I Touch Myself: An Homage to Gettin’ Off

Welcome to the special, sexy edition of Bitchfork.blog ❤ ❤ ❤

In the year 1990, George H.W. Bush was President of the U.S., coming off the heels of eight years of the Reagan administration. The U.S. was nine years deep in the “Party of Family Values”, and it needed a release.

The wonderful Chrissy Amphlett minces no words in the Divinyls hit song “I Touch Myself“, a 1990 song that pulls back the curtain around the mystique of women and masturbation.

It’s a damn good song that celebrates a damn good pastime. Additionally, it inspired a very memorable movie moment, several incredible covers, and, most importantly, confidence in women throughout the world.

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Southbound to The Big House: The Allman Brothers Band

Recently, I had the opportunity to visit some of my family in Macon, Georgia. My great aunt turned 90, and I got to see my grandma who is spry as ever at 91. Both sides of my family have a storied history in Georgia (ca. 1700s). So I have quite a few opportunities like these to visit. Side note- I’m glad I didn’t grow up in Georgia because I’m pretty sure that I’m related to a large portion of the state which would have made dating a nightmare.

On my way into Macon from Atlanta, I saw a billboard for The Allman Brothers Museum at The Big House. The Allman Brothers, per my mother’s oral history, are both a rich staple of Macon and, at one time, a “black eye on Macon”.

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My mom grew up around the area, and she was able to go watch them practice at the time. She also mentioned that they played in a festival somewhere down there that was akin to Woodstock. However, Mom also mentioned that a lot of people didn’t care for The Allman Brothers at the time because “they were hippies.” At one point, my mom turned to her own mom (my Grandmama), who was listening in on the conversation, and said “Ya’ll wouldn’t have cared for them.”

Maybe Grandmama wouldn’t have cared for them, but many people definitely care for The Allman Brothers Band. Rolling Stone ranked them 52nd on their list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time in 2004.

Luckily, my mom grew up right down the road from the Allman HQ, and she passed on her love of them to my siblings and I. And even luckier, many of my school friends had a great appreciation for the Allmans. So, the Allmans are very much a family affair for me.

I decided to take a little pilgrimage to pay tribute to the storied Southern Rock/Jam Band Gods during my day in Macon.

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Forever Avril 14th: A Friend to the Sleepless

On May 30, 2016, I couldn’t sleep. That evening, I proceeded to make a playlist I called “Forever Avril 14th” because– surprise– it consisted of Aphex Twin’sAvril 14th”  all of 21 times in a row. So the playlist didn’t last “forever”, but it was long enough that it would play through until I– usually– fell asleep.

The song is warm and peaceful. Tender and vulnerable. Bittersweet, just like the time period when I first heard the song.

I’ve added to the list over time and will continue to do so with songs that have the same feel.

foreveravril14

I have developed a fear or dread of getting in bed/going to bed lately. It’s a fresh hell that I can’t explain. Sometimes the small, familiar comforts, like an old teddy or blanket, are the solution.

Goodnight? Yes, goodnight.

Closure with Circles: Mac Miller

My only familiarity with Mac Miller comes from when I worked a show of his back in 2013. The crowd was made up of many young teenagers wearing incredibly short shorts and their parent(s) who looked like they might prefer sticking their finger in a socket. So, I wouldn’t have really called myself a “fan”.

However, when one of my friends posted a note praising his latest album, dropped posthumously, I was curious.

It’s beautiful. And haunting. Maybe I am a fan now.

R.I.P.

Chris Thile’s Midas Touch & The Unassuming Genius of Bluegrass

Mandolinist, singer, songwriter, and composer Chris Thile is a busy man. Here is a list of only some of his more popular projects:

  • Punch Brothers (mandolinist, singer, songwriter, composer)
  • Nickel Creek (mandolinist, singer, songwriter, composer)
  • The Goat Rodeo Sessions: Stuart Duncan, Yo Yo Ma, and Edgar Meyer (mandolinist, singer, songwriter, composer)
  • Host of “Live from Here” (formerly the famous and famously boring “Prairie Home Companion”)
  • MacArthur Fellow

and so many other projects.

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A Brief, Strange, and Semi-Erotic History of David Bowie’s “Cat People (Putting Out Fire)”

EDIT: Happy 73rd Birthday, David Bowie!

In 1942, French director Jacques Tourneur directed a film using by DeWitt Boden with the eponymous name Cat People.

Would you believe me if I told you that a movie made in 1942 called Cat People had some deleterious portrayals of women and human sexuality?: “The plot focuses on a Serbian fashion illustrator in New York City who believes herself to be descended from a race of people who shape shift into panthers when sexually aroused or angered.” Oh dear.

Nonetheless, the film is considered pioneer of the horror genre and cinematography.

