Read it here.
-D. M. Collins
Read it here.
-D. M. Collins
This one was a pleasure. Please read.
-D. M. Collins
So, I watch The Walking Dead every week. I know it’s a guilty pleasure, but not every show can be Mad Men. And hey, I’m an ADD-crazed fool constantly drawn to distraction material, which explains how I’ve sat through every season of Sons of Anarchy, Breaking Bad, Dexter, and Battlestar Galactica that can be viewed on Netflix. And I wish I was talking about the 70s Battlestar, but I’m not—I’m talking about Dean Stockwell as a cyborg who fucked his own mother, herself a cyborg with amnesia played by Nan Vernon’s sister who thought she was a human and was saving her husband’s life (okay, the new series is not without its charms) … meanwhile years are going by, and I’ve yet to publish my first book.
Anyway, I’ve been in Austin for SXSW for the past ten days or so, and I just got back to L.A., and tonight I was catching up with my Walking Dead episodes. During a commercial break in the most recent one, there was a brief promo for the Talking Dead panel show, hosted by Chris Hardwick, that follows each new episode of The Walking Dead. In the blurb, Hardwick casually mentioned that one of his guests tonight was Voxhaul Broadcast, and they would be performing their song from the Walking Dead soundtrack.
“Voxhaul Broadcast?” I thought. Voxhaul Broadcast … Voxhaul Broadcast… hmm, why do I know the name Voxhaul Broadcast?
Oh, that’s right…
Yep, Voxhaul Broadcast, the band on Talking Dead last Sunday, once called me a “tard” and told me to suck their dicks.
To explain why an indie rock band with a name like “Voxhaul Broadcast” would feel justified in attacking me with poor grammar and vaguely homophobic insults, let’s rewind back to 2008. At the time I was freelance writing for Losanjealous.com, a fairly strong competitor of LAist. My first assignment was to review an Earlimart show. Voxhaul Broadcast was also on the bill, and while I devoted very few words to them (because it was a review about Earlimart), I did manage to say that Voxhaul Broadcast “kept serving up tunes like indie iceberg lettuce, with no flavor to distinguish one from the next.”
And that was it. Admittedly, I was critical of the band. But as anyone who has read my work knows, I am very skeptical of any music that sounds “indie” as a genre unto itself. You know what I’m talking about: music that has Chris Martin-esque falsetto male vocals, or that has guitar seemingly ripped from U2 via a flavorless Blonde Redhead, paired with a bassist who just plays “dum-dum-dum-dum-dum-dum-dum-dum” quarter-notes all damn song along the chords’ roots. I’m talking about pleasant rock music that won’t interrupt your conversation, with a live drummer who plays muted disco beats even though the music isn’t meant to be danced to, except maybe on the grass of some indie-rock festival while you’re shirtless and wearing a crown of glow sticks. I’m talking about music that takes rock’s gleefully ugly 13-year-old unconscious id, pretends it’s a well-thought-out romantic strategy, and champions it with soaring anthems, not as an anti-hero in a leather jacket, but as a beautiful stoic angel whose every vague dig against the establishment is to be taken as a poignant critique on society.
And I think that’s what struck such a chord with the Voxhaul Broadcast guys. It wasn’t that I said I couldn’t remember their songs, but that I said they were “indie.”
Voxhaul Broadcast didn’t want to be an indie rock band, or so they claimed at the time. Their MySpace page listed their influences as James Brown, Al Green, and Donovan; they wanted to be a soul band with heart. But having a record (or more likely, an MP3) in your collection doesn’t mean your band follows in that tradition. Though they conned a few other blogs into quoting their press release verbatim, the concept that this band was a “soul” band or even soul-infused was just sheer fantasy: I’d challenge them or anyone to show me what part of those rhythms, guitar licks, or lyrics sounds sounded even remotely like “Funky President” or “Love and Happiness,” much less “Catch the Wind” or “Sunshine Superman.” Any claims to soul you might actually locate in Voxhaul Broadcast’s music were (when they remembered to include them) straight from Vampire Weekend, or the Strokes, or any of the other of the umpteen mostly-male bands with guitarists who play on the upstroke with their distortion turned off. It’s not even funky—it’s just that singer David Dennis’ voice has a little more growl than Thom Yorke, and sometimes their songs are a little more lively than Death Cab for Cutie.
