R.I.P. prince

prince died a few days ago. it’s a god damned shame. he was an immensely talented, fiercely uncompromising individual. for years, i’ve said that i felt that prince was a living michelangelo, an artist who will be remembered throughout human history. i think he was that revolutionary, that groundbreaking, that gifted as an artist, musician, and performer.

like everyone else on the planet, i’ve been revisiting some of my fave prince tracks since he died. man, there are so many good ones. here’s a list of just a few of my faves, in no particular order.

  • let’s go crazy – i feel typical liking such a huge hit so much but i think it’s great. it’s fun and rocking yet also serious and real as all hell.
  • take me with you – a really overlooked track. those female vocals are fantastic. i don’t think they’re the most technically perfect performance but the character and energy of them has always stood out to me as remarkable.
  • pink cashmere – i think this is my fave prince track of all time. it’s one of the few songs i’ve heard that actually sounds romantic. the production is beautifully smooth and suits the mood of the song perfectly. the guitar solo toward the end is tasteful and lovely.
  • diamonds and pearls – this song is corny enough that i shouldn’t love it like i do but it’s just so fucking pretty and touching.
  • pussy control – this was the song that started my prince fascination. me and the big man were at a shithole strip club in nanaimo called the commercial. it was a tiny rat’s nest, hole in the wall place. there were only 3 or 4 meat seats and the plumbing pipes hung down over the stripper’s stage so they had to duck under them. it was horrible and gross but so funny. anyway, we went there when we were about 20 and i think some girl must have stripped to pussy control, and big man was like “this is prince!” i was like “i don’t care” but then i heard the falsetto in the chorus and i thought, “this is weird. huh. neat.” from there, i checked out more and more prince and quickly fell madly in love with his stuff. so while pussy control certainly isn’t his best work in my mind, it holds a special place in my heart for being the song that began my prince fascination.
  • trust – another super overlooked track, seated inconspicuously in the middle of the batman soundtrack. driving, full of energy, and i LOOOOVE the part where the music stops and prince softly sings “i want yooouuuuu wiiiittthhhh mmmeeeeee” in the way that only he can.
  • batdance – schizophrenic, heavy, dark. perfectly suited for the batman movie.

i also have to mention nothing compares 2 u as performed by sinead o’connor, when you were mine as performed by cyndi lauper, and manic monday by the bangles. i loved all 3 of those songs in big ways even before i knew that prince wrote each of them.

i hope prince’s last moments in that elevator were peaceful, that he knew what was coming and he was alright with it. as a man who created a mountain of culturally significant art, who basically dedicated his life to enriching the lives of others through his pain-staking craft, i believe he more than earned a peaceful end.

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i don’t like irony much

i believe there’s a time and place for almost everything but the vast majority of the time, i can’t stand irony. i hate it in art: when i have the horrible misfortune of listening to modern rock radio, i hear a lot of half-serious nostalgia acts that are sort of making fun of old disco rock styles, sort of enjoying them, and i don’t know whether they are mocking themselves or not.

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super cool disheveled hair and outfits

i hate it in fashion too, like hipsters wearing outfits that are sort of funny and intentionally ugly but MAYBE sexy to a few twisted individuals? i don’t know about that last point. i don’t know how anyone can find hipster shades like this…

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…or this…

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…attractive. i think both look childish, stupid. like they dug through a bin at the salvation army looking for hideous stuff for a costume but didn’t have any luck, and instead found some stuff that was sort of ugly in a ‘haha, this looks like something my parents would have worn’ way, and settled for that. in the end, it’s not funny, it’s not ugly, it’s not attractive. it’s just stupid.

same goes for high waisted pants. i FUCKING HATE high waisted pants.

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everyone is free to wear whatever they like, and i am free to despise it. such is the case with high waisted pants. you can take the most beautiful, sexiest body, put some high waisted pants on it, and you will destroy it. that’s what they do. i don’t care if they’re hip. i don’t care what stars wear them. i have never seen any girls wear them and thought, “those high waisted pants really complement her body.” instead, i usually think, “that’s a god damn shame and a travesty.”

i think modern high waisted pants arose from the same lazy thrift store joke fashion movement as hipster shades. i think they are a way of saying “i am neither funny or attractive; i’m wearing these as a half joke, and i’m not sure if they’re the joke half or the serious half,” and i hate that.

you know what i do like? i like people who know how they feel, what they want, what they believe, and aren’t afraid to wear it on their sleeve. i like people who are unequivocal in everything they do, so i know exactly who they are and what they intend — even when they intend to be cryptic. give me that in all aspects of life, in great abundance, and i am a happy camper.

like this guy. prince doesn’t fuck around. he’s so legit and earnest that i can even look past the fucking high waisted pants that appear in this video.

tapes i bought at salvation army

after i graduated high school, i worked at salvation army for several years. i was driving a ’90 or ’91 tercel with a tape deck in it which was sort of fortuitous because thrift stores always have an abundance of media forms that recently became obsolete. the combination of working there and driving that car made for a gold mine of exposure to new artists and music that i otherwise may have never got into. last night i revisited one of those records and it made me want to write about it here. so here are a the albums and artists i credit the salvation army and my tercel with getting me in to.

