I won’t be so bold (or, more probably, misguided) as to say that this is a list of the best rock music released in 2009, it’s just a list of the music released in 2009 that I think I listened to the most. Or at least the quaint constructions known as “albums” released in 2009 that I listened to the most.

Them Crooked Vultures, Them Crooked Vultures
The Dead Weather, Horehound
Erin McKeown, Small Deviant Things, Vol 1
Lucinda Williams, Little Honey
Green Day, 21st Century Breakdown
Dan Auerbach, Keep it Hid
Neko Case, Middle Cyclone
Animal Collective, Merriweather Post Pavilion and Fall Be Kind
Yeah Yeah Yeahs, It’s Blitz

That’s all I’ve got til next year. Stay out of trouble, I don’t want to have to bail you out of jail in the morning or anything.

I have loads of genuinely important things to do. I also have some severe tendon pain right now and no desire to do anything but sit and stare at my year of mixtapes like it’s the most profound thing I’ve ever read. Then, I read a book, which involves minimal use of my hands. The side effects drugs to fix one thing harm another, namely tendons. Poor tendons, they were so happy before. Life is hilarious.

Then I did some whining to Dr. Birdcage about how slowly my NaNoWriMo novel, tentatively titled The Art Show, is coming along. It’s coming along slowly, partially because I haven’t been writing. Mostly because I haven’t been writing. Fine. Entirely because I haven’t been writing. I wrote 1200 words on day 1 and wandered off. When I picked up my laptop this afternoon I typed a couple of sentences because I realized my main character had just summoned demons to eat the other characters, or the annoying ones anyway, so I strongly believe things are looking up. Still, things will not look up entirely until someone, someone who resembles me, starts typing.

It has come to my attention that many of you have a serious deficit in your musical and cultural knowledge. I’m here to fix that, so grab your coffee and pull up a chair.

A long time ago (1964) in a galaxy far, far away (Detroit), a band was formed. That band was the MC5.

Technically, the MC5 were formed in Lincoln Park, a suburb of Detroit, but I’m trying to keep this simple.

The band was formed by Wayne Kramer (guitar), Fred “Sonic” Smith (guitar), Michael Davis (bass), Dennis Thompson (drums), and Rob Tyner (vocals). Fred Smith is also known as Patti Smith’s (deceased) husband. I’m trying to keep this simple, so we’re going to gloss over some of the details. If you want more minutia than even I can handle, here’s an MC5 timeline.

The MC5 were (are) musically brilliant, loud, political, and they put on a wildly energetic stage show.

I tell you all of this for two reasons. One, you should know it. Two, Wayne Kramer has partnered with Billy Bragg to bring Bragg’s Jail Guitar Doors project to the United States and it’s the kind of initiative you should know more about. (Because I said so).

Kramer went to Federal prison decades ago on a narcotics charge. Now clean and sober, he’s a prolific working musician and composer and is included on Rolling Stone’s list of the 100 Greatest Guitarists of all Time. (Those lists aren’t ever controversial).

Despite your appalling lack of knowledge about MC5, I have faith in you that you’re conversant in the body of music produced by The Clash. In light of that, you’re probably saying to yourself, “Hey! Jail Guitar Doors. Isn’t that the name of a Clash song from 1978?” You are correct, my friend. And if you think really hard, you might recall that the song begins,

Let me tell you bout wayne and his deals of Cocaine
A little more every day
Holding for a friend till the band do well
Then the DEA locked him away

I imagine Kramer spends a lot of time reiterating that he thinks prisons do serve a purpose and that there are people who do belong there, but a program that improves people’s lives in a desperate situation also belongs in prison. Kramer outlines the current problems the War on Drugs has created and what he’s doing about it:

Kramer Report
Los Angeles

On Saturday, May 2nd 2009, I returned to prison. Again.

Tom Morello, Jerry Cantrell, Billy Bragg, Perry Farrell & Etty Lau Farrell, Gilby Clarke, Boots Riley, Carl Restivo, Dave Gibbs, Don Was, Handsome Dick Manitoba, Eric Gardner and the Road Recovery staff went with me. The prison was the infamous Sing Sing maximum-security facility in Ossining, New York. I talked with the prisoners and we played music for them.

And we went in with the blessing of the New York State Department of Corrections to inaugurate a new program focusing on inmate rehabilitation. To tell you the truth, I didn’t think it would happen. I could not have been more wrong. We had all played a concert the night before in Manhattan for Road Recovery, a non-profit organization that works with at-risk kids. The show was sold out with the help of my comrade Iggy Pop and it was a resounding success.

The Sing Sing show was a bonus. To say it was memorable would be a massive understatement. As would be understating the importance of reaching out to the people on the receiving end of the greatest failure of social policy in America’s domestic history.

You would have to be living on the moon to not know what a disaster the “War On Drugs” has been. Twenty billion dollars a year for the last 30 years, two million Americans in prison — 60% of them non-violent drug offenders — and you can go out on any American street corner and buy cheaper, higher quality heroin and cocaine than you could anywhere in America 30 years ago. The political expediency of “get tough on crime” along with the sure-fire vote getting “lock them up and throw away the key” mentality has successfully created the highly profitable Prison Industrial Complex.

