Monthly Archives: December 2012

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A Song of Faith and Devotion

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I’m not really one for Xmas music; I’ve heard enough of Noddy Holder and Roy Wood to last a lifetime, frankly and thank my lucky stars that my flat door doesn’t open onto the street: all the better to avoid the sound – and rattling coin boxes – of those pesky carol singers. There are exceptions to the rule, mind: I could listen to Fairytale of New York, Stop The Cavalry and It’s Christmas Time (Don’t Let the Bells End) anytime of year, and whilst I’m not religious in the least, if there’s ever a good day for a bit of God-bothering then it’s today. So here’s one you won’t have heard on the radio: Neal Morse first made his name with American Neo-proggers Spock’s Beard, and left following the release of acclaimed sixth album, Snow in order to pursue music inspired by his new-found Christianity. Help Me/The Spirit and the Flesh featured on his solo debut, One, is the first song of his I heard (aside from Transatlantic) and it’s still among my favourites. Sure, it’s a little (ok, very) ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’, but it’s full of passion, melody and great playing. Featuring Morse on lead vocal, guitar and keyboards, there’s also tip-top backing from Randy George on Bass and one Michael Portnoy nailing the backbeat with uncharacteristic (by his and Dream Theater‘s standards) understatement. Damn, I’m feeling so festive right now I can even forgive Mr Morse his cheesy whoop at 7.27 😉

Merry Xmas and enjoy!

Aside

In response to the Huffington‘s latest attempt to obfuscate and trivialize sex-crime*, a survivor of teenage abuse shares her heartbreaking story

*See also

If you were abused by Jimmy Savile, maybe you should keep it to yourself, and

It is wrong to say ‘sex without consent is rape’

The Post’s traumatic sex disorder

Aside

As an avid music fan, I depise the lazy – and damaging – stereotypes often foisted upon fans of various scenes by a ‘straight’ society that too frequently jumps of its own shadow. Question the motives and tactics of the NRA, examine attitudes towards mental health by all means; but lets quit trying to pin the blame on pop records. The Beatles, Judas Priest, Ozzy, Acid House, Marilyn Manson… Not guilty, m’lud! Have we not learned yet?

The Blogging Goth

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The Mail on Sunday’s front page from 16th December 2012

There are three factors which define my response this story. I am a human being, a Goth, and a Journalist.
As a human being, I abhor and reject the horrific violence committed in Newton, Connecticut. As a Goth, I abhor and reject any association with my subculture, and fear the demonizing effect of headlines like this. As a journalist, I abhor and reject the kind of ‘journalism’ that has led the Daily Mail to such knee-jerk reactionary headline writing. The Goth tag has been attached to this story because of the following quote:

Catherine Urso, who was attending a vigil Friday evening in Newtown said her college-age son knew the killer and remembered him for his alternative style.

‘He just said he was very thin, very remote and was one of the goths,’ she said.

A second-hand recollection from someone…

View original post 1,410 more words

Like father, like son…

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A progressive rock band, with a singing drummer and two guys who double-up on guitar and bass duties – now where have we heard that before? Throw in the fact that said vocalising percussionist is Simon Collins, son of Phil and it looks like a definite case of history repeating itself, which for fans of Genesis and prog rock in general is surely no bad thing. Check out the trailer for Sound of Contact‘s forthcoming debut below:

Bit of a teaser this one – there’s not enough actual music on which to extrapolate any sense of how the album as a whole might sound, or how good it might be. I’m looking forward to hearing more, though; preferably a whole song in preference to short clips, bearing in mind how stung I felt after purchasing DeeExpus‘ last album on the strength of the trailer. Admit to being slightly troubled by reference to ‘…a deep concept album about a dimensional time and space traveler making wild discoveries on a trek to expand the boundaries of the human experience…’ (see below). As much as I’m a fan of the musical, technical and dramatic innovation that characterized much early prog; I’ll cheerfully admit there was much that was pretentious, wilfully obscure and downright cringeworthy: the best use of dramatic devices serve to enhance, not detract from the music. Mind you, The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway is probably my favourite Genesis record, so we’ll give ’em the benefit of the doubt for now.  And did you clock the cheeky Echoes lift at 2.25, prog hounds?

