Breaking Impasses with an Appeal to a Lethargic Drive
September 20, 2009, 12:31 pm
Filed under: Music, Rock, Video

We here at tirado/thrown stand roundly accused of falling for the faddish, which we will attempt to neither defend nor justify.  Posting this video for Girls “Hellhole Ratrace”, we suppose, only advances the imaginary prosecution’s case.

Be that as it may, there’s something about the above clip that, aside from evoking loads of nostalgia,* temporarily forgives the hints of Ryan McGinley-esque aesthetics permeating it.  It’s our affinity for the kind of subdued, almost depressed disposition struggling to overcome isolation, despair, and misery that we’re quite familiar with.

The song begins with a folky sincerity that’s almost tongue-in-cheek because the lyrics are tough to pull off with a straight face.  Almost as if suddenly realizing that the lyrics had bordered on bad-faith bromides by the end of the song’s first minute, Girls changes tack altogether. They decide to move in the direction of a slow-burning, slow-motion escalator ascent from the basement.

From that point, the song takes on a life of its own and gives us a hazy headiness that tries to keep a lurking, ham-fisted aggression at bay.  By the end, we’ve been carried to a sunrise view of San Francisco by way of the least-jarring freak-out we’ve come across in a while.  “Hellhole Ratrace” wants a gentle, eased access to happiness and community.  Although these days, it’s difficult to gauge the feasibility of such a possibility.

More posts to come, we hope.  We’re working on some notes regarding Josh Kun’s discussion “The Ranch and the Network” at Boston’s ICA last Thursday, which we’d like to post within the next week.   There’s also a bundle of posts in various stages on the back end of this page, which we may slowly, though occasionally get to.  So thanks, and be sure to keep visiting.


* For California and for keeping odd hours to hang out and fuck around, no less.


Very Short Cinema: Echek
August 5, 2009, 11:22 am
Filed under: Latinos, Music, Rock, Video | Tags: , , , ,

From Adan Jodorowsky, son of auteur and tarot authority Alejandro, is Echek, a tiny portrayal of love’s enchantment. The short’s compact format calls to mind the description of the Beach Boys’ “Good Vibrations” as a ‘pocket symphony’.   It wouldn’t be a stretch to call this a piece of pocket film.

Noting the intersection of film and music in this post, it’s perhaps worth noting that Adan Jodorowsky is a musician and actor in his own right.  According to very preliminary research, he’s released records with the band Hellboy and  some more under the solo moniker Adanowsky. His film debut was in his father’s 1989 film Santa Sangre, which despite the obvious nepostism, is still not too shabby to claim.  And yes, that was him discussing the demerits of a certain female pubic hair style with Adam Goldberg in 2 Days in Paris. (0:55 in the linked clip)

As usual, posts to the blog will continue to be sporadic, but thanks for sticking around. We’re contemplating some possible changes, but nothing certain yet. There’s still the matter of getting out of the grad school application weeds.   Stay tuned for updates.

In the meantime, tirado/thrown will be paying attention to Adan’s work.  Here’s another short tidbit of Jodorowsky, singing his track “Estoy Mal” (I’m Ill) in the midst of the swine flu outbreak, respirator and all.

Neptune: Grey Shallows
January 5, 2009, 11:25 pm
Filed under: art, Music, Rock, Video | Tags: , , , ,

Neptune is more than just a local favorite at tirado/thrown.  Yes, the band’s record, Gong Lake was the subject of one the firsts posts on this blog.  But Neptune more than just represent Jamaica Plain, the neighborhood this publication calls home. They are ceaseless laborers and innovators, entirely committed to their craft of making music with the instruments they create: equal parts luthiers, drum makers, metal smiths, sculptors, creators of things from found and unwanted objects, circuit benders, and songwriters.  Neptune are heralds of a present time perpetually displaced and deferred, though already here.

