Dick Destiny's "Loud Folk Live" Reviewed
The more George Smith, who tussles with the media world under the name Dick Destiny, lives, the more disheartened he becomes. George is like the last romantic standing, the last man who cares about the US, and the more he bristles at “Whitemanistan” the more he thinks and studies it, and the more he bristles. It is in the nature of things, of course, but that doesn’t mean Smith shouldn’t be stating his reservations about the Reservation or even singing, dancing, and stomping his feet. Misery loves music loves company, and, as Lennon taught us decades ago, if you wanna have a revolution write a catchy hook.
If you read George aka Dick Destiny, the name I’ll use from now on, blog or occasional missives for rock nyc, you will have a feel for his concerns here, he pulls the wings off modern politics, dips it in formaldehyde and pins it on your consciousness. So does Loud Folk Live except art is always a better way to decimate (yes, I mean decimate: rip it to pieces) ideas than rhetoric so it is depressing without being boring and a hootenanny of electric protect music. Whether writing a National Anthem or covering the Who, leading a singalong to “Bringing In The Sheaves” or testifying through the Gospels, Destiny never loses sight of his primary responsibility: he is an entertainer who needs to keep us listening because he wants to warn us about things that are too late to warn us about, if only to say I told you so.
This is what Dick has to say about it all: “Loud Folk Live was recorded live to two track over the summer in Pasadena. What you hear on it is what it was, nothing added, except what you get through the sound system. The songs were written between 2010 and 2014, after I met drummer Mark Smollin working as part of the 2010 Decennial US Census crew when we were both unemployed. We still are. But back then the Census was the only place hiring.
He was looking for a guitarist, talking to a young fellow in the training room,asking if he played guitar. I told him he wasting his time, wrong generation, and we should get together. We’re the same age, old. I’m 58.
The first record I made as “Arrogance,” under the moniker Dick Destiny & the Highway Kings, was back in 1985. Chuck Eddy reviewed it in Creem and that scored it some mileage. Spin reviewed it. College radio played it a bit although it wasn’t indie. “Roadkill” was one of the tunes, redone for this, the only one.
“Mean Future” was done because I was sick of listening to Brad Paisley’s ode to wealth, globalization and consumer electronics, “Welcome to the Future.” The guy’s totally clueless when imagining the actual state of life in America. His timing was flawless, though, paradoxically his biggest single, about the glory of global capitalism, right at the start of the Great Recession.
“Let’s Llynch Lloyd Blankfein,” a song to sing along to about the CEO of Goldman Sachs, one the Wall Street firms bailed out by the US government.
“Rich Man’s Burden” and “Jesus of America” — what the country stands for, along with “The National Anthem.” No taxes for the rich, tax the poor, hand out copies of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, iPhones — the finest invention, second only to Predator drones, which we turn loose on tribes with less money. Remember, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a poor man to enter the kingdom of Heaven. Or something like that. 😉
“Covers Act Naturally, with some altered lyrics. The Seeker, Link Wray’s Rumble,Hooray for the Salvation Army Band, a reworked version of a Bill Cosby “tune,” put on an album of the same name back in the late 60’s or early 70’s, after his straight comedy records. He nicked it from Jimi Hendrix, sort of.
But it is better than that suggests, with Destiny you get the feeling that he can’t stop himself from mourning the end of the American Dream and too often it is as though he splits the hairs between his knowledge and our indifference. he keeps saying “hey, how about the Red States discussing secession?” and we keep saying “hey, how about the Walking Dead season opener?” Destiny is protesting to a world that couldn’t care less and my own sense is somewhere in the middle: I want to be entertained till my worthless existence is over but I want to know I’m being screwed as well.
Which leads us back to the extremely enjoyable and fun Loud Folk Live, if you can’t make people read, make em listen. You wanna rail against the robbing of the poor to give more to the rich, you wanna remind us of Waco, Texas, do it with a splendid lick to carry you and people are gonna like you a whole lot more. “Puta” sounds like Lou Reed circa New York meets Scott Severin circa Birdhouse Obbligato. It is a blast whatever other intentions Destiny might well have. Sure, he’s right, it is “Protest Rock” but the accent is on rock whatever his intentions might be. “Patriotic Class War Song” would be better as an instrumental, it doesn’t need words, the title tells you all you need to know but taken either way it is worth the entire new Ariana Grande album. And if I have to explain why, you aren’t listening hard enough.
There is a precedent for this, Peter Stampfel’s Better Than Expected released earlier this year and I wish Peter’s label, Don Giovanni, would release Loud Folk Live, the albums share a distraught sense of displaced pessimism and they both have a natural audience, though neither album can really find it. On song after song, Destiny and drummer Mark Smollin discover the joy in creating a racket, in the high hat, in song, in raising your voices and if polemic doesn’t swing, songs like “Hooray For The Salvation Army Band” and the sublime “Patriotic Class Warfare” swing from the rafters.
One other thing is worth mentioning, Destiny is completely wrong about not placing the album on Itunes, etc. Not because he won’t make or will make money, and not for the people who will discover it, but for reasons of organization: it helps for his fans to be able to organize it within their record collection otherwise it eventually gets lost in the shuffle for really real.
Having said that, Destiny’s album is a joyful leap into Whitemanistan, into the big muddy where nothing matters but the readies. The Fugs would approve. Allen Ginsberg would approve. Peter Stampfel would approve and I approve in America the place where we call home.