tim: text: "I'm not offended, I'm defiant" (defiant)
After years of grumbling, I finally gave in and created a Tumblr account; I'm [tumblr.com profile] emotionallaborunion there.

As an experiment, I'm going to try posting some writing over there, since I like Tumblr's tagging and reblogging capabilities. I don't intend to abandon Dreamwidth.

Accordingly, go over to Tumblr if you want to read my thoughts on the Mountain Goats show in Dallas last night and the end of just-short-of-two weeks of following them on tour.
tim: text: "I'm not offended, I'm defiant" (defiant)

I wrote before about the Mountain Goats' song "The Legend of Chavo Guerrero". The official video for it just got released, starring the members of the band and Chavo Guerrero himself.

I can't stop watching this.
tim: text: "I'm not offended, I'm defiant" (defiant)
This morning I got inspired by [twitter.com profile] mountain_goats yelling at [twitter.com profile] scotte_allen and wrote a song. Scott E. Allen is the mendacious assclown who introduced a bill into the Wisconsin state legislature barring SNAP recipients from using food stamps to pay for dried beans, as well as any other foods he doesn't think are "healthy". (I don't know where he received his doctorate in nutrition.)

Sure, calling politicians "assclowns" doesn't solve any problems, but trying to control what poor people put in their bodies doesn't either. And the latter is pretty fucking personal to me, since I grew up on, and ate food by virtue of, public assistance from birth to age 16.

There are only so many synonyms for "assclown", though, so after joining in the Twitter yelling for a bit, I thought about the bigger picture and wrote this song.

Grazing yogurt pretzels
From the bins at Stop & Shop
I wonder if the creeping feeling's
ever gonna stop
Iran-Contra on TV
every single day
I don't know what's happening but
I know I'm gonna pay
Read more... )
tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
So, I'm starting to feel kind of weird about intermingling my video posts with things like "this person who was important to me just died"; if you want to see my trying to post a video a day of me singing a song (sometimes by me, sometimes by other people; sometimes with cats, sometimes without), follow [personal profile] tim_plays.

I will of course continue posting here, such as when people die or when I have feels.

On loyalty

Apr. 30th, 2015 03:30 pm
tim: Solid black square (black)

So today's Part 2 is a song I wrote myself, "Valor in Tulelake". This is about loyalty, and history, also subjects I really don't know anything about.

tim: Solid black square (black)
This video doesn't have the cats in it, but this isn't really a cat-appropriate song anyway; it's me covering a cover, Billy Bragg's version of Greg Trooper and Sid Griffin's song "Everywhere". I still haven't listened to the original, but here's an article about it:

Midway through, the narrative takes an unexpected turn as the GI begins reminiscing about his childhood best friend, Lee, a Japanese-American and the two boys’ shared desire to fight Germans in Europe. He then notes the irony that, once America actually became involved in the war after the attack on Pearl Harbor, he went to fight while the equally patriotic Lee was hauled away to an internment camp....

The narrative and imagery of “Everywhere,” both the song and the video, are clearly rooted in the Second World War, as well as the US government’s deplorable treatment of Japanese-Americans during the course of that war. At the same time, the song also obviously stands as a commentary on war in general—in fact, Griffin recounts that he and Trooper wrote the song “at least partly in response to the first Gulf War.”

I might ask myself what I know about war, and the answer is not much, but neither did the people who wrote this song so that's okay. When it comes to having a ball and chain, or being asked to die for your home, or never ever forgiving, I know a little bit, though, and I wrote something that I'll do tomorrow that this is a lead-in for.
tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
I took this past week off from work and made what turned out to be sort of a pilgrimage, to Nashville, Asheville and Carrboro, NC to see 3 of the first 4 shows in the Mountain Goats' spring tour. (I missed the Savannah, Georgia show that was in between Asheville and Carrboro, but apparently a fistfight broke out there during "Steal Smoked Fish", so it might have been for the best.)

