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FROM THE VAULTS: Heroes & Villains

Friday, May 27th, 2016

Wilco Yankee Hotel Foxtrot Cover
EDITOR’S NOTE: This story first appeared in the June/July 2002 issue of MAGNET MAGAZINE
 

BY
JONATHAN VALANIA

so much depends
upon
a red wheel
barrow
glazed with rain
water
beside the white
chickens.

That was written by William Carlos Williams, an American poet. Best I can tell, he was talking about the significance of insignificance, that little things truly do mean a lot—like if you could surf the past in a time machine and you did something as small as, say, kicking a stone in the Stone Age, it could send a ripple through the entire fabric of history. Everything after could be slightly different. You might even erase yourself from existence.

I bring this up because this is a story about American poets, who will be referred to hereafter as the rock band Wilco. And this is a story filled with insignificance: business deals, personnel changes, communication breakdowns, creative dysfunction and small personal failures. Basically, a lot of red wheelbarrows in the rain that so much depends upon. Not the least of which is Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, which I’m pretty sure will be remembered one day as great American poetry in thought and word and sound and action. If 1999’s Summerteeth was Wilco’s Pet Sounds, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot is its Smile—American beauty edged in transcendental weirdness and giddy invention. YHF is the smoking gun in the case for Wilco being the new Great American Band—a torch-passing tradition that stretches from prime R.E.M. to the Band to Bob Dylan, who got it from Woody Guthrie, who picked it up from Carl Sandburg, who had it passed to him by Walt Whitman.

The wonderment of this artistic triumph is made all the more remarkable by the fact it happened at a time when Wilco—perhaps the last group we’ll be able to refer to as “a Wilco Magnetgreat underground major-label rock band”—was completely reinventing itself in public. First, the drummer was asked to leave. Then, the band’s label asked the band to leave. Finally, the guitar player was asked to leave. How and why all these things happened depends on whom you ask. That’s the thing about these red wheelbarrows upon which so much depends.
(more…)

BEING THERE: Courtney Barnett @ The E-Factory

Friday, May 27th, 2016

Courtney_Barnett_by_Tom_Beck
Photo by TOM BECK

Fresh off a 2015 North American tour during which she played a sold out show at Union Transfer, Courtney Barnett returned to Philly last night for a sold out show at the Electric Factory backed by her Aussie accomplices, drummer Dave Mudie and bassist “Bones” Sloane. Decked out in her trademark droopy pants, old t-shirt and slept-on hair, Barnett kicked things off with “Dead Fox.” Songs from Sometimes I Sit And Think And Sometimes I Just Sit, Barnett’s 2015 debut LP, made up the lion’s share of the set list. Just three songs from 2012’s A Sea Of Split Peas EP — “Are You Looking After Yourself?,” “Lance Jr.,” and “Avant Gardner” made the cut, leaving out popular tracks like “David,” “Anonymous Club” and “History Eraser.” arguably her best song. Despite a what-could-have-been-better-set-list, Barnett did not disappoint, exposing the audience to much rawer and more bare bones versions of songs from I Sit And Think, opposed to the over-produced ice cream truck versions from the album. You’ll find yourself a bigger fan of “Elevator Operator” once you hear it without the cartoon keyboard sounds in the background. A notable difference from last night’s show and prior CB concerts was the lack of onstage banter, showing that as the venues get bigger, Barnett struggles to maintain the feeling of playing in a small club. She kept conversations with the crowd to a minimum, an unwelcome change from the funny deadpan humor she expressed with the Union Transfer crowd a year prior. “Pickles From the Jar” and “Nobody Really Cares if You Don’t Go to the Party” rounded out the encore, the latter of which being the most relateable tune on Earth for any anti-social and indecisive Millenial, detailing the mental stress it takes to “pick your brain up off the floor,” change out of your pajamas and go to the damn party already. But as for last night, I’d be willing to bet the nearly 3,000 people at the Electric Factory didn’t have that problem. – TOM BECK

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NPR 4 THE DEAF: We Hear It Even When U Can’t

Thursday, May 26th, 2016

James-O’Keefe-as-Sherlock-Holmes--62700

 

FRESH AIR: New Yorker writer Jane Mayer discusses conservative activist James O’Keefe’s latest botched sting operation, and the new kind of political opposition research O’Keefe pioneered. MORE

NEW YORKER: On March 16th, a foreign donor who identified himself as Victor left a voice message at the offices of the Soros-funded Open Society Foundations. Then he forgot to hang up the phone, and the machine recorded “Victor” and his staff describing what sounded like an entrapment scheme. This week, James O’Keefe, the conservative activist whose undercover videos have embarrassed Planned Parenthood, NPR, and ACORN, outed himself as the caller, and apologized to his supporters for the failed operation. On “The New Yorker Radio Hour,” The New Yorker’s Jane Mayer goes through the voice-mail James O'Keeferecording to see what it tells us about O’Keefe’s methods and the scope of his ambitions. “What needs to happen,” he says, “is someone other than me make a hundred calls like that.” MORE

NEW YORK TIMES: Federal officials charged four men on Tuesday with plotting to tamper with the telephone system in the New Orleans office of Senator Mary Landrieu, Democrat of Louisiana. One of the men was a conservative activist who gained fame last year by secretly recording members of the community group Acorn giving him advice on how to set up a brothel. All four of the men arrested Monday in New Orleans, each in his mid-20s, were charged with entering federal property under false pretenses with the intent of committing a felony, according to the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Louisiana. If convicted, the four would face sentences ranging from a fine to 10 years in prison. The political activist was James O’Keefe, 25, who has gained renown in conservative circles by poking fun at the left through pranks and undercover video. MORE

