Ain’t never seen a dog chewin’ on a palm frond until I went to Mexico. Actually, I heard it first; the sound of something slowly and methodically tearing through underbrush. I poked my head outside and there he was, some lazy hound gnawin’ on leaf. If my prolonged stare made the dog self conscious he / she didn’t let on. On the whole, the animals of rural southwest Mexico seem unfazed by the human presence. Dogs, cats, chickens, goats, iguanas—even bugs are relaxed, refusing to skitter about like lunatics as they do in the States. America, we’re giving our pets complexes.
What brought me to Troncones, a beachside village slipping out underneath acres of lush jungle, a village so tiny most buildings have no proper address? My friend John and his wife Karen currently work at an area resort, teaching yoga, giving massages, fishing, etc. They invited me, and how could I decline this ostensible paradise? I’m working on a book about punk rock around the globe anyway, thus the extra incentive of potentially uncovering Mexico’s answer to Topper Headon. Don’t snort; screen legend Hedy Lamarr spent her final years in an Orlando suburb five minutes from my current home.
I learned a lot about Mexican culture from these eight days, a handful of which were spent four hours inland amidst terrain and altitudes comparable to America’s southwest. The least important fact: flat screen televisions have come to the quesadilla huts that line the Mexican backroads. Washing down chorizo with a torpedo sized Coke, I caught half an hour of prime afternoon tube during one lunchbreak. There were ads for college, ads for antacid, even ads for Kentucky Fried Chicken.
Just as my mouth began watering for those eleven goddamn herbs and spices, John announced the nearest city, Zihuatanejo, is bereft of the Colonel. No tenemos Harland Sanders.
So that shit happens here too. Commercials for stores that don’t exist.
Before departing the United States I made two purchases at my local dollar store: sunglasses and sandals. The sunglasses continue to work perfectly but the sandals could only handle about forty-eight hours of my oceanside trampling. In their defense, I’ve never been much of a beach person and I’m sure I was walking in them incorrectly. Maybe I’m just making excuses for shitty footwear. It doesn’t matter, I survived.
Will it surprise you to learn I am also not much of a yoga person? The resort where John and Karen work, Present Moment, is very yoga-centric. My brain has never been able to hook into that stuff—even when I was dating a high priestess of yoga who was known to yoga for up to nine hours at a time (I am not joking). This week was no different. I was assured my poor yoga aptitude is because I simply have not done enough yoga yet. So it’s like hard liquor. You must acquire a taste?
Present Moment, by the way, is not any kind of fortress resort keeping guests ensconced away from “the real” Mexico. There is little separation between its expertly landscaped courtyard and the local community of Troncones. In fact, there seems to be a good amount of symbiosis between the two.
It wouldn’t be a trip to Mexico if I didn’t try cacao, the magical base elixir from whence we get chocolate. Taken raw it can be a gateway to mind expansion, to hyper awareness and ultimate clarity, or so they say. I imbibed, sprawled on the ground, and felt…nothing. I mean, nothing aside from the usual weird slurry in my brain. What’s up with Daniel Radcliffe? Am I asleep right now? Are these girls next to me sisters or are they just friends who look alike? Is my t-shirt too tight? Is it too loose?
Driving from Troncones to the mountain area of Zirahuén was very scenic and exciting, the latter in part because we were stopped and searched at one point by men in fatigues with enormous guns. It was unclear who these men were, exactly, but I didn’t ask questions. I just smiled and sipped my bottle of Squirt as non-menacingly as possible. Military checkpoints aside, the rules of the Mexican highway are a bit fast and loose. Anybody can pass anybody else at any given time, and from what I heard DUIs are not considered a major sin. Driving at night can be particular trouble, so we didn’t.
Believe it or not the above photo was not staged—I stumbled upon the bottle just like that in the wild. As I was trying to capture the perfect photographic representation, a nearby construction worker paused from his job to try and figure out what I was obsessing over. Karen told him it was just a Star Wars bottle. The man chuckled but did not emit a full on laugh of recognition until I pointed to myself and said, “Mas loco.”
