Friday, November 10, 2017

They Live

Fifteen or twenty years ago, The Lillingtons, some Wyoming Misfits-sounding punk band had this one song I loved called "The Day I Went Away."  It was super-catchy in that way that pop-punk bands would, rarely, but on glorious occasion, stretch beyond the normal brackets of the genre to produce these simple, immediately singable songs.  Think top-down, California coastal highway drive on a sunny day kind of songs.  

Also, this song was about being carted off to some sort of institution.

There's a whole genre of these kinds of bands where the content is dark and the music is light.  Hence the Misfits reference above.  "I want your skull"?  Yeah, ok, pointy-haired muscle guy, your songs about horror films warm my heart.  Sure, it's a pretty niche realm of music, but not all punk songs can be about the government.

The genre of this band has generally been 60s late night horror B-flick content.  UFOs and crazies and the like.  I'll admit never digging very deeply into their collection of albums from the late 90s and early 00s because I considered the genre too lame for my high-brow music tastes.  No, I liked the Promise Ring!

And then The Lillingtons disappeared and I forgot about them until about a month ago, when I caught wind of this album coming out.  Remembering that one song I liked, I listened to this album on a lark.  Oh, hell, it's so catchy and dark and lovely!  Mmmm, like a warm hug on Halloween.

Far more complex than any of their earlier songs, this is a lovely rebirth for what could only have been described as a simple pop-punk band.  There's a depth here that's likely just attributable to a growth in musical ability, but it feels so well thought-out that I can imagine this turning into another album or two.

Don't get me wrong, I'll probably forget about it in a month; it's not a "great"* album, but it offered a much-needed hat-tip to my late teens at a time when I'm writing fancy job applications and have written so many narratives of myself that I'm having trouble remembering who I am.

I'm that guy that likes dark and catchy pop-punk songs, I guess.  Yeah, I am.

*I mean, other people who know more than I do might not think it's great, but it hit me just right, so I guess that makes it great to me.

Sunday, October 22, 2017


"Dear Faculty Search Committee,

I am writing you to apply for the faculty position at the rank of Assistant Professor at..."

Wow.  In all the movemovemove and pressure and necessitated punk rock nostalgia, I just need to take a second and say, holy shit!  I'm applying--and qualified--for professor positions.

Sure, I've had 7 years of graduate school.  Sure, I've been expecting to go down this road since I was 21.  Sure, I've carefully constructed the methodological skills and substantive knowledge necessary to engage in productive research.  Sure, I've taught several graduate courses.

But, you know, holy shit, dude!  How did this happen?  Maybe it was the 8 years of poverty, the near-abandoning of close friends and relations, the totally undeserved commitment and tenacity of my love, a complete destabilizing of mental and physical health.  And some hard work.

It's been all that, but mostly a great, great deal of privilege.  And that privilege will just...continue... as I will get to learn and share knowledge for a job.  That's nuts.  That's so nuts.

Hopefully, I'll knock this degree out this year and then spend my life repaying everyone.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Call Before You Dig

Speaking of John K. Samson (who hasn't been in this band for 20 years), Propagandhi has a new album.  It's killer and I totally feel like I'm 14 again!

Seriously, actually, though.  I first got into Propagandhi in 1995, "borrowing" my brother's copy of "How to Clean Everything."  It, along with a Pennywise and a Bad Religion album, formed the crux of my post-grunge, post-depression punk-rock rebirth.  Why be depressed, when I should be angry?  I felt myself an activist for the next several years, soaking in all elements of political resistance music, trying to understand power structures and the oppressed.  It was the outlet I needed, an approach to placing some brackets on the world to understand it - be good, know things, be vocal.

A few years later, I majored in sociology.  Then I became a social worker.  Now I am teaching a graduate class on Poverty and Inequality.  I literally can trace the work that I'm doing now to the music I listened to when I was 14.  Maybe it was me, maybe the music, but either way, a match.

Truly, though, they were inspiring.  This was the most productive, vocal, and honest band I think I've  heard, to this day.  They toured like mad, put out goofy, challenging albums, were aggressive vegan anti-capitalists and ran their record label as a co-op, publishing books by Howard Zinn and Noam Chomsky for super-left Canadians.  They won't tolerate fighting, misogyny, homophobia, or meat.  They inspire bros with their metal guitars, but mock them with their lyrics.  Well-read, edgy, and honest.

