They told me that the classics never go out of style but, they do, they do.
Somehow baby, I never thought that we do too.
– “Worms of the Senses”, Refused
In style or not, you’d have to be pampered, tone-deaf guinea pig living in a sheltered hamster-ball-topia with giant wads of cotton stuffed in your ears to not hear the incredible, revolutionary force of the album The Shape of Punk to Come by the Swedish group Refused.
If you were trying to organize your record collection by putting them in labelled boxes sorted by genre, I don’t think you could do it. Listening to The Shape of Punk to Come, it’s pretty obviously punk, but there’s more. It’s got the angsty, blood-curdling, empowering screams and heavy, rhythmic power chords that every good hardcore band should have, but there’s also flavors of experimentalism that I usually associate with the art rock style of Pink Floyd (did I just commit punk heresy by saying that? Maybe the Velvet Underground instead), taking the listener down from the angry pedestal of rebellion to introspectively reflect upon the same revolutionary, anti-commercial themes through a more level, sober lens. The album features spoken-word poetry, sounds from the streets, electronic music, Eastern European folk, and even some accordion. It seems that the band thought up every musical rhetorical strategy they could use in order to get their message across to the listener on every level possible, appealing to both the radical vigilante and reflective philosopher found in the minds of many music lovers. Continue reading
“I don’t mind stealing bread
From the mouth of decadents
But I can’t feed on the powerless
When my cup’s already over-filled…
I’m going hungry.”
– Temple of the Dog, Hunger Strike
There is nothing in this world today that has not been touched by the culture of mass consumption. There’s over seven billion people out there today and every single one of their lives revolves around a system built to provide demanded products to those who can afford them. Those who can’t afford the goods to survive must serve their wealthy direct or indirect employers until they, their children, their grandchildren, their great grandchildren, or their distant descendants of a distant future can eventually claw their way up the social ladder to join the ranks of the consuming elite. If someone wants something, someone else will do whatever needs to be done to provide for the consumer. The consumer wants more, so no matter what the cost, they are going to get more. Because the world is measured in quantity, the quality of production, the quality of labor conditions, the quality of food, the quality of animal enclosures, the quality of air, the quality of water, the quality of life is all sacrificed. Nearly every major problem the world faces today — deforestation, human trafficking, pollution, homelessness, loss of biodiversity, urban slums, abuses of large agribusinesses — all boils down to one thing: the demands of an oversized consumer population. Continue reading
We humans like to cling to things. Especially hope. During times of fear and struggle we hang dangling over darkness and uncertainty, clinging to our frayed threads of hope until our knuckles turn white. If we can hang on long enough, hope can get us through times of violence and destruction. But what about when the violence and destruction returns? We cling to the hope that things will get better, and for a time, they might. But it seems that some new conflict always arises to break down our sense of security and forces us to once again grip precariously to our threadbare hope.
If the violence and struggle keeps coming back again and again, then there must be something we’re doing wrong. There has to be some kind of change we can make to really, truly, make things better. Continue reading
Most people think of the relationship between the individual and the community as one of struggle — the nonconformist rebelling against social injustice while the community oppresses the rebel’s voice in an attempt to keep the peace. But that is just one phase of the cyclical, symbiotic relationship shared between the community and the individual. They need each other like how clownfish need anemones and anemones need clownfish. One without the other would lead to the death of both.
What happens when a community discriminates, ostracizes, or condemns an individual and what is the impact on society as a whole? Continue reading
People tend to draw lines between each other and place themselves into categories. You are either young or old, educated or uneducated, thoughtful or shallow, middle class or working class, popular or a loser, or whatever other labels society uses to define us. Why is it that we pay such close attention to whatever groups we “belong” to rather than reach out to each other in spite of our differences? Neil Young’s “Old Man” discusses the idea that beneath our external differences, we all have the same desires, fears, and feelings.
Neil Young in 1970.
Every so often, the ground shakes beneath your feet. Usually it’s just a little tremble, testing your ability to stand upright while all that surrounds you shakes. But every once in a while, your entire world is shaken to its very foundations. All that has been built over last few decades, maybe even centuries could be uprooted, shaken, and crumble to the ground. During the 1960’s the world that had been established by generations previous — a perfect little world with definitive lines to divide right and wrong — experienced a violent earthquake that shattered the validity of previous belief systems.
He was the original Rolling Stone, the genius, the madman, the tortured artist, and one of rock’s first great tragedies. The story of Brian Jones is like a puzzle in which the shapes just don’t quite seem to fit and the colors don’t match. He was the Van Gogh of the early rock scene. His life is eerily reminiscent of the story told in “Like a Rolling Stone”, by Bob Dylan which, although about a woman’s fall from the grace of high-society life, ironically contains the name of Jones’ band and themes that coincide with his life. Apart from his complex character and untimely death, the fact that he is so often overlooked makes him one of the music industry’s most unfortunate figures.
Ignorance and arrogance; the two most devastating characteristics of humanity. These two simple traits are the roots to nearly all conflicts, whether a domestic spat between loved ones or in raging wars, the persecution of an entire people, or mass genocide. The astounding and innovative Simon and Garfunkel hit, “The Sound of Silence” has crossed borders of both nations and ideals in its haunting harmonies, resonating lyrics, and its looming sense of doom when describing the fatal flaws that all humanity possesses. Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel, childhood friends growing up in a Jewish neighborhood in Queens in the 50’s, first formed their musical duo as teenagers. “The Sound of Silence” was released on the duo’s debut album “Wednesday Morning 3 A.M.” in 1964, which for about two years was unrecognized, until its rerelease in 1966. From then on, “The Sound of Silence” has continued to touch new people each generation thanks to its profound lyrics that are still relevant today. Continue reading
I think we can all agree that the world can be a pretty messed up place. Whether it’s war, discrimination, pollution, suppression, poverty, disease, or any of the other myriad of problems with the world, the human race always seems to be entangled in an issue of some sort. We always have and we probably always will, but that doesn’t mean we can’t try to make things better. Ten Years After’s “I’d Love to Change the World” describes the uncertainty that a person experiences throughout life’s trouble and the struggle to gather up the courage to change it. Continue reading