Here’s a strange random thought: Grant-Lee Phillips’ name has the major Civil War Generals from both sides in it. Huh. I don’t think I ever noticed that until like 10 minutes ago.
And so ok, I can’t wait to see Grant get some bigtime lines in the season finale of Gilmore Girls (note the lack of a “the” there?). The poor guy has been shuffling through episodes now (as town troubador) for nearly 5 years, so it’s about time. Other than Albert Pujols, Stan Musial, and Ray Davies, one of my biggest man-crushes is reserved for Grant-Lee. He’s a damned music genius.
Hilariously, E! online has a story about the finale in which Mr. Phillips gets some big play, which is nice…but then they also mention that the finale will have “punk rocker” Joe Pernice. Someone needs to get the folks at E! a couple of Joe Pernice or Scud Mountain Boys CD’s, stat. Joe Pernice is wonderful and everything, but “punk rocker” isn’t even a remote description of a guy who writes some of the most beautiful music on the planet…
…and speaking of which, understandably enough, I’m going through a big Grant-Lee phase right now. Back in the day, when Jubilee came out, I think I heard the big guitars and huuuuge drums and really threw that album under the bus, and unjustifiably so. Returning to it now with some perspective, I think it might be as good as Mighty Joe Moon, which is saying something. Yeah, “Truly” was a big FM radio hit, and I think that sort of threw me. But hey, it deserved to be a radio hit. That is one fantastic song.
As nifty a tune as “Truly” is, it isn’t even remotely my favorite song from Jubilee. I mean, “Change The Tune”, “8 Mile Road”, and “My My My” are just as good, if not better. And then there’s “The Shallow End”. If there’s never another Grant Lee Buffalo album (and with GLP doing fine as a solo artist, there probably won’t be), “Shallow” might be able to assume a place at the table of the greatest “farewell” songs of all time. I honestly can think of few other songs occurring in the rock idiom that can approach “The Shallow End” for sheer beauty; the song is just so fragile and perfect with it’s slide guitars and diminished seventh chords that words cannot come close to describing it. Even the chorus of “Hold me close and tell me that I’m not alone for once/Hold me close and tell me that I never really was…” is just staggeringly lovely. Jubilee is as close to a classic U2 album as any American performer has ever come, and the entire career of Grant Lee Buffalo is as close to an American Pink Floyd as we’re ever likely to see.
And then there’s the GLP solo career, which continues hopefully later this year with a new disc. Can’t wait!
Just a quick note on my busy holiday weekend to say that Novillero has updated their website at http://www.novillero.net. Click on the discography link and you can now not only hear “The Hypothesist” and “Aptitude”, but also the Zombie-esque wonderfulness of “Abbey”.
They also promise that a video of “Art Of Carrying On” is coming soon. Awesome! Since there currently aren’t any free links for the full song, you’ll just have to take my word that this particular song ends with the most kick-ass raveup since the Yardbirds were in their heyday. Novillero deserves to be hailed as the greatest rock band on the planet. Unconditionally recommended, Aim Right For The Holes In Their Lives remains the best album to come out in maybe the last five years. It’s that good.
…but seriously folks.
I stuck it in my year-end top 20 from 2005, but it bears mentioning again that Richard Hawley is something else and then some.
It could be a lot of wine and a perfect cool spring night with someone amazing getting the best of me, but…Coles Corner. If you can’t “place the order” and then take delivery with this on the CD player, I’m outta advice lads.
Anyhow, I was gonna try to find a legal sample or two to illustrate the wonderful spell Mr. Hawley can weave, and found instead that he’s put a bunch of videos from his current disc online. So enjoy. Preferably around 3 am.
Hey, speaking of cool English guitarists, anyone know if Bernard Butler is ever gonna put out another solo album? I’d heard that he and Brett Anderson had recorded an album’s worth of material, but haven’t heard anything about it since.
Did you know that it is against the law in Pueblo, Colorado to knowingly allow a dandelion to grow inside city limits? It is.
I doubt anyone’s been cited for this recently.
Rather, I think that the law possesses a certain amount of comedic potential. The law is funny. What makes it so humorous is that there’s nothing too serious about it. Allowing a dandelion to grow would seem to have little potential to be a malicious act committed by one human in violation of another’s rights, property, or safety. Allowing a dandelion would seem to not pose a risk to the general welfare or security of a populace, either.
