Thursday, January 2, 2020

Local Release Roundup
Thursday, January 2nd, 2020
Originally aired on Radical Beat Radio on Alternative Frequency (R.I.P.)
Stoop Coupx
Self-released, 2019

St. Pete rapper Acoupstix wants in on your front porch, but unlike some Washington-backed injustice in Latin America he wants to share the stage with the elected government of the house (ie. you).  This November releases title is a play on the artist’s name (Acoupstix is spelt with the word ‘coup’ in the middle, Boots Riley style), but I’d more accurately describe the experience as a stoop squat.  It’s all about bringing out good social interactions, like if some people took over a luxury condo building downtown and opened a coffee place where the fusion restaurant is supposed to go. Acoupstix’s choice of stoop juice is definitely caffeinated (mug mug mug), with his playful persona moving around over minimalist mid-tempo jazz-hop beats.  I’m also reminded of the likes of Digable Planets and Jamiroquai in some of the track themes, such as positivity (Spite, Wiseman), humility (Righteous), small pleasures (Coffee), and being good to one another (The Rain).  Within these posi vibes Acoupstix indulges in occasional aggression and accumulation brags but is generally kept tethered to Earth by the beats, where, for better or worse in this style, the beautiful instrumentation sometimes absorbs the rapper like an artistic swirl in a hot cup. While Coup's character is generally enough to avoid the record becoming wallpapery, perhaps what it needs is some kind of blown-out hip hop cover of Cock Sparrer’s We’re Coming Back - an observation in no way spurred by staring at the Acoupstix emblem of what appears to be Guy Fawkes fresh from his Epic Rap Battle with Che Guevara, winking from a remixed Liverpool Football Club crest.

Acoupstix is also active in the community, appearing to spend a good amount of his time imploring Mayor Rick Kriseman not to let sewage spill into Tampa Bay.  Local levels of coffee consumption are no excuse for your bad infrastructure spending and the bay itself should not hold the tint of a dark roast. So instead of Kriseman, from the album Stoop Coupx, this is Wiseman.

(Also broadcast was the review for the Low Season release Four More Songs.)

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Local Release Roundup
Boxing Day 2019
Originally aired on Radical Beat Radio on Alternative Frequency (Thursday Mornings at 5am)

S/T EP
Red Hawk, 2019

One of the most PG-13 songs that Car Bomb Driver has ever written is about fast food, organised religion and global attitudes to labour and consumerism.  Chick-Fil-A Is Closed On Sunday, Dave Reeder’s fantastic sandwich hunt EP opener unleashes a whole slew of topics for analyst nerds to get into.  For example, the line “nobody gets a day off in India or China” led me to learn that Chick-Fil-A’s uniquely American mix of ideologies just recently launched beyond these shores.  In October they opened a location in the English city of Reading (home of the famous festival), only to have any potential lease renewal ruled out in under a week due to pressure from gay rights groups.  [Best Withnail impression] We’ll have none of that Biblical bigotry nonsense here!  We would, however, happily allow a secular reason to keep a business closed on Sunday.  Probably a good thing that CBD (not to be mistaken with the chicken-friendly Center for Biological Diversity) never perform outside a 15 mile radius of downtown St. Pete. 

Okay, so these songs have nothing going on underneath the surface when it comes to message, except the incidental ability to mock pseudo-intellectuals like me who attempt to take a deep dive.  Oftentimes bands that harp on about the lack of serious agenda in their music are sloppy and forgettable. Not so with CBD, who have perfected the art of playing silly but not dumb with a quarter century of rhythmic punk gigging.  Not vocally aggressive enough to be hardcore, too instrumentally meaty to be considered pop, it’s a sweet spot that comes across almost as well on these 9 minutes of wax as it does watching them live. Car Bomb Dave is a brave auteur, daring to write openly of our worst instincts like the misogynist that lives inside even granola-crunching geeks on Ordinary Guy, while side B of this titleless titan is a family affair inspired by I Don’t Want To Grow Up-era Descendents, all sauce-drinking parents and shaking babies and catchy questioning of your own standards.  Rest assured though, it’s all done for the kids in the end; release label Red Hawk Records is run by local 9 year old Charlie.
 
Thanks to Dave for the copy of the record, delivered to me in the dusty guts of the Tampa Bay Times. You can buy it from Red Hawk here.

