Tuesday, August 9, 2011

dead beats, generation of by pedestrian

i'm reviewing one song off of a compilation released about 8 years ago. the song iS called "dead beats, generation of" by a little-known post-situ rapper named pedestrian from the somewhat-known label called anticon. the compilation iS called ropeladder 12, off of the euro indie label, mush records. iS anyone else confused yet? if all this background comes to be all too much, please just listen to the track and dissect the poetics a bit. i've been doing it fro 8 years (my brother gave me this comp for christmas one year) and i just found out whatmost of the actual words are. but ah how they are. the song, rich poetic nature aside (i fawn over it often), starts with a sharp fiddle line translating into a heavy electric guitar riff. yes, this iS rap in the 21st century. once the heavy 1-2 bass snare kicks in over the riff though, lyrical chaos ensues...
i'll tackle this in parts, skipping over references i don't much get because i didn't waste much time in college delving into beatitudes & dead white men (that would've left no time for keggers & beer pong in between political science & black studies courses. yes, i still kick myself once a day in homage to the gods of disembodied poetics) my thoughts in bold...

verse one:
neither a protest song nor an endorsement.
uh-oh, we're in for some heady shit. said in post-irony, the erasure of dichotomy shall commence...

generation of dead beats we headspin on the tombstone of ginsberg
enduring the banality of a sober burroughs for so long
as sole pours out a bottle of evian for the disembodied and gin for hemmingway.
we without impetus born through a trap door into this history,
the universe shrinks and our conception of it doesn't fit anymore.
an electric candle burns bedside in a remorseful elegy for elanor rigby
and her middle-aged daughters,
beat poets seem to have carved out a (mostly) posthumous niche amongst intellectual-types stuck in the times of the sixties. as a matter of fact, they seemed to bludgeon those same heads during that very time. pedestrian mocks product placement rap with a clever use of his friend sole's indie-status. evian as the new 40 oz, cousin! the electric candle sticks out to me here not as simple clever device, but as a kill-the-metaphor dagger in the heart of pro-tech culture. i find these to be walking the thin lines of bringing to the forefront a critique of most of the would-be listeners. tough...

a wedding gypsy band bangs out a domestic lament on antique ukulele
and petrified elk bones,
a flower on a guitar withers wantonly hippie anthems
entangled within broken strings and baez tunes
reliving those moments otherwise left alone
throughout these gutted crates and creative gutters.
woodstock burns as we windmill on the wasteland of eliot,
it's not just a wedding band. or a gypsy band. it's both! reliving the sixties iS really driven home once again, and i think it's safe to say the future was seen in the antique ukelele and petrified elk bones thought. all retro and spiritual, this hypothetical band would sound great on your local radio station ten times a day. those were the days bleeds through in moments otherwise left alone. gutted crates and creative gutters plays with words in ways the burning bush couldn't tell moses all those years back. if you don't know wasteland, get there. wash, rinse, repeat. (hint, you already knew it anyway)...
my windblown voiceprint on the ruins and verandahs
around imitation roman columns at the outpost of mediocre
where mid-level administration is making it the romanticized slacker
in all threadbare elegance questioning the eternal amid echoes like tendrils.
might i be the only one here in the roll call of minor set backs and major failures?
a dim yes faint no and a resonating maybe saluting the first flag visible
through the settling dust in the setting dusk embroidering my uniform of deathless song.
hold on, what? oh, ok. so new age, trustafarians can kiss his ass. the post-modern maybe runs rampant towards blind patriotism, this song ain't just gonna roll over and let you have it though chumps!
i whistle woman with the curviest of drums would be libertine
but my wounds are literate so i make slut of it all
with a skewed perspective and scurrilous adjectives.
it's like lysergic acid verses venomous incantations
over influenced of our tongues.
look at me growl mouthful of venison and perennial yawn,
when i wake up i may find it all gone.
my cheaply inked innocence is indeed wearing thin
and being holed up in a motel with a case of whiskey
and a typewriter is not a vision quest.
goddamn. this iS harder than i thought. "libertine...literate...slut of it all." how do i describe how this makes me feel? to be honest, i don't even know what scurrilous means. but watch me pretend i do (look at me growl). the line that got me upon first listen was definitely "...motel...whiskey...typewriter...iS not a vision quest." i've smoked two cigarettes since writing this, one before kicking the power chord and one after. i just drank water. the image of how you write something will never change it's content...

