Watching Ween perform in the parking lot of the Murat Theater in Indianapolis, it was impossible not to notice the innumerable crusty, matted tubes of hair falling about the lilywhite faces of the middle-class twenty-somethings who made up the majority of the audience. How did this happen? I have a message for you pseudo-hippie jam-band devotees: Ween are not for you. You, with your foggy-headed politics and outdated pacifistic defiance -- you cannot begin to comprehend the scope of Ween's brilliance. And despite what the herd mentality that dictates your lifestyle may lead you to believe, you need not listen to Ween because Phish have covered a couple of their songs. Let me put it to you in simple terms: Ween are not a jam band. Rarely, if ever, do they jam. I suppose they have been known to freak out, but their freakouts are white-hot, unpredictable, and vaguely frightening energy fits, not meandering instrumentals that predictably build to a flaccid crescendo. Ween are an entity unto themselves. They are cosmic orphans. It would behoove you not to entertain any notions of trying to adopt them. I say this because I have seen the crowds, and the threat is real. The worst part is, knowing Ween, they would likely submit to the transaction. They are ridiculously nice guys. If a bunch of misguided quasi-hippies start following them around, Ween aren't going to tell them to beat it. But then again, Ween aren't the ones who will have to stand amidst the fetid odors and cover-your-eyes bad fashion that invariably come with these clowns. So for the last time, to all of you white-bread, hygienically challenged posers: Ween aren't for you. Oh, the show? Ween rocked. Of course they rocked -- they're Ween, arguably rock and roll's best kept secret. People who think of them as simple pranksters or satire artists have got it way wrong: Ween are more in tune with the fundamental nature of rock and roll than anyone currently making music. They're doggedly passionate, gloriously theatrical, brilliantly subversive, and maybe a little bit evil. Nothing is sacred when Ween play, either in the studio or on the stage, except for every person's right to unbolt that forbidden black box inside himself and let whatever's in there come pouring out, fuck the consequences. On this night, the show started with Dean summoning the sinister spurts of guitar that begin "Buckingham Green". Gene joined in, using every muscle in his face to push out the words: "A child without an eye / Made her mother cry / Why ask why?" Rounding out the rest of the band was Claude Coleman on drums (back in good form after a nasty car accident), a keyboardist whose name I regrettably do not know, and a bassist (Mean Ween? Looked kind of like him. Can't be sure). The sound was crisp, the band was well-oiled, and so, presumably, were the bloodstreams of everyone in attendance. The band rollicked through a set that drew a fair amount from all of their albums, but most heavily from Chocolate and Cheese. They even played "The HIV Song." The highlight of the night would have been the encore performance of "Buenos Tardes Amigo" if I hadn't already seen the band close with it twice before. So instead, zenith props must go to what was a profoundly rich interpretation of "Touch My Tooter", during which singer Gene went off the hook, loping about the stage and screaming into his mic, "Buddy why's my brain so muddy? Why do I feel like putty, when she walks into the room?" It was transcendent. Everybody loved it. Even the lousy neo-hippies.
In Americana music the present is female. Two-thirds of our year-end list is comprised of albums by women. Here, then, are the women (and a few men) who represented the best in Americana in 2017.
If a single moment best illustrates the current divide between Americana music and mainstream country music, it was Sturgill Simpson busking in the street outside the CMA Awards in Nashville. While Simpson played his guitar and sang in a sort of renegade-outsider protest, Garth Brooks was onstage lip-syncindg his way to Entertainer of the Year. Americana music is, of course, a sprawling range of roots genres that incorporates traditional aspects of country, blues, soul, bluegrass, etc., but often represents an amalgamation or reconstitution of those styles. But one common aspect of the music that Simpson appeared to be championing during his bit of street theater is the independence, artistic purity, and authenticity at the heart of Americana music. Clearly, that spirit is alive and well in the hundreds of releases each year that could be filed under Americana's vast umbrella.
From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.
60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)
White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans
This week on our games podcast, Nick and Eric talk about the joy and frustration of killing Nazis in Wolfenstein: The New Order.
Which is the draw, the art or the artist? Critic Rachel Corbett examines the intertwined lives of two artists of two different generations and nationalities who worked in two starkly different media.
Artist biographies written for a popular audience necessarily involve compromise. On the one hand, we are only interested in the lives of artists because we are intrigued, engaged, and moved by their work. The confrontation with a work of art is an uncanny experience. We are drawn to, enraptured and entranced by, absorbed in the contemplation of an object. Even the performative arts (music, theater, dance) have an objective quality to them. In watching a play, we are not simply watching people do things; we are attending to the play as a thing that is more than the collection of actions performed. The play seems to have an existence beyond the human endeavor that instantiates it. It is simultaneously more and less than human: more because it's superordinate to human action and less because it's a mere object, lacking the evident subjectivity we prize in the human being.
Gabin's Maigret lets everyone else emote, sometimes hysterically, until he vents his own anger in the final revelations.
France's most celebrated home-grown detective character is Georges Simenon's Inspector Jules Maigret, an aging Paris homicide detective who, phlegmatically and unflappably, tracks down murderers to their lairs at the center of the human heart. He's invariably icon-ified as a shadowy figure smoking an eternal pipe, less fancy than Sherlock Holmes' curvy calabash but getting the job done in its laconic, unpretentious, middle-class manner.