Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Panama Papers just proves how right Jarvis Cocker was about who runs this fucking world

"The Panama Papers are a massive and historic leak of confidential documents that reveal how the rich and powerful from many countries around the globe use tax havens to hide their wealth."

So says TeleSUR English, which goes on to note: "About 140 high-level officials and millionaires, and about 113,000 shell companies are exposed in the documents, including at least 12 current or former heads of state."

In other words, the rich and powerful are a bunch of dodgy, greedy pricks whose morally offensive activities strip wealth from whole nations -- many trillions in badly needed revenue. It is almost as if the poverty affecting billions is directly related to the obscene wealth of a tiny minority, while all the while the same system enriching these corrupt fuckers is rendering the planet increasingly uninhabitable at a rapid rate.

Well, who could have guessed they could be so mean? Asides, you know, from Bernie Sanders and any other politician, journalist or just plain straight up human being not in the pocket of these pricks.

One individual exposed by this massive leak is Iceland's prime minister, whose government took over failed banks and was the centre of countless fucking Facebook memes about the heroic acts of the Icelandic government in standing up to the banks and the IMF and probably for slaying all the fucking trolls on the island (with no concern about the Icelandic troll-based tourism industry). Yes, it seems leaving the same corporate, financial and political elite in charge of a country that helped cause a disaster, whatever concessions they may give you, doesn't actually change the nature of that elite or the system they run. A bastard is always a fucking bastard.

The lesson here is two-fold:

1) Facebook books memes are not fucking history or news or fucking anything other than grossly over simplified points aiming to distort facts and/or reinforce the meme sharers pre-existing prejudices. WHO THE FUCK KNEW? WHO THE FUCK KNEW FUCKING SOCIAL MEDIA MEMES WERE JUST EMPTY BULLSHIT AND NOT FACTUAL HISTORY??? WHAT NEXT??? BUZZFEED IS NO ACTUAL SUBSTITUTE FOR FUCKING NEWS?????

2) Jarvis Cocker was right.

Former frontman of 1990s Britpop band Pulp, Jarvis Cocker was right way back in 2005. Watching the G8 summit summit with its smiling politicians and rock stars pledging "debt relief" to African countries, while putting forward a deal that actually worsened the debt slavery of the poorest  African nations, an angry Cocker immediately wrote a song in response. It is especially targetted at the smug grinning "New Labour" clique running Britain's government at the time,

It is below and it remains to the point*.

Well did you hear, there's a natural order
Those most deserving will end up with the most
That the cream cannot help but always rise up to the top
Well I say: Shit floats.

If you thought things had changed
Friend you'd better think again
Bluntly put in the fewest of words
Cunts are still running the world...

* POSTSCRIPT It is worth noting there is a particularly cynical line in the song about the prospect for popular protest to achieve anything.  Just after the glorious line "The free market is perfectly natural -- do you think that I'm some kinda dummy?" Jarvis sings: "if you don't like it then leave or use your right to protest in the streets. Use your rights but don't imagine that it's heard..."

The line is hardly surprising, coming just two years after the largest global protests in human history failed to stop the criminal invasion of Iraq. But Cocker later took the sentiment back and argued popular protest was all we had left, that it was essential to protest against the cunts to have any chance at saving the planet.

In a 2014 op-ed in The Guardian entitled "Climate change is real. Want to live? It's up to people like you":

