Wednesday, December 24, 2014

BOOK REVIEW: "IS IT MY BODY? SELECTED TEXTS" by Kim Gordon

It's hard to find much fault with Saint Kim, a renaissance woman who's been a constant in my underground music and culture-obsessed life for over thirty years during her time with Sonic Youth, multiple side bands and a wide variety of fashion, art, filmmaking and other endeavors. Everyone loves Kim, right? But hey, can she sling together a group of sentences in an edifying and entertaining manner? I wasn't actually sure, so I bought this German-pressed collection of some of her writings from the 1980s up to just a year or two ago in hopes of finding out. She's got an autobiography due out soon as well, so I reckoned I'd get a jump on that by poring through the tour diaries, art theorizing, semiotics and cultural criticisms that are speckled throughout this small volume.

Let it be said that while Ms. Gordon loses no overall cultural luster from this collection of her writings, I wouldn't recommend that you actually spend any more than a few minutes browsing it in a bookstore. Actually reading it? It's not easy, let me tell ya. See, Kim Gordon comes from the art world. She often, but not always, writes like people from the art world - insular, impenetrable, overblown and for fellow travelers only. She doesn't come off as pompous, not really; she merely confirms what a blowhard world that of high art and even mid-brow art is. So you might see it as guilt by association; I instead choose to see her mimicry of the art/academic written aesthetic something that just comes with the territory when you're jawboning to a closed circle. Heaven forbid that someone try and penetrate the purple prose of the elite. Why even bother talking down to those who'd deign to try?

That said, I liked her piece on Raymond Pettibon, as well as a 1985 Artforum piece in which she works over Southern California hardcore punk like a real pro. There's a late 80s Sonic Youth tour diary as well, and then a series of pieces and interviews that over-intellectualizes that which should be relatively straightforward: Glenn Branca, Harry Crews and Mike Kelley, for instance. I assure you, I'm no philistine, but I'm easily fed up with the needlessly pompous and/or "transgressive", and this book gets me no closer to resolving my antipathy to that world. Here's hoping her next book's more in keeping with the as-yet-untoppled mental alter I've built for her.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

DYNAMITE HEMORRHAGE RADIO #51

My 51st show and my fact-checking is still riddled with errors, my show's full of modulation mix-ups and my on-mic "persona" is about as pleasing to the ear as a friggin' sack of cats. At least the music totally smokes. Notwithstanding my error on Brian Eno's first album - it's called "Here Come The Warm Jets", no der! - and the fact that some songs are mixed too low and some voices too high (that's why Thomas Edison invented the volume knob for you), I'm excited to share with you some of the finest in raw, sub-underground rock and roll music from the past five decades.

There's new archival stuff from The Klitz (turn it up) and The Bangs nee The Bangles; there's new 2014 songs from Pampers, White Fence, Men Oh Pause, Coneheads, Germ House and Parkay Quarts; and a bunch of library stuff from many corners of our world: The Birthday Party, Bill Direen & The Bilders, Razar, The Coolies, Long Blondes, Modern Lovers and so on and so forth. Take a look at the playlist and I think you'll wanna give it a go.

Download Dynamite Hemorrhage Radio #51.
Stream or download Dynamite Hemorrhage Radio #51 on Soundcloud here.
Subscribe to the show via iTunes.

Playlist:

THE KLITZ - Hard Up
BILL DIREEN & THE BILDERS - Alien
THE COOLIES - Salute
CHAPTER 24 - You Said
2x4s - Another Day
LONG BLONDES - Separated By Motorways
PARKAY QUARTS - Psycho Structures
WHITE FENCE - Anger! Who Keeps You Under
GERM HOUSE - A Matter of Call
THE BANGS - Outside Chance
THE PRETTY THINGS - Midnight To Six Man
MODERN LOVERS - Old World 
MEN OH PAUSE - Sapphire and Steel
THE FALL - Middle Mass
BRIAN ENO - Blank Frank
THE BIRTHDAY PARTY - Jennifer's Veil
THE POP GROUP - 3:38
THE EXPRESSIONS - Return To Innocence
THE CONEHEADS - 1982
RED CROSS - Tatum O'Tot and the Fried Vegetables
RAZAR - Task Force (Undercover Cops)
PAMPERS - Suicide

Some past shows:
Dynamite Hemorrhage #50    (playlist)
Dynamite Hemorrhage #49    (playlist)
Dynamite Hemorrhage #48    (playlist)
Dynamite Hemorrhage #47    (playlist)
Dynamite Hemorrhage #46    (playlist)
Dynamite Hemorrhage #45    (playlist)
Dynamite Hemorrhage #44    (playlist)
Dynamite Hemorrhage #43    (playlist)
Dynamite Hemorrhage #42    (playlist)
Dynamite Hemorrhage #41    (playlist)
Dynamite Hemorrhage #40    (playlist)

