What does ‘wheedler’ mean? According to Dictionary.com, a wheedler is someone who ‘attempts to influence others by using smooth, flattering, or beguiling words or actions’. Well, you can rest assured that I am NOT going to wheedle any of the visitors to this blog, although, I must say you are all extremely good-looking and intelligent.
I started this site to highlight some of my favorite music, but I have extended it to include my thoughts on life, stupidity, football (the English type) and anything else of interest to educated, interesting people like your good selves. (See how I wheedled there?)
At the top of my site is a young Grace Slick, of Jefferson Airplane.
Apex: Stories from the Outlands – “Voidwalker” is the second of, so far, two short cinematic vignettes, meant to provide some narrative to the otherwise plot-barren battle-royale frenzy of fluid movement and chaotic gun-slinging that is Apex Legends. Principally, it is a story of two women. And while it falls into a well known, often criticised trope, it also presents an infinity of choices that are, nevertheless, an absurd binary.
One of these women is a hardened warrior, proficient in the acrobatic, hand-to-hand combat that’s common of female fighters in visual media. Her emotional register contains two options, those being brief flashes of rage or subdued compassion verging on disappointment. But whatever she feels, if it includes anything else, she hides behind a stoic face, and the reflective plate of her distinctive helmet. She is a killer among killers. Her life is kill or be killed. We know that from the opening scenes.
The other is a frail, afraid girl, victimised by some shadowy organisation for reasons that are not clear to her. She doesn’t know who she is, and suffers at the hands of others. Violence is and has been, as we can clearly see, often directed at her. She is abused, and dehumanised by her abusers, cowering in fear and panic. She isn’t a killer, but must become one. She must become who the first woman already is. Because they are the same person.
This character is the one Apex Legends players know as Wraith, known for attracting the kind of players who run off into the horizon hoping to become the next YouTube star, only to get blown to bits. Wraith’s abilities allow her to place portals or enter a mysterious void outside of the game reality, and hear disembodied voices that warn of impending danger. But this is not about Wraith as she is in the game. I want to talk about choice.
Visually, the most distinctive element of the already slick animation of Voidwalker is its representation of possibility. As it happens, Killer Wraith, as I’ll refer to her, and all the other Wraiths hinted at in the cinematic, can see and speak into the other countless timelines. When she steps into the cerulean void, she can actually see all the other hers perform all manner of martial feats, each making slightly different decisions. This, then, is how her powers are explained: a great sisterhood across time and space, where all the Wraiths warn and advise each other on how to best do violence and survive.
It is how she finds who we will call Victim Wraith, too — noticing that in one of the timelines, she is not doing violence, but rather suffering it. When she shouts at her to kick and punch, the Victim Wraith only cowers more. This prompts an act of compassion: out of nowhere, Killer Wraith descends into the world of the Victim Wraith, chases off the scientist abusing her, and then admonishes: “What’s the matter with you? You didn’t even try.”
There is a well known and oft-criticised tendency for “strong female characters” to have their “strength” explained as a reaction to, or result of, abuse. Contrary to how strength, as it is variously understood, is often seen as intrinsic to men and masculinity (no one asks how Marcus Fenix, or many other Burly Bears With Guns, got so ripped and badass when they burst onto the scene with muscles the size of cantaloupes), “badass” women are often required to pay for their strength with pain and victimisation. Perhaps the most archetypical example of that are all the various rape-and-revenge plots, and Voidwalker serves us another one.
Wraiths in Voidwalker are not explicitly sexually abused, but they all suffer at the hands of men disregarding their dignity and humanity — “Stop screaming,” says one. “Ain’t nobody around who gives a damn.” They have their bodily autonomy violated by medical experimentation, and the ordeal leaves them emotionally scarred. And because of that they are also endowed with the coldness and determination to pursue revenge on those who have wronged them, not just to the end of the world, but to the end of all possible worlds.
However issue-laden such narratives are, they are doubtlessly satisfying on a basic, emotional level. Watching a victim turn the tables on the abusers is a vicarious pleasure, and can be empowering, too. In fact the problem is less with those stories themselves, but with else is there on offer. When it comes to women in media, there is a paucity of alternative “badass” origin stories. While it is changing, and we are seeing more and more female characters who do not have to pay for their power that way, this kind of origin story remains cloyingly over represented.
Lindsey Ellis (one of the most important cultural critics of our time), has recently noted something similar when analysing the fate of Sansa Stark in the disastrous Game of Thrones finale. As Ellis observes, Sansa’s eventual ascension to a position of authority and power is bought not just by having suffered all manner of abuse, but also by symbolic and practical shedding of traditional aspects of femininity in favour of the conventional, emotionally stunted and brutal attitude of a male-coded ruler.
