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Unreality Check #7: Led Zeppelin 4.1 (via ‘Badmotorfinger’)

Have there ever been four better songs to start an album than ‘Rusty Cage’, ‘Outshined’, ‘Slaves & Bulldozers’, and ‘Jesus Christ Pose,’ the opening quartet from Soundgarden’s ‘Badmotorfinger’?

My suspicion when I first asked the question was that there were likely a multitude of alternatives that were as good, but none that were better. That feeling is still generally intact.

‘Takin’ a Ride,” ‘Careless,’ ‘Customer,’ and ‘Hangin’ Downtown’ from the Replacements’ ‘Sorry Ma, Forgot to Take Out the Trash’ was the first alternative candidate offered. Undeniably great, and at least as visceral, but missing a certain depth.

From the complete opposite end of the rock spectrum came Rush with ‘Moving Pictures’ and ‘Tom Sawyer,’ ‘Red Barchetta,’ ‘YYZ,’ and ‘Limelight.’ Definitely deep and retaining great human feeling and songcraft despite the technical prowess on display, it fell solidly into the “as good” column.

The Stones got a nod with ‘Brown Sugar,’ ‘Sway,’ ‘Wild Horses,’ and ‘Can’t You Hear Me Knocking,’ from ‘Sticky Fingers’ (probably my favorite album of theirs). I guess this works. But only if you like ‘Wild Horses.’ It’s always driven me to distraction. I find the melody unimaginative and the bulk of the lyrics cliched; neither in a way that qualifies it for ‘simple beauty.’ But to each their own.

‘Welcome to the Jungle,’ ‘It’s So Easy,’ ‘Nightrain,’ and ‘Out Ta Get Me,’ from Guns n’ Roses genre-resurrecting debut ‘Appetite for Destruction’ was another completely legit contender and also likely rises to the level of as good.

It was when someone proposed the first four from Led Zeppelin’s fourth, however, that the dialogue took its first real twist. To my estimation Side 1’s ‘Black Dog’ and ‘Rock n’ Roll’ were held back by ‘Battle of Evermore’ and ‘Stairway to Heaven.’ On this basis I suggested ‘IV’ would make a better Last Four Songs candidate (‘Misty Mountain Hop,’ ‘Four Sticks,’ ‘Going to California,’ ‘When The Levee Breaks’) than First.

After some back and forth, my interlocutor and I came up with an alternative track listing and created a stronger version of the album. I present ‘Led Zeppelin 4.1’: ‘Black Dog,’ ‘Rock n’ Roll,’ ‘Misty Mountain Hop,’ ‘Levee’ // ‘Four Sticks,’ ‘Battle of Evermore,’ ‘California,’ ‘Stairway.’ It’s majesty and might are inescapable.

The last word on the Best First Four topic occurred when ‘Abbey Road’ was thrown into the ring. First of all, I consider it the greatest rock album ever, and holding that accolade should disqualify it from the lesser category discussed here. Then there’s the fact that it’s essentially one piece of music, none of which can be disentangled from the rest.

But this is the stuff music conversations are made of, and I’m happier than ever that I asked!

Unreality Check (#6)

Last week the Texas 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in Tarrant County Community College v. Sims, that Texas’s state law prohibiting employment discrimination on the basis of sex also provides protections against discrimination for LGBTQ workers. The favorable decision provides state-level protections for LGBTQ workers for the first time under Texas state law.

The Texas appeals court’s opinion included language that interprets the Texas Commission on Human Relations Act (TCHRA) consistent with the recent US Supreme Court decision Bostock v. Clayton County that determined discrimination against employees on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity is a form of sex discrimination prohibited by federal law. 

In January, The Human Rights Campaign filed a “friend of the court” amicus brief on behalf of the plaintiff. The brief argued that Texas state law is clear — the US Supreme Court’s interpretations of Title VII apply to analogous provisions in the TCHRA.

Some light from down here in Texas after a long string of self-inflicted pies in the face.