PHILADELPHIA WEEKLY: There’s an old joke that goes like this: A pimp and a pros­ti­tute walk in­to an ACORN (As­so­ci­ation of Com­munity Or­gan­iz­a­tions For Re­form Now) of­fice and ask for ad­vice set­ting up a brothel and smug­gling in un­der­age Sal­vador­an girls to whore out for fun and profit. The punch­line is the pimp and the pros­ti­tute were in fact a pair of twentyso­mething right-wing me­dia pro­vocateurs armed with a hid­den cam­era.

Over the sum­mer O’Keefe and Giles vis­ited an un­dis­closed num­ber of ACORN of­fices on the East and West coasts—in­clud­ing Phil­adelphia. While the Philly of­fice didn’t take the bait, ACORN of­fice work­ers in Bal­timore; Wash­ing­ton, D.C.; Brook­lyn; San Bern­ardino and San Diego did ap­pear to of­fer a sym­path­et­ic ear and help­ful ad­vice, in­clud­ing how to dis­guise il­leg­al in­come from the IRS and where the best places are to smuggle il­leg­als across the bor­der.

Fox News thought this joke was very funny—not so much haha funny, but con­ser­vat­ive agenda-ad­van­cing, score-set­tling, Demo­crat-hurt­ing, Obama-bash­ing funny—and so they re­peated the joke across the full spec­trum of their broad­cast plat­form, rolling out a new gotcha video every day for al­most a week. It was, among oth­er things, a po­tent an­ti­dote to the mo­mentum the pres­id­ent was gain­ing for his health care re­form ini­ti­at­ive in the wake of a per­suas­ive and well-re­ceived call for ac­tion be­fore a pimp1-copyjoint ses­sion of Con­gress.

Hours be­fore Obama ad­dressed Con­gress and the na­tion on Sept. 9, Glenn Beck took to Fox’s air­waves and teased the ACORN stink bomb he was plan­ning to drop on the fol­low­ing day’s pro­gram: “To­mor­row—to­mor­row, things change,” Beck prom­ised. “I think things change a lot for those in power. The tides are about to turn, and that will be on to­mor­row’s broad­cast,” Beck hin­ted omin­ously, adding: “Trust me. Every­body now says they’re go­ing to be talk­ing about health care. I don’t think so.”

The next day Fox de­voted 17 seg­ments on six pro­grams— Fox & Friends; Amer­ica’s News­room; Hap­pen­ing Now; Live Desk; Glenn Beck; and Spe­cial Re­port —to the ACORN gotcha foot­age, which soon went vir­al on the In­ter­net. Even­tu­ally the scan­dal­ous story mi­grated to the more cent­rist pre­cincts of main­stream me­dia and soon even the real­ity-based com­munity of the great Amer­ic­an middle was in on the joke.

The fal­lout was al­most im­me­di­ate: The U.S. Census Bur­eau an­nounced it was sever­ing ties with ACORN, as did the IRS, which had pre­vi­ously partnered with the or­gan­iz­a­tion to provide free tax pre­par­a­tion ser­vices for the poor. The House of Rep­res­ent­at­ives voted 345-75 to de­fund ACORN. Smelling blood in the wa­ter, Re­pub­lic­ans went on the warpath and Demo­crats ran for cov­er—in­clud­ing Rep. Allyson Schwartz and Rep. Joe Ses­tak, two demo­crats whose dis­tricts in­clude Phil­adelphia, who voted to de­fund. Even Pres­id­ent Obama, who once provided leg­al rep­res­ent­a­tion to a co­ali­tion that in­cluded ACORN in a case re­gard­ing en­force­ment of Illinois’ Na­tion­al Voter Re­gis­tra­tion Act, called for an in­vest­ig­a­tion in­to the grass­roots group.

Bank of Amer­ica, whose part­ner­ship with ACORN Hous­ing began in 1990 and helped make 55,000 low-in­come people first-time homeown­ers, an­nounced that it too was sever­ing ties with ACORN.

With little more than a re­por­ted $1300, grandma’s fur coat, a mi­cro mini-skirt, a few lead­ing ques­tions, a lot of nerve and a hid­den cam­era, O’Keefe and Giles did what the Bush White House, Karl Rove, the Gonza­lez-era Justice De­part­ment, a dozen fed­er­al pro­sec­utors, Fox News, John Mc­Cain, Sarah Pal­in, Sean Han­nity, Rush Limbaugh, and the en­tire right wing blo­go­sphere had been try­ing un­suc­cess­fully to do for years: drop a pois­on pill in the Olympic-
sized pool of good deeds ACORN has done for the poor and the dis­en­fran­chised in the course of its nearly 40-year his­tory. Ac­cord­ing to the polit­ic­al Gei­ger coun­ters of every par­tis­an stripe, ACORN was of­fi­cially ra­dio­act­ive.
 MORE

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Win Tix To See Borns @ The Electric Factory Friday

Thursday, May 26th, 2016

borns

 

Garrett Borns is a one-man glam-rock revivial — think Marc Bolan crossed with Jeff Buckley with Harry Styles hair — and who doesn’t love one-man glam-rock revivals? Not you, that’s for sure. That’s why you must be terribly excited to learn that we have a pair of tix to see Borns @ the Electric Factory on Friday. To qualify to win, all you have to do is sign up for our mailing list (see right, below the masthead). Trust us, this is something you want to do. In addition to breaking news alerts and Phawker updates, you also get advanced warning about groovy concert ticket giveaways and other free swag opportunities like this one! After signing up, send us an email at PHAWKER66@GMAIL.COM telling us a much, with the words BORNS AGAIN in the subject line. The 13th Phawker reader to email wins! Good luck and godspeed!

