for its heinous name and truly vile sense of humor (“I Became a Counselor So I Could Tell Rape Victims They Asked For It,” anyone?). Because I think—and I know this may sound outrageous—that Anal Cunt front man Seth Putnam, the so-called “GG Allin of Grindcore,” had a lot in common with the great Greek philosopher. It is my contention that Putnam was, like Diogenes, convinced there were no honest men, and so spent his career spitting in our faces. I believe he had a lot of hate in his heart, but it was a hatred of hypocrisy, and not the women, minorities, gays, and other folks he mocked in his songs. He coolly dredged up the crudest, sickest jokes he could, believing in his heart of hearts that he was just saying what we were all thinking.
And boy, did it work. It’s not so difficult to offend somebody; but to deliberately set out to offend everybody, well, that takes pluck, chutzpah, and a willingness to wave bye-bye to the respect of all ostensibly decent human beings. “Better in the gutter than a pedestal,” wrote E.M. Cioran, and Putnam gleefully relegated himself to the gutter by stomping on every taboo and shibboleth in sight with his vulgar, crude, and often very funny lyrics. If I thought for a moment that Putnam actually believed what he was saying I would despise him. But I think his sense of humor was based on a belief that morality was a façade and a sham, human beings were vile, and what they really needed was to have all of their worst impulses thrown back in their faces.
Let’s face it, more often than not, you can look at the obscure compilation of words in a band’s name and wonder how and why it decided to call itself that. Cymbals Eat Guitars, Deadboy and the Elephant, or the ever-parodied Panic! At the Disco or Red Jumpsuit Apparatus, anyone? Yet if there is one band whose name makes perfect sense, it’s The Hives. Consider them in terms of mild discomfort and bouts of hot flashes, and you’re pretty spot-on.
Nearly a decade into their career, the Hives became one of the trendiest bands of the 2000s. Since releasing their sophomore LP, Veni Vidi Vicious, the Swedish garage rock revivalists have gained international acclaim for their scrappy sound and super-charged live sets. Known for their arty black and white attire and outrageous energy, the quintet is still hailed as one of the best live acts in rock ‘n’ roll more than 20 years after their birth.
Their name pretty much says it all. Frontman Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist leads a riotous performance, easily paralleled by the high-octane energy of his bandmates: guitarists Nicholaus Arson and Vigilante Carlstroem, bassist Dr. Matt Desctruction, and percussionist Chris Dangerous. Pelle is known for his brash idiocy—and scissorkicks—often pre-empted by his notoriously rather self-righteous declarations. Still, the guy’s got the charm and stamina to back up his arrogance, providing for nothing short of an electrifying performance.
Jerod “Rody” Lewis of the Black Eagles Mardi Gras Indian tribe passed away on Monday, November 25, 2013. He was 49 years old.
Big Chief Rody led the fabled uptown gang since the passing of his father, Percy “Big Chief Pete” Lewis in 1981 (shown below in a photo from 1977 by Michael P. Smith). The Black Eagles, along with the White Eagles and the Golden Eagles, are among the oldest uptown tribes. The Creole Wild West are recognized as the oldest tribe in the city of New Orleans.
Rody had one of the most distinctive and powerful voices in the entire Mardi Gras Indian community.He was the current generation’s vocal equivalent of Bo Dollis, the legendary Big Chief of the Wild Magnolias. A strong, charismatic singer with a rich baritone, he could be heard chanting at Mardi Gras Indian practices, shouting the ancient songs behind various second line parades, and fronting his gang at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.
Much like his Detroit counterpart Danny Brown, Curtis Cross, aka Black Milk, is a rapper and producer proving that age does not matter. Now 30, the man has been rapping and producing since 2002, collaborating with the likes of the late J. Dilla, Elzhi, Royce da 5’9”, and Pharoahe Monch. Raised on the “golden age” vibes of A Tribe Called Quest and De La Soul, his production work has led many to compare him to Dilla and producer/MC Madlib.
Black Milk’s career took flight when he was invited by fellow Detroit hip-hop outfit Slum Village to produce a track for both their 2002 mixtape Dirty District and full-length Trinity (Past, Present and Future). Not long after, he teamed up with Young RJ (RJ Rice Jr.) under the name B.R. Gunna to handle production 11 of 13 tracks on Slum Village’s 2004 Detroit Deli (A Taste of Detroit).
2005 saw a solo self-release from Black Milk, titled Sound of the City. Catching the ear of hip-hop label Fat Beats, he was promptly signed in 2006, and had his official debut record Popular Demand released the following year. His latest effort, No Poison No Paradise, has already turned heads within the world of hip-hop music, with Consequence of Sound calling it a “well-produced” effort, while AllMusic.com believed it to be “deeper, and artistically more filling” when compared to his other releases.
On the 25th of November, the great jazz bandleader and drummer Chico Hamilton died at the age of 92. In addition to his various groups, he was also a composer, teacher, abettor of numerous up-and-coming players, and an all-around class-act. He left a large body of work behind to remember him by, but his greatest achievements on record were made with his Quintet of the 1950s.
It’s been a few years since I’ve watched it, but I can still vividly recall one of my favorite scenes from Jazz on a Summer’s Day, Bert Stern’s indispensible documentary covering the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival. It occurs early in the film but seems to be happening around dusk, though the timeframe is ambiguous in large part due to the moment taking place not on the festival’s stage or in the audience but in the attic of a nearby house.
In that setting, Chico Hamilton, mallets in hand, rehearses on his drums in preparation for his Quintet’s appearance later that evening. I’m fairly certain a cigarette is clasped between his lips, though I wouldn’t wager anything substantial on that recollection. Without a shadow of a doubt though, Hamilton is practicing shirtless.