Performed and produced by multi-disciplinarian Zea Barker, the video for Neptune’s Grey Shallows is a piece documenting effort, motion, position, and gesture suddenly seized and frustrated within the confines of limited space.  An easy visual analogy for an existence trapped inside a cubicle?  That would be one way to approach the video, but a little too easy and practical a metaphor.  

Another way to consider the video is through the use of the scenery’s limited space, which conditions and binds Barker’s movements and frames her exertions.  Her movements are alternately manic and elegant, frenetic and graceful, energetic and exhausted.  All the while, Neptune’s track moves along, suddenly setting itself at a humming idle to seek out the next direction to carry its sound.  From there the verse acts as a means for the song to measure where it stands in the field of sound. The chorus offers a temporary resolution by propelling the song out of boredom and stasis.

What seems to matter most is the dynamism dwelling between the opposite poles of activity and manner represented in vision and sound.  With Grey Shallows, Barker and Neptune summon a thoroughly tactile, and at times uneasy, relationship with the environments they dwell in, making something out of what is otherwise seen as nothing or useless, with marvelous results.

TVOTR: Golden Age

Among the things that make TV on the Radio’s music so rewarding to listen to are the currents of intense, uncontanable energy running through it.  In my opinon, their music’s the closest thing that comes to an original, radical intervention in contemporary Ameican popular music.

Daniel Hernandez points out the band’s merits as an outfit who infuse the cosmic into the everyday. He’s right. I would add to his point that TVOTR do so in a way that George Clinton and the Digital Underground (who made no secret of their desire to emulate Clinton’s stylings) were only hinting at with their experiments in playing with images, figures, and live performance.

TVOTR’s video for “Golden Age” attests to an adroit sense of production, fusing visual, lyrical, and musical elements and leaving a thematically potent package of insights left at the viewer’s door. It’s also a philosophic treasure trove. View the video a few times and you just have to wonder whether the band’s been reading Giorgio Agamben, Nietzsche, the Judeao-Christian Bible, and watching the Care Bears as sources for useful references. A few examples:

  • Scenery evoking, among other references, the revelation atop Mount Sinai, the transfiguration of Christ, and the mountain retreat where Nietzsche first introduces us to Zarathustra: These are elevated spaces where its dwellers are transformed by a gift or bestowal of some sort: of the law, glory, wisdom, or light. We can also say that these are sites of experiences that occur at the limits of experience, language, and comprehension.  In the case of the video, it is quite possible to interpret it as taking place in a state of exception.


  • The use of halos and auras as indicators of potentiality, the exposition of identity-shifting figures over and against the figures of sovereign power (the police), and the use of figures fusing the animal and human are found in various works of Giorgio Agamben: Not to belabor the point, but reading The Coming Community, Homo Sacer, and The Open opens up a sensitivity to these themes being played out in cultural products, music videos included.  The nexus of magic, genius, and play at work in the video might also offer examples that point to items that Agamben works with in Profanations as well. 


  • In the process of a face-off between the band as figures of humanity and the police as agents of the state, there is quickening of pace, a heightening of tension, and an anticipation of an unknown event.  Hints of Heidegger’s accounting of anticipatory resoluteness and the moment of vision in Being and Time linger within scene.  In the process of transformation to a quickening beat, the police officers no longer operate as agents of the state in the face of a humanity reconciled with its animal nature.  The police’s gestures no longer direct energy towards reservation, distraction, or repression but towards humanity in dance, where gestures are made artful (useful) and traverse the chasm separating spectacle and spectator.  The scene brings to mind a quote from The Coming Community: “The novelty of the coming politics is that it will no longer be a struggle for the control of the state, but a struggle between the State and the non-state (humanity), an insurmountable disjunction between the whatever singularity and the State organization” (84)   Golden Age’s video offers a visual rendition on a variant of such a struggle that Agamben addresses above.