This album feels like a rebirth of sorts?  A return to earlier work?  I've listened to this album 10 or 12 times since it came out and I can't quite put my finger on why it tickles all my nostalgia bones, but it most certainly does.  Don't get me wrong, it sounds nothing like their first two albums, except maybe for a few guitar lines?  The tuning?  I have no idea.  Maybe someone else knows.  It's far more technically proficient, and its lyrics are far more abstract than most previous albums, but it seems like it's recaptured some of their earlier heart.  More punk than metal, this time?  They have a new guitarist, and she totally fits in with them, in a way that makes me think she grew up with them or something.  Just a perfect fit.

I'm acknowledging how awful this writing is.  I had a migraine all day (with flashing lights and a loss of vision, no less) and I'm trying to return to writing application letters, so figured I'd spit some words out here and whatever.  You get it.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Simpsons reference?

John K. Samson has written some lonely songs, and while they all tend to dally with an existentialism-at-arms-length (he'd probably hate that), they do tend to typify his unique perspective, and rarely reflect the more common romantic tropes. This song is a miserable happy medium - my heart has been broken, so what does that make me?

I'd been thinking about his academia-oriented songs, when I heard this song mentioning an 'ampersand.' Knowing his knowledge of literature and his expertise with language, I looked up the lyrics, finding a story - and then, looking at the comments, I found an explanation.

"So, I'm the first one in again,
With the quiet and the window growing snow,
When I hear the furnace rouse itself
From its slumber, somehow suddenly I know,
As my eye stops on one curled up in my lesson plan
That I'm just your little ampersand.
When your voice springs from the intercom
With announcements, and reminders, and a prayer,
I remember how you made me feel,
I was funny, I was thoughtful, I was rare,
But like the jokes about my figure
Kids think that I don't understand
I know I'm just your little ampersand
After Christmas holiday
You never asked to drive me home again
Sometimes in the staff room I
Catch your eye with "why'd it have to end,"
But I know from how you worry at your wedding band
That I'm just your little ampersand
At the last conjunction after every other and
I was just your little ampersand"

From user HellionChild:
"When playing this live John said it's about an elementary school teacher who falls in love with her principal. After writing it he wondered what inspired him and then realized it was the Simpsons. Edna Crabapple and Principal Skinner. Only this is set in small-town Manitoba, Canada."

Monday, August 28, 2017

New old favorites? Old new favorites?

Mid-'90s "hardcore" (read: "rock") band Painted Thin has recently become one of my new old favorites.  At times sounding like the pop-punk bands that defined the Fat Wreck scene, and other times sounding like the early '00s Promise Ring set*, these guys had a couple of pretty solid, peppy albums.  And by the way, do you like The Weakerthans?  This band had most of them.  Whoa!

There's nothing fancy or mind-blowing here, but man, "I Hold My Breath" (track 4) and "These Unremarkable First Ten Years of Life" (track 7) are such sweet '90s boil-overs.  Really, the middle of this album, say tracks 4 to 8 or so, are just one great song after another.  Short, under-produced, crackle-voiced and off-key, super-emotive exploratory pop songs for the 35 year-old nostalgia set.  Just hook it to my fuckin' veins!

This band is a good personal reminder of why I never delete music.  I've had one of their albums on my computer for, what, 10 years?  Never really gave it much of a thought until a shuffle adventure brought them to my attention.  Now I can't get enough.  Nicely timed after a nostalgic Weakerthans love affair some months ago, too.

*So what if my knowledge of music pretty much covers only the outcasts of the 1994-2003 era?

Wednesday, August 2, 2017


It was always really hard picking out ringtones.  Remember?  Back in, like, 2005, when the technology finally arrived to PUT A SONG ON YOUR PHONE, it was the most amazing thing.  Hipster nerds like me suffered existentially about what type of person we wanted to project ourselves to be.  I was nervous about putting the cool indie song, because I didn't want to be seen as trying too hard.

Cut to maybe 8 or 9 years ago, when I settled on two songs that I've used ever since.  I switch between them when I need something new.

