You wouldn’t know from their music that The Blankz (a Phoenix based band) formed as recently as 2017. Their new EP/single, White Baby, is so tightly put together musically that if I had been too lazy to read the group’s bio, I would just have assumed they must have been playing together for at least a decade. Their music falls somewhere within the realm of “weirdo pop punk.” It has a very 90’s vibe to it, not in a gimmicky kind of way, it’s just that you’d almost have to go back that far to find this style of music being put out at this level of quality. In a deeper sense though, White Baby brings people back to a more innocent era, the pre-9/11 days before confrontational politics and war dominated the discussion in our everyday lives. I’m talking about those 105 degree summer nights spent skateboarding and loitering at suburban Phoenix strip malls (yes I’m from here as well,) when our most heated arguments were over bands and girls. Our tense confrontations were mostly reserved for our interactions with the security guards about to kick us out of the same spot for the millionth time.
White Baby features solid playing, quirky lyrics, and perhaps most importantly…substance. Yes, wrapped up in White Baby’s musical bundle of joy is a theme about the songwriter’s identity. Tommy Blank is white but was apparently adopted into a Mexican family. The song subtly relates his struggles with identity growing up within this unconventional familial arrangement. It is all presented in an upbeat, fun and energetic musical context. The lyrics are extremely catchy, and if you listen to this song even once, the chorus will stick with you. The video for White Baby takes on a kind of desert rockabilly aesthetic, interspersing vintage home movie footage with present day shots of the band around town.
There is a second jam on this release as well. The song Sissy Glue boasts some killer synth, the vibrato of which resonates throughout the song. The tone is reminiscent of action oriented battle music in old school games like Double Dragon. Sissy Glue contains lyrics concerned with huffing, but really the track is about so much more. It’s sort of a coming of age story told in a very creative way. The synth on this EP is notable because it is what separates the band’s sound it from so many other bands in this genre.
White Baby/Sissy Glue is quite simply, badass. Living in Phoenix, this is easily one of the coolest current bands in the valley, and I’m kind of surprised I haven’t heard anything about them until now.
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Available in Paperback here
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Skytrain to Nowhere is an imagination driven and esoteric volume of free-form poetry. The book documents the author’s experiences, thoughts and observations while riding the skytrain at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport over the period of several weeks. Since the skytrain is only designed to transport travelers between various terminals and parking facilities at the airport, someone spending nearly 50 hours riding it purely for recreation and artistic inspirational purposes is highly unusual (to put it mildly.) Aside from occasional quirky anecdotes about various passengers, the poems mostly deal with themes of motion, the passage of time, and nostalgia. The author grapples with these issues from a retro-futurist perspective. Skytrain to Nowhere celebrates the realization that our vitality hinges on our ability to always keep moving, while recognizing we are unwilling or unable to leave some things behind on the journey.
Purchase Skytrain to Nowhere on Amazon.
I never heard of the (fairly well known) band, Good Boy Daisy, until I saw them featured on the cover of a local community college publication that I happened to pick up out of curiosity/boredom. Good Boy Daisy features the easily likable and charismatic sisters, Hallie and Dylinn Hayes. Other members include Molly Mashal, Jonathan Henderson and Seth Person. They claim to be influenced by a lot of 90’s grunge. My first impression of their sound was that while the female vocal style is similar to that of The Cranberries. It just has that 90’s alternative, subtly fluctuating pitch that one who lived through that era of music would instantly recognize. However, in this context, the actual backing music is much harder (especially as it breaks into the chorus,) almost more in line with Nirvana and Rage Against the Machine. They’re not a retro or throwback band though by any means. Their music ultimately is of a contemporary, post-grunge nature and will appeal to many different types of people.
The band apparently took its name from a line in the movie Guy Richie movie Snatch, a film I vaguely remember seeing at the then state-of-the-art but now sorta ghetto Arizona Mills movie theater in 2001. Good Boy Daisy is one of those bands that has an aura about them where they are hitting all the right marks, and you just know if they don’t manage to self destruct, get pregnant or get bored that they will succeed.
I first met Abe from Treasure Mammal around 2002-2003 and briefly lived with him at a house known for late night pool parties in Tempe, Arizona. Before he had started Treasure Mammal, he had been in a number of more conventional and “serious” indie rock bands. Despite being a multi-talented and gifted musician, he probably found standard indie rock fare to be a rather stifling and boring endeavor. He was always the life of the party and someone with Four-Loko tier levels of energy, and so Treasure Mammal turned out to be the perfect creative outlet for him. Anyway, I didn’t intend for this to sound like an obituary and am happy to observe that 15 years later, Treasure Mammal is still around, even as a zillion other Phoenix bands have come and gone.
