SOUNDTRACK: BATTLES-”Ice Cream” (2011).
My friend Lar told me about Battles way back in 2007. I listened to the concert he sent me, and it was great. But my memory of the band was that they were really heavy (the drummer was in Helmet and Tomahawk for cripessakes).
But they’re not so much heavy as noisy and crazy. And this track is a head-spinning amalgam of keybaords, unsettling rhythms, processed guitars and singing from Argentinean techno producer Matias Aguayo. The lyrics sound like they are not English, but they are (with heavy effects on them).
The song is weird, indeed. But after just one listen, I was totally hooked. It’s catchy and bouncy and very sunny and it’s a real joy to listen to. I absolutely must go back and check out their debut Mirrored.
Listen at NPR.
[READ: April 28, 2011] Five Dials Number 6
Five Dials Number 5 was an excellent issue that I enjoyed immensely. They followed it up with Number 6, which deals with a subject that I was very passionate about in the early 90s: censorship/obscenity. When I was in high school and college, the PMRC was the big bogeyman for advocates of free speech (of which I am one). I still advocate passionately for freedom of speech (now that I’m in a library, the issue can be part of my daily life), but it seems like there are so many more important issues in the world, that stickers on a record seem kind of silly.
Nevetheless, as this issue reminds us, those who control what is said control what we hear. And that’s true for music and books, as well as our everyday news. So, free speech should never be taken lightly. Although this issue looks largely at obscenity in England, they also pull up some good information from Jello Biafra as well.
CRAIG TAYLOR-A Letter from the Editor: On John Mortimer and Obscenity
John Mortimer appears later in the issue. He was the lawyer who defended Lady Chatterly’s Lover against accusations of obscenity. And Taylor points out that Mortimer’s attitude was that he “understood the silliness of censorship.” And with that attitude, he was able to work to convince juries of that silliness. The rest of the issue looks at important cases of censorship over the years, from The Dead Kennedys to NWA (it’s nice to be reminded about how “dangerous” they were when they came out). He also laughs at the lame attempts at putting adult content on network TV (Fudge you!).
PAUL MALISZEWSKI-Currentish Events: Obama and Child
If you recall from Five Dials Number 4, Maliszewski imagined that he woud be wathcing the election results with his newborn baby. Well, he doesn’t say whether he did that, but this piece is all about him taking his now six-month old to the inauguration. Those of us who watched it on TV saw how freaking cold it was in D.C. that day. And I myself couldn’t imagine bringing a six month old to such a thing. And neither could their six-month old who cried so much they gave up their prime seats to go into a building and watch it on TV with other staffers (his wife works in the Capitol).
It’s an wondeful (long) article and offers insights into details of the inauguration that the average person would’nt know. But he also relfects on the beginnings of Obama’s presidency. And he brings up a point that is even more valid now (as I see articles about this in magazines): That Obama was an incredibly exciting campaigner but since he took office, he became boring (at the time the joke was about Obama’s plan to weatherize people’s homes and John Stewart mocked him for it) because “being so very boring [is] the worst offense really, in the world of popular culture.” But Maliszewski’s point is that
Obama hadn’t become dull, he’d become repsident. He was elected to govern, which, as boring as it may sounds, means beign concerned with the details of how the country works and how people can best be helped.
An excllent piece.
ALI SMITH-A Single Book: A Far Cry from Kensinton
This ode to a book is about Mirual Spark’s A Far Cry from Kensignton (I’ve never read any of Spark’s books). Smith brings the novel to life and makes it sound quite compelling.
JOHN SUTHERLAND-Lightning in a Summer Storm
Sutherland looks brieflky at the history of censorship, and how it has been beaten back. But he wonders what it has gotten us. He puts for a compelling case that novels written before the censors were removed are more powerful than those which came after (is Lady Chatterly’s Lover better than the earlier, free-from-four-letter words, Women in Love?). But really his point is that with the internet we have become freer than ever, and yet this freedome also causes governments to crack down harder and scrutinize more intenly: the more freedom, the more control.
JOHN MORTIMER (interview)
As mentioned, Morimer was the defense in many obscenity cases in England, including The Sex Pistols and Deep Throat (imagine being on THAT jury!). He stands by his decisions and would keep doing his work today (if he hadn’t died in January 2009).
BARONESS ANN MALLALIEU (interview)
Mallalieu worked with Mortimer on many of his cases (and was the first female president o the Cambridge Union Society). Mallalieu also thinks that what they did was very important and that Mortimer was the perfect man for the job. Although she worries now about internet porn addiction (really??) and that we’ve opened a box we won’t be able to close. She spends much of the article bemoaning what technology hath wrought, and while her fears are grounded, there seems a bit too much hand-wringing.