The million dollar questions about this Mexico excursion are, of course, did I drink the water and if so did the water make me sick? Non-filtered aqua is unavoidable if you’re ordering coffee from a bodega or roadside taco stand, and not everyone is boiling to ensure purification. Sure, I had some; it upset my stomach a little, but I’ve consumed things in New York that have made me far sicker. I haven’t had eggplant since 2011 thanks to some searing Manhattan Super Bowl dip. Ay carumba.
Not much else to say other than it was a fun, relaxing, and educational jaunt. Folks were incredibly kind and accommodating. Thank you, peoples of Mexico. My only regret is not buying the guitar pictured below.
According to me, some guy.
Only the grit-streaked bark of ’87 Axl could sell lyrical bits like “space brain” and “west coast struttin'” and “rattlesnake suitcase.” This song boogies like a career drunk taking his final sobriety test. Accurately conveys whatever we believe about the “the rock n’ roll lifestyle.” Also, there’s cowbell.
Frosty nihilism thaws into an earnest ballad. The nakedly emotive second half is just Wagnerian enough to retain the dark thrust of the first. Features a slide guitar break so good it distracts you from competing sex noises. Who needs the Meatloafery of “November Rain” when “Rocket Queen?” exists?
Best exemplifies the Guns N’ Roses mission statement of “we are Aerosmith by way of the Dead Boys.” Also includes the more literal mantra: “come with me, don’t ask me where ’cause I don’t know.” If we’re to believe Appetite For Destruction killed hair metal this was the fatal stab.
The band’s star turn, wherein they drag sugary pop harmony through a greasy, rust-laden junkyard. Even the dubious moves work. “Jungle” is the “Search & Destroy” of whatever genre GNR were claiming. They sort of invented their own here. Chainsaw glam? Dive bar punk?
The best “message” song in the Guns catalog. Too bad civil war is exactly what tore this band apart (which makes Slash’s Snakepit the Reconstruction Era). Too bad this illustrative and anthemic display is forever in the shadows of the Use Your Illusion video trilogy MTV rammed down our dry throats.
Sincerity cloaked in gloom. Walks right up to the border of overblown ballad and flips the bird. It’s not hard to imagine Nirvana performing this one, which is why it managed to slip through the apex of grunge unscathed. Slash’s slow-burn solo is one of his absolute best.
Keeps you on the edge of your seat for six goddamn minutes. The most cinematic of GNR rockers; no wonder it ended up in Terminator 2. Closes with that fantastic breathless Axl rant, which includes one of my favorite non sequiturs—“don’t forget to call my lawyer with ridiculous demands!”
If a bar fight were a song…you can almost feel the pool chalk being shoved up your nose. The bass line sounds how I imagine cocaine tastes. So full of piss, vinegar, and acid it’s hard to believe they didn’t bang it out they night the band formed. Maybe they did?
Could be a parody of the Appetite aesthetic, could be a pure adrenalin shot. Either way, I’ll take it every time, if just to burn off paranoia / nervous energy. The sound effects almost turn the whole thing into a “Far Side” cartoon. That’s not a complaint.
More an experiment than a song, like a free form poem with chunks of heavy metal improv (and, of course, on-the-nose hospital reenactments). Maybe that makes “Coma” the precursor to the Lou Reed / Metallica album. I’m not even sure it works, but man do they commit. Boredom never arrives.
The original Ghostbusters crew had 25 years to make a third movie. For whatever reason, it didn’t happen (and now it can’t happen because Harold Ramis is dead). It’s actually a little weird Sony didn’t force this beloved (and enormously profitable) property into someone else’s hands sooner. I know Murray, Ramis et al had something of a tontine when it came to the rights, but everyone has a price. Chinese Democracy came out before Ghostbusters 3. Do you really believe Axl Rose is more reasonable than Bill Murray?
Still, fans are apoplectic over the announced reboot, as if Paul Feig will simultaneously be erasing the first two movies from history. It’s difficult to comprehend some of the ire. Complaints have already surfaced from die-hards who are upset they’ll now have to share convention space with people cosplaying as Feig’s Ghostbusters; the new technology, you see, will clash with their expertly recreated 1984 proton packs. Guess these costumers never stopped to consider how much some of us detest seeing guys with goatees and backwards Yankee hats parading around as “Ray Stantz.”
