Saturday, June 17, 2006

The Best Albums of the 00’s

With the decade more than half over, this seems like a decent time to assess the music scene. Who will be remembered years from now? Which bands have made an artistic statement that will last? Who is influencing future musicians? Who is changing the world as we know it? Who will be the Nirvana, or John Lennon, or The Clash for this era?
While I’ll admit I have a preference for hard rock and radical politics, these bands and albums are not just run of the mill corporate crap. They are artists who are seeking to challenge your understanding of the world around you, and to make music that that is more than just a commodity. In some ways this list is incomplete as there are scores of great bands out there that I haven’t heard yet, or that are so underground that it would be premature to call them something that would be remembered. This list is in no particular order. We would love to hear from others on whom they think deserve to be on this list and why.

Artist: Dead Prez
Album: Lets Get Free
Website: www.deadprez.com

Sticman and M-1 tear it up in some of the best and most militant politically charged rap since Public Enemy’s height in the early 90’s. Any of their albums are great but this one stands out as it was their major label debut. While they are excellent producers and produce some great beats with real soul, it’s their lyrics, and attitude they say them, that are so powerful they shake you to your core and make you want to raise your fist! So I’ll just let their lyrics speak for them.

African: “’I’m a runaway slave watching the north star; Shackles on my forearm , runnin with the gun in my palm; I’m an African , never was I African-American; Blacker than black I take it back to my origin; Same skin hated by the Klansmen; Big nose and lips, big hips and butts, dancin, what!”

We Want Freedom: “Yeah, yeah; Imagine havin no runnin water to drink; Chemicals contaminate the pipes leadin to your sink; Just think, if the grocery stores close they doors; And they saturate the streets with tanks and start martial law; Would you be ready for civil war? Could you take the life of somebody you know, or have feelings for if necessary? I got cousins in the military But far as I'm concerned they died, when they registered”

Be Healthy: “I don't eat no meat, no dairy, no sweets; only ripe vegetables, fresh fruit and whole wheat; I'm from the old school, my household smell like soul food, bro; curried falafel, barbecued tofu; no fish though, no candy bars, no cigarettes; only ganja and fresh-squeezed juice from oranges; exercising daily to stay healthy; and I rarely drink water out the tap, cause it's filthy; Lentil soup is mental fruit.”

Artist: The (International) Noise Conspiracy
Album: Survival Sickness
Website: www.internationalnoise.com

Survival Sickness was The (International) Noise Conspiracy’s fist major label debut. These Swedish punks were doing Anarchist-Marxist garage rock before the corporate press declared garage rock the new hot thing. This album makes you want to dance and rock out. The single “Smash It Up” is subtly subversive with its mellow call to destroy the capitalist system. Singer Dennis Lyxzen used to sing for the avant-garde hardcore group Refused before they broke up. Refused’s album “The Shape of Punk to Come” is still one of the best albums of the 90’s. Some other great songs by The (International) Noise Conspiracy on other albums include: Black Mask, Abolish Work, A New Morning: Changing Weather and Communist Moon.

Artist: System of a Down
Album: Toxicity
Website: www.systemofadown.com

System of a Down. Slayer meets Frank Zappa, with the politics of Rage Against the Machine. Toxicity took their brand of hyper crazy metal to the masses with an album that features singer Serj Tankian’s soaring voice and Guitarist Daron Malakian’s melodic sludge riffs. The album deals with issues like the war on drugs, opposing corporate globalization, and the environment. SOAD are activists off the stage, Serj founded the activist group “Axis of Justice” with Audioslave and Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello. The band has also been active in opposing the war and pushing to have the US recognize Turkey’s genocide of Armenians in WWI. Malakian’s grandmother is a resident in Fallujah a major battle zone in Iraq, so the bands songs against the war have a personal touch in them that few bands can touch.

