Culture, Music

The Bitter Reality: “Black Flag” is dead

In a strange but not entirely unexpected turn of events, Ron Reyes has quit/been fired from “Black Flag” once again. In a bizarre on-stage firing at the tail end of their recent Australian sojourn, Reyes was unceremoniously booted with two songs left on the set list. The band of course, was one half of the two “reunited” renditions of the once legendary punk band. In a long and revealing statement, Reyes has stated that the band “fell very short indeed and the diminishing ticket sales and crowds are a testament to that.” But more telling than anything, it seems that Reyes had an inkling this entire project was doomed to fail. In the statement, Reyes says;

[quote]“The writing was on the wall since before we played our first show. So many things went wrong from the start. I was into things like having a good drummer, rehearsing and spending time on things like beginnings and endings of songs, being a little less distracted with tour life and a little more on the ball. You know things that would make our efforts worthy of the name Black Flag”[/quote]

It’s funny and painfully sad to think of course, the once great legacy of a band that influenced so many has fallen into such disgrace. Like Reyes, we expected as much. Back in July of this year, we wrote a piece titled ‘Black Flags and Idol Suicides‘ and in it, Brad Abraham asks the simple question that plagued the formations of both these bands; “why?”. Why did we need “Black Flag” and “Flag”? The truth is, we didn’t, and we still don’t. The farce in which this has descended down to is testament to this notion.

If you’ve had a listen to the new “Black Flag” album (that may be thrown into doubt now with Reyes’ departure), you can hear the sound of a tired, aged, decrepit band struggling to find relevance where it didn’t need to. Abraham goes on in the piece to ask a few more pertinent questions and with the recent turn of events, they are more relevant than ever:

Why subject your fans to this tired display?

Why ruin something that was perfect?

Why bring middle-aged dissatisfaction to youth rebellion?”

Why indeed, for this mess. Speculation is that Greg Ginn will continue the band with someone else on vocals, but it would seem that such action would do little to change the situation. There is nothing wrong with remembering the past, especially one that is so gloriously influential and historically significant to an entire youth movement. But to let it break and burn like this? It’s just sad. Could it be that a small part of this debacle is due to the current climate of monetary possibilities these bands did not once have? Are we all partly to blame? Our culture of famous-now, money-now music industry means one-time cash-starved beacons of struggle and revolution can embark on a new monetized rehashing of their once lauded legacy. There is no stopping that, but don’t expect us not to comment when it disintegrates.

How did Brad Abraham get it so right? How did he nail the whole situation right on its head in one sentence? It is in this case of Ron Reyes, Greg Ginn, Keith Morris and the rest of the parties involved masquerading as the corpse of Black Flag, a statement that bears repeating;

For the aging punk rockers who have carried out this charade, one lesson will be imprinted on them- you can’t repeat the past.

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Culture, Headlines, Music

One for Massachusetts

It’s been more than ten years since I’ve been to Philadelphia, a decade removed from its heritage and first hand lessons in American history. Equally historical were the venues scattered on South Street and Arch Street where many of my earliest punk rock memories were formed. In the Theatre of Living Arts and the Trocadero, nights of sweat, blood and bruises became as much a part of my Philadelphia story as the times I spent learning about the Liberty Bell. These moments defined the city and all these years pass and I still breathe the packed monoxide air of those age-old venue floors. It’s been even longer since I went to Boston. So much so that I only vaguely remember the wood-clad structure of my hotel, who for architectural reasons beyond me, built their vast spaces horizontally instead of vertically. But I do remember the No-Name Restaurant, not it’s food or it’s locale, but the name, a tick for clever marketing and little else.

Boston has seen plenty since: thousands of bands have come and gone, the Boston Red Sox won three World Series, the Patriots three Super Bowls, and the Celtics hung up another championship banner. They’ve suffered immeasurable tragedy with the Boston Marathon attacks, and have banded together as a city and a region to lift each others’ spirits in the time after. All these events along with what I can assume are countless smaller, more localized strings of positivism would lead one to believe that the air of sadness and toil that appeared to envelope the city for so long has been lifted. It is not to say Boston is a sad town, in fact, I don’t remember it being so, but as a tourist and an outsider, the many elements that we encounter as being from Boston or part of it, left a melancholia that came with what were inept sports teams, terrible weather, and a gloomy disposition left in the shadow of taller, more famous cities. Boston hardcore, noted for their contribution through SS Decontrol, Gang Green, DYS and Jerry’s Kids, wasn’t exactly the plum of sunshine you’d need to get over lagging blues.

So what is my Boston? My Boston, the one I briefly knew, fueled by the angry and disenfranchised, came to fruition in a band that lasted one album, 12 songs, and a quiet influence that resonated long after their demise. The Hurt Process by Boxer, this is my Boston.