It’s a silly law. It isn’t enforced, and reasons behind it are lost to history.
This probably isn’t a popular sentiment coming from someone possessing zero Latino or Hispanic heritage…but it’s high time we treated our current immigration laws with the same gravity as Pueblo’s anti-dandelion statute.
By now you’ve seen the protests and marches from Monday. More protests are coming on May 1st (which is a sort of “Labor Day” in Mexico.) Despite the fact that the Senate effectively killed the illegal alien legislation that would make illegal entry/living in this country a felony and make helping these scofflaws a felony as well, this is a subject that isn’t going away.
And it shouldn’t. What happens in this country with regards to immigrants from Mexico (legal or otherwise) is a farce. I think we all have some romantic notion of a modern version of Ellis Island where patient well-intentioned folks from Latin American countries willing to exercise patience and willing to abide by certain restrictions can earn legal status as Resident Aliens in the United States with about as much difficulty as you or I have in making a trip to the DMV. That’s a fallacy. The reality is, if you are a Latino–especially a Mexican–you can expect to spend between $3,000 and 5,000 in fees to an immigration lawyer, can expect to spend hundreds of hours in lines and talking to bored and swamped INS officials over the course of nearly five years attempting to gain status to work legally here in the US. If you’d like to become a citizen, go ahead and double (or triple, or even quadruple) those numbers.
Now ask yourself this: if you lived in abject poverty in a Latin American country, and if you were ready, willing, even happy to work for even subsistence wages, but there were still no jobs for you, would you 1.) follow the example above and spend the time and money (no, I don’t know where people living in indigent squalor in third-world settings come up with that kind of money without indenturing themselves) or would you 2.) pay $300 for a fake Permanent Resident Alien card (the “green card” of myth and legend, which is actually sort of pink) with accompanying fake social security card? Because option number one there really isn’t any more of an “option” than is flapping one’s arms and flying to the moon, we have a country with 12-14 million illegal aliens right now, most of whom are Latinos.
I’m told that this is a problem. I’m saying right here and now that this is the most non-problem problem our country has had in a long time. There is as much logic to not granting a general amnesty to gainfully employed illegal aliens as there is to Pueblo’s anti-dandelion law.
See, there used to be reasons postulated for punishing illegals…but now that we’ve had a large illegal worker population in this country for the better part of a decade, those reasons have been completely shot to shit. Let’s take a look:
1. Illegal alien workers don’t pay taxes. Like hell they don’t. Fully 80% of the 12-14 million illegals in this country work “on the books”. That means that they’ve presented their employer with their faked identification, and their employer pays them under the same payroll laws as they pay native-born workers. So, if you’re a native born worker, take a look at your last paycheck stub. See that chasm between your “gross wages” and “net pay”? Yeah, those are withholding taxes. Federal, state, Social Security, Medicare…all withheld. Thing is, lots of us native-born workers are either paying exactly what we owe in withholding taxes, or we’re getting a nice little refund at the end of the fiscal year.
Alien workers don’t get tax refunds. There’s no way they can file, because the IRS is much more diligent about whom they send a check to than the INS is in cracking down on fake green cards. Then there’s Medicare and Social Security taxes. Aliens never get social security, while us native-born workers certainly do if we’re lucky to live long enough.
And did I mention that in addition to the taxes these folks pay through withholding taxes, that their employer also pays taxes? Any employer pays a payroll tax on all “on the books” workers.
The result of all this? Well, the General Accounting Office has the scorecard, and it debunks the whole “Aliens sponge off our tax system” myth. Turns out that the GAO found that illegals pay in $80,000 per capita more for government services than they ever take out. The General Fund of the Social Security Administration currently has upwards of $400 billion in funds from illegal workers that will never be claimed. Pay taxes? Hell, for what they take out, they’re paying more than you, me, or any legal native-born or naturalized worker in this country.