The first is the Jon Brion track 'Phone Call' from the Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind soundtrack/score.  I like to tell myself there's something Kaufmann-esque about using this track as the sound my phone makes when it rings.  It's not, but it's a thought that validates my belief that I, you know, "get" Charlie Kaufmann's movies.  I don't.  Nobody does.  He's better than us.  Nevertheless, this is the perfect track - it's filled with doubt and phone angst, but love.  Complicated emotions happen every time my phone rings, so why not illustrate that with a song reminder of that complicated emotions movie?  That crackle of nostalgia, that anxiety coming from each repetition, the warmth tying it all together?  Ok, phone company, I'll pay my bill.  <3 p="">

The second is 'Ceremony' by New Order, likely the last new Joy Division song before Ian Curtis died.  I knew this really well as a kid, in that somewhat truncated form on the 'Still' album, but didn't know until I was much older that New Order had formally recorded it.  It's, I don't know, a touching song?  Also filled with complex emotions, but there's a strength - a diving-in quality that's just lovely, given my phone angst.  'Fuck it, I'll just answer it,' I'll say.  Thanks, Ian?

I think these are both really solid picks for a fragile hipster douche like myself.  I hope strangers think I'm cool.

I mean, I would hope that, but usually I have my phone on vibrate.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Don't try to understand

Since moving to Seattle, I haven't really done the whole "Seattle music" scene.  What can I say?  I've been busy.  I'm an adult person and a grad student - and going to shows is a pain in the ass in this city.

We've seen the "Sound Garden" and the "Black Hole Sun" and Kurt Cobain's house and childhood home, and we lived about a long block from Layne Staley's place of death, but I haven't really invested in exploring the actual music that Seattle was known for.

Now that I'm (hopefully) a year out from leaving Seattle, it's starting to creep up a bit.  After this year, I'll have lived in Seattle longer than any other place I've ever lived.  That's nuts, right?  Only 6 years?

Jesus, where the hell am I even from?

The internet, clearly.

Anyway, in my thinking about Seattle music, I recalled the 'Home Alive' compilation from the mid-90s.  The compilation (and self-defense organization) came about after the rape and murder of Mia Zapata, singer of the (awesome) band the Gits.

After rediscovering this comp, I listened to this song and was instantly taken back to 1995.  I was 14, liked the catchier grunge songs and was on the verge of sinking deeply into a flannel-wrapped depression cocoon, only to emerge as a punk rock butterfly a year later.  I listened to a lot of music like this - we all remember Soul Asylum, right?

Although I'd remembered this song really well, I'd never listened to more from the band.  But now that I'm predicting future nostalgic feelings about Seattle, I need a soundtrack for them.  What better way than by digging back into the kind of sounds that I loved when I was 14?  Come to find out that this band was pretty solid.  I mean, I get why they're not famous, but it certainly sounds like a bunch of mid-90s indie film soundtracks.

It's so solidly early 90s, capturing everything great about that era.  I love it.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

What up?

I haven't posted in nearly 5 months.  Bigger things?

 - Politics has consumed my life.  Morning, noon, and night.
 - Moving is awful and I have a very angry story to tell about a shitty Seattle landlord douchebag motherfucker goddamn.  He took our home from us like some kind of 1950s Jimmy Stewart movie villain.  Who grows up to be that guy?
 - The new At the Drive-In is kinda balls, but also nostalgic.  Conflicted.
 - Jawbreaker is reuniting?  And I'm poor?  Man, rough year here in purgatory.
 - Getting prepared to dissertate for the next year, go on the job market, become some sort of academic elite like the TV keeps warning you about.
 - Working on multiple childhood trauma papers.  Light fare.
 - Might be teaching a poverty class in the fall?  Nice change from teaching research methods.
 - It's June and it's raining.  C'mon Seattle, get with the summer program.
 - Need working music suggestions.  I've run through my catalogue.  Usually prefer subtle, light... Cliff Martinez, Dixie Dirt, Six Parts Seven, or gentle songwriters... Malcolm Middleton, Eric Bachmann, Jason Molina.  I'd say Bon Iver but that new one is an acid trip on mushrooms.

 - I've been kind of obsessed with this John K. Samson song:

Friday, January 27, 2017


After this trainwreck of a week, thought I'd look back to the march last Saturday.  Multiple times I had to hold back tears, seeing men and women of all ages and backgrounds united in support of one another.  Durkheim had a phrase for this: "collective effervescence."  Yeah, it was almost spiritual - and it represented the best of humanity.  We are our best when we unite to support one another.

While I'll participate in as many of these as possible, please also consider all the marches that we should have, but won't.  Don't forget your many diverse neighbors who may need reassurance.

For now, I'm going to let the powerful feelings of unity from last week continue to propel me forward.  Go out and do good work, people.

March in Seattle, 2017/01/21

*For the record, I went to protest Milo Yiannopolous at UW.  Feelings of unity, not so much.  Someone took a bullet.  Hard to paint a pretty picture about that.