Will the Real Toilet Guppy Please Flush?

After a mishap here at Toilet Guppies HQ, the blog's being put on hold. Indefinitely. All rarities to be posted for your elitist fancy seem to have been lost in one epic computer belly-up.

But don't assume Toilet Guppies is dead just yet. Throughout the recent ordeal, one story has kept this particular toilet guppy afloat—an improbable, yet nonetheless inspirational news item published in the Telegraph back in August:

It seems a goldfish was found in a sewage plant, alive and well after an attempted murder (by flushing). Yet the indomitable goldfishbowl-fish survived not only the assassination attempt, but also the long and no doubt hazardous journey through the merciless habitat that is the plumbing coming out of Glasgow.

The name of the intrepid goldfish? Pooh—not only a fitting name (considering), but also the nick rudely thrust upon me by those among my friends who make my enemies feel so unnecessary. And as Pooh the Goldfish, so shall I refuse to succumb to my misfortunes!

However, should events ever conspire to delete all the 80-odd gigabytes of mp3s in your bloated music collection, with all your CDs, tapes and vinyl in storage 520 kilometres to the north, leaving only one physical album in your desperately clutching hands, then let that CD be Kurt Vile's Childish Prodigy, just out on Matador Records. (Although if you buy the album through iTunes or eMusic you'll get a bonus track («Take Your Time» or «Farfisa in Falltime», respectively) that Matador won't give you if you buy the CD from their store.)

See you round the goldfishbowl…


Net Nuggets 19: Blonde and Golden Hookers

Larkin Grimm: «Live on WNYC Soundcheck» [.zip]

More's been written about Larkin Grimm here on Toilet Guppies than can be convincingly held to be healthy. Yet her performances deserve to be heard—more than most, in fact.

This particular recording—performed on WNYC radio show Soundcheck on 9 December 2008—consists of the songs «Blond and Golden Johns» and «Be My Host», both to be found in multi-instrumental versions on Grimm's extraordinarily brave and honest (and not a little titillating) 2008 release, Parplar. (Which Toilet Guppies cannot recommend highly enough.)

«Blond and Golden Johns» is purportedly about the gloriously decadent phenomenon that is Paris Hilton, but inspired by the «Feminism» of Frida Hyvönen, who Grimm refers to in the radio interview as «the Elton John of Sweden»(!). Whether this comparison is due to Hyvönen's '80s sounding piano balladry or her ill advised dress sense, she doesn't say, but Grimm seems to have taken some sort of cue from Hyvönen in construing Paris' sexual power grip on the masses as one variant of Girl Power.

Psychologists Cindy M. Meston & David M. Buss recently published Why Women Have Sex—Understanding Sexual Motivations from Adventure to Revenge (and Everything in Between), in which they list 237 reasons in total. After love, pleasure, procreation and pity, that would leave, oh, about 233 motives to do with power, in some way or other. Perhaps Girl Power is in there somewhere among them.

As far as the sex symbol and Hilton heiress is a multi-millionaire who flaunts convention and does whatever the hell she pleases, Paris is empowered. But I suspect Grimm (or Hyvönen?) is confusing Feminism with Individualism here, as it's doubtful whether Hilton is any more solidaric with her «sisters» than your average psychological terrorist conniving against her sexual rivals in the most manipulative manner imaginable. Hilton can resort to her sexuality to gain power because she's attractive enough, an option not open to the majority of her gender. Hers is Narcissist Power.

As for Hyvönen's perceived politics, perhaps an American's Feminism is just a Swede's conformism. After all, the current strain of Scandinavian Feminism is only the politically correct paradigm in those countries, anyway, and its firm foundation in Puritanism ensures that it desperately lacks the sexuality (and so honesty, truth) inherent in Grimm's own work (not to mention that of Paris Hilton!). But hey—if one of Grimm's most evocative compositions came out of all this, who's complaining?

«Be My Host» is also an homage, Grimm has said, this time to troubadour-threnodist Marissa Nadler, an uncompromising talent in her own right. No one makes a dysfunctional obsession with death and heartbreak sound as pretty as songbird Nadler does, and it's easy to see why Grimm would be in awe of her.

Personally, I felt very inspired when recently I watched this during a sleepless night in front of the TV, after years of isolating myself from contemporary mainstream music (and branding campaigns—er, music videos):

If only it were an instrumental. At least we can safely ring up Lady GaGa to tell her she's not needed after all… And if she resorts to that «subversive liberated gay icon» spiel, have Peaches punch her in the tits.