I’m sure there are other philosophic themes and references at work in the video (Plato comes to mind), but these stood out most immediately. References aside, “Golden Age” is very succinct rendering of the band’s political mytho-theology, condensing mysticism, mythical symbolism, liberation, redemption, transfiguration, illumination, music making, collective struggle, pop culture, and political emancipation in three minutes.  After all, are these not the promises the holiday season offers to its celbrants, aside from food, companionship, and the prospect of staying in all day? 

It’s fantastic what an outstanding music video can do, especially when the visuals and audio complement each other so well. Enjoy; or rather, be jilted, provoked, distressed, even moved to explore the yet unknown and unspoken possibilities the video offers its viewer.

Brief Election Day Roundup: Obama es Nuestro Carnal


This post was originally going to be some sort of late-summer/early fall roundup of things worth re-blogging. But a handful of great things popped into my reader that just made me want to post these. In the spirit of brevity, here’s an abbreviated pre-election roundup of items of incidental bearing to today’s events. By Wednesday morning, perhaps we can finally look forward to conducting the people’s business come January 20, 2009.

  • As a way to pay the bills and float his literary production, Franz Kafka spent his professional life as an attorney for the Workingman’s Insurance Institutue in the Czech Lands of the Austrio-Hungrian Empire. Through his work, he managed to write some of the most ominous, compelling, and prophetic literature of late modernity. A number of Kafka’s professional writings are now available in translation through Princeton University Press in a book entilted, Franz Kafka: The Office Writings. Oh, and I think I just found a new favorite blog. [ Zolius/Princeton University Press]
  • Supervalent Thought wades into the problematics associated with sexualities, the instiution of marriage, and the most recent repressive incursion into sex, Proposition 8. What follows is a journey into spacing, intimacy, vulnerability, and of course, surprise (which is to say, contingency). To my friends in California: Please vote no on 8! [Supervalent Thought]
  • Speaking of elections, this particular presidential campaign season was long, exhorbitantly expensive, and at some point, just tiring. But here’s a great review of the campaign, just to make sure you hang on to some of its more memorable parts. [This. Fucking. Election.]
  • So, for all you Boston folks out there, you probably know this by now: Cambridge’s B-Side shuddered its doors for good. Which is a horrible thing if you like good food and even better drinks. **Sigh** [Big, Red, & Shiny]
  • Speaking of shudderings, though this one temporary: One of our favorite blogs, Daniel Hernandez’s Intersections, is going on hiatus until next year. We here at tirado/thrown suppose that we’ll have to live with occasionally scouring the site’s rich archives while eagerly awaiting more dispatches from the first capital of the new world. At the very least, readers new and old will have some time to get caught up on two years of outstanding pocho musings from the ancient navel that is the primitive font of pochismo. [Intersections]

So for readers in the U.S., those eligible to vote are encouraged by tirado/thrown to get make your way to the polling booths toot sweet and pull the lever/fill in the scantron/punch the chad/touch the calibrated (we hope) touchscreen.  The last eight years have been miserable enough.  Let’s get to work on improving the situation for all of us.

Image credit: First seen at Guanabee; from an image at planetjan.

When It’s Beautiful Out and Your Memory Gets You More Than You Bargain For
August 23, 2008, 12:54 am
Filed under: Latinos, Music, Rock | Tags: , , , , ,

The Internet functions like a massive id harboring the collective recall of our species in the digital age, frequently accessed by its users egos at will (but more often whim).  While excitedly making plans to spend one of the last Saturdays of this summer at the beach tomorrow, a refrain from my childhood suddenly leapt to my attention: “Vamos a la playa…oh, oh, OH OH OH!!!”  Not knowing whose song it is, or not remembering having heard the song in its entirety, I quickly turned to the unconscious lurking in Google Inc.’s servers for answers.