2. Illegal Aliens overrun our health care systems and schools. Again, myth, debunked by current government studies. First off, on healthcare, the government has found that the biggest drain–by far–on our healthcare system is the 40-50 million native-born Americans who have no appreciable health insurance or ability to pay for inflated medical care. The AMA not only agrees with this assessment, they even go so far as to say that it isn’t close. As for schools, what pays for those? Taxes. Property taxes, primarily. Hey, anyone who pays rent or drives a car is paying property taxes. Illegals work on the books overwhelmingly, and pay all those taxes for schools. Then too, there’s the fact of the matter that the overwhelming number of children of illegals were born in this country. That makes them US citizens. That gives them the same rights to a public school education as the rest of us.
I have yet to see one good or rational reason why gainfully employed “on the books” illegal aliens should not be granted a general amnesty and be given Permanent Resident Alien status. About the best the militant opposition to this problem that doesn’t exist can come up with is that “they broke the law by entering the country illegally.” Yes, and the citizen in Pueblo Colorado who allow dandelions to exist are breaking that law. The logic and reason behind either statute is antiquated and silly.
While we’re on the subject of San Francisco rock bands (and we are, since I’m still all in thrall with The Society Of Rockets) I figured that this was as good a time as any to mention that my favorite artist ever is emerging from a self-imposed retirement (working a real job, getting married, having two lovely children) to put out a new record.
I’m talking about Scott Miller. Not that Scott Miller. This one.
Our Scott is the guy who spent the better part of twenty years fronting the bands Game Theory and The Loud Family. Despite Mr. Miller’s egalitarian attempts at making both enterprises true “groups”, both bands were basically Scott and people playing his songs while he sang. So, if the upcoming album is billed as “The Loud Family and Anton Barbeau”, realize that the “Loud Family” in this case is basically just Scott. (And Anton Barbeau is a fine songwriter in the same quirky/overly brainy mold as Miller, so their collaboration fits.
Rather than continue to yak on and on, how about some tunes, courtesy the magnificently wonderful and nice folks at 125 Records, which is Joe and Sue, and if I said that you wouldn’t find two more wonderful and nice folks out there in the music biz, seriously, this time I mean it.
Anyway, how about a Stones cover? “Rocks Off”, baby. (Admission time: I sort of hated this version the first three times I heard it, but now it’s grown on me and I really dig it.)
When you’ve had your fill there, head to the Loud Family myspace page. “Total Mass Destruction” is the first new Scott Miller song to see light of day in a long, long time. There are also two live clips from the Loud Family (farewell?) tour from three years ago. Finally, there’s a live clip there from Aimee Mann dragging Scott Miller onstage a few years ago to cover his song “Inverness”. Scott actually recorded a bunch of acoustic stuff with Aimee a few years back that might still somehow hopefully end up seeing the light of day.
In the meantime, the new Loud Family disc, What If It Works tentatively comes out sometime this summer on 125 Records. Can’t wait! (Pre-emptive strike: no, these songs do NOT all sound alike, and neither do they sound like the Outfield. You know who you are!)
Hey you. Yeah, you.
You like rock and roll? You know what I’m talkin’ about. The real stuff. Guitars turned to 11. Drums and bass in a seamless rhythm section that carries the day with a loose-limbed careen. Maybe some horns. Maybe some Hammond organ. Songs that get into your brain and stay there awhile.
You dig that punk? You wanna talk about the real junk?
Been a long time since I’ve seen a massive case of across-the-board critical “I-don’t-get-it”itis as bad as that which has manifested itself on the sophomore album Where The Grass Grows Black from Bay area rock collective The Society Of Rockets. Maybe it’s because these folks have their roots in a fairly “serious” psych-art group like The Shimmer Kids Underpop Association. Maybe it has something to do with being from the greater San Francisco area that causes critics to take pause and lament things about The Society of Rockets which really aren’t there.
What is there? How about the ass-shakingest hard rock album released so far this year? See, the folks in Society of Rockets inhabit a sort of rock and roll consciousness that understands that “Rocks Off” and “Tumbling Dice” are the two best songs off Exile On Main Street. Yeah, there’s a sort of psychedelic vibe going on here…but with a heavy debt to late Byrdsian country and Janis Joplin skronk. Think about a version of the Black Crowes crossed with Jesus & Mary Chain/Black Rebel Motorcycle Club with better songs and not quite as Rod Stewart-y a lead singer (although damned if Josh Babcock doesn’t do all he can to call down blood and thunder with a fairly limited vocal instrument…and given that limitation, it actually rocks all that much harder.)
