[Look for your weekly fix from the one and only Henry Rollins right here on West Coast Sound every Thursday, and come back tomorrow for the awesomely annotated playlist for his Saturday KCRW broadcast.]
We are heading toward the holiday season. Retailers are steeling themselves for what might be a less-than-pleasing harvest, as consumers will have to prioritize. At year's end, many Americans may be diving into the lion's mouth of celebration with a desire to forget the past 12 months rather than to recap and meditate upon them.
No matter what the situation is on the ground, as they say, I always look to music to come to the rescue, to provide balance and maintain perspective.
One bit of good news I would like to share with you is that there is a recently released album by a local band that I have been playing on my weekly radio show. (It is also hitting heavy rotation in my home quarters.) The band is called Vum — a duo consisting of Jennifer Pearl and Christopher Badger — and their album is called Night Sun. They make a dark and memorable brand of music; check them out. I am listening to their song “The Jungle” right now. In any case, the album has just been released, and only 300 were pressed. If you find yourself digging the music, you might want to get on that sooner rather than later.
The last several days and nights have somewhat predictable. Never a good sign. By day, I work at my office, check in with news outlets to keep up with what's happening in America and elsewhere. In the evening, it's the gym, the uploading of food and a more thorough examination of current events. This usually leads to a downturn in mood, and this is where the music usually kicks in. The jams are activated, and things get immeasurably better.
With the music, the writing starts and goes for quite a while. After that plague on the senses is neutralized, it's reading and note-taking time. The music sounds better as the night gets deeper, and that's a good thing. As of late, I have been listening and reading defensively, in an effort to keep my mental playing field level. The news, as I read it anyway, is not good, and while I cannot alter the facts, I can control my listening and reading environment.
Listening-wise, it's been a lot of Hototogisu, Vibracathedral Orchestra, the aforementioned Vum, Sun Ra and Bowie's Low album. My main book of the moment is Eric Foner's The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery — certainly, not the most talked-about book on Lincoln at the moment and for me, a challenging read but worth every brow furrowing moment.
All of this is a bulwark, if you will, against the numbing regularity of the Republican debates. This herd will not thin! Week after week, I subject myself to listening to these would-be contenders swing at softballs gently tossed to them by featherweight moderators. It's the audiences that provides the real fire. Booing gay soldiers, cheering for waterboarding; a more dynamic and terrifying gang you would be hard-pressed to find. (Not that you would go to any great lengths to find them. Perhaps you would choose to accelerate away from them like a professional driver on a closed course.)
All of these Republican rumblers have their own special appeal and place in my heart certainly, but my two favorites are Rick “Oops” Perry and Herman “Herb” Cain.
A couple summers ago, Gov. Perry thrilled me with his talk of removing Texas from the United States. I told an audience in Austin at the time that the rest of us would either establish an “Austin Airlift” to send aid over the wall that the governor would no doubt build around the city, or alternatively, dig Austin up and carry it to Georgia and lay it down next to the city of Athens.
But to see and hear this man on a regular basis is a delight! He's like George W. Bush but hit in the side of the head with a frying pan. When the Rickster isn't publicly losing his grip on the English language, he's busy depopulating Texas, one death row inmate at a time. There have been at least three executions in Texas since he announced his candidacy, in mid-August, and four if you go to the beginning of that month! He's sinking the needle in more often than a Beverly Hills plastic surgeon. Definitely a man's man whom many would like to sit down and have a beer really far away from.
His best moment so far has been on Letterman (great writers) but nonetheless, I can't get enough. OK, I can, I have, but still, this super Texan has me riveted.
And then there's the great-while-it-lasted Herman Cain. A man who found himself way in over his head, his pronouncements could be read out loud a la James Brown, as cheering crowds welcome him to the stage. “Right of return?” “Ubeki-Beki-Beki-Beki-Stan-Stan,” “You're as tall as my wife.” I mean, it's all fun and games until several women claim that you sexually harassed them (and your campaign contributions spike sharply upward).
There's a popular college football coach who has suddenly found his day planner empty. Perhaps he would like to be a vice presidential running mate. Hear that sound? That's a cash cow mooing.
It's horrifying! It's more intense than making out with your mother! It's the Americans, louder and prouder than ever. Without a ton of great records, books and of course, a wonderful readership, it would all be too much to bear.