Metablog

Music Review (Part I)

Link 80

17 Reasons

When I was in middle school, you had to have a band shirt, and it had to be punk rock. The first shirt that I was able to buy using my lawn-mowing money was a Link 80 shirt from Asian Man Records, ordered through a mail-order form that came with an Asian Man CD I bought at a record store. I would have worn that shirt every day if I could have; I probably tried. 17 Reasons, the band’s first full-length album, was stuck on repeat on my stereo, on continuous rotation until the CD started to scratch and glitch, no matter how careful I was with it. Unlike my classmates who listened to mainly punk and ska, I had settled on hardcore punk as my preferred subgenre, and Link 80 delivered from all sides: punk and ska with a hardcore flavor and a couple cameos and hardcore breakouts that left no room for posers and defined all the punk rock subgenres for me. Looking back, 17 Reasons was an album that got me through one of the most difficult, trying times in my life. A formative album for my formative years.

Music Review (Part II)

Raised Fist

Ignoring the Guidelines

What do I know about Raised Fist, from a biographical standpoint, though? Not much. They formed in 1993; they’re from Sweden; and I haven’t been able to catch a U.S. show even though I consistently listen to any of their recorded work. Also, they’re difficult to research, and I have yet to establish any substantial connections in the underground hardcore community that might assist with that. Yet again, “researching” underground artists is sort of an oxymoron as a concept, same with the idea that there’s a cohesive underground music “community.” Still, I like reviewing underground music because the obscurity removes the distractions posed by New Historical criticism, allowing the words and music to speak for themselves. I’ve taken a paradoxical-hybrid “close reading” and “autobiographical” approach to reviewing Ignoring the Guidelines. Doesn’t mean I wouldn’t love to see Raised Fist on tour. When I follow Raised Fist on social media, watching clips from their shows and waiting for my next chance to see them, I’m just a fan.

Music Review (Part I)

Raised Fist

Ignoring the Guidelines

I guess I was going through a time when I had way too much structure in my life, and I didn’t know how to deal with it, when I discovered Raised Fist’s Ignoring the Guidelines, their 2001 album from Epitaph Records. I considered this album to be my essential high school anthem; the heavy, slamming, sometimes pleasingly discordant music and the screamed lyrics in a style of hardcore growling I’d never heard before resonated with me as I struggled to navigate societal pressure to fit in without compromising my unique individuality. The lyrics communicated a surprisingly compassionate and thoughtful approach to developing a moral code, while the music paradoxically suggested a brutal stoicism that was comforting to me. When I listened to Ignoring the Guidelines, I was immersed in a world somewhere between classic and contemporary hardcore punk, somewhere between theology and secular moralism.

I was raised Unitarian Universalist and was active in that religious community throughout high school. I believed in God, which was acceptable in that religion; not believing in a god or gods was also acceptable. Raised Fist did not, apparently, believe in God: “If there was a god, I’d pray for you.” Strangely considerate, though. The lyrics have a humanistic and Zen sensibility but also veer into the territory of heavy-handed moralizing: “Do you buy your computer games at the store or do you rip them off? You probably rip them off.” This album made me consider the duality of the world, the gray areas of morality that have to be navigated in order to live a complete and moralistic life. And the drumming and hardcore breakdowns are absolutely insane. This is an album I could groove and nod my head (or headbang) to while at the same time confronting harsh truths and gaining introspective and social awareness.

Blog Tomorrow

I’m reposting my four-part blog series “Politics of a Punk Rock Poser” to prepare for my first music review tomorrow. This repost consolidates the series into one part, below.

–MM

“Politics of a Punk Rock Poser”

Matt Maday

I’m not a sociological minority, or at least I don’t claim to be. I’m white. I grew up in a middle class household. I went to public school until I was in second grade, and I attended a private school from second grade through eighth grade. I was able to choose to attend an out-of-district high school. I was given the means, materials, and opportunities to become an acclimated member of society. I saw a straight, normal path unfolding in front of me: do well in school, become accepted to a good college, and get a good job and a good career. I’m in a socioeconomic bracket that seems to assure its members that they will be successful. However, I’m also diagnosable with a mental illness: a severe case of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). When I was in middle school, I succumbed to the idea that OCD would ruin any hopes of reaching my future aspirations, any aspirations of being considered “normal.” Ironically, it was only when I decided to give up on the idea of achieving normalcy that I was able to consider functioning as a “productive member of society.” 

