Why I Will Never Really Appreciate Louis CK Again

louis ck is a douche dad

Louis CK unwisely decided to discuss his politics during the last election and as a result I will never be able find him funny as I once did.

There is a new Louis CK special on Netflix. Six months ago I would have been elated, chomping at the bit to watch it. Now I could care less, but that would involve more care, and it’s not fucking worth it. Louis is dead to me.

So what did he do that I find so unforgivable?

He supported Hillary Clinton. But it is not that he did it, but how he did it.

First of all let me make it clear that I did not vote, did not support any candidate and do not participate in mainstream politics. And I certainly have no love at all for Donald Trump. So I am not being a sore loser. Louis could have talked about voting for Hillary and done it, and I would have let it go right past me and continued to love him and his work. But his reasoning for supporting Clinton has rattled my faith in his intellect, intentions and values in such a way that it will forever color everything he does in my view.

I am not going to look up the quote and repeat it here verbatim. The gist was that he was going to vote for her not because he was voting against Trump, but because he really thinks she would be a great president, because she is a ‘tough mom’ or some shit.

Clinton is a shameless warmongerer. And CK’s support for her seems to rest on the fact that this is what he wants. He wants a genocidal oligarch who isn’t even trying to hide it. It would have been much better if he was just making a contrarian anti-vote like most people, but he was voting for what Clinton stands for, and that is violent authoritarianism.

I will continue to explain, but I don’t think I need to. That is just fucked up, let alone for a comedian.

I have a great deal of respect for stand up comedians. There are very few careers in which you can gain access to the inner sanctum of peoples personal beliefs and ruffle things up a bit. However that is something we very much need. Comedians push the boundaries and question things others are afraid to. Comedians are ideological dissidents leading humans to new vistas of freedom.

At least the good ones are. Bill Hicks, George Carlin, Lenny Bruce, Richard Pryor, Doug Stanhope are just a few comics who forced people to rethink the world they live in and to question everything. Especially authority. Authority is always the thing that needs questioned most. Especially when it is cruel and violent.

Hilary Clinton is cruel and violent. Dismissing her psychopathy and relabeling it ‘tough mom’ is the most sell out thing I have ever heard a comedian say.

Louis CK will probably continue to be funny. But I do not want to laugh at his jokes. I do not want to follow his logic, since the place it leads is so fucking insanely scary and stupid. Most of all I do not want to support him. Fuck that guy.

In retrospect I find him less funny. ‘Tough mom’ reminds me how much of his entire shtict revolves around being a dad. Trying to get other people to care about your parental role, ideas and stories as much as you do is the most overdone thing ever. Louis CK is basically your Facebook news feed with better presentation.

And who remembers when he announced he was quitting the internet? Thanks for the fucking Luddite virtue signals, douche dad. Thanks for telling us peons how to live from your almighty fucking ivory tower in the big apple. Some of us actually use this to make a living and ply our arts and do not have the privilege of just writing it off.

Louis CK seems humble until you realize his low self esteem is just a performance to gain status. It’s a direct Woody Allen rip-off without any honesty in it. Woody Allen portrayed himself as the caricature of self-doubt he was in his own head. Louis CK portrays himself as the kind of self-degradation artist who wants you to believe he is humble so he can foist his bullshit normative ideas on you and gain fame.

There is no sin in art as great as normalcy, and Louis CK has made a career out of playing normal for an audience he views as a tool to prop up his career and ego. He will even normal so hard that he makes light of bombing children in third world countries, which is what Clinton was explicitly all about, as part of his promotional efforts.

Fuck you, Louis.

How Gene Simmons Politically Alienates the Freaky Fans He Helped Create

The bass playing businessman-in-makeup from KISS helped create a generation of weirdos that his political worldview has no tolerance for.

Gene Simmons is a patriot, goddammit, and America made him great. Or so you would be left to believe if you took the Ayn Rand of stadium rock’s word for it. No offense, Neil Peart, but you’re fucking Canadian.

Where other musicians have struggled to balance their commercial success with their aesthetics, Gene embraced the dichotomy by increasingly trading artistic merit for cash and groupies without internalizing a realistic perception of what an unsavory schmooze this made him. All while allegedly remaining completely free of drugs and alcohol, which is sort of a cautionary tale against mixing rock and roll with sobriety.

Given so much success unburdened by artistic or existential self-doubt, Gene has increasingly adopted the belief over the years that anybody could repeat his level of achievement if they weren’t so much lazier and stupider than him. He believes that his current values apply retroactively to his earlier success, although there is no evidence of Gene’s conservative narrative until after he had sold millions of records and sold out major venues worldwide.

