Tuesday, July 31, 2012

British Rock and Roll

OK, so we all know the 2012 Summer Olympics are being held in London.

And, if any of you watched the opening ceremonies last Friday, you know that there was a major section of the show dedicated to the famous and influential rock and roll music to have come from the UK.

That got me thinking that it is absolutely ASTOUNDING how many quality rock performers or bands have come from the UK. Sure, some cats down south here in the USA invented "rock and roll" out of combinations of blues, jazz, hillbilly country...but you gotta give it to the Brits for matching that invention with a major, major dose of quality follow up.

And yes, we all know about Beatles, Stones, Who, Kinks, the Floyd, the Zeppelin, Bowie, Queen, Clapton, Pistols, Clash, Dire Straights, Smiths, Blur, Radiohead, Oasis, Coldplay, Adele, Amy Winehouse...and lots and lots more super well known UK bands.

But, the whole opening ceremonies also got me thinking that in an age when we here in the U.S. basically don't give crap one about rock music any more...in deference to rap, hip hop, dance, American Idol balladry, sugary country and all things produced and copied from someone else...how some of the best "from the streets" rock has always been and is still coming from the good old UK.

With that in mind, here are some perhaps lesser known British bands that are well worth checking out if you are interested in, you know, some actual rock and roll with spirit. I've grouped them into two divisions - new/newish from the 2000s and vintage from whenever in the past.

New or Newish (2000 or later)
  • Libertines - the band that put rebellion back into British rock
  • Arctic Monkeys - the band that picked up the mantle of the Libertines and stayed together
  • Snow Patrol - heart felt, melodic rock
  • Sound of Guns - like Snow Patrol, but with 15% more rock and roll
  • Bloc Party - arty, angular, thought provoking techno rock
  • British Sea Power - interesting, rough, arty rock
  • Glasvegas - epic, emotional, melodic, interesting
  • The Enemy - socially conscious, guitar rock
  • The Hours - spawn of Joe Strummer 
  • The Joy Formidable - strong, female lead vocal, Nirvana influence rock from Wales
  • Sharks - like seal barking over traffic noise...but in a good way
  • The Vaccines - catchy, fun

Some of these bands are still active and putting out music, some not. But...in any case, the started well before 2000...
  • Big Audio Dynamite - Mick Jones 80s dance rock band after the Clash
  • Stone Roses - Madchester and late 80s "baggy" culture at its zenith 
  • Public Image Limited - Johnny Rotten's band after the Pistols, very strange, arty and influential stuff
  • The Good, the Bad & the Queen - Damon Albarn from Blur, Paul Simonon from the Clash and a few others...mellow, melodic, thought provoking
  • The English Beat - ska, skanking goodnesss
  • The Jam - late 70s, early 80s British "mod" rock
  • Manic Street Preachers - epic rock and roll
  • Placebo - a band with it's own sound
  • The Jesus & Mary Chain - influential Scottish band
  • The La's - eccentric acoustic sound. You know their song "There She Goes" already
  • Ned's Atomic Dustbin - you know, just check it out. Get their debut Godfodder
  • Joy Division AND New Order - two bands, but essentially the same lineup of musicians
  • Primal Scream - the Stones meet the Stone Roses meet dance meets the MC5
  • The Professionals - post Pistols band from Steve Jones and Paul Cook
  • Stereophonics - Wales rock worth checking out
  • The 101ers - Joe Strummer's band before he joined the Clash

Monday, July 30, 2012

Ronnie Not As Great as So Many Want to Believe

The other day, one of my conservative friends posted a picture of Ronald Reagan with the following quote...

"It's time we reduced the federal budget and left the family budget alone."

And of course the person added some typical commentary about Regan being a great president and such.

Now, one could certainly argue over whether government spending (federal budget) should be reduced and/or if any changes need to be made to the tax code (family budget) should be made and how. Sure.

But, I think it absurd is holding up Ronald Regan as some sort of paragon of virtue or riotousness. I am constantly amazed that people still think he was a good president. And I KNOW today's conservatives would tar and feather the man as far, far to liberal for their Republican Party.

But anyway, set aside that Regan was AN ACTOR playing the role of president and that his actions while in office actually created many of our current day problems. If you want to boil Regan down to a quote, don't forget the following things he said...

"Facts are stupid things."

"I am not worried about the deficit. It is big enough to take care of itself."

"Trees cause more pollution than automobiles."

"All the waste in a year from a nuclear power plant can be stored under a desk."

