Thursday, September 27, 2007

2000 Election: READ THIS

For any of you that, like myself, still find time in your busy schedules to wax/harp philosophic about the supreme cluster**** that was the 2000 election, you need to read this. Is it a rehash? Damn right, but certain issues need to be rehashed again and again and again, if only so that the populace doesn't forget that it was screwed during that November.

Check this out. In months leading up to the November election, FL Secretary of State Catherine Harris, with the assistance and approval of Governer Jeb Bush, instructed local election supervisors to purge over 57,000 voters from the registries, all of them supposedly (the operative word here) ex-cons who weren't allowed to vote within the state.

At LEAST 90% of those people were innocent; and by "innocent," I don't mean inmates that were later proven to be without guilt, but that those 90% were never cons to begin with. What's more, over 54% of those purged were either African American or Hispanic.

Cut to 2002. President Bush signs into effect the Help America Vote Act (HAVA), an initiative that not only lionizes those purges, but required that all 50 states put similar measures into effect. Its anyone's guess as to whether or not John Kerry would have had a chance anyway (let's face it...I voted for him, but the guy did kind of remind me of a backwoods Lurch), but those practices were put into effect during the 2004 election as well.

Following the initial purge, NAACP lawyers (in admittedly one of their only legitimate causes of the past few years) sued the state, after which Harris and Bush promised to return the voters to the registries. The sum total of these previously purged individuals was over 91,000.

In one such case, an African American man named Willie Steen was taken off, simply because of the unfortunate similarity of his name to an inmate "O'Steen."

Want some more stats? In Gadsden County, which is 58% black, there is an extremely high "spoiler" rate on ballots: one out of every eight is cast, but not counted. Right next door in white-majority Leon County, the spoiler rate is only 1 out of every 500. Hell of a coincidence.
Florida's electorate is 11 percent African-American. Florida refused to count 179,855 spoiled ballots. A little junior high school algebra applied to commission numbers indicates that 54 percent, or 97,000, of the votes "spoiled" were cast by black folk, of whom more than 90 percent chose Gore. The nonblack vote divided about evenly between Gore and Bush. Therefore, had Harris allowed the counting of these ballots, Al Gore would have racked up a plurality of about 87,000 votes in Florida--162 times Bush's official margin of victory.

And finally:

In the 2000 election, 1.9 million national votes cast were never counted. Spoiled for technical reasons, like writing in Gore's name, machine malfunctions and so on. The reasons for ballot rejection vary, but there's a suspicious shading to the ballots tossed into the dumpster. Edley's team of Harvard experts discovered that just as in Florida, the number of ballots spoiled was--county by county, precinct by precinct--in direct proportion to the local black voting population.

"Living in America...unh, I FEEL GOOD!"

In case you want a source:

Zoroaster "Dog Magic" review: Doom Metal for Dummies (in a good way)

Dog Magic
Terminal Doom Records
Available Now

How much do you want to bet that the members of Zoroaster spent nine months in the womb with Saint Vitus and Cathedral being piped in by headphones strapped to their mothers’ bellies? With maybe some “ba-dum, ba-dum” white blues thrown in…

Dog Magic, the latest release by these three Atlanta-based doomsayers, is a crash course in Stoner Drone 101. The guys certainly know where they came from; progenitors like Electric Wizard and Sleep are all over this freakin’ thing, but guitarist Will Fiore and company are clever enough to channel the spirits of their inspirations through subtle tribute, and not a rehashing.

Dog Magic is an audio definition of stoner metal. Some riffs come crawling up out of your speakers like mutated zombie crocodiles from the sewer in a 70s grindhouse flick; others slow down to a veritable ooze so thick you’ll have to scrub down your body with Lava soap after a single listen; and once you get to the 14-minute oil-drip epic that is “Algebra of Need,” you can count the seconds between notes in the riffs. You want solos? Well, too bad, you ain’t getting any. Wait, what? Those ridiculously sustained lead lines on “The Book” that sound like a demonic ambulance siren heralding the impending journey of some agonized soul across the river Styx? Those are solos? Oh okay, my bad.

