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What We’re Listening to This Week
JEFFREY ST. CLAIR
Ten songs (plus one) to blast at your neighbors over Independence Day weekend….
Bid ‘Em In: Oscar Brown, Jr.
(Auctioning slaves is a real high art. / Bring that young gal, Roy. She’s good for a start. / Bid ‘em in! Get ‘em in!…)
American Roulette: Robbie Robertson
(Oh, say a prayer for the lost generation / Who spin the wheel out of desperation / American Roulette / Stake your life upon it…)
Revolution: Dennis Brown
(Are you ready to stand up and fight the right revolution? / Are you ready to stand up and fight it just like soldiers? / Many are called, few are chosen … )
Louder Than a Bomb: Public Enemy
(Although I live the life, that of a resident / But I be knowin’ the scheme, that of the president / Tappin’ my phone whose crews abused / I stand accused of doing harm / ’Cause I’m louder than a bomb…)
This Ain’t No Picnic: Minutemen
(Hey mister don’t look down on me / For what I believe / I got my bills and the rent / I should be content / But our land isn’t free / So I’ll work my youth away / In the place of a machine / I refuse to be a slave … )
Nuclear War: Sun Ra and the Arkestra
(They talkin’ about nuclear war, nuclear war / if they push that button, push that button / you can kiss your ass goodbye, goodbye / It’s a motherfucker, don’t you know?….)
Living in America: James Brown
(Looking for the promised Land….)
Sleep Now in the Fire: Rage Against the Machine
(I am the Nina, the Pinta, the Santa Maria / The noose and the rapist, the fields overseer / The agents of orange / The priests of Hiroshima / The cost of my desire / Sleep now in the fire )
My Uncle: Flying Burrito Brothers
(I don’t know how much I owe my uncle / But I suspect it’s more than I can pay / He’s asking me to sign a three-year contract / I guess I’ll catch the first bus out today…)
Stars and Stripes: Circle Jerks
(Hahaha, you’re all gonna die, and you voted for that guy …)
I’m So Bored With the USA: The Clash
(Yankee dollar talk / to the dictators of the world / In fact it’s giving orders / an’ they can’t afford to miss a word )
Jeffrey St. Clair, editor of CounterPunch, once played two-chord guitar in a Naptown garage band called The Empty Suits. His latest book, Killing Trayvons: an Anthology of American Violence (co-edited with Kevin Alexander Gray and JoAnn Wypijewski) will be released in June by CounterPunch Books.
Warpaint, Warpaint (Rough Trade US, 2014)
Already deemed by many to be the best (thus far) of 2014, Warpaint’s second album is certainly worth the consideration. After several listens, the hypnotizing grooves of this LA-based quartet begin to sink in. The vocals of Emily Kokal and Theresa Wayman are dense yet sublime, but won’t be everyone’s flavor. That’s not to say the group’s self-titled record isn’t wonderful – many great albums aren’t easily penetrable. Peel back Warpaint’s melodic layers and you’ll find a talented group that’s pushing the boundaries and doesn’t give a rip whether or not the we give a damn.
Ed Sheeran, X (Atlantic, 2014)
The only thing worth writing about this hit record is that it’s symbolic of everything that’s wrong with mainstream music. Putrid and monotonous.
Joshua Frank is managing editor of CounterPunch. He lives in the LBC.
The Ex: 1936, The Spanish Revolution, AK Press, 1986
Happy Fourth of July! Here’s a record I’ve been wanting to tell you about for months, but I’ve waited for just that special moment. While your neighbors crank up the Lee Greenwood tonight, consider upping it a few more decibels to play these four noise punk covers of classic anthems from the Spanish Civil War by the venerable dutch anarchist music collective, The Ex. If you can find the record, do purchase. it includes a gorgeously designed collection of historic photos – more than 100 pages. A gem from many angles. For a more proper introduction to the band, oh, where to start? I began with Starters and Alternators (1998) – with razor guitars. But, hell, just pick any album. “White Liberals” is a great song, off Pokkeherrie (1985). But, tonight it’s “Ay Carmela!”
Tom Ze: The Hips of Tradition: The Return of Tom Ze, Luaka Bop, 1992
Something danceable for your crushing World Cup moments, from the Tropicalia dadaist, Tom Ze. Ze was “rediscovered” by David Byrne after abandoning music, or, as he said, “I don’t make art. I make spoken and sung journalism.”
