Section 8: Lost and Found

I’ve gotten three e-mails from strangers over the past couple of weeks inquiring about Section 8, a truly amazing metal-hardcore hybrid band that was unquestionably the best thing happening in the Albany heavy underground circa ’95 to ’97 or so. (There’s another band called Section 8 from elsewhere, a fairly standard neo-punk outfit. Not the same group).

One of the alltime best shows I ever saw was a Section 8/Clay People twin bill at the late, lamented QE2. The room was oversold and overpacked, both bands played way over their heads, and it was the closest I’ve ever come to knowing exactly what people mean that say “the room exploded.”

Section 8 issued two albums, Pain is Truth and Nine Ways to Say I Love You that have become local collectors items of sorts: definitely among the best heavy records issued in the market in the ’90s. I guess other people have been remembering them and wondering what happened to them, hence the inquiries I’ve been getting of late.

One of the e-mails commented favorably on the bio I’d written for them. “What bio?” I thought, and went fishing through my website. Sure enough . . . I had completely forgotten that they had asked me to write a one sheet for them, and I had completely forgotten that I had put it on my website way back when. But I had a good cackle when I read it . . . and having done so, I’m gonna have to dig out their albums and give ’em a listen.

Here’s the key text of the bio (minus the quotes and band lineup and the like) . . . it’s as over-the-top as Section 8 themselves were, and I think it does ’em justice.

“The processes of evolution, natural selection and survival of the fittest have just as much relevance in a musical community as they do in a rain forest or cave pond ecosystem.

Strong bands regularly pull down weak bands and eat them, plundering their best players and chops while letting the dead bands’ marginal organs rot under the unblinking gaze of blue and red stage lights in otherwise empty club spaces.

Bands with exploitable advantages in the breeding pit of audience favor live long enough to pass on their creative seed to the next generation, with their spawn then engaging in rote perpetuation of the parents’ style, hoping that they too will win a chance to hump an audiences’ collective leg some day.

And every so often, a stray musical neutron tweaks the odd creative chromosome and something unexpected pops out of some hithertofore unspectacular womb, with the monstrous progeny usually turning to eat its own helpless mother before chewing off its own legs in rage and lying in a pool of self-made filth until pop culture’s dung beetles come to bury it.

But sometimes those creative mutations survive and grow strong, returning in adulthood to wreak havoc on their musical ecosystems.

Clifton Park, New York’s Section 8 are one such musical mutation.

They have already begun leaving their demon seed in each of the fertile communities where they play, so you may as well get ready to offer your brain, your soul and your ass to these freaks of nature now, knowing that they’re stronger than you, knowing that they’re going to eat you if they don’t try to mate with you (and may do both anyway, just because they can), knowing that resisting the power of evolution is futile.

Charles Darwin would be proud of you for knowing your place in the cosmic scheme.”

The Mystery Mix of the Moment

Back when I useta produce a regular stream of mix tapes for my own and other people’s consumption, I often created “Mystery Mixes” . . . unlabeled tapes of all sorts of things that really didn’t have anything to do with anything else on the tape. Some of them were audio-trainwrecks, but others . . . they were sublime. Last night, I wanted to burn Earl’s “Stupid or Narcissistic” (see entry below on this date) onto a disc to take to Maine with me this weekend, so created a digital version of the mystery mix, pulling all sorts of unrelated oddities out of various nooks and crannies, then pressing the “scramble” button on the CD recorder and letting it put the stuff together the way it wanted to. And, good for the computer, the results were indeed sublime . . . I’ve been spinning the disc all day long, and I like it more and more each time I play it.

So . . . the soundtrack for a good chunk of the drive to Maine is likely to be the track list of this disc . . .