I love Ghostbusters so much I’m currently working on a book about its entire history, but I have no problem admitting that up to this point the series has been a rigid boy’s club where female characters aren’t given much to do (even Gozer only takes the form of a woman for about one minute). Paul Feig’s decision to “star hilarious women” in the reboot is refreshing and fun and much needed, and fans who are disagreeing need to cop to their own throbbing sexism. Female-based entertainment is not “a gimmick.” The fictional activity of ghostbusting is not “too rigorous” for women.
Key point: ghostbusting is fucking imaginary. Gender bias in real life is bad enough. Extending it to the land of make believe, that’s insane. “You can pretend to be anything, except this one thing that makes me uncomfortable for some dumb reason, because I’m threatened by change even in a fake world where marshmallow creatures go on rampages.”
I think it’s also worth noting that Katie Dippold, the scribe for Feigbusters, works on “Parks & Rec,” a show I’d consider female-centric but one that also boasts some of the funniest, most fleshed-out, and just plain interesting male characters available. The door swings both ways.
Admittedly, this reboot could crash and burn. Previous experience doesn’t mean jack. Dan Aykroyd has to wake up every day knowing he made Doctor Detroit. Yet, even if Feigbusters turns out to be the new Heaven’s Gate (are my references dusty enough for you?), who cares? It’s just one movie. It’s not meant to replace anything. If it’s really atrocious we can just pretend it never happened, like Rocky V or the Halloween with Paul Rudd or Rob Zombie’s Halloweens or the Dumb & Dumber prequel or Ace Ventura Jr.
My only real investment: I hope they make the Ectomobile cool. I don’t have any suggestions because I’m not really a car person…just make it cool. You know, like stylish but also kinda nerdy. Like the original.
You’re my number one guy, Axl. I didn’t actually watch this landmark television event that placed the author of “Mr. Brownstone” mere inches from the guy who used to co-host “Win Ben Stein’s Money” but I heard it was barely worth it ’cause Kimmel didn’t ask Axl a damn thing about the “Estranged” video or why it took a decade to record all the drums for Chinese Democracy. COME ON JIMMY, GET WITH THE PROGRAM.
On the left, W. Axl fronting Guns n’ Roses 2.0 Sunday night at Rock in Rio in Brazil. On the right, Tracey Walter as the Joker’s right hand man Bob in Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman film. The media can run their mouths all they want about “Breaking Bad” references, but us Bat-fans know the real deal behind Axl’s eye-catching wardrobe.
This is one of those things that makes my head throb, my chest sting, and my testicles ache. Crawdaddy.com, the Internet extension of legendary rock rag Crawdaddy!, is ceasing publication on July 22. The controlling bean counters have long been displeased with C-Dad’s relatively low traffic, but instead of investing a little time, energy, and moolah to improve the situation, they just went out and bought an already proven Internet winner. Hence, the return of indie music chronicle Paste Magazine, which Crawdaddy.com will be folded into.
I’ve been contributing to Crawdaddy.com since around the time it launched in 2007. It was enormously exciting to be included in a new chapter of this storied magazine’s saga. After all, Crawdaddy! was America’s first journal of rock n’ roll criticism, a volume whose silly name belied the groundbreaking and forward-thinking writing its pages contained. William S. Burroughs and John Lennon, C! contributors from way back when, generally didn’t lend their names to crap. I can’t tell you how thrilled I felt being Geordi La Forge to their Mr. Spock and Bones McCoy, as it were (Crawdaddy! founder Paul Williams would of course be Captain James Tiberius Kirk in this goofball metaphor that doesn’t even really make sense considering the mag first returned after its initial 1979 fold in 1993; guess that makes me Quark, or maybe Seven of Nine?).
It’s not for me to say if Crawdaddy.com matched the Crawdaddy! of yesteryear, but I can say firmly and proudly that between 2007 and now we produced a mountain of engaging, thought-provoking, and emotionally charged content. I am honored to have shared space with such great scribes including but not limited to Andres Jauregui, Dan Weiss, Denise Sullivan, Howard Wyman, Allie Conti, Mark Prindle, Ryan Wasoba, and Jocelyn Hoppa. Jocelyn was actually Crawdaddy.com’s Editor-in-Chief when I joined up; she did a great job running things and I’ll be forever grateful to her for giving me a shot at a time when I had more parking tickets than published clips.