Artist: Flattbush
Album: Smash the Octopus
Website: www.flattbush.com

Filipino communist heavy metal. I discovered Flattbush in the free bin at the DePaul radio station. It was one of the best things I ever found there. They sing/scream in English, Tagalog, and Kapampangan against US imperialism and the puppet governments in the Philippines that oppress the people there. The album is produced by former Faith No More member Billy Gould. Highlights on the album include “Smash the Octopus”, “Question Authority” (check out the video on their website!), and “GMA is a US-SOB” (referring to President of the Philippines Gloria Maria Arroyo as a US- Son Of a Bitch. GMA recently declared martial law on the islands as evidence that she cheated in the recent elections became public. This has led to massive protests calling for her resignation. Bands like Flattbush, System of a Down and Sepultura have shown how the internationalization of heavy metal fuses with other cultures and creates some of the most original music.

Artist: Lamb of God
Album: As the Palaces Burn
Website: www.lamb-of-god.com

This album hits you like a ton of bricks. From the opening riff of “Ruin” through the anti-war “11th hour” till the multi-pronged “Vigil”, this is heavy metal at its finest. Singer Randy Blythe’s scream sounds as though he is breathing fire and speaking the truth no one wants to hear. The dual guitar attacks of Mark Morton and Willie Adler keep getting more technical and energetic, making you want to thrash around and trash the house of one of Bush’s cabinet members. Drummer Chris Adler is the real standout from this band though, as his drumming does more than just keep a beat, it rips the ground open to let the demons of Hades celebrate their victory over fundamentalist Christians like Jerry Falwell. Lamb of God used to be known as Burn the Priest, a blasphemous name that got them into a bit of trouble. All of their albums are great though, especially their most recent album, Ashes of the Wake. This album is all about opposing the war in Iraq. From songs like “Now you’ve got something to Die For” (directed towards US troops who blindly believe in their government), to the title track, which includes spoken word from an Iraq Veteran Against the War.

Artist: The Dillinger Escape Plan
Album: Any
Website: www.dillingerescapeplan.com

Few others band has changed the face of American hardcore music the way DEP has. Fusing hardcore, jazz and techno they produce music that is at once violent and beautiful. Using insane time signatures, screams, lullabies, and riffs so complicated they would make Yngwie Malmsteen sound like a beginner, this band has forever made its mark on music. From their Calculating Infinity album, to the Irony is a Dead Scene EP with Mike Patton from Mr. Bungle, to their recent Miss. Machine, if there is one word summarize this band it is: Original.

Artists: Riot Folk
Album: All
Website: www.riotfolk.org

“Making Folk a Threat Again” is the motto of this collective of anarchist folk musicians and singers. They take the anti-profit motive of anarchism to a degree few others have, offering all their recordings online for free. Some of my favorites include Ryan Harvey with the songs: The Ballad of the Baltimore Rebellion; Peace, Justice and Anarchy; and Kent State Massacre (13 seconds in May). Another great musician is Anna Roland. We’ve had both perform at DePaul and both are great.

Artist: Kanye West
Album: The College Dropout
Website: www.kanyewest.com
George Bush Don’t Care About Black People: www.boingboing.net/2005/09/08/katrina_kanye_remixe.html

The Chicago hip-hop star who has taken the world by storm. His first staring album (he was a producer before) was a stellar album. Who can ever forget the haunting melody of “Jesus Walks”? More than that, this is the album that skyrocketed West to fame, allowed him to make comments that would shake the musical and political establishments. On one of his interviews on MTV, West told other rappers to stop dissing homosexuals, as there was nothing wrong with being gay. But even bigger were his live comments on a telethon following Hurricane Katrina. While FEMA failed to help people and the police reacted with brutality, arresting people just trying to survive, West went on national television and declared that “President Bush don’t care about Black people.” The best part about West is that he manages to make critiques of the establishment within very catchy songs that are more about people than politics.