About midway through Voidwalker, Killer Wraith, with Victim Wraith in tow, gets into a gunfight. As she dispatches faceless goons with effortless grace, Victim Wraith cowers and hides. When she is attacked by a scientist, one of the architects of her abuse, she retaliates, knocks him down and for a moment, thinks about stabbing him as he lies powerless on the floor. However, she proves too weak to kill, and ultimately “just” decks him with a desperate punch. Killer Wraith, crouched above like a high-tech gargoyle, sneers at that.
“That was your chance – and you’ve missed it,” she observes wryly.
“No, this isn’t me,” Victim Wraith protests, but that too gets dismissed.
“The sooner you accept who you are, the better.”
And who is she? Who is Wraith? Victim Wraith wants to know the answer, but we, the audience, know it already: she is a killer. Not long after this exchange, Victim Wraith does accept it. She shoots at goons, begins to shed the discomfort with violence that casts her as the victim rather than the killer. At the end of Voidwalker, she is separated from Killer Wraith, and emerges into what is to become King’s Canyon, the first arena of the bloodsport of Apex Legends. As she grips the knife she was moments ago too afraid to use, we know that although she left Killer Wraith behind, it doesn’t matter. She is the Killer Wraith now.
One could say — and not be wrong — that to criticise promotional material for a battle royale game for casting violence as an unavoidable necessity is to look for nuance in all the wrong places. After all, battle royales are games predicated on kill or be killed. There is literally no alternative but to shoot first. At the end of a match in Apex Legends you are either dead, or you’ve won. So in that sense, there is no disconnect between Voidwalker and the game it promotes.
One could also say that the Wraiths in Voidwalker had no choice. After all, they could either suffer abuse as Victim Wraith, passively and fearfully, or risk everything as Killer Wraith and lash out. Within the scope of the narrative, Killer Wraith is thus right in admonishing Victim Wraith. If she wants to stop hurting, she has to hurt others. Kill or be killed, once again.
Choice, however, is not just something we are presented in-game, or in-story. In a recent episode of Know Your Enemy, an excellent podcast on the ideologies of the US right wing, an expert on gun violence called Patrick Blanchfield describes his experience at a gun training camp in Nevada. At the end of the programme, the instructors had the participants shoot at a target meant to represent a hostage-taker. They were encouraged to imagine that the hostage-taker was holding a gun to the head of their loved ones (Blanchfield imagined his wife), and that unless they put a bullet in him first, the loved one would die. It’s obvious that in a situation like that, it is kill or be killed, isn’t it? And this is when Blanchfield talks about absurdity. The absurdity of reducing the choices we can take to being victims, and being killers.
It would be a lie to say that I do not enjoy the stories of victims of abuse getting back at their tormentors. I also do not think that we should deny ourselves stories of wounds giving us strength. But that is not the issue here. It is about choice, or rather the lack of it. Voidwalker presents us a glimpse of infinite worlds, and infinite possibilities! And yet, as it turns out, all they amount to is kill or be killed. Either a victim, or a badass. A cowering girl, a cold woman. The stark binary suggests that there is no alternative.Where’s the universe where Wraith’s experience of extreme medical malpractice leads her to become a healer, eh?
To present no alternative is often tacitly branding all the alternatives that do in fact exist as impossible, absurd, forbidden. But when you think about it, it’s much more absurd that in all the potential worlds and timelines, there is only the same binary. And in the end, we are responsible not just for the choices we make, but also for the choices we think are possible in the first place.
Video games all too often promise, and then fail to deliver, meaningful choice, and it’s an issue that tems as much from lack of imagination as it does technical limitations. In a way, Voidwalker is an allegory of that; of the artificial architecture of choice presented as an essential binary. Made choices already made for us.
After a long hiatus, thrash legends Vio-lence finally reunited, and they’ve been playing shows all year (we caught them at Psycho Las Vegas, where they sounded great). They play their first NYC shows of the reunion tonight and tomorrow at Brooklyn Bazaar.
JPEGMAFIA has quickly become a force in avant-rap, and he continues to get bigger and bigger. His tour supporting his great new album All My Heroes Are Cornballs includes two sold-out NYC shows this week, this being the second.
Post-hardcore/emo vets Samiam haven’t released new music in a while, and their shows are pretty rare these days, so any chance to see them is worth taking. Making this show even more exciting is Massachusetts alt-rock OGs Moving Targets (who recently released their first studio album in over 25 years) and Have Gun Will Travel, who will be joined during their set by Texas Is The Reason frontman Garrett Klahn.
Indie/emo/post-rock/etc collective The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die haven’t released new music in two years, but they just put out a compilation of odds and ends and they’re now on tour. Their unpredictable live show is always worth catching, and this tour should be no different. After tonight’s show, they play Long Island on Sunday.
