Old News is Good News: Free to Fight Comp

Various Artists, Free to Fight (DOWNLOAD)

Two things:

1. So, the other day I was watching videos of Team Dresch on YouTube and I was watching a performance of "Freewheel" from a few years ago and there was this really sweet (as in heartwarming) moment where Jody Bleyle pumped her fist in the air at the point in the song where everyone shouts "Freewheel!"

2. I was reading this post on Tobi Vail's blog Jigsaw Underground where she poses some really interesting questions about the "meaning" of being in a band/being an artist. The question that really caught my attention was: is it really enough to make a cool sounding record? Was it ever?

I don't think that all art has to be political in intent, and I suppose it doesn't have to become political in interpretation, but I do think that over the years, I've become the kind of person who is unable to depoliticize their media consumption. In response to Tobi's question, I don't think it's "really enough to make a cool sounding record." BUT, as a consumer of cultural products, I think that people on the consuming end have the same opportunity to politicize a cultural product as the producer does and, in my opinion, I think that the consumer is invested with more power than the producer when it comes to acknowledging/interpreting/acting on political messages that may or may not be encoded into cultural products.

So, Tobi's question, for me, intersected with that moment of watching Jody Bleyle pump her first in the air & I was brought back to my early teens and listening to a copy of Jody's Free to Fight compilation dubbed onto cassette. Free to Fight was released on Jody's label, Candy Ass Records, in 1995 on double-CD and double-LP. The songs on Free to Fight mingled seamlessly with spoken word tracks featuring self defense tips. The compilation was accompanied by a 72 page booklet featuring work by feminist theorists, writers, and artists (if only I had a .pdf of the booklet to share with this!)

I'm not the kind of person who says things like "punk rock saved my life," but I am the kind of person who can sincerely say that Free to Fight helped me learn not just how to take steps toward better defending myself, but (more importantly) that I had the right to defend myself. As a young person, I saw and heard Free to Fight in the most immediate of senses: I was experiencing violence and needed help in learning how to respond -- now, I'm able to step back and consider (outside of the violence I experienced as a young person) the systemic issues that facilitated the need for a compilation like Free to Fight. I'm able to think about the fact that, in many ways, creating Free to Fight and touring behind it was an innovative way for artists to educate themselves and their communities about violence against women, how women can respond to acts of violence in the moment, how women can work with each other to address violence in their communities, etc.

Free to Fight is a cool sounding album, yeah, but it also speaks to a larger need. I don't think that every artist is obligated to do what Jody and the artists featured on Free to Fight did, but I do think that art can be made more meaningful and interesting when artists and listeners seek to engage politically, whether that engagement is direct or indirect*.

Trigger Warning The songs/self defense tips/spoken word on Free to Fight may be triggering for survivors of assault. Listen with caution.

Track List

1. Sarah Rides the Greyhound (spoken word)
2. Monster Snack - The Third Sex
3. Definition of Self Defense (self defense strategy)
4. Song for Anne Bannon - Team Dresch
5. Sleep'n wit' the Enemy - Mizzery
6. Violence is Violence (self defense strategy)
7. Killing Your Clone is Still Murder - Sue P. Fox
8. Carnation Red - Rebecca Gates
9. Body Language (self defense strategy)
10. Don't - Fifth Column
11. Yelling (self defense strategy)
12. Real Defense - 151
13. Make a Scene (self defense strategy)
14. The Martyr - Containe
15. Assertiveness Practice (self defense strategy)
16. New Terror Story - Nikki, Jen, Rueben
17. St. What's Her Name - The Lois
18. Alice's Story (spoken word)
19. Primary Targets (self defense strategy)
20. Target Practice (self defense strategy/song)
21. Striking (self defense strategy)
22. Disgracias - Cheesecake
23. Laura Sister Nobody Crosses the Street (spoken word)
24. Daddy's Crazy - Azteca X
25. Get Out of My Head - Heaven's to Betsy
26. Sylvia Gets Fancy (spoken word)
27. Forever Fired - Excuse Seventeen
28. Lucky One - Nikki McClure

Various Artists, Free to Fight (DOWNLOAD)

* I'm definitely interested in thinking more about music that is political, but that doesn't share a direct political message. I think Tobi's review of Grass Widow's Past Time speaks pretty eloquently about this.

Double Murder Suicide

Double Murder Suicide, "Jake's A Snake" (DOWNLOAD)
Double Murder Suicide, "Turned Heel too" (DOWNLOAD)

Some people, especially people who actually know me, will probably think I'm kidding when I say that the best new (or, at least, new to me) album that I've heard lately is by a band called Double Murder Suicide, is called lexlugersexmagik*, and is all about wrestling.

But seriously, I'm not kidding.

Drew brought lexlugersexmagik home on Friday night after his show at The Happy Dog and I didn't really think much about it. I may have said, "That's cool," sort of half-heartedly, you know, in the way one does when one has been woken up at 2:30am after falling asleep while reading a particularly trying passage of Infinite Jest, but I'm pretty confident that I didn't have any profound commentary to share.

So, the next day Drew and I listened to the album in the car and I was really surprised when it turned out to be totally fucking awesome.