"Approximately 80 percent of our air pollution stems from hydrocarbons released by vegetation, so let's not go overboard in setting and enforcing tough emission standards from man-made sources."

"I can't remember" (repeatedly when asked about his knowledge of the Arms for Hostage scandal).
"What we have found in this country, and maybe we're more aware of it now, is one problem that we've had, even in the best of times, and that is the people who are sleeping on the grates, the homeless who are homeless, you might say, by choice."

"A tree's a tree. How many more do you need to look at?"

And no, these aren't things Ronnie said while trying to elicit a laugh or come across as a good guy. These were hard boiled comments that give you insight into just how little this guy had going on upstairs.
Oh, and here's another one for you: Reagan didn't even utter the word (or acronym) A.I.D.S until the last year of his second term.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Gaslight Anthem Rock Seattle

A buddy and I went to go see The Gaslight Anthem at the Crocodile Cafe last Sunday. If you are not familiar with the band, check them out...if you like real, American rock and roll.

It's hard rock with a melody produced by Brian Fallon and his band mates straight out of New Jersey.

They are right at the top of my list of favorite new/newish rock and roller groups.

Anyway, the place was PACKED, energized and the band put on a great show. This was the gig to be at. Sold out.

You can see some videos of the gig (taken by other people, not me) HERE, HERE and HERE.

I did take some pictures, which you can see at the end of the set of pictures HERE. A teaser shot below...

The Gaslight Anthem live on stage in Seattle - July 8, 2012

Nothing More American than US Olympic Uniforms Made in China

Turns out that the 2012 U.S. Olympic team uniforms are made in China. Yep. China.

This has, of course, created some outrage and generally appall about how our team's duds are manufactured overseas...and in a communist country to boot.

Well, my opinion is...grow up, there is nothing more American in 2012 than products for the U.S. produced in China. After all, our nation's government, business sector and citizenry have gone out of their way to make that possible. For example...

  • Cheap labor. U.S. businesses want it to pad profit margins and "create efficiencies," so they lay off American workers and ship jobs overseas. Like to China. 
  • Avoiding regulation. Business wants that too. After all, worrying about environmental impacts of manufacturing, safety standards and work hours for workers are costly...but not in China. 
  • Government complicity. Whether it's passively sitting by and watching U.S. businesses move jobs overseas (I mean you Democratic Party) OR actually encouraging it through tax breaks and trade agreements (I'm looking mainly at you Republican Party, but Democrats are not immune)...our government has made it real easy for corporations to move manufacturing to places like China. 
  • Cheap products. US consumers want them and clamor to their local WalMart and other such places to get them...but that stuff on those shelves ain't made here in the USA people. The culture of "gimmie cheap" regardless of quality or impact to U.S. jobs by the American consumer is part of the problem. Now, one complicating factor is that the issues raised in the above bullet points have also created a shitty U.S. economy, thus propelling demand for cheap products from "want to have" into virtually "need to have" status for average Americans. Think that's a coincidence? I don't.
  • American voters. Fueled and fooled by vague notions of "freedom," "family values," and "small government," a large percentage of U.S. voters keep returning the very politicians to power who create or allow all of the above to happen. 
So, are you pissed off that the U.S. Olympic team uniforms are made in China? That really get under your red, white and blue skin? 

Well, do something about it then. Or shut the F up. 

Think about who you vote for, the ideas you support and what those choices mean for U.S. jobs. Think about buying made in the USA products...literally put your money where your mouth is. Don't like US made goods or think they are too expensive? Then shut up about the issue. And think about getting pissed off at corporations and not "the government" or China.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Pictures from Iowa Now Up

Ok all, Diane and I just took a trip to Iowa to visit relatives for the 4th of July holiday.

You can see some pictures from our trip by clicking HERE.

Customarily I've omitted personal pictures from public view, but if you're family and want to see some additional shots shoot me a note and I'll send you some more.

Other than that, I'll say two things:

1) It was REALLY F-ING HOT in Iowa...we're talking 100+ degrees. As a Seattle person, I'm mentally trained to go outside in the sun. You know, get it when you can. But this week was an inverse weird lesson in not doing that. Way, way too hot be outside.

2) While Iowa is indeed rural and slow compared to Seattle and other such cities, it is a joy to visit the small towns and really experience something different. I highly encourage you to do something like this if you have not. You not only get to see things you don't in your normal coastal urban life, but you connect with people who...while similar in many ways...do indeed have a different daily reality than you do. Check it out. You'll be more well rounded and educated for it.