Toro y Moi has proved to have a lot of longevity, even after the end of the chillwave era, and he is now set to bring his tour to Brooklyn Steel for sold-out shows there tonight and tomorrow. Opening is Channel Tres, who released the very good Black Moses EP in August.
Fresh off appearing on stage with Lana Del Rey earlier this week, Australian indie rock/folk artist Julia Jacklin comes to Brooklyn in support of this year’s very good Crushing (Polyvinyl). Opening is Christian Lee Hutson, who has a Phoebe Bridgers-produced album on the way.
Brooklyn goth/noise rockers Bambara have a new album called Stray coming out next year (and they recently released the very good lead single “Serafina”), and while you wait for that, they play this hometown one-off tonight. Well-matched direct support comes from Russian Baths, whose debut album Deepfake comes out this week.
Talib Kweli continues his full-band Blue Note residency with two shows tonight. Special guests are promised at both, and he spilled the beans that the early show will feature the legendary Slick Rick. Intelligenz will also open that one.
San Francisco/Seattle hip hop duo Blimes & Gab (aka Blimes and Gifted Gab, fka B.A.G.) went viral with last year’s “Come Correct,” and they recently released another fun song, “Feelin’ It.” Tonight, they bring their tour to NYC.
New York Comedy Festival continues tonight with tons of shows, including Trevor Noah at MSG, a Patriot Act show with Hasan Minhaj at Gramercy Theatre, Comedy Bang! Bang! Live at Beacon Theatre, and more.
David Byrne has retooled his acclaimed “untethered” 2018 for the Broadway stage and while the setlist and arrangements are much like what they were on his tour, songs are now threaded together with new monologues from Byrne, making for a much more theatrical experience.
Well, Crooks and Liars, if your Impeachment Bingo card included “Holy Crap, what next?” You should go get yourself a prize. I mean seriously, we have Prznint Stupid stabbing allies in the back, the DOJ running errands for his teevee lawyer, who (btw) was out partying with soon-to-be indicted election fraudsters at the Trump Hotel before they were to flee the country with a midnight ticket going anywhere (to paraphrase Journey). What’s next? Who knows! It’s a mad world.
Election Law Blog tells us a lot about the arrest of Rudy Giuliani’s associates. There’s so much more there than meets the eye!
Politics Plus is warning us that Facebook is already at it again, and 2020 makes 2016 look like a warm-up act.
Alice Bee: Good afternoon, esteemed colleagues. We were all locked, at one time or another, in the RPS EGX dungeon this weekend. Given that it’s a veritable bonanza of video games, both large and small, we should discuss the bestest games we saw over the weekend. I’m sure it will be entertaining and useful for our readers!
Who wants to offer the first game up upon our terrible altar?
Dave: I will gladly offer up Streets Of Rage 4 [official site]. As a lad who was practically raised by Streets Of Rage 2, I was a little nervous about a new team and a new take on SOR, after all the years lying dormant. But I the dragon has woken up and it turns out it’s basically the same old beast but with shiny visuals and juggle combos.
Alice Bee: I have no history with SOR, sadly. Were you not hoping for a bit more innovation, or are you happy enough with Streets Of Rage: RAGERER?
Dave: The juggle combos made it feel a little more RAGERER, not least because my brother and I were playing tennis with the level boss as a ball. There were a few other minor things too, like new character Cherry being able to leap from enemy to enemy to smack them in the head. The biggest departure from old school SOR is in how this one looks. The comic book style didn’t really pop in screenshots, but it made a far greater impression in person, seeing enemies flying through the air. It also seems like they’ve made an effort to make levels seem like entire neighbourhoods, rather than just two or three locations.
Katharine: I also have no history with SOR, so wasn’t drawn to it, but I was very impressed with Tales From The Floating World by Meteor Pixel [Twitter]. The developer only had a short prototype on show as part of the UK Games Fund stand, but I loved its Japanese woodblock visuals. Made me feel like I was inside a Hokusai print, only instead of pretty waves and Mt Fuji landscapes, I was a samurai slicing up oni monsters. Definitely one to watch.
Sin: My favourite was, naturally, a visual novel. I have accepted my fate. Although if I’m being completely honest, it’s difficult to name one game. I played most of the Leftfield collection and some other indie games around its periphery, and while there was lots of good stuff, I’m struggling to single out one that really jumped out.
But yes, Across The Grooves [official site] was really intriguing and I regret that I didn’t play it for longer. It’s about a woman who receives a Vinyl LP from someone she (mutually) broke up with a few years back. That triggers a flashback of their breakup, after which she goes about her day and gradually realises that something in her past has changed. Also Skatebird [official site]. Oh no, I forgot Skatebird.
