Friday, December 09, 2016

Band Review: LostAlone

I have had LostAlone on my recommended list for a while now, after a mention by Frank Iero. It seemed reasonable to pair them with his review.

It remains hard to know what to say about them. They feel like a very unique band, not in that they never remind me of anyone else, but in the way that they do.

I have seen some comparisons to Queen. I don't think the sound is similar, but they impart a majesty to their music, which does correlate. I think this is best heard on "Hostages" and especially "Crusaders", which soars musically and references epic themes.

In that way, LostAlone actually reminds me more of Styx and REO Speedwagon. That is not meant pejoratively. They have a big sound, and there is some philosophical heft, but it is still comfortably rock.

That could give the band a niche - fans of melodic '70s rock that can be comfortably turned into a full-on musical should check LostAlone out - but it is the other similarities I hear that make everything so fascinating.

"Honey and Burlesque" reminds me of "Longview" by Green Day. There is a primal rhythm sometimes (like on "Telepathy Nights") that reminds me of Queens of the Stone Age. They do covers of Metallica and Darlene Love. There was even a song that reminded me of "Every Snowflake is Different", the song My Chemical Romance performed on "Yo Gabba Gabba" ("Love Will Eat You Alive").

There is also some really aggressive guitar. All over the place.

None of that is intended to make them sound unoriginal or derivative, but to point out their breadth. LostAlone can go a lot of different places, in a lot of different directions.

With all of that being found in there, it is a terrible shame that LostAlone is no longer together, apparently as a result of a restrictive and unsupportive label.

It can also be an opportunity as they work on new projects. I will be reviewing Steven Battelle next week in conjunction with Ray Toro's new album, because he recommended Battelle. I was not previously aware of the connection between Battelle and LostAlone, other than both having been recommended by MCR members, but now it's synergy.

Thursday, December 08, 2016

Album Review: Parachutes by Frank Iero and the Patience

I have gone back and forth on whether to consider this a new band or not, having already done a concert review for frnkieroandthe cellabration.

As much as I mourn the absence of HoCho and welcome the return of conventional spacing and spelling (unless "patience" actually refers to people under the medical care), I am going on the premise that the most important factor in continuity is Frank himself, and that it is reasonable to view this outing as a continuation, and evolution.

The first thing you notice is that Parachutes is much louder than Stomachaches. That might not be the right word, but there was something low-key before that is gone. You hear it right away on the opening track, "World Destroyer". (The title implies a certain aggression.)

It's not all anger. Right after "World Destroyer" you go into "Veins! Veins! Veins!" which has an exultant feel. It reminds me of "Joyriding", so there are definitely connections between the 2014 and 2016 albums, but there is still a noticeable difference.

The track that tied it together for me was "Remedy", when the word "stomachaches" jumped out at me.

Listening further, the song contains a conflict of being ruined by being fixed; the remedy is a malady, and there is no solution for the new malady. Most significantly, it ends "until you came through and made me believe I was worth being saved." The wish in "Joyriding" was "I hope I die before they save my soul".

There are many ways in which it is easier not to feel and love and hope, and yet all of the hardship together brings something better. At least it can.

Parachutes is alive with emotion. Stomachaches had feelings, but Parachutes feels like they have all broken through and are spilling over. Everything is messy now. "Oceans" just aches, and "Miss Me" is so plaintive it's almost country. There had been a little safety reserved before, but now everything is out and open.

There is a terrifying plunge up head, and having a parachute can make that work.

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

What do you think?

My sisters and I once figured out we have a tendency to over-explain things, which we attribute to having a father who would always take things wrong. You had to be the bad guy in any disagreement.

I am also aware of many circumstances in my youth where I did not have the right words to understand and explain myself in a situation. It would be frustrating and it's why I write about things so much now. Realistically, those were people being toxic anyway and more concise language probably wouldn't have helped. That doesn't change my need to figure things out.

The day after the harassment and assault, I ran into Matt again. I literally have no memories of seeing any of them in school again, except once seeing Steve and the he looked really run-down - like the other person I have seen looking like that had a drug addiction spiraling out of control - but I am not even sure that they all didn't move away. However, that day I saw Matt, and I asked him something.

I don't remember exactly how I phrased it. I wanted to know if all of that meant anything. An apology could have been nice. Because his main thing had been asking me a hundred times to go steady with him, and because I had shouted "Yes" to get him to go away, it came out as mainly a question of whether we were going steady.

I may not remember how I asked, but I remember his answer really clearly: "What do you think?"

I didn't have the words to answer, but I can come up with a few now.

I think you just reinforced that no boys could ever sincerely like me. Maybe I have been afraid of that all along, but having it confirmed is tearing me apart inside. Can you please tell me I am wrong about that?

I think that I was at a table with other nerdy girls (and some others were overweight), and that you only picking on me means that somehow there was something worse about me - something less attractive and more repulsive and less eligible for any kindness, and I have never stopped believing that.

