Do Our Local Bands Care About Social Commentary Anymore?

Leanna Flecky
Evan Stone (center) and the Translucent Ham Sandwich Band
Look at the photo above. What do you see? Go on, stare (if you need a larger version, click here). If you can gaze at it for at least five seconds and make any kind of judgement about it, then congratulations! According to drummer Evan Stone that means you've done your minimum requirement of daily critical thinking. It also means he and his funky, psychedelic jazz-inspired outfit, The Translucent Ham Sandwich Band, have accomplished something that few local bands even try to do anymore: getting you to think at all about issues that affect our world. It's something of a dying art these days, especially if we look at music in our own backyard and how infrequently we see bands who would do something both crazy AND thoughtful--like pose for a photo depicting a good percentage of the world's problems with the satirical bite of a political cartoon.

In a lot of ways the photo simply depicts old problems kept alive through current events. Showcasing elements of the debate over child vaccines and freedom of choice, gun control, police brutality against blacks and protesters, tensions between Israel and Palestine (which appears to be more of a sexual tension in this photo), gambling with our national's all stuff we've heard and seen before. But in terms of artists who put those types of discussions in their music, it's becoming more of a rarity, which was Stone's point when he decided to arrange the photo titled "The Ham Dinner" (a tongue-in-cheek play on the Last Supper).

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The Back to Black Story That Didn't Make It In the Amy Winehouse Documentary

Mari Sarai / Camera Press / Retna Ltd
Amy Winehouse on the cover of the Village Voice Pazz + Jop issue, January 23, 2008
By: Hilary Hughes
The most stunning scene in Asif Kapadia's painful, extraordinary Amy -- the new documentary tracking the rise and tragic fall of gone-too-soon pop powerhouse Amy Winehouse -- is what Kapadia calls a "beautiful accident." In it, Winehouse is in the downtown confines of Chun King Studios, nestled in its blanket-padded recording booth. She's laying down the vocals for the devastating title track from 2007's Back to Black, the Mark Ronson-produced, Sixties-soul- and girl-group-channeling triumph that thrust her into the international spotlight and netted her Grammys, BRIT Awards, and other accolades galore. At this point in Amy, we see Ronson sitting at the studio console; the voiceover Kapadia chose for the clip is one in which Ronson speaks of Winehouse's prolific lyric-penning abilities and the speed with which she got the lines of "Back to Black" down on paper. The camera cuts to her preparing to sing.

In the shade of the booth, Winehouse forges poetry out of emotional masochism. The strength of her voice goes toe to toe with the intensity of her lyrics, which detail the dissolution of her mercurial relationship with the love of her life, Blake Fielder-Civil. We now know "Back to Black" as a solemn, revealing, and heartbroken dirge -- albeit one set to a robust groove -- an unflinching account of a woman scorned as she ruminates on her lover's infidelity: "He left no time to regret/Kept his dick wet/With his same old safe bet...You went back to what you knew/So far removed from all that we went through/And I tread a troubled track/My odds are stacked/And I go back to black..." But in this moment in the film, we hear only Winehouse, her voice ringing out stark and alone until the horns and the bells swell up through her headphones and eventually surround it. Winehouse looks up from the mic. "Oohhh, it's a bit upsetting at the end, isn't it?!" She smiles, her lacquered eyes fall to the page, and she gets back to work.

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Limp Bizkit Are Better Than Whatever Crap You're Listening to Right Now

Erik Hess
By: Nicholas Pell
What I'm about to say, I say with no trace of irony: Limp Bizkit are pretty awesome. In fact, so far as I can tell, they were the last good thing alt-rock radio had to offer.

Let's talk about their musical merits. I know that Fred Durst got a little whiny there sometime around Chocolate Starfish and the Hot Dog Flavored Water. No doubt. But while Fat Freddy D's raps aren't the greatest, his screams have always been on point. Durst vocalizes the guttural rage of the disaffected suburbanite. You laugh at such things, because you're from a nice suburb, not some decaying post-industrial shithole, and so is everyone you met while studying psychology at Vassar.

