John Fahey, Ben Chasny and Coffee-Flavored Beer

200px-red_cross_john_faheyAbout twice a year the folks, the kids, myself and the related people get together at the Brooklyn Brewery to get that stupid sort of drunk you get from having a very short amount of time in which to drink. Apparently the neighborhood kids have gotten hip to the wiseness, because while their Saturday tour-n-drink events were always a bit tight we have never witnessed a standing room only day. Good for those guys, for sure, but if we hadn’t cannibalized a table it would have been shit city. The 8% coffee stout helped tremendously.

Before the main event I had some time to kill, so I visited Sound Fix, which I am old enough to remember as the original location of Beacon’s Closet. I haven’t been to EarWax in a while and SF is on the way, and I figured it would be a good place to pick up John Fahey’s Red Cross album. I’m getting up in years and in this turbulent, Illuminati-controlled economic climate getting basted and then shopping for records is a sure way to end up with a lot of poor choices in your pocket.

I like Sound Fix. I liked it more a bunch of years ago when it was far more heavily concentrated on used records (if I remember correctly) but it’s very clean, everyone is nice and the prices are in-line with market expectations. A very serious gentleman was searching the racks behind me, and clearly vexed at the small child who was running about while her father/guardian shopped, but it was otherwise rather serene. I’ve never had to concentrate so much on the purchasing process that small persons would get in my way, but we were clearly made for different worlds.

I can only think of one or two times where I found myself dealing with the “indie record store clerk” syndrome, i.e. dickness. Actually, the only one that really stands out was a good 10 years ago in Generation Records, selling a bunch of those “Promo Only: Not For Resale” marked CDs from the goth and industro-rock labels that used to send me mostly terrible music. Nothing is less punk than goth (in terms of social reality, not musicology, where they are as siblings) and she let me know this for the entire duration of our conversation. Since I always dressed like a 12 year old who ran away from home my tribal allegiances were not on obvious display, so I was fair game for some snide comments. The important thing is I got cash out of that deal, and she was not attractive enough to really dent my 19 years of male fragility and shitty clothes.

After a few years of very casual research, I have come to believe that there’s a collision of several social mashings at work in this bizarre, irritated fear (or apprehension) of having tastemakers redress one for not being in the know, or for not being difficult and special enough. For the most part, I think people are extrapolating from movies like High Fidelity (never seen it) and those pre-Internet days when being in the know was a function of devotion rather than having electricity.* Being thin-skinned about your musical tastes is probably more of an indication that you’re not being particularly true to yourself than that the “cool kids” don’t like you or whatever high school hangover you’re trying to kick with the hair of the dog that snubbed you.

In addition to the usual complaints about snobbery, there are also niche takes on issues of gender and social inequities, like this weird Pandragon piece where “difficult” music – boring, wordy, etc – is a self-ghettoizing male pursuit. Which may or may not be true – it probably is to some degree – but it’s an odd implication to toss out there; from a certain music nerd angle, it appears to be implying that “women aren’t smart enough to get into really ‘demanding’ music that doesn’t explicitly sing about women”…but it’s Pandragon, so the usual disclaimers apply.*

More broadly, it’s a natural reaction to social snobbery: “What you like isn’t special after all, so fuck you.”

gtcSo anyway, it’s pretty obvious that what I like is indeed special, and like a sommelier of the ears I have brought some lovely things to the table.

My own bigotry against Jim O’Rourke stemmed from a ’98 show where his laptop had broken and nearly caused me to miss a ridiculously great Autechre set – They played all of Envane! There was a gang of old people on drugs! – is like all broad-based rules, a mixture of practicality and stupidity. (I still think he’s kind of boring.)

Red Cross is a very lonely record, but also more or less what I would have expected from John Fahey near the end of his life, going by what little I know of his background. The addition of effects gives his guitar a distant wetness, and sounds like it was indeed recorded in a shitty hotel with bad food and too much to drink. Frustrated is the word I would pick were I to pick one word.

God, Time and Causality is a bit more traditional, having been recorded more than a decade earlier. In the future I won’t shy away from picking up one of the dozens of random bits of Fahey.

abWhat else? I grabbed a used copy of August Born, which is a collaboration between Ben Chasny and Hiroyuki Usui; it sounds exactly like you’d think Six Organs of Admittance + Japanese guy with a guitar would sound like. I like it, but I also generally really like Chasny‘s lonely ghosts in a field type music.

wavvves1And finally, I picked up that Wavves album Wavvves, and in honor of David Denby I dub it thusly: Imagine if Animal Collective didn’t have their heads entirely up their asses and were into JAMC. And it’s only one guy, so double kudos to him.

ADDENDUM: Eerily related to some of the topics covered above, check out this Wikipedia entry on Chunklet. Whether it’s self-editing or a third party or some combination of the two, it’s an interesting illustration of…stuff. I dunno, it’s one of those things where if you said “You’re far too serious” you’d get the “It’s all a joke you’re not getting” routine and if you said “Why are you guys so into jokes?” you’d get some dissertation on “You’re clearly not getting how serious we are”. It’s probably fun in person over beer, but considering it from afar is depressing.

*There’s a lot of oddness in this world, we all have our concerns, and beer is proof evolution loves us and wants us to metabolize alcohol. Thankfully, I don’t have to seek out music to reinforce my political or social opinions, which is great for me because liking Rush would suck so fucking hard. Whether this stance is due to patriarchy, social status or my own apathy, I leave to others to decide.

And from the other side, the comments section pointed out this essay from Punk Planet, of all places**, an interesting sentiment that I cannot personally relate to in any real way:

I know that, for me, as an auto-didactic teenaged bitch, who thought her every idea was a good idea worthy of expression and audience, it did not truly occur to me to start a band until I saw other women playing music (Babes in Toyland, early 1990). Up until then—seeing Bloodline chugga-chugga it up 97 times on local hardcore bills had not done it for me. Dinosaur Jr’s hairwaving and soloing had not done it for me. The dozens of bands, bands who’s records I knew all the words to, who were comprised of 25-30 year old dudes, with nothing much to say, did not feel like punk rock with it’s arms open wide to me. It took seeing Bikini Kill in an illegal basement venue to truly throw the lights, to show me that there was more than one place, one role, for women to occupy, and that our participation was important and vital—It was YOU MATTER writ large.”

** That’s probably snobbery at work there, but I generally equate zines with bloggery, that is to say, the minor leagues with a major axe to grind. And I equate “punk” with “imbecilic”, which further complicates being open-minded about stuff.

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One response to “John Fahey, Ben Chasny and Coffee-Flavored Beer

  1. Pingback: Genre Is A Millstone And Tom Araya Is Pushing 50 « here there be rodents

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