break for some killer harmonica and doseone ripping into hyperspeed with words i never could've dreamt understanding until i read them on a screen.
dose one:
oh and actors of slightest idea left stuffing in lockers
to make their walk home short and nightmares the kind of crap
their kids couldn't eat off tv with hook hands and poked holes for eyeballs.
nowhere to go by but the canary,
it's minimum wage in all out war or hide
and work played to the wheeze of a dead beat in autumn
of no man is island and everything has already been done once.
let's skip me trying to dissect this straight to the point. "no man iS island and everything has already been done once." check your authenticity at the door, folks.
somebody get me a hero and i'll author a tragedy
yet murder in the theatre on an idle afternoon where duchamp
and death meet and don't create but do play chess in the park
until the curators and clerics recede to their quarters.
heritics in the paradise of fitzgerald
f. scott fitzgeral quote to open, his name to close. who knew anti-art would one day become so popular as an artform? guess what, it hasn't just yet. while duchamp & death play chess in the park for spectacle's sake, jay-z & kanye west just put out a high-society rap album. no, they really did.
and in the alleys of 'frisco,
our recurrent tourist can only begin to think
picturesque of more distantly postcard.
once a cipher rat, now i'm looking for a publisher of dead beatitudes
and parables as absurd as the world we've woven for ourselves
out of worn down wonderment and wormwood,
rewriting the masterpieces word by word.
the young person searching for freedom on the west coast iS back, and they're not finding it. it's not there, only in postcards. pedestrian starts his search for a fiction more morose than this world, a tough feat PPA(post patriot act).
listen carefully, this song's an empty shell on the shore of the worthless ones,
my stab at simplifying beyond the hybrid of a smiling sambo and stony buster keaton.
phantoms in black face dance provocatively
around bundles of fanon's psycho colonial tomes,
oh it's as obvious as i get without hollering "fuck my father"
in double time freebasing placebos in a corporate experiment.
i've seen some of our most brilliant minds
corrupted by boredom and booze like sixtoo howls
but psyche shit stained and incoherent.
i'm a cycle myself still chasing the aesthetic
with a hellhound on my trail and a rent bill in his mouth.
maybe i'll just make a living out of question marks.
it's the recovering junkie poet slash alcoholic novelist part of us all,
here, slick poetics with a rare command, "listen carefully" followed by intense self-awareness (never a bad thing in a diss-song about your potential audience)"phantoms...dance...fanon..." i was once a white kid majoring in Black Studies, but this seems to be calling into question a much more sinister (maybe not) type of voyeuristic admiration of those oppressed. "...fuck my father in double time" lets us know the sheltered always rebel.
the quintessential line in all this iS "freebasing placebos in a corporate experiment i've seen some of our most brilliant minds corrupted by boredom & booze" calling to the kindred spirit of ginsberg while updating to our modern times. we're all artists, and i don't know if that's a good or a bad thing.
any number of crossroads for yonder children of divorce and bankruptcy court,
hardly a great depression. we're all spoiled and mildy neurotic.
by day this middle finger is a white flag
signifying our apathetic middle-class course,
look at me roar, jaw jammed with raw flesh and perennial yawn.
when i wake up, i may find it all gone
wondering if the glass just half is in an empty world.
this song came before all the so-called economic crisis coming home to amerika. but i think these lines reign despite their dated surface, because everybody's got a cell phone and a car and all this wonderful crap but no one has the freedom or mental wealth we mistakenly assume to be ours as amerikans. "wondering if the glass just half-iS in an empty world" iS on burner status by it's lonesome, the classic hip-hop device of paraphrasing a classic, with the thoughtfulness of a mother planning for her child's first day of school.
by now dylan's harmonica's museum bound soundtrack
to a bank commercial they'll bury you in the suburbs
with car keys and cell phones warmed over death in prefab dream homes and bingo on sundays.
they'll forget you in the ghetto banging on your chest
to hear the gold rattle in your gums.
this pointlessness pulses through my dearth of faith,
pointless in an imperfect circle without center.
each of us hypocrite preachers without flocks,
every generation is lost and makes songs out of it
but ours exiled from the search.
bob dylan ain't safe. your favorite artist will posthumously become ad fodder for the super bowl if they get so lucky. the artist has changed for us in the 21st of centuries after Black Jesus died in Palestine. in a(n amerikan) world so customized for the individual, so consumed with all types of spectacle (from indie rap to mtv), and as lost as any generation of peoples past, we sit now, with no protest songs, with everyone an artist, a reviewer, a poet, a fraud of sorts. all experience becomes blurred with what possible experiences exist. pedestrian sings this to us in somber tones, proving he's done his homework before coming to the conclusion, "every generation iS lost and makes songs out of it, but ours, exiled from the search"

