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Plagiarism 101: An Appropriated Oral History of The Tape-beatles

The Tape-beatles practice plagiarism as an art form. The group, founded in 1987, adopted techniques and ideas from concrete music to create a musical project intended to have broader appeal. In a nutshell, this Iowa City group set itself the task of creating music without… […]

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Prairie Pop: Pitchforked

Photo by Benjamin Franzen My editor assigned me to find out, in his words, “Is the Pitchfork Music Festival still fun?” As luck would have it, I’ve been perfecting an algorithm that calculates the objective quality of the festival experience using the Pitchfork website’s well known rating system, from 0.0 to 10.0. Heat is a […]

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Prairie Pop: In Slack We Trust

Dead Kennedys were punk provocateurs that made satire a central part of their concerts, song lyrics and, for that matter, band name. (Lots of baby boomer parents felt it was offensive, but for lead singer Jello Biafra, “Dead Kennedys” was a metaphor for the death of the American dream.) They were political pranksters in the […]

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Prairie Pop: The Devil Made Them Do It

The 1980s were ground zero for the Satanic Panics, when thousands of children were allegedly kidnapped, defiled and murdered in ritual abuse ceremonies. Even though police statistics made it clear there was no such epidemic, a nation of millions believed the hype. Geraldo Rivera’s 1988 prime-time special on the subject–“Exposing Satan’s Underground”–became the highest rated two-hour documentary in the history of television. […]

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Prairie Pop: Not Just Noise

The 1980s witnessed the height of the satanic ritual abuse scare, or the satanic panics. One of the greatest musical pranks that emerged from this milieu resulted in Helter Stupid, a record by the sound collage group Negativland. It was a concept album that thoughtfully reflected on the connections between rock music, violence, and media. […]

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Prairie Pop: Big Fela

Fela Anikulapo Kuti is Nigeria’s Bob Marley. Fortunately, up to this point, he hasn’t been turned into the sort of dorm-room-poster-trustafarian-Legend caricature that Uncle Bob became. Lost in the bong haze is another Bob Marley–a global political figure who used music as a weapon, sort of like Malcolm X riding a massive wave of bass all up in your face.

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Cracking Up the Culture Code

Back in 1992, Seattle was engulfed in an inferno of hype after the commercial rise of Pearl Jam, Soundgarden and Kurt Cobain’s little band that could. “Seattle,” SPIN magazine declared, “is currently to the rock ‘n’ roll world what Bethlehem was to Christianity.” The hunt was on for the next big thing, the newest scene.

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Grrrls gone mild

Paradigm shifts typically happen in the abstract–at the level of the Big Picture–not right in front of your eyes, real time. Nearly 20 years ago, I watched and heard the musical-cultural ground move under my feet in the dank basement of my next-door neighbor’s house (typically not the type of place where a shifting paradigm takes place).

“We want revolution, GIRL STYLE NOOOOOOOOOOWWWWWW,” Bikini Kill frontwoman Kathleen Hanna howled during the kick-start of the band’s set. I was standing just four or five feet away, eyes bugged out with jaw on ground. At 21, I had seen a few memorable things in my brief semi-adult lifetime, but never anything like that.

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