Sobriquet 92.1: I Finished My Dissertation! Why Am I So Sad?

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A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend a good friend's dissertation defense. Despite the tremendous anxiety with which he faced his committee and the barrage of pointed questions directed at him, his defense was successful and was declared a Doctor of Philosophy by his advisor. Following a spirited round of applause and after the attendees stopped inundating my friend with celebratory handshakes and pats on the back, the newly-minted Ph.D. expressed a tremendous sense of relief and the sort of joy one would expect following the culmination of so much hard work and dedication.


A week or so later, during one of our telephone conversations, my friend marveled at how his mood, which had so recently been practically ecstatic, had morphed into something far less pleasant. He was, he admitted, depressed. In fact, he likened his sudden, unexpected emotional turn to the post-partum depression some women experience after giving birth. Although he could not see me do so, I nodded. And, boy, did I nod.


I nodded because my friend's comments reminded me of two unrelated conversations I had had over the past few years. The first conversation I recalled was between a friend of mine and myself, a year or so before I completed my own doctoral dissertation. She was employed by Cornell University and worked in one of the school's most well-funded programs. Not surprisingly, she had, in her decade or so of working at one of the top universities in the world, gotten to know a good many brilliant doctoral students who'd written some truly spectacular dissertations. When I expressed the very typical doctoral student desire to just be done with the damn thing already, she drew upon her years of experience among those bright young men and women and told me, in no uncertain terms, to be careful what I wished for.


The second conversation that immediately popped into my mind while chatting with my melancholic friend took place a couple of years after I had completed my dissertation, as I sat around a dinner table with a few fellow professors and reminisced about graduate school. For whatever reason, the conversation turned to research and, in the course of things, we began discussing our respective experiences writing dissertations. I mentioned my old friend's ominous "be careful what you wish for" comment and admitted to having felt depressed after completing what was, essentially, a very successful part of my academic career. Before I could even finish what I started to say, two of my colleagues, suddenly animated by what can only be described as a mingled sense of relief and recognition, offered that they, too, had experienced exactly the same thing. There were tears where they'd expected smiles, oppressive heavy-heartedness where they'd made room for jubilation. In short, there was the same nasty post-doctoral post-partum depression my friend had described to me over the telephone a couple of weeks ago.


So, why do so many academics experience painful depression and sadness when they should, by almost any reasonable person's estimation, feel happiness and relief? Here are a few factors that may explain the phenomenon:


1. The Post-Partum Analogy Might Not Be That Far Off

In "The Author to Her Book," the American poet Anne Bradstreet famously likens a collection of her verse an "ill-form'd" child and faults her own "feeble brain" for causing what she sees as the book's deformities. Many authors, like Bradstreet, have found the work-as-child metaphor to be a satisfying way to describe the relationship between the writer and his or her writing. Indeed, it is not difficult to see why the connection is so appealing. A book, like a child, undeniably begins deep within an individual as an unformed, nebulous thing and grows, over a period of time, into a fuller and fuller being until it is released into the world as an entity separate from the one that nurtured it. The transition from a life organized around the care and cultivation of something to a life in which the individual can no longer provide that entity with the same sort of intimate care to which he or she has grown accustomed can be jarring. It's not a perfect analogy, to be sure, but it does capture the sense of shock an individual must negotiate upon transitioning from one role to another.


2. Identity Crisis

Most Ph.D.s spend a minimum of six years in graduate school, four years as an undergraduate, and thirteen years in K-12. That's twenty-three years in school. Since many (if not most) Ph.D.s take longer than four years to complete their doctorates, you're looking at spending around a quarter of a century in school, at a minimum. Even taking into account the people who take years off between degrees and obtain their doctorates in their forties or fifties, twenty-five years is still a huge chunk of one's life. For someone who completes their dissertation at fifty, one-half of their life has been spent as a student; for someone who completes their doctorate at, say, thirty, 83% of their life has been spent as a student. Think about that for a second. After spending the majority (if not the overwhelming majority) of one's life as a student, that identity can become a pretty major part of a person's self-image. Then, one day, they're no longer a student. Sure, they're still academics and they still do academic stuff, but they're not what they've always been. They're something else: they've gone from being the apprentice to the master.  As I wrote above, transitions can be jarring and the resultant trauma can produce depression.


3. No Excuses

Being a graduate student is often shorthand for living below the poverty line, putting off starting a family, and not having a "real job." Similarly, writing a dissertation can often explain spending a lot of time by oneself, being fascinated with an obscure topic of little interest to others, living a sedentary life, and keeping odd hours. That's all fine and good until you actually finish writing your dissertation and complete your graduate studies. Then you no longer have excuses for being an overweight, poor, lonely, childless person who has never held a real job and eats ramen noodles for dinner at 2:45 in the morning. This is, of course, a caricature, but my point is that many people attribute the aspects of their lives with which they are dissatisfied to their status as underpaid graduate students writing dissertations. The unpleasant realities you could hitherto blame on graduate school emerge as plain old problems you need to address the moment you submit the final draft of your dissertation.


