Letters for the week of January 17-23, 2007

Letters about our coverage of Ron Dellums, and David Downs' music writing.

“The Wiz,” Bottom Feeder, 1/3

My, you’re cynical
Maybe I’m just too old to appreciate the Express‘ “it’s hip-to-be-cynical” style, but Will Harper’s attempt to cut Mayor Ron Dellums down to size before he even starts left a bad taste.

Comparing the public service choice of leading one of America’s most troubled cities at the behest of thousands of its citizens with coming back to play professional sports was really lame. (I’ll leave the pun, since this is for the Express.) Oakland had 146 homicides in 2006 — almost 50 percent of the victims were under 25, two-thirds were African American. Get serious, Will.

Inadvertently, though, the sports analogy does hint at the difference between a champion or hero and the ordinary hack: Heroes and champions follow their hearts with a compulsion that others don’t understand, often against their own interests. They likely couldn’t care less how the likes of the East Bay Express will view their legacy.
Mike Daley, San Pablo

“Oaklandria: The Prophet and the Devil,” Feature, 12/27

Find your role
What the bleep makes you want to hunt for failure in the Dellums mayoralty (12/27/06 cartoons being the latest)? You must have noticed it hasn’t started yet. But much more important, we all in fact have an enormous stake in Dellums’ and Oakland’s success.

Can a multicultural city — even one in the midst of a prosperous region — prove a healthy home for the breadth of its citizenry? Can we raise all our kids to succeed in a 21st-century economy and culture, or are the nation’s core city dropout rates of 50 percent beyond repair? Can we at once sustain our environment and extend our wealth to those yet unreached?

If not in Oakland, then where? If not with Dellums’ lead, then with whom at the helm? You’d do damn well to try to be a part of progress here. How about tooling up to report successes along with problems and to identify opportunities to be pursued? Or bringing word of the very best municipal problem-solving from other places around the Bay and the globe? There’s a lot of work to be done to build 21st-century Oakland and you could and should be one partner in it. It would be shameful for you not to find your role.
Neil Mayer, Berkeley

“Dodging Gnarls Berkeley,” Music, 12/20

Umm, DUH!
David Downs obviously knows very little about music. In his article about local band Honeycut, he not only has come up with a mediocre “pun” for the title, but he also can find no other reference point to base his article on than quoting a New York Times article about Gnarls Barkley written by narcissistic windbag Chuck Klosterman (in whose journalistic masturbations one is more likely to read about Klosterman’s current love interests, drug use, and opinions on Americana than they are to gain any real information about the band he is supposedly writing about).

While a person of limited musical knowledge and taste will easily see a connection between Gnarls Barkley and Honeycut for the various reasons listed in his article, Downs completely misses the point of the band. Whereas at a live Gnarls Barkley performance one will experience a near-carbon-copy “live” version of their album, with sometimes up to fifteen or more musicians onstage to fill in the layers of their lush studio sound, Honeycut’s live performance is a raw kinetic explosion of energy, driven by four incredibly talented musicians, who completely redefine their songs at each playing. Either Downs does not have the experience and ear to hear the difference between Honeycut’s album and their live performance, or he was too distracted by what he described as “Street to Nowhere’s young female audience.” Perhaps he didn’t even make it to the show.

Instead of using prerecorded tracks, DJs, or sequencers to match the intensely thick sample palette he uses on the album, Honeycut’s RV Salters, who is arguably one of the best rock/funk keyboardists to be heard in decades, strips the songs down to their barest essentials and, using only his two hands and feet, replaces the intricate and subtle sophistication of his recorded compositions with the raw energy, blistering chops, and musical talent of his live performance.

Downs goes on further to regurgitate more facts we ALREADY KNOW about the success of Gnarls Barkley and uses them to further bludgeon Honeycut over the comparably low sales of their album. Downs seems to be oblivious to the fact that although St. Elsewhere was an independent release and a seemingly “new direction” of pop music, its success is due to the considerable hip-hop discographies and pedigrees of both Cee-Lo and Dangermouse (umm*DUH!), in a musical genre where they were already well known and fully established.

The album was already a huge success, due to word of mouth, the day it was released (go figure). Other than RV’s connection to Blackalicious, Honeycut is completely unknown to hip-hop and pop audiences; how can even the slightest fair comparison be made?

It is sad that a local publication would apply such a treatment to a local up-and-coming band, especially one with the musical talent and credentials found in Honeycut, but it is certainly not the first time we have seen a great band damned by faint praise in the pages of the Express.
Mike Chase, Berkeley

“A Match Made at Epitaph,” Music, 12/20

The kids are alright
This is one of the best bands you guys have reviewed. Great job on it! The kids of the East Bay love hearing about them. I was definitely at the +44 show in SF and you guys covered it well. The band should bring you lots of reads, and I thank you for covering a band so close to home 🙂

Morgan Elaine, Rodeo

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