Peter demands blood and I must obey. Who is Peter you ask? Is he the voice in my head that tells me secrets about Kelly Ripa that I shouldn’t ought to know? That’s between me and my Zoloft, Sugartits.
So, am I surprised that Mel Gibson went all Hutton Gibson on that poor sheriff who pulled him over? Hell no, I’m not. So why are you? Hate is learned easy and unlearned hard. And if you haven’t got a reason to unlearn it, you never will. If you were expecting him pull an Ingo Hasselbach and repudiate his beliefs, well you haven’t been paying attention to what he says and does, starting with the goddamn christ movie. Remember, what he said back then, “Some of my best friends are Jewish,” (which is of course code for, “I don’t know whom I hate more, the Jews or myself”)?
My only problem is the timing of the whole episode. The LA Times is running a daily attrocity exhibition of the Israeli incursion into Lebanon on the front page and it makes some people condone the sentiments expressed by the star of “Bird on a Wire” as being political, rather than racist. So let me be clear, not all Jews support the attack on Lebanon, and not all Jews support the continued refusal of the Israeli state to deal fairly with the Palestinian people.
I was, however, delighted to hear that he pulled the old, “You’ll never work in this town again!/Don’t you know who I am?” routine while in lockup. Note to my huge celebrity readership (and that means you, Mike Lookinland), if you ever find yourself resorting to either of these gambits, you’ve already lost.
Looks like Mel has issued a statement saying that he isn’t an anti-Semite, after all. In that case, never mind, we take it all back. And of course we’ll help you with your recovery. Because if we don’t, it’s all our fault, right Mel?
In a recent post on the current resurgence of soul, Scott Homewood mentions that the cult funk act Black Merda is again active. When I stumbled on their website a few months ago their reemergence, though welcome, seemed improbable, given the apocalyptic desperation that pervades their classic second album, Long Burn the Fire. As far as I knew, nothing had been heard from the group since 1973.
Perhaps the pleasant surprise of their return is just the result of too-close identification of the artists with their work. Still, listening to Long Burn the Fire, it seems like an easy mistake to make. Warnings about the dire effects of economic depression, too rapid racial integration, and general social upheaval flash by like dispatches from the ghetto wire service, mixing with elaborately arranged confessions of personal failure that cut heartbreakingly close to the bone. It would have made sense if the band had, along with the family in one of their songs, “decided to go to the moon.”
On their site, which is the first information about the group I’ve come across beyond what can be gleaned from the sleeve of Long Burn the Fire, the second album is treated as the poor relation of the group’s canon. Frankly, this surprised me: their debut (which, admittedly, I came to later and know less well) strikes me as fairly rote post-Hendrix black rock, not that much different from what other groups were doing at the time. Long Burn the Fire, on the other hand, incorporates white pop elements as brilliantly as Cicero Park or even Forever Changes. The strings that appear on about half the tracks might have seemed unnecessary or even ideologically retrograde at the time, but from a more distanced perspective they serve an important aesthetic function, highlighting through contrast the band’s unconventional and unsentimental approach to the exposition of interior states.
From the opener, “For You,” the writing is startling sophisticated. Riding on a sprung, vaguely Caribbean rhythm, major/minor key changes mirror the inconstancy of the person addressed in the song and the bipolarity of the singer. In pop music, one normally takes the assertion that “I’m nothing without you” with a grain of salt; the statement itself implies a fairly significant level of egocentrism. When Black Merda sings “I could have been a great man, you know I could’ve/ But the great man is gonna be somebody else/ ‘Cause you lied to me. . .” it’s clear that even before his inamorata’s deception the singer’s chances of being somebody were slim at best.
The pay-off at the end of “My Mistake” ensures that it will remain Black Merda’s most notorious song, but it can obscure the care with which the evolution of the singer’s attitude toward his dead friend is elaborated throughout the song. The rambling lyrics, with their circularity and loosely extended metaphors, perfectly encapsulate the dynamics of thought: “I know my love for you will last through the ages/ Just like a monument/ To a president of our land/ Who was great. . . .” Why Coleridge himself couldn’t do better than that! The pizzicato strings that respond to the closing call of “I made a mistake” sound as if they’ve stumbled in, disoriented, from a Barry White session. If the listener laughs, it’s only to keep from crying.
Of course, the band’s own playing is sufficiently awesome to obviate the need for additional instruments. As they motor into infinity on the closing instrumental, “We Made Up,” it’s clear that even lyrics and vocals are unnecessary adjuncts to their ability to capture the rhythms of introspection. To me, this makes Black Merda not only funky but truly psychedelic as well. Do them and yourself a favor and buy their CD, The Folks from Mother’s Mixer, which packages both the early 70s albums, on Funky Delicacies. Let it burn!
As I sit here ruminating about another busy day tomorrow, I find myself grooving to an anthology featuring late ’60’s band The Nazz. The 2 CD set is called Open Our Eyes: The Nazz Anthology on Sanctuary Records and it really did open my eyes to a great band I had known previously by name only.
Of course, a lot of people know the band by name only if only because one of the members was a pre-solo Todd Rundgren. That’s how I first heard of them – going back through some of Rundgren’s history and exploring a little. Now, when I say I went back through his history I must say I am talking about his ’70’s albums only. I feel what he has produced since 1982 or so has been mostly dreck with Mr. Rundgren desperately trying to come up with something worthwhile and failing at just about every turn.
Since I’ve mentioned dreck – if anyone has been around this summer and has heard about this thing he has going with a certain vehicle (ha ha) known as The New Cars please tell me what the point is of making a shitty CD and doing a Loserpalooza tour with a bunch of has beens. The “band” features Rundgren and a cohort and a few of the people who used to be in the band The Cars. Now, not to slam the original Cars too much because I love their albums (even the final two lousy ones) but these guys are strictly the backline as Ben Orr is dead and Ric Ocasek didn’t want to sully his rep by going backwards with his career. So, what Rundgren has is the keyboardist, bass player and guitarist Elliot Easton (the biggest whore in the business besides Rundgren himself. Don’t believe me? Easton was once in a little band called Creedence Clearwater Revisited check the name – not Revival but Revisited – so after he was done trying and failing to be Fogerty he decides to be a pale imitation of himself. Sickening.) from the Cars and himself as lead guy trying to imitate Ocasek’s vocal mannersisms as if he was one of those pinheads from American Idol. Actually, I give the people from Idol more credit than Rundgren since they didn’t have fans to betray like he has done to his.
I listen to the great psychedelic Beatle-isms and Zombie-like tones and flourishes from Who-ville of the Nazz with all the beautiful songs written by Rundgren and then think about his ’70’s solo CDs and wonder what the hell has happened to him that he feels he has to do this. Don’t want to play your own music anymore or write songs? Cool. Go away and at least leave people enraptured by the talent you used to have. As much as I despise the suicides by famous artists like Cobain I almost wonder if it wouldn’t be better to do that than to do this with your career. Even his stuff with the band Utopia kicks the shit out of this New Cars crap.
To be serious (as if I haven’t been) – stay away from anything Rundgren’s done since 1982 and buy Runt or something by The Nazz and try to wash whatever he’s become today out of your ears and mind. For some he can do no wrong but I often find myself pitying those people. If I had a new car – I’d drive it as far away from Rundgren as I could and I’d be playing something by The Nazz on the Blaupunkt while I was doing it.
Do you understand Rundgren?
The Music Nerd can’t fathom it…but likes to get Nazz-ty anytime he can!