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Why I support those who support things I don't support...

I was walking my dog earlier in the week, our after-dinner walk, and one - and only one - of the houses up in the hills behind me has a "Yes on Prop 8" sign in the yard. It's new - I walk by that house every night - and when I saw it the first time it was there, I reacted internally with prejudice and dismissal. "Those people are idiots! Why, why, why?"

So the next night as I walked past that house again, I didn't see the sign. And you know what? I got MORE angry. "The people who stole that sign are fucking idiots! Why, why, why?!"

And so the following evening as I walked by I saw the sign again - dunno if the night before the sign was hidden by a car or if they have replaced it, but when I saw it, I was actually happy. Because as much as I hate the fact that those people will be voting for Prop 8 and that it may pass because of ignorance and intolerance by those same sorts of people, I hate even more the thought of someone else coming and denying those same sorts of people the right to live their life they way they believe and do so proudly out in the open.

Which is of course, why I'm against prop 8, but whatever. There's a guy with a McCain/Palin sign in his window - once again, just one guy - and it makes me happy every time I see it, because no one has forced him to take it down, or defiled it, or broken his window.

You go, neighbors with opposing views. I completely disagree with you.

This Month's Featured Review: Crystal Antlers EP

Recently signed to seminal indie label Touch and Go; Long Beach’s Crystal Antlers might be poised to break out in ‘09. Their October 7th self-titled EP release is a tightly wound experiment in melding no wave, hardcore, and psychedelia. Producer Ikie Owens (keyboardist for the Mars Volta) gives these songs lots echoey vim by mixing the cacophonous angst of Sonic Youth, the swirling art-rock of Jane’s Addiction, Black Flag’s harrowing intensity and the addled danger of 13th Floor Elevators.

Crystal Antlers is a maelstrom of feedback, strangled vocals and orchestrated chaos. Jonny Bell’s vocals growl and shriek through any number of effects and filters, which dissipate into the overall mix. His delivery is all fire and brimstone, belying a more melodic tone he only hints at occasionally on this record. Opener “Until the Sun Dies: Part 2” showcases some vocal range, allowing for a more dynamic soundscape. The best songs on the EP, like the seven minute “Parting Song For the Torn Sky”, allow the organs to create a sonic expanse. Drummer Kevin Stuart’s artful use of half-time signatures on a couple of the tracks reveals some jazz chops. A nice twist to Crystal Antlers sound is the added percussion delivered by Damian Edwards. His contribution to the mayhem provides some interesting texture to the songs. The EP can best be encapsulated as a frenzied freak out with artistic pretensions. Often the best riffs on the Crystal Antlers EP get cut off right at the point of being established. Andrew King’s guitar work anchors the sound firmly in the psych-rock realm. But unlike other guitar players in this genre he shies away from embracing the riff. This can be frustrating for the listener; it seems reactionary, as if this is what injects the “art” into the compositions. The mosaic created by the Crystal Antlers is a composite of shards of glass sharp enough to cut you, held in place by cement rough enough to scrape you. It will be interesting to watch which, if any, of the rough edges will be smoothed out on an upcoming full-length release.

Crystal Antlers have emerged out of the LA art collective The Smell - a club/art space of renown in Downtown LA - along with contemporaries No Age and Abe Vigoda. All these bands share a similar aesthetic, a kind of disjointed and angular approach to songwriting. These bands seem to suffer from musical ADD. A typical example of this is on the track “Vexation”, a punishing bombardment of pulverizing drums and blaring organs. But in service of what? The song blasts out of the speakers like a shotgun, but like a shotgun it sprays pellets everywhere with little or no accuracy. This is a fine effect maybe but not compelling enough to revisit on song after song. The upside for the Crystal Antlers is that there is no shortage of musical ideas on this EP. The question becomes will they have the patience and restraint to explore some of those ideas at length?

This Month's E-Music Acquisitions...

John ColtraneLush Life”Re-Mastered

Two words best to describe John Coltrane's 1958 "Lush Life", casual elegance. This newly remastered release on the Prestige label is perfect for an autumn night and a well-mixed cocktail. Coltrane's playing is contemplative and restrained, while still harboring the questing spirituality he would soon begin exploring in subsequent recordings. The absence of a piano player on the first three tracks clears the way for Trane's emotive runs. Tone, pure and bluesy, is the focus on "Lush Life". The last two tracks feature the addition of Red Garland on piano and Donald Byrd on trumpet. At close to 15 minutes the title track hints at some of the more adventurous playing Coltrane would be known for. But this record finds him contented, in all his nuanced glory.

