Tuesday, August 28, 2007

When You Act Like Meat, You're Bound to Get Cut

It's a testament to the artistry of the late great Benjamin Smoke that he could make suburban straights like me feel the depths of despair in his lyrical tales of losing his heart to male hustlers ("Chad"), or being sexually degraded ("Beeper Will") and then being accused of "asking for it" ("Guilt").

Benjamin bared his soul, and his hopes and fears, through Smoke's music. Heartbreak is heartbreak: the themes of love, lust and loss are universal, no matter who the players are. These songs are from a March 1994 performance on WREK. Buy a Smoke record here.

1. Hole
2. Guilt
3. Ballet
4. The Trip
5. Hank Aaron
6. I Do
7. Freak
8. The Pond
9. Awake
10. Luke's Feet
11. Beeper Will
12. Good Boy
13. Sand
14. instrumental

I'm not sure of the title of track 12, a song that may date back to the days of Freedom Puff. The refrain is, "It's hard to be a good boy and a good thief too." Benjamin introduces "Hank Aaron" as a Blackgirls cover. I asked Steve Pilon about this, and he wrote: "Benjamin 'borrowed' some of the lyrics to 'Hank Aaron' from a Blackgirls song called 'Hope' that was on their CD called 'Procedure.' He didn't mention that until after the CD covers were printed, so he tried to give credit during the shows as often as he could. Benjamin called his version 'Hank Aaron' because 'Handkerchiefs' was too hard to spell on set lists. 'Handkerchiefs' was his original title." Benjamin's introduction also makes clear the connection between 714's (quaaludes) and Hank Aaron's 714th home run, which broke Babe Ruth's record.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Go Go Gogol

The college project I mentioned last month (which I actually completed) was a study on the Russian author Nikolai Gogol. Imagine how excited I was when I heard about the band Gogol Bordello. I'll give you a hint: even more excited than I was when Disney did an episode of "Darkwing Duck" that referenced Gogol's epic Taras Bulba.

Gogol Bordello has a new album, Super Taranta, which they are promoting through TV appearances. They were on David Letterman recently, and they will be on Henry Rollins' show tonight (August 10th at 11pm EST on IFC).

I really regret that I missed Gogol Bordello's concert in Atlanta a few years ago. I have a mental list of Atlanta shows that I wish I had attended: McLusky's last tour (which brought them to Smith's Old Bar before they broke up), the Fall's show at the Masquerade (during the Infotainment tour), and You Am I's appearance at the Cotton Club. Chief among these missed opportunities was the time I was in college, visiting Atlanta during spring break with Josh and Ali. The night before we left, we saw a flyer that said the Minutemen were playing the next night. We considered staying an extra night, and I wish we had. I tried to make up for it by seeing fIREHOSE on their first tour (they opened for the Sonic Youts in Tampa), but it couldn't have been as good as seeing the late great d.boon in action.

Here's my favorite Gogol Bordello song, Bordello Kind of Guy, a/k/a "When the Trickster Starts a-Pokin'".

Thursday, August 09, 2007

VH1 Goes to Hell

Richard Hell and the Voidoids: Shattered

Saturday evening (August 11th at 9pm EST), the cable channel VH1 will broadcast the documentary NY77: The Coolest Year in Hell. According to the blog Waved Rumor, the film features "three stories fused into one – a look at the crumbling NYC city infrastructure and government, and how Ed Koch’s campaign fought hard throughout the year to resurrect the city; the rise of hip-hop/disco/house, as led by the Bronx DJ culture from their street dance parties into the clubs, like Studio 54; and the rise of punk down on the Bowery, leading to the international explosion of Blondie, The Ramones, Talking Heads, Richard Hell and others from the downtown scene the following year. Some of the talking heads featured included Chris Stein, Randy Jones, KRS One, Geraldo Rivera, Gloria Gaynor, Tommy Erdelyi (Ramone), Legs McNeil, Arturo Vega, Ed Koch, Jimmy Breslin, Al Goldstein and others, talking about what was happening in the streets and in the clubs."

Sounds like a documentary version of the events featured in Spike Lee's film Summer of Sam. I love music documentaries. Recently I watched a terrible one called Chaos! Ex-Pistols Secret History. It was supposed to tell the story of Dave Goodman, the Sex Pistols' soundman, through interviews with Goodman, Don Letts, Ray Stevenson, Glen Matlock, and Malcolm McLaren. We have Dave Goodman to thank for the existence of so many Pistols' live recordings (as well as the Goodman-doctored demo tapes). Since none of the surviving Pistols participate in the Goodman doc (save Matlock), the filmmakers resort to interviewing Terry Chimes, Marco Pirroni, and members of second-rate bands like Eater and Cock Sparrer; and they use music and live footage of a pathetic tribute band called the Sex Pistols Experience. McLaren acknowledges that Goodman should have produced the first single, "Anarchy in the UK". But rather than honoring Goodman (who died in 2005), Malcolm selfishly uses the film as a forum to rebut the criticisms levied against him in The Filth and the Fury. He rewrites history once again by claiming that Vivienne Westwood had originally recommended Sid Vicious (nee John Ritchie) to sing for the Pistols, but McLaren misunderstood her instructions and got "the wrong John".