BORNS PLAYS THE ELECTRIC FACTORY ON FRIDAY MAY 27TH

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The Importance Of Being Rowland S. Howard

Thursday, May 26th, 2016

712Lqzn01EL._SL1073_

 

JAMIE DAVISBY JAMES M. DAVIS If you wanna play art rock and be the cool guitarist guy the first thing you need is a Fender Jaguar and a bunch of pedals.  The second thing you have to do is decide which Fender Jaguar/Jazzmaster art-rock icon it is that you want to imitate.  Most people go for J. Mascis or Thurston Moore.  Who are we kidding, you’ll probably wind up doing Thurston Moore. However, I would only ask you to take a moment, look around you, and listen for a single word, breathed under one’s breath: americana.  There is a confusing thing with hipness v. un-hipness of rockabilly and old country music.  Is Carl Perkins cool?  The question should feel kind of rancid in the mouth, like, ‘Is Hank Williams culturally relevant?’  The truth is, there is a strain of deep, dark American music which taps into a quality of timelessness that transcends fashion.  Legend has it that Jeffrey Lee Pierce understood this, it came to him in a fever dream after over indulging in some East-African ibogaine:  American authenticity can only be achieved through American music.  He put down the bongos, and left his reggae career behind forever.

So it is perhaps odd that Rowland, an Australian, would come to such a similar realization.  Especially after a career in, ROWLAND-S-HOWARD-TEENAGE-SNUFF-FILM-L711297159929rather than reggae, german avant-garde sounding noise music with Nick Cave in The Birthday Party, before Nick Cave too found his americana muse.  However, while Cave had the drama and the fire-and-brimstone bombast, the record sales, the adoring teenage fans, etc. Rowland was slinking around in the shadows, putting out records whose magic was subtle, in the timbre of the guitar playing and tinny out-of-tune piano, in Rowland’s own broken sounding singing voice.  He recorded with a few bands after his time in The Birthday Party, he did a few albums with Lydia Lunch, a few albums with Crime and the City Solution and another two as These Immortal Souls, before disappearing for a while, only to return with his masterpiece Teenage Snuff Film.

It is the sound of someone who has cracked something they’ve been trying to do for years.  The sound is effortlessly powerful, with Rowland’s guitar serving as the main vehicle for his uncompromising vision.  There are very few truly innovative guitarists, but he truly invented a sound which has been mercilessly plundered since.   He effortlessly marries squalling feedback-laden guitar with a country violin over Ennio Morricone melodies.  It conjures images of an acid-damaged, supernatural wild west.  And not only was he one of the best guitarists of his generation, but a brilliant lyricist as well. Smiling through your tears and your tetracycline overdose he sings on the album’s opener “Dead Radio” marking the best ever use of antibiotics in music. With the “indie-americana” thing taking such a spectacular nosedive, with Coleman Hell and Avicii moving millions of records by combining Mumford with EDM, not to mention the Mumford and Sons / Lumineers axis of evil, it is important to remember that it can be done well.  There is an incorruptible goodness out there in the west. Rowland found it, Nick Cave found it, Jeffrey Lee Pierce found it.  We need more people to find it.

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BOB DYLAN: Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright

Tuesday, May 24th, 2016

To mark the Bard’s 75th birthday, we bring you this drop-dead gorgeous remix of Bobby Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright” by Animal Collective. Enjoy.

PREVIOUSLY: The Academy of Music opera house in Philadelphia opened in 1857, which, if memory serves, is where and when Bob Dylan first went electric — much to the consternation of the stovepipe-hatted folkies, who felt he was selling out the purity of good ol’ steam-powered protest anthems. It is said that Stephen A. Douglas was so incensed he attempted to chop the cable supplying power to the Academy stage with an axe and had to be wrestled to the ground by none other than Abraham Lincoln, who “licked him,” as Huckleberry Finn used to say. Historic records indicate that the mutton-chopped Whig Judge Theophilus Lyle Dickey shouted out ‘Judas!’ from his stage right second floor luxury box.  A yellowed and wrinkly YouTube of the incident records Dylan responding with a laconic “I don’t believe you…you’re a liar.” Then he turned to Robbie Robertson and yelled “Play fuckin’ loud!” as The Band kicked into “Like A Rolling Stone” with amps set on KILL. Thus began the The Never-Ending Tour, which, after 157 years, came full-circle with a three night stand at The Academy Of Music that kicked off Friday night. MORE

PREVIOUSLY: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love Bob Dylan

PREVIOUSLY: The Night Dylan Got The Beatles High For The First Time

PREVIOUSLY: 50 Years Ago Tonight, Bob Dylan Went Electric

PREVIOUSLY: When Nora Ephron Interviewed Bob Dylan in 1965

PREVIOUSLY: Q&A With Pulitzer Prize-Winning Journalist David Kinney, Author Of “The Dylanologists”