Remember 15 February 2003? If you’re taking the trouble to read this, then you probably went to an anti-war march that day. Didn’t turn out so well, did it? Nothing really changed. The “largest protest event in human history”, as we remember it today, was effectively ignored. That left a nasty taste. It might even have put you off the idea of protesting forever. The marching boots were thrown to the back of the cupboard and you went into a major sulk. Maybe you even wrote a song about it ...
And you thought: “Yes! Smash the system!” And then ... time passed. Until you got this email [about globally coordinated l climate change protests...
Can you be arsed? Do you risk being disappointed again? Or do you sit this one out?
Back in 2008, I sailed the coast of Greenland on a vessel chartered by the organization Cape Farewell and saw the effects of global warming firsthand. It exists. On the way home, we spent a few hours in Reykjavík’s international airport waiting for a connecting flight back to the UK. I bought an ashtray made out of lava. When I got back home, I turned the TV on. It was the morning of the stock market crash and I learned that Iceland, the country I had been visiting not four hours previously, was effectively bankrupt.
That gave me a strange feeling because I hadn’t noticed. The sun had still been shining as I walked through the airport terminal. People had gone about their everyday business as usual, there had been air to breathe and nothing to betray the cataclysm that had befallen the entire country. How could that be? This was a financial crisis! The Big One! THE ECONOMY was at risk! Why was the world still turning?
You whisper now, but could it be that there is a higher power than … THE ECONOMY? I know that sounds a bit sacrilegious, but could it be that THE ECOLOGY is actually the biggie? That maybe having air to breathe, water to drink and land to inhabit could be more important than the fluctuations of the FTSE or the Dow Jones? It’s just a thought – a thought that most people instinctively understanding, but that the political classes have yet to grasp ...
Exactly when did “government for the people” become “government of the people”? When did the function of government change from public service to crowd control? From protector to pimp?
The People’s Climate March this Sunday is important. Because governments won’t put the case for action on climate change too strongly – no, that might be interpreted as being “anti-business”. It might dissuade corporations from building factories in countries that sign on to climate agreements. It might be harmful to THE ECONOMY. So once again it will be left to ordinary people to point out the blindingly obvious fact that destroying the place you live in is not a good idea. It really isn’t. And the powers that be would do well to heed the cold, hard truth that there are more of us than them, that we are heartily sick and tired of being ignored.
That’s not a threat, you understand. I just thought I’d point it out.

This content was originally published by teleSUR at the following address: 
 "http://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/5-Key-Points-About-the-Panama-Papers-4-About-Tax-Havens-20160404-0038.html". If you intend to use it, please cite the source and provide a link to the original article. www.teleSURtv.net/english
This content was originally published by teleSUR at the following address: 
 "http://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/5-Key-Points-About-the-Panama-Papers-4-About-Tax-Havens-20160404-0038.html". If you intend to use it, please cite the source and provide a link to the original article. www.teleSURtv.net/english

This content was originally published by teleSUR at the following address: 
 "http://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/5-Key-Points-About-the-Panama-Papers-4-About-Tax-Havens-20160404-0038.html". If you intend to use it, please cite the source and provide a link to the original article. www.teleSURtv.net/english

Thursday, March 17, 2016

At least St Patrick's Day is an excuse to plug The Dubliners so here's a playlist

Barnie McKenna, Ronnie Drew, Luke Kelly and John Sheahan.

Saint Patrick's Day, every March 17, is a day where the whole world seems to come together to celebrate the culture of an ancient peoples that has survived invasion, occupation and genocide by binge drinking beer artificially turned green while wearing novelty leprechaun hats.

But it might also be one of the rare days people feel obligated to pay some attention to you banging on about the glory of Irish folk music legends such as the Dubliners. Or maybe not, but one can but try.

The Dubliners emerged out of the post-war period that saw big ruptures and innovations in various cultural in Western countries. In Ireland, the Dubliners, with a raw energy and rough edge that owed something to the same spirit of the times that led to the rise of rock'n'roll, helped lead a crucial traditional Irish folk revival. they took folk music out of stuffy concert halls being performed by the stiffly middle class people put the music back into smokey pubs. And from there, to England's Top of the Pop's and well beyond.

Often political or bawdy, the Font of All Knowledge that is Wikipedia informs us that the band "drew criticism from some folk purists and Ireland’s national broadcaster RTÉ had placed an unofficial ban on their music from 1967–71."

Having disbanded after 50 years in 2012, the band's members and output was wide and varied — with banjo player Barney McKenna (said to have revolutionised tenor banjo playing) and fiddle player John Sheahan the only two members to have been in the band from start to finish..

