A good album, though the presence of some filler (“King Eternal”, “Ambulance” and “Don’t Love You”) and the fact that “Staring at the Sun” isn’t a new song keep it from being a great one. Still, if you cherry pick the best TV on the Radio songs from various releases up through at least Dear Science you end up with some of the most interesting rock music of the day.
I have read a number of interviews and essays by C.J. Polychroniou. Why to people keep publishing his drivel? His ideas are naive, conclusory, and counter-factual. He is one of those quaint anarchist-leaning fools whose ideas Lenin conclusively debunked over a century ago. Why doesn’t Polychroniou just shut up, or crawl back under whatever bridge he lives under?
Ever notice how the web site RateYourMusic is run by a bunch of shit-for-brains, bigoted assholes? If not, well now you know. They are a bunch of bigoted Liberals who engage in the most simple-minded discrimination against non-Liberal politics under the guise of multicultural, “politically correct” identity politics. They also are full into the “Web 2.0” neoliberal exploitation regime, privatizing the collective and unpaid contributions of users — and the site doesn’t even make the user-contributed database “open source”, which would at least have been something (bearing in mind how inadequate that regime is), and likewise hasn’t sought non-profit status (again, bearing in mind the inadequacies of that corporate form). Someday hopefully they all go to the gulag where they belong. There was a time, when the site first started, when it had potential and was mostly a DIY user community, but it went off the rails, over time, and off a cliff once the site became corporatized. A key turning point was when the site implemented regulations of the types of reviews it would permit, and began banning, deleting/unpublishing and — most egregiously — making unauthorized edits to — reviews posted to the site. There regulations implemented simply didn’t pass muster and were really just attacks on certain disfavored viewpoints, combined with attempts to make the site appear to have more content reflective of commercial media (and hence, less DIY and more monetizable). Then they eliminated one of the message boards, with only disingenuous explanations and circular logic. All through this time they made a number of policy changes around things like “genre” tags designed to present the appearance of neutrality while pushing certain agendas. What’s more, most of the early site administrators left to be replaced by a pack of sub-idiotic fools. A cursory glance back at the site archives, to the extent they are still visible, shows citation standards for verifying information that would make scholars cringe, with precisely the same sort of crony culture that infects sites like Wikipedia. Frankly, criminal prosecutors might use RYM as a test case for going after these Web 2.0 corporations that violate labor laws, because the site probably isn’t funded well enough to survive a legal challenge, thus allowing favorable precedent to develop that could later be used to go after the “big fish” of Silicon Valley and put those monsters behind bars where they belong. In RYM’s case, they are probably also liable for copyright violations due to moderators editing reviews and posts (hence creating unauthorized derivative works), which is not even to mention that their moderation policies probably mean that DMCA safe harbor provisions are unavailable to them.
The Hungry Years — not to be confused with a budget-priced compilation album from the early 1980s by the same name — is one of the most obscure albums in Willie Nelson’s vast catalog. The original sessions were in 1976 at Studio in the Country, located in between between Bogalusa and Varnado, Louisiana. There were overdubs in 1978, then the tapes were shelved. They were found in a deteriorated state in the late 1980s, restored, and then further overdubs were added in 1989 and 1991. Amidst Willie’s troubles with the IRS, he negotiated the release of The I.R.S. Tapes: Who’ll Buy My Memories?, of which a significant portion of the sales were committed to his tax debt (which was mostly accumulated interest and penalties, actually). The I.R.S. Tapes needed to to go multi-platinum in order to cover the tax debt, which was overly optimistic. It was sold by mail via 1-800 telephone numbers, supported by TV ads. Starting around June of 1991, The Hungry Years was offered to callers as an add-on. It is not clear that The Hungry Years was ever advertised aside from being mentioned to people calling the 1-800 numbers seeking the I.R.S. Tapes album. But The Television Group, the Austin, Texas company running the telemarketing, went into bankruptcy, and by February of 1992 the 1-800 numbers were shut down. While The I.R.S. Tapes was eventually made available in regular stores, it does not appear that The Hungry Years was ever sold through conventional channels like brick-and-mortar music stores. So that means this album was only ever commercially available for less than a year, and even then only through an obscure call-in mail-order program. Some discographies neglect to even mention that it exists.