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Pres. Biden’s pause on new leases for oil and gas drilling will have marginal impact on production, according the US Energy Information Administration. The agency expects crude production in 2022 to fall by fewer than 100,000 b/d on average as a result of the administration’s order on leasing.

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Note that the same people who are upset about a handsy French cartoon skunk getting ‘cancelled’ were fine with a presidential candidate who “grabs ’em by the pussy.” At least they’re consistent.

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The GOP now has another entertainer’s back (Tucker Carlson) instead of the military’s.

President Biden announced that two female generals were in line to become combatant commanders and that initiatives were being pursued to recruit and retain women to the US military.

Tucker said, among other things that “China’s military becomes more masculine … our military needs to become, as Joe Biden says, more feminine.”

The Pentagon issued a statement attempting to address Carlson’s ignorance, adding that “What we absolutely won’t do is take personnel advice from a talk show host.”

Noted veteran Col. Alexander Vindman put it this way: “Tucker Carlson dishonors the service and sacrifice of all women who have served in the Armed Forces. Many who paid the ultimate sacrifice. He’s never served anyone but himself, but would deny soldiers the means and equipment to be effective. #HereRightMatters”

And Republicans side with Tucker.

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Even so, like Jefferson, I would prefer newspapers without government to government without newspapers.

Unreality Check (#5)

Photo from studentenergy.org

It looks like there might be some wiggle room on energy in the both the new administration and Congress. Congressional Democrats, and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), have made a series of proposals intended to modify the terms under which oil and gas leasing can occur on federal lands rather than banning it outright. They’re also trying to get President Biden on board. Grassley called on Congress to increase royalty rates, describing the current system (in place since the 1920s) as “corporate welfare.”

Yes, Grassley represents the state that produces far more ethanol than any other, but sometimes you take help where you can get it.

Democrats likewise want to raise royalties paid to the government and are also pushing for remediation of abandoned wells, tougher regulation of methane emissions, and increased public input into the process. Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.), chair of the energy and mineral resources subcommittee, described Congress’s actions as an effort to provide Biden with ways to fix a broken system rather than simply throwing it out.

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Republicans in the Texas legislature are keeping the pedal to the metal, putting forward a bill that would ban all abortions from the moment of fertilization. The bill would charge women who have abortions and doctors that perform them with murder. Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) on Mar. 9 signed a bill into law banning abortions for any reason except saving the life of the mother.

Unreality Check (#4)

Agencies shall consider ways to expand citizens’ opportunities to register to vote and to obtain information about, and participate in, the electoral process. 200-day deadline from Mar. 7. Includes modernization of websites and digital services.

The above summarizes some of the key points of an executive order issued Mar. 7 by Joe Biden. I’d heard about this one, but in general it’s been so quiet, relative to recent times, that I’d kind of lost track of what he’d been doing.

The following are some of other things that happened in just the first seven days of this month:

• The Senate passed the $1.9-trillion American Rescue Plan Act.

• The February jobs report showed 379,000 jobs added to the economy.

• The Defense Production Act was engaged to make enough vaccines to supply every American by the end of May 2021.

• Biden met with President of Mexico Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador to discuss immigration, COVID-19, and economic and security cooperation.

• Biden spoke with the Guatemalan president to discuss immigration and regional security.

• Secretaries of Commerce and Education were sworn in.

• Biden assessed the mental acuity of the governors of Texas and Mississippi.

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Introducing George Floyd’s drug use as a defense strategy is no different than pointing out “provocative dress” on the part of the victim during a rape trial

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Instead of pushing this rapid reopening, why don’t GOP governors just tell everyone to work harder. I mean, that’s all poor people have to do, right?

Unreality Check (#3)

‘To Ride, Shoot Straight, and Speak the Truth,’ released in 1997, is Swedish metal band Entombed’s fourth album. It was a step away from the band’s death metal roots, providing the cornerstone for the then-nascent metal subgenre, death n’ roll (yes, a blend of rock n’ roll and death metal).