My play list focuses heavily on the definitive line up featuring singers and founding members Luke Kelly and Ronnie Drew.

Kelly, who tragically died in from a brain tumour in 1984, was a left-wing activist one of the greatest folk singers of his generation, able to impart such passion and personality in his rendition of songs to render many of his versions definitive.

Ronnie Drew... well no one has ever accused the man of having the "greatest" voice, but, described as the "sound of coal being crushed under a door", it was certainly one of the most original — and perfect for story telling.

The two weren't song writers. They interpreted songs written by others, whether traditional standards or a new generation of folk song writers like Pete St John and Phil Counter, but the band created definitive recordings of wide array of songs.

What the Dubliners did in the 60s, in revitalising an old tradition with new energy, bringing it to a new generation in a way they could relate to, The Pogues did in London in the 80s, infusing Irish folk music with the energy and attitude of punk. Not for nothing did The Pogues record with the Dubliners in 1987.

And when The Pogues recorded a track like "Dirty Old Town", they weren't just covering Ewan McColl's folk standard, they were specifically, clearly, covering the Dubliners' version featuring Luke Kelly.

This is ap lay list of 20 songs that I think give the best overview of the quality of the Dubliners -- and their two most defining and distinctive singers, Luke Kelly and Ronnie Drew. A couple of tracks such by Barnie  McKenna are also thrown in, as is a version of traditional song Carrikfergus sung by Jim McCann, who replaced Ronnie Drew in the band for a chunk of the '70s, simply because ... well when you hear it you'll know why.

Done right, there is little to match Irish folk music in its capacity for affecting or amusing story telling, for bringing to real characters drawn from every day life. And few have done it so well as the Dubliners.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Let's ask a country singer why is the US fucked and Sanders making ground

You know, I sometimes wonder if my polemicising days are behind me. I mean... life is just too short, especially with the fucking ever-hastening ecoholocaust bearing right down on us.

But... there is one fight I feel compelled to wage before the very basis of human civilisation is destroyed so a handful of corporate giants can accumulate more wealth and any human being can even drink. And that is that country music gives you the answers.

YES I know it it is a bit of an absurd proposition because it is really just a fact that any form with an emphasis on lyrics will include those using the form to tell stories of ordinary people in pain, which, after all, is the story of human existence. And that is every form of folk music (of which country is one) plus others like hip hop, which all tell different aspects of human pain and struggle and defiance and even some happy shit sometimes.

But still... country is not just the one I like a lot, it is particularly maligned and misunderstood so, you know. I'll give you an example of a country singer who, a decade before the rise of self-proclaimed socialist Bernie Sanders with his call for a political revolution against Wall Street, called out the reality that calls for a political revolution against Wall Street. Yes, just one of many, in various genres... but still. THIS ONE IS COUNTRY, wildly misunderstood by many as some sort of reactionary hillbilly bullshit. It isn't.

I know you all think country music is right-wing rednecks with American flags and 10-gallon hats with OTT drawls... but you are wrong. Here is Texas country singer James McMurtry with his 2005 classic tale of the billionaire class's destruction of the economy, while sending the working class to die in wars overseas and using racism to divert anger. Class war to a few simple cords, sung by a man who told the press last year: "I'm much more of a socialist than my characters are".

McMurtry was described by Stephen King as "the truest, fiercest songwriter of his generation", but for god's sake, don't hold that against him. And, in fact, while we are at it, do yourself a favour and just look up "Texas country music" in general...

'Should I hate 'em for having our jobs today
No I hate the men sent the jobs away
I can see them all now, they haunt my dreams
All lily white and squeaky clean
They've never known want, they'll never know need
Their shit don't stink and their kids won't bleed
Their kids won't bleed in the damn little war
We can't make it here anymore...'

