Pop culture essays, criticism, fistfights

Clef Notes: The “Funeral For A Friend” Edition

Every Friday, or at least until his spectacular rock star flameout, Giovanny will be dropping a week’s worth of music knowledge on you with Clef Notes, proof positive that he’s a one man music magazine.

In Memoriam:

Adam Yauch 1964 - 2012

RIP: There is a certain part of the human condition that makes one yearn to be a part of something bigger than oneself. This yearning manifests itself in a multitude of ways: patriotism, religion, fandom, those annoying people who are way too into their alma mater... I am not sure what proportional relationship this yearning has to one’s age, but I do know one thing: when you’re a kid, it consumes you.

When I was in middle school I was desperate to find something I could belong to. I chose my sports affiliations, my fashion sense, and most importantly, my music. Each of these choices was pivotal in its own way, as they were the first steps to satisfying my yearning. I recall coming home from school one afternoon and opening the door of my aunt’s house to find my cousin sitting on the couch as he did every day, hogging the television. He, being a teenager (with a girlfriend and everything), hated me at this point in my development because I had yet to prove either my coolness or my worth to him. My cousin was watching MTV (it was what you did before the Internet), and the video playing was So Whatcha’ Want by the Beastie Boys. I vividly remember standing there silently, my cousin and I staring at each other with contempt. He expected me to whine, and beg him to let me watch Darkwing Duck, while I expected him to snicker and say something cruel about the way I was dressed. Instead, I bobbed my head and grooved to the monstrously huge bass drum which supports the track, and my cousin smiled. He even nodded his head and, in that moment, looked at me differently for the first time. The Beastie Boys gave me acceptance.

As we all know by now, Adam Yauch lost his three year battle with cancer last Friday, and Brooklyn lost one of its favorite sons. In the week that has followed Yauch’s death, all manner of tributes and eulogies have been written in honor of his life. This is merely one more.

The Beastie Boys existed somewhat like an urban legend throughout a great deal of my life. Every group of friends I came across in the streets of Brooklyn as a youth in the early 90s had a brother, cousin or other vague acquaintance who “went to school with,” “got high with,” or “played basketball with” one or all of the Beastie Boys. It goes without saying that not a single one of these people were ever telling the truth, but you always believed them, partially because of the naivete of youth, and partially because your heart believed it could be possible. After all, it was Yauch himself who stated: “I got a castle in Brooklyn, that’s where I dwell.”

Musketeerin'

MCA wore many hats within the Beastie Boys. He directed many of their videos under the pseudonym Nathaniel Hornblower. By many accounts he was the most talented instrumentalist and most dexterous rapper. Over time he became the band’s spiritual center. He picked up the bass while attending Edward R. Murrow High School and decided to form a band for his 17th birthday. That band went on to be one of the most important and influential rap groups of all time. The Beastie Boys would go on to release the first hip-hop album to ever top the Billboard Top 200, as well as three other number one albums which, along with the rest of their catalog, would go on to sell over forty million records around the world. Over the course of his 25 year career in music, Yauch won every award imaginable as a member of the Beastie Boys; he (in the immortal words of Billy Joel) played all kinds of palaces, and (in the words of Bon Jovi) saw a million faces and rocked them all.

In the early stages of his career Yauch, like his friends/brothers/bandmates, wrote material that was distinctly juvenile and misogynistic in its lyrical content. As the Beastie Boys matured they realized the error of their ways and began to spread a different, more positive, inclusive, and accepting message to their listeners. It is the opinion of most music historians that Yauch, and his conversion to Buddhism, was responsible for spearheading this movement and the subsequent philosophical changes within the band.

Farewell.

Yauch’s new found spirituality was the force that governed the latter half of his life as he became an important voice for the Tibetan Independence Movement. He founded the Milarepa Fund, a non-profit organization which promotes awareness and activism regarding the injustices native Tibetans endure at the hands of the Chinese occupational government and military forces. It was Yauch’s work with Milarepa which brought us the Tibetan Freedom Festival concert series, as well as the New Yorkers Against Violence benefit which raised money for various chairites in the wake of 9/11.

Most recently Yauch was pursuing his passion for filmmaking, which he developed shooting the band’s videos. In 2008 he made his directorial debut with the basketball documentary Gunnin’ For That #1 Spot, and had since became a major independent film distributor, with his production house handling movies like Exit Through The Gift Shop and the upcoming LCD Soundsystem documentary Shut Up And Play The Hits.