4. The Purposeful Life

Writing a dissertation can give one's life a sense of purpose. You have something you have to do. You have a responsibility, a mission. Then, suddenly, you don't. The sucking void left by your dissertation? Yeah, that's where depression goes until you fill it with something else.

Sobriquet 91.11: Playlist for "The Cellar," 5/9/13

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Playlist Theme: 1981: The Year in Swedish Punk*

*I slipped in a track from 1978, too, just for fun. See if you can find it!

The Playlist:

1. Usch, "Röda Rummet" (3:13). Hatlåten
2. The Impressions, "I Want You" (1:47). Drag Utan Drogar II
3. Minx, "Racing" (2:54). Minx
4. Tripple Cripple, "Funbo City Rockers" (2:14). Rensar Stan
5. Badboll, "Badboll Lever" (2:46). Badboll Lever!
6. Attentat, Non Smoking Generation" (2:26). Tatuerade Tårar
7. Tant Brun, "Swärje" (2:45). "Lördkväll" b/w "Swärje"
8. Kåmejnis Kallsonger, "Kriget" (3:00). Extasrock
9. Desperate Livin', "Skär i Mig" (2:50). Stilla Natt
10. Ebba Grön, "Staten & Kapitalet" (5:17). Kärlek Och Uppror
11. Dom Fåglarna, "Pappa Mamma Bilen Och Jag" (3:05). "Pappa Mamma Bilen Och Jag" b/w "Huset där Jag Bor"
12. TBC, "Lill-Babs (Värdens Tråkigaste Kvinna)" (3:14). Musik i Plast
13. Dom Vässade, "Batte" (1:19). Batte
14. Homy Hogs, "Jag Bränner Ut Mig Själv" (1:28). Nöje För Nekrofiler
15. Snagg, "Hjälter" (1:48). Snagg
16. Huvudtvätt, "Ren Lögn" (1:02). Split EP w/ Picnic Boys
17. KSMB, "Sex Noll Två" (6:49). Rika Barn Leka Bäst
18. Trick, "Mörkräd" (2:52). Aktiv PR
19. Lars Langs, "Fritt Land" (2:57). Greatest Hit
20. Missbrukarna, "Du är Inte Du" (1:06). Split w/ Panik
21. Ex Pop, "Galen Militär" (3:39). En Helt Vanlig Man - Bästa Sånger 1981-2005
22. Pink Champagne, "Alternitiva" (3:11). 2
23. Trasta & Superstararna, "All Tänkte Så" (2:19). Du Din Jävla Sopa
24. Slobobans Undergång, "Lammkött" (4:14). "I Nöd & Lust" b/w "Lammkött"
25. Rita Rem, "Nattlig Terror" (2:12). Ut Ur Mörkret
26. ABKK, "Ronny" (2:16). "Ronny" b/w "Mörker"
27. Ebba Grön, "Scheisse" (3:11). 1978-1982
28. Nasty Boys, "Eagle" (3:19). Eagle
29. Sune Studs Och Grönlandsrockarna, "Du är Bevaked" (1:44). Du är Bevaked
30. Kontaktlim, "Lördagsalkoholisten" (2:24). Aktiv PR
31. Svettens Söner, "Fahlmans Fik" (2:54). Fahlmans Fik
32. T.S.T., "Innocent" (2:06). Väktarnasvärld
33. Massmedia, "Ingenting Blir Som Förut" (3:21). Andra Bränder
34. Trogsta Träsk, "Sommarbarn" (1:58). "Pelle i Skogen" b/w "Sommarbarn"
35. Vacum, "Vi Talar Inte Samma Språk" (2:40). Andra Bränder
36. Urban Släke, "Så Jävla Svensk" (3:02). "Så Jävla Svensk" b/w "Magnatens Död"
37. Ebba Grön, "800 ºC" (3:27). Kärlek Och Uppror
38. Usch, "Hatlåten" (2:46). Hatlåten
39. Anti-Cimex, "Svaveldioxid" (0:55). Anarkist Attack

Sobriquet 91.10: Playlist for "The Cellar," 5/2/13

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Note: This show was recorded in order to coincide with the 37th anniversary of the Ramones' debut album and was intended to air on 4/25/13. Unfortunately, due to technical difficulties at KPVL, the show did not air as scheduled. It aired one week later.

Playlist Theme: Celebrating the Anniversary of Ramones

The Playlist:

1. Ramones, "Blitzkrieg Bop" (2:13). Ramones
2. Major Accident, "Blitzkrieg Bop" (1:48). The Clockwork Demos
3. Bambis, "Blitzkrieg Bop" (2:59). Play Ramones
4. Die Toten Hosen, "Blitzkrieg Bop" (1:50). Learning English - Lesson One
5. Osaka Popstar, "Blitzkrieg Bop" (2:07). Rock 'Em O-Sock 'Em Live!
6. Huntingtons, "Blitzkrieg Bop" (1:42). 1-2-3-4!: The Complete Early Years Remastered
7. Screeching Weasel, "Blitzkrieg Bop" (1:56). Beat on the Brat
8. Newtown Neurotics, "Blitzkrieg Bop" (2:09). Beggars Can Be Choosers
9. The Casualties, "Blitzkrieg Bop" (1:51). Made in NYC
8. Ramones, "Beat on the Brat" (2:32). Ramones
9. The Vibrators, "Beat on the Brat" (2:24). Punk - The Early Years
10. NoMeansNo, "Beat on the Brat" (4:01). One
11. Screeching Weasel, "Beat on the Brat" (2:10). Beat on the Brat
12. Huntingtons, "Beat on the Brat" (2:10). 1-2-3-4!: The Complete Early Years Remastered
13. Ramones, "Judy is a Punk" (1:32). Ramones
14. The Vandals, "Judy is a Punk" (1:27). BBC Sessions & Other Polished Turds
15. Screeching Weasel, "Judy is a Punk" (1:22). Kill the Musicians
16. Parasites, "Judy is a Punk" (1:18). It's Alive
17. Ramones, "I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend" (2:17). Ramones
18. Screeching Weasel, "I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend" (2:22). Beat on the Brat
19. The Candy Snatchers, "I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend" (2:45). Pissed Off, Ripped Off, Screwed: The First Two Years
20. Ramones, "Chain Saw" (1:56). Ramones
21. Screeching Weasel, "Chainsaw" (1:57). Kill the Musicians
22. Ramones, "Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue" (1:36). Ramones
23. Screeching Weasel, "Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue" (1:25). Beat on the Brat
24. The Mormones, "Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue" (1:30). Leaving Home - A Norwegian Tribute to the Ramones
25. Alternative TV, "Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue" (1:42). In Control
26. Ramones, "I Don't Wanna Go Down to the Basement" (2:37). Ramones
27. The Humps, "I Don't Wanna Go Down to the Basement" (2:36). Leaving Home - A Norwegian Tribute to the Ramones
28. Flesheaters, "I Don't Wanna Go Down to the Basement" (4:41). Gabba Gabba Hey
29. Ramones, "Loudmouth" (2:15). Ramones
30. The Gimmies, "Loudmouth" (1:57). Do You Remember Rock 'N' Roll High School? ~ Adios Joey Ramone!!~
31. Screeching Weasel, "Loudmouth" (1:53). Beat on the Brat
32. Sonic Youth, "Loudmouth" (Live) (2:02). Hold That Tiger (Live)
33. Ramones, "Havana Affair" (1:57). Ramones
34. Bullet Treatment, "Havana Affair" (1:30). What Else Could You Want
35. The Manges, "Havana Affair" (1:55). Rocket to You: The Best and More 93-03
36. Screeching Weasel, "Havana Affair" (1:39). Kill the Musicians
37. Ramones, "Listen to My Heart" (1:58). Ramones
38. Parasites, "Listen to My Heart" (1:33). It's Alive
39. Screeching Weasel, "Listen to My Heart" (1:41). Beat on the Brat
40. Ramones, "53rd & 3rd" (2:21). Ramones
41. River City Rebels, "53rd & 3rd" (1:46). Playin' to Live, Livin' to Play
42. Screeching Weasel, "53rd & 3rd" (2:13). Beat on the Brat
43. Creamers, "53rd & 3rd" (1:46). Gabba Gabba Hey
44. Jet Boys, "53rd & 3rd" (1:52). Do You Remember Rock 'N' Roll High School? ~ Adios Joey Ramone!!~
45. Ramones, "Let's Dance" (1:52). Ramones
46. Screeching Weasel, "Let's Dance" (1:40). Beat on the Brat
47. Ramones, "I Don't Wanna Walk Around With You" (1:43). Ramones
48. Screeching Weasel, "I Don't Wanna Walk Around With You" (1:29). Beat on the Brat
49. Parasites, "I Don't Wanna Walk Around With You" (1:22). It's Alive
50. Huntingtons, "I Don't Wanna Walk Around With You" (1:39). File Under Ramones
51. Ramones, "Today Your Love, Tomorrow The World" (2:10). Ramones
52. Screeching Weasel, "Today Your Love, Tomorrow The World" (1:54). Beat on the Brat
53. Huntingtons, "Today Your Love, Tomorrow The World" (2:01). File Under Ramones

Sobriquet 91.9: Playlist for "The Cellar," 4/18/13

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Playlist Theme: Wisconsin Punk of the 1990s

The Playlist:

