Saturday, October 19, 2013

Shutdown: Don’t Shut ‘em Down

Flogging Molly: Don’t Shut ‘em Down

So, of course, the government shutdown is over, and we here at Star Maker Machine take credit for the ending, only a few days after we created this theme. It is sort of like why some baseball announcers won’t mention that a pitcher has a no-hitter, as if the announcer affects the game. Which is something that my father insists on, despite being quite well educated and intelligent. But if that is true, then why can’t a little music blog cause the reopening of the entire United States government?

I’ve previously written about my attendance at two Warped Tours, and why that demonstrates my credentials as a great father, but it also exposed me to some incredible music. Maybe my favorite discovery at Warped Tour was Flogging Molly, who combine Celtic music with punk in a way that I find incredibly fun. It is surprising that there is a whole slew of bands like this, like the Pogues and Dropkick Murphys, but of all of them, Flogging Molly is my fave. I will never forget the mosh pit that afternoon on Randall’s Island—I only watched because, hey, I’m a grownup—but it was a like a maniacal Irish dance in the dirt and mud. We bought some of their CDs at the merch tent that day, and I’ve been a fan ever since.

“Don’t Shut ‘em Down,” from the band’s latest release of new material, 2011’s Speed of Darkness, was written about the economic situation, primarily in Detroit where the band is based and in leader Dave King’s native Ireland. It is a plea not to shut down the factories that gave so many people work, the ability to support their families, and allowed cities to thrive. The title is taken from graffiti that King saw painted on a boarded up building in Detroit.

This song is, actually, one of the least Celtic sounding Flogging Molly songs that I can think of—it is more of a straight ahead rocker, with a poignant, important message.

Sunday, October 13, 2013


Working for the Clampdown
Get it, here!

OK, so it's not the version you were expecting, but indulge me this opportunity to hit several targets at the same time. Or at least to aim at them. (You were expecting this, weren't you. Same song, same message, different ambience, both good.)

Some discussion.... Clampdown may not mean quite the same thing as shutdown, but I'm not going to bother Webster for fear of invalidating my argument, as the outcome is the same whether it is Congress (now) or the revolution (Strummer) that turns off the lights. The Clash were the archetypal politico-punks, Strummer inevitably drawn to left wing overthrow of the state, the camouflage of resentment held by so many of those in denial of their own privileged upbringing. Privately educated, the son of a diplomat, an example of that peculiarly british phenomenon, Joe Strummer constantly re-invented and re-defined himself, so as to deny his spoon, stainless steel if not silver, in support for the undertrodden and oppressed, most of that oppression, in his eye, stemming from the righter leaning ideologies of the wealthy upper classes. Arguably naive and simplistic, nonetheless one felt he believed it, despite the perpetual joy of the press, always reminding all of his roots. Even the more radical rock press delighted in this perceived whiff of hypocrisy, as if he could and should have chosen his parentage more wisely. O to be in England, now that class is here. Where it always has been, and, probably, pitifully, it probably always will be. (Relax, guys, my diatribe is done, back to the music.)

I liked the Clash. They always seemed to have a bit more to them than the Sex Pistols, who resolutely seemed a little cartoon-like. Like the Beatles and the Stones, you had to be in one camp or the other, and the Clash seemed a bit better read, perhaps underlining my own class issues. London Calling was, I think, their 3rd LP and was a massive breakthrough at many levels, straying from 4:4 wamalama and introducing many styles and statements, drawn, as Strummer would always return to, especially later in his career, from the musical diversities of many cultures. A double album, squeezed into one sleeve and the price of one, this too was part of the message. (Sandanista, their next, took this still further, being 3 for the price of 1, but, for me, was spread a little too thin.) From the iconography of the cover, to the brilliance of much of the music, London Calling was their pinnacle. Following on from Sandanista the band eventually fell into disrepute and dissarray, Strummer becoming a Pogue for a while, standing in for another "nice boy gone bad", Shane MacGowan, before a last gasp of creativity with his own band, the Mescaleros, and a premature death in his early 50s. Which, inevitably and yet again, gave the obituarists an opportunity to reprise his family tree.

I also like the Indigo Girls, torchbearers also, but for a more sexual politic. This version brings a different slant to the more overt posturing of the original, and comes from one of the better tribute LPs out there, Burning London, which includes versions of Clash songs by No Doubt, the Afghan Whigs and Moby, amongst others.

Shutdown: Shut Down

Beach Boys: Shut Down

The exuberance of the '60s Beach Boys was infectious: so infectious that they sold millions. They were a kind of transition from the Kingston Trio folk genre to the Beatles pop/rock genre. They were California-carefree: surf, sun, and fun, fun, fun 'til ...

'Til the real world intruded. Much of the decade leading up the Beach Boys' prime-time were years of plenty - especially for America. Work, cars and houses for everyone. The late sixties (and the end of the Beach Boys' major successes) was the end of an era: a shut down of the values that America had previously espoused. Vietnam war protests, "free sex", hippies ... all flew in the face of what was established. Richard Nixon got caught trying to shut down his opponents by illegal means. The public aimed to shut down the Vietnam war. And much of the public tuned out one way or another: smoking pot or ... whatever... in itself a form of shut down or closing time.

Look into the Beach Boys late works (Heroes and Villains era stuff) and you'll see this change reflected in their music: The Beach Boys of the '70 definitely do not display the same "drive" you'll see in this clip. It's been shut down and the gears have been down-shifted to mellow.

At the same time, as we consider the relation to today's US gov't shut down, you might look deeper into the (most likely unintended) meaning you could ascribe to the lyrics of this song:

Shut it off, shut it off buddy now I shut you down
Sounds to me like one of the US political parties or another: "buddy"? I thought that meant "friend"?