Because of a scheduling crush for conference space in Manhattan that became a moot point when it pivoted to fully online for the third consecutive year, Happy Virtual AAG Week, everyone.
Though I wouldn’t have been able to get to New York anyway, I was beginning to regret missing the chance to reunite with some friends and colleagues from all over the states and some (depending on COVID-related passport restrictions) from around the globe. Granted, considering how Omicron variant numbers were skyrocketing last month and NYC tends to be a vector of disease transmission, the Association of American Geographers decided to hold this year’s meeting virtually. Despite the pandemic restrictions, I’ve been happy to serve the Cultural Geography Specialty Group as their Program Director for that time.
For our AAG 2022 Keynote, our first choice was Arizona State’s Dr. Rashad Shabazz – a name I’ve known for some time in the world of musical and critical geographies – and fortunately, he was honored to do it. He will be delivering the CGSG keynote talk on his long-going research about Prince, entitled “Prince and Place: A Premier on the Geography of Music.” I will be chairing the virtual talk along with my good friend and colleague Hannah Gunderman (CGSG Chair) this Sunday at 5:20pm ET.
As of this writing, I don’t have the precise details on how AAG digital registrants can access Rashad’s talk, but once we do, I will try to update them here, and the Cultural Geography Specialty Group will also post them (as the image says) at our website CulturalGeographySG.org along with various conduits on Twitter.
“See” everybody then! Check our Rashad’s bio below this video.
About Rashad Shabazz
Rashad Shabazz’s academic expertise brings together human geography, cultural studies, gender studies, and critical race studies. His research explores how race, gender, and cultural production are informed by geography. His most recent work, Spatializing Blackness,(University of Illinois Press, 2015) examines how carceral power within the geographies of Black Chicagoans shaped urban planning, housing policy, policing practices, gang formation, high incarceration rates, masculinity, and health.
Professor Shabazz’s scholarship has appeared in the journals Souls, The Spatial-Justice Journal, ACME, Gender, Place and Culture, Cultural Geography, Occasions, and Places. In addtion, Shabazz has also published several book chapters and book reviews. Professor Shabazz’s scholarship is also public facing. He has also appeared on local, national, and international news programs such as the BBC, Time Magazine, and 20/20. He is currently working on a book that uncovers the development of the Minneapolis music scene from its beginning in the mid-19th century to the release of Prince’s magnum opus, Sign O’ The Times, in 1987.
Inspired by similar lists I saw some musically-preoccupied friends doing on social media, I decided to challenge myself to list my 10-20 favorite albums of every year for the past four decades. My lists inspired others to reply with their own lists, which turned the project into even more fun than the pandemic could have mustered. To help buttress my summer writing goals, I’ve decided to revisit my favorite albums of the past four decades, providing some rationale and geographical context for each one.
U2 – ‘Boy’ (Island Records)
In seventh grade, my Reading/Literature teacher assigned us to read William Golding’s classic novel Lord of the Flies. We dedicated the first 15 minutes of each class to write short entries in each others’ composition notebooks about our responses to each chapter of the main characters’ regression. Though the novel’s central theme passed me by at the time (likely the result of my own lack of interest in literary analysis more than my teacher’s lack of trying), but now I catch myself thinking about it all the time, especially every time U2’s debut album (and still their best) Boy reaches it’s closing track, “Shadows and Tall Trees.” Lord of the Flies had a clear impact on them, too, especially given the novel’s takedown of British polite society. Demystifying the book, Golding wrote that the book’s theme was “an attempt to trace the defects of society back to the defects of human nature.” Still, there was something timeless about proper British schoolboys reverting to bloody savagery when left to their own devices.
Bono always claimed that U2 attempted to write the quintessential album about youth and adolescence on their debut LP, and the prodigious amount of press that U2 got, even while they were still teenagers (and 5 years before their performance of “Bad” at Live Aid, which I’ll put a pin in here) backs up those claims and aims. There’s no doubt that, by 1980, U2 were prepared to be the biggest band in the world. When they played at the Bayou in Washington, DC on December 7, 1980, Xyra wrote as much in her review in that month’s issue of the Capitol Crisis zine:
“The only cubby-hole one can fit U-2 into is the one marked ‘magical.’…. As with all of U-2’s songs, there is an urgency about it, as if the whole world depended upon singing and playing the song just the right way….As I left the concert I felt a sense of attachment to U-2 unlike any I’d felt before. It was a mixture of pride at being one of the few people in on their secret, and sorrow at realizing that they can’t stay unknown forever. For that would be a tragedy. U-2 are destined to be one of the classic bands of all time, and believe me they will.”