Alice Bee: I loitered a lot in the Leftfield Collection, and I saw Skatebird, but didn’t get a chance to play it. Is it, per chance, what you’d expect from a game called Skatebird?
Sin: It is exactly what you’d expect. You’re a wee bird on a skateboard stuntin’ around and doing the slap lifts and twistos and, uh, radboard… look I don’t know skating words alright. But Skatebird was immediately engaging and I could feel myself getting better at it just by mucking around, not trying particularly hard. I chatted a bit with its animator, Alex Price, and that’s something he was keen to nail down — interestingly he mentioned fighting games as an influence, where you can practice hard and get really great, or just mash it and gradually improve without stressing too much. That definitely came across.
Dave: I went back to Skatebird multiple times, because I found it strangely calming. But then again, budgies are a calming presence.
Alice Bee: That statement is pure madness, budgies are like the least calming bird type, after parakeets.
Katharine: Do not speak of the nightmare that was Epilogue Simulator. That music will haunt me forever. I spent ages solving its weird blood cell puzzles, but they just kept coming. I meant to go back and try again when the demo had been reset, but alas, I ran out of time.
Dave: I tried everything I could to get it to do something, even pressing Alt and F4, but to no avail.
Sin: It appeared … maybe not broken but in some sort of intractable fail state. Sometimes people got it working, and you could walk around without the weird (deliberate) glitches obscuring everything. But even then it was bewildering.
Alice Bee: Whenever I went past it wasn’t working, if I’m thinking of the right one. I think there was a note on it.
Katharine:Closed Hands [official site] was another strong contender in the Leftfield Collection. It tackled very serious subject matter and had a lot of strong writing, but I was most intrigued by its ‘nosing through computers’ sections where it felt like you were hunting for more information. Reminded me a lot of Orwell.
Alice Bee: Yeah, I really enjoyed Closed Hands, actually. If enjoyed is the right word? I believe it’s by Dan Hett. His games often touch on said very serious subject matter, and he wrote an article for us that sort of goes into why a bit more.
Sin: It was good aye, although it was probably a mistake putting the harrowing text-based narrative next to the skateboarding game. Also one of the terrorist suspects was called “J Walker”. Called it.
Computer nosing in Closed Hands
Katharine: On the sillier side of EGX, one of my games of the show was Necronator: Dead Wrong [official site] by Toge Productions. It’s fantastic, and a strong contender for our Can’t Stop Playing feature, too, when it eventually enters early access next year. Described as a micro RTS, it’s a more advanced version of the free Flash game you can play already, only here you use cards to summon hordes of the undead to take over the map. Imagine Bad North, but on rails. It’s wonderfully addictive, and its super cute pixel art makes each battle a joy to watch.
Alice Bee: I also want to give an extremely corrupt shout out to Escape From Citytron [official site], by Alec Meer (RPS in peace). It’s an endless runner where you play a legally distinct transforming robot that can become a motorbike or a jet plane, and are trying to escape from a city that is turning into a really big legally distinct transforming robot. Genuinely one of my favourite things I played at the show, partly because it had a really strong, clear purpose — you are a robot, you are escaping, so do an escape.
Alec, in classic Alec style, told me all the things he didn’t like about it and then gave me a sticker.
Dave:The fact you can fling yourself across the screen by boosting off a platform sold it for me. Speaking of flinging, Sin, is it about time we talked about Recoil [Twitter]? It’s an arena shooter where you play as a gun. Shooting behind yourself launches you miles. That was a ton of fun.
Sin: It was drawing a lot of attention. Also we played it with two randos and one of them beat us both. Oops.
Dave: We failed you dear readers!
Sin: I did enjoy it but if I’d had more time I would have played more of Paradise Killer [official site] instead. A sort of VN detective game with 3D exploration in a bizarre setting. Oh god what have I become.
Katharine: Paradise Killer was fab. It’s like Danganronpa meets Sherlock Holmes, with all the flair and style of a Suda51 game, and I want it right now please.
Dave: I watched Sin playing this and frankly I was confused by everything on screen. So instead, I’d like to next offer to the altar space sim Everspace 2 [official site]. I hated the first one, but the sequel has better controls and looks better. It’s just better better. There’s also rhythm action game Aaero 2 [Twitter], but I’ve drunk too much of the proverbial Kool-Aid of the original to be unbiased about it. But I will say that the co-op was fab.
Sin: Aaaaaero 2 was great, I wouldn’t have thought it was as early a build as they said. I enjoyed shooting at Dave just to annoy him.
Dave: You did throw me off my rhythm a few times.
Katharine: I spent an inordinate amount of time playing Yes, Your Grace [official site] from Brave At Night, a kind of kingdom management RPG meets Game of Thrones simulator with lovely pixel art.