Factory Recall
The Low Five, 2019

I’d like to dive deeper into the lyrics of Jon “Dunedin Brewery” Ditty, but work and obligations bear down at all times.  Knitted amidst the billion words printed in the sleeve of Factory Recall is the theme that Ditty is feeling much the same way on any given day.  The man’s mind is buzzing from start to finish, trying to keep a weird elongated critical eye on the big power struggle issues and the personal minutiae.  The politics slip in where they have space like a feed scan on a smoke break in an economy that never seems to pay enough or a referential retreat into the rock bands that used to bring you so much comfort (Less Than Jake, At The Drive In, Rage Against The Machine).  Junk Mail is the namesake Circle Jerks track for the digital age and just as short, corporate spam another thing we don’t have time for in any sense.  Ditty's voice is dope and there’s no time to chill.  We’ll never be able to afford “the greyest of your poupons” in this service factory of instability.  If your brain hurts from trying to follow Jon’s slapping lips focus on the lovely choruses, features from the likes of Reed Scahill and Ceschi Ramos, and the beats from DJ Hurley that are more easily appreciated on his new cut MAAT’, and great for when you need a break from working hard on the worthy and the not.

You can buy Factory Recall from Jon Ditty's website.

Hyacinth Thrash
Self-released, 2019

I daresay that a band named after a Crass song should have known better than to announce their hiatus on UK election night, even if I am the only person in the middle of that Venn diagram of really caring about both.  Has a man not suffered enough?! It was hard to stay upset though, when the next night at their final planned gig Reality Asylum kindly gifted me their recent album Hyacinth Thrash (in a sexy orange number), and reminded why in those distant winter days of February 2018 I had described their music as “a soothing balm in the night.”  The expertly layered bleeps, beats and squeaks that the band are known for are all here, somehow soft, warm, lush, menacing and banging all at once.  Like the contrast to be found thrashing around in a field of bulbous, fragrant flowers, presumably. For all the justified bluster around what felt like wild ‘n fast Reality Asylum live performances there’s a majority of musically contemplative cuts present here, songs that poke around in your brain, whisper in your ear and lovingly slip their warm gloves around your neck.  Reality takes hold, and in a final paradox, you embrace the darkness, and all the streaks of beauty that come along for the ride.

You can stream and buy Hyacinth Thrash on Bandcamp.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Rutterkin/Piss Test/Critical Hits
Sunday, November 24th 2019
VFW Post #39, St. Petersburg FL

Published at Apathy & Exhaustion

The second Sunday Matinee at the St. Pete VFW begins with a style for Veterans of Former Waves.  Critical Hits have the shimmery ballads and power pop(py) elements of the various filaments of 1990s skinny indie, punctuated by singer Victor’s pipes that could probably be compared to many an American falsetto vocalist of the time but I’m going to go with Mark Morriss of The Bluetones for some reason.  The track News Feed does a critical hit on that Antarctigo Vespucci mark, not just in the Love in the Time of E-Mail type theme but in the warm janglies just-in-time-for-Florida-winter character.  Regarding this number, I would later see the majority of the band sitting side by side staring at their phones in an appropriate moment of melancholy.  A Guided By Voices cover takes place at an appropriate time. The band’s self-titled debut EP can be heard at the bandcamp link above.

Presumed drug lovin’ criminals Piss Test down from Gainesville boot off with something immediately reminiscent of Bad Religion’s We’re Only Gonna Die (never a bad way to go) and with the first of a series of audience member face-level kicks from front woman Deb of the kind that Greg Graffin probably hasn’t been able to do in several decades.  Such unnerving physical antics and a particular kind of vocal aggression can’t help but remind me of the now basically defunct BiteMarks (also of Gainesville), underlaid with snaky bass and proper precision drumming.  Maybe Deb’s fearful comic alias Johnny Laaw entering the building in the form of a police hat didn’t help, but the sadly-smallish matinee crowd that came here to chill before another week of selling out can only muster so much energy, leading the singer to sarcastically call for “more silence” as the set nears a close.  I’d perhaps be more inclined to go off on one if I wasn’t unacceptably sober in preparation for some theoretical future piss test. Piss poor, no pot to piss in, piss-off-prison-industrial-complex, I’m holding a piss in because I’m trying to write this review in 3 hours because time is a commodity, etc.