Can't Make It Here Any more 
Vietnam Vet with a cardboard sign
Sitting there by the left turn line
Flag on the wheelchair flapping in the breeze
One leg missing, both hands free
No one's paying much mind to him
The V.A. budget's stretched so thin
And there's more comin' home from the Mideast war
We can't make it here anymore 
That big ol' building was the textile mill
It fed our kids and it paid our bills
But they turned us out and they closed the doors
We can't make it here anymore 
See all those pallets piled up on the loading dock
They're just gonna set there till they rot
'Cause there's nothing to ship, nothing to pack
Just busted concrete and rusted tracks
Empty storefronts around the square
There's a needle in the gutter and glass everywhere
You don't come down here 'less you're looking to score
We can't make it here anymore 
The bar's still open but man it's slow
The tip jar's light and the register's low
The bartender don't have much to say
The regular crowd gets thinner each day
Some have maxed out all their credit cards
Some are working two jobs and living in cars
Minimum wage won't pay for a roof, won't pay for a drink
If you gotta have proof just try it yourself Mr. CEO
See how far 5.15 an hour will go
Take a part time job at one of your stores
Bet you can't make it here anymore 
High school girl with a bourgeois dream
Just like the pictures in the magazine
She found on the floor of the laundromat
A woman with kids can forget all that
If she comes up pregnant what'll she do
Forget the career, forget about school
Can she live on faith? live on hope?
High on Jesus or hooked on dope
When it's way too late to just say no
You can't make it here anymore 
Now I'm stocking shirts in the Wal-Mart store
Just like the ones we made before
'Cept this one came from Singapore
I guess we can't make it here anymore
Should I hate a people for the shade of their skin
Or the shape of their eyes or the shape I'm in
Should I hate 'em for having our jobs today
No I hate the men sent the jobs away
I can see them all now, they haunt my dreams
All lily white and squeaky clean
They've never known want, they'll never know need
Their shit don't stink and their kids won't bleed
Their kids won't bleed in the damn little war
And we can't make it here anymore 
Will work for food
Will die for oil
Will kill for power and to us the spoils
The billionaires get to pay less tax
The working poor get to fall through the cracks
Let 'em eat jellybeans let 'em eat cake
Let 'em eat shit, whatever it takes
They can join the Air Force, or join the Corps
If they can't make it here anymore 
And that's how it is
That's what we got
If the president wants to admit it or not
You can read it in the paper
Read it on the wall
Hear it on the wind
If you're listening at all
Get out of that limo
Look us in the eye
Call us on the cell phone
Tell us all why
In Dayton, Ohio
Or Portland, Maine
Or a cotton gin out on the great high plains
That's done closed down along with the school
And the hospital and the swimming pool
Dust devils dance in the noonday heat
There's rats in the alley
And trash in the street
Gang graffiti on a boxcar door
We can't make it here anymore


Here is Jame McMurtry singing a cheery happy song about a guy trying to make it in the methamphetamine industry.

Sells his hardwood timber to the chipping millCooks that crystal meth because the shine don't sellHe cooks that crystal meth because the shine don't sellYou know he likes that money, he don't mind the smell

Why was Bernie Sanders going on about some US war on Nicaragua? Let's ask Corb Lund and Kris Kristofferson

If there is one thing my time on this godforsaken Earth that is rapidly racing towards an eco-holocaust of unimaginable horror, it is that there are very few things that country music cannot explain.

And so it is with a recent issue that suddenly exploded into the US Democratic presidential race on March 10 in a debate in Miami between self-proclaimed socialist Bernie Sanders and Democrat establishment figure Hillary Clinton. Sanders was asked about statements back in the 80s when he supported the revolutionary Sandinista government in the small, impoverished Central American nation of Nicaragua against active attempts by the wonderful humanitarians of the Reagan administration to the destroy the popular revolution like it was just one more trade union to smash.

Sanders said: "The US was wrong to try to invade Cuba. It was wrong to support people trying to overthrow the Nicaraguan government. It was wrong trying to overthrow, in 1954, the democratically elected government of Guatemala ...