I had the fortune of seeing Ze perform with post-rocks’s most overrated sourpusses, Tortoise, in Chicago in the late 90s. The earnest Tortoise boys were kings of the scene, and silence was expected at their performances. The xylophone was never a more serious instrument. Ze transformed the band. He made them wear glowing construction hats and play plumbing pipes, while this funny little man leapt around them. I don’t think they ever recorded together, but you can hear clips of a Tortoise/Ze show on YouTube, like here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sQCT_M0I0H4
Kristin Kolb writes the Daydream Nation column for CounterPunch magazine.
Sly and the Family Stone: Greatest Hits.
I’m not a fan of greatest hits collections, but this one is just an entire disc of good fun (and some good funk too.) It’s been hot and steamy here in Vermont this past week and this CD has been getting plenty of airplay in my place. There’s something about Sly and his crew that goes well with this kind of weather. From the ballad like melody of “Everybody Is a Star” to the danceable funk of “Thank You Falettinme Be Micelf,” this album makes you feel damn good. Then, there’s one of the best summer songs ever—“Hot Fun in the Summertime,” that makes me feel like breaking out a cold one every time I hear it.
James Brown: Live at the Apollo.
It’s been said over and over and it’s still true. Nobody, but nobody lays it all on the line like Mr. James Brown. This performance ranks as one of the most exhilarating and exhausting concerts in any genre. Talk about turning up the heat. “Try Me” tears the soul, while “Night Train” tears up the floor. This was recorded (against the advice of his manager) in 1962. It was a world when JFK was still president, civil rights were yet to be legally won, and Harlem was the capital of Black America. Lots of white folk had never heard of Mr. Brown and many of those who had were afraid of what they heard and saw.
James Brown: Live at the Apollo, Volume Two.
This CD was originally released as a double album in 1968. Recorded in 1967, it reflects Brown’s continuing mastery of the R&B genre and, with his hit “Cold Sweat,” his foray into funk. The 2002 special release CD includes the entire show, with “Try Me,” “That’s Life,” “It’s a Man’s Man’s World,” The aforementioned “Cold Sweat” is preceded by a masterful medley of “Let Yourself Go“, “There Was a Time“, and “I Feel All Right.” Even though it was only five years later, the United States and the world was a very different place than it was in 1962. This was especially the case for Black America. In its own way, this performance reflects the changes.
Ron Jacobs’ book on the Seventies, Daydream Sunset, will published by CounterPunch this summer.
Rebirth Brass Band, Feel Like Funkin’ It Up (Rounder, 1989)
After listening to the ersatz-New Orleans silliness of Lonnie Donegan’s 1966 soccer anthem “World Cup Willy,” I sought the antidote in the Rebirth Brass Band’s breakout album displaying the young group in all its power and pride. They Rebirthers dish out large helpings of traditional fare, R & B dishes, and grittier, grungier stuff, too—all of it raucous and real.
David Yearsley, author of “Bach’s Feet,” once played the world’s oldest piano and didn’t damage it … much.
Violent Femmes, Violent Femmes (Slash, 1983)
I first heard this rollercoaster of post-folk, neo-punk glory during my first summer on staff at a Boy Scout camp in northern Michigan. Tom, whose real name was Marion, had the cassette (that’s all any of us had of anything). I heard him playing it in his tent and demanded a copy. We dubbed tapes in those days, rather than burning CDs. He did, but he was afraid that someone would hear Gordon wailing, “Why can’t I get just one fuck?” so he kept the recording level so low that my copy was mostly inaudible. Later, I spent countless nights at Saginaw’s Hamilton St. Pub where the local band, Water 4 the Pool, covered “Kiss Off” with Brian Stout swinging from the rafters and Iain bringing me free cans of Fosters and some drunk woman pulling me into the bathroom to tell me I had nice hands and she was dying of cancer. Later, dozens of strangers would come to my apartment above Paul’s liquor store and we’d spin the hookah and play the whole album. Loud. Very, very loud.
Tonight, almost thirty years later, they were playing it at the sushi restaurant. Too damn quietly.
Marc Beaudin edits poetry for CounterPunch, and is the frontman of the most likely completely defunct poetry band Remington Streamliner. He can be reached at crowvoice.com.
Killer Mike (Williams Street): R.A.P. Music
Sade: The Ultimate Collection.
P.O.D.: Murdered Love.
Lee Ballinger co-edits Rock and Rap Confidential and writes about music and politics for CounterPunch magazine. Check out RRC’s latest video: Dreamscape.