1. Bound to One, "Established (Everything Sucks Today)" (2:19). Established 1993 - The Complete Discography
2. The Shrubbers, "Nine Years" (2:33). Bomb Threat
3. Quencher, "Radio Carbon Dated" (3:59). Soda Pop Drunk
4. Spank, "How Long Can I Go" (3:00). 4 Song EP
5. Slurr, "I Remember You" (4:42). So Easily Fooled
6. The Spektators, "Life Story" (2:32). This Might Be Satire
7. Secret 7, "Space Chicken" (1:53). I Guess This is Goodbye
8. Mas Fina, "El Haj" (2:49). New Electric Living
9. Alligator Gun, "Curfew" (2:37). Superhero
10. Deliriants, "Fish Box" (2:21). Fish Box
11. Seven Days of Samsara, "Bury Your Head" (3:27). ...A Reason To Sing...
12. URBN DK, "Wax" (0:58). Will E. Survive...? Yes E. Will!
13. Straight Forward, "Time Aside" (2:36). Educationfromtheunderground
14. Eracism, "Militia Madness" (1:56). What a Shame
15. Bitchslap, "Inkorekt Spelling" (2:28). Illegal Use of Your Future
16. The Invaders, "Parking Violation" (2:47). Brewtown Ska: We've Come For Your Beer
17. Little Elvis, "A Place Where a Man can Be Free" (3:47). Rock 'n' Roll Riot
18. 10-96, "Too Much Confusion" (2:08). No Retreat
19. Tralfez, "Judging is Not The Answer" (2:45). Discography
20. Prisoners of..., "Scene 34" (3:40). 7 inch (+3)
21. Soulstorm, "Discouraging Words" (2:01). Balance of Life
22. Smitty, "Kept Inside" (4:20). Smitty
23. Animal Farm, "Ween" (3:36). You Cannot Call This Peace
24. The Service, "Young And Strong" (2:42). Young and Strong
25. Quazi Stellar, "Feelings and Stupid People" (2:54). Turn Off The Radio
26. Dick Tater, "Run After the Weirdos" (2:47). Dick Tater
27. LSD, "Cant Speak for Me" (1:42). Lack of Social Decency
28. Dukes of Had It, "Six Packs of Panic" (1:17). Demo
29. The Pacers, "Pacin' Around the Clock" (3:04). Strictly for Lovers
30. Die Kreizen, "Big Bad Days" (3:59). Cement
31. One Day Away, "New World" (1:50). Hope For Us
32. Kubiak, "Anal Beard" (1:56). 1997 Demo
33. Boris the Sprinkler, "Kill the Ramones" (2:21). Mega Anal!
34. Einheriar, "Choose Your Side" (2:02). Demo
35. Evel, "Interceptor" (2:39). Lucky Man
36. Aphrodisiac, "Get Drunk With Me" (1:41). S & M Love Songs
37. Trolley, "All I Wanna Do (Is Put a Gun to You)." (2:47). Put a Gun to You 7"
38. Yesmen, "Looking Back" (2:27). Superball: A Compilation
39. Brutal Youth, "John" (1:30). No End
40. Demise, "Great Expectations" (2:32). All of This for Nothing
41. Subside, "Daddy's Little Girl" (1:58). Red Demo
42. Benjamins, "Clover" (2:43). Bordering On Boredom

Sobriquet 91.8: Playlist for "The Cellar," 4/11/13

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Note: After April 1, 2013, The Cellar became a two-hour program, moving from Tuesday afternoons at 4:00 to Thursday evenings at 10:00. The following playlist was recorded for the 4/4/13 show, but due to technical difficulties at KPVL, the show did not air until the following week, on 4/11/13.

Playlist Theme: None

The Playlist:

1. The Dead Milkmen, "Beach Party Vietnam" (1:47). Death Rides a Pale Cow: The Ultimate Collection
2. Against Me!, "From Her Lips to God's Ears (The Energizer)" (2:35). Searching For a Former Clarity
3. Weston, "Just Like Kurt" (2:39). A Real-Life Story of Teenage Rebellion
4. Adhesive, "Scottie" (2:19). Sideburner
5. The Distillers, "Dismantle Me" (2:27). Coral Fang
6. The Kids, "This Is Rock 'N Roll" (2:36). The Kids
7. U. K. Subs, "Party in Paris" (2:540. Party in Paris 7"
8. The Melvins & Jello Biafra, "Kali-fornia Über Alles 21st Century" (3:19). Seig Howdy!
9. The Damned, "Thanks for the Night" (3:58). The Best of the Damned
10. Black Flag, "Loose Nut" (4:36). Loose Nut
11. The Cramps, "I Ain't Nuthin' But a Gorehound" (3:02). I Ain't Nothin' But a Gorehound
12. The Misfits, "Hybrid Moments" (1:42). Static Age
13. Flipper, "Life" (4:43). Generic Flipper
14. D.O.A., "I Played the Fool" (2:15). 13 Flavours of Doom
15. Silla Eléctrica, "Cloaca" (1:15). Cloaca
16. Charta 77, "Mitt Kors" (3;17). Definitivt 50 Spänn 6
17. Lemuria, "Yesterday's Lunch" (3:20). Get Better
18. Dead Kennedys, "Holiday in Cambodia" (4:33). Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables
19. Butt Trumpet, "I'm Ugly and I Don't Know Why" (3;13). Primative Enema
20. The Mansfields, "This City Kills" (2:17). Barfights & Brokenhearts
21. Adicts, "Straight Jacket" (2:12). Made in England
22. Descendents, "'Merican" (1:51). Cool to Be You
23. Bad Brains, "Pay to Cum" (1:32). Pay to Cum! 7"
24. The Jam, "Away From the Numbers" (4:03). In the City
25. Tin Pot Operation, "Tell the Kids" (3:25). Human Resources
26. Bad Religion, "Flat Earth Society" (2:24). Against the Grain
27. T.S.O.L., "Code Blue" (2:09). Dance With Me
28. The Keep Aways, "File It Away" (2:30). The Keep Aways
29. The Strike, "Kicking Ass" (2:59). A Conscience Left to Struggle with Pockets Full of Rust
30. Dead Boys, "All This And More" (2:51). Young Loud And Snotty
31. Screeching Weasel, "Message in a Beer Bottle" (1:31). Teen Punks in Heat
32. Riot Squad (South Africa), "Capital Investment" (2:13). Total Onslaught
33. Third World Chaos, "We Are The One" (3:13). Made in the Philippines
34. Sex Pistols, "Schools Are Prisons" (3:28). Pirates of Destiny
35. Sham 69, "Borstal Breakout" (2:08). "Borstal Breakout" b/w "If the Kids are United"
36. Social Distortion, "Reach for the Sky" (3:32). Sex, Love and Rock 'n' Roll
37. Crass, "Do They Owe Us a Living?" (1:25). The Feeding of the 5000
38. The Middle Class, "Situations" (1:46). Out of Vogue
39. 999, "Homicide (Live)" (4:09). The Biggest Tour in Sport / The Biggest Prize in Sport
40. L.E.S. Stitches, "NYC is Dead" (3:19). Staja98L.E.S.

