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The Carrie Brownstein Project

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Morning dawns with the death of Captain Lou Albano: 76, natural causes. I watch two seconds of Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” video before reading what David Goldstein, a writer for, has to say about Sleater-Kinney:

“As to why I love them so? Well, I’d say in terms of late-20th, early 21st century, forward thinking punk-rock with an emphasis on an amazing live show, Fugazi is the only other band that comes close. As became really evident on their swan song, Sleater-Kinney melded Led Zeppelin’s technical skill and virtuosity with a DIY punk ethos. While they were far too raw and shrieky to work on a classic rock station, Brownstein’s riffs probably owe far more to Jimmy Page than say, Johnny Ramone. On The Hot Rock (produced by Roger Moutenot), she even sort of reminds me of Tom Verlaine. Janet Weiss is John Bonham with bangs. Corin Tucker’s vocals are certainly an acquired taste, but I think she’s great.

“I saw Sleater-Kinney about 14 times, and the setlist was different every time. Furthermore, Carrie Brownstein litters the stage with Townsend-style windmills and leg kicks, and their performance was the antithesis of most indie bands in that it never, ever felt phoned in. They don’t stare at their feet. Janet Weiss always looked like she was attacking her drumkit with gigantic sticks like Tommy Chong in the ‘rockfight’ scene from Up In Smoke. The only other indie act I can think of offhand that has that level of energy/spontaneity in their live show is Yo La Tengo, though Sleater-Kinney were considerably (and understandably) more visceral.”

These comments highlight the different approaches folks take to music. Goldstein takes a critical/historical approach that monitors influence. But I don’t think my ex would recognize his comments. She looked confused when I compared another of her favorites, Clutch, to Led Zeppelin. She said she had never thought of them that way, but it wouldn’t be a stretch to describe Clutch as a Zeppelin cover band. To state the obvious even further: people see live music for different reasons. I listen for serene beauty (classical and jazz), psychedelic brilliance (The Flaming Lips), or dance music executed with skill and creativity—Phish.

At this point, if there is something that bothers me about S-K it is Corin Tucker’s voice. I appreciate the guitar playing and drumming more than I do her singing. And on a purely subjective level, I enjoy Brownstein’s singing more than I do Tucker’s. I guess the raw punk swagger is getting to me. And to be honest, I am feeling a little depressed. I shudder as I try to imagine the emotional makeup of a person who listens to this type of music all the time. And I don’t mean that in a snarky or dismissive way, but I now understand a little bit of how it feels to be my ex.

For a while, this line of Dylan’s explained how I felt about her: “I wish for just one time you could walk inside my shoes, then you’d know what a drag it is to see you.” Right about now, it is the previous line: “I wish for just one time that you could walk inside my shoes, and for just that one moment I could be you.” This says a lot about the power of music and the power of S-K’s music. For isn’t that the purpose of all art? To explore the human condition? To show me what it’s like for you to be alive?

It’s time to hit the gym and then preside over a debate on Virginia’s gubernatorial race. Wow, do we have a pair of douches this time around. But before I go, I am thinking of what is at the core of the Phish experience, and that is joy. Seeing Phish is celebrating life. It was not by accident Phish named their new album Joy, nor was it by accident the first song, “Backwards Down the Numberline,” is about cherishing old friends. Whenever and wherever I see Phish, I run into old friends, dance, drink, and, yes, get stoned, but mostly have a good time. Why this bothers people I simply cannot comprehend other than to conject they’re acting out some weird form of reptilian-brain-controlled tribalism. But instead of saying “I am Avanti and you are Dravida,” they say, “I am hipster, and you are hippie.” It is an atavistic and unnecessary process of othering.

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