Hello, Rock City. I ain’t cranked out a column in ages because last year was the worst year of my embarrassing life and I’ve been too overwrought to wrap my thoughts around much else besides my most basic survival. The mother of my children has left me. My grandfather and two other friends passed away. All my bands fell apart, and now, Joe Strummer. I promised myself that if I somehow lived through the holidays, I’d put the bottle back down and start again. Anyway, blah, blah, blah, blah …
“90210” garage rock
I don’t know how I feel about having to consistently keep spelling it out that mediocre bands like the gratuitously bought-and-paid-for Strokes blow. And ripping the Strokes is redundant, I know, like heckling the blind magician. But I find it hard to believe that in any other era so many lemming-like denim-jacketed mop-tops would be trumpeting the praises of these mookish also-rans. I mean, yeah, they’re better than Creed or System of a Down, but c’mon, they were a Pearl Jam cover band five minutes ago, fer chrissakes.
Still, manikins in suede coats and dirty jeans snorting coke in limousines is traditionally rock ’n’ roll great and everything, but, oh, brothers and sisters, repeat after me, “I do not have to eat shit and pretend it tastes good.” The stuff of rock ’n’ roll should be made of poverty and pathos, poetry and shame. It should rise from basic lust and desperation, hazardous obsessions, heart and soul and all that. Not formulaic Velvet Underground rehash and Blondie retro haute couture finery. Especially when cranked out by actress-shtupping millionaire’s sons shocking the sell-out music press by — gasp — getting drunk in New York night clubs. The Strokes suck shit. The End.
What about Ryan Adams lately? A Gap pin-up constantly referred to as an “underdog”? Huh? Adams shows us that it takes a million and a half dollars and excellent cheekbones to even be a beautiful loser nowadays. Screw this privileged rich-kid Gap rock, all right? Tom Waits? Patti Smith? Even fuggin’ Tom Petty wouldn’t stand a fighting chance of getting any airplay in the current Clear Channel-monopolized radio market.
If you want to hear an authentic voice you’ll have to dig deeper than Spin or CMJ magazines. Without getting gauche on you, this is a good place to start if you appreciate rock ’n’ roll.
If you’ve been reading all the righteous hype about Sahara Hotnights, the Hives and the thriving Swedish rock scene, wait till you get a load of the Scarecrows. These über-stylish kings of pop repugnance wax romantic about “T.V. Daydreams” and girls in Converse among other things. This self-titled import EP is a riveting ride through the comic book culture/perpetually teenaged punk-metal never-never land; indomitable anthems like “Give Me Your Kicks” give overseas stadium-punk sensations like Hardcore Superstar and the Backyard Babies a run for their money. These cats just flat-out fucking rock. Trust me. Visit www.scarecrowsrocks.com.
Zodiac Mindwarp and the Love Reaction
I Am Rock
As graphically documented in Zodiac’s must-read tell-all tome, Fucked By Rock: The Unspeakable Confessions Of Zodiac Mindwarp (Creation Books), inspired scum lords Zodiac Mindwarp & the Love Reaction first conquered America in the late ’80s, opening up for Guns N’ Roses on their first tour. Zodiac’s cartoon-metal super-hit “Prime Mover” received steady rotation on Empty Vee and was a gloriously tasteless visual/sonic orgy of exploding nun heads and Catholic schoolgirls in trouble. Word has it Zodiac’s brief return to the United States last year was less than wonderful (re: sweat pants and forgotten lyrics) but this platter finds our degradation-doomed warrior priest reveling triumphantly in the wasteland of his recently rekindled delusions of grandeur. God bless ’em. While most of his recognizable riffs here are cadged by his partner-in-grime Cobalt Stargazer, Zodiac and his marauding band of heathen pirates pillage the bare bones and black-booted essence of their spiritual predecessors (T. Rex, Motörhead, AC/DC, MC5, Judas Priest et al.). “Helsinki Motorcycles” and “Jane In Blue” are the sort of classic New Wave/post-punk that Richard Butler or Party-era Iggy Pop or Modern English would’ve been proud to have penned at their respective peaks, while dozens of flabby metal monkeys the world over have failed in recent years to create anything nearly as primal as the slutty Marshall-stacked mayhem found on I Am Rock.
Chrissie Hynde, Our Lady of Perpetual Attitude, has sadly lost some of her fuck-you punk-rawk teeth in recent years. “Loose Screw” is an adult-alternative reggae-lite record about the agonizing and chronic despair that comes from being betrayed and abandoned by one’s most trusted and beloved companion. Here, Hydne shows us that it is a hell of a thing to be disposed of. In “The Losing,” “You Know Who Your Friends Are,” “If You Lie To Me Again” and “Nothing Breaks Like A Heart,” Hynde holds forth that it’s actually the losing that makes us human and capable of having empathy for others. Her goddesslike voice, melodies and hard-won insights always make her a worthy listen. Even if it ain’t Pretenders II, this is highly recommended to anyone over the age of 20 who has ever suffered the devastating side effects of owning a heart. Chrissie, if you’re reading this, it’s not too late for me and you. Really.
The cut-out bins department
The Young and the Useless
Hello Disaster is an early-’90s LA band that, depending on your perspective, was years ahead of — or behind — the times. The band penned near-perfect pop anthems with aplomb; think early Generation X and Plimsouls. Catchy tunes like “No Apologies” (“We don’t have what the haves have/maybe it wouldn’t suit us”), and a whizbang, impassioned cover of Stiv Bators’ “Make Up Your Mind” still beat in my wretched little heart 10 years on. If you can locate this disc on ebay.com, snatch it up forthwith ’cause the adolescent-eyed and carbonated glory that was Hello Disaster will soothe the soul.
Bowling For Columbine
Why waste precious space on a film that’s receiving universal accolades in the mainstream press when I could be telling you about the new Paul K. or Spencer P. Jones or Chuck Prophet or Tex Perkins or Josh Rouse or Adult World by Wayne Kramer? Because I want to throw my tawdry bit in with every other self-appointed arbiter of post-iconoclastic hipsterism and admonish my readers that it is imperative that you see this film and drag your parents and your roommates to it as well. Dust-kicking superhero Michael Moore’s latest celluloid state of the union shames morally bankrupt executive untouchables into pretending to behave in a more humane fashion, all while the cameras are rolling. Yeah! Like a flannel-shirted David taking on the blue-suited Goliaths who cower in their high-rise conference rooms, Moore continues his tireless campaign to wake up the sleeping minions in time to vainly attempt to save democracy in America. Hats off, brother. Oh, yeah — this imminent war in Iraq is obviously jive. Visit www.michaelmoore.com.Dimitri Monroe is a columnist for Hit List magazine. He is also a frequent Metro Times contributor. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org