Monday, May 11, 2015

When rock is criminal, criminals rock.

There is no single album that has been more in constant rotation for me than Clutch's "Self-Titled."

Yesterday, it turned twenty years old!

Neal Fallon "wails and moans" through all twelve vocal tracks with a grumble that reeks of whiskey and hard times, never missing a moment to turn a clever phrase or expound on a religious diatribe. Tim Sult is the soul of the this endeavor, writing blues riffs for metal heads that weave and tumble and play with each other, each riff defining its song and becoming instantly memorable. Dan Maines though for me is the true master of the album. Me having stumbled into alternative music from bass-head Hip Hop leanings, his bass lines are the album, the first thing people notice, for good reason...his bass lines. Jean-Paul Gaster drums, it's a great performance, but is out-shined for me by everyone else. Perhaps that's a drummer's job, to hold it all together in the background. Maybe.

Clutch was my first concert, in 1995, at the Phoenix Amphitheatre in Pontiac, Michigan. To this day my buddy hates me for seeing Tad open the show, having no clue who Tad was and not being very impressed. I went with the infamous Scobie boys, both having their terrible long hair, shaved underneath, riding around in a two-door Plymouth that smelled like morning breath at all times of the day, the multiple gas station air fresheners having no effect. They introduced me to things I'd never heard of, and would never have heard of. I bought, rather, my mom bought me steel-toed boots for me to go to the show in, in case of a mosh pit rough up. I had no clue about anything at this point, especially not mosh pits. I remember pointing out some giant skinhead looking dudes to Eric and Steve, which they quickly squashed and tried to help me play it cool. Evidently Clutch, for whatever reason, had an actual Nazi-skinhead following in Michigan, which was notorious for its intimidating presence at their shows. Apparently that sect of people were pretty prevalent in the nineties throughout all sorts of music scenes. During Clutch's set I was forced into the mosh pit during their infamous rager "Binge and Purge." I fell, but seven hands immediately helped me up. It was invigorating! I was hooked.

About a month later the record came out and I bought it at the original Record Time at Ten Mile and Gratiot on cassette. I still have the cassette. It's battered and bruised from getting stuck in "uncle" Kevin's conversion-van tape deck after I forced our youth-group to listen to it on the way to a weekend getaway for church.

I've always had a morbid curiosity about just how many times Neal Fallon says "Yeah!" throughout the album. And now, in honor of its birthday and to pay homage to the record that has repeatedly, for 20 years, astounded, baffled, and inspired me, I will give you that "Yeah!" count. But there were terms for declaring a "Yeah!" a countable "Yeah!" I picked only "Yeah!"s that were not lyrically relevant. For instance, the line: "When I talk-talk on a C.B. yeah I scare men," from The House that Peterbilt wouldn't have a countable "Yeah!" Only celebratory or filler "Yeah!"s would count. Also, there are many moments throughout the record where Fallon double tracked his vocals, making, I imagine, intentional echoes of himself. So, I figured, if it meets the above criteria AND my ears hear it and my singing along would vocalize it, it counts. Boy I've built this up.

The grand total of "Yeah!"s is 42.

Seven Jam alone has fifteen, with Space Grass pulling in twelve. Three tracks have zero "Yeah!"s Forty-two is a lot! But not really as many as I expected. But it could be the most "Yeah!"s ever found in one album, that's something.

All these years and I still don't know what Fallon is talking about much of the time. It's funny how my lips say things at certain points in songs but I know I'm not actually saying what he's saying. In fact, at some of those moments I'm not saying actual words. It'd be funny to catch that on tape. Don't do it though, I'd be embarrassed.

If you haven't dabbled in this record, maybe try it? Maybe you'll love it too.

Friday, May 1, 2015

True and Appropriate.

A few weeks ago I got wrangled into looking at a link entitled something like 'The most popular tattoos of 2014.' Lots of line drawings, geometrical shapes, angel wings (really? still popular eh?) and text phrases, the most popular of which was "this too shall pass." The origin of the adage goes back to Medieval Sufi poets. Its tenure thereafter has plenty of folklore about kings and rings and the eternal torment of sad and happy men alike. The modern reclamation I think leans heavily on the relief from woe more-so than balanced perspective amidst grandeur. A friend recently posted about a hardship she was dealing with on Facebook, and almost like it couldn't not be there, amidst the comments, someone wrote "this too shall pass." In this instance, it seemed snide, patronizing, and devoid of wisdom. Almost the same as saying: "you'll get over it."

We're raising a three year old. A strong willed three year old. That's a term people use now. She's had a hard week. Well, maybe we've had a hard week, she's probably pretty okay. Many of our tried and true tricks are wearing off and need to be re-tooled, which is a dismal realization when we're in the throes of meltdown city. Until this week I feel like I've been able to keep a pretty good perspective on how affected she is by her age. She's trying to find her way, understand how the world works, and assert a sense of control. This makes sense to me. But she's found some buttons I didn't quite know existed. In my most deflated moments I start wondering about grim possibilities: What if she's ADHD? Did I do something that makes her fear me? What if these are signs of her being a future troubled teen? Worry! Worry! Worry! But she's three, I can't forget that. Plenty of time for all sorts of revelations, good and bad, that I probably shouldn't start worrying about now.

The other day on the NPR show, Fresh Air, Terry Gross was interviewing two of the three girls who escaped from kidnapper Ariel Castro's home in Cleveland, in 2012, after nearly ten years of captivity. Presumed dead, the world was shocked to hear all three of these girls, now women, were alive and still in Cleveland. The interview was nothing short of devastating to listen to. Chains, rape, pregnancy, garbage-can toilets...ugly, ugly stuff. To hear these women speak of their attempts at returning to 'normal' life, their courage, their perspective, was just incredible! With the help of a journalist turned close friend, they have a memoir scheduled for release. I wonder if this too shall pass ever entered their minds as they endured their crises.

As one of the stories goes, an Eastern Monarch assembled a band of wise-men and tasked them with the job of creating a phrase to reflect upon which should be "true and appropriate" in every situation for all of time. Though I think we can agree it's overused, you know, twenty-somethings all over the country are tattooing it in Hebrew or vintage type-writer fonts, it still holds weight. Flippantly posted as a clever quip or solve-all without any compassion behind it, this time-tested combination of words can seem coarse. But when I strip away my petty grievances of it being so 'emo,' or 'pop,' it still cuts through to the truth none of us can escape. Truly, unequivocally, all of this, our fears of failure, our traumas, our petty judgements, will come to pass. Depending on the moment I suppose that may inspire joy or sorrow, hopefully more of the former.