Archive for October, 2009

The Chaos Theory of Rock and Roll

Posted in Rave On with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 6, 2009 by Todd

quantum-chaos-subatomic-worlds_1Discord, anarchy, bedlam…I sing thy praises.
Give me the detuned, the sweat stained and warped. Give me the broken and off-kilter. Give me Chaos. In other words give me Rock and Roll like it’s god damn meant to be played.
Open a window on the night, stick your head out, and what do you hear? Chaos, children, the world over: Horns and sirens, jackhammers and garbage trucks, the soft mutterings of the insane and the rabid squeals of the young; cicadas in ecstasy and bullfrogs in heat, lifting their scaled eyelids from ditches filled with the boiling detritus of summer. Do you remember that sound, from the womb perhaps, or from the approaching grave? Some of us do. We long for it in our very cells like a remembrance of the morning our fathers brought us before the pale and ceaseless ocean for the first time; a great unknowable chasm that flowed and roared through the very chambers of our flesh.
But enough of memory. I speak of the present and the needs of the living. Surely this music that today calls itself Rock, in whatever fractured or mutated state, is not of the same gene pool which gave rise to the great warlord-freaks and poet-savages which once stalked our land. Surely these automated Stepford Crooners house not the flame of those who trod the awesome Buckets of Blood and infamous Night Stomps that ravaged the minds and spirits of this nation’s freedom-fighting musical alchemists. Oh, great snivelers, pale whiney rodents: Was it you I saw whimpering before the great Golden Calf wrapped in your Bugs Bunny blankey?  Surely, it was no other I spied shivering beneath your mother’s skirt when Joshua blew his great horn of death and triumph.
Let it be written: The stiff and the overly measured have no place in the dank underworld of rock. The calculated and soulless, the dull breath of complacency and tepid pulse of reason, each be damned to your individual ice-encased limbos. The world has had its fill of your soft-coma trilling.
Great devouring Shiva, is it any wonder the youth are no longer passionate about this music? Where are the killers; the manic, red-eyed dream catchers and animal skin aficionados? Where are the artists?
I dream a simple dream: A band that can wobble to the precipice, peek over the edge into the abyss with one leg dangling over, then turn on its platform heels laughing like a banshee and slowly ease its way back and…well, how the hell else do you tell what a band’s capable of, whether its member’s hearts, guts and balls are all mixed up in the sound and glory of the thing?
I’m not talking about sloppiness; I’m talking about momentum, friction, courage — musicians who have such trust in one another that they don’t panic when someone goes careening off-script or falls flat on their face; who understand it’s not about perfect pitch or choreographed dance moves or auto-tuned vocals and it sounds something like this: Oozing black loam, grease and razor wire and then all at once a wounded panther trapped in a cave at midnight as the fog rolls across the river and carries its screams into the valley amongst the little ones nestled safe in their mother’s bosoms. Listen. Listen.
It comes down to this: Who’s brave enough to risk it all, to not just flirt with danger but openly court disaster? I speak of the glory of (in no particular order) — Exile-era Stones, Drive–by Truckers, a psychotic slice of 60’s garage rock by the One Way Streets called “Jack the Ripper” (a cover of the Screaming Lord Sutch classic), Jerry Lee Lewis’ Sun Records recordings, “Wine, Wine, Wine” by James Luther Dickinson; The Replacements; Howling Wolf and the great Chess session band; Sly and the Family Stone; Neil Young and Crazy Horse circa “Tonight’s the Night;” Hound Dog Taylor; the immortal R.L. Burnside blowing the joint out with his “adopted son,” redneck guitarist Kenny Brown, backing him up, pushing and pulling the rhythm like taffy through a fun house of rib-thumping bass and jailhouse slide guitar that somehow manages to work itself into one big ass-shaking scream while its individual components lurch and dawdle off in directions not found on any modern-day compass.
