It looks like climate deniers in our government are responsible for cutting the upcoming NASA budget, as NASA, like all of the major scientific institutions, is pointing out the change that is happening due to man-made climate change. NASA helped the United States be the first country to the moon. Now they are being dictated to by a bunch ideologues who don’t know the first thing about science. These are sad times.
The above link is to an article about how Costa Rica, for their electricity, have only used renewable energy since the beginning of this year. The country is currently meeting around 94% of it’s total energy needs from renewable. Some of the reasons that they are able to do this are unique to Costa Rica. However, this goes to show that there is no reason that the United States can’t do much more that we are currently doing, which is generating roughly 13% of our electricity from renewable sources.
A family member just sent me the above article from Salon. It is about how many people in the world are increasingly viewing America as something to be watched closely, if not outright feared. Although I have traveled less extensively than the author, I have been in several foreign countries over the last few years and can vouch for the overall sentiment of the article.
I remember specifically being in England during the Bush years. Many people would be slightly cold and then sheepishly ask me what I thought of Bush. Once I explained that I voted against him and hated his policies, it was like a party had started. Shots and embraces came out, and suddenly I was everyone’s best friend.
So many Americans have no idea not only how the rest of the world views us, but also how much they know about us. When you go to foreign countries you are often asked deep political questions by average people concerning the U.S. Often these are questions that you are not sure if many of your own countrymen and women could answer.
My Dad has related to me many times a story from a trip to Kenya. He was walking down the street, in an area that was slightly impoverished, and a man walked up to him. After finding out he was an American, the man asked him, “So tell me about Jesse Helms?” Meanwhile I have gone out to drinks with girls here, during a U.S. presidential election, and been stupefied to find out they didn’t know who the vice-presidential candidates were. Now I know that I am drawing conclusions from limited experiences, but there are many more stories that I have personally witnessed on both sides that make me believe that the author of the above article knows what they are talking about. It’s strange out there…
Ian McLagan and the Bump Band’s new album United States is an album of pure life affirming joy. Even the heartbreaking ballads are so in the moment in their performances, that one feels more alive while listening to them. I love all kinds of electronic music, but for those of you that want to know why nothing will ever beat the heart and feel of great musicians performing with each other, look no further.
I can’t not mention that the city of Austin lost one its greatest residents last year when Ian McLagan died. However, it is due to his untimely death that I wanted to wait to review this album. I didn’t want this amazing set of songs to be clouded by the immediate feelings of sadness that hung over his loss. I also wanted to make sure that when I say this is a great record, it is because it is a great record, as I did not want my own reason to be informed by any sentimental feelings. As Voltaire said, “To the living we owe respect, but to the dead we owe only the truth.”
And the truth is this is a fantastic recording by a group of musicians firing on all cylinders. McLagan doesn’t need me to proclaim that he was one of rock’s greatest keyboard players, having been in the Faces and the Small Faces, having worked with the Rolling Stones and so many others. However, this album sounds like a thesis statement of everything he learned in all of those years working and being part of rock royalty. His Bump Band meets him at every turn, playing in complete synchronicity with their leader.
Lyrically McLagan almost never strays from tried and true rock n roll themes, but because of the passion that everything is sung and played with, this never hinders the events. His ragged yet melodic voice, a perfect rock n roll voice if ever there was one, makes even phrases that seem as if they have been around since the foundation of rock n roll come to life. Heart and soul can make even simple words become expansive and welcoming. “Why would you ever want to run away,” he sings in the above song Pure Gold. I would bet there are a million rock songs with this phrase in it, or slight variations of it at least. However, when he sings it the intellect shuts down, the emotions take over, and you know in your deepest recesses what he means. How can you not bop your head, tap your feet, and feel a little more alive when that song comes on?
On the track Don’t Say Nothing, which has simply outstanding piano on it, he sings:
If you can’t say nothing positive
if there’s not a kind word in your head
Don’t say nothing at all
Now this isn’t even a statement that I intellectually agree with. First of all I love singers like Lou Reed and Morrissey, whose dark senses of humor have helped me survive many a day. I also think in life that in order to make things better, you need to acknowledge what’s wrong with the world. However, when McLagan sings that chorus with such perfect timing and feel, I find my heart with McLagan for every single syllable.
What a fucking band on this record! Nothing they do is overly complicated, but if you know music you know that the kind of feel and subtlety they bring to these proceedings is the work of masters. Every rhythm is in the pocket. The guitars, keyboards, and bass weave in a way that, while each is masterful in its own right, the parts most definitely add up to a whole more powerful than the individual pieces.
The ballad Mean Old World is one of those heartbreaking cry in your beer kind of ballads. But it is delivered in a way where you know the sadness is only a passing thing and that you will eventually transcend whatever mean circumstances you find yourself in. It’s rock n roll partially rooted in gospel music.
When reading about McLagan, you know that like every human, he had his moments in the dark. However, whenever I saw him at gigs in recent years, what I kept taking away was that here was a guy that was inspiring for the sheer fact that he made you feel better in the moment. His gigs were joy, his stage banter was playful, and between sets he walked through the audience and made you feel like a friend even if you didn’t know him. This is all thankfully captured on this recording.
The record simply sounds great too. Everything has an organic quality that makes it sound alive. Although produced by McLagan, partial credit must go to the legendary Glyn Johns who mixed it. Johns has worked with everyone from Led Zepplin to the Rolling Stones to the Who and on and on and on. The mix is crisp and clear but never loses the earthiness of the performances. This is how a band playing together should sound on record.
Although his Rise and Shine album contains several of my favorite McLagan songs, before this record I would probably say his last album, Never Say Never, was his best front to back, as the songs were not only great, but the production had that same masterful touch that is apparent here. However, Mac might have gone out on top with this one. If you are a rock n roll fan that fears that no great rock n roll albums have been made lately, or you are a musician that wants to hear musicians playing at the top of their game, get this record now. We shan’t see the likes of him pass this way again. Luckily for us, recordings like this make his death only a temporary thing. When you put this record on, whether today or at some unknown date in the future, you will be in that moment completely, alongside Mac, with a shit eating grin and a gleam in your eye…
A report came out today that talks about how climate change is already causing major effects in the U.S. The above is a link to a New York Times article summarizing that report. It makes me sad and angry to think that so many people are confused on this issue due to corporate misinformation. Change is coming and we need to get serious about how we deal with it. “If you don’t know this, then what do you know?”
Extra points to anyone that knows the song that last quote is from.
I have read quite a lot of history, but I somehow wasn’t aware that we actually supplied Ho Chi Minh with weapons to fight the Japanese during World War II. It seems like we constantly have a problem with supplying weapons to people that eventually become our enemy. One only as to look at recent examples like Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein. Ho Chi Minh really represents the double whammy because not only did we initially supply him with weapons, but in fighting him we also did something else which is quite common in our history: Trying to overthrow a popular national leader for reasons that were bogus. We claimed at the time that Ho Chi Minh was a puppet of the Soviet Union, but this was not the case. The more I read about our history the more I realize that we not only have created many of our enemies, but as was the case in Iran in the 50’s, we also have often been on the wrong side of history. We should probably stay out of other countries unless we really are clear eyed about what is going on. If not, it always seems to come back and haunts. I am worried that our current drone policy will create another in a long line of self created problems for this country.