Treasure Mammal has always differed from other indie “fun” or “humor” bands in that usually these types of groups use theatrics, costumes and funny gimmicks as a substitute for musical ability. In Treasure Mammal’s case though, Abe is actually a very skilled and accomplished musician, who just so happens to prefer to let loose and engage in this kind of wild chicanery. Another thing which distinguishes Treasure Mammal from similar bands was the use of top quality recording and production. While most people would have been content to throw some crap together and record it on 4 track, Treasure Mammal worked on their releases with some of the top recording engineers in the valley (Mike Hissong, Ryan Breen, etc.) Nowadays, almost anyone can make a near radio quality recording (production-wise anyway) with the software available, but Treasure Mammal was insisting on the very best studio production even 15 years ago.
Over the years, Treasure Mammal has had a knack for capitalizing on faddish catch phrases as they become part of the popular lexicon, quickly turning them into songs while their usage is still fairly prominent among the public. Examples of this are Best Friends Forever, Spring Break, and Real Talk. The most recent example of this is the jam, Missed Connections, (from the 2015 album I will Cut You With My EBT Card) which appears to be a musical satirization of the kinds of bizarre messages one might frequently see in the Missed Connections section of Craigslist…and it’s epic.
Seriously, this track is awesome. It combines subtle, ironic humor with an excellent and catchy pop song. The chorus, where the female vocals kick in (featuring singer Lonna Kelley,) channels its inner Olivia Newton John in the sense that it is simply magical. The style of the song blends 80s synthpop with avant garde spoken word. Though it isn’t meant to be taken seriously, Missed Connections could be interpreted as a social commentary on the empty desperation that animates these kinds of classified ads. I assume most people read these ads for amusement, but what about the ones that write them… and do so earnestly, without even a hint of trolling or irony? Who are they? What do they look like? What kind of low point are they at in their lives? There’s something deeper about contemporary society and atomization in this super fun time tune, whether anyone cares or not.
Like many of Treasure Mammal’s previous songs, one would easily envision this becoming a viral, chart topping hit. It’s one of those songs where you tragically muse to yourself, “I can’t believe that dumbass Travie McCoy ‘I wanna be a Billionaire’ song managed to become popular, and yet this crown jewel of a jam isn’t.”
So the “Stuff White People Like,” Ikea throwpillow crowd and their new found multinational corporate allies, are all up in arms over the reactionary Arizona immigration bill, SB1070. They are appalled at the prospect that *gasp* the police can ask for your drivers license or ID when they pull you over. Wait don’t they already do that now? Next time I get stopped by a cop who asks to see my license, registration, and proof of insurance I’m going to go to the ACLU and ask why my rights are being violated. The new immigration law will lead to racial profiling, they say. Hellooo Mcfly, anybody home? There are zillions of people of Hispanic ancestry in Phoenix, and the police are not going to be messing with anyone who speaks fluent English and has an ID card just because they look brown. Sure, cops can be assholes…but most of them are already awash in “sensitivity training” and generally would prefer not to bother with anything that’s going to create annoying paperwork for them unless it’s for a valid reason. I mentioned a couple weeks ago, that we found a Mexican dude passed out in the bushes in our backyard. The guy spoke almost no English, had no identification, and was carrying in his possession nothing but a weed pipe and a pair of women’s underwear. And I’m pretty sure the cops let that guy go and even gave him a ride home. In the cases of some of the officers who were murdered by illegal aliens, the suspects had previously been arrested dozens of times. They should have been deported long before but were allowed to remain because federal authorities never bothered to do anything. Thus a state law was passed, which simply mirrors the already existing federal law.
Who doesn’t have an ID card anyway? How backward do you have to be to be a naturalized citizen of a country and not carry any ID whatsoever?….which leads us to the unintended victims of the Immigration bill:
That’s right, prehistoric cavemen living in the mountains of the Arizona desert, and misc backwoodsmen lurking about in the deep forests of Flagstaff.
The notion that if you’re opposed to illegal immigration and favor a pro-low immigration policy similar to(by today’s standards) the almost complete moratorium on immigration we had from 1924-1965(which ushered in the golden age of America 1945-1965) …the idea that that’s somehow racist is nothing but a red herring and the product of a generation which lacks critical thinking skills and can’t appreciate historical context of anything that happened prior to 1980. People who oppose illegal immigration are not racist and not anti-immigrant. We merely support a pro-low immigration policy. Mass immigration from specific countries leads to a sort of neo-segregation as it deprives people of the need to adapt to their new country, and so they form cities within cities. They often live in completely self segregated Spanish speaking neighborhoods and have their own separate newspapers and television stations. Even the fact that so many people self identify themselves as Hispanic or Mexican is in itself a form of racialism and proof that attempts to integrate them into our society have largely been a failure.