Sobriquet 91.7: Playlist for "The Cellar," 3/26/13

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Playlist Theme: New York City Hardcore

The Playlist:

1. Reagan Youth, "It's a Beautiful Day" (3:53). A Collection of Pop Classics
2. Murphy's Law, "Drinking & Driving" (3:11). Punk & Oi Soccer Anthems
3. Sheer Terror, "I, Spoiler" (2:02). Ugly and Proud
4. Urban Waste, "Public Opinion" (2:35). Urban Waste
5. Cro-Mags, "Malfunction" (3:44). Before the Quarrel
6. Agnostic Front, "Gotta Go" (3:35). Something's Gotta Give
7. Underdog, "Back to Back" (2:50). Matchless
8. Kraut, "Unemployed" (2:22). Complete Studio Recordings 1981-1986
9. Sick of It All, "Injustice System!" (2:21). Blood, Sweat and No Tears
10. Outburst, "The Hard Way" (2:40). NYHC: Where the Wild Things Are
11. Gorilla Biscuits, "Start Today" (2:04). Start Today
12. Warzone, "The Sound of Revolution" (3:15). The Victory Years
13. Born Against, "Nine Years Later" (2:22). Nine Patriotic Hymns for Children
14. CIV, "Can't Wait One Minute More" (2:32). Solid Bond: The Complete Discography
15. Shelter, "Turn It Around" (3:32). Perfection of Desire
16. Skarhead, "T.C.O.B." (2:34). Kings At Crime
17. Madball, "Set It Off" (3:22). The Best of Madball
18. Bold, "Running Like Thieves" (3:21). The Search: 1985-1989
19. Subzero. "Boxed In" (2:50). Happiness Without Peace

Sobriquet 91.6: Playlist for "The Cellar," 3/19/13

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Playlist Theme: Hüsker Dü

The Playlist:

1. Hüsker Dü, "In A Free Land" (2:53). Everything Falls Apart And More
2. Hüsker Dü, "Real World" (2:29), Metal Circus
3. Hüsker Dü, "First of the Last Calls" (2:46). Metal Circus
4. Hüsker Dü, "Eight Miles High" (3:52). Eight Miles High
5. Hüsker Dü, "Something I Learned Today" (2:03). Zen Arcade
6. Hüsker Dü, "Chartered Trips" (3:39). Zen Arcade
7. Hüsker Dü, "Pink Turns to Blue" (2:43). Zen Arcade
8. Hüsker Dü, "New Day Rising" (2:36). New Day Rising
9. Hüsker Dü, "Folk Lore" (1:36). New Day Rising
10. Hüsker Dü, "Celebrated Summer" (4:03). New Day Rising
11. Hüsker Dü, "Terms of Psychic Warfare" (2:19). New Day Rising
12. Hüsker Dü, "59 Times the Pain" (3:16). New Day Rising
13. Hüsker Dü, "Flip Your Wig" (2:35). Flip Your Wig
14. Hüsker Dü, "Green Eyes" (3:02). Flip Your Wig
15. Hüsker Dü, "Divide and Conquer" (3:47). Flip Your Wig
16. Hüsker Dü, "Don't Want to Know if You Are Lonely" (3:32). Candy Apple Grey
17. Hüsker Dü, "These Important Years" (3:51). Warehouse: Songs and Stories
18. Hüsker Dü, "Standing in the Rain" (3:48). Warehouse: Songs and Stories

Sobriquet 91.5: Playlist for "The Cellar," 3/12/13

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Playlist Theme: 2002: The Year in American Punk

The Playlist:

1. Face to Face, "Bill Of Goods" (2:47). How to Ruin Everything
2. Ben Weasel, "Imperfect World" (3:08). Fidatevi
3. Bad Religion, "Epiphany" (4:00). The Process of Belief
4. The Distillers, "City of Angels" (3:30). Sing Sing Death House
5. Against Me!, "We Laugh at Danger (And Break All The Rules)" (3:17). Reinventing Axl Rose
6. Flogging Molly, "Rebels of the Sacred Heart" (5:12). Drunken Lullabies
7. The Queers, "Psycho Over You" (2:33). Pleasant Screams
8. Gogol Bordello, "Occurrence On The Boarder (Hopping on a Pogo-Gypsy Stick)" (3:26). Multi Kontra Culti Vs. Irony
9. Teenage Bottlerocket, "A-Bomb" (1:30). A-Bomb
10. The Lawrence Arms, "Porno And Snuff Films" (2:33). Apathy and Exhaustion 
11. Roger Miret & The Disasters, "New York Belongs to Me" (2:54). Roger Miret & The Disasters
12. Anti-Flag, "911 for Peace" (3:35). Mobilize
13. The Donnas, "Take It Off" (2:42). Spend the Night
14. No Use for a Name, "Dumb Reminders" (2:49). Hard Rock Bottom
15. Nerf Herder, "Mr. Spock" (3:30). American Cheese
16. Avail, "Black and Red" (2:15). Front Porch Stories
17. The Groovie Ghoulies, "(She's My) Vampire Girl" (2:14). Go! Stories
18. Dirt Bike Annie, "Wedding Song" (2:26). The Wedding
19. Dillinger Four, "A Floater Left With Pleasure in the Executive Washroom" (2:37). Situationist Comedy

Sobriquet 91.4: Playlist for "The Cellar," 3/5/13

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Playlist Theme: Punk Rock's Engagement With the Theme of Crime

The Playlist and Transcript:

Segment One


1. X, "Johny Hit and Run Pauline" (2:51). Los Angeles

That was X, with Johny Hit and Run Paulene," from their album, Los Angeles. I'm Erik Grayson and you're listening to The Cellar -- Northeast Iowa's destination for classic and contemporary punk rock and hardcore right here on KPVL 89.1 FM: The Blend, Postville and Decorah.


The theme for today's show is crime. Now, in contrast with previous shows where I've generally kept my blathering to a minimum, I'll be chiming in quite a few times this afternoon, largely because I think that punk's engagement with crime is a complex one, and one that demands discussion..


The first song I played for you this evening, X's "Johnny Hit and Run Paulene," for example, is a troubling song that depicts a man--dubbed Johnny--using drugs to subdue and rape a series of women he calls "Paulenes." The song's tempo and jaunty guitar riff, of course, stand in stark contrast to the lyrics' subject matter. And this juxtoposition, therefore, endows the track with even more meaning. The song's rhythm, for instance, recalls earlier recordings such as Chuck Berry's "Carol" or "Little Queenie," which valorize the male libido. Thus, by reminding listeners of the male sex drive's prominent place in rock and roll while presenting a horrifying scenario in which serial rape is performed, X brings rock and roll's entire tradition of machismo into question.


The next song I'll be playing for you this afternoon comes from Social Distortion. For those of you that have been fans of Social Distortion for some time, it should come as no surprise to hear that many of the band's songs deal with crime in one way or another. Lead singer Mike Ness, a former heroin addict, writes eloquently of the regret addicts often feel later in life, after they realize how their drug habits had led them to prison or worse. The song I'll be playing next -- "Machine Gun Blues" -- however, is a more theatrical engagement with criminality. Here, Ness imagines himself in the position of a Great Depression-era gangster, borrowing tropes from popular depictions of snappily-dressed bootleggers in fiction and film to fashion an oddly nostalgic story of an outlaw on the lam. Then again, maybe it's not so odd. Nostalgia is, of course, a major component of the self-same regret Ness explores so often in his music.


And now, here's Social Distortion performing "Machine Gun Blues." Enjoy.


2. Social Distortion, Machine Gun Blues" (3:33). Machine Gun Blues Digital Single


Segment Two


Up next, we have Hüsker Dü's "Diane," from their Metal Circus EP.  In this track, the band's drummer and part-time vocalist Grant Hart imagines a man luring a young woman into his van so that he can rape and murder her. Disturbingly, the lyrics are delivered in the first-person, creating an uncomfortable sense of intimacy between the murderous sexual predator and the listener. The fact that the song alternates between the present tense and the future prevents the listener from discerning whether the scenario depicted in the song is a fantasy or a reality, unfolding as he or she listens. The result is a creepy sense of violation.


The song is significant in the canon of American punk for several reasons. First, it was a track that really put Hüsker Dü on the college radio map. Second, the thematic content helped open up the claustrophobic confines of American hardcore by moving away from angry sloganeering and into the realm of literary speculation.


Following Hüsker Dü, I'll be playing the Misfits' "Last Caress." Like Grant Hart, the Misfits' Glenn Danzig delivers the words of a criminal in the first-person. In bombastic fashion, the death-driven speaker in "Last Caress" boasts of killing a baby and raping the auditor's mother as he courts his own death. Choosing arguably two of the most abominable crimes one can imagine as the subject of their song, the Misfits are clearly trying to be noticed. As many of you no doubt know, the Lodi, New Jersey trio deliberately sought to create a shock the uninitiated with their lyrics. The Misfits, of course, were a gimmick. Kiss-like, they donned make-up and costumes and played the part of an evil band. A Misfits gig was confrontational theater and tracks like "Last Caress" were either a joke (for those in the know) or a terrifying sign of just how evil rock and roll could be (for those who didn't get what the band was about).


