Thursday, September 12, 2013

See the World Given to a One Love Entity

Frances had an awesome Wayne's World moment recently. She was thinking about aliens for some reason, I guess because aliens show up in kid-oriented content sometimes. She said, "You know those aliens that come and land? For them, we are the aliens." I was like, "Duuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuude"

I eased into this. I saw another band, and I talked to the one guy who was in the band, and that guy was in this band Guardian Alien so he told me about it. All he said was that he was in the band, and that they had played in Chicago a bunch of times. Then I looked them up and they were on a reasonably large label and they had made this video. And I was like, well I'll be damned. That's when Frances got involved. Cause I was watching the video, and she wanted to see it too, and I was like, ok sure, and we watched the thing. And she had all kinds of questions about it, and she would reenact parts of it, especially the part at the end where the alien guy makes the universe go all nutty by grabbing the frame. She was super into that. Months later she would still ask to watch the video again. So she has a relationship with this band.

(I was just writing last time about the similarity of childhood and intoxication. Here's a great example. Watch the video - I mean you should do that anyway cause duuuuuuuuuuuuuude - but watch it and if you're like "It's not for kids!!!" it's probably cause you know it's all druggy drug world. The kid, she doesn't know that. It's a story, and it's fun cause it's weird.)

(The trick is figuring out how to find joy in the brain expansion of weirdness without, you know, getting fucked up.)

This one was in heavy rotation last November and December. Also I saw them play and they were great to watch. As the guy I know who's in the band and who's also in the other band put it, "It's a pretty appealing band". They bring it. Drums are key. The drummer dude Greg's the focus. I shook hands with him. What a grip. He's one of those guys whose stature isn't as big as their affect. Wiry. And taut arms. His foil is front-woman Alex. Tall, blond, partial to wrong-ish spandexy things, low voice, straight freak. Throw in trip-master Turner and hang low and shake it out Eli, and you're on your mushroomy way to drugville of the loud ear and eyegasm variety. Like the Dead but they're cool and the drums are fast the whole time and the jamming isn't based in blues or country. Hence "they're cool." You know, like a LOUD La Monte Young with death metal drums that keep turning into hippy drums but stay fast.

Greg Fox is trippy trip it out man too tho. He like, dreamed up the whole thing. Literally. The video's about the trip. They made it all arty and weird so the white people would dig it but it's a pretty simple narrative. Ship comes down, rasta alien dude gets out, approaches Greg, hands him this weird-ass mirror thing (Frances calls it a "universe cube", I prefer to think of it as an "iPad") and it says "See the World Given to a One Love Entity" on it. The press materials claim he actually had this experience and it inspired him to quit his arty metal band Liturgy that metalheads disdain as too arty and not like, boring enough to actually be metal and start Guardian Alien which is like, what I said above, hard jams.

Now if I'm gonna be cynical, and yeah I am, dude was tripping hard and the brain manifested the rasta guy (which, cultural appropriation white privilege kinda weird to me). Further cynicism indicates that the "one love entity" concept and the lyrics you can hear, which are like "YOU - UNIVERSE - all things one..." ring hollow, unexamined, where I find nothing that resembles what I would recognize as "love" inside the words or the sounds. In that "love" is a stand-in for "smoke pot, relax, jam out". My thing is, if you can afford to relax, you're like, lucky. And someone else paid for something you got at some point.

This is the cynic in me though. The cynic kept this record out of the rotation after the initial enthusiasm. But the cynic thinks too much sometimes, eh? Frances picked it out recently cause like, she LIKES how it SOUNDS, man. So do I. A lot. I grumpily whanged it on my turnie and after a minute I was like, aw damn, wow, shit, this thing is pretty great. It slams into being triumphantly and just gradually winds out for three quarters of an hour. The drums are great. Great. "It's a pretty appealing band."

And, to my point, who the fuck am I to decide what someone else's motivation is? No one, that's who. This record has the power to bring people together. Specifically, Frances and I, who have somewhat divergent musical tastes, can agree on this one. After she picked it this week she was afraid to play it cause she was worried I was gonna ask her to paint something or whatever, but on reassurance that no product would be exacted, the freedom to enjoy reappeared. Free from agenda is free from anxiety. Relax, jam it out, find your way.

Monday, September 2, 2013


The Mae Shi made an album called 2 in 2005. It wasn't their second album, nor was the album 1, from the same year, their first. Rather, 1 and 2 (and I assume 3 and 4, which I never knew about but found out about just now by reading about them on AMG) belong in sequence to their limited tour-only releases collecting bits and bobs and jams and noisy things that weren't going to fit anywhere else. It's Mae Shi, minus (most of) the hooks, with all of the variously listenable blips, explosions, gnarl, and static given the spotlight, and in this case, there's a "cover of a Cash Money Millionaires song" (unfortunately, no vocals - but stripped of genre signifiers, a revelation of musicality).

I wrote about this band before, and I'll write about them again, because this particular pick is from the original orgy of picking that my then-toddler did, in which she straight up raided the L's and M's of my CD shelf (also from that fruitful haul: Madonna, Mahler, Lucky Dragons, The Lotus, Lufa, The Lowdown, and Ray Lynch). I'm now coming up on the fourth anniversary of the very first FPE post ("Gateway Records 3534: Hustle, Bus Stop and Line Dances", and I find that slowly making my way through this backlog has made me reflective.

So, 2. Two. It's the record I'm writing about and also the phase I'm entering. Here's the thing. As this project was literally born of Frances's disruption of my precious order, so now it reaches an inflection point, where once again Frances isn't into me shaping her involvement or her production. She'd rather her leisure be playing pretend with a friend or parent, or watching a video, or going somewhere fun, rather than, you know, making a work-for-hire. Childhood! The state of being a child! The time of the present.

From this I take that the future is, in a very real sense, a waste of time. If I'm to truly collaborate with this kid, it means letting go of the production, of the future, and coming to the present.

This is the art that Frances produced while listening to 2:

Not into it, so much.

And this:

"What's wrong with the CD?"

It's not the first time the Mae Shi have crossed Frances. When she was a few months old, I went to see them play, and came home with a light-triggered noise-maker that produced a truly horrible sound. They were partially inspired to make and sell these little demons by my own band and the horrible-sounding light-triggered devices we had perpetrated. That thing totally pissed off baby Frances.

Yes so the present, and the future. The Mae Shi imploded, and it was ugly. The linked account cites substance abuse as a factor. I think ambition, or pursuit of fame, or "success", may have been as well. Substance abuse is an unhealthy, destructive, unbalanced focus on the present at the expense of the future; ambition is its opposite. Growing up is learning how to bring these two forces into balance, and learning how you can use both for positive change.

I've often thought that childhood is like being on drugs, or perhaps the opposite: one takes drugs to forget care and consequence, to induce a state of artificial innocence. Adulthood is the growing awareness of the future, of the clock, of death; the desicions to drive and plan or to drift. The future isn't a waste of time; it's all there is. But there's a lesson of childhood, too, which is that a future worth having requires engagement with the present.

The Mae Shi here have thrown fifty things in a bucket. There are multiple funky jams, Ezra rap-sings a couple of times, and sometimes it sounds like the CD is broken. They give you a chance to hear the birth of a rock song. It's all present and no future. The scraps cut away from the albums you were meant to hear. You can't make an album, not a good one anyway, without producing extraneous material.

They threw a frame around it. These bits were meticulously ordered and produced as a limited release. Frances's off-hand tossoff produced in response was accordingly framed. She made a decision. The paper was cut to size.