7 For Seven: Red Hot Peppers, Chili

Heartland rock, typeface, baby bonds, a podcast about your favorite band, Kaufman, deleting old tweets, and well, he has a point

Brady Gerber’s “7 For Seven”: Seven links on writing and creativity in your inbox by 7 AM EST every Wednesday, as well as Headphone Nation and ARTS & FARTS song reviews. 1st Friday: a new short story. 2nd and 4th Fridays: interviews with writers. Read on your browser.

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see it’s a chili’s but it’s also a pun because really it’s a red pepper in an ice cube so it’s chilly yes that is an ice cube so like see I was interesting in really capturing the relat—

It’s Wednesday morning. Oof. Here are seven things to make your week more interesting:

1. I’m pretty sure that I’ve shared this feature before, but I find myself rereading it every few months, and it’s something I like to share with my fellow music writers who aren’t originally from the Midwest: How Heartland Rock went from John Mellencamp to Kid Rock.

(This kind of writing definitely hits all the beats I usually cover and love to read about: using music - especially by Midwest musicians - as a lens to how we live our lives, with ourselves and with people we don’t know and don’t always agree with. This feature also does a great mini-history of the evolution of the actual sound of Heartland Rock. I’m not the biggest Mellencamp fan, yet I agree that he has had a fascinating career, as someone who’s been talking about socialism and farmer’s rights since the early ‘80s but who has now turned into a Bloomberg stan.)

(Take this all with a grain of salt though - last year, I did write 5K words on Bob Seger.)

“… At its best, heartland rock gave voice to millions of voiceless people suffering from political, economic, and cultural neglect. The people that Mellencamp wrote about were not normally seen on television or in movies, or rhapsodized in mainstream pop songs. As a lifelong resident of the upper midwest, I know what it’s like to turn to pop culture and be told, time and again, that you live in an inconsequential, backward place where nothing notable or exciting ever happens. It instills a feeling of worthlessness that is internalized, curdling the soul and creating massive reservoirs of resentment. Heartland rock was a counterbalance.

“The most trenchant point in Pareles’ article concerns the political motivations of heartland rock. While Mellencamp, like Springsteen and Seger, was known for topical songs, “heartland rock songs rarely point fingers or suggest action,” Pareles argues. “Factory closings and farm foreclosures are treated with fatalism, like natural disasters; although the stories in the songs often reflect large-scale economic changes, most lyrics are about battles for individual dignity rather than for economic realignment. They are songs about powerlessness and bewilderment in an America that’s supposed to be the land of opportunity.”

“A counter to the helplessness and apathy that Pareles heard in heartland rock is, of course, Farm Aid, which Mellencamp co-founded for the precise purpose of rectifying the problems he wrote about in his songs. Like the similarly idealistic Live Aid, the hope with Farm Aid was that the power of music and celebrity could be harnessed for the good of an ignored, disadvantaged, and rapidly growing segment of Americans. But by the end of the ’80s, Mellencamp became dispirited by the inexorable decline of America’s working class, and Farm Aid went on hiatus in 1988. (Mellencamp returned to Farm Aid in 1990, and it’s taken place nearly every year ever since.)”


2. One of my favorite new newsletters right now is Philipp Temmel’s Creativerly, a newsletter that focuses on being creative with tech and design. Check out a recent edition here, which goes over helpful and new-to-me tools like MakeSpace, Jumbo, AR Copy Paste, and more.

(I also love Philipp’s “Typeface of the Week!” Give Philipp a follow!)


3. I’m also a big fan of Allison Driskill’s Friendmendations newsletter, which also is a place for discovering new and interesting links and ideas around the Internet, and it was really nice to see her give this newsletter a shout-out in this week’s edition. Thank you, Allison! Friends, give her a follow too, won’t you?

(Through Allison’s newsletter I heard of … baby bonds?)


4. Remember last week how I said I only listen to two podcasts, one being Longform? The other one is Scott Aukerman and Adam Scott’s R U Talkin’ RE: Me? In the past, they’ve done entire podcasts about U2 and REM. Now they’re doing … Red Hot Chili Peppers.


5. This New York Times Magazine profile of Charlie Kaufman is … a lot … just like how Charlie Kaufman is a lot.

(It is a good read though - it takes a few paragraphs to get into the groove of the piece, which feels like watching a Kaufman film. Also, I didn’t realize that Kaufman did script rewrites for Kung Fu Panda 2???)

“‘It’s all very weird,’ he pointed out. For those of us who weren’t essential workers or touched personally by the virus, ‘this thing is largely virtual. It’s disembodied.’ Every day he absorbed new information, but his mind struggled to settle on any confident interpretation of it. When New Yorkers started cheering for front-line health-care workers every evening, for example, Kaufman found it well intentioned, but he struggled to go along with it and feel uplifted. ‘There’s a sentimentality to it that doesn’t take into account the gross negligence of the government in making sure that these people are protected at their jobs,’ he said. ‘It’s the equivalent of tweeting. When you’re tweeting your support for people who work in grocery stores or are delivering the products you buy, what is that getting them?’ It wasn’t a rhetorical question. Was it getting them something? He earnestly wanted to know.”


6. For anyone else on Twitter who’d like to get rid of old tweets all at once: TweetDelete.

(Note: This service only works if you have ~3K or fewer tweets; if you have more, you’re better off using a paid service. This article breaks down some other good options.)


7. And finally, speaking of Twitter, I try to stay away from sharing tweets in this newsletter - to me, Twitter is a way to a source but not THE source - yet … he has a point.

And so …


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HEADPHONE NATION

(think global)

Night Noise (Amsterdam, Netherlands) monster truck disco

New World (Leipzig, Germany) Welcome to the New Order

the PRACTICE (Tokyo, Japan) sung in English, this fantastic, riff-heavy jam from Tokyo's KiliKiliVilla label reminds me of early '00, FLCL-like radio rock

Chiaki (Japan) From 2016, very lovely Celtic harp playing that wouldn't sound out of place on the latest Four Tet album

… we carry on …


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ARTS & FARTS

Song “reviews”

Frank Sinatra - “Moonlight In Vermont” (1958)

This song is bizarre; nothing rhymes, and it’s painfully beautiful. The legend goes that Sinatra hated the album cover for Come Fly With Me. He described it as more of an ad for TWA than for his music. He’s not wrong.

Toby Fox - “Snowy” (2016)

This weekend, I finally started Undertale, and I can’t remember the last time I smiled so much while playing a game. Very bizarre and meta, in the best, non-ironic ways. The game’s soundtrack is especially strong.

Ennio Morricone - “Once Upon A Time In America” (1984)

RIP to one of the greats.

R.E.M. - “Devil Rides Backwards” (1992)

I don’t have a good reason to share this song, other than this is one of my favorite R.E.M. songs, and I don’t think I’ve shared it before. One of the best B-sides by any band.

Jehnny Beth - “I’m The Man” (2019)

I talked about the new Jehnny Beth solo album and Peaky Blinders before in past newsletters - worlds collide.

Onward!

-Brady


Brady writes about music (and other things) and draws cartoons. You can find him in New York Magazine, Rolling Stone, Pitchfork, Interview Magazine, McSweeney’s, Electric Literature, Literary Hub, and more. Check out his website, where you’ll find his reading list this year, his latest features, and more ways to connect. Brady is a freelancer for hire who can do interviews, reporting, criticism, and playlists - get in touch if you need a writer.

All cartoons by Brady Gerber. Headphone Nation logo by Sophie Wiener. ARTS & FARTS logo by Simon Morrow.

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