[read the rest – it’s worthwhile]

For some reason – you can’t deeplink to individual posts on the Kramer Reports section of the website, but I suspect that post will be at the top for a while since it’s already several months old.

Kramer isn’t on the fringe with his argument that society needs to focus more on treatment and less on incarceration for non-violent offenders, even Gil Kerlikowske, the head of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (you know, the Drug Czar) agrees.

But I digress. Let’s get back to the music. You can read more at the allmusic guide to the mc5 or you can just scurry on over to Spotify or Pandora or last.fm or wherever you find new music and have a listen. You can thank me later.

Have you listened to Olafur Arnald?. When I had the passing delusion we’d be going to the Iceland Airwaves Festival in October, he was one of the artists I was curious to check out.

We aren’t going to the Festival this year, but in just a few weeks Samer is headed to Iceland to celebrate his 40th birthday.


This morning, promo info for Arnald’s new album landed in my inbox. This seemed like a sign of some sort to me. Or possibly that was just because I haven’t had any coffee yet and my brain is still fuzzy from last night’s adventures with Tracy that included mint julips and a musical about our friend’s childhood misadventures with a monkey.

So, in honor of Samer’s impending trip, here’s “3055” by Olafur Arnalds. Leave me a note in the comments if the file misbehaves. I don’t know that I’ve done this right, but I’m going to blame the file if anything goes wrong…

A few years ago I posted about Husband’s childhood friends, the Legion of Rock Stars. After dinner tonight, Husband mentioned that he’d posted LRS’s epic rendition of “I wanna rock” on facebook. When we went to watch it we noticed LRS were on boingboing yesterday. Go LRS! I prefer “I wanna rock” to “Under my Thumb” (boingboing’s link), but am sad to report that the Macarena isn’t as funny as it sounds like it should be.

They haven’t lost the magic.

I fear they may have reached the apex of the career with the Barney Miller theme. Enjoy it, won’t you?

I was listening to a bee buzz while it feasted on the thyme yesterday. I thought it sounded like a C flat, but apparently a pollen collecting bee hums closer to 246 hz, which is B below middle C. Is my hearing off today or are my bees a little sharp? Who can say? I thought it was kinda interesting, anyway.

Last night we caught The National at the 9:30 Club (the midnight show). Then we got up early for an Artomatic coffee-meeting at the site before we opened to artists for the final two days of installation (read: bedlam). Then I came home and went back to bed for a couple hours. Now I’m going to drool and finish knitting this sweater and watch the Land of the Lost marathon my Tivo, Overlord 2, scooped up for me from SciFi.

I might get really crazy and go stare at the flowers in my garden. (currently: 5 types of roses, several thymes, lavender, some sort of iris that blooms all summer, amazing carnations, daisies, pansies, lamb’s ears, and gerbera daisies).

I’m sad to report that you can’t check yourself in and out of the Federal witness protection program like it was some sort of day-spa or rehab center, so I’m just going to settle for turning off my phone for the afternoon. See you tomorrow….

*That was a joke, I was just guessing the bees were buzzing at around a middle C and was surprised to look it up and see that it was probably true.

I love fark, although that probably goes without saying. I’m sure you’ve noticed I’m easily amused. (I’m still laughing about last week’s Onion headline, Shirtless Biden Washes Trans Am In White House Driveway).

Anyway, I saw this on fark and it made me laugh:

Police arrests at Springsteen concert include 30 for underage drinking. In other news, at least 30 people under age 50 attended last night’s Springsteen concert.

The actual article they’re linking to is here. I don’t think it’s particularly interesting.

Tomorrow’s the deadline to apply to volunteer for the weeklong Girls Rock DC summer camp (Monday, August 10th – Friday August 14th, 2009). Girls Rock DC is part of a network, and you can find out more about all of the camps at the Girls Rock Camp Alliance site.

Here’s the scoop on Girls Rock DC:


With a base in music education, Girls Rock! DC aims to create a supportive, inclusive and creative space for girls to develop their self-confidence, build community, stand up and rock out!

Following in the footsteps of girls rock camps across the United States, Girls Rock! DC was founded in October 2007 by an all volunteer collective of DC Metro Area musicians, teachers, artists and community organizers. In August 2008, over 80 volunteers built upon their diverse musical backgrounds, connections to local youth and approaches to grassroots organizing to create a week-long day camp for Washington DC area girls ages 8-18. After a very successful first year, Girls Rock! DC is excited to be organizing a second camp this August 2009!

During the week, campers receive small group instruction on electric guitar, bass, drums, keyboards, turntables or vocals, form bands, collaborate to write an original song and ROCK out the stage. Campers learn about the history of women in rock, gender and cultural identity, band merchandise and promotion, conflict resolution and other skills young women need to take over the world of rock!

The application is on the website and the first volunteer training session is coming up in June. You don’t have to be a musician or audio engineer to volunteer – they need all kinds of help and it looks like crazy fun. If you can’t commit, pass this along to your friends.