I know, I know.

It is the year 2013, and the notions of artistic integrity and “selling out” are just things that oldsters say to remind the kids how hilariously out-of-touch they are. But I am still genuinely surprised to see that Jello Biafra and Ian Mackaye are playing Coachella this year. I’m not going to be all hilariously self-righteous while signing checks from MTV (good people to work with, for real) but I really do wonder what made Ian Mackaye — a guy who is famous specifically for eschewing corporate money and requiring that tickets for his shows be extremely affordable — decide to play a monster corporate festival with sponsorships everywhere and $300 tickets. 

Like, specifically, what led to that decision? Jello, I can kinda guess — it’s possible that dude may be more or less broke still at 55 years old and really need the money. Ian Mackaye’s net worth is estimated to be $25 million, meanwhile — and while those “celebrity net worth” websites probably overestimate  their numbers dramatically, even if they’ve got it wrong by a factor of 25, it’d be hard to say that he just really needs the cash. What a weird way to check out of 30 years as a standard bearer for a certain kind of punk rock ethic. 

Most TV cooking is repulsive. Frathouse cocksuckers with gimmick hairdos and catch phrases, hooting and hi-fiving, ‘bringing it,’ celebrating gluttonous sports bar chow. Dipshits abbreviating their ingredients and making childish, cutesy-poo ‘comfort food’ full of ‘yummy veggies,’ shit like that. Detestable.

In case there was any doubt that Steve Albini was a full-on parody of Steve Albini, here is a quote from him about cooking shows. There is literally no joke you could make about him giving an outraged rant about anything that I would not believe was 100% real.
Over the Cliff - Old 97's

Over the Cliff

by Old 97's
album Wreck Your Life

150 Favorite Songs: #126, “Over The Cliff,” Jon Langford (1995)

I learned “Over The Cliff” from the version the Old 97’s recorded in 1995. It may have been a live staple of Langford’s with either the Mekons or the Waco Brothers before then, but I don’t think he ever recorded it until a couple of years ago, on a solo record.

Regardless of where “Over The Cliff” came from, the Old 97’s version really caught my ear because it sounded so unlike them. They’ve always had a sharper edge than their nice-guy, “we’re alt-country, just not heroin addicts” image gave them credit for, but they rarely got as punk-rocky as they do on “Over The Cliff.” Rhett Miller rarely ends his songs by repeating the refrain, “Success on someone else’s terms / don’t mean a fuckin’ thing,” you know?

A couple of years ago, I started meeting people who were actually successful, and I found that most of the ones I found inspiring to be around had something in common — they actually agreed that success on someone else’s terms didn’t mean a fucking thing. I knew a successful prosecutor who opted to become a defense attorney — taking less money, receiving fewer accolades, limiting future opportunities — for that reason. I talked to a friend about the time she walked away from a really big job in an important industry because the people she worked for treated her like shit. I’ve met musicians who walked away from bands that were going places they wanted to be because they weren’t playing music that they cared about. Lots of people who’ve gone over the cliff.

The reason “Over The Cliff” resonates so strongly with me is that its all that punk rock defiance that I’ve always loved, but it’s not about being a teenager. I mean, I love “Rise Above” and “In My Eyes” and all those songs, too, but I am thirty years old and I have a career. They haven’t really empowered me in a long time. But “Over The Cliff” is for people who are at this point in life, maybe — people who’ve had folks in LA and New York sending faxes and who worked hard and got some money and who are sick of the way it made them feel powerless. And so “Over The Cliff” feels like punk rock for grown-ups. It’s every bit as angry and defiant as “Rise Above,” but it doesn’t just rebel against faceless authority — it rebels against the fact that even though you worked to get where you are, it’s not where you wanted to be, and it’s about fighting to get there. And if that requires a “forgive me and forget me, everybody” — cool, that’s what it takes. Because while it’s easy at 17 to shout that success on someone else’s terms don’t mean a fuckin’ thing, you haven’t been tested yet. Repeating that when you’ve got more to lose, though — that means something more.

389 plays

One quick last thought on Ben Weasel and “equal rights equal fights.”

Pretty done with this topic now, thanks to the rest of Screeching Weasel being stand-up dudes and quitting the band in response to all of this, but since this came up on the A.V. Club and Hay Ladies and Facebook and really everywhere I’ve talked about this, I figured it’d be worth clearing up real quick:

One reason “equal rights equal fights” doesn’t hold is because we don’t have equal rights, and the only time the people who spout it seem to utter the words “equal rights” are when they’re talking about their desired right to punch women in the face. Work on all the other equal rights issues first, and then we can revisit the topic of whether there’s such a thing as equal fights between a dude onstage surrounded by a horde of cheering fans and a girl who he’s just berated for being a skank and a whore and told she needs to suck [his] dick and all the rest. Okay, dudes? Till you’ve successfully lobbied as hard for equal rights for women in all the ways that don’t involve punching them in the face, we’ll just have to table this discussion.

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