But I digress. Go buy some Larkin Grimm, already.


Rare or Unreleased 30: Charles Manson

Charles Manson: Some songs off All the Way Alive [.zip]

This week saw both «Communist» China's 60-year anniversary and Roman Polanski's arrest in Switzerland. The two events seem connected—in the loosest possible sense—in a 1967 Esquire pictorial, wherein snippets of Mao's propaganda is illustrated with shots of Sharon Tate donning CCP symbols, mixed in with glamour, glitz and gratuitous nudity. You could say it anticipated China's consumerist-Capitalist twist on Communism by decades. Two years later, this innocent (if offensively ignorant) radical chic would be starkly contrasted with the hateful underbelly of '60s love & light, the Manson Family serving as the rapist-murderer to the Beverly Hills socialites' S&M fetishist.

It's testament to the 1960s' artistic dedication that several of its influential figures took things a little too far, losing their balance while tip-toeing on the edge of thought. Today's hip or prominent artists are more worried about their hairdos or the lighting. But in the '60s, we have Pink Floyd's Syd Barrett, Jefferson Airplane/Moby Grape's Skip Spence, the 13th Floor Elevators' Roky Erickson, Fleetwood Mac's Peter Green, the Rolling Stones' Brian Jones, the Beach Boys' Brian Wilson, Love's Arthur Lee (and Bobby Beausoleil)…

Not to mention Charlie. Manson wasn't a rock star, of course, and some would have it that it's precisely this frustration that made him do the things he's best remembered for. That's a simplistic theory that originated in the prosecutor's office, and should never have left the courtroom, really. A lot of people don't make it in the biz, without resorting to extensive mind control and conspiracy to brutally slaughter random rich & beautiful people. But a prosecutor needs a motive, and a motive involves neat rationality. It's not unthinkable, however, that Manson wanted to see how far he could make his followers go, equally as much as he desired to unleash his rage upon those who spurned his desperate advances for validation… In any case, reasoning on his part would probably have been confused, at best.

But all that came later. On 11 September 1967, still trying to land a record deal, Manson recorded his first demos. (Not to be confused with a second batch of demos, recorded on 9 August, 1968 and released in 1970 under the title Lie—The Love and Terror Cult.) The '67 demos remained unreleased for a very long time, no one wanting to touch the damn thing, not even for historical value. They were finally released in 2003, as All the Way Alive, limited to a run of 1,000. Neither the audio quality nor the music itself are great, yet they aren't as poor as you'd imagine. Dennis Wilson famously ended up buying a couple of songs off Manson (which the Beach Boys subsequently recorded), and Neil Young was sufficiently impressed to give Manson a motorcycle(!).

Typically, the 12 songs (and one interview) showcase Manson's homespun quack, hack and wack «philosophy,» which basically takes the common lovey-dovey sentiments of doe-eyed hippies (with the typical disregard for coherence and logical consistency of all New Age of Aquarius non-systems of thought), and weds it to a sometimes more bitter, anti-social sentiment, latent in the songs' anti-consumerism. The whole thing is made all the more bizarre by Manson's intros and addendums of nervous laughter and quasi-intellectual chatter. This is the sound of a pathological con man's take on hippie culture, in a time before hippies were equated with love and flowers and many of them were still dabbling in anything alternative to the WASP existence, be it the occult, hoodoo or Satanism—even Socialist revolution.

In any case, Manson's con was convincing enough to disillusioned middle class, teenage runaway girls with father complexes, who heard something profound in these songs and discourses. Of course, LSD helped suspend their critical faculties.

Still, these recordings aren't just curiosa. This is the sound of Napoleonic ambition and bottomless resentment, cloaked in Christlike love. And when you think of all that has been (and still is) done in the name of Christ—all the sinister motives disguised as «love», in our everyday lives as much as in major historical events—you realise there's an unintentional ring of ugly truth to these sounds—which are admittedly quite catchy at times.

At least the songs I've shortlisted here. (The rest of the tracks are novelty songs of mainly historical value.) And at least in one song—the refreshingly honest «Bet You Think I Care»—Manson gives us a short glimpse behind the curtain, directly revealing to us his psychopathic nature. He's not evil. He simply doesn't give a shit.

  1. True Love You Will Find
  2. The More You Love
  3. Two Pair of Shoes
  4. Who to Blame
  5. Bet You Think I Care
  6. Devil Man