But for now, here's Minneapolis's immortal Hüsker Dü with "Diane." Enjoy.


3. Hüsker Dü, "Diane" (4:32). Metal Circus

4. The Misfits, "Last Caress" (2:02). Collection II


Segment Three


[Ad Copy for Blue Heron Knittery]


And welcome back to The Cellar -- Northeast Iowa's destination for classic and contemporary punk rock and hardcore right here on KPVL 89.1 FM: The Blend, Postville and Decorah. For those of you just joining us, the theme for today's show is punk rock's engagement with the theme of crime.


Up next, we have The Clash performing "Somebody Got Murdered," a track in which a desperate speaker who has been so poor as to contemplate robbery speculates on a murder that may or may not have taken place in the city below. The existential realization that the nameless victim will go unremembered seems to disturb the speaker.


Following The Clash, I'll be playing The Offspring's "Hammerhead," which is one of the more interesting tracks to have come out of the scene in the last few years. Initially, the song, which is delivered in the first-person, sounds like it comes from the perspective of an American soldier who views the death that comes with (and results from) his job as part of a duty to protect his fellow citizens agains external threats. As the speaker patrols hostile territory, he spouts off what sound like the sort of patriotic slogans one might expect a soldier to have learned by rote: he "sacrifice[s] with [his] brothers in arms," there's the "authority vested in me" so that he may "take a life, that ten others will live." Using "reasonable force" to "stay the course," the soldier claims "I believe I serve a greater good." Most of the song follows this trajectory, with the speaker presenting himself as a self-sacrificing soldier protecting the innocent against the enemy--just the sort of rhetoric one might expect to hear during the height of America's Bush-era tensions with the Middle East.


Then, as if Rod Serling scripted it, there's a twist. The soldier, it turns out, is not a soldier at all. Rather, he is a school shooter and his "patriotic" thoughts are the hallucinatory delusions of a mass murderer on a rampage.


How does one interpret "Hammerhead"? Do the Offspring intend the listener to sympathize in some way with a mentally ill individual as he embarks on a mission of unspeakable horror? Do they intend for us, rather, to think of statements of blind patriotism as the same sort of self-serving delusion an insane person might use to justify an evil act? The song's ambiguous meaning is its strength and listeners are left asking some difficult questions.


But for now, here's my beloved Clash with "Somebody Got Murdered." Enjoy.


5. The Clash, "Somebody Got Murdered" (3:36). Sandinista! 

6. The Offspring, "Hammerhead" (4:38). Rise and Fall, Rage and Grace


Segment Four


Coming up next, I'll be playing Black Flag's "Drinking and Driving" and the Ramones' "53rd & 3rd." In the former, Henry Rollins presents us with the image of an alcoholic who    always has an excuse ready to explain away his addiction. All the standard claims are present: he can quit anytime that he wants, he's a victim of his own circumstances and cannot be blamed for his habit, the mistreatment at the hands of his friends has led him to drink, he believes his behavior is cool, and vocational stress leads him to get drunk every evening. We've all heard these excuses, either in our own lives or on television, of course, and that's precisely what Black Flag is going for. The expected nature of the excuses strengthens the song's sense of inevitability. The man drinks, drives, kills a friend, and seriously injures himself. The party scene, for Black Flag, is a dead end and the song is anything but sympathetic to the excuse-maker. That's punk rock holding a mirror to the world and daring it to look at itself.


In "53rd & 3rd," Dee Dee Ramone draws on his own experience as a junkie turning to hustling for a means of supporting an expensive heroin addiction. The speaker of the song is an unidentified man who, after having had sex with a number of men, begins to feel insecure about his sexual identity and uses a razor blade to "[do] what God forbade" in order "prove that [he's] no sissy." The tragedy in the song is great, and the questions it raises about drug addiction and sexual identity are worthwhile contributions to conversations that remain at the forefront of American discourse to the present.


But for now, here's Black Flag with "Drinking and Driving."


7. Black Flag, "Drinking and Driving" (3:24). In My Head

8. Ramones, "53rd & 3rd" (2:21). Ramones


Segment Five


[Ad copy for Oneota Community Co-op]

Up next I'll be playing the Dead Kennedys' "Stealing People's Mail," a curious little ditty about a group of strange miscreants who entertain themselves by stealing and reading strangers' mail. In contrast with the "us" of which the speaker counts him- or herself, there's a "them" that spends Friday nights partying, watching sporting events, clubbing, and cruising down the main drags of the town. The mail thieves realize that their behavior is regarded as crazy by the normal people, but they continue stealing mail because it provides them with endless entertainment as they laugh at the "license plates, wedding gifts, tax returns, / Checks to politicians from real estate firms, / Money, bills and cancelled checks." In other words, as they laugh at the bureaucratic, financial, and familial concerns that consume the lives of the normal folks. Crime, here, is a means of exposing the metanarratives that dominate most lives. The song ends with the suggestion that, should the thieves get caught, they will end up "drugged and shocked" in an institution until they become born-again Christians, thereby extending the critique to include the mental health industry and religion.