Rutterkin form the second sandwich half of today’s confusing Critical-Hits-melange-hybrid-band (big ups to the once again dependable multiple meal provider Uncle Mince).  The music of these Leadfoot favourites is something of a melange itself, earnest and emotional without sacrificing propulsive instrumentation, hooks and melodies, like The Ataris or the not utterly shit spots of Blink 182.  Their performance today seems to be lacking some of the raspier vocal elements of their EPs (such as the recent Sanguine).  Perhaps singer-guitarist James is in too good of a drunken mood for rasping, with a jovial gentrification rant involving various terms to the effect of “bougie, condos, integrity, John Travolta motherfuckers, fuck fuck fuck fuck. Fuck-knuckle!”  A full length Rutterkin album is on the way and the band will be playing again this coming Sunday at the Microgroove 8th Anniversary gig in Tampa.


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Thursday, October 10, 2019

GIT UP, GIT OUT, CUT THE BULLSHIT ARRESTS OUT

Published at Dissident Voice

Hundreds of people from across the Southeast converged on Atlanta on Friday September 27th for the Southeast Climate Strike & Rebellion. Organized by a coalition including Earth Strike and Extinction Rebellion, it came at the end of a global strike week called for by the school strike movement in which millions railed against the systems that are failing humanity.  At least 19 were nicked for offences ranging from carrying PVC pipe for a trampoline prop to standing briefly on a piece of land designed exclusively for fast-moving metal death machines.

The plan was to occupy an intersection in the swanky commercial centre and planet-eating business district of Buckhead, and hold a family friendly festival with speakers, music and colourful banner waving fun.  But business as usual means big pots of dosh for some people, so police made sure to squash that vision of community on behalf of their employers at every turn. Not quite grasping the way a low carbon transport system is intended to work, cops used a line of bicycles like riot shields to aggressively push activists back onto the sidewalk and prevent the occupation.  Photos of riot police in the media, avoided; unquestionable dominance of car culture, sustained. 

As several hundred relocated to Midtown via Atlanta's MARTA train (“almost like being in an actual city,” cooed Florida visitors), snatch squads continued to pick people up with flimsy excuses and instill fear along the way.  A man from Extinction Rebellion Winston-Salem (NC) was minding his business far away from the road when two cops meandered through a crowd and tackled him to the ground without warning for the crime of wearing a mask.  Police also arrested a 17-year-old from the same chapter, then told local media that they didn’t arrest any minors (a claim that was later deleted from the article when the journalist realised it was false) (chapter legal fund).

Having outmaneuvered the eco-friendly bike fuzz, a second intersection was then held for around 20 minutes.  Unfortunately a lack of material blockades and numbers allowed police cars to find a gap and harass protesters out.  After regrouping and eating together in a park, the crowd used a semi-consensus model to decide their next move. A march down a trail ended with a raucous noise being made in a shopping market.  Coppers on bikes gave way to Fire & Rescue on bikes for no clear reason. The only group preventing safety were the APD (despite their absurd claims to be providing it) and self immolation was never on the official agenda.  But if the cops keep blocking nonviolent dissent there's no telling how desperate people will get as famines, extreme heat and societal collapse bear down on us. 

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, supposedly a progressive climate leader, has a standard plan to bring the city to 100% renewables by 2035.  Naturally, half of that will be achieved by paying someone else to make the cuts (through Renewable Energy Credits, aka offsets), and the pledge has the useful benefit of making many people believe that it is a commitment to carbon-neutrality when it refers only to electricity generation.  Anybody that truly understood the latest science would know that carbon offsets are pointless when the entire global economy now needs to be decarbonised, would know that 2035 is too late for anything, and frankly, would have ordered police to step aside and allow the mass action to go ahead, because this is a fucking emergency that threatens the safety of everyone on this planet.  Instead, violent suppression, spurious arrests, helicopters and a tonne of cops were deployed to send the message that an actual adequate response to the armageddon that faces us is unacceptable.  Token targets that fail to address the problem are all that will be tolerated in a city with a notorious sprawl problem and the world's busiest airport (21 years running!)

On that same Friday Boston rebels held a bridge for three hours with no arrests.  Earlier in the week a coalition of 2000 blocked the streets of DC leading to 32 arrests, while in San Francisco the financial district was occupied and a massive mural was painted on the roads covering two blocks.  Five were arrested in a roadblock in Denver.  Despite the Southeast Climate Strike & Rebellion not going as originally planned, people still sacrificed for the cause, compelling the public to ask why they would do so unless we faced an emergency, and many lessons were learned.  For one thing, when the Earth becomes unable to sustain human life, be sure to thank a cop.