Friday, August 5, 2011

Jonathan Franzen's Freedom

In writing a review one inevitably finds personal meaning to what is being reviewed. A text is infused with social and political implications just as any object in the world has a textual substance which can serve as a referent to a political reading: as in, this light bulb represents the reign of industrial civilization over a simpler and less mechanized if not digitalized human existence. I won't pretend that my review of Freedom by Jonathan Franzen is exempt of any socio-political reading, or that in fact I don't place a carefully situated lens to a subtext that I think the author is trying to relay. The name alone, Freedom, is provocatively naming the very essence of what is at the foundation for modern democratic life (or so it is said to be). Freedom is considered by most, to be the end goal of all politics, the basis of all life in America. “Let Freedom ring.”
     As we read Franzen's latest novel we begin to wonder where the freedom lies, where it is found. The word itself acts as a leitmotif . In the daily life of the protagonists they find moments of “freedom” in mundane but relatively freer situations. A person who grows up in a rigidly controlled, socially or politically or otherwise stifling environment will find “freedom” in an act as banal as shopping for the right pair of shoes. In Franzen's work we seem to be dealing with this type of freedom: the freedom to choose between the limited scope of choice offered to us in the political or even consumer arena. The choice between Democrat or Republican. The choice between the red dress or the the white one. Or: the choice to save a particular rare species of bird or the better part of a mountain with a vastly diverse ecosystem and a human population destined to suffer from the whims of a mining company, a natural gas company, a greedy politician and/or a conservationist NGO. Like most dichotomies, these mentioned above are, of course, false.
     In Freedom a very realistic and vivid portrayal of a somewhat typical middle-class educated white Midwestern family is presented. The author is a master of clever description and believable dialogue. His protagonist family comes alive in the pages. Walter, the father, has battled his whole life with the struggle his idealism endures in colliding with reality. He has a burning desire to make his mark on the world and to leave it as a better place. He reveres nature and distrusts shortsighted business-minded conservatives and what he sees as ignorant destructive country folk. He is the epitome of the high-minded, arrogant liberal. He is what the populist rural conservative and the neo-con alike love to hate.
      Walter has the twin raison d'etre of wanting to provide for his apolitical but loving and supportive (at least for a while) wife Patty and his spoiled but exceptionally bright children and to work to preserve the natural world in all of its splendor and grace. Alas he finds a well paid and honorable job which allows him to satisfy the two sides of his very intentional and hardworking life. Or so he thinks. Underneath all of Walter's good intentions is the frustrating behemoth of contradictions that his new job and his life contain. In his job as an executive director of a conservation NGO closely allied with the interests of mining and gas companies, the basis of their group is that mountaintops must be opened for mining (destroyed) with the future guarantee that the land will be rehabilitated and protected (saved) for eternity once all the coal is removed. This Orwellian logic reminds us of the infamous quote from the American officer in the Vietnam War: it was necessary to destroy the village in order to save it. The contradictions inherent in a conservationist project working in cahoots with an Earth-destroying corporation is not entirely lost on Walter and his mental health suffers from the constant dissonance. He stops short of finding his precious “freedom” for himself or his family.
     Patty, likewise has struggled her whole life with the domestic goal of being the best wife and mother one can imagine. Her own mother never supported her in the ways that she needed, so Patty strives to correct her mother's mistakes by sacrificing her own interests in order to enhance the lives of her family. This self-sacrifice is intended to give Patty purpose and pleasure, but like her husband Walter, Patty misses the mark of her long-term goals and eventually leads a depressive and solitary life while keeping up the appearance (for a while) of the loving mother and wife. She is miserable and has only known fleeting glimpses of “freedom” in the most limited of definitions.
     What Walter and Patty and the whole Berglund family have had to come to terms with (and in the novel they don't necessarily consciously do so) is that freedom, in the sense that it is vastly understood (freedom of choice, of movement; the absence of coercion by outside institutions or people) is an impossibility under the current order of things. Our American society, our American political and economic systems (democracy and capitalism) stand as iron walls separating us from a life free of alienation and coercion. One doesn't even have to stretch the imagination to see how we run against obstacles impeding our freedom daily: the police, our bosses, the economic system of wage-labor itself, and so on. This is nothing new, every corner of the globe likewise has a myriad of impediments to human freedom, some of which make the American experience seem quite free indeed. But there are many Americas (even within the borders of the United States). Obviously the experiences of a person of color in the poverty stricken slums of St. Louis are vastly different than a white middle class person from the somewhat affluent St. Louis suburb of Webster Groves, where Franzen grew up.
     The interesting thing about this illusive (or elusive) American freedom is that most Americans claim to have it, and the American political culture spends a great deal of time and energy reminding us just how much freedom we have with all of our social, political and economic choices. That is the great irony of this story, the Berglunds, on the surface, seem to have it all. But, underneath they represent the vast majority of Americans that go through the motions and play the part of freedom, but never (or very rarely) actually experience it. Jonathan Franzen has done an impressive job showing the complexity of a successful archetypal American family which will never overcome the imbedded contradictions we all wade through in our contemporary post-modern American culture.