Monday, December 8, 2014

BOOK REVIEW: "LORD OF GARBAGE" by Kim Fowley

Producer, svengali and Los Angeles rocknroll gadfly Kim Fowley is such a deranged and purportedly "colorful" cult figure that I heeded the promotional buzz around his autobiography and succumbed to purchase. Fowley, did in fact, steal the show in the 2003 Rodney Bigenheimer documentary "The Mayor of the Sunset Strip" through "look at ME" force of personality, and his own solo albums and general unhinged persona long made me think he'd probably be a ripe target for documentation, even if most of his own music and productions don't do a blamed thing for me. He's on his deathbed at this writing now, poor fella, dealing with bladder cancer and slipping in and out of terminal diagnoses. The plan is that this book, "LORD OF GARBAGE", is only the first of three autobiographical volumes, if he can just stave off the reaper and finish them all in time. I wish him luck, but I won't be reading the next two.

"LORD OF GARBAGE"
fouls up a sure thing right off the bat, and I really should have seen it coming. Turns out Fowley's blustering, posturing, overblown personality is exactly what gets thrown down on the page as well. Rather than a collection of war stories, one has to not only get knee-deep in excruciatingly poor sentence construction but in out-and-out fabrications as well. These render everything in the book highly suspect. Fowley's creative imagination knows few limits. He claims to remember his birth; he attributes sober, wildly precocious decision-making and verbal skills to himself during his diaper years; and puts a surreal conversational gloss on his entire tragic childhood that's so patently and obviously untrue that I had a difficult time keeping myself from getting angry. I imagine that the cracked, blowhard persona that makes me laugh when I see it on film would probably make me want to flee the room if I ever found myself in actual mano-a-mano with the guy – such is the hostility that his phony and unfunny story engendered in me.

The ham-handed goofball poetry that intersperses each story on every third or fourth page doesn't do him any favors, either. Funny that Kicks Books, his publisher, didn't deign to mention that part in their glory-filled promotional blurbs on the book. I haven't been so let down by an anticipated book since the release of the DSM-IV.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

DYNAMITE HEMORRHAGE RADIO #50

The purported theme of our podcast, magazine and blog is "raw and sub-underground rocknroll from the last five decades". This new edition of DYNAMITE HEMORRHAGE RADIO, #50, goes heavy on the first and most recent of those decades. Two blazing new tracks from the just-released 60s punk comp "Back From The Grave, Volume 9" make their 21st century online debuts here - and if that's not reason enough to download or stream this thing, there's new material from the likes of Parkay Quarts, The Coneheads, Le Skeleton, Germ House, Leggy, Honey Radar, Rakta, Sauna Youth, Bent, The Blind Shake and Pampers. Pampers!

There's a blown-out bootleg recording from the Velvet Underground, a little punk rock tomfoolery and all sorts of needless verbal blather from the host. In all, it's 74 minutes you won't ever get back - unless you play it a second time.

Download Dynamite Hemorrhage Radio #50 here.
Stream or download Dynamite Hemorrhage Radio #50 over on Soundcloud.
Subscribe to the show via iTunes.

Playlist:

THE FOUR – 69
PARKAY QUARTS – Pretty Machines
HONEY RADAR – Drink Your Magazine (live)
REALLY RED – No More Art
SACCHARINE TRUST –Mad at the Company
CONEHEADS – Violence
SHITKICKERS – Debaucher
BENT – Space is Bent
RAKTA – Tudo que e Solido
LUCRATE MILK – Dritte Blinde Meusse
LE SKELETON – Cut Your Finger
SILVER APPLES – Ruby
MUSIC MACHINE – Point of No Return
THE BLIND SHAKE – Old Lake
PAMPERS – Right Tonight
LAZY COWGIRLS – Meat Shop
NEVERMORES – The Way It Is
SAUNA YOUTH – Transmitters
LEGGY – Sweet Teeth
CHRIS KNOX – Meat
GERM HOUSE – Best Laid Plans
VELVET UNDERGROUND – What Goes On (live; from “The Legendary Guitar Amp Tape” bootleg)
KNOLL ALLEN AND THE NOBLE SAVAGES – Animal


