Thursday, January 16, 2014

Napkin V review by Alex Smith

Welcome to another edition of Alex's Music Nook™ sponsored by Music Merchant, 157 Westwood Avenue in Westwood, NJ. Today we'll be reviewing "Napkin V", the latest release from world-renowned supergroup and zamboni enthusiasts Thickly Painted Walls. The first thing I like to do when reviewing an album is evaluate the title and determine its meaning. Napkin is a medium-sized word, consisting of two smaller words. "Nap" means a short sleep and "kin" means a family member, so I'm pretty sure the artist intended the listener to think of a short family member while listening to this album. Then there's just a "V" at the end, which is just a letter. I think it may be referencing that movie "V for Vendetta," which I never saw, so I might be a little lost during portions of the album. Alright, enough of that mumbo-jumbo, let's get to the good stuff, the music. The first track is entitled "mehr drawing/dead fly". I'm not sure what a mehr drawing is, probably a "V for Vendetta" reference, but the dead fly part I get. This song really gives you the perspective of a dead fly, you can picture him there on the counter, writhing and twitching as he takes his final fly breaths. This is a very strong opening track with a very powerful visual. Next up is "2legit2quit", a cute but unusually short song that is obviously a parody of MC Hammer's smash hit of the same name. The third track "the obsession (Satan's Scrotum cover)" is a unique twist on the Satan's Scrotum classic, whether it lives up to it or not is completely subjective. It may depend on how big of a Satan's Scrotum fan you are. Up next is "desperate oddity" a positively groovy track that I just loved! This song should be playing at every junior prom across the country. Next is "Jew Girl Walk (Bad Feet)" which I guess is meant to simulate an older Jewish woman walking around her local town center in uncomfortable footwear, but it just made me feel indifferent, like playing Xenophobe on Atari 7800. That's not necessarily a bad thing though. The final track is "bad shitmaker", an epic, rousing tune, and an appropriate way to end the album. In conclusion, this is another home run for Thickly Painted Walls. You get the usual stellar, innovative instrumental sounds as well as a very strong vocal performance from Walls frontman Stefan Frederic Walz. I was really impressed with his ability to alter his pitch to evoke the proper emotion from the listener, the mood could transform from beautiful to haunting in an instant. Overall, on a scale of 45 wangdoodles on top of 94 flufferpusses, I give it a penis stripe. This album is highly recommended. Also, don't forget to check out Music Merchant, tell the ultra-cool owner that Big Al sent ya! ;)