From the press release:

‘December 12, 2012, Lightyears Music and Sonic Reality are proud to announce a new progressive rock band project, Sound of Contact. The brainchild of Simon Collins, Dave Kerzner, Kelly Nordstrom and Matt Dorsey, Sound of Contact have created a sound all their own while paying homage to the greats of Classic Prog Rock and Electronica. With a forthcoming concept album entitled “Dimensionaut”, producers Simon Collins and Dave Kerzner and mixing engineer Nick Davis (Genesis, XTC, Marillion) unleash a collection of truly atmospheric science fiction-inspired space rock!

…With their debut album “Dimensionaut”, they hit the ground running with a deep concept album about a dimensional time and space traveler making wild discoveries on a trek to expand the boundaries of the human experience. The album features a wide range of styles and dynamics from dark and mysterious progressive rock to nostalgic classic rock to high energy alternative to sci-fi film score-infused “space rock”. With a plethora of atmospheric instrumental segues, melodic radio-friendly vocal tracks and an 18+ minute long epic grand finale, “Dimensionaut” will offer a refreshing balance of adventurous musical styles and aims to bring back the art of the concept album to a new generation of listeners.’

It’s not the first time the influence of Collins Snr has surfaced in his work – check out this cover of Keep It Dark from GenesisAbacab album (1981).  Whilst I don’t think it’s a patch on the original – the arrangement’s too busy, it’s overproduced – I do like it; and am I alone in hearing similarities to Gem Godfrey‘s Frost* project? It certainly demonstrate how well-written material never ages – Genesis were always amongst the strongest songwriters from the early crop of Symphonic prog rockers – and that Collins bears a remarkable resemblance to his dad in the vocal department as well as looks.

Speaking of Genesis covers, and by way of a wee little bonus, here’s Brazilian Symphonic rockers Hydria‘s take on Entangled from A Trick of the Tail (1976). One of my favourite of their songs, I like how the Brazilians have veered away from the psychedelic ‘otherness’ of the original and re-imagined it as a power ballad, save for a brief atmospheric coda. Hydria‘s version highlights how well Genesis, even in the prog years, had mastered the use of melody and dynamics that would serve them so well during their second wind as a pop rock band. Raquel Schüler‘s vocals are great, too – I can imagine Hydria appealing to fans of Delain, Within Temptation, Evanescence, Nightwish, Panic Room and other female-fronted exponents of melodic rock bombast.

The Raven That Refused To Sing (and other stories)

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Crikey, talk about an unexpected Christmas bonus! No sooner have I bigged up Steven Wilson and touted his upcoming album release than the pre-order is live. Great timing, too – today is my payday (usually the 24th of the month, but always a little early in December). I’ve rushed here straight from the Burning Shed site, having just placed my order – you’ll get yours in forthwith if you know what’s good for you, at least, if you want the all-singing, all dancing deluxe edition (and if you’re a hardcore music fan like myself, why wouldn’t you?). If it follows the model of previous SW and PT hardback editions, then you’re looking at a limited run of 5000 copies which will sell out in no time at all (only to resurface for silly money on eBay come release day – copies of PT‘s last, The Incident (2009) were selling, or at least, being advertised at £300+). On which subject, a personal aside: I have the 10″ hardbound editions of Insurgentes, Anesthetize and Grace for Drowning, but I’m missing The Incident, so if any of my lovely readers have a copy to sell for a sensible price (I’m thinking up to £100, [k]scope for negotiation, though…) or know anyone who has please drop me a line. They’re truly things of beauty, both musically and in terms of presentation. Dedicated aficianados of prog/art rock will have immediately spotted the King Crimson homage in the form of the cover art (above: click on the image to take you straight to the Burning Shed store and pre-order your copy) which chimes with the obvious influence of that band’s music on Wilson‘s own). If you haven’t already, listen to the work-in-progress version of Luminol debuted on the second leg of Wilson’s Grace for Drowning world tour (below) and get the gen on the recording sessions and inspiration behind …Raven… here.

