Category Archives: DAVID LESTER ART

Normal History Vol. 392: The Art Of David Lester

Every Saturday, we’ll be posting a new illustration by David Lester. The Mecca Normal guitarist is visually documenting people, places and events from his band’s 32-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

The Message
Mother Africa walking along with Stephen Lewis. The dancers are dancing towards the camera. Hips moving real fast. A young woman in a school uniform, standing in front of the choir, singing a song perhaps she wrote for this occasion, this television opportunity. Make no mistake; it’s directed at you and me.

She sings, “Why me? Why him? Why her?”

But the real question underlies the theme. We know you have the drugs. You keep them under lock and key in the west away from us and you choose who lives, who dies.

Mother Africa takes off her large lens glasses and wipes her eyes. Stephen Lewis doesn’t look like he’s gonna cry. He takes the message back. Takes the message back to where it’s heard.

Why me? Why him? Why her? And do we choose who lives, who dies? Who dies?

“The Message” from the album The Observer (Kill Rock Stars, 2006) (download):

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Also posted in FREE MP3s | Comments closed

Normal History Vol. 391: The Art Of David Lester

Every Saturday, we’ll be posting a new illustration by David Lester. The Mecca Normal guitarist is visually documenting people, places and events from his band’s 32-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

While Mecca Normal was on tour in 2014, Ian MacKaye (formerly of Fugazi) came to our show in D.C. and somehow ended up telling me that this is his favorite song off The Observer album. It’s a weird one to pick, because basically it’s just me singing and playing the piano, which was recorded after the guitar and vocal tracks. There was something David liked about the piano and voice, and he was all for taking the guitar out all together, making this the only Mecca Normal song without his guitar! He’s there in a way, because I’m playing piano to his guitar.

The Caribou And The Oil Pipeline
You’re in your car.
You’re running out of gas.
You pull in to get the gas.

3,000 miles north of here
100,000 caribou are heading for the sea,
bears and ravens following.

This is where the U.S. wants to put an oil pipeline.
It will disrupt the caribou migration.

You’ve see it on TV—there’s nothing you can do.
You can’t change the world, so you change the channel.
But in your mind, one fact stands alone:
this is for 180 days of oil
versus 20,000 years of caribou migration.

In a dream you see the caribou crossing an icy river, exhaling steam,
they dream themselves up and over steep and barren hills.

I didn’t think I could write a hit
about the caribou and the oil pipeline, but I had to try.

This is where the U.S. wants to put an oil pipeline.
It will disrupt the caribou migration.

You’re in your car. You’re running out of gas. You pull in to get the gas.
What if? What if?

“The Caribou And The Oil Pipeline” from the album The Observer (Kill Rock Stars, 2006) (download):

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Also posted in FREE MP3s | Comments closed

Normal History Vol. 390: The Art Of David Lester

Every Saturday, we’ll be posting a new illustration by David Lester. The Mecca Normal guitarist is visually documenting people, places and events from his band’s 32-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

Arsenal
I feel too much like some woman, any woman, that some guy is trying to pull one over on. Transparent deception.

And I want to say, “Grasshopper, where’s your integrity?”

I have learned that repelling men is more important than attracting them, and in my arsenal of repelling I have:
1. Being distant
2. Being friendly
3. Being myself
4. Not being myself

I have been selecting men from the clear blue spaces. Blue, blue spaces. If you hadn’t called me sweetheart when the lights were low. I keep holding on. Holding. Holding.

Blue, blue spaces.

“Arsenal” from the album The Observer (Kill Rock Stars, 2006) (download):

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Also posted in FREE MP3s | Comments closed

Normal History Vol. 389: The Art Of David Lester

Every Saturday, we’ll be posting a new illustration by David Lester. The Mecca Normal guitarist is visually documenting people, places and events from his band’s 32-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

The Dark Side Of Maria
Song slivers arrive in shipping and receiving, between photo-cutter roar and dry-mounting rumble. With my mind, I add the sounds together and turn the nearly inaudible radio into Marvin Gaye. Regardless of what’s playing I hear “Sexual Healing.” Sexual, sexual healing.
Paul comes to look out the window. Wincing at the brightness, he fingers the paper white orchid. I turn away. He asks me, “What’s your favorite movie?”
”Harold And Maude,” I say. “It’s about a suicidal young guy who falls in love with an eccentric old woman.”

“OK. What’s your second favourite movie?”
 “Picnic At Hanging Rock,” I say. “Australian school girls lost in the outback.”

Paul lays his head on the postage scale. 
”Ten pounds, 10 ounces,” I say. 
On coffee break, Maria talks about her roommate. “He’s white. He’s single. He’s 50, but he’s circumcised. Jean, Jean, Jean, do you prefer cut or uncut?”

