Rob Thomas – “Someday” (Video – 2009)

November 2, 2009 at 8:22 pm (Music)

This is for a friend…

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Henry Rollins – “Iron and the Soul” (1994)

November 2, 2009 at 8:08 am (Reviews & Articles)

A 1994 article from Details magazine by former Black Flag and Rollins Band singer and author Henry Rollins…

 

I believe that the definition of definition is reinvention. To not be like you parents. To not be like your friends. To be yourself. Completely.

When I was young I had no sense of myself. All I was, was a product of all the fear and humiliation I suffered. Fear of my parents. The humiliation of teachers calling me “garbage can” and telling me I’d be mowing lawns for a living. And the very real terror of my fellow students. I was threatened and beaten up for the color of my skin and my size. I was skinny and clumsy, and when others would tease me I didn’t run home crying, wondering why. I knew all too well. I was there to be antagonized. In sports I was laughed at. A spaz. I was pretty good at boxing but only because the rage that filled my every waking moment made me wild and unpredictable. I fought with some strange fury. The other boys thought I was crazy.

I hated myself all the time. As stupid at it seems now, I wanted to talk like them, dress like them, carry myself with the ease of knowing that I wasn’t going to get pounded in the hallway between classes.

Years passed and I learned to keep it all inside. I only talked to a few boys in my grade. Other losers. Some of them are to this day the greatest people I have ever known. Hang out with a guy who has had his head flushed down a toilet a few times, treat him with respect, and you’ll find a faithful friend forever. But even with friends, school sucked. Teachers gave me hard time. I didn’t think much of them either.

Then came Mr. Pepperman, my adviser. He was a powerfully built Vietnam veteran, and he was scary. No one ever talked out of turn in his class. Once one kid did and Mr. P. lifted him off the ground and pinned him to the blackboard.

Mr. P. could see that I was in bad shape, and one Friday in October he asked me if I had ever worked out with weights. I told him no. He told me that I was going to take some of the money that I had saved and buy a hundred-pound set of weights at Sears. As I left his office, I started to think of things I would say to him on Monday when he asked about the weights that I was not going to buy. Still, it made me feel special. My father never really got that close to caring. On Saturday I bought the weights, but I couldn’t even drag them to my mom’s car. An attendant laughed at me as he put them on a dolly.

Monday came and I was called into Mr. P.’s office after school. He said that he was going to show me how to work out. He was going to put me on a program and start hitting me in the solar plexus in the hallway when I wasn’t looking. When I could take the punch we would know that we were getting somewhere. At no time was I to look at myself in the mirror or tell anyone at school what I was doing.

In the gym he showed me ten basic exercises. I paid more attention than I ever did in any of my classes. I didn’t want to blow it. I went home that night and started right in. Weeks passed, and every once in a while Mr. P. would give me a shot and drop me in the hallway, sending my books flying. The other students didn’t know what to think. More weeks passed, and I was steadily adding new weights to the bar. I could sense the power inside my body growing. I could feel it.

Right before Christmas break I was walking to class, and from out of nowhere Mr. Pepperman appeared and gave me a shot in the chest. I laughed and kept going. He said I could look at myself now. I got home and ran to the bathroom and pulled off my shirt. I saw a body, not just the shell that housed my stomach and my heart. My biceps bulged. My chest had definition. I felt strong. It was the first time I can remember having a sense of myself. I had done something and no one could ever take it away. You couldn’t say **** to me.

It took me years to fully appreciate the value of the lessons I have learned from the Iron. I used to think that it was my adversary, that I was trying to lift that which does not want to be lifted. I was wrong. When the Iron doesn’t want to come off the mat, it’s the kindest thing it can do for you. If it flew up and went through the ceiling, it wouldn’t teach you anything. That’s the way the Iron talks to you. It tells you that the material you work with is that which you will come to resemble. That which you work against will always work against you.

It wasn’t until my late twenties that I learned that by working out I had given myself a great gift. I learned that nothing good comes without work and a ceratin amount of pain. When I finish a set that leaves me shaking, I know more about myself. When something gets bad, I know it can’t be as bad as that workout.