"Throughout the history of our relationship with Latin America we've operated under the so-called Monroe Doctrine, and that said the United States had the right do anything that they wanted to do in Latin America.

"So I actually went to Nicaragua and I very strongly opposed the Reagan administration's efforts to overthrow that government. And I strongly opposed earlier Henry Kissinger and the [plot] to overthrow the [democratically elected socialist] government of Salvador Allende in Chile.

"I think the United States should be working with governments around the world, not get involved in regime change."

That is really not the sort of talk you expect to hear from a serious candidate for the White House. They're the words of a man campaigning to take the formal head of an Empire whose actions he just strongly condemned. No wonder his "populism" is causing some angst elites like the Goldman Sachs CEO who called him "dangerous".

But what the fuck actually happened in Nicaragua back in the 1980s that caused the US to wage such a savage, if largely hidden, war that the International Court of Justice in the Hague ruled the US should pay Nicaragua $17 billion in reparations (of which, of course, the US has not paid a cent)?

Well, in the US's self-proclaimed "backyard", the people of Nicaragua had the sheer gall in 1979 to succesfully overthrow an infamously brutal US-backed Somoza dictatorship in a popular revolution. Led by the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN), the revolution began a process of changing the economy away from one virtually entirely owned by the Somoza family and its cronies. Instead, health care and education were dramatically expanded, land was redistributed to poor farmers, workers' wages and conditions were improved, poverty was cut.

This was not just down from the top down, but was the result of a mass revolutionary movement in which the oppressed poor began taking over their own society, Democratic rights and freedoms were extending and the FSLN was twice elected. Finally, in 1990, witht he poor nation's population  ground down by a decade of US-fuelled war justified by "stopping communism", voted for the US-backed opposition just to get some peace 

This opened the way to neoliberalism in the country -- a social disaster. In 2007, the Sandinistas returned to government and they remain in  power. The Sandinistas of today not those of the 1980s and face some real criticisms, but also some very real gains for the poor, gains upsetting, as ever the Untied States. If there is anything the US empire seems to hate more than anything, it is seeing the poor get health clinics and schools.

Now if you want to know what the hell happened, you can watch a long interview with Bernie Sanders in the '80s talking about his trip to Nicaragua, you can even watch an on-the-spot documentary by John Pilger from the '80s that provides detailed information and essential background.

Or you can just ask a couple of country singers, and get the same story only shorter and put to catchier tunes. First of all, via the Canadian country singer from Alberta, Corb Lund, second via the legendary singer-songwriter Kris Kristofferson, whose most famous songs are "Me and Bobby McGee" and "Sunday Morning Coming Down".

Corb takes a looks at what the Yankees did, through the story of one US special agent who was himself a victim of the US government's cynical games. Kris,meanwhile, takes a look at what the Sandinistas meant... and speaks movingly of being asked to sing his song by Nicaragua's Sandinista President Daniel Ortega at celebrations for the revolution.

'Did Reagan give the order, did cocaine pay the bill?'
Student Visas 
They took away our dogtags, they had us grow our hair
They gave us student visas when we were over there
They staged us out of Hondo al este del Salvador
I guess you'd call us Contras but no one calls much no more
There ain’t no fun in killin’ folk and I don’t wanna do no more

My great great rode at Shiloh and Grandpa drove a tank
Daddy was air cavalry, flew choppers in the Nam
I worked mostly clandestine, the branch I should not say
We played with better guns and I could use the extra pay
Did Reagan give the order? Did cocaine pay the bill?
They said we's fightin' communists but it was kinda hard to tell
There ain’t no fun in killin’ folk and I don’t wanna do no more

This was before Blackhawks and RPGs were king
My buddy on the door gun, he never felt a thing
When our Huey caught a rocket and both the pilots killed
And it pitched us over sideways on some Nicaraguan hill
My back felt like it’s broken, my legs I could not feel
I kept on shooting communists but it was kind of hard to tell
There ain’t no fun in killin’ folk and I ain’t gonna do no more