Interview with Rob Austin

With so much talk about the war in Iraq, it seems that there is something being forgotten- the troops. While generals make orders and politicians profit, there are ordinary people, like my neighbor, like my friends brother, and like Robert Austin, who must do the fighting. It only makes sense to talk to some of these troops.
While Rob was not sent to combat, he was almost sent to Iraq. Rob is militantly opposed to the war and was so while he was in the army, which is why he applied for conscientious objector status. At a party for Rob, several of his army buddies were there, celebrating with anarchists and anti-war activists. I talked to one of them, and he told me the lengths people go to get out of an army they don’t believe in. This former army man told me how he failed five drug tests on purpose before they kicked him out. He had gotten into radical politics through punk music and wanted out of the army. The army was so desperate to keep soldiers they kept a man who tested positive for heroin, cocaine and other drugs. Eventually he got out, but it goes to show the dissent in the military.
The anti-war movement supports the troops because we know the history of troops opposing the war. From Iraq Veterans Against the War to Vietnam Veterans Against the War, to Russian troops who refused to fight for the Czar leading to the Russian revolution of 1917.

ASU: Tell us a little bit about your military service. When and why did you join?

Rob: I joined the National Guard in April of 2000. I was seventeen, had low self esteem, and I wanted to make a “difference.” I remember high school being very competitive and believing the notion that life is over without college. During high school I was a poor student. I found myself learning about issues not discussed in class. I had no idea what I wanted to do in life. I remember talking to a recruiter who was speaking with my sister. I was sixteen years old and the military seemed more romantic than reality. My father is a Vietnam Vet and would not allow me to join active military service.
Though I understood the reality of conflict more than fellow students, the military seemed like it would instill what was needed for me to get ahead. I remember my sister was getting good grades, and having a family that can’t possibly be able to afford to send my two sisters and I to school I decided to enlist. I was told that the purpose of the National Guard was to help the nation in crisis. I liked the idea of being there to help others in the case of Floods, hurricanes, wild fires, and tornadoes. The last time my unit had been called up was the Korean War. The Guard was an escape for me. It did help me gain confidence in myself, yet the negatives far out way the benefits. I joined and chose to be an 11bravo (infantry) with a $5,000 dollar sign on bonus which I never received.
ASU: You served time at Ft Polk LA. Tell us a little bit about what it was like there, what you did, and what your attitude and the attitude of your fellow soldiers about the war in Iraq.

Rob: I was deployed for a second time to Ft. Polk La to train soldiers to go to Iraq. We were told about the deployment while on annual training (two weeks a year) in Poland. Though the unit forgot to get plane tickets back, we got home and had a week and a half to get family life in order before deploying. Usually on active duty, soldiers live in barracks that are kind of like dorm rooms. We lived in warehouses that fit 116 people, and had Constantia wire around the perimeter. The conditions were more like prison.
Our job was very interesting. We would dress in civilian clothes and go to different towns in a training area called the box. I discussed with soldiers who were going to Iraq. Many had already gone and were being deployed for a second time. I found that many did not want to go, and support seemed to be lacking. I remember talking with a soldier from 2ndacr (armored cavalry) and we told me how they used to carry drop guns (they had ak47s in the back of their humvees and if they killed a noncombatant they would throw the AK 47 on the body, take a picture and report it as a combatant). Soldiers from the 1st Calv informed me that their commander ordered gun runs on protester (gun runs refers to a helicopter strafing the ground while firing heavy automatic weapons).

ASU: Tell us about going conscientious objector. What is it? Did you ever apply for it? Is it a realistic option for military personnel who oppose the War? How likely is it that someone who applies for CO will get it? How would someone apply for CO if they wanted to?