Back in 2012, I'd heard the Mountain Goats two most famous songs, "No Children" and "This Year" on mix CDs friends gave me, but I hadn't gotten hooked yet. When [livejournal.com profile] lindseykuper, my co-worker at Mozilla at the time, made the trip on Caltrain from Mountain View to San Francisco to go see two of their shows on consecutive nights, I decided I should give them more of a listen. She recommended that I start with their albums The Sunset Tree and We Shall All Be Healed, so I did.

I am not a very good listener. It took me a few months to realize what The Sunset Tree was about. But since I caught on, it's been my favorite album, by anybody. When it came out almost ten years ago it marked a shift from John Darnielle's previous writing (often abstract, often chronicling recurring fictional characters) into confessional, autobiographical songwriting. I hear there are purists who only like his old stuff (recorded on a cheap tape player), but I'm just glad I didn't discover the Mountain Goats early enough to risk becoming one of those purists.

I was a teenager in the '90s, when young adult literature dealing with realistic problems the kids these days faced (or at least what adults thought kids faced) was in full bloom, and I read all of it. This was also a time when memoirs, largely by young women recounting experiences with abuse, trauma, addiction, and mental illness were popular, and there was a just-as-popular backlash against them (in retrospect, mostly a sexist one). None of that ever reached out and grabbed me. I got through my teens listening to the Indigo Girls and Shawn Colvin, and I enjoy them still, but they don't have enough to say to me anymore to keep me going now. Shawn Colvin's "Steady On" and the Indigo Girls' self-titled album helped me get through a few nights, but their lyrics don't have the specificity that I drank up later when I found it in the Mountain Goats.

The songs on The Sunset Tree are about John Darnielle's childhood and adolescence dealing with an abusive stepfather who also abused his mother in front of him. I grew up with an abusive mother, who was single. As a teen, John turned to meth and heroin to deal with that which was too big to hold. I turned to a bad marriage and graduate school. But the thing about music like this is that it lets you believe, for a while, that the similarities between us are more important than the differences. I used the word "confessional", and The Sunset Tree both is that and is more than that. "You Or Your Memory", the first song on the album, is about reconciling the pain and powerlessness you've experienced with the obligation to be an autonomous adult. "Love Love Love" and "Pale Green Things" are about the intricacies of the relationship between love and abuse. These songs coexist with more straight-up looks into what it's like to be a kid who couldn't trust the adults who were supposed to keep him safe. There's the revenge fantasies of "Up the Wolves" and "Lion's Teeth", which are, well, the easiest songs for me to directly relate to. There's "This Year", a joyous ode to flawed coping mechanisms. And there's "Dance Music" and "Hast Thou Considered the Tetrapod", a pair of songs about staying in your room with the door closed and headphones on; in "Tetrapod", the narrator worries more about getting his stereo broken by the abuser than about getting his face broken.

The adult perspective with its moral complexity coexists here, made to seem no more or less true than the unfiltered rage and helplessness that I remember well from my own childhood. The album made me start to feel like I could finally grow up (at 31) while still keeping the promises I made to myself as a kid, on behalf of my future self -- that is, the ones to never forget how bad this was, to never do this to anybody else, and to never make excuses for any adult who was doing this to any other kid. The Sunset Tree suggests how you might begin to understand without making excuses. That begins with showing compassion to your former self and honoring the things that self loved and hated, which is a necessary prerequisite for empathizing with anybody else. When taken together with much of the content of the albums that followed, it's a body of work that's about how you get from the life you're given to the life you make (to quote a Mary Chapin Carpenter song). It's a hell of a 39 minutes.

I got a little carried away there, though, because I really wanted to tell you about the Mountain Goats' new album Beat the Champ. When I heard their next album was going to be about pro wrestling, I was a little worried, because I was afraid it wouldn't be a Mountain Goats album. What I know about wrestling could fit on a thumbtack, but it turns out it doesn't matter, because Beat the Champ has a lot in common with The Sunset Tree. It's about love and violence, friendship and hate. It's about identity and justice. And because I'm not that good a writer, I'm using those general terms when Beat the Champ is extremely specific about all of them.