Most fans would choose one of the three albums that preceded it as their favorite Entombed record, but ‘Too Ride…’ has a special hold on me. It was the soundtrack of my first trip to Rio de Janeiro. Rio in 1997 was better than Rio even three years earlier, but it was still a place where it was never clear who the bad guys were and in which nightclub madness could turn into actual chaos in the blink of an eye. Gunfire rang from the favellas well into the night and police sweeps of Copacabana were non-stop once the sun went down.

‘Too Ride…’s’ overdriven everything, nearly continuous swing, and lyrics focused on the perpetual struggle for sanity (or at least peace) made the perfect musical accompaniment for a new visitor to a society on the edge. Vocalist LG Petrov didn’t write the words he sang, but he delivered them with such unfettered disgust, amazement, and ferocity that they were inescapable.

LG died today, taken at age 49 by bile duct cancer. He was a unique and striking personality in a genre full of them. But I have ‘Too Ride…’ forever. And the journey’s just getting started.

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So it looks like everyone’s cool with Marilyn Mansion getting cancelled. Let’s use that common ground to build something. You know where to reach me. #bipartisanship

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When Trump backed COVID relief legislation it was urgently needed aid that got broad support from both sides of the aisle, but now that it’s Democrats it doesn’t even merit consideration. How can anyone take the GOP seriously? That’s a real question.

Unreality Check (#2)

Metallica’s ‘Master of Puppets’ turned 35 today. A true masterpiece. One of those rare albums that not only stands as a cohesive piece of work rather than a collection of songs but actually envelopes its listener, taking them on a journey. When you add in the great individual performances and the fact that it sounds great no matter what volume you play it at, it’s pretty much the best.

Was living in a group flat in London in fall of 1986 and would fall asleep some afternoons sitting on its hard couch with my headphones on, just letting it wash over me.

When I heard about Cliff’s death I cried. Rest in peace, genius. You will live forever.

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Does the GOP want us out of Iraq or in Iraq? Or whichever is the most expedient answer to the particular question they face? I think that’s the one.

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Conservatives have attempted to cancel an absurd amount of literature over the years, and almost all of it simply for wanting to broaden the minds of those who would read it. The forces behind what is happening now are different. It is an effort in include. Not exclude. At least their reaction is consistent I guess.

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In the words of great Indiana poet, William Rose Jr. (@axlrose) “I don’t worry ‘bout nothing, no, cuz worrien’s a waste of my time.” The earth is a self-balancing system. She’ll be fine. But if we want to stay here (or live elsewhere), it’s past time to get busy.

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The US Interior Dept. took steps today to recommit to scientific integrity and empower its experts to use the best available science. Its Order 3397 revokes Order 3369 – falsely branded the “open science” rule – that imposed improper restrictions on what science and data could be considered when making its decisions.

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BREAKING INTEL: When Texas COVID-19 numbers spike towards the end of the month the right’s plan is to blame it on illegal immigrants. They’re literally broadcasting it. #OnBrand

Unreality Check (#1)

The University of Michigan is playing great basketball right now (notwithstanding what just happened against Illinois!). Testament to the value of recruiting to build a team rather than win individual matchups. Four-year seniors (present and future) and one great grad transfer. Bring on the tournament! Go Blue!!

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How is maritime piracy of commercial-scale vessels still a thing? In fact, still so much of a thing that the chief of staff of the Nigerian Navy has publicly accused security consultants Dryad Global of trying to embarrass it via continuous coverage of events. A free press holds people accountable. Everywhere.

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Texas congressmen have introduced legislation empowering state governors to nominate offshore areas for oil and gas development. So now state’s rights are a thing again? Got it. And it’s a ‘bipartisan’ effort to boot. Who do you think Kevin Brady and Henry Cuellar are working for?