In my mind, I see the penises of recent dalliances, dicks and cocks of old relationships. Cut, uncut. Cut, uncut. Maria and the others are waiting for my answer, for my preference.

Maria says, “Uncut is ugly.”

Eileen says, “How do you know?”

Maria says, “I’ve seen a photo.”

The dark side of Maria. We are nibbling on Mike Dean’s banana bread. Mike is the Jethro Bodine handyman at the photo lab. He’s been phoning his mother across three time zones to get her recipes. He brings baked goods to work on the bus, triple plastic-wrapped. Pies, cookies, biscuits. He wants a reaction. He wants a reaction from the dark side of Maria.

“The Dark Side Of Maria” from the album The Observer (Kill Rock Stars, 2006) (download):

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Also posted in FREE MP3s | Comments closed

Normal History Vol. 388: The Art Of David Lester

Every Saturday, we’ll be posting a new illustration by David Lester. The Mecca Normal guitarist is visually documenting people, places and events from his band’s 32-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

Mecca Normal is currently working in many modes at once. We’re writing new songs and rehearsing for three shows in October opening for the Julie Ruin (Vancouver, Seattle and Portland). David continues to work (with a very inspiring, high-level of discipline) on his graphic novel about Emma Goldman’s final years, while I’ve recently started writing a YA (young adult) novel that I hope will have a positive impact (in terms of how creativity works) on my $100 portrait painting series—which looks great, piling up online, archived by month with a separate page for the ones currently available. People tell me I should put the price up, but I’m kind of hooked on the thrill of selling so many of them (80 or so of the nearly 150 I’ve done so far). Every month I make a new version of a video with all the paintings up to that point.

“His Own Madness” from the album The Observer (Kill Rock Stars, 2006) (download):

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Also posted in FREE MP3s | Comments closed

Normal History Vol. 387: The Art Of David Lester

Every Saturday, we’ll be posting a new illustration by David Lester. The Mecca Normal guitarist is visually documenting people, places and events from his band’s 32-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

Someone in Germany sent us an mp3 of their band covering Mecca Normal’s “Who Told You So?”—the first song on our first album. If, in 1986, someone had told me that 30 years in the future, this might happen, I would not have believed them!

You can listen to the Mecca Normal version of “Who Told You So?” in Vol. 275 of Normal History below the caption of David Lester’s fitting illustration “I’d Rather Play Punk Rock Guitar.”

“Fallen Skier” from the album The Observer (Kill Rock Stars, 2006) (download):

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Also posted in FREE MP3s | Comments closed

Normal History Vol. 386: The Art Of David Lester

Every Saturday, we’ll be posting a new illustration by David Lester. The Mecca Normal guitarist is visually documenting people, places and events from his band’s 32-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

This song, “1922,” was used at the end of a short film called Cash Free (2009, video, 20 minutes) by EE Miller and Bernadine Mellis (director of a documentary about her father, civil-rights lawyer Dennis Cunningham, and the court case to clear an Earth First! activist’s name). In Cash Free, a group (including lawyer, author and activist Dean Spade) gets together to discuss sustainable artful living and the struggle of individual queers working in groups. It’s strange in a way, because I was at a meeting with some of the same people while I was on tour alone about 10 years ago. So, while I’m not in this film, I feel like it’s an abstract version of the meeting I attended when the subject was land acquisition—where, by what means and yes, how to sustain this artful way of living. I don’t go to meetings, so the event was memorable to me. At the time, I thought it might be smart to be in on the ground floor of such a project, however unlikely it was that I’d ever make my way across the continent from Vancouver to live sustainable or otherwise in a foreign country with a group of people I hardly know.

I’m wary of having Mecca Normal’s music used in films. Sound and images are a powerful combination. One of the few times we allowed a song to be used in a film it was counter to both the meaning of the song and my feminist perspective. I don’t think that movie was ever released, but we saw evidence of “A Kind Of A Girl” being used to imply negative associations to a woman who had been murdered. It was horrible to see this blatant violation of intention. Anyway, this is not that. I know EE Miller, but I’m never that keen on my work melding with another artist’s overarching vision when I’m not there to have a say—even if it’s a group of counterculturalists coming up with ideas for how to live outside the gloomy restraints of cash-based culture. In Cash Free, the Mecca Normal song, “1922,” plays while the end credits roll, including information on how to connect with the National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee and the National Community Land Trust Network.