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ALL SHOOK DOWN: Meet Beach Slang’s James Alex

Monday, May 23rd, 2016

Beach_Slang_by_Elena_Vilain

Photos by ELENA VILAIN

JOsh Pelta-HellaBY JOSH PELTA-HELLER Beach Slang’s James Alex has promised that the acclaimed Philly rockers are hard at work on a second LP, a following up their debut record released last Fall. No doubt this news will offer some relief to legions of fans of Beach Slang, especially in light of the breakup rumors that circulated earlier this month following a show in Utah that Alex suggested might be their last. He’s since walked that back, conceding to fans in a statement that he was “gigantically sorry” for the comments: “if you’re still in, we are.” To hear him tell it though, one thing Alex won’t apologize for is his true colors as a lifetime rocker, though it would seem no one’s asking him to. Having garnered a legendary status and cult following with his first band Weston in the ‘90s, Alex is now crafting full-bore punk rock anthems with mass appeal. Like a punk Benjamin Button, the veteran rocker seems to be just now hitting his stride, and shows no signs of slowing down even as he just turned 40.

PHAWKER: Congrats on your first LP, it’s gotten rave reviews almost everywhere — Pitchfork, Rolling Stone, Beach-Slang-The-Things-We-Do-To-Find-People-Who-Feel-Like-Us1NPR — that’s gotta be a great feeling.

JAMES ALEX: Yeah it’s pretty crazy, right, you know? You start off, you’re just like a little dreamer kid with this rock ‘n roll sorta thing in your head. I don’t know, man, sorta being respected on that level sort of really meant something. It’s like, we’re gonna make these things for ourselves, and hopefully they connect. But I don’t know, I’d be lying if I didn’t say it didn’t feel good for people that have sort of a cultural aesthetic that I really wildly respect, to think that the record’s alright, you know?

PHAWKER: I was struck by the disparity in the feel between the acoustic NPR Tiny Desk Concert that you did vs. the feel of the same songs on the record. In terms of your compositions, do you work in the acoustic mindset when you’re writing, or more with a vision of the full sound of the band?

JAMES ALEX: I would answer it this way man — I definitely think of it in terms of full band. But what I do is, I challenge myself with, ‘can it hold up if it’s just me and my acoustic guitar?’ So, everything I write is in that world. I just did this radio interview, and somebody referred to that as “The Campfire Test.” I never heard that term before, but that’s exactly what it is. Because to me, if it can’t hold up that way, then all I’m trying to do is sprinkle some cherries on the thing to try to mean something. But if it can hold up in that simplest form, then there’s some moxie to it, you know? Then the building it up and just making it loud is just kinda fun. But I need it to be able to exist in that form first.

PHAWKER: You’re 40 years old. You have a song on this record about being the quote-unquote “old guy at the club.” Still, a lot of the music you write is big loud punk anthems. How do you feel on stage, or reconcile being a punk rocker in a brand new punk band at this point in your life?

JAMES ALEX: Well I think, look, you know, I think a really big reason you get into rock ‘n roll — or I did, specifically, is sort of a permission to exist, and something of an arrested state of development, right? It’s like, I Beach Slang Life Is Perfectconnect with that sort of youthful feel, you know? And I think I’m just, so unapologetic about it, that I think it doesn’t seem odd to people that I’m that way, you know what I mean? Remember that movie Angus, if you sort of just hold true to yourself for long enough, your culture will shift to sort of accept you, you know? I’m not sure what it is, but I sort of bare my heart without apology. And that may not connect with some — and that’s cool, so find the thing that connects with you. But I think my sort of approach, and that sort of like unabashed optimism — or whatever we may wanna call it — the people that that does connect with, it’s fuckin’ right, right? I suppose that’s all it is, man. If you do something and you truly mean it — I’m not trying to market myself to be 20 to fit in, right? I’m being who I am, honestly and genuinely, and I feel like that sort of honesty or that genuineness just sort of overrides the fact that I’m older. Like people just recognize that and they’re like, ‘fuck yeah man, I can get behind that trait!,’ you know what I mean?

PHAWKER: Thinking about a lot of older bands — Pearl Jam comes to mind, they’ve been doing this for 25 years, and they’re almost 50 now, and still up there doing their thing and playing three-plus-hour shows every night, and they sell out and have a huge following. But if they got into this now, at this age, even if the music was as good, they probably wouldn’t be as big as they got having gotten into it at age 25 or whatever. In other words, traditionally people see more success as rockstars at younger ages, but you’re sort of disproving that paradigm.

JAMES ALEX: Yeah, thanks man! Look, I was as surprised as I suppose anyone else would be, right? Maybe I’m just too naive to think there’s an expiration date on things. So yeah, I see that point, and I’ve absolutely recognized it, but maybe that’s the flag I fly man, that there’s people in my generation that really have a voice that deserves to be heard man, I’m just one little chirp of that. There’s a lot of amazing people I came up with, that maybe this knocks a little bit of the fear out of them to like, start printing a ‘Zine again start putting a band together again. Like, you deserve to be heard.

PHAWKER: We’re in an age now where we’ve all seen Mick Jagger in his 70’s, wearing 50-year-old music out on stage. Other genres — punk and rap, for example — are a little younger, but we’re all sort of watching those genres as they get up there in age at this point. How do you feel punk will wear as it approaches the same age as early rock ‘n roll is now?

