r.i.p. john stabb

John Stabb, the iconic singer of Government Issue, has lost his battle with stomach cancer.  G.I. was one of those punk bands whose initial caustic sound grew and evolved through a number of stylistic shifts, some of which prefigured popular bands to come, but not all of which were embraced by fans of the band’s early raw hardcore songs. But I loved everything they wrote. John’s lyrics were always poignant, cutting to the heart of what it means to be human in this modern world, particularly when you feel at odds with it.

You will be remembered, John, for all the joy and inspiration you brought to punks everywhere. You made good use of your short time here and your musical legacy and influence will live on for many years to come. Rest in Peace.

two feminist punk/post-punk classics, and some thoughts on youtube

I spend a lot of time trolling YouTube for obscure punk, post-punk, darkwave, and associated fringe music. It’s a compulsion, although I remain conflicted over listening to this music without paying for it. If YouTube was like an all-you-can-eat buffet where you paid one price and could gorge on as much music as you wanted, I would gladly pay that fixed price (provided it went directly to the musicians). And frankly, I’m surprised YouTube has not yet gone the subscription route, though I suspect such a fate is not far off. The fact is that I cannot afford to individually support every musician I listen to on YouTube by buying their music, if it’s even still available for purchase, which it very often is not since most of these bands are inactive and/or have no web presence. And I should clarify that I do still pay for music. If there is a band that I really enjoy and find myself repeatedly wanting to listen to their music, I will seek them out and if their music is available to purchase somewhere I will buy it. But with many of the bands I find, I’m just sampling them and moving on. Only a select few do I find myself returning to listen again. In this respect YouTube is a good place to do music research, and so perhaps it’s not such a bad thing if it leads to people buying music they otherwise would not have known about. With that in mind here are a couple of my recent finds below. And I should add, as many music-uploading YouTube users often do: if you like these bands, please support them by buying their albums! The Au Pairs albums can be hard to find but they are still out there in various formats. And the Poison Girls website offers most of their releases as downloads, with a PayPal ‘honesty box’ for payments.

Au Pairs – Fronted by lesbian-feminist Lesley Woods, whose lyrics both skewered sexual and social politics and celebrated sexuality from a woman’s perspective, the Au Pairs played post-punk occasionally reminiscent of Gang of Four, with its prominent funk-inspired bass and trebly guitar. Their second LP ‘Sense and Sensuality’ found them straying even more into jazz and funk territory. Here’s a fantastic live track from that album. Also check out this episode of Post Punk Britain from earlier this year featuring an interview with Woods, a playlist chosen by her (including several Au Pairs songs), and a new song she recorded for the show.

Poison Girls – An anarcho-punk band led by Vi Subversa, a middle-aged mother of two, Poison Girls were early contemporaries of Crass and recorded their first single on Crass Records. But they weren’t a typical anarcho-punk band (if there is such a thing), and later went their own musical way. From what I’ve read of their story, it’s more interesting than that of Crass and the rest of that milieu, but I’m always more captivated by the outsiders, even in a scene already far outside the mainstream. Vi’s lyrics, capturing the perspective of a smart woman growing older as she continues to rail against the patriarchy, communicated an experience not commonly heard at the time in punk music. And the music was certainly not run-of-the-mill, either.

infirm

I picked up some kind of spring bug…it hasn’t been that bad so far, but it’s got me down.  I haven’t been sick since early last fall when I had a mild cold.  The law of averages finally caught up to me, though.  I stayed home from work today, mostly because I can’t stand when people go to work when they’re sick and spread their germs around for all the rest of us to breathe in. 

On Friday I went to Philly to see Screeching Weasel on their reunion tour.  They played most of the right songs, and they played them well, but it was all very mechanical.  Ben Weasel exhibited asocial behavior during the show, never changing his expression and speaking to the crowd with a level of aloofness I’m not sure I’ve ever witnessed from a punk rock frontman.  I never saw SW back in the day so I don’t know if he always acts like that on stage, but having read Ben’s columns in MaximumRocknRoll, I always suspected he wouldn’t be the type to effectively demonstrate genuine enthusiastic gratitude to his fans.  Sure, he thanked us and all, and maybe he was being sincere, but it seemed very cold and calculated.  I told my friend afterward that I felt more like I’d just closed a business deal than watched a punk rock show.  The Troc is a really nice place, though.  I hope to see some more shows there in the future.

On Saturday, I lurked around out in the countryside all day, visiting flea markets and auctions, and liberating abandoned trees and shrubs from a nursery’s dumping ground.  It was good times with old friends, and long overdue.

Last night I woke up at 3:40 AM and a robin was singing.  I knew they started early, but I’d never heard them at that hour before.  Interestingly, scientists in the UK published a study that showed urban robins sing later (or earlier) based on the levels of ambient noise they have to compete with during the daytime.

Meanwhile, migration is really heating up.  The birding discussion list I subscribe to overflows with reports of returning warblers, while I am sick and/or have to go to work.  NOT FAIR!  Also, this time of year is rapidly becoming the one rare period where I sometimes actually wish I did own a car.  Being city-bound seriously limits my birding options, and the easiest spots to bike to haven’t been that great so far this spring.  Losing the hour or more necessary to ride somewhere farther away crimps my plans when the most productive time spent in the field is usually in the morning.   I’m thinking that maybe next year I’ll just take the entire month of May off and go birding every day.  That way I won’t feel so bad about missing so many bits and pieces of prime time.

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