Whether or not U2 ever agreed they were a punk band, they certainly emerged from the post-punk era with a hell of a set of songs and a supernatural set of tricks; Xyra would have been honest had that not been the case. Of course, we all know how history proved her closing statement correct, but unfortunately, U2 have spent half of their career as a band making mediocre music. Which is why I still contend that Boy captured that early fire they had, between their choices in artwork, Steve Lillywhite’s production, and the way it keeps on revealing its secrets to the world with every listen. It also helps map out just what went wrong with the band, and how tied it was to geography.
On paper, the line “Someday I’ll die, the choice will not be mine” (which Bono sings in “Out of Control”) could be mediocre teenage poetry, but coming out of Bono’s mouth with the band’s on-point backing it does sound wise beyond its years. Bono also posed another question of mortality in “A Day Without Me,” a ballsy choice for Boy‘s lead single. One of Bono’s cross-Sea contemporaries who would choose death in May 1980, Ian Curtis, lent the song a whole new din as the year progressed.
Like all great albums, Boy reveals new secrets with every listen – perhaps the most profound of which was an epiphany I had when playing the tape for my partner after she and I had been basking in Joy Division’s music for a few days. Thought I’d been listening to both bands for at least twenty years, it never occurred to me just how Joy Division’s influence is slathered all over early U2. I haven’t read enough interviews to verify it or not, but the blueprint of Unknown Pleasures (released one year prior to Boy) still echoes in a lot of the latter, as much as U2 were not content to slow down their tempo. The key exception here is “An Cat Dubh,” a rare appearance of Gaelic in U2’s catalog that stands on the shoulders of the finest early goth that they were mustering over in the UK (e.g. “Bela Lugosi’s Dead,” “Day of the Lords”).
As has been documented and dramatized, Ian Curtis took his own life right before his band was to embark on their first tour of North America. New Order’s eventual world-conquering notwithstanding, for U2, their Boy-ish dreams were impossible to contain within Ireland’s borders. By 1985, U2 were the biggest band in the world and led off their following (great, yet overrated) album with a song called “Where the Streets Have No Name,” a declaration that their sights were set on the whole world, not just their small North-Atlantic island country. Unfortunately, the more Bono has tried to save the world, the less enticing his music has become. From a geographical standpoint, that’s no disaster, since he’s done more to help those in need around the globe than almost any living celebrity.
But I digress. This isn’t about what U2 would eventually accomplish as artists and celebrities, it’s about their first album and why it’s my favorite record of 1980. Relatively few people heard Boy first among U2’s discography (mine was Rattle & Hum, which is a whole separate conversation), yet nothing sounds immature or half-cooked about the album when juxtaposed with their later works. It’s alternately amazing and upsetting that U2 didn’t seem to improve as musicians or songwriters over the course of becoming the world’s biggest band. I mean, it wasn’t their final great album by any means, as some of their musical ideas did go a bit more left-field (some more successful than others) into the nineties. For me, Boy still constitutes the closest thing U2 had to a definitive Irish moment, when “the streets that had no name” were only images they had read about in books and in nature programs on RTE. Despite these ostensible limitations, U2 arrived on the scene as the world’s greatest rock band, and their debut album remains proof.
For anyone interested, these are my #2 – #10 favorite records of 1980:
- Young Marble Giants – Colossal Youth
- Dire Straits – Making Movies
- Prince – Dirty Mind
- The English Beat – I Just Can’t Stop It
- Dead Kennedys – Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables
- The Soft Boys – Underwater Moonlight
- Tom Waits – Heartattack and Vine
- DEVO – Freedom of Choice
- Gary Numan – Telekon
Happy Almost-May to anyone who has stumbled back here. The home stretch of the Spring semester has put a whole bunch of entries/essays on hold, unfortunately, but there will be a song challenge for May that I’m sure many of you will appreciate (especially a surprising number of millennials).
