Anonymous said: dusja je bent nederlands. pittig awesome die shit :3 ik zag via een reblog je bericht over de Jeugd, haha, pittig awesome dat je dat vet vind xD

Hey, unfortunately I don’t speak Dutch (I’m American), but I like your country (especially Utrecht) and I like bitterballen and I really like ‘Watskeburt’ (even if I don’t know what the hell they’re talking about) 

The Artichokes - WAIWHAKAMUKAU

Just spent a gorgeous month going all around New Zealand. I think the country has more stunning scenery per square inch than anywhere I’ve been. 

This catchy little ditty is about as Kiwi as it gets. I miss most of the references, but the important bit is that the Maori title is actually pronounced “Why fuck a moo cow”. Good times.

Jedi Mind Tricks ft. R.A. The Rugged Man- Uncommon Valor (A Vietnam Story)

Late to this one, since I left a couple weeks ago, but I just traveled all through Vietnam, and it’s fascinating to see how the ‘American War’ (aka the ‘Vietnam Civil War’ aka the ‘Vietnam War’, depending on who you’re talking to) still hovers over everything today. I’ve crawled through Viet Cong tunnels, met Agent Orange victims, and watched a woman make straw hats using scrap metal from a B-52 bomb. I’ve seen loads of propaganda billboards and pictures of ‘Uncle Ho’ hanging in houses. I’ve seen the type of Communism that’s developed there, which isn’t too far from Western Capitalism at the end of the day. It’s a fascinating place.

It was good to see the Vietnamese perspectives, because they’re not the ones I’m most familiar with. Growing up in America, I was always much more exposed to stories about the effects the war had on our citizens, especially our veterans of that war. It’s a story I’ve heard a thousand times, but hearing it told by R.A. the Rugged Man in Uncommon Valor makes it sound like I’m hearing it for the first time.

Vinnie Paz does the first verse, and it’s short but sweet. It’s a first-person perspective from a guy who was told he was sent over ‘to stop Chinese expansion’ but of course he ‘ain’t seen no Chinese since we landed’. He’s disillusioned, and he knows how many innocent people are ending up dead. It’s a great verse; but then:

I don’t wanna be here, I’m scared. I just wanna go home.

You fuckin’ kiddin’ me? Don’t be a pussy! Don’t you love your country?

I like being here. I’m ready.

Enter R.A. with the words: ‘True Story’.

R.A. proceeds to rap from the perspective of his own father, Staff Sgt. John Thorburn. It’s as vivid and visceral a verse as I have ever heard in any song ever. In a rapid-fire monotone, R.A. paints a picture: the heat, the weapons, the guilt, the fear, the sex, the drugs and booze, the women, and most importantly the ‘men wearing black pajamas’ who ‘wanna harm us’. Thorburn’s helicopter crashes behind enemy lines and everyone starts getting killed around him. He’s hit in the chest. He starts to pray, and his life flashes before his eyes, he sees Christ, he has poignant visions of world peace. He’s sure he’s dying. 

But then he wakes up in a hospital bed- somehow he survived. The story continues, however- the war follows him home. Due to his exposure to Agent Orange, his children end up with severe disabilities, and one of his sons dies.

R.A. finishes the verse, ‘My son died, he ain’t live, but I still try to think positive, ‘cause in life God take, God give’.

R.A.’s verse is so detailed and nuanced that it really takes multiple listens for it all to sink in. Beautiful writing, perfect delivery. It’s verses like this that people point to when they claim R.A. is one of the greats. He’s never put out a classic album, but he’s put down some unbelievable verses, and his verse on this song is amongst the greatest of all time by any rapper, ever.

No Use For A Name- Justified Black Eye

Tony Sly, the singer and songwriter for No Use For A Name, just died.