Between confirmation of new material from Amplifier and Wilson’s new record, 2013 is already looking to be a good year for fans of art rock. Friends, raise your glasses…

 

A penetrating insight into farcical attitudes to rape

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Along with Operation Yewtree’s exposure of sexual violence perpetrated by once-loved showbiz institutions come the predictable bad-taste jokes…

‘My wife wanted me to spice up our sex life and meke her feel young again – the white wig and cigar didn’t go down too well…’

‘I hear Rolf Harris has dropped “Two Little Boys” from his set for the upcoming tour…’

…and so on…

The ‘rape joke’ is arguably comedy’s most contentious trope. Racist and homophobic jokes pretty much disappeared from comedy routines back in the ’90s, even if they’ve made a belated comeback appended with an ironic wink. It’s the nature of comedy to push the boundaries of decency and acceptability but it’s telling that concessions to the sensibilities of minority groups so often don’t extend to women. Comics don’t really know – and the best of them will admit, as Henning Wehn did at a gig at a gig in in Lewes recently – whether their routine is actually funny or just offensive until the crowd laughs: the other side of the coin is that the audience really doen’t know what it finds funny until the comic points it up with his ironic aside; her barbed observation. Actually, what’s really funny falls broadly into two interconnected categories: the truth, and the lies and misdirection we deploy to skirt uncomfortably around it.

You know the guy’s onto something when he can riff on sexual violence and feminists praise him for it. In fact, he has received some harsh criticism and abuse, via Twitter and Youtube, and mostly from those he refers to as ‘the rapey man brigade’. Because he tells a truth that they and many others don’t want to hear; a truth that is – in  this case, literally – laughable.

There was nothing funny about the reaction of certain elements within the gaming community when feminist (and avid video game fan) Anita Sarkeesian launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund a study of the portrayal of gender within video games… except… well isn’t it funny, deeply ironic , that the mere prospect of such study being prompted an outpouring of exactly the kind of hostile, misogynistic sentiments that her project sought to expose: an irony one suspects, that said gamers were blissfully oblivious to. But the backlash to the backlash is the real story: in the same way that Mark Williams-ThomasExposed… documentary enabled so many of Savile‘s victims to come forward with their stories and seek catharsis, even justice, of a kind; so Sarkeesian‘s campaign, or rather the backlash against it, emboldened others equally discomfited by the culture of sexism within gaming to make their voices heard. Games may be ficticious, much as pornography and Hollywood are ficticious (and at least game producers don’t have to grapple with the ethics of employing real actors and actresses – though on reflection that might be a problem in itself) but if the end user is oblivious to the fiction then the distinction  (between it and truth) is arguably moot.

You have to stir the waters to bring the detritus, and the treasure, to the surface.

Like Sarkeesian, Kilstein dares to tell the truth. making said distintion clear. Like Sarkeesian, he brings down a shitstorm onto his head; from conservatives – that means people who want things to stay as they are; people who fear change: which specifically means men – and admittedly, some women too – who want to keep on raping, keep on getting away with raping and/or enjoy for themselves the dubious benefits of a society in which rape and the nebulous threat of rape (amonst other violences) provides them with political, social and economic capital. And like Sarkeesian, Kilstein is brave enough to go public and face down his critics; albeit thru the medium of satire.