  • sinead o’connori do not want what i have not got

i always loved the single from this album, the emperor’s new clothes, and was pretty alright with the big hit, nothing compares 2 u, so i checked it out the whole thing and really liked it. it’s not a style i normally dig at all. it’s very focused on lyrics and doesn’t rock very hard too often but i was really impacted by how raw the lyrics are. of course everyone knows that o’connor is a fiery, opinionated lady, and i knew that before i listened to the album, but i still didn’t expect her to be so unguarded in her art. she speaks so plainly about some clearly very intimate stuff. it’s almost like she’s singing diary entries she made while she was at her most joyous, most angry, most resentful, etc. she’s a fucking extreme chick, and i like it. i would never, ever want to hang out with her because i bet we’d get in a fight and she’d physically attack me but she has made some brutally ‘real’ art and i admire the fuck out of that. very brave. i also love how unaffected her voice is. she never sounds like she’s trying to sing sexy or haunting or weird or whatever. she just sounds like a woman singing naturally, singing the way she feels inspired to sing. that’s surprisingly rare in vocalists, i think.

  • billy joelglass houses

my fucking scumbag asshole uncle once made me a mixed tape when i was a little kid, and to this day i still really like a lot of the stuff he put on there. it’s about the only good thing that man ever did in his entire rotten fucking life. anyway, one of the songs on there was it’s still rock and roll to me, and that song was the reason i grabbed this tape. and i was shocked because i loved the whole album start to finish, right away. i was so pumped that i checked out some other BJ albums but none of them rocked as hard as this one did. the others were more piano and ballads while this one was more rock and roll, and that suited me better. just about every song is a fucking hit in my eyes. and what’s more, i realized that BJ is a true wordsmith. he is incredibly talented on saying exactly what he means, yet staying perfectly within the constraints of rhythms, stressed syllables, rhymes, etc. i think that’s actually exceptionally difficult to pull off. most crappy poetry or song lyrics will use stupid techniques like sentence inversions in order to retain the rhyme scheme or meter, but they wind up sounding really archaic or stiff and rigid, or the author often has to change what they’re saying a little bit in order to make it fit into the music. that’s pathetic and obviously sucks. BJ doesn’t do that. listen to this album and pay close attention to the lyrics and the way he effortless, clearly, beautifully expresses himself. i think it’s really impressive.

  • the b-52’scosmic thing

i was always pretty down with love shack and really liked roam but was dubious about the rest of this album. i mean, their super goofy schtick can be nauseating. but i was surprised at how legit the album is, how it still retains the goofy schtick but also attempts to communicate serious thoughts on serious stuff. some of the album is surprisingly focused on environmental and social issues but even those moments are as fun and goofy as everything else they do. i think it helps keep the heavy subject matter from feeling too heavy. it’s a great balance. i also really like the songs that are more personal, just about having fun with friends and crap. the whole thing makes for a great road trip soundtrack album.

  • deee-liteworld clique

everyone loves groove is in the heart. if you don’t, you’re an asshole who doesn’t like to get down and have fun. it’s a killer song. i think it’s definitely the best cut on the album but the whole thing is still really fun overall, and it really captures the crazy, retro fashion-styled electronic music movement that came out of new york. i feel like it’s a period piece, a snapshot of some tiny scene that just happened to blow up in the early 90’s. plus lady kier was so fucking hot.

