Fuck this Guy

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A recent New York Times story has upset many readers who feel it offers a positive portrayal of neo-Nazism. We finished reading “A Voice of Hate in America’s Heartland” with more pity for its subject than contempt, but we see where many readers were offended. Our perspective is that the portrait of Tony Hovater’s life in suburban Ohio presented a pathetic little man with a middling career and a trashy rental home.

Adhering to the Times‘ long tradition, the story refers to him as Mr. Hovater although it seems unlikely that anyone else, aside from maybe a parole officer, has ever addressed him with such respect. Our impression of the story was that author Richard Faussett wanted to alarm his audience with the apparent normal-ness of his subject, and this intention was misunderstood by readers. Faussett’s error was in assuming Americans’ deeply held distaste for fascists and Nazis would suffice, and his story doesn’t take issue with some of Mr. Hovater’s most un-endearing qualities, like his fear that Antifa would “bash up” his wedding. Of course this didn’t happen bercause — this is important — he is not important. Anyone stupid enough to have a Twin Peaks tattoo is not worthy of the New York Times‘ ink nor the readers’ time.

The New York Times story makes passing reference to Mr. Hovater’s past performance with a metal band, but doesn’t offer up its name. This implies he had some sort of actual career, instead of a brief stint drumming for a band which, by any definition, meets any metalheads standard of sucking. Perhaps if press covering metal music were more willing to call out boy band trash we’d have a better sense of Mr. Hovater’s contributions to society prior to the Times story.

We’ll leave it to you, dear reader, to look into his musical career and join the cacophony of criticism. Instead of linking to his former band’s hilariously lame Youtube videos, we’ll offer a quote from one of the books seen on Mr. Hovater’s shelf. Journalist William Shirer famously wrote in The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich that “the cardinal error of the Germans who opposed Nazism was their failure to unite against it,” and this is sound advice still today. Let’s put out differences aside and agree that as Americans we all loathe Nazism, fascism and racism. And while we’re at it white supremacist heavy metal sucks.

We enjoyed reading Ross Raihala’s review of Don Henley’s performance at the Grandstand earlier this week, although we ourselves can’t imagine a worse way to spend an afternoon than a Don Henley show at the State Fair. Honestly, this is why we’ve always admired the great music writers for the Cities’ two major papers — Raihala and the Star Tribune’s Chris Reimenschneider — because they’re out there ‘taking one for the team.’

One Pioneer Press reader didn’t appreciate Raihala’s lukewarm response to the former Eagle and apparent American legend:

Ross Raihala Don Henley review

Ever since Jeff Bridges spoke for the countless millions who have quietly suffered in the cabs of the world (not to mention the waiting rooms and shopping malls) in The Big Lebowski, the Eagles have become a cultural flash-point. The Eagles are one of the easiest bands in the world to hate, and you wouldn’t believe how often we hear “I hate the fucking Eagles, man!” in our record shop.

We received similar messages of righteous outrage after making light of the Big Lebowski scene after Henley’s bandmate, Glenn Frey, passed away last year. Legends to a certain generation perhaps, the Eagles are to many the absolute apex of elite indulgence, arrogance and bombast. Henley, in particular, ought to have gone to prison after an underage prostitute overdosed in his home.

Raihala’s review of the show makes no mention of the wellspring of loathing for Henley’s coke-fueled and vapid music, but only his well-documented wooden stage presence. And of course of Henley’s HISTORY of record-setting price gouging. It’s not like he sang this song…

you dont know

What kind of a jerk goes into a neighborhood record shop and steals a Tom Petty 45? Apparently one so proud of his clever scam — all $3 of it — that he leaves the paper sleeve with the Hymie’s tag prominently out in the back room of the store.

When I was a teenager I worked in little drug store, a chain that’s not around anymore, and once I caught a shoplifter. I turned the woman over to my boss, Larry, a single guy who I remember as always having been a kind and fair boss.