I never did heal up right from injuries sustained
Officially in Germany, officially while we trained
I remember all their faces, I dream about them still
I guess we's fightin’ communists but it was kinda hard to tell
There ain’t no fun in killin’ folk, and I don’t wanna do no more

I speak the cold logistic that warriors speak so well
Foxtrot tango whiskey alpha golf tango hotel
A soldierly bravado, an unspeakable guilt
That village, it was communist but it was kinda hard to tell
There ain’t no fun in killin’ folk and I don’t wanna do no more
Believe me, I’ve done plenty boys and I ain’t gonna do no more
But of course if they back me in the corner they’ll be dead before they hit the floor

'Sandinista, you can hold your head up high...'
Sandinista, you can hold your head up high
You have given back their Freedom
You have lived up to your name

Sandinista, may your spirit never die
Hold the candle to the darkness
You're the keeper of the flame

Sandinista, keep believing in the dream
The truth is stronger than the shadows
Keep it shining in your eyes
Sandinista, may the soldiers disappear
May your children live forever
May their laughter fill your lives

Sandinista, los fuerzas de la oscuridad
Nunca pueden extinguir la puridad de tu llama revolutionara
Con su terror y sus mentiras
Con su dinero y sys maquinas
La libertad en tus ojus
El amor caliente en tu corozon
Son fuerzas mas poderosas
Que las armas de la guerra 
Sandinista, you can hold your head up high
You have given back their freedom
You have lived up to your name
Sandinista, may your spirit never die
Hold the candle to the darkness
You're the keeper of the flame


On the same album as "Sandinista" --  1990's Third World Warrior album, Kristofferson also recorded this track about the horror of the US war on Nicagua and other Central Amercian nations (like El Salvador and Guatemala where the US were still propping up horrific dictatorships) -- and the need to stand against it.

'They're killing babies in the name of Freedom...' 

Don't Let The Bastards (Get You Down) 
They're killing babies in the name of Freedom
We've been down that sorry road before
They let us hang around a little longer than they should have
And it's too late to fool us anymore

We've seen the ones who killed the ones with vision
Cold-blooded murder right before your eyes
Today they hold the power and the money and the guns
It's getting hard to listen to their lies.

And I've just got to wonder what my Daddy would've done
If he'd seen the way they turned his dream around
I've got to go by what he told me, try to tell the truth
And stand your ground

Mining roads
Killing farmers
Burning down schools full of children
Fighting communism

And I've just got to wonder what my Daddy would've done
If he'd seen the way they turned his dream around
I've got to go by what he told me, try to tell the truth
And stand your ground

Sunday, March 06, 2016

Think you're having the worst day ever? Here's some pictures of Graham Arnold to prove you wrong!

So you're having a bad day. Maybe your car broke down, you got fired, your spouse left you, you got evicted and the out-of-control oligarchic capitalist system is increasingly destroying the planet's very capacity to actually sustain human civilisation just so they can further stuff over-stuffed bank accounts with cash stained with the blood of the world's impoverished majority.

Yes, you've had better days. Fear not! Here are a bunch of super-cute photos of Sydney FC coach Graham Arnold looking like super furious, sad or frustrated! LOL! His day is much worse than yours, every day!

Poor Grah-Grah, nothing ever goes right! Not with those evil referees whose deliberate and sustained conspiracy against his team is so severe, sports journalists across the country have programs that just automatically insert "Graham Arnold angrily slammed the refereeing tonight... " into every article about every game in which his moneybags Bling FC team under-performs! Poor old Whinging Graham Arnold!

Oh no! The ref has given a free against his team just because it was a free!

When the ref gives one of your players a yellow card just because it was a blatant yellow that was lucky not to be a red!

Oh so that's a red just because it was, technically, to go by the so-called "rule book", a textbook red?

An opposition player not been given a red just because it wasn't a red card offence? Again?

''That player should be given a red because I say so!"

Having a bad dad day? Not as bad as this A-League coach whose team has somehow keeps conceding no matter how many defenders he starts! Oops!