JAMES ALEX: Well, I think it’ll wear well. I think even now, you sorta see it evolving, right? You see like, older punks are maybe going more toward the more acoustic punk, where it’s still has that grit and that energy and sort of Beach Slang Broken Thrillsurgency to it all, but it’s just maybe delivered a little differently. But the spirit, all the right stuff about it’s still there, right? Even if as a generation it gets older, and that generation starts to move ahead and maybe tweaks it and evolves it a little bit, there’s still always gonna be that 14-year-old kid coming up that feels displaced and, you know, has this angst that need to go somewhere, who’s gonna pick up an electric guitar and just have that fervor, just like it was in ‘77. To me it is this cyclical thing that, right, may now start seeing the need to evolve a little bit, as like, some of the elders sort of get up there, but it’s always gonna be pumped full of that really fresh, necessary blood, you know? It never goes away, man, you know, that sort of misfit-youth element — which is why I got into punk, and a lot of my friends did — man, that just gonna be here for the ages. You know, I mean that’s the big thing for me, right, like I’ll be at my age, doin’ it — looking forward, looking back, sort of looking at my life and coming up in punk rock — and I see that kid picking up and the guitar and man, it’s like I see myself coming up in that! And like, I’m so super-charged by that kid, it’s almost like getting to relive Christmas morning all over again when I see that kid doing it.

PHAWKER: Pitchfork said one thing on their review that struck me, the quote was “…the right song can unshackle you from self-doubt and pity to get you out of the house and be a part of the world.” Do you think that articulates some of the sentiment you had as you wrote the first Beach Slang LP, and do you really think music can incite or catalyze that sort of self-actualization?

JAMES ALEX: Well you know man, I was told that it would, right? I can’t plan for it, what I can do is, sorta give that gentle nudge. You know man, I’m out here doing it, and I’m saying it’s okay. Unabashed, unembarrassed, unapologetic. And that’s been a side-effect I’ve seen: people will come up to me at shows like ‘I’ve started a band,’ or ‘I’ve started writing again,’ or ‘I’ve started painting again’ — whatever the thing might be — ‘because of what you’re doing.’ Now can I plan for that? You know, no way, right? It’s like I’d have to be wildly full of myself to think I could be even a small spark in that. But as a thing that is sort of happening, I can’t think of something more rewarding, right? You know, the over-sort of-arching theme to this, it’s almost like me trying to almost fuckin’ rewrite being a wallflower, right, it’s like, you know, this is your life and it’s happening. You know, it’s like, be in it. As far as we know, we get one crack at the “being alive” thing. It’s like, don’t be 80, you know, huffing on your last breath, having this conversation with yourself: “I wish I would have blank,” you know? I suppose those are the bullets I’m putting in my rifle, and I’m shooting out that sorta thing, like don’t have that conversation with yourself, when that time comes. Hopefully I’m by example sort of showing I’m gonna have a fairly sort of regretless life when [laughs] the air [starts to come] outta my lungs, you know? So yeah man, I think that that’s really accurate in the way that I could hope for it to be accurate, you know, I think that’s a really beautiful sentiment. I hope that we’re pulling it off on some level.

PHAWKER: That said, on the NPR Tiny Desk Concert at least, you almost seemed a little nervous. I’m curious about that bands that inspired you to be able to get up there and to overcome insecurities.Beach Slang Live By EV

JAMES ALEX: Sure, yeah, fair enough man. Well you know, it’s a lotta the bands that probably come through in the music, you know? The ‘Mats, obviously. And I’ve seen a ton of interviews with [Paul] Westerberg just basically like the reason they weren’t in videos is because they were shy, they didn’t know how to be in front of a camera, they didn’t wanna do that part — all that stuff, but yet, you were The Replacements! Jawbreaker, The Magnetic Fields — Stephin Merritt’s a wildly reclusive person, and you know I’ve seen The Magnetic Fields three or four times now and they’ve been some of the most beautiful shows I’ve ever seen. You know it’s somewhere in that world. Like The Smiths, or course — that might be the real crown jewel, where you could be sort of wildly shy and introverted and socially awkward, and then just channel that into like, well, being The Smiths! The Cure, you know, The Pixies, stuff like that, where like they felt like these little gangs of outcasts that found each other, and all of the sudden could almost become — not almost, could become — heroic. I suppose that short list is probably pretty telling.

PHAWKER: There’s a lot of piss and vinegar in Philly’s punk scene at the moment — bands like Girlpool, Modern Baseball, Cayetana — who are kind of emerging and in a way a bit of a new sound for Philly. Who are your favorite Philly rockers right now?

