Your leaking thatched hut during the restoration of a pre-Enlightenment state.


Hello, my name is Judas Gutenberg and this is my blaag (pronounced as you would the vomit noise "hyroop-bleuach").


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Like my brownhouse:
   what they did before rock and roll
Wednesday, May 17 2000
For the past few days, KCRW, a local Los Angeles public radio station, had been advertising a show they were sponsoring at the El Rey Theater in downtown Los Angeles. The show was a performance of a band called "The The." I'd heard of The The before, but their name has always been such a turn off that I never much paid attention to their music. But Kim, whose boyfriend is named "The Gus," has long been a fan. This morning she was all about going to the show, and by noon she'd bought both of us a ticket at $21/each. She also bought the latest CD.
Parking was impossible in the vicinity of the El Rey. Parking garages were nowhere to be found, and the adjoining neighborhoods, though their streets were full of empty spaces, were being jealously guarded by draconian sticker rules. We finally said fuck it and parked in a dubious spot in one such neighborhood near our destination. We should have known better; there was a $35 ticket on our window when we eventually returned.
The El Rey is a funky old movie theater whose seats were long ago ripped out to make way for big indoor concerts. As we stood in line for our $6 Coronas (it was robbery, plain and simple!), I noticed a few people decked out in distinctly goth evening ware. I was thinking, "hey cool, there's goths in the audience." Most of the other people looked like understatedly hip kids from small liberal arts colleges. There were few or no baseball caps.
Inside the theater, The The were already well into their show. The crowd nearly packed the circa-thousand occupancy place and it was impossible to get up to the front. People were behaving fairly civil, dancing quietly in place and singing along. At the end of one slow song, the silence caught a bunch of people in mid-conversation. Sneered singer/guitarist frontman Matt Johnson, "Is my music disturbing your conversation?"
The singer had the shaved-headed Michæl Stipe thing going on, which seemed to suit his low-key, but often nonverbal species of charisma perfectly. At times, however, the shadows fell across his head in such a way that he looked exactly like Adolf Hitler, then a fish, then finally, a maggot.
How would I describe the music? It was darker than your average rock and roll, often alternating between spooky little scale-defying key changes. The songs were all mid-tempo and either loud and raucous or quiet, introspective and folksy. I mostly preferred the noisy stuff. It's been my experience that loud music is better heard live and folksy stuff is best captured in the studio. I almost never dislike music I see live, and this was no exception. But tonight's tunes did even more for me than that. At a certain point in the evening I was reminded of how lucky I am to live in the age of rock and roll, when the distinctive crunch of distorted guitar is an essential axiom from which all else flows. In making this realization, I also had to acknowledge that there was indeed a time when there was no rock and roll. How could people have been fully human back then? Where did they go to get that essential aural vitamin, the distorted electric guitar chord? I also wondered if there was something additional that future would bring that was going to bring as much immortal expressive power to popular culture. Somehow it seemed unlikely. Something about the electric guitar, easy to wield and control, expressive at any level of power, difficult to master, and almost gratuitously phallic, seemed to transcend both time and place. Perhaps rock and roll is the last great artistic breakthrough of human culture.

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