When weighing the magnitude of the loss of MCA, it is important to make sure you have it all in perspective. Not only did the world lose an artist who brought as much to the table with his craft as he did with his heart and soul, we lost a man who wanted to help make the world a better place. Truly, we lost The Beastie Boys last Friday, because neither Mike D., Ad Rock, or anyone associated with the band will ever be the same. Those absences will be felt for a long time, not just by fans around the world, but by music itself.

Adam Yauch is survived by his wife, Dechen Wangdu, his daughter Tenzin Losel, his parents, Frances and Noah Yauch, and by his best friends.

Review:

Siamese Dream (Remaster) - The Smashing Pumpkins

Loveless (Remaster) - My Bloody Valentine

When I was finished listening to the latest version of these two records I love above all others, I was overcome with emotions. For the most part I appreciate what has become of them, but the change has brought with it a strange sense of loss. It sort of gave me the same feeling I get when I walk down a street I've known since my childhood: the shops have changed, my friends have moved, but the street still remains. Some might call that progress, but I suppose it's all a matter of perspective... [Full Review]

16th Notes:

Can Canadian cops pull over and search a train?

You can now count me among the ranks of those who will be missing Bjork this year because of an inflamed vocal cord nodule. The Icelandic singer has announced a slew of festival cancellations, including (sigh) Primavera Sound... In other concert cancellation news, Death Grips have pulled the plug on all of their upcoming Summer tour dates so they can go back into the studio and work on a new record. In the interest of continuing to make this about me I would like to point out that this means Death Grips will not be playing NXNE - but that’s okay, I’ll be seeing Radiohead in Canada... According to Spin, M.I.A is in the process of finishing up her next record which is tentatively titled Matangi (a play on her birth name Mathangi). It must be hard to find time to complete an album when you are so busy designing beer bottle labels for Beck’s... Skrillex, Diplo, and Grimes (along with a couple of other acts) have joined forces to tour across Canada this July and they will all be traveling by train. For some reason I want to blame this all on Grimes, because a train seems like a logical leap from a houseboat to me... Once again Azealia Banks has promised that her highly anticipated debut EP will be out soon, but she also teased (via Twitter) that we could also see a mixtape and a full-length before the end of the year. Let’s just focus on getting one record out on the street at this point... Andre 3000 is set to star as Jimi Hendrix in an upcoming biopic about the legendary guitarist and, as usual, Hendrix’s estate is not okay with it, and therefore will not allow any of his music to appear in the film. Be prepared to hear Hey Joe and Wild Thing a whole hell of a lot, ‘cause Jimi didn’t write those tunes... Are you a hungry up-and-coming rapper who spits hot fire? Would you like a chance to open up for Drake on his 2012 tour? Well then you are in luck, because Drizzy has teamed up with OurStage.com and Real Hip Hop Network for a contest that will change one aspiring emcee's life. All you have to do is submit an entry of yourself and your best original song to this website by Tuesday and hope that the fans voting online, and more importantly Drake, like it! The winner will be chosen from among all the various entries, and will have the opportunity to open for Drake on 20 nights, plus they get their own tour bus! You better act fast if you don’t want to miss your chance... I am so mad that I can’t rap...

Top Twenty List:

I don’t think I need to explain what inspired this list of the 20 best Beastie Boys songs of all time, do I?

20) Girls
19) Too Many Rappers
18) Slow And Low
17) An Open Letter To NYC
16) Alive
15) Remote Control
14) No Sleep Till Brooklyn
13) Fight For Your Right
12) Pass The Mic
11) Body Movin’
10) Root Down
9) Shadrach
8) Shake Your
7) Brass Monkey
6) Hey Ladies
5) Sure Shot
4) Intergalactic
3) Paul Revere
2) So Watcha Want?
1) Sabotage

Clips Of The Week:

I know I promised that I wouldn’t do music videos in the Clip Of The Week segment, but c’mon man. Let a dude say his goodbyes.

Tracks Of The Week:

Honeycomb & Gotham - Animal Collective: The world’s hippest young people were overcome with joy when, last Sunday night, Animal Collective released new music.  Their ecstasy could be felt from Bushwick (Williamsburg is so over, man) all the way to whatever California neighborhood has replaced Silver Lake as the “epicenter of cool” (I don’t live out there, so I don’t know), and is still reverberating on message boards throughout the web. The two new songs posted on the band’s website could not be more different from each other. Honeycomb is a kaleidoscopic tune, with an almost carnival-like feel, that’s vaguely reminiscent of the band’s work on Strawberry Jam. It is to the point, gratifying, and a great deal of fun. Gotham is much more of a journey; as the song develops, the band paints with various shades of gray, creating a dense and and dark atmosphere, but its latter third morphs into something more corporeal and uplifting. Both these tracks are available now digitally and will also be released as a 7” on June 26th.

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