JAMES ALEX: Well, I’ll tell you this, I’ve made it a little thing of mine not to really name favorites, ‘cause I don’t want to let anybody down, and I don’t wanna flake on anybody, and later be like ‘oh I forgot x,’ you know? But I will say this man, the scene as a whole has been an incredible catalyst for Beach Slang. All of the bands you mentioned — and pretty much everyone I know [in Philly] who’s making music — is putting out such solid stuff. I think what we’ve done — or are doing — for each other, is pushing each other to do work that’s better than we would’ve done without each other being around. It’s like, nobody wants to be the weak link in the chain, right, so you hear your friends’ records — like these aren’t like you’re hearing, like, a Bowie record, you’re hearing your friends make these records that are blowing you out — and you’re just like, in a real healthy way, it makes you wanna push yourself harder. So, I will say that that’s happening, and to me, we have this incredibly supportive, wildly talented sorta thing happening right now, and I dunno man, I think it’s just pushing us all to do better work than we would do without each other. So, I will comment on that. But yeah, I’m sorry man, but the bands you named would certainly be on that list, were I to offer one. [laughs]

PHAWKER: Completely understand that. Let me ask this then — a lot of music scenes tend to draw from a particular social climate. Do you think there’s something specific to Philly fosters a punk or indie rock scene right now?

JAMES ALEX: Yeah man, look I’ve always thought this — I came up playing a ton in Philadelphia, even back in my Weston days, right? The thing that’s there now is what was there then. I think it’s being spotlighted a bit more now. Philadelphia just has this like — I’ve described it as like a romantic grit. Like it’s sort of blue-collar, no smoke-and-mirrors, plug-in, turn-up, play-rock-’n-roll sort of attitude. For a band like Beach Slang, that’s the climate we need to be around. Just that culture of basement shows, or like DIY spaces, and like, you know, screen-printing, and really doing it for yourself, because you believe in the ethics of that, right? That thing really prevails in Philadelphia, and just being around that I think has really like shoved itself into us. I sort of write from this placed where I sort of always have one foot in the gutter and one foot in the stars, you know? It’s like, Philadelphia has that, it has this gritty almost dangerous sort of element to it, but then it has this cultured, beautiful, romantic sort of side to the city too. Somewhere in the middle of that mash, Beach Slang happens.

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WORTH REPEATING: Dear Taliban, Eat My F*ck

Monday, May 23rd, 2016

equality_by_nikkuman-d1dcert

“Equality” by NIKKUMAN

EDITOR’S NOTE: Earlier today the White House confirmed the death Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour, the leader of the Afghan Taliban, the result of a U.S. airstrike. Couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy. We don’t make it a habit of cheering the death of others, but for the Taliban, we will make an exception. To mark this auspicious occasion, we are re-running our 2012 open letter to the Taliban in the wake of their failed attempt to kill Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai when she was all of 12. Back then, we predicted this day would come sooner or later, inshallah.

DEAR TALIBAN,
Buddhas of Bamiyan
I’ve never had much patience for charlatans, sociopaths and fascists—or any combination thereof—who hide their perversions of justice behind the skirts of organized religion and false pieties. But you guys have raised the bar of that kind of douchebaggery to a whole new level.

No kite flying, no music, no movies, no television, no computers, no satellite dishes, no chess boards, no dancing or clapping during sports events, no artistic representations of living things—no paintings, drawings, photographs, stuffed animals or dolls. Basically no anything invented after the eighth century. I could probably fill up the whole Internet cataloging your brutal assaults on progress, reason, tolerance, human rights and common decency but in the interest of brevity, I’ll stick with what are arguably your five greatest outrages.

1. Blasting the Buddhas of Bamiyan to Smithereens
Carved into the side of a cliff some 1,500 years ago, the spectacular Buddhas of Bamiyan were the largest standing Buddha sculptures in the world until you guys dynamited them in 2001. Those statues endured 14 centuries of civilization, but didn’t last five years under the Taliban. You guys are like a cultural ebola virus.

2. Your Little Slumber Party With Osama Bin Laden
Don’t think this really needs further comment, aside from “how’s that workin’ out for ya?” Don’t know how closely you’re following the election, but John Kerry had a great zinger: Ask Osama bin Laden if he’s better off now than he was four years ago.

3. Cutting Off the Ears and Nose of Disobedient Teen Brides
From Time:

The Taliban pounded on the door just before midnight, demanding that Aisha, 18, be punished for running away from nose27n-6-webher husband’s house. They dragged her to a mountain clearing near her village in the southern Afghan province of Uruzgan, ignoring her protests that her in-laws had been abusive, that she had no choice but to escape. Shivering in the cold air and blinded by the flashlights trained on her by her husband’s family, she faced her spouse and accuser. Her in-laws treated her like a slave, Aisha pleaded. They beat her. If she hadn’t run away, she would have died. Her judge, a local Taliban commander, was unmoved. Later, he would tell Aisha’s uncle that she had to be made an example of lest other girls in the village try to do the same thing. The commander gave his verdict, and men moved in to deliver the punishment. Aisha’s brother-in-law held her down while her husband pulled out a knife. First he sliced off her ears. Then he started on her nose. Aisha passed out from the pain but awoke soon after, choking on her own blood. The men had left her on the mountainside to die.

Enough said.

4. Throwing Battery Acid in the Face of Schoolgirls for the Crime of Pulling Themselves out of Abject Ignorance
From the New York Times:

The attackers appeared in the morning on Nov. 12 of last year, as the girls were walking to school. The men came on three motorcycles, each one carrying a driver and a man on back. They wore masks. Each of the men riding on back carried a small container filled with battery acid. The masked men circled for several minutes as the girls streamed to school. Then they moved in.

Shamsia Husseini and her sister, Atifa, were walking along the highway when they spotted the men on the motorbikes. Shamsia, then 17, was old enough to be married; she was wearing a black scarf that covered most of her face. Shamsia had seen Taliban gunmen before and figured the men on the motorcycles would pass. Then one of the bikes pulled alongside her, and the man on back jumped off. Through the mask, he asked Shamsia what seemed like a strange question.

