Archive for May, 2016

Roses Don't Push The Car Home_edited-1At the beginning of this year, fans, I thought I might be done with music for a while. I had just released my seventh album, “Clam Fake,” which I thought was my best achievement with music so far, and I was ready to go back and work with some other media. (I also love spending time with my beloved 4-year-old son, but that’s another matter).

Because I’m an untutored music producer, most of my musical experiments have been made on a very old laptop with a very, very old version of a musical production software called Cubase LE. There is no support for this thing or for many of the old electronic boxes you could talk to it with (if you think the major software companies are unconcerned about the life cycle of the products they make you depend on, imagine the unmerciful attitude of a company whose business is musical equipment). With my old Cubase cutting out on me and my understanding of the next generation product practically nil, I felt as if I were going to have to learn a new language, and I thought, “No more music for me.”

But then I made a small discovery: My wife had bought me an iPhone 6 for Christmas, and tucked away on this tiny smartphone like a pea among many other apps I’d never use was a cute little version of Garage Band. I’d never had a Mac, and my initial confrontation with the product on the iPad didn’t give me confidence the phone version would be any good.

But then I made a song with it. Then another. Then, folks, I’d shamefully admit that I started to go fucking crazy. Since the beginning of this year, I have made almost four albums’ worth of music. Forty-five brand new songs. On my freakin’ phone! I made music in bed. I made music waiting for the treadmill. I made music while waiting for my wife to get out of the bathroom. I’ve made music on the train to work.

I do not want this to sound like an advertisement for Garage Band, necessarily, but there’s probably no hope of it sounding otherwise. A lot of the rawness of my producing that’s fairly obvious on my previous seven albums has been greatly reined in by Garage Band’s sound compression (it automatically gets rid of ugly frequencies I had to adjust for manually). I have also availed myself of loops and beats. So anybody familiar with my old stuff might be in for a shock and wonder what was up. No, the earth shattering reason for my change in sound was actually a banal software change.

What you have, of course, is a new album with almost no live instruments on it (real guitars appear only on two tracks, which were held over from “Clam Fake.”) There are some people who might find this offensive and fake. I’m one of those lucky people who don’t care. I like playing a real guitar and have on occasion done it well, but I feel that anybody who calls himself an artist works with imagination first and foremost and doesn’t spend a lot of time worrying about the materials used so much as the spirit that’s brought to them. Of course that means I can play rock music on my phone. Why the hell not?

That attitude is hopefully the continuity you might otherwise not see between my older work and the new album.

My eighth release is called “Roses Don’t Push The Car Home.” As of today (May 27) it is available on CD Baby and Amazon, and it will soon pop up on iTunes and other places where music is (still) sold.

Check out a sample of “Roses Don’t Push The Car Home” below:

Read Full Post »

There is a remarkable story floating around online that I haven’t seen posted in many places: how the Southern Baptist Convention has lined up against payday lenders. Christians have come around to the idea that this kind of behavior among financial specialists creates victims. When you see Evangelicals going after financial institutions, you’re watching a 50-year-old pact dissolving. Christians have found something in laissez-faire economics they can’t abide by, and they think the government has a role in stopping it.

I think this is huge news. At the very least, it bears closer scrutiny for those wanting to understand the current state of the Republican Party. Donald Trump’s rise shouldn’t be surprising given the huge schisms within intellectual conservatism, which is less a cohesive movement now than a group of unrelated tribes. Libertarianism, whose underlying argument is that less government and law equals more freedom (and that total freedom could somehow be self-correcting), can no longer be reconciled with Christian charity and evangelism, which sees in this idea selfishness and moral abdication. Political Christians have always seen a role of government acting as an agent for change (think blue laws). This is something they have in common with liberals, though they wouldn’t like the comparison. Meanwhile, neither Ayn Rand nor Jesus likely have much to do with neoconservatism, the idea that America’s military power can be used for the global good and stability. Nor with ethnic nationalism.

And you could separate libertarianism still from free market conservatism, which understands rampant capital formation to be the best model for engendering truly free living and thus is really fond of global free trade agreements and such.

Like all powerful movements, conservatism managed to find unity in these disparate ideas when they were embodied by a powerful historical figure: Ronald Reagan. Without the unifying and sunny idiom in which he put them (and an Evil Soviet Empire that seemed to symbolize everything he was not), there is not a lot left holding these ideas together and certainly not enough for a person who stakes his identity on his Republicanism.

Thus it’s not terribly surprising when the many virtues of these ideas succumb to the dark side of human nature, their high-mindedness superseded by the darker, baser aspects of the human character, who in his grasping for expression easily becomes easily wounded, narcissistic and chauvinistic. It’s not hard to fathom, then, how spiritualism becomes intolerance. Counterintuitiveness becomes anti-intellectualism. Loyalty to ideals becomes more important than curiosity (which might destroy them). Pride in culture and respect for tradition becomes open hostility to people who are different. Whenever a group of people are in such disarray, it makes sense they would turn to a strong man–a man of utter conviction in himself and willingness to take what he wants with bullying. These qualities are impressive enough by themselves in a leaderless vacuum to a battered conservative soul.

I am not a conservative, but I grew up with conservatives in their wolf den, and I’ve never found boastful conviction to be something they value. So I find their turn to Trump to be disheartening. It’s not that I think they actually like him–they simply want his mojo, his strong expressiveness and the idiom of confidence that used to be theirs. How else do you explain them turning to a man who has spent not one second of his life pursuing their goals, fighting for their beliefs?

Being skeptical that Obamacare did any good is one thing. But when all you have holding together your identity is your hatred for Barack Obama (and his heir presumptive, Hillary Clinton), then you really have no philosophy at all (and in many respects, you are likely defined by your low self-esteem, if some of your Facebook memes are any indication). Political ideals are something you speak for peer approval. (Or, let’s face it, your dad’s.)

Though I’m not a Republican, I’m a gestalt theorist, and I think America needs both its parties to be strong for its particular way of functioning. Both the Democrat and the Republican greatly need to speak each other’s heresies to stiffen their sinews and make their arguments more rigorous. I do not think the world would be a better place if far leftists were left alone to speak kant to one other (that certainly hasn’t been good for the arguing skills of Bernie Sanders’ fans, who are the most true-believing of anybody’s supporters and thus incredibly fragile when challenged on their candidate’s very real weaknesses).

So I am not heartened by the demise of the Republican Party. If it rises again, I would like it to do what it does best: offer sober assessments of the the very real problems perceived by liberals. I would like it to ask us: do we completely understand the nature of these problems and could our solutions make things worse? Instead, the GOP has become the party that insists government must be destroyed to be saved. It wound up destroying itself.

Read Full Post »