Okay, I don't know anything about wrestling. At all. I didn't watch wrestling growing up and I'm an only child, so I didn't have brothers who watched wrestling, and this morning while I was brushing my teeth and thinking about writing this, I tried to remember anyone I knew who had watched wrestling and only three people came to mind: two boys that I went to grade school with who wore oversized black t-shirts with famous wrestlers on them and who were always drawing swastikas and bomber planes on their desks and a boy I went to high school with who went to great lengths to try and cover up the fact that he watched wrestling as a kid and still had a massive wrestling action figure collection. Drew and I did watch The Wrestler once, so I guess that sort of gives me an idea (albeit a totally depressing one) of what wrestling is all about. Full disclosure: I actually had to google the names used in song titles (Lex Luger, Eric Bischoff, Chris Benoit, Kevin Nash) so that I could get a sense of who was being talked about.

Fortunately, you really don't need to know anything about wrestling to listen to this (though I would imagine that it's a more engaging listening experience/there are more opportunities for deeper level discourse around the album if you know a little bit -- or even a lot -- about wrestling.) Double Murder Suicide layers guitars, drum machine beats, and audio clips from televised wrestling matches to create amazing lo-fi pop songs... about wrestling. Really, the "about wrestling" part can even sort of be secondary. The primary thing you need to know is that these songs are super-catchy and fun to listen to.

I'll be honest -- the opening track didn't really grab me, but things pick up fast. "Jake's a Snake," "The Warrior Lives in Me," and "Turned Heel Too" are all fantastic. If you'd like to get a copy of lexlugersexmagik, send an e-mail to jg242302@ohio.edu. Sorry I don't have any actual information (like, you know, how much it costs.)

* I feel like an idiot for even typing this out because I assume it's the kind of thing that everyone already knows, but just in case: The title is clearly a parody of (homage to?) the Red Hot Chili Peppers' Blood Sugar Sex Magik.

Double Murder Suicide, "Jake's A Snake" (DOWNLOAD)
Double Murder Suicide, "Turned Heel too" (DOWNLOAD)

Live in Oberlin, Guided By Voices

Guided By Voices, "Big School" (DOWNLOAD)
Guided By Voices, "A Good Flying Bird" (DOWNLOAD)
Guided By Voices, "Let's Ride" (DOWNLOAD)
Guided By Voices, "Mincer Ray" (DOWNLOAD)

On Sunday night I saw the Guided By Voices "Classic Lineup" show down in Oberlin. I was really apprehensive about going (I always get nervous before "big" shows), but ended up having an amazing time. The band was tight and they played a near-perfect set. Every single song was a song that I wanted to hear -- though I was especially stoked on all the Tobin Sprout songs that were played ("A Good Flying Bird"!!!) All in all, it was totally worth the $30 ticket price.

I think that when bands reunite, it becomes even easier to view them as being commodities and/or potentially disingenuous in their performance. (Though the "genuine" nature of performance is, of course, negligible to begin with.) But I think it's especially interesting to consider the question of performance as a commodity in conjunction with a band like Guided By Voices. Throughout the show, Pollard frequently reminded people that the band members were from Ohio, that Ohio has a superior drinking culture, and that Guided By Voices is a drinking band. There's definitely an element of performance to GBV's drinking but that performance plays a critical role in the way that the band constructs community within their fan base (example: last night Pollard passed a bottle of tequila from the stage into the crowd and encouraged fans to pass it around amongst themselves.)

Last night's show definitely drew a varied crowd -- it wasn't difficult to differentiate GBV veterans from people who just really liked Bee Thousand from people who had friends that caught them earlier in the day and said, "Hey, are you doing anything tonight? Because if you're not..." The great thing about a show like last night's was that it welcomed people at all levels of interest in/experience with Guided By Voices. Of course, as someone who enjoys (but is not obsessed with) GBV, it may have been easier for me to have a good time. I know my Aunt (who first saw GBV in 1991 and spent the better part of the following 15-ish years attending any show they played within reasonable distance), struggled a little more with the crowd and construction of community than I did. On the way home, she brought up the "feel" of the show and mentioned how disheartening it was that last night's show didn't have the same sense of community as past Guided By Voices shows.

I really wish that I could have been at this show with friends. It had been such a long time since I was at a big show where the crowd didn't make me feel freaked out or uncomfortable. I mean, there were some displays of aggression at the show, but they were (for the most part) comfortable and enthusiastic. It would have been awesome if Jami or Brittany could have been there (on our first Columbus Dream Date, Jami and I were able to realize our dream of driving around in a car with Brittany and Alana singing along with Bee Thousand. Best day!)

The rash of recent indie rock and pop reunions (Pavement, GBV, Unrest, Go Sailor, etc.) also has me thinking about the expectations that people have for bands they grew up with (but have maybe never seen live) and how those expectations play into the experience they have when they attend a reunion show. I know Drew felt let down after we saw Pavement and he felt the same way about GBV last night. But I was thrilled with both shows (ok, so the crowd at Pavement left something to be desired, but the band was great.) I missed the Go Sailor reunion shows (San Francisco, CA and Athens, GA), but I feel like my coming of age was knit so tightly to their music that I'm almost uncomfortable with the idea of seeing them play -- it would just be too much. I'm honestly not sure what you're supposed to expect from a band that's recently reunited. I mean, I expected to see old dudes playing songs that I loved & that's what I got & I thought it was awesome. Maybe other people were expecting something different?

The only real disappointment last night was the $5 pizza Drew bought from the pizza truck waiting outside the venue. NOT A GOOD PIZZA!

Remaining tour dates for the Hallway of Shatterproof Glass Tour can be found here
Everything you've ever wanted to know about Guided By Voices can be found here
Guided By Voices is working on making out of print releases available via download here