Written in the style of SchNEWS (now freshly archived). A bail/support fund for the action can be found here.  See Extinctionrebellion.us for more actions coming in October.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

This review was never finished, but is being posted for the scraps of satisfaction that it might provide. "Last edit was on November 16, 2018." Perhaps culture historians will use these unfinished insights to speculate on my writing methodology, and how it inevitably led to my dying as a penniless critic. An actual complete review can be found by our man Tony over at Apathy & Exhaustion.

Pennywise
Never Gonna Die
Epitaph, 2018


This link is for Jim Lindberg.  If somebody knows how to get it directly to him, do us all a favour and make sure he reads it.  Not only will it give him a litany of alternative terms for “hypocrisy” such as insincerity or casuistry, he can click the dictionary tab to make sure he actually comprehends what it means.  He wrote a really decent book once, so he should be able to manage this problem he seems to have. The entire band might contribute lyrics, but ultimately, the singer is responsible for the words he spews and any inability he might have to tell his bandmates that they are California goofballs.  Thesaurus.com: never set out to write without it.  

I come out swinging with this criticism because there isn’t a whole lot else that I dislike about Pennywise’s newest album, Never Gonna Die.  

Perhaps all his girls are now old enough (the first was born around Full Circle) to start hating his guts and he’s remembering that youthful energy much more fervently.  

Bottomed out with Reason To Believe. Kinda like the common view of the punk “explosion” itself. Seems to have come out of nowhere, but if you look closely, it built up over time.  PW have been gradually improving their game throughout the decade. Making a recovery at all is hard for most artists, and their evolution through the 90s was slow, so I think it's impressive.  It’s like the band made a ridiculously un-punk 10-year plan for getting back on top after coming to terms with the barrel of dishwater that was 2008’s Reason to Believe: record one album with a new singer, then record old songs with the old singer, then finally one of new material, and for fucks sake, take time doing it.  You can’t expect to just effortlessly dump something out like it’s 1993 and you’re still full of youthful vigour. Pennywise here have taken their craft seriously instead of phoning it in.  They have reached inside and found some of that old magic.  It sure makes those of us who have increasingly seen the band as a guilty pleasure feel vindicated for not chucking them completely out of rotation.

Not that it particularly dampened my enjoyment of you at the time, Pennywise, but thanks for doing your least impressive work when I was in the optimal punk early 20s age bracket.  Really appreciate it.

You wanted their output to mature with you. 

Highlight goodbye bad times.

The topics were never really the issue as much as the uninteresting way that they were delivered.  The key here for non wordies or less wordily inclined is that I am loving most of these grooves without checking the album sleeve.  She Said in my opinion is a bit weak, a lightly spruced up version of a mid-career song with its warbling

Buried at track 11.  Slipped in there - racists and trolls in the title track, little rioting Banksy piece on cover.
Trump. Never entirely understood the right-wing association with PW.  Their rebellious but mostly spade-is-a-spade lyrics could be interpreted by different kinds of folks, which in itself is no bad thing.  Was it because the 90s, the skate punk golden age, was also the pathetic high watermark of modern American liberalism, when Clinton was shoving through firebrand progressive policies like shitting out subsidized corn over Mexico and molesting young women?  The only thing dumber than die hard fans of the Democrats is conservatives who don't see how right wing they are. Their unwillingness to really confront this audience is evident in the both the low volume and choice of quotes here: a Trump supporter could hear them, guess that on average the band is not his biggest fan, but still not hear anything that bothers them or makes them confrontational.  Yes, Trump is slyly admitting, when he says he “loves the poorly educated,” that he is manipulating a perhaps ill-informed segment of his base. But he’s also appealing to those people, the ones given few learning opportunities, dumped on by neoliberalism and that the alter-globalization left failed to convince with decades of summit hopping.

The name refers to racism and hatred and stuff, but you know there were plenty of sneers.  “Those clowns are still around?” or “are they really trying to reference the most overused statement about the status of a genre in the history of human expression?” 

Not exactly Eminem but you can judge the political climate by how willing Pennywise is to alienate some of their hymn bros. 

Middle age, not just pretending to be young (Time bomb)
Blue album cover quality.

You can hear Never Gonna Die in full on Youtube.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

DEMAND CLIMATE TRUTH

Speech given at Extinction Rebellion Tampa Bay protest on national day of action

Attention, people of St. Petersburg.  We are here, as local residents and members of Extinction Rebellion Tampa Bay to demand emergency action over climate breakdown.  We are here to call on all levels of government to take such action, from the city, to the county, to the state, to the country.  This is part of a national day of action across the US, and as part of a new international movement against extinction.

