photo manipulation by nacrowe
for me the FLIGHT OF THE CONCHORDS (HBO, 2007-2009) is indicative of a definite place and time. the wildly popular TV SERIES, which only lasted two seasons, followed the antics of newly transplanted KIWI musicians to QUEENS and their inability to acclimate to their new surroundings. essentially its THE BIG LEBOWSKI premise minus the whole film noir plot line. in essence all the plots are excuses to showcase the inventive genre parody songs the duo had built up in their preceding standup career. once those songs, and their corresponding albums, were all published, the series ended.
as someone in the late 00s who had moved to NYC to attend graduate school at COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY, the themes of displacement and isolation and the problems of integration with new surroundings was very prescient to me at the time. there is also a slight undertone of gentrification and hipsterdom that follows this film, as the music is wildly eclectic and relays an interest in global sounds and rhythms. in real-life INDIE ROCK bands such as VAMPIRE WEEKEND were being criticized for cultural appropriation at the time, much like PAUL SIMON had a generation before. i think in the contexst of the show FLIGHT OF THE CONCHORDS got away with it 1) because they were foreigners and 2) the songs were explicitly homages that paid respect to their origins with an eye for details. with INDIE ROCK bands of the time these corresponding sounds just smelled of rank opportunism and the use of foreign tropes as a way selling "exotic" music to a conservative white audience.
its still interesting to rewatch the show and see how they handled that dubious territory that is the intersection between PARODY and HIPSTER CULTURE. in many ways we are still living through that prism today as notions of WHITE PRIVILEGE and INSTITUTIONAL RACISM have only become more apparent in the decade since. i really wonder at times how this show would look like if the duo had come from SENEGAL, PANAMA or THAILAND. is there something about an anglophone country like NEW ZEALAND that gives them the ability to navigate this divide while still being foreign themselves? just a thought.
for me the songs still stand and the TV SERIES is funny and reminds me of the years i was constantly a foreigner in a foreign land. beyond ironic that i feel that way now in my own country after returning to TRUMPLAND after being abroad so many years.
regardless, great show worth revisiting.
photo manipulation by nacrowe
part of the fun of having a radio show is creating playlists and discovering music you were previously unfamiliar with. i was pleasantly surprised recently when researching for the SUB POP RECORDS episode of the DEER GOD RADIO show to come across the AUSTRALIAN INDIE ROCK band ROLLING BLACKOUTS COASTAL FEVER who have a melodic, almost SHOEGAZE inspired sound that is hypnotic, lush and intoxicating.
i welcome anyone interested to check them out.
parody by nacrowe
please check out HERE this recent unpromoted SURPRISE episode of DEER GOD RADIO focused on the influential northwestern independent record label SUB POP RECORDS.
past episodes of DEER GOD RADIO as well as other MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC shows like MAKE HER SPACE, NOWHERE FAST, THE SYNTHESIZER SHOW and CLASSICAL-ISH WITH NUTMEG are available here at the DEER GOD website.
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photo by nacrowe
when the british concocted their COTSWOLD GAMES in the 17th century, a forerunner to the modern olympic games, they touted "amateurism" as a way of assuring that the sporting event was kept pure from debased notions of professionalism. after all, they wanted to showcase their self-assured physical superiority over the constituents of their imperialistic holdings without looking as if they actually tried.
this was the prism i viewed CALVIN JOHNSON and the cult surrounding his legendary indie label K RECORDS and the whole 1980s INDIE music scene of OLYMPIA, WASHINGTON through in general. primarily known for his decidedly non-professional musicianship in his notable group BEAT HAPPENING, as well as late projects including THE HALO BENDERS, DUB NARCOTIC SOUND SYSTEM, and THE HIVE DWELLERS, JOHNSON has been renowned for popularizing what has since to become known as TWEE POP. this genre usually denotes music by amateur or non-technical musicians.
before reading MIKE BAUMGARTEN's "LOVE ROCK REVOLUTION" (SASQUATCH BOOKS, 2012), i mistook JOHNSON and his ilk as being inept, arts-fartsy elitists that look down upon musicians with actual talent, like say the concurrent GRUNGE scene that blew in neighboring SEATTLE. perhaps that notion came from reading books about NIRVANA and PEARL JAM and SOUNDGARDEN and how acolytes of the underground made them question the purity of their careerist motives in making music.
BAUMGARTEN's portrayal of JOHNSON in essence is that of a curious music fan that sought out an artistic community that didn't exist in his youth. the narrative of K RECORDS is the story of his efforts to nurture that community, employing a strong DIY ETHIC that put artistry above profit margin. this mindset comes directly out of his involvement with various INDIE and HARDCORE scenes in the early 80s and his connections to institutions like DISCHORD RECORDS and arguably most importantly, EVERGREEN STATE COLLEGE's unconventional KAOS 89.3FM college radio station. if anything, the story of the label is an outgrowth of the community surrounding the radio station, university and the underground independent tape-trading communities across the nation.
i can understand how successful GRUNGE musicians felt pigeonholed by "Calvinist" acolytes from OLYMPIA and the burgeoning scene including fiercely strident labels like KILL ROCK STARS. by making their bed with the "corporate ogre," they were essentially a part of the machine, a by-line on a quarterly report, a commodity and they knew it. yes, the music produced by K RECORDS was decidedly unsophisticated and had what FRANK ZAPPA famously coined in another era as "zero commercial potential," but their motivation was to sell records but to showcase artistic freedom.
and on that scale he flourished having collaborated with/and or helped promote a fertile cultural scene that gave the world HEAVENLY, BIKINI KILL, MECCA NORMAL, BRATMOBILE, HEAVENS TO BETSY / SLEATER-KINNEY, UNWOUND, HEAVENLY, MAKE-UP, THEE HEADCOATS, KICKING GIANT, THE GO TEAM, D+, THE MICROPHONES, BECK, MUDHONEY, TIGER TRAP, THE MELVINS, and even NIRVANA.
so there you go. K RECORDS is almost a modern VELVET UNDERGROUND-like phenomena in their cultural relevance wasn't rooted in the records they sold, but in the bands they influenced. and their influence according to the book was their DIY ETHIC, GRUNGE bands be damned.