A portrait of the artist as a young punk.

A portrait of the artist as a (very midwestern) young punk.

As I write this, I’m about halfway through a master’s program in art history. And for the most part, I like it a lot. I like being exposed to new art and new ways of thinking and being able to get into deep discussions with smart people about works of art and lesser-known artists.

There is a side of it I don’t like, though – one that doesn’t come up in class too often, but dominates when I’m talking to people outside the program about it. If I mention that I’m studying art history, people naturally seem to want to jump to talking about classifications. Is Van Gogh impressionist or post-impressionist? Is Frank Gehry a deconstructionist architect?

I know there’s some value to that kind of discussion, but I think it’s minimal. It’s more interesting to talk about Frank Gehry’s architecture itself than whether it fits into an arbitrary category (a category made up, in this case, retroactively for a museum exhibit, borrowing a really unrelated term from lit theory). And more importantly, these discussions remind me of another ongoing argument that’s been annoying me for years: is Motorhead’s “Ace of Spades” a punk song?

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As part of a group remake of The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust, I have committed some pretty serious crimes against Bowie:

In my defense, a) It Ain’t Easy is easily the worst song on the album (Bowie’s version only works because he’s got Mick Ronson there to save the day), and I basically had to destroy the village to save it; b) Bowie didn’t write the damned thing anyway (which really shows in the lyrics, which are pretty Zeppelin); and c) I actually think my guitar parts are pretty cool.

This alternate version from the same challenge is also pretty excellent.

nwiconLet’s start with the executive summary: After being in creative exile, more or less, for the past 4 months, I started work this morning on bringing back my old rock strip Nowhere Band. The new volume will, somewhat recursively, follow the Awesome Boys as they try to get their band back together after a long hiatus and deal with the fact that they’re now edging into being older than their musical peers. First new strip should go up some time next week. It should be funny and human. I’m stoked.

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SubCaudaWeb1So, yeah. After working on it for most of 2012, I’ve finished and put out an EP on behalf of my fictional band, the Awesome Boys. It’s pretty good stuff, I think; if nothing else, it’s a good approximation of what the inside of my head sounds like, processed into something catchy and entertaining.

In an email to a local rock writer, I described the album thusly:

It’s always hard to come up with a description of your own music, but I guess I’d call Sub Cauda “ambitious garage rock.” There’s a lot of guitar and weird noises coaxed out of a Kaossilator. You could maybe say it’s music that draws equally from the Flaming Lips and Guided By Voices. Or probably not. But that’s a start, I guess.

That’s probably as good of a description as I can do. Anyway, go check it out! The whole thing is free to stream or download on my Awesome Boys site; or if you prefer SoundCloud, 5 of the 6 songs (minus a pretty rad Bowie cover) are streaming over there.

So, we’re going to try something here: For the next month or so, I’ll use this space to curate some great music. Because after working in art museums for 10 years, I have curation envy. Today’s entry: a live version of the Buzzcocks’ asskicker “What Do I Get?”