I used to fight the pain, but recently this became clear to me: pain is not my enemy; it is my call to greatness. But when dealing with the Iron, one must be careful to interpret the pain correctly. Most injuries involving the Iron come from ego. I once spent a few weeks lifting weight that my body wasn’t ready for and spent a few months not picking up anything heavier than a fork. Try to lift what you’re not prepared to and the Iron will teach you a little lesson in restraint and self-control.

I have never met a truly strong person who didn’t have self-respect. I think a lot of inwardly and outwardly directed contempt passes itself off as self-respect: the idea of raising yourself by stepping on someone’s shoulders instead of doing it yourself. When I see guys working out for cosmetic reasons, I see vanity exposing them in the worst way, as cartoon characters, billboards for imbalance and insecurity. Strength reveals itself through character. It is the difference between bouncers who get off strong-arming people and Mr. Pepperman.

Muscle mass does not always equal strength. Strength is kindness and sensitivity. Strength is understanding that your power is both physical and emotional. That it comes from the body and the mind. And the heart.

Yukio Mishima said that he could not entertain the idea of romance if he was not strong. Romance is such a strong and overwhelming passion, a weakened body cannot sustain it for long. I have some of my most romantic thoughts when I am with the Iron. Once I was in love with a woman. I thought about her the most when the pain from a workout was racing through my body. Everything in me wanted her. So much so that sex was only a fraction of my total desire. It was the single most intense love I have ever felt, but she lived far away and I didn’t see her very often. Working out was a healthy way of dealing with the loneliness. To this day, when I work out I usually listen to ballads.

I prefer to work out alone. It enables me to concentrate on the lessons that the Iron has for me. Learning about what you’re made of is always time well spent, and I have found no better teacher. The Iron had taught me how to live.

Life is capable of driving you out of your mind. The way it all comes down these days, it’s some kind of miracle if you’re not insane. People have become separated from their bodies. They are no longer whole. I see them move from their offices to their cars and on to their suburban homes. They stress out constantly, they lose sleep, they eat badly. And they behave badly. Their egos run wild; they become motivated by that which will eventually give them a massive stroke. They need the Iron mind.

Through the years, I have combined meditation, action, and the Iron into a single strength. I believe that when the body is strong, the mind thinks strong thoughts. Time spent away from the Iron makes my mind degenerate. I wallow in a thick depression. My body shuts down my mind. The Iron is the best antidepressant I have ever found. There is no better way to fight weakness than with strength. Once the mind and body have been awakened to their true potential, it’s impossible to turn back.

The Iron never lies to you. You can walk outside and listen to all kinds of talk, get told that you’re a god or a total bastard. The Iron will always kick you the real deal. The Iron is the great reference point, the all-knowing perspective giver. Always there like a beacon in the pitch black. I have found the Iron to be my greatest friend. It never freaks out on me, never runs. Friends may come and go. But two hundred pounds is always two hundred pounds.

Henry Rollins

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Scott Walker – “The Drift” (2006)

November 2, 2009 at 12:52 am (Music, Reviews & Articles)

A review by Michael Crumsho from the Dusted Groove website of a recent album by 60s icon Scott Walker (who has been a huge influence on David Bowie, among others), this article is dated May 7, 2006…

 

What does it say of Scott Walker that he can take a decade in between each album and still have a new release greeted with quasi-religious fervor and devotion? In a pop landscape dotted with “here today, gone tomorrow” artists and records, it is telling that each of his albums has the power to bring old fans back into the fold and simultaneously claim hordes of new devotees. Then again, despite the fact that he has been a professed influence on artists ranging from David Bowie to Pulp’s Jarvis Cocker, there are few (if any) musicians as bold, singular, and relentlessly/restlessly creative as one Scott Walker. In the past 30 years, Walker has released but three albums, a rate of productivity that seems insanely sloth-like, especially now that certain other “experimental” artists and folk tunesmiths drop full-length CD-Rs by the season. Walker’s records, however, possess a conceptual density that is practically impossible to match; as such, the decade of near-silence that has followed both Climate of the Hunter and Tilt was entirely necessary. These records are not immediately accessible, steeped though they may be in some long-gone pop tradition. Ten years worth of listening is about what it takes to cut through the intense allusions, references and metaphors that tie his iconoclastic works together.

