Pop culture essays, criticism, fistfights

Clef Notes: The “Free Pussy Riot” 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

News:

Pfft. Blasphemers.

In Soviet Russia...: For the last couple of weeks I’ve been desperate to write about the story of Russian feminist punk-group Pussy Riot, but because of things like the Jacksons and the VMAs (I only have myself to blame), I hadn't been able to give their awful tale its proper due. Luckily, my plan to work out some kind of Clef Notes/Olympics synergy fell apart (it would have been grand, I tell you), and now I can lead with some real news.

In March, three members of the punk group Pussy Riot were taken into custody for charges stemming from an unauthorized performance at Moscow’s Christ The Saviour Cathedral on February 21st. Their performance, which lasted less than one minute, consisted of the band clenching their fists and punching the air while shouting a song called Punk Prayer which, among other things, asks the Virgin Mary to become a feminist and “put away” Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Now... I’m no political-science major, but I’m pretty sure the actions Pussy Riot engaged in were meant to be political in nature (wouldn’t you agree?). I feel I have to make that point because Russian prosecutors claim the specific performance of Punk Prayer in question was actually meant to offend the Orthodox Christian community. Thus Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, Maria Alyokhina, 24, and Yekaterina Samutsevich, 29, were arrested and senselessly charged with “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred.” I bet America is looking pretty good right now, isn’t it kids?

Those of you familiar with Pussy Riot’s case are undoubtedly already aware of the specifics regarding the band and their ethics, but please allow me a moment to fill in the rest of our friends.

The band during happier times.

Inspired by musical movements such as Riot Grrrl and Oi! Punk, Pussy Riot’s 20+ member collective (in the modern era, you can only be a band consisting of one person or a collective of more than a dozen) came together in September of 2011 on the heels of Vladimir Putin’s announcement to once again run for the presidency of Russia. Almost immediately the band began to stage and film Anti-Putin guerilla shows in Moscow’s public spaces, wearing their trademark costumes of brightly colored dresses, tights, and ski-masks. These massively buzzed-about events provoked fierce political debate among the Russian populace. Unfortunately for Pussy Riot, most of the debate was not about the presidential elections, but rather about the Russian inability to accept and cope with women in the role of activist.

As one would expect, this case has garnered massive international attention and numerous organizations have become interested in the trial of Pussy Riot, with the overwhelming majority voicing support for the detained women. The human rights organization Amnesty International has declared Pussy Riot “prisoners of conscience” and fears that the fate of a labor camp, which carries a risk of physical and sexual abuse, awaits these women (as of now, they face a possible maximum sentence of seven years, with prosecutors suggesting three). The Union Of Solidarity With Political Prisoners (SPP) is among many other organizations which have recognized the women as political prisoners. Of course, there have also been numerous negative opinions expressed about the band, with the Patriarch Of Moscow And All Russia Kirill I dropping this terribly enlightened gem during a liturgy this year: "The Devil has laughed at all of us ... We have no future if we allow mocking in front of great shrines, and if some see such mocking as some sort of valour, as an expression of political protest, as an acceptable action or a harmless joke.”

How long does it take you to spot what's wrong with this picture?

Wednesday was the final day of hearings in the case against Pussy Riot, and as they had before, the band appeared in court locked in a glass cage, to watch emotionlessly as the prosecution continued to try to convince the judge that they “abused God” with their performance. The judge has since concluded the trial and will deliver a verdict on August 17th. Vladimir Putin (who incidentally was reelected) issued a statement about this case last Thursday, and said in part, "There is nothing good in what Pussy Riot did, but I don't think they should be judged too severely.”

As the date of the verdict approaches, numerous artists and musicians from all corners of the world continue to call for Pussy Riot’s liberation. Artists such as Madonna, Bjork, Patti Smith, Le Tigre, Bikini Kill, Kathleen Hanna and Ad Rock are among the many who have voiced their support for these wrongfully imprisoned young ladies.

Because I'm a freedom adoring American, I consider the show-trial Pussy Riot is being forced to star in to be an embarrassment to both the Russian government, its judicial system and its people. I very much hope that some combination of international pressure and common sense can force these charges to be dropped, or at least have the possible sentence downgraded to community service and time served. After all, this is the millennium, even in the Federal Semi-Presidential Constitutional Republic of Russia. If you are interested in learning more about Pussy Riot and their case, or even wish to support and contribute to their cause, then please visit the Free Pussy Riot campaign to see what you can do. I strongly suggest you do so; it can be your good deed for the day. Stand up against injustice!