1. “Oh Yeah” by Can

2. “Harpsicode” by the Mathematicians

3. “A Huge Rare Cheese” by ST 37

4. “Dallas” by Steely Dan

5. “Moody Liz (Take 8)” by Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band

6. “Stupid or Narcissistic” by Earl Patrick

7. “Blind” by Michael Gira

8. “How Bad (Do You Want It?)” by Check Engine

9. “Pat-Trip Dispenser” by the Fall

10. “Virginia Plain” by Roxy Music

11. “War” by Henry Cow and Slapp Happy

12. “Dear Little Mother” by Savage Rose

13. “Joy” by Irmin Schmidt

14. “Hocus Pocus” by Focus

15. “The Body Breaks” by Devendra Banhart

16. “Yum Yab” by Jarboe

17. “It’s A Rainy Day, Sunshine Girl” by Faust

This one really shouldn’t work . . . it’s too far scattered all over the place by date of release and style, but somehow, it ends up being greater than the sum of its already great parts. Impulsive mix-making still rocks. I need to do more of it. (And I don’t know why I don’t, since it’s far less tedious and time-consuming to make mix CDs than it was to make mix tapes)(which, of course, is probably why it’s not as rewarding)(plus . . . I’m not trying to pick up members of the opposite sex anymore, the primary impetus for mix tape making for most of my years of ill repute).

One track on this tape merits special mention: “Dallas” by Steely Dan. It was their first official single, and it has never appeared on any official album, since MCA yanked it off the shelves pretty much as soon as it hit them because it sounded nothing like the rest of the forthcoming Can’t Buy A Thrill album. “Dallas” is sung by drummer Jim Hodder, so it doesn’t even have the trademark Donald Fagen twang/sneer . . . but it’s a fabulous, longing, wistful country-blues song, well worth hunting down if you like Steely Dan. Or, probably even more worth hunting down if you don’t like them, since you wouldn’t know it was them if no one told you.

Download of the Moment

Stupid or Narcissistic” by Earl Patrick. What a beautiful song . . . one of those melodies that got stuck in my head the first time I heard it, coupled with a fabulous arrangement and some sweet, sweet singing. Go! Listen!

At the Movies

Marcia and I went to see “Collateral” last weekend. A great story, great acting, great script, but the experience of the film was really marred by what I consider to one of the most unfortunate developments in contemporary film-making: the over-use of herky-jerky, in-your-face, hand-held camera work. This movie will look absolutely great on television when it comes out on DVD, but the experience of watching it on a large 70mm screen was literally nauseating. Sometimes, that’s just what you want to make a scene or sequence work well, but over two hours, it’s just too danged much.

Marcia noted that she really enjoyed the score of the film, and how Director Michael Mann used songs in styles that she didn’t normally like, but that worked perfectly and evocatively for her in setting. I think that’s one of Mann’s great strengths . . . so a couple of days later, we rented what I consider to be his greatest movie, “Manhunter,” (which Marcia had not seen). There is a sequence in the middle of the movie (the tiger, the romantic interlude between the villian and the blind photo-tech, the final psychological meltdown of the villian) that is almost completely wordless, with the music (by Shriekback, in this case) being almost indescribably powerful and evocative and overwhelming, somehow. Likewise, the movie’s final sequence, a long one set to the equally long Iron Butterfly chestnut “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida,” is equally wordless, with the weird, nonsense surrealist stomp of the music communicating more than the actors ever could. Perfect and exquisite film-making.

And I guess, while I’m praising the movie, I should also note that it’s a textbook case of how less can be more in script-writing: the movie is based on Thomas Harris’ Red Dragon, the same book (and series) that inspired “Silence of the Lambs” and its sequels, and marks the first on-screen appearance of Dr. Hannibal Lecter, in this case played with cool and truly frightening menance by Brian Cox, instead of the scenery-chewing Anthony Hopkins. The book is very, very busy: there are all sorts of subplots and details and noise (for lack of a better word), that Mann just completely eliminating in his screenplay (no full body tattoos for the Dragon, no subplot about molds of his mother’s teeth, no subplot about him destroying the Blake painting from which he takes his identity, etc.). The screenplay is lean and mean, and it makes for a much better movie experience for that. Parse and purge are good instincts in screenplay-writing, methingks, and this is a classic example of how an adaptation can capture the essence of a book without getting bogged down in its minutia.