Flying Lotus1983

After reading a lot of the hype surrounding the recent release of Flying Lotus’ (aka Steven Ellison) “Los Angeles”, I decided to go back to his 2006 recording “1983” as a primer. Flying Lotus’ music is comprised of bleeps, glitches, and fuzz, most seemingly generated from a Casio keyboard circa 1983. His inspiration seems to be divined as much from Atari 2600 as Aphex Twin. While the “skip beat’ stagger of most of the tracks give Flying Lotus a signature sound, it feels like ambient wallpaper. There is nothing very compelling about “1983”. Comparisons to J-Dilla seem unwarranted other than both are lo-fi aficionados. “1983” would be better suited to background music in a trendy wine bar than a club. In the sub-genre obsessed universe of electronica, Flying Lotus may be an Indie darling but to these ears there is little to celebrate.

The Last Shadow PuppetsThe Age of the Understatement

This collaboration between the Arctic Monkey’s Alex Turner and the Rascals’ Miles Kane really delivers on the promise of both of these songwriters. Many reviewers cite David Bowie as a key influence on “The Age of the Understatement” but I would offer Ennio Morricone, LA psychedelic band Love, Britain’s The Coral and the sounds coming out of swingin’ London in mid 1960’s, as the guiding lights for this recording. Vocally, these two front men sound perfect together. In fact, I hadn’t realized how good a voice Turner was in possession of, inflecting more melody into these songs than is evidenced in his work with the Arctic Monkeys. The acerbic wit both songwriters are known for is still there but some of the sting is masked by the ornate orchestrations and galloping tempos. “Standing Next To Me” would fit nicely on Love’s Forever Changes and “Calm Like You” might have Tom Jones considering another comeback attempt.

Animal CollectiveStrawberry Jam

What do you get when you place Brian Wilson, Philip Glass, and Dan Deacon in a blender and push puree? You might get Baltimore transplants now residing in Brooklyn, Animal Collective. Last year’s release “Strawberry Jam” is one of the most confounding and brilliant examples of laptop rock. Critical darlings to be sure and worth the accolades, main songwriting forces Panda Bear and Avey Tare craft layered, inventive, joyous whimsy. Animal Collective reference “Smile” era Brian Wilson, celebrating the druggy glory, they offer an alternative universe for those voices in his head. The variegated playground these musicians inhabit is a feast for the ears. Soaring harmonies mix with world music influences, which are then left to swim up the bit rate stream. The songs on “Strawberry Jam” begin as innocent experimentation, quickly escalate into addiction, have you finding God and then relapsing back into the magical world of Animal Collective.

Shudder To Think “Funeral At The Movies/Ten Spot”

This combined release of 1990’s “Ten Spot” and 1991’s “Funeral At The Movies” on Discord (Minor Threat, Fugazi, Rites of Spring) is a nice indoctrination into Shudder To Think’s divergent art-punk. Never really in step with the rest of the Discord catalogue, these first records turn on singer Craig Wedren’s soaring, psuedo-falsetto. The tracks on both recordings point to the triumphs that would be captured on 1994’s “Pony Express Record”. Future guitarist and songwriting force Nathan Larsen would join Shudder after these releases, forging the unique and supremely creative partnership with Wedren. The two would solidify the symbiosis that would bridge metal, art-rock, and indie-rock. Always inventive, this recording is ground zero for those looking to discover the creative genesis for this one-of-a-kind rock band.

Cold War KidsLoyalty to Loyalty

There has already been a ton of press surrounding Cold War Kids sophomore offering “Loyalty to Loyalty”. Most reviews are looking to draw blood on a band that received so much hype after 2006’s “Robbers & Cowards”. The backlash seems totally undeserved and reactionary. This record is much darker sonically-as most second records tend to be- revealing a band that is serious about being taken serious. “Loyalty to Loyalty” bears repeated listening to get at the core of CWK’s malcontent. The production is reverb heavy with the guitars taking prominence. They have an almost Hawaiian sheen to them, locking in with the bass in syncopated rhythmic stutters. Nathan Willet’s vocals are soulful in a Jeff Buckley way and really are the centerpiece of Cold War Kids sound. This is a band that is still in the process of refining their sound but unlike many other bands they have their own sound to refine.


Duvet's Daily Dose...Bravo! Bill and Hillary Clinton For Putting The Party First!

I just want to extend a heartfelt thanks to Bill and Hillary Clinton for "doing whatever needs to be done to get Barack Obama in the Oval Office." I applaud their efforts for putting aside any residual bitterness over losing a campaign, Mrs. Clinton viewed more as a coronation, than a contest.

