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Music Feature
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
It is often taken for granted that hardcore punk is—and perhaps should be—the domain of the young. Young adulthood is a scary time for most of us, and what better way to express one’s youthful angst than by identifying with a music scene that embraces those feelings of alienation and confusion? I don’t think I would have made it through adolescence with my sanity intact without records like Black Flag’s Damaged and Minor Threat’s Out of Step. Those albums provided me with a useful outlet for my youthful rage and, perhaps more importantly, made me realize that I wasn’t the only one feeling so, well, out of step. At a time when one’s identity is incredibly unstable, any sense of community becomes paramount, and hardcore punk became the one place where I felt truly accepted.
Concert Reviews
Wednesday, April 16, 2008

April 11, 2008

While many of their indie-rock contemporaries remain mired in gloom and doom, The Hold Steady demonstrated with a sold-out Turner Hall Ballroom that there is still a place for fun in rock ’n’ roll. In fact, it appears as if the band’s genuine warmth and love of music has helped to grow an even larger audience. No longer just a secret among in-the-know hipsters, the group attracted a remarkably diverse crowd. And those in attendance . . .
Monday, April 14, 2008

African Americans’ active role in 20th-century migration

The 20th-century history of African-American migration to the urban North is often told as a tale of declension. Leaving the repressive South, blacks soon found that life was little better in Northern cities, where discrimination, bitter poverty and unmitigated segregation continued to inform the African-American experience. Acts of resistance are often noted in this narrative, and attention is paid to the legal and political gains that African-Americans made in the face of such severe oppression, including 1954’s Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Yet the story almost always ends with African Americans falling victim to the city, the field of play for the modern condition. Deindustrialization, white flight and the rise of the black “underclass” all serve to underscore the high price that modernity has exacted on the black community. Within this narrative, African . . .
Music Feature
Wednesday, April 2, 2008

How Vampire Weekend Channeled Africa Through New York

What is a young artist to make of a post-Giuliani, post-9/11 New York City? Some credit the former mayor’s strategic employment of the “broken window” philosophy in fighting urban crime and blight—along with a police force that, putting it kindly, ignored many of the subtleties of community relations—with helping the city to clean up its act. Many old haunts that once housed angst-ridden musicians are being developed into condominiums and shopping centers (it was, for example, recently announced that the former site of CBGB is being converted into a store for upscale men’s fashion designer John Varvatos). At the same time, the horrific events of 9/11 have created both a newfound sense of community among many New Yorkers and an intense preoccupation with all things safety-related. The grime, danger and sin historically associated with New York have seemingly been wiped off the cultural landscape of the city, creating a new atmosphere marked by a cleanliness that threatens to erase many aspects of the region’s checkered history.
Concert Reviews
Wednesday, March 19, 2008

March 15, 2008

In both sound and manner of dress, members of The Scarring Party draw from the musicians of the early 20th century. Their frontman warbles like a demented vaudevillian performer, and they prominently feature a tuba. Their lyrics read like a 21st-century adaptation of the Old Testament. And they are quickly becoming one of the hottest acts in Milwaukee. Playing a well-attended Turner Hall Ballroom to commemorate the release of their new album, Come Away from the Light, the peculiar band demonstrated why so many have embraced them. The group’s newest material fleshes out the promise of its earlier work, adding cello and violin to a mix that already includes a litany of off-thewall instruments . . .
Concert Reviews
Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Feb. 29, 2008

The Newark, N.J.-based alternative hip-hop group Dalek has made a career out of defying expectations of what rap music should—or should not—sound like. On record, the band has managed to meld such disparate influences as Public Enemy, Eric B. & Rakim, Mogwai, My Bloody Valentine and Jesu to create a sound that remarkably coheres into something all its own. There is a sense that group members truly love all forms of underground music, and it comes across on their albums. With the horrors of the unholy late- 1990s “rap-rock” phenomenon quickly dissolving from our collective cultural memory, Dalek allows us to fully see the artistic benefits of indiscriminate genre-hopping. Yet the act of reproducing recorded rap tracks in a live setting is a skill that has eluded even some of the most gifted performers, and judging from its recent Cactus Club performance, even Dalek finds it difficult.
Music Feature
Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Bob Mould makes peace with the past

For anyone who still associates Bob Mould with Midwestern punk, the cover of his latest solo album, District Line, may come as quite an eye-opener. The art focuses entirely on the sights of Washington, D.C., with allusions to the city’s color-coded Metro subway lines and a photograph of one of the never-ending escalators that service this underground transit system. Such aesthetic decisions, which Mould describes as “a nod to my almost six-year hometown,” immediately make clear the impact that living in the nation’s capital has had on Mould and his art. This doesn’t mean that District Line is filled with political rants aimed at those living and working in Mould’s back yard (though Mould remains civically responsible: Charmingly, he apologized for delaying this interview because he had spent the early morning voting in the D.C. presidential primary).
Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2008

How corporations ape the underground

In the summer of 2005, Nike SB, a division of the shoe giant in charge of producing footwear for skateboarders, created an advertisement for their upcoming skateboarding tour that attempted to connect the brand with the type of music that many skaters loved. Titled “Major Threat,” the ad reproduced the iconic album art of hardcore punk legends Minor Threat’s 1981 self-titled album. The response from many skaters—and from Dischord Records, the Washington, D.C., label run by former Minor Threat frontman Ian MacKaye—was swift and predictable.
Music Feature
Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2008

Deconstructs Metal

Heavy metal, despite its commercial success, remains a highly misunderstood, frequently maligned genre. Often, too much attention is paid to vocal or guitar histrionics, while the rhythm section goes unnoticed or underappreciated. Yet if you closely examine some of metal’s greats—Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden and Slayer, to name but a few—you’ll begin to realize that it is the drumming that propels these bands. Whether it is in the shape of Bill Ward’s manic originality, Clive Burr’s galloping time keeping, or Dave Lombardo’s brutal blast beat, it’s the drummers that separate the great from the good in the world of metal.
Music Feature
Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2008
Punk bands, seemingly by design, are not built to last. And the fact that they are often so ephemeral is probably a good thing. As many music fans have learned, particularly during the reunion craze of the early-21st century, there is nothing worse than watching a band that is well past its prime. “Live Fast, . . .

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