A few weeks ago, students in my two sections of GEO 121 (Intro to Globalization) submitted their third paper, which asked them to do a geographic analysis of a song of their choosing. I know I have done this at least once here, but I wanted to keep up the tradition. Here are, in no particular order, the songs which students chose (an asterisk indicates that I assigned this one, per request) for this semester’s music geography paper.
- Soran Bucha (Japanese Traditional Song)
- Ella & Louis – “Autumn in New York“
- Gordon Lightfoot – “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald“
- 2Pac feat. Dr. Dre – “California Love“
- Lil Herb – “Gangway“
- Alabama – “Dixieland Delight“
- Marc Cohn – “Walking in Memphis“
- Men at Work – “Down Under“
- John Denver – “Take Me Home, Country Roads“
- The Beatles – “Back in the U.S.S.R.“
- U2 – “Sunday Bloody Sunday“
- Frank Sinatra – “New York, New York“
- Pavement – “Unfair“*
- Panic! at the Disco – “Vegas Lights“
- Jay-Z feat. Alicia Keys – “Empire State of Mind“
- Ed Sheeran – “Nancy Mulligan“
- The Rockets – “Born in Detroit“
- Warren Zevon – “Werewolves of London“
- Kid Rock – “All Summer Long“
- Toto – “Africa“
- James Brown – “Living in America“
- Lynyrd Skynyrd – “Sweet Home Alabama”
- The Hacky Turtles – “Take Me There“
- Dr. John – “Down in New Orleans“
- John Denver – “Rocky Mountain High“
- Red Hot Chili Peppers – “Californication”
- Jason Aldean – “Crazy Town“
- Bazzi – “3:15“
- Tee Grizzley – “Teetroit“
- The Beach Boys – “Don’t Go Near the Water“
Happy Wednesday, everyone, or as they say to the Brits and Americans who consistently flood Paris, Happy Wednesday! This week, we’ll be grabbing our cans of spray paint, hopping on nos vélos, and setting off on a journey of découverte.
This week’s mix is a curious bunch of vinyl I’ve acquired on a few trips overseas, with a few key exceptions of rare finds in the US. I tried to include a multitude of songs sung in French, though it was a challenge since so many punk and hardcore songs are recorded in English. French is a language best suited for hip-hop flow and chansons, where English tends to fit with punchier, more aggressive music. As a linguistics nerd, I enjoy this weird binary.
One of the threads that ran through a bunch of my interviews with French collaborators for Capitals of Punk was how France has always felt “late to the party” within pop music (especially rock and punk) among Western countries. This dynamic is what makes French pop music so interesting to me, especially that which is produced with no consideration of the all-powerful English-language tunes, or even that which is produced in direct resistance to the Anglo-American cultural dominance.
I hope you enjoy the variety of material you’re about to hear! I’m also excited to make an announcement on Your Sonic Sunday this coming weekend that is intimately related to this week’s Sonic Geography Mix. Sorry I missed this last Sunday. Sixteen straight Sundays to kick off 2020 wasn’t a bad run.
Funeral Service (Riems) – “Pills”
Schlitz (Paris) – “Destroy Babylon” (from Wondawful World 7″)
Too Much (I have no clue) – “Silex Pistols” (from the Born Bad French Punxploitation LP)
Kromozom 4 (Paris) – “La Tuture” (from 7″ split with Heimat-Los, which I found in Knoxville, of all places)
Baton Rouge (Lyon) – “D’Année en Année”
Sport (Lyon) – “Eric Tabarly” (LP bought at FEST 14)
Maladroit (Paris) – “She Spent Valentine’s Day on her iPhone” (from 7″ split with Teenage Bubblegums)
Kimmo (Paris) – “Clac Son”
Frustration (Paris) – “Artists Suck!”
Buried Option (Orléans) – “Mandrake Falls”
Sunsick (Marseille) – “Holidays”
Telephone (Paris) – “Regarde Moi”
Berurier Noir (Paris) – “Hèlene et le Sang” (from Concerto Pour Détraques reissue LP)
Computerstaat (Paris) – “Crypt” (some cold wave for your souls)
Starshooter (Lyon) – “Betsy Party”
Thrashington D.C. (Brest) – “Banned in B.M.O.”