I don’t remember what she had in her purse, except that one of the three or four things was a box of tampons. It was all stuff I think you’d call necessities. She was probably in her 20s, and came into the store pretty often, and we’d assumed she lived in one of the apartment buildings nearby.

Larry let her go — with the things she’d stole — and when I asked about it later he said she probably really needed them. No one ever treated her poorly when she came back around, and I’m pretty sure she never stole from the drug store again.

I guess we’ll just take the same attitude towards the people who steal records. But I for one am proud that I can look through my own collection of 45s (and I have one by Tom Petty myself) and know that I didn’t steal any of them.

Besides, the occasional thief is always going to be offset by all the awesome regular customers who make it so much fun to work here. We’re certainly never going to become one of those stores with cameras around every corner.

The single for “You Don’t Know How it Feels” from Petty’s super popular Wildflowers has a B side not heard on the album, a song called “Girl on LSD.” Petty always had a good sense of humor. We’re not really sure if his other 45s also have non-album tracks, like other artists (REM comes to mind) who often offered gems on the flip side of their singles — but now we’re going to take a closer look at any of them.

Now that the the Taylor Swift 1989 World Tour has moved along to additional exotic midwestern locales like Indianapolis, Columbus and, presently, a two-night stand in Kansas City, we suppose the haters can take a break from all that exhausting hating. And the rest of us can go right on shaking it off.

There was a day during Tay-Sway’s visit it seemed our only local weekly’s website posted nothing but articles about complaints from “the liars and the dirty dirty cheats of the world” on their music blog. This is only surprising because we forgot there was any writing underneath all those pop up ads. The paper itself offered a begrudging explanation for the success of “Shake it Off” which was so insultingly dismissive of Tay-Sway’s talent we’d have been shocked if it appeared in a actual publication of repute. Turns out she didn’t write, record and release an awesome song: she “lured us with familiar trappings” and “told us a story that was alternately tricky and engaging” only to “let us down just enough to come back for more.” Taylor Swift, literally described in the piece as an “evil genius,” is portrayed as a loathsome temptress at best.

1989 is a great record, and “Shake It Off” is a great song. We can’t imagine someone needing a scientific explanation for the success of a song by a male performer. The article implies that twenty-four year old woman couldn’t possibly have succeeded by talent, and must have used an “evil” formula and “magical songwriting and studio tricker” to beguile our children. She is regarded with the sort of disdain deserved by the contrived corporate marketing which targets our children, when in fact she has been nothing more than a successful performer (and often writer) of pop songs. Nobody suggested Pherrell’s “Happy” was some sort of nefarious scheme, even though it first appeared in a children’s movie. It was just a damn catchy song.

Incidentally, the highest notes in “Happy” were in the first line of each verse, not the chorus. Its a much more common formula in pop music than as described in the article (doesn’t anybody remember Queen?), as are the other incantations of “magical songwriting and studio trickery” Taylor used to “lure” our children. “Happy,” for instance, also extended each successive chorus, hitting higher notes each time, and ended abruptly. Many pop songs follow this formula, but they do not merit such scrutiny because they’re performed by men.

Also, they do not have the audacity to tell the haters to go fuck themselves.

If anything has offered some bitter-old-bastard legitimacy to 1989, it’s Ryan Adam’s surprise cover version, out online Monday and in stores soon. After all his Whiskeytown released an awesome cover of Black Flag’s “Nervous Breakdown” when little Taylor Swift was all of four years old. Adams carries more cred than any music writer at any weekly in any city in America — he’s way cooler than us and we met Thurston Moore last week — and he thinks they’re “great songs.” T-Swizzle tweeted “I WILL DIE!” when she heard of the planned project, and we shared that hilarious response on the Hymie’s Facebook page as soon as we heard. We’re not ashamed to be Taylor fans, even though we’ve already been burned once (in this love letter to another record store disguised as an article). We bet Taylor has also been misrepresented in the press, but we haven’t had a chance to check on that.