However given the aesthetic vision which he contributed to KISS, and the decidedly rash decision to leave a steady teaching career to play bass guitar in make up and high heels, it could probably be inferred that the younger Gene who engineered this path to fame and fortune was not altogether the John Galt character he seems to think (and certainly claims) that he is. In fact his well known history of making such boisterous claims seems counter-intuitive to the play-it-straight Americana he endlessly blathers about.

Fortunately, as Chuck Klosterman has pointed out, you don’t have to like the people in KISS to like KISS. Which is the most absurd form of gaining eminence and prosperity possible, and also one which happened far more coincidentally than Gene would lead you to believe. And so it also seems to work the other way, Gene doesn’t have to like KISS fans to like being in KISS.

Which is even more fucked up when you consider he probably had a lot to do with making his fans the kind of people he doesn’t like.

The entire aesthetic of early KISS was to be weird. They encouraged individuality and freakiness by embodying it aesthetically, and as a way of life altogether greater a sum than just their music. KISS was an image. And that image said to be yourself and explore the fringes and to ignore what the people judging you thought.

All of which is antithetical to the realistic ways in which success is achieved in the mythological American dream. That path leads us to conform and follow the formulas and to cater to paying customers before personal principles. Genes yellow brick road to achievement, according to his rhetoric after the fact, lies in direct opposition to the message embedded in the image of KISS.

In business the only place where straying from norms is considered beneficial is through novel innovation. While I am a fan of both the music and aesthetic of KISS, neither were particularly innovative, let alone completely original. Those evolved from things like glam rock, science fiction, comic books and pseudo-Asiatic theatrics; which I might note are all also pretty non-conservative sources of inspiration.

Yet the people who dived wholeheartedly into those aesthetics continued to seek out the odd and shocking. They explored the outer edges and transformed themselves into something far removed from the All-American archetype, and in doing so alienated themselves from mainstream culture, and so ever further away from the land of milk and honey.

The political narrative of Gene Simmons is antithetical to KISS and his own success, and it heaps nothing but scorn upon the kind of people who made him who he is through their passion and loyalty. As an added insult to fanbase injury, reality television and other media where he spouts off his inane egotistical bullshit have increased his success further.

Which means that even this facet of Gene Simmons could be a facade he created for shock value and increased status, which would make him an even greater God (of thunder)  or King (of the nighttime world) than his Army and/or detractors can even yet comprehend. That would be some of the greatest meta-level art of the 20th and 21st centuries, even though I doubt it is true. More likely he is a clever but lucky asshole, and we cannot help but always love the first person who spat blood and breathed fire for us.

The Get Down on the Artistic Freedoms & Cultural Merits of Soundtracks

Through exploring soundtracks like Netflix’s The Get Down and the work of Craig Wedren the potential of that medium to reshape musical dogmas emerges.

The best movie soundtrack from 1994 is undoubtedly the one from the film The Crow. Although it spanned many genres, the way in which each song served the aesthetic of the film united them in a way which transcended each bands historical style.

If you listen to The Crow Soundtrack today you will be transported directly back to the aesthetic, or world, of the film; which feels like 1994 even though the world in which it takes place is imaginary and the film itself was made prior to that year.

But this is true of any memorable film and soundtrack. So even though The Crow was probably the best soundtrack of 1994, it wasn’t necessarily the most interesting.

That honor, I believe, belongs to a mostly forgotten soundtrack and film in which a supergroup of that time covers the songs regularly covered by the greatest rock band of all time. Backbeat was a biopic of the early Beatles career playing seedy nightclubs for successive long nights while fueled by amphetamines, ambition and passion for rock music. As such it dramatizes the band playing crowd pleasing cover songs as they honed their craft and solidified their line up.

The soundtrack was performed by The Backbeat Band, which was comprised of the darlings of the days alternative rock roster; including members of REM, Sonic Youth, Soul Asylum, The Afghan Whigs, Gumball and predictably Dave Grohl – who has consistently appeared in every piece of entertainment media made since about 1994.

The soundtrack is good. It is not great, but mostly because the artistic limitations inferred by covering another cover band. But it remains interesting because in 1994 the film and its soundtrack transported you back to 1960, the year in which most of the period depicted took place. Today if you watch the movie or listen to the soundtrack it transports you back to 1994, and then depending on your level of immersion, maybe back to 1960 as well.

However had The Backbeat Band made the very same album without the contextual backdrop of the film it would probably be completely non-memorable and fail to provoke any strong sense of time or place in the listener.

So the question is, how is it that long irrelevant musical styles can regain immediacy and relevance through a merger with the medium of film?

Not so fast.

Four years after Backbeat grunge had been murdered in a vast plot by Courtney Love and Creed; sending its greatest luminaries plunging headlong into nostalgia for the genesis of their punk rock roots. Along the way they gathered up a few of their punk forefathers and re-explored glam rock and proto-punk, a collision which was facilitated by the 1998 film Velvet Goldmine.