“1922” from the album The Observer (Kill Rock Stars, 2006) (download):

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Also posted in FREE MP3s | Comments closed

Normal History Vol. 385: The Art Of David Lester

Every Saturday, we’ll be posting a new illustration by David Lester. The Mecca Normal guitarist is visually documenting people, places and events from his band’s 32-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

Mecca Normal has always viewed music journalism as an important component in the process of releasing music. When we put an album out, we compile a list of journalists and publications to send promo copies to. For most bands, this act is part of an almost unavoidable economic equation. From a band’s perspective, reviews are supposed to stimulate album sales, but, if a band is at least as interested in social discourse as sales, what exactly gets said in those reviews should be as significant as how many people end up buying their album. I think it’s pretty obvious that Mecca Normal (a group of two devoted to cultural agitation since 1984) has never gone out of our way to make music that intends to, above all else, sell. We’ve always been interested in coaxing journalists to extend conversations we instigate in songs, to give them the opportunity to further illuminate on behalf of potential listeners at large. David and I both come from newspaper backgrounds, albeit from the art and production side of things, but knowing how publishing works, including the ins and outs of how editors function, has always played a role in how we present our press material and, because rock writers are words-and-ideas people, we’ve found them very appreciative of having social justice themes to write about—and perhaps even opinions they share about violence against women, feminism, poverty, inequality, the prison industrial complex, capitalism etc.

Jessica Hopper‘s review of Mecca Normal’s The Observer (Kill Rock Stars, 2006) in the Chicago Reader was significant to us in many ways. Actually, it was more of an article than a review, subtitled “an unsparing investigation of what it means to be an independent woman”—which referred to the album, but seemed also true of the article itself. As a feminist, it was important to me to have a feminist rock critic engage and react to the work as a whole—and song by song—and to use it to make bigger points. Hopper included the piece in her 2015 anthology The First Collection Of Criticism By A Living Female Rock Critic, giving our investigations and commentaries the kind of longevity that may well encourage further understanding of what independent women face when they willfully interact with men within the construct of online dating. Or at least the unique perspective of one rather feisty 45-year-old feminist online dating between 2002 and 2005 as interpreted by another rather feisty feminist rock critic some years younger, whose importance, with the publication of this book, has vastly (and rightfully) increased since that time.

“To Avoid Pain” from the album The Observer (Kill Rock Stars, 2006) (download):

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Also posted in FREE MP3s | Comments closed

Normal History Vol. 384: The Art Of David Lester

Every Saturday, we’ll be posting a new illustration by David Lester. The Mecca Normal guitarist is visually documenting people, places and events from his band’s 32-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

I’ll Call You
I want cold and impersonal sex
during which I’ll be pretending I’m with someone else
I only care about my satisfaction

I will jerk you around
to get as much for myself as I can
If you object—I’ll be on my way

If you dare to communicate with me
after I’ve let you know where you stand
I will belittle you
I will disrespect you with comments
that I call “joking”—if you don’t get it
you need to lighten up

You will play by my rules
and I’m not into telling you what my rules are

I’m very highly evolved
I’m very attractive
I have a lot of options that I am keeping open
so don’t expect me to treat you as if
you’re someone special—you’re not

I’ll let you know when it’s your turn again
until then, let’s be friends

I’ll call you

“I’ll Call You” from the album The Observer (Kill Rock Stars, 2006) (download):

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Also posted in FREE MP3s | Comments closed

Normal History Vol. 383: The Art Of David Lester

Every Saturday, we’ll be posting a new illustration by David Lester. The Mecca Normal guitarist is visually documenting people, places and events from his band’s 32-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

“Attraction Is Ephemeral” gets more laughs than any other Mecca Normal song. We wrote it a few days before we went into the studio to record the album it was on. Dave had the music ready to go, and I picked up a poem I was working on. I hadn’t thought of the poem as song lyrics, because it was long and involved. We recorded it in our rehearsal space as we wrote it—something we’ve done since we began playing together in 1984—and it was perfect! When we write like that, we have to try and replicate arrangements in subsequent versions. On this occasion,, our strategy was to stop working on it for fear of taking it too far away from its initial greatness. I listened to it over and over, and then, by the time we were recording it in the studio, it was only our third or fourth time through it.

Because of the graphic nature of a couple of the scenes, I was pretty nervous about performing it live, but it turned out better than I expected because the audience at most shows laughed in all those spots—albeit, a nervous sort of empathetic laughter. Sometimes I actually had to stop and wait for them to finish laughing before continuing to sing. That people laughed at most shows made the ones where they didn’t easier to do. Those people stood there quite grumpily with their arms folded, not laughing. No, not at all. And yes, I guess there are some circumcisions where it is inappropriate to sing about a man having trouble putting on a condom.

“Attraction Is Ephemeral” from the album The Observer (Kill Rock Stars, 2006) (download):

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Also posted in FREE MP3s | Comments closed