“Are you going to school?”

The masked man pulled the scarf away from Shamsia’s face and, with his other hand, pumped the trigger on his spray gun [filled with battery acid]. Shamsia felt as if her face and eyes were on fire. As she screamed, the masked man reached for Atifa, who was already running. He pulled at her and tore her scarf away and pumped the spray into her back. The men sped off toward another group of girls. Shamsia lay in the street holding her burning face.

Ditto.

5. Shooting 14-Year-Old Malala Yousufzai in malala_Gunshot Woundthe Head for Blogging About Your Assholery and Advocating for Women’s Education
Takes a special breed of cowardice to be threatened by free speech and educated women. It takes a special breed of ratfucker to order the assassination of a child for the crime of saying out loud that women have just as much right to an education as men. That’s some toxic combination of chickenshit and stone-cold thuggery. In America, we would say you have issues. In the Swat Valley, there are no men with “issues,” just men with AK-47s.

Now, like most everyone with a functioning moral compass, I am profoundly conflicted about the whole drone strike thing, for all the self-evident reasons: the collateral murder of innocents, the anarchy of extrajudicial killing, the dubious legality of dropping bombs on a country we have not declared war on, the complete lack of transparency and accountability, etc. However, when the Hellfire Missiles come knocking on your door—and make no mistake, they WILL come a knockin’—I will sleep like a baby that night. Couldn’t happen to a nicer buncha guys.

RELATED: MALALAGATE: The New Freedom Fries

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INCOMING: Q&A With Beach Slang

Monday, May 23rd, 2016

Beach Slang By Craig Horky

Illustration by CRAIG HORKY

Josh Pelta-Heller talks new album, break-up rumors and Weston (Yo Lehigh Valley, represent) with Bleach Slang’s James Alex. Look for it tomorrow on a Phawker near you!

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Media Continues To Ignore The Fact That Bernie Sanders Is Far & Away The Most Popular Candidate Running For POTUS And Has Been For Months

Monday, May 23rd, 2016

CANDIDATE-POPULARITY

 

ABC NEWS: A new ABC News/Washington Post poll shows a close contest in presidential election preferences, with Republicans lining up behind Donald Trump as their party’s presumptive nominee while the continued Democratic race is keeping Hillary Clinton’s side more unsettled. Greater voter registration among Republicans is one factor: Clinton’s 6-point lead among all adults, 48-42 percent in a general election matchup, switches to essentially a dead heat among registered voters, 46 percent for Trump, 44 percent for Clinton. Regardless, the contest has tightened considerably since March, when Clinton led among registered voters by 9 points. […] Remarkably, Clinton is only running evenly with Trump among 18- to 29-year-olds –- a key Sanders support group that’s looking ever-more resistant to her nomination. In March, Clinton led Trump among under-30s by 39 percentage points, 64-25 percent. Today they split 45-42 percent. It’s a group Barack Obama won by 23 points in 2012, and one that Clinton needs back.  MORE

PREVIOUSLY:
Yea Though I Walk Through The Valley Of Trump I Will Fear No Evil

RELATED: Bernie Sanders Vs. Donald Trump

RELATED: Hillary Clinton Vs. Donald Trump

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CINEMA: Downton Gabby

Friday, May 20th, 2016

love_and_friendship

 

LOVE & FRIENDSHIP (2016, directed by Whit Stillman, 92 minutes, U.S.)

Buskirk Avatar BY DAN BUSKIRK FILM CRITIC Whit Stillman’s world of arch comic verbosity has always had the stiff air of ingrained upper crust manners, so the idea of Stillman doing a period Jane Austin adaptation seemed perhaps a bit too spot-on. Instead, it’s a match made in heaven. Far livelier then your typical velvety old British romance, Love and Friendship finds Stillman snapping into great mid-career form as he propels Kate Beckinsale gliding through stately manors and defying the patriarchy by steadily willing her own destiny.

Set adrift since becoming a widow, Lady Susan washes up at the doorstep of her brother-in-law and his wife, the DeCourcys, whom duty propels to shelter this woman of controversy. The stark reality of how a woman’s fate depends on ingratiating themselves to men gives the gracefully conniving Lady Susan the admirable veneer of a survivor, despite the lengths she will go to in order to survive. Lady Susan soon sets out to seduce Madame DeCourcy’s visiting young brother (Xavier Samuel) and when Lady Susan’s daughter Federica runs away from boarding school, Lady Susan sets about to find a man for her as well.

