06 June 2008

Punk Rock Guilt

Ahhhh, summer is here. Along with the shedding of clothes and nights of drinking and blazing on the porch, the last several summers have each brought a new Brant Bjork album to serve as soundtrack. This year we've got Punk Rock Guilt. Great album title, or greatest album title?

But fret not, I'm more interested in that title as a jumping off point than penning an album review per se. As music fans, regardless of genre preferences, we are looking for artists or bands that are Forces, those whose particular Voice or talent is a fact. The only question beyond that is whether we can suspend disbelief and enjoy the music on its own terms. Is it a world you want to be in? There is value in one-offs, but my interest in any of those is inversely proportional to how much music "like that" I already own, or if a genre has deep veins down into the mountain. A long-haul artist transcends good or bad, but simply is. The further they weave themselves into the fabric of your life, the more arbitrary and irrelevant the particulars of a given recording become.

Brant Bjork is definitely one of those guys. Though I've seen him describe this new LP as "total rock," I think that just means it's a bit heavier some of the time, even recalling Kyuss a bit, because last year's Somera Sol was arguably a more aggressive album in terms of pure rockage. Punk Rock Guilt is instantly recognizable as BB, and does not really stray too far from the groovy pentatonic boxriffs that are his primary bag. Production is spot-on and unlike most modern records still sounds great loud. And I will state on the record that the man is a brilliant lyricist, he's totally real and has the cajones to spout killers like:

Captain Lovestar's my name yeah
And I'm your rock and roll commander


or:
Another day at the office, baby can you hold my calls
If I ever mix business with pleasure,
Baby, you can hold my balls.


There are so many. He's got some wise-man mojo as well. Brant pulls off the trick of seeming like a well-adjusted, happy individual who can still make music with grit and edge. A person you can hang with but also learn from. The music lifts you up, but also helps you get down, a testament to the music's r&b roots and its proximity to the trunk of that tree. Nearly all of BB's solo albums are worth owning, but I'd recommend Jalamanta, a terrifically iconic debut, as well as BB & the Operators, and Saved By Magic as some of the juiciest flowers, all very distinct and with seemingly infinite shelf-lives. Of course Punk Rock Guilt is a great place to start as well.

But here's what I really want to get at. From the faq at Low Desert Punk, his new label:

Both you and former band-mate Josh Homme have been talking a lot about the term "Punk Rock Guilt" this year. He was saying how he grew up with it and kind of grew out of it as he got older and left Kyuss. What's inspired you to keep on rolling with the D.I.Y. attitude when some of your old friends have embraced the mainstream?

The inner line within myself dividing my reality and my idealism is very fine. As I assume it must be for others who would consider themselves “bleeding hearts, under-dogs, dreamers, or romantics”. I know deep down, none of these things ultimately define me but I’d be lying if I said that I don’t feel all of these characteristics inside myself at any given moment. Growing up in a capitalistic society is an intoxicating thing. Money. It’s a harsh reality. It wouldnt be so bad if our culture wasn’t so obsessed with it. Obviously I chose to follow my heart into the arts. Yes, I too obsess over money from time to time. but my priority has always been to maintain my path in art ...specifically music.
Art, to me, is spiritual and should remain so. There is nothing wrong with “making a buck”... but I simply feel it should not be at the expense of your spirituality, or...your art. There are so many paths to take that are entirely built for the pursuit of money, why some choose the arts as a way to “make money” is something I really don’t understand. When I was growing up, I was naturally attracted to “punk rock”...not just for the music but for the “effort”. It was a movement...at least I saw it as one. I saw Punk Rock as a place for the few who didn’t want to “walk the line”. It wasn't motivated by money. It was a natural attraction for me and my personality. Most of my closest friends at that time were into “it”. Punk Rock is my root and it’s the school that I came up in. It has alot to do with how and why I play music today. I say this, not out of pride, certainly Punk Rock today is not something I am really interested in, but I am not in denial of my roots. Why specific people choose to dwell in the mainstream artistically is not something I can really answer.
For me...I simply don’t like controlling people and I don’t like people controlling me.
and as for “Punk Rock Guilt”. I honestly don’t even know what it is supposed to mean. To feel guilt for growing up on one of the only meaningful forms of rock music and art in the 80’s...seemed so lame that I had to use the term as a record title.

As for tequilas... there are a lot of premiums worth checkin out.
Especially these days.
But I’d say, right off the shelf, Don Julio Anejo is very nice.
Salute

—BB
I'll be coming back later to riff on the above, but will publish this now since it's been quiet here lately.