The next song I'll spin for you is "Hockeynite," by Ontario's Forgotten Rebels. A song about a pedophile nicknamed "Dirty Daddy," "Hockeynite" is also an incredibly catchy, hook-laden song that just begs you to sing along. The dissonance caused by the lighthearted sing-along sound of the track when juxtaposed with the decidedly disgusting sexual abuse of a child works the way any good black humor should work: it encourages you to laugh and, when you realize that you're laughing at something that isn't funny, it forces you to ask yourself why you laughed in the first place.


But for now, here's the Dead Kennedys with "Stealing People's Mail." Enjoy.


9. Dead Kennedys, "Stealing People's Mail" (1:33). Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables

10. Forgotten Rebels, "Hockeynite" (2:06). Nobody's Hero's


Segment Six


Up next, we'll be listening to Whole Wheat Bread's "Police Song," which depicts police harassment of punk fans waiting to attend a concert. Following Whole Wheat Bread, I'll be playing "122 Hours of Fear," by The Screamers. In this song, the Screamers reference Lufthansa Flight 181, which was hijacked by members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine on the 13th of October, 1977. Control of the flight, which was scheduled to transport 86 passengers from Palma de Mallorca to Frankfurt, was wrested from the pilots over Marseilles and redirected first to Rome, then Cyprus, Dubai, South Yemen, and finally Mogadishu, Somalia. All 86 passengers survived, but their terror inspired The Screamers.


For now, though, here's Whole Wheat Bread and "Police Song." Enjoy.


11. Whole Wheat Bread, "122 Hours of Fear" (3:47). Minority Rules

12. The Screamers, "122 Hours of Fear" (3:47). In A Better World


Segment Seven


We're going to round up today's show with two more punk songs dealing with crime. The first, Tilt's "Unravel" presents listeners with a squalid city not unlike John Yossarian's Rome at the end of Joseph Heller's Catch-22 or the grimy, fog-filled urban landscape in T. S. Eliot's "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufock." The speaker, whose words are delivered in Cinder Block's inimitable voice, calls the city "vindictive" and imagines a hitchhiker traveling home to murder his wife. She laments the ineffectuality of municipal emergency services and sees the woman bleeding to death on a dirty floor while waiting for help to arrive. The song ends with a sense of helplessness in the face of urban violence that recalls the scene Joe Strummer sings about in "Somebody Got Murdered."


The final track I'll be playing this afternoon is The Exploited's "Law and Order." The speaker, who admits that he is both high on amphetamines and drunk on alcohol, becomes the target of another man looking to start a fight. When the man interrupts the speaker as he flirts with a few women at the bar, the latter responds by smashing a bottle across the aggressor's face. The result of his actions, not surprisingly, is a trip to jail. He implies that the officers are abusive and matter-of-factly reflects on how, seemingly out of the blue, he has ended up in a concrete cell. There's an almost naturalistic quality to Wattie's lyrics here. The man does not lament his fate; he simply ends up in jail, as the result of a seemingly random encounter. Sometimes, The Exploited seem to suggest, crime just is.


For now, though, here's Tilt with "Unravel." Enjoy.


13. Tilt, "Unravel" (2:07). 'Til It Kills

14. The Exploited, "Law and Order" (2:52). Horror Epics


Segment Eight


[Ad copy for Decorah Bank]



If you enjoy listening to The Cellar, please visit our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/thecellarpunk and click the "Like" button. We'll keep you up-to-date with playlists and other announcements about the show.


Until next week, then!


Thanks so much for listening to The Cellar. Have a wonderful evening and stay tuned to KPVL for more music, news, and talk.

Sobriquet 91.3: Playlist for "The Cellar," 2/26/13

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Playlist Theme: SST Records Releases

The Playlist:

1. Black Flag, "My War" (1:32). My War
2. Black Flag, "Rise Above" (2:27). Damaged
3. Bad Brains, "I Against I" (2:51). I Against I
4. Minutemen, "Tension" (1:20). Post-Mersh, Vol. 1
5. Bl'ast, "Only Time Will Tell" (5:23). It's In My Blood
6. Decendents, "Hope" (2:00). Two Things at Once
7. Descendents, "Myage" (2:01). Two Things at Once
8. Meat Puppets, "Our Friends" (2:12). Meat Puppets
9. Painted Willie, "405" (3;17). Mind Bowling
10. Saccharine Trust, "Effort to Waste" (2:27). Paganicons
11. Gone, "Peter Gone" (2:28). Let's Get Gone, Real Gone for a Change
12. Subhumans, "America Commits Suicide" (2:49). No Wishes, No Prayers
13. Dicks, "Rich Daddy" (2:27). Kill From The Heart/Hate the Police
14. fIREHOSE, "Brave Captain" (3:16). Ragin', Full-On
15. Stains, "Violent Children / Gang-Related Death" (3:00). Stains
16. Sonic Youth, "The World Looks Red" (2:43). Confusion is Sex
17. Angst, "This Gun's For You" (2:33). Lite Life
18. Hüsker Dü, "Pink Turns to Blue" (2:43). Zen Arcade
19. Hüsker Dü, "Something I Learned Today" (2:03). Zen Arcade
20. Hüsker Dü, "First of the Last Calls" (2:46). Metal Circus

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