In October, the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a stark report, calling for a 45% reduction in global greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, to avoid a runaway global warming scenario that threatens all life on this planet.  For the United States this translates to an approximately 85% cut within a decade.  The report called for, quote, "rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society." Despite these urgent remarks, the IPCC is a historically restrained scientific body, with many commenting that these conclusions were still not honest about the urgency of our predicament. They must therefore be treated as a bare minimum baseline for action.

When it comes to our local government here in St. Petersburg, the most up-to-date publicly known targets for carbon cuts are as follows.  A 20% reduction by the end of 2020.  A 40% reduction by 2025.  And an 80% reduction by 2050.  Looking at these numbers, we can discern two things.  The first is that there are individuals within city government who genuinely care about climate change.  These targets would not exist if that were not the case.  So that is not in question.  The second is that city hall knows full well that the targets the city is currently committed to are not going to save this community or this planet from extreme weather.  They have read the IPCC report.  They have conducted a vulnerability assessment of our region.  If we do not do what the science actually demands we cannot expect places less vulnerable than here to do the same.

So these are the four demands of Extinction Rebellion, directed not just locally, but at all levels of government and all of those in Tampa Bay.  Governments must tell the full truth about the climate and wider ecological emergency, reverse inconsistent policies and work alongside the media to communicate with citizens.  Governments must enact legally binding policy measures to reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2025 and to reduce consumption levels to no more than half a planet's worth per year.  We must have the creation of a citizen's assembly to oversee these changes, as part of creating a democracy fit for purpose.   And we demand a just transition that prioritises the most vulnerable peoples, remediation for environmental injustice and legal rights for ecosystems.

These goals will obviously be a huge undertaking.  There will be many challenges and fierce conversations about what it means to decarbonise our entire society.  But if governments will not commit to these goals when they are so obviously necessary, we need to ask why.  Perhaps the most fundamental obstacle will be a change in the primary objective of government.  That objective is the reason that businesses of increasingly obtuse value keep popping up in our community, why half empty condos seem to be more important to local planners than having affordable housing, and why resource use, centrally the use of fossil fuels, continues to grow worldwide, and that is the pursuit of economic growth on a finite planet.  Multiple major recent studies have shown that you cannot lower your overall consumption of resources while increasing the size of your economy.  GDP growth will wipe out efficiency gains every time.  And most of this growth does not even benefit average people.  Year after year we are told the economy is getting bigger and healthier, and yet millions of us continue to struggle because most of those gains go to the people of the business classes.  The rising tide is not lifting our boats, because we cannot afford boats.  While you may be able to make certain energy switches and move numbers around in such a way as to engineer a cut of 20% or 40%, you cannot make a 100% cut without challenging fundamental assumptions about what and who our economy is for.

Perhaps the St. Pete government already has plans to improve their current targets.  That would be wonderful to learn.  To such forward thinkers we say do not think of us as adversaries.  We are opening up political space for a more honest discussion.  Use that space to do what you know to be necessary.

Other governments in Tampa Bay are doing even less to combat the climate crisis.  In Hillsborough County, energy planners are looking to spend the next decade wasting a billion dollars, to partially convert Big Bend Power Station from coal to fracked gas, a change that will not lower emissions due to the methane releases associated with fracking.  Utilities across the country are switching straight from coal to renewables; this conversion serves nobody other than the executives of Tampa Electric Company.  Profiteers at Tampa International Airport are hoping to spend the next decade increasing the number of passengers in our skies by 73%, with no proposals for how those planes will be less polluting or noisy, exactly when we must cut global oil use by at least half.  These are perfect examples of efforts in the wrong direction.  In a society where we were being told the truth about climate change, their approval would not be considered for a second.  Those of us on this side of the bay must help our neighbours to resist these projects, for it is our collective future that hangs in the balance.

At this late stage in time, it is going to take a mass movement of non-violent disruption to prevent oblivion.  That is what we propose.  We did not willingly pick this reality.  These emergency demands are the result of decades of political dithering over climate breakdown.  Above all we are here calling for increased urgency around this crisis.  It demands that all governments, media outlets, and everyone else in a position of power goes in to work on Monday and begins to draw up a plan of public communication, that explains to everybody in our society why everything must change.  If your instinct is to ignore our message today, or to dismiss it as idealism, consider the following quote from the author Chris Hedges:  "The message of the rebel is disturbing because of the consequences of the truth that he or she speaks."  We are Extinction Rebellion.  We are rebelling against the extinction of this community, and we invite you to join us.