No Use was my gateway band into punk rock. I borrowed the album ‘Leche Con Carne’ from my neighbor when I was probably about 11, and off I went. For a long time I needed music to be loud and fast. I saw them loads of times over the years, and bought every album. Their show in Santa Cruz with Pulley is one of my favorite shows of all time. In San Jose, they let my fanboy ass watch from onstage- alongside Chris Shiflett, who had just left them to join the Foo Fighters. I even got detention in high school for wearing a No Use shirt that said ‘More Drinkingness’ on it (and had to wear it inside-out for the rest of the day). They were certainly an important band to me, and surely to many others, so this is some really rough news. I hope that his young family will be alright. RIP Tony Sly.

Dead Kennedys- Holiday in Cambodia

I spent last night in a car being driven across the beat up road from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh. The driver was a guy who had lived for a long time under the murderous Khmer Rouge regime (which was Western-backed, of course, having a seat at the UN even after they were out of power until 1993). I got a history lesson like never before, as well as a stop for a roadside dinner of bamboo soup and pig intestines (genuinely tasty!).

As many times as I’ve heard the statistics, they are still shocking every time. Pol Pot was so successful getting rid of all the educated people that there were between 5 and 20 doctors left in the entire country by the time he was through. Between two and three million people died in total, via execution or starvation. This is an amazing country, but ‘developing’ would be putting it lightly. They essentially had to start from scratch in the 90s.

Anyways, I grew up knowing this history, and like a few other Americans, it probably started with the Dead Kennedys.

When I was in junior high, my dad took me to see The Offspring. They brought Jello Biafra onstage for the encore and played some DK songs. My dad was stoked on that, but not so much on The Offspring themselves. He told me that if I thought the Offspring was punk, I was missing the point, and he took me to get a Dead Kennedys CD the next day (I started with the ‘Give Me Convenience or Give Me Death’ compilation). ‘Holiday in Cambodia’ was for me, like so many others, the song that jumped out right away. The awesome surf guitar, the savage sarcasm, and Jello’s one-of-a-kind theatrical voice. It’s a goddamn ripper of a tune. I was hooked.

Even at that age, I understood the target of the song- the smug yuppies who fancy themselves worldly. I certainly didn’t know much about Cambodia, but I could get the gist from lines like ‘You’ll work harder with a gun in your back for a bowl of rice a day’. But the part that made me grab my dad and ask for some explanation was Biafra chanting ‘Pol… Pot… Pol… Pot’. I’m lucky enough to have a dad who could sit me down and explain the Khmer Rouge. It blew my young mind, and still does today.

I’ve found Cambodia to be fascintaing so far. I’ve spent an evening at a charity for abused women, and some time at a school where rural kids are being taught English for free. To hear the stories of rape, coerced prostitution, kidnapping, etc.- it’s fucking horrific to think that this is all happening today. We went down a street of shacks that mainly functioned as ‘karaokes’, which I guess is code for brothels. Sex is $3, but $4 if you don’t want to use a rubber. Thus, nearly every girl working on that street is infected with HIV. And yet, there is hope. There are some people doing good work, and the country is developing. The roads, though still rough, are getting better. There is 3G access country-wide. There is even talk that Cambodians will soon trust there own currency enough to move back to it, as opposed to using USD. No one deserves a happy ending more than Cambodia, so hopefully it comes sooner than later. 

If you are interested in helping out, I think that both of the following charities are doing really good work, and even a little bit helps. 

http://www.newhopecambodia.com/

http://lotusoutreach.org/blog/

Ayumi Hamasaki- Evolution

I just spent 5 days in Tokyo, and it is probably the most overstimulating place I’ve ever been. Video screens, flashing lights, and blaring noise come at you from all angles, all the time, usually  accompanied by lolita-y images of young-looking girls. It’s kind of insane, but also kind of what I expected.

I used to carpool to high school, which was an hour’s drive in each direction. One guy in the carpool was a big J-Pop fan, which meant that on his driving days I was immersed in Japanese pop stars like Utada Hikara and Morning Musume. One song stood out amongst the rest, and remains one of my favorites to this day- Aymumi Hamasaki’s ‘Evolution’. It starts of with some beautiful piano and low key ‘la la la la la’s before morphing into a bananas, hard-driving dance track. I have no idea what it’s about, but the chorus is so catchy and energizing that I get into it anyways.

