Q and A

These are questions submitted by readers, and answered by Tom Hull.

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November 19, 2021

[Q] I read your reviews every week and enjoy them, particularly the jazz reviews. Im curious what you think about the job Biden has done so far. I couldnt stand Trump and was happy the Dems took over but i have to say im disappointed in Biden so far. Based on his experience i expected more. Thanks. -- Bob Moeller, Belvidere Il [2021-11-16]

[A] My wife frequently gripes about Biden, but I for one am quite delighted with what he's done so far. For someone who had spent 40-50 years in thrall to Reagan-era orthodoxy, he seems to have emerged with humanity intact, recognizing the need for new ideas and necessary change. He's never been much as a thinker, let alone orator, so he's not especially good at explaining what needs to be done to other people, but he has shown himself to be open and flexible, and forceful when he's needed to -- most importantly during the troublesome Afghanistan exit. Much of this may be attributed to the people he's surrounded himself with -- and I certainly wish he had better picks on foreign policy -- but in the end presidents do pretty much what they want to do, so give him some credit. He's scored a couple of big legislative wins, against long odds, and he's done a lot of good things through executive orders. And while the post-pandemic economic rebound was likely to happen anyway, this one has two key features thanks to Democrats' broader priorities in the recover and stimulus bills (including the first one under Trump, which given Trump's panic over Wall Street was largely crafted by Schumer and Pelosi): wage increases, especially at the bottom of the scale, and increased savings during the pandemic, which are currently driving more consumer spending.

Unfortunately, the Republican propaganda barrage has eroded Biden's public standing, leading the ever-fickle mainstream media astray, not least in their obsession over "inflation" and "supply chain issues," as well as the perennial that government spending leads to crippling debt. Most of this is bullshit, but Democrats haven't done anywhere near an adequate job of getting out in public and explaining that in terms people (and reporters) can understand. I wrote a bit about this in a Notes on Everyday Life post on the Virginia/New Jersey elections. One might argue that the Republican margins in Virginia were largely due to how well they distanced their candidates from the derangement exhibited by Trump and most of the party, what needs to happen is for Democrats to drive home the point that no Republicans can be trusted to address and solve the nation's increasingly dire problems. That's been totally obvious to me for a long time now, but public figures, including a shameful number of Democrats, let that slip by. In this atmosphere, I no interest whatsoever in ragging on Biden. I don't even care to criticize Manchin and Sinema, although if I had the opportunity I'd point out to them that their public disputes and ultimatums are hurting their party and their supporters, and I'd try to reason with them to get to constructive compromises. I recall many occasions where Reagan cited "the 11th commandment," that thou should never speak ill of another Republican. Democrats should pay attention, especially when the media is so stacked against them.

[Q] I was wondering if you've heard the Rubinoos and what your views are if their albums -- Neil Sidebotham, Belconnen ACT Australia [2021-11-03]

[A] I recall the name, and thought I had at least heard their 1977 debut album, but couldn't find any evidence of it. What I definitely did hear was Beserkley Chartbusters Volume 1 (1975), which includes their cover of "Gorilla," but when I streamed their debut, I also recognized their cover of "I Think We're Alone Now" (and not just the Tommy James & the Shondells hit, which I must have heard but wouldn't have placed). I wasn't aware that the band kept going on forever (at least through 2019), and haven't followed up. My general impression is that their originals were meant to sound like obscure covers but more often were merely forgetable.

In the mid-1970s, my circle of friends who collaborated on the first Terminal Zone were especially into what we might call rock revivalism, the broader tendency behind pub rock and power pop. We dated this to Supersnazz, the Flamin' Groovies album from 1969, and to Dave Edmunds' 1970 cover of "I Hear You Knocking." Greg Shaw's Who Put the Bomp? fanzine focused on our interests, although I leaned more toward the UK pub rock of Brinsley Schwarz and Ducks Deluxe, as well as the post-Velvets glam bands: both seemed to sense to need to restore what was lost when rock and roll contracted to rock. Beserkley was a blip on that scene, remembered (if at all) for securing the shelved 1972 tapes of the Modern Lovers. Stiff played a similar role in the UK, but the real breakthrough only came with punk, which revived not the form of early rock and roll but its spirit. And while 1970s punk led to more brutalist hardcore bands in the 1980s, it also cracked the ice, allowing revivalists to break into the mainstream without getting tagged as nostalgiacs -- Bruce Springsteen and ZZ Top are examples. Thus postmodernism came to popular music.