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Microsoft has this thing in Outlook called Cortana. It’s supposed to give a morning inbox reminder of things one needs to remember to follow up on. Nine days out of 10 its top message is that my company’s firewall asked me to “Please verify that you trust this sender…” #useless

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The Big Lie is alive and well. Millions still believe the 2020 US election was stolen. At this point political parties are immaterial. You are either for democracy or you are not. Feel free to let me know which camp is yours.

To be clear, Mike Lee (R-UT), Josh Hawley (R-MO), Tom Cotton (R-AR), John Kennedy (R-LA), Ted Cruz (R-TX), and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), need not check in. Your anti-democracy positions have already been established.

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Gov. Greg Abbott just lifted the mask mandate in Texas and reopened business at 100% capacity effective Mar. 10. I guess he thought it would a cool way to mark Texas Independence Day. Hoping for the best. Expecting an absolute calamity. At least I’m vaxxed. #FromThePeopleWhoBroughtUsWinterBlackout2021

‘Strum Sum Up’ turns 13

dUg Pinnick’s ‘Strum Sum Up’ solo album turned 13 over the weekend. It’s one of those albums that everyone who participated in its creation looks back on fondly, a true testament to musical community. To mark the event, please enjoy this excerpt from ‘What You Make it: The Authorized Biography of Doug Pinnick.’

Rex Brown [Pantera] was excited to play bass on the record but had to pull out at the last minute. He felt terrible about it, having long wanted to work with Doug. With Brown unavailable, Doug’s former tech, Kolby McKinney suggested he check out Big Wreck’s Dave Henning. Doug had never seen Henning play, but had heard people raving about his 12-string prowess for a while. McKinney kept pushing and Doug finally picked up the phone and called Henning, who agreed to come to Blacksound Studio.

When Henning showed up, however, there was one thing missing…his bass!

“Hey man, did you bring your bass?” Doug asked, thinking maybe he’d just left it in the hallway. 

“No,” said Henning, “I just thought I’d come over and we could talk.”

“No man, we’re tracking!” laughed Doug incredulously.

Wally, Parnin, dUg, and Henning

Michael Parnin produced ‘Strum Sum Up’ and worked at a pace that made even the efficient processes established with Michael Wagener seem slow in comparison, aided by his ProTools mastery.

When Henning showed up without his bass Parnin pointed and said “there’s a bass right over there against the wall. It’s a piece of shit, but play it.”

Henning plugged into an old SVT amp and cranked it up as the rest of the guys, with Kellii Scott [Failure] on drums, broke into ‘Coming Over,’ including the jam. By the time they reached the end, there was no doubt: this was the band.

Protest 100: Business Machines – ‘Biggest Little Whore House in Texas’

https://businessmachines.bandcamp.com/track/biggest-little-whore-house-in-texas

Artist:          Business Machines 

Song:           Biggest Little Whore House in Texas

Album:        Almost Automatic

Engineered/Mixed: Steve Albini

Label:          (self-released)

Year:           2003

Notes:
Here’s what frontman Lucas Juarez has to say about the current state of affairs:

Excerpt from ‘Unreality’
People with more specialized platforms—law enforcement officials, garbage men, bus drivers, etc.—were compensated more for whatever role they felt comfortable playing.

Drunken business men
On a drinking binge
On the company dime
Mama I ain’t lying

Energy companies
On their knees
Bankruptcy
But you know them CEOs will be OK
Man, fuck Ken Lay

If you wanna strap money from poor people
Texas is the place to be

I saw this rich motherfucker on the tv
Saying that he needed a little more money
Well that shit ain’t funny
I hope someone comes and takes all your shit
And then they turn around and then they fuck you over

I saw this one motherfucker on the TV
Saying that he needed a little more money
Well that shit ain’t funny
When you spend your whole life working for the man
Then he turns around and fucks you up the ass!