I think it's interesting that it happened on a day when we didn't have any boys at the table. Is that why it happened? If we were clearly marked as someone else's territory we could eat in peace? Some of the boys in my social group were real jerks, but if they were also protection maybe  I should have appreciated them for that.

I think it was stupid of me to say "yes" to get you to go away. I should have let the teacher handle you coming in and disrupting the room, but I was so embarrassed that I couldn't think straight. Then again, I think that it sucks that when my friends and I were laughing together that the teacher on cafeteria duty that day told us to pipe down and be considerate of other people, but that no one had a problem with what you were doing.

I think that in that school there were at least fifty boys that I thought were cute, and there were boys in my classes that were smart, and there were boys that I talked to that were nice, and there were probably even some that were all three, so I can't understand why my most significant interaction had to be with you.

I think it's pathetic that there was nothing more interesting to you that you even have time to pick on someone.

I think I'd like to know that the problem really was you, but at least one of you got married and had children, and I never did, so I'm afraid I that am the pathetic one. And I think I'm pathetic that I got so scarred from this when it meant nothing to you.

But I didn't have the words then. I didn't even know how deeply it had affected me then. I didn't figure that out until much later.

So I swallowed it up inside and tried not to think about it. I became good at sarcasm, which doesn't require any depth or understanding, but it doesn't fix anything either.

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

My sexual assault

There are two problems with the title.

It implies that there was only one. That's not true. This one isn't even the worst, really, though that gets us into the other problem.

I have a hard time calling it a sexual assault. I have given many excuses for that: it wasn't really that bad, it was just teasing that got out of hand, it could have been much worse. If you don't think it should be considered a sexual assault, pretty much any reason you have for it is one I have thought of and justified.

But it doesn't work. If it happened to someone else, I would not minimize it. Happening to me, it had a huge impact. It changed the way I saw myself and the world and how I interacted with the world in ways that are still issues.

I was in junior high and leaving school. It was after school had gotten out, so there was less supervision. Steve came up to me and ripped my shirt open. I assume the next stop would have been my breasts, because they were always the preferred destination. He did not get any farther, because I at least had good reflexes and kneed him right away. He laughed, but he also stopped. I snapped my shirt back up and kept going.

Usually that story focuses more on the harassment that had been happening at lunch. Jason asked me to go with him, and I ignored it, then Matt started repeating the question and wouldn't stop, following me to my next class. Steve was just egging them on at that point. The other two were there when Steve came for my shirt.

I have always focused on the verbal part because that was where the big lesson came from - if a guy is acting like he likes me, it's a joke. But there was another lesson with it, with that second part. It taught me that a guy doesn't have to like you to want to get under your shirt. It meant that the joke could be dangerous.

I think to fully deal with this, I need to refer to three conversations, and one event, so we'll be doing this tomorrow, Monday, and Tuesday as well.

The one conversation was short anyway, and it was that Jason didn't remember any of this. That was after a Facebook friend request decades later. He felt bad when I reminded him, especially because he has a daughter now, but it was not the milestone for them that it was for me.

Dealing with the legacy of that is part of any growth I hope to make, but there are several things that have me thinking of it more.

A lot of my writing about the Trump campaign focused on the racism, but there was a lot of sexism too, peaking with the release of the Access Hollywood tape. I posted on Facebook reminding people to be sensitive, because defending bragging about assault as something all guys do can be kind of hard on survivors. A lot of women liked it, some of whom I knew had personal reasons, and some of whom I found out later had those same personal reasons. I suspect that there are still more events that I don't know about.

There was also this blog post about how depression is not always strictly chemical:

I have carried some of those stories with me for a long time, but it was only putting them together that I saw the common thread: the women had all been sexually abused when young. There is an unspecified number in one group, but it's a lot.

Also there were two questions asked on Twitter by two different people, asking women about their assaults. Because they were phrased differently, they brought different things to mind. That is why I had to realize there was more than one, but it was also where I saw that they both quickly got hundreds of responses. Do you sometimes doubt those statistics about how many women get assaulted, and how many get raped? I wish they were inflated.

So the title is important. This happened and it mattered. I am acknowledging that and I am letting myself be angry about that. And I know I blogged recently about how anger isn't helpful as a long term strategy, which is still true, but it can still be important to feel and know that something is unjust. No matter who else believes in my value, I need to, and this really hurt me.

Monday, December 05, 2016

"Baby It's Cold Outside" and Consent

I will be going to a really dark place with tomorrow's post, and there will be at least a few more building on it. I didn't want to go right there without warning. Today's post is to intended to move us in that direction but give a little buffer.

I have seen arguments that "Baby, It's Cold Outside" is rape-y, and counter-arguments that at the time it was written it was clearly about a couple conspiring to flout society's rules and do what both of them wanted. Obviously the song is intended to be light-hearted, but that doesn't mean that the criticisms aren't valid.

Now I'm going to bring in a sketch from a conservative show. I'm sure I could find the clip, but I don't want to give it any recognition. They were mocking the process of teaching about consent by calling everything "rape", including a guy just asking the girl if they could have sex. Ridiculous, obviously, but also completely missing the point of what they were mocking. This happens a lot.