And that’s why I compared them to iceberg lettuce and then quickly moved on, with no intention of fucking with their shit. But these guys went completely ballistic, posting comments on Losanjealous about me and then going on this website to accuse me of lying and taking their quotes “out of context,” as though there’s any way to take “suck my dick” out of context. Or that it was somehow “false reporting” to critique them as a talentless drivel band trying desperately to jump the train headed for Sell Out Station.
Anyway, I guess this blog’s Voxhaul Broadcast article stayed in the top of Google’s search for a while, because I kept seeing comments on the thread way after I’d moved on with my own life. Finally, after maybe a couple years, the comments stopped and I put Voxhaul Broadcast’s boorish insults and bland music out of mind. In hindsight, I think I heard about them from time to time appearing on bills with much better bands, e.g. on shows that L.A. RECORD would list. But I hadn’t seen Voxhaul Broadcast live since, and I was surprised to hear their name on Talking Dead.
Funny thing is, though, that Voxhaul Broadcast’s story arc has proven them to be the indie-ist of indie sellouts, exactly as I’d described back in 2008. They did continue to play not-soul music. They did try and succeed in embracing Nic Harcourt, and they did scam their way onto the soundtracks of terribly treacle-y films, e.g. The Vow and the Nicolas Sparks vehicle The Lucky One, and the slightly more fun 90210 (what, not good enough for Gossip Girl?). Funny, their website doesn’t really mention their ties to such wonderful, soulful cinematography. Some bands would find a bunch of humor in getting a gig on movies they don’t particularly like, but you get the vibe that Voxhaul Broadcast are worried too much about their image to boast about their appearances, and too worried about pissing off potential date-film directors by openly mocking them.
That said, performing a song on The Walking Dead is something of a coup for these fellas, and honestly, I was watching hoping that it would be good. A lot of bands start off being kind of generic and grow into a wonderful sound of their own, and maturity can improve lyric writing a great deal. I have critiqued a lot of bands who either took my words to heart and changed, or completely dissed me by making the most awesome album ever, gleefully proving me irrelevant through sheer talent, and I’m okay with being wrong if I get some good music out of it. Some bands even became my friends after I criticized them in print, because really, until you start going to my blog and calling me a “tard” liar, I don’t hate you and you don’t hate me—it’s nothing personal, just a critique of music that also at times steps out of your personality and says things you wouldn’t say to someone’s face in polite society.
But change and maturity were not to be had: this performance by Voxhaul Broadcast of “In the Wilderness” is somehow even worse than the weird nu metal Ray Charles blues of Jamie N. Commons from the week before. “In the Wilderness” has just a few strummed acoustic chords, plus a slight little flourish that would almost be good if it wasn’t lifted piecemeal from Kirk Hammett.
And the lyrics—oh man, the very first thing ol’ David sings is that he “Stood at the edge of the valley/looked at the ground below.” He knows that valleys are the low part and that the mountains are the high part, right? It’s hard to see much below you in a valley.
Watch the clip, and listen to the lyrics of this thing, if you can stomach them. He goes on to talk about how there’s a “wolf inside my heart” for some girl, which would be hard to fit in there since she’s already “the wilderness inside me” that may or may not have fueled a fire that “cold desperation” may or may not have let go out—it was a jumble of mixed metaphors, the kind Holland-Dozier-Holland would never have strung together. I haven’t even gotten to the earthquake or how he can’t run forever because he’s hungry and he eats weird metaphorical animals. And if all this talk of “hunger” or “wolves” is making you think it’s a Duran Duran song, well, even a third-bit copy of Duran Duran would at least provide the faint glimmer of nostalgia to get you through.
Look, guys, Voxhaul Broadcast, you were jerks to me once, pretty big jerks, to a little guy who only wanted to write articles about music (most of which you’ve never heard of, but that’s okay). Being a masochist, I would have loved to see you kick my ass a little. But sad to say, in the past five years you haven’t done anything to prove you’re not still talentless, unimaginative hacks barely hanging onto your Nicolas Sparks soundtrack gigs because you’re halfway cute and have a good agent. For a second, a mere split-second, I almost thought you done good with this Walking Dead appearance. But you’re still indie iceberg lettuce, mere filler between zombie attacks and Channing Tatum’s abs.
In the future, if you’re going to put some music in a horror franchise, at least pay heed to your indie rock forefathers and get yourself into a goofy video.
P.S. Oh, and hey guys? For the record, I like sucking dick. I’m still sucking dick. Just not yours.