  • princethe hits

before i got this tape, i never realized how crazy and talented and versatile and unique and uncompromising prince is — in a nutshell, prince is amazing. i think he is a living legend, a true modern day version of michaelangelo or any other renowned, long-dead artist. even if you don’t particularly dig his stuff, i think you would be delusional to deny its many great and varied qualities.  almost every fucking song on this tape is 10/10, and the ones that aren’t are like 8’s and 9’s. it’s top quality shit. and it served as my gateway to prince fandom: after this, i got into many of his albums, and even got to see him perform live a few years back. the best part of that was bill and i went to the after party show (which was actually really boring — i’m not into aimless, wandering funk jams) and just when we were ready to pull the pin and leave part way through, prince walked by on the other side of a barrier and bill said “hey, prince!” and slapped prince on the shoulder like an old friend. kind of funny since prince is so tiny, effeminate, and flamboyant, and bill is a giant, 6-and-a-half feet tall, affable white guy in a striped golf shirt. i think it’s a cute juxtaposition. anyway, prince’s body guards jumped in and pushed bill away and rushed prince away to the stage. when prince got up there, he just stood there and glared at us for like 5 or 10 seconds. a long time, really. i didn’t connect the dots at first and wondered, why is prince glaring at me? then i realized that prince wasn’t glaring at me, he was glaring at bill — he was pissed that bill had dared to touch him! you could tell he actually loved it though. he loved having an excuse to be quietly melodramatic. he’s so bitchy that way. anyway, it was super fucking cool and and is just another reason that prince holds such a special place in my heart.

part of what made me get into these tapes was the fact that they were so inconvenient to skip through. i normally have a very short attention span when giving new things a chance. if i’m not impressed in the first 10 or 15 seconds, i usually skip to the next song, and after that happens a few times, i just shut the shit off. i don’t have the patience to force myself to acquire a taste for every god damn new thing that pops into my line of sight. but with tapes, i couldn’t easily skip to the next song. i had to sit through some songs i would have normally skipped past, and i learned to appreciate things about those songs i normally wouldn’t have noticed. so i sort of miss that, and wonder if i will find another way to inadvertently force myself to give more time to new things. probably not. oh well.

i think the greatest achievers are often the most unlikeable weirdos

i have a theory. it started out in early 2007 when i became intimately acquainted with the rollins band album, ‘the end of silence.’

i was going through a difficult period of change (not like a sex change or anything, just personal growth) and that album suited my state of mind at the time really well. it spoke to me so clearly, it applied to me in such huge ways that i felt connected to henry rollins, like we shared some powerful core experience. i became really curious about henry rollins on a personal level and i checked out a number of his interviews, like this one with nardwuar, the human serviette.

and i realized, “jesus christ, hank rollins is an asshole. i wouldn’t want to hang out with him at all.” i was shocked! i couldn’t believe this man who had been instrumental in helping me through such a difficult time could be such a dickhead.

then i started thinking about some of my other favourite artists, like prince. i think prince is god-like. i firmly believe he is a michaelangelo or davinci of our lifetime, he is truly a living legend. but same thing, he’s a fucking dink. he’s so esoteric and smug and pretentious. and the same goes for a lot of other great artists who are geniuses but really fucking unlikeable in a great variety of ways — sting, mike patton, david lynch, stanley kubrick, marlon brando. i could go on but i’m sure you get the idea. it’s a shame but i think it’s largely inherent to any artist who ventures out on their own, doing something new and interesting and genuine. they have to be strong, proud, stubborn individuals to do something unique and crazy and be successful with it. but those qualities don’t usually make for good buds you want to go for dog walks with.

then i saw the olympics a couple years ago and watched an interview with some world class athlete. i can’t remember who it was but it was a young, beautiful woman who was one of the best in the world at some obscure, essentially useless talent. i thought, “wow, so accomplished, and what a babe. i wonder what lucky dude she’ll end up with.” but then i listened to the interview and she talked about her rigorous training schedule, nutritional regime, how hard she had worked to get to this point, that sort of thing. her entire life from like age 8 on had been all been nothing but buildup to olympic level shotput or high jump or breaststroke or whatever, and i realized that despite the things i admired her for, she was a horrifically imbalanced individual. she had never had the time to make lasting friendships, to date people and learn about love and romance, to party, to hang out at mason’s in the summer and drink discount kick sodas…

it was a poor man’s jolt cola that no one bought, so they sold it for next to nothing. we bought it up like hot cakes.

…and she wouldn’t be any fun to hang out with. she and most other olympic athletes must be so stunted from living with such a singular purpose that i actually feel bad for them. they are on top of the world for a few weeks out of their lives, and the rest of the time they are missing out on the things that make life worth living. or things that make my life worth living, anyway.

and that’s how i came up with this theory that the people who seem the most talented or have achieved the greatest things are probably the most imbalanced, odd, and unpleasant to be around. we average schlubs may not make it into any history books but i’d way rather spend late nights dancing with my pals at seedy bars and house parties than doing anything at all with prince, henry rollins, or david lynch. i love their shit but those guys are weird as all hell.