In fifth grade, I was an especially strong language arts student. By the middle of seventh grade, I could barely complete any homework involving reading and writing. It was understandable that I had trouble with all my homework, but I had particular trouble with English classes. My literacy problems didn’t involve a learning disability; in fact, the problems weren’t literacy problems at all. My poor reading and writing performances resulted from my failures to complete the work. I was re-reading certain sentences so many times that I could barely read a page of a book. When I was able to make it through a page of a book, I was so distracted by intrusive thoughts that I had difficulty retaining any of what I read. Sometimes I could hardly bring myself to fill in one blank on a fill-in-the-blank worksheet. I would erase a word, and then rewrite the word again, ad nauseam.

I became a victim of the “magical thinking” symptoms associated with OCD. I feared that if I wrote a word, phrase, or sentence incorrectly, I would somehow cause physical and spiritual ruin to befall people around me, especially people I loved or sympathized deeply with. It was terrifying as a child to go through this, and when I later, as an adult, told my family about what I went through, they became hostile toward me and treated me as dangerous. I suppose I was right to keep this a secret from them, and I made a huge error in thinking that they would understand, even though my symptoms are classic symptoms of OCD. My parents would have known this if they had done the proper research. Instead, they subscribed to, and continue to subscribe to, prejudicial ideas about me and my mental disorder.

After undergoing years of counseling and treatment with medication and completing a B.A. in psychology, I had some much-needed insight into psychological disorders in general and especially insight into OCD. Those diagnosable with OCD typically score high on the “conscientiousness” scale of a personality inventory called the NEO, so it made sense that I was so conscientious and caring, but I was sympathetic to the point where I felt like I had to protect myself from inflicting imaginary damage on the world. I had the “hypermorality” that comes with OCD, the tendency to believe I would have to strictly adhere to every rule, to strictly adhere to every possible moral code that I had been familiarized with. And in short, this is too much to burden one person with.

When I was in middle school, I had difficulty identifying with my peers. Failure to socially acclimate in middle school is a general problem probably facing most middle school students in one way or another, but in my personal case, I found myself keenly aware of the factors that can alienate an individual from the society around him. I was seeing a therapist for family counseling. I was a middle class kid going to a private school that my parents eventually had to stop sending me to because tuition was too expensive. I couldn’t articulate my feelings to my parents or my therapist. I looked to music to express what I couldn’t express. I started listening to punk rock and could identify with the messages of rebellion contained in the lyrics and in the sound. When I discovered hardcore, an offshoot of punk rock, I found a genre of music that seemed to speak directly to me. I also discovered music that would later guide my adult notions of political power and disenfranchisement, my notions of how a genre can have a self-contained history, and my notions of prosody in spoken and written languages.

Poetry

College (Matt Maday)

It’s about how I viewed a film
like Easy Rider on

a DVD borrowed from the
college library

I watched Peter Fonda
on a laptop;

now I have a TV
and a better understanding.

sometimes I talk to God, ask

Him why
I’m a nihilist; He tells me that

I’m not, and I really have to
smile
at this possibility:

I was most wrong in my
moments of doubt
like when I was at the bar
drinking just a
little bit

sliced open a blister on
my thumb

in the
bar
bathroom

looking in the mirror
as I washed it.

the alcoholic soap
made a hiss
like the

VHS

sounded when

I watched Timothy Leary as he spoke
to my college
on video cassette.

I was there watching with ear cover

headphones;

I was alone.

“Choose your soft drink
and get free”

‘Caffeine Control Group with Nicotine’

or

‘Psilocybin Psychology Philosophy’

I was just thinking about
how these might
have been my most
formative years,

how I was at the bar caught a glimpse
of myself in the mirror

and realized
that
this form of
prayer is not the same and means
something totally different when

intoxicated

like the sting
when my new skin was exposed
at times I still feel it.

Renovation

I’m renovating my website, which includes setting a goal to start an independent publishing/record label. Ego Wham Records is the working title. Other, more global goals? Streamline and expand the blog so everything gets posted on the main blog, and the main blog also feeds to other sections, like the recently created yet as-of-now-empty Music Reviews.