Rob: On January 3rd of 2005 I filed for conscientious objector. I requested to be discharged from the military because my beliefs did not allow me to participate, or train for war. I saw my commitment to the military as a direct violation of my beliefs. As a believer in natural law, and transcendental perspectivism I could not support my involvement in the military in anyway. I question the idea of what is murder? I talked to several soldiers who enlisted to kill and maim. Why were they any different than a hit-man? Objectively they had enlisted in an organization they ordered them to commit these acts whether they agreed or not. Whether wrong or right, against will and desire you are ordered to fight. I believe in direct action and responsibility. Imagine if soldiers decided if they wanted to fight. What a perfect way to end wars that are against public desire. A counter argument is often brought up were others claim that if the country was attacked there has to be an armed force to defend the state. How many people would protect their communities if attacked?
To file for conscientious objector the person has to believe that all war is immoral or killing another. One can not only disagree with one conflict and attempt to be granted with conscientious objector. There are two kinds of CO. 1A (the person holds a belief against killing and your moved to a no combative role but retained in the military), and 1-0-A (your direct role whether combative, or no combative afflicts with your beliefs discharging you from the military). Soldiers are usually discharged under honorable or general discharge. I would recommend CO for several reasons. Close to 50% of those who apply for CO win their case. Check out The G.I rights hotline for more info. CO claims are backed by personal statements, testimonies, a meeting with a Chaplin, psychological examine (because if you’re not participating in war you must be crazy, and a hearing. Many times people are kicked out during the medical exam. I would recommend researching depression, anxiety, and social anxiety. You might be looking and kicked out on the spot.

ASU: You asked me before to give you a chance to talk about food. So tell me about food. What’s a good recipe for something vegetarian or vegan?

Rob:
Indian Tacos/Fry bread & topping
A Native American dish dating from the beginning of the forming of the 'reservations', when the government allotted only staple items to be distributed. Cornmeal, flour, salt, sugar, milk powder. There are about 16 thousand different recipes for Fry bread. Everyone makes their own a little differently, and you can find a bunch of good recipes on the Net. This is just the one I like the best. The topping originally used ground beef or turkey, but I experimented and found you can do just as well without it.
Ingredients for Fry bread:
3 c. flour 3 t. baking powder 1 t. salt
1/2 t. sugar 2 c. warm water. 1 t. shortening. (NO BUTTER.)
Mix all dry ingredients, then toss in shortening, mix well. Add in water, stir till dough-like. Then get down and dirty and knead it, add flour if it's too sticky. Beat it, punch it, mix it up, tear it, smush it. This is a GREAT recipe for aggressive days, and I was once told that the more you abuse the dough, the better it tastes. Dust hands with flour, tear off handfuls of dough, roll into ball, press into disc, deep-fry till golden brown. To keep them warm: Put three or four on plates, cover with paper towel or paper plate, put in oven on lowest setting.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

James Hammonds Speaks at DePaul

Tuesday, June 6, 2006

People's History of DePaul

A number of DePaul alumni spanning 20 years returned to DePaul to speak about their experiences. The panel was organized by Matt Muchowski who is working on what he calls, "A People's History of DePaul University." The panel had Muchowski read a few highlights from his unfinished outline, describing DePaul's history of discrimination against students of color, and the various student uprisings against racism, war and capitalism that have occurred throughout the years.

The panelists included Joe Kinsella who spoke on how he participated in numerous actions against the US military (aid to the Contras, CIA recruiters on campus, etc). Kinsella also spoke on how the school banned then-president of the National Organization for Women, Eleanor Smeal, in 1986 because she was pro-choice. A number of students and faculty managed to bring her to campus to speak anyway. Another speaker was Marc Luzietti who described his participation in the large protests against rising tuition in 1990 and against the first gulf war. Luzietti was also one of the students involved in the occupation of the OMSA office which led to the creation of the cultural center. Marc's wife Cecilia Luzietti described how student groups dealt with sexual assault and the alternative student newspaper in the 1990's. Simon Strikeback described the queer kiss-ins that were held on campus inthe late 90's and the anti-sweatshop movement that led to DePaul joining the Workers Rights Consortium. Rebecca Steinmetz also talked about the anti-sweatshop movement and GRRRL House.

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