Alice Bee: I played a lot of Yes, Your Grace, on your recommendation, Katharine! I was both a terrible king and terrible father. I gave someone loads of food and gold so they could have a show-y off-y wedding, because I am a people pleaser, and my middle daughter (who was, like, eleven) went out and got pissed at it.
Katharine: This sounds strangely familiar to my playthrough, and I can’t wait to make more terrible decisions when it comes out next year. I also loved loved loved 2D action adventure game Unto The End [official site] by 2Ton Studios as well. I died loads, but its gritty, meaty combat had a lovely sense of heft to it, and its sound design was super atmospheric as well. Your health meter is also determined by how much blood you’ve got on your beard, which is just genius. And, finally, I was pleased to see return showings from the lovely Eastward [official site] and Xenosis: Alien Infection [official site], which I played at Rezzed earlier in the year and enjoyed very much. More please!
Unto The End’s action beard
Alice Bee: I’m going to bang my priestly gavel of mixed metaphors and put a stop to this now, because it’s getting out of hand. There are too many games! We have sacrificed so many to the bestest gods today! The stones of our cursed worship circle are slick with their pixelated innards.
And the most bestest part is that, actually, we seem to like a lot of games that are early in development. It’ll be interesting to see how they progress. We might get to sacrifice them all over again!
Grace Slick, was a very successful singer-songwriter, musician, artist, and model in the 1960s. Slick is, and was, well known for her role in the growing, “psychedelic” rock and roll music and spreading the love with her sex-capades. She found herself, not only giving freely, expecting sex with multiple partners, even though she was married.
Slick was well known for being an active participant in challenging authority and caught up in the counterculture movement of the 1960s.
Grace Slick’s music career lasted nearly 40 years. She was a key contributor to several groups throughout those years, including The Great Society, Jefferson Airplane, Jefferson Starship and Starship. Slick is credited with vocals in songs, including “Somebody to Love,” “White Rabbit,” “We Built This City” and “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now.”
Slick was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996 as a member of Jefferson Airplane.
“The most beautiful thoughts are always besides the darkest,” Kanye West said last year on Ye‘s opening track “I Thought About Killing You.” The line essentially sums up West’s career: he’s consistently excelled while wrestling with dualities—of faith versus temptation, high art and smut, love and heartbreak. On his best songs, like “Devil In A New Dress,” “Jesus Walks” and “Father Stretch My Hands,” he paired a desire for self-betterment with the ugliest and basest parts of his psyche, making the angel and the devil on his shoulders work in concert.
But West has excised his darkness on JESUS IS KING, his latest album, which was released on Friday after several delays. With its declarative caps lock title, gospel music influences and almost exclusively religious material, West promises reinvention and reinvigoration in the wake of a troubled few years, in which he’s fought opioid addiction, drawn blowback for comments about Donald Trump and slavery, and engaged in high-profile spats with former collaborators Drake and Jay-Z. Jesus Is King is his opportunity to turn the other cheek as a chastened and reformed preacher for the hip hop age.
While the album’s concept might be lofty, it’s also his least ambitious. Jesus Is King clocks in at just 27 minutes—slightly longer than the stump of an album that was Ye—and feels heavy on shortcuts and light on tension. While there are plenty of likable elements—impassioned melodies, slick production, motivated guest appearances—the album is dominated by generic worship lyricism and overfamiliar sounds. By eschewing the paradoxes that have driven his best work, West has unwittingly put forward another one: he’s claimed God as his greatest inspiration, but made the least inspired album of his career.
The album’s weaknesses begin with West’s single-minded lyricism. The topic at hand is nothing new for West, who has explored his faith in profound ways—especially on the one-two punch of “Jesus Walks” and “Never Let Me Down” on The College Dropout. On those songs, he paints vivid narratives about personal and societal struggle, reckoning with his own complicity as he seeks salvation.
There is no such storytelling on Jesus is King. His lyrics mostly begin and end with variations on the same bland pledge: “Follow Jesus, listen and obey”; “I bow down to the King upon the throne”; “The army of God and we are the truth”; “He’s the strength in this race that I run.” His songs were once unending strings of double-entendres and cunning turns of phrase. Here he rhymes “safe” with “safe” on “Water,” and can’t be bothered to develop out a metaphor on “Follow God”: “Wrestlin’ with God, I don’t really want to wrestle.” He also has a tendency of repeating lines that are even remotely interesting, just in case we didn’t get them the first time: “I ain’t mean, I’m just focused,” he barks twice.