On the Roof

Last night, at about 2:30 AM, an extremely drunk young man took a ladder off the porch of the C+CC, climbed up onto the building’s roof, dragged the ladder up onto the roof with him, then proceeded to stumble and lurch about, destroying some lighting fixtures and ventilation ducts in the process, at which point he threw the ladder down two stories into the yard, trapping himself up there. The residents in the C+CC called the police, who talked the guy down and hauled him away. The kid claims he was an RPI student, but his name doesn’t appear in the computer. He also claims he was being chased, and that’s why he went up on the building’s roof.

After I finished talking with the residents about all that, and assessing damages and calling for repair contractors, one of my students called to say that she would be late this morning, because someone smashed broadside into her car last night while it was parked, then drove away. This is the same student who had her computer stolen last week.

On the (slightly) upside, I did have a (slightly) more restful night last night, as Lyla the Watch Cat deigned to sleep with us quietly for about four hours during the night, rather than sirening outside of Amy’s recovery room. They both got going about 5 AM, though, so I did end up coasting on the floor of the office with them for an hour and a half after that anyway. Three more nights ’til the stomach drain and the collar come off . . . here’s hoping we see some slight improvement each night.

And I think I’d better stop listening to old Cure records for awhile, since this blog is turning into the “Woe! Woe! Woe!” report . . . and there are few things worse than whiny blogs from people who really don’t have a lot to whine about. Self included, in the grand scheme of things, of course.

Maybe caffeine will help.

A More Serious Flavor of Tough News . . .

Cats, predators and office burglaries of the past week aside, I’ve also been dealing with some very difficult news in my capacity as Secretary for my Naval Academy class, as one of my classmates was killed in duty in Iraq last week. So my job now (a very, very small one, in the grand scheme of things, of course) is to be the conduit for notifying the entire class about news, services and memorials related to our fallen classmate and his family. So it’s been a kind of cheerless couple of days of incoming and outgoing posts related to such sad matters.

I’ve been so long and far removed from active duty military service that it’s always a sobering reminder to think about the people I trained hard with for years being the ones who are often deepest in harm’s way abroad right now, be it in Afghanistan, Iraq, or elsewhere. Or at home, for that matter, since we lost classmates in the Pentagon on September 11th as well.

For our 20th Anniversary gift back to the Naval Academy, our class raised funds to renovate Memorial Hall, the place at the Naval Academy where the names of all alumni who died in combat or on active duty are recorded. We already had a good number of names from our class on that wall, so it’s tough to add another now to the room that we, on some plane, thought (or wished) we were renovating for someone else.

A lot of the folks who know me only from my art and music and writing world connections are surprised to learn about my military background, which I take very seriously . . . and which leads me to have nothing but the deepest admiration for my peers who are continuing to serve our country, just the way we once trained, together, to do.

I just wish it didn’t take losing one of our classmates periodically to hammer that message home.

Siamese Cats . . .

. . . . are fantastic pets, most of the time. They bond amazingly strongly with each other, and with their owners, and want to be together, all the time. They are also extremely vocal, and will happily carry on conversations with each other and their owners for extended periods of time if you keep talking to them. These are good things, most of the time, and the reason that we like the breed so much: you have the small, low maintenance element of a normal cat, plus a dog-like affection that’s better than the diffidence that most cats extend humans, except when they’re hungry.

However . . . last night, I learned a downside to these behavior patterns: we had to keep the sick cat in a room by herself, so she could sleep off the anathesia and begin to mend without the other cat trying to sit on top of her all the time. The well cat, who has in the past six years never been separately from the sick cat for more than a few minutes at a time, spent the entire night sitting outside the closed room, yelling at the top of her lungs about how much she wanted to get in to be with the other cat. And when I say yelling, I mean yelling . . . if you’ve not heard a Siamese at top volume, you have no sense of just how loud a cat can be.

I finally got up around 4:00 AM or so (or, rather, got out of bed, since I hadn’t slept much all night) and took a blanket and a pillow into the room with the sick kitty, and let the other cat come in and lay down with us. I can’t leave them together unsupervised until Amy gets the drain taken out, and I can’t let Amy out of the room until she gets her lampshade collar off, since she can’t handle stairs with it on . . . so if tonight’s like last night was, I think I may end up sleeping on the floor of the office again, just to keep them quiet. Amy gets the drain out Saturday morning. I dunno if I can do that for four more nights.