music as athletics, crappy metal drummers

i love lots of music. especially death metal, that’s my comfort zone. unfortunately, a lot of metal musicians treat their songs and skills as athletic competition rather than art. drummers and guitarists are the worst offenders, i think. when they write music, it seems like they’re not really interested in making something that communicates anything to anyone, or is even pleasing to listen to in any way. instead it feels like they’re trying to write the fastest, most complex, most impossible-to-play music they can. and that makes for crappy songs, in my book.

for example:

sure, it’s technically incredible, but it’s boring because the song sucks. they wrote some really technically impressive, really forgettable extreme guitar exercises and called them songs. BORING. NOT HEAVY.

i find extreme drummer worship in metal to be the worst though. dumbasses will be like “dude, _____ is so sick, his double bass is inhumanly fast.” so what? faster does not necessarily heavier make, foolish mortals. i remember when people were gushing like this over nick barker (formerly of cradle of filth and dimmu borgir, now of lock up). i always thought his playing was fast but that was it. he didn’t do anything interesting, plus it sounded really triggered and fake and crappy. then i saw barker with dimmu borgir back in about 2003 and surprise, his drums sounded terrible live! really thin and crappy, like someone was playing joke drums on a super old keyboard. what was even worse was that he hit really lightly. that really bugs me, especially in metal. i mean, drums are supposed to be a primal, visceral thing to start with, and beyond that, when you’re playing loud, aggressive music, it only makes sense to play the hell out of your instruments, to really bash them. well, nick barker and many other metal drummers don’t. they just tap away and let the triggers do the work, albeit piss poorly. just watch this example of old nick, tap tap tapping away.

the guy could play for hours because he’s barely moving. it sucks, and it’s boring to watch. i think this is the opposite of extreme.

by contrast, this young dude who goes by the name krimh filled in for behemoth’s inferno (another serial tap-tap-tapper) recently. i came across this video of krimh playing live with the group and was fucking impressed. it made me bummed he isn’t the full time drummer for behemoth, because he’s talented as all hell and puts inferno to shame. this fella is tight, energetic, and hits like a bastard.

i love watching guys like this play. i could forget the the rest of the band and just watch this one obscenely talented individual for their whole set. i just find it so awe-inspiring to see gifted humans excelling like fucking crazy at whatever. i talked about this before great UFC fighters who are so powerful and precise yet flow so naturally. there is a real beauty to what they do, like i’m witnessing a connection between man and something bigger, some greater force. same goes for talented musicians like krimh.

other musicians included in my ‘holy shit, what a talented bastard’ list:

  • stewart copeland (drummer for the police)
  • norman watt-roy (bassist for ian dury and the blockheads)
  • prince
  • donald tardy (drummer for obituary)
  • ian astbury (singer for the cult)

i inadvertently just ended this entry on a positive note. that’s odd.

a eulogy for 80’s night

back in the early 2000’s, bill and i used to go to evolution on wednesdays for 80’s night. those were fantastic times. evolution was such a gross, cool dive of a club, full of goths, art students, and other social misfits. i couldn’t even begin to count the # of nights we stayed until closing, dancing like maniacs to flock of seagulls, billy idol, joy division, men without hats, the police, modern english, michael jackson, the cure, depeche mode, prince, gary numan, etc. sometimes girls would fall over each other for bill and join us (i never got any action there, despite my best efforts), sometimes we would bring some of our pals with us, but at the very least there was always me and bill: two straight dudes both well over 6 feet tall, dancing together like a gay couple and having the time of our lives doing it.

a few years later, i went a bunch more times with jenn and her pals. 80’s night wasn’t anywhere near as busy as it used to be but it was still a ton of fun.

then the atrocity known as 90’s night became the new thing, and just like that, 80’s night was gone.

i held out hope for several years that 90’s night was just a phase and that it would pass soon enough. i imagined the triumphant return of 80’s night, of reliving the old glories of the past. but it’s never come.

eventually, i realized that the reason 80’s night died is because most everyone who grew up in the 80’s and loved going to 80’s night in their early- to mid-20’s eventually finished college and landed jobs they had to wake up early for; got married and decided going to clubs wasn’t their thing anymore; had kids. it’s simple demographics. basically, they all moved on or got sedate and left me here alone, bathing in the ether of memories of stale beer smells, sticky dance floors, blinding strobe lights, and duran duran. i still haven’t had enough of it but i guess it’s better to end on a happy note than beat it to death and wind up sick of it.

i will always love 80’s night. here’s to evo and all the wonderful times that shit hole provided us.

note: i know this song isn’t 80’s but it’s by the poster boys of 80’s new wave and still retains their distinct, synth-heavy 80’s sound. plus it suits this post. so there.