I put off listening to the songs from the album that were pre-released until the show in Nashville last Thursday; I wanted to hear them for the first time there. I'm glad I did, because live -- giving it my full attention while standing in the back and trying to see over the tall person in front of me -- "The Legend of Chavo Guerrero" reached out and grabbed me by the neck. Chavo Guerrero (who's still alive and apparently loves the song) was John's favorite wrestler as a kid; he symbolized the clear lines between good and evil that didn't exist in John's life. The line that got me the first time I heard it and continues to make the hair on the back of my neck stand up every time I hear it since is this one:

I need justice in my life. Here it comes.

But you can't just read that on the page, you have to hear it. If you haven't heard the song, stop what you're doing and listen to it. Okay? It's the way the song switches in mid-verse from objective, school-report language ("He came from Texas seeking fortune and fame...") to the image of John watching TV in the floor in the dark, the TV light bringing hope and joy. It's the catch in his voice on the word "my" and the audible intake of breath before "Here it comes".

In contrast with the moral complexity of (some of) The Sunset Tree, "The Legend of Chavo Guerrero" is three minutes of moral clarity. I love that ten years after The Sunset Tree's meticulous exploration of love when it's entangled with violence, he can still sing, in the last verse -- addressing his stepfather -- "He was my hero back when I was a kid / You let me down but Chavo never once did / You called him names to try to get beneath my skin / Now your ashes are scattered on the wind". I love the simplicity and directness of these words. And I love that the song gives the listener, too, permission to say to the person responsible for their trauma, "Yeah, you know, shit is complicated, but at the end of the day you're dead and I'm still here."

After that, it's a bit of a relief when the album follows up with the They-Might-Be-Giants-ish "Foreign Object", which is the most infectiously joyful song ever about stabbing somebody in the eye. It took me a couple of listens to get into the rest of the album, but now I'm really enjoying "Choked Out", "Werewolf Gimmick", and "Fire Editorial"; they go to some interesting places.

CDs have the advantage that you can play them repeatedly in your car, but there is nothing like a live Mountain Goats show, and of the three shows I saw this past week, each one was successively better than the last. On stage, John looks like there's nothing else in the world he'd rather be doing and like he just discovered that now (25 years of performing notwithstanding). Shouting along to "Up the Wolves" with everybody else in the audience is group therapy and church.

While I want everybody else to love the Mountain Goats as much as I do, I also hope their shows never get too big for John to stay and sign CDs afterwards. At the Carrboro show I managed, somehow, to work up the nerve to tell him how powerful that line in "Chavo Guerrero" was for me. I am sure that that's what everybody else has been telling him too, but he thanked me as if nobody else had said so. So, John, if you're reading this, thank you. And thanks for the hug.
tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
ETA: All CDs that haven't been claimed yet have been sold/given away. Thanks for playing!

See Part 1 for the details!

Read if you want free CDs - of course you do! )

Free CDs!

Nov. 5th, 2012 08:30 pm
tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
I'm trying to cut back on CDs even more radically, keeping ones I want to have in the car and relying on electronic format for everything else. So, if there's something here you like, assume I'll still be listening to it and I just don't need the physical medium. If there's something here that makes you question my taste in music, well, I probably never liked it in the first place.

Same deal as with books: definitely free for Bay Area people, willing to ship within reason to North Americans at no cost to you. I just want someone else to get some enjoyment out of some of these! Whatever doesn't go in a few days will get taken to Rasputin or Half Price Books.
Read more... )
tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
Hello interwebs,

Those of you what are in and about Oregon should come hear the Oregon Sinfonietta, a fine ensemble in which I play cello, a week from tomorrow, January 25 at 3:00 PM. The concert is free and at the Sunnyside Seventh Day Adventist Church, 10501 SE Market St. in Portland.

The program:
* Gade – Echoes of Ossian Overture, op. 1
* Appert – In the Similitude of a Dream
* David – Concertino for Trombone
* Haydn – Symphony No. 104 “London”

All good stuff.


tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
Tim Chevalier

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