Reviews:

Gossamer - Passion Pit

Gossamer ended up being a much more enjoyable listen than I would have ever expected. There was a point during the listening process when I believed this record could have been one of the best of 2012, but it was a touch uneven in spots, keeping it from achieving its ultimate glory. That being said, I would recommend this album to any pop fan, or those looking to dance for reasons all their own.... [Full Review]

16th Notes:

There simply are no words.

LCD Soundsystem’s Shut Up And Play The Hits has gotten a DVD/Blu-ray release date. It’s due to hit shelves October 9th. Does anyone else notice how much James Murphy manages to stay in the news, especially for a guy who isn’t really doing all that much these days? ‘Cause I do... Because Beck wants to force you to learn new skills, he is going to release his next record in only sheet music form, meaning you’ll have to play the tunes yourself to hear what they sound like. Some people may call this lazy, others brilliant. Personally, I’m inclined to agree with them both... Cat Power has announced North American tour dates in support of her upcoming album, due out September 4th. That sound you just heard was your girlfriend buying the two of you tickets... Morrissey’s latest target of ill-will appears to be the Olympics. Read his quotes here, but I can sum them up for you: He’s Morrissey, and they don’t hand out medals for being Morrissey... Kreayshawn pushed back her upcoming album's release date this week, while also revealing its cover art. I know this isn’t generally the kind of thing I cover, but look at that album art, people! (right)... According to reports, The German cosmetic company Nivea has reportedly dropped the one and only Rihanna (who incidentally is at the apex of her fame) as a spokesperson. Among the comments made by a Nivea spokesperson in her press release was that Nivea is a “family brand”, which essentially means Rihanna was too sexy (I’m choosing my words wisely here) to sell their product... Two 19 year-old idiots were arrested at Lollapalooza last weekend for punching an 11 year old girl over one of those idiotic beach balls which get passed around at concerts. At least they didn’t stab her... Kanye West let the world know (via his twitter) that he wrote the song Perfect Bitch about his current non-blonde-dyke Kim Kardashian. I don’t know about you, but the speculation was killing me... Lady Gaga got a tattoo of her upcoming album’s name and used its unveiling as the title’s (Artpop) grand reveal on her social network this week. This sets a tough precedent for Gaga. How will she be able to top this next record? My guess is radical reconstructive surgery... ..

Top Twenty List:

For reasons I can only assume have to do with Bono and your relationship with your parents, U2 seems to be a really polarizing band. I am a person who has many (many) conversations about music with my friends and myriad unfortunate strangers I encounter, and whenever Ireland’s greatest band (I love MBV too, but they aren’t in the same category) gets brought up, it’s usually a love or hate reaction. Because I am a level-headed, rational type, I have an appreciation for U2, and because I’m a guitarist I truly admire what The Edge has been able to achieve with his tools and imagination. Also... The Edge is much more tolerable than Bono, which is a plus. Wednesday was Dave Howell Evans’ birthday, and these are the 20 best U2 songs of all time.

20) Bullet The Blue Sky
19) Hold Me Thrill Me Kiss Me Kill Me
18) Beautiful Day
17) Desire
16) Numb (New Mix)
15) Fly
14) Even Better Than The Real Thing
13) I Will Follow
12) New Year’s Day
11) Mysterious Ways
10) Until The End Of The World
9) Stay (Faraway So Close)
8) Bad
7) All I Want Is You
6) I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For
5) Sunday Bloody Sunday
4) With Or Without You
3) One
2) Pride (In The Name Of Love)
1) Where The Streets Have No Name

Clips Of The Week:

You should have known that there would be Pussy Riot videos here in the Clip Of The Week section. The top video features the Church performance which caused all of this legal insanity.

Tracks Of The Week:

Flood’s New Light - The Oh Sees: I’ve been a fan of The Oh Sees since they blew out my eardrums several NXNEs ago. Those of you who also happen to dig this San Francisco freakout’s unique brand of cacophony may actually be mildly surprised by the slightly more subdued/focused direction The Oh Sees seem to be headed in on their fourteenth (14th!!!) album. Flood’s New Light is a relatively laid back, short tune (for The Oh Sees), with a stealthy aspect which allows it to slink into your ear, rock you out, and slink out before you ever really notice. This single will appear on Putrifiers II, which is set to be released September 11th.

Hippies Is Punks - Wavves: A few weeks back I showcased a song by The Field which was recorded for Adult Swim as a track of the week. I stated in my earlier post that Adult Swim would be releasing new free songs each week for the entirety of the summer, and their newest offering comes from the prolific pot-lover (I meant that to read as prolific songwriter and pot-lover, but prolific pot-lover works too!) Nathan Williams of Wavves. Like just about all Wavves songs, Hippies Is Punks is a blast of the surf and sun, and it’s a short tune like Flood’s New Light, so together they both form one super chill, super summery track of the week Voltron-like thing.

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