Lest I forget the early Kinks sides; Otis Redding with Booker T. and the MG’s at the Monterey Pop Festival; Bob Dylan’s first electric shows with The Hawks; “Fulsome Prison Blues;” “Search and Destroy;” The Mercy Seat RocksOffWaitingfortheManTheWandererTuttiFruttiIFYOUWANT BLOODYOUGOTITWHODOYOULOVE?PILLSBURNINGHELLGOINGOUTWEST, LEESCRATCHPERRY NICKCAVEANDTHEBADSEEDS X THE GERMS GANGOFFOUR GENEVINCENTANDTHEBLUECAPSJAILHOUSEROCKUPYOURARSE…Damn, it can be done. Wild and wonderful shards of barely- coherent racket can be brought back kicking and screaming from the Great Void. Racket…that’s a fine word:  It’s what your momma told you to stop doing when you were a youngen and broke into the kitchen cabinets to beat hell out of a steel frying pan with a butter knife or maybe a grease-smeared wrench. You craved a little chaos, a little tempest to undo all that control and shiny, shiny, shiny. You wanted to fling a little shit on the walls and crawl through the neighbor’s drainage pipes, didn’t ya?  Don’t lie to me, dammit.
But here’s the thing some of these so-called avante garde noise birds don’t seem to fathom: There’s more to the art of Chaos than mere noise. You have to hold hands with her and caress her neck, right there, in the sweet spot so she’ll close her blue-velvet eyes and smile and her fangs will start to show, just a little.
As anyone acquainted with the latest physics theorems and equations understands, Chaos, though seemingly random, always has a hidden design, a barely discernible pattern weaving its way amongst the shattered glass, flames and tsunamis. Ask any scientist worth his salt and he’ll tell you: There’s all kind of beauty hidden down there in the dark and out there amongst the colliding, shimmering mass of stars and impossible vortexes of creation. That’s why it takes skilled musicians of exquisitely sensitive dispositions to handle this music, to ride its razor-edged crests and navigate the black forests of its hidden grottos. It’s a job for the criminally inclined and the terminally obsessed – you have to be in love and insane. You gotta swing that bitch. You have to listen.
Speaking of which, lend your ears to some of rocks most inspired moments and what you’ll hear is musicians barely in control of the great, all-engulfing YAWP they’ve somehow managed to conjure into being: Is that really our shy, retiring hippie hero, Neil Young, leading his drug-addled compadres in Crazy Horse through the crazed, shambling lurch of “Come on Baby, Let’s Go Downtown,” from the aforementioned “Tonight’s the Night?” Is that horrid little squirt Johnny Rotten actually espousing far-right, anti-abortion sentiments in the vengeful, swarming junk-rock of “Bodies?” How the hell is Keith Richards even remaining vertical long enough to grind and grate his way through the tortured euphoria of “Happy,” located at the pivotal mid-point of “Exile on Main St.” Knock back a few shots, run naked through the dancing pines — I promise it will all make sense. Contradiction is central to this grandiosely simple, majestically complex symphony. It can’t help itself:  It bleeds and pleads; promises and rebukes. It spits in your eye and kisses your ass and you love it, at least some of us do.
Give me the inspired mistake, the idiot savant, the dark-blue gallop of hooves on human bone. There: Watch as the hyena lifts its throat and serenades the world’s decay; as children pounce on one another and roll entangled in the soft fields of autumn. Listen: The sound of that midnight train must have scared the living shit out of the natives when it first drifted across their mud huts and dismal cabins; but they learned to love the thing — that billowing sorrow redolent of freedom and power that sank into their very being and found a second life amongst the blood and viscera and dreams. They made love to that sound; raised children in its midst and their whelps grew with a hunger for slow death and lunging sex; struck out amongst the cities and filth and made their own music of rust and rat droppings. So what?
The fact is, fellow travelers, in order to unlock the treasure you’ve got to dig in the dirt; daub mud under your eyes and run with the cannibals. You’ve got to stare into the eyes of the great gray ape.
He’ll tell you: The god’s favor the mad.  And Chaos is their favorite son.

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Malcolm Holcombe, Plymouth NC, June 27, 2009

Posted in Photography with tags , on October 1, 2009 by Todd