40 years later, legendary American film writer and director Paul Schrader directed an early 80s update of Cat People with some huge 70s and 80s players: Nastassja Kinski, Malcolm McDowell, and John Heard. The 1982 version of Cat People is described as an “erotic horror” on Wikipedia (if the appearance of Malcolm McDowell didn’t tip you off to the kind of party this is).
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Are You There?: Nick Cave’s The Red Hand Files

“It seems to me, that if we love, we grieve. That’s the deal.” -Nick Cave

Grief is an isolating experience. Even if one has experienced grief, it is a state that is challenging to wholly fathom unless you are in the midst of it. The pull of grief is hypnotic and suffocating. So much that even when experience grief collectively, we are like an archipelago: we see each other and share a similar existence, but we are, until the passage of time and acceptance, our own island.

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Felix Gonzales-Torres, Untitled. 1991. Source: https://artmuseum.princeton.edu/art/exhibitions/1576

While grief and isolation are a part of the human experience at times, we are not meant to live in isolation or permanent grief.  This is one reason why John Donne’s “No Man is an Island” is still so relevant over 400 years later:

No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend’s
Or of thine own were:
Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.

As we continue our hurtle towards singularity and secularism, it can be difficult to remain anchored, let alone find an anchor that supports us in our grief or times of isolation. No wonder we are, at times, so hungry for some type of opiate.

We seek out anchors in our family, friends, community, religion, activities, and idols. Myself, I find great solace in physical activity and sage wisdom (a la Mr. Roger’s “helpers” but for adults). I find much respite from isolation and grief in someone who has publicly wrestled with their own grief: Nick Cave.

Continue reading Are You There?: Nick Cave’s The Red Hand Files

Intersectionality in Country Music

As I mentioned in my Raw Yee-Haw post, country and honky-tonk has always had a variety of rebels. I use the term “variety” because the type of rebellion is really up-for-grabs. For example:

  •  David Allan Coe: He really deserves his own post: spent a large part of his life in prison, lived in a hearse, says the “n-word” quite a bit (yikes), and made a country-metal album with Pantera. Many of his songs cover issues of class-consciousness.
  • Dixie Chicks: America’s sweethearts until they pissed off much of the conservative country fandom when they were critical– rightfully so– of George W. Bush and the Iraq War. The Dixie Chicks held their ground, never apologized, and, honestly, it was awesome. “Not Ready to Make Nice” was a song that was a result of the incident. It’s also a song that has gotten me through some of my most pissed off times.

These are two different presentations of rebellion with quite different motivations. I could discuss so many other examples, but these are two that come to my mind more immediately.

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Uncle Nef: Love Songs

EDITOR’S NOTE: I did it again. I wrote a lot. See the review of Uncle Nef’s Love Songs album far after the jump. Catch the whole album here.

It’s been over 13 years since I first moved from Alabama to New Orleans to attend college. Most people ask “Loyola?” No. “Tulane?” Helllllll no. I landed in New Orleans at the University of New Orleans (UNO) one week before the one year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.

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Yours truly, wearing low rise jeans. Probably making bad decisions. Mardi Gras, 2009

It would be remiss for me to not mention that New Orleans was, as many of you who weren’t there have forgotten or didn’t know, very much still a mess a year after Katrina (and several years following that). Military Police regularly patrolled the campus and the city. There was still a curfew. The piles of debris stood 15+ feet high on the neutral grounds. Groves of trees stood, bent at disturbing angles (imagine an entire forest that’s been mowed down by a Godzilla-size monster truck). Many of my friends lost their homes, schools, churches, cars, contents of their homes, and general memories. Many friends lost family members, pets, and friends. Many lived in FEMA trailers for months. Many got sick from the chemicals in the FEMA trailers. A guy got murdered in our dorm building the first semester, and, I believe, his murder was never solved. New Orleans was ranked #1 on the FBI’s list of cities with the most murders per capita in the U.S. for 3/4 of the years I lived there. Beyond these very real problems, I was a general wreck– homesick, in a doomed long-distance relationship, a bit rudderless, and having many, what I now call, “youthful indiscretions”.

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New Orleans (August 30, 2005) – U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Shawn Beaty of Long Island, N.Y., looks for survivors in the path of Hurricane Katrina as he flies in an HH-60J Jayhawk helicopter over New Orleans. Petty Officer Beaty is a member of an HH-60J Jayhawk helicopter rescue crew sent from Clearwater, Florida, to assist in search and rescue efforts. Katrina, a Category 4 hurricane, came ashore at approximately 6:10 a.m. CDT near the Louisiana bayou town of Buras. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Nyxo Lyno Cangemi (Source: https://www.navy.mil/view_image.asp?id=27531)

It was a Very Bad Time™, but is there a more poetic city and time to be a wreck in? Absolutely not in the U.S., but I think Detroit was a close second. If you would like to more fully understand the events leading up to and occurring after Hurricane Katrina, I highly recommend Spike Lee’s When the Levees Broke .

While home on my first winter break from college, I remember finding a Word document that was a letter my mother wrote and presumably sent to my grandma with words I’ll never forget: “I still don’t understand why she wanted to go down there.” It was a fair question that she never ended up asking me aloud.

And why did I want to go “down there”?

Continue reading Uncle Nef: Love Songs