Culture Jamming Karl Rove
Full disclosure: Conan Neutron is a pal of mine. We go back a ways; his bands Replicator and Mount Vicious have played numerous shows with my band over the years, and we’ve become pretty darn close since we met in 2002. So while it may come across as a little nepotistic to write about my buddy’s project, it’s damn fun and deserves attention, if for no other reason than the fact that a pair of Milwaukee bands is represented on it. So, here’s the story of Conan Neutron and his new vinyl/mp3 compilation Karl Rove: Courage and Consequence.
“Hey, wait,” you may be asking, if you’re a fan of political memoirs, “isn’t Karl Rove putting out a book with that name next week?” Why yes, DJ’s internal monologue! It’s true! Karl Rove: Courage and Consequence — The Unabridged Audio is Conan Neutron’s attempt to culture jam Rove’s book release, and it just so happens to feature tracks from Milwaukee bands Lambs of Abortion and Death Dream. Hey Conan, wherever did you get such a wacky idea?
“I heard in November that Karl Rove planned on releasing his memoirs,” Conan says. “The fact that he decided to call it Courage and Consequence stuck in my craw. Courage? Consequence? This from a man whose entire existence has been full of anything but courage, and who has managed to skillfully evade all of the consequences for the evil that he has wrought. Does it take courage to use gay baiting to win elections when your dad is gay? Has he seen consequences from outing Valerie Plame and framing Don Siegelman? Not even a little. The wizard of distraction has answered for nothing.”
So Conan, a lifelong progressive and rambunctious troublemaker, decided that something had to be done, by Jove.
“The original idea was that I was going to do a one-off band as an answer to his book, with songs all about his many crimes, released before his book but with the same title (much like the Going Rouge book put together by The Nation to culture jam Sarah Palin’s Going Rogue). Within one day, I had so many people interested in it, it had to be a compilation.”
Two of the bands interested were Milwaukee’s now-defunct Lambs of Abortion and the relatively new Death Dream, a noisy post-punk outfit featuring members of, among others, White Problems and The Mistreaters. Conan’s ties to Milwaukee run deep, so it was only natural that they get involved.
So how’s the comp itself? For a disc full of, in Conan’s words, “newer bands who were going to record anyway,” it’s solid. It’s not all filled with rookies — the opening two tracks are a blistering one-two punch from San Francisco power-poppers The Heavenly States (“A Man for our Times”) and Rival Dickens, aka Rick Valentin of Champaign, IL’s Poster Children (“Forget the Naughts”). Conan’s Bay Area home is naturally well-represented with the deliberate sparse-to-dense math-rock of Cartographer (“The Biggest Asshole in the World” — do you sense a theme in these titles?) and the Devo-esque militaristic punk of Generalissimo (“Swarm”).
As for the Milwaukee tracks, well, judge for yourself. I admit I’m biased when I consider them album standouts. Here’s Lambs of Abortion’s “New American Century” (Conan: “A perfect throwback to the heyday of Touch and Go and AmRep and at the same time something totally new”):
And here’s Death Dream’s “Karl Rove, Let’s Get Dirty” (Conan says this track “has the perfect feel for the kind of chaos that Rove unleashed upon the U.S. … I feel damn honored to have their debut release on our comp.”):
(You can hear the rest of the comp by following the related YouTube videos or by checking out the audio at the comp’s slyly named website, karlrovebook.net. You can obviously order your own copy there, too).
All sales proceeds go toward the production costs — art, mastering, manufacturing, etc. Any extra goes straight to the bands. Conan is pocketing nothing, preferring to take the satisfaction of some cleverly crafted culture jamming as his payment. Considering the fact that his nemesis will gladly pocket millions from his book, perhaps Conan’s pledge to take no profit from this is the most telling culture jam of all. Well done, buddy.