Metal Urbain (Paris) – “Panik” (Punk française starts here)
Sherwood (Paris) – “Le Bourgeois”
Watermane (Montpellier) – “Greetings from the Basements”
Ferry “Rock” Berendse (Weird story/Indonesian born) – “Rock and Roll Mops” (off the Born Bad Record early French R&R comp)
Amanda Woodward (Caen) – “Pleine de Grâce”
Edith Piaf (Omnipresent) – “Mon Manège À Moi (Tu Me Fais Tourner La Tête)”
Another semester of Intro World Regional Geography/Globalization = another set of musical geography papers. I always look forward to assigning this piece, and the variety of songs that students analysed always produces a few surprises. I was also fortunate to learn about a few new (to me) artists like Mr. Vegas, and the amazingly-named Tropical Fuck Storm (TFS), and Declan McKenna.
The almost-full list is below, with any multiple submissions in parenthesis. I would make a Spotify playlist if I used Spotify, but you can find any of these in good quality on various online platforms. It bears mentioning, too, that almost every track is available on vinyl in some form from your local/regional record shop, who are likely suffering right now and subsisting on mail orders.
- “America: Fuck Yeah!” from Team America: World Police
- Gordon Lightfoot – “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” (2)
- Sean Kingston feat. Nicki Minaj – “Letting Go”
- Mukesh – “Chhodo Kal Ki Baatein”
- Evan Legler – “Michigan”
- The Monkees – “Pleasant Valley Sunday”
- Pink Floyd – “San Tropez”
- Kendrick Lamar – “Compton”
- The Veronicas – “Change the World”
- Men at Work – “Down Under”
- Kid Rock – “Detroit, Michigan”
- Declan McKenna – “Brazil”
- Jay-Z feat. Alicia Keys – “Empire State of Mind” (3)
- NWA – “Fuck Tha Police”
- Yusuf Lateef – “Eastern Market”
- Alabama – “If You’re Gonna Play in Texas (You Gotta have a Fiddle in the Band)”
- The Arcade Fire – “Here Comes the Night Time”
- Lee Greenwood – “God Bless the U.S.A.”
- Glen Campbell – “Southern Nights”
- LCD Soundsystem – “New York I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down”
- Marvin Gaye – “What’s Going On”
- Lefty Frizzell – “Saginaw, Michigan”
- The Beatles – “Back in the U.S.S.R.”
- Tropical Fuck Storm – “You Let My Tyres Down”
- John Denver – “Take Me Home, Country Roads”
- Mr. Vegas – “The Voices of Sweet Jamaica”
Recently in LA, I sat down with Kyle Kilday, the director of the forthcoming documentary The Last Scene. Kyle invited me to talk about the turn-of-the-millennium burst of mainstream interest in pop-punk, hardcore, emo, and “emo.” We had a great conversation, and I’m looking forward to seeing the final product. If you’d like to support or learn more about the project, you can do so at the official website, here.
Hey, I’m back. I also gave no real indication that I was gone, since finals made that fairly difficult. I’ve also been working on my end-of-decade music lists, which I’ll post here next Monday. A lyric in one of my top 10 records of the decade says, “the city is an empty glass,” but this week’s retrospective says that “the city is an open score.”
Last week, I was privileged to join Theatrum Mundi for their annual Crafting a Sonic Urbanism conference at EHESS (Campus Condorcet) in Aubervilliers (Paris) on Friday. It was exactly what one would want out of a conference: laid-back, collegial, thoughtful, and concluded with a mind-melting talk by Saskia Sassen.
At the beginning of my talk, I cited a portion of my 2016 interview with Ian MacKaye where he reflected on Fugazi’s success in France. He said (to paraphrase) that he felt like the French and some other European punks had a certain appreciation for what artists were doing outside of the capitalist paradigm of production, and that finding that appreciation for your efforts was simply a universal human desire. For similar reasons, I appreciated the opportunity to present my research across the pond.
