Misogyny for Girls

“This is a man’s world, this is a man’s world, but it would be nothing, nothing, without a woman or a girl.”

This may have been true when the great James Brown penned it during the tail end of the what’s now referred to as the “Mad Men era, “ but well into the second decade of the 21st century a new truism has emerged to replace JB’s old paradigm. It’s a woman’s world, the rest of us just live in it. Misogyny isn’t dead, it’s just that women have become better at it. Nowhere is this truer than in that great American art form known as rock n roll.

This reality may never be canonized. Officially it’s still a boys club as evidenced by the small amount of women in the rock n roll hall of fame. According to one veteran rock expert and former Wenner employee “The Hall of Fame is truly a (white) boys’ club, always was and still is, It very much reflects the attitude I found at Rolling Stone on staff in the early days (’60s and ’70s), given what we covered and who was allowed to write and edit.”

That bias doesn’t matter today, formal inclusion into the club isn’t relevant anymore then the Grammy’s are relevant to what makes rock n roll, rock n roll, Balls! Simply put, rock n roll is a female game in 2014 because they’re the ones with the cajones. The ones who are actually creating, performing, and promoting the kind of rock n roll that matters. The kind that Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Buddy Holly, John Lennon, Keith Richards, Pete Townshend, Iggy Pop, Johnny Rotten, Kurt Cobain, Beck, and Jack White would recognize and bop to.

The tsunami won’t be coming from the behemoth music industry. It won’t be chronicled by the mainstream rock press. It won’t be heard by the masses. But it will be revolutionary nonetheless. The levee known as man is going to break because the rising waters will come from what’s been let out of the bag and can’t be put back, power. With power comes the desire to feed its dark narcissistic tendencies, merely a euphemism for what Abraham Maslow called “self-actualization.” Feeding the beast requires a soundtrack.

The 1950’s opened the door to adolescent passions, the 1960’s indulged them, the 1970’s suffered from them, the 1980’s scripted them, and the 1990’s draped them in irony, the enduring soundtrack to it all was rock n roll. In the 21st century women have turned those same passions into a form of empowerment. “I’m ok, you’re ok” has become not “I’m ok, and you’re not” but “it’s ok.” Women have become free to indulge at precisely the moment that men are afraid to.

There you have it. Lest anyone think I’m speaking out of turn, let a sampling of the music speak for itself. Let the soundtrack begin. Long live rock n roll!

American Beauty – Girlpool (@ Bandcamp)

Teenage Girl – Cherry Glazer (@ Bandcamp)

Only in your Dreams – Kim & the Created (@ Bandcamp)

Screaming Females Live at the Hideout (@ Bandcamp)

Essay #1

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

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.

Jesus Sons “Who’s Around” Review

Jesus Sons, debut LP
Mock Records
4 Pies

Recommended Track: “Who’s Around”

Invoking Jesus in a name is bound to raise questions. Reverence, rebellion, or winking in the know irony? In the case of Jesus Sons debut LP the answer appears to be reverence to song craft, particularly the jangly guitar laden groovyness reminiscent of Brian Jonestown Massacre and the Velvet Underground. From the tambourine soaked raveup heaviness of “Who’s Around,” to the mushroom hazed hypnotic vibe of “You Put a Spell on Me” (no relation to Screaming Jay Hawkins), Jesus Sons sticks to the strict parameters of the 60’s influenced psychedelic garage/punk sound that seems to get rediscovered/reinvented every few years or so. Hence the dilemma, can prejudice lust/weakness for this particular subgenre inhibit an ability to discern between fresh sounding homage or something recycled and derivative? The answer is who cares. As it should be, how this debut by Jesus Sons makes you feel after repeated listening trumps the who came first chicken or the egg conundrum. Recycled or not, music that wears its influence on its sleeve will always be new to someone, and If Jesus Sons manage to make that connection with listeners, and I think it can, it’s a win for Rock n Roll’s continued relevance. One, two, three, four, “I don’t wanna get old, don’t wanna die” neither will happen as long there are those cool enough to keep reinventing the wheel. Long live Jesus Sons!