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‘Protest 100’s mission is two-fold: dispelling the myth that heavy metal is a brainless, socially unaware music genre, and raising awareness of the issues facing our country in the Nov. 3, 2020 election. The path won’t be exclusively metal—some punk and rap and other stuff will be in here too, including the classics—and is not a ranking. All songs are songs I’ve heard while putting this list together, ordered in a manner designed to entertain and educate.

Protest 100: Creedence Clearwater Revival – ‘Fortunate Son’

Artist:          Creedence Clearwater Revival 

Song:           Fortunate Son

Album:        Willie and the Poor Boys

Producer:    John Fogerty

Label:          Fantasy

Year:           1969

Notes:
Pres. Trump has been blasting CCR’s ‘Fortunate Son’ as walk on music during his campaign. Its use works like a charm, highlighting the limited comprehension, scofflaw tendencies, and general trollishness that have been highlights of his time in office. Its use has continued despite John Fogerty’s requests that it stop.

Fogerty’s initial response came in a September video.”I wrote the song back in 1969 at the height of the Vietnam War,” Fogerty said in the video, as reported by Insider.com “By the time I wrote the song, I had already been drafted and had served in the military. And I’ve been a lifelong supporter of our guys and gals in the military, probably because of that experience, of course.”

Fogerty continued in his video, saying: “Back in those days, we still had a draft, and something I was very upset about was the fact that people of privilege, in other words, rich people, or people that had position, could use that to avoid the draft and not be taken into the military. I found that very upsetting that such a thing could occur, and that’s why I wrote ‘Fortunate Son.'”

He then noted the song’s opening verses: “Some folks are born, made to wave the flag / Ooh, their red, white, and blue / And when the band plays ‘Hail to the Chief’ / Ooh, they point the cannon at you.”

In his video, Fogerty compared the beginning lines of “Fortunate Son” to Trump using federal agents to remove protesters from a June demonstration at Lafayette Square in Washington, DC, so he could stand in front of St. John’s Church and hold up a Bible for a photo opportunity.

“It’s a song I could’ve written now, so I find it confusing, I would say, that the president has chosen to use my song for his political rallies, when in fact, it seems like he is probably the fortunate son,” Fogerty said, ending the video.

Trump received multiple deferments that helped allow him to avoid service in the Vietnam War.

The song hasn’t lost an ounce of its edge. I’ve included a couple of my favorite covers at the end of the post (though nothing matches the intensity of the original).

Excerpt from ‘Unreality’
People with more specialized platforms—law enforcement officials, garbage men, bus drivers, etc.—were compensated more for whatever role they felt comfortable playing.

Lyrics:
Some folks are born made to wave the flag
Ooh, they’re red, white and blue
And when the band plays “Hail To The Chief”
Ooh, they point the cannon at you, Lord

It ain’t me, it ain’t me, I ain’t no senator’s son, son
It ain’t me, it ain’t me; I ain’t no fortunate one, no
Some folks are born silver spoon in hand
Lord, don’t they help themselves, oh

But when the taxman comes to the door
Lord, the house looks like a rummage sale, yes
It ain’t me, it ain’t me, I ain’t no millionaire’s son, no, no
It ain’t me, it ain’t me; I ain’t no fortunate one, no
Yeah!

Some folks inherit star spangled eyes
Ooh, they send you down to war, Lord
And when you ask them, “How much should we give?”
Ooh, they only answer, “More! More! More!” Yo

It ain’t me, it ain’t me, I ain’t no military son, son
It ain’t me, it ain’t me; I ain’t no fortunate one, one
It ain’t me, it ain’t me, I ain’t no fortunate one, no no no
It ain’t me, it ain’t me, I ain’t no fortunate son, no no no

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‘Protest 100’s mission is two-fold: dispelling the myth that heavy metal is a brainless, socially unaware music genre, and raising awareness of the issues facing our country in the Nov. 3, 2020 election. The path won’t be exclusively metal—some punk and rap and other stuff will be in here too, including the classics—and is not a ranking. All songs are songs I’ve heard while putting this list together, ordered in a manner designed to entertain and educate.