Theatrum Mundi have no qualms about pushing various envelopes, drawing heavily on abstract thought and experimental art to propose new ideas or ways of thinking about landscape. Even if some of it went over my head (especially as a ostensible non-musician), everyone there was eager to learn from one another. I was grateful to be able to join some of the conference family on Thursday for a “Scoring the City” workshop:
The main colloquium on Friday ran from 9.30 until 17.00, with Dr. Sassen’s presentation ending the evening at 20.00 (I’m still somewhat on the 24-hour clock). I was introduced to several musical experiments, thought exercises, and moments in sonic political history, among the most notable being Lin Chi-Wei’s Tape Music (Jonathan Packham) and Ella Finer’s discussion of the use of vocal noise at the 1982 Greenham Common protests. It was also my first bilingual conference, including a handful of talks and presentations in French. I wish my French comprehension were better, but it forced me to practice, at least.
While I was in town, I also had the chance to catch up with a pair of my top Capitals of Punk informants (though of course I won’t play favorites). With new things coming for the book and the greater surrounding project in 2020, it was rewarding to hear more stories and approach future collaborations that may actually bring me back to Paris before too long.
I’ve also been fortunate to experience Paris in moments of political upheaval: one was an isolated incident (anti-austerity, Greek solidarity protests in July 2015) and the other was a protracted mass-scale industrial action this past month. Due to the strikes, almost all of the Metro lines were closed or profoundly compromised, and the (limited) buses were rolling sardine cans:
Still, save for a handful of participants who had difficulty making it into Paris from elsewhere in France (the SNCF was on strike as part of the greater grève), the Sonic Urbanism conference went off without a hitch and I was able to get around the city and Ile-de-France with little incident. I joked with one friend that being an American used to relying on public transit in a variety of cities back home had prepared me for bad public transit. Even on Paris’ worst day, it was still not that bad, comparatively. I did not come across any protests around Les Halles, but I did not spend too much time down around there. The footage from cities like Bordeaux on the news every night was pretty harrowing, though, and it was a welcome change to see protesters presented in a marginally positive (or at least objective) light on a National platform, which is more than can be said for most any 24-hour American news outlet.
All that being said, and despite how lovely France was in the Holiday Season, I’m grateful to be back in the States. 2019 was an amazing year for me. Cumulatively, I spent over a month of it overseas, and coupled with an affiliation switch and big move, suffice it to say I’m still exhausted as I write this. It’s a good exhausted, however, and I’m eager to relax over the Holidays and return to Central Michigan in 2020 with a head full of steam.
Thank you for reading and thank you for your support through this past year! To you and yours, I wish you:
FROM DR. CHRISTINA BALLICO
- How do these scenes construct themselves in relation to larger, ‘core’ scenes?
- What role do social networks and Communities of Practice play in the functioning of these scenes?
- How do temporal and financial barriers impact being able to connect with audiences and industry beyond musicians’ home locale?
- What role does migration and mobility play in ongoing career development?
- How has social media broken down barriers to larger centres?
- What role have governments played in overcoming the isolation faced by musicians and industry?
- How do industry workers navigate their careers in these centres?
Happy New Year, everyone! Classes start in one week, and I have a mountain of items to catch up on after being out of town for so much of December. Two of these items include posts for this website, one of which is long overdue and another was inspired by a stops I made on the road in the Midwest last month. One of the most pressing, however, is putting the finishing touches on a project over three years in the making that I look forward to announcing soon.
I thought I would share this video I found of a SYNDROME 81 gig I attended in Paris in the summer of 2015. This was the night I met Fast Fab (the vocalist), who became a good friend and great informant for my dissertation. I wasn’t able to spot myself anywhere in here (probably hiding off to the side, snapping photos), but I had a good time.
Fab later told me that the moniker Syndrome 81 is a joke (much like the name of his old band, Thrashington DC) that makes fun of how people think it’s completely insane (“syndrome”) for somebody born in 1981 to still be making music like this. I could probably ask myself the same question and rename half of this blog “Syndrome 83.” Regardless, Syndrome 81 have released a solid brief catalog of music over the past few years to solid critical acclaim from blogs and zines that appreciate the classic style.
Anyway, 2019 – how about that? More posts and announcements very soon.