At some point back there, Jocelyn stepped down and Reviews Editor Angie Zimmerman took over as EIC. The transition was seamless, and for once I could say I had a job where the new boss was just as awesome as the old boss. How often does that happen? Approximately never.
The best part about writing for Crawdaddy.com was the freedom. Our work was only edited for grammar, spelling, and factual information. We could write anything about anything, so long as it pertained in some way to rock / pop music, and I don’t mind telling you we were paid in the neighborhood of handsomely. That was, to steal a phrase from J. Springfield, an embiggening feeling. I’ve worked for other places that pay significantly less yet watch their content like the most conservative of hawks, desperate to adhere to a certain established mold. How sharply frustrating it is to hear from an editor that you can’t write x opinion piece because it might upset the corporate dictators, or to see a colorful phrase excised from your work because some stuffed shirt deemed it “uncouth.” Dried up stinky dog shit like that never happened at Crawdaddy. In the end, you were the judge, jury, and executioner of your own work.
That luck was also our downfall. The corporate dictators never looked at Crawdaddy.com beyond the visitor statistics. They couldn’t monitor our content because they didn’t know what it was. We could have been printing pages from Mein Kampf or a 1984 Toyota Celica owner’s manual and they wouldn’t have known. They just saw we weren’t getting hits, and hits equal revenue, and what we were doing obviously “wasn’t unique” or we’d be getting more traffic than every porn site combined.
I think anyone who spent more than a few minutes perusing Crawdaddy.com, whether they liked it or not, could ascertain that we were doing something unique. It wasn’t a catalog of list-based journalism or trend-riding link bait. Obviously part of the blame here lies with The Social Network, a movie that convinced a lot of old white men that websites are only worth a damn if they can get you blown in a men’s room.
But I kid Aaron Sorkin. It’s not his fault Papa left us for someone younger with bigger
tits SEO. I guess that’s just business as usual. It’s still heartbreaking, though, because Crawdaddy! has such a rich history and recently it felt like the website was really growing and reaching more faces awash in LED glow. Now everything we did over the past four years is going to be relegated to a dusty wing of an already too-cluttered web presence. It feels like the end of Raiders, but the inevitable sequel isn’t so inevitable.
I’ll be blogging like regular over at Crawdaddy.com for the next two weeks, so keep tuning in for the requisite updates about Glenn Danzig, Axl Rose, and archaic ’90s rap groups. The motivation is faltering, but I know many of you out there are fans and appreciate the C-Dad, and that keeps me from spending my days face down in the bathtub marinating in a small pool of warm Sprite and my own filth. Thank you sincerely for your support.
The first single from Chinese Democracy was released today, but I don’t necessarily take that as a sign the long-awaited album will actually hit Best Buy shelves next month. There’s plenty of time between now and November 23rd for Axl to cancel the whole thing with one wave of his freckled forearm.
I can already envision Blackwater-esque armed guards raiding Best Buys across the country minutes before the clock strikes 11/23, acting on strict orders from William Bailey himself to round up every copy of Chi Dem and send the bulk to the same Arizona landfill that houses all the unsold E.T. Atari cartridges from the 1980s. It would be a dick movie, sure, but at least Axl’s sanity would momentarily be in check and Dr Pepper would save God knows how many gallons of their delightful sugary pop.
But I digress. The newest GNR single is the title track from CD, which you can hear here. It’s a barely different version from the one included in the infamous June 2008 Nine Song GNR Leak (which I reviewed here). I stand by my original opinion. “Chinese Democracy” is nothing special. It’s certainly not the door-smasher Axl needs to get the world revved up about his fourteen years-in-the-making project. He probably should have lead off with something completely fresh—i.e. a tune that wasn’t part of the aforementioned leak, like “Sorry” or “Prostitute.”