This song sounds exactly like how Tokyo felt: At first overwhelming, a million different things hitting you all at once, but then it feels shockingly comfortable shockingly quickly, and you are right in tune with its energy.

Crucial Taunt- Why You Wanna Break My Heart?

Wayne’s World, aka the greatest movie ever made, contains a great scene of rich sleazeball Benjamin hitting on Wayne’s girlfriend Cassandra:

Benjamin:You know, you sound a lot like you’re from Kowloon Bay as opposed to Hong Kong.

Cassandra: I was born in Kowloon Bay!

Benjamin: There you have it!

Yep, Benjamin is pretty fucking good. Fortunately, Cassandra eventually sees through him (at least in the last of the three endings, the mega-happy… nevermind).

Tia Carrere (who is actually singing this) was probably my first movie crush, and that crush is still alive every time I watch it. She can really wail, and as Garth might say, she makes me feel kinda funny. She fronts a loud-ass Crucial Taunt, but despite her rock n’ roll chops, I actually really like this slow one way more than it probably deserves. Yep, she nails this sappy ballad, but that said, she still kills ‘Fire’ and ‘Ballroom Blitz’.

I’m staying in Kowloon right now (Kowloon Bay is actually in Hong Kong technically, but maybe Benjamin just meant Hong Kong Island itself… whatever), and this scene pops into my head every time I read Kowloon on a street sign. I fucking love Wayne’s World.

The Mamas and the Papas- California Dreamin’

I’m a California native who’s been away for years, and am about three and half months from finally moving back home. So this song may be a little on the nose.  However, that’s not why I chose it- I actually chose it because it will always be linked with Hong Kong in my mind.

That would be because of the Wong Kar Wai movie ‘Chungking Express’, and its lovely star Faye Wong. She plays a server at a Hong Kong takeaway joint who blasts this song obsessively throughout her workday, playing it so loud that she can’t even hear her customer’s orders.

Watch this and come back: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IAH-0GKvIrM

How charming is that? It’s one of the most famous uses of pop music in film, and for good reason. This song is her escape, and watching her dance along to it as she mixes sauce is one of my favorite movie moments of all time. 

Much of the movie takes place in the famous Chungking Mansions building in Hong Kong, which is where I happen to be staying at the moment. This is one of the most fascinating places in the world, basically a melting-pot third-world city of thousands of people inside a single building. It is one of the most unique things I have ever seen in my life, and is maybe the most famous example of street-level globalization in the world. It’s the kind of place that has a billion stories happening all at once.

The song itself is as beautiful as they come. It may be about California, but it’s melancholy- the mood reflects where we are rather than where we want to be. It’s popped into my head many a time on a rainy Winter’s (or Fall’s or Spring’s or Summer’s) day in London. It is both longing and hopeful, and for me, forever tied to the image of a girl in Hong Kong dancing behind the counter, lost in her own daydream world.

El Guincho- Bombay

I left Spain a few days ago, after three glorious weeks of sunshine and beaches and babes and octopus. I flew into London, where I was promptly hailed on outside of Gatwick airport. Balls of ice falling from the sky. In July. 

So forgive me if I stick to the sunshine mood here with my favorite Spanish music video.

El Guincho’s album ‘Pop Negro’ is one of my favorite summer albums of all time. He calls his music ‘space-age exotica’, and I can’t describe it any better than that. It sounds almost Brazilian to me, and it feels like sunshine. Which is what London needs right now.

All hope of sun is not lost for me, however. I head off to Asia tomorrow, with my first flight laying me over in where else: Bombay.

Johnny Hallyday- Que J’Taime (live)

Today I leave the south of France and head into Spain, so now is probably the best time to highlight a fascinating French phenomenon: the incomparable Johnny Hallyday. He’s been around forever, and does a cheesy mix of cornball ballads and melodramatic hard rockers. He’s like Neil Diamond with some silly tattoos and an evil moustache. And the French fucking love him- this guy nearly died and France went into preemptive mourning. Anyways, he cracks me up. Check out this live performance of ‘Que J’Taime’ and then start looking into your flights to France to catch him on his upcoming tour.