Part post-hardcore, part mid-nineties emo, Boxer still encompasses all that is the city; gritty, desolate, pained- jarring for the senses but cathartic in its connection. This is what Boston was like to someone who had never lived in Boston. Perhaps if you disagree, then it is something you need to take up with your local tourist board.

Boxer was Vagrant Records’ initial signing, the calling card for a label whose stock rose because their bands wore their hearts on their sleeves better than anyone else. We talk a lot about The Get Up Kids with Something to Write Home About and Saves the Day with Stay What You Are. These two are often considered the staple releases of the early Vagrant catalogue, but we fail to see that the very first band they ever signed, released an album just as poignant as the two, if only, not as polished.

It’s the opening line of “Blame It On The Weather” that feels perfectly Boston. It’s the stringy guitars and the pulsing bass line that accompanies it. It’s the percussions that kick in at just the right time, and it’s the voice that sounds like it has smoked a thousand cigarettes that chime in;

Sitting in my ditch of self-loathing and of course my mind is roaming / thinking things are worse than they appear to be

Listen: “Blame it On the Weather”
Boxer – Blame It On the Weather

And then there were the girls, or one in particular whose name may or may not have been Georgia. Her hair smelled like a season and she sounds like a girl who liked music you’d only play on a record player. She probably liked the Velvet Underground on Sunday afternoons but wore combat boots and spiked her hair on a Friday night. She’s someone you’d fall in love with from the deepest of your soul only to break your heart. This is the little Georgia girl Boxer sings about, with a sense of sadness and anger wrapped in crunchy mid-tempo riffs and couplets of disappointment. She’s the one that kept you up at night, 2:18am. She’s the one that you’ll forget someday, just not today, the one you’re waiting for, when the sun finally comes, it’ll be when you’ll stop missing her.

Listen: “Georgia”
Boxer – Georgia

It’s the romanticism of a troubled city that drives people to write great songs about it. It is the way the rain falls on a lonely streetlight that inspires, and I think Boston has more than one lonely streetlight. I think if I get to drive through Boston some time soon, my mind would automatically play these 12 songs in order. Appropriately perhaps, the album’s title understood the city’s plight on both a personal and cultural stake and its significance on a national and global scale. This was a hurting town, whether you were a fan of sporting teams, music scenes or girls named after southern states. Yet on some level, they knew that this sadness would only last for so long. That someday you could finally leave it all behind.

We wait until the sun goes down in Boston, the stars are out / We’ll have our way; our time will shine like the twinkle that’s in your eye

Listen: “One for Milwaukee”
Boxer – One For Milwaukee

There is something to be said about not overstaying your welcome. Boxer knew 12 songs were enough. It was for that moment, the perfect capsule of the streets and places no one but themselves knew and understood. I can’t for one imagine any more songs written or recorded by them. It would be strange and out of place, almost like happiness and sunshine down on Harvard Avenue. I would never claim to be from Boston, and I can’t tell you what it’s like now. I can only imagine at least, with all the things that has happened to the city over the past decade, that there has to have been an uplift of some kind. In fact, I’m sure it’s a terribly nice place to visit. But for an outsider like me, until I get to venture down a sun-soaked path leading to the friendliest bar in town, Boston will always be The Hurt Process, where it rains or snows every night.

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Boxer formed in 1995 and disbanded in 1999. Vagrant Records released their one album, The Hurt Process, in 1998. Drummer Chris Pennie recently drummed for Coheed & Cambria and the Dillinger Escape Plan. 

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Headlines, Music

Bob Dylan, let’s never do interactive again

Is Bob Dylan dead? He’s not right? I’m pretty sure the most famous marbled-voice folk troubadour is still alive and relatively well. I know he’s a little aged now, and sometimes, when he speaks, we have no idea what he’s saying- snapping out of it only during his most sanguine times- with his guitar. But really, there’s got to be a reason for this right?

An explanation is needed for this, his much talked about and heavily shared ‘interactive’ video for “Like A Rolling Stone”. The concept for this new media venture is you, the user, being given the opportunity to “make” a new video for one of Dylan’s most celebrated tracks. Now “make” is generously used here, and before you get your Michel Gondry/Spike Jonze video dreams up, let’s just say that the interactivity featured here is about as interactive as Night Trap the game was back in 1992. Which to say, wasn’t very interactive at all.

For sexed up males in 1992, Night Trap was a schlocky, and quite terrible, “sexy” video game made up of footage that was meant to be interactive. But unlike the games of today, all you could do with actual video footage was switch between scenes, hoping to catch up a glimpse of a half naked coed as she was stalked in her house.

This new interactive video gives you about as much control as Night Trap– except the “clever” part is that the video they use (synced footage from made up TV shows, movies, news broadcast) is singing along to “Like A Rolling Stone”.