Whitman first three films, Metropolitans, Barcelona, and The Last Days of Disco showed off his knack for putting overly-witty, over-written dialogue into the mouths of young people without turning them into mere improbable mouthpieces for Stillman’s weary comic world view. In 2011, after a 13-year hiatus, Stillman returned with yet another college-age comedy, Damsel In Distress with the daffy and delightful Greta Gerwig. The film was a success but for me Stillman, then in his late 50s, seemed to lose his feel for young people, making an overly-whimsy work that never found its feet. While Love and Friendship‘s period setting covers Stillman’s love of wordy dialogue, for the first time he is writing and directing a largely middle-aged cast, and getting some of the finest performances of his career.
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BOOKS: The Greatest Story Ever Told

Thursday, May 19th, 2016

Auto Malcom X

 

My grandfather was born in 1900 and his life followed the historic trajectories and sociocultural contours of America in the 20th century — he weathered two world wars and the Great Depression and lived to tell. He was educated and well-read, a cement company executive who traveled widely on company business, clapping the backs of power in foreign lands  — the Shah of Iran gave him an incredible wall-sized Persian rug, the ambassador of Mexico gave my grandmother a sterling silver tea set, etc. He taught Sunday School. Always voted Republican and subscribed to the National Review. He was a gifted raconteur, and hearing him talk about growing up on the endless plains of Kansas at the turn of the last century was like a private audience with Mark Twain. He was a bottomless fount of folksy tales and Capra-esque hijinks and monkey shines from a long-bygone era. He was also, like 99.9% of the white men of that era, racist. Not KKK racist, not even casually-drops-N-bombs-at-the-dinner-table-Archie-Bunker racist. Rather, he was institutionally racist in that the de facto apartheid system that separated the haves from the blacks in this country was invisible to him, or if not invisible, faintly re-assuring. But I will never forget the day he handed me his copy of The Autobiography Of Malcolm X, dog-eared and heavily marked-up with underlined passages he revisited often, and told me that it was the greatest book he’d ever read. Four decades later, I still have his copy of The Autobiography Of Malcolm X. One day, I will pass the torch to a new generation, because everyone — black, white, striped — should read that book. Today is Malcom X’s birthday, he died for our sins in 1965, but if he was alive today he would be 92. As long as this book is in print, and young people — and maybe even some old school racist grandfathers — continue to find it, Malcolm X’s story will never end. — JONATHAN VALANIA

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MONKEE BIZNESS: Q&A w/ Peter Tork

Thursday, May 19th, 2016


BY JONATHAN VALANIA There are two kinds of people in this world: people who love The Monkees and sanctimonious assholes who fancy themselves the arbiters of authenticity. Whatever that is. Never trust anyone who tells you they don’t like the Monkees has always been my motto and it’s served me well. As just about everyone of a certain age knows, from 1967 to 1970 The Monkees were Hollywood’s answer to The Beatles circa Hard Days Night.  These fab four pop primates — Micky Dolenz, Davy Jones, Michael Nesmith and Peter Tork — were chosen more for their looks and personalities than their musical chops by show producers and put in front of TV cameras where they portrayed a band called The Monkees who lived together in a groovy pad, drove around town in their badass Monkeemobile, slapsticking their way from one campy California-in-the-high 60s adventure to another, always too busy singing to put anybody down. Faintly trippy hilarity ensued.

In between all the stoner hijinks they would have weird-beard friends like Frank Zappa and Tim Buckley over to the house to perform for a national television audience. On their first national tour they took Jimi Hendrix along as their opening act, simultaneously blowing the minds and ruining the panties of an entire generation of babysitters. All their early and most enduring songs were written by Brill Building pop adepts like Boyce & HartCarole King, Gerry Goffin and Neil Diamond and performed by The Wrecking Crew, which explains why those song still sound deathless.

In advance of The Monkees appearance 50th Anniversary concert at the Keswick on May 28th, we are re-running our award-winning, life-saving, game-changing, prayer-answering Phawker Q&A with Peter Tork. Discussed: Dropping acid; jamming with Jimi Hendrix and George Harrison;  seeing The Who at Monterey Pop; why Stephen Stills was too ugly to be a Monkee; WTF they were thinking when they made Head, their psychedelic box office bomb; WTF Jack Nicholson was thinking when he  wrote Head; getting busted for three grams of hash in El Paso and doing Federal time; his last words to Davy Jones; and why Mike Nesmith is such a goddamn stick in the mud. Enjoy.

PHAWKER: Let’s jump into The Monkees experience.  Just tell me if this is true. Your friend Stephen Stills was auditioning to be a Monkee but they told him he wasn’t handsome enough and did he know anybody who was and he suggested you, correct?

PETER TORK: I don’t know about that exactly.  He called me up one day and said I met this guy and he’s making a show like Hard Day’s Night and you should try out for it.  I said, ‘what about you?’ and he said ‘they told me my hair and teeth weren’t photogenic, and did I know anybody who had one tenth my talent, and I instantly thought of my friend Peter.’  So I went and tried out and got the gig.  Yeah, it was Stephen who turned me on to it.

PHAWKER: What do you remember about that audition?  Did they have you play some songs or was it just a screen test?

PETER TORK: The first thing that happened was you just walked into the producer’s office and talked to the guy, and if he had a glimmering that there was something there he sent you to the other producer’s office and if he like you, then you took a personality test which was they put you in front of a camera and started asking you questions, and if they still didn’t say no then they gave us a screen test.  There were eight of us left after the screen test and they selected the four from how we did on the screen test.

PHAWKER: And you were cast as the ‘lovable dummy’?  Did you resent that role?

PETER TORK: No, I did not resent that role.  I actually thought it was mine to begin with and I brought that role in to the gig.  We didn’t get explicit with it right away, but the truth is I already kind of had this ‘Gosh I don’t know what happened to me’ kind of a jig.  I developed it in the Greenwich Village stages, kind of as a defense against a joke going bad.  You know, as if to say ‘someone told me this was going to be funny and they must have lied to me’ kind of an attitude.

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Via BuzzFeed

Cost of the War in Iraq
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