Valentine’s Day is coming up, and love is all around us. Some of my friends, including a couple former lovers, have even gotten engaged in the last few weeks. Though I’ve been living happily for a couple years now as some kind of quasi-poly-loner-bachelor type, this season always makes me question what it is I’m looking for when it comes to romance. And I think I can boil it all down to a punk song I first heard when I was about 14 years old.
Of the hundreds of thousands of songs that have influenced what I like about music, probably more than half are about dating and relationships, anything from “Feel Like Makin’ Love” to “Be My Wife.” Many of those use “love” as a mere canvas, a quick subject matter to scream about or lay dance beats over or solo across; others of them, more direct, have spoken to me about love and lust with crystal clear realism, like Aphrodite whispering into my ear while rubbing my buttocks with a Mosrite fuzz pedal.
But those songs are about being in a dating situation, or falling out of one; few songs have inspired what qualities I look for in people I want to date. Especially in my youth, when I was on a limited budget and you couldn’t hear whole discographies for nothin’ on the internet, this song by the Rezillos was the tune that made me realize, hey, this is what I want, and I should go out and look for it, much like “He’s a Rebel” or “You’re So Square (Baby I Don’t Care)” might have spoken to some buckeyed youth in the golden age of teen pop:
I guess you could say this one really molded me, mwah ha hah!
Though the Rezillos were only about 15% – 22% female at any given time, and she didn’t sing lead on this one, this song is perhaps the most joyously egalitarian, matter-of-fact-ly feminist, and casually somewhat-sex-positive song about male-on-female attraction I think I’ve ever known. It’s all about getting turned on because your girlfriend makes art! She actually creates something meaningful out of her life instead of, I dunno, hanging out on the arm of a male artist, playing the groupie role that many female music fans probably felt was their only entry to rock in the pre-punk era. Okay, I know, it’s still a silly song about romance and lusting after a girl, but c’mon, it’s awesome, and so refreshing after thousands and thousands of songs about women that could be any woman, as if love’s context didn’t matter. This was the first song I may have ever heard, outside of maybe “Lovely Rita, Meter Maid” that celebrated a woman for her occupation!
God, you just have to love punk rock, warts and all. Note that the male character in the song is neither jealous nor tries to boast about his own similar creative endeavors–he’s very content to praise his gal’s talents for their own sake. Compared to more serious punk bands of their time, the Rezillos were considered high camp. But the teenaged me detected no irony in how the narrator places his baby’s sculpting skills far above her “pouting lips” or “curvy hips.” He even brags to the world on how “she killa dilla,” goddam it! What does that even mean? He’s so egalitarian that by the end of the song, he can barely talk.
I discovered this tune on one of Rhino Records’ amazing, truly influential D.I.Y. compilations: The Modern World – UK Punk II. Before this series came out, even just hearing pre-hardcore punk that wasn’t the Clash, Ramones, or Sex Pistols was exceedingly difficult in a burg like Tulsa, Oklahoma; I’d read about these bands for years in books at the library without knowing what they sounded like, and this was my first time to hear them all in one place. I vividly recall finding this tape for sale, used, in a counter display case at Mohawk Music–this was probably in 1993, just when my late-onset puberty was in full swing. I got pretty much the whole series and played them all the time, mostly on a Fisher-Price tape recorder that I kept in my Ram Charger, since it didn’t have a tape deck. Every band, every song in this series was mind-blowing. Though X-Ray Spex might have inspired my own self-direction more, and the Adverts’ “One Chord Wonders” inspired how I wanted to play music, “Good Sculptures” taught me real qualities to look for in someone else when trying to complement my life.
And it’s informed who I have dated ever since; my life is far richer because of it. Thank you, Rezillos, and Rhino Records, for helping make me this way. That’s not bragging, nor am I even saying I have overall good mate choice: I’ve dated people, short and long term, who weren’t right for me, who were too innocent for me, or too clever, who left their clothes all over the living room, who took lots of my money, who tried to hurt themselves, who saw the mean and stupid parts of me and just thought they’d be mean and stupid back rather than tell me (or leave). I’ve dated people who stayed with me for far too long because they had no idea how to quietly back away from my own rudeness and immaturity. And this is true: I’ve been socked in the head by nearly every girl I’ve seriously dated.