"Where are the fans? Don't I coach a major team? Where the fuck are the fans?

"Oh shit ... there are the fans. Christ, just look at all those whitebread rich kids!" 

"I don't get it. We're rich. We're big. We're entitled."


"...did it..."

"...all go wrong?"

"I'd have gotten away with it, too, if it wasn't for those meddling refs."

So just remember... no matter how bad your day is, at least you aren't Graham Arnold! Unless you are, in which case... fuck, dude, I'm sorry. The world is hurtling towards an eco-holocaust threatening the capacity of this planet to sustain human life and you're Graham Arnold. That's pretty rough.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Shovels & Rope Saturday: 'We always back the underdog, coz he's the only one we trust...'

 '... and if that one's for the winner, then this one must be for me'

My SIXTH STRAIGHT DAY of alliteratively derived musically themed blog posts was always going to be "Shovels and Rope Saturday" because my love of the glorious rock'n'roll-country-folk husband-and-wife duo of Cary Ann Hearst and Michael Trent is so intense it is almost unnatural.

The Charleston, South Carolina-based duo are just SO GODDAMN GLORIOUS. From the first time I accidently stumbled across them on YouTube (playing The Thread in a big empty warehouse) my heart was lost.

I have never heard them be anything short of breathtakingly awesome, raw, sweaty and beautiful in equal measures. The dynamics that makes them work so well is the combination of wonderful harmonies wedded to the dirty grit and high energy of rock'n'roll, with more than a dash of punk.

With just two of them on a stage — alternating between playing beaten-down looking guitars and drums, with harmonica and keyboards sometimes thrown in — these dynamics can be seen in songs and between songs.

It can even sometimes be seen between Hearst and Trent themselves — with Hearst the brassy Southern belle with the "howdee-do-dee" accent and Trent the dishevelled rock'n'roller with a three-day growth. Though, like their frequent switching between drums and guitar, they don't stay in those rolls, with Hearst looking often as down-and-dirty as anyone and Trent proving (as in the Americana Music Festival clip below shows) capable of carrying off a stylish suit as well as anyone.

It is a near perfect mix of sugar-and-spice, sweet-and-sour, Heaven-and-Hell (with the emphasis on Heaven). They are everything I ever wanted and their performances make me feel like crying with joy.

I saw them live in Sydney in March last year...  and they were as perfect as I'd expected. The night before, at a typically over-policed Western Sydney Wanderers game, I'd managed to get arrested for "assaulting police" (an insane charge — CCTV footage showed the cop assaulted me — that was later thrown out of court).

I turned up to the Factory in Marrickville barely 24 hours later, charge sheet still in my back pocket, and it was a case of "from the ridiculous to the sublime". If there is anything closer to Heaven than standing just metres from Shovels and Rope playing live, I'd be keen to know about it.

(Being with the Red and Black Bloc as the Wanderers play at Wanderland does give S&R a run for their money... and the one year ban from the Wanderers' stadium that came with the police charge is very very close to running out...)

As my mouth-foaming praise suggests, I'd find it near impossible to pick any Shovels and Rope song as "the best", but I chose "The Winner" coz it particularly speaks to me. It was originally released on a Michael Trent solo album (2010's The Winner).

But, with Trent and Hearst appearing on each others solo albums by that stage, that is a technicality and it is one of a host of songs from their solo albums played live as Shovels and Rope so often extent they as much part of the S&R repertoire as any other song.

The words of this ode to the underdog, the "battler" as I guess you'd say in Australia, are below. Then I chuck in one more clip — a live performance of "Birmingham", because the song is an autobiographical account of how Shovels and Rope came about.