Here is a quote from Rush Limbaugh:

"The left will promote and understand and tolerate anything, as long as there is one element. Do you know what it is? Consent. If there is consent on both or all three or all four, however many are involved in the sex act, it's perfectly fine. But if the left ever senses and smells that there's no consent in part of the equation then here come the rape police."

My first thought is to tell Rush that the rape police are the regular police, but given the statistics we know about reporting, prosecution, and conviction, okay. What is more to the point is how he subtly uses condemnation of immorality to sidestep the fact that if one party in the sex act doesn't want to be there, that is a problem. This happens a lot.

This is where we bring in one of the books from the Long Reading List: Slut!: Growing Up Female with a Bad Reputation, by Leora Tanenbaum.

It wasn't a revelation like some of the other books. It was more that it fit into things that I already saw, though with many horrible examples to drive it home.

The slut label is a form of social control. It can be used to by men against women, but it is also used by women against women. One interesting aspect was in how many of the examples, the label came either because of a sexual assault, or because someone told a lie to get revenge. I do not accept a morality where lying for revenge and tormenting victims is superior to people choosing to have sex and then doing so. If their morality had any righteous base, there wouldn't be the double standard where behavior that is applauded in men is punished in women.

So let's go back to the hypothetical couple in the song, and assume that there is equal physical desire, but one of them is held back by social pressure concerns. This includes the anticipation of pressure from all family members. A respectful partner could listen to those concerns and address them, but the song just keeps changing the suspect. I would like a greater level of consideration from my potential partner - especially if the sacrifice is all on my side.

The song makes it all seem like a joke, and the sketch makes it all seem like a joke, but there are real issues there. Just by setting up an eternal conflict where men are expected to pursue sex and women are expected to decline the offer even though they really want it, then it becomes very easy for men to not take the "No!" seriously, and they can keep going and not feel like they did anything wrong. Hence the man may not feel like a rapist - he was just being a guy - but it is rape.

There is not always physical coercion or drugging, but often there is emotional pressure, where a woman may agree even though she doesn't want to. She may do this to preserve a relationship in which she is not respected but because she believes that is normal. She may give in because of guilt, or a feeling that she should never disappoint anyone. There can be a lot of reasons where a "no" that is not respected becomes a "yes". It does not stop the "yes" from being regretted. She let herself down. She surrendered, and put someone else above herself. This can lead to a lot of things, including self-loathing.

It was calling those situations rape that the sketch mocked, but no one is calling them rape. They still belong in a conversation about consent, because it matters. It matters for people to know that they have a right to refuse, and it matters for people to know that others have a right to refuse and that the only appropriate response to that is acceptance. If the types of confusion tend to mainly fall along specific gender lines, there's a lot of tradition that goes with that. It is not tradition that should be respected.

Some men only think about this when they have daughters, and realize that their girls' will now be in the position of all of those other girls. Their standard response is often a hyper-masculine threat to any potential evildoers, because they have guns and shovels available. It's not practical based on the many potential threats, but it also falls into the same culture. Their desire to defend their property merely perpetuates the system where a woman is only protected when she is under the protection of a specific man.

It's important to look at the system. Maybe you would never rape a woman using physical force or drugs. That is something, but then do you blame her when someone else does? Do you think she brought it on herself when maybe her first time drinking she miscalculated how much it would affect her? Do you laugh at the other dudes' stories? Do you assume she's lying because he's a "nice" guy?

Here is an article with some things to think about, even though I kind of hate how much I like some of the examples:

Friday, December 02, 2016

Band Review: Rowdy City

On the Rowdy City Twitter account there are a lot of references to "Dope Lyrics Matter", which is a track from one of their members, Ready Rock Dee. His solo work at this time is overwhelming the Soundcloud and Youtube pages.

That is interesting to me, because based on their description the larger group has been very successful, with a lot of touring. However, one member had died, and it seems like that might have thrown off the balance.

That has made it harder to get a sense of Rowdy City, but also their music itself isn't doing it for me. The lyrics are not that dope, and songs are remarkably free of hooks. Nothing has stuck in my head the way some of Litefoot's songs - including ones I did not like - did. Even the music videos are dull.

So I can't really recommend Rowdy City as they are, but maybe what they really need is to regroup; who are they now, without HD? Is that something they want to preserve?

If they decide then to change to support for Ready Rock Dee, that can be okay, but it should be a choice and not a default.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Band Review: Matt Steady

Matt Steady is an independent musician from Leicester whose music draws from folk and blues, with strong Celtic influences.

"Jack O'kent" sounds very Irish, but I am most interested in the more blues-infused songs. It sounds like the blues, and not country at all, and yet he still reminds me of Johnny Cash. There are at times a depth and richness to the Steady's performance that brings Cash to mind, without a strong musical resemblance.

(Steady does versions of "Ring of Fire" and "Hurt", and they don't sound the same there.)

So that vocal quality is what struck me most, and may be the best reason to listen further.