Velvet Goldmine was a musical period piece loosely based off the lives and music/art of David Bowie, Bryan Ferry, Iggy Pop, Marc Bolan, Lou Reed and others. It is a masterpiece of story, direction, cinematography, acting, music and more; including inducing homophobic squeamishness in prudish viewers – a category for which there is unfortunately still no Grammy awarded.

The soundtrack contains both original compositions and cover songs. Once again a supergroup was formed to provide music for the soundtrack, using the film-period appropriate name The Venus In Furs. Interestingly The Venus in Furs contained two musicians, Thurston Moore and Don Fleming, from The Backbeat Band. It also boasted Mike Watt, Thom Yorke, Ron Asheton and several other highly notable musicians.

On top of that it includes original contributions from bands like Teenage Fanclub, Placebo, Pulp, Grant Lee Buffalo and Shudder to Think.

Every song on the soundtrack is heavily inspired by the period of the film, which gave all of these musicians the opportunity to re-explore expired musical styles in a way that somehow felt fresh again. It was neo-retro, and it sounded amazing.

However had any of these musicians made the same music without a film to anchor itself to, without another piece of art as a unifying theme, it would be largely unmemorable today. This is not to detract from the music, which is stellar, but only to point out that great music still needs a cultural context to give it significance. And if you want to revisit your musical heritage in your current cultural climate, it must come attached to another work of art that feels absolutely new.

The legacy of the Velvet Goldmine soundtrack, aside from the music itself, will probably best be as the place where a long awaited The Stooges reunion got started. However it should probably also be remembered for the contributions by Shudder To Think, whose central member Craig Wedren has since become the embodiment of the central theme of this essay.

In 1997 Shudder to Think completed their last album, as well as contributing songs in a similar style to three independent films. In 1998 they contributed two more to Velvet Goldmine and then called it quits. Upon their dissolution Craig Wedren began focusing more of his musical output on film scores and soundtracks, especially for projects by former members of the sketch comedy troupe The State, whose director David Wain was a childhood friend.

Wain’s cult film Wet Hot American Summer was musically masterminded by Wedren. He scored the film, supervised the soundtrack and also contributed to it. It opens with Jane by Jefferson Starship, which sets the feel for the entire soundscape of the film. It also contains musical elements of the late 70’s and early 80’s summer camp films it satirizes, but the pure bombast of Jane is present throughout, especially in the soundtrack contributions from Wedren.

This would set the tone for Wedren’s later, and continuing, soundtrack work. His ability to recapture past genres and styles, and cross freely among them, has earned him an invitation to contribute to numerous film projects that require just that. And while he also continues to make mind-blowing solo music, he has been given relatively free reign to a musical time machine. A position which is both monumental and obscure, considering the humble commercial success of the projects he has worked on.

Wedren has made a career and amassed a cult following from committing a cardinal sin of music – directly revisiting the musical styles of those who influenced his own.

No musician has ever escaped their influences entirely. Yet most of them understand that merely retreading the musical paths of their influences will either result in the perception of novelty or commercial disinterest. In music-as-art you are always supposed to try pushing forward. Only the most vapid pop stars are able to continue capitalizing on old formulas, because the perception of their artistic merit is not entwined with the perception of their music. Their image takes merits place.

Yet all music is built upon all that came before. Every piece of music is made of 99.9% recycled musical DNA in the most basic sense. And still the inability to explicitly travel backward and forward in musical time is a limitation almost impossible to overcome without attracting stigma. There is nothing musically wrong with complete temporal mobility, but the 20th century’s mixing of music with the market has led to a perception that music is supposed to be a straight line ahead.

I personally retired this hypothesis years ago, largely through exposure to the soundtracks and musicians I have been discussing. But as transcendent as Velvet Goldmine was to me, its greater overall commercial and cultural impact was very minute.

Most people have been unknowingly conditioned by market factors to effectively disregard retrospective musical offerings. However that could be changed if the strategy became successful in a landmark cultural artifact.

This, obviously, has been tried numerous times to varying degrees of musical or commercial success. However it has yet to hit both evenly. A formula in which astoundingly great new music that sounds like astoundingly great old music, and also achieves widespread commercial success alongside critical success on genuine artistic merits, has been elusive. However it has always been possible, and may actually finally have been realized.

The Get Down, a two part mini-series presented by Netflix, has recreated the feeling of early hip hop in such an immediate and accessible way that it’s original compositions feel as fresh to most Americans as their earlier counterparts felt to those living during hip hop’s inception in NYC.

By the time hip hop had been packaged and marketed to a larger commercial audience it had already undergone much of its evolution. It came to the larger world fully formed without any historical or cultural context, unlike rock and roll which had entered the public consciousness in its raw early form and gained its maturity and context in full view of it’s audience.