You could take my word for it, but I’m susceptible to hype, so instead, how about a clip? Tell me you can get past the first verse and chorus of “Tangerines and Cigarettes” and not be totally on these folks’ side, and I’ll tell you that you just hate rock and roll and that you’re old and you suck. The band also has a MySpace page, where I strongly recommend you listen to the song “Out In The Evening”, the song that follows “Tangerines” on Where The Grass Grows Black.
You could read the lukewarm review from the rock-hating magpie intellects at Pitchfork, but since those tasteless knobs wouldn’t know rock if it walked up and grabbed them by their vintage clothing collars and shook the life out of their pale skinny artschool asses, you’ll have to take my word for it. Where The Grass Grows Black is a tremendous rock and roll record, and absolutely highly recommended.
“That’s sweet that you keep your sister’s DVD’s for her.”
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Very funny.
She’s sort of the new girl (woman? Probably more appropriate at my age…) in my life, and this is the all-important first visit to the apartment. She’s glancing over my DVD collection, and standing out there are seasons one through five of “The Gilmore Girls”.
I explain to her that there’s no better show on TV if you’re a music fan. I mumble geeky music things about how brilliant Sam Phillips is, and how she’s sort of Aimee Mann crossed with Jeff Tweedy and I’m getting blank looks. I mention that Grant Lee Phillips is a recurring character as town troubador…still nothing.
She hasn’t actually ever watched “The Gilmore Girls”, so over the past week and weekend, we packed in the first seven episodes of season one. She seems to be loving the show.
She still can’t understand my affection for it.
“The dialogue is amazing,” I try.
In reality, both the music thing and the dialogue thing are both partly true. It was the music hook that originally got me to watch the series, after a buddy on a listserv (remember those?) mentioned that XTC, Nick Drake, and The Sugarplastic got namechecked on early episodes of the show. When I saw Sam Phillips’ name on the credits, it was me who began threatening friends with bodily harm if they didn’t give a fair listen to Mrs. Phillips (her husband is noted music genius T-Bone Burnett) brilliant solo albums Indescribable Wow and Martinis And Bikinis. When Grant Lee Phillips showed up in season two in a recurring role, I was hooked.
The dialogue, too, is fantastic. The characters in “The Gilmore Girls” say phenomenally interesting things to one another, and say them in quirky, odd, believable ways. They say them in a rapidfire, Mamet-like cadence that grabs the ear and seems realistic even if it isn’t. I love the dialogue in this show.
But that really isn’t the whole story, and watching episodes from season one that I’ve not seen in a while shows even more to love about this wonderful TV program. I love that there are no “throwaway” characters here. The characters are all three-dimensional, complex, and quirky. If they made a show about Luke, the lunch-counter guy, or Sookie, or Emily, or whomever…I’d watch. These are interesting characters who say interesting things and frequently confound expectations with what they do.
And yet that still isn’t all. If you were to watch casually, you might miss grand, bravura flourishes of directing acumen that pepper the show. For example: in season one, Rory gets kissed for the first time. Hey, I get that this is a special thing for a 16-year-old girl. What’s great is that poor Rory flees the scene of her first kiss and we follow her in a wonderful long, unbroken tracking shot that helps convey all the excitement of the moment. It’s a tremendous shot, one that reminds me (favorably) of the scene in That Thing You Do! when the kids all hear their song on the radio and go running up and down the street before converging on the appliance store.
Finally though, there’s one last thing that attracts me to this show like no other right now. No, it isn’t Lauren Graham (but good heavenly days, she is amazingly sexy, I’m just sayin’.) What I’ve discovered in my advancing years is that I’m curious about stuff I don’t know anything about. I saw a documentary on The History Channel about the fall of the Shah of Iran, and a friend of Iranian descent loaned me Persepolis to read, and I was entertained, moved, and learned a lot. And so but I’ll admit that as a guy who grew up in a guy household, the secret stuff that girls do, the interplay and conflict between mother and daughter…that all fascinates me. I still don’t think I understand women any more or less after watching five seasons of Gilmore Girls, but it doesn’t hurt, you know?
Plus, did I mention the Sugarplastic references?