I fumbled about, slightly confused as the video rolled footage from a reality show called “Bachelor’s Roses” (yes, that nice lady pictured above is singing a Dylan song). It left me wondering who these people were and thought maybe it was just an ad playing before the footage. Turns out, this WAS the footage I got to be ‘interactive’ with. I managed to get a few minutes into the video before I realized I couldn’t do anything but change channels and turn the volume up and down. Neil McCormick of The Telegraph asks; “is the interactive new video any good?”

No Neil, it’s not. It’s terrible.

What’s the point of this exercise? Perhaps Dylan, or more specifically, his label/management/PR, are just trying something new.

Perhaps this is all terrible because it’s Dylan and the footage used would best be kept on the TLC scrapheap. Either way, Bob, please, let’s never do interactive again.

The concept isn’t entirely at fault. What if you could make a Dylan video made up of old 60s footage? Now there’s an interactive video that would be worth your time.

Just imagine.

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Music, Sight & Sound

Listen to the City Mouse split with Weekend Dads

It’s Alive Records’ City Mouse are now streaming their split EP (a little slice of infectious pop punk goodness) with labelmates Weekend Dads.

The female-fronted trio harken back to the glory years of Lookout-era pop punk with a touch of The Eyeliners and Teen Idols, while Weekend Dads is just as catchy, just a little snottier.

You can stream all four tracks from the split 7″ below. You can grab a copy of this bad boy from here.

It’s fantastic to see that It’s Alive Records are still releasing music the best way possible, the good ol’ 7″ split. Your digital copy will only set you back $4.

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Music, Sight & Sound

Zac Brown Band debut video for “Sweet Annie”

Georgia country music heavyweights Zac Brown Band have debuted their music video for the single “Sweet Annie”.

The video holds a special place within the band as the wedding theme video is footage of band member Coy Bowles’ actual wedding to his now-wife Kylie. The cameras followed the happy couple through their nuptials and on to their reception, creating what would become the video for “Sweet Annie”. Bowles has said how much work went into the planning of the event;

[quote]”There was a lot of planning that went into this wedding, and a lot of hard work on many people’s efforts. The sun and weather could not have been more perfect. Kylie, my wife, really out did herself creatively on the vibe and look of the wedding. She had a vision of what she wanted the wedding to look like. With the help of others, including Shelly Brown who designed her dress, we were really able to pull of this relaxing, gypsy fantasy land of a wedding.[/quote]

Bowles concludes by saying how important the day was to him;

[quote]Standing in front of everyone that you care about, looking into the eyes of the one person you wanna be with and love for the rest of your life and telling them exactly how you feel about them, how much love them in front of all the people that you love is one of the most awesome and intense things I’ve ever done.”[/quote]

The single is from their Grammy Award winning album Uncaged, released last year.

Check out the video below:

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Music, Sight & Sound

Listen to new Lights & Motion songs

Deep Elm recording artist Lights & Motion is gearing up for the release of his new album Save Your Heart and is now streaming the first two tracks from the epic outing.

Lights & Motion is musical savant Christoffer Franzen, a self-taught, multi-instrumentalist, composer, producer, engineer, mixer and the namesake of this extravagant post-rock project. The deeply personal project is Franzen’s musical extention of himself, one he hold closely to the heart;

[quote]”A year in the making and a many lonely nights have crystallized themselves into my new album Save Your Heart. In January, I gathered the courage to release my debut Reanimation and I haven’t stopped since. In fact, I’ve barely left the studio all together. This isn’t just music to me. This IS me. This is me doing the thing I love and sharing the things that I am most afraid of. Save Your Heart is about not giving up on those things that make you lose track of time, feel alive and realize there is something that you were born to do.”[/quote]

The album is due out November 12th and the first two tracks are available for streaming below.

“Heartbeats”

“Ultraviolet”

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Music

Velvet Underground pioneer Lou Reed dead at 71

Lou Reed, founder of the Velvet Underground who went on to a successful and influential solo career, has died of a liver ailment at the age of 71.

RollingStone reports that Reed underwent a liver transplant in May but has noted an official cause of death has not been given yet.

Lou Reed, along with John Cale, Sterling Morison and Maureen Tucker formed the Velvet Underground in the mid sixties and went to write and record some of the most influential underground rock music of his time. The group were close to noted artist Andy Warhol and released their debut album, The Velvet Underground & Nico, in 1967.

Reed split from the Velvet Underground in 1970 and went on to record solo albums starting with his self-titled 1972 record. He followed it up with the David Bowie / Mick Ronson produced Transformer.

His most recent recorded output included guest vocal appearances on Metric’s 2012 album Synthetica and the much criticised collaboration with Metallica, Lulu.

Lou Reed died on a Sunday morning.

Lou Reed, Nico, and John Cale performing “Femme Fatale” in 1972:

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