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Archive for the ‘Michael Robbins’ Category

may20014SOUNDTRACK: CRYPTOPSY-“Slit Your Guts” (1996).

cryptI had never heard of this band until I saw the song mentioned in the article.  The song is impossibly fast with speeding guitars, super fast (inhuman) drums and an indecipherable growl as vocal.  In other words, a typical cookie monster metal song.  And yet, there is a lot more to it and, indeed it took me several listens before I could even figure out what was happening here, by which time I had really fallen for the song.

There’s a middle section which is just as punishing and fast but which is basically an instrumental break–not for showing off exactly but for showcasing more than the bands pummel.  It has a short guitar solo followed by a faster more traditional solo (each for one measure, each in a different ear). Then the tempo picks up for an extended instrumental section.  The melody is slightly more sinister, but it sounds great.  There’s even a (very short) bass solo that sticks out as a totally unexpected (and fun) surprise.

Then the growls come back in, staying with the new melody.  The vocals are so low and growly that they are almost another distorted instrument rather than a voice.

After that there’s a lengthy proper guitar solo.  As the song comes to a close,  it repeats some previous sections before suddenly halting.  It’s quite a trip. And it definitely makes me want to hear more from them (whatever their name means).

[READ: April 14, 2014] “Destroy Your Safe and Happy Lives”

Robbins, who is a poet, but about whom I know little else, takes us on a sort of literary tour of heavy metal.  His tone is interesting–he is clearly into metal, like in a big way (at the end of the article he talks about taking his writing students to see Converge (although he doesn’t exactly say why)), but he’s also not afraid to make fun of the preposterousness of, well, most of the bands–even the ones he likes.  It’s a kind of warts and all appreciation for what metal is and isn’t.  many people have written about metal from many different angles, so there’s not a lot “new” here, but it is interesting to hear the different bands discussed in such a thoughtful (and not just in a fanboy) way.

His first footnote is interesting both for metal followers and metal disdainers: “Genre classification doesn’t interest me.  Listen to Poison Idea’s Feel the Darkness followed by Repulsion’s Horrified and tell me the main difference between hardcore punk and metal isn’t that one has a bullshit positive message and one has a bullshit negative message.”

But since Robbins is a poet, he is interested in metal’s connection to poetry.  And in the article he cites William Blake (of course), but also Rilke and John Ashbery and (naturally) Milton’s Paradise Lost, as well as Shelley, Lord Byron and Charles Baudelaire.  He talks about them not because they are cool poets, but because they have also talked about because of metal’s “most familiar trope…duh, Satanism, which might be silly–okay, its’ definitely silly, but has a distinguished literary pedigree”.  Besides, he notes that Satan has the best lines in Paradise Lost (and I note that just as Judas has the best songs in Jesus Christ Superstar).

But sometimes this Satanism turns into a  form of paganism which then turns into nature worship.  From Voivod’s “Killing Technology” to black metal’s romanticism of nature (sometimes to crazy extremes–but that’s what a band needs to do to stand out sometimes).  Metal is all about the dark and primordial, a”rebuke to our soft lives.”

And yet, as a poet, Robbins has some quibbles with metal: (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: STEVE MARTIN & THE STEEP CANYON RANGERS-“Athiests Don’t Have No Songs” (2010).

We watched this Steve Martin performance on Austin City Limits last night.  Who knew that Steve Martin (yes, that Steve Martin) won a Grammy in the bluegrass category!  I’m not a huge fan of bluegrass–basically I like it enough for a few songs, but a half an hour is a bit much.

Nevertheless, Steve Martin is an amazing banjo player.  Anyone who has his comedy albums from the 70s knows that.  He used to play banjo between jokes (“Oh…death and grief and sorry and murder).  Now he tells jokes between banjo songs (the joke about the Grammy is very funny).

This song does not feature his amazing banjo playing but it is very funny indeed.

I just love the crazy notes that Martin hits near the end, which sounds so out of tune and yet fit very well together.

[READ: July 27, 2011] Five Dials 18b

The bulk of this short special issue is the five poems by Michael Robbins, a poet with whom I am unfamiliar.  The only other items included here are Craig Taylor’s Letter and Laurence Scott’s Currentish Events about Galliano and Gaddafi.  Since Five Dials issues are of varying sizes to begin with, it was unclear why this issue was a “b” and not the next issue, but Taylor sets us all straight.

CRAIG TAYLOR-A Letter from the Editor: On Spring and Robbins
They got into the publishing gig to be able to comment on things as they occur.  So this special issue is designed to usher in Spring and to introduce the world to the new poet whose title “Aliens v Predator” so impressed them that they asked him for five more. (more…)

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