The Get Down gives us that history and context, in a genuine and accurate enough way that most of us will feel the initial excitement of hip hop we missed out on the first time. And in doing so it will give us a direct connection to that early music most of us never had, re-instilling it with a sense of urgency and importance in the now.

However none of that would matter if The Get Down wasn’t also a fantastic piece of art itself, which it very much is. It would matter even less if the music were only mediocre and serviceable, which it most certainly isn’t. The music is amazing.

I speak mostly of the hip hop. Disco and 70’s pop fans might find those portions of the musical re-imagining more personally compelling. And while they may also be great, they will not have the same export. Besides the fact that Saturday Night Fever prematurely covered disco’s nostalgia in the midst of it’s own hey day, thus making any future attempts even more of a novelty, hip hop is still a highly relevant musical form. One that thrived with its roots largely hidden from the audience it amassed over the years.

Last year De La Soul redefined the perceived limits of works of commercially important hip hop with their long-awaited comeback album. They expanded beyond their genre and time period so successfully that they rose from cult legends to chart-topping kings. And in doing so they set the stage for a rebirth of hip hop. Is The Get Down also part of that rebirth?

I hope so, and not is just because I personally find it to be artistically transcendent, but because it could open up the doors to musicians which only soundtracks have previously offered. It could open up the history of modern western music to re-exploration in ways that seem genuine rather than merely novelty trends.

Where it seems that music has reached the ends of it’s possible sonic boundaries, where nothing truly new can ever be done again with sound, perhaps the only way for music to survive in an advanced technological civilization is to shed the restrictions of linear progress. When it becomes impossible to make anything that sounds objectively fresh, the art becomes in finding ways to make them feel fresh within our experience of them. And because technology will probably continue to yield new mediums, and thus the opportunity to create those experiences, it may become possible to refresh points in musical history by reconnecting them with points in new medium.

The Get Down is technically within known and tried mediums. Yet modern approaches to long form cinematic storytelling recently pioneered by cable and internet services have made artifacts like The Get Down possible by transforming the amount and method of our media consumption. Commercial-free, binge-able cinema has not only offered us a more direct access to variety, but offered those creating art within it a latitude that was previously not possible. With more media consumed comes more room for exploration by its content creators.

Including the radical possibility that the old can become new again.

Finally.

The Greasy Strangler Reviewed By A Total Bullshit Artist

The Greasy Strangler seems to have been largely dismissed as an oddball novelty, but it might be the most innovative film ever.

The first time I watched the film it seemed easy just to classify it as “weird” and move on. But as I thought more about it and then rewatched, I realized how incomplete that description was.

David Lynch makes weird movies. John Waters, Harmony Korine and Giuseppe Andrews make weird movies. And what makes them so weird is that those movies exist within our consensus reality but contain elements that do not belong. They are incongruous and inexplicable.

There is nothing incongruous or inexplicable about The Greasy Strangler. All of its characters and situations work according to the logic of the reality it is based in, which is not the same as the one we are watching it from. In this way the film is more akin to fantasy than surrealism.

Even the motivations of the characters are atypical of human psychology, but become perversely reasonable when considered from the alien psychology of the films reality.

If the film were merely weird, it would be a barely interesting side note in the wide world of strange cinema. But it is not merely weird. It is a highly constructed fantasy world with complex interconnected truths of its own. In fact, it is probably a better fantasy world than the one’s detailed in the most popular fantasy works.

For example, Lord of the Rings is barely fantasy at all. It is just medieval earth with most of the humans replaced by different shaped beings with mostly the same behaviors and motivations of human beings. A little dash of classic literary magicalism, and Wa-La, the greatest fantasy franchise of all time.

Except it is not really that fantastic at all. It is what most classic literature is, a morality tale told through caricatures. And as such it is full of elements which make it mostly indistinguishable from our reality. Morality tales must remain mostly realist in order for the morals to be evident.

There is no moral point to The Greasy Strangler. There is no lesson and no metaphor on the human condition. It is therefore untethered from reality in ways most of what we call fantasy really isn’t. The absolute lack of a message or any social import whatsoever free it from the constraints of normative consensus reality.

Which may itself be a very powerful lesson and metaphor on something. Art? Fuck if I know.

But i do know it transcends weirdness to do something film and art rarely does, which is to snub reality in its entirety and create something completely outside of it.

Anybody can make weird films. Nobody ever makes films that are completely irreverent of reality altogether. There is something brilliant in that. Next level shit.

I get the feeling the film was largely ignored because it was dismissed as novelty oddness. At the same time I also get the feeling that someday it will be an historically important film for having not just bent the relationship between art and reality, but separating the two altogether.

Or maybe I am just a total bullshit artist.

Oh, and the music is fucking dope.