Of course, who am I to be giving Axl Rose armchair advice? He’s the botoxed, cornrowed genius who fired Slash and replaced him with Buckethead. I’m just some schmoe in Brooklyn who’s never had the balls to even once combine a kilt with a Charles Manson t-shirt.
I mean, this is a perfectly acceptable album cover following a decade plus of musical shenanigans:
No way does that look like the cover to a Blues Traveler b-side. You’re on target, Axl. Stay the course and all will be forgiven. You know I’ll be linin’ up at midnight for this shit, wrapped in a couple extra sweaters in case the riots get too out of hand. Chinese Democracy starts now, bitch tits! It’s gonna make the Super Bowl look like the Pro Bowl (oh, SNAP)!
Last month, Dr Pepper issued a press release that stated it would give everyone in America a free can of their sweet, delicious beverage if Axl Rose finally unleashes Chinese Democracy, the long-awaited sixth Guns n’ Roses studio album, this year. Unfortunately, Axl’s a Mr. Pibb kinda guy. No, I’m kidding. The mercurial Rose quickly responded to this strange offer by stating that he was pleased to have Dr Pepper’s support; unfortunately, he said nothing about the album or the probability that you or I will have eight ounces of free soda in our hands by the year’s end.
For those keeping score at home, the legendary Chinese Democracy has been well over a decade in the making. Axl’s burned through $13 million making this puppy so far. That’s nearly as much as it cost George Lucas to make the first Star Wars movie (the one with Mark Hamill from 1977). In addition to contributions from uber-drummer Josh Freese and Academy Award nominated composer Marco Beltrami, Chinese Democracy also allegedly boasts guest performances by the likes of Brian May, Shaquille O’Neal, and Sebastian Bach. I think I can accurately sum up humanity’s response to all that with a quick and simple “God damn!”
Since work began on Chinese Democracy, every original member of Guns n’ Roses except for Axl has quit, a few of the people Axl hired to replace the original members have quit, a Pope died, we figured out who Deep Throat was, the Red Sox broke their ninety year old curse, the telegram has been phased out as a viable form of communication, the McRib has come back at least twice, New Kids on the Block reunited, three Batman movies been made, three Spider-Man movies have been made, new Rocky and Rambo movies have been made, scientists have seriously started talking about colonizing the moon, and Tim Meadows finally left “Saturday Night Live.” I don’t think there are any other cultural milestones left to wait for. Come on, Axl, turn this bad boy in and get me a Pepper.
The only thing that kind of sticks in my craw about this strange cross promotion is that Dr Pepper’s offer excludes two people: former GNR guitarists Slash and Buckethead. In Axl’s cheery response to Dr P, he said he’d have no problem sharing his free can with the latter six string wizard, as some of his work will be featured on Chinese Democracy. That leaves poor ol’ Slash out in the cold with nothing but his top hat to warm him, and I hardly think that’s right.
Dr Pepper, I think in your attempt to be cute you lost sight of something extremely important: without Slash, there’d be no Guns n’ Roses. His chaotic, bluesy guitar work was a cornerstone of the band’s original sound, just as integral as Axl’s chainsaw vocals or Duff McKagan’s slithering bass. You can’t tell me Appetite for Destruction would have been the same landmark rock album had Tracii Guns stuck around in the lead guitar slot. If you did, you’d be a self-delusional fool and, much like Mr. T, I would pity you.
Indeed, without the facially-obscured, alcohol-soaked fretwork of Saul “Slash” Hudson, we wouldn’t be sitting here eagerly awaiting a new Guns n’ Roses record this late in the game. Besides, it’s not like he or Buckethead are personally responsible for Chinese Democracy’s lengthy delay. That’s all Axl, baby. If you’re going to arbitrarily exclude former Gunners from this promotion, shit, I say Matt Sorum and Gilby Clarke should be on the outs (they know what they did).
So relent already, Dr P. Get into the ring and give the man who first welcomed us to the jungle a can of your Mr. Brownstone. I’m sure he’ll be in Paradise City once he hears you’re no longer using your illusions. It’s so easy. The two of you will no longer be estranged, he’ll be your rocket queen again, and this spaghetti incident will be water under the bridge.