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Music Hasn't Gotten Crappy These Days, But You Have

Photo by Aaron Thackeray
The kids are all right.
By: Gina Tron

"This music is garbage. They aren't even using real instruments," my mom said. It was 1994, and I was happy that my favorite song at the time --
"The Sign" by Ace of Base -- was on the radio. She would try to expose me to the music that she liked, which was all good music: Stevie Wonder, the Moody Blues, Pink Floyd.

All that music I love today, but I wasn't open to it then, because I already resented her for hating on my music. I felt stupid, and so I vowed to never hate on the music of the younger
generation, even if I didn't understand it.

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QUIZ: Can You ID These Bands From Their Famous Typefaces?

Jena Ardell

Fact: Any band who uses Times New Roman on their album cover isn't going to make it in the music industry. (Feel free to prove us wrong, though). Smart typography selection is as important to a band's image as having a memorable logo.

In 1937, industrial designer and typographer Gerry Powell, designed an extremely condensed typeface named Onyx that became very popular among advertising type in the 1940s because it allowed more characters to be used when space was limited or costly.

Cut to present day and any 90s kid will identify Powell's Onyx typeface as "Nirvana font", thanks to typesetter Grant Alden. According to, Alden was paid $15 to assist the graphic designer originally hired to create the cover art for Nirvana's Bleach in 1989. Nirvana's signature smiley face, drawn by Cobain, is another "mental shortcut" to identify the band.

Time to test your typography knowledge and the following bands' branding skills. Can you identify these famous acts by their typefaces? Answers provided on the last page.

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Hulkamania is Back! Here's a Shirt-Ripping Playlist, Brother!

Kristin Fitzsimmons vis Wikimedia Commons
Hulk Hogan

It looks like all that training, saying your prayers and taking your vitamins has paid off as this week the immortal Hulk Hogan returned to the WWE. Kicking off this week's edition of "Raw," the Hulkster arrived to a thunderous ovation, celebrating not only his homecoming but the launch of the WWE Network, the company's 24 hour channel of both original content as well as an on-demand service of their entire library of pay-per-views. In honor of Hogan coming back to host the upcoming Wrestlemania 30, as well as the ability to now look back at three decades of Hulkamania at the drop of a hat rip of a t-shirt, we've assembled this musical look back at the Hulkster's musical endeavors, in case you need a playlist that answers the question "Watcha Gonna Do, Brother?!"

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Disliking Kanye West Doesn't Mean I'm a Racist

By: Chris O'Shea
It's OK to be a white person who is frustrated by Kanye West. That might seem obvious, but the aftermath of West's epic Twitter rant against Jimmy Kimmel necessitates it be reiterated. The feud is nothing more than the clash of two pop personalities, but it became something much bigger than that. On Twitter and elsewhere, Kimmel was labeled as being emblematic of racism in America. Ergo, white America criticizing West correlates to racism. This is not only wrong, it gives defenders of West an easy way out of a complex issue.

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What Famous Musicians Say About Their Fans, In Illustrated Form

Jena Ardell

We like reading quotations just as much as we like quoting musicians. Here's what a handful of famous faces say about the people who make their careers possible: their fans.

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Bizarre Things Riff Raff Says, In Illustrated Form

Jena Ardell
Love him or hate him, Horst Christian Simco, a.k.a. the rapper RiFF RaFF, says some entertaining things. You almost have to respect someone who constantly seems in character. RiFF RaFF takes his persona very seriously. In July, he announced he was suing the creators of the movie Spring Breakers for 10 million dollars for sampling his life without his permission, referring to James Franco's character, Alien. For a deeper look inside the most enigmatic rapper of the moment, we suggest you take a gander at this recent in-depth cover story by our sister paper L.A. Weekly. But for now, join us a for a little slice of absurdity, courtesy of some choice RiFF RaFF quotes in illustrated form.

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Ponderisms From Famous Musicians, In Illustrated Form

Jena Ardell

We like reading quotations just as much as we like quoting musicians. Here are some rhetorical questions famous musicians have asked themselves.

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