I could have sworn that the renditions of Vamos a la Playa as a young man were salsa and cumbia versions that were the pretty obvious soundtracks on our ventures to Likin in Guatemala, or Zuma/Point Dume in L.A.  Needless to say the Latino versions were incredibly difficult to find, and I came across Righeira, who are credited with the original rendition of the song, which apparently has nothing to do with iendo a la playa pa’ comer papaya.

Righeira is an Italian take on Kraftwerk.   In their use of language, they adopt Spanish instead of English as their their means of conveying their quasi-robotic, post-apocalyptic musings.  Unlike the German Electro pioneers whose name describes their approach to sound, Regheira opt for a thicker, more garish aesthetic that makes for occasionally interesting and catchy party music.  Then again, it’s difficult to imagine Kraftwerk turning out dance-floor packing summer jams.  To Righeira’s credit, their teletext-inspired website is visually interesting,  (But I can’t vouch for the music on their site, most especially their cover of Devo’s “Girl U Want.”  You’ve been warned.)

Vamos a la Playa’s haunting lyrics though seem to keep the song from plunging into the abyss of sheer tackiness.  Righeira’s nuclear-singed new Eden is whispered on by the breath of radioactive winds, chemically-altered light leaving people with blue tans, and flourescent waters inexplicably free of stinky icthyeous nuisance.  All that’s needed is the shocking green radioactive sand to make castles with and run along, and Righeira’s tawdry scene is set.

At first blush, it’s a song that seems more fitting performed by the likes of German-Mexican band Los Los.  Their brooding and lurching metal cover could best serve as a parodic way to celebrate Walpurgis Night with a beach campfire.   With lyrics below, and very dated, Dutch-captioned video above, here’s my post for the week. An end-of-the-month review is in the works for next week, but only after enjoying some time at lovely Crane’s beach, replete with cool breezes, piping plovers, and lovely beige sand. Stay tuned.

Vamos a la playa, oh oh oh oh oh.
Vamos a la playa, oh oh oh oh oh.
Vamos a la playa, oh oh oh oh oh.
Vamos a la playa oh oh.
Vamos a la playa,
la bomba estalló,
las radiaciones tuestan
y matizan de azul.
Vamos a la playa, oh oh oh oh oh…
Vamos a la playa,
todos con sombrero.
El viento radiactivo
despeina los cabellos.
Vamos a la playa, oh oh oh oh oh…
Vamos a la playa,
al fin el mar es limpio.
No más peces hediondos,
sino agua fluorescente.
Vamos a la playa, oh oh oh oh oh…

On Monday Night’s Agenda: El Vez for Prez in the Cradle of Liberty

Wednesday started off decently enough when I picked up my free copy of the Weekly Dig at the Green Street T stop. Seeing a thumbnail of El Vez sporting the table of contents, I was eager to see what their writer had to say about Robert Lopez’s creation. What followed was a pretty good profile that I found lacking in the end. Then again, for how short the piece was, it was a decent try. The writer’s misuse of the term kitsch worked me up enough to ask whether anyone could get beyond the speechless wonder that comes with encountering El Vez for the first few times.

I’d argue that there’s nothing kitschy. Kitsch is possibly the last word to describe what’s at work in the El Vez character. He recovers certain cultural references from their being relegated to kitschiness. But I digress. Some of the more interesting points the Dig’s writer could have mentioned in reference to Lopez’s work in the guise of El Vez:

  • Lopez’ contribution to punk rock history as a member of The Zeros, arguably the first Chicano punk rock band. They were hailed as “The Mexican Ramones”, and played at the Germs first show in 1977.
  • Post-Zeros, Lopez moved to L.A. from his native Chula Vista and became keyboardist for Catholic Discipline, a ur-post punk outfit that counted Phranc (nee Susan Gottleib, whose own music would garner her the title of America’s Best Jewish Lesbian Folksinger) and writer Claude Bessy among its members. Footage of Catholic Discipline performing at the Hong Kong Cafe appeared in the quintessential film document of L.A. punk rock, “Decline of Western Civlization”.

