Beulah, Gene Autry, Emma Blowgun's Last Stand, Ballad of the Lonely Agronaut

Posted in Beulah, Youtube Favs on September 23rd, 2011 by Willie

Beulah was formed in a mail room in San Fransisco when Miles Kurosky and Bill Swan decided they both liked the same music, well mostly.  This is the kind of story yours truly can get behind due to own desire to hatch great ideas when I worked in a mail room.  Robert Schneider of the Apples in Stereo hooked them into Elephant 6 when he heard their first demo, and before you knew it, Beulah was one of E6’s shining stars of indie rock.  The thing I love about the Elephant 6 Collective was how they all intermingled with each other and helped out other bands when they recorded and went on tour.  The “collective” part of the moniker was no bullshit, as this was a band of boys and girls who all loved the same music, and all dreamed of becoming rock stars.  They remind me of the way certain underground comedy teams were forming around this time in the mid 90s like Upright Citizens Brigade and the State.  Creative young people in the 90s all saw the value in sharing, working together, and having fun, despite rivalries, which were never too serious.  Beulah is that band, constantly swapping members with Of Montreal, Olivia Tremor Control, and the Apples.  Musically, Beulah has a gorgeous storytelling quality to their songs.  Most of them begin somewhere in the middle, and the music is so energetic and uplifting, that you just go along for the ride, no matter how out of context the lyrical content seems.  The only thing I know about “Gene Autry” is that it was released on 9/11/01, bestowing it’s sweet sadness with even more mysticism.  “Emma Blowgun’s Last Stand” has some of the greatest lyrics you’ll find in an indie rock song.  Lastly, my favorite, “Ballad of the Lonely Agronaut,” I’ve played 1000 times.  I always kept swept up in its tale of American exploration, and its ceaselessly catchy structure.  The song bursts out the gate with an enthusiastic melody that just hooks you instantly.  Also, the line, “gold is coated with gold on the languid hills, where they wait for hours and hours, cool grey ladies from Shirley’s loan us cheer, as they sat for hours and hours,” is so wonderful, and I have no idea what it means, but its been stuck in my head forever.  Beulah broke up in 2004 because their last record, Yoko, despite the best reviews of their career, failed to go gold, a huge goal for the band never reached.  The recording of that album, which featured the breakup of Miles and his long term girlfriend, and three other band member divorces, was dark and difficult, and took its toll on the group’s psyche.  It was a bit of a burnout for one of the most unique and creative bands of the late 90s/early 00’s, but they certainly left a legacy as one of America’s best underground bands with one of the most devoted fan bases.

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Dave Chappelle, New Standup!

Posted in Dave Chappelle, Youtube Favs on September 14th, 2011 by Willie

The worst thing about Dave Chappelle leaving his hit Comedy Central show all those years ago, was that so much stuff has happened in the world, and Chappelle’s voice was sorely missed.  I don’t know about you, but I needed to hear Chappelle during the 2008 election.  I needed to hear Chappelle during the fiscal crisis, and the hunt for Osama Bin Ladin, and every other major American moment because Chappelle is the best American comedian.  He is simply a gifted genius, and the fact that he has limited himself to unannounced random standup appearances, where he insists that no one film him, has left a gaping hole in the comedy world, and it makes videos like the ones I’m presenting below so vital, despite their less than stellar quality.  In these clips, Chappelle is performing at the “Comedy Jam,” in California, and only being a few months old, it represents his most current standup.  You’ll see a pumped up Chappelle take on Obama, living in Ohio, Osama Bin Ladin, racism, Kramer, and his real top secret reason for leaving the spotlight.  It’s all quite hilarious and brilliant, and his timing is still razor sharp.  It’s a real treat for all of Chappelle’s biggest fans.  Enjoy.

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Ted Kennedy's Eulogy for Robert F. Kennedy

Posted in Politics, Robert F. Kennedy, Youtube Favs on September 12th, 2011 by Willie

Revolution, liberty, discovery, and moral courage.  These were themes prevalent in Ted Kennedy’s eulogy for his brother Bobby, after his insane assassination in 1968.  Drawing directly from one of Bobby’s greatest speeches, Ted quoting Bobby, said that, “Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope.  And crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.” Well, I don’t know about you, but that’s one of the greatest things I’ve ever heard or read.  To me, it encapsulates the frontier thinking that marked the cultural and social revolutions going on in the 1960s.  Bobby originally gave that speech in apartheid afflicted South Africa in 1966, where racism and intolerance were raging.  Ted’s eulogy for his brother was also perhaps his finest moment and speech, summing up his brother’s life by stating that “his brother not need to be idealized, or enlarged in death beyond what he was in life,” and that “he be remembered as a good and decent man, who saw wrong and tried to right it, saw suffering and tried to heal it, and saw war and tried to stop it.”  It’s at this point, where Ted’s voice begins to quaver, and he delivers Bobby’s greatest thought ever, “some men see things as they are, and say why, I dream things that never were, and say why not.”