The reason why the racism charge is also B.S. is that it fails to take into account the fact that many Hispanics are opposed to illegal immigration and support the new law. When an initiative passed a few years ago making English the official language of the state, it’s worth noting (but rarely mentioned) that 50% of Hispanics voted for it! They don’t want to self identify with a specific race. I’m of mostly Scandinavian and German ancestry, but feel no allegiance toward those nations and do not partake in any ancient grievance mongering related to their historical conflicts. The mere mention of my ancestry is generally limited to the context of complaining about how my skin can’t handle being exposed to sunlight for more than a few minutes.
And what happened to localism? Why are liberals allying themselves with transnational big businesses like Walmart and Mcdonalds? Lately it seems the left are giving Mitt Romney a run for his money in terms of how much big business cock they can suck. Ah the times they are a changin’ again. Just because some CEOs are getting rich by selling out their culture and countrymen’s standard of living, doesn’t mean that it’s better for the community as a whole. Funny how you never see the people who profit off these folks living among them in the slummy environments that they’ve created. Sure, it all looks great now when you just cash your check from a gated community, but slowly(or perhaps rapidly) the demographics are changing and the children of these folks are coming of age and voting themselves into power. It’s not because conservatives oppose illegal immigration that Hispanics vote against them(okay so maybe it pushed it from like 70% to 80%). It’s because impoverished Hispanics simply vote overwhelmingly socialist and liberal as is evident in almost all of South America. Sure, so they are conservative a on a few religious issues like abortion. Great, so we’ll have a socialist espanol speaking suprawelfare state, but with abortion finally illegal, and a resurgence in usage of the term “Christmas Tree” (as opposed to the secular Holiday Tree”). No thanks, that’s a shitty tradeoff. Liberals and gays should also not dismiss the fact that illegal immigration is often counter-productive toward many of their political goals. Poor immigrants are generally religious, culturally conservative, traditionalist chauvinists who vote against gay rights and women’s rights.
Conservative libertarians should take note that the intention of having a “free-er” market may suicidally result in just the opposite. It’s worth mentioning that southern California was once a bastion of Goldwater conservatism. Now Los Angeles is heavily democratic, and Orange County barely leans moderate republican save a few pockets of resistance. Much of this can be traced to the changes in demographics in the region as opposed to the “changing of minds.” Thus ironically. libertarianism without borders actually leads to statism.
Here is a photo of Maryvale developer “John F Long” with Ronald Reagan in 1958, selling new homes to World War II veterans.
Now Maryvale is a third world scumtown. Gee, those World War II vets must have really made a mess of the place…or could there possibly have been another culprit in Maryvale’s demise? Hmmm…
There’s something else, too. Many of these southwestern states: California, Arizona and Nevada have severe water shortages on the horizon, and yet we’re being told we need to take in hundreds of thousands of new people every year. What sort of effect is this going to have on the price of utilities let alone the actual physical problems associated with these shortages? Is this cost factored into the equation of how much money we are supposedly saving with cheap labor? And what about the environment? Just how much sense does it make to import millions of impoverished people from rag-tag third world countries into a vast metropolis in the middle of the desert? Continued population growth in these places will lead to more land development, more urban sprawl, more crummy condos and ghetto apartments, more Walmarts and Food Citys, or to paraphrase Peter Cook as the devil in the film “Bedazzled” (1967 version)
“All right, you great git, you’ve asked for it. I’ll cover the world in Tastee-Freez and Wimpy Burgers. I’ll fill it with concrete runways, motorways, aircraft, television, automobiles, advertising, plastic flowers, frozen food and supersonic bangs. I’ll make it so noisy and disgusting that even you’ll be ashamed of yourself! No wonder you’ve so few friends; you’re unbelievable!”
When a civilization becomes highly advanced it begins to take polite society for granted, forgetting about the inevitably irrepressible monsters from the id, which still exist in all of us. And the Id of course, is the part of the psychic apparatus which impoverished people, including immigrants from third world countries, most often live by.
“The Romans conquered the barbarians—and the barbarians conquered Rome. Colonization of the mother countries by subject peoples is the last chapter in the history of empires—and the next chapter in the history of the West—that is now coming to a close. -Pat Buchanan, Paris Burning
Brandon Adamson is the author of “Beatnik Fascism“