But hey, man, at least I got the art! I got inspiration, and I got to enjoy a birds-eye view of so many creative processes. I can think back with such joy, and completely undeserved pride, on the albums my lovers have recorded, or the books they wrote, stores they opened, photos they took, planet they saved, ribald performances they titillated with, audiences they made chuckle, essays they published, DJ nights they rocked, urban fruit trees they harvested, shows they organized, videos they edited, kink they celebrated, wigs they wore … even just karaoke songs they were bold enough to pull off! Even at my most miserable and least desirable in a dating capacity, I’ve kept my eyes focused on the creative ones. And it’s never let me down, at least not on the level of my… soul, for lack of a better word. And as for one night stands? Well, at least I think I’ve done pretty good about not fucking anyone who doesn’t have books.
So yes, yes, thank you Rezillos. And thank you, you talented ladies and gents from my past. Ayy-ai-addy, addy-oh! If you ever wondered what I ever saw in you, it’s all because you does good sculptures. Yeah.
Keep doing ‘em.
-D. M. Collins
P.S. You know who else seems to have been inspired by this song? Opus from Bloom County!
… and I am the DJ. Or, at least a DJ (there are a couple DJs, it seems, and 100 bands and 10,000 readers/performers).
You should come party, because if you don’t, it means you hate community and hate literature. It means you wish people would stop reading and start shooting each other with guns. It means you are flippant and vile. It means you’re a bigot. You’re a sad, petty, bourgeois blight upon the world, and the only value you have to anyone is as a dire warning, or maybe as future compost, a chunk of organic offal to insert into the ground to counteract the garbage you strew–though then again the chemicals you fill your mind and body with may very well poison our dwindling water supplies and make some poor crawdad somewhere die.
What a scumbag you are… but it’s not too late to change the course of your life and ATTEND this event!
ATTEND! Make a last stand against the wretchedness and the filth that gurgles sick words of childish love to you when you look in the mirror.
ATTEND! Listen to readings by authors, real authors, people souls haven’t left their bodies and swum down the snaky pipe at the base of their own toilets rather than cling to the monster who birthed them.
ATTEND! Soyez présent!
DO IT IN FRENCH IF YOU HAVE TO! Take an Echinacea pill if you have to! For what better cure than a placebo for the world’s biggest lie?
ATTEND! ATTEND ATTEND ATTEND!
And stay until the end so you can dance!
This interview with YACHT was published on the website months ago now at this point. But it just came out in the street edition of L.A. RECORD, and so it’s as good a time as any to blog about it here. It was a lovely interview of a fun, very smart band.
By the way, if you haven’t read Claire L. Evans’ science blog, Universe, you are billions and billions of kinds of a butt-munch. Go check it out. My science knowledge is pretty decent for a lamebrain who wakes up in his own spittle every morning, but I find this kind of rampant Renaissance (Wo)Manism quite humbling … and inspiring.
First of all, let’s get this out of the way: I have a great old friend named Jason Heath who I used to DJ for back in the day at Club Snack Sac at Zen Sushi. I have many fond memories of hoisting entire crates of records up a wooden ladder into the quasi-tree fort sound bay thing they had there in the upper room. He’d book bands like Sex Pistols tribute bands and weird math rock thingies and the Partridge Family Temple, and I’d spin records between his bands. I think I got him laid once. This review is not about that Jason Heath.
It’s about Jason Heath and the Greedy Souls, and ironically Heath is not a greedy soul. He’s actually a stand-up, righteous dude who loves charity and community and by all standards, he probably has a killer playlist on his iPod.
But somehow, through friendships with Hollywood types, perhaps, or because he has his eyes set on fame, he’s come out with an embarrassment of an album, and I cannot in good conscience say anything good about it at all. It would be better if the album was full of mistakes and songs that attempted grand things and spectacularly failed, but instead what we have is warmed-over retreads of 80s rockers. It’s sad. Sad sad sad. And I couldn’t help but say so in no uncertain terms:
… it hurts me, after hearing so many great country and country-infused bands this month, to know Jason Heath is oblivious to the fact that he’s reinvented the same sound John Cougar Mellencamp made on his late 80s hit “Cherry Bomb” except, you know, with less oomph to the lyrics and spread over an entire album. Hey, dude, Jason, when you find yourself in a studio doing things like smoothing out the shrillness of an accordion line and making sure the snare drum isn’t too bombastic, it might be wise to take a step back and make sure you’re not ironing out the peaks and valleys and leaving us with nothing but Kansas. (Do I mean the state, or the band? It doesn’t matter.)
Anyway, the review is here.