We went to the bar because there's a neon flamingo playing a saxophone on the side of the building. We went to the bar because it's just down the street from our house and I felt like having a drink. We knew it wasn't our scene but I'm not sure where our scene is here. I'm not sure it's here to be found. There is no shortage of bars in this town where one could go if they really wanted to hear Sublime while having a drink. At the very least, neon sax flamingo didn't look like the type of place that would be packed with dickhead jocks, which this town has it's fair share of.
The guitar player was rocking a paisley tie-dyed Fender Stratocaster through a Line 6 combo amp. On top of the P.A., which was sitting on a chair just to his right, he had placed a small black light. This brought out the full effect of his custom painted axe. He was dressed head to toe in denim. I wouldn't be surprised if his socks and underwear, briefs not boxers, were denim as well. The solos were drunk, sloppy, indulgent, and awesome. The drummer wore a "Trilby"-esque hat; the bass player a black and white swirls shirt that matched his black and white Fender Jazz bass. It was the true spirit of the mall store "Spencer's embodied in a shirt. You could tell he saw it and just had to have it for gigging. The back up singer, who stood on the floor because there was no room for her on stage, not that the stage was not just a foot tall riser, was dressed like a legal secretary. When she wasn't singing or dancing with the audience she was a playing a P.A. speaker like it was a bongo. She was my favourite. Before they started playing I thought they were patrons, standing around the bar drinking and laughing, loudly conversing.
They opened with a cover of "Second That Emotion" originally by The Miracles. During the outro the lyrics were changed to "I'll rub your ass with lotion". They followed with Stevie Wonder's "Superstitious". Everyone was having a good time, it was the weekend, tear it up. There was the Billy Ray Cyrus wanna-be, new school Billy Ray, not old school Billy Ray, who moments before owning the dance floor had been sitting at the bar with a blond plastic surgery disaster, kissing the top of her exposed breasts. There was the elderly gentleman who i heard telling a group of people how when his wife died he became the "hot item on the block". There was skinny lawyer looking guy with salt and pepper hair. There was bulky zoot suit guy with white shoes in the back of the room. There was girl too cute for guy couple. There was open eyed kissing in the corner totally wasted couple who at one point got ready to go, then decided to stay and dance some more. There were others. It wasn't even 11 but you could tell most of them weren't going to make it much longer. Soon there would be a lot of sloppy sex happening. Billy Ray and P.S.Disaster weren't waiting until they got home, all but fucking right on the dance floor. Heather and I were perplexed at first when we saw them both start dancing with other people for the bands next song, Prince's "Purple Rain". We were perplexed because we didn't understand why anyone else would want to dance with either of them after the gratuitous leg humping session that had just ended. We guessed they were swingers looking to bring a 3rd or 4th party home with them for the evening. When the band started playing Pink Floyd, shaved head with a goatee guy was overwhelmed by everything that was happening, he took out his Nikon and started taking photos of the band. He had to be a part of the moment, he had to document the glory.
I was drinking whiskey and beer, a shot for every bottle. Heather was drinking wine. I felt warm; I felt fondness towards the band. I wanted to talk with them, I wanted to rap about gear, I wanted to let them know that I was also a musician. All of a sudden we were the only people left in the room besides the bar staff and the band. It was time to go. I left with a cd and a business card. What was the band called? I'm not sure. I was told two different names, and the cd they gave me had a third on it. They were "El Toro Loco", "BrokedDickDog" or "Speed Dial: Love", but anyway you look at it they were brilliant. Fuck, I'm not even sure they were real.
Monday, January 19, 2009
Saturday, January 10, 2009
The question of whether or not you personally like "Chinese Democracy" is irrelevant, as this is a question of taste, and taste is often influenced by fickle pop culture trends that change with the times. While obviously a different medium, music should not be measured with any different standards (as it always is) than painting, literature or acting. The validity of any art should not be determined by whether or not people immediately understand the artist's vision, whether or not they find it immediately aesthetically palpable.
Unfortunately it is inevitable that "Chinese Democracy" will be measured by all the wrong standards, especially considering the line up changes in the band, the cost and length of time it took to finally see the light of day. Is it better than "Appetite For Destruction"? Where did it debut on the Billboard Charts? How many copies will it sell? Using these points of comparison to judge the merit of work contained in the 14 songs that comprise the album would yield results that are false, as none of these were goals of the artist when creating the art.
A comparison is necessary to understand what I'm talking about so let's compare the two very different paths taken by Guns N' Roses and their contemporary and rival band, Metallica. Compare "Chinese Democracy" to "Death Magnetic". "Chinese Democracy" has been one man's sole focus; one man's vision, his manic obsession, for 14 years. Axl is Captain Ahab, "Chinese Democracy" is Moby Dick. "Death Magnetic" is just another album, another tour in support of said album, just the next marketing campaign in a long procession of album cycles. Metallica needs a producer to give them direction, to tell them what kind of band they should be this time around, to coax performance, and in the case of "Death Magnetic", to help them return to their roots; to what originally made them popular, since their last few albums haven't sold so well.
Axl is his own producer, he doesn't care about returning to his roots, he is moving forward, he doesn't care who believes in his mission. Meanwhile, Metallica grasp at straws, employing a psychiatrist to help them get along together as a band, to help them communicate as people. Axl does not care about communicating. You got a problem? You're out of the band! It's his vision and no one else's. Axl needs a psychiatrist because he has deep rooted psychological issues, he's "fucking crazy". Remember?
Need proof? Just look at him, the way he dresses, the braids in his hair, the way he behaves, tell me this isn't undeniable evidence that he just completely does not give a shit what you or anyone else thinks. He is only concerned with his own self-perception. For fucks sake he hired a guitarist named "Buckethead" who plays with a white face-mask and an empty bucket from Kentucky Fried Chicken on his head. Why did he hire Buckethead? Because Buckethead shreds on the guitar. Metallica are sporting leather jackets this time around, hoping to convey a tough unified Rock n' Roll image, a back to the streets look. Axl is demonstrating the difference between Artist and Rock Star, a trapping that he has transcended. Axl is demonstrating the difference between self-delusion and self-obsession. Metallica are self-deluded. They need to be the biggest band in the world; they crave the money, the critical praise, and the fame. Metallica's think all these things matter and that they will make them happy.
Axl is self-obsessed. All he cares about is his masterpiece, his monument to himself. Think about it, who else is he writing about? Do you think Axl dates anymore? These songs seemingly sung about some mystery girl, do you really think there is one? Axl is singing to himself about himself. He is in love with himself and at the same time hates himself; he is at war with the demons inside his head. This album is a self-portrait. Metallica are paint by numbers. Axl is Van Gogh. Is his self-mutilation not completely evident? Has he not completely isolated himself into a prison of his own paranoia? Metallica surround themselves with 'yes' men who all tell them that they're still the greatest, still the hardest rocking band out there. No one dares tell Axl anything (except maybe Dizzy. Dizzy is probably a total 'yes' man. But let's give Axl the one). Since "The Black Album", their true high water mark, Metallica have kept on shitting out mediocre record after mediocre record, each time hoping they've recaptured the magic they used to have. They're doing it because it's all they know how to do. It is their profession. Axl is lost in his illusions, following the voices in his head. He's doing it because something uncontrollable inside compels him to do so.
So, the question of whether or not you personally like "Chinese Democracy" is irrelevant. The question is how does Axl feel about "Chinese Democracy". You would have to understand "Chinese Democracy" in order to decide whether or not you liked it, and how could you, or anyone else possibly understand this album better than Axl himself? Axl may have killed the whale, but he lost part of himself to the sea in the process.