The sound of the album falls somewhere between Sings Kristofferson and To Lefty From Willie. The songs draw from the likes of Neil Sedaka and Paul Anka. These were respected songwriters at the time, and even Elvis covered Anka’s “Solitaire” around this time. Their songs have not aged all that well, though, because they fit too comfortably into the mold of being laments of the white patriarch dealing with having to be an “individual” after second-wave feminism and the decline of trade unionism. Overall, there are a few too many little curlicues and other ornate features added to the music here. It might be the overdub sessions — not one, not two, but three — spread out over 15 years that contribute to that, but Willie’s own contributions are partly to blame as well. His vocals are a little overwrought sometimes, with too much vibrato and too often forced into the upper register of his vocal range. Though even guest Emmylou Harris does the same on one song (“When I Stop Dreaming“). He does add some interesting guitar solos on Trigger. His sister Bobbie gets a good amount of time in the spotlight, which is nice.
There are all sorts of good bits on this album. The biggest problem is that those good bits don’t ever come together in any unified and coherent way. They just float around among more dubious elements and arrangements that are a bit off. For instance, the 1989 overdubs add a horn section — one of the only times one of Willie’s album tried to recreate the style of Shotgun Willie. But Shotgun Willie had horn arrangements in a classic soul style. These are merely passable approximations. The most sympathetic performance is probably the last song, “Carefree Moments.” But the song itself is not particularly well-written, and a good performance can’t remedy that problem. So this album always threatens to be really good, but seems to consistently fall short.
This rare album is no lost classic. Yet considering the sorry state of so many of Willie’s albums from the 1980s and early 90s, this was certainly better by comparison.
Various Artists – Get Right With God: Hot Gospel Heritage HT CD 01 (1988)
A great set of gospel from its glory days, drawing from the previous collections Get Right With God: Hot Gospel (1947-1953) and Get Right With God: Hot Gospel (Volume 2). This is all high-energy, up-tempo stuff that rightly deserves the subtitle “hot gospel”. The slightly crazed vocals, the imagery of fistfights with the devil, the tracts against moonshine, testimonies to the virtues of FDR, it all could probably never be duplicated. And I say that knowing full well the paltry chance anyone would even try, ever. There are a few well-known names represented here, like The Five Blind Boy of Mississippi, but mostly these are fairly obscure artists. Nonetheless, this makes a great introduction to the genre. There is a significant overlap with the longer and later-released set Gospel – The Ultimate Collection, which also looks pretty good on paper (though I haven’t heard that one). If one track here stands out from the others, I would have to say it’s “I’m Going to that City” by Sister O.M. Terrell, which can give any delta blues track a run for its money.
A bit more uneven than previous releases, but with some great highlights like “D.I.B (Drenched In Blood)” and “Wipe It ‘Till It Bleeds.” Scandinavian Leather has more of a hair metal sound, with Euroboy‘s nice guitar work being quite pronounced. You’ll probably like these guys if you can appreciate their sense of irony in explicitly bringing out the cheeseball and gay elements ever-present on or just under the surface of 1980s metal.
Bonus links: Review and “The Left Hand and the Right Hand of the State” and “Stop Kidding Yourself: The Police Were Created to Control Working Class and Poor People” and “Policing Class” and Punishing the Poor and The Fabrication of Social Order: A Critical Theory of Police Power and The Rich Get Richer and the Poor Get Prison
Link to an article by Michael Hudson:
For a more nuanced and detailed account of Soviet bureaucracy, and the construction and dismantling of Stalinism, see The Soviet Century. Combined with The Half Has Never Been Told, it is worth wondering whether industrialization is possible without slavery. Also, it is worth questioning Hudson’s characterization of China as pursuing “socialist” policy, rather than being state capitalist — he basically just assumes such points. Though this was intended as a speech to be delivered in China, so maybe he felt the need to pander on that point a bit.
It never ceases to amuse me how the insight of philosophy and psychoanalysis that ideology determines what is or is not a “fact” is proven again and again. As Rex Butler put it,
“in the analysis of ideology, it is not simply a matter of seeing which account of reality best matches the ‘facts’, with the one that is closest being the least biased and therefore the best. As soon as the facts are determined, we have already — whether we know it or not — made our choice; we are already within one ideological system or another. The real dispute has already taken place over what is to count as the facts, which facts are relevant, and so on.”
“If you’re not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.”
“How close we could look into a bright future should two, three or many Vietnams flourish throughout the world with their share of deaths and their immense tragedies, their everyday heroism and their repeated blows against imperialism, impelled to disperse its forces under the sudden attack and the increasing hatred of all peoples of the world!”
Bonus links: The Battle of Chile and “It’s a Fact: Supreme Court Errors Aren’t Hard to Find” (this article engages in a certain kind of criticism that is largely blind to the issue Butler described)