It’s the predawn hours and I’m on the bus hurtling south on the 110 freeway. I’m headed to the hood where I work, the one place where I’m considered a white man. The rest of the time I’m brown enough to get pulled over (not so much since gentrification set in), but white enough to elicit an apology afterward. Coffee and the sports page aren’t doing it for me this particular morning. I break the routine and turn on the I-Pod Shuffle. It’s normally reserved for my afternoon workouts where each day I try to convince myself that I’m a bad motherf**er, like Machete, or James Brown. I’m not prepared for what happens next, a hallucinatory flashback induced by “Bite the Hand that Need’s you,” a song by the band Drinking Flowers. I instinctively react with an acute recognition of my own mortality which manifests itself simultaneously with fear and an outsized ego. Suddenly I’m moved by the Spirit to begin my final mission, which is to write the first piece in a series to be titled “100 Essays to Write before I Kill Myself,” a la Howard Beale.
Essay # 1 is inspired by an articulate and musically inclined librarian who has embarked on a public quest, however noble or quixotic, to review each and every album within her husbands (a music nerd) “stupid record collection”.
Surprisingly, the resulting feedback was not admiration for her quest, but anger at the audacity of it. More than likely, Ms. Librarian’s earnest normalcy irked the misanthropic tendencies of the people, mostly men, who write about rock n roll. Those who worship at the rock n roll altar, often a misguided and miserable lot, have pledged fealty to a term so broad it’s become a synonym for music in general, hence the need to create ever expanding sub, sub genres. Sincerity is definitely frowned upon.
My preprogrammed response (my mother subscribed to Mother Jones) to the misogyny laced rancorous blowback directed at Ms. Librarian was to blather on Facebook something lame about women as reliable tastemakers, blah, blah, blah… A little time has given me the chance for a more positive response, which is to highlight two contemporary women important to the Los Angeles music scene.
Both of whom share a trait with the aforementioned librarian aside from being female, the ability to express ones self in way that elicits a reaction.
If you’re lucky enough to be living in Los Angeles in 2014, these women are probably or should be influencing your musical tastes right now. Mukta Mohan, a DJ and Promotions Director for KXLU 88.9 FM, Los Angeles’ long time champion of new groundbreaking music, and Mariana Timony, music critic, writer, editor, and the go to person for Lo-Pie, a music website focused on the California underground punk/surf/garage scene.
I discovered Mukta Mohan on the car radio while driving to Orange County one Wednesday morning. I have a love/hate relationship with the word serendipity, but there is no other way to describe the effect that the music she played that day had on me as it filled up the car, and subsequently my ears and brain. The music was new, the sounds more friendly than familiar, each song better than the last, reinvigorating forgotten neurons. The jangly, sunshiny, power pop, lo-fi gooey goodness matched the girlish persona that was bringing forth the magic. However, the little girl voice and the occasional exuberant giggle belied an ability to go heavy and hard as well. In word, I was smitten. I’ve since become a regular listener, and when unable to catch a show live, peruse the posted playlist like an addict in search of a fix. The list is long but a sampling of my favorites include The Beets, Dios Malo, Dum Dum Girls, King Tuff, No Bunny, Tomorrow’s Tulips, Davila 666, Fuzz, Sic Alps, Ty Segall, Mikal Cronin, White Fence, et al. Additionally, Mukta’s show, Wednesday mornings from 6-9am, pointed me in the direction of other likeminded obsessive connoisseurs, namely the folks at Burger Records, and Lo-Pie.
Literal voices can be powerful, but are limited to the moment. In contrast, the written word is permanent, able to be revisited over and over again. So it is with the reviews written by Mariana Timony, writer, and mother of Lo-Pie. One case in point, her review of Wild Pack of Canaries “In The Parian Flesh,” which she called “a well-constructed kaleidoscope of a record that plays like an experimental pop cacophony from out of time and space” and a “schizophrenic stew of melody and noise.” I was intrigued after reading, and darned if wasn’t exactly as described. Captain Beefhart would be impressed, but then of course it’s the critic/reviewers job to accurately depict in advance what the listener is in store for, a skill that Ms. Timony has a knack for. In another review she’s unafraid to elicit actual passion for a band in a manner that befits Pauline Kael’s adage that “the first prerogative of any artist in any medium is to make a fool of himself.” About the band Adult Books, she writes “I’m surrounded by amazing records on a daily basis and yet, without fail, there’s always a moment when I catch myself thinking, “Well, I’ll just put Adult Books on again. It’s only 6-songs long…6 perfect songs long. Just once more will be okay. Just one more time.” And then down the shame spiral I go. Don’t you see you are ruining my reputation as an icy and objective critic? I can’t have it. I CAN’T HAVE IT.” I’m reminded of a bumper sticker with the saying “Reading is Sexy,” if so than what about writers? In general the best thing about Lo-Pie is its ability to deliver the gift of now. Something its chief reviewer exemplifies.
In conclusion, for anyone doubting the efficacy of the influence these two talented women have on the local scene be aware that although Ms. Mohan and Ms. Timony seem too nice to literally or figuratively kick anyone in the balls, they might provide the soundtrack or the written chronicle to those who might. For the uninitiated recipient there’s only one option, feel the pain and then start dancing. If you’re like me or perhaps Mr. Librarian’s husband, that dance is with the smart, articulate girl you’re already in love with. On second thought, perhaps I’ll rethink my mission, because there’s too much to live for, and too much great music to listen to thanks to women like Mukta and Mariana, wherever they may live.