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West’s verbal mission is more limited here compared to past records. But in his attempt to avoid negativity, he fundamentally misunderstands gospel lyricism, which is often filled with conflict and hardship. Classics such as “There is a Balm in Gilead” and “Take My Hand, Precious Lord” wallow in despair, while even a more upbeat hymn like “How I Got Over” derives its strength from the narrator’s lifetime of weariness. Many gospel songs are driven by transformation, in which sinners hit rock bottom before receiving a glimmer of hope.
West waves at this idea in “Hands On,” the strongest song of the record. “Told the devil that I’m going on a strike / I’ve been working for you my whole life,” he says, and integrates his own struggle with police brutality and America’s three-strikes law, which predominantly impacts communities of color. But instead of digging deeper, he raps about not being accepted by other Christians. Elsewhere, his pledges of devotion do little to convey why he has reinvented himself as a worship artist, or what’s at stake on a greater communal scale. Because most of the songs on Jesus is King don’t have conflict, they can’t achieve satisfying catharsis.
Lyricism is only a fraction of gospel music, of course; on Aretha Franklin’s hallowed live album Amazing Grace, some of the strongest moments unfold when she’s barely singing words at all–just repeating “right on” over and over, or howling pew-shaking vocal runs. Cascades of harmony, torrential grooves, or a simple mantra repeated over and over can sometimes convey faith even more strongly than complex storytelling.
And there are certainly moments of musical vitality on Jesus Is King. West’s melody on “Closed On Sunday” is one of his strongest in recent memory, while “Hands On” benefits from frenetic autotuned sermonizing by Fred Hammond. For the second straight album in a row, Ant Clemons delivers a standout verse with his wispy falsetto—first on Ye’s “All Mine,” now on the beatific “Water.”
But for the most part, Jesus Is King is even-keeled, sedate, and nothing we haven’t heard from West before. The hammering piano and autotuned harmonies of “Use This Gospel” are swiped straight from the playbook of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, while the chopped up soul sample of “Follow God” sounds like a reject from Pusha T’s “Daytona.” West is smart enough to use Pierre Bourne, one of the leading stylists in hip-hop—but Bourne’s beat “On God” is unfocused and stale compared to his loopy, unpredictable collaborations with Playboi Carti and Lil Uzi Vert.
These retreads are frustrating particularly because West’s most impactful innovations have always been through sound. As a producer in the early ’00s, he brought chipmunked soul samples to the fore; he revolutionized the autotune and digital timbres on 808s and Heartbreak; and on Yeezus, fused rap with an abrasive industrial brutalism, setting the template for the sound and attitude of the SoundCloud rap era. Each transgression alienated many at first, but gradually became part of the genre’s lingua franca. West’s sonic choices on Jesus Is King, in contrast, are recycled from his archives.
While the best of West’s records are intensely personal and self-aware, Jesus Is King has a glazed-over quality, as if being delivered through stained glasses, or from the Sunken Place, the fictional purgatory from Get Out that West fears the most. While he professes to be “so radical” on “Everything We Need,” Jesus is King is strictly functional. It’s an album, ironically, weighed down by its lack of demons.
David Crosby is not only one of rock’s great songwriters; he is also one of rock’s great raconteurs—always ready with a story, told as only he can tell it, about life in not just one, but two of the most influential bands of the 1960s, the Byrds and Crosby, Stills & Nash and sometimes Young. Few people have lived a life as colorful as his and lived to tell about it. Even fewer possess Crosby’s wit and eye for detail.
He came by his wealth of anecdotes at a significant cost, however, to himself and the people around him, as he readily admits in the newly released (on Blu-ray) Cameron Crowe-produced documentary Remember My Name. Now a wizened 78-years-old and still prolific and raising hell (on Twitter, at least) Crosby reached far back in the memory vault to tell the tale of his life, from childhood to his 60s heyday to his stints in jail and rehab and through every sordid stage of full blown addiction.
Drugs will seriously mess up your life, says Crosby, in no uncertain terms, but it’s also clear his life would have been much less eventful, and less interesting, without them. Take the story he tells of running into John Coltrane in the men’s room of the South Side Chicago club called McKie’s in 1963. Incredibly high, Crosby finds himself blown out of his seat and against the wall by Elvin Jones’ drum solo. He retreats to the bathroom and promptly hits the floor. “I’ve got my head against this puke green tile,” he says in the clip above from Remember My Name (see the trailer below).
While Crosby tried to pull himself together, who should walk in but Coltrane, still playing:
He never stopped soloing. He’s still soloing. And he’s like burning in this bathroom. He doesn’t even know I’m there. He never even saw me. I’m thinking I’m gonna slide right down this tile. I’m thinking my nose is gonna open and my brain is gonna rush out onto the floor. It was so intense. I never heard anyone be more intense with music than that in my life.