Nathan Ponzar-Undiagnosis



     Nathan Ponzar is a singer-songwriter who last I saw him was still based out of St. Charles, MO. Yea he (was/)is a friend of mine but is prone to be reclusive and I haven't been in touch with him for about a couple years really. I saw Ponzar play the St. Charles coffeeshop circuit and before I lost touch with him, he was starting to get enamored with the Lemp Arts center. He has one album that I know of, and a few demos on bandcamp called 'Rehearsals In the Purple Room'. You can check them both out at nathanponzar.bandcamp.com. I had sort of forgotten about him and his music, when within the past month I pulled out my old copy of 'Undiagnosis' and once again became enamored with it.
Ponzar is a pretty consistent blend of a few classic down-tempo singer-songwriters such as Neil Young, Elliott Smith and Nick Drake and a heavy dose of Sun Kil Moon.  The sound rarely varies far from this reportoire and the music is mostly comprised of acoustic guitar with some electric guitar, drum flourishes and backing vocals. The musicality of what he does is satisfying, yet it isn't the main thing that is interesting about what Ponzar does. Granted, his melodies do often hit that certain sweet spot, his guitar playing when acoustic is pleasant and consistent and when electric can be quite catchy and punchy. What stands out most about Ponzar's stuff the most is his voice as a songwriter, his phrasing and the well-played usage of cadence, placement, and emotion lyrically and with the tone of his voice to get his point across. Ponzar's songwriting tends to focus on two themes that are dear to my heart as a fellow artist and kindred spirit: illness and golden moments in time. The contrast between these two themes works wonderfully and could resonate with even the most jaded of hearts. Without getting too explicit Ponzar indicates battles with the effects of both physical and mental illness, but in a musical confessional way. The first words of the album hint at surgery : 'it's been three days since they cut me/in the hospital bed". However, while the physicality of what Ponzar has gone through informs the album in a mysterious yet blunt way, it is his struggles with the mental side of health that inform his most biting and satirical moments: 'the rich man said that it's all in your head/ sends you to a man who gives you prozac/what an easy way for you to get paid at the door..." he says on Four Hour Smile, a fascinating track which takes the two major aforementioned themes of illness and bright moments. Does the threat of impending side effects put a damper on or enhance the bright smiling moments we all experience? the song seems to be asking.
     The other appealing aspect of Ponzar's music that for me transcends the ghostly chuminess of listening to a work of art an old friend has created is the honesty of his project. I don't doubt that a lot of people who play independent music (or do indie art for that matter) have good intentions, yet so often does it all seem reduced to posturing. The bleak honesty of what Ponzar offers cuts right through all that, as he says on Paxil Scene 'here I am once again/with a pad and a pen/ writing things down/ that I honestly mean in the deepest way'. How refreshing it is to get back to the core of why we feel compelled to write things in the first place!
     Overall, I have no idea what Ponzar's up to nowadays, much less can I predict if he'll get his due and even a small appreciative audience. However, I remember he possesses a sincerity and resolve necessary for such a struggle. I have no idea if I'll ever talk to the dude again much less if he'll read this obscure review, but I wish him the best of luck regardless even if all I can do is blog about it in internet land...