Occasionally the album moves along at a pace more brisk than a brontosaurus; the titular closer starts off with some immediately post-binge Motorhead grooves, but soon slinks back into its familiar tempo. And while flyers of the doom flag will find no fault in that (this writer certainly doesn’t), less experienced metalloids will likely find themselves bored or confused.

But that’s their own fault…screw ‘em. Zoroaster is by far the heaviest thing to come out of Georgia since Mastodon, and Dog Magic firmly entrenches them alongside the elite of both Southern and stoner metal. Turn up the volume, light ‘em if you got ‘em, and wait for the bottom to drop out.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Ahmadinejad: Last Comic Standing

Much ado has been made about Iranian President Ahmadinejad's visit and speech engagement at Columbia University this past week. Local talking heads (or, as the case may be, disembodied voices) have damned the university's decision to even allow the president to appear and address the body of students, professors, lay people, and activists. In light of this man's worse-than-questionable politicking, despicable human rights record, not to mention his flat-out insanity that seems to stem from a certain inexcusable degree of stubborn ignorance, I can't say I blame their sentiments.

Protesters, consisting of members from various gay, feminist, and human rights organizations, gathered outside of the university to decry the event as well. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson couldn't make it, as they were down in Jena attempting to siphon some PR from another issue. But that's another story.

Like I said, Ahmadinejad's appearance was protested on its very basis. But, the president of Columbia U. was thinking farther ahead than those who congregated outside to protest. You see, he knows very well the power of free speech in this country...both its ability to build up, and to destroy. In a very obvious way, one that was tragically missed by various pundits, this event achieved the former for us, and the latter for Iran's president.

In his speech, Ahmadinejad let loose with some aburdist gems, such as questioning the occurrence of the Holocaust, and stating that "there are no homosexuals in Iran," the latter of which drew some combined ire and laughter from the packed auditorium.

My point is this: whether or not this was the sole objective of Columbia in allowing him to come here, they in effect gave him permission to come over and act like a complete fool. Good for us, at least in terms of entertainment value.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Voodoo Glow Skulls, "Southern California Street Music," review

Southern California Street Music
Voodoo Glow Skulls
Victory Records
Available now

Let’s get one thing straight here, people: Voodoo Glow Skulls are not here to challenge your perception of what music is or should be, to make you step outside of your little tonal bubble and get sideswiped by distorted jazz scales played at 300 miles per hour, and they are DEFINITELY not here to revolutionize a damn thing.

Basically, the Casillas brothers and company just want you to smoke a blunt, knock back a 40 and have some fun.

It’s difficult, however, to simply throw Southern California Street Music on the stereo and contentedly allow it to be nothing more than roughly 45 minutes of background music. There’s a punk history lesson embedded in the work of VGS, and if you expend the same amount of energy it takes the average person to dissect two minutes of “21st Century Schizoid Man,” a vastly more knowledgeable listener will you become, young padowan.

Most songs on Street Music follow the same basic formula: three-to-five chords, atonally shouted vocals, steady snare/kick beats, and horn parts (trombone and sax) providing little ska flourishes throughout. The majority of the tracks exhibit the guys’ sense of humor; “Say Hello to My Little Friend,” and “Home is Where the Heart(ache) Is,” are prime examples. There are a couple of serious ones here as well, but the real treasure is “The Ballad of Froggy McNasty,” a three-minute tragicomedy that plays like Flogging Molly lost in the barrio.

And can I just say, Eddie Casillas is probably the most underrated punk guitarist since East Bay Ray? There, I wrote you a couplet.

Like I said, this isn’t the kind of thing to expedite your thought process, but VGS’s high-octane, booze-fueled concoction of ska and hardcore is one of the more fun records to come along this year. Kind of like a shotgun firing jellybeans. I think.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Witchcraft "The Alchemist" review

"The Alchemist"
Rise Above Records
Oct. 23
AUGUSTA, GA. - Every now and then, an album comes along that you can tell, simply by listening to the first 20 seconds, that it’s going to be a masterpiece. It oozes that vibe, but the purpose is clear; your course is charted for you in the first riffs, though you know full well you’re going to encounter detours, dead ends, and possibly a lyre-strumming goblin or two along the way.