Crosby gets into more detail in an interview with JazzTimes. Coltrane, he says, “played in the [restroom] for a couple of minutes because the sound was good—it was echoey—and he was… as good as you think he was.” He also talks at length about his long relationship with jazz, from his discovery of late-50s records by Dave Brubeck, Chet Baker, and Bill Evans, to Miles Davis recording a version of his song “Guinnevere.” (Davis was apparently instrumental in getting the Byrds signed to Columbia Records.)
The influence of Davis and Coltrane on Crosby’s songwriting is perhaps less evident than in, say, the work of Joni Mitchell, but Crosby admits that his “phrasing and melody choice” derived from “really good horn players.” It’s interesting to note just how much impact late-50s/early 60s jazz had on not only Crosby and Mitchell, but also 60s icons like Grace Slick. Listening to these classic rock survivors describe how Miles and Coltrane helped shape their sound shows just how much the mid-century jazz revolution fueled the rock revolution that followed.
Now that he’s sober, Crosby’s stories don’t involve nearly as much floor tile and brains sliding out of noses, but they’re still full of jazz encounters, including his recent collaborations with Wynton Marsalis and jazz collective Snarky Puppy. Read more about his recent projects and history with jazz over at JazzTimes.
I never know what to do with the fact that Jefferson Airplane became Jefferson Starship became Starship—purveyors of “We Built This City,” a “barnacle made of synthesizers and cocaine,” writes GQ, and an honored guest on worst-of lists everywhere. (Also a song co-written by none other than Elton John lyricist Bernie Taupin).
It might seem peevish to get so worked up over how bad “We Built this City” is, if it didn’t derive from the legacy of one of the best bands of the 1960s. Even Grace Slick disavows it. “This is not me,” she says.
Of course, by 1985, all of Slick’s best collaborators—the great Jorma Kaukonen, Jack Cassidy, Paul Kantner, Marty Balen, Spencer Dryden, et al.—had moved on, and it was that volatile collection of musical personalities that made psych rock classics like “Somebody to Love” and the slinky, druggy, Lewis Carroll-inspired bolero “White Rabbit” so essential.
Grace Slick is a great singer and songwriter, but she needed a band as uncannily talented as Jefferson Airplane to fully realize her eccentric vision, such as the acid rock song about drug references in Alice in Wonderland, played in the style of Spanish folk music and Miles Davis’ Sketches of Spain.
Before she wrote “White Rabbit,” Slick dropped acid and listened to Davis’ jazz/folk/classical experiment “over and over for hours,” she told The Wall Street Journal in 2016. “Sketches of Spain was drilled into my head and came squirting out in various ways as I wrote ‘White Rabbit.’”
No lesser band could have taken this swirl of influences and turned into what the Polyphonic video at the top calls a distillation of the entire era. But “White Rabbit” didn’t always have the perfectly executed intensity we know from 1967’s Surrealistic Pillow and Jefferson Airplane’s commanding performance at Woodstock (above).
In 1965, LSD was still legal. Grace Slick was working, she tells WSJ, “as a couture model at I. Magnin in San Francisco.” Before signing on as the singer for Jefferson Airplane, she formed The Great Society with her then-husband Jerry Slick. She wrote “White Rabbit” for that ensemble and the band first performed it “in early ’66,” she says, “at a dive bar on Broadway in San Francisco.”
Below, you can hear a 6-minute live version of The Great Society’s “White Rabbit.” It’s unrecognizable until Slick starts to sing over four minutes into the song. We are not likely to be reminded of Miles Davis. But when Slick brought “White Rabbit” to Jefferson Airplane, as the Polyphonic video demonstrates, they realized its full potential, references to Sketches of Spain and all.
Recorded in 1966, the single “kicked off” the following year’s Summer of Love, “celebrating the growing psychedelic culture” and freaking out parents, who passionately hated “White Rabbit.” These were the very people Slick wanted to pay attention. “I always felt like a good-looking schoolteacher singing ‘White Rabbit,'” she says. “I sang the words slowly and precisely, so the people who needed to hear them wouldn’t miss the point. But they did.”
Slick’s own parents were a little freaked out when she started her first band, after an interview she gave the San Francisco Chronicle got back to them. “I argued in favor of marijuana and LSD,” she says. “It was painful for them, I’m sure, but I didn’t care whether they minded. Parents were criticizing a generation’s choices while sitting there with their glasses of scotch.” They were also regularly popping pills, although “the ones that mother gives you,” she sang, “don’t do anything at all.”
“To this day,” she says, “I don’t think most people realize the song was aimed at parents who drank and told their kids not to do drugs. I felt they were full of crap, but write a good song, you need a few more words than that.” And to turn a good song into an instant classic, you need a band like Jefferson Airplane.
Hello everybody, my name’s Richard from zappos.com And today we’re checking out these awesome running shoes from Hoka One One Now these guys here are designed to give you maximum cushioning out on the road for your next run You have a 4mm differential there with an open engineered mesh upper that has synthetic overlays on top of that to give you that breathability that you need with structural support You also have a comfort frame heel back here really make sure everything stays locked into place once you lace up It’s got a very comfortable fabric lined interior, very smooth in there with an Ortholite footbed on bottom and an internal heel counter to give you that locked-in fit and support as well And then of course you’ve got that really thick midsole there Of course it’s gonna be the first thing you see plenty of cushioning out of that to really propel your foot forward with every single stride you take It’s made out of EVA, so it won’t be heavy at all, very lightweight very shock absorbing They’ve got that sturdy outsole down here So whatever you do, don’t miss out on these fantastic shoes here from Hoka One One.
You are in a store and there are two drinks for sale. They’re the same in almost every way. But one costs $3 extra. All it took was a few drops of this stuff — CBD. It’s a cannabis compound you can buy in oils, chocolates, bath bombs, face masks, gummies, coffee, lotions, even dog treats. It’s everywhere. And its proponents claim that it can help with a lot of things: CBD exists right at the intersection of three huge consumer trends: The 49 billion-dollar herbal supplement industry, the growing anxiety economy, and the almost overnight rise of a legal cannabis marketplace.
There’s still a lot we don’t know about CBD. But people are buying it. This is how much consumer CBD sales have grown in the past four years. And this is how much they’re expected to grow. For a product this popular, CBD is barely regulated and people tend to misunderstand its effects. So what do we know about it? CBD — or cannabidiol — is one of over 110 chemical constituents in cannabis called cannabinoids. THC — or tetrahydrocannabinol — is a different cannabis chemical that causes the high associated with consuming marijuana.
But by itself, CBD won’t get you high. You can inhale it as a vapor, or apply it to your skin, but a popular intake method is edible oil — since CBD is naturally soluble in fat. That easy-to-consume format is behind the explosion of many new products we’re seeing today. But it’s also led to a lot of misconceptions. For starters, people say CBD can treat everything from inflammation, to acne — even cancer. But there’s no proof that consumer CBD products can treat all those ailments. We don’t have that much data related to the therapeutic effects of cannabidiol. CBD has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that have been shown to help treat psychosis, anxiety, movement disorders, multiple sclerosis, and epilepsy and seizures. And the FDA recently approved Epidiolex, a CBD-based epilepsy drug.
But there isn’t enough research for CBD to be prescribed as medicine for all of those other conditions. Right now, we don’t know a ton about how CBD affects the brain, or which doses or delivery methods work most effectively. And people who take CBD sometimes do it at risk to their own health, foregoing medically approved treatments or failing to investigate its interactions with other drugs. And the CBD that has trickled down to retail markets? It’s largely unregulated. Because of that, consumers often have no idea what they’re buying — and CBD products often don’t contain what they say they do. A) They might not even have the cannabidiol that is claimed on the label — but more importantly, B) is that some of them actually have THC in it.
In 2016, the FDA issued warnings to 8 CBD oil companies after finding that some contained either no or barely any CBD, and some contained illegal amounts of psychoactive THC. And a 2017 study of 84 CBD products purchased online found that almost 70 percent were mislabeled. But even when consumer CBD products are accurately labeled, the doses tend to be very low. When you get a few drops of CBD oil in a drink, you’re probably getting about 5-10 milligrams of CBD. You’d need 30 times that to reach the amount of CBD that current research has found to have stress-relieving results.
So even though CBD has a ton of medical promise, the dose in the average CBD coffee is pretty negligible. But even at those levels, CBD products other than Epidiolex are still technically illegal. When you go down the street and you buy your latte with cannabidiol, that is still considered “federally” illegal. At the state level it might not be, depending on which state you’re in, but federally speaking, it is still illegal.
The DEA maintains that CBD is federally illegal — but it won’t bother going after anyone possessing or using it. And because the DEA won’t prosecute, anybody from any state can walk into a store or go online and buy CBD products. Attitudes in health care are shifting: in December 2017, the World Health Organization concluded that CBD is not harmful. In January 2018, the World Anti-Doping Agency removed it from its prohibited substances list.
And, if passed as it stands, the 2018 farm bill would legalize CBD and industrial hemp nationwide. CBD isn’t bullsh*t. It’s a substance with a lot of potential. But the quantity and quality in today’s consumer products is often more of a scam than a reliable wellness supplement.
What’s next for CBD depends on research. But right now, its popularity is proof that the absence of data doesn’t prevent people from selling products. Instead, when you can claim everything — you can sell anything.