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Robert F. Kennedy, My Hero

Posted in Politics, Robert F. Kennedy, Youtube Favs on September 10th, 2011 by Willie

I watched President Obama’s speech on jobs last night.  It stirred something very emotional in me.  It wasn’t because the speech was so wonderful, though I thought it was one of Obama’s better oratories, but perhaps because I too am unemployed.  I was laid off last May from a job that I worked at for four years.  I performed the job with excellence, always achieving the highest raise in my yearly reviews, and winning the praise and respect of my coworkers and bosses.  It wasn’t a great job; it paid poorly, and there was little room for advancement, but it did cover my bills and provided me stability in a fierce economic climate of doom and gloom.  I also naively thought the job was recession proof because of my low pay and high competence, but like millions of others, I was laid off because they claimed that they couldn’t afford to keep paying my health insurance.  At least that’s what I was told.  Obama’s speech last night moved me, and I hope his leadership is strong enough to see it through, but the insane political circus of the day fills me with doubt.  Politically, I believe in great leaders.  I believe in leaders who can inspire and touch the masses with truth and courage.  I believe in leaders who demand excellence from themselves and excellence from their country, and the world.  I believe in leaders who feel heavily the weight of the awesome powers they seek, and who knowingly carry the terrible responsibility such powers demand once they possess them.  This is why Robert F. Kennedy is my hero.  He represented all of those things, and elevated political discourse into poetry of the highest magnitude.  He embraced all people, and never spoke down to any audience.  He also never pandered to audiences, as he was unafraid to tell them the truth even if it made him more unpopular.  The more I learn about Robert F. Kennedy, the more sad I become contemplating his senseless killing.  What’s amazing is that Robert Kennedy felt this same sadness when Martin Luther King Jr. was brutally assassinated.  Not only did he feel sadness, he felt a responsibility to face a justifiably irate crowd of black Indianans and offer what little solace he could.  He didn’t speak down to them, or tell them that rioting or thoughts of revenge were wrong, instead he persuaded them to examine the tragedy not through a prism of violence, but through a prism of peace.  Eluding to his brother John’s death for the first time in a public forum, he quoted the Greek poet Asechylus, “even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget, falls drop by drop upon the heart, until in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom, through the awful grace of God.”  His entire speech was unprepared and eloquent beyond any other leader’s ability.  I think if he lived, and was elected president, he could have been another Lincoln.  Sadly, his greatest bond with Lincoln, was his untimely death brought about by the bullet of a madmen.  Enjoy this video of Robert F. Kennedy, and expect another update on the man tomorrow.

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The Strokes, Last Nite

Posted in The Strokes, Youtube Favs on September 6th, 2011 by Willie

I had a fun Labor Day weekend.  I crossed the Williamsburg Bridge on foot for the first time, explored Greenpoint, went to a great BBQ in Sheepshead Bay, got free tickets to the Museum of Natural History, hung out in Chinatown eating at the legendary Wo-Hop, and had a Belgium Chocolate milkshake at Haagen Dazs.  Basically, I was all over New York City, taking in the city I love before I depart for South Korea and Australia next month.  One great thing about this city is its history of rock and roll music, and no band in recent memory has blazed the torch for New York cool more than the Strokes.  At once both declared the saviors of rock and roll, and everything wrong with it, the Strokes have persisted for ten years now.  Coming out right after 9/11, the Strokes rock harder than ever, at least they do live, and it all started with their debut single, “Last Nite.”  When this single came out, I was 17 years old, starving for a new rock band to break into the pop scene and change the awful commercial images that dominated the depleted American cultural landscape at the time.  A lot of people would argue that the Strokes were depleted themselves, merely presenting a retread of the early 80s post punk rock movement, but I didn’t subscribe to that theory.  I saw them for what they were, rock stars writing catchy, exciting, and tasteful songs.  They were cool, and they still are.  Stroke on Strokes, and remember to vote me as CBS’s Best Local NYC Blogger by clicking here!

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