The Winner 
Well I'm going through the motions
Seems it happens every night of every week
Well it's an ever running cycle
And the chance of breakin out of it seems weak
Well my mind becomes a freight train
And it never lets me get no decent sleep
Well my head starts a worrying about all the little things I cannot change
And my heart it starts a pounding
Messing up the way the blood goes through my veins
I never dream of nothin pleasant
I'm always lost or gettin booed off of the stage
Well the west coast was a desert
And New York City black
So I spent some time in Caroline
To make my money back
There's a trail of blood that trickles down from Denver to the sea
And if that ones for the winner, this one must be for me
Well there's this busy little corner
Half a mile down the road from where I live
Where all these beautiful women
Work the sidewalk with a little take and give
Oh it's like an escalator walkway
I just mind my own biz and make sure my money's hid
Well I got this friend, he takes his money down there every day when he gets done from work
He asks for Georgia cuz she's special,
She reminds him he's a man and he has worth
Oh but I don't judge him cuz he's honest
Which is more'n I can say I've been since birth
Well the west coast was a desert
And New York City black
So I spent some time in Caroline
To make my money back
There's a trail of blood that trickles down from Denver to the sea
And if that ones for the winner, this one must be for me
So if you're led into a wasteland or made to stumble through the dark
You leave a cartoon-colored legacy or a common watermark
We always back the underdog because he's the only one we trust
And if that ones for the winner, this one must be for us

Making something out of nothing with a scratcher and our hope
With two old guitars like a shovel and a rope

Friday, February 26, 2016

Frank Black Friday: 'And then it goes wrooo-oo-oo-ong!"

'And I'm sorry about the Visigoths...'

Yes it is Frank Black Friday, my FIFTH straight day of alliteratively derived musically themed blog posts, and I am as surprised as anyone I've managed to keep it up this long — probably MORE surprised than anyone as I am pretty clearly the only person who pays any attention to what I post.

Frank Black is a man who was born Charles Michael Kittridge Thompson IV and took the stage name of Black Francis when fronting groundbreaking indie rockers The Pixies.

Then Thompson/Francis launched a solo career in the '90s and called himself Frank Black and then, still in the midst of his solo career, The Pixies reformed to tour and he CHANGED HIS NAME BACK TO BLACK FRANCIS just to really fuck things up for the poor suckers like me who try to WRITE about the bastard's career.

Anyway, I've gone for songs from the 1998 self-titled Frank Black and the Catholics album because... well it genuinely fucking rocks.

The fascinating thing is it rocks in a very different way from most of the rest of Thompson/Francis/Black's career -- it rocks in a very raw but very straightforward way. This is straight out "Stones on steroids" rock that, musically and lyrically has almost none of the off kilter, quirky nature that made the Pixies or much of the rest of Frank Black's solo output so original ("Back To Rome"'s much overdue apology for the Visigoths notwithstanding).

It is also pretty glorious, driven by roaring guitars with almost no production — noisy garage punk with Frank Black screaming his heart out about how much getting dumped really fucking hurts.

The album is seriously raw. recorded live to two track tape over just two days. This led to a stand off when Black's record label, which complained about how under-produced it was and delayed its release for 18 months. It was eventually released online in MP3 format, making it the first album to be made commercially available for download on the Internet.

The rawness makes the album — not just the production, but Black's wrenching vocals. The guitar playing, with Lyle Workman on lead, is out of this world.

But I am biased. When the album came out, I had just discovered The Pixies and, loving what I heard, encouraged some family member or other to buy me Frank Black's new album for my birthday. When I heard it, I was confused. It was great... but utterly unlike The Pixies.

For a while I was convinced it was a different Frank Black... but, regardless of who I was hearing, I loved what I was hearing.

Looking back, I'd say the next album released by Frank Black and the Catholics, 1999's Pisterelo, is a better album. It combines the raw-as-fuck garage guitar punk of its predecessor with more of the off-kilter, quirky take on music and lyrics that make Thompson/Francis/Black such a revered artist. But I've still chosen all three tracks from Frank Black and the Catholics for nostalgia's sake, coz it is, after all, MY FUCKING BLOG. Plus I love a bit of heartbroken angst...

I don't want to talk about it, I want to scream and shout about it...

I got peace... turned up SO LOUD!