Some past shows:
Dynamite Hemorrhage #49    (playlist)
Dynamite Hemorrhage #48    (playlist)
Dynamite Hemorrhage #47    (playlist)
Dynamite Hemorrhage #46    (playlist)
Dynamite Hemorrhage #45    (playlist)
Dynamite Hemorrhage #44    (playlist)
Dynamite Hemorrhage #43    (playlist)
Dynamite Hemorrhage #42    (playlist)
Dynamite Hemorrhage #41    (playlist)
Dynamite Hemorrhage #40    (playlist)

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

BOOK REVIEW: "MY STRUGGLE, BOOK TWO" by Karl Ove Knausgaard

When I last left off with the roundly and deservedly celebrated Mr. Knausgaard as he documented his existential struggles with himself, his life and with the world around him, I was picking my jaw up off the floor. I was also attempting to grapple with why the 600-page memoir/autobiography/exegesis I'd just finished – the first of six such 600-page books in a series – was so phenomenally thrilling to read. You can read my review of that one here. Not much time was squandered before I leapt into Book Two. While I'll admit to a nearly imperceptible (and somewhat unexplainable) drop-off in my engagement with this one (I went from rabid and frothing page addiction to merely rabid page addiction), I'll also recommend "My Struggle, Book Two" unequivocally and with much gusto. Knausgaard is actually redefining literary form and function in the course of the "My Stuggle" ("Min Kamp" in his native Norwegian) series, and while I really haven't read everything yet, I've certainly never read anything like this before.

If the first book was his plunge into a life defined, in no small measure, by his overbearing father, and that father's death, "My Struggle, Book Two" attempts to pick apart in detail things that are much closer to the here and now. Chief among these are what it's like to be a father of three in an egalitarian, liberal Scandinavian country (Sweden) in which the individual ego is sublimated and the collective good is celebrated in ways both good and ugly. Knausgaard is not one for having his individuality sublimated, let me tell ya. He's very honest - painfully honest at times - about how important his personal "freedom" is, and he defines that freedom as his love of being alone and able to do nothing but write, or read, or shop for and hoard many dozens of books. This sense of self, as you might imagine, rubs up against his reality as a parent, partner and professional author quite often. While he's got some very close and highly intelligent friends with whom he treasures his time, such as fellow Norwegian-in-Stockholm Geir, Knausgaard finds the mechanisms of daily family life both dreary and depressing while they also fill him with deep, emotional love – especially for his vulnerable children. He grapples with guilt, pride and shame throughout the book.

His relationship with his second wife, Linda – the mother of Vanya, Heidi and John, their children – is as complex, emotionally difficult and emotionally rewarding as any marriage can be. Theirs in particular seems to have been forged with a mutual understanding of each other's deficiencies. Knaussgard relates a horrible tale of cutting up his face at a writer's retreat when he was a young man because he thought he'd been rejected by Linda, whom he'd fallen head over heels for. Linda, before they reconnected years later and started dating, tried to kill herself. These are people who feel, and it seems as though there's a reinforcement mechanism in place that ensures that neither of them disappears too far down the mental rabbit hole. Having children – which was clearly Linda's raison d'être and Karl Ove's ambivalent concession – has helped to cement their bond while also preventing them from deepening it due to the daily grind of child-rearing.

There's an especially funny scene in which Knausgaard takes his toddler daughter to an emasculating "baby sing-along" class. He's profoundly shameful at his stereotypical "stay-at-home dad" status, and mentally lashes out at the other dumpy dads who arrive at the class, makes fun of their clothes and (lack of) hair,  lusts after the beautiful 20-something Swede who leads the class, then tries to rationalize and explain his many feelings to himself and the reader. Knausgaard is either working this stuff out in real time on the page, or writes so well that it only seems like he is.

Some readers may find some of his esoteric intellectual diversions – which interrupt the narrative frequently yet always elegantly – jarring and impenetrable. Certainly I haven't heard of any of the Scandinavian writers whom he dissects from time to time, but this is his world, not mine. Knausgaard will jump off into several pages of exploration of Dante or Dostoyevsky before returning to diapers; he'll also meditate for pages on nature and its awesomeness. Norway and Sweden, where I've spent considerable time, will do that to a person. He also has much to say about family, a big theme in Book One. In this edition he discovers that his (much loved and admired) mother-in-law is furtively drinking alcohol while taking care of their young daughter, and has to confront her on it; he also struggles with managing his wife's relationship with his own mother as well as where an introverted, admittedly self-centered man such as himself places family obligations in relation to personal desires.

Lots to chew on, as before. Knausgaard has done something remarkable in drawing so many readers into his insular, multi-book world, and of course it'll only be a matter of weeks before I start in on "My Struggle, Book Three". There are three more to follow that one, not translated into English yet. Heldigvis, jeg snakker litt norsk.