When approaching Walker, nothing can be taken for granted, as everything from the title to the last struck note is impeccably placed and labored, precisely calculated for a maximum impact that the creator himself is generally reticent to reveal. Titled The Drift, Scott Walker’s first long-player in 11 years begs dissection beginning with its name – a drift from what, exactly? The pop sphere that birthed him and gave him super-stardom as a member of the Walker Brothers? The cult of personality that has surrounded his increasingly bizarre and complex work? A general critique of the super-structure that births larger-than-life personas and their nervous tics? Life into death?

For his group of obsessive fans, this is what makes Walker’s music so enticing – it presents a labyrinthine descent into the darkest recesses of one man’s demons and psychoses that is so serpentine it is almost impossible to find an exit. And, always one wary of the spotlight, the man himself provides few clues as to the meanings of his texts (and those that he does give are hardly illuminating). The Drift is littered with compact, intense psycho-dramas that are both deeply affecting and almost impenetrable. “Clara,” for example, takes as its inspiration Claretta Petacci, a woman who chose to hang (and hang) with Benito Mussolini; the 12-minute piece is cut through with audible “meat punching,” hints at the public desecration of their corpses. “Jesse” appears as a dialogue between a rock-bottom Elvis Presley and his still-born twin brother, with a screaming bass throb meant to mimic the sound of jets hitting the World Trade Center – the gruesome collapse and undoing of massive personalities, one an individual and the other a representation of worldwide hegemony. While these two tracks and their meanings are sign-posted in the liner notes, few of the album’s remaining songs come across that direct. What to make of a track like “Cossacks Are,” with its obvious references to lazy critical praise (“You could easily picture this in the current top 10,” Walker sings with tongue planted firmly in cheek, all the while lamenting the fact that the “Cossacks are charging in”)? And the constant reference to “a hand that is cold into another colder” on “A Lover Loves?

“Simply put, Walker’s latest cycle represents the conclusion of the mortal coil and that road that leads us there. The Drift deals in death on two levels, the physical and the meta – the destruction of the body and the mind, the giving over of sound thought to erratic behavior, the desiccation of grandiose figures. With “Cossacks Are,” Walker appears to foreshadow his direction – those Cossacks and their march, perhaps the stomp of the critical cognoscenti, or maybe even Scott fessing up to his complete indifference to commercial success, suicide by lack of sales, signal impending death and destruction. And on “A Lover Loves,” he closes the book – whispered over acoustic guitar, the pulse dies slowly and fades away – a double suicide.

But in between these statements lay a host of peculiarities not so easily explained. “I’ll punch a donkey in the streets of Galway!” he shouts on “Jolson and Jones,” a bewildering lyric that offers no easy explanation. Same goes for the “pee pee soaked trousers” and “muddied dress” that he speaks of on “Hand Me Ups.” And the Donald Duck impersonation that climaxes “The Escape?” Your guess is as good as mine. There are undoubtedly reference points for these bizarre twists, but so deep is Walker’s vocabulary that it’s hard to tell exactly what they are without some specific guidance, especially when he traffics in so many lyrical dualities.

This is all part of Walker’s appeal, though. At this point, few approach his music in the hopes of hearing another “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore.” As great a tune as that one is, Walker’s current appeal comes from his singular dedication to challenging the pop orthodoxy and broadening its accepted parameters, and the beauty of his back catalogue is the lengths he has gone in his heterodoxies.

That Scott Walker was once classified as an MOR singer is baffling now considering just how far he has strayed from his former teen idol status. The tense guitars and death-march percussion that accompany his tracks have little in common with even the darkest pieces of his “numbered” records. And though the string arrangements are lush, they bespeak a dedication to the works of Ligeti and Penderecki, all tense and claustrophobic as opposed to the normal comfort of sweeping scores one comes to expect with highly orchestrated pop music.

No easy listening feat by any stretch of the imagination, Scott Walker’s The Drift will provide critics and general music fans with talking points for the next 10 years. It is, simply, a work of staggering emotional sentiment and complexity that few will be able to match. It defies explanation.

Michael Crumsho

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