Black Sabbath’s Paranoid. Savoy Brown’s Looking In. Dillinger Escape Plan’s Miss Machine. Isis’ Oceanic…and anything by Between the freakin’ Buried and Me.

Add Witchcraft’s The Alchemist to that list. Though the Cream-leaning Swedes have been laying down doomy, incessant grooves for going on six years now, this newest effort finds the band at its creative peak, finally nailing a psychedelic stride.

There is in every song a seamless union of laissez-faire and unrelenting heaviness, its cohesiveness largely owing to the dudes’ knack for deceptive and aggressive melodies. From the first overlapping Keef-meets-Iommi riffs of “Walk Between the Lines,” to the fuzzed-out conclusion of the 14-minute title epic, your mind will feel like its swimming in mud…soon as you climb out, though, you’ll realize your foot was tapping the entire time.

The guitar tandem of Magnus Pelander and John Hoyles is what might have happened had George Harrison hooked up with Matt Pike in the early 70s. These guys are a riff factory…period. A wall of low-end density one minute, and a barrage of wah-tinged leads the next, they don’t need B-tuned guitars or “death” settings on a Line 6 amp to leave your skull absolutely cleft in twain. Witness “Hey Doctor” and “If Crimson Was Your Colour” for some particularly blunt examples.

And oh yeah…let’s not forget Ola Henriksson whomping your psyche upside its head with the fattest effing bass lines since Ginger Baker, or Fredrik Hansson flat-out abusing his kit, not to mention threatening your personal well-being, with his thunderous Bonham-on-quaaludes beats.

With The Alchemist, Witchcraft have moved beyond the musical cubicle of “stoner rock” or “throwback;” they’ve created something timeless, something so absolutely all-encompassing, that it will undoubtedly hold its own against any metal opus or thud-rock masterwork already included in the hard rock canon. Ladies and gents—this is how you do it.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Adema, "Kill the Headlights" review

Kill the Headlights
Immortal Records
Available now

WARNING: Stereotypical rock in-joke ahead. Proceed with caution, ready to shake head disparagingly.

Adema has endured so many lineup changes over the years, you’d think they were made up entirely of drummers.

Anyone? Anyone? Spinal Tap maybe?

In any case, the cock-rockin’ Bakersfield, CA quintet have had to work their asses off over the course of their career to establish themselves as a band worthy of attention; the fact that most of their early success was (arguably) due to a metal PR frenzy surrounding front man Mark Chavez’ relation to Korn’s Jonathan Davis—the two are half-brothers—and the subsequent dip in sales following the group’s in-fighting probably didn’t help matters too much.

The band’s core members, however, have remained undaunted. Armed with their third singer in Bobby Reeves, Adema have recently released Kill the Headlights, their fourth and most cohesive LP to date. The album is a refreshingly businesslike affair, with most songs kept to a radio-ready three to three-and-a-half minutes, and absolutely throbbing with gigantic arena-worthy guitars and hooks.

Having had to ward off the undeserved “nu-metal” stigma since its inception, the band finally sheds any trace of that damning label. While the sound is still rooted in the high school angst-rock of past and present, it comes across as honest, down-to-earth rock and roll instead of the whiny metal that pervaded my most awkward years.

Lead single “Cold and Jaded” is a fitting opener, with fat, grinding guitars and powerful, gritty vocals courtesy of Reeves, while taking cues from Stone Sour on a few beefy ballads like “Days Go By,” and the especially enjoyable and soaring “All These Years.”

Adema won’t be revolutionizing the face of rock anytime soon, but Kill the Headlights seems to at the very least provide these deceptively talented dudes with a long-sought-after sense of identity. This one’ll grow on you.