  • His curatorial and collecting work in the mid-80s with L.A.’s most recognized outre folk art gallery La Luz de Jesus, which ultimately served as the impetus for finally creating the El Vez character in 1988.
  • The near cult-status of El Vez as an underground figure. Far from being a musical project, the El Vez juggernaut puts Lopez in the middle of some pretty fascinating goings-on. He’s been on hand to officiate the occasional wedding, such as those of Exene Cervenka and Anton LaVey’s gradson Stanton (suitably on 6/6/2006). In the latter event, El Vez took a turn towards the demonic, appropriately changing forms as Hell Vez, replete with a pitchfork staff and horns peeking out of his pompadour. He has been on hand to celebrate the achievements of burlesque dancers as MC of the Miss Exotic World Pageant in 2007. Even more amazing, he also helped send off fellow shape-shifting San Diegans Rocket from The Crypt during their final Halloween 2005 show, introducing Speedo, Petey X, Apollo 9, Ruby Mars and the rest prior to their blistering set. This is just aside from mentioning his regular performances that have had him sharing stages with Morrissey and Astrid Hadad, and play in the visually stunning west-coast cabaret/circus/dinner theater, Teatro Zinzanni. (It didn’t seem as if the Dig‘s profile writer wasn’t terribly aware of El Vez’s cabaret performances, but it was an acute observation.)
  • El Vez’s place as a topic of various cultural studies that have caught the attention of academics in fields as varied as Chicano Studies, Popular Culture Studies, Queer and Women Studies and Comparative Literature. What remains to be thought is the manner in which the performance of the El Vez character bears philosophic meaning. As Lopez’s performance appeals to thinking in a multitude of disciplines and works in topics touching upon the idea of politics, language, social justice, identity, ethics and love, such a treatment is entirely possible.
  • Lopez’s role as a primary source in recording the history of Latinos in American rock. He was a key figure in Seattle’s Experience Music Project’s current exhibit, American Sabor. Some impressions of the keynote address he took part in during April’s Pop Muisc Conference here, here, and here. (My thanks to Carolina Gonzalez at Sound Taste for the great coverage.)
  • His multi-recording output that proves Lopez’s El Vez as a master of detrournement, taking on the shapes and images of rock history and popular, both in sound and image, from Bowie and Paul Simon, to The Clash and Brian Eno, from Mexican flyweight boxers and mambo kings to Santa Claus. Of course, his send ups of El Rey are as loving as Astrid Hadad’s take on Lucha Reyes.

Lopez’ genius lies in the way he works as a cultural super-collider, turning themes and references from various quarters on their heads giving them new relevance by enframing them in El Vez’s distinctly (and multiply) chicano perspective. Notice how Lopez uses El Vez by layering the chorus of James Brown’s I’m Black and I’m Proud over Public Enemy’s Welcome to the Terrordome. In the process, he takes issue with Chuck D’s dislike of Elvis from Fight the Power and internalizes J.B.’s pride in a way that shows a certain solidarity between African-Americans and Latinos in the U.S. In an act that only makes El Vez even more complex, Lopez gives the Elvis character the appearance of a militant in a camouflage jumpsuit and bandoleer, offering up the possibility that even one of the most commodified figures in the pop culture pantheon, The King of Rock and Roll, can speak the language of emancipation.

So my point? That the Dig’s profile could have benefitted from better advance intelligence.

Rant aside, El Rey de Rocanrol will be making his Boston campaign stop on Monday, August 11 at The Middle East in Cambridge. He’ll be doing his style-bending brand of politicking, brining along props, costumes, and a town hall format that will have you longing for the possibility that politics can be conducted in a manner that’s far better, more exciting, and Chicano-fied than we’re used to seeing in these parts.

Here’s some early punk rock-era footage of a pre-El Vez Robert Lopez (far right), quietly doing his work with the Zeros in 1977. See you at the show.