Thursday, December 18, 2008

Fear - "New York's Alright If You Like Saxophones" from the Album The Record

Fear - The Record CD cover
As singer/actor/auteur Lee Ving is very much aware, what's going on in this song is the demarcation of a cultural divide. East Coast/West Coast, Apple/ Angels, "Saxophones" draws the lines (at least from the West Coast perspective) in the battle between Los Angeles and New York, and that battle is over much more just the two metropolis's brands of punk rock.

Yeah, it's about Ramones vs. Black Flag, Voidoids vs. Fear, but it's also about tons of other things: subway vs. freeway, the Village vs. the Strip, the Pacific Ocean vs. Long Island Sound, the MOMA vs. Universal Studios, smog vs. garbage, and probably as much as anything, Woody Allen vs. the whole goddamned collective.

You can surely ask how much Ving is into the films of Woody Allen, but for me, if the pro-LA, anti New York point of view is just about summed up by "New York's Alright If You Like Saxophones," then the pro-New York, anti-Los Angeles side of things would be stated by Allen, or at least his later, less funny, films.

I mean, I know that the neurotic jew schtick has by now gotten old, and that Allen's idea of modern music is something like Paul Whiteman, but stay with me, it's worth it: Allen's films starting at about Annie Hall are not only love songs to New York City, they are pretty direct in their hatred of LA, and are therefore definitely salvo in the East/West culture wars.

So yeah, that's it: this song is Part Two of the Steel Cage Death Match between Woody Allen and Lee Ving, initiated and continued over the cities they each hate. The Woodman had laid down the gauntlet in Annie Hall, calling LA "Munchkin Land" and five years later, Lee Ving comes back and speaks on behalf of the City of the Angels, telling us in no uncertain times that New York's best if you've got a terminal illness.

My love of Sonic Youth notwithstanding, I'm pretty sure I'm with Ving on this one, but, of course, you're free to judge for yourself

Too cool for Graphjam--or I can only surmise

Fear - The Record - 5 - New York's Alright If You Like Saxophones.mp3

This file was removed January 30, 2009. If you're still way interested in coming up with a copy of this--and really can't figure out where you might get one--drop me an email and I'm sure I'll be able to figure something out for you.

File Under: Youze all suck, who don't tink so?

1 comment:

rastronomicals said...

My old roommate Tim Powell, while of impeccable taste in most regards--he had turned me on to Jon Hassell, Flipper, AND the Pixies--never really understood the greatness of Fear.

Perhaps that was because If Fear defined the simultaneously more cerebral and more violent punk rock laid out by the Southern California hardcore scene in the early '80's, Tim had a lot more respect for the New York punk scene circa 1977. Big Johnny Thunders guy, Tim was, Ramones, too, Richard Hell, that kind of stuff.

"Jurassic Punk" I called it, with more than a smidgen of haughty dimissal.

Hard to believe now, probably, but the joke was actually funny then.

But, goddamn, if he loved "Cretin Hop" or "Chinese Rocks" so much, then why couldn't he grasp "I Love Livin' In the City?"

Beats me. But my convoluted point here, the thing that was funny both then and now, is how one day, probably one Sunday morning as we drank our coffee and paced as we so often did in a clockwise direction around the perimeter of the discount pool table that sat in the middle of our terrazoed living room while the coffee began flexing its muscles inside our bloodstreams, was how even Tim, who cared not a whit for Fear, was able to recognize that "New York's Alright If You Like Saxophones" was the shit.

Perhaps the song was even playing, and at some point during one of the skronking sax breaks, I was like, "how the fuck can you deny the greatness of a band that could come up with shit like this?"

Tim knew he had no case denying how awesome "Saxophones" was, but remained nonplussed
and instead came up with the greatest, funniest rationalization I'd ever heard.

"It was an accident," he said.

Funny as hell, Mr. Powell, but also untrue. NYAIYL ain't no accident. It's brilliance at work, even if that brilliance was somewhat short-lived.