I’m at my C+CC office now, which reeks of polyurethane curing, since we’ve been working on refinishing our stage risers, so the combo platter of organic chemical fumes and lack of sleep is putting me in a decidedly wifty mood this morning. And, I know, I should stop posting about the cat . . . there’s nothing more tedious than cat people going on and on about their cats, and Lord knows there are plenty of “My Darling Cat” websites and blogs out there. So I’ll try to keep it to a minimum, but I have a feeling this is not going to be a very productive week writing-wise. Sigh.

I did, however, see an intersting sight this morning on the way to work, that in my sleep-deprived state took on a surreal and bizarre different flavor . . . so I think I have a topic for a poem today.

Hi ho, hi ho . . .

. . . it’s off to camp we go. Well, not we actually, just Katelin, but I took her there. She’s off for her fourth summer at Camp Chingachgook up on Lake George, for two weeks of fun in the sun. She’s taking rock climbing and advanced sailing as her skill classes this year . . . an interesting combo platter, I guess. We miss her when she’s gone, but she looks forward to Camp and our trip to Maine more than just about anything else that she or we do, so knowing that makes it okay. Our cat’s having her surgery tomorrow, so I’m thinking it’s probably good that Katelin’s away for that, actually, since post-op critters tend to be a bit on the depressing side for the first few days of their recoveries. Poor kitty. Sigh. So I’m glad Katelin will get to spend the day sailing and climbing rocks (or a rock wall, rather, with lots of parent-friendly, worry-suppressing belay points and lines) instead of staring at the cat all night, feeling sorry for her. That’ll be my job. Did I mention “sigh” yet?

Gemini Snake

I’ve had the phrase “Gemini Snake” floating through my head tonight, too, but it’s not ripened to the point of showing a place to go with it . . . Katelin and I went out for Chinese food today, and spent lunch reading the Chinese horoscopes on the placemats. I’m a snake, she’s a goat (or a sheep, depending on which placemats you’re looking at). And I’m a Gemini in western horoscopes, hence Gemini Snake.

Not that put any value in either mythological system . . . although, for the record (and as a matter of coincidence) the stock personality traits of snakes and Geminis are pretty reasonable approximations of how I’d describe myself. To wit:

Snake: “Rich in wisdom and charm, Snakes are romantic and deep thinkers. Their intuition guides them strongly. Snakes usually do things at their own pace, and when the moment is right, shed their skin and take up something completely new. It is for this reason that people avoid Snakes — They can’t handle their mistrust and secretiveness. Although sociable at times, they have a strong desire to be left alone. Snakes are actually subtle workers — imperceptibly manuevering and manipulating until they are in the position to get what they want. Attracted to elegant and refined partners, they are deeply jealous and possessive when involved in relationships.”

Gemini: “Gemini wants to know everything but never digs quite deep enough, usually just skimming the surface. Gemini is a jack of all trades. Gemini is highly adaptable and likes change and variety. Gemini is restless and very clever with the use of hands. Gemini is versatile, fickle, intelligent, creative, quick, neat, and curious. Gemini learns quickly and has the ability to get a good education. Gemini can be selfish, nervous, inconsistent, deceptive, changeable, and confused, and tends to scatter forces.”

I’m not particularly jealous or possessive in my current longstanding and happy relationship (although, for the record, I certainly was when I was younger and in other relationships), nor am I great with my hands, nor do I confuse easily . . . but other than that, for the most part, if someone wrote the rest of that stuff on a work performance evaluation, I’d say “Yeah, that’s fair.” I don’t have any believe that balls of rock and gas light years away have any effect on who and what we are . . . but I do wonder, sometime, if we tend to become what our astrological signs say we’re supposed to be if we’re imprinted with that information early on in our lives.

But I digress . . . and now I just gotta figure out what “Gemini Snake” (the poem) is gonna be about. Is it a person’s name? A spaceship? A reptile twin? Some magic elixir like “Jefferson Water.” Hmmm.