It's easy to see how a young upstart preaching "change" should have known his place in the Democratic Party pecking order. And how gracious the Clintons have been in showering him with tepid praise, back-handed compliments, and thinly veiled insinuations as to how competent he would be as Commander-in-Chief.

It was right to caution the American people that someone who ran and continues to run a well disciplined, highly-organized, and fiscally sound campaign - As opposed to the erratic, spend thrifty, kitchen sink approach you offered Americans - was not a suitable candidate for President.

Former President Clinton's promise to "get out there and stump" for Obama after observing the Jewish Holidays, Halloween, and the election itself is completely understandable. The Democratic Party can count on the Clintons because they know just how important this election is to America (Oh, and to Hillary's last chance to fulfill her entitlement dream in 2012).

David Blaine can learn a thing or two from the former first family about how to pull off one of the greatest disappearing acts of all time! Wait, didn't she say, " haven't seen the last of me"?

Kudos to Senator Clinton for neutralizing Pitbull Palin with this searing mantra, "NO McCain, NO Palin, NO Way!" WOW! That'll do the trick.

After brilliantly making the case against Barack Hussein Obama - not to imply that he's a Muslim or a terrorist, as far as Senator Clinton knows - she vows to do "whatever it takes" with all the urgency of a Senator pushing through reforms....Wait a minute?

Don't worry Clintons your legacy is being etched as we speak...and here's some campaign slogans for 2012 Hillary: How about, "CLINTON FIRST!" or perhaps, "CHANGE, you can wait for."


Life During Wartime: Stunned They Head for the Exits....Was It Worth It?

My Bloody Valentine at San Francisco's Concourse Exhibition Center was more an example of aural sculpture than a traditional 'Rock' show. The band's history, influence and 17-year absence have been well documented. But the visceral effect high volume has on an audience at a My Bloody Valentine show is akin to be dropped into a war zone.

My Bloody Valentine's sound is synonymous with ear-splitting decibel levels. The wash of sound they create combined with actual or imagined overtones within that wash, bludgeon the senses. In effect, their sound is a physical experience. The sound waves, even from 100 yards away, rattle your joints. Sheets of sonic rain drench you where you stand. The sound passes through you, rearranging your internal organs in the process. It’s a tribute to MVB’s artistry that the sheer force of volume doesn’t nullify the melodies. If this is possible, there is as much subtlety at work as bombast.

One clear casualty of playing so loud is the vocals. They are sacrificed at the stentorian altar, reduced to a faint hum for most of the show. It is a shame that one of the components on record that made My Bloody Valentine so influential – Belinda Butcher’s breathy, melancholic vocal delivery of is often imitated by any number of pretenders to the shoegaze throne – seems to have been disposed of live.

There were several times during the performance when I had to laugh out loud in response to the overwhelming force emitted from the speakers. At one point I was convinced I had to use the bathroom. Upon entering one of the few sanctuaries from the onslaught, I just stood there. It wasn’t the bathroom I needed but rather respite from Debbie Googe’s pulverizing bass line driving the song “Soon”.

As the final squeal from Kevin Shields’ guitar sliced through the cavernous barn that best describes the Concourse Exhibition Center, a stunned silence befell the room. Even that proved deafening.

The band had just finished performing “You Made Me Realize”, which included 20 plus minutes of a sublime cochlear holocaust. During this onslaught audience members were either fighting their way through the din, or fighting their way out. The rest were held in stasis by the relentless torrent.

Drummer Colm Ó Cíosóig, maniacally flailing away at his symbals for most of it, created a shattering crescendo before the band launched back into the chorus. I couldn’t help but think that this is what Londoners heard as their city was shelled by the German Luftwaffe during World War II.

The final note still ringing in my ear, I watched the shell-shocked audience make their way to the exits. Most had the confused torpor of refugees who had survived a vicious attack. Slowly, as senses began to return, bemused grins appeared and exhilaration took over. It was the same wondrous feeling you have after an earthquake. Excited voices began to retake the room.

The night air greeted my nostrils like smelling salt to a boxer who had been subjugated to the canvass. I walked out into the fold of people, the scene strangely resembling a triage unit. Turning to my friend I said, “WOW!” It was all I could muster.

This was the exact sensation I remembered feeling when I saw My Bloody Valentine some 17 years ago in a small club. The rush of years was reduced to a single word. WOW!

Haikiew (TM)...My Bloody Valentine @ The Concourse Exhibition Center 9/30/08

(Please click on highlighted words for additional review content)

Loveless squall returns,

assault made

stunned silent walk.