JOHN CALDER (interview)
Calder was the British publisher of Henry Miller and other 1960s’ envelope- pushers. Calder says that cruelty is far more offensive to him than anything one can say or write. Calder enjoyed debating others about obscenity (especially Mary Whitehouse, and arch conservative). But he fears the return of fundamentalism and how damaging it can be.
ART SPIEGELMAN (interveiw)
Spiegelamn talks about his pre-Maus days when he worked in comics that more or less designed to offend. He points out that there obscenity is still an issue in America, like for instance, now dead bodies of soldirs in Iraq are too obscene for us to see (in fact the whole Bush administration was more obscene than anything he can think of).
JELLO BIAFRA (interveiw)
Biafra is still angry (justifiably) about what happened to him in the 80s. And while he has moved on, the first amendment still influences all of his talks. His interviews is funny (as he is), but still very purposeful, and the end is powerful.
JERRY HELLER (interview)
Heller represented a lot of big names over the years (Marvin Gaye, Van Morrison), but he is most known for represnting N.W.A. The beginning of the article talks about how he met Easy E and came to represent them. It’s followed by his discussion of how N.W.A was persecuted and prosecuyued on stage for singing “Fuck Tha Police.” For the most part, I didn’t get too emotionally involved in this case, even though I defended N.W.A’s right to sing what they wanted. But it’s interesting reading this and hearing Heller’s argument that N.W.A. was really spekaing for an underreprestened population is quite convinicng. Heller states:
To me, there are no two more important acts in history of American hip hop than Public Enemy and N.W.A. They went hand in hand, with Public Enemy on the east coast emulating the Panthers and N.W.A. on the west coast emulating the life of inner city youth in places like Compton…. The difference between Fight the Power and Fuck the Police was that Public Enemy was making a political statemnet and N.W.A. was making a sociologica statemnet.
I’m just thankful that he doesn’t add 2 Live Crew to the important list.
PATRICK NEATE-The Parental Advisory Sticker
Neate, a white, educated, middle-class suburban Englishman seemed like the perfect candidate to speak on multiculturalism. Espeically since as a boy he loved Ice-T’s Power album and had a blow up of the cover (and the parental advisory sticker) on his wall. Depsite how bad as he thought he was, his mum was never trribly impressed.
ARUNDHATI ROY-An Incomplete Guide to Obscenity
These are notes about violence and genocide in Gujarat and how records are routinely censored. It is a shocking realization that things like this are going on in places you don’t know about, but in a country that you know people from.
MARILYN CHIN-Poem: Horns: A Coda
A nice poem.
ALAIN DE BOTTON-The Agony Uncle
How do I worry less about he acheivments of others? De Botton’s wonderful response to this is that “there may be no better cure for envy than the thought of death” and proceeds to show how the death of civilzations has really levelled the playing field of kings and peasants. Brilliant.
RICHARD HOGGART-The HH Archive: “How to Be a Witness”
In this scene from the Lady Chatterly’s Lover trial, Hoggart, author of The Uses of Literacy was called on to argue the merits of Chatterly. He says that not only is Chatterly not obscene he finds it very moral. It’s a wonderful argument.
STEVE TOLTZ-Fiction: Scene Two
This is an excerpt from a play (although the title is not given). In this scene, a teacher interrogates a goth girl who clearly has plagiarized that very teacher. As the questions proceed we realize that not only have they been intimate, but that they are both living a life of abject nihilism. It’s a funny scene but with ovearching sadness at its core.
BOBBY GILLESPIE-A Remembrance: Lux Interior
Bobby Gillespie from Primal Scream (a band I’m only occasionally impressed by) gives a lengthy remembrance of the genius of Lux Interior from the Cramps (another band I’m only occasionally impressed by). But the epitaph is heartfelt and very good and actually makes me want to try the Cramps a little more.
The final four pages include Four Danish Cartoons. As you may recall, Danish cartoons caused a shitload f uproar amiong Muslims. These cartoons are not offensive to anyone, but they are Danish (even though no credit is given to them).
Her illustrations are outstanding! Fine lines, excellent details: from the one on the cover of the girl staring down a sparrow to the wonderfully detailed pictures of ferrets, Barnicoat has done my favorite illustrations so far.
The Five Dials News feed cemented the publication date of this issue.