‘… They would call me some kind of homophobic slur (a frequent conservative trope, to conflate disparate, albeit commonly politically-subversive positions: homosexuality, liberalism, feminism, leftism etc…) or they would be like “I hope you get raped”, “I’m raping someone you know” (and ludicrously) “I’m gonna rape a steak” (but note the parity in content and tone with the Sarkeesian backlash). My favorite were, there were like some homophobes that combined their homophobia and rape so they’d be like “I’m gonna rape you, queer!” And I mean that’s kind of progressive, sorta liberal of the guy like “Oh I hate gay people so much but I hate you more I’m gonna get over my fucking fear of gay people when I rape the shit out of you.” I was like “I’ll take one for the team on that…’

From a critical standpoint it’s crucial that Kilstein is satirizing misogynistic attitudes, not mocking or belittling rape victims, in contrast to the kind of rape ‘jokes’ that rightly draw much feminisic ire: from a comedic standpoint, less so: that  ‘jokes’ may superficially reinforce predjudice doesn’t necessarily render them unfunny. In much the same way that it’s not fair or reasonable to project the responsibilty for violence onto its victim – or indeed, media, guns or ‘society’ at large – nor is it fair or reasonable to project the responsibility for verbal offence onto the ‘offender’. This might at first glance appear contradictory but it highlights an intrinsic difference between verbal and physical offence:  one can learn from and combat a sexist/racist/homophobic ‘joke’ or comment  in real time – and via the internet, forever more – in a way that a victim of rape or shooting can’t. We have a shared responsibility to engage in a public discourse where the violent underbelly of our so-called civilised society is concerned. (Kilsten’s) comedy has a valid role to play here:i

‘Men always say women have it so easy because they can get laid whenever they want. Why, a woman can just walk down the street, point to a dick and, before she can count her lucky stars, that dick will be inside of her. I wish I had women chasing me at every turn! I could just walk down the street by myself at 3 in the morning and be like “Which one of these ladies is gonna take me to street-fuck land?” Sometimes they wanna fuck me so bad, they are literally chasing me in a frantic, horny, serial-killer-like state! Sometimes, with a weapon, probably to show me he has other talents than chasing! Some girls may say this is assault, but the onus is on the girl, for being out at A PLACE and WEARING THINGS! The world is your orgy!’

(my emphases)

The tragedy – and which gives Kilstein‘s satire its edge – is that too many men and women buy into exactly this kind of hype. Victim-blaming is endemic in our culture and nowhere more so than where violence against women is concerned; in her 1988 essay M’learned Friends (British feminist) Joan Smith wrote, ‘Some of the assumptions that USED TO [?] apply routinely in the area of coercive sexuality immediately come to light: most strikingly, the idea that men live their lives on a hair trigger and can be provoked to violence by the most insignificant stimulus, a notion which parallels the old proposition that women must behave with circumspection at all times because of men’s uncontrollable sexual urges.’ (my emphasis). But not everyone accepts this cynical reading of  human relations. Earlier in the same polemic, Smith quotes one Justice Rougier in his summing up of a 1988 case of indecent assault and GBH over which he presided: ‘Women … are entitled to dress attractively, even provocatively if you like, be friendly with casual acquaintances and still say no at the end of the evening without being brutally assaulted … you broke her jaw just because she wasn’t prepared to go to bed with you.’ Even in 1988, a man more representative than most of male privilege and power was able to recognize the existence and pervasiveness of a rape culture. By this time Savile had been getting away with enacting his violence for over two decades. To date, admittedly scanty reports on the progress of Yewtree nonetheless suggest he was a far-from-isolated case. The price of denying said rape-enabling culture is exemplified by 500+ belated reports of devastating violence and intimidation perpetrated by Savile, his colleagues, colluders, apologists and deniers in the media; and there’s every reason to believe that that’s the tip of a very large iceberg. And here’s the thing: rape works. It intimidates and silences people. It’s taken 40 years for Savile‘s crimes to be openly discussed and taken seriously:  which is why media players such as Sarkeesian and Kilstein, as well as survivors of Savile ought to be deserving of our praise.