The first time I heard Bad Brains was when I bought the Let Them Eat Jellybeans compilation. The comp had great bands like FLIPPER, D.O.A., Black Flag and Dead Kennedy’s, but when the Bad Brains song Pay to Cum came on it sounded like nothing I’d ever heard before. First of all, the song was played ridiculously fast. I still don’t think there’s a song that’s been released anywhere that even comes close in sheer velocity. And then there’s H.R.’s vocals, a blistering stream of consonants and syllables so ferociously jammed together it sounded like auctioneer at cattle sale hopped up on enough speed to power an 18 wheeler cross country. Twice.
Everyone loves a good comeback, or a story about the kid who got pushed around when he was younger but eventually gets his revenge, or the cautionary tale about the guy who lost it all to drugs and drink and somehow turned it around. Lucky for us, with My Damage, the autobiography of Keith Morris, we get all three.
Sapiens, by Yuval Noah Harari is the kind of book that helps me sleep better at night for two reasons. One, unlike horror stories or true crime novels, the subject matter is studious enough that after twenty minutes of reading or so I’m ready to doze off. Two, because when Harari helps explain to us all why the world is as messed up as it is, at least I can stop staring at the ceiling wondering why all night.
X is a sacred band for me. The first concert I ever went to was when they opened for Devo at the Long Beach Arena and I probably saw them more than any other band during my impressionable adolescent years. I bought their debut album Los Angeles when it came out and have purchased everything they’ve put out ever since. Some of my favorite show memories are watching them play at the Country Club in Reseda on Sherman Way pressed up against the stage hanging on their every word. More poetic and accomplished musically than many of their peers, an X show made you convinced that you were witnessing a true original American band. They were punk rock angst mixed with country western pathos and rockabilly roots. They couldn’t have happened anywhere else.
Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt’s book “How Democracies Die” couldn’t have come at a better time. The patient in question has been run over by a truck that was paid for and manufactured by the Koch Brothers and the Kremlin and is being driven by a tax evading robber baron of bankruptcy laws and sometime reality TV show host who conned his way behind the steering wheel. He’s being cheered on by an audience of Kid Rock and Sarah Palin fans like it’s Evel Knievel at Snake River. Let us warn you folks, it doesn’t end well. There’s a lot of bragging and boasting and bellowing and then you end up beaten and bruised at the bottom of a dry river bed.
It’s hard not to imagine Tom Wolfe or Phillip Roth rolling their eyes in disgust when they learn that 90s skate punk bands are getting book deals, presumably to recount enthralling tales of the one time on tour when they duct taped the drummers butt cheeks together, or the bass player downed a bottle of Jamo and woke up spooning a tranny. Fine literature is for educated intellectuals, not bros with guitars and wallet chains. So what to make of NOFX’s book, The Hepatitis Bathtub and Other Stories landing near the top of the New York Times bestsellers list?