-Alex Smith

august 2011

Kristofor Giordano
Religion and Psychology
The Mythology of “The When McGruff Was King”
A theme is common to literature and film; a stranger enters a town and
exposes, intentionally or not, a spiritually decrepit social structure that up until this
point had no reason to defend itself. The trauma released by the collision of society
and outsider is closely related to Winnicott’s study of a baby separated from the
mother. In the acquaintance with the life-threatening absence of the mother’s
breast, Winnicott writes, “Trauma implies that the baby has experienced a break in
life’s continuity, so that primitive defenses now become organized to defend against
a repetition of ‘unthinkable anxiety’…” (p. 98). As the baby develops a system of
memory, it learns to “trust” the surrounding environment through a
gradual “building up of confidence based on experience” (p. 102). For the first time,
the baby may begin to form a relationship with a potentially dangerous outside
world through the act of play.
The role of play, which is essentially a relationship between structure
and anti-structure, familiar and unfamiliar, demonstrates a desire to mingle with
danger and ultimately contain it so that it becomes familiar and non-threatening.
The friction between structure and anti-structure is interesting enough that it has
become a theme for so many works of fiction in literature and film, perhaps because
it can be traced to a memory of our initial experience with the outside world. It is of
interest to me how anti-structure is introduced, and ultimately contained through
the act of play.
In a more commonplace manifestation, the carnival represents a model of
anti-structure; transported into town for a short time, it disrupts the regular order
and activity of the community. Within the carnival, I am introduced to strange often
grotesque faces, and rides, some convincingly life-threatening, that acquaint me
with unfamiliar and chaotic experiences. I may choose to look at the mechanics
behind this life-threatening entity, the structure itself, but I would rather allow
myself to be carried away by its lawlessness for the sake of the lie (that in actuality
it is relatively structured) that needs to be told somehow. I ignore the workers
making the fullness of the illusion possible or the “nuts and bolts” holding the rides
together. These inconsistencies are purposely forgotten to break with the continuity
of a structured life where such “obvious details” reinforce familiarity with the
surrounding environment.
Having been part of a traveling group of “clowns” myself, I will submit my
own experiences in playing with a model of anti-structure. The movement to which
I belonged was called “The When McGruff was King,” the name itself grammatically
incorrect, and was primarily a group who shared an interest in improvisational
performance and sound. The number of members fluctuated between one and
the many; it was never consistent. “McGruff” provided an unstable foundation
on which to pile on any and all forms of expression that could be brought to life
through performance. We adopted established modes of expression such as tribe-
like chants, costume, idol worship, and song; nothing was excluded if suggested. The
performances allowed us to transcend boundaries of what society might classify
useful forms of communication; namely getting somewhere, having a point, a goal or
destination. This experience is closely related to that of the carnival ride; to gain the
fullness of the experience you embrace the chaos, you do not concern yourself with
where the ride is going.
The experiences that make us insecure are often those that cannot be
given a clear definition. In the spirit of discomforting ambiguity, “McGruff”
constantly created new and unclear definitions of people, places and objects.
Upon exposure to “McGruff,” we were stripped of titles and assets that would be
useful in designating an individual’s role in a structured society. Our names were
used interchangeably to offset the structured order of titles and create confusion.
Instruments themselves were redeveloped, restructured, and finally destroyed.
Power tools became instruments. Instruments became weapons. Practice became
finished recordings and performances. Finally, the boundary between audience
and performer was destroyed altogether. The audience took over the stage and
performed a “McGruff” show, as the original performers watched from outside.
Similarly, the sites of “McGruff” performances were various and elusive. As
a general rule, we performed wherever there was space and opportunity to do so.
Performances took place with little or no planning on the street, in people’s houses,
school and church auditoriums or public parks. One member claimed he performed
in front of a large audience in a park somewhere in northern New Jersey, but there
was no documentation or witness to support the claim. The fact of whether this
event actually took place or not was irrelevant to “McGruff” anyhow. Regarding this
undocumented performance as equally valid as any other performance illustrated
how “McGruff” became everyone’s property and no one’s. “McGruff” put us in touch
with a profound truth; that all experiences catalyze into a structured, manageable
form through a collection of arbitrary descriptions that are also susceptible to
The magic of “McGruff” was bound to fall apart. Like the carnival, after
spending enough time inside you gain familiarity with how it is held together, and
notice that the pieces are made collapsible for the sake of easy transportation;
it must be unfixed to remain potent. Hierarchies were inevitably developed.
Individuals were give titles and responsibilities to ensure the survival and success
of future “McGruff” performances. It is difficult to deny an innate human need to
gain a sense of familiarity with the chaos to avoid interference with the stability of
securing a job, a place to live, and maintaining meaningful relationships. In part,
the spirit of “McGruff” was compromised as its structure became familiar to its
members. In another way, “McGruff” lives as a symbol for those who were part of it
or may yet become part of its spirit; as a phase of uncertainty, danger, and unknown
possibility, the creative experience itself.
Once after a performance in a coffee shop we were approached by a
gentleman in his mid-twenties, who enthusiastically declared, “I’m booking
you guys,” shook each of our hands, and walked away without any information
exchanged that would guarantee such a statement. Like this interaction, the
meaning of McGruff still puzzles me. For some reason the cliché phrase “You
complete me” seems applicable here. Trivial as it may sound, if this statement
has any bearing whatsoever it is in the relationship between structure and anti-
structure. As Winnicott writes, “One can think of the electricity that seems to
generate between meaningful or intimate contact,” in relating to, “the potential
space between the individual and the environment” (p. 98). Once trust is
established, the other provides a support for my vulnerability, just as I provide a
support for theirs. Like the act of play, the relationship between structure and anti-
structure must be variable to endure.

-K.Gio AKA KRIS127 AKA "the technician"


Find it!