Friday, March 28, 2008

Double Trouble - New Music + Imaginative Solutions

These articles appear in next Tuesday's issue of New School Free Press

Music: Portland Bruising

The New Bloods
"The Secret Life" (Kill Rock Stars)

In an age of effects-drenched overdubs, reverberated howls, and quasi-hippie sing-a-longs—all of which falling under the umbrella term "freak folk"—the New Bloods sideswipe you with a stripped-down jolt of catharsis. "The Secret Life," the New Bloods' debut full-length album, is all sawing fiddle, creative drum beats, rubbery bass, and dissonant vocal harmonies, cast in a blanket of recorded-in-basement production quality. Sometimes, the band follows meandering grooves with high murmurs and monologues. Other points are arresting and confrontational. In the title track, over a cascade of tom-toms and a dramatic fiddle line, one of them sings, "Sadness and jealous and every insecurity/Why don't you believe in me, why don't you believe in me?"

It sounds as though the auras of Bascom Lamar Lunsford, The Supremes and Erase Errata have awoken inside these three women from Portland, Oregon. Such a radical deviation from that tiresome "genre" idea is a promising sign for future things to come.

Five Years in Iraq: Imaginative Solutions, Anyone?

When we look at the Iraq War, we gaze into our own reflections. Six thousand miles away, our intolerance, our ignorance, our arrogance and most of our other sins are taken to their logical conclusions. I find solace in the fact that I also see the logical conclusion of our virtues: determination, sacrifice and hope.

Just look at the Iraqi journalists who work for major U.S. newspapers, many of whom have about as much experience in journalism as the average college intern. But they risk their lives every single day and endure the distrust of Americans and fellow Iraqis, so we can have access to accurate information at our luxury. Their selfless duty brings up an important question: How should Americans who call for peace help Iraqis who, in the face of inescapable danger, try to build a peaceful Iraq?

The answer lies not in total withdrawal, nor in more so-called surges. The question of troop count, I think, tends to miss the point. Our armed forces will leave sooner or later, but the civil war will not cease. Thousands of miles of concrete blast barriers will not disappear. Basic services, like plumbing and electricity, will not immediately be restored. Remember that everyone who has died in Iraq has left a survivor—a father and a mother, siblings, even children. Their memories of the American occupation will not fade away, just because America finally decided to give up.

The onus to improve Iraqis' lives, in large part, belongs to us. Let's begin a serious public dialogue about responsibility, in order to produce imaginative, non-violent ways to help Iraqis rebuild their country.

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