 Jesus Sons on Bandcamp

Girlpool “American Beauty” Review

MUSIC / REVIEW

Sexually Charged and Strident
Girlpool’s “American Beauty”
By Kevin Casey, January 30, 2014

Technology has changed how we procure and listen to music. Change often equals loss. Two important casualties to the musical endangered species list are the almost orgasmic joy of discovering some great new sound while combing through record bins, and the serendipity of hearing a song on the radio. Happily, my accidental discovery of Girlpool, a band fronted by two young women based in the Echo Park neighborhood of Los Angeles affiliated with the cassette label Big Joy, is a sign that Rock n Roll still lives and that I’m mourning needlessly.

The testosterone driven ideologies of Southern Californian punk rock has long been a cliché, this makes it all the more refreshing that the best song so far in 2014 would be “American Beauty” Girlpool’s most recent release. Sung with sneering sexuality “American Beauty” is aggressive, sexually charged, and strident, yet it remains a pop song in the best American tradition, bringing to mind pop Neanderthal classics like the Troggs “With a Girl Like You,” and the Ramones “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend.”

Harmony and Cleo, the girls who make up Girlpool, have crafted a song that is equally at home with punks, folkies, mods, rockers, Beatle freaks, just plain geeks, or any other American subcultural musical archetype. No doubt Joey Ramone is smiling down from heaven knowing that his influence is secure. In the end this catchy tune passes the litmus test, I just want to play it over again, two minutes and seventeen seconds and “I’m feeling fine.”

Girlpool’s “American Beauty” on Bandcamp

Smell Essay

Shauna went out with girlfriends on a recent Saturday night leaving me home alone. Well, not unless you count Otis, the scruffy dog that has changed our lives. A bored internet search revealed that Fuzz, Ty Segal’s new group was playing that evening at the Smell, “an all ages, alcohol and drug free punk/rock/noise experimental venue in downtown Los Angeles noted for its DIY ethic,” most importantly, it’s located only a block away. Still, general malaise and the Clipper’s game on TV (I’ve jumped on the bandwagon, sorry purple & gold) was preventing me from dragging my lazy ass down the block to see an artist whose current sounds exemplify all that I love about rock n roll. Fortunately something in me propelled me to move. Now what to wear? Shauna wasn’t there to help me so I rely on an old school Pendleton, jeans, and John Varvatos boots (a Christmas present). Knowing they’ll be no alcohol I perused the bar, actually a large box filled with various bottles. Tequila, no. Gin, empty (curses to sister in law). Vodka, no. Jameson, yes! A couple of large shots, heck one more won’t hurt, a goodbye to Otis, and I’m out.

The alley leading to the entrance smells like urine, yet upon entering I immediately realize the mean face I’m wearing is unnecessary. The familiar sense of menace I expected wasn’t there, and I feel glad. The between set medley of Aftermath era Stones, Troggs, and the Jam put me in a good mood until I looked around and realized that I’m the only person in the room who was alive (albeit barely) when most of these songs were created. This negativity’s brief, quickly replaced by happiness to be part of a crowded energetic room of uber cool twenty something hipsters motivated to groove simply by the music. This is something I wouldn’t have imagined back when, this also makes me feel glad.

Fuzz comes out, the vibe is friendly, exuberant, youthful, strange, and on cue the mayhem begins. The stage dives, crowd surfing, mostly testosterone addled melee is happening in front, and suddenly I’m transformed to the laundromat watching clothes spin in the dryer. Fuzz brings to mind heavy Sabbath, Blue Cheer, Black Flag, Stooges, and Mc5. The guitar players look like they belong to Grand Funk, this is a good thing. The whole experience feels cleansing. Before you know it it’s over and the crowd politely exits. Not a scintilla of brutish behavior.
Mick Shrimpton, from the band Spinal Tap, famously said “as long as there’s, you know, sex & drugs, I can do without the rock n roll.” This particular Saturday nights experience proved Mick got it wrong. It really is about the rock n roll. I’m home in a flash, before Shauna even. The Clips won and Fuzz is ringing in my ears, this makes me feel glad, as does hearing the key turn in the door only a few steps behind me. The kids are alright, indeed.