Adams has been posting achingly brief samples of the songs for more than a month, and we’re especially excited to hear his “guaranteed saddest version of ‘Welcome to New York’ ever” (“or your tears back”), as well as the rest of “Stay” and, naturally, “Shake it Off.” These posts by the veteran songwriter have included praises for Tay Sway’s songs, including, “Stoked to dig in to these jams. So much going on in those songs,” and (about “Bad Blood,” which this week became the first full track released) “Unreal song, Taylor. Wow.”

Those who think so little of Taylor Swift can finally have their cake and hate it, too: enjoying an album of awesome songs while still resenting the success of a woman on “a never-ending campaign to convince us she’s a normal girl.”

Alan Jackson scored a huge hit with “Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)?” in 2001, although hindsight suggests it was opportunistic schlock. The song was parodied by South Park when Jackson appeared to sing “A Ladder to Heaven,” about the boy’s attempt to climb to clouds to get a raffle ticket from Kenny.

Actually country music has a long history of patriotic records in poor taste, and Jackson’s song was far from the most shameful cash-grab of the era (Toby Keith can have that dubious claim). That got us to wondering how long until somebody hits the money button with a song about Uncle Sam kicking the snot out of ISIL.

Recently, we read about Al-Rahel Al-Kabir, a Lebanese band (whose name means “the Great Departed”) which writes humorous songs about political and social issues in the Middle East. We don’t understand a word of their latest song, but have read it mocks ISIL and its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. From the audience reaction, the song must be world-class satire.

freedom wins againSadly, we’re guessing any song about ISIL in the traditional American style will be more like this 1991 single by Quarter Moon.

 

freedom wins again

“Freedom Wins Again” by Quarter Moon

Yesterday’s post took a remark by our 39th Vice President, Spiro Agnew, out of context for a humorous purpose.  I regret denigrating the Vice Presidency and Mr. Agnew’s memory for a cheap laugh, and I hope that his family will accept my apologies.  To make amends I have found a song called “The Ballad of Spiro Agnew” by folk singer Tom Paxton which will surely present the immense scale of this great man’s contribution to our nation:

the ballad of spiro agnew

Yeah, you read that right.  So, first of all who is this mousy fucker?  He’s John Maus, a keyboardist who played with Animal Collective and Panda Bear, and has recorded a couple albums on his own.  Any time allmusic.com breaks out “experimental” in the first sentence you can bet the music isn’t going to be all that good.

So, what’s wrong with him?  Why not ignore him like the rest of the world?  Because this is the answer he recently gave in a Pitchfork interview when asked to name his favorite record store:

You don’t know how happy it makes me that the days of the record store are coming to an end. $20 for an LP? Do you remember going to the record store and not getting what you want because there was no other place to get it? Now we can get it all for free, and I think that’s wonderful. There was always something really depressing to me about record stores and music equipment stores. There’s something oppressive about them, like the guy who looks you up and down and looks at what you’re buying. You’re bound up in exchange with the snobby clerk. So I’m glad they all have little “closed” signs on their doors now.

You can read the entire interview here in case you think he’s been taken unfairly out of context.  Sadly, no.  Maus comes off as nothing short of an arrogant, pasty prick throughout, even calling our Orchestra Hall “one of the most rotten and ignorant places on Earth”.

So John Maus has been added to the list of artists we simply refuse to carry in our record store.

“Wait Dave,” you ask, “there is such a list.”  Oh yes.  Here it is:

1)  Anita Bryant
2)  John Maus

So what will we do with the John Maus records?  I suppose we can’t put them where we put the Anita Bryant records because there are people who will want them and we don’t want to cause dumpster diving problems for the cafe next door.  I think instead we will list every single record on which John Maus performed online, since that’s how he thinks we should all be buying our records anyway.  We will list them online and include his remarks in every listing.  When they don’t sell we will re-list them and re-list them.

 Afterword:  It gets worse.

I read Maus’ apology on the City Pages‘ Gimme Noise blog and the smug bastard actually digs himself deeper into his own rear.  Tomorrow we’